Nintendo’s Switch Lite Is Selling Like Crazy, JoyCon Drift Be Damned

The Switch Lite is selling incredibly well for Nintendo. The company revealed during its last quarterly report that it shipped 1.95 million Switch Lite consoles in the first ten days it was available. That compares well even against the Switch, which sold 2.74 million units in its first month on shelves when it launched in April 2017.

The Switch Lite’s performance is a bit surprising for two reasons: It’s a less expensive version of a new console, not a brand-new system, and the price difference between the two is not as large as some of the other consoles on the market. At $199, the Switch LiteSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce is definitely cheaper than a $299 Switch, but it’s not an enormous difference. It’s also got a significant negative stacked up against it — JoyCon drift. JoyCon drift is a problem where JoyCon controllers begin to register ghost “input” that occurs with no one actually touching the controller. It’s completely separate from any calibration problem, and we know the Switch Lite suffers from it — reports of JoyCon drift on the Switch Lite began to surface almost as soon as the console launched.

But any fear that the drift problem might lead to sales problems was apparently wrong. Nintendo has racked up huge results for the console in just the first few weeks. Nintendo moved 4.8M Switch consoles this quarter and 1.95M of them were the Switch Lite. Game sales were up 48 percent thanks to the strong performance of titles like Link’s Awakening. The Switch family is projected to beat the SNES lifetime (49.1M units) and could even top the 61.91M units sold over the lifetime of the original NES. Super Mario Maker 2 (3.93M units), Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2.29M units) were the other two major titles called out for top performance this quarter.

It’s striking to see how strong the Switch is performing in comparison with the last major handheld that Nintendo launched. The 3DS had major problems at launch, with slow sales and a weak game lineup. A lot of articles were written about how mobile games and handheld titles were eating the entire market, and consoles like the 3DS might be a casualty of this process. I remember thinking that the 3DS could probably be flipped into a success, but that the console would be unlikely to repeat the DS’ success. That’s more-or-less how things played out for Nintendo, while Sony was driven out of the handheld market altogether.

Given the rocky situation for handhelds, you might have expected Nintendo to move away from them altogether. Instead, the company explored the concept in two stages, first with the Wii U’s handheld controller (which generally failed), and then with the Switch, which rather obviously hasn’t. It’s an interesting example of how Nintendo was willing to stick with a concept and polish it when other companies might have pulled the plug and gone back to building more conventional living-room hardware. Instead of treating the Wii U as if it failed because of the controller, Nintendo obviously decided that it failed because the controller wasn’t an independent gaming system capable of running the living room games people wanted to play while simultaneously providing on-the-go options.

Sony and Microsoft continue to cater to the more traditional gaming crowd, and Nintendo’s JoyCon drift problem is a severe issue that the company should fix whether its hardware is popular or not. But the Japanese firm has a knack for finding the right way to zig when others are zagging.

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Granit Xhaka: Arsenal captain says ‘I reached boiling point’

Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka says he “reached boiling point” after “repeated abuse” as he explains his angry confrontation with fans on Sunday.

from BBC News – London

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Extremely Terrifying Halloween Tech Deals: Dell Inspiron Intel Core i7 4K 13.3-Inch Laptop $750, Sceptre 65-Inch 4K HDR TV $379, BenQ Curved 2K Gaming Monitor $399

Don’t be afraid! Although it may be Halloween, the only thing terrifying about these deals is how terrifyingly good they are. Halloween is here, but if you’ve finished high-school chances are you aren’t going trick or treating this year. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holiday! Grab some candy, and then pick yourself up a nicer treat like a new 2-in-1 laptop.

Dell Inspiron 13 7390 Black Edition Intel Core i7-8565U 2-in-1 13.3-Inch 4K Laptop w/ 16GB LPDDR3 RAM and 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD ($750.99)

Dell designed this 2-in-1 laptop with a 13.3-inch 4K touch-screen display. The system also comes with a stylus, which is useful for taking handwritten notes and drawing images onscreen. Right now you can get it from Dell with a large discount that drops it from $1,398.99 to $799.99. Just use promo code DBLTINSP137 at checkout.

Sceptre U650CV-U 65-Inch 4K HDR TV ($379.99)

Sceptre built this 65-inch TV with a 4K panel that supports HDR. The TV also has a pair of 10W built-in speakers, and while it doesn’t have any smart features, it’s one of the least expensive 65-inch TVs on the market.  Right now, it’s marked down from $899.99 to $379.99 from Walmart.

BenQ EX3203R 32-Inch Curved 2K Gaming Monitor ($399.99)

BenQ may not be a widely recognized brand, but that doesn’t mean the company doesn’t have what it takes to produce a high-quality gaming monitor. This display utilizes a curved 2K panel that can display up to 144 images each second. The screen also has support for HDR 400 and FreeSync 2. Right now it’s marked down from $699.99 to $399.99.

Western Digital Blue 2TB WD20EZAZ 5,400RPM HDD w/ 256MB Cache ($49.99)

As SSDs steadily take over the storage market, the prices on HDDs just keep dropping. This rather high-end 2TB HDD has 256MB of cache that makes the drive more responsive. A few years ago this drive would have cost you considerably more, but right now it’s marked down to $49.99 from Amazon that makes it an excellent deal.

Lenovo IdeaPad S330 AMD Ryzen 5 2500U 15.6-Inch Laptop w/ 8GB RAM and 258GB SSD ($329.00)

This inexpensive laptop features a quad-core AMD processor with a capable integrated graphics processor that’s able to run older games with medium settings. The system also comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage space. Right now it’s marked down from $449.00 to $329.00 at Walmart.

Eufy RoboVac 35C ($179.99)

If you are like me, then you hate taking time out of your busy work and gaming schedule to clean up around your house. Although this device can’t fold your laundry and put it away for you, Eufy’s RoboVac 30 is a nifty little device that can help save you time by keeping your floors clean so that you don’t have to. With a powerful 1,500Pa suction vacuum built-in, this device will roam your home removing any dust, hair, or misc. other dirt that gets tracked in. It also has built-in Wi-Fi and can be controlled via your smartphone or by Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands. Currently, it’s marked down from $290.99 to just $199.99 from Amazon.

Note: Terms and conditions apply. See the relevant retail sites for more information. For more great deals, go to our partners at

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iFixit Gives AirPods Pro a Zero for Repairability

Apple has released its long-awaited AirPods Pro upgrade with better microphones, a new in-ear design, and (finally) active noise cancelling. They also come with a much higher $250 price tag. One thing Apple has not improved is the repairability. iFixit has completed its customary teardown of the new AirPods, and they get the same score as the last version: a big, fat zero. 

Apple has led the charge to make mobile devices thinner and lighter at the expense of repairability. The iPhone has never had so much as a removable battery, even back when Android and Windows Phone devices did. The AirPods were among the first true wireless earbuds on the market, and they’ve been wildly successful for Apple. However, they have been disposable pieces of technology since launch. 

As iFixit points out, there’s nothing you can do if your Airpods Pro break — simply opening the glued-together casing will likely damage the hardware, and Apple doesn’t offer replacement parts. Even the silicone ear tips use a non-standard design that makes them incompatible with third-party replacements. Accessing the microphones also required iFixit’s engineers to cut through the stem’s plastic housing. 

The battery is probably going to be the first thing to go, and you can’t replace that even if you manage to open the AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro use a small button cell-style rechargeable battery, which is very similar to the one used in Samsung’s Galaxy Buds. iFixit found that you could replace the battery in the Galaxy Buds, but Apple has chosen to mount the battery with a soldered cable. So, you can’t realistically expect to replace that yourself. 

Apple does offer a “battery service” program for the AirPods Pro, which gets you a new battery installed for $49 per earbud. If you needed to replace both batteries after a year or two, the $100 bill would be a significant chunk of the price for a new set of earbuds. 

While we don’t necessarily expect super-small electronics like this to be easy to disassemble, the AirPods Pro are particularly tough to repair. Samsung’s Galaxy Bugs managed a six out of ten for repairability, which is better than some phones. The AirPods Pro get a zero, which isn’t a great look for a company that takes every opportunity to crow about how much renewable energy and recycled material it uses.

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CameraX: Google’s New Weapon in the Photography Wars

Ever since it introduced Android, Google has struggled to provide a camera framework for developers that allows them to both build camera-enabled apps quickly and take advantage of the advanced capabilities being offered by phone makers. Its first Camera API was limited, and the second version is complicated. Neither has a vendor-independent way to activate some of the advanced modes that have been added to phones for improving image quality and adding stylistic effects. Now, Google is launching CameraX, a library that provides not just a simplified way for developers to access Android’s Camera2 functionality, but provides extensions for additional capabilities.

CameraX Is a Simpler Way to Harness the Power of Camera2

Android logosCameraX is provided as a Jetpack support library, and the basic portion of its capability is usable on Android OS versions back to Android 5.0 (API level 21). Its wrappers provide a use-case-centric set of interfaces to Camera2, and add lifecycle awareness to help reduce programming overhead. Google also says it reduces device dependencies, so CameraX code should run across all types of hardware (there are also calls to ask whether a device has a particular capability like a front camera).

To work with CameraX a developer specifies a desired use case with configuration options. Listeners are then added to handle the data output by the CameraX library — which can be either in the form of a data stream or written directly to a file. Finally, the use cases are bound to Android Architecture Lifecycles, so that CameraX can handle some of the housekeeping associated with setup and teardown of resources for the application. One nice feature of CameraX is that multiple use cases can be run simultaneously, so a preview can remain live while images or video are analyzed and perhaps captured, for example.

CameraX previews are bound to surface textures

CameraX previews are bound to surface textures

CameraX supports several use cases: Preview, to get an image on the display; Image analysis, to get direct access to the image buffer; and Image capture, to save a fully-processed image or video. Google provides several sample applications for various use cases. As is the recent trend, the ones I looked at are written in Kotlin with alternate Java versions.

After a few lines of setup, CameraX commands are fairly straightforward. For example, to simply capture an image from the camera, there is a takePicture() method. Prior to calling it, another simple call lets an application select which camera to use, or to set other parameters. As you’d expect, CameraX requires the app to have CAMERA permissions, and WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission on versions of Android prior to Q if you want to capture directly to the file system.

Extending RAW Image Capture to Multi-frame Scenarios

Google has a dedicated test lab that has worked with 52 devices in developing the libraryIt was a big advance in capability when Android phones started offering the option to save RAW images for later post-processing, instead of only allowing access to their pre-processed JPEG versions. But with smartphones increasingly relying on the sophisticated merging of multiple frames to create a single output, post-processing a single RAW frame isn’t always the best option. With CameraX, app developers can directly read the stream of frames coming from the camera. That’s important for applications like machine learning and artificial reality (AR). However, it is also a potential boon for those wanting to provide their own image processing pipelines — either on the device or later on a desktop computer or in the cloud.

CameraX Offers Extensions for HDR, Night, Portrait, and Beauty

Using extensions, apps can preview effects including Portrait mode, like on this Huawei Mate 20 ProOne area that has made third-party camera apps less attractive is the difficulty they have harnessing the advanced computational imaging capabilities of newer-model smartphones. For devices that support CameraX extensions, applications can access their advanced modes including HDR, Night photography, Portrait mode, and Beauty enhancements with the simple addition of a few lines of code to an existing Camera2 application.

For an app to have access to an extension, the phone maker needs to add a hook to the CameraX library to the vendor’s own API. If a vendor doesn’t provide an implementation of a capability, CameraX just reports it as being unavailable. Currently, developers using the alpha version of CameraX can make use of extensions on the following phones:

  • Samsung (HDR, Night, Beauty, Auto): Galaxy Note 10 series (pictured, top)
    (demonstrated at Samsung’s SDC19)
  • Huawei (HDR, Portrait): Mate 20 series, P30 series, Honor Magic 2, Honor View 20

CameraX Rollout

CameraX is currently in alpha, but it’s expected to get to beta status — meaning final APIs according to Google — in December. Samsung showcased its support for CameraX this week at its Software Developer Conference, and it co-hosted a session with Google on how developers can take advantage of both CameraX and its extensions on the latest Samsung phones.

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DeepMind’s StarCraft II AI Can Now Defeat 99.8 Percent of Human Players

Google’s DeepMind AI lab has contributed to some of the company’s most impressive AI feats in recent years such as the Wavenet voice engine and object recognition in Google Photos. DeepMind has also shown off its AI prowess by beating humans at games we never thought machines would be able to play. It started by besting the world’s best Go players, and then moved on to StarCraft II. The “AlphaStar” AI beat some of the world’s top players in early 2019, and now it’s playing online and crushing almost all challengers. DeepMind says AlphaStar is now the first AI to reach Grandmaster status in StarCraft II. 

In January, DeepMind streamed matches between elite human players and the AlphaStar AI. During those matches, AlphaStar showed an incredible understanding of the game, rotating damaged units out of harm’s way, baiting enemies on ramps, and utilizing special abilities to cut enemy formations in half. AlphaStar beat almost all of its human opponents that day, and DeepMind has continued improving the AI in the months since. 

The version of AlphaStar (or “agent”) playing online has undergone some changes that make it fairer to the human players. For example, the AI now only sees the section of the map in the main view, whereas before AlphaStar saw the entire map. It can also play and battle against all three races in StarCraft II (it was limited to Protoss before). Finally, DeepMind capped AlphaStar to a human-like 22 mouse clicks every five seconds. 

Even with those limitations, AlphaStar has managed to rise through the ranks and is now at the Grandmaster level. That’s the highest tier in competitive StarCraft II gameplay. It can defeat 99.8 percent of human players, and it may only be a matter of time before it can crush all human challengers. 

DeepMind decided to test its AI on StarCraft II because it’s a complex but endlessly strategic game. There are multiple paths to victory, and most players will tell you there’s a strong intuitive aspect to high-level StarCraft gameplay. DeepMind uses reinforcement learning to improve its AI, allowing AlphaStar to log years of game time every day by playing against different versions of itself. DeepMind believes that this same AI technology could one day have applications in robotics to improve motor control. Now, it’s just really good at pwning human StarCraft II players.

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Tottenham: 48 fans banned for selling tickets to Red Star Belgrade supporters

Tottenham give indefinite bans to 48 supporters who sold tickets on to Red Star Belgrade supporters for last week’s Champions League match.

from BBC News – London

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SiFive Announces First Out-of-Order RISC-V CPU, Boosts Efficiency, Performance

For the past few years, RISC-V CPUs have been making waves for themselves on the edges of computing. This open-source ISA has attracted attention for its flexibility and the royalty-free nature of the work; manufacturers and designers can contribute to the ISA and develop it to suit their own needs, as well as contributing back to the project. Up until now, however, all of the RISC-V cores have been in-order CPUs. Modern CPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce from ARM, Intel, and AMD use a technique known as out-of-order execution to improve performance. While these techniques used to be reserved for expensive desktop chips, years of process node improvements and power reductions have brought these techniques into play in mobile as well.

SiFive has deployed multiple CPU designs based on RISC-V already, but the U8 is the first to try and kick things up to competing with a design like ARM’s Cortex-A72. The goal is for the U8 to offer 1.5x performance per watt with 2x area efficiency and better design scalability overall, Anandtech reports.


The U8 is a three-issue out of order CPU core with a 12-stage pipeline, which feeds three execution units. The instruction queue can only issue three instructions, but the decoder is four-wide. Typically, fetch is wider than decode, so we’re seeing something of a reversal here. Tremont recently used this strategy as well, so perhaps we’re seeing something of a trend in microprocessor design — or a design aspect that SiFive went for deliberately as part of building a scalable chip.

The current plans for the chip call for two models, a U84 and a U87. The U87 will be available later in 2020 while the U84 is being finalized. U84 IP is currently running on FPGA platforms and should be commercialized in the not-too-distant future as well.

Overall performance is projected to be good against the A72 and should be competitive with ARM’s more recent chips as well. Whether it’ll be as good as estimated will have to wait for physical hardware to compare. SiFive will be building these chips on 7nm, so they’ll be on comparable process nodes to existing ARM-based chips. CPU clocks are said to be up to 2.6GHz, which is broadly comparable with where ARM chips are landing. I wouldn’t expect to see this kind of chip in smartphones — the amount of heavy lifting between SiFive and a phone is still enormous — but we could see them in more set-top boxes and embedded products.

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