Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review

There’s hardly any competition in the high-end Android tablet market. These days, if someone wants a tablet, the first word that comes to mind is iPad. Apple’s devices deliver great displays and plenty of performance for as low as $330, but the key to the success of the iPad lies in the sheer amount of tablet-optimized apps for iOS. It’s why using the iPad Pro with a keyboard as a laptop replacement isn’t a ludicrous idea. Continue reading “Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review”

Cracked missile tubes may delay UK’s next generation nuclear submarines

Britain’s new nuclear submarines face glitches as the US boats fitted with same missile tubes have been found to have cracks.

Faulty welding found in the missile tubes of the new US Columbia Class nuclear-armed submarines could delay the future deliver of British Dreadnought boats. Continue reading “Cracked missile tubes may delay UK’s next generation nuclear submarines”

Samsung’s moon-hopping VR experience in NYC is like space camp for adults

Forty-nine years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon for the first time in history. NASA is preparing a wide-range of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 next year, but Samsung is getting a head start. The South Korean company is kicking off a year-long four-dimensional virtual reality experience to simulate a moon-like environment, so everyone can step into the shoes of the dozen humans who have walked on the moon.

It’s largely a way to show off Samsung’s technology, as the experience utilizes a Gear VR headset and a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, but Samsung also worked with NASA’s Johnson Space Center to develop a system similar to the space agency’s Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS), a rig that astronauts train with to experience low-gravity environments. The rig — paired with a flight suit, the Gear VR, and the Galaxy S9 Plus — allows people to visualize the moon’s surface from a new perspective, and also experience low gravity.
samsung nasa moon landing 4d vr experience 1
Samsung A Moon For All Mankind
Samsung A Moon For All Mankind
Samsung A Moon For All Mankind

“[NASA] is really excited about reigniting the public discussion around space exploration — specifically around the moon — as we lead up to the 50th anniversary of the moonwalk next year, but also because the moon plays a critical role in the first manned mission to Mars,” Zach Overton, Samsung’s vice president of brand experience and general manager of Samsung 837, told Digital Trends. “For them, this is an opportunity to excite the astronauts of tomorrow around the mission. For us, on the one hand it was democratizing an experience that only 12 men have done before, and we think that should be something for everybody … But it’s also a way of exciting youth and adults alike in science and math and engineering, and of course, technology.”

This is an opportunity to excite the astronauts of tomorrow.

Digital Trends got a sneak peek of the VR experience before it opens on July 20, the anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin landing on the moon — here’s what it’s like.
This is Mission Control

From the beginning to the end, the staff managing the VR experience play the part of Mission Control. “Welcome, astronaut!” will be the first words you hear as you enter the bay doors, designed to look like the interior of the spaceship in every sci-fi movie. We had to put our belongings away in a locker, and then watch a short video describing the experience, and what we shouldn’t do. Then comes suiting up.

With the help of two people, we donned a flight suit designed with the help of NASA. It feels quite tight, and there are sensors on the suit to help track movements in VR. Next is the helmet, which is built around a Gear VR headset. After it was snug around our head, we were taken to the ARGOS-like rig. A technician hooked us up to the harness, and we had to comply with a few quick tests to confirm everything was good to go. We had to pull the Gear VR headset down in front of our eyes for the show to start.

astronaut suits hanging


We started in the Lunar Module, and we had to press the primary button on the Gear VR controller to open the bay door. That’s when we had to start hopping. Essentially, you’re jumping in real life, but the harness will pull you higher into the air (not too high), and it will then gradually lower you until your legs hit the ground. Each jump in real life will move you forward as a low-gravity hop in the VR experience. We followed a rover to the edge of a crater where we could see Earth, but the crater’s edge started to crumble, and we quickly had to jump out of the way.

This is easily the most immersive Gear VR experience we’ve ever tried, and it’s all thanks to the ARGOS-like rig.

We then got a chance to plant our flag anywhere, but soon after, things started to get dangerous. There’s a meteor shower, with meteors striking the ground all over — we were commanded to race back to the Lunar Module. The last 20 seconds involved hopping as fast as we could to get inside, and there really is a sense of urgency as a crack appeared on our visor. Thankfully, we made it safely. Mission Control says the mission was a success.

We were steered back into the suit-up bay, where we were awarded two patches and a pin for completing the mission. We stripped the flight suit off, and the magic kind of wears off.
samsung nasa moon landing in suit
Joel Chokkattu/Digital Trends

This is easily the most immersive Gear VR experience we’ve ever tried, and it’s all thanks to the ARGOS-like rig. We’ve never experienced low or zero gravity, but we imagine it feels extremely similar to what Samsung’s offering here. That being said, this is a souped up Gear VR experience — the sensors mounted on the flight suit allowed us to look at our hands in VR, which you can’t do with your Gear VR at home. You’ll want to keep hopping all around on the moon.

A Moon For All Mankind, which is what Samsung’s calling the experience, lasts about 20 minutes or so, and more types of content will be added throughout the year, so you can always come back another time to try something new. It’s free, but sadly it’s only available at Samsung 837 in New York City, the company’s product experience hub that’s open to the public. It will stay open until July 2019, right in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

You can simply walk in and get in line, though the wait may be long, or you can reserve a time on the Samsung 837 website.

Russia fears leak of hypersonic missile secrets to West as security services searches space agency

Russia’s FSB security services raided a top space research centre Friday as part of an investigation into staff alleged to have passed secret information on Moscow’s hypersonic missile programme to the West.

The raid took place on the Central Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering (TsNIIMash), which is the Russian space agency Roscosmos’s in-house think tank.

Sources told the Kommersant daily newspaper that the probe was over “high treason,” with around 10 people suspected of “cooperation with Western secret services.”

Vladimir Ustimenko, a Roscosmos spokesman, confirmed the search to the newspaper and said the agency was providing maximum assistance to the security services.

The search came just one day after the Defense Ministry published several videos of new weapons systems – two of which were Russia’s publicly acknowledged hypersonic missile projects.

The general features of these weapons, known as Avangard and Burevestnik, have been publicly known since March, when they were announced by President Vladimir Putin.

It was not immediately clear what information might have been leaked, with investigators telling Kommersant and other outlets that information on hypersonic projects was revealed to “western intelligence services.”

TsNIIMash is not a military outfit, but Kommersant reports it was involved in some capacity with hypersonic missile research conducted by the Tactical Missile Corporation, a different company. According to unidentified security sources, “it has been established that the leak occurred from employees of TsNIIMash.”

Those employees, Kommersant reported, were in contact with a former TsNIIMash employee, Dmitry Payson, who now works for Roscosmos.
Outside the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash) under the Roscosmos State Corporation responsible for Russian space industry development
Outside the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash) under the Roscosmos State Corporation responsible for Russian space industry development Credit: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

Mr Payson, a soft spoken rocket scientist with thick graying hair, is well known within the Russian – and international – space communities.

Roscosmos is the main international partner of Nasa, and Payson often attended international scientific conferences.

Asked by RBC for comment, he asked not to be named in connection with the investigation. The news shocked the Russian space community.

One well-read industry blogger, Vitaly Egorov, wrote on Facebook that Payson “is one of the most literate experts of Russia’s space industry … for me, the ultimate assessment of the quality of a post was whether Dmitry held it.

“I don’t believe for a minute he was leaking information, he’s too smart for that.” The FSB has not released any statement on the investigation.

Astronomers spot nearby star that could be eating a planet

Astronomers may have caught a relatively nearby star munching on a planet or mini-planets.

A NASA space telescope noticed that the star suddenly started looking a bit strange last year. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory spotted a 30-fold increase in iron on the edge of the star, which is only 10 million years old, along with pronounced dimming.

Astronomers have been watching the baby star – in the constellation Taurus – for decades and iron levels weren’t high in 2015 the last time the Chandra telescope looked at it. The star, called RW Aur A, is 450 light-years away. A light-year is 5.9 trillion miles.

Hans Moritz Guenther, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he’s never seen anything quite like this before, calling it “a lot stranger than we thought we’d be seeing.”

“We’ve never seen any star that’s changed its iron abundance like that,” he said.
Chandra X-Ray Observatory
Chandra X-Ray Observatory Credit: NASA/Reuters

Guenther said one potential simple explanation is that the star is eating a planet or mini-planets. He looked at other possible explanations, and of the two that make sense, he prefers the planet-munching one. Computer simulations show it can happen, but it has never been seen before, he said.

Outside experts are wary.

“This could be an exciting discovery, but the evidence is circumstantial and not definitive,” said Harvard’s Avi Loeb.

Guenther’s preferred explanation is speculative, said Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Science, an expert on planets outside our solar system.

The study is in Wednesday’s Astronomical

Built well, Cat S61

The Caterpillar brand has long been associated with construction machinery and equipment, but the company has successfully licensed that brand out to a wide variety of different manufacturers producing everything from boots to smartphones.

British smartphone manufacturer the Bullitt Group is behind the Cat series of phones and it has found success by targeting a niche audience and building them a device that serves their needs. The Cat S61 is the latest refinement in the flagship series and it’s aimed squarely at people who need a rugged device for tough environments.

This is a chunky tank of a phone, capable of surviving falls, bumps, and dunks without a case. Bullitt has gone further than that by packing in thermal imaging, laser measurement, and even air quality sensors to serve engineers, plumbers, builders, farmers, the military, and other groups seeking a particular set of skills from their phones. Here’s what it’s like to use it.
Built like a tank

It’s immediately clear when you pick the Cat S61 up that it has been designed to be tough. A thick, matte aluminum frame with a glossy edge contrasts with the black plastic, and a distinctive, angled protrusion at the top bears the Cat logo.
cat s61 back outside
cat s61 front angle
cat s61 profile
cat s61 back
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

The 5.2-inch display has three physical buttons below it for access to back, home, and recent apps, enabling you to navigate the Android interface even if your hands are wet or dirty. There’s a polycarbonate lip around the screen to prevent it from touching down if you drop your Cat S61; it also comes with a screen protector already applied over the Gorilla Glass 5 display.

It’s an average IPS LCD with a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution. We found it comfortable to read on for long periods, but the brightness struggled with sunny outdoors and we frequently had to override the auto-brightness and crank it up.

This is a chunky tank of a phone, capable of surviving falls, bumps, and dunks without a case.

On the bottom edge there’s a speaker and a flap that opens to reveal the USB-C charging port. On the right you’ll find a textured power button with the separate volume buttons further down. There’s an orange programmable key on the left edge, which offers a handy physical shortcut. It can be used for a push-to-talk mode, or you can map two different functions like the flashlight and answer or end calls to short and long press. There’s also another flap that conceals the SIM and MicroSD card tray. Up top there’s a final flap with the standard 3.5mm audio jack behind it.

Flipping over to the back, the protrusion accommodates the Flir camera sensor for thermal imaging which sits above the regular 16-megapixel camera lens. There’s a subtle Flir logo next to it, but it’s the big, shiny Cat logo that will catch your eye. At the bottom left there’s the laser lens for measuring distances.

The back is textured for enhanced grip, and it’s a pretty comfortable phone to hold, though it does weigh a staggering 260g (9.17 ounces). To put that in perspective the iPhone X weighs 174g and even the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, with its 6.2-inch display, only weighs 189g.

You’ll generally want two hands to use this phone, but there is an advantage to all this bulk – the Cat S61 is seriously tough. It can handle falls from up to 1.8 meters (6 feet) onto concrete, temperature ranges from -13 degrees Celsius to 131 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s -25 to 55 Celcius), and even salt mist spray.

Sling TV revamps its service with a price hike, new free tier & a la carte channels

Sling TV, the first to deliver an over-the-top TV service aimed at cord cutters, is shaking up its business. The company announced today it’s raising the base price of its core package of over 30 channels, including ESPN, by $5 per month to now $25 per month. But it’s also rolling out free content and a la carte channel subscriptions, similar to Amazon Channels, in order to attract a new audience.

The service would not be the first to inch up its pricing.

YouTube TV in March also raised its prices by $5 per month. It’s now $40 per month, which is more in line with competitors like Hulu ($40/mo) and DirecTV Now ($35/mo).

That means, even with the price hike, Sling TV remains one of the more affordable options for live TV, a DVR, and access to sports via ESPN.

Unfortunately, though, existing customers aren’t being grandfathered in to the old pricing structure – just like back in the cable TV days, your monthly bill will simply increase. And there’s nothing you can do except cancel.

The pricing changes affects only those on Sling’s core offering, Sling Orange. Those with expanded service (Sling Orange + Sling Blue), will continue to pay $40 per month. And the optional add-on packs will remain at $10 per month.

To woo subscribers, Sling TV is also now launching free content.

When you launch the Sling TV app, you’ll now see over 100 hours of popular TV shows and movies to watch without a subscription, including “Wrecked,” “At Home with Amy Sedaris,” “Good Behavior,” “Flip or Flop” and more. The idea here is to attract viewers – particularly those with lapsed subscriptions – and encourage them to come back and watch. The company hopes its former customers will choose to restart their subscription after some time.

Perhaps the most significant change is that Sling TV is going a la carte.

One of the biggest draws for Amazon Channels, which reportedly accounts for more than half of direct to consumer video subscriptions, is that you can pick and choose which ones you actually want to watch. Sling TV is now doing the same.

Without a base subscription, customers can subscribe to: Showtime ($10 per month), CuriosityStream ($6 per month), Stingray Karaoke ($7 per month), Dove Channel ($5 per month), Outside TV Features ($5 per month), UP Faith & Family ($5 per month), Pantaya ($6 per month) and NBA League Pass ($28.99 per month).

Stingray Karaoke, Dove Channel and Outside TV Features are new channels launching today, which combined add more than 10,000 titles to Sling’s on-demand library.

The company says more a la carte channels will arrive in time.

In addition, Sling TV will offer pay-per-view (PPV) events and over 5,000 movies which can be watch without a monthly subscription. The company previously offered UFC and boxing matches via PPV – the first for a live streaming service – so expect more of the same here.

“When we first launched Sling in 2015, we set out to create an entertainment experience that put our customers first, offering unprecedented flexibility and control – no annual contracts, no hidden fees and the ability to customize programming,” said Warren Schlichting, president of Sling TV, about the changes. “The new Sling evolves the experience even further by providing access to great content without anchoring customers to a base subscription.”

The changes to the service will be made available through a new user interface that’s arriving first on Roku devices, starting today. It will come to other devices in the near future, Sling TV says.