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Flash-based drives may soon be as cheap as the spinning kind

If you've noticed that solid-state drives (and the PCs that include them) no longer cost an arm and a leg, you're not alone. Researchers at DRAMeXchange understand that the price per gigabyte of an SSD has fallen off a cliff in the past three years, and the trend is only accelerating. If the company's estimates are on the mark, these drives could cost just 11 cents more per gig than conventional hard drives by 2017. At that rate, you might not have to choose between high capacity and breakneck speed when you're on a budget -- you could easily afford both.

CDC: Nearly half of American homes no longer have landlines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new survey Tuesday, showing that nearly half of all American households now use only cell phones rather than older landlines. In total, 47 percent of the 21,000 households queried were cell-only, 41 percent use both, just 8 percent use just a landline, and 3.4 percent have no phone at all. Accounting for demographics, the results are even more staggering -- 71 percent of 24-34 year-olds use only their cells. Additionally, renters were far more likely to not have landlines than landlords and people living with non-family members went cell-only 85 percent of the time.

New AI 'Gabriel' wants to whisper instructions in your ear

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are building an AI platform that will "whisper" instructions in your ear to provide cognitive assistance. Named after Gabriel, the biblical messenger of God, the whispering robo-assistant can already guide you through the process of building a basic Lego object. But, the ultimate goal is to provide wearable cognitive assistance to millions of people who live with Alzheimer's, brain injuries or other neurodegenerative conditions. For instance, if a patient forgets the name of a relative, Gabriel could whisper the name in their ear. It could also be programmed to help patients through everyday tasks that will decrease their dependence on caregivers.

Must Reads

  • DARPA wants to protect critical infrastructures from cyber attacks

    Hackers have been breaking through a lot of government agency's defenses these past years, and DARPA thinks it's high time to do something about it. Pentagon's mad science division has launched a new program called Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization (RADICS), which aims to develop...

  • FCC hires a privacy guru to help lead its telecom investigations

    If you want proof that the Federal Communications Commission is getting serious about privacy, you only need to look at its latest recruit. The agency has hired Jonathan Mayer, one of the masterminds behind Do Not Track browsing, as the chief technologist for its Enforcement Bureau. He'll help lead investigations...

IRS promises to get a search warrant before spying on cellphones

The IRS will no longer use "Stingray" cellphone-tracking devices unless the agency receives a search warrant supported by probable cause, in accordance with the Department of Justice's Policy Guidance, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says in a letter. The agency's use of Stingray surveillance devices went public in October, though at the time it was unclear how (and how often) the IRS used the technology. Stingray devices mimic cell towers to trick nearby phones into connecting to them, allowing the user to track locations, record calls and access text communications.

WSJ: Yahoo may sell itself off

Yahoo's attempt at turning around its fortunes hasn't gone that well: on top of sagging profits and departing execs, it's still heavily dependent on both its Japanese business as well as its stake in Chinese internet giant Alibaba. And now, it sounds like the company might want to hand over the reins to someone else. Sources for the Wall Street Journal understand that Yahoo is holding a "marathon" number of board meetings where the possibility of selling the company's core business is on the table. It's not certain how serious the web pioneer might be, but private equity firms are reportedly taking a peek.

What's on your HDTV: 'Rainbow Six: Siege,' Bill Murray

The holiday season is upon us. While college football's regular season wraps up, we're looking forward to the newest Tom Clancy game, Rainbow Six: Siege, and the season finale of Doctor Who. NBC is planning to air The Wiz Live and Netflix's big holiday special features Bill Murray. Hulu has treats too, with the season finale of Casual and the premiere of its new RocketJump series. On Blu-ray, there's a new Amy Winehouse documentary and Zoolander. Look after the break to check out each day's highlights, including trailers and let us know what you think (or what we missed).

Comcast starts describing live video entertainment to the blind

Sadly, the blind and others with visual impairments tend to lose some of the impact of live TV, especially entertainment. They'll get the dialogue, but they'll frequently miss the sight-based cues. Comcast thinks it can help, though. When a live performance of the musical The Wiz Live airs on NBC on December 3rd, the cable giant will include a video description track -- the first in the US for live entertainment, in fact. Those who tune in to the Wizard of Oz recreation will know when a character walks on to the stage, frowns or otherwise does something important that microphones won't pick up. While this kind of description isn't par for the course at the moment, the production is a good first step toward making it ubiquitous in the broadcasting world.

Santa's village comes to life as Google's holiday tracker goes online

Now that Thanksgiving is complete and the holidays are officially upon us, Google has unveiled a new and expanded Santa's Village for 2016. The dedicated website is part of the company's annual Santa Tracker app promotion. This year, visitors will have plenty to do including learn about various charitable organizations while coloring in digital ornaments, play games, discover holiday traditions from around the world -- even learn a bit of basic coding. More features will unlock daily as we get closer to Christmas.

Samsung made a web browser for the Gear VR

Yes, there are already plenty of great games for Gear VR, but Samsung wants to keep enriching the platform with content. That's why it is introducing Internet for Gear VR, a web browser for people who own its smartphone-powered virtual reality headset. The company says you can use this new app, which is currently in beta, to enjoy the internet in a more immersive way. Along with offering support for 360-degree and 3D video streaming, Internet for Gear VR also handles HTML5 media playback. Naturally, you'll need to type web addresses along the way, so Samsung has added voice recognition to the application.

'Dead or Alive' maker denies restricting game launch due to sexism

You know that Koei Tecmo staffer who claimed that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 wasn't shipping to Europe or the US due to concerns about sexism? Apparently, he was speaking out of line. The developer has posted a statement saying that the rep doesn't reflect its "opinion or business strategy." In other words, it wants you to take those sexism claims with a grain of salt.

Playdate: Exploring a new world in 'Xenoblade Chronicles X'

So you want a big, open-world adventure with stunningly huge maps and a plot that revolves around the extinction of the human race, but Fallout 4 isn't available for the Wii U? Monolith Soft has you covered. Sort of. Xenoblade Chronicles X takes those same themes and applies them in a wildly different manner -- putting the last of humanity on a gorgeous, lush planet somewhere in the depths of space. Join Tim Sepala and me as we look at Nintendo's take on open world gaming and, quite honestly, marvel at how gorgeous this game is despite the Wii U's less powerful hardware. The fun starts at 6PM Eastern / 3PM Pacific right here in this post, on the Engadget Gaming homepage and, if you want to join us in chat, at

Shyp will now deliver your eBay packages, with no fee

Delivery startup Shyp has teamed up with eBay to deliver items, just in time for the holiday shopping season. The process seems fairly straightforward: Sellers simply need to connect their eBay account to the Shyp app, select the sold items that need to be delivered and a Shyp worker will be around in 20 minutes to "take care of the rest." The best part is, the delivery service will be waiving the standard $5 fee up until January 31st. As TechCrunch notes, eBay users tend to rate sellers based on the timeliness of package delivery, so the incorporation of such a quick and convenient service would help in maintaining seller statistics and customer satisfaction. Shyp will be available to eBay merchants well after the holiday season, but post-January 31st, the promotional period will end and you'll have to pay the standard fee.

[Image credit: Shyp]

Mark Zuckerberg will donate 99 percent of his Facebook shares

While birth announcements are common on Facebook, founder Mark Zuckerberg's post is a little different than most of the new parent pics in your newsfeed. That's because along with welcoming daughter Maxima to the family, he and his wife Priscilla Chan announced their commitment to give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares -- currently worth about $45 billion -- to fund the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative that will try to "advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation." The two joined the Giving Pledge in 2010, promising to use most of their wealth for philanthropic efforts, and today's announcement sheds more detail on how that will happen.

VTech's data breach includes children's photos and chat logs

News of VTech's data breach affecting nearly 5 million customers first broke last week, and now it appears other kinds of info were easily accessible to hackers. Motherboard reports that the company kept photos of parents and children alongside "a year's worth" of chat logs on its servers where prying eyes could easily find them. The same hacker that alerted Motherboard to the initial vulnerability late last week found that VTech left the images and conversations from its Kids Connect service exposed as well. The company says that while images and sound clips are encrypted with AES128, the chat logs were not.

Researchers confirm Humpty Dumpty really can't be put together again

Researchers at the Federal University of ABC, in Brazil, have made a major breakthrough: they've confirmed that thermodynamic processes cannot be reversed, even in a quantum system. This revelation not only explains a fundamental aspect of our universe but could also influence how quantum computing systems are designed.

Instababies: People are naming kids after Instagram filters

When it comes to deciding on a baby name, you could go with a family name. Or, like several couples did in 2015, you could look to your cellphone photography habit for inspiration. According to BabyCenter, some of the hottest trends in baby names shared monikers with Instagram filters. Yes, really. The site says that names of the photo-sharing apps presets were extremely popular this year for newborns, with Lux being the top choice. Additionally, Ludwig, Amaro, Reyes, Hudson and Kelvin all rose up the popularity rankings for boys while Juno, Valencia and Willow were routinely picked for girls. The site says it gathered its name popularity and trend data from 340,000 parents from around the world to compile the stats. Here's to hoping the trend continues in 2016 with babies named Lo-Fi, Inkwell and Nashville, because the internet.

[Image credit: Shutterstock]

Lenovo's ThinkPad P40 Yoga is a hybrid PC with pro-level power

Lenovo's existing ThinkPad Yoga hybrids have some power, but they're probably not your first choice for heavy-duty graphics work when they're saddled with integrated video. Thankfully, you now have a beefier option: Lenovo is introducing the ThinkPad P40 Yoga, its first 2-in-1 laptop with workstation-level 3D hardware. It still folds back into a tablet (or tent, or presentation mode), but its Quadro M500M chipset should be speedy enough to handle 3D modelling and other GPU-heavy tasks. You'll have greater control over those images, too, thanks to an included pen that promises both 2,048 levels of pressure and specially-tuned software that reportedly gets closer to the "pen to paper" feel.

DirecTV will begin live 4K broadcasts early next year

4K is the way of the future, but until now, the selection of ultra-high-def content has been limited. Enter DirecTV. In an announcement made at New York's TranSPORT conference, the company noted that it will start broadcasting live 4K content in early 2016. The firm stated that it already has the technology in place and wants to start streaming UHD shows before its competitors. However, DirecTV wants to make sure that it has an impressive arsenal of broadcasts ready before launch, as "content is king," (that's a direct quote). Services like Roku and TiVo have both released 4K-capable set-top boxes but don't have a lot of UHD content to offer, which makes the technology somewhat moot.

Details of FBI's National Security Letter revealed for the first time

The FBI has been secretly tracking user information without judicial oversight since 2001. Ever since the Patriot Act's controversial expansion of the Bureau's authority, tens of thousands of National Security Letters (NSLs) have been issued every year without warrants or evidence of probable cause. The content of these letters, accompanied by a gag order that prevents the recipient from ever talking about the information demanded, have stayed under wraps until now. In a recent landmark ruling from the federal district court, a gag order imposed on Nicholas Merrill, owner of an Internet service provider, has been lifted in full for the first time. Even though the court's ruling invalidated the FBI's gag order in September, following procedures the contents of the NSL only became public this week.

Facebook's Instant Articles come to Latin America

Facebook's Instant Articles haven't been available in many parts of the world so far, but that's improving today. The social network's speedier, simpler reading feature has launched on iOS devices in Latin America, initially pulling in content from 40 sites across Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. You'll have to wait until sometime in the "coming weeks" to catch up on news from your Android phone, but there's now at least one way to keep up with Interactive Sport and Telemundo while you're scanning your Facebook feed.