Category Archives: Gadget News, Reviews, And Features

Chinese phone maker Vivo entering Hong Kong, Russia and beyond


Earlier Vivo phones such as the Vivo Xplay6 looked like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

Aloysius Low/CNET

You may not have heard of Vivo, but you would have seen its phones in “Captain America: Civil War.” 

Besides making product placement cameos though, the Chinese company is actually the world’s fifth largest phone maker, as well one of the big four in China, alongside Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo.

The company’s set to become even bigger, with the announcement that it’s now selling its phones in Hong Kong, with plans to bring its devices to Taiwan, Singapore and Russia. The African market is also on its list for early next year.

“Since our first entry into the international markets in 2014, we have been dedicated to understanding the needs of consumers through in-depth research to bring innovative and stylish products that meet their lifestyle and needs,” Alex Feng, Vivo’s senior vice president, said in a press statement.

Vivo isn’t just all about making iPhone or Samsung look-alikes. The company recently launched a 24-megapixel selfie phone called the Vivo V7+. It also showed off the first phone with a fingerprint scanner embedded under the display earlier this year at MWC Shanghai.

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Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine completes first hot-fire test

People have derided Blue Origin for its focus on suborbital space tourism with the New Shepard launch vehicle, and that’s indeed been one of the company’s major pushes. But the space company has also been developing New Glenn, a two- and three-stage behemoth rocket that will be able to take people and cargo to orbit and possibly beyond. A configuration of seven BE-4 engines will power the first and second stages of New Glenn. With this test, Blue Origin has at once made a statement that it is to be taken seriously within the sphere of orbital spaceflight and also that it’s one step closer to producing these engines.

BE-4 is the the most powerful rocket engine developed since Rocketdyne’s RS-68 engine (even more than SpaceX’s Raptor engine), which is used in United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rockets. However, these engines are incredibly expensive to produce, which is why ULA wants to retire the Delta IV line. As a replacement, the company is developing the Vulcan rocket, and it has made steps towards committing to using Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne is lobbying for the ULA to use its AR1 engine, but development is far behind the BE-4. The United Launch Alliance needs an engine as quickly as possible, so this successful test fire may just have cemented Blue Origin’s case.

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Still stalking Bigfoot 50 years after the beast went big

On Friday, Bigfoot believers will descend on a remote part of Northern California to celebrate a shaky, minute-long film from 1967 that not only introduced Sasquatch to the wider world, but transformed the cryptid into a pop culture phenomenon that still captivates us half a century later.


The famous “look-back” frame of an alleged female bigfoot from the 1967 film produced by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin.


Look up the Bigfoot Wikipedia entry, and you’ll see a familiar and famous frame from the footage that Roger Patterson, aspiring filmmaker and ne’er-do-well from Yakima, Washington, claims to have shot in the wilderness outside Willow Creek, Calif., 50 years ago on Oct. 20. In the clip, a tall, broad-shouldered, long-limbed, fur-covered creature walking on two legs through a clearing glances directly at the camera for a moment, as if to briefly satisfy the relentless paparazzi before disappearing into the woods.

“It’s a fascinating piece of film,” says Jeff Meldrum, an Idaho State University anatomy and anthropology professor. He’s also the most prominent scientist performing serious Sasquatch research, though not without raising the ire of colleagues. “It’s grossly underrated and offhandedly dismissed, naively dismissed by the skeptics.”

But the naysayers didn’t stop Patterson’s film and the larger Bigfoot phenomenon from cementing themselves in a culture enthralled with the idea there are other intelligent species, on our planet and beyond, still waiting to be discovered. In the months after it was shot, the film appeared on all the major talk and late-night shows of the day, from Joey Bishop and Merv Griffin to “Late Night with Johnny Carson.”

The bashful biped has become a cottage industry that’s only grown with the rise of the internet and cable TV: conferences, expeditions, books, movies, theme park rides and TV shows in the Sasquatch search genre are just as common as fuzzy images purporting to show a glimpse of the Yeti’s American cousin.

But the modern ground zero for the legend remains the dense forests of Humboldt County, where Bigfoot enthusiast Patterson and his friend Bob Gimlin rode into the wilderness on horseback in search of the beast. That’s where this weekend’s anniversary conference and celebration takes place, featuring Meldrum and Sasquatch celebrities like Cliff Barackman from Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot.”

“Sightings are still reported to this day,” says Steven Streufert, owner of the used bookstore Bigfoot Books in Willow Creek. (A new sighting was reported on the other side of the state near Fresno just this week.)

Streufert is also one of the founders of the Bluff Creek Project, an effort by a handful of volunteers who’ve set up as many as 20 HD cameras in and around the site where Patterson and Gimlin captured their footage. Today, the project’s primary goal is simple: “to determine if Bigfoot is real.” But it grew out of the more basic task that initially brought the group together, which was to rediscover the site that had been “lost” due to the regrowth of foliage (the stream bed had been stripped bare by a flood in 1964).

Using GPS coordinates, the group identified surviving trees and other landmarks from the footage that led to the rediscovery of the film site in 2011. Since then, it’s been under near constant surveillance, despite the fact that the spot is closed to visitors from October through June.

“Our cameras are running up there 24/7, year round,” Streufert said. “If Bigfoot is out there, we should be able to find one on our HD video one of these years.”

So far, the cameras have captured cool footage of cougars, bears and the rare Humboldt marten, but no Bigfoot. The lack of any new Sasquatch sightings doesn’t bother the team.  

“I think back to the first Antarctic explorers and how their expeditions were inspired by tales of the hollow earth… that absurd idea gave inspiration and drive for those early explorers to race to the South Pole,” Jamie Wayne, the lead on the Bluff Creek Project said. “For me, Bigfoot is kinda like that, it’s very inspiring to get me out there and keep installing trail cameras.”

Bigfoot or big fake?

Skeptics have an easy time explaining the lack of Sasquatch appearances at the site of the most famous Sasquatch appearance of all time. Scientists rejected Patterson and Gimlin’s film as fraudulent within a few weeks of their trip into the wilderness.

Staff at the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Zoological Society were unimpressed when Patterson brought his film to New York City in late 1967 with the intention of having it validated.


Professor Meldrum holds a cast of a footprint believed to be left by Bigfoot, or at least by a big foot.

Jeff Meldrum

When the big-city scientists failed to give their stamp of approval to Patterson’s footage, both Life and Look Magazines backed out of conditional deals to publish major features on the find. An account of the story was eventually published in Argosy Magazine in 1968, and the BBC later paid to use the footage in a Bigfoot docudrama. Along with several other media appearances, it was enough to capture the public’s imagination and the legend has continued to grow ever since, even without the endorsement of the scientific community.

In 2004, writer Greg Long published “The Making of Bigfoot: The Inside Story” based on interviews with acquaintances of Patterson, (including Bob Heironimus, who claims to be the man in the suit). Long makes a substantial but controversial case that the famous film is a hoax, and like the story of Sasquatch itself, no physical proof such as the suit itself, or receipts or damning outtakes is presented.

Where many others have seen a hoax pulled off by a cameraman of dubious reputation and a man in an elaborate suit, Meldrum still sees humanity’s long lost (or rather, well hidden) relative.

“As an anatomist I can go from the head down to the toes (in the film) and just point out features that you would not see in a costume,” he told me. “The anatomy is appropriate and functional for a large bipedal hominid… Yet in 1967 the anthropologists wouldn’t have been able to accurately portray that, let alone a rodeo rider from Yakima who couldn’t keep a job for more than eight months at a time. He didn’t have the wherewithal to conceive of such a thing, let alone pull off the fakery involved if it were a hoax.”

Meldrum argues the creature shown in the film displays features consistent with what science has come to understand about hominin evolution in the decades since the film was shot.

Don’t stop believing

Still, half a century after the brief clip ignited a firestorm of debate, questions about its authenticity remain.

Science historian Brian Regal says that may continue to be the case because of the poor quality of the film.

“The low resolution of the original grainy 16mm footage renders it practically impossible to analyze in great detail,” he writes in his book “Searching for Sasquatch.” “We may never know whether Patterson meant it to be this way, or that it was just the dumb luck of an individual unskilled and unsophisticated in the ways of filmmaking.”

Doubters be damned, Meldrum and members of the Bluff Creek Project will be in Willow Creek presenting their latest research at the 50th Anniversary conference and celebration, They’ll be joined by a Bigfoot authority who became a believer 50 years ago — Gimlin, the surviving member of the expedition that produced the famous film. He’ll talk about what he saw that day and what’s happened since.

As for the Sasquatch herself (Gimlin and others maintain the creature nicknamed “Patty” was female and had clearly visible breasts), Gimlin told the CBC on Wednesday he believes she’s still alive because he’s heard from another “Bigfooter” who “communicated with her son.”

No word yet on if anyone managed to capture that communication on camera, though.

Technically Literate: Original works of short fiction with unique perspectives on tech, exclusively on CNET.

Crowd ControlA crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.

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Klipsch offers up premium powered floorstanders, the R-28PFs


The Kipsch Reference R-28PF


Until recently you had two options when buying a new sound system — a fully fledged stereo or AV system with separate amplification and masses of wires or a convenient but sonically-limited sound bar. Klipsch’s R-15PM powered speaker tried — pretty successfully — to offer the convenience of a sound bar and the sonic advantages of stereo speakers. Klipsch has followed this system up with two new models including a high-end floorstander and a newer, cheaper option.

Klipsch Reference R-28PF ($1,199) powered floorstanding speakers and R-14PM ($399) powered monitors feature a plethora of inputs including a phono pre-amp, a 24-bit/192kHz digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and Bluetooth. If you want more oomph, they both include a subwoofer output.

The Klipsch Reference R-28PF offers

  • Dual 8-inch “copper spun IMG woofers”
  • 1-inch linear travel suspension (LTS) in its own Tractrix horn. 
  • Bi-amplified 260W amplifier 

Meanwhile the Klipsch Reference R-14PM  features

  • Single 4-inch copper spun magnetically shielded IMG woofer
  • 3/4″ LTS tweeters in Tractrix horns
  • Low-noise 80W amplifier 

The Klipsch R-14PM


Both speakers feature the “love it or hate it” brushed vinyl finish of other Klipsch speakers. Further, we are awaiting pricing and availability on the two models for the UK and Australia. You can expect somewhere in the realm of £1,200/AU$2,400 and £400/AU$800 respectively, though.

The Klipschs seem to offer a lot for the money as most competitors either cost a lot more (such as the KEF LS50) or have fewer consumer-friendly features (such as the pro-level Adam Audio F5).

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Verizon will fix your smartphone’s screen for $29

Verizon’s Total Mobile Protection Plan will run you $11 per month for a smartphone, $9 per month for a basic phone or tablet, and you can pay $33 per month to insure multiple devices. If you crack your screen, says Verizon, you may be able to get it repaired that same day, provided you live in “select markets” and have “certain devices.” The company also says a technician can meet you at your home, office, school or wherever you are while traveling.

Verizon isn’t the only carrier with this sort of plan. ATT has three plans for $9, $12 or $35 a month each of which includes potential same-day cracked screen repair, though the deductible here is $90. Sprint‘s Total Equipment Protection plan has five tiers (starting at $9 per month), which also includes cracked screen repairs for a variable rate, $50 for Tier one customers and $100 for Tier two folks. Apple Care Plus gets you an iPhone screen repair for $30, which is now a $170 service if you didn’t purchase Apple’s extended warranty plan. Complicated? Yes. Useful? Probably.

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Google Pixel 2 XL screen fix may be on the way


The Pixel 2 XL’s OLED screen isn’t as vibrant as it should be.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Google Pixel 2 XL is garnering great reviews, except for one big issue: its screen.

The phone’s OLED screen suffers from muted colors and a blue shift, but Google is considering a fix.

 According to a statement sent to 9to5Google, the company acknowledged the rampant complaints, stating that it will “continue to pay close attention to people’s responses to Pixel. 

In the meantime, Google’s leaning towards a solution that will add “more display color options through software if that makes the product better.”

We’ve reached out to Google for comment but have yet to hear back.

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