Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers City Observatory – Housing can’t both be a good investment and be affordable

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers City Observatory – Housing can’t both be a good investment and be affordable

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

A fundamental contradiction lies beneath most of our housing policy debates

At City Observatory, we’ve frequently made the case that promoting homeownership as an investment strategy is a risky proposition. No financial advisor would recommend going into debt in order to put such a massive part of your savings in any other single financial instrument—and one that, as we learned just a few years ago, carries a great deal of risk.

Even worse, that risk isn’t random: It falls most heavily on low-income, black, and Hispanic buyers, who are given worse mortgage terms, and whose neighborhoods are systematically more likely to see low or even falling home values, with devastating effects on the racial wealth gap.

But let’s put all that aside for a moment. What if housing were a low-risk, can’t-miss bet for growing your personal wealth? What would that world look like?

Well, in order for your home to offer you a real profit, its price would need to increase faster than the rate of inflation. Let’s pick something decent, but not too crazy—say, annual increases of 2.5 percent, taking inflation into account. So if you bought a home for $200,000 and sold it ten years later, you’d be looking at a healthy profit of just over $56,000.

Sound good? Well, what if I told you that such a city existed? What if I told you it was in a beautiful natural setting, with hills and views of the ocean? And a booming economy? And lots of organic produce?

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Credit: Olivier ROUX, Flickr
Credit: Olivier ROUX, Flickr

Maybe you’ve guessed by now: The wonderland of ever-increasing housing prices is San Francisco. When researcher Eric Fischer went back to construct a database of rental prices there, he found that rents had been growing by about 2.5 percent, net of inflation, for about 60 years. And this Zillow data suggests that San Francisco owner-occupied home prices have been growing by just over 2.5 percent since 1980 as well.

Like I said, over ten years, that gives you a profit of just over 25 percent. But compound interest is an amazing thing, and the longer this consistent wealth-building goes on, the more out of hand housing prices get. In 1980, Zillow’s home price index for San Francisco home prices was about $310,000 (in 2015 dollars). By 2015, after 35 years of averaging 2.5 percent growth, home prices were over $750,000.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.46.59 PM

Now, if all you cared about were wealth building, this would be fantastic news. The system works! (Although actually even this rosy scenario is missing some wrinkles: San Francisco real estate prices did suffer enormously, if briefly, during the late-2000s crash, and if you bought in the mid-2000s and had to sell in, say, 2010, you would have taken a massive loss.)

But this sort of wealth building is predicated on a never-ending stream of new people who are willing and able to pay current home owners increasingly absurd amounts of money for their homes. It is, in other words, a massive up-front transfer of wealth from younger people to older people, on the implicit promise that when those young people become old, there will be new young people willing to give them even more money. And of course, as prices rise, the only young people able to buy into this ponzi scheme are quite well-to-do themselves. And because we’re not talking about stocks, but homes, “buying into this ponzi scheme” means “able to live in San Francisco.”

In other words, possibly the only thing worse than a world in which homeownership doesn’t work as a wealth-building tool is a world in which it does work as a wealth-building tool.

This also means that the two stated pillars of American housing policy—homeownership as wealth-building and housing affordability—are fundamentally at odds. Mostly, American housing policy resolves this contradiction by quietly deciding that it really doesn’t care that much about affordability after all. While funds for low-income subsidized housing languish, much larger pots of money are set aside for promoting homeownership through subsidies like the mortgage interest deduction and capital gains exemption, most of which goes to upper-middle- or upper-class households.

But even markets with large amounts of affordable housing demonstrate the contradiction. Since at least the second half of the 20th century, the vast majority of actually affordable housing has been created via “filtering”: that is, the falling relative prices of market-rate housing as it ages, or its neighborhood loses social status, often as a result of racial changes. Low-income affordability, where it does exist, is predicated on large portions of the housing market acting as terrible investments.

And to the extent that low-income people do find a subsidized, price-fixed housing unit to live in, that means that they won’t be building any wealth, even as their richer, market-housing-dwelling neighbors do, increasing wealth inequality.

Even the community land trust, which seems to be a way of squaring the wealth-building/affordability circle, ultimately fails. Community land trusts typically provide subsidized or reduced price ownership opportunities to initial buyers, and assure longer term affordability by limiting the resale price of the home. In other words, CLT-financed homes remain affordable only because they restrict how much wealth building the initial owners are allowed to capture. The result is that CLT-financed homes only attract those who couldn’t otherwise purchase a home—which means that the lower-income people in CLTs will be building wealth more slowly than higher-income people in market-rate housing, a fundamentally inequality-increasing situation.

We say we want housing to be cheap and we want home ownership to be a great financial investment. Until we realize that these two objectives are mutually exclusive, we’ll continue to be frustrated by failed and oftentimes counterproductive housing policies.

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Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Cockroaches deliver karate kicks to avoid being turned into “zombies”

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Cockroaches deliver karate kicks to avoid being turned into “zombies”

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |

Dead roach walking —

New ultra-slow-motion footage captures aggressive roach defense mechanisms

Hexbyte - Tech News - Ars Technica | A wasp climbs atop a cockroach against a white background.
Enlarge /

The jewel wasp administers two stings: one to paralyze the legs, the other to make the roach her zombie slave.

If you ever want to witness just how horrifyingly “red in tooth and claw” nature can be, you only have to look to the emerald jewel wasp. The female of the species is known for stinging unsuspecting cockroaches with a nasty venom that turns the roach into her docile slave. That way she can lay her eggs in the still-living roach and bury it alive, ensuring her offspring have something to eat when they hatch. Even if you don’t like cockroaches, it’s a pretty gruesome fate—they become the walking dead.

But it turns out that the poor roach is not without defenses of its own, according to a new paper in Brain, Behavior and Evolution with the rather puckish title, “How Not To Be Turned Into a Zombie.” Roaches can use their hard, spiky legs as weapons, even delivering wide sweeping kicks to ward off an attacking jewel wasp. It’s the most detailed study yet of how roaches fight off attacks to turn them into insectoid zombies.

“The cockroach has a suite of behaviors it can deploy to fend off the zombie makers.”

The author, Vanderbilt University’s Ken Catania, has a knack for creatively studying the aggressive behavior of various creatures; his specialty is predator/prey interactions. Back in 2016, he experimentally verified naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt’s 19th-century account of electric eels in Venezuela aggressively leaping up and stunning horses with a series of high-voltage discharges. (Part of that experiment involved LED lights mounted on a fake alligator head, attached with strips of conductive tape, to better visualize those discharges. Because of course it did.)

This time around, he investigated the defense mechanisms of the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) against female jewel wasps (Ampulex compressa, aka emerald cockroach wasp). Catania had read accounts of roaches trying to defend themselves from these devastating attacks and thought they warranted a closer look—in this case, with ultra slow-speed videography, the better to capture the intricacies of the interactions.

  • A roach will assume a stilt-standing posture to evade the jewel wasp’s attack.

  • The cockroach setting up a kick against an approaching wasp.

  • The roach swings its leg like a baseball bat to sweep the wasp away.

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Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Floating solar is more than panels on a platform—it’s hydroelectric’s symbiont

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Floating solar is more than panels on a platform—it’s hydroelectric’s symbiont

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |

water and sun —

Floating solar offers a wide range of benefits to hydroelectric dams.

Hexbyte - Tech News - Ars Technica | Two people working on a floating solar installation
Enlarge /

A view of the new floating solar farm being grid connected on Godley Reservoir in Hyde, on February 10, 2016 in Manchester, England.

Ashley Cooper / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A total of 1.1 gigawatts (GW) of solar have been installed around the world as of September, according to a new report by the World Bank (PDF). That’s similar to the amount of traditional solar panel capacity that had been installed around the world in the year 2000, the report says. The World Bank expects that, like traditional solar 18 years ago, we’re likely to see an explosion of floating solar over the next two decades.

That’s because floating solar is not simply “solar panels on water.” Solar panels prevent algae growth in dammed areas, and they inhibit evaporation from occurring in hotter climates. (According to Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, major lakes in the southwestern US like Lake Mead and Lake Powell can lose more than 800,000 acre-feet of water to evaporation per year, and the adorably-described “floatovoltaics” could prevent up to 90 percent of that evaporation.”) Additionally, floating solar avoids taking up space on land that is priced at a premium. In Northern California, for example, a floating solar installation was added to a nearby reservoir because the land around it was better used for growing grapes.

Another benefit of floating solar is that ground doesn’t have to be leveled before the plant is installed. Usually, fixed-tilt panels are attached to a floating platform that’s moored to the bottom of the reservoir. Most systems send electricity through floating inverters, although in some smaller installations the inverters are situated on land.

The downside is, of course, cost. Floating platforms and water-resistant wiring are more expensive for water-dwelling panels than for their land-based counterparts. As solar PV panel prices have been falling, however, the extra cost to make a floating system might save it from being considered too expensive.

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Water and sun

The World Bank contends that the real value of floating solar is going to become obvious as more and more panels are paired with hydroelectric systems.

Floating solar and hydroelectric dams actually work in a pretty nice symbiosis. In some areas, hydroelectric dams produce energy in an extremely predictable manner. In these cases, the electricity can be used to augment the more variable solar energy coming from the panels. In other cases, hydroelectric energy wanes in times of drought, and solar energy can be used to augment hydroelectric power when water levels are low. “Floating solar may therefore be of particular interest where grids are weak, such as in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of developing Asia,” the World Bank writes.

  • First solar panels paired with a hydroelectric damn at the Alto Rabagao Dam in Portugal


  • World Bank example of a floating solar system.

    World Bank

  • Aerial view of the floating solar power station on top of an abandoned coal mine at Nanping Village on April 19, 2018 in Huaibei, Anhui Provinc

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Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Essen 2018: The best board games from the biggest board game con

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Essen 2018: The best board games from the biggest board game con

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at



This past weekend, tens of thousands of tabletop gaming fanatics made a pilgrimage to the German city of Essen for the annual Internationale Spieltage fair—better known to board gaming fans simply as Spiel (or Essen). It’s the most important event in the board gaming calendar, where major publishers unveil their new releases, indie designers clamor to draw attention to their passion projects, and players scramble to try the hottest new games before they hit store shelves.

It’s a heaving, sprawling, noisy celebration of analogue gaming, and with thousands of new products on show, it’s impossible to do more than scratch the surface of what’s on offer. Once you set foot in the cavernous Messe Essen venue, you quickly realize that no matter how meticulously you’ve planned your visit, it all counts for nothing; it’s all about spotting empty spaces at demo tables and leaping at them before anyone else.

Still, I managed to play a bevy of exciting new games, and along the way we discovered a few surprise favorites. Here are our highlights of Spiel 2018.

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Skylands

Aya & Shun, Queen Games, 2 – 4 players, 45 minutes, ages 8+

Owen Duffy

This fantasy-themed tile-laying game has players building chains of floating islands in the sky. You’ll score points by constructing different configurations of islands, populating cities, and avoiding empty space on your player board at game’s end. Standard stuff—but what makes it interesting is how you go about it.

You’ll choose a single action to take on each turn, like adding a new land tile to your board or filling some of your islands with new inhabitants. But whatever action you choose, your opponents will immediately get to take a slightly less powerful versio

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Hexbyte – News – Science/Nature | How Apollo 8 Survived the Risky Trip to the Far Side of the Moon | Apollo

Hexbyte – News – Science/Nature | How Apollo 8 Survived the Risky Trip to the Far Side of the Moon | Apollo

Hexbyte – News – Science/Nature |


A last minute shake up in 1968 sent a manned crew outside of Earth’s orbit for the first time. The crew of Apollo 8, in a very short amount of time, would have to learn how to reach our nearest celestial neighbor and then return safely to Earth.

How Apollo 8 Survived the Risky Trip to the Far Side of the Moon | Apollo

Apollo 8 initially intended to stay close to home, testing crucial equipment in Earth’s orbit and helping to ensure everything would be ready when the time came to put a man on the Moon. But just four months before launch, the mission was drastically changed and a crew already in training was given a new assignment. They were now tasked with going farther than anyone in history, on a journey that could, with one wrong calculation, leave them stranded in the vastness of space.

With a new mission came a new crew. Astronauts Frank Borman and James Lovell, two Gemini veterans and William Anders, who had never been to space before, were reassigned to Apollo 8 in August of 1968. They were given new objectives, mainly involving testing the crew, command module and equipment between Earth and lunar orbit, as well as in lunar orbit. On the morning of December 21st, 1968 the three man crew squeezed into the command module on top of the Saturn V rocket. Three hours after launch, a fuel boost would increase the spacecraft’s velocity by over 35,000 feet per second, taking astronauts outside of Earth’s orbit for the first time.

After Apollo 8 made the journey from the Earth to the Moon, it needed to enter lunar orbit, a task that had to be done in radio silence on the far side of the Moon–out of communication with the NASA team back on Earth. In order to slow down enough to be captured by the moon’s gravity, Apollo 8’s propulsion system would be fired in reverse for a precise amount of time. If it burned too long, the craft would slow down too much and crash. Too little and it would be traveling too fast, missing the moon altogether, drifting into space without hope of ever returning to Earth.

The maneuver was a success and the module would orbit the Moon ten times before entering the next dangerous phase of the mission. In order to exit lunar orbit, they once again had to rely on their propulsion system. If it failed at this point, the crew would be stranded in the moon’s orbit and most likely would suffocate and perish by New Year’s Eve. Not only was the propulsion system successful, the crew returned to Earth and splashed down less than three miles from their rescue ship.

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Hexbyte – News – Science/Nature | RIP the Kilogram, Which Will Never Be the Same Again

Hexbyte – News – Science/Nature | RIP the Kilogram, Which Will Never Be the Same Again

Hexbyte – News – Science/Nature |

Hexbyte - News - Science/Nature | international prototype of the kilogram (IPK)

Most people know how much a pound weighs — 16 ounces. The worldly among us may know that a kilogram is 2.2 pounds — or 1,000 grams. But do we really know these numbers mean? Agreeing on units of measurement is a lot more complicated than it might seem, and the way humans agree on weights around the world is about to completely change.

For over a century, the world standard for the kilogram has been the International Prototype of the Kilogram, a cylinder made of platinum and iridium that’s stored at the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (International Bureau of Weights and Measures) in France. The BIPM is an international organization that helps standardize international science and trade by establishing standards for measurements that we can all agree upon. This is why the BIPM has the IPK: Without this heavy little cylinder, the world would not have a standard kilogram to determine what a kilogram weighs. Copies of the IPK (sometimes affectionately referred to as “Le Grand K”) have been distributed around the world so member countries can maintain the standard, and every 40 years the IPK is measured to make sure it’s still a kilogram. Recent measurements have shown, though, that the masses of these Grand Ks are diverging, which could spell chaos for trade, science, and potentially such sensitive fields as rocketry, in which calculations must be precise.

This system may sound bizarre and archaic, but there’s a good reason why the world has used this reference weight for so many years: It’s really hard to figure out what a kilogram is any other way. Here’s why.

Whereas we may think different units of measurement are their own natural laws, defined in reference to each other — for instance, a day is 24 hours, and an hour is 60 minutes, and a minute is 60 seconds — the truth is that units of measurement have historically been defined in terms of some concrete phenomenon in the world. In metrology, the study of measurement, these concrete phenomena are known as artifacts.

As aerospace engineer Max Fagin outlined in a tweet thread on Thursday, scientists have come a long way over the years when it comes to figuring out how to move beyond artifacts so they can measure stuff without having to put it next to other stuff. For instance, a second used to be measured as a 1/31556925.9747 of the time it takes for the Earth to go around the sun. Now it’s defined as the amount of time it takes for an electron in a cesium-133 atom to oscillate 9,192,631,770 times. This may sound unnecessarily specific and frankly bizarre, but by defining a unit of measurement in terms of an atom’s behavior, scientists can say with a fair degree of certainty that a second is a second, no matter where you are in the universe — and no matter whether you have a stopwatch.

In short, scientists have moved the standard point of reference for measurements off of human-made objects and onto universal constants. All except for the kilogram.

The second, like the kilogram, meter, and four other units, make up the Systéme International units. These are the most basic units of measurements that all others are based on. Nowadays, most of the SI units can be determined without some kind of artifact, but measuring a kilogram is much more difficult because it requires complex calculations that are made more complicated by gravity. After all, while we often think of mass and weight as the same, they’re not. Mass, as measured in kilograms, is how much matter is in an object. But that’s how scientists plan to make the IPK obsolete.

This is where the Kibble Balance comes in to save us. This device, which is under development by multiple labs. The National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US, and the National Physical Laboratory in England are both working on this device, which will hopefully redefine the kilogram in terms of Planck’s constant, a number that’s central to our understanding of quantum mechanics. In short, this device doesn’t determine mass by measuring weight, but by measuring the electromagnetic force between two plates. Oh, and it’s all done in a vacuum.

The Kibble Balance, to put it simply, should be able to measure the mass of an object — the IPK, for instance — in terms of electrical power. To get all the math involved, check out the video below. For anyone who’s not into the nitty-gritty of physics, though, suffice it to say that the Kibble Balance should help scientists redefine the kilogram.

“One key reason for doing this work is to provide international security,” Ian Robinson, head of the National Physical Laboratory’s engineering measurement division, told Luxembourg news outlet Delano. “If the Pavillon de Breteuil” — where the IPK is stored — “burned down tomorrow and the kilogram in its vaults melted, we would have no reference left for the world’s metric weights system. There would be chaos. The current definition of the kilogram is the weight of that cylinder in Paris, after all.”

And that’s just not good enough for international science.

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Hexbyte – Science and Tech Apple will accept some of your old iPhones, MacBooks, and Macs for repairs

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Apple will accept some of your old iPhones, MacBooks, and Macs for repairs

Hexbyte – Science and Tech

Apple will soon accept some old iPhones, MacBooks, and Mac computers for repairs under a new “Repair Vintage Apple Products Pilot” program, 9to5Mac reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The new program will initially cover the following Apple devices:

  • iPhone 5 (GSM/CDMA), released 2012
  • 11-inch MacBook Air, released mid-2012
  • 13-inch MacBook Air, released mid-2012
  • 21.5-inch iMac, released mid-2011, for U.S. and Turkey only
  • 27-inch iMac, released mid-2011, for U.S. and Turkey only

If the last two devices look familiar, it is because they are part of a pilot program by Apple in the U.S. that ran from March 31 and August 31. There was speculation that if the program proved popular, it would be expanded to include other products. It looks like that is exactly what is happening here.

Apple will then be adding more to the line-up of devices included in the new program over the year, starting with the following on November 30:

  • iPhone 4s, released 2011
  • 15-inch MacBook Pro, released mid-2012

Then, on December 30, Apple will add the following devices:

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, released late 2012
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, released early 2013
  • MacBook Pro with Retina display, released mid-2012
  • Mac Pro, released mid-2012
  • iPhone 5 (GSM), released 2012

The new program focuses on products that Apple has tagged as “vintage,” which are devices that have not been manufactured for more than five years and less than seven years ago. All Apple Store and authorized service providers will start offering repairs for the aforementioned devices once the program is launched.

But just because an Apple device appears on the list, it does not mean that service is guaranteed. Repairs will only be offered depending on the availability of parts, but that is an upgrade from Apple’s previous stance of completely discontinuing repairs once a product is tagged as “vintage.” At the very least, the new program gives old Apple products a chance at being fixed, instead of being disposed of once they encounter issues.

The “Repair Vintage Apple Products Pilot” program comes after reports on Apple’s crackdown on third-party repairs for the iMac Pro and 2018 MacBook Pro. The computers must pass certain Apple Service Toolkit 2 tests for successful repairs, but only Apple’s authorized service providers have access to the software.

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Hexbyte – Science and Tech Plus, Dot, Spot, Show? Which Amazon Echo is the way to go?

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Plus, Dot, Spot, Show? Which Amazon Echo is the way to go?

Hexbyte – Science and Tech

Let’s be honest: The sheer number of Amazon Echo devices available is a little overwhelming, and it’s OK if you’re confused about which one to get for yourself or as a holiday gift. While the Alexa voice assistant is the same for all the devices (for the most part), there are some things to consider when shopping, like, do you care about sound? Do you want a screen? Are you looking for a built-in smart home hub as well as a voice assistant?

We’re here to help. Here’s every current and upcoming Echo device, what each does, who it’s good for, and other important information. Keep this list handy and you’ll never get confused.

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo 2nd generation ($100)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech Amazon Echo 2017 review both colors
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

What it is: A Bluetooth smart speaker with built-in Alexa voice assistant. This is Amazon’s flagship Echo device, and features decent sound with a 2.5 inch woofer and 0.6 inch tweeter.

What it does: Everything Alexa does: plays music, answers questions, tells jokes, makes reminders and alarms, controls smart home devices – really, a little of everything. Alexa is a very versatile voice assistant that can connect with most smart devices (and things like Xbox) in your home. Learn more in our full review.

Who it’s for: People who don’t already have a Bluetooth speaker or voice assistant in their home, and don’t mind talking to a device.

Cost: $100, although it often goes on sale during holidays. We’ve seen it as low as $80.

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Dot 3rd generation ($50)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech echo dot 2018 3rd generation
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

What it is: A tiny hockey-puck version of the Echo.

What it does: Everything the Echo does, but smaller – and with smaller sound. We should note that while it doesn’t sound as great as the original Echo, it does sound much better than its predecessor, the second generation Echo Dot. Check out our review for more information.

Who it’s for: The Dot can be used either as an affordable alternative to the Echo, or as a satellite speaker for it. However, it won’t be able to fill the room with sound like an Echo can, so it’s better for a desk or nightstand. You can also hook up speakers for stronger bass and treble. This is the best option for people just getting started with a smart home and who want to try out a voice assistant without breaking the bank.

Cost: $50, although it could go on sale for Black Friday.

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Dot Kid’s Edition ($70)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition review
Kim Wetzel/Digital Trends

What it is: A slightly more expensive version of the Dot with a protective case and lively colors.

What it does: Everything the normal Dot does, but you get a free year of FreeTime Unlimited (kids radio stations, audiobooks, and other activities, which you can also buy with a regular Echo device for $84 per year for Prime members). Amazon also encourages you to use the Parent Dashboard for filters, blocks and other controls. In terms of sound quality, expect it to be the same as the second-generation Echo Dot. Read more in our full review.

Who it’s for: Parents who are worried about what kind of inappropriate content a kid might stumble upon during interactions with Alexa. With parental controls built in, you won’t get explicit lyrics or inappropriate content. It’s basically a mini radio, voice assistant and music player for kids. It may be useful as a transition device for kids who aren’t ready for a mobile device of their own yet.

Cost: $70, although it does go on sale from time to time.

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Plus 2nd generation ($150)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech amazon echo plus 2nd gen
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

What it is: An advanced version of the Echo with a lower profile, better sound, a built-in temperature sensor, and Zigbee compatibility for smart home control.

What it does: Everything the Echo does, but with audio that fills a room with even better sound, and better compatibility for Zigbee devices, which makes it more likely that older smart devices will work with Alexa. This is Amazon’s best-sounding standalone speaker, boasting a three-inch neodymium woofer and 0.8 inch tweeter. Read more in our review.

Who it’s for: It’s $50 more than an Echo and offers a good boost in audio quality. It also gives you additional smart home connectivity. If sound and smart home connectivity is a priority for you, then this is a better alternative, or an excellent replacement, for an original Echo.

Cost: $150, but keep an eye on it during Black Friday, as Amazon could discount it.

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Show 2nd generation ($230)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech Amazon Echo Show 2 Review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

What it is: An Echo with Alexa built in, but with a 10-inch touchscreen for looking at visual information, watching shows, taking video calls, and everything else a screen can do. It can also link to smart security cams like Nest and Ring around the home to show what’s going on.

What it does: The Show adds a visual aspect to the Echo, which opens up many new possibilities if you keep the Echo in a readily visible location. Many put it in kitchens to watch recipe videos. The second generation also has greatly improved speakers over the first-generation model, so you still get good audio. The Echo Show works with Amazon Video, Hulu, and other video services. You can ask Alexa what the weather is and also see results of the 7-day weather forecast on the screen. Find out more in our review.

Who it’s for: Those who like the idea of video calls, watching shows, or looking at visual information like recipes, how-to videos, and other similar content.

Cost: $230

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Spot ($130)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech Amazon Echo Spot Review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

What it is: A small Echo Show with a round screen in the middle.

What it does: Technically it can do everything the Echo Show and all the Alexa-enabled speakers can, but the small round screen limits functionality for anything that needs a bigger, rectangular screen, like movies or more complex information. Many users place it on a desk or a nightstand, and it can be used as a baby monitor screen if you have a camera that works with Alexa. Learn more in our review.

Who it’s for: The Spot makes for a good alternative to an alarm clock or a video replacement for a central home phone. It can show time, weather, and other data, as well as control smart devices.

Cost: $130, although we’ve seen it on sale for $100.

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Sub ($130)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech echo sub amazon review 7

What it is: An accessory device that adds a full subwoofer to your Echo. It’s not an Alexa speaker in its own right, but works with an Echo speaker to give you fuller sound.

What it does: The latest Echoes already have very good sound, but if you really want to take audio as far as it can go, the Sub will add much-needed base for the Echo or Echo Plus. You can even hook up two Echoes for broad right-and-left stereo sound. Read more in our review.

Who it’s for: If room-filling sound is important to you and you already have an Echo device, the Sub is a handy addition. This works best with the superior audio qualities of the Echo Plus.

Cost: $130

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Buttons ($15)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech Echo Buttons

What it is: A pack of two buttons that aren’t speakers in their own right, but pair with an Echo device to be used for gaming or quiz skills with Alexa.

What it does: Enable specific types of gameplay or customized games. Think of them as game show buzzers.

Who it’s for: People who are really, really into social game parties and have an Echo.

Cost: $15

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Connect ($35)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech Amazon Echo Connect

What it is: An Alexa device that connects to a compatible home phone.

What it does: It gives a compatible home phone—landline or VoIP—Alexa voice command capabilities. This allows you to call by naming someone in your contacts (you can also create a separate contact list with your phone). Alexa allows you to input basic digits for automated response calls, too.

Who it’s for: A very, very niche audience, primarily people who run a home business and need a home phone connection for making a lot of calls. Don’t buy this unless you are sure the phone system is compatible.

Cost: $35

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Look ($200)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech Amazon Echo Look review
Erika Rawes/Digital Trends

What it is: An Echo camera – but wait, it’s not a security camera, tt’s a style camera. That means…

What it does: It helps you take full selfies, compare outfits, and uses smart tech to recommend outfit pairings. If you log in all your outfits, it can even start to organize your wardrobe by weather, season, and occasion. You can share the results with your friends. Learn more in our review.

Who it’s for: You already know if this will be a good fit or not. Instagram-obsessed people are more likely to love it. On the other hand, this level of outfit organization isn’t for everyone, and the price is pretty high.

Cost: $200

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Auto (Release date: Unknown)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech amazon event takeaways echo auto press

What it is: An upcoming Echo dash mounted device that provides Alexa compatibility for your car. Amazon introduced this device at its event in September 2018, but we still don’t know when it will be available to the public.

What it does: It brings all the Alexa features to the car without requiring a built-in dashboard. That includes audio books, news reports, weather reports, and connecting with nearby smart devices for your door and garage.

Who it’s for: Big Alexa fans who also have cars. The cost is also low, opening this device up to a wider audience than some Echo devices.

Cost: $35, although you can’t pre-order it yet.

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Link (Release date: Unknown)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech Echo Link

What it is: An upcoming device that gives stereo systems Alexa capabilities and streaming music. Amazon introduced this device at its event in September 2018, but we still don’t know when it will be available to the public.

What it does: Connects to stereos through a variety of inputs (pretty much anything will be compatible here). Then you can give Alexa commands and play streaming music services through that stereo.

Who it’s for: Someone who loves their old music system and who doesn’t want to update it, but also likes voice commands and streaming service. And we mean really loves their system, because this is a really pricey device that doesn’t do much otherwise.

Cost: $200

Hexbyte – Science and Tech Echo Link Amp (Release date: Unknown)

Hexbyte - Science and Tech how to pre order new amazon echo devices link amp 2018

What it is: Just like the Echo Link, but also with a 60W x 2-channel amplifier. Amazon introduced this device at its event in September 2018, but we still don’t know when it will be available to the public.

What it does: Provides an amp, Alexa voice commands, and streaming services for a music system.

Who it’s for: The Amp is more expensive, but also has more usability than the original Link. We can see it having a place in a studio setup or musician’s system.

Cost: $300

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Hexbyte – Science and Tech ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’: Here’s Every Alternate Costume

Hexbyte – Science and Tech ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’: Here’s Every Alternate Costume

Hexbyte – Science and Tech

By Tyler Fischer

Hexbyte - Science and Tech Super Smash

This week, courtesy of a new Nintendo Direct, Nintendo dumped a metric ton of Super Smash. Bros. Ultimate reveals, information, and media that momentarily took the Internet by storm.

And if your brain wasn’t already overloaded and flooded with Super Smash. Bros Ultimate, it’s about to be.

Spanish YouTuber, smashbrosspain, released a thorough and extensive video that featured every alternate costume for every fighter in the game. Unfortunately, the video got taken down not longer after going up. Why this happened, is unclear, but it likely had something to do with Nintendo copyright.

Fortunately, another YouTuber, by the name of AmuroRed, has uploaded a mirror of the video.

With a roster as big as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate — which includes every previous fighter in the series, as well as many new fighters — there is a ton of alternate costumes to check out as a result.

Interestingly, the video reveals a few interesting tidbits, such as the odd removal of Black Yoshi. Further, there’s no Tuxedo Bowser, which just flat out makes me sad.

Luckily, to make the former loss easier to deal with is the addition of an absolutely adorable Yarn Yoshi. I’m no fan of Yoshi — who’s meant to be ridden and then disposed of — but even I can get down with a Yarn version of the green dino.

It remains to be seen whether or not Nintendo will release any additional alternate costumes via DLC. At the moment of writing this, it hasn’t mentioned any plans to do so.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is poised to release later this year on December 7, exclusively via the Nintendo Switch. For more news, information, and media on the highly-anticipated platform fighter, be sure to take a gander at all of our previous coverage of the game by clicking here. That way you’re ready and caught up to date the next time Nintendo decides to make it national Super Smash Bros. week and release another info dump.


And of course, feel free to leave a comment in the comments section letting us know what you think of the new alternate costumes. What one is your favorite? Are there any glaring misses (other than Tuxedo Bowser, of course).

Thanks, NintendoLife.