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YouTube Music arrives late to the party with room for improvement

When the old YouTube Music app launched back in 2015, being able to access this vast trove of music was the best thing about it. Combining that with a full-fledged streaming service means you don't have to keep jumping between apps, so that's a big win for the new YouTube Music. The old app also let you search for audio-only songs and albums if you had a Google Play Music or YouTube Red subscription, but the app itself was clearly optimized for video. That's not the case anymore, which makes it easier to live your entire streaming life inside YouTube Music.

Growing pains

Unfortunately, YouTube Music has many quirks that could be deal-breakers for some users, so don't go canceling Spotify just yet. As I mentioned earlier, YouTube Music, like Google Play Music before it, has a great collection of curated playlists that span genres, decades, moods and activities. In fact, Play Music let you use those four categories to browse all those playlists. In YouTube Music, you can access these playlists only through your homepage. If you're looking for a new workout mix or want to find the best '90s playlists out there, you'd better hope YouTube's algorithms put them on your homepage.

It's a bummer because I particularly enjoyed digging into the many different classifications in Google Play Music. Of course, you can search "workout" and then check out all the playlists that surface, but it's not nearly as elegant a solution.

Similarly, YouTube Music doesn't make it easy to find new releases. There's a "recommended new releases" section on the homepage, but there are only 10 albums in it. There's no way to simply see new albums from the week, something basically every music service offers. Play Music lets you see all new releases or sort by genre, and it also offers a constantly-updating New Release Radio station personalized to each user. That's all absent here. There is an "offline mixtape" customized to each user that can be automatically downloaded to your phone, but it's mostly just a selection of things you've already listened to and liked.

YouTube Music doesn't even offer you a way to click through to specific genres. Apple Music and Spotify both feature robust genre pages that pull together new releases, classic albums, videos and a wide range of playlists. There's nothing comparable here -- yet another thing that makes the service feel incomplete.

Finally, using YouTube Music can add some annoyances to the standard YouTube experience. Remember all those artists you subscribed to so that they'd show up in your library? Well, they'll all show up as subscriptions over on the video-focused YouTube as well. Perhaps worse is how every album you've added to your library shows up as a playlist in the standard YouTube library -- having dozens of albums obscuring the actual video playlists you've created or subscribed to is a definitively bad user experience.

Should you sign up?

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/youtube-music-review/

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ESPN+ will stream live ‘League of Legends’ tournaments

ESPN+ is a great option for streaming sports without the need for cable. And now, if you're more into jungling than free throws or penalty shots, the service has something for you as well: live League of Legends tournaments, including net month's North American Championship Series Summer Split, according to Variety. The broadcasts start June 16th, and matches will stream live on the app on weekends.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/espn-plus-league-of-legends-broadcasts/

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Spotify will revise artist behavior policy following backlash

Carter threatened to leave, according to the tipsters, but he decided to stay put after promises of reform from Ek. There's no talk of restoring R. Kelly's music.

The parties involved have declined to comment so far. However, the incident illustrates the gray areas involved with Spotify's new policy. At what point does an artist's off-stream conduct go too far, for example? And can these artists do anything to restore trust (such as XXXTentacion's donation to domestic violence prevention programs)? While Spotify doesn't want to be seen as tacitly ignoring or endorsing horrific acts, there's a concern the policy is too subjective and could be prone to racism or other forms of bias.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/spotify-rethinks-artist-behavior-policy/

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Alexa’s recording snafu was improbable, but inevitable

"Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like 'Alexa,'" the statement reads. "Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a "send message" request. At which point, Alexa said out loud "To whom?" At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, "[contact name], right?" Alexa then interpreted background conversation as 'right'."

That is, without question, absolutely wild. Given a handful of factors at play here, though, it was likely inevitable that Alexa would've goofed spectacularly at some point. I'm not a betting man, but let's look at the numbers: Right after Christmas, Amazon confirmed that it had sold "tens of millions" of Alexa-enabled devices around the world. New research indicates that Google has for the first time overtaken Amazon as the world's premier purveyor of smart speakers, but no matter -- people are or were talking to at least 20 million Alexa devices around the world. That amounts to a huge number of interactions for Alexa to interpret every day, and it was only a matter of time before the right set of circumstances produced a situation that Alexa just couldn't handle.

Alexa's cascading failure here isn't simply due to a numbers game, either. It's also because Alexa can be lousy at its job. Looking back through my own Alexa history -- which contains recordings of every interaction I've ever had with it -- reveals a handful of false positives that shouldn't have triggered the assistant in the first place. In some cases, a droning voice on TV said a word that kinda sorta sounded like "Alexa," which prompted the assistant to try and interpret what else the person was saying. In others, the recording stored by Amazon didn't include the Alexa wake word at all, leaving me perplexed as to why Alexa was trying to listen in the first place. It probably won't come as a surprise that most of the recordings that lacked an audible "Alexa" were snippets from a television show or a conversation that was never meant to be heard by Amazon.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/alexa-recording-snafu-improbable-inevitable/

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Trump administration tells Congress it has deal to save ZTE

The deal could be as public as soon as May 25th (today if you're reading in time), but it's otherwise expected "soon."

If a deal like this goes forward, it could trigger a furor in Congress. The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would prevent the US from making a deal with ZTE, while a bipartisan group of senators (including Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio) have insisted that the administration maintain the ban as a matter of law enforcement and security. ZTE faced the renewed ban after it allegedly reneged on promises to punish workers for illegally shipping telecom hardware to Iran and North Korea, so another deal could be seen as going soft on the company.

Whatever happens, ZTE doesn't have many bargaining chips. It suspended operations after the first ban, since its heavy dependence on American components (such as Qualcomm Snapdragon processors for phones) left it with a grim future where it either couldn't offer certain products at all or would be at a competitive disadvantage. However much it dislikes a given ideal, it might have to say yes for the sake of survival.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/trump-administration-deal-to-resurrect-zte/

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The bogus expert and social media chicanery of DC’s top cyber think tank

With "at least 45 fake Twitter accounts being used to amplify ICIT content and Scott's book, as well as a group of fake YouTube accounts that upload and like ICIT videos." The think tank eventually verified in writing to BuzzFeed that it does, in fact, operate the twitter accounts in question. Twitter has since suspended 11 of the accounts. When we reached out for comment, Scott replied:

ICIT had outsourced its social media management to overseas contractors. I've apologized and regret not managing them more vigilantly at the time. I voluntarily resigned my duties at ICIT so that ICIT was not impacted.

While at ICIT, I wrote several books which we gave away for free so that "cost" never stopped people from accessing the data. I never charged for public speaking engagements or public sector advisory to critical infrastructure organizations due to my deep conviction to help secure our Nation from cyber attack

The thing about cyber and digital decepticons is, all you usually need to do is give them enough rope and they pretty much hang themselves — which, along with some great investigative reporting, is what BuzzFeed did. And "A DC Think Tank Uses Fake Twitter Accounts And A Shady Expert To Reach The NSA, FBI, And White House" is a great story. But it comes with an even more insane backstory.

It started when BuzzFeed journo Craig Silverman noticed a random Twitter reply from the cofounder of ICIT, which appeared to have a lot of spammy support. Silverman looked closer, unearthing numerous bot accounts pushing Scott's recent self-published book on cyber information warfare.

Artificial influencer

Bizarrely, one of the connecting threads was a unique insult: Scott calling Silverman a "mind midget" (used when the reporter started asking uncomfortable questions). Scott's distinctive misuse of "mental midget" started Silverman down a rabbit hole of sock puppets using the same insult and phrasing, leading to aliases, unsubstantiated claims of bestselling books, a career as a cybersecurity expert that only began in 2013, and (prior to that) a variety of shady startups — including one that sold automated social media boosting.

"He also placed incredibly fawning articles about himself on sites that seemed to exist to improve his SEO," Silverman tweeted. "Fast forward to now and he's still doing that," he added. "Along with the bots that retweet brooding memes of him, there are the fake YouTube accounts that upload ICIT videos of Scott and also leave comments that declare him to be a genius."

After Scott cut off contact with Silverman, the ICIT cofounder was quick to publish a tweet saying that "journalists on Russian/Chinese payroll who are targeting us for exposing them in my Information Warfare book."

That all of this is married to an influential DC cybersecurity think tank struck Silverman as alarming — as it should. "But it seems no one checked on [Scott's] credentials or looked closely at his background," he tweeted.

To which we say, "Welcome to cybersecurity!"

Look: I know we're living in the stupid timeline, the one where the normal and the abnormal are all blurred together.

Especially in Washington DC. It's where John Bolton (no cyber experience) eliminates terrifyingly necessary cyber positions in the White House. Where Jared Kushner (no cyber experience) is Cyber Commandant, and for a while Rudy Giuliani (no cyber experience) was named Donald Trump's official presidential cybersecurity adviser. It's also a fetid warp in space and time where US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein makes up phrases like "responsible encryption" in order to pretend he has knowledge of a way to backdoor encryption in a totally secure way.

But con artist reward and success is horribly normal for infosec. It has been for ages — look no further than respected indie site Attrition's long-running and oft-referenced Charlatans page. On it, there's nearly a decade of researched and citation-heavy documentation of sketchy technical experts, infosec journalists, companies, and bogus crowdfunding campaigns. All trading on buzzwords in place of knowledge and experience, selling books and events, pushing fear, and ruled by spiteful ego.

Infosec has a vulnerability

The cyber snake oil salesman is a permanent fixture of the industry, much to the chagrin of those working in the trenches and seeing through the charades. Because we often cope with abuse through humor, infosec attempts to cling to sanity with parodies like @SecSnakeOil, Threatbutt, and this year's new addition the F.A.K.E. Security patent-pending line of cybersecurity solutions — literally dressing up and selling products at security conventions packaged as old-timey snake oil potions.

The problem is that everyone uses security but no one understands it. When an industry is like magic voodoo to the world at large, and the industry's knowledgeable inhabitants are hereditarily misanthropic, you have the exact scientific formula for all sorts of wankers to come in and be big stinky assholes, ruining everything they touch.

That's not to say ICIT has ruined anything — but wow, do we have a lot of questions now about their research, citations, experience, vetting, connections, advising, and, well, everything else. James Scott, ICIT's senior fellow and cofounder and the whole reason BuzzFeed even looked into this, is its top expert.

Under the auspices of ICIT last month, James Scott recently downplayed Russian troll armies to Forbes. Scott, as ICIT, told respected-in-infosec outlet CSO last year that AI could "crush" ransomware and would slay the healthcare ransomware dragon, while telling ZDNet that IoT was somehow going to be ransomware's next Pearl Harbor. In another WTF example, Scott-as-ICIT chose the months leading up to 2016's presidential election -- when Russian trolls and propaganda had become a five-alarm fire -- to tell MSNBC that "Islamic terrorists" were about to attack and "The 'cyber jihad' is coming."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/dc-bogus-cyber-security-expert/

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San Francisco temporarily removes electric scooters for permit process

Companies have to pay the SFMTA $5,000 to apply, and $25,000 per year to keep their permits going. They also have to pour $10,000 into a maintenance fund that will cover public property damage and storage for wayward scooters. To no one's surprise, any company found operating without a permit will automatically be denied a chance at a permit.

This initiative won't please residents who object to the scooters' very existence. You'll still have to dodge around them. Even so, the program and law promise to reduce at least some of the headaches associated with the unfettered scooters of recent months. They'll have to operate in certain areas, park scooters in places that won't disrupt traffic and tell customers to wear helmets. Although this is likely to have a limited effect (only so many people are going to bring head protection), it could end some of the chaos that has plagued San Francisco in recent weeks.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/san-francisco-temporarily-removes-electric-scooters-from-streets/

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Samsung adds FreeSync to its latest TVs for smoother gaming

FreeSync was typically found only on monitors before now, like Samsung's own ultrawide 49-inch display. Xbox One S and X support the feature after an update last month, and PCs with AMD graphics cards can take advantage of it too.

The FreeSync support comes at a price, though: it limits the resolution of those TVs to 1080p, and you might find some issues with brightness. For now, at least, it seems like you can choose between smoother gameplay or sharper visuals. Once you've updated the firmware, you can toggle the feature under your TV's game mode settings.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/samsung-qled-tv-amd-freesync-gaming-xbox-one/

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Apple pledges to disclose government app takedown requests

That is, those requests don't appear in this report, which covers the second half of last year. But in 2019, when transparency document for July 1st to December 31st, 2018 arrives, it will include foreign government requests made to Apple to take down apps related to "alleged violations of legal and/or policy provisions."

Assuming Apple follows the tradition of its other figures, we'll also know how many of those requests it complied with. For example, in today's report covering the back half of 2017, the company received 29,718 demands to access 309,362 devices -- and Apple acquiesced to 79 percent of those.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/apple-disclose-government-app-takedown-requests-transparency-report/

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Senators investigate safety procedures for autonomous cars

The senators want to know where testing is occurring, how companies determined if the self-driving tech was safe for public roads and whether the technology relies on internal sensors or external inputs and more. Copies of the letter were sent to the US offices of BMW, Daimler Trucks, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo, Amazon, Apple, Intel, Lyft, NVIDIA Corporation, Uber and Waymo.

"This latest fatality has raised many questions about the processes companies have in place to guard public safety when testing this type of technology on public roads," the senators wrote in the letter sent to Uber. "Although we understand that Uber and several other AV companies have temporarily halted vehicle testing, we would like to know more about your company's protocols for test-driving AVs on public roads and how they will be adjusted in light of the recent tragedy."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/senators-investigate-autonomous-cars-safety-procedures/

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