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London City is the first major airport to control air traffic via a digital tower

Tech is firmly ingrained in air travel. From biometric boarding gates to parallel reality displays that beam custom messages, the process of catching a flight has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. Now, a major technological breakthrough has been announced in the operation and management of air travel. London City Airport has hailed itself as the world's first major international airport to be able to fully control air traffic using a digital tower.

The new system allows personnel based 90 miles away in a village in Hampshire — a county in the South East of England — to guide flights to take off and landing using a new, state-of-the-art digital mast. The 50 meter tower is equipped with 16 high-definition cameras that provide ground controllers with a 360-degree view of the airfield. Included in the camera array are two pan-tilt zoom cameras that replicate the binocular functions of a conventional control tower. 

The images are live-streamed via fiber networks to staff at the UK's main air navigation service provider, known as NATS, in Swanwick in Hampshire. Air traffic controllers view the live video feed on a panoramic screen overlaid with data such as call signs, altitude, weather readings and the speed of aircraft approaching and leaving the airport. 

According to London City Airport, all flights on its summer schedule will be remotely navigated using the new digital control tower. Management claim the smart infrastructure can help it to meet expected growth in passenger demand, following a standstill during the pandemic, as international travel resumes in May. The launch follows previous trials of the system at Sweden's Örnsköldsvik and Sundsvall airports. 

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/london-city-airport-air-traffic-digital-tower-101630081.html

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The EU’s Apple antitrust investigation is moving forward

The European Union is today moving forward with its case against Apple, saying that it is potentially in violation of EU law. Competition chief Margrethe Vestager said that her team believes there is enough evidence to open an antitrust case against the iPhone maker. Vestager tweeted that Apple Music “compete [sic] with other music streaming services, but Apple charges high commission fees on rivals in he App Store and forbids them to inform of alternative subscription options.”

The Commission has published its Statement of Objections, essentially a list of issues that officials feel warrant further investigation. The document says that Apple’s current policies ”distort competition in the market” by “raising the costs of competing music streaming.” It says that such an act, if found true, would count as a violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU which prohibits "abuse of a dominant market position.”

The EU's case hinges on two points: Apple’s 30-percent cut on the majority of in-app transactions made through the App Store, and the App Store’s “anti-steering provisions.” The former, officials claim, could force Spotify and other rival services to raise their prices or stop offering service, distorting the market. The latter, focuses on how Apple blocks developers from communicating to users about the option of cheaper deals.

In response, Apple issued a statement saying that “at the core of this case is Spotify's demand they should be able to advertise alternative deals on their iOS app, a practice that no store in the world allows.” It added that Spotify wants “all the benefits of the App Store but don't think they should have to pay anything for that. The Commission's argument on Spotify's behalf is the opposite of fair competition.”

"Spotify has become the largest music subscription service in the world, and we’re proud for the role we played in that. Spotify does not pay Apple any commission on over 99% of their subscribers, and only pays a 15% commission on those remaining subscribers that they acquired through the App Store. At the core of this case is Spotify’s demand they should be able to advertise alternative deals on their iOS app, a practice that no store in the world allows. Once again, they want all the benefits of the App Store but don’t think they should have to pay anything for that. The Commission’s argument on Spotify’s behalf is the opposite of fair competition.”

This particular skirmish with the EU began in 2019 when Spotify lodged an official complaint to the EU about how Apple runs its store. The Swedish streaming giant said that Apple wasn't playing fair with its competitors, both financially and technically. In an open letter, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said that Apple was acting as both “player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers.”

It leveled the charge that the iPhone maker was charging Spotify a 30 percent commission on all in-app purchases. It said that such a fee forced it to raise its price, making it look less competitive compared to other streaming services. Similarly, Spotify took issue with the fact that, at the time, iOS could not use a third-party default and had limited access to products like the Apple Watch or HomePod. 

Apple and Google both limit how companies can offer transactions to users, with a prohibition on encouraging “users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase.” This is the anti-steering provision that EU has paid specific attention, saying that Apple is limiting the ability of developers of “informing users about such purchasing possibilities, which are usually cheaper.”

It was this block on routing transactions through third parties that Epic Games has made a stand protesting against. The company deliberately added a payment workaround to Fortnite on iOS and Android, in violation of both App Store and Google Play rules. Consequently, the app was removed from both storefronts, and has led to Epic seeking legal recourse.

For its part, Apple has repeatedly said that the fees it charges for the App Store go to maintain its infrastructure, and that the rules are there for everyone’s safety and protection. In a statement made at the time, the company said that “Spotify seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem […] without making any contributions to that marketplace.” It added that Spotify “distribute[s] the music you love while making ever-smaller contributions to the artists, musicians and songwriters who create it."

Broadly speaking, Apple takes a 30 percent cut from all transactions made through the App Store, with few exceptions. “Small” developers making less than $1 million a year through the marketplace only pay a 15 percent cut, with the higher rate kicking in once that threshold has been passed. Similarly, subscription products pay a 30 percent fee in the first year, which falls to 15 percent every subsequent year.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has defended the revenue split, saying that it is common in the industry and several other platforms do the same. Steam and Google, for instance, both do, although, at least in the eyes of Apple’s critics, is that neither Valve nor Google can prevent people from buying and installing apps from alternative sources on PC / Mac or Android. Epic Games, meanwhile, itself a PC-gaming platform to rival Steam, charges a 12 percent cut. Microsoft, which also adopted the 30-percent cut, announced on Thursday that it would reduce its fee to 12 percent, at least for PC games.

Several other companies have also spoken out in support of Spotify’s initial complaint, including Tile, Telegram and Epic Games. The Coalition for App Fairness is a group founded by some of those companies, saying that the current rules on app stores may stifle competition. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, meanwhile tweeted to say that the EU’s decision today was “one step closer to creating a level playing field.”

Like all EU investigations, this process is likely to take several years, and in a press conference, Vestager said that she had no issue with the 30 percent cut, but the potentially anticompetitive nature of the system as it presently stands.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/apple-eu-antitrust-apple-music-spotify-103100952.html

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Star Wars Instant Pots hit all-time low prices ahead of May the 4th

May the 4th is approaching fast, so you know what that means — deals on Star Wars-themed merchandise. Right on time, a couple of Williams Sonoma's Star Wars-branded Instant Pots have gone on sale at Amazon at the steepest discounts we've seen. You can pick up the 6-quart Instant Pots with Darth Vader and R2D2 themes for $60 each, a 40 percent discount off the regular $100 price. If you're still enamored with The Child from The Mandalorian, you can grab a "The Child Little Bounty" Instant Pot directly from Williams Sonoma for $60, too.

Buy 6-qt R2D2 Instant Pot on Amazon - $60 Buy 6-qt Darth Vader Instant Pot on Amazon - $60 Buy 6-qt The Child Instant Pot at Williams Sonoma - $60

Instant Pots are some of the most popular cooking gadgets out there, as they can replace a rice cooker, yogurt maker, slow-cooker and pressure cooker. The latter function lets you cook at an accelerated rate for foods like pulled pork and chicken curry. At the same time, it's fully automated so you just need to add the ingredients, push a few buttons and walk away. 

The Star Wars themed models are identical to the classic Instant Pot models, but add fun branding across Star Wars franchises, including models for Chewbacca, BB-8 and Storm Trooper on top of the two sale models. Suffice to say, it's a fun gift (including for yourself), but it's best to act quick, as Star Wars Day arrives in less than a week. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/star-wars-instant-pots-hit-an-all-time-low-just-ahead-of-may-the-4th-104526815.html

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The Morning After: New WiFi 6E routers are starting to go on sale

On Thursday, Sony delivered another State of Play stream that included a long look at this summer’s upcoming Ratchet Clank: Rift Apart game for the PS5 and revealed that Among Us is coming to PlayStation consoles this year. But right now, the new system’s most notable exclusive is Returnal, a third-person shooter from Housemarque.

Later this morning, we’ll have a piece from Devindra Hardawar that you should read about how the game’s rogue-like nature encourages players to embrace their failures. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on what it has to offer, then check out a new 30-minute video from the development team. It shows how the title mixes arcade-style shooter action with a deep story to (hopefully) create a new-gen exclusive that’s worth the hassle and expense of buying a new system.

— Richard Lawler

Microsoft is fixing the pain of arranging Windows 10 apps on multiple displays

It's stopping apps from jumping to the wrong screen when your PC goes to sleep.

If you use a multi-monitor setup on Windows 10 for gaming, work or because it's built right into your laptop, you may have noticed that apps can annoyingly move to the wrong display. Microsoft has announced it's finally introducing a fix for the issue, so app windows behave more predictably. When your PC wakes up from sleep, all the apps on your secondary monitor can suddenly jump to your main or laptop display, meaning you’ll have to re-drag apps across to their original positions — an utter nightmare if you’re an accomplished multitasker. With an incoming Windows Insider release (you’ll need to sign up for it), when you wake up from a sleep, all your windows should appear where you previously left them.

You'll need to join Microsoft's Insider program to get the new feature, which will work by default, while the final version should ship to all Windows 10 machines by October 2021.
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Linksys launches its first WiFi 6E routers

Including a $1,200 mesh networking system.

The new WiFi 6E standard promises users better wireless connections with lots of bandwidth and less interference. Now Linksys has unveiled its first two products based on the standard, and while they’ll get you an upgrade early, they won’t come cheap.

The Qualcomm-powered Linksys Hydra Pro 6E is capable of WiFi speeds up to 6.6Gbps. It can cover 2,700 square feet of space and can connect to more than 55 devices at one time.

Meanwhile, the Atlas Max 6E mesh system is powered by the Qualcomm Networking Pro 1210 platform and was designed specifically for bandwidth-heavy homes.

A three-node mesh system that can connect up to 195 devices and cover up to 3,000 square feet per node costs $1,200, and one- or two-pack systems are also available. The Hydra Pro 6E router is available for $500, which is cheaper than the Netgear RAXE500 router that just went on sale for $600. Right now, you can only get them on the Linksys website, but they will come to retail shelves soon.
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Real-life 'Disaster Girl' turns her meme into a $500,000 NFT

Now it’s a digital collectible.

Zoe Roth, a 21-year-old college student and face of the viral Disaster Girl, sold an NFT (non-fungible token — if you need an explanation of what that means and why it might be worth anything then you’re in luck, we can help) of the meme for roughly $500,000 worth of Ether, The New York Times reported.

The now-iconic image dates back to 2005, when her father, David Roth, snapped the photo in their neighborhood while watching local firefighters at a controlled burn. He entered the photo into a contest (he won), and it was quickly picked up by internet forums, according to Know Your Meme.
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NYPD stops using Boston Dynamics' robodog following backlash

The police force canceled its $94,000 lease and will return Spot to the company.

The New York Police Department will no longer deploy its Spot robot dog and has canceled its lease from Boston Dynamics. The police force had planned to keep testing Spot (which it nicknamed Digidog) until the lease ran out in August. However, critics raised privacy concerns about the robot, which has been deployed to several crime scenes and hostage situations since October. Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, told The New York Times that the machine is "creepy, alienating and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers."
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Ford, BMW and Honda cut production due to global chip crisis

Apple and Samsung are feeling the pain, too.

For chips, demand has outstripped supply in the wake of a pandemic-induced buying spree that saw the public snap up everything from gaming consoles to TVs during lockdowns. Now, the situation is deteriorating for one of the worst hit sectors: cars.

In just 12 hours, Ford in the US said the chip shortage could halve production in the current financial quarter, Japan's Honda announced it will halt production at three domestic plants for five to six days next month and BMW warned of delays at its facilities in Germany and England.
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Gadgets that make great Mother's Day gifts

From tablets to snack subscriptions, these are gifts Mom probably hasn't received before.

You didn’t forget, did you? Don’t worry, the Engadget team has pulled together a selection of tech-based recommendations for Mom, including what I think is the best one: a wine subscription. We cover tablets, smart home gadgets and even a fitness wearable, if your mom’s currently in the midst of a health kick.
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But wait, there’s more...

Engadget Deals: Star Wars Instant Pots hit an all-time low just ahead of May the 4th

Amazon made more profit during the pandemic than in the past three years

Amazon to increase the pay of over 500,000 workers amid union battles

Microsoft follows Epic and cuts Xbox PC revenue share to 12 percent

Bang Olufsen's Beolab 28 is a $14,750 pair of connected speakers

DashLane's 'Essentials' plan offers a password manager for $4 per month

Electrify America will expand its EV chargers to four more states by early 2022

Spotify makes it easier to navigate your library on the go

Atomos Ninja V+ brings 8K ProRes RAW support to Canon's EOS R5

Engadget Deals: Apple Watch Series 6 price falls again to a new low of $249

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/linksys-netgear-wifi-6e-tma-113524451.html

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YouTube is testing SoundCloud-like timestamped comments

YouTube has started testing a new feature that gives you a quick way to view comments "timed to the exact moment you're watching in a video" on mobile. The website has long allowed you to link to any part of a video you want simply by typing the current timestamp in your comment. As Android Police notes, though, this experiment gives YouTube a feature similar to SoundCloud's, where users are able to see comments tied to specific parts of a song as tick marks on the scrobble bar. 

Also, it sounds pretty similar to how the replayed chat section in a YouTube Live video works if you watch it after the stream is done. The feature could help you find the most exciting or coolest parts of what you're watching based on what people are saying. Since timed comments are just an experiment at this point, though, YouTube has only enabled them for some videos and has only given access to a small number of people. Whether or not the feature gets a broad release depends on the feedback the team receives from the testers. 

To know if you were chosen as a tester for the experimental feature, pull up a video's comment section on Android or iOS. Tap on the Sort button on the right—hand part of the section and check if you have the "Timed Beta" option along with "Top comments" and "Newest first."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/youtube-testing-timed-comments-114419554.html

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Engadget Podcast: Samsung’s slew of Galaxy Book laptops

Can you believe there was another Samsung event this week? On this episode of the Engadget Podcast, Cherlynn and Devindra chat about all of Samsung’s new laptops from its latest Galaxy Unpacked fiesta, and why they matter (or don’t). They also talk about the company sneaking in mention of NVIDIA's still unannounced RTX 3050 cards in the Galaxy Book Odyssey. Plus, they discuss Basecamp’s latest decision to ban political talk at work, and explore why so many writers are moving to Substack.

Listen below, or subscribe on your podcast app of choice. If you've got suggestions or topics you'd like covered on the show, be sure to email us or drop a note in the comments! And be sure to check out our other podcasts, the Morning After and Engadget News!



Video livestream


Hosts: Cherlynn Low and Devindra Hardawar

Producer: Ben Ellman

Livestream producers: Julio Barrientos, Owen Davidoff, Luke Brooks

Graphics artists: Luke Brooks, Kyle Maack

Music: Dale North and Terrence O'Brien

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/engadget-podcast-samsung-unpacked-galaxy-book-pro-odyssey-nvidia-rtx-3050-120029272.html

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The best tech gifts for new moms

There’s a lot to keep track of as a new mom. All of a sudden, you’re scrambling to learn how to care for a tiny person, without sleep and with a lot of new responsibilities. It’s a rough adjustment that takes time, patience and probably at least a few crying jags to get the hang of. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for a new mother, give her time to sleep. If you’re looking for the next best thing, try these helpful gadgets that are designed to make the job at least a little easier.

Hatch Rest+

Having a soft light on during nighttime feeds and diaper changes can be really helpful, especially when you’re sleep deprived. And a lot of experts will recommend using a white noise machine to help babies sleep soundly. Hatch’s Rest line combines both functions into a single device that can be controlled entirely from a smartphone. The Rest, and Rest+, offer 11 colors and sounds that can be combined, favorited, programed and timed to help your baby doze. The Rest+ is more expensive at $90, but adds a clock, battery power and a two-way audio monitor feature. It can also be voice controlled using Alexa. I’ve used it successfully to help sleep train the twins and, when they’re bigger, it can be programmed to help them learn when to wake up.

Buy Hatch Rest at Amazon - $60Buy Hatch Rest+ at Amazon - $90

Owlet baby monitor and smart sensor

If there is only one piece of tech that makes it into the nursery, it should be a baby monitor. Being able to check on your sleeping infant without waking them is an invaluable gift, and you’ll want one that’s reliable, clear and adds thoughtful features (not just tech for tech’s sake).

Owlet makes a $149 Cam that streams 1080p HD video to an app on your phone. The camera itself can sit on a base or get mounted to a wall. It has a 130-degree wide-angle lens to cover the room, but has to be manually tilted or adjusted so you can’t pan remotely. The video feed has night vision and displays in color during the day. The camera has two-way audio, so you can both hear your little one and speak to them through the device. There’s also background audio so sound from the camera will play over other apps if you have it up and running as well. In addition, it can send you notifications if it senses movement or sound coming from your baby’s crib. The Cam uses AES 128-bit encryption and a TSL connection to WiFi for security, though the feed can be shared with up to five people at a time (assuming you’ve shared your log-in credentials with them).

Lastly, it can be paired with Owlet's wearable sensor, the Smart Sock, which measures an infant’s heart rate and pulse ox. If the baby’s stats take a dive or shoot into irregular levels, you’ll get a very unsubtle alert on your phone — and on the sock’s base station. Because it’s intended to be worn at night and during naps, the Owlet Sock also tracks babies’ sleep habits. All this data is viewable in the app, making it a fairly complete monitoring system.

Buy Owlet cam at Owlet - $149Buy Smart Sock at Owlet - $299

Jabra Elite 75t

Between the several lovely noise-making toys the twins have received and their general shrieks and cries, I seek daily solace in my wireless earbuds. Not only do they muffle the ambient noise that toddlers are famous for, but I can also use them to play podcasts or music for a quick pick-me-up. The pass-through feature lets me minimize audio so I can have a quick conversation without removing the buds. Though we haven’t officially reviewed the JBL Live 300TWS earbuds that I’m using, my colleague BIlly Steele tried them out during CES last year. Though he liked the customizable controls and audio quality, he prefers the Jabra Elite 75t — which now have active noise-cancelling (ANC).

Besides that, the Elite 75t earned Billy’s approval for the depth and detail of the sound, along with quick charge capabilities, long battery life and an app that lets you tweak the EQ. Meanwhile, the small size makes them comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and the IP55 rating means they can withstand a trip to the gym, so they should be able to handle a bit of splashing if you’re wearing them during baby’s bathtime.

Buy Jabra Elite 75t at Best Buy - $150

Baby Brezza Safe + Smart bottle warmer

I’m not sure exactly how many steps I’m earning walking up and downstairs to check on the bottle warmer, but it’s probably a fair percentage of my daily exercise. Baby Brezza makes a Safe + Smart Baby Bottle Warmer that uses Bluetooth to connect the device to your phone. Using the Baby Brezza app you can operate the warmer remotely and get alerts when the bottle is ready. Though the app is pretty minimal, that’s not always a bad thing when you’re bleary-eyed and trying to feed an infant in the early morning hours. Plus, having controls on your phone allows you to turn off the warmer and avoid overheating a bottle. The downside is that the Safe + Smart warmer only holds a single bottle at a time.

Buy Baby Brezza bottle warmer at Amazon - $70

Fanny pack

Never in my life did I think that I would be recommending people use a fanny pack but motherhood has changed me in multiple ways — and one of those ways is that I now carry a variety of spoons, burp cloths, pacifiers and rattles around with me in addition to my usual accoutrement. Since I’m just not that into cargo pants, I’ve opted to wear either my Carhartt Essentials Pouch (which converts to a waist bag) or my Renegade Craft Fair waist apron around the house. It is well worth the dorky mom points I’m earning to make sure I have my phone for photos or a pacifier to whip out when someone inevitably starts crying.

Carhartt makes a Duck Nail Apron which is made from sturdy canvas and has four generous pockets. It comes in either black or brown and has utility loops on the belt. While it’s intended for more industrial purposes, it looks like it could handle mom duties pretty easily. As far as the fanny pack-style bags go, I also like Patagonia’s Ultralight Black Hole Mini Hip Bag which has two pockets (zippered front and main), measures 4.75 x 8 x 2 inches and weighs 3.52 ounces. The nylon ripstop fabric is treated with silicone and a PU back coating so is weather resistant. Plus, the zipper closures will keep little hands from snagging your stuff.

Buy Essentials Pouch at Carhartt - $25Buy Duck Nail Apron at Carhartt - $25Buy Ultralight Black Hole Mini hip bag at Patagonia - $30

Smart breast pump

If your giftee is breastfeeding or pumping, a smart breast pump from Elvie or Willow is going to be a huge time saver. These wearable pumps let Mom keep on schedule while keeping her hands free to do any of the 40 other things she’s got on her plate. The pump, power supply and container are all contained in the egg-shaped device, which pairs to an app using Bluetooth. They’re a bit cumbersome to wear, but comfortable to use, and it beats being tethered to a wall unit, though the results are not always as consistent.

Though both products are similar in design and functionality, there are some differences between them. The Willow pump can be used with reusable containers or disposable bags, while the Elvie only has the container option. The Elvie pump is quieter and more discreet, while the Willow pump offers a spill-proof system that can be used even while upside down. (I tested this myself and it works.) They can be purchased in a set or two, or as an individual pump.

Buy Elvie at Amazon - $499Buy Willow at Amazon - $500

Wabi Baby 3-in-1 sanitizer

While my children are very cute, they also like to chew on my house slippers, eat post-its and lick the touch-and-feel books. So I spend a lot of time cleaning the things that do belong in their mouths like pacifiers and teethers and plastic toys, which invariably end up on the car floor. While most of these things are easy to throw into boiling water, it can be worth the time saved to let a sanitizer do the job. The Wabi Baby sanitizer is something that I received as a gift, and it’s served me well. It takes up a fair amount of counter space but it’s relatively quiet; it fits a wide variety of bottles, dinnerware and accessories; and it can run a drying cycle after the steam sanitation session.

The display shows how much longer the process will run, it’s fairly simple to operate and it automatically remembers your last session so you can select it again easily. However, you can only use distilled water which can admittedly be a pain. Also, you have to be careful about where you put the Wabi; it requires a drainage mat for excess water.

Buy Wabi sanitizer at Buy Buy Baby - $130

Privacy screen

At 14 months, my twins are now aware enough of my phone to reach for it like little screen zombies every time I try to take their picture. They’ll even try to pick my pockets for it if they know it’s there. If I had known how quickly it would become a distraction, I would have snagged myself a privacy shield to extend the time that they were blissfully unaware of the screens that take up so much of my own day. Also, I’d really love to be able to take a conference call without two toddlers pushing each other to get a better view.

Zagg makes a line of Invisible Shield screen protectors that also act as privacy shields, available in a variety of sizes for smartphones, smartwatches and tablets. The Invisible Shield is designed to protect your screen from drops, scratches, fingerprints and bacteria (via its antimicrobial properties) and comes with an installation tray to make application easier. However, the line isn’t available for laptop sizes. SightPro makes a good agnostic privacy screen for laptops, but it isn’t touch optimized.

Shop Invisible Shield screen protectorsBuy SightPro laptop privacy screen at Amazon - $24

Music or audiobook subscription

Taking care of infants all day can be hilarious, gross, exhausting and surprisingly monotonous. Spotify helps keep me energized, or calm, depending on the playlist. I’ve also recently started making my kids themed playlists for mellow mornings or bedtime wind-down. I’ve started exploring their podcast options too, which has a whole list of shows that aren’t on the Apple podcast app. A subscription to Spotify — and perhaps her own custom-made playlist — is a great gift for a mom. If she already has Spotify, try Audible which also has exclusive podcasts along with thousands of audiobooks. Trust me, that’s the only way a new mom is going to have time to get through all those parenting books.

Buy Spotify gift card at Amazon - $99Buy Audible membership starting at $15

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/best-tech-gifts-for-new-moms-123052827.html

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Google’s new Play Store rules target misleading app listings

Over the past year, Google has implemented sweeping policy changes to its Play Store in order to add real-money gambling apps and address criticism of its commission fee. But, the company's latest update to its guidelines are aimed at tidying up previews to prevent users from being tricked into downloading apps. As part of the new rules, spotted by The Verge, Google will effectively ban bad listing practices including promotional tactics designed to make apps look more engaging.

For instance, the new app metadata policies prohibit words in all-caps (unless it's a brand name) and ban the use of emoji in app names. Meanwhile, developers will be forced to limit app titles to 30 characters and will no longer be able to use graphic or text to incentivize installs. Apps that fall foul of the upcoming policies will not be allowed on the Play Store, Google said today. To help developers adjust to the new rules, the company will release more details in the coming months ahead of enforcement later this year.

In addition, new policies regarding app preview assets will come into effect in the second half of 2021. These will apply to the feature graphics, screenshots, videos, and short descriptions used to showcase an app's functions. To meet the changes, Google is telling developers to focus on accuracy and meaningful information over subjective buzzwords like "free" or "best." It is also asking that assets be localized and easy to read, so that users can make sound judgements on whether to install an app. Again, apps that don't adhere to the guidelines will be punished by being made ineligible for promotion and recommendation.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/google-play-store-rules-misleading-app-listings-124539640.html

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How Hainbach tackled ‘the Dark Souls of synthesis’

Musician and composer Hainbach originally took to YouTube to work on his improvisation skills. Over the years, though, his channel has morphed into an essential resource for musicians with a taste for the experimental. His videos exploring techniques for using tape loops, as well as esoteric instruments like the Ciat LonbardeCocoquantus have wracked up hundreds of thousands of views. But he’s perhaps best known for repurposing old lab equipment as musical instruments.

Hainbach can often be seen coaxing surprisingly musical drones and rhythms out of ancient looking pieces of gear with decidedly unmusical names like function generator, frequency analyzer and lock-in amplifier. There’s even a video dedicated to building a thudding electronic track using test equipment from a nuclear lab.

In November of 2019 he took some of the more obsolete and, let’s say, unruly, pieces in his collection and turned them into a playable sculpture called Landfill Totems. Those stacks of half broken and forgotten gear eventually became the basis for his new album and a virtual instrument built in collaboration with Spitfire Audio, which share the Landfill Totems name. Hainbach sat down (figuratively at least — he actually stood through most of the interview) to talk about the origins of the album, his recent run of VST collaborations, and how learning to make music on obsolete scientific instruments has changed his creative process.

Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Terrence O'Brien:

Tell me a bit about the album, walk me through the origin story of the Landfill Totems as a piece and how it became this.


The whole thing started out when I got into test equipment use for music. I saw that this friend, Dennis Verschoor in Rotterdam [a musician who also works with test equipment]... and the first thing I thought was, “This is madness. I'm not going to ever do that because it just always means a huge amount of heavy stuff that can do surprisingly little.” And it seemed to me such a waste. But I've always been fascinated by the topic because I studied music history and people like Stockhausen, Pierre Schaeffer, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, they used to work with these test equipment instruments and were in parts adamant about them being more interesting than synthesizers in the case of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

So I just went around and started looking for anything that I could lay my hands on that could potentially make a sound. And I bought stuff cheaply, and I bought a lot of stuff, and the stuff was huge and heavy. And there's a video where I say, "Oh yeah, just get a bit, I'm not going to put more than this because I need this space." And it quickly got into a full wall of that stuff.

It was a bit shaky and unsafe, which added to the whole charm.

So I kept buying more and more stuff… and I quickly ran into space problems. And then a gallery asked me, PNDT art gallery in Berlin, if I want to do a three months residency. I said, "Oh cool. Now I get a storage space." And I could justify keeping buying stuff and trying it out and then putting aside when it didn't work. Because I know, well, there's this space where I can put all that stuff.

My original idea of just making like a playable wall where people could interact with everything and would be something interactive, I had to discard that and I thought about other things. So I started stacking them up in different shapes and the obvious shape at first is a tower. And I did that. And suddenly after half an hour, I realized this had become something humanoid. It reminded me of Johnny 5, that robot from that old film. Then it reminded me of totems because there appeared all these faces all over, because test equipment is all these round dials and they have some sort of design that is always humanoid.

I think within like two hours, I had the statues up. And then it was just a case of putting them to music because I'm a musician, I'm not a sculptural artist. Though, in this case, I was that also. So I patched them all together and they were all stacked rather haphazardly. So it was a bit shaky and unsafe, which added to the whole charm of them because they looked wonky and dangerous. They looked like something that is thrown away or like a marker from a civilization from the past that I could see as some sort of Mad Max kind of wild sci-fi thing.

But the main process for me was actually turning them into a musical composition. And that was a fun struggle because those were like not the super musical things from my collection. The super musical things of course stayed in my studio where I needed them to work all the time. These were more wild and it's hard to tickle some sounds out of them. So that provided me with a unique challenge in then making them into a 35-minute live performance. I was really happy that worked out, and the performance went really well.

So when Spitfire Audio approached me to, if I want to do one of their library slash album releases, I thought, “I want to hear them sing again — I want to hear Landfill Totems sing again.” So I put them up in a venue that a friend of mine has. It's not a venue, it's a synthesizer shop basically, Patch Point in Berlin. And there I could set them up because the shop was closed to the public, mostly due to Corona. And then I could work on music for an album and also work on making new versions. Because every time I had to change something these things kept dying on me sometimes right after I recorded.

But also “Funktionsverlust”, the first track of the album, is actually the sound of a dying function generator. And that only sounded so good because it was dying, because one thing that these things do is usually go [imitates a sine tone] a flat line straight note is what they like to do. But when this thing went, [hums a complex rhythmic pattern] I thought, “Wow, that's an interesting Latin pattern.” But that was its swan song.

I started to record the album, and because the whole atmosphere of everything in the lockdown was much darker and heavier than usual and I had just exhausted my capacity to hope with the previous album, which was called Assertion. I thought, now, let's go dark. And I went really dark with that album and they went to hopeless and stark places. Yeah. And that is reflected in the German song titles, which tell a little story of the times on their own.


The stark contrast between Assertion and this album is really kind of stunning. Was that something that was a conscious choice to go in a much darker place? Or was that just where you felt yourself being naturally pulled by the sound of these instruments?


Yeah. I mean, usually things don't come from one center, but yeah. These things, they demand something, because they are higher than me. They're like two meters, but they have a certain sense of — they want to be respected in a way, and that's something that's in them. And it is easier for them to drone and to transmit stuff like code, which already sounds strange and alien. So it's in their nature to sound that way. But I mean, the things that I have here also, in regards to test equipment, I can more easily tune them to have little sunrise in here, but there in that form, I couldn't. And then of course, I didn't feel motivated to do so because yeah. I'd just done something very bright in a very short time and a one or two go, No, no, let's go dark.


How much similarity is there between the original performances and what kind of ended up on the album?


I think the thing that is similar to the original live performance is that that was also pretty heavy and pretty dark, but a bit more humorous. Like in the performance, I had a few humorous moments. At least I found them funny, and I think the audience found them funny. There was one unit that I couldn't connect, audio-wise, but had its own little speaker. So when I finished everything in a big blast of noise. And then I went to that unit and just went beep boop. There was that contrast, like everybody, after having to listen to like heavy bass and drones. And, ah, this was a moment of relief.

So that comedic aspect is not so much in the Landfill Totems album. But also one thing, because these are really tracks and I had more time to work on them and work each of them as a single piece, they're a bit richer because in a live performance, I couldn't like... It's physically hard to re-patch these things. It's BNC connectors, they're wobbling, and it's a dangerous thing to re-patch. So that first performance was basically a composite. One track with different movements over the whole statues, while this is like pictures at an exhibition. There's a common theme, but each of them uses the full color palette that is possible.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/hainbach-interview-landfill-totems-dark-souls-synthesis-test-equipment-music-130025985.html

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‘Returnal’ captures the beauty (and frustration) of failure

At first glance, it's easy to say "been there, done that" about Returnal. A PlayStation 5 exclusive from Finnish developer Housemarque, best known for shooters like Super Stardust HD, the game puts you in the shoes of a lone female space explorer who crash lands on an alien planet. Just about everything there wants to eat you alive — but more surprising is the realization that you're stuck in a time loop. Every death brings you right back to the site of the crash, with only a handful of items and what remains of your dignity.

From that description alone, you can take your pick of references from Alien, Metroid, Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow. The influences get even more specific the deeper you go, with space horror imagery from Event Horizon and the psychological intrigue of David Lynch. What makes it special, though, is how all of those disparate elements interact. It's at times frustratingly difficult, and its systems are sometimes tough to suss out. But I just can't stop playing it.

Similar to last year's Hades, Returnal is a reinvention of the increasingly popular Roguelite genre. That describes games which feature randomly generated rooms, where the whole point is to die often. Typically you can bring back some gear with you, but most of the time they're about sharpening your skills. When it comes to actual gear, Returnal's loops are far less rewarding than Hades. You've only got ether, a rare currency that sticks with you between runs. And there are a handful of equipment upgrades that remain permanently too, like your inevitable (and absolutely badass) laser sword. There aren't any upgrades you can buy to get stronger. You'll get better simply by playing the game more often, which allows you to learn the timing of enemy attacks, or the best way to use different weapons.

Returnal also shares Hades' penchant for spreading its narrative throughout its loops, though to a lesser degree. It doesn't take too long before you encounter your own body, arranged in various portraits of death, with voice messages you don't remember leaving. It's clear that Selene has been trapped on the alien planet of Atropos long before you've actually started the game. You won't be encountering many other characters, and you'll find more questions than answers to the game's many mysteries. Why does Selene's 20th-century Earth home show up on an alien planet? Who is the astronaut haunting her dreams? I appreciated the game's subtle approach to storytelling, but it can be frustrating if you're looking for more of a straightforward narrative.

More so than its story, it's the gameplay that'll draw players to Returnal. It offers up some of the crispest movement and shooting mechanics I've played in years. The game simply feels good to play. Your main character, Selene, is equipped with a space suit that lets her dash on the ground and in mid-air. And even though she's not as young as most protagonists, she's nimble enough to run loops around enemies and dodge their projectile attacks.They're not shy about spewing ammo at you either. In my 10 hours of gameplay, I've encountered giant enemies that fill the screen with glowing orbs. Your only choice is to hide behind the fragile environment, sidestep the onslaught, or dash right through it (doing so gives you a brief amount of invulnerability).

Given Housemarque's background in shooters, firing off every weapon feels fantastic, as well. You start out with a pistol, but you'll eventually find assault rifles, alien shotguns and rifles that spew out damage like machine guns. You can aim down your sites, as usual, by holding down your left trigger a bit. But you can also press down even further to activate alt-fire modes, like a massive energy grenade or electrical attack. That controller configuration feels reminiscent of Nintendo's Gamecube controllers, which had analog triggers that also activated a digital button if you pressed hard enough.

Returnal's dual-step aiming system takes a bit of getting used to. It's far too easy to activate a weapon's alt-fire if you're just trying to line up a better shot. And that means you either waste a more powerful attack, or you get an annoying error that your alt-fire is still waiting to recharge. That bugged me less as I learned how to shoot from the hip with every weapon. The game also offers a healthy dose of aim correction, so it never felt like I had to be a sharpshooter to be effective.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/returnal-review-ps5-shooter-133029657.html

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