With feature updates and new accessories, the RODECaster Pro is a podcaster’s dream come true

Posted by | audio equipment, Audio Recording, Gadgets, hardware, microphones, podcast, Podcasting, Reviews, rodecaster pro, RØDE, TC | No Comments

You might have been considering — or have already started — picking up a new hobby this year, particularly one you can do at home. Podcasting seems to be a popular option, and RODE is a company that has done more to cater specifically to this audience than just about any other audio company out there. The RODECaster Pro ($599) all-in-one podcast production studio they released in 2018 is a fantastic tool for anyone looking to maximize their podcasting potential, and with amazing new firmware updates released this year, along with a host of great new accessories, it has stepped up even further.

The basics

The RODECaster Pro is a powerful production studio, but it’s not overwhelming for people who aren’t audio engineers by trade. The deck balances offering plenty of physical controls with keeping them relatively simple, giving you things like volume sliders and large pad-style buttons for top-level controls, and then putting more advanced features and tweaks behind layers of menus accessible via the large, high-resolution touchscreen for users who desire more fine-tuned manipulation.

RODECaster Pro includes four XLR inputs, each of which can provide (individually selectable) phantom power for condenser mics, along with four 1/4″ headphone outputs for corresponding monitoring. That’s great, because it means if you have guests used to recording podcasts and high-quality audio, they can listen to their own input, or you can opt to just have one producer keeping track of everything. There’s also a left and right 1/4″ audio out for a studio monitor speaker or other output, as well as a USB-C connector for plugging into a computer, and a 3.5mm in for connecting a smartphone or other external audio source. Smartphones can also be connected via Bluetooth, which is very handy for including a call-in guest via wireless.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The main surface of the RODECaster Pro includes volume sliders for each available input and pre-set sound effects; volume knobs for each headphone and speaker output; buttons to activate and deactivate inputs; large buttons for playing back pre-set audio files and a large record button. There’s also a touchscreen that gives you access to menus and settings, and which also acts as a visual levels editor while recording.

RODECaster Pro is designed so that you can use it completely independently of any computer or smartphone — it has a microSD slot for recording, and you can then upload those files via either directly connecting the deck through USB, or plugging the card in to a microSD card reader and transferring your files. You can also use multitrack-to-USB or stereo USB output modes on the RODECaster Pro to effectively turn the studio hardware into a USB audio interface for your Mac or PC, letting you record with whatever digital audio production software you’d like, including streaming software.

Design

The RODECaster Pro’s design is a perfect blend of studio-quality hardware controls and simplicity, making the device accessible to amateurs and pros alike. I was up and running with the deck out of the box in just a few minutes, and without making any adjustments at all to the sound profile or settings, I had great-sounding recordings using the RODE PodMic, a $99 microphone that is optimized by RODE to work with the RODECaster Pro out of the box.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

All the controls are easy and intuitive to manage, and you shouldn’t need to read any instruction manuals or guides to get started. The eight-button sound effects grid is likely the most complicated part of the entire physical interface, but even the default sounds that RODE includes can be useful, and you can easily set your own via the RODECaster companion app for Mac and PC; in the box you’ll find guides you can use to overlay the buttons and label them to keep track of which is which.

The sliders are smooth and great to use, making it easy to do even, manual fade-ins and fade-outs for intro and outro or pre-recorded soundbites. Backlit keys for active/inactive inputs, mute status and the large record button mean you can tell with a quick glance what is and isn’t currently active on the track.

RODE has smartly included a locking power adapter in the box, so that you won’t find the cord accidentally yanked out in the middle of a recording. Each of the XLR inputs also includes a quick release latch for secure connections. And while the RODECaster Pro definitely takes up a lot of space with roughly the footprint of a 13-inch MacBook Pro, it’s light enough to be perfectly portable in a backpack for on-location recordings.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The touchscreen display is another design highlight; it’s high-resolution, with a matte cover that makes it viewable in a wide range of light, and very responsive touch input, It’s a great way to extend the functionality of the deck through software, while still ensuring nothing feels fiddly or hard to navigate, which can be the case with hardware jog controllers like you’d find on a Zoom recorder, for instance.

Features

Balancing simplicity and power is the real reason RODECaster Pro works so well. If you’re just starting out, you can basically just begin using it out of the box without changing anything at all about how it’s set up to work. That’s especially true if you’re using any of RODE’s microphones, each of which has built-in profiles included for optimizing sound settings instantly.

I mentioned above that the RODE PodMic is optimized for use with the RODECaster Pro in this way, and the results are fantastic. If the price tag on the RODECaster Pro is a deterrent, it’s worth considering that the PodMic is a fantastically affordable dynamic podcasting mic, which produces sound way above its class when paired with the deck. So the overall cost of a RODE podcasting setup using both of these would actually be relatively reasonable versus other solutions.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

If you’re ready to dive in and customize sound, you can toggle features like built-in compressor, de-esser and other audio effects. You can also manually adjust each of these effects, as the release of Firmware 2.1 earlier this month lets you adjust the processing of each included sound effect through the RODECaster Pro companion app for a totally custom, unique finally sound.

The ability to pre-load and call up sound effects and other audio tracks on demand on the RODECaster Pro is another killer feature. It’s true that you could achieve a lot of this in editing post-recording, but having it all to-hand for use in live recording scenarios just feels better, and it also enables genuine interactions with your guests that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. That 2.1 firmware update also brought the ability to loop clips indefinitely, which could be great if you want to place a subtle backing track throughout your recording.

One final feature I’ll highlight because it’s fantastic, especially in a world where it might be hard to consistently get guests in-studio, is the smartphone connectivity. You can either plug in via cable, or connect via low-latency Bluetooth for terrific call-in interactivity, using whatever software you want on your smartphone.

Accessories

RODE has done a great job building out an ecosystem of accessories to further extend the capabilities of the RODECaster Pro and enhance the overall user experience. Among its recent releases, there’s the RODE PodMic, mentioned above, as well as colored cable clips that correspond to each input backlight color for easily keeping track of which hardware is which, 1/4″ to 3.5mm stereo jack adapters for using standard headphones as monitors, a TRRS-to-TRRS 3.5mm audio aux cable for smartphone connections and a USB power cable to replace the adapter for easier plug-in power on the go.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The small plastic cuffs for your XLR cables are simple but smart ways of keeping track of gear, especially when everyone’s using the same mic (as they likely should be for sound consistency) — and it helps that they enhance the look of your overall setup, too. And the USB power cable in particular is a great addition to any RODECaster Pro kit that you’re intending to use outside of your own recording studio/home, as you can use it with any USB charger you have to hand — so long as it can provide 5V/2.5A output.

The real must-have accessory for the RODECaster Pro, however, is the RODE PodMic. It’s a no-fuss, well-built and durable microphone that transports well and can work flexibly with a wide range of mounting options, and in a wide variety of settings, including open air and in-studio. Yes, you can get better sound with more expensive mics, but with the PodMic, you can afford a set of four to complement the RODECaster Pro for the same price you’d pay for one higher-end microphone, and most people won’t notice the audio quality difference for their podcasting needs.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

Bottom line

The RODECaster Pro is a fantastic way to upgrade your at-home podcasting game — and a perfect way to take the show on the road once you’re able to do so. Its high-quality hardware controls, combined with smart, sophisticated software that has improved with consistent RODE firmware updates to address user feedback over time, are a winning combo for amateurs, pros and anyone along the spectrum in between.

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Animal Crossing’s summer update will let you swim for sea critters

Posted by | Animal Crossing, Gaming, TC | No Comments

There’s huge news today for Animal Crossing: New Horizons players still devoted to the most pleasantly addictive way to stay kind of sane stuck at home during the pandemic. In the biggest update yet to the Nintendo Switch hit, players will soon be able to explore the water around their island. Oh — and Gulliver is a pirate now.

The free update will arrive on July 3, marking the first of two waves of new content due out in the summer season (for players in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway!). The update invites players to plunge into the ocean and swim around to collect anemones, starfish, eels and other sea-faring creatures, which can then be donated to their museum collection. The mysterious second half of the update is due out in early August.

[Announcement]Cool off this summer by diving into the #AnimalCrossing: New Horizons free Summer Update – Wave 1, arriving 7/3! Put on your wet suit to dive & swim in the ocean, and even meet new characters! Stay tuned for info on Wave 2, planned for release in early August. pic.twitter.com/cYd86R7g6D

— Tom Nook (@animalcrossing) June 25, 2020

The game will also add another new character, Pascal, a sea otter who you can hit up for new recipes. Anyone who’s played past Animal Crossing titles will recognize Pascal as a chill guy who doles out equally chill pearls of wisdom while casually treading water.

For a game that revolves around familiar cycles — collecting fruit, pulling weeds, shaking trees to find nice living room furniture — the addition of swimming and diving is actually a pretty big change. And it’s probably a good reason for anyone who went hard on New Horizons in the early days of the pandemic and ran out of things to do to revisit the game. It’ll be interesting to see what else Nintendo has in store for New Horizons, as it’s the first Animal Crossing title in a gaming era that expects plenty of post-release downloadable content already plotted out on the roadmap.

It’s also the perfect time to casually stroll out among your villagers while acting like no time passed at all if, like me, your wife accidentally broke one of your Switch controllers and you haven’t played in three weeks. Lolly, if you’re reading this, I want you to know they were back-ordered and this doesn’t change anything between us. Really.

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Four perspectives: Will Apple trim App Store fees?

Posted by | Apple, Apps, Developer, Extra Crunch, iOS, iPhone, Market Analysis, Mobile, TC, wwdc 2020 | No Comments

The fact that Apple takes a 30% cut of subscriptions purchased via the App Store isn’t news. But since the company threatened to boot email app Hey from the platform last week unless its developers paid the customary tribute, the tech world and lawmakers are giving Apple’s revenue share a harder look.

Although Apple’s Senior Vice President of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller denied the company was making any changes, a new policy will let developers challenge the very rules by which they were rejected from the platform, which suggests that change is in the air.

According to its own numbers, the App Store facilitated more than $500 billion in e-commerce transactions in 2019. For reference, the federal government has given out about $529 billion in loans to U.S. businesses as part of the Paycheck Protection Program.

Given its massive reach, is it time for Apple to change its terms? Will it allow its revenue share to go gently into that good night, or does it have enough resources to keep new legislation at bay and mollify an increasingly vocal community of software developers? To examine these questions, four TechCrunch staffers weighed in:

Devin Coldewey: The App Store fee structure “seems positively extortionate”

Apple is starting to see that its simplistic and paternalistic approach to cultivating the app economy may be doing more harm than good. That wasn’t always the case: In earlier days it was worth paying Apple simply for the privilege of taking part in its fast-expanding marketplace.

But the digital economy has moved on from the conditions that drove growth before: Novelty at first, then a burgeoning ad market supercharged by social media. The pendulum is swinging back to more traditional modes of payment: one-time and subscription payments for no-nonsense services. Imagine that!

Combined with the emergence of mobile platforms not just as tools for simple consumption and communication but for serious work and productivity, the stakes have risen. People have started asking, what value is Apple really providing in return for the rent it seeks from anyone who wants to use its platform?

Surely Apple is due something for its troubles, but just over a quarter of a company’s revenue? What seemed merely excessive for a 99-cent app that a pair of developers were just happy to sell a few thousand copies of now seems positively extortionate.

Apple is in a position of strength and could continue shaking down the industry, but it is wary of losing partners in the effort to make its platform truly conducive to productivity. The market is larger and more complicated, with cross-platform and cross-device complications of which the App Store and iOS may only be a small part — but demanding an incredibly outsized share.

It will loosen the grip, but there’s no hurry. It would be a costly indignity to be too permissive and have its new rules be gamed and hastily revised. Allowing developers to push back on rules they don’t like gives Apple a lot to work with but no commitment. Big players will get a big voice, no doubt, and the new normal for the App Store will reflect a detente between moneyed interests, not a generous change of heart by Apple.

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YouTube’s latest experiment is a TikTok rival focused on 15-second videos

Posted by | Media, Mobile, tiktok, Video, YouTube | No Comments

YouTube is taking direct aim at TikTok. The company announced on Wednesday it’s beginning to test a new feature on mobile that will allow users to record 15-second long multi-segment videos. That’s the same length as the default on TikTok as well as Instagram’s new TikTok clone, Reels.

Users in the new YouTube experiment will see an option to “create a video” in the mobile upload flow, the company says.

Similar to TikTok, the user can then tap and hold the record button to record their clip. They can then tap again or release the button to stop recording. This process is repeated until they’ve created 15 seconds worth of video footage. YouTube will combine the clips and upload it as one single video when the recording completes. In other words, just like TikTok.

The feature’s introduction also means users who want to record mobile video content longer than 15 seconds will no longer be able to do so within the YouTube app itself. Instead, they’ll have to record the longer video on their phone then upload it from their phone’s gallery in order to post it to YouTube.

YouTube didn’t provide other details on the test — like if it would later include more controls and features related to the short-form workflow, such as filters, effects, music, AR, or buttons to change the video speed, for example. These are the tools that make a TikTok video what it is today — not just the video’s length or its multi-segment recording style.

Still it’s worth noting that YouTube has in its sights the short-form video format popularized by TikTok.

This would not be the first time YouTube countered a rival by mimicking their feature set with one of its own.

The company in 2017 launched an alternative to Instagram Stories, designed for the creation and sharing of more casual videos. But YouTube Stories wouldn’t serve the TikTok audience, as TikTok isn’t as much about personal vlogs as it is about choreographed and rehearsed content. That demands a different workflow and toolset.

YouTube confirmed the videos in this experiment are not being uploaded as Stories, but didn’t offer details on how the 15-second videos would be discoverable on the YouTube app.

The news of YouTube’s latest experiment arrived just ahead of TikTok’s big pitch to advertisers at this week’s IAB NewFronts. TikTok today launched TikTok For Business, its new platform aimed at brands and marketers looking to do business on TikTok’s app. From the new site, advertisers can learn about TikTok’s ad offerings, create and track campaigns, and engage in e-learning.

YouTube says its new video test is running with a small group of creators across both iOS and Android. A company spokesperson noted it was one of several tests the company had in the works around short-form video.

“We’re always experimenting with ways to help people more easily find, watch, share and interact with the videos that matter most to them. We are testing a few different tools for users to discover and create short videos,” a YouTube spokesperson said. “This is one of many experiments we run all the time on YouTube, and we’ll consider rolling features out more broadly based on feedback on these experiments,” they added.

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Apple Maps to tell you to refine location by scanning the skyline

Posted by | Apple, Apple Maps, Apps, Mobile, wwdc, wwdc 2020 | No Comments

With iOS 14, Apple is going to update Apple Maps with some important new features, such as cycling directions, electric vehicle routing and curated guides. But the app is also going to learn one neat trick.

In dense areas where you can’t get a precise location, Apple Maps will prompt you to raise your phone and scan buildings across the street to refine your location.

As you may have guessed, this feature is based on Look Around, a Google Street View-inspired feature that lets you … look around as if you were walking down the street. It’s a bit more refined than Street View as everything is in 3D so you can notice the foreground and the background.

Look Around is only available in a handful of U.S. cities for now, such as San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Las Vegas. But the company is still expanding it with Seattle coming on Monday and major Japanese cities this fall. Some areas that are only accessible on foot will also be available in the future.

When you scan the skyline to refine your location, Apple doesn’t send any data to its servers. Matching is done on your device.

When it comes to guides, Apple has partnered with AllTrails, Lonely Planet, The Infatuation, Washington Post, Louis Vuitton and others to add curated lists of places to Apple Maps. When you tap on the search bar and scroll down on the search card, you can see guides of nearby places.

When you open a guide, you can see all the places on the map or you can browse the guide itself to see those places in a list view. You can share places and save them in a user-made guide — Apple calls it a collection in the current version of Apple Maps.

You can also save a curated guide altogether if you want to check it out regularly. Places get automatically updated.

Image Credits: Apple

As for EV routing, Apple Maps will let add your car, name it and choose a charger type — Apple has partnered with BMW and Ford for now. When you’re planning a route, you can now select the car you’re going to be using. If you select your electric car, Apple Maps will add charging spots on the way. You can tap on spots to see if they are free or paid and the connector type.

Waze users will also be happy to learn that Apple Maps will be able to warn you if you’re exceeding the speed limit. You can also view speed and red light cameras on the map.

In some cities with congestion zones and license plate access, you’ll be able to add your license plate. The information is kept on the device. It’ll refine directions for those cities.

Image Credits: Apple

Finally, my favorite new feature is cycling directions. It’s only going to be available in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shanghai and Beijing at first. Apple ticks all the right boxes, such as taking into consideration cycling paths and elevation. Turn-by-turn directions look slightly different from driving directions with a different framing and a more vertical view.

Google Maps also features cycling directions, but they suck. I can’t wait to try it out to see whether cycling directions actually make sense in Apple Maps. The new version of Apple Maps will ship with iOS 14 this fall.

Image Credits: Apple

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Google to offer loans to merchants in India

Posted by | Android, Apps, Asia, BharatPe, Flipkart, Google, Google India, india, Online lending, payments, Paytm, PhonePe, Softbank, TC, Walmart | No Comments

Google said on Thursday it plans to offer credit to millions of merchants in India through its Google Pay app starting later this year as the American technology group looks to help small businesses in the country steer through the pandemic and also find a business model for its mobile payments service.

The company said it is working with financial institutions to offer loans to merchants from within Google Pay for Business app. The Google Pay’s business app, which the Android giant launched late last year, has already amassed 3 million merchants, it said.

Google’s announcement today comes as part of its effort to share its broader initiatives for small and micro-businesses in India.

The company said Google My Business, an app it launched in India in the second half of 2017 to help mom and pop stores and other small merchants build online presence, has been used by more than 26 million businesses in the country to list themselves on Google search and Maps. India has about 60 million small and micro-sized businesses in the nation, according to government estimates.

“Every month we drive over 150 million direct connections between these businesses and customers including calls, online reservations and direction requests,” company executives said.

New Delhi ordered a nationwide lockdown in late March in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19. The move forced most businesses to suspend their operations. In recent weeks, the Indian government has rushed to relax some of its restrictions and many stores have resumed their businesses.

Last year Google launched the Spot feature in India that allows businesses to easily create their own branded commercial fronts that are accessible to customers through the Google Pay app.

Image Credits: Google

In May, Google introduced Nearby Stores as a Spot feature on the Google Pay app that allowed local businesses in select parts of the country get discovered by customers in their neighborhood. The company said it is expanding this offering across India starting today.

Thursday’s announcement also outlines the grip Google assumes on small businesses in India, and how its scale — and resources — could pose additional challenges for scores of local startups that are already attempting to serve businesses.

SoftBank -backed Paytm, Walmart’s PhonePe and New Delhi-based BharatPe have in recent years onboarded millions of merchants and offer them a range of services, including loans.

Paytm, which works with more than 16 million merchants, earlier this year launched a range of gadgets, including a device that displays QR check-out codes that comes with a calculator and USB charger, a jukebox that provides voice confirmations of transactions and services to streamline inventory management for merchants.

For some of these players, Google’s increasingly growing interest in targeting merchants means they will be facing off the search giant on two fronts. TechCrunch reported earlier this month that Google Pay had about 75 million transacting users in India, more than any of its competitors. But despite the scale, Google Pay and most other payments services in India are struggling to find a business model for their services.

Facebook, Google’s global rival, has courted more than 1 million merchants in India on its WhatsApp’s business app. WhatsApp, which is the most popular app in India, is informally used by countless additional merchants in the country.

For merchants, the more players the merrier. Small businesses in India continue to struggle to secure working capital from financial institutions, such as banks.

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The Loupedeck CT is a fantastic, flexible editing console for Mac and PC

Posted by | Creative, Gadgets, hardware, Loupedeck ct, photo, photo editing, Reviews, TC, Video, Video Editing | No Comments

For photographers and videographers spending a lot less time on location and a lot more time at the desk right now, one great use of time is going back through archives and backlogs to find hidden gems, and honing those edit skills. One recently released device called the Loupedeck CT can make that an even more enjoyable experience, with customizable controls and profiles that work with just about all your favorite editing apps — and that can even make just using your computer generally easier and more convenient.

The basics

Loupedeck’s entire focus is on creating dedicated hardware control surfaces for creatives, and the Loupedeck CT is its latest, top-of-the-line editing panel. It’s essentially a square block, which is surprisingly thin and light given how many hardware control options it provides. On the surface itself, you’ll find six knobs with tactile, clicky turning action, as well as 12 square buttons and eight round buttons, each of which features color-coded backlighting. There’s also a large central control dial, with a touch-sensitive display in-set, and a 4×3 grid of touch-sensitive display buttons up top — each of which also includes optional vibration feedback when pressed.

Loupedeck CT connects via an included USB-C cable (though you’ll need an adapter or your own USB-C to USB-C cable if you’re using a modern MacBook) and it draws all the power it needs to operate from that connection. Small, rubberized pads on the back ensure that it won’t slip around on your desktop or table surface.

When you first set up the Loupedeck, you’ll need to download software from the company’s website. Once that’s installed, the setup wizard should see your Loupedeck CT hardware when it’s connected, and present you with configuration options that mirror what will show up on your device. By default, Loupedeck has a number of profiles for popular editing software pre-installed and ready to use, and it’ll switch to use that profile automatically upon opening those applications.

The list is fantastic, with one notable (and somewhat painful) exception — Lightroom CC. This isn’t Loupdeck’s fault: Adobe has changed the way that Lighroom is architected with the CC version such that it no longer offers as much interoperability with plugins like the ones that make Loupedeck work with such high integration. Loupedeck offers a Lightroom Classic profile, and one of the reasons Classic is still available is its rich support for these plugins, so you can still access and edit your library with Loupedeck CT. Plus, you can still use it to control Lightroom CC — but you’ll have to download a profile that essentially replicates keystrokes and keyboard shortcuts, or create your own, and it won’t be nearly as flexible as the profiles that exist for Photoshop, Photoshop Camera Raw and Lightroom Classic.

That one exception aside, there are profiles for just about any creative software a creative pro would want to use. And the default system software settings are also very handy for when you’re not using your computer for doing anything with image, video or audio editing. For instance, I set up basic workflows for capturing screenshots, which I do often for work, and one for managing audio playback during transcription.

Design

I mentioned it briefly above, but the Loupedeck CT’s design is at first glance very interesting because it’s actually far smaller than I was expecting based on the company’s own marketing and imagery. It’s just a little taller than your average keyboard, and about the same width across, and it takes up not much more space on your desk than a small mousepad, or a large piece of toast. Despite its small footprint, it has a lot of physical controls, each of which is actually potentially many more controls through software.

The matte black, slightly rubberized finish is pleasing both to look at and to the touch, and the controls all feel like there was a lot of care put into the tactile experience of using them. The graduated clicks on the knobs let you know when you’ve increased something by a single increment, and the smooth action on the big dial feels delightfully analog. The buttons all have a satisfying, fairly deep click, and the slight buzz you get from the vibration feedback on the touchscreen buttons are a perfect bit of haptic response, which, combined with the raised rows that separate them, mean you can use the Loupedeck CT eyes-free once you get used to it. Each knob is also a clickable button, and the touchscreen circular display on the large central dial can be custom configured with a number of different software buttons or a scroll list.

Despite its small size, the Loupedeck CT doesn’t feel fragile, and it has a nice weight to it that feels reassuring of its manufacturing quality. It does feel like a bit of a compromise when it comes to layout to accommodate the square design versus the longer rectangle of the Loupedeck+, which more closely resembles a keyboard — but that has positives and negatives, since the CT is easier to use alongside a keyboard.

Ultimately, the design feels thoughtful and well-considered, giving you a very powerful set of physical controls for creative software that takes up much less space on the desk than even something like an equivalent modular system from Palette would require.

Features

The Loupedeck CT’s primary benefits are found in its profiles, which set you up out of the box to get editing quickly and effectively across your favorite software. Each feels like a sensible set of defaults for the software they’re designed to work with, and you can always customize and tweak to your heart’s content if you’ve already got a set of standard processes that doesn’t quite match up.

Loupedeck’s software makes customization and addition of your own sets of tools a drag-and-drop process, which helps a lot with the learning curve. It still took me a little while to figure out the logic of where to find things, and how they’re nested, but it does make sense once you experiment and play around a bit.

Similarly, Loupedeck uses a color-coding hierarchy system in its interface that takes some getting used to, but that eventually provides a handy visual shortcut for working with the Loupedeck CT. There are green buttons and lights that control overall workspaces, as well as purple actions that exist within those workspaces. You can set up multiple workspaces for each app, letting you store entire virtual toolboxes for carrying out specific tasks.

This allows the CT to be at once simple enough to not overwhelm, and also rich and complex enough to offer a satisfying range of control options for advanced pros. As mentioned, everything is customizable (minus a few buttons like the o-button that you can’t remap, for navigation reasons) and you can also export profiles for sharing or for use across machines, and import profiles, including those created by others, for quickly getting set up with a new workflow or piece of software.

The Loupedeck CT even has 8GB of built-in storage on board, and shows up as a removable disk on your computer, allowing you to easily take your profiles with you — as well a tidy little collection of working files.

Bottom line

At $549, the Loupedeck CT isn’t for everyone — even though the features it offers provide efficiency benefits for many more than just creatives. It’s like having an editing console that you can fit in the tablet pocket of most backpacks or briefcases — and it’s actually like having a whole bunch of those at once because of the flexibility and configurability of its software. Also, comparable tools like the Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Editor keyboard can cost more than twice as much.

If your job or your passion involves spending considerable time adjusting gradients, curves, degrees and sliders, then the Loupedeck CT is for you. Likewise, if you spend a lot of time transcribing or cleaning up audio, or you’re a keyboard warrior who regularly employs a whole host of keystroke combos even for working in something like a spreadsheet app, it could be great for you too.

I’ve tested out a lot of hardware aimed at improving the workflow of photographers and video editors, but none has proven sticky, especially across both home and travel use. The Loupedeck CT seems like the one that will stick, based on my experience with it so far.

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Sony will now pay researchers $50,000+ for critical PS4 bugs

Posted by | bug bounty, Gaming, playstation, Sony, TC | No Comments

Think you’ve found a way to consistently brick someone’s PS4, or make it run code that it shouldn’t? Sony wants to know — and now they’re willing to pay.

This morning Sony announced that it’s opening its bug bounty program to the public, and will pay for newly discovered bugs and exploits that impact either the PlayStation 4 or their online PlayStation Network.

Sony is pretty explicit about what kind of bugs they’re looking for: anything that hits “the PlayStation 4 system, operating system, accessories” in its current and/or beta form, or that impacts any of a handful of PlayStation Network domains/APIs. Tactics like socially engineering Sony employees or DDoSing their servers, meanwhile, aren’t allowed.

Bugs found in the PlayStation Network will have base bounties of $100-$3,000 or more (depending on severity), while critical bugs found related to the PS4 itself will pay $50,000 or more. You can see Sony’s breakdown, including what’s in/out of the program’s scope, right here.

(Note the focus on PlayStation 4. Finding a new way to break the ol’ PS2 is cool and all, but Sony won’t be dishing out any money for it.)

In a blog post announcing the bug bounty program, Sony notes that they’ve actually been running this program quietly with a handful of researchers for a while now — today, though, they’re opening it up to anyone with the skill and interest. The program’s HackerOne page says Sony has already paid out over $170,000 to researchers, with an average bounty of around $400.

Microsoft launched a similar bug bounty program for Xbox Live earlier this year.

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China’s GPS competitor is now fully launched

Posted by | Asia, Beidou, China, Government, gps, Logistics, Mobile, Policy | No Comments

For decades, the United States has had a monopoly on positioning, navigation and timing technology with its Global Positioning System (GPS), a constellation of satellites operated by the military that today provides the backbone for location on billions of devices worldwide.

As those technologies have become not just key to military maneuvers but the very foundation of modern economies, more and more governments around the world have sought ways to decouple from usage of the U.S.-centric system. Russia, Japan, India, the United Kingdom and the European Union have all made forays to build out alternatives to GPS, or at least, to augment the system with additional satellites for better coverage.

Few countries, though, have made the investment that China has made into its Beidou (北斗) GPS alternative. Over 20 years, the country has spent billions of dollars and launched nearly three dozen satellites to create a completely separate system for positioning. According to Chinese state media, nearly 70% of all Chinese handsets are capable of processing signals from Beidou satellites.

Now, the final puzzle piece is in place, as the last satellite in the Beidou constellation was launched Tuesday morning into orbit, according to the People’s Daily.

It’s just another note in the continuing decoupling of the United States and China, where relations have deteriorated over differences of market access and human rights. Trade talks between the two countries have reached a standstill, with one senior Trump administration advisor calling them off entirely. The announcement of a pause in new issuances of H-1B visas is also telling, as China is the source of the second largest number of petitions, according to USCIS, the country’s immigration agency.

While the completion of the current plan for Beidou offers Beijing new flexibility and resiliency for this critical technology, ultimately, positioning technologies are mostly not adversarial — additional satellites can offer more redundancy to all users, and many of these technologies have the potential to coordinate with each other, offering more flexibility to handset manufacturers.

Nonetheless, GPS spoofing and general hacking of positioning technologies remains a serious threat. Earlier this year, the Trump administration published a new executive order that would force government agencies to develop more robust tools to ensure that GPS signals are protected from hacking.

Given how much of global logistics and our daily lives are controlled by these technologies, further international cooperation around protecting these vital assets seems necessary. Now that China has its own fully working system, they have an incentive to protect their own infrastructure as much as the United States does to continue to provide GPS and positioning more broadly to the highest standards of reliability.

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Privacy assistant Jumbo raises $8 million and releases major update

Posted by | Apps, Balderton Capital, Fundings & Exits, Jumbo Privacy, Mobile, privacy, Recent Funding, Startups | No Comments

A year after its initial release, Jumbo has two important pieces of news to announce. First, the company has released a major update of its app that protects your privacy on online services. Second, the company has raised an $8 million Series A funding round.

If you’re not familiar with Jumbo, the app wants to fix what’s broken with online privacy today. Complicated terms of services combined with customer-hostile default settings have made it really hard to understand what personal information is out there. Due to recent regulatory changes, it’s now possible to change privacy settings on many services.

While it is possible, it doesn’t mean it is easy. If you’ve tried to adjust your privacy settings on Facebook or LinkedIn, you know that it’s a convoluted process with a lot of sub-menus and non-descriptive text.

Similarly, social networks have been around for more than a decade. While you were comfortable sharing photos and public messages with a small group of friends 10 years ago, you don’t necessarily want to leave this content accessible to hundreds or even thousands of “friends” today.

The result is an iPhone and Android app that puts you in charge of your privacy. It’s essentially a dashboard that lets you control your privacy on the web. You first connect the app to various online services and you can then control those services from Jumbo. Jumbo doesn’t limit itself to what you can do with APIs, as it can mimic JavaScript calls on web pages that are unaccessible to the APIs.

For instance, if you connect your Facebook account, you can remove your profile from advertising lists, delete past searches, change the visibility of posts you’re tagged in and more. On Google, you can delete your history across multiple services — web searches, Chrome history, YouTube searches, Google Map activities, location history, etc.

More fundamentally, Jumbo challenges the fact that everything should remain online forever. Conversations you had six months ago might not be relevant today, so why can’t you delete those conversations?

Jumbo lets you delete and archive old tweets, Messenger conversations and old Facebook posts. The app can regularly scan your accounts and delete everything that is older than a certain threshold — it can be a month, a year or whatever you want.

While your friends will no longer be able to see that content, Jumbo archives everything in a tab called Vault.

With today’s update, everything has been refined. The main tab has been redesigned to inform you of what Jumbo has been doing over the past week. The company now uses background notifications to perform some tasks even if you’re not launching the app every day.

The data-breach monitoring has been improved. Jumbo now uses SpyCloud to tell you exactly what has been leaked in a data breach — your phone number, your email address, your password, your address, etc.

It’s also much easier to understand the settings you can change for each service thanks to simple toggles and recommendations that you can accept or ignore.

Image Credits: Jumbo

A clear business model

Jumbo’s basic features are free, but you’ll need to buy a subscription to access the most advanced features. Jumbo Plus lets you scan and archive your Instagram account, delete your Alexa voice recordings, manage your Reddit and Dropbox accounts and track more than one email address for data breaches.

Jumbo Pro lets you manage your LinkedIn account (and you know that LinkedIn’s privacy settings are a mess). You can also track more information as part of the data breach feature — your ID, your credit card number and your Social Security number. It also lets you activate a tracker blocker.

This new feature in the second version of Jumbo replaces default DNS settings on your phone. All DNS requests are routed through a Jumbo-managed networking profile on your phone. If you’re trying to access a tracker, the request is blocked; if you’re trying to access some legit content, the request goes through. It works in the browser and in native apps.

You can pay what you want for Jumbo Plus, from $3 per month to $8 per month. Similarly, you can pick what you want to pay for Jumbo Pro, between $9 per month and $15 per month.

You might think that you’re giving a ton of personal information to a small startup. Jumbo is well aware of that and tries to reassure its user base with radical design choices, transparency and a clear business model.

Jumbo doesn’t want to mine your data. Your archived data isn’t stored on Jumbo’s servers. It remains on your phone and optionally on your iCloud or Dropbox account as a backup.

Jumbo doesn’t even have user accounts. When you first open the app, the app assigns you a unique ID in order to send you push notifications, but that’s about it. The company has also hired companies for security audits.

“We don’t store email addresses so we don’t know why people subscribe,” Jumbo CEO Pierre Valade told me.

Profitable by 2022

Jumbo has raised an $8 million funding round. It had previously raised a $3.5 million seed round. This time, Balderton Capital is leading the round. The firm had already invested in Valade’s previous startup, Sunrise.

A lot of business angels participated in the round as well, and Jumbo is listing them all on its website. This is all about being transparent again.

Interestingly, Jumbo isn’t betting on explosive growth and eyeballs. The company says it has enough funding until February 2022. By then, the startup hopes it can attract 100,000 subscribers to reach profitability.

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