Proactive Computing | Optimizing IT for usability, performance and reliability since 1997

Category: #TechCrunch (Page 1 of 3)

Auto Added by WPeMatico

Zoom’s earliest investors are betting millions on a better Zoom for schools

Zoom was never created to be a consumer product. Nonetheless, the video-conferencing company’s accessibility made it the answer to every social situation threatened by the pandemic, from happy hours to meetings.

Months later, we’re realizing that force-feeding social experiences into an enterprise software company isn’t a perfect solution. Zoom School is a perfect example of what’s not working: Remote education is a hot mess for students, teachers and parents. Instructors, who could once engage a classroom through whiteboard activities, mini-group presentations and one-on-one discussions, are now stuck to one screen.

Well more than six months into a global pandemic, former Blackboard CEO and former PrecisionHawk CEO Michael Chasen is daring to dream: What if we didn’t assume Zoom was a Band-Aid fix for schools? What if someone created a Zoom experience that was designed, not just marketed, for classrooms?

“If I told you that the majority of classes being held online today, teachers couldn’t take attendance, hand out assignments, give a test or a quiz, grade anything or talk one on one with students, you would say how is teaching and learning even happening?” he told TechCrunch.

Chasen is launching a new company, ClassEDU, with a first product that isn’t too shy about its ambitions, named Class for Zoom. Although the name might convince you that it’s a third-party add-on to Zoom, it’s an entirely independently owned company. And it’s built for teachers who need to find a way to create more-engaging, live-synchronous learning.

When a teacher logs into the Zoom call, they’ll be brought to a screen that looks like this:

Image Credits: ClassEDU

As you can see, they can toggle between the classroom, assignments, tests and quizzes, or the whiteboard. Instead of unorganized tab time, the teacher can take the video call as a one-stop shop for their entire lesson, from syncing materials from the CMS system to polling students on their thoughts to grading the quiz they just took. It’s a full-suite solution, and an ambitious one at that.

The best way to break down Class for Zoom’s features is by separating them into two buckets: instruction tools and management tools.

On the instruction side, Class for Zoom helps teachers launch live assignments, quizzes, and tests, which can be completed by students in real time. Students can also be polled to motivate engagement. Instructors can be granted access to unmute a class or mute a class during appropriate times.

Image Credits: ClassEDU

The marquee feature of the instruction tools is that teachers and students can talk privately without leaving the Zoom call if there’s a question. This is key for shy students who might not want to speak up, inspired by Chasen’s daughter, who struggled to share in front of an entire classroom.

Image Credits: ClassEDU

On the management side, tools range from attendance trackers to features that allow a teacher to see how much time a student is participating in activities. Chasen, who founded Blackboard when he was in college, also gave a nod to his prior company by allowing teachers to integrate CMS systems right into the Zoom classroom.

Less popular, Chasen jokes, is Class for Zoom’s ability to give teachers intel on if a student has Zoom as the primary app in use on their screen. The attention-tracking feature is not new, but it is oversight some people might not be okay with. Students can disable the ability to track focus, but administrators can make it mandatory. The platform also allows teachers to monitor a student’s desktop during an exam to limit cheating.

Class for Zoom’s access to a student’s personal computer could make some users uncomfortable. Zoom has been banned from some school districts due to security concerns, and a wave of Zoombombing attacks, where an unwanted participant hacks into a call and streams inappropriate or offensive content. In response, the video conferencing company has put in security measures, such as verification tools and waiting rooms.

Chasen says that Class for Zoom is balancing its access to information by giving students the option to opt into tracking features versus forcing them to.

Class for Zoom isn’t the only startup trying to make Zoom a better experience. A number of tools built atop Zoom have launched in the past few months, partially because the price of Zoom’s SDK is $0. Macro raised $4.3 million to add depth and analysis to Zoom calls, with an interface that tracks metrics like speaker time and notes. It has more than 25,000 users. Mmhmm got buzz in July for its creative demo that lets users create a broadcast-style video-conferencing experience atop their videoconferencing platform of choice.

Somewhat predictably, Zoom launched a competing feature with Mmhmm that calls into question whether the startups that layer atop incumbents look more like features instead of full-fledged platforms.

Of course, one threat to any of these products is Zoom’s mood. If Zoom tweaks its policy on SDK and API, it could completely wipe out Class for Zoom. But Chasen has reason to be optimistic that this won’t happen.

Today, Class for Zoom announced that it has raised a $16 million seed round, pre-launch, from a cohort of investors, including some of Zoom’s earliest backers such as Santi Subotovsky, a current Zoom board member from Emergence Capital; Jim Scheinman of Maven Partners, an early investor in Zoom and the person who is credited with naming Zoom; and Bill Tai, who is Zoom’s first committed backer. Other investors include Deborah Quazzo, partner from GSV Ventures, and Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and CEO of Revolution.

When asked if the Zoom investor involvement works as “insurance” to protect the startup, Chasen said he didn’t view it like that. Instead, the founder thinks that Zoom is focused more on scale than in-depth specialization. In other words, Zoom isn’t going to pull a Twitter, but instead likens the platform’s developer friendliness to that of Salesforce, which has tons of tools built atop of it. Second, Class for Zoom is a certified Zoom reseller, and makes money off of commission when a district buys Zoom through them. The informal and formal partnerships are enough glue, it seems, for Chasen to bet on stability.

As for whether the technology will stay exclusive to Zoom, Chasen says that it’s the main focus because Zoom is the “de facto industry standard in education.” If other platforms pick up speed, Chasen says they are open to experimenting with different software.

Chasen declined to share exact numbers around pricing, but said that it is a work in progress to find a price point that districts can afford. It’s unclear whether the company will charge per seat, but the founder said that it will charge some type of subscription service fee.

Accessibility in edtech solutions often relies on the medium that the technology and instruction lives on. For example, even if a product is free to use, if it needs high-speed internet and a Mac to work then it might not be accessible to the average home in America. The digital divide is why products often test usability on Chromebooks, low-cost computers that low-income students, teachers and school districts employ.

In Class for Zoom’s case, the first iteration of the product is being rolled out for teachers with Macintosh computers, which could leave out some key demographics due to expense. It’s worth noting that while students can still participate in a class being run on Class for Zoom without the software, the view, tracking and engagement software will be missing.

Thankfully, the new financing will be used to help ClassEDU build software that is usable on low-cost computers such as Chromebooks, as well as Windows, Android or iPhones. When that happens, teachers and students can both benefit from a more engaging view.

Chasen said that the idea for the startup began brewing just weeks into quarantine, when his three kids began learning from home. Months later, Class for Zoom is finally set to launch its beta version and is opening up its waitlist today. By January, Chasen hopes, it will be accessible to any school that wants it.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/23/class-for-zoom-earliest-investors-are-betting-millions/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Natasha Mascarenhas

Microsoft’s Edge browser is coming to Linux in October

Microsoft’s Edge browser is coming to Linux, starting with the Dev channel. The first of these previews will go live in October.

When Microsoft announced that it would switch its Edge browser to the Chromium engine, it vowed to bring it to every popular platform. At the time, Linux wasn’t part of that list, but by late last year, it became clear that Microsoft was indeed working on a Linux version. Later, at this year’s Build, a Microsoft presenter even used it during a presentation.

Image Credits: Microsoft

Starting in October, Linux users will be able to either download the browser from the Edge Insider website or through their native package managers. Linux users will get the same Edge experience as users on Windows and macOS, as well as access to its built-in privacy and security features. For the most part, I would expect the Linux experience to be on par with that on the other platforms.

Microsoft also today announced that its developers have made over 3,700 commits to the Chromium project so far. Some of this work has been on support for touchscreens, but the team also contributed to areas like accessibility features and developer tools, on top of core browser fundamentals.

Currently, Microsoft Edge is available on Windows 7, 8 and 10, as well as

macOS, iOS and Android.

microsoft-ignite-2020-banner.jpg

Techcrunch?d=2mJPEYqXBVI Techcrunch?d=7Q72WNTAKBA Techcrunch?d=yIl2AUoC8zA Techcrunch?i=FXZ2MMeYL_U:s0C-KhzrGhE:-BT Techcrunch?i=FXZ2MMeYL_U:s0C-KhzrGhE:D7D Techcrunch?d=qj6IDK7rITs

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/22/microsofts-edge-browser-is-coming-to-linux-in-october/
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Frederic Lardinois

Trump administration’s WeChat ban is blocked by U.S. district court

GettyImages-1227952670.jpg?w=600

A few days ago, the U.S. Commerce Department published a series of rules that aimed to block the downloading of TikTok and WeChat by American users, following an executive order signed by President Trump back in August. TikTok got a last minute reprieve yesterday following its signing of an investment and cloud services deal with Oracle and Walmart, which delayed the implementation of its download ban at least for a week. However, WeChat was effectively going to be shut down today, with a ban on downloads and a ban on any services that powered the service.

Now, there is a new wrinkle in the battle over the future of the social app, which is widely used in Chinese-speaking communities and is owned by China-based Tencent. A district court judge in San Francisco has temporarily stayed the nationwide ban, following a lawsuit of WeChat users arguing that the ban undermined the free speech rights of American citizens. That court case, U.S. WeChat Users Alliance v. Trump, will be allowed to proceed.

In her short opinion published yesterday, United States magistrate judge Laurel Beeler, argued that the government’s case showed weaknesses on First Amendment grounds, its authority to act within existing legislation to allow the government to control industry, and its overall vagueness compared to the damage a ban would likely have on the Chinese-speaking community in the United States.

From her opinion:

Certainly the government’s overarching national-security interest is significant. But on this record — while the government has established that China’s activities raise significant national- security concerns — it has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all U.S. users addresses those concerns. And, as the plaintiffs point out, there are obvious alternatives to a complete ban, such as barring WeChat from government devices, as Australia has done, or taking other steps to address data security.

Given the likelihood of a lawsuit proceeding and the immediate damage a ban would have if implemented, the judge initiated a nationwide injunction against implementation of the Commerce Department’s order to ban the app.

Commerce will have a chance to respond to this development, and whether it chooses to edit its order, pursue other avenues through the courts, or just rescind the order entirely, we will see in the coming days.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/20/trump-administrations-wechat-ban-is-blocked-by-u-s-district-court/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Danny Crichton

China may kill TikTok’s U.S. operations rather than see them sold

GettyImages-1227925807.jpeg?w=601

The controversial push to force Chinese tech unicorn ByteDance to divest part or all of its smash-hit TikTok social media service to a US-based company could be in doubt after a report today indicated that China’s government may oppose the transaction. According to reporting by Reuters, the Chinese government may prefer TikTok to simply shutter its U.S. operations instead of allowing it to be sold to an American company.

The potential divestment of TikTok is not a regular business transaction. Instead, the deal is being demanded by the U.S. government, as President Donald Trump directs foreign and economic policymaking via executive fiat. Leaning on his own fabled business acumen, the American premier has also demanded that his government receive a portion of any final sale price. It is not clear if that concept is legal.

As the U.S. and China spar around the globe for both economic and political supremacy, the deal is a flashpoint between the countries with a muddle of companies stuck in the middle. ByteDance is in the mix, along with Microsoft, Walmart and other companies to a lesser degree, like Oracle. The Trump administration has set a mid-September timeline for a deal being struck, though as the month burns away it is not clear if that timeline could be met.

The United States is not alone in taking steps to curb Chinese influence inside its borders, as the TikTok sale comes after India banned the app, along with dozens of other China-based applications.

The deal is also under pressure from a changing regulatory environment in China, with the country’s autocratic leadership changing its export rules to possibly include elements of TikTok that could limit a transaction, and perhaps scuttle its sale.

For ByteDance, the situation is a nightmare. For lead-suitor Microsoft, the transaction is a shotgun marriage that it might not be entirely enthused about. For the Trump administration, it’s an attempt at a power play. And for China’s increasingly authoritarian government, the deal could feel like submission. So, if the deal does manage to come together it will be more surprise than eventuality.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/11/china-may-kill-tiktoks-u-s-operations-rather-than-see-them-sold/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Alex Wilhelm

Microsoft Surface Duo review

In the early days, Microsoft had misgivings about calling the Surface Duo a phone. Asked to define it as such, the company has had the tendency to deflect with comments like, “Surface Duo does much more than make phone calls.” Which, to be fair, it does. And to also be fair, so do most phones. Heck, maybe the company is worried that the idea of a Microsoft Phone still leaves a bitter taste in some mouths.

The Duo is an ambitious device that is very much about Microsoft’s own ambitions with the Surface line. The company doesn’t simply want to be a hardware manufacturer — there are plenty of those in the world. It wants to be at the vanguard of how we use our devices, going forward. It’s a worthy pursuit in some respects.

After all, for all of the innovations we’ve seen in mobile in the past decade, the category feels static. Sure there’s 5G. Next-gen wireless was supposed to give the industry a temporary kick in the pants. That it hasn’t yet has more to do with external forces (the pandemic caught practically everyone off guard), but even so, it hardly represents some radical departure for mobile hardware.

What many manufacturers do seem to agree on is that the next breakthrough in mobile devices will be the ability to fit more screen real estate into one’s pocket. Mobile devices are currently brushing up against the upper threshold of hardware footprint, in terms of what we’re capable of holding in our hands and willing to carrying around in our pockets. Breakthroughs in recent years also appear to have gotten us close to a saturation point in terms of screen-to-body ratio.

Foldable screens are a compelling way forward. After years of promise, the technology finally arrived as screens appeared to be hitting an upper limit. Of course, Samsung’s Galaxy Fold stumbled out of the gate, leaving other devices like the Huawei Mate X scrambling. That product finally launched in China, but seemed to disappear from the conversation in the process. Motorola’s first foldable, meanwhile, was a flat-out dud.

Announced at a Surface event last year, the Duo takes an entirely different approach to the screen problem — one that has strengths and weaknesses when pitted against the current crop of foldables. The solution is a more robust one. The true pain point of foldables has always been the screen itself. Microsoft sidesteps this by simply connecting two screens. That introduces other problems, however, including a sizable gap and bezel combination that puts a decided damper on watching full-screen video.

Microsoft is far from the first company to take a dual-screen approach, of course. ZTE’s Axon M springs to mind. In that case — as with others — the device very much felt like two smartphones stuck together. Launched at the height of ZTE’s experimental phase, it felt like, at best, a shot in the dark. Microsoft, on the other hand, immediately sets its efforts apart with some really solid design. It’s clear that, unlike the ZTE product, the Duo was created from the ground up.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The last time I wrote about the Duo, it was a “hands-on” that only focused on the device’s hardware. That was due, in part, to the fact that the software wasn’t quite ready at the time of writing. Microsoft was, however, excited to show off the hardware — and for good reason. This really looks and feels nice. Aesthetically, at least, this thing is terrific. It’s no wonder that this is the first device I’ve seen in a while that legitimately had the TechCrunch staff excited.

While the Surface Duo is, indeed, a phone, it’s one that represents exciting potential for the category. And equally importantly, it demonstrates that there is a way to do so without backing into the trappings of the first generation of foldables. In early briefings with the device, Surface lead Panos Panay devoted a LOT of time to breaking down the intricacies of the design decisions made here. To be fair, that’s partially because that’s pretty much his main deal, but I do honestly believe that the company had to engineer some breakthroughs here in order to get hardware that works exactly right, down to a fluid and solid hinge that maintains wired connections between the two displays.

There are, of course, trade-offs. The aforementioned gap between screens is probably the largest. This is primarily a problem when opening a single app across displays (a trick accomplished by dragging and dropping a window onto both screens in a single, fluid movement). This is likely part of the reason the company is positioning this is as far more of a productivity app than an entertainment one — in addition to all of the obvious trappings of a piece of Microsoft hardware.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The company took great pains to ensure that two separate apps can open on each of the screens. And honestly, the gap is actually kind of a plus when multitasking with two apps open, creating a clear delineation between the two sides. And certain productivity apps make good use of the dual screens when spanning both. Take Gmail, which offers a full inbox on one side and the open selected message on the other. Ditto for using the Amazon app to read a book. Like the abandoned Courier project before it, this is really the perfect form factor for e-book reading — albeit still a bit small for more weary eyes.

There are other pragmatic considerations with the design choices here. The book design means there’s no screen on the exterior. The glass and mirror Windows logo looks lovely, but there’s no easy way to preview notifications. Keep in mind the new Galaxy Fold and Motorola Razr invested a fair amount in the front screen experience on their second-generation devices. Some will no doubt prefer to have a device that’s offline while closed, and I suppose you could always just keep the screens facing outward, if you so chose.

You’ll probably also want to keep the screens facing out if you’re someone who needs your device at the ready to snap a quick photo. Picture taking is really one of the biggest pain points here. There’s no rear camera. Instead, I’m convinced that the company sees most picture taking on the device as secondary to webcam functionality for things like teleconferencing. I do like that experience of having the device standing up and being able to speak into it handsfree (assuming your able to get it to appropriate eye level).

But when it came to walking around, snapping shots to test the camera, I really found myself fumbling around a lot here. You always feels like you’re between three and five steps away from taking a quick shot. And the fact of the matter is the shots aren’t great. The on-board camera also isn’t really up to the standards of a $1,400 device. Honestly, the whole thing feels like an afterthought. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled after using the Note 20’s camera for the last several weeks, but hopefully Microsoft will prioritize the camera a bit more the next go-round.

Another hardware disappointment for me is the size of the bezels. Microsoft says they’re essentially the minimal viable size so as to not make people accidentally trigger the touchscreen. Which, fair enough. But while it’s not a huge deal aesthetically, it makes the promise of two-hand typing when the device is in laptop mode close to impossible.

That was honestly one of the things I was excited for here. Instead, you’re stuck thumb-typing as you would on any standard smartphone. I have to admit, the Duo was significantly smaller in person than I imagined it would be, for better and worse. Those seeking a fuller typing experience will have to wait for the Neo.

The decision not to include 5G is a curious one. This seems to have been made, in part, over concerns around thinness and form factor. And while 5G isn’t exactly mainstream at this point in 2020, it’s important to attempt to future proof a $1,400 device as much as possible. This isn’t the kind of upgrade most of us make every year or so. By the time the cycle comes back around, LTE is going to feel pretty dated.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Battery life is pretty solid, owing to the inclusion of two separate batteries, each located beneath a screen. I was able to get about a day and a half of life — that’s also one of the advantages of not having 5G on board, I suppose. Performance also seemed solid for the most part, while working with multiple apps front and center. For whatever reason, however, the Bluetooth connection was lacking. I had all sorts of issues keeping both the Surface Buds and Pixel Buds connected, which can get extremely annoying when attempting to listen to a podcast.

These are the sorts of questions a second-generation device will seek to answer. Ditto for some of the experiential software stuff. There was some bugginess with some of the apps early on. A software update has gone a ways toward addressing much of that, but work needs to be done to offer a seamless dual-screen experience. Some apps like Spotify don’t do a great job spanning screens. Spacing gets weird, things require a bit of finessing on the part of the user. If the Duo proves a more popular form factor, third party developers will hopefully be more eager to fine tune things.

There were other issues, including the occasional blacked out screen on opening, though generally be resolved by closing and reopening the device. Also, Microsoft has opted to only allow one screen to be active at a time when they’re both positioned outward so as to avoid accidentally triggering the back of the touch screen. Switching between displays requires doubling tapping the inactive one.

But Microsoft has added a number of neat tricks like App Groups, which are a quick shortcut to fire up two apps at once. As for why Microsoft went with Android, rather than their own Windows 10, which is designed to be adaptable to a number of different form factors, the answer is refreshingly pragmatic and straightforward. Windows 10 just doesn’t have enough mobile apps. Microsoft clearly wants the Duo to serve as a proof of concept for this new form factor, though one questions whether the company will be able to sufficiently monetize the copycats.

For now, however, that means a lot more selection for the end user, including a ton of Google productivity apps. That’s an important plus given how few of us are tied exclusively to Microsoft productivity apps these days.

As with other experimental form factors, the first generation involves a fair bit of trial and error. Sure, Microsoft no doubt dogfooded the product in-house for a while, but you won’t get a really good idea of how most consumers interact with this manner of device — or precisely what they’re looking for. Six months from now, Microsoft will have a much better picture, and all of those ideas will go into refining the next generation product.

That said, the hardware does feels quite good for a first generation device — even if certain key sacrifices were made in the process. The software will almost certainly continue to be refined over the course of the next year as well. I’d wait a bit on picking it up for that reason alone. The question, ultimately becomes what the cost of early adoption is.

In the grand scheme of foldable devices, maybe $1,400 isn’t that much, perhaps. But compared to the vast majority of smartphone and tablet flagships out there, it’s a lot. Especially for something that still feels like a first generation work in progress. For now, it feels like a significant chunk of the price is invested in novelty and being an early adopter for a promising device.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/10/microsoft-surface-duo-review/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Brian Heater

Android 11 has arrived

Google today announced the launch of Android 11, the latest version of its mobile operating system. After a slightly longer public preview, users who own a select number of Pixel devices (starting with the Pixel 2), OnePlus, Xiaomi, OPPO or realme phones will now see the update roll out to their phones in the coming days, with others launching their updates over the next few months.

Android 11 isn’t a radical departure from what you’ve come to expect in recent years, but there are a number of interesting new user-facing updates here that mostly center around messaging, privacy and giving you better control over all of your smart devices.

At the core of the improved messaging and communication features are improved notifications for conversations from your messaging apps. These now live in a dedicated space at the top of the notification shade and feature a more “people-forward design,” as the company describes it. The new Bubbles API now also makes chat bubbles a core part of the Android messaging experience.

One addition feature Google lists under the communications section is screen recording, which is now finally a built-in tool that lets you record what’s happening on your screen, using either the sound from your mic, the device or both. Until now, you needed third-party apps like AZ Screen Recorder for this (and you will still need these for more advanced features like live streaming, for example).

Image Credits: Google

As for controlling your smart devices, Google notes how you now simply long-press your power button to get access to a new menu that gives you access to device controls (similar to what you’d find in the Google Home app, but with a different design), as well as payment methods and your boarding passes, for example. And yes, you can still restart and power off your device from there, too.

Media controls are getting a redesign, too, with the controls moving out of the notifications and to the quick settings bar instead. From there, it is now also easier to choose where you want to play your audio and video.

Over the last few years, the Android team added a number of privacy features to the operating system, but this clearly remains a moving target. With this update, the focus is on app permissions. It’s now easier to provide an app with one-time permissions to access your microphone, camera and location, helping you to ensure that an app won’t have perpetual access to your location, for example. After you haven’t used an app for a while, Android will also reset your permissions and you’ll have to re-grant access to the app the next time you launch it.

On the enterprise side, Google is also launching some new features to help employees who use some personal apps on their work phone keep their personal profile data and activity out of the hands of their company’s IT departments.

If you own a compatible phone, you should see an upgrade notification for Android 11 soon.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/08/android-11-has-arrived/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Frederic Lardinois

Bingie is an app for all your streaming recommendations and debates

If you’re overwhelmed trying to choose the next movie or TV show to watch on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max or any other streaming service, Bingie could be the app for you.

You may recall a previous wave of TV recommendation apps from a decade ago, like Viggle and GetGlue. Those apps have largely disappeared, with most of us relying on social media and group chats when we want to talk about TV with our friends.

However, Bingie’s co-founder and CEO Joey Lane pointed out that the world has changed since then, with people needing more guidance than ever when it comes to navigating the streaming world. (Obligatory plug: TechCrunch has a podcast devoted to that very proposition.)

“I think the time is unique,” Lane said. “The amount of content that’s out there makes it such a big challenge.”

He recalled surveying potential users at the beginning of the year and having them say, “Let me show you this notes section of my phone with 60 titles and no idea where to watch them [and] no one to tell me, ‘Dude, that was horrible’ or ‘That was really great.’”

Bingie screen shot

Image Credits: Bingie

So with Bingie, you can search for different shows and movies, then share a recommendation link with a friend and start a chat about that specific title, with a direct link to wherever people can stream that title. And if your friend isn’t on Bingie already, the app allows you to send them a link via SMS.

The Bingie team created the app (launching today, and currently iOS-only) with digital agency Wonderful Collective, and Wonderful’s Matt Knox is a co-founder of the startup. He described the startup’s approach to content discovery as “the human algorithm,” where you’re getting recommendations from people you care about, rather than relying on Netflix’s technology.

Lane added that his hope is to make Bingie the home for all your conversations and arguments about this content.

“There’s no politics, there are no pictures of food,” he said. “Here, it’s all about sharing this really, really fun content that’s out there in TV shows and movies.”

Techcrunch?d=2mJPEYqXBVI Techcrunch?d=7Q72WNTAKBA Techcrunch?d=yIl2AUoC8zA Techcrunch?i=zUya323y46U:f27S7sfrwHo:-BT Techcrunch?i=zUya323y46U:f27S7sfrwHo:D7D Techcrunch?d=qj6IDK7rITs

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/08/26/bingie/
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Anthony Ha

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

The Galaxy Note Ultra is a $1,399 smartphone. Even by Samsung’s standards, this is a high-end luxury device. It’s the phone for people who board the plane early and derive a sense of pride in watching the rest of us slowly shuffle onto the plane, wondering just how close to the back we’ll get.

Sure, most or all of these features will eventually trickle their way down into less-expensive models, but this is the phone for those willing to pay a premium to get a year ahead of the competition.

5G is the perfect example of the phenomenon. Still a luxury on last year’s models, it’s now standard across the Note line (and almost certainly will be with the Galaxy S when the new models arrive in six months). The world’s cellular networks may not have been ready to support it at the time, but it was yet another bleeding-edge tech available for early adopters willing to pay a premium.

The truth of the matter is you’d be getting a nice phone whether you opt for the Note 20 or Note 20 Ultra — or, for that matter, any member of the S20 line. In spite of the $400 gulf, there are only a few key differences between the Note 20 and the Ultra. The first and most immediate difference is the screen. That’s how you know you’ve got a truly premium device. It’s really, really big.

Here that means the difference between a 6.7-inch (2,400×1,080) and 6.9-inch (3,088×1,440) display. It’s a far smaller difference than the gulf between the 6.2-inch and 6.9-inch S20 options. It’s ultimately to the detriment of the Note line that its largest screen size is the same as the S20, and that there’s relatively little size difference between the two Notes. I would say that the high-end is really starting to bump up against the ceiling on smartphone screens, but we’ve said that time and again, and yet here we are.

Image Credits: Veanne Cao

The primary factor that has facilitated the Note’s growth from what seemed like an impossible large 5.3 inches to 6.9 in its nine-year existence is Samsung’s commitment to reducing the handset’s screen-to-body ratio. Even so, the Ultra is a very large phone. I can’t wrap my hand fully around it. Honestly, depending on the size of your hands and/or pockets, the sheer size of the product could well be a deal breaker.

The upshot of having such a big phone is that you get more space for a battery. Here that means a 4,500mAh battery life to the 20’s 4,000. That’s good, but still significantly smaller than the S20 Ultra’s 5,000mAh, likely owing to the presence of the S Pen slot, which eats up a chunk of the internal footprint. I was able to make it more than 24 hours on a single charge (closer to 28), definitely hitting the company’s benchmark of “all day” life.

Your results, as ever, will vary. But that goes double in a time when 5G coverage remains spotty in the U.S. Samsung sent a model with a Verizon SIM (TC’s parent company, for the record). I wasn’t able to get onto the 5G network in Queens where I live, but things did flick on when I walked across the bridge into Manhattan over the weekend. In a more ideal situation, I would be able to do a more controlled test between LTE and 5G battery ratings, but it’s 2020 and ideal is far too much to hope for.

Image Credits: Veanne Cao

The other major difference between the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra is, of course, the camera. Once again, the camera module is massive. Samsung’s freshened up the industrial design a bit, but it’s frankly still pretty massive. That’s forgivable, however, when you factor in what the handset is packing here. Both new Notes sport a triple camera system, but the Ultra swaps the 12-megapixel wide lens for a 108-megapixel, joining the 12-megapixel ultra wide and 12-megapixel telephoto.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The setup is similar to the S20 Ultra’s, with a few important distinctions. For starters, the time-of-flight depth camera has been swapped out for a laser autofocus. The TOF definitely feels like a more future-proofing aspect. In addition to current portrait mode demands, it will likely play an important role as augmented reality becomes an increasingly important aspect of mobile software, going forward. That said, laser autofocus just feels more pragmatic for the demands of everyday picture taking. And even without portrait mode enabled, the camera setup has a real and effective bokeh on images and is pretty effective with close-up macro photos.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The other big update here are some tempered expectations on the Space Zoom front. Introduced for the S20 Ultra, the feature promised a mind-boggling 100x zoom. The truth of the matter was less exciting, as anything approaching that top number was ultimately unusable. Most shots ended up looking like a work of abstract impressionism. The Note Ultra keeps things to a still-impressive, but more manageable, 50x.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

You’re still risking some fairly serious image degradation at that number, but overall, the results are going to be more pleasing than going double that number. And overall, the zoom on this thing is really excellent. Using the default photo software, I’d recommend sticking to the three tree icons to switch between the three primary cameras. That will keep it at a maximum 10x optical zoom. But if you need a bit more than that, go for it.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Samsung’s approach to camera quality has been largely hardware-focused, and the results are clear in the images it takes. It’s a contrast to Google’s approach, which seeks to almost exclusively differentiate itself with computational photography. The Pixel’s camera is very good in its own right, but it just can’t compete with the Note on things like quality zoom. Of course, Samsung’s approach costs money. It’s important to remember that we’re talking about a $1,400 phone here, friends.

The screen is really excellent. The colors can be a bit oversatured for my tastes — particularly when it comes to bright reds, but that’s an easy fix by toggling from “vivid” to “natural” under screen settings. For some the reds might be a bit muddy under the latter setting. Either way, it’s really just a matter of personal preference, but I recommend playing around with it. The 120Hz refresh rate makes for some extremely fluid animations, but this is also one of those features you can easily disable when you need to conserve battery.

The directional mic was one of the more underrated features introduced on the S20, allowing you to determine the focus of the audio recording based on the device’s positioning. Cooler still is the ability to use the Galaxy Live Buds as mics while recording. That’s something that will come in handy for standup interview videos, particularly in noisy environments.

Image Credits: Veanne Cao

The Note 20 is among the first devices to sport the Snapdragon 865+ — essentially an overclocked version of the flagship 865 you’ll find on the S20. The clock speeds are a bit souped up here and graphic performance has been improved by about 10%. Mobile processors don’t really get better than this in 2020. I plan to post something a bit more complete on the Microsoft partnership that brings some exclusive Game Pass content to handset (honestly, I’m waiting on one of those Bluetooth mobile Xbox controllers at the moment).

But this thing sings for most of your everyday tasks, and will likely be one of the better handsets for cloud gaming, as the latest flagship Snapdragon has been paired with 12GB of RAM. There’s also a good 128GB of storage here, expandable to a very good 512GB. Better still, that can be expanded to a ridiculous 1TB courtesy of the microSD slot (also available on both S20 models, but absent in the regular Note).

I probably write this every time a new Note comes out, but I’m not really a stylus person, even after nearly a decade of playing around with Note devices. That said, I continue to be impressed with the device’s ability to recognize my truly terrible handwriting. Maybe I’ll be a convert one of these generations. Stranger things have happened I guess. The S Pen is quite refined and very responsive after all of these generations. Air Actions let you use the stylus as a control even at a distance — a neat enough feature, but once again one I don’t see myself using. Other cool new additions here include Audio Bookmark, which will sync recordings to the notes you’re taking. Definitely helpful, though I anticipate it will be more so when Samsung introduces live transcriptions à la Google Recorder one of these generations.

Image Credits: Veanne Cao

If you’ve read enough of these bi-annual Samsung flagship reviews, you probably know what’s coming next. The Note represents more of a refinement over its predecessor than something more substantial. If your Note is a year or two old, you certainly don’t need to run out to replace that also very-good phone. That’s just sort of where we’re at in the life cycle of the mobile industry. On the whole, updates just feel more incremental.

But as with each of these devices, the Note 20 Ultra represents some of the finest mobile hardware you can purchase at this point in time. The camera, especially, deserves to be called out for its truly excellent capabilities. But, as ever, the finest is going to cost you. If you can stomach the idea of a $1,400 Android phone, they don’t come much better than the Galaxy Note Ultra.

Techcrunch?d=2mJPEYqXBVI Techcrunch?d=7Q72WNTAKBA Techcrunch?d=yIl2AUoC8zA Techcrunch?i=9vIJdOxJ4Rs:KKNxH58-Sf4:-BT Techcrunch?i=9vIJdOxJ4Rs:KKNxH58-Sf4:D7D Techcrunch?d=qj6IDK7rITs

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/08/18/samsung-galaxy-note-20-ultra-review/
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Brian Heater

Twitter now lets everyone limit replies to their tweets

GettyImages-1055352580.jpg?w=601

Twitter may describe itself as the town square, but that doesn’t mean you have to talk to everyone walking past your seat at the cafe. Today, to increase the amount of “meaningful conversations” that take place on Twitter, and to help people weed out abuse and spam in their replies, the company announced that it is rolling out a new feature where users can limit who replies to their Tweets.

After a brief run in beta, the feature is rolling out globally starting today to users of the iOS and Android apps, as well as twitter.com, Suzanne Xie noted in a blog post announcing the feature. TweetDeck is not yet supported, Twitter tells me.

A small globe icon will start to appear at the bottom of your tweet, and if you do nothing, everyone will still be able to reply — this is the default option. Or, you can tap it and limit replies just to those who follow you; or just to those who you tag in the tweet itself.

And, if you pick the third of these and tag no one, it’s also a way to broadcast a tweet or a thread of tweets with no replies at all. (This all applies to “open” accounts; those that have locked who can view their tweets are limited by default; and it doesn’t seem to replace the option to hide replies, which Twitter launched last year. We asked and Twitter declined to make any update or statement on the “hide replies” functionality.)

Those who can’t reply will get a greyed-out icon, but they can still view, retweet, retweet with comment and “like” the tweets.

The basic idea behind limiting replies is more control. Specifically, setting parameters around those who can reply can help the original poster curtail abusive or trolling replies, or to limit replies to keep the conversation on track. Both can be especially critical in a number of use cases common on Twitter. Those tweeting about a sensitive issue or a political topic are classic scenarios that bring out trolls. And those trying to broadcast a conversation with a specific group (or indeed in a monologue) with the intention of making that conversation publicly viewable can now do it without interruption.

“Sometimes people are more comfortable talking about what’s happening when they can choose who can reply,” Xie wrote. “We’ve seen people use these settings to have conversations that weren’t really possible before. Starting today, everyone will be able to use these settings so unwanted replies don’t get in the way of meaningful conversations.”

Xie said that beta test feedback has been positive. Those using the feature said they felt more comfortable and protected from spam and abuse, and the feature is getting used: It found that those who have submitted abuse reports and had access to the new limit reply tool were three times more likely to use the settings.

It seems that limiting replies is more of a complement to, not a replacement for, muting and blocking: 60% of those using the limit replies feature weren’t already muting and blocking other users. Xie doesn’t mention how it is used alongside another spam-controlling feature Twitter launched last year, hiding replies.

People who are limited from replying directly can still retweet with a comment, and thus still inject whatever they want to say. But Xie noted that “these settings prevented an average of three potentially abusive replies while only adding one potentially abusive retweet with comment,” adding that there was no uptick in unwanted direct messages, either.

The feature getting announced today has been a while in the making, both from a product and even longer from an idealogical point of view.

The concept for limiting replies was first announced back at January at CES, when Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s VP of Product said that the primary motivation [for the feature] was control. “We want to build on the theme of authors getting more control and we’ve thought … that there are many analogs of how people have communications in life,” he said at the time.

The feature then formally started to roll out in a limited test in May, and the version that is getting turned on today looks just like that. (In fact, the screen shots are exactly the same, except with a more recent date on the tweets.)

But the bigger thinking behind the new feature stretches back earlier than this year.

Twitter has long (as in years now) been working on creating better ways to channel its open-ended social platform to keep it from getting exploited and abused.

The issue stems from the platform’s basic DNA: Twitter was built around the idea of anyone being able to reply to anyone else, regardless of whether two users follow each other, or whether someone wants to hear a certain response. The issue, some argue, is that Twitter has dragged its feet because the open-ended aspect is actually in Twitter’s best business interest, since it encourages more engagement and use. (For a recent example of that argument pertaining specifically to cancel culture conversations, see here.)

Admittedly, it can be one of the more empowering feelings you can have on this big internet of ours, to be able to reply to someone on Twitter when you have an opinion on something, or just a question. Never mind that the reply may never come, or come from an army of trolls. And indeed, that open-ended aspect hasn’t always played out as a positive every time.

People, some of whom might be vulnerable or going through difficult situations, can be singled out for negative responses by other users, leading some of them to leave Twitter altogether, sometimes in very high-profile incidents. At a time when social media has become ever more influential and is being criticized by many asking whether it is fair enough, responsible enough and responsive enough in relation to the (incendiary and other) content that bounces around its playing fields, it has been a bad look for Twitter, and it’s been trying for years now to fix it. 

I’m guessing that some will decry the move to limit replies as a curtailing of free speech and free expression, that it might give a stronger voice to those who are actually using Twitter to disseminate abusive information themselves, by potentially limiting how people can respond.

There are a couple of counter arguments, though. One is that people can still see and retweet what someone says, one way of responding. A retweet with comment can still be pretty powerful: Sometimes these tweets can go viral and be seen even more than the original tweets themselves.

Xie noted that people will be able to see when replies have been limited, and that Twitter is working on ways of making that more obvious. That might well include pointing people to further information elsewhere. And the new timeline containing “Retweets with Comments” launched in May gets four times more visits on Tweets using these settings, Xie said.

There have, in fact, been a number of tweaks to reduce the amount of noise on the platform: Last year Twitter turned on the ability to hide replies, and over the years Twitter has improved the process for reporting harassment (including a number of updates and tests around harmful language), blocking people (although it seems this has some people contesting it) and muting people.

And it’s worth pointing out that Twitter has been making a lot of efforts to better detect and help users report original tweets that are abusive, discriminatory, contain fake news and the rest.

That might be the most important point here. This is a net positive for the platform, but still just one step in a long journey to work on improving the climate on Twitter overall.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/08/11/twitter-now-lets-everyone-limit-replies-to-their-tweets/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Ingrid Lunden

Garmin global outage caused by ransomware attack, sources say

An ongoing global outage at sport and fitness tech giant Garmin was caused by a ransomware attack, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the incident.

The incident began late Wednesday and continued through the weekend, causing disruption to the company’s online services for millions of users, including Garmin Connect, which syncs user activity and data to the cloud and other devices. The attack also took down flyGarmin, its aviation navigation and route-planning service.

Portions of Garmin’s website were also offline at the time of writing.

Garmin has said little about the incident so far. A banner on its website reads: “We are currently experiencing an outage that affects Garmin.com and Garmin Connect. This outage also affects our call centers, and we are currently unable to receive any calls, emails or online chats. We are working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and apologize for this inconvenience.”

The two sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the press, told TechCrunch that Garmin was trying to bring its network back online after the ransomware attack. One of the sources confirmed that the WastedLocker ransomware was to blame for the outage.

One other news outlet appeared to confirm that the outage was caused by WastedLocker.

Garmin’s online services have been down for days. The cause is believed to be ransomware, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the incident. (Screenshot: TechCrunch)

WastedLocker is a new kind of ransomware, detailed by security researchers at Malwarebytes in May, operated by a hacker group known as Evil Corp. Like other file-encrypting malware, WastedLocker infects computers, and locks the user’s files in exchange for a ransom, typically demanded in cryptocurrency.

Malwarebytes said that WastedLocker does not yet appear to have the capability to steal or exfiltrate data before encrypting the victim’s files, unlike other, newer ransomware strains. That means companies with backups may be able to escape paying the ransom. But companies without backups have faced ransom demands as much as $10 million.

The FBI has also long discouraged victims from paying ransoms related to malware attacks.

Evil Corp has a long history of malware and ransomware attacks. The group, allegedly led by a Russian national Maksim Yakubets, is known to have used Dridex, a powerful password-stealing malware that was used to steal more than $100 million from hundreds of banks over the past decade. Later, Dridex was also used as a way to deliver ransomware.

Yakubets, who remains at large, was indicted by the Justice Department last year for his alleged part in the group’s “unimaginable” amount of cybercrime during the past decade, according to U.S. prosecutors.

The Treasury also imposed sanctions on Evil Corp, including Yakubets and two other alleged members, for their involvement in the decade-long hacking campaign.

By imposing sanctions, it’s near-impossible for U.S.-based companies to pay the ransom — even if they wanted to — as U.S. nationals are “generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them,” per a Treasury statement.

Brett Callow, a threat analyst and ransomware expert at security firm Emsisoft, said those sanctions make it “especially complicated” for U.S.-based companies dealing with WastedLocker infections.

“WastedLocker has been attributed by some security companies to Evil Corp, and the known members of Evil Corp — which purportedly has loose connections to the Russian government — have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury,” said Callow. “As a result of those sanctions, U.S persons are generally prohibited from transacting with those known members. This would seem to create a legal minefield for any company which may be considering paying a WastedLocker ransom,” he said.

Efforts to contact the alleged hackers were unsuccessful. The group uses different email addresses in each ransom note. We sent an email to two known email addresses associated with a previous WastedLocker incident, but did not hear back.

A Garmin spokesperson could not be reached for comment by phone or email on Saturday. (Garmin’s email servers have been down since the start of the incident.) Messages sent over Twitter were also not returned. We’ll update if we hear back.

Techcrunch?d=2mJPEYqXBVI Techcrunch?d=7Q72WNTAKBA Techcrunch?d=yIl2AUoC8zA Techcrunch?i=2nMcw3j9EaU:X4K836U5LCA:-BT Techcrunch?i=2nMcw3j9EaU:X4K836U5LCA:D7D Techcrunch?d=qj6IDK7rITs

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/07/25/garmin-outage-ransomware-sources/
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Zack Whittaker

« Older posts