Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

Trump’s social network was defaced before it even launched 22 Oct 2021, 3:45 pm

It took only a few hours for pranksters to find and deface a test version of former President Trump's yet-to-launch social media platform called TRUTH Social. According to The Washington Post, someone signed up for an account on the test website, took the username "donaldjtrump" and posted a photo of a defecating pig. 

Trump and his team recently announced that they're launching TRUTH Social in early 2022 and that beta tests will begin in November. In its announcement, the team said that the platform is part of its efforts to fight against "the Big Tech companies of Silicon Valley, which have used their unilateral power to silence opposing voices in America."

The test website has already been pulled down, but not before one of the publication's reporters was able to sign up under the name "mikepence" without encountering any safeguards that would prevent them from doing so. Based on the mock photos on its App Store listing, TRUTH Social looks like a Twitter clone, where users can post "Truths"similar to tweets and repost "Re-Truths," which are basically retweets. It has a news feed called the Truth Feed and a notification system, as well.

The website's code shows that it runs on a mostly unmodified version of open source software Mastodon, The Post says. Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko told Vice that the platform might be violating its licensing rules, since it requires developers to share any modification with the public and to give credit by linking to the original source code. The test website didn't just reveal TRUTH Social's code, though, but also its terms of service. A sub-section in the ToS shows that the website hopes to be protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Part of the ToS reads: "[W]e are not responsible for any Third-Party Websites accessed through the Site or any Third-Party Content posted on, available through, or installed from the Site, including the content, accuracy, offensiveness, opinions, reliability, privacy practices, or other policies of or contained in the Third-Party Websites or the Third-Party Content."

Trump has been a very vocal critic of Section 230. In 2020, he signed an executive order meant to limit its scope shortly after Twitter fact-checked a false tweet he made. The order was never meaningfully imposed, but President Biden revoked it completely back in May.

Engadget Podcast: Apple’s new MacBook Pros, the Pixel 6 and the Surface Duo 2 22 Oct 2021, 3:30 pm

Techtober continues with a deep dive into Apple’s latest MacBook Pros, powered by the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Cherlynn and Devindra also chat about what’s new with the Pixel 6, and Mr. Mobile himself (Michael Fisher) joins to break down the Surface Duo 2. It turns out Microsoft needed more than a year to fix all of the problems with its dual-screen phone.

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


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Topics

  • Apple’s new MacBooks with M1 Pro and M1 Pro Max – 1:37

  • Google finally details Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro’s specs – 23:22

  • Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 is inconsistent and buggy – 38:41

  • Facebook may be changing its name – 1:04:05

  • Facebook Portal Go Review – 1:05:05

  • Finally, you can post to Instagram from desktop – 1:06:02

  • Samsung had yet another Unpacked event – 1:06:23

  • Also in events: Razer, DJI – 1:07:35

  • We have a trailer for the Uncharted movie – 1:07:56

  • Mel Brooks is doing History of the World: Part II for Hulu – 1:09:19

  • Fisher Price made a version of its toy phone that actually makes calls – 1:10:14

  • Working on – 1:11:25

  • Pop culture picks – 1:12:26


Video livestream

Credits
Hosts: Cherlynn Low and Devindra Hardawar
Guests: Michael Fisher
Producer: Ben Ellman
Livestream producers: Julio Barrientos,Luke Brooks
Graphics artists: Luke Brooks, Kyle Maack
Music: Dale North and Terrence O'Brien

Lyft's first safety report reveals over 4,000 sexual assault cases 22 Oct 2021, 2:35 pm

Lyft has finally published its first safety report (PDF), which sheds light on the rate of sexual assault and abuse cases on the service in the US over the course of three years. From 2017 until 2019, Lyft received a total of 4,158 sexual assault reports. The company's safety team divided all sexual assault and misconduct incidents into 21 categories, but the cases included in this report only include five of the most serious categories of sexual assault.

Those categories are non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual/sexual body part, non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, attempted non-consensual sexual penetration and non-consensual sexual penetration. There are lesser categories of sexual assault that weren't included in the total number of cases.

Among the five, the most commonly reported incidents fall under the non-consensual touching of a sexual body part category. The team recorded 360 incidents of rape within that period. Lyft said that it included any incident reported over the three-year period regardless of when it actually happened, because sexual assault is chronically underreported. Further, it intentionally used broad definitions for the sub-categories.In addition to sexual assault cases, Lyft has also reported 105 motor vehicle fatalities and 10 fatal physical assaults. 

The company explained that it doesn't proactively report safety incidents to law enforcement, knowing that it's a deeply personal decision, especially for survivors of sexual assault. "This policy gives survivors as much agency as possible when deciding whether and how to report an incident," it wrote. 

Lyft has been promising to release a safety report since 2018, and when CNN asked about it earlier this year, the company cited an issue with the California Public Utilities Commission for the delay. According to the news organization, at least 72 individuals are suing the ride-hailing service over alleged sexual assault incidents. Some of those cases accuse Lyft of knowing that its drivers were raping passengers and failing to take steps to protect its customers.

Uber, on the other hand, published its first safety report in 2019. The company revealed nearly 6,000 reports of sexual abuse over 2017 and 2018, as well as 19 fatal physical assaults.

The Morning After: Razer’s light-up smart face mask finally goes on sale 22 Oct 2021, 2:15 pm

After a long run of teasing the RGB-lit Zephyr mask, Razer is finally ready to sell it to die-hard fans — or possibly cosplayers. The Zephyr costs $100 or there’s a $150 Starter Pack with three replacement filter kits. Alas, the Starter Pack is already listed as "out of stock," and the mask by itself is still "coming soon."

Yes, you can customize the lighting through a companion app, but the highlight is a dual-fan active air filtration system with N95 filters — something I’d never thought I’d be writing about a Razer device.

— Mat Smith

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review

Its second dual-screen hybrid is another letdown.

The Morning After
Engadget

Microsoft’s dual-screen ambitions continue to struggle. Upgraded hardware and a new Glance Bar don’t mean much when the Duo 2 is still plagued with inconsistent, finicky software. The new triple-camera array is held back by an atrocious camera app, and thermal issues cause the device to hang. All of this will cost you $1,500.

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‘Uncharted’ movie trailer plays Nathan Drake's greatest hits

That cargo plane sequence looks mighty familiar.

The Morning After
Sony Pictures

Yes, Sony is finally releasing an Uncharted movie after trying to make one for over a decade. Sony Pictures included a handy reminder at the end of the trailer about a remastered bundle of Uncharted 4 and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy that's coming to PlayStation 5 and PC in early 2022.

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Do you want a Razer gaming chair?

Well, it’s pretty good.

The Morning After
Razer

Gaming chairs have proliferated over the past few years, and until now, they’ve tended to be overpriced and visually unappealing. Think: lurid colors, Bond villain lair aesthetics and giant drink holders. As Buyer's Guide Editor Kris Naudus puts it, Razer’s new Enki chair is still a bit over the top, but at least it’s a more affordable kind of over the top.

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NVIDIA's new GeForce Now RTX 3080 service streams games at 1440p and 120 fps

It costs $100 for six months, double the current premium tier price.

NVIDIA has unveiled its next-generation cloud gaming platform called GeForce Now RTX 3080 with "desktop-class latency" and 1440p gaming at up to 120 fps on PC or Mac. The service is powered by a new gaming supercomputer called the GeForce Now SuperPod and, at $200 for a year, costs double the price of the existing Priority tier, which recently doubled to $100.

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Sony's A7 IV camera has a 33-megapixel sensor and 4K 60p video

It promises 'flagship-class' image quality and AI-powered AF.

The Morning After
Sony

Sony has finally revealed its mainstream $2,500 Alpha A7 IV full-frame mirrorless camera, and it looks to have been worth the wait. Borrowing technology from the recent A1 and A7S III models, it has some substantial improvements over the A7 III introduced well over three years ago. There’s an all-new 33-megapixel sensor, 4K 10-bit 60 fps video, new AI autofocus tricks and a lot more, including some new live streaming and sharing features, though they're not quite up to the level we've seen on other recent cameras. You can do video and audio streaming over USB-C at up to 1080p 60 or 4K 15p if resolution is a priority over smooth video.

The A7 IV is clearly a massive leap forward for Sony's "basic" full-frame mirrorless camera series, putting it on par — or ahead of — most rivals. The only deterrent is the $2,500 price tag ($2,699 with a kit lens), which is $500 more than the A7 III cost at launch.

Continue reading.

How to buy a monitor in 2021

We help you narrow down the multitude of choices available.

With the pandemic still upon us and Work From Home directives continuing, a monitor is one of the most important computer buying decisions you can make. Luckily, there’s never been more choice, and we’ve seen vast improvements in color accuracy, size and resolution since our last update. Steve Dent is here to help with your buying decision. Do you need HDR, and if so, how bright should your monitor be? What size do you need? Let’s dive in.

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The biggest news stories you might have missed

iFixit's Apple Watch Series 7 teardown shows the same display tech as iPhone 13

We can make the steel of tomorrow without the fossil fuels of yesteryear

The new 16-inch MacBook Pro offers a speed-enhancing High Power Mode

Apple will require unvaccinated employees to test for COVID-19 daily

Trump plans to launch his own social media platform in early 2022

Raspberry Pi announces first-ever price increase due to component shortages

Microsoft and AMD will give away a 'Halo Infinite' Radeon RX 6900 XT GPU

Seagate now offers a 2TB expansion card for your Xbox Series X/S

'Among Us' will hit Xbox and PlayStation on December 14th

Amazon's big Samsung sale includes laptops, watches, phones and storage 22 Oct 2021, 2:06 pm

Amazon's deal of the day is all about Samsung today, with products on sale ranging from laptops to Galaxy S smartphones to storage. That includes a 30 percent discount on Samsung's thin and pretty 13.3-inch Galaxy Book Pro laptop with an OLED display (on sale for $840), the Galaxy S21 Plus smartphone at $750 ($250 off), and the Galaxy Watch 4 priced at $220 — $90 off the regular $310 price.

Some of the best deals are on Samsung's laptops. The Galaxy Book Pro stands out not just because it's pretty, thin and light but because of that gorgeous AMOLED display. The 13.3-inch model in "Mystic Blue" is the standout deal, priced at just $840 for a savings of $360 (30 percent). It weighs in at just 1.92 pounds, offering an Intel 11th-gen Core-i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and 21 hours of battery life.  

Another great option that's far more on the budget side is Samsung's 11.6-inch Galaxy Chromebook 4, available for $179 or 28 percent off. It comes with 64GB of storage, 4GB RAM, Gigabit WiFi, Chrome OS and an HD Intel Celeron Processor N4000.  

Samsung laptop sale at Amazon
 Amazon's big Samsung sale includes laptops, watches, phones and storage
Engadget

As for smartphones, the deals are focusing on Samsung's high-end Galaxy S21 models. First up is the Galaxy S21 Plus that comes with a big 6.7-inch Full HD+ display and variable refresh rate up to 120Hz. It's just as capable under the hood, with a Snapdragon 888 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, 8K video and 5G capability. The regular price for that model is a cool $1,000, but you can get one today in Phantom Violet or Phantom Silver for $750, a 25 percent savings. 

If you want the very best Galaxy device, that would be the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The camera in particular is more capable, with a 108-megapixel sensor and Samsung's 100X "Space Zoom," along with 8K video and other features. It's got a larger, higher-resolution 3,200 x 1,440 display, a bigger battery, and more RAM and storage (12GB and 256GB, respectively). Normally priced at $1,200, that model is available at $950 in Phantom Black or Phantom Silver, 21 percent off the normal price. 

Samsung smartphone sale at Amazon
 Amazon's big Samsung sale includes laptops, watches, phones and storage
Engadget

Next up is watches and wireless earphones. We found Samsung's latest Galaxy Watch 4 model to be the best Android watch you can get, in part because it's using a new version of Wear OS built in collaboration with Google. It looks nice, offers comprehensive health tracking, has a bright and crisp screen, supports more third-party features and offers Samsung's touch-sensitive rotating bezel. Amazon's $220 sale price is not only the cheapest we've seen, but you get a free wireless charger, to boot. 

In our Engadget review, we said that Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro were its best earbuds yet, thanks to the comfy fit, good sound quality and wireless charging capability, with the main drawbacks being mediocre battery life and the lack of an iOS app. Amazon's selling them today for $140, which isn't quite the lowest price we've seen, but still a good 30 percent off. If you're willing to risk it, you could hold out for possibly a better Black Friday deal in about a month. 

Samsung watch and earphone sale at Amazon

Finally, if you're looking for storage, Samsung has you covered there, too. Samsung's T7 portable SSDs are popular for their relative portability and incredible USB 3.2 Gen2 write/read speeds of around 1,000 MB/s/1,050 MB/s — ideal for video editing and fast storage transfers. The T7 portable 1TB model is a particularly good deal, priced at $130 instead of $170 for a savings of 24 percent.

And if you need a smartphone storage bump without compromising performance, Samsung's EVO Select microSDXC UHS-I cards deliver 100MB/s, allowing fast photo transfers and video capture. The Samsung 512GB EVO Select model is now on sale for $55, for a savings of 21 percent. 

Samsung storage sale at Amazon

The Dutch government claims it can decrypt Tesla's hidden driving data 22 Oct 2021, 11:57 am

Tesla's closely-guarded driving data has been decrypted for the first time, according to a Dutch government-run forensic lab. The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) said it discovered a wealth of information about Tesla's Autopilot, along with data around speed, accelerator pedal positions, steering wheel angle and more. The findings will allow the government to "request more targeted data" to help determine the cause of accidents, the investigators said. 

The researchers already knew that Tesla vehicles encrypt and store accident related data, but not which data and how much. As such, they reverse-engineered the system and succeeded in "obtaining data from the models S, Y, X and 3," which they described in a paper presented at an accident analysis conference.

These data contain a wealth of information for forensic investigators and traffic accident analysts and can help with a criminal investigation after a fatal traffic accident or an accident with injury. 

With knowledge of how to decrypt the storage, the NFI carried out tests with a Tesla Model S so it could compare the logs with real-world data. It found that the vehicle logs were "very accurate," with deviations less than 1 km/h (about 0.6 MPH).

The NSI also analyzed several accidents using the raw data it acquired. In one case, a Tesla on Autopilot collided with a car ahead that suddenly braked. Normally, if the Autopilot doesn't brake in time, the driver is supposed to take over.  

"In this case, the investigation showed that the driver did indeed intervene and also within the expected response time," said researcher Aart Spek. "The fact that it turned out to be a collision was because the following distance [chosen by Autopilot] was too tight in the busy traffic situation. That makes it interesting, because who is responsible for the following distance: the car or the driver?" 

It used to be possible to extract Autopilot data from Tesla EVs, but it's now encrypted in recent models, the investigators said. Tesla encrypts data for good reason, they acknowledged, including protecting its own IP from other manufacturers and guarding a driver's privacy. It also noted that the company does provide specific data to authorities and investigators if requested.

However, the team said that the extra data they extracted would allow for more detailed accident investigations, "especially into the role of driver assistance systems." It added that it would be ideal to know if other manufacturers stored the same level of detail over long periods of time. "If we would know better which data car manufacturers all store, we can also make more targeted claims through the courts or the Public Prosecution Service," said NFI investigator Frances Hoogendijk. "And ultimately that serves the interest of finding the truth after an accident."

SpaceX's SN20 Starship prototype completes its first static fire test 22 Oct 2021, 11:17 am

SpaceX has taken a major step towards sending the Starship to orbit. On Thursday night, the private space corporation has conducted the SN20 Starship prototype's first static fire test as part of its preparation for the spacecraft's launch. According to Space, the SN20 is currently outfitted with two Raptor engines: A standard "sea-level" Raptor and a vacuum version designed to operate in space. At 8:16PM Eastern time on Thursday, the company fired the latter. SpaceX then revealed on Twitter that it was the first ever firing of a Raptor vacuum engine integrated onto a Starship.

Around an hour after that, the SN20 lit up yet again in a second static fire test that may have involved both Raptor engines. The SN20 will eventually have six Raptors — three standard and three vacuum — and will be the first prototype to attempt an orbital launch. A Starship launch system is comprised of the Starship spacecraft itself and a massive first-stage booster called the Super Heavy. Both are designed to be reusable and to carry large payloads for trips to low and higher Earth orbits. It can also eventually be used for longer trips to the Moon and to Mars. 

SpaceX doesn't have a date for the SN20 test flight yet, but the plan is to launch the vehicle with the Super Heavy known as Booster 4 from the company's Boca Chica site. The booster will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico, while the SN20 will continue its journey towards orbit. 

iFixit's Apple Watch Series 7 teardown shows the same display tech as iPhone 13 22 Oct 2021, 8:53 am

iFixit has taken apart the Apple Watch Series 7 and showed that despite having minimal changes on the outside, it does feature some big upgrades underneath. As we mentioned in our review, the main difference between this device and the Series 6 is its slightly bigger display, Now, iFixit's teardown shows that its display uses touch-integrated OLED panel or "on-cell touch," which debuted with the iPhone 13

The website says the move is unusual for Apple, since it typically introduces new display tech — such as OLED, always-on and variable refresh rate — on the lower-volume Apple Watch first instead of the other way around. According to the former Apple engineers iFixit worked with for this teardown, this new display may have caused production delays and made the company release the device later than it would've liked.

When the tech giant first announced the Series 7 in September, it didn't have a concrete release date. The former Apple engineers said that usually signals delays, and the most likely culprit was the manufacturing hiccups caused by the Watch's display. "[S]creens have some of the most complex supply chains and assembly processes in the industry," the website explained. In addition to using new technology, Apple also made the display bigger and gave it a refractive edge to make the sides look like they're slightly curved. 

iFixit also found that the model's battery is larger than its predecessors. That doesn't translate to longer battery life, though, since the device's larger screen likely uses more power. There are a few other more minor changes compared to previous versions of the Watch. You can see the whole teardown on iFixit's website, along with more photos of what's inside the Series 7.

Google Meet moderation gets easier with audio mute locks 22 Oct 2021, 3:18 am

Back at the start of the year, Google gave Meet hosts the ability to mute everyone in a call all at once. Now, the company has a solution for situations that require more nuance and control. It’s introducing an audio and video lock feature that allows hosts to turn off the microphones and cameras of select participants, in which case they can’t turn them back on until they’re allowed to do so again. 

Anyone using a version of Meet on Android or iOS that does not support audio and video locks will be removed from the call if the host enables the feature. If they try to join one such call, they’ll also be prompted to update their app. Google has begun rolling out the tool to rapid release domains today. Scheduled release domains will start getting access to it beginning on November 1st. The locks should be particularly useful for corraling rowdy participants, but some hosts may also find it helpful for encouraging specific individuals to participate more often. 

The new 16-inch MacBook Pro offers a speed-enhancing 'High Power Mode' 22 Oct 2021, 2:24 am

The redesigned MacBook Pro might be more powerful than you think, provided you have the right configuration. Apple has confirmed to Engadget and MacRumors that the 16-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Max chip can invoke a previously hinted-at "High Power Mode." While the company was shy on details, macOS Monterey beta code suggested the mode would "optimize performance" for demanding tasks in return for the possibility of more fan noise.

This could be frustrating if you buy either the 14-inch MacBook Pro or a 16-inch system with the M1 Pro. This isn't surprising, though. Features like this by their nature drive up power consumption and heat, and Apple may want to make sure there's enough battery and thermal headroom (that is, a larger enclosure). The M1 Max is also a better fit for a mode like this than the M1 Pro — there's simply more performance to unlock.

If you do buy a higher-end MacBook Pro, though, this could be particularly helpful. Many pro users have moments when they need performance at all costs, such as a hurried video export or last-minute code compile. High Power Mode might help finish those tasks on time while putting a ceiling on noise in most situations.

Twitter rolls out Spaces hosting duties to everyone on Android and iOS 22 Oct 2021, 1:34 am

Less than a year after it first started testing live audio rooms, Twitter is opening up Spaces to nearly everyone. Starting today, anyone on Android and iOS can host a Space, no matter how many people follow them. As of this past May, the feature was open to any Twitter user with more than 600 followers. At the time, the company said it put that limit in place to ensure a “good experience.” Now that the option is available to all Android and iOS users, you can start your own audio room by tapping on the compose button and then the Spaces icon.

If there’s a reason Twitter waited almost a year to make hosting Spaces available to everyone, it’s because the company has spent the last few months adding features that enhance the experience significantly. Twitter recently added a topics tool that allows you to add pre-defined tags to make your audio room easier to find. It also recently added a co-hosting feature you can use to recruit people to help you with moderation. Those are all things that should make Spaces more appealing to first-time users.

Snap says Apple's privacy changes hurt its ad business more than it expected 22 Oct 2021, 1:19 am

Snap is finally seeing the effects of Apple’s iOS 14 privacy changes on its ad business and the changes have had a bigger impact than it expected.

The company reported revenue of just over $1 billion for the third-quarter of 2021. But despite that being a new milestone for Snap, it was $3 million shy of what the company had previously estimated. Snap executives said Apple’s iOS changes that make it more difficult for advertisers to track users were largely to blame for the shortfall.

“Our advertising business was disrupted by changes to iOS ad tracking that were broadly rolled out by Apple in June and July,” CEO Evan Spiegel said during a call with analysts. “While we anticipated some degree of business disruption, the new Apple provided measurement solution did not scale as we had expected, making it more difficult for our advertising partners to measure and manage their ad campaigns for iOS.”

It wasn’t all bad news for Snap, though. The company once again beat expectations on user growth, adding 13 million new daily active users for the second quarter in a row. Snap now has 306 million DAUs, a new high for the company.

Still, Spiegel called it a “frustrating setback” for the company, but added that increased privacy protections are “really important for the long term health of the ecosystem and something we fully support.”

The iOS 14.5 update forced developers to ask users to explicitly agree to sharing their device identifier (known as IDFA), which is used by advertisers to track users across apps and services. Though Apple previewed the changes more than a year ago, the update wasn’t released until April. Since then, third-party analytics have estimated that a vanishingly small percentage of iOS users agreed to allow apps to track them.

Snap isn’t the only company that has warned about Apple’s iOS changes on its ad business. Facebook, which has been publicly slamming the changes for more than a year, saying the changes will have an outsize impact on developers and small businesses. But Facebook has also warned investors that the changes are likely to hurt its own ad revenue in 2021. The social network is reporting its third-quarter earnings Monday, when it will share just how significantly it's been affected. 

Twitter says its algorithms amplify the ‘political right’ but it doesn’t know why 21 Oct 2021, 11:58 pm

Twitter said in April that it was undertaking a new effort to study algorithmic fairness on its platform and whether its algorithms contribute to “unintentional harms.” As part of that work, the company promised to study the political leanings of its content recommendations. Now, the company has published its initial findings. According to Twitter’s research team, the company’s timeline algorithm amplifies content from the “political right” in six of the seven countries it studied.

The research looked at two issues: whether the algorithmic timeline amplified political content from elected officials, and whether some political groups received a greater amount of amplification. The researchers used tweets from news outlets and elected officials in seven countries (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to conduct the analysis, which they said was the first of its kind for Twitter.

“Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline,” Twitter’s Rumman Chowdhury wrote about the research. “In 6 out of 7 countries, Tweets posted by political right elected officials are algorithmically amplified more than the political left. Right-leaning news outlets (defined by 3rd parties), see greater amplification compared to left-leaning.”

Crucially, as Chowdhury points out to Protocol, it’s not yet clear why this is happening. In the paper, the researchers posit that the difference in amplification could be a result of political parties pursuing “different strategies on Twitter.” But the team said that more research would be needed to fully understand the cause.

While the findings are likely to raise some eyebrows, Chowdhury also notes that “algorithmic amplification is not problematic by default.” The researchers further point out that their findings “does not support the hypothesis that algorithmic personalization amplifies extreme ideologies more than mainstream political voices.”

But at the very least, the research would seem to further debunk the notion that Twitter is biased against conservatives. The research also offers an intriguing look at how a tech platform can study the unintentional effects of its algorithms. Facebook, which has come under pressure to make more of its own research public, has defended its algorithms even as a whistleblower has suggested the company should move back to a chronological timeline.

Twitter’s research is part of a broader effort by Twitter to uncover bias and other issues in its algorithms. The company has also published research about its image cropping algorithm and started a bug bounty program to find bias in its platform.

Regulator orders Apple, Google to hand over app store payment system data 21 Oct 2021, 11:40 pm

American tech heavyweights are facing yet more scrutiny of their payment practices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ordered Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, PayPal and Square to hand over info concerning their payment system plans. The bureau wants to learn how these companies harvest data and control access to spot any anti-consumer behavior and provide "adequate" protections to the public.

The CFPB will also study Chinese tech firms' payment systems, including Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Director Rohit Chopra justified the order by warning that payments can pose a threat to the fair market thanks to their "tremendous scale and market power." He pointed to China as an example, noting that systems like Alipay and WeChat Pay are so thoroughly integrated with Chinese society that residents are effectively forced to use them as-is.

The bureau said it was following up on Federal Trade Commission oversight of Big Tech. The regulator has studied some of the companies' behavior in detail and, in the faces of Facebook and Google, put them under close watch. In 2020, for instance, the FTC investigated Facebook and Google acquisitions that hadn't been reported.

There's no certainty the CFPB orders will lead to regulatory action. However, they come right as politicians are trying to rein in Apple, Google and others for allegedly abusing app store payments. The Biden administration as a whole is also determined to crack down on tech companies. There's a chance CFPB will take corrective measures, even as those companies lower fees and otherwise try to make peace offerings.

Amazon workers in New York City are building toward a union vote 21 Oct 2021, 10:38 pm

Amazon may soon face a second unionization effort in less than a year. Per The New York Times, hourly workers at the company’s JFK8 fulfillment center in New York City are in the process of collecting signatures to file for a union election. They’re expected to contact the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. If the agency grants their request, it will lead to a vote with potentially significant ramifications for Amazon.

This past April, Amazon beat back a historic union vote at its BHM1 fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. Approximately 1,700 of the more than 3,000 employees who took part in the election voted against unionization, handing Amazon a comfortable majority. However, the election was mired in controversy, with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which sought to represent the approximately 5,800 workers at Bessemer, accusing the company of unfairly influencing the vote. In August, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Amazon had violated US labor laws, and recommended that workers in Bessemer hold a new election.

Amazon employs more than 5,000 workers at JFK8. Beyond its sheer size, the facility has been the site of multiple protests since the start of the pandemic. Among those leading the unionization effort at JFK8 is Christian Smalls. Amazon fired Smalls after he organized a walkout over the company’s handling of COVID safety at the warehouse. At the time, the company said Smalls broke a quarantine order by attending the event. At the start of the year, New York sued Amazon, alleging the company had retaliated against Smalls.

When Engadget reached out to Amazon about the effort, the company noted its employees have always had the option to join a union but said it was against the idea.

As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees. Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do that we want to make those changes — quickly. That type of continuous improvement is harder to do quickly and nimbly with unions in the middle. The benefits of direct relationships between managers and employees can’t be overstated — these relationships allow every employee’s voice to be heard, not just the voices of a select few. We’ve made great progress in recent years and months in important areas like pay and safety. There are plenty of things that we can keep doing better, and that's our focus — to keep getting better every day.

Even if the National Labor Relations Board calls an election after Monday, the workers at JFK8 face an uphill battle. They’re up against one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful corporations. From competitive wages to Twitch ads, Amazon has consistently used nearly every tool available to it to dissuade its workers from unionizing.

Razer's smart RGB face mask is now available for $100 21 Oct 2021, 10:30 pm

It took the better part of a year, but Razer's smart face mask is finally available. You can buy the Zephyr either by itself for $100 or a $150 Starter Pack with three replacement filter kits. Individual replacements are $30. Just be prepared to hunt around, or at least to be patient — the Starter Pack is already listed as "out of stock," and the mask by itself is still "coming soon."

The Zephyr is, effectively a high-end pandemic protection kit for gamers. The transparent design and RGB lighting give it a bit of flash (this is a Razer product, after all), but the highlight is a dual-fan active air filtration system with N95 filters. This theoretically protects you as well as it does others. There's even a mobile app to customize the lights.

In a sense, Razer's mask is a gamble that paid off. While it's arriving relatively late in to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many places that still require masks, some of which might mandate that protection for a while to come. The Zephyr could help people in those areas feel more comfortable in public, particularly if they're already Razer enthusiasts.

AMD and Microsoft issue fixes for Ryzen CPU slowdowns on Windows 11 21 Oct 2021, 10:04 pm

Shortly after Microsoft released Windows 11 earlier this month, AMD warned that the OS could slow down apps on systems with Ryzen processors. The chipmaker promised to fix the bugs, and now AMD and Microsoft have issued patches that should do just that.

The latest chipset driver (version 3.10.08.506) should take care of the UEFI CPPC2 issue, which in some cases didn't "preferentially schedule threads on a processor’s fastest core," AMD said. That could have slowed down apps that are sensitive to CPU thread performance. AMD noted that the problem was likely more noticeable in more powerful processors with more than eight cores and 65W or higher Thermal Design Power (TDP).

Meanwhile, Microsoft is rolling out a software update tackling a bug that increased L3 cache latency. The issue impacted apps that need quick memory access, which in turn caused CPUs to slow down by up to 15 percent. The patch, Windows 11 update KB5006746, will be available starting today, but at the time of writing, a page containing instructions for installing it isn't yet live. You should be able to install it via Windows Update too.

Razer’s $399 Enki is better than most office chairs, period 21 Oct 2021, 9:00 pm

In the past decade we’ve seen the tag “gamer” used increasingly as a lifestyle sales pitch. Sure, you can buy gaming headsets and gaming mice and gaming keyboards, but there are also gamer hoodies and gamer drinks and even gamer furniture. Chairs made especially for playing have been proliferating over the past few years and until now, they’ve tended to be overpriced and ostentatious. Razer’s new Enki chair is still a bit over the top, but at least it’s a more affordable over the top, starting at $299.

To build the Enki, Razer called in ergonomics experts, paying attention not just to lumbar support, but also to how test subjects sat on the bottom cushion. The 21-inch-wide seat is shaped to distribute your weight more evenly, so you can sit for hours without getting a sore ass. They even considered the needs of those who like to sit in more unusual positions, like a half- or full-lotus. As someone who often sits cross-legged in my chair, I am grateful for the extra space and support.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the chair is how far back it can lean. It’s not quite 180 degrees, but 152 degrees is still pretty good — the kind of angle you might only see on an airliner’s international business class. It’s the kind of chair you can fall asleep in. It seems precarious but in use, the chair held my weight well when I opened it to its max. It didn’t feel too top heavy, like it would fall backward, but it felt a bit unnatural due to the lack of a footrest. But let’s be honest, you really should just retire to your couch or bed when you need a proper snooze. This is good for when you need a bit of a stretch between Overwatch matches or Zoom meetings.

Razer Enki from rear
Kris Naudus / Engadget

My one nitpick besides the lack of a footrest is the head pillow, which is only included with a more expensive $399 package. It’s a nice shape and the fabric feels good to the touch, but it’s also not very adjustable. It has to be strapped on around the moon-shaped cut out toward the top of the seat, which means the height is non-negotiable. I found it ended up in that limbo between my head and neck, where it just jutted out and supported neither of them. I found it incredibly uncomfortable and ended up tearing it off. However, it also felt weird to not have something supporting my head in this chair. I can only hope that Razer ends up offering more options for users of different heights.

The headrest on the Razer Enki, it sucks
Kris Naudus / Engadget

Aside from that, it’s a very good chair offered at a very good price — other chairs from Secretlab or Logitech might cost hundreds more, and a good non-gaming office chair can easily go above $1,000. And, while some might find it silly to buy a “gaming” chair, there’s no rule this has to be used only for gaming. You can use the chair for work, meetings and anything else. It’s not gaudy in any way that would draw attention on a video call, as Razer eschewed its usual use of lime green highlights.

In the end, it’s just a chair. A nice, comfortable chair that you can buy directly from Razer or various retailers starting today, for $299 for the Enki X or the $399 Enki that includes the head pillow, a more reactive seat tilt and an armrest adjustable in four directions. With all the time you’ve been spending in front of the computer lately, you should make it a little nicer.

'Among Us' will hit Xbox and PlayStation on December 14th 21 Oct 2021, 8:43 pm

Innersloth has been promisingfor months that it will bring Among Us to Xbox and PlayStation sometime this year. Sure enough, the Mafia-style social deduction game is coming to PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S on December 14th.

Just like on PC, Among Us will be included with Xbox Game Pass on consoles. Those on PlayStation, meanwhile, will get an exclusive Ratchet & Clank cosmetic at a later date. Among Us has crossplay support, so you'll be able to play with friends across PC, Nintendo Switch and mobile.

Innersloth also revealed details about the physical editions of Among Us for PlayStation, Xbox and Switch. Along with the base game and all of the DLC, the $30 Crewmate Edition includes a poster of the Skeld map, stickers and a holographic card. That version will hit Europe on December 14, Japan and South Korea two days later, and then the US, Canada and Latin America on January 11th.

The $50 Impostor Edition includes the same gear as the Crewmate package, along with a purple crewmate plush, an enamel pin and a lanyard. The $90 Ejected Edition comes with even more goodies, including a steelbook case, a beanie and, best of all, a fleece blanket. Both of those editions will ship in spring 2022.

Among Usexploded in popularity in 2020, two years after its debut, as Twitch streamers and YouTubers started playing it en masse. People were also looking for ways to connect with their friends during COVID-19 lockdowns and, for many, lying to their buds about what they were doing in Among Us' med bay fit the bill perfectly. It's coming to Xbox and PlayStation just in time for more people to play and argue with their loved ones over the holiday season.

Google will make it easier to separate your work and personal apps on Android 21 Oct 2021, 8:35 pm

Google plans to bring Android’s work profile feature to more devices. If you’re not familiar with the tool, it separates your work and personal apps from one another and adds a toggle to your phone you can use to disable the former when you need to disconnect.

When you flip the switch, any work-related apps you have installed on your device can’t send you notifications and access your location. It also silos the data from your personal apps, ensuring that your company’s IT department can’t access your personal information.

At the moment, the tool is only available to enterprise customers, but starting in 2022 Google will begin rolling it out to Workspace users. It then plans to make it available to other identity providers. “This will eventually allow anyone using Android for business purposes to separate work and personal apps in one interface and pause all work-related apps in one click,” the company said. The feature’s expansion should be of great help to business owners and freelancers but nearly anyone can benefit from having a better work-life balance.

Twitter buys a chat app to boost DMs and community features 21 Oct 2021, 8:20 pm

Twitter is willing to spend to bolster direct messaging. CNBCnotes Twitter has acquired the chat app Sphere for an unspecified amount. Engineering VP Nick Caldwell said the move would speed up development for DMs, Communities and Creators. There were no specific clues as to what was coming next, but Sphere said was "winding down" its app in November. You won't see a repurposed Sphere app, then.

Sphere is notable not just for its features (it focuses on "essential" messages and clearing out clutter), but on the tech industry star power surrounding the app. The company is the product of Nick D'Aloisio, a serial entrepreneur who caught attention even as a teen — he sold Summly to Yahoo (now Engadget's parent company) when he was 17. His latest venture has high-profile investors, including co-founders from Airbnb and Tinder. While Sphere isn't particularly large with just 20 staffers headed to Twitter, there were clearly high hopes before the acquisition.

The purchase is a fitting one. Twitter has poured much of its recent energy into DMs and helping creators form communities. Twitter could weave Sphere's focused community features throughout its social network and better compete against Instagram and other rivals that thrive on private messaging and influential figures.

Google cuts Play Store fees for subscriptions and music streaming apps 21 Oct 2021, 8:09 pm

Google is cutting Play Store service fees for more developers. The company currently charges a 30 percent commission for the first 12 months of a recurring subscription, which drops to 15 percent after the first year. Starting on January 1st, Google will lower the service fee to 15 percent from day one. The company said it's making the change because developers say "customer churn makes it challenging for subscription businesses to benefit from that reduced rate."

Elsewhere, fees for music streaming apps and e-books will be as low as 10 percent. "The new rates recognize industry economics of media content verticals and make Google Play work better for developers and the communities of artists, musicians and authors they represent," Sameer Samat, vice president of product management for Android and Google Play, wrote in a blog post. The service fees for apps "primarily offering video, audio or books in which users pay to consume content" will be between 10 and 15 percent if they meet certain conditions as part of the Play Media Experience Program.

Earlier this year, Google reduced its Play Store fees from 30 percent to 15 percent for the first $1 million in annual income that an app generates. The company said that move would cut the fees that 99 percent of Android developers pay the company by half.

Apple has also slashed App Store fees in certain cases over the last two years. Apps that make under $1 million in annual revenue, news organizations who use Apple News and some streaming video services give Apple 15 percent of payments rather than the standard 30 percent. However, as CNBC notes, Apple still takes a 30 percent slice of subscriptions for the first year before lowering its cut to 15 percent, so Google's making its move before Apple this time around.

Google and Apple have been facing more intense antitrust scrutiny over their app stores in recent times. Dozens of state attorneys general filed suit against Google in July, in which they accused the company of maintaining a monopoly over Android app distribution.

Both companies are tangled up in litigation with Epic Games as well. Apple largely won its case against Epic, though it asked for a stay in the sole ruling in Epic's favor: a requirement to let App Store developers direct users to alternate forms of making payments. Google, meanwhile, countersued Epic this month for bypassing fees on in-app purchases and allegedly violating the Play Store developer agreement.

Google is redesigning its smart home Developer Center to support Matter device makers 21 Oct 2021, 8:00 pm

At I/O 2021, Google reiterated its commitment to Matter with a handful of smart home-related Nest and Android updates. If you need a refresher, Matter was known as Project CHIP, or Connected Home over IP, before a rebranding this past May. It’s a pact between some of the biggest companies in tech, including Google, Amazon and Apple, that aims to bring standardization to the fragmented smart home space. When it launches in the first half of 2022, it will support a variety of voice assistants and networking protocols, including Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri as well as WiFi, Thread and Bluetooth LE.

At its simplest, the promise of Matter is that you’ll be able to buy a new device and it will simply work with your existing smart home setup. To support that vision, Google is introducing new tools to help developers build and integrate Matter devices into its wider smart home ecosystem. It starts with a new but familiar name for the company’s smart home devices and developer platform: Google Home. “By bringing our platform and tools under the same roof, it gives us a simpler way to show you why and how integrating your devices with Google Home makes them more accessible and helpful across the Google ecosystem,” the company said.

As part of the rebranding, will launch a redesigned Developer Center early next year. It says the dashboard will include everything developers need to build devices and applications that work with the wider Google Home ecosystem. It will support Matter at launch and Google will release two software development kits. The first of those is a Google Home Device SDK. The company says it will be one of the fastest ways to create Matter devices. Google also plans to update Nest and Android devices to support the protocol, a move it says will enable the seamless setup of Matter devices on those platforms. Once it rolls out the update, Google claims the process of adding a new smart home will be as easy as connecting a new set of headphones. One of the other ways the company hopes to support developers is by allowing them to create their own suggested routines.

For Google, the motive for doing all of this is straightforward. The easier it can make it for third-party developers to integrate their devices and applications with Google Home, the better experience consumers will find. In turn, they’ll be more likely to invest in the company’s ecosystem.

Google starts licensing Stadia tech to other companies 21 Oct 2021, 7:09 pm

When Google shut down its internal Stadia game development studios earlier this year, Stadia general manager Phil Harrison said the company planned to "work with partners seeking a gaming solution all built on Stadia’s advanced technical infrastructure and platform tools." We're starting to see that strategy in action, as Google is now licensing Stadia tech to other companies.

As first reported by 9to5 Google and confirmed by IGN, AT&T is using the tech to offer wireless subscribers the chance to stream Batman: Arkham Knight (which isn't available on Stadia proper) for free. Customers can play the game for a limited time at up to 1080p through Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

"This is being powered by the Stadia technology," an AT&T spokesperson told IGN. "For this demo AT&T created a front end experience to enable gamers to play Batman: Arkham Knight directly from their own website and the game is playable on virtually any computer or laptop."

Oddly enough, subscribers can't take advantage of this offer on a smartphone, despite it seeming like a solid opportunity for AT&T to show off its network capabilities. AT&T even offered six months of Stadia Pro access to 5G and fiber internet customers this year.

Harrison said in February that offering game streaming tech to other companies (without Stadia branding in this case) was "the best path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business that helps grow the industry." Although Google isn't making its own games for Stadia anymore, it has continued to add third-party games to the store.

Seagate now offers a 2TB expansion card for your Xbox Series X/S 21 Oct 2021, 6:27 pm

You finally have a way to upgrade the high-speed storage in your Xbox Series X or S with more than 1TB of extra space. Seagate has introduced a 2TB Storage Expansion Card that, for the Series X, effectively triples the capacity for next-gen games. It will cost $400 when it arrives in early December — nearly as much as the console itself — but might be worthwhile if you bristle at the thought of deleting games to make space.

There's also an option for those who need just a slight bump. Seagate is launching a 512GB card in mid-November, with pre-orders open now for $139. That's still not a trivial expense, but it could be compelling if you either have an Xbox Series S (and want to keep costs down) or just want a little more breathing room on a Series X.

The high prices are, for now, difficult to avoid. As with the PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X/S requires external storage as fast as the built-in SSD if you're going to run the latest games. That leaves vendors like Seagate little choice but to use cutting-edge NVMe drives. It won't be surprising if prices drop as the costs of the technology come down, but that might not happen for a while yet.

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