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9
Oct

Healthcare.gov users get privacy controls as enrollment nears


US-POLITICS-HEALTH

Following an Associated Press report in January, the government-run Healthcare.org website scaled back its sharing of user data with third parties. Now, the site will let users opt out entirely as the next round of enrollment opens November 1st. Thanks to a new “privacy manager” feature, the Obamacare online portal allows folks to ensure details like age, income and ZIP code are kept away from advertisers and out of analytics use. It’ll also disconnect from the site’s social media tools. The website will also allow users to employ their browser’s Do Not Track options to keep pesky advertisers at bay while accessing healthcare info on the site. “The internet is constantly changing, and we have an obligation to keep evolving alongside it,” Healthcare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan wrote in a blog post. “We’ll keep reevaluating our own privacy notice, the tools we use, and how they intersect with the evolving landscape of privacy on the web.”

[Image credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images]

Via: Associated Press

Source: Healthcare.gov

9
Oct

Moto 360 review (2015): More than just good looks this time around


The Moto 360 made a huge splash when it was introduced alongside Android Wear some 18 months ago. It was by far the most attractive smartwatch the world had seen, and it held its spot near the top of the heap for many months after — mostly because it looked like an actual watch. Unfortunately, the promise of the device didn’t quite live up to the reality, at least at launch. Battery life was terrible; performance was occasionally sluggish; and the device itself was far too large for those with svelte wrists.

Fortunately, Motorola improved what it could throughout the year: Android Wear as a platform continued to gain useful new features; software updates helped fix the poor battery life; and Motorola started offering Moto X-style personal customization. But now, an all-new Moto 360 is in the wild, with two case sizes, totally new guts and a host of ways to make it fit your own style. But there are also far more Android Wear watches to choose from now than last year. Is the now-iconic circular Moto 360 still the smartwatch to covet? And, more importantly, does it improve in the areas where last year’s model failed?

Slideshow-326764

Design

The 2015 Moto 360 looks nearly identical to its predecessor. The device is still dominated by its circular display that still has a tiny slice removed from the bottom where sensors are housed — a move that keeps its bezel nice and slim. There’s still a side button, but Motorola moved it up from the center of the case. Considering where my finger naturally rests when I touch the side of the watch, this feels like a smart change. The other major (and arguably more important) tweak is that the watchband lugs are on the outside of the case, something that makes the watch look even more like a traditional timepiece. This is also a major functional improvement, as it’s now quite easy to change the watch strap yourself.

Perhaps the smartest design change Motorola made was to offer the new Moto 360 in two different sizes: There’s a smaller 42mm option as well as the same 46mm case that last year’s model was based on. The 360 uses 20mm and 22mm watch bands, respectively; they’re both common sizes, which means you should be able to find plenty of third-party options. In addition to those two variants, there’s also a second 42mm option, built specifically with women in mind. Other than the fact that it’s offered with different color and material choices, the biggest difference there is that the strap lugs are pushed closer together to accommodate thinner 16mm bands.

Even if you don’t want to find a third-party band, there are plenty of ways to customize the Moto 360 (although not as many as the Apple Watch). For the men’s line that I tested, you can choose from black-, silver- or gold-colored aluminum bezels that have either a smooth metal finish or a textured “micro knurl” pattern for an additional $20. The watch cases come in the same colors, although gold will run you an extra $30. As for bands, you can choose among black and brown leather or silver, black and gold metal (the metal option commands a $50 premium). The women’s case has the same choices (albeit with a different “micro cut” textured pattern option for the bezel), but Motorola swapped out the black color option for rose gold. The leather straps come in more traditionally feminine colors, and there’s also a double-wrap leather band that calls to mind the Apple Watch Hermes “double tour” band.

So that’s a lot of customization. In fact, it’s one of the best things about the new Moto 360 — chances are much better this year that you’ll find one to suit your style. But these options come at a cost. The base price of the Moto 360 actually saw a significant increase: Last year’s 46mm watch started at $250, but this year’s 42mm sells for $300 and up. If you want a 46mm model, you’re looking at spending $350, a full $100 more than before.

The model I tested had a 46mm silver case, gold bezel and brown leather strap. The strap itself was comfortable and handsome to look at, but it didn’t go well with the rest of the watch. With the brown, silver and gold (not to mention the black screen), there were just a few too many clashing colors for my tastes. I think I would have preferred an all-silver body as well as the 42mm size, though these options would have been readily available if I had the opportunity to customize my own the way regular shoppers will. Lastly, the 360 is still rather thick, although its light weight makes wearing it easy enough. That said, it’s still one of the better-looking smartwatches on the market, by a longshot. It has a simple, classy design that isn’t overwrought like many of the other Android Wear watches on the market. Of course, as with any device, your opinion may differ vastly from mine.

Hardware and display

While the Moto 360 looks largely the same as its predecessor, Motorola gave the internals a significant upgrade. Gone is the aging TI OMAP 3 processor found in the original, replaced by a Snapdragon 400 chip — the same as you’ll find in LG’s Watch Urbane. There’s still the same 4GB of storage for music and 512MB of RAM, and both of those specs still seem to be sufficient. Performance is generally snappy, although dismissing notification cards sometimes took a surprisingly long time, and I noticed occasional lags when tapping certain user interface elements or swiping away notifications.

The display has also been refreshed: The 42mm case has a 1.37-inch screen running at 360 X 325, while the 46mm steps up to 1.56 inches at a 360 x 330 resolution. Both models feature a higher resolution than last year’s Moto 360, and in usage things are noticeably sharper. Despite that, I still wouldn’t rate the display as anything particularly special — it’s a bit easier to read outdoors, and the higher resolution is certainly appreciated, but colors aren’t terribly vibrant. Since you’re only glancing at the watch for a few seconds at a time, it’s passable, although there are other watches with more impressive screens.

The last hardware change here is by far the most important: The 46mm Moto 360 now features a 400mAh battery, up from the 300-320mAh on the last model. (The 42mm watch is rated at 300mAh.) In the real world, this meant I could comfortably use the Moto 360 all day, with plenty of power left when I finally went to bed. That’s with the ambient display feature turned on all the time (that’s the setting which displays your watch face in black and white, with low brightness). Motorola says the 360 is only rated for a day’s usage in this scenario, but I could easily get more than that. I still charged the Moto 360 nightly, but the good news is that I basically never had to worry about the battery running low, which is the best you can expect from a smartwatch.

On your wrist

Since it’s running Android Wear, using the Moto 360 is like using any other Android-based watch. Plenty of new and useful features have come to the platform since its debut, but its core purpose is still showing you smartphone notifications and Google Now suggestions, as well as carrying out voice searches and commands.

The Moto 360’s upgraded hardware typically handled all these features without a problem: Notifications were pushed to my watch quickly and dismissing them helpfully syncs that change back to your phone. Voice search worked well enough, although it failed to recognize the “OK Google” command often enough to be a bit frustrating. Fortunately, you can swipe a few screens over to get a full list of voice commands and just tap the one you want to make your watch listen to your request. Talking to your phones and watches has come a long way in the last few years, but it’s hardly bulletproof at this point — not a knock against Motorola, exactly, but Android Wear is so reliant on your voice that the whole platform feels a bit less useful when the device doesn’t hear me shouting “OK Google” at it.

Motorola also built in some new watch faces that include customizable “complications” (watch parlance for small slices of information). It’s part of a recent update to Android Wear that supports interactive watch faces, and it definitely adds to the experience — being able to glance at my wrist and see the temperature, date and how many steps I’ve taken is pretty great. In fact, it’s something that should have been in the operating system from the beginning, but either way it’s a very useful addition.

Beyond these features, Android Wear now supports full applications; you can access your app list by holding down on the Moto 360’s side button. Most of these apps were focused around quick interactions for things you’ll want to do frequently (as they should be), but sometimes the feature sets felt just a little too limited. For example, Wunderlist only shows items that are in your “Inbox”; any other list you might have will be inaccessible. The Apple Watch Wunderlist app lets you also see everything due on the current day or everything assigned to you — two views that feel especially useful to me.

Naturally, most Google applications are fairly full-featured and comprehensive. Hangouts lets you scroll back through your conversations and reply with your voice, an emoji or a variety of pre-selected responses, while Google Maps lets you zoom in and out of a full map, tap for local recommendations and navigate anywhere that you drop a pin. Notifications for Google apps are also particularly useful — being able to look down at my wrist and quickly delete emails helped keep my inbox a lot cleaner.

As always, what you get out of Android Wear will depend on how much data you put into Google. If you use the company’s services religiously, you’ll get more useful info out of Google Now pushed to your watch. Unfortunately, I’ve started to personally feel like the reality of Google Now doesn’t quite match its original ambitions, something that hampers the usefulness of Android Wear. Too often, info that I’ve already looked up on Google and digested continues to pop up there; I’ll frequently look up directions to a location, actually go there, and then find Google Now giving me traffic alerts to that place after my trip is already over, for example.

Fitness tracking

The new Moto 360 has a heart rate tracker on board, just like last year’s model, making it a decent option for measuring your workouts. Unfortunately, based on my testing, the 360 lags far behind the Apple Watch for tracking your fitness. At a basic level, the Moto 360 and Moto Body app track your steps and distance, active calorie burn and “heart activity” minutes, which is essentially how many minutes you spend exercising. Similar to the Apple Watch, the Moto Body app wants you to meet all three of those goals each day — but there’s no way to actually track activity specifically for when you’re doing more intense workouts.

That’s not a complete deal breaker, as there are plenty of third-party options like Runkeeper for tracking your more vigorous physical activity. But one of the best things about the Apple Watch is how it combines formal workouts with day-to-day activity to help you always keep an eye on your fitness levels; in my opinion, it’s the most compelling feature of the device. Motorola’s approach is simple but not nearly as comprehensive: The 360 will work fine as a basic activity tracker, but if you want a bit more detail about your workouts, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Fortunately, the 360 appears to do a reasonably accurate job tracking your heart rate and steps. If that’s all you need, it’ll do the trick.

One last note: It’s foolish of Motorola to sell a watch and tout its activity-tracking features without offering a band suited for use during exercise. I sweated all over the 360’s nice leather strap while working out, which is kind of a shame. It definitely absorbs sweat rather than repelling it, and it’s also far less comfortable than a more sport-appropriate band would be. Motorola is working on a special Moto 360 designed for athletes, but that doesn’t change the fact that the company positions fitness tracking as a main feature of this watch. Providing a band to make that feasible is a must.

Using the Moto 360 and Android Wear with an iPhone

The Moto 360 is also notable for being one of the first Android Wear watches to go on sale that works with iOS, a feature announced back in August. As such, it’s worth noting what the Moto 360 can and cannot do when paired with an iPhone. Setup is simple and essentially identical to the process on an Android phone — you download the iOS Android Wear app to your iPhone, pair over Bluetooth and then you’re off and running.

From there, you’ll still get the notifications from your phone mirrored on your Moto 360, and you’ll also receive Google Now info, provided you log in with your Google account. You can do the same OK Google queries to search Google or ask your watch to do things like set a reminder, start a timer or set an alarm — or show you data like your steps or heart rate.

Unfortunately, basically all other deep app integration is gone. The Gmail app supports rich notifications, which means you can archive or reply to emails right from your watch, but that’s it. As far as I can tell, no other notifications are actionable; tapping on a Google Now alert about my commute home showed me the route I should take, but I can’t start any navigation or really do anything with that info. You can’t reply to Hangouts or texts or initiate any conversations with your voice. With an iPhone, you basically get your notifications on your wrist and quick access to Google Now and Google voice search. A year ago, that would have sounded pretty appealing, but at this point there’s basically no reason for an iPhone user to seriously consider the Moto 360, particularly when an Apple Watch isn’t much more expensive.

The competition

The new Moto 360 is entering a much more crowded field than the original did last year. There are too many Android Wear watches to cover here, not to mention the new Pebble Time Round. From a looks and cost perspective, the most direct competitors to the Moto 360 are probably the $349 LG Watch Urbane and the $399 Huawei Watch. They’re both on the higher end of Android Wear devices and feature round faces with premium materials and design. As I’ve noted multiple times before, though, a watch’s style is so important and so subjective that it’s hard to identify exactly which devices the Moto 360 is competing against. It’s probably fair to say it’s up against the entire Android Wear field, which is a lot more competitive now than it was a year ago.

Wrap-up

Thanks to the changes Motorola has made to the Moto 360, as well as the enhancements that have come to the Android Wear platform as a whole, the new 360 is easier to recommend than its predecessor. The design has improved; there are more sizing options; battery life is longer; and Android Wear keeps getting more useful. Much of your mileage will depend on how invested you are in Google services, but if you have your heart set on an Android Wear device, the Moto 360 is one of the better options out there. That said, a $100 price hike means buying a Moto 360 is a bigger investment than it was a year ago, so you’ll want to make sure that Android Wear does exactly what you need it to before taking the plunge.

9
Oct

Moto 360 review (2015): More than just good looks this time around


The Moto 360 made a huge splash when it was introduced alongside Android Wear some 18 months ago. It was by far the most attractive smartwatch the world had seen, and it held its spot near the top of the heap for many months after — mostly because it looked like an actual watch. Unfortunately, the promise of the device didn’t quite live up to the reality, at least at launch. Battery life was terrible; performance was occasionally sluggish; and the device itself was far too large for those with svelte wrists.

Fortunately, Motorola improved what it could throughout the year: Android Wear as a platform continued to gain useful new features; software updates helped fix the poor battery life; and Motorola started offering Moto X-style personal customization. But now, an all-new Moto 360 is in the wild, with two case sizes, totally new guts and a host of ways to make it fit your own style. But there are also far more Android Wear watches to choose from now than last year. Is the now-iconic circular Moto 360 still the smartwatch to covet? And, more importantly, does it improve in the areas where last year’s model failed?

Slideshow-326764

Design

The 2015 Moto 360 looks nearly identical to its predecessor. The device is still dominated by its circular display that still has a tiny slice removed from the bottom where sensors are housed — a move that keeps its bezel nice and slim. There’s still a side button, but Motorola moved it up from the center of the case. Considering where my finger naturally rests when I touch the side of the watch, this feels like a smart change. The other major (and arguably more important) tweak is that the watchband lugs are on the outside of the case, something that makes the watch look even more like a traditional timepiece. This is also a major functional improvement, as it’s now quite easy to change the watch strap yourself.

Perhaps the smartest design change Motorola made was to offer the new Moto 360 in two different sizes: There’s a smaller 42mm option as well as the same 46mm case that last year’s model was based on. The 360 uses 20mm and 22mm watch bands, respectively; they’re both common sizes, which means you should be able to find plenty of third-party options. In addition to those two variants, there’s also a second 42mm option, built specifically with women in mind. Other than the fact that it’s offered with different color and material choices, the biggest difference there is that the strap lugs are pushed closer together to accommodate thinner 16mm bands.

Even if you don’t want to find a third-party band, there are plenty of ways to customize the Moto 360 (although not as many as the Apple Watch). For the men’s line that I tested, you can choose from black-, silver- or gold-colored aluminum bezels that have either a smooth metal finish or a textured “micro knurl” pattern for an additional $20. The watch cases come in the same colors, although gold will run you an extra $30. As for bands, you can choose among black and brown leather or silver, black and gold metal (the metal option commands a $50 premium). The women’s case has the same choices (albeit with a different “micro cut” textured pattern option for the bezel), but Motorola swapped out the black color option for rose gold. The leather straps come in more traditionally feminine colors, and there’s also a double-wrap leather band that calls to mind the Apple Watch Hermes “double tour” band.

So that’s a lot of customization. In fact, it’s one of the best things about the new Moto 360 — chances are much better this year that you’ll find one to suit your style. But these options come at a cost. The base price of the Moto 360 actually saw a significant increase: Last year’s 46mm watch started at $250, but this year’s 42mm sells for $300 and up. If you want a 46mm model, you’re looking at spending $350, a full $100 more than before.

The model I tested had a 46mm silver case, gold bezel and brown leather strap. The strap itself was comfortable and handsome to look at, but it didn’t go well with the rest of the watch. With the brown, silver and gold (not to mention the black screen), there were just a few too many clashing colors for my tastes. I think I would have preferred an all-silver body as well as the 42mm size, though these options would have been readily available if I had the opportunity to customize my own the way regular shoppers will. Lastly, the 360 is still rather thick, although its light weight makes wearing it easy enough. That said, it’s still one of the better-looking smartwatches on the market, by a longshot. It has a simple, classy design that isn’t overwrought like many of the other Android Wear watches on the market. Of course, as with any device, your opinion may differ vastly from mine.

Hardware and display

While the Moto 360 looks largely the same as its predecessor, Motorola gave the internals a significant upgrade. Gone is the aging TI OMAP 3 processor found in the original, replaced by a Snapdragon 400 chip — the same as you’ll find in LG’s Watch Urbane. There’s still the same 4GB of storage for music and 512MB of RAM, and both of those specs still seem to be sufficient. Performance is generally snappy, although dismissing notification cards sometimes took a surprisingly long time, and I noticed occasional lags when tapping certain user interface elements or swiping away notifications.

The display has also been refreshed: The 42mm case has a 1.37-inch screen running at 360 X 325, while the 46mm steps up to 1.56 inches at a 360 x 330 resolution. Both models feature a higher resolution than last year’s Moto 360, and in usage things are noticeably sharper. Despite that, I still wouldn’t rate the display as anything particularly special — it’s a bit easier to read outdoors, and the higher resolution is certainly appreciated, but colors aren’t terribly vibrant. Since you’re only glancing at the watch for a few seconds at a time, it’s passable, although there are other watches with more impressive screens.

The last hardware change here is by far the most important: The 46mm Moto 360 now features a 400mAh battery, up from the 300-320mAh on the last model. (The 42mm watch is rated at 300mAh.) In the real world, this meant I could comfortably use the Moto 360 all day, with plenty of power left when I finally went to bed. That’s with the ambient display feature turned on all the time (that’s the setting which displays your watch face in black and white, with low brightness). Motorola says the 360 is only rated for a day’s usage in this scenario, but I could easily get more than that. I still charged the Moto 360 nightly, but the good news is that I basically never had to worry about the battery running low, which is the best you can expect from a smartwatch.

On your wrist

Since it’s running Android Wear, using the Moto 360 is like using any other Android-based watch. Plenty of new and useful features have come to the platform since its debut, but its core purpose is still showing you smartphone notifications and Google Now suggestions, as well as carrying out voice searches and commands.

The Moto 360’s upgraded hardware typically handled all these features without a problem: Notifications were pushed to my watch quickly and dismissing them helpfully syncs that change back to your phone. Voice search worked well enough, although it failed to recognize the “OK Google” command often enough to be a bit frustrating. Fortunately, you can swipe a few screens over to get a full list of voice commands and just tap the one you want to make your watch listen to your request. Talking to your phones and watches has come a long way in the last few years, but it’s hardly bulletproof at this point — not a knock against Motorola, exactly, but Android Wear is so reliant on your voice that the whole platform feels a bit less useful when the device doesn’t hear me shouting “OK Google” at it.

Motorola also built in some new watch faces that include customizable “complications” (watch parlance for small slices of information). It’s part of a recent update to Android Wear that supports interactive watch faces, and it definitely adds to the experience — being able to glance at my wrist and see the temperature, date and how many steps I’ve taken is pretty great. In fact, it’s something that should have been in the operating system from the beginning, but either way it’s a very useful addition.

Beyond these features, Android Wear now supports full applications; you can access your app list by holding down on the Moto 360’s side button. Most of these apps were focused around quick interactions for things you’ll want to do frequently (as they should be), but sometimes the feature sets felt just a little too limited. For example, Wunderlist only shows items that are in your “Inbox”; any other list you might have will be inaccessible. The Apple Watch Wunderlist app lets you also see everything due on the current day or everything assigned to you — two views that feel especially useful to me.

Naturally, most Google applications are fairly full-featured and comprehensive. Hangouts lets you scroll back through your conversations and reply with your voice, an emoji or a variety of pre-selected responses, while Google Maps lets you zoom in and out of a full map, tap for local recommendations and navigate anywhere that you drop a pin. Notifications for Google apps are also particularly useful — being able to look down at my wrist and quickly delete emails helped keep my inbox a lot cleaner.

As always, what you get out of Android Wear will depend on how much data you put into Google. If you use the company’s services religiously, you’ll get more useful info out of Google Now pushed to your watch. Unfortunately, I’ve started to personally feel like the reality of Google Now doesn’t quite match its original ambitions, something that hampers the usefulness of Android Wear. Too often, info that I’ve already looked up on Google and digested continues to pop up there; I’ll frequently look up directions to a location, actually go there, and then find Google Now giving me traffic alerts to that place after my trip is already over, for example.

Fitness tracking

The new Moto 360 has a heart rate tracker on board, just like last year’s model, making it a decent option for measuring your workouts. Unfortunately, based on my testing, the 360 lags far behind the Apple Watch for tracking your fitness. At a basic level, the Moto 360 and Moto Body app track your steps and distance, active calorie burn and “heart activity” minutes, which is essentially how many minutes you spend exercising. Similar to the Apple Watch, the Moto Body app wants you to meet all three of those goals each day — but there’s no way to actually track activity specifically for when you’re doing more intense workouts.

That’s not a complete deal breaker, as there are plenty of third-party options like Runkeeper for tracking your more vigorous physical activity. But one of the best things about the Apple Watch is how it combines formal workouts with day-to-day activity to help you always keep an eye on your fitness levels; in my opinion, it’s the most compelling feature of the device. Motorola’s approach is simple but not nearly as comprehensive: The 360 will work fine as a basic activity tracker, but if you want a bit more detail about your workouts, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Fortunately, the 360 appears to do a reasonably accurate job tracking your heart rate and steps. If that’s all you need, it’ll do the trick.

One last note: It’s foolish of Motorola to sell a watch and tout its activity-tracking features without offering a band suited for use during exercise. I sweated all over the 360’s nice leather strap while working out, which is kind of a shame. It definitely absorbs sweat rather than repelling it, and it’s also far less comfortable than a more sport-appropriate band would be. Motorola is working on a special Moto 360 designed for athletes, but that doesn’t change the fact that the company positions fitness tracking as a main feature of this watch. Providing a band to make that feasible is a must.

Using the Moto 360 and Android Wear with an iPhone

The Moto 360 is also notable for being one of the first Android Wear watches to go on sale that works with iOS, a feature announced back in August. As such, it’s worth noting what the Moto 360 can and cannot do when paired with an iPhone. Setup is simple and essentially identical to the process on an Android phone — you download the iOS Android Wear app to your iPhone, pair over Bluetooth and then you’re off and running.

From there, you’ll still get the notifications from your phone mirrored on your Moto 360, and you’ll also receive Google Now info, provided you log in with your Google account. You can do the same OK Google queries to search Google or ask your watch to do things like set a reminder, start a timer or set an alarm — or show you data like your steps or heart rate.

Unfortunately, basically all other deep app integration is gone. The Gmail app supports rich notifications, which means you can archive or reply to emails right from your watch, but that’s it. As far as I can tell, no other notifications are actionable; tapping on a Google Now alert about my commute home showed me the route I should take, but I can’t start any navigation or really do anything with that info. You can’t reply to Hangouts or texts or initiate any conversations with your voice. With an iPhone, you basically get your notifications on your wrist and quick access to Google Now and Google voice search. A year ago, that would have sounded pretty appealing, but at this point there’s basically no reason for an iPhone user to seriously consider the Moto 360, particularly when an Apple Watch isn’t much more expensive.

The competition

The new Moto 360 is entering a much more crowded field than the original did last year. There are too many Android Wear watches to cover here, not to mention the new Pebble Time Round. From a looks and cost perspective, the most direct competitors to the Moto 360 are probably the $349 LG Watch Urbane and the $399 Huawei Watch. They’re both on the higher end of Android Wear devices and feature round faces with premium materials and design. As I’ve noted multiple times before, though, a watch’s style is so important and so subjective that it’s hard to identify exactly which devices the Moto 360 is competing against. It’s probably fair to say it’s up against the entire Android Wear field, which is a lot more competitive now than it was a year ago.

Wrap-up

Thanks to the changes Motorola has made to the Moto 360, as well as the enhancements that have come to the Android Wear platform as a whole, the new 360 is easier to recommend than its predecessor. The design has improved; there are more sizing options; battery life is longer; and Android Wear keeps getting more useful. Much of your mileage will depend on how invested you are in Google services, but if you have your heart set on an Android Wear device, the Moto 360 is one of the better options out there. That said, a $100 price hike means buying a Moto 360 is a bigger investment than it was a year ago, so you’ll want to make sure that Android Wear does exactly what you need it to before taking the plunge.

9
Oct

Brain simulation breakthrough reveals clues about sleep, memory


The Blue Brain Project is a vast effort by 82 scientists worldwide to digitally recreate the human brain. While still far from that goal, the team revealed a breakthrough that has already provided insight into sleep, memory and neurological disorders. They created a simulation of a third of a cubic millimeter of a rat’s brain. While that might not sound like much, it involves 30,000 neurons and 37 million synapses. In addition, the simulated level of biological accuracy is far beyond anything so far. It allowed them to reproduce known brain activities — such as how neurons respond to touch — and has already yielded discoveries about the brain that were impossible to get biologically.

To create the simulation, researchers did thousands of experiments on rat brains over a 20 year period, logging each type of synapse and neuron discovered. That led to a set of fundamental rules describing how neurons connect to synapses and form microcircuits. Using the data, they developed an algorithm to pinpoint the synapse locations, simulating the circuitry of a rat’s brain. All of that data was then run through a supercomputer: “It was only with this kind of infrastructure that we could solve the billions of equations needed,” said software lead Felix Schurmann.

One of the biggest discoveries was the role of calcium in the brain. Early simulation tests resulted in “synchronous” neural activity, usually found in the brains of sleeping animals. “When we (digitally) decreased the calcium levels to match those found in awake animals, the circuit behaved asynchronously, like neural circuits in awake animals,” according to lead author Eilif Muller. They concluded that chemical changes and others mechanisms can shift a brain circuit from one state to another, which could help doctors treat patients with abnormal brain activity.

The research will provide immediate data for any other scientists who work with the brain. However, the team stressed that “the reconstruction is a first draft… and it is not yet a perfect digital replica of the biological tissue.” In other words, further tweaks to the model will yield even more discoveries in the areas of brain function, neurological disorders and, yes, artificial intelligence.

Via: EPFL

Source: Cell.com

9
Oct

Brain simulation breakthrough reveals clues about sleep, memory


The Blue Brain Project is a vast effort by 82 scientists worldwide to digitally recreate the human brain. While still far from that goal, the team revealed a breakthrough that has already provided insight into sleep, memory and neurological disorders. They created a simulation of a third of a cubic millimeter of a rat’s brain. While that might not sound like much, it involves 30,000 neurons and 37 million synapses. In addition, the simulated level of biological accuracy is far beyond anything so far. It allowed them to reproduce known brain activities — such as how neurons respond to touch — and has already yielded discoveries about the brain that were impossible to get biologically.

To create the simulation, researchers did thousands of experiments on rat brains over a 20 year period, logging each type of synapse and neuron discovered. That led to a set of fundamental rules describing how neurons connect to synapses and form microcircuits. Using the data, they developed an algorithm to pinpoint the synapse locations, simulating the circuitry of a rat’s brain. All of that data was then run through a supercomputer: “It was only with this kind of infrastructure that we could solve the billions of equations needed,” said software lead Felix Schurmann.

One of the biggest discoveries was the role of calcium in the brain. Early simulation tests resulted in “synchronous” neural activity, usually found in the brains of sleeping animals. “When we (digitally) decreased the calcium levels to match those found in awake animals, the circuit behaved asynchronously, like neural circuits in awake animals,” according to lead author Eilif Muller. They concluded that chemical changes and others mechanisms can shift a brain circuit from one state to another, which could help doctors treat patients with abnormal brain activity.

The research will provide immediate data for any other scientists who work with the brain. However, the team stressed that “the reconstruction is a first draft… and it is not yet a perfect digital replica of the biological tissue.” In other words, further tweaks to the model will yield even more discoveries in the areas of brain function, neurological disorders and, yes, artificial intelligence.

Via: EPFL

Source: Cell.com

9
Oct

Ebro Darden: the DJ who curates the sound of New York on Beats 1


AWXI - Kick-Off Concert

“Beats 1 worldwide. Always on,” Ebro Darden’s voice booms on the radio. A little over three months ago, Darden became the voice of New York on Apple Music. When the service was announced, Apple was already late to the music-streaming battle. But it hoped to gain some ground, and listeners, with a human edge. In addition to streaming music on demand and personalized playlists, Apple threw Beats 1 into the mix. The radio station would offer “human curation” in the form of three distinctly different DJs in music capitals of the world. But it also promised a star-studded lineup of hosts who would share their own playlists. Ever since, Drake’s OVO Sound Radio has dropped exclusives; St. Vincent’s quirky mixtapes have struck a note with fans sending in personal snippets; and Elton John’s Rocket Hour has often taken listeners back to a pre-streaming era.

Darden’s two-hour spot on the radio, however, is programmed for a diverse range of listeners. On any given day, he plays a heady mix of chart-toppers and obscure tracks. But for the most part, his eclectic tastes reflect the city he’s been chosen to represent. While he switches between the likes of J Balvin, Fugees, Fetty Wap, Justin Bieber and Beyoncé, his sensibility remains clearly rooted in hip-hop. His interview with Chvrches, for instance, sounded like an awkward first date, but his recent interaction with Skepta, a London-based artist often called the “King of Grime,” felt like a private conversation between two friends.

“I get scared; I’ve been scared for hip-hop several times,” Darden told Skepta on-air. “I get scared that, you know, obviously when it goes mainstream, it goes pop; it gets watered down, right? And I know that’s a part of the process. But I always trust that in hip-hop the essence of it is street. So there’s always gonna be someone who wants to ram their stories over music, so I know it’s never gonna be gone; you know what I mean?”

Darden’s been on the radio since the early ’90s. After his first stint at a station in Northern California, where he was raised, he worked his way to Hot 97, a popular New York-based radio station that’s dedicated to hip-hop. “[He’s] a real radio veteran, who knows every single side of it,” says Peter Rosenberg, who co-hosts “Ebro in the Morning” with Darden on Hot 97. “He’s a classic radio guy in that sense, he’s been on the air and behind the scenes in multiple markets and lots of different stations so you get someone who really understands that side of the business.”

Over the last decade, Darden carved his niche with his unabashed opinions and personal insight into the world of hip-hop. While he presented legends on-air, he kept his ear to the ground for the next big names. As the music director and, later, program director of Hot 97, he became well-versed in the dynamics of the industry, where labels, MCs, DJs and clubs come together to make artists. “He knows all sides of music breaking in [the city],” says Rosenberg. “You get someone who has a complete view of the music landscape.”​ This view made Darden one of three DJs, along with Zane Lowe in LA and Julie Adenuga in London, who were chosen to be on the front lines of Apple Music’s multibillion-dollar gamble on Beats radio.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/138636484&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true

Now, three months in, post-free trial, Apple Music’s fate hangs in the balance. Whether or not its human DJs and star guests will help convert free listeners into paid customers has become a question that’s more pertinent than ever. Even so, while the tech giant’s music aspirations are abundantly clear, its operations and consumer base have been hidden from view.

I recently caught up with Darden while he hosted his evening show on Beats 1. In between frequent pauses — where he stopped to queue the next track, shared snippets about an upcoming artist or dropped his hashtag (#EbroBeats1) — he talked about his love for hip-hop and his role as the gatekeeper of New York sound.

As someone who represents New York on Beats 1, what would you say is the sound of New York?

If you go around New York, you have everything from the Ramones to disco to electronic, which became house music, became hip-hop music, became freestyle. You know, obviously, you have the break beat bands of the ’80s, Malcolm McLaren and things like that, which all kinda play into this overarching idea of hip-hop that we’ve fallen in love with. [It] pools music samples from all formats of music, and people tell their stories about being New Yorkers over that music whether it’s singing or rapping.

New York’s music sound is really diverse. It’s as diverse as the cultural roots here. Today while you have hip-hop, you also have Dembow, which is going on in the Dominican clubs. You have reggae music and Afrobeat; there’s a big Nigerian population here and Afrobeat’s really popular. Then you still have soca music, which is big and, all the while, there’s been pop music; like disco was pop music. You know you gonna go to a club and you’re gonna hear all of that music. That’s what we try and create everyday on Beats 1 — the things that are popular internationally, nationally and then things that are popular locally. It’s like artist discovery … discovering new artists from the local scene, whether they’re pop artists or indie bands or indie hip-hop — whatever it is.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/214869231&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true

You’re one of the most recognizable voices on Hot 97. How do you go from a hip-hop-centric station to Apple’s more global, mainstream radio? In what ways are the two formats different for you?

You must know, to be in love with hip-hop, in its truest sense, you have to be in love with music first. Hip-hop pulls from all formats to create sound. If you look at A Tribe Called Quest, their records are basically jazz samples. If you look at Run-DMC and Beastie Boys, that was rock and roll. If you look at even what Jay Z has done, there’s rock samples and soul music. The basis for all that music pulls from other places. In hip-hop, when I was growing up, it was not only about enjoying the songs that are available, but doing research to know the original song that’s been used. Hip-hop, to me, was loving all formats.

I started in radio in 1990 when I was 15 years old. [Back then] hip-hop was not allowed to be played on the radio before 6PM or [it was] only on weekends. It wasn’t mainstream; it was seen as aggressive. Obviously as the ’90s progressed, hip-hop formats became more common. Working in a multi-format radio station is where I started.

But in terms of format, on Hot 97, there’s a lot of room for you to set the record straight or come in strong with your opinions on many hip-hop issues. Are there some things that you can and cannot do on Beats 1?

You have to know your audience; I think that’s anywhere. If you’re live in a club, you gotta know who your audience is so you’re always aware of what they’re coming to you for and what their expectations are. Also keep in mind: We’re in over 100 countries. You wanna be careful about subtle things like cultural nuances country to country. You wanna keep things just about loving the music and [not] get into things that are not about the music.

There are a lot of opinions about Beats 1 — what it does and doesn’t do — but there’s been very little insight from the curators and the company. What does it take to build a daily show for a global audience? How do you decide what goes on the air?

The first is what’s popular, no matter where it’s from. Is it popular with a large quantity of people on Earth? So that’s kinda the first thing: Is the song popular or is the artist popular? Let’s expose that. After that, you wanna throw in things and hits from the past that people already love. And then layered on top of that is, “Hey, you like these songs and you fell in love with these songs many years ago; here’s some new music that falls in line and has a level of cohesiveness with all of these things you already love.”

For each [of us], whether it’s our London crew, our LA or New York crew, we have a collective of people. We get together each week and talk about music that we’re hearing and love and things we believe are ready — you know, cause you wanna make sure an artist is ready for the opportunity. Like I may fall in love with a song from an artist, but they’re not prepared for me to say, “Hey world, check this guy out,” because if that song kicks off they may not have a manager or an album prepared; they may not be able to see that moment, go on tour. Here comes this moment; this song becomes super popular and now the band is not able to connect with the consumer and then that moment is gone and the band loses out on that opportunity. So we really try to be in step with the music that the artist is creating as well as give the consumer enough time to digest the things that we’re exposing them to.

What makes human curation such a big part of what Apple Music wants to do?

In the simplest terms, people like people. Social is the world we live in. Human curation is in and around someone that you trust or someone you just met. It’s like walking up to a bar to have a drink or sitting next to somebody listening to something. That’s what we’re trying to create: a gathering moment, sitting around discovering music together. If I haven’t heard a song that Julie in London or Zane in LA [dropped] and I just walked in … I’m like, “You know what, let’s play it and let’s all listen to it together; hear it for the first time together.” It’s about having fun, listening to music and connecting to people in a real way. I don’t believe it’s more complicated than that.

Your playlists on Beats 1 often introduce new artists to listeners. Is that a personal choice as a DJ or is it something Apple Music wants to do?

That was our mantra from the beginning. We wanted to be the place that’s helping artists contact consumers as well as helping the consumer have discovery. That is the basis of what we’re doing, creating a place for people to discover music. It’s what we set out to do.

Broadcast radio has been around for decades. But with internet radio, there’s a sense that “radio” is somehow new. What’s new about this format and what’s old?

The old and traditional is that we still call everything radio. Even though streaming technically is not radio, [because of] our love for what radio means to our culture and music, you know, we call everything radio. Even though it’s not necessarily a broadcast.

I would also say human curation is also not a new concept. Radio stations got so corporate that they began to get watered down by the desire to chase advertising. Like everything that goes mainstream — broadcast television or radio — everything gets repetitive and redundant and watered down in its effort to simplify and garner the biggest audience that you can. There’s some still human curation pieces to that. I would say what’s new is the fact that we at Apple and Beats 1 have knocked down format barriers, knocked down the structure and format of repetitive radio and broadcast. So we’re giving a larger sample of what’s available daily. There’s still some repetition, because obviously people are coming in and coming out sampling their product, but all in all we’re taking more risks and breaking more acts than traditional radio is. So that’s new.

Even though you’ve been on-air for years, would you say the Beats 1 format is challenging for you?

I would say the only challenge today is not knowing the exact data on usage, so we don’t know what’s working [and] what’s not, technically, other than the fact that we’re getting a great response. Because we’re new, we can’t actually see how people are consuming the platform just yet. We wanna know what’s working, so we can make the product better and do a better job.

Beats 1 DJs, from left, Julie Adenuga, Ebro Darden and Zane Lowe

What about the impact of playlists on individual artists? Whether it’s humans or algorithms curating them, what do you think playlists bring to the listeners and what do they take away from the experience of an artist’s catalog?

If a consumer wants their music that way, who can say it’s wrong? I’m sure an artist that creates an album might not be happy that their album has been plucked apart, taken out of order and placed in a playlist because they created something and they want it that way. But you know, it’s up to the consumer to decide what they want. There’s no one right answer on that.

I’m not the guy who wants to tell people how to consume their entertainment. I believe people [who like] an artist will go buy an album and buy concert tickets and a T-shirt, et cetera. For people who don’t have that deeper relationship with an artist, they won’t buy an album. That choice is amazing for the consumer; it may not be so amazing for the artist and the creators of content because they have less control. But I’m in favor of the consumer having the choice. Power to the people; that’s just the kind of person I am.

What inspires you to stay on radio decade after decade?

First, I was raised around music — the instruments, the melodies and stories. I love great voices and great soulful music — I mean heartfelt, not specifically just a soul sound; really just the human spirit. Next after that, being able to put something together that would allow someone to escape from their problems or be connected in a real way to someone else who’s going through a similar problem. That’s kinda how I fell in love with radio … creating something for someone that’s helping them through their day.

[Image credit: Robin Marchant via Getty Images (top), Beats 1 (center and bottom)]

9
Oct

Ebro Darden: the DJ who curates the sound of New York on Beats 1


AWXI - Kick-Off Concert

“Beats 1 worldwide. Always on,” Ebro Darden’s voice booms on the radio. A little over three months ago, Darden became the voice of New York on Apple Music. When the service was announced, Apple was already late to the music-streaming battle. But it hoped to gain some ground, and listeners, with a human edge. In addition to streaming music on demand and personalized playlists, Apple threw Beats 1 into the mix. The radio station would offer “human curation” in the form of three distinctly different DJs in music capitals of the world. But it also promised a star-studded lineup of hosts who would share their own playlists. Ever since, Drake’s OVO Sound Radio has dropped exclusives; St. Vincent’s quirky mixtapes have struck a note with fans sending in personal snippets; and Elton John’s Rocket Hour has often taken listeners back to a pre-streaming era.

Darden’s two-hour spot on the radio, however, is programmed for a diverse range of listeners. On any given day, he plays a heady mix of chart-toppers and obscure tracks. But for the most part, his eclectic tastes reflect the city he’s been chosen to represent. While he switches between the likes of J Balvin, Fugees, Fetty Wap, Justin Bieber and Beyoncé, his sensibility remains clearly rooted in hip-hop. His interview with Chvrches, for instance, sounded like an awkward first date, but his recent interaction with Skepta, a London-based artist often called the “King of Grime,” felt like a private conversation between two friends.

“I get scared; I’ve been scared for hip-hop several times,” Darden told Skepta on-air. “I get scared that, you know, obviously when it goes mainstream, it goes pop; it gets watered down, right? And I know that’s a part of the process. But I always trust that in hip-hop the essence of it is street. So there’s always gonna be someone who wants to ram their stories over music, so I know it’s never gonna be gone; you know what I mean?”

Darden’s been on the radio since the early ’90s. After his first stint at a station in Northern California, where he was raised, he worked his way to Hot 97, a popular New York-based radio station that’s dedicated to hip-hop. “[He’s] a real radio veteran, who knows every single side of it,” says Peter Rosenberg, who co-hosts “Ebro in the Morning” with Darden on Hot 97. “He’s a classic radio guy in that sense, he’s been on the air and behind the scenes in multiple markets and lots of different stations so you get someone who really understands that side of the business.”

Over the last decade, Darden carved his niche with his unabashed opinions and personal insight into the world of hip-hop. While he presented legends on-air, he kept his ear to the ground for the next big names. As the music director and, later, program director of Hot 97, he became well-versed in the dynamics of the industry, where labels, MCs, DJs and clubs come together to make artists. “He knows all sides of music breaking in [the city],” says Rosenberg. “You get someone who has a complete view of the music landscape.”​ This view made Darden one of three DJs, along with Zane Lowe in LA and Julie Adenuga in London, who were chosen to be on the front lines of Apple Music’s multibillion-dollar gamble on Beats radio.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/138636484&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true

Now, three months in, post-free trial, Apple Music’s fate hangs in the balance. Whether or not its human DJs and star guests will help convert free listeners into paid customers has become a question that’s more pertinent than ever. Even so, while the tech giant’s music aspirations are abundantly clear, its operations and consumer base have been hidden from view.

I recently caught up with Darden while he hosted his evening show on Beats 1. In between frequent pauses — where he stopped to queue the next track, shared snippets about an upcoming artist or dropped his hashtag (#EbroBeats1) — he talked about his love for hip-hop and his role as the gatekeeper of New York sound.

As someone who represents New York on Beats 1, what would you say is the sound of New York?

If you go around New York, you have everything from the Ramones to disco to electronic, which became house music, became hip-hop music, became freestyle. You know, obviously, you have the break beat bands of the ’80s, Malcolm McLaren and things like that, which all kinda play into this overarching idea of hip-hop that we’ve fallen in love with. [It] pools music samples from all formats of music, and people tell their stories about being New Yorkers over that music whether it’s singing or rapping.

New York’s music sound is really diverse. It’s as diverse as the cultural roots here. Today while you have hip-hop, you also have Dembow, which is going on in the Dominican clubs. You have reggae music and Afrobeat; there’s a big Nigerian population here and Afrobeat’s really popular. Then you still have soca music, which is big and, all the while, there’s been pop music; like disco was pop music. You know you gonna go to a club and you’re gonna hear all of that music. That’s what we try and create everyday on Beats 1 — the things that are popular internationally, nationally and then things that are popular locally. It’s like artist discovery … discovering new artists from the local scene, whether they’re pop artists or indie bands or indie hip-hop — whatever it is.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/214869231&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true

You’re one of the most recognizable voices on Hot 97. How do you go from a hip-hop-centric station to Apple’s more global, mainstream radio? In what ways are the two formats different for you?

You must know, to be in love with hip-hop, in its truest sense, you have to be in love with music first. Hip-hop pulls from all formats to create sound. If you look at A Tribe Called Quest, their records are basically jazz samples. If you look at Run-DMC and Beastie Boys, that was rock and roll. If you look at even what Jay Z has done, there’s rock samples and soul music. The basis for all that music pulls from other places. In hip-hop, when I was growing up, it was not only about enjoying the songs that are available, but doing research to know the original song that’s been used. Hip-hop, to me, was loving all formats.

I started in radio in 1990 when I was 15 years old. [Back then] hip-hop was not allowed to be played on the radio before 6PM or [it was] only on weekends. It wasn’t mainstream; it was seen as aggressive. Obviously as the ’90s progressed, hip-hop formats became more common. Working in a multi-format radio station is where I started.

But in terms of format, on Hot 97, there’s a lot of room for you to set the record straight or come in strong with your opinions on many hip-hop issues. Are there some things that you can and cannot do on Beats 1?

You have to know your audience; I think that’s anywhere. If you’re live in a club, you gotta know who your audience is so you’re always aware of what they’re coming to you for and what their expectations are. Also keep in mind: We’re in over 100 countries. You wanna be careful about subtle things like cultural nuances country to country. You wanna keep things just about loving the music and [not] get into things that are not about the music.

There are a lot of opinions about Beats 1 — what it does and doesn’t do — but there’s been very little insight from the curators and the company. What does it take to build a daily show for a global audience? How do you decide what goes on the air?

The first is what’s popular, no matter where it’s from. Is it popular with a large quantity of people on Earth? So that’s kinda the first thing: Is the song popular or is the artist popular? Let’s expose that. After that, you wanna throw in things and hits from the past that people already love. And then layered on top of that is, “Hey, you like these songs and you fell in love with these songs many years ago; here’s some new music that falls in line and has a level of cohesiveness with all of these things you already love.”

For each [of us], whether it’s our London crew, our LA or New York crew, we have a collective of people. We get together each week and talk about music that we’re hearing and love and things we believe are ready — you know, cause you wanna make sure an artist is ready for the opportunity. Like I may fall in love with a song from an artist, but they’re not prepared for me to say, “Hey world, check this guy out,” because if that song kicks off they may not have a manager or an album prepared; they may not be able to see that moment, go on tour. Here comes this moment; this song becomes super popular and now the band is not able to connect with the consumer and then that moment is gone and the band loses out on that opportunity. So we really try to be in step with the music that the artist is creating as well as give the consumer enough time to digest the things that we’re exposing them to.

What makes human curation such a big part of what Apple Music wants to do?

In the simplest terms, people like people. Social is the world we live in. Human curation is in and around someone that you trust or someone you just met. It’s like walking up to a bar to have a drink or sitting next to somebody listening to something. That’s what we’re trying to create: a gathering moment, sitting around discovering music together. If I haven’t heard a song that Julie in London or Zane in LA [dropped] and I just walked in … I’m like, “You know what, let’s play it and let’s all listen to it together; hear it for the first time together.” It’s about having fun, listening to music and connecting to people in a real way. I don’t believe it’s more complicated than that.

Your playlists on Beats 1 often introduce new artists to listeners. Is that a personal choice as a DJ or is it something Apple Music wants to do?

That was our mantra from the beginning. We wanted to be the place that’s helping artists contact consumers as well as helping the consumer have discovery. That is the basis of what we’re doing, creating a place for people to discover music. It’s what we set out to do.

Broadcast radio has been around for decades. But with internet radio, there’s a sense that “radio” is somehow new. What’s new about this format and what’s old?

The old and traditional is that we still call everything radio. Even though streaming technically is not radio, [because of] our love for what radio means to our culture and music, you know, we call everything radio. Even though it’s not necessarily a broadcast.

I would also say human curation is also not a new concept. Radio stations got so corporate that they began to get watered down by the desire to chase advertising. Like everything that goes mainstream — broadcast television or radio — everything gets repetitive and redundant and watered down in its effort to simplify and garner the biggest audience that you can. There’s some still human curation pieces to that. I would say what’s new is the fact that we at Apple and Beats 1 have knocked down format barriers, knocked down the structure and format of repetitive radio and broadcast. So we’re giving a larger sample of what’s available daily. There’s still some repetition, because obviously people are coming in and coming out sampling their product, but all in all we’re taking more risks and breaking more acts than traditional radio is. So that’s new.

Even though you’ve been on-air for years, would you say the Beats 1 format is challenging for you?

I would say the only challenge today is not knowing the exact data on usage, so we don’t know what’s working [and] what’s not, technically, other than the fact that we’re getting a great response. Because we’re new, we can’t actually see how people are consuming the platform just yet. We wanna know what’s working, so we can make the product better and do a better job.

Beats 1 DJs, from left, Julie Adenuga, Ebro Darden and Zane Lowe

What about the impact of playlists on individual artists? Whether it’s humans or algorithms curating them, what do you think playlists bring to the listeners and what do they take away from the experience of an artist’s catalog?

If a consumer wants their music that way, who can say it’s wrong? I’m sure an artist that creates an album might not be happy that their album has been plucked apart, taken out of order and placed in a playlist because they created something and they want it that way. But you know, it’s up to the consumer to decide what they want. There’s no one right answer on that.

I’m not the guy who wants to tell people how to consume their entertainment. I believe people [who like] an artist will go buy an album and buy concert tickets and a T-shirt, et cetera. For people who don’t have that deeper relationship with an artist, they won’t buy an album. That choice is amazing for the consumer; it may not be so amazing for the artist and the creators of content because they have less control. But I’m in favor of the consumer having the choice. Power to the people; that’s just the kind of person I am.

What inspires you to stay on radio decade after decade?

First, I was raised around music — the instruments, the melodies and stories. I love great voices and great soulful music — I mean heartfelt, not specifically just a soul sound; really just the human spirit. Next after that, being able to put something together that would allow someone to escape from their problems or be connected in a real way to someone else who’s going through a similar problem. That’s kinda how I fell in love with radio … creating something for someone that’s helping them through their day.

[Image credit: Robin Marchant via Getty Images (top), Beats 1 (center and bottom)]

9
Oct

(Deal) Get your Android programming skills in gear for only $29


We know how it is. You have an idea for an app, but you don’t know how to code and develop. And it costs too much to put your idea into the hands of others. Well today’s deal from AndroidGuys aims to help you out.

The Hot Java Android Coding Bundle is a bundle of five different courses for you to learn how to code any app or game that you have. The first course goes over the basics of Android Lollipop and Marshmallow development. From there, you move into Java Development, and really start getting your feet wet.

Next up in this bundle of Android courses, is Play Framework Development with Java. This will teach you how to set up Java Web Apps, and give you a more in-depth look into Java. The final course will teach you how to re-skin applications for the Play Store. Think about re-making a game like Galaga or Flappy Birds, that’s where this final course will come into play.

marshmallow_stacking2_810

Normally, this bundle of courses would run you over $650, but today, you can grab all five courses for only $29. These courses will give you everything you need to start your journey to coding apps and games for Android. From the basics to re-making games, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

If you like this deal, and want to see more of these, let us know in the comments below. Until then, head over to the AndroidGuys deal page, and grab this deal, or another one today. You can find this, and many other great tech bargains through our Deals Page. Backed by StackCommerce, there are daily promos, giveaways, freebies, and much more!

The post (Deal) Get your Android programming skills in gear for only $29 appeared first on AndroidGuys.

9
Oct

TextExpander 5 Updated to Fix Crashing on OS X El Capitan and Other Bugs


Smile Software has released TextExpander 5.1.2 with a fix for OS X El Capitan-related crashing on launch and other minor bug fixes and improvements. The update is free for all users running TextExpander 5 or later.

TextExpander-5
TextExpander is a popular typing utility for Mac that can expand custom keystroke shortcuts into frequently-used text and pictures. The tool can insert text ranging from email signatures to paragraphs, automatically fix typos, autocomplete forms and more.

What’s new in 5.1.2:

  • Addresses El Capitan related crash on launch
  • Other minor fixes and improvements

    What’s New in Version 5:

  • Suggests snippets from phrases you habitually type
  • Reminds you of missed opportunities to use your abbreviations
  • Customize snippet file location
  • Sync via iCloud Drive or any sync folder
  • Simplified expansion of lengthy fill-ins and scripts
  • Search and expand snippets, abbreviations, and suggestions inline as you type
  • Preview expanded snippet
  • Refreshed statistics display
  • Supports JavaScript snippets that also operate on iOS
  • Updated for Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite (required)


  • TextExpander 5 is $44.95 with a free trial available, or $19.95 for users upgrading from a previous version.


    9
    Oct

    Moto X Style / Pure Edition vs Nexus 6


     

    Motorola fans with a desire for as big a screen as possible were given a great option in the Nexus 6 last year. While the phone wasn’t part of the Moto X family, the device featured a lot of Motorola’s typical design flair and, considering how stock Moto’s software generally is, even the software experience was relatively similar. This year, Motorola has released yet another big screen device, this time branding it as the Moto X Pure Edition in the states, and as the Moto X Style elsewhere.

    From screen size to even the general aesthetic, the Nexus 6 and Moto X Pure have a number of things in common, though there are certainly plenty of differences a well. So how do these two big smartphones compare? That is what we find out, in this comprehensive look at the Moto X Style / Pure Edition vs Nexus 6!

    Design

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-13

    It’s not surprising that the Moto X Pure Edition and the Nexus 6 both share the same design language, given that both smartphones are manufactured by the same OEM. Both feature the same metal frame that wraps around the sides, the same curves along the corners and the back, as well as the identical placement as far as the button layout, ports, and front-facing speakers are concerned.

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-4

    The signature Motorola dimple on the back is a differentiating aspect however, with the one on the Nexus 6 more reminiscent of the original Moto X from 2013, while the latest Motorola flagship takes on a new look, with the dimple housed in a metallic strip along with the camera.

    The Moto X Pure Edition is also the smaller of the two smartphones, not only courtesy of its slightly smaller display, but also because of the fact that it features thinner bezels along the sides of the display. The Nexus 6 does manage to be slightly thinner, when comparing the two at their thickest points. All said and done, neither smartphone is small by any stretch of the imagination, but the Moto X Pure Edition is definitely the more manageable device, and doesn’t have the same unwieldy feel as the Nexus 6, as far as one-handed usability is concerned.

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-12

    The biggest difference in design comes when taking a look at the variety and availability of color and other customization options. While the Nexus 6 can be found in a standard white or blue, users get to take advantage of Motorola’s Moto Maker with the Moto X Pure Edition, allowing for choices in colors, accent colors, and back cover materials, along with the ability to add engravings and messages, for an ever more personalized experience.

    Display

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-17

    On the display front, you get a 5.96-inch AMOLED display with the Nexus 6, while the Moto X Pure Edition features a slightly smaller 5.7-inch screen, with Motorola also making the switch to a TFT LCD panel this year. Both boast the same 2560 x 1440 resolution, resulting in pixel densities of 493 ppi and 520 ppi for the Nexus 6 and Moto X Pure Edition, respectively.

    Both displays are absolutely gorgeous in their own right, especially with the Quad HD resolution, but if you are someone who is looking for those deep blacks and more vibrant colors that pop, that is something you will get only with the Nexus 6. On the other hand, the Moto X Pure Edition display allows for some great looking colors as well, but with an LCD panel, features like Moto Display unfortunately don’t look as sleek anymore, especially in darker environments, where the entire backlight lighting up is a lot more noticeable. Obviously, the Nexus 6 also has the leg up as far as screen real estate is concerned, but the new Motorola flagship does win out when it comes to overall brightness and outdoor visibility.

    Performance

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-7

    Under the hood, both smartphones are packing Qualcomm processing packages, with the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, clocked at 2.7 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 420 GPU and 3 GB of RAM in the case of the Nexus 6, and the hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, clocked at 1.8 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 418 GPU and also 3 GB of RAM, as far as the Moto X Pure Edition is concerned.

    The Snapdragon 805 may be the older of the two, but it certainly isn’t showing its age yet, and is still a very capable processor, helped along by the stock iteration of Android it runs. The performance of the Moto X Pure Edition is fantastic as well, and it is extremely fast and fluid while running everyday tasks. Multi-tasking is a breeze with both smartphones, and neither have any issues with gaming either, made even more enjoyable with the large display real estate and high resolution that both feature. As far as day to day performance is concerned, you will be hard pressed to notice any real difference between these two devices.

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-18

    With regards to benchmark test scores, with Geekbench, you are looking at a single core score of 1072 and multi-core score of 3425 on the Nexus 6, which is lower than the 1257 and 3572 that the Moto X Pure Edition manages. The newer processing package does mean that the Moto X Pure Edition has the edge in this regard, but the difference isn’t significant, and as mentioned, you’re not going to see or feel a huge disparity when it comes to real world usage.

    Hardware

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-11

    As far as on-board storage is concerned, the Nexus 6 brought with it a pleasant change, with the base storage option going up to 32 GB, with a 64 GB version also available for the power users out there. Like previous Nexus smartphones however, there is no expandable storage to be had. Lack of expandable storage was also true with past generations of the Moto X, but that is no longer the case with the Moto X Pure Edition. Expandable storage via microSD card is now available to further enhance storage by up to 128 GB, in addition to the on-board storage of either 16, 32, or 64GB that the Moto X Pure Edition features.

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-1

    Where these two devices are complete winners is when it comes to speaker quality, with both the Nexus 6 and the Moto X Pure Edition featuring dual front-facing speakers, which allows for fantastic audio quality when listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. It has to be said though that the speakers of the Moto X Pure Edition sound just a touch louder, along with a little more low end punch, and you also have the option of tweaking the audio settings with the external speakers when using headphones, something which isn’t available with the Nexus 6.

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-14

    There isn’t a lot of difference when it comes to battery capacities either, with the Nexus 6 packing a slightly larger 3,220 mAh battery, compared to the 3,000 mAh unit of the Moto X Pure Edition. In my experience, both smartphones are perfectly capable of comfortably lasting through a full day of usage, if not more, which is all you can really expect from most current generation smartphones. Both also boast fast-charging capabilities, so it doesn’t take long to get either back up to a hundred percent. The Nexus 6 does also comes with wireless charging as well, something that Motorola continues to keep leaving out with their flagship line.

    Camera

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-9

    Motorola’s biggest weakness with their smartphones historically has always been the camera, which has coincidentally also been a concern that has plagued the Google flagship series. The Nexus 6 broke that mold, and so did the Moto X Pure Edition, with both featuring some drastic improvements to rear and front cameras, and in the case of the Moto X device, Motorola also went as far as to add a front-facing flash, to help avoid any dimly-lit selfies.

    Nexus 6 camera samples

    With the Moto X Pure Edition, you get a 21 MP primary camera with phase detection autofocus and a dual tone LED flash, while on the Nexus 6, there is a 13 MP rear shooter with optical image stabilization, and a LED ring flash. As far as the megapixels go, the Moto X Pure Edition obviously allows for more zooming and cropping, but as we all know, just the numbers doesn’t allow for the declaration of a clear winner.

    Moto X Pure Edition camera samples

    When it comes to overall image quality, and if you are just sharing these images on social media, you aren’t going to notice too much of a difference between the two, with both cameras being capable of taking some great looking images with tack sharp focus. Most people will probably find the images taken with the Moto X Pure Edition to be more pleasing however, with their higher contrast and slightly more saturated colors, while the images taken with the Nexus 6 camera are much flatter, but more natural looking. Both perform decently in poorly-lit environments as well, and while the Nexus 6 does tend to hunt for focus quite a bit, the resulting images are typically much cleaner, brighter, and with better white balance, when compared to the Moto X Pure Edition.

    Both cameras are also capable of video recording in 4K, but again, the Nexus 6 suffers from the same hunting for focus problem when recording video, and for some reason, the footage isn’t quite as smooth or stable as what you get with the Moto X Pure Edition, even though the Nexus 6 is the one with optical image stabilization.

    Software

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-16

    The real advantage of owning a Nexus smartphone, and one of the key aspects of the program itself, is with regards to software, with the updates coming directly from Google. This means that not only do you get updates quickly, but the software experience itself is as pure as it gets. A lot of Nexus 6 owners will have already received, or will be getting very soon, the official update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which introduces a lot of nice improvements, like Google Now on Tap, and Doze, that will bring enhancements to the battery life. In the case of this comparison however, the Nexus 6 is still running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop.


    Android 6.0 MarshmallowSee also: A tour of Android 6.0 Marshmallow15

    Motorola has historically not been all that far behind with regards to quick software updates however, and in some cases, the company even managed to get updates out to their devices before other Nexus devices. If you are looking for a device that will feature speedy updates, the Moto X Pure Edition is probably one of the best options out there, though obviously the Nexus will still be the absolute best choice.

    Moto X Pure Edition Tips & Tricks-1

    The Moto X Pure Edition also features a very clean software experience which is as close to stock Android as it gets, but with a few very useful additions baked in, that actually make the experience even better than what you would get with a Nexus device. To name a few, some of these enhancements are Moto Voice, that lets you call upon the device at any time, Moto Actions, that include gestures such as twisting your wrist to quickly open the camera application, or the ability to wake up the display and see any notifications by simply waving your hand over the phone. While some of these features may seem trivial or gimmicky at first, it does make switching to another device that don’t have these quite difficult, once you get used to them.

    Specs comparison

      Moto X Style / Pure Edition Nexus 6
    Display 5.7-inch TFT LCD display
    Quad HD resolution, 520 ppi
    5.96 AMOLED display
    Quad HD resolution, 493 ppi
    Processor 1.8 GHz hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
    Adreno 418 GPU
    2.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
    Adreno 420 GPU
    RAM 3 GB 3 GB
    Storage 16/32/64 GB
    expandable via microSD up to 128 GB
    32/64 GB
    no expansion
    Camera 21 MP rear camera with phase detection autofocus, dual tone LED flash
    5 MP front-facing camera
    13 MP rear camera with OIS and dual ring flash
    2 MP front-facing camera
    Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
    Bluetooth 4.1
    GPS + GLONASS
    NFC
    microUSB 2.0
    a/b/g/n/ac
    Bluetooth 4.1
    GPS + GLONASS
    NFC
    microUSB 2.0
    Software Android 5.1.1 Lollipop Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
    Battery 3,000 mAh 3,220 mAh
    Dimensions 153.9 x 76.2 x 11.1 mm
    179 grams
    159.3 x 83 x 10.1 mm
    184 grams

    Gallery

    Pricing and final thoughts

    The launch of the Nexus 6 was not without controversy, given the fact that at the time of its release, it was the most expensive Nexus smartphone to be made available, with a price point starting at $650, but the still impressive device can now be picked up for $350 for the 32 GB version (or even as low as $300 on sale), and $400 if you are looking for 64 GB of storage. The Moto X Pure Edition is also quite the bargain, especially for a phone that’s only about a month old at this point. Starting at $400, you can get yourself a 16 GB device with a standard color back, and the price point goes up from there, depending on your storage needs and material choices.

    Buy Nexus 6 on Ebay

    Moto X Pure Edition Vs Nexus 6-16

    So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Moto X Pure Edition vs Nexus 6! If you want the purest Android experience possible, the guarantee of quick updates, and a large canvas on which to play on, then the Nexus 6 continues to be a great choice, especially given the price drop associated with the launch of its successor. On the other hand, the Moto X Pure Edition also promises a similar software experience, with some great enhancements, along with the availability of microSD expansion. The Moto X Pure Edition holds the edge by virtue of being the newer smartphone, but regardless of which way you decide to go, you are going to come out a winner.

    Buy Moto X Pure on Amazon

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