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China’s new cybersecurity laws are a nightmare

Privacy fans will be delighted to hear that China has passed new cybersecurity regulations that mandate the use of real names. In addition, companies who operate in the country will be forced to store their data locally, making it fair game for surveillance. Finally, businesses will be pressured into censoring content that is “prohibited,” like posts promoting democracy. If that wasn’t bad enough, China also requires the right to shut down products and services — at will — to respond to security incidents.

Human Rights Watch has delved into the details, and found that Chinese internet users are now legally banned from “overthrowing the socialist system.” In addition, “spreading false information to disturb economic order,” and “damage national unity” are all listed crimes worthy of punishment. Lest we forget, China routinely imprisons journalists for the crime of truthfully reporting on the nation’s slowing economy. Oh, and the nation’s got no tolerance for pornography, gambling or slash fiction, which it polices with zealous fervor.

TechCrunch reports that this law isn’t just bad for consumers, it’s also pretty awful for tech businesses that operate in the country. For instance, all companies must provide technical support to the government, which is a likely euphemism for providing backdoors. Oh, and President Xi would like to remind all of you that other nations should respect his cyber sovereignty, because his totalitarian regime is totally chill, guys.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Human Rights Watch


The 12 best tech gifts for fashionistas

Buying clothes and other apparel as gifts is always something of a risky proposition — and that’s doubly true if the person you’re shopping for prides herself on having good taste. Indeed, you might want to skip clothing altogether and focus on services your intended can use to do what they do best: be fabulous.

You might consider a gift card to Stitch Fix, where your friend will get a box of five items personalized to their tastes, with an option to return whatever they don’t like. Alternatively, there’s the Glam app for on-demand blowouts, manicures and makeup appointments, while Decorist offers online interior design consultations. If you’d still prefer to buy a physical gift, might we suggest headphones that look like a necklace, this sturdy-yet-stylish iPhone case or a fitness tracker that could pass for jewelry.

For our full list of recommendations in all categories, don’t forget to stop by our main Holiday Gift Guide hub.


Election take on ‘The Oregon Trail’ is almost too realistic

You may have no problem voting in the US election, but others won’t have it so easy… and a web game is making that point all too clear. GOP Arcade and the New York Times’ opinion section have posted The Voter Suppression Trail, a spin on the classic The Oregon Trail that draws attention to Republican-backed tactics making it difficult for minorities to vote, such as fewer polling places and intimidation. As you might guess, where you live and who you are makes the game either trivially easy or a serious challenge.

Are you a white Californian programmer? You’ll waltz right into the voting booth. If you’re a Latina nurse in Texas or a black salesman in Wisconsin, however, it gets much harder. You’ll have to choose whether to stay in line or give up your vote to take care of more urgent matters, such a family illness (dysentery, since this is an Oregon Trail spoof) or an angry boss who wants you back at work. And even if you get inside the polling place on time, there’s no guarantee that you’ll cast a ballot. You may have to dodge “observers” bent on keeping you away.

This is far from a neutral take on the election that explores potential problems on all sides. The game is marked as an opinion documentary for good reason. It’s grounded in reality, however, and may serve as a reminder that voting opportunities aren’t the same for every American — and that’s a problem no matter who you’re voting for.

Via: Mashable

Source: New York Times


Vevo lets you make GIFs from its massive music video library

Vevo just launched a new feature that should help it drive visitors to its recently-redesigned website: a GIF maker. Yes, one thing we can all agree on is that we all love GIFs, and Vevo is making it far easier to mine its massive music video library and turn them into short, shareable clips. The feature will initially launch on the web only, but Vevo says it’ll come to its apps down the line.

I got a chance to play around with the new feature, and it’s pretty straightforward. Once you start playing a music video, you’ll see a little “GIF” button along the bottom, near the playback controls. Give that a click and you’re in the GIF maker. The GIF maker defaults to where the video was when you clicked the button, but you can scrub back and forth through the entire video to find the section you want to capture.

From there, you’ll get a preview of the GIF, and you can use a large bar below the GIF to refine exactly what segment you want to capture. By default, you can capture about five seconds of video to a GIF, but you can trim the beginning and end to get just exactly what segment you want.

That’s all there is to it — you can add a line of text to your creation, but that’s about all there is. And sharing options are limited to Facebook and Twitter, at least for now. Vevo said it’ll eventually launch more tools for exporting GIFs to other places, but right now you can’t just simply download a file and post it wherever you want. That alone will probably make this a niche tool for now — if you can’t put a GIF on Tumblr, it might as well not exist. Still, this is a good first step; I’m hoping Vevo brings more sharing options and adds the GIF maker to its mobile apps soon.

Speaking of its mobile app, Vevo is adding an new “activity” feed to the web and iOS (it’ll come to Android soon). This gives you a place to see exactly what your friends and artists you follow on Vevo are doing, whether it is posting a new video, building a new playlist or just liking a video. The company is trying hard to make itself into a music video social network, so having this sort of feed seems like table stakes if it wants to achieve that goal. Both the activity feed and GIF maker are rolling out today if you want to give them a shot.


The best leaf blower

By Doug Mahoney

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

If your lawn is too large for leaf cleanup with a rake, we recommend the Worx WG520 Turbine Leaf Blower, a corded electric handheld blower that offers leaf-moving power on par with many gas models, at a fraction of the cost, weight, and noise. This conclusion comes after almost 100 hours of research and testing over the past three years, including hands-on time with 18 leaf blowers and the input of three pro landscapers with 52 years of combined experience. In our three years of leaf blower testing, the Worx is the most powerful electric blower that we’ve used.

Who is this for

If you live on less than a quarter acre, clean up after only one or two trees, and don’t mind a workout, a rake will be your best option (see our recommendation). If raking takes more than an hour and it’s more labor than you’re willing to deal with, a leaf blower is a better choice.

Leaf blowers not only work faster than rakes and take less effort, they can also perform many tasks that rakes and mowers can’t. Blowers can clean pine needles from a gutter, blow dust out of your garage, clear grass clippings from a driveway, or get leaves out of your thick ground-cover plants like vinca or pachysandra.

How we picked and tested

The blowers we tested in 2016. Photo: Doug Mahoney

Leaf blowers come in several prominent styles: corded, cordless (handheld and backpack), and gas-powered (handheld and backpack). To read the pros and cons for each, check out our full guide.

In looking at leaf blowers to test, we chose from quality manufacturers that have solid reviews either from other editorial sources, like Consumer Reports, or stellar feedback on retailer sites. To test, we brought them into the woods to see how they would do against the thick, matted leaf-and-pine-needle bed of the forest floor. In addition, we used them around flower beds, cobblestone steps, stone walls, and in dense groundcover.

Our pick

Photo: Doug Mahoney

Corded blowers meet most people’s needs because they are powerful, lightweight, free of emissions, and low-maintenance. With three years of testing under our belt, our pick is the Worx WG520 Turbine Leaf Blower, new for 2016.

Compared with the leaf blowers we tested, it has the most powerful airstream, and showed no problems getting under the bed of thick, damp, matted leaves and pine needles on the forest floor. With the blower tubes in the same position, the Worx pushed leaves two feet farther than our runner-up, the Black+Decker BV6600. The Worx’s variable speed control can be used one-handed, making it easy to tone down the airflow when needed, like around flower beds or while dusting out a garage.

At under 6½ pounds, it’s also lighter than the other blowers we looked at, which will reduce arm strain over the long term. Currently costing about $60, the Worx has a good price for a blower of this caliber. One of the reasons for the relatively low cost is that the Worx does not have leaf mulching ability. If this is an important feature to you, we recommend our runner-up pick, the Black+Decker BV6600.

More finesse, less power

The BV660 has a simple one-handed control. On-off and airspeed are all done with a single thumb dial. Photo: Doug Mahoney

If you spend a lot of time blowing leaves out of flower beds, or if you need the ability to mulch your leaves, we recommend the Black+Decker BV6600 High Performance Blower/Vacuum/Mulcher. Compared with the Worx, it’s easier to use in tight spots and around delicate plants, but it does have less power, so moving leaves in an open lawn is going to take longer.

One major element that sets the Black+Decker apart from the Worx is that it comes with a few interesting attachments: a reducer nozzle, an oscillating nozzle, and a leaf scraper, all three of which easily clip on the end of the blower tube. The BV6600 also has a nicely curved handle that makes it easier to maneuver, and a smaller blowing tube than the Worx. In contrast to the blunt force of the Worx, we found the BV6600 to be a great choice for precision work around flower beds and stonework.

Finally, we need to note that Black+Decker recalled the BV6600 in September 2016. Some users reported the fan cover falling off and exposing the mulching fan, resulting in four reports of “finger lacerations.” If you already own a BV6600, you can contact Black+Decker for a new fan cover. The info sticker on the new, improved model will read “Type 2” and not “Type 1.”

Same power, more portable

Photo: Doug Mahoney

For cordless convenience, we recommend the Ego LB5302 56-Volt Cordless Electric Blower, which we found to be on par with the corded Black+Decker in leaf-moving power. This is Ego’s second-generation leaf blower and it has similar power and almost as much run time as last year’s pick, the DeWalt DCBL790H1 40V MAX Lithium Ion XR Brushless Blower, all for about $100 to $150 less.

It’s nice and light at under 8 pounds, and it also has a turbo button that provides a little boost in power to loosen a matted bed of leaves. This tool is part of Ego’s cordless outdoor power tool lineup, all of which have performed very well in our testing. We currently recommend the company’s string trimmer, lawn mower, and chainsaw. The batteries on these tools are all interchangeable, so once you have a battery, you can purchase the other tools without batteries at a reduced price.

The midsize sedan of backpack blowers

If you’re working on more than an acre with lots of wooded areas, or if you’re blowing leaves a good distance to the treeline, we recommend the Stihl BR350. Of the five gas blowers our landscapers tested, this was the one model they universally loved. Read more about our pick for backpack blowers in our full guide.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Sweethome: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.


WhatsApp for iPhone Finally Supports GIFs, Including Live Photos

Facebook’s popular messaging app WhatsApp for iPhone was updated over the weekend with long-overdue support for animated GIFs.

WhatsApp users can now send and receive their own animated GIFs, or discover and share GIFs from built-in services such as Giphy and Tenor — which one exactly appears to be dependant on your region.

Likewise, videos that are shorter than six seconds and Live Photos can also be sent as GIFs. To send a Live Photo as a GIF, simply 3D Touch the photo after tapping on Attach > Photo/Video Library and choose “Select as GIF.”

WhatsApp is available as a free download on the App Store [Direct Link] for iPhone. The app is now at version 2.16.15.

Tag: WhatsApp
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Apple Seeds Second Beta of iOS 10.2 to Developers

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming iOS 10.2 update to developers, one week after seeding the first beta of iOS 10.2 and two weeks after releasing iOS 10.1, the first major update to iOS 10.

Registered developers can download the second iOS 10.2 beta from the Apple Developer Center or over-the-air with the proper configuration profile installed.

iOS 10.2 doesn’t have a single main feature like Portrait mode in iOS 10.1, but it does offer several smaller feature tweaks. New emoji have been added in the update, including clown face, drooling face, selfie, face palm, fox face, owl, shark, butterfly, avocado, pancakes, croissant, and more. There are more than a hundred new emoji, including several profession emoji available in both male and female genders, such as firefighter, mechanic, lawyer, doctor, scientist, and more.

Apple has also redesigned many existing emoji, adding more detail and making them look much more realistic.

Along with new emoji, iOS 10.2 includes new wallpaper, new Music sorting options, a new “Celebrate” Screen Effect,” an option for preserving camera settings, a Videos widget, Single-Sign On support for watching live TV via apps, and more.

Apple has called iOS 10 its “biggest release ever” for iOS users, with a revamped lock screen, a Siri SDK for developers, an overhauled Messages app, a dedicated “Home” app for HomeKit users, new facial and object recognition capabilities in Photos, and redesigned Maps and Apple Music apps.

What’s new in iOS 10.2 beta 2:

TV app – iOS 10.2 includes the “TV” app that was shown off at Apple’s October 27 event. The app is designed to serve as a TV guide to help users discover new content and decide what to watch.

SOS – There’s a new SOS feature that will call emergency services when the power button on the iPhone is pressed five times. According to Apple’s release notes, SOS works in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, UK, and US. Settings for SOS are available in the Settings app under the General section.

Related Roundup: iOS 10
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Apple Seeds Second Beta of watchOS 3.1.1 to Developers

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming watchOS 3.1.1 update to developers for testing purposes, one week after seeding the first watchOS 3.1.1 beta and two weeks after releasing watchOS 3.1, the first update to the watchOS 3 operating system.

watchOS 3.1.1 can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software Update. To install the update, the Apple Watch must have 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the charger, and it must be in range of the iPhone. watchOS 3.1 requires an iPhone running iOS 10 to install.

As a minor 3.1.x update, watchOS 3.1.1 appears to focus on under-the-hood bug fixes and performance improvements, with no outward-facing changes discovered in the first watchOS 3.1.1 beta. We’ll update this post should any new features be discovered in the second watchOS 3.1.1 beta.

watchOS 3 completely overhauls the interface on the Apple Watch, introducing a dedicated app dock, instant launch apps, new watch faces, and new complication options. There are new Activity sharing features, a “Breathe” app guides users through deep breathing sessions to cut down on stress, and an SOS feature can automatically call emergency service.

For more details on what’s new in watchOS 3, make sure to check out our watchOS 3 roundup.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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Apple Seeds Second Beta of tvOS 10.1 to Developers With Single Sign-On

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming tvOS 10.1 update to developers for testing purposes, one week after seeding the first tvOS 10.1 beta and more than a month after launching tvOS 10.

Designed for the fourth-generation Apple TV, the tvOS 10.1 beta can be obtained by connecting the Apple TV to a computer with a USB-C to USB-A cable, downloading and installing the software from a registered developer account via iTunes or Apple Configurator. Once a beta profile has been installed on the device through iTunes, new beta updates will be available over the air.

Many Apple TV owners are eagerly awaiting a promised Single Sign-On feature that will allow Apple TV users to sign in once with their cable credentials to access all available live cable content, and the feature has been introduced in the tvOS 10.1 beta.

Not included is the new “TV” app that was announced at Apple’s October 27 event. “TV” is meant to be a TV guide-style app that provides users with recommendations on what to watch and an easy way to discover new television content.

tvOS 10, for those unfamiliar with the operating system, brings features like improved search, expanded Siri capabilities, a dark mode, a Continuity option for using the iPhone for text input, automatic app downloads, quicker access to live TV, and more.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Caution)
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iOS 10.2 Beta 2 Includes New ‘TV’ App for Discovering Content

At it’s October 27 Mac-centric event, Apple announced a new “TV” app, which is designed to serve as a sort of TV guide, helping users discover new content and find TV shows and movies to watch. The TV app is meant to work across multiple devices, including iOS devices and the Apple TV, and as of today the TV app is available in the iOS 10.2 beta.

Apple’s new TV app works hand-in-hand with features like Siri Live Tune-In and Single Sign-On, simplifying the television-watching experience.

In addition to a Library section that displays all the iTunes content a user has purchased, the TV app also features a “Watch Now” section that houses a collection of TV shows and movies from iTunes and other television apps a user has installed on an Apple TV or iOS device.

An Up Next feature keeps track of TV shows and movies across devices so you can pick up where you were watching, whether in the middle of a movie or the next episode of a TV show, and there are lists of curated and trending TV shows and movies.

A dedicated store lets users purchase content from iTunes or from other sources like HBO Go. The Store section also lets users sign in with their TV provider to find content available through an authenticated cable subscription.

Apple’s release notes state that the TV app isn’t yet fully functional, and it does not appear to be available in the tvOS 10.1 beta just yet. Apple has said the TV app will see an official release in December.

Related Roundup: iOS 10
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