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20
May

Marshall Mid Bluetooth headphones review: Get ready to rawk out


Don’t let the name mislead you: the Marshall Mid headphones aren’t all about the mid-range, they’re about the full spectrum of sound, from bassy low-end to sparkling high-end.

The English company is well known for its stage monitors and amplifiers, which conjures up images of rock ‘n’ roll legends, giant guitar riffs and crashing drums. Has Marshall crammed all the energy of the stage into these on-ear Bluetooth headphones?

We’ve been using the Mid Bluetooth Black headphones “on tour” for three months and have found them to be a great-sounding, rugged, well-built solution that’s never let us down.

Marshall Mid Bluetooth headphones review: Design

  • Black vinyl, metal and brass build is rugged
  • Classic Marshall wound cable included
  • Brass control knob for discrete play/pause

There’s something iconic about the Marshall logo, which brandished on the side of the Mid headphones gives a not-so-hidden clue as to what these cans are all about. Rock-out sound.

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To look at they follow the same design language that you’d expect from a Marshall amp: textured, black surfaces sit alongside brass highlights, with the logo in white. It might sound fussy, but we think the Mid look elegant with their simple choice of colours and materials.

These are also supremely tough on-ears. We’ve been throwing them into bags for months, without worrying about a case (as they don’t include one) and the metal frame has held up just fine. Sure, the edges have rubbed slightly and there’s the suggestion of a stitched thread coming loose – but given the treatment we’ve given them out on the road, they stand up well beyond what some of the competition can manage.

Initially the fit of these cans is a little firm to the ears, but the sprung earcups soon adapt to use and fit more gently over the head. We find them really comfortable now, partly because we’re so used to them, partly because we don’t wear these on-ears for hours at a time. That’s one of the slight downsides: the Mid do begin to grate on the ears if worn for ages in a single session.

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Another feature we think really makes the Mid Bluetooth is the wired cable that’s included. From its brass trim 3.5mm jacks, to the way the cable coils like a classic guitar or mic lead. Sure, the headphones are designed to be wireless, but they work just great wired for when the battery runs out too.

Marshall Mid Bluetooth headphones review: Sound and connectivity

  • 40mm dynamic drivers, 10Hz-20kHz response
  • Bluetooth aptX wireless or 3.5mm wired
  • 30-hours battery for Bluetooth use

That battery won’t vanish too quickly, though, as it’s good for 30-hours of use at a time. We’ve been getting through multiple days at a time no worries, so that long-lasting battery life quote seems accurate from our usage. Recharging is a case of simply plugging in via the Micro-USB cable on the base of one earcup.

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When used wirelessly the lack of controls at your fingertips isn’t necessarily a problem either: the brass knob on the right earcup is a discrete way of adding play/pause control and it’s easy to use. We’ve rarely bothered, in truth, but it’s a far brighter solution than having giant skip/pause buttons on the side of the earcups.

In terms of sound, the Marshall Mid Bluetooth are everything we expected: there’s ample thrum, loud volume, with no one element overpowering the mix – just like a good rock track. There’s bass aplenty, but it doesn’t go into overdrive, while the mid and high-end are well catered for, without being too sharp or crunchy.

Sound isolation isn’t great, given the fit, and there’s no noise-cancellation either to keep the loud outside world at bay – but that’s not the end of the world. Marshall has never really been about throwing techie things at products for no reason, it’s all about being classic and sticking to what it’s good at: sound.

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If you’re into hi-res audio then there’s no aptX HD compatibility here, it’s just aptX. That’s perfectly fine for most file types, though, without appealing to the higest-end audiophile type.

Verdict

The Marshall Mid Bluetooth on-ear headphones are a mirror of the company’s amps: classic, no-nonsense and great sounding. They’re also rugged as heck, will last you for donkey’s years, while making a design statement in their own right. We’ve found them to be great for use all around the globe.

If there are any shortcomings it’s that some other similar-priced headphones might offer a more exciting listen overall, long periods of wear aren’t the most comfortable, and there’s no added thrills from noise-cancellation or improved isolation. But most of that is added noise that we’re not fussing about.

Get ready to rawk out: the Marshall Mid Bluetooth are great on-ear cans that crank it up to 11.

The alternatives to consider…

Pocket-lint

Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7BK

The MSR7 strike the perfect balance of sounding great and being comfortable – without destroying your bank balance. As they’re over-ears they might be too bulky for some, however.

Read the full review: Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7BK review: Neutral over-ears are positively priced

Pocket-lint

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Despite their plastic build, the BackBeat Pro 2 feel sturdy and are very comfortable to wear – even for extended periods. They come with heaps of on-headphones control features too.

Read the full review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 review: Brilliant audio from the Bluetooth king

20
May

Musical.ly in Talks With Viacom and NBCUniversal to Create Original Programming


Popular entertainment social network Musical.ly is in talks with media companies including Viacom and NBCUniversal to make original programming, according to people familiar with the matter (via Bloomberg).

The company is said to be seeking content for its music video sharing platform that is “participatory and interactive” rather than feeling heavily produced, with a view to broadening its appeal beyond music, to potentially include comedy and sports.

Founded in August 2014, Musical.ly has surged in popularity among U.S. teenagers, and claims over 100 million users globally. The app allows users to filter, edit, and broadcast short video clips with song snippets, some of which are provided by Apple Music as part of a licensing deal in exchange for promoting the streaming service within the app. The Shanghai company also owns live streaming app Live.ly, group video chat Squad, and video messaging app Pingpong.

Musical.ly follows Facebook, Snap, Twitter, YouTube, and Apple in the race to produce original video programming online, with digital companies seeking to aggressively compete in the growing digital media market.

NBCUniversal has already partnered with Musical.ly for the 2017 Billboard Latin Music Awards and is reportedly in talks with the startup to develop more Hispanic-focused entertainment. Hearst’s Seventeen magazine also recently announced its intention to make a video series focused on fashion and beauty for Musical.ly.

In related news, Musical.ly is set to launch a new feature next week that will allow users to create face masks, similar to the lenses or filters used on Snapchat and now Instagram, according to the people who spoke to Bloomberg. Called Face.ly, the feature will be like Bitmoji, which lets users create animated avatars of themselves. The long-term plan involves Face.ly becoming a separate app, if the feature proves popular with teens.

Tag: Musical.ly
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20
May

The UK’s new vaping laws explained


From today, vaping gear sold in the UK must adhere to a new set of specific guidelines. That’s because last year, the EU updated its regulations covering tobacco products to include e-cigarettes and e-liquids for the first time. When these first came into effect, almost all types of e-cig advertisements were immediately banned, given they effectively promote the consumption of nicotine, an addictive substance. And now, exactly one year later, the rules that actually impact what vaping products are legally eligible for sale have come into force.

The next time you dive into a vape shop, you’ll see obvious changes to packaging, and limited options when it comes to e-liquid refill and e-cig tank sizes. Behind the scenes, manufacturers also need to notify regulators of new products months before they’re permitted to go on sale. But if you’ve watched the video above, you’ll obviously be clued up on all that already.

[Thanks to Avant Garde E Liquid for letting us drop in to film]

20
May

Apple doesn’t always expunge deleted notes older than 30 days


The iCloud Notes you delete are supposed to be permanently wiped within 30 days. Gone forever, never to be seen again. Russian security firm ElcomSoft has discovered, however, that Apple has been keeping deleted notes in the cloud for far longer. Its security researchers were able to retrieve notes that should’ve vanished weeks and months ago. In some cases, they were even able to recover notes from way back in 2015.

It’s worth noting that ElcomSoft used special tools and software, so nobody will accidentally stumble upon a note you deleted last year. For your old files to resurface, somebody has to be actively targeting you. Still, it’s definitely a security issue that Apple should fix ASAP, and we’ve reached out to Cupertino to ask if it has plans to patch it up in the near future. ElcomSoft seems to be confident that Apple will, since the tech titan quickly fixed the similar Safari and iCloud Photo Library security lapses it found in the past. Since it’s the third time the firm discovered that Apple retains info that’s supposed to be gone, though, it posed some interesting questions that might never get answered:

“Once we made a discovery about deleted photos being kept in iCloud Photo Library for years, Apple was prompt to making those images disappear. Once we discovered that Safari browsing history records are never deleted from the cloud, Apple patched that as well. There is no doubt Apple will fix the current issue. The question is: what other data you don’t want Apple to keep is still retained by the company? And does Apple actually destroy deleted records or simply hides them or moves to a different server? These questions still have no answer.”

Via: Apple Insider

Source: ElcomSoft

20
May

Melted permafrost floods doomsday seed vault


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was designed to be a repository should the worst happen and a disaster decimate crops around the world. But it was recently breached by floodwater from surrounding permafrost that melted after the hottest year on record. No seeds were ruined, but the security of the location is now deeply in question.

The vault was built in a mountain on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago, 800 miles away from the North Pole. The surrounding permafrost and stable tectonics made the location seem ideal when the vault opened in 2008, but less than a decade later, climate change has undermined assumptions that the seeds can remain secure. The island saw temperatures seven degrees Celsius (or 12 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than normal, leading to rain and melted ice when light snow was expected.

“It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” the Norwegian government’s Hege Njaa Aschim told The Guardian.

The meltwater flooded the entryway but didn’t make it to the vault, sparing the over 800,000 seeds stored inside. To protect it against future water intrusions, the station’s caretakers are waterproofing and removing electronics from the 100-meter tunnel leading into the mountain vault along with digging trenches to channel meltwater and rain away, according to The Guardian. They’ve installed pumps in the seed room should it ever be breached again.

Source: The Guardian

20
May

Uber responds to claims it charges what ‘you’re willing to pay’


Uber is in the midst of several lawsuits and has a controversial CEO leading the company. It also has to placate its own growing horde of dissatisfied drivers who complain that their revenue potential is dropping, even while Uber exaggerates how much its drivers earn. Bloomberg reports that Uber may have yet another problem on its hands with its new “upfront pricing” fees. The feature, introduced last year, allows Uber to charge some passengers more for their rides. The problem is that Uber hasn’t changed the way it pays its drivers; they’re still generating money the same basic way, based on time, distance and mileage.

Accusations that upfront pricing benefits Uber rather than drivers are nothing new. Blogger Christian Perea at The Rideshare Guy complained that Uber was secretly overcharging passengers and not paying drivers, and there was a lawsuit filed alleging the same thing this past April.

According to Bloomberg, Uber’s head of product Daniel Graf has said that upfront pricing uses machine-learning to figure out how much riders are willing to pay for a given ride and then charges them accordingly, a feature he called “route based pricing.” Bloomberg interpreted this to mean that riders traveling routes in wealthier areas would be charged more than those in less high-end areas.

However, an Uber spokesperson who spoke to Engadget on the phone said that Uber only uses rider demand to inform its upfront pricing structure, not rider apparent wealth. He confirmed that the fare charged to customers in high-demand areas can be higher than the driver’s take, which is typically based on time, distance and traffic. This type of pricing is only in areas that have Uber’s carpooling service, as well.

“We price routes differently based on our understanding of riders’ choices so we can serve more people in more places at fares they can afford,” he said. “Riders will always know the cost of a trip before requesting a ride, and drivers will earn consistently for the work they perform with full transparency into what a rider pays and what Uber makes on every trip.”

In other words, some folks will pay a bit more to get a dedicated UberX car in high-demand areas and others might be willing to wait a bit more for a more affordable UberPool ride. Uber then uses aggregate data from past users’ behavior to set upfront pricing accordingly.

Uber sent the above email to drivers today to communicate this change. Uber’s spokesperson also told us that any extra funds from this kind of differential pricing are going right back into promotions that show drivers where they can make more per ride as well as into funding more Uber drivers on the road to help cover high demand.

The perception of Uber as a company trying to scam its drivers out of extra ride fares is a dangerous one, whether it has a kernel of truth or not. Some might also see it as muddying the waters of Uber’s claim that it’s just a middle-man. Drivers might understandably be upset if they see themselves as independent contractors using an app to facilitate ride-sharing — a claim Uber itself encourages — who are not seeing any benefit from higher per-ride fees. Bringing in more money from riders may help Uber itself, but it could also alienate drivers, who may not understand or believe Uber’s explanations. Transparency about how pricing actually works could go a long way to help Uber’s perception problem.

Via: Bloomberg

20
May

Google has a new way to call out poorly made Android apps


Google’s plan to improve the Android experience involves more than just tweaking the operating system. It also requires developers to up the quality of their work, and now Google has a new way to warn app creators whose work isn’t up to snuff. Long story short, if your app ranks in the bottom 25 percent when it comes to certain stability, battery or rendering metrics, you’ll be hearing from the search giant through the developer console.

Those general categories may sound familiar if you’ve been following the news out of I/O. They’re in line with Android O’s “vitals,” areas where Google is focusing efforts to improve overall Android device performance. According to Google project manager Fergus Hurley, the company will find more areas to key in on eventually but these required the most attention. Anyway, Google is specifically concerned with six “vital” metrics now — pardon the brief diversion into highly geeky territory. It’s all about the percentages of users that…

  • got the “Application not responding error”
  • experienced at least one app crash
  • had an app keep their device awake for more than an hour
  • experienced an app that woke up their device more than 10 times an hour
  • saw the app run at slower than 60 frames per second
  • ran into “frozen,” laggy frame rendering

Obviously, technical limitations mean some devices are more prone to those issues than others. Even so, this more explicit line of communication has the potential to up the quality of the Android app ecosystem as a whole. After all, developers who fall short on any of these fronts aren’t just doing screwing over their businesses. They’re muddying up the entire ecosystem. At this point it’s not clear whether habitual re-offenders will see their apps removed from the Play Store, but one thing is clear: developers who can’t hack it will start to see their apps’ rankings changed.

Google announced back at the Game Developers Conference in February that how well an app performed would have an impact on its “promotability” — in other words, an app that falls below the 25 percent threshold in any of those metrics will probably start sinking into obscurity. Sure, it’s just one of many signals Google uses to figure out how apps get ranked — it’s just about time they held app creators to some more stringent standards. Who knows: it just might help them rack up a few billion more users.

For all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2017, follow along here

20
May

Samsung is reportedly developing a Kids Mode for the Gear VR headset


Why it matters to you

Samsung wants to make it easier for kids to jump into the realm of virtual reality. To that end, it is introducing a

Samsung is continuing to pursue its goal of conquering virtual reality, and its latest move to that end could be to introduce more VR products for kids.

The news comes from Samsung blog SamMobile, which noted that Samsung could introduce a “kids mode” into its already-launched virtual reality offerings, most notably it Gear VR headset. While we don’t yet know exactly what such a feature would look like, it’s safe to assume that it might curate content specifically built for kids and filter out any content that might be inappropriate. The feature is expected to roll out before the launch of future Samsung flagship devices, including the Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S9.

The move makes sense. Kids have always been big customers of gaming platforms, and there’s plenty of virtual reality content that could be educational. The interface of the Gear VR’s kids mode wouldn’t have to be all that different either — just a little more kids-focused in terms of content.

Kids mode would also likely introduce parental controls to let parents set how long their kids can use the Gear VR, see what kind of content the kids have been accessing, and so on.

Samsung has put a focus on kids in the past, and not just in the software realm. The company launched the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids a few years ago, and the tablet was built to be easier to use and safe for children.

The Samsung Gear VR is the single most popular virtual reality headset currently available — Samsung reportedly sold more Gear VR units than the next three competitors combined. That’s no small feat, and makes Samsung a very important player in the VR space. Samsung isn’t focused only on its hardware — it was recently announced that the Samsung Galaxy S8 would soon support Google Daydream, Google’s virtual reality offering.




20
May

Shout drink orders at this robot bartender that is powered by Google Assistant


Why it matters to you

Who doesn’t want an on-call bartender at the end of the day?

google-io-2017-banner-280x75.png

Google Assistant can carry out comprehensive images searches, cue up your favorite Netflix shows, read you the news, and … mix you a mean cocktail?

At least, it can if you’re referring to the Google Assistant-powered Mocktails Mixer, developed by Pittsburgh-based creative agency Deeplocal. First shown off at this year’s Google I/O conference, the robotic bartender uses a combination of a Raspberry Pi, an inbuilt microphone, a speaker, an LED Ring,  a peristaltic pump, and some pretty impressive Google-powered AI to blend a range of delicious beverages.

The resulting creation packs eight different containers (so, yes, it can be modified to include the hard stuff for those of drinking age!), which can be mixed together in different ratios according to user preference. Looking for a geeky special attraction for your summer kickoff party? Google has your back.

“It’s programmed to serve up a mixed drink of your choice and chat with you while you wait — whether that means telling you a joke or offering up small talk,” Greg Baltus, Chief Technology Officer at Deeplocal, told Digital Trends. “Our team created the mixer to inspire makers to explore other fun ways to use the new Google Assistant SDK.”

They are not just stopping at “inspiring” makers, either. The team has already shared open source code and instructions for the Mocktails Mixer on GitHub. Since all of the parts are readily accessible or easy to fabricate, anybody can build and customize their own version to be sipping cocktails in no time. With Deeplocal’s prototype costing around $570, it won’t even set you back too much money.

“People use voice assistants when their hands are full, especially in the kitchen,” Baltus continued. “When it comes to kitchen-focused DIY projects, robotic bartenders are becoming more and more popular. We wanted to create a new spin on the robotic bartender that demonstrates the capabilities of the Google Assistant.”

We guess you’re fine so long as you don’t start complaining to the bartender about robots stealing human jobs while you’re waiting for your drink!




20
May

Shout drink orders at this robot bartender that is powered by Google Assistant


Why it matters to you

Who doesn’t want an on-call bartender at the end of the day?

google-io-2017-banner-280x75.png

Google Assistant can carry out comprehensive images searches, cue up your favorite Netflix shows, read you the news, and … mix you a mean cocktail?

At least, it can if you’re referring to the Google Assistant-powered Mocktails Mixer, developed by Pittsburgh-based creative agency Deeplocal. First shown off at this year’s Google I/O conference, the robotic bartender uses a combination of a Raspberry Pi, an inbuilt microphone, a speaker, an LED Ring,  a peristaltic pump, and some pretty impressive Google-powered AI to blend a range of delicious beverages.

The resulting creation packs eight different containers (so, yes, it can be modified to include the hard stuff for those of drinking age!), which can be mixed together in different ratios according to user preference. Looking for a geeky special attraction for your summer kickoff party? Google has your back.

“It’s programmed to serve up a mixed drink of your choice and chat with you while you wait — whether that means telling you a joke or offering up small talk,” Greg Baltus, Chief Technology Officer at Deeplocal, told Digital Trends. “Our team created the mixer to inspire makers to explore other fun ways to use the new Google Assistant SDK.”

They are not just stopping at “inspiring” makers, either. The team has already shared open source code and instructions for the Mocktails Mixer on GitHub. Since all of the parts are readily accessible or easy to fabricate, anybody can build and customize their own version to be sipping cocktails in no time. With Deeplocal’s prototype costing around $570, it won’t even set you back too much money.

“People use voice assistants when their hands are full, especially in the kitchen,” Baltus continued. “When it comes to kitchen-focused DIY projects, robotic bartenders are becoming more and more popular. We wanted to create a new spin on the robotic bartender that demonstrates the capabilities of the Google Assistant.”

We guess you’re fine so long as you don’t start complaining to the bartender about robots stealing human jobs while you’re waiting for your drink!




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