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2
Aug

What you need to know about Apple, VPNs and China


On July 29th, Apple began notifying VPN companies that their apps would shortly be pulled from the App Store in China. In a statement, ExpressVPN said that the move was “surprising and unfortunate” and that it was “disappointed in this development.” But is this a case of Apple essentially capitulating in a privacy and censorship fight with the Chinese government?

Earlier this year China’s MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business. — Apple statement

Apple’s customarily terse statement explains that the company is merely complying with rules laid down by China’s MIIT. It was little surprise either, since the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology laid down the restrictions in January. China has ruled, essentially, that offering the use of an unlicensed VPN is a crime and will remain so until March 31st, 2018.

In public remarks this week, CEO Tim Cook revealed that Apple wasn’t thrilled to have to comply with the order. He did add, however, that it would do its best to spread the gospel of the open and uncensored internet.

Why doesn’t China like VPNs?

The ruling Communist Party uses its extraordinary power to tightly control the information that citizens can access. The so-called Great Firewall of China restricts resources, communication tools and news material that offer narratives beyond the official one. Locals are unable to search for material relating to democracy and the grislier parts of Chinese history, like the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

China also chills free speech with a raft of stringent cybersecurity laws that forbid the use of anonymous accounts. Users must utilize their real name, and there are several related crimes you can be arrested for, including “damaging national unity” and “overthrowing the socialist system.” China has also arrested journalists for truthfully reporting on its slowing economy, claiming that they were lying to “disturb economic order.”

The screws are being tightened a little more of late because the Communist Party is having its five-year conference this fall. As a consequence, dissent is being quashed ahead of time in order to ensure a smooth event. Apple was asked to pull The New York Times from China’s App Store back in January, although the reason was never explicitly given.

But it’s not a ban?

Not quite, and the situation here is deliberately opaque and confusing as to avoid setting down any firm rules. China will allow businesses to use VPNs as long as the companies offering the services have a license to do so. As Forbes explained in January, state-controlled VPNs can be accessed, for a fee, by deep-pocketed companies like banks and law firms that need broader internet access. So VPNs are fine, as long as they’re registered and mostly used by companies for business.

China is looking to make it as difficult as possible for locals to do the same, and getting Apple to block apps is one lever at its disposal. Of course, desktop users — as well as those on platforms other than iOS — can still access VPNs should they have the use of one. In addition, if your iOS VPN app was purchased outside China, you can still use it, at least for now.

What has Apple done?

Essentially, it is merely doing what most sensible companies do: complying with the laws of the land where they do business. By cutting out unauthorized VPN apps in China, Apple is being a good citizen in a market that is crucial to its future success. As Tim Cook said during Apple’s most recent earnings call, “We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business.”

Why is it a big deal?

Apple has drawn criticism from pro-democracy activists, like Joshua Wong Chi-fung, secretary general of Hong Kong political party Demosisto. On Twitter, he said that the company “values profit over human right,” while The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo said the move set a “dangerous precedent.” Apple has also spent the past two years saying it respects its customers’ privacy more than other tech companies.

Apple values profit over human right since it removed VPN services from China app store because of the pressure from Beijing regulators. pic.twitter.com/LC68iLRLs4

— Joshua Wong Chi-fung (@joshuawongcf), July 31st, 2017

It was Apple, after all, that waged a very public war against both the US government and FBI in the wake of the San Bernardino attack. Apple refused to unlock an iPhone 5C used by one of the attackers, and Tim Cook publicly defended the decision in an open letter to customers. Eventually, the FBI withdrew its request and used an expensive third-party exploit to access the device.

But Apple’s self-styled role as the protector of its users’ privacy was now entrenched, and Cook went on to say that people have a “fundamental right to privacy.” The CEO also said that “the American people demand it, the constitution demands it and morality demands it.” Apple also boasted about the use of differential privacy to data-mine user information without infringing on Americans’ individual liberties.

Is Apple being hypocritical?

It would be easy to throw eggs at the company now that it is appearing to sell out against its well-advertised principles. But as powerful as it is, Apple must obey the law, and Daring Fireball also reported that Apple is not alone in complying with the VPN crackdown. Companies rarely wade too deeply into political waters, at least not directly, for fear of causing trouble. If we are to be disappointed in Apple, we should be disappointed with the circumstances as a whole.

Then there’s the fact that the situation here is vastly different from the one Apple found itself in post-San Bernardino. In that instance, the FBI had used arcane law to essentially force the company to rewrite iOS to make it less secure. If complied with, Apple would have been responsible for punching security holes in more than a billion of its customers’ devices. That would have opened up hundreds of millions of people to unwarranted governmental snooping, hacks and fraud.

Third-party VPN clients in an single country’s App Store is not the same battle, and it is not necessarily Apple’s battle to have at all. Other platforms exist, ones better-suited to using questionable methods to circumvent a censorship system few would say is good for people.

What does this all mean?

In the short term, not much, because it’s not as if China uses the Great Firewall just for the laughs. Those using VPNs to access the internet on their iPhones and iPads, however, will need to find alternative platforms. Perhaps people who were considering making the switch from a PC or Mac to a Pro-level iPad may think twice. There’s also the lingering question as to how much Apple can, or should, do to combat China’s policies.

During Apple’s most recent earnings call, Tim Cook said that Apple would obey the law of the land and would do so in the US if the law changed. But he added that his company believes in “engaging with governments, even when we disagree.” However, it’s hard to see how polite disagreement and soft power can sway a government that is determined to limit technology’s reach. With Russia now planning to go after VPNs, it’s a battle the company may have to fight on several fronts.

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2
Aug

Transfer PayPal funds mid-chat with Skype’s ‘Send Money’ feature


Skype and PayPal have teamed up to make it easier for you to transfer money to someone mid-conversation. If you’re talking to a pal through the Skype mobile app and remember you need to reimburse them for those drinks they bought the other night, just swipe right and tap the new “Send Money” feature. PayPal will take it from there.

You can already conveniently send money via PayPal or Venmo through other apps. PayPal has a Slack bot that lets you transfer funds through chat and you can Venmo money through iMessage. You can even ask Siri to send some cash through PayPal for you.

To send money through the app, you’ll need to have the latest version, but the person receiving the money can have any version of Skype. You’ll both have to have PayPal accounts and live in one of the 22 countries where Send Money is currently supported. But, as usual with PayPal, you have the option of sending funds in different currencies if need be.

The countries that support Skype’s Send Money feature are the US, the UK, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. The service is rolling out starting today.

Source: Skype, PayPal

2
Aug

Netflix reveals new slate of anime originals


Netflix is taking the plunge into the world of Japanese animation. The streaming giant already licenses a number of animes, and now its sprucing up its library with a raft of originals. The new wave of shows includes exclusives from the studios behind Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell. By snapping up titles you can’t watch elsewhere, Netflix is hoping to one-up its rivals Funimation (and its parent company Sony) and Crunchyroll. The new anime line-up follows in the footsteps of the platform’s other originals, among them Castlevania and the upcoming Assassin’s Creed series.

Several of the new shows will bow in 2018. They include Sword Gai, a modern-day fantasy about a boy who fuses with a demonic sword to battle hordes of monsters. Based on the manga, Baki is a 26-episode series about a mixed-martial arts fighter who dukes it out with death row inmates. From the studio behind Ghost in the Shell comes B: The Beginning, which follows an investigator on the case of a serial killer, who could be part of a wider criminal organization. The show reportedly mixes sci-fi and fantasy elements with an added dose of drama.

Another high-profile anime, from the talent behind My Hero Academia, is A.I.C.O. Incarnation. Set in the near future, the show features a dangerous artificial life form secured behind a restricted zone. An unwitting young girl is drawn into the action after learning she may have ties to the synthetic organism. The gory chaos, as teased in the trailer, recalls the apocalyptic end-scenes from the iconic anime Akira.

As it did with the classic US cartoon Voltron, Netflix is also reaching into the past to reboot an iconic Japanese anime. Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya revives the 80s show starring a team of heroes who don magical armor that matches the designs of the constellations. Their mission: to defend the reincarnation of the Greek goddess Athena against the other Olympian Gods. Devilman Crybaby also plumbs the past, this time adapting a 1972 anime about a normal boy turned demon-human hybrid who devotes his life to saving the world from invading evil spirits — as you do. The bombastic bunch is rounded out by a gentler show in the guise of the musical fantasy Lost Song.

Aside from the exclusives, Netflix will also drop a crop of licensed originals shortly after they air in Japan. The list includes Children of the Whales, Cannon Busters, Fate/Apocrypha, and a series about popular Japanese stuffed toy Rilakkuma.

Via: CNET

2
Aug

Overwatch’s Summer Games event returns on August 8th


In the 14 months since Overwatch hit the shelves, Blizzard has worked tirelessly to keep a steady stream of fresh content coming. New maps and characters appear every so often, as do seasonal events, which deliver themed game modes that replace normal loot box items with exclusive personalizations. Summer Games was the first to introduce the concept, launching just days before the 2016 Olympics commenced in Rio.

It seems players enjoyed playing a golf-loving Soldier 76 and trying out the Rocket League-esque Lúcioball so much that Jeff Kaplan and his team are bringing the format back, starting on August 8th. In a Developer Update video, Kaplan explained that Blizzard heeded the repeated calls for its return and will deliver features that fans grew to love, plus a number of welcome improvements.

For those who missed out on the first round of exclusive Summer Games loot, Blizzard will offer 2016 event items that will randomly appear in loot boxes or can be purchased at a cheaper price using the in-game credit system. A number of heroes will also get their own legendary skins, with Junkrat, Mercy, Windowmaker and McRee all enjoying Olympic-themed upgrades.

Fans of Lúcioball will also be glad to hear that the game mode will be a lot more prominent this time around. To incentivize play, Blizzard is introducing competitive rankings and rewarding top players with special sprays. Matches will take place in the older Rio stadium, as well as the new Sydney arena (the city hosted the Olympics way back in 2000).

Lúcio has been tweaked slightly to ensure matches are a little fairer. This year, players won’t be able to boop members of the opposite team out of the way, reducing the number of weak “cheesed” goals. His ultimate is now described as “Super Lúcio,” allowing players to move at great speed, boop the ball further and jump higher.

Kaplan says there are a number of surprises in store, so check back on August 8th to see what Blizzard has been upto.

Source: Overwatch (Twitter)

2
Aug

The best audio gear for students


There’s a strong case to be made for investing in quality audio gear at any period in your adult life. For college students in particular, though, a good set of speakers can be icebreakers as much as gateways into audiophilia. As such, we’ve included three options in our back-to-school buyer’s guide, along with a turntable and amplifier, should you be more creatively inclined. Content to just listen to music and podcasts on the way to class? We have a few headphones you should check out, too.

Source: Engadget’s 2017 Back to School Guide

2
Aug

Microsoft inadvertently hints at its own iPad keyboard cover


You might not have any inclination to buy a Surface Pro tablet if you’re an iPad owner, but Microsoft may be happy to sell you the keyboard portion. WinFuture has noticed that Microsoft posted a battery document mentioning an unannounced iPad Touch Cover. The file reveals precious little about the peripheral, but its name harkens back to the Surface Touch Covers that Microsoft used to sell — the emphasis here would be on thinness over the tactile feel of a Type Cover. The inclusion of a battery and the April timing of the document suggests that it uses Bluetooth and targets the entry-level iPad, although we’re not ruling out a Smart Connector attachment for the iPad Pro crowd.

We’ve asked Microsoft about the iPad Touch Cover and will let you know what it can say. It’s unclear if or when this keyboard will ship. It could be a leak for a product that’s on the way, or it could be the traces of cancelled plans.

It might seem odd for Microsoft to make an iPad keyboard. Doesn’t it want to give iPad users more reasons to jump ship? However, there are some reasons why it might want to serve the Apple tablet community. To start, there’s simply the matter of reaching a wider audience: the iPad is still a strong seller, and Microsoft might want to profit from its tablet arch-rival rather than leave money on the table. Also, it may see underserved parts of the iPad market.

If this does target the starter iPad, it would provide a slick keyboard cover to people who would otherwise have to be content with laptop-style cases and fully detached keyboards. Microsoft hasn’t made a Surface approaching the basic iPad’s price in a long time, so it wouldn’t lose much if any business by making a Touch Cover for that demographic. And if there’s an iPad Pro model? It’d still serve an untapped market. Apple’s Smart Keyboard is clearly targeted at people who intend to use the iPad Pro as a pseudo-laptop most of the time, while a thinner and simpler Touch Cover might be more appealing to those who only occasionally crave a physical keyboard.

Via: WinFuture (translated), The Verge

Source: Microsoft

2
Aug

All Apple had to do to sell iPads was make them cheaper


It’s been about a year and a half since Apple introduced the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. It was a great device, but it also made Apple’s tablet lineup more confusing than ever. I wrote at the time that Apple seemed to be just throwing ideas out there trying to see what would make customers get back in the store and buy more iPads. I also noted that it wasn’t even clear what the “best” iPad was anymore. It’s taken a while, but Apple has streamlined its lineup, making clear separations between products in terms of both price and feature set. As a result, iPad sales increased year-over-year for the first time since the holiday quarter of 2013 (when Apple sold a whopping 26 million tablets).

But this quarter’s turnaround wasn’t driven by Apple’s “future of personal computing” vision promised by the iPad Pro. Nor was it driven by the Pro’s useful features, which will only get more compelling when iOS 11 launches this fall. No, sales increased because Apple finally made a plain iPad that isn’t terribly ambitious — just affordable.

The basic iPad that Apple introduced in March was a bit of an anomaly for the company. It doesn’t usher in a fresh design or any impressive features. In fact, it is, in some ways, a step backward from the iPad Air 2 it replaced: It’s a little thicker and heavier, unusual for a new Apple product. More importantly, the display isn’t laminated to the glass and doesn’t include anti-reflective coating. But Apple bet that these changes would more than make up for by the new iPad’s $329 price, and this recent sales turnaround shows they were right.

At this point, most people know what an iPad is, and what an iPad can do. For most people, it’s a portable and long-lasting device for watching movies, web browsing, reading and games. The massive App Store means the iPad a good way to indulge in creative pursuits, like editing photos and videos or doing some design work. This new iPad delivers that experience in spades. While it’s a strangely unassuming device, it nonetheless represents a huge upgrade for anyone using the original iPad Air (introduced in late 2013) or something even older.

The timing of the iPad’s launch was also fortuitous. As Apple has learned, iPads have a significantly longer upgrade cycle than phones, which helps explain the recent sales decline. Plenty of iPad owners have gotten three or four useful years out of an iPad, if not more. But as those pre-2014 iPads are starting to get long in the tooth, Apple releases this new model that essentially took the Air’s body and put in far more powerful guts. And to spur upgrades, Apple made it significantly cheaper than the usual $500 entry price for new iPads.

While the new iPad’s low price was likely the biggest driver in this quarter’s sales bump, it’s also worth pointing out how the new iPad Pro models help make the entire lineup a lot more logical. Back when the 9.7-inch iPad Pro was released, it was hard to say whether buyer should spend $600 on that device, or spend $500 for the iPad Air 2 that had double the storage space.

But now, Apple has differentiated the two iPad lines in both price and features, and that makes the choice of which to buy much easier. If you want the basic iPad experience, the new iPad is the one to buy. And the recent improvements to the iPad Pro lineup make it a lot easier to see what you’re getting for the extra cash. Most important is the display: it’s laminated to the glass, has anti-reflective coating and features both the TrueTone color adjustment technology as well as the wonderful 120Hz refresh rate. That’s to say nothing of the better speakers, more powerful chipset and Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil support. Add that all up and the case for the iPad Pro is clear, even if most people will still opt for the more inexpensive model.

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Just because Apple cleaned up its iPad lineup and increased sales for the first time in years, that doesn’t mean sales will continue to grow. While the 11.5 million iPads the company sold in its fiscal Q3 is impressive, it’s far less than it sold in the same quarters back in 2014 and earlier. We’ll have to wait three more months to see if the new iPad Pro models that came out at the tail end of the quarter will drive sales like the cheaper iPad did. It’ll certainly take more than one good quarter to say whether the iPad has regained its momentum. And while Apple sold more iPads than it did a year ago, revenue for the product category only grew two percent — that’s what happens when you tempt people with a significant price cut.

If you look at iPad’s sales trend over the years, it seems more that the market is stabilizing; it’s unlikely that sales will return to 2013 levels, at least not in the immediate future. But all of Tim Cook’s comments on the iPad through its downturn made it clear that the company is in for the long haul with its tablets and won’t let a few years of slumping sales deter the company from that vision.

It’s also a product mostly without peers — after all, most companies have given up trying to compete with the iPad. That’s partially because the tablet market appears smaller than it first seemed, but it’s also a testament to the quality of Apple’s experience. Making the entry-level iPad so cheap is almost unfair to the competition; Samsung may make premium tablets, but the dearth of tablet apps has always limited Android slates. Now that the iPad is more affordable than ever, there’s few reasons to look at other tablets. It may not be a company-defining product like the iPhone, which accounted for 55 percent of Apple’s revenue last quarter. But the combination of a balanced product lineup and a tempting starting price means that the iPad will likely continue to define the category for the foreseeable future.

2
Aug

Ransomware attacks hit small businesses the hardest


If it seems like reports of ransomware attacks — malicious software that holds data hostage unless a ransom is paid to the person or organization behind it — are increasing, Malwarebytes agrees with you. The company released its Second Annual State of Ransomware Report recently. Among the findings is that 22 percent of small business that were hit with ransomware attacks were crippled to the point they had to cease operations immediately.

It’s a somewhat staggering figure, but it makes sense once you think about it; large corporations often have the resources to work around (or, let’s be real, pay off) these types of attacks. Small businesses, especially ones that rely on day-to-day operations to function, can’t cope in the same way. “To make matters worse, most of them lack the confidence in their ability to stop an attack, despite significant investments in defensive technologies,” said Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes, in the press release. The survey also found that small business owners and operators are less likely to pay a ransomware demand.

According to the report, 75 percent of organizations included in the survey saw ransomware as a high priority, but less than half had even moderate confidence they could deal with such an attack. When they are attacked, email is the primary infection method. This affect US-based companies more than European companies, according to the report.

If you want to check out the entire report for yourself, it’s worth the read if you’re concerned about ransomware. If you aren’t worried about it and you own, operate or work at a small business, well, you should be. The numbers in the report are somewhat grim, and it seems as though these attacks are increasing in frequency and scale. “”Companies of all sizes need to remain vigilant and continue to place a higher priority on protecting themselves against ransomware,” said the director of Malware Intelligence for Malwarebytes, Adam Kujawa.

Source: Malwarebytes

2
Aug

Blue raises the bar for wireless audio with its Satellite headphones


After making its name building microphones for both amateurs and professionals, Blue made the leap to headphones back in 2014. Its first model, the Mo-Fi, featured a built-in amplifier and the company followed up with three others, including a planar magnetic set that also has an onboard amp. All of those options were wired, though, and if we’ve learned anything about “courageous” smartphone makers these days, the headphone jack is on its way out. To cater to the wireless craze, Blue announced its first wireless headphones, the Satellite, at CES in January. While this $400 model features and amp for top-notch audio, the Satellite lacks a key selling point for headphones: comfort.

The Satellite carries the retro-ish style we’ve come to expect from Blue. There are touches of silver and gold alongside metal components, backlit buttons and splashes of color that aren’t overly chintzy or loud. Blue has a knack for good, sophisticated design, and details like the cloth headband and leather earpads certainly are examples of that. It’s a welcome change from the boring, monochromatic audio gear we’re used to seeing.

On the bottom edge of the left earcup, you’ll find the power button and USB charging port, while a 3.5mm jack sits opposite them on the right — you know, just in case you run out of juice and still need to keep the tunes going. The controls are positioned on the outside of the earcups, in two separate rings of buttons. On the right side are two buttons for volume controls and one for play/pause. That play/pause button also accepts or rejects calls. The ring on the left holds controls for the amplifier, active noise cancellation (ANC) and Bluetooth.

The trio of buttons on the outside of the left earcup toggle all of those features on and off. The only issue is that you have to learn their location, since there aren’t any Braille-like dots or other tactile indication of which one you’re on. You either have to remember where they are or take the headphones off and look. Or you can be like me and angrily go around the circle trying each until you hit the one you’re looking for. Sure, it’s a small complaint, but on the right side, the volume controls are situated at the top and bottom in logical spots. It’s a little different when you have three controls that lack any similar natural positioning.

In the center of those two control rings, there’s a logo panel on each side with tiny holes, not unlike a speaker grille. Underneath, white LEDs light up to let you know when you’ve engaged the noise canceling or amplifier. Those same lights will blink for five seconds to indicate when you’ve turned one of those features off. There’s also a Backlight mode that keeps those lights lit while you’re listening. But I like to avoid sticking out in dimly lit public spaces, so I chose to leave that feature off.

When the Mo-Fi arrived, those headphones sounded great, but they were heavy and not very comfortable to wear beyond the first few minutes. Blue tweaked the hinged design that debuted with Mo-Fi in later models to improve comfort, and both the Sadie and the Ella (the company’s other new models for 2017) are much more enjoyable to wear. For Satellite, Blue took a more traditional route for its headband, opting for a one-piece construction instead.

Unfortunately, with the Satellite, the company takes a step back when it comes to comfort. From the start, the headphones were pinching my head in a very unpleasant way. Blue says the tension of the headband will loosen up over time, for a more comfortable fit. The company is also remedying the issue with updated models of the Satellite where the headbands already have relaxed tension. Indeed, after a couple of weeks, I noticed that the pressure eased up on one of the original units, but it’s still nowhere near as comfy as Blue’s newer wired sets or the likes of Sony’s MDR-1000X or the Bose QuietComfort 35. Of course, the super-tight fit helps with the sound and noise isolation, and audio quality here is really impressive.

Blue included a built-in amp on its very first headphones, the Mo-Fi, and this year’s Ella model features one, too. The company is no stranger to packing in extra tech to improve the sound quality of its headphones, and the Satellite continues that tradition. The audio here is quite remarkable for a set of wireless headphones, certainly one of the best-sounding units I’ve used.

There’s a depth of sound on display with the Satellite that is unmatched by the MDR-1000X and others. Bass, mids and highs are all well represented, but none of them are overpowering. It’s a fuller sound, thanks mostly to the built-in amplifier. Blue says the Satellite is also the first set of wireless headphones to include separate drivers for noise cancellation and the amp, so more of those finer audio details make it through. Indeed, I picked up on instrumentation in Phantogram’s “Run Run Blood” I hadn’t noticed before … and I listen to the album that track is on a lot.

Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and Nine Inch Nails’ Add Violence boom inside the Satellite, but softer genres like bluegrass and artists like Sara Watkins also sound great and come across in impressive detail. Sound quality has never been an issue with Blue’s headphones, and it’s certainly not a problem with Satellite.

When Satellite was first announced, my immediate concern was battery life. Blue says the headphones will last eight hours on a charge with all of the features turned on — Bluetooth, ANC and the amp. I was able to routinely get through a full workday without having to plug them in, though I did turn the headphones off for lunch and pause the music several times for phone calls, bathroom breaks, etc…. The company also says you’ll get a full 24 hours on a charge if you use only Bluetooth, but let’s face it, you’re not going to splurge for these $400 headphones only to turn off all the bells and whistles.

With a newer version (now available from the company’s store and other retailers), which sports the relaxed headband, Blue also improved Bluetooth pairing and added an auto-off feature to prevent wasted battery life. Those latter two features won’t be pushed to older Satellite headsets via update, so I wasn’t able to test them. However, Blue is offering customers an opportunity to swap for the new version through its customer support channels. (Even if you purchase the old unit now, don’t fret: You can still swap it out.)

When it comes to judging the merits of a pair of headphones, comfort is nearly as important to me as sound. I typically wear over-ear headphones for an hour (or more) at a time, so I need them to be comfy. Blue’s Satellite headphones sound amazing, but the tight fit isn’t nearly as comfortable as some of the company’s previous models. Sure, the planar magnetic Ella cost $300 more and are wired, but Blue learned a lot about its hinged design from its first crack at headphones. Those lessons taken from the Mo-Fi show in the company’s more comfy new models. In the end, it comes down to your priorities, but for me, I need to be able to wear headphones for a while without their becoming a burden.

If comfort is your primary consideration, look to the MDR-1000X, which is now available in some places for under $400. However, if audio quality is your chief concern, Satellite should get top consideration. I expected these to cost $450 or $500 when Blue first announced them. What the company is offering here for $400 is impressive, with wireless, active noise cancellation and the built-in amp, even if they’re not the most comfortable.

2
Aug

Three new ‘Persona’ spin-offs are coming, including ‘Q2’


Atlus has just announced a trio of new Persona spin-offs. Following on from the 2015 PS Vita rhythm game Persona 4: Dancing All Night are a pair of new Dancing titles based on Persona 3 and Persona 5. A pair of trailers show Aigis and co. bopping to the Persona 3 soundtrack in Dancing Moon Night, while the Persona 5 team shows of its moves in Dancing Star Night. Both games will come to the PlayStation 4 as well as Vita.

From the brief excerpts on show, it appears developer P Studio is taking a similar approach musically as it did for the first Dancing game — expect to hear all of your favorite tracks from the games’ soundtracks remixed and arranged with big bands, swing beats and EDM in mind.

As a nice touch, both 3 and 5’s visual styles are mirrored in the presentation of their respective Dancing games, with Moon Night lit up in bright pastels and Star Night opting for moodier tones. There’s no word on what the games’ storylines might cover, or if they’re linked. (Although a rhythm game at its core, the original Dancing game had a decent, 10-hour campaign with old and new characters integrated.)

While Dancing All Night was received fairly well by fans, the third new spin-off is likely to get people a little more excited: Persona Q2 for the 3DS. The original Persona Q came out on Nintendo’s handheld in 2014 as a mashup of Persona and publisher Atlus’ Etrian Odyssey series, with the majority of its gameplay coming from the latter.

What pleased fans the most was the storyline, which, aside from being full of fan service, pulled in chibi-fied characters from Persona 3 and 4 and had them interacting in the same world. There is very little detail on the game, but from the teaser image it seems it will at least feature characters from Persona 5.

ニンテンドー3DS『ペルソナQ2(仮称)』ティザーサイトOPEN!今作ではあのキャラたちも…?続報を待て! https://t.co/yTzyl3fHn1 #PQ2 #ペルソナ

— モルガナ_ペルソナ広報 (@p_kouhou) August 2, 2017

Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night and Persona 5: Dancing Star Night are both due for release in Japan next spring. There’s no word on an international release, but hopefully the wait won’t be too long — Dancing All Night took just three months to be localized. As for Persona Q2, your guess is as good as ours. The original game sold well in the west, so it’s likely it will arrive at some point. Now, if we could just get a Switch port of Tokyo Mirage Sessions…

Via: Polygon

Source: Persona Dance, Persona Q2

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