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1
Sep

Best Screen Protectors for the Galaxy Note 8 … So Far


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What are the best screen protectors for keeping my Galaxy Note 8 scratch-free?

The Galaxy Note 8 is shaping up to be one heck of a flagship. With a slightly larger screen than the Galaxy S8 Plus, it’s the largest Samsung phone of 2017… and also the most expensive. You’re definitely going to want to keep that screen in pristine condition.

We’ll be updating this article with the best screen protector options for the Note 8 as we go, but here are your best options that are available so far!

amFilm Tempered Glass Screen Protector for Galaxy Note 8

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Tempered glass is typically your best bet for a screen protector, but the curved edges of most new phones make it difficult for accessory makers to deliver full edge-to-edge protection. amFilm has a tempered glass solution which uses slightly curved slabs to achieve the perfect fit for the Note 8.

You receive everything you need for a clean and accurate installation, including an installation guide tray along with the prerequisite wet/dry wipes and dust removal stickers. The adhesive portion of the screen protector is around the edges with a dot matrix on the display itself which helps maintain the touch sensitivity so you can use your finger or S-Pen flawlessly.

You can order this kit for just $14 and be one of the first to get this screen protector kit when it starts shipping on Sept. 6.

See at Amazon

Spigen NeoFlex Screen Protector for the Galaxy Note 8 [2-pack]

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Spigen typically offers a quality line of tempered glass screen protectors for the latest flagship phones, but for the Note 8 they’ve opted for a flexible screen protector made of TPU.

It’s a wet installation here, which typically guarantees reliable adhesion without any bubbles or that dreaded halo or rainbow effect. Spigen gives you everything you need for a perfect installation — a dust removal sticker, the solution spray, a silicone squeeze card. You also get two screen protectors which is especially important with non-tempered glass screen protectors that are more prone to collecting scratches. Let the NeoFlex take the daily abuse and wear and tear so your Note 8 screen does not, then replace it with the back up when it’s time for a fresh one.

If you have any issues with the installation process or the quality of the screen, Spigen offers a lifetime warranty on its products so reach out to them and they’ll gladly send out a new one. As you’d expect, these $9 screen protectors are case friendly, and Spigen actually recommends installing them with your case on the phone for the best fit.

See at Amazon

LK Flexible TPU Screen Protectors for Galaxy Note 8 [3-pack]

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LK offers the best value with a 3-pack of screen protectors made of TPU and PET materials for just $9. It’s a dry installation here, so there’s no need to mess with messy spray. They are case-compatible and easy to install if you follow the included instructions. LK (which stands for Lightning Knight) backs their products with a lifetime warranty and no-hassle replacements which is super rad.

While other screen protectors have a big cutout around the top for the front-facing camera and ear speaker, LK has opted for precise cutouts around each which should help you when lining things up. If you mess up, simply try again with one of the included spares — that’s the benefit of buying your screen protectors in bulk.

See at Amazon

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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1
Sep

AI writes Yelp reviews that pass for the real thing


On any given day, hordes of people consult online reviews to help them pick out where to eat, what to watch, and products to buy. We trust that these reviews are reliable because they come from everyday folk just like us. But, what if the feedback blurbs on sites ranging from Amazon to iTunes could be faked — not just by nefarious humans, but by AI? That’s what researchers from University of Chicago tried to do, with surprising results. Not only did the Yelp restaurant reviews written by their neural network manage to pass for the real thing, but people even found the posts to be useful.

As part of their attack method, the researchers utilized a deep learning program known as a recurrent neural network (RNN). Using large sets of data, this type of AI can be trained to produce relatively high-quality, short writing samples, writes the team in its paper. The longer the text, the more likely the AI is to mess up. Fortunately for them, short-length posts were ideal for their Yelp experiment.

They fed the AI a mixture of publicly available Yelp restaurant reviews, which it then used to generate its own fake blurbs. During the second stage, the text was further modified, using a customization process, to hone in on specific info about the restaurant (for example, the names of dishes). The AI then produced the targeted fake review.

Here’s a typical post by the robot foodie about a buffet place in NYC: “My family and I are huge fans of this place. The staff is super nice and the food is great. The chicken is very good and the garlic sauce is perfect. Ice cream topped with fruit is delicious too. Highly recommended!”

Not too shabby. Here’s another about the same restaurant: “I had the grilled veggie burger with fries!!!! Ohhhh and taste. Omgggg! Very flavorful! It was so delicious that I didn’t spell it!!” Okay, so that’s not perfect, but we all make errors now and again.

As it turns out, these were good enough to evade machine learning detectors. And, even humans couldn’t distinguish them as fake. Furthermore, people ranked them as high up on Yelp’s “usefulness” scale as real reviews.

These days sites use both machine learning and human moderators to track down spam and misinformation. This approach has proven successful in catching crowdturfing campaigns — when attackers pay a large network of people to write fake reviews. But, the researchers warn, current modes of defense could come up short against an AI attack method like theirs. Instead, they claim the best way to fight it is to focus on the information that is lost during the RNN’s training process. Because the system values fluency and believability, other factors (like the distribution of characters) can take a hit. According to the team, a computer program could snuff out these flaws, if it knew where to look.

The paper warns that in the wrong hands, this type of attack could even be used on bigger platforms, like Twitter, and other online discussion forums. The researchers conclude that it is therefore critical that security experts come together to build the tools to stop it.

Via: Business Insider

1
Sep

Sony put me in a fake plane to test its noise-cancelling headphones


Sony makes an awful lot of headphones. Ranging from the cheap-but-passable to premium and pro-level items, it’s been in the personal audio game for a long time. This year, it’s following up on its award-winning wireless noise-cancelling MDR-1000X cans with the WH-1000XM2, adding more features and augmenting its already-capable noise cancellation skills. Naturally, at a show like IFA, that might not be enough to hold the attentions of Engadget’s official audio dilettante (me), so Sony made a faux plane fuselage, equipped with some lounge chairs, Sony’s top hi-def audio players and those new cans. It also threw in some fake plane background noise for testing purposes. Welcome aboard.

So my coworkers are right: These wireless headphones are pretty damn wonderful. Sony’s upgraded cans are still really comfortable, and — as the company often does — comes in a handful of classy shades beyond black, white, grey and slightly shinier grey. But the real selling point here is the combination of decent sound quality and noise cancellation. Sony got it right last time around, and this year’s model makes do with adding further improvements.

Aside from the addition of 10 more audio playback hours (on top of the 20 hours the last set managed), with Sony’s Headphones Connect App on phones, the WH-1000XM2 can also offer atmospheric pressure optimization — ideal for planes, if not fake plywood ones. There’s also both surround and sound position control. The latter is a pretty cool addition to play around with, but does require music through your smartphone, and your full attention to adjust to your liking.

For a lot of phones, or people listening to low-quality music, you’re unlikely to get the full benefit of Sony’s pricier headphone ranges. Fortunate, then, that Sony had Walkmans with Hi-Res audio on hand. Sound was predictably rich, but it’s the ambient sound mode that’s worth shouting about.

Not that you’d have to. Sony’s engineered a special mode (which launches with a button press on the side of the headphones) that allows the listener to maintain a degree of noise-cancellation bliss, while still letting speech and voices pass through. The feature has been around for a while now, but it sounds like Sony has greatly improved how it cuts out noise (or amplifies speech), I could listen to the headphone briefing (or my colleague’s orders about how to pose for these awkward photos), without taking the cans off. Granted you will probably have to turn the volume of your music down a little to ensure you catch every word, but it certainly avoids the hassle of taking the headphones off.

Despite all the improvements, Sony is notably offering the upgraded set for less than last year’s MDR-1000X. The cans will be priced at $350 when they land in September.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

1
Sep

Vevo is working on a ‘TRL-style’ live show


Vevo’s Watch Party app was a weird sell at first. Use it to watch music videos with online friends and C-list artists, and chat with them. Well, that’s because we didn’t know the end goal for it at the time. Now we do: A Total Request Live-style show. Variety reports that Vevo has been testing the show, dubbed “Vevo Live,” over the summer and that a broadcast from last Friday with Fifth Harmony (above) netted some 3 million viewers across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. That’s in addition to a live studio audience. Put it in Times Square and it all starts sounding a bit familiar, no?

Haven’t heard of Fifth Harmony? Well, that’s kind of the point for now. Vevo’s Erik Huggers said the plan is to start with smaller artists and then work up to headliners. For now, though, that requires more testing. In case you were worried, this won’t take over the outfit’s focus on music videos, it’ll just give viewers another way to watch them. Vevo hasn’t announced a schedule or any future broadcasts, but from the sounds of it, Vevo Live isn’t going to stop.

Source: Variety

1
Sep

How the internet embraced a ‘Simpsons’-‘Akira’ mashup


In the spring of 2013, Ryan Humphrey was lying on his bedroom floor, searching for inspiration. He had been looking for a way to contribute to the Simpsons Drawing Club, a blog on Tumblr dedicated to unofficial fan art. Run by a tight-knit group of illustrators, it featured colorful, funny and occasionally terrifying depictions of Bart, Homer and the rest of the Springfield populace. Humphrey wanted to be a part of it.

He had, at one point, considered an original story about Ralph Wiggum and a dead body that could somehow talk back to him. But he didn’t see himself as a comic book artist and slowly cooled on the idea. Suddenly, he spotted a copy of Akira, “Volume 1” in his room. Inspiration struck like a thunderbolt. He would redraw parts of Akira, the iconic Japanese manga series written and inked by Katsuhiro Otomo, but with characters from The Simpsons. By blending the two worlds, he would create something not only truly bizarre and unexpected but also stylish and instantly recognizable.

“I just thought, ‘This will be funny. This will be such a laugh,’” he recalls.

Akira is an epic, sprawling comic that ran in Japan’s Young Magazine from 1982 to 1990. It spans more than 2,000 pages and tells the story of Kaneda, a rebellious teenager and motorcycle gang leader, and Tetsuo, his childhood friend who inherits psychic powers and is slowly consumed by madness. The pair live in Neo-Tokyo, a city reeling from the effects of a nuclear explosion that triggered World War III in 1982. As Tetsuo’s powers take form, both characters are entangled in a desperate war involving the government, a resistance movement and numerous street gangs.The complex narrative and beautiful artwork have earned Otomo many awards, and the manga was adapted into an equally beloved animated movie in 1988.

With a large Moleskine sketchbook and mechanical pencil, Humphrey sketched the “awakening,” a pivotal scene in the manga that depicts Takashi, a psychic child, being shot in the head by Nezu, the leader of the resistance. His death causes Akira, a godlike Esper and the series’ titular character, to scream and unleash a psychic blast that destroys most of Neo-Tokyo. Instinctively, Humphrey drew Bart as Akira and Millhouse, his best friend, as the dying Takasaki. In that moment, Bartkira was born.

“I wanted to maintain the originality of Otomo’s drawings, but I also wanted to do them really rough, in my own way.”

Humphrey’s art style is rough and sketchy. He uses a pencil, typically an H, to mark out characters and, in the case of Bartkira, the comic book panels they reside within. For the awakening, he applied a touch of watercolor paint to highlight clothing and The Simpsons’ trademark yellow skin tone. Humphrey embraces imperfection, frequently coloring and shading outside the lines. “I wanted to maintain the originality of Otomo’s drawings, but I also wanted to do them really rough, in my own way.”

With nine or so panels completed, Humphrey looked for a submission page on the Simpsons Drawing Club website. But he couldn’t find one, so he decided to post them on his personal Tumblr instead. Living in Farnborough, England, Humphrey knew that the best time to upload them was around 9 PM, when both the East Coast and West Coast of America were awake. He threw in a few simple tags such as “Simpsons,” “drawing,” “illustration” and “Akira” before publishing the post and falling asleep.

The next day, he woke up and flipped open his laptop. “I thought, ‘Oh shit, this is really blowing up.’” People were liking the images and posting comments such as “I’m screaming, this is great” and “these could [make] for a real cool mashup story.” Humphrey was taken aback. He was an avid Tumblr user and posted new drawings almost every day. By riffing on famous people and characters, he had started to build a reputation already. But none of his previous works had spread quite like Bartkira.

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Ryan Humphrey

Humphrey drew a bunch of additional Bartkira pages over the next few weeks. He experimented with different characters, casting Ralph as Akira and school bully Nelson as Tetsuo. Sometimes he would try a new mashup too, including Battle “Bartle” Royale, Alien and Hellboy. Before long, his Bartkira pages caught the eye of James Harvey, a writer, artist and illustrator. “I just thought they were powerful,” Harvey says. “You see all kinds of shit now. You’ll see Doctor Who, but he’s wearing Dragon Ball clothes or something. And it never really does anything for me. But that one just genuinely, profoundly touched me.”

Harvey had a passion for group art projects. At the height of LiveJournal’s popularity, he ran various competitions that invited artists to express their individual styles and ideas. In one instance, he drew a picture and left a part blank to see how everyone else would fill it in. That interest stemmed from his work as an English teacher in South Korea, where he would often make art-based challenges to help children learn English. “And then I just started doing it with my own online following,” he explained. “Making challenges for them. And all these weird, crazy drawings would come up.”

“Ryan’s art, it was almost like a blank slate. It gave me the freedom to imagine what other artists would look like doing this.”

When Tumblr blew up, Harvey found it more difficult to attract interest in these strange, collaborative projects. But with Bartkira, he saw an idea that was so interesting and powerful that it could break through regardless. After all, the two underlying properties are well known, and almost everyone has tried to draw The Simpsons at some point in their life. As he poured over Humphrey’s pages, an idea started to form: a complete recreation of the Akira manga, but with The Simpsons characters and drawn by people from all over the world.

“When you look at Ryan’s pages, you’re imagining what the rest of [Bartkira] might look like,” Harvey explains. “And then I was imagining, what if we got professional artists involved? What if we got all of these different types of artists to contribute to this? Ryan’s art, it was almost like a blank slate. It gave me the freedom to imagine what other artists would look like doing this.”

So Harvey reached out to Humphrey and asked for his blessing. Humphrey had created Bartkira, after all, so it was only fair to ask for his opinion first. “I said, ‘Yeah, do it. Do whatever you want.’ Because back then, I was still unknown, still working in my bedroom,” Humphrey recalls. That initial exchange set everything in motion. Harvey set up a new email address for Bartkira and created a spreadsheet to track the contributors and the pages they had been allocated. He then reached out to some friends in a private Facebook group to ask what they thought of the project and finalize the core cast.

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Wyatt Carroll

Picking characters to represent Akira’s heroes is harder than you might think. At one stage, Lisa Simpson was Kei, a resistance fighter and love interest for Kaneda. It didn’t make much sense, however, because Bart was initially cast as Akira, and in the manga, Kei and Akira are enemies rather than brother and sister. Their personalities and dialogue would, therefore, be too jarring and removed from Matt Groening’s cartoon, making it hard for readers to accept. Similarly, Homer was considered for the role of the Colonel, a towering man who runs the secret Esper program. But again, this would be strange, because the Colonel and Akira never address each other as father and son.

“We took it seriously,” Harvey says. “It had to work as an extended episode of The Simpsons, and it had to make narrative sense.” Bart ended up as the brave but impulsive Kaneda, with Milhouse playing off him as the introverted but ultimately arrogant and superhuman Tetsuo. Ralph was chosen as the otherworldly Akira while Laura Powers — Bart’s first crush in The Simpsons — became Kei. Ned Flanders was cast as Ryu, a prominent resistance fighter, and Seymour Skinner became the Colonel.

“It had to work as an extended episode of ‘The Simpsons,’ and it had to make narrative sense.”

Homer became the Birdman, a minor character who serves as a guard for Akira and Tetsuo. It was a curious choice that came from a curious place: Phil Fish, the creator of Fez, a critically acclaimed, perspective-shifting video game from 2012. He was a central figure in the award-winning documentary Indie Game: The Movie and left the industry in 2013 after criticizing Japanese game developers and becoming embroiled in a cacophony of internet arguments. “We kind of shuffled the parental figures off to the sidelines,” Harvey explains.

With the basic preparations complete, Harvey went “nuclear” and announced the project on Tumblr. Anyone could be involved: They simply had to reach out with their email address and portfolio. At the same time, Harvey tried to reach out to people whom he admired or thought might be a good fit for the brief. Unsurprisingly, the roster of artists filled up immediately. Some had seen Humphrey’s original images while others were hearing about the project for the first time.

“It went huge immediately, and I sort of knew that it would because I saw the traction that Ryan’s images had,” Harvey says.

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Anas Awad

Anas “Niami” Awad was part of the Facebook group that Harvey originally pitched to. He knew James and the other members “from the LiveJournal days” and a handful of art forums. As soon as the call went out for artists, Awad messaged Harvey to ask if he could be involved. “He was like, ‘Yeah, of course!’ He said he loved my work and would love for me to be a part of it, and that was basically it!”

The illustrator, who lives in Beirut, saw the spreadsheet and immediately picked some of the earliest pages, when Tetsuo, or rather Millhouse, crashes his motorcycle into the frail Esper Takashi. It’s a crucial moment in the manga that grants Tetsuo his psychic powers and gives Kaneda the motivation to uncover the government’s involvement with the Espers. “Without even thinking, I went straight to it,” Awad recalls.

As the pages were near the start of the book, Harvey asked Awad not to go too crazy with his character designs. If Bart’s appearance was too abstract, he thought, it might confuse readers who have never read or watched Akira before. “Originally, my version of Kaneda-Bart had black hair, and his eyes were more similar to Kaneda’s,” Awad explains. Harvey, however, felt the book would be better served if the look of the characters evolved and became more obscure toward the end. “That kind of saddened me a bit, because I really wanted to make these insane hybrids,” Awad says.

So the illustrator went in a different direction. Pages 26 through 30 are covered in inky, red washes that morph into stunning shades of pink and purple. Together, they emulate the neon lights that typically soak cities in dystopian science fiction films such as Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell. But here, they’re a murky, borderline-surreal backdrop to a highway typically abandoned by Neo-Tokyo’s citizens. “I felt like it made the scene look a bit more apocalyptic, but not too much,” Awad says. “I didn’t want to move too far from the poppy feel of The Simpsons.”

The characters, while recognizable, are thin and wiry. Their faces are covered in stress lines, a reflection of their personal struggles and the societal decay consuming their city. “That’s actually a weird perversion of mine,” Awad explains. “With everything that I draw, even if it’s an attractive young lady, I tend to add a lot of wrinkles to the face. A lot of smile lines, crow’s feet, all of it.” The style stems from John Kricfalusi, who drew the Nickelodeon cartoon Ren and Stimpy with a similarly twisted, occasionally grotesque look. “When I get a chance to do a close-up, I exaggerate the hell out of all that,” Awad says. “Again, because it amuses me!”

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Marigold Bartlett

Flick past Awad’s pages and you’ll eventually stumble on the work of Marigold Bartlett, an illustrator living in Melbourne. She found James Harvey and the Bartkira project through David Surman, one of her university lecturers, in September 2013. Keen to contribute, she fired off an email to Harvey asking if he was still looking for artists. By this point there was a waiting list; however, Harvey liked her work and agreed to keep her name on file. Not long after, he came back and offered her a couple of spare pages from “Volume 1.”

There was a problem, however. Harvey wanted them done in two weeks. “And then it was about 10 days until the due date and I said, ‘By the way, what are my page numbers?!’” Bartlett recounts with a laugh. “So I had to really rush what I was doing.” She started by examining Otomo’s original pages. They show Kaneda-Bart running after Kei-Laura through a crowded street while Ryu-Ned tries to calm one of the Espers in a back alley.

Bartlett was impressed by the detail in each panel and how consistent Otomo’s style was across all six volumes. “That was the most inspiring part to me, to think about the hours he would have spent sitting at his desk, drawing and drawing to make something so wonderful.”

Bartlett had no idea how other artists were interpreting the Bartkira brief. She stuck to Otomo’s layouts and used near-identical ink marks, layering the faces of The Simpsons characters on top. She also “double-, triple-, quadruple-checked” that none of the background characters in her work had already been selected for other roles in the world of Bartkira. Finally, she added her own inking and coloring as well as a high-res, paperlike background texture in Photoshop.

There’s a vibrancy to her pages with punchy colors and bold, lateral lines to symbolize movement. The characters are drawn in the traditional style of The Simpsons, however; the pages could almost be a storyboard for a special episode of the show. The city and all the action, though, look like the original Akira manga. Some Bartkira contributors have taken a similar approach. Others made the characters look more like their Akira counterparts. Or set everything in a city that looks exactly like Springfield rather than Neo-Tokyo. It’s a decision that goes to the heart of Bartkira as a concept. How far do you go in either direction? How much do you make it look like The Simpsons, and vice versa?

“I really thought about that,” Bartlett says. “That was probably the biggest design-y problem going into it. Or opportunity, you could say, because I could have gone anywhere I wanted, and it still would have been fine.”

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Harvey was elated as the first pages rolled in. Each one was “a new treat,” he says, a different and oftentimes surprising take on the Bartkira ideas. Kaneda’s iconic red motorcycle, for instance, is sometimes a bicycle or a skateboard. Some pages were drawn in black and white with nothing but a Biro pen while others were a kaleidoscope of color, mashing goopy characters together into a cartoon acid trip. “Every day there was a new, amazing thing that took me back and just reminded me why this was such a good idea,” Harvey says.

Humphrey contributed some pages too. “James said to me, ‘You made it,’” he explains. “You can do whatever pages you want, in whatever way you want.’” So he took five from “Volume 1,” a single page slap-bang in the middle of the volume, and four toward the end, when Tetsuo-Millhouse is being chased by Kaneda’s ally Yamagata, played by Nelson, and other motorcycle gang members. Humphrey deployed the same style used in his original drawings: just a pencil, some Moleskine paper and a splash of watercolor paints. “The way I draw lines is very wishy-washy, and I wanted to keep that,” he says. “I wanted to keep my own way of drawing so you can tell this is my work, but also, you can tell there are still essences of the original manga throughout.”

Harvey did a lot of editing with “Volume 1.” He wanted it to read like “a real comic book” from start to finish, which meant ensuring a level of narrative consistency throughout. If characters suddenly swapped or were unrecognizable for some reason, he would make adjustments in Photoshop. “It was quicker for me to do that than to ask the artist to do it,” he says. “Because it was either a minute in Photoshop or me having to email them and wait, and create of all this extra work for them.”

But some artists weren’t happy with the changes. At the time, Harvey thought his actions were justified — he was technically the project’s editor in chief, after all. In hindsight, however, he admits that was a “mistake.” “Volume 1,” he says, was an experiment that taught him some valuable lessons for the remaining five books.

Initially, Harvey thought the first volume would be completed in six months. But it ended up taking a year, by which point many of the artists had already shared their pages online. The numerous postings on Tumblr and Instagram were great for the project’s reputation and attracting new contributors. But it meant the first complete edition landed with a dull thud. The project had already had its moment, and people were posting their own, original fan art with the Bartkira hashtag. “So it wasn’t this huge moment as I thought,” Harvey says.

“Flipping through the pages is exhilarating. It’s like talking to a series of strangers at a house party.”

Still, artists relished the chance to compare their work with the other contributors. At last, they could see and understand how their pages fit into the larger narrative and what it was like for the reader to flow from one artist to the next. “Flipping through the pages is exhilarating. It’s like talking to a series of strangers at a house party,” Matthew Smallwood, an illustrator and Bartkira contributor, says. “Transitions from one person to the next can be exciting, jarring, funny, even sublime.”

Filippo Morini, another artist who worked on the project, adds, “The result is astonishing, schizophrenic and beautifully chaotic. It’s like driving full speed through a super curvy road where you can’t see what will come up beyond the next turn, but you keep riding full throttle because the landscape around you is terrific and your eyes want to catch as much as they can.”

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James Harvey inside Orbital Comics in London

For “Volume 2,” Harvey took a different approach. To accelerate the production schedule, he started giving artists firmer deadlines. If they didn’t submit in time, he would hand the pages off to someone else on the waiting list. It was a tough stance but a fairer one for all the people working hard to meet the original due date. He also expanded his operation, recruiting editors and friends to chase artists and check their work for mistakes.

The extra help made a difference. “Volume 2” came out in October 2014, less than four months after the first installment. “Volume 3” arrived in July 2015, alongside a fan-made Bartkira trailer. Like the crowdsourced comic, the video was a collaborative effort involving more than 50 artists. It showed Tetsuo-Milhouse’s collision with Takashi, the bar where Kaneda-Bart and his friends hang out, and the underground facility holding Akira-Ralph — small but distinct glimpses of the landmark film.

While the animation was new, the original Akira soundtrack and voice work remained underneath. “To hear the voices and the theme song of Akira,” Humphrey recalls, “I thought, ‘Oh, my god, this is so crazy. It’s great when you see people’s pages, because you use your own imagination, but to see it all animated is a different story.”

The project was coordinated by Kaitlin Sullivan, an animation producer and contributor on Bartkira, “Volume 1.” “I wasn’t about to tackle the whole movie, so I found a trailer I liked and pitched the idea to Ryan and James as a failed FOX concept stuffed on a ‘Do the Bartman’ VHS,” she explains.

Sullivan had organized a similar project in 2014, recreating an episode of Sailor Moon with over 250 animators. Both projects made a huge splash online: At the time of writing, the Bartkira trailer has 320,000 plays on Vimeo and 775,000 views on YouTube. It was picked up in the press too, drawing more attention to the rest of the project.

“Two things are certain in life: You’re going to go through the whole production convinced you’re a failure and it’ll never work and everyone will hate you for it, and when you’re done, every single piece of positive feedback feels like the greatest gift you’ve ever received,” Sullivan says. “Whether it’s from Le Monde or a stranger on the internet, I just couldn’t stop smiling. It was worth every second of work.”

image1.jpgMike O’B

In April 2016 “Volume 4” was released. That same day a physical art book called Bartkira: Nuclear Edition was published by Floating World Comics. It was a collection of art and pages that Harvey and the rest of the Bartkira organizers had been accumulating since 2013. “I needed one book that was an accurate cross section of all the amazing stuff that was coming out,” Harvey says. The book isn’t, however, a complete volume of Bartkira that you can read from start to finish. That was by design: The project sits in a legal gray area, using characters and stories that were clearly created by other people.

The team needed to tread carefully. Harvey knew that Otomo and his son, Shohei Otomo, were fans of Bartkira, and for a while Shohei was interested in getting involved with the project. James Stacy, a friend of Harvey and the owner of Yokohama, Japan-based comic publisher Black Hook Press, had been in touch with Kodansha, the company behind Young Magazine. Eventually, he received a letter that said Kodansha would never be able to endorse the project but was aware of its existence. A Bartkira book could be printed but never with the pages in sequential order, because this would create a direct competitor to Akira and give readers another, potentially cheaper way to consume Otomo’s story.

“Which was, I feel, forward-thinking of them,” Harvey says.

It was a similar situation with Matt Groening. The Bartkira organizers knew that he had seen a copy but to date have never received a cease and desist order. As an extra defense, Harvey decided to donate all of the book’s profits to charity. Some went to the OISCA Coastal Forest Restoration Project in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture, where Otomo grew up. The rest went to Save the Children, a charity preferred by the late The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon.

Giving the proceeds away made sense logistically too. Harvey didn’t want to get rich from other people’s work. He also knew that splitting the profits among hundreds of contributors would result in tiny, almost insignificant paychecks for everyone. Charitable donations solved all of these problems at once. “It was just an idea that solved a lot of problems and gave me more of a clear ethical conscience,” Harvey says. “And made it so the project was definitely a force for good, which is what I wanted.”

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Bartkira creator Ryan Humphrey

Humphrey feels conflicted about Bartkira and its success. He’s contributed more than 20 pages across six volumes but has always kept some distance from the project and its organizers. “There have been moments where I have despised it,” he admits. “I don’t know why. I think it’s that — I didn’t want to be known for just that.”

He’s also uncomfortable with some of the praise Harvey has received as the “creator” of Bartkira. “There have been parts of me throughout this whole project, especially the early stages, where I thought, ‘I hate this project.’ Because, and this sounds like I’m being a bitch, but James getting all the recognition …” he says, trailing off for a moment. “And I follow news sites that are saying, ‘He did everything. He’s done all of this.’ And there are close friends of mine saying, ‘Well no, Ryan, you did this. This was your idea.’”

Humphrey isn’t sure what kind of recognition he wants, if any. Regardless, he’s proud of the art and what people have produced. “Looking back on it now, because this is a chance to look back at Bartkira … I kind of feel like ‘Yeah, it’s good!’ It’s a good thing, it’s really good.”

Harvey is thankful for everything Humphrey has done. Coming up with the idea, all the pages he contributed — none of it would have been possible without Humphrey. “Ryan’s creation has changed my life. It made me a better person and is the catalyst for some of the proudest professional accomplishments in my life so far,” Harvey says. “Because of him, we were able to make a lot of people happy all over the world.”

Chris Pyrate

Over the years, there have been many Bartkira art exhibitions around the world. On June 22nd, the French animation blog Catsuka posted a news story about a new exhibition in Paris. It was to be held inside an art gallery on Palais-Royal, less than five minutes from the Louvre, between July 12th and 30th. The blog post also claimed that the last page of “Volume 6” would be drawn live by French artist Marion Chombart de Lauwe.

All of this was news to Harvey. “This happens to me over and over,” he says. ” I’m always like, ‘Wow, that sounds amazing, I had no idea! I guess that’s what we’re doing? OK, cool!’” So he went along with it, agreeing that it would be a fitting end for the project. And while a page was painted live, it didn’t end up being the final one. When the date rolled around, Harvey was still chasing a few stragglers. But he kept that information to himself, not wanting to ruin the jubilant atmosphere inside the gallery.

Instead it was Humphrey, fittingly, who drew the final Bartkira page. On August 10th, the project creator tweeted, “Tonight I will draw the last ever page of Bartkira. Stay tuned.” Later that night, an image appeared on his personal Tumblr. It was Ralph, or rather Akira, woven into the crumbling remains of Neo-Tokyo. The caption underneath read, “The last page of Bartkira.”

All six volumes are now online and available to read — more than 2,000 pages, drawn by hundreds of different artists. For Harvey, it marks the end of a quite extraordinary period of his life. “It felt like something I started when I was trying to run away from my life, and run away from responsibilities,” he says. “As it’s ending, I can feel my life beginning. I got married, and I’m moving to a new town. It just feels like — and maybe this sounds corny — but it genuinely feels like a chapter page or a big page is turning in my life.”

“I’m glad it’s ended, personally.”

For Humphrey, it’s closure. Bartkira has ended, and everyone, himself included, can finally move on. “I’m glad it’s ended, personally,” he says wearily.

But Bartkira will, on some level, continue. The six volumes have been completed, but anyone can still contribute to the fandom by posting art or a photo of some homemade merchandise with the Bartkira hashtag. Likewise, anyone can view the completed work at any time, either through the Bartkira website or by searching for the tag on Tumblr or Instagram.

“There are still people making new content, even though the whole thing has been released,” Bartlett says. “There are people doing fan art of the fan art.” For young artists, that sort of interest and community are invaluable. When you’re just starting out and don’t have any paid gigs coming in, it’s projects like Bartkira that provide some much-needed direction and inspiration. “Anything online that makes you think, ‘Oh, I’m going to draw that tonight,’ or ‘That’s what I’m going to work on for a little while’ is great,” Bartlett adds.

That inclusiveness has always been at the heart of Bartkira. The idea was born on Tumblr and grew naturally through word of mouth. There was never a professional publisher or a juggernaut marketing campaign trying to force its success. Bartkira was simply an idea so clever and well executed that it attracted hundreds of artists on its own. It’s hard to imagine how such a global, collaborative project would have been possible before the world wide web.

Bartkira is a beast that could have only been spawned in the fertile soil of the internet,” Rodrigo Bravo, an illustrator, designer and Bartkira contributor, says. “An idea that blew up beyond what anybody could have imagined back when Ryan Humphrey did those drawings. Tumblr is a great place for these ideas to foam up to the surface, grow and become alive, much like Tetsuo’s fleshy expanding cyber-lumps.”

Image credits:

  • Juan Pablo Cofré (‘Bartkira’ pill poster)
  • Ryan Humphrey (Sketchbook illustrations)
  • Wyatt Carroll (‘Bartkira’ 2019AD poster)
  • Anas Awad (Milhouse crash / Bart close-up frames)
  • Marigold Bartlett (Ned Flanders / Bart running frames)
  • Tobias Kwan (Ralph on Tetsuo’s throne)
  • Mike O’B (Bart jumping Neo-Springfield Gorge)
  • Chris Pyrate (Bart on Motorcycle)
  • 20th Television (‘The Simpsons’ cast)
  • Nick Summers / Engadget (All photography)
1
Sep

Apple Acknowledges Siri Leadership Has Officially Moved From Eddy Cue to Craig Federighi


Apple has updated its executive profiles to acknowledge that software engineering chief Craig Federighi now officially oversees development of Siri. The responsibility previously belonged to Apple’s services chief Eddy Cue.

Craig Federighi is Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, reporting to CEO Tim Cook. Craig oversees the development of iOS, macOS, and Siri. His teams are responsible for delivering the software at the heart of Apple’s innovative products, including the user interface, applications and frameworks.

Apple’s leadership page is only now reflecting Federighi’s role as head of Siri, but the transition has been apparent for several months, based on recent interviews and stage appearances at Apple’s keynotes.

At WWDC 2016, for example, Federighi and Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller joined Daring Fireball’s John Gruber to discuss how Apple was opening Siri up to third-party developers with SiriKit later that year.

At WWDC 2017, Federighi was on stage to discuss improvements to Siri in iOS 11, including more natural voice, built-in translation capabilities, and advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Cue continues to oversee the iTunes Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, Apple Maps, iCloud, and the iWork and iLife suites of apps, and handing off Siri should allow him to focus more on Apple’s push into original content.

Apple’s updated leadership page also now lists profiles for recent hires Deirdre O’Brien, Vice President of People, and Isabel Ge Mahe, Vice President and Managing Director of Greater China.

Tags: Siri, Eddy Cue, Craig Federighi
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1
Sep

Jay Blahnik Discusses Success of Apple Watch’s Fitness Test Lab Over Past Five Years


Ahead of Apple’s now-confirmed September 12 media event, during which it’s believed to announce the newest versions of the Apple Watch, iPhone, and Apple TV, Men’s Health was invited to visit Apple’s secret exercise lab where activity data on its wearable device is collected. Apple invited the media to its Apple Watch lab before the launch of the original Apple Watch in early 2015, and now Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness and health technologies, said that the lab has “collected more data on activity and exercise than any other human performance study in history.”

Although Apple revealed the lab in 2015, Blahnik mentioned that work in the department has been ongoing for the past five years. The lab enlists Apple employees to perform various exercises while hooked up to metabolic carts, ECG machines, and $40,000 masks that analyze calories burned, oxygen consumption, and more. Around 40 employees work out in the lab at one time, all monitored by 13 exercise physiologists and 29 nurses and medics.

Images via Men’s Health
The lab includes a studio for group fitness programs, one room with an endless pool to measure the new waterproof abilities of Apple Watch, and another trio of rooms mimicking intense temperature conditions, which Apple calls “Higher, Faster, and Stronger.” In 2015, Blahnik said the lab had collected over 18,000 hours of fitness data on over 10,000 workout sessions, and now those numbers have jumped to 66,000 hours and 33,000 sessions.

“Our lab has collected more data on activity and exercise than any other human performance study in history,” says Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness for health technologies, in a rare interview. “Over the past five years, we’ve logged 33,000 sessions with over 66,000 hours of data, involving more than 10,000 unique participants.” A typical clinical trial enrolls fewer than a hundred participants.

Blahnik commented on the “game-ifying” of fitness challenges that Apple has introduced with Apple Watch and Activity Sharing, where users can follow their friends’ calorie, workout, and standing data throughout the day, and encourage or taunt one another in the process. He said that Apple’s goal was to make it easier for people to feel part of a workout community, even when they aren’t nearby one another, providing another “fun way to stay in touch” with friends on Apple Watch.


With watchOS 4, Apple Watch devices will also be gaining the ability to provide more nuanced insight into each user’s daily goals, and give them little prompts towards the end of the day regarding how close they might be to closing an Activity Ring. The company has put together corporate fitness challenges around all of these activity features in the past, which Blahnik said has catalyzed healthy lifestyles that many employees continue to maintain.

This year Apple held its own global monthlong corporate health challenge, with tens of thousands of participants in teams of four, using the Lose It! Challenges app. Closing the watches’ tricolored rings was part of the game. It seeded health streaks that many at the company are still maintaining. “You noticed it on campus and in our retail stores,” says Blahnik. “Everyone was more active and engaged in their health. There was a lot of back and forth to encourage and motivate your team members to close their rings.”

The third-generation Apple Watch — expected to be called “Series 3” — is rumored to include cellular connectivity, further untethering Apple Watch from iPhone and allowing users to send messages and stream Apple Music solely on the wearable device. The Apple Watch Series 3 was originally rumored to see a major design overhaul, but more recent reports have said that added LTE connectivity will be the third generation’s big selling point and a form factor change will be held for a future device.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 3, watchOS 4
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)
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Sep

Tesla hit with unfair labor complaint from US watchdog


The US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed a complaint against Tesla after investigating workers’ complaints over unfair labor practices. Workers said Tesla “coerces and intimidates” them via a confidentiality agreement that illegally prevents them from discussing labor conditions and unionization.

Workers say Tesla security stopped and interrogated them when they tried to hand out flyers, and threatened firing if the practice continued. Furthermore, they say Tesla forced them to “sign an overly-broad confidentiality agreement that could bar them from talking about their working conditions and safety issues at the facility.”

The UAW (United Auto Workers) is a party to the NLRB complaint, and has reportedly been working to unionize Tesla, something Elon Musk has railed against in the past. Tesla said the charges are “without merit,” and replied to the complaints with a screed against the UAW, sent to Jalopnik.

On or about November 5, 2016 and ongoing [Tesla] … violated the Act by implementing and maintaining, and repeatedly requiring compliance with, a company confidentiality agreement that coerces and intimidates employees from freely exercising their rights to engage in concerted and union activity. –NLRB complaint

“For seven years, the UAW has used every tool in its playbook: misleading and outright false communications, unsolicited and unwelcomed visits to the homes of our employees, attempts to discredit Tesla publicly in the media, and now another tactic that has been used in every union campaign since the beginning of time – baseless ULP (unfair labor practice) filings that are meant only to generate headlines,” the statement reads in part.

Tesla has said in the past, via an employee letter, that the UAW is allied with entrenched automakers. “Forces arrayed against us are many and incredibly powerful. This is David vs Goliath if David were six inches tall!” It adds that it has recently reduced forced overtime by 50 percent and that, if you take stock equity into account, its employees are paid better than other auto workers.

Despite those protestations, Tesla has been accused of exploiting cheap labor to build its factories and overworking employees to the point of illness. Another Musk business, SpaceX, was forced to settle with employees after complaints they were underpaid and forced to work through breaks. A hearing on the NLRB complaint against Tesla will be held on November 14th in California.

Via: Reuters

Source: NLRB

1
Sep

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update lands October 17th, Microsoft confirms


Looks like that leak was right, after all. Microsoft announced today at IFA that the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will officially launch on October 17th. It’s the fourth major addition to the OS, and it follows the Creators Update from earlier this year. The biggest change? It’ll give us our first taste of Windows Mixed Reality, the company’s VR platform that’s powered by inexpensive headsets from the likes of Dell, HP, Lenovo and ASUS. And if you don’t have a headset, you’ll also be able to check out some experiences in 2D with the Mixed Reality Viewer.

According to executive vice president of Windows and devices Terry Myerson, the Fall Creators Update will also support eye-tracking, which makes it easier for those who can’t use their limbs to navigate the OS. This is particularly useful for those suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, Myerson said at an IFA keynote today.

Unfortunately, the Timeline feature Microsoft showed off at Build won’t be ready in time for the Fall Creators Update. Similar to Apple’s Handoff, it lets you continue your work across a wide variety of devices. Notably, that doesn’t just mean Windows 10 computers — it’ll also bring over some of what you’re doing to iOS and Android, as well. The update will also mark the debut of the new Windows Fluent Design System, which aims to upgrade the look and feel of the OS and apps. It won’t be a huge visual change, but it should be the start of a slightly slicker-looking Windows.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

Cherlynn Low contributed reporting.

1
Sep

Hubble telescope spots evidence of water on Trappist-1 planets


Scientists say it’s possible five Earth-sized planets orbiting Trappist-1, an ultra-cool dwarf star located 39 light years away, contain “significant amounts of water.” An international team of astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to measure the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation hitting all seven Trappist-1 exoplanets. The phenomenon is important because low-energy UV radiation can break down water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen; higher levels heat the upper atmosphere to the point where the two elements can escape. UV radiation is therefore useful in modelling water loss and atmospheric stability in distant planets.

Measurements were taken with the HST’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectograph in September, November and December last year. Using these figures and other scientific research, the team concluded that six of the exoplanets nearest Trappist-1 “could have lost more than 20 Earth oceans” of water throughout their history. While that sounds pretty bad, other possibilities exist. The team says the four planets furthest from the star, E, F, G and H, “might have lost less than three Earth oceans.” B and C, the two closet to Trappist-1, are the least likely to hold water, unsurprisingly.

Planets E, F and G sit in the “habitable zone,” an orbital distance that could, in theory, allow Earth-like planets to hold liquid water on their surface and, by extension, support life. It’s here, of course, that scientists are most hopeful about the Trappist-1 system. Furthermore, depending on photolysis, which is the separation of molecules by light, it’s possible all of the planets apart from B and C harbor water above ground. “Naturally, this also depends on the age of the system,” the team of astronomers explain in their report, and how much water the planets originally formed with.

“Photolysis efficiency is expected to be lower than about 20 percent, in which case all planets but TRAPPIST-1b and c could still harbor significant amounts of water.”

For now, this is all informed guesswork, however. As the European Space Agency admits, with the data and telescopes currently available “no final conclusion can be drawn on the water content of the planets.”

Water, while crucial, isn’t enough to guarantee life either. Two teams led by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) say the star’s behavior, which includes rapidly spinning and generating ultraviolet flares, makes the potential for life pretty slim on Trappist-1 planets. They might hold water, but the star’s radiation will have likely destroyed their atmospheres and, in the process, any chance of habitability. “We’re definitely not saying people should give up searching for life around red dwarf stars,” the CfA’s Jeremy Drake said in July, “but our work shows we should also target as many stars as possible that are more like the Sun.”

Source: ESA

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