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21
Oct

6 best products showcased at Adobe MAX 2017 conference


The annual Adobe MAX show draws a huge crowd of creatives from all fields eager to learn about the latest innovations in Adobe’s products. But the show also attracts many big names in tech, from Google to Microsoft, who are eager to show off their new products to such a large audience of creative power users. After browsing the show floor, getting hands-on demos, and speaking with representatives, here are what we found to be the best photo and video products at Adobe MAX 2017.

Best software: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC

Well, duh. We couldn’t go to MAX and not expect to see great new things from the company that puts it on. Adobe unveiled many new tools and technologies at the show, but the completely redesigned Lightroom CC is the most important for photographers (and, perhaps, the most controversial).

With an emphasis on unifying interfaces across devices, Lightroom CC presents a completely revamped UI with a much sleeker, more modern appearance. compared to the previous version of the program (which lives on, rebranded as Lightroom Classic). In a live demonstration, Adobe showed how it was possible to seamlessly move from a Microsoft Surface Book 2 to an Apple iPad Pro to an iPhone 8, with all your photographs and settings synced across devices thanks to the cloud.

What’s more, every tool and setting that’s available in the desktop version is also available in the mobile versions, and because Adobe now stores your original RAW files in the cloud, you can produce high-quality edits on any device, anywhere. There are still some tools from Classic that have yet to make the move to CC, but knowing Adobe, we expect software updates will bring new features to the program regularly.

Longtime Lightroom users may struggle with the choice to stick with Lightroom Classic or switch to the new Lightroom CC, but fortunately the existing Creative Cloud Photography Plan includes both versions of the app, which should help ease the transition.

Best computer: Microsoft Surface Book 2

With oodles of power and a stunning display, Microsoft’s latest Surface Book is an incredibly capable notebook computer and tablet in one, the perfect mobile editing station for photographers. While we covered all the details in our Surface Book 2 hands-on review, one new tidbit of information at MAX is that Adobe now natively supports the Surface Dial in both Photoshop and Premiere Pro. As the Surface Book 2 also supports on-screen Dial controls, this gives photo and video creatives improved workflows when using the Surface Dial.

While the Surface Book 2 looks identical to the previous version, everything under the hood has changed. That doesn’t just mean more horsepower, but even the internal design of the hinge has changed. The new mechanism can better support the screen in any given position, which helps when using the Surface Dial on-screen, as otherwise you may inadvertently tilt the monitor.

Best input device: Logitech Craft Keyboard

On the surface, the new Logitech Craft Keyboard looks like a standard low-profile wireless keyboard with a copycat Surface Dial bolted on (Logitech calls it the creative input dial). In practice, it’s much more than that.

Logitech’s driver is context sensitive and includes specific commands for many applications. Press down on the dial to bring up a list of commands, then tap the side (it’s touch sensitive) to move through the list, and simply rotate the dial to adjust the selected parameter. In Adobe Photoshop, for example, you can adjust brush width and opacity (and much more) while in Google Chrome you can cycle through tabs.

In the former, the input dial allows frictionless rotation for smooth adjustments, while in the latter, a physical ratchet mechanism engages to provide satisfying tactile feedback. This may sound like a small detail, but it makes a huge difference in actual use and feels much better than the vibration-based haptic feedback of the Surface Dial.

Best camera: DJI Zenmuse X7

Yup, it’s a drone camera — designed to be used with the DJI Inspire 2 — but the Zenmuse X7 is an impressive imaging device by any standard. With a Super35 sensor that produces 6K RAW footage, it’s the lightest and smallest way to get true cinema quality aerial shots — and, at $2,700, it’s also one of the most affordable.

While we covered the details of the X7 when it launched, what we didn’t appreciate at the time was just how compact the system is. Seeing it in person was very impressive. DJI developed a new lens mount with bespoke lenses housed in carbon fiber, and each of the three primes available could fit in the palm of your hand.

Sadly, DJI wasn’t flying the Inspire 2 at the show — the company’s booth only had sufficient space for flying its smaller drones — so we didn’t get to see the X7 in action. Hopefully we can get our hands on a review model in the near future to see if its performance stacks up to its specs.

Best external storage: LaCie 2Big Dock

When the cloud just isn’t enough for, LaCie has you covered. Available in 12, 16, or 20-gigabyte capacities, the company’s latest two-drive RAID offers plenty of storage — but that’s not all. The Thunderbolt 3-equipped external drive also serves as a media dock, with both CompactFlash and SD card slots as well as a standard USB 3 input on the front for connecting thumb drives, cameras, or simply charging your phone.

The 2Big Dock houses two enterprise-class hard drives and offers speeds of up to 450 megabytes per second when in a RAID 0 configuration (which splits files across both drives). It can connect to a computer via Thunderbolt 2 or 3 (the latter of which uses a USB Type C port). When connected over Thunderbolt 3, the 2Big Dock provides sufficient power to keep a laptop charged, so that’s one less cable you’ll need.

Honorable mentions

With over 12,000 attendees, this was the biggest Adobe MAX show ever. There were numerous companies with cool and interesting products on display, and we simply weren’t able to spend enough time with all of them, but there a couple we should still draw attention to.

The HP ZBook X2 boasts impressive performance in a mobile workstation and uses a matte screen that is excellent for creative work, albeit a bit small for our tastes. The design isn’t what we’d call pretty, with large bezels and sharp angles that make it look like something out of Battlestar Galactica, but it does have plenty of features, including HP Quick Keys that control 18 shortcuts in Adobe apps. It can even power dual 4K displays when docked.

We also were impressed with Dell’s UltraSharp 32 8K monitor. In addition to incredible detail from its 7,680 x 4,320 pixel resolution, it provides excellent color and dynamic range thanks to 10-bit processing. At a little under $4,000, it’s certainly targeting high-end users — but that’s not half bad for all the quality and resolution it gives you.

Editor’s Recommendations

  • Photoshop 2018 now supports 360-degree photos, adds new design tools
  • Adobe unleashes a bevy of new and updated software at its largest conference to date
  • Here are the best free drawing software programs you can install right now
  • Illustrator will soon give designers up to 1,000 art boards to play with
  • Adobe’s new Lightroom leverages the cloud for cross-platform photo editing




21
Oct

6 best products showcased at Adobe MAX 2017 conference


The annual Adobe MAX show draws a huge crowd of creatives from all fields eager to learn about the latest innovations in Adobe’s products. But the show also attracts many big names in tech, from Google to Microsoft, who are eager to show off their new products to such a large audience of creative power users. After browsing the show floor, getting hands-on demos, and speaking with representatives, here are what we found to be the best photo and video products at Adobe MAX 2017.

Best software: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC

Well, duh. We couldn’t go to MAX and not expect to see great new things from the company that puts it on. Adobe unveiled many new tools and technologies at the show, but the completely redesigned Lightroom CC is the most important for photographers (and, perhaps, the most controversial).

With an emphasis on unifying interfaces across devices, Lightroom CC presents a completely revamped UI with a much sleeker, more modern appearance. compared to the previous version of the program (which lives on, rebranded as Lightroom Classic). In a live demonstration, Adobe showed how it was possible to seamlessly move from a Microsoft Surface Book 2 to an Apple iPad Pro to an iPhone 8, with all your photographs and settings synced across devices thanks to the cloud.

What’s more, every tool and setting that’s available in the desktop version is also available in the mobile versions, and because Adobe now stores your original RAW files in the cloud, you can produce high-quality edits on any device, anywhere. There are still some tools from Classic that have yet to make the move to CC, but knowing Adobe, we expect software updates will bring new features to the program regularly.

Longtime Lightroom users may struggle with the choice to stick with Lightroom Classic or switch to the new Lightroom CC, but fortunately the existing Creative Cloud Photography Plan includes both versions of the app, which should help ease the transition.

Best computer: Microsoft Surface Book 2

With oodles of power and a stunning display, Microsoft’s latest Surface Book is an incredibly capable notebook computer and tablet in one, the perfect mobile editing station for photographers. While we covered all the details in our Surface Book 2 hands-on review, one new tidbit of information at MAX is that Adobe now natively supports the Surface Dial in both Photoshop and Premiere Pro. As the Surface Book 2 also supports on-screen Dial controls, this gives photo and video creatives improved workflows when using the Surface Dial.

While the Surface Book 2 looks identical to the previous version, everything under the hood has changed. That doesn’t just mean more horsepower, but even the internal design of the hinge has changed. The new mechanism can better support the screen in any given position, which helps when using the Surface Dial on-screen, as otherwise you may inadvertently tilt the monitor.

Best input device: Logitech Craft Keyboard

On the surface, the new Logitech Craft Keyboard looks like a standard low-profile wireless keyboard with a copycat Surface Dial bolted on (Logitech calls it the creative input dial). In practice, it’s much more than that.

Logitech’s driver is context sensitive and includes specific commands for many applications. Press down on the dial to bring up a list of commands, then tap the side (it’s touch sensitive) to move through the list, and simply rotate the dial to adjust the selected parameter. In Adobe Photoshop, for example, you can adjust brush width and opacity (and much more) while in Google Chrome you can cycle through tabs.

In the former, the input dial allows frictionless rotation for smooth adjustments, while in the latter, a physical ratchet mechanism engages to provide satisfying tactile feedback. This may sound like a small detail, but it makes a huge difference in actual use and feels much better than the vibration-based haptic feedback of the Surface Dial.

Best camera: DJI Zenmuse X7

Yup, it’s a drone camera — designed to be used with the DJI Inspire 2 — but the Zenmuse X7 is an impressive imaging device by any standard. With a Super35 sensor that produces 6K RAW footage, it’s the lightest and smallest way to get true cinema quality aerial shots — and, at $2,700, it’s also one of the most affordable.

While we covered the details of the X7 when it launched, what we didn’t appreciate at the time was just how compact the system is. Seeing it in person was very impressive. DJI developed a new lens mount with bespoke lenses housed in carbon fiber, and each of the three primes available could fit in the palm of your hand.

Sadly, DJI wasn’t flying the Inspire 2 at the show — the company’s booth only had sufficient space for flying its smaller drones — so we didn’t get to see the X7 in action. Hopefully we can get our hands on a review model in the near future to see if its performance stacks up to its specs.

Best external storage: LaCie 2Big Dock

When the cloud just isn’t enough for, LaCie has you covered. Available in 12, 16, or 20-gigabyte capacities, the company’s latest two-drive RAID offers plenty of storage — but that’s not all. The Thunderbolt 3-equipped external drive also serves as a media dock, with both CompactFlash and SD card slots as well as a standard USB 3 input on the front for connecting thumb drives, cameras, or simply charging your phone.

The 2Big Dock houses two enterprise-class hard drives and offers speeds of up to 450 megabytes per second when in a RAID 0 configuration (which splits files across both drives). It can connect to a computer via Thunderbolt 2 or 3 (the latter of which uses a USB Type C port). When connected over Thunderbolt 3, the 2Big Dock provides sufficient power to keep a laptop charged, so that’s one less cable you’ll need.

Honorable mentions

With over 12,000 attendees, this was the biggest Adobe MAX show ever. There were numerous companies with cool and interesting products on display, and we simply weren’t able to spend enough time with all of them, but there a couple we should still draw attention to.

The HP ZBook X2 boasts impressive performance in a mobile workstation and uses a matte screen that is excellent for creative work, albeit a bit small for our tastes. The design isn’t what we’d call pretty, with large bezels and sharp angles that make it look like something out of Battlestar Galactica, but it does have plenty of features, including HP Quick Keys that control 18 shortcuts in Adobe apps. It can even power dual 4K displays when docked.

We also were impressed with Dell’s UltraSharp 32 8K monitor. In addition to incredible detail from its 7,680 x 4,320 pixel resolution, it provides excellent color and dynamic range thanks to 10-bit processing. At a little under $4,000, it’s certainly targeting high-end users — but that’s not half bad for all the quality and resolution it gives you.

Editor’s Recommendations

  • Photoshop 2018 now supports 360-degree photos, adds new design tools
  • Adobe unleashes a bevy of new and updated software at its largest conference to date
  • Here are the best free drawing software programs you can install right now
  • Illustrator will soon give designers up to 1,000 art boards to play with
  • Adobe’s new Lightroom leverages the cloud for cross-platform photo editing




21
Oct

Google’s annual report shows more web traffic is encrypted


For several years now, Google has been exerting pressure to increase the usage of HTTPS across the internet. By defaulting to secure connections on both ends, users can be protected from anyone who may intercept or even manipulate data as it flows back and forth. For its own products, Google says HTTPS use is up to 89 percent overall, up from just 50 percent at the beginning of 2014. The number of top 100 websites defaulting to HTTPS has nearly doubled since last year (way to catch up), growing from 37 to 71.

Now that Google is flagging websites that request data without securing the connection first, developers have even more reason to make the switch. In its Chrome browser, Google says 73 percent of pages in the US are now delivered with encryption. One thing holding back the numbers are older mobile devices that don’t support encryption due to their hardware, but you can get the full interactive chart breakdowns on Google’s report website.

Source: Google Blog

21
Oct

Apple’s Upgrade Program offers a ‘head start’ on iPhone X


While initial pre-orders for the iPhone X are still a week away from opening, some Apple die-hards will be able to get started early. Apple’s installment-based Upgrade Program that lets customers get a new phone every year will, just like it did with the launch of the iPhone 8 / 8 Plus, allow members to get their loan paperwork in order starting on Monday. Combined with the recently added mail-in return option for their old iPhones, it should make staying up to date easier than ever, even if it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be able to purchase the new OLED-screened device right away. For that, they’ll have to stay up until 3 AM ET Friday morning just like everyone else.

Via: MacRumors, 9to5Mac

Source: Apple

21
Oct

The best mountain bikes you can buy


Mountain biking has boomed in recent years and as a result, manufacturers have developed an increased number of specialized designs to appeal to this broad and nuanced market. With so many models to choose from, selecting your first mountain bike — or upgrading to a more sophisticated model — can be quite the inundating task.

From cornering ability to basic standover specifications, there are a slew of details to consider. While some downhill juggernauts may prefer a more advanced suspension system, the casual mountain biker or those new to the sport may only need a solid budget option for a weekend outing. That said, here are five of the best mountain bikes on the market.

Our pick

Kona Precept 150

Why should you buy this? The Precept 150 is a well-rounded mountain bike with one of the most sophisticated full-suspension systems we’ve seen in this pricing bracket.

Kona Precept 150

The Kona Precept 150 has been designed for an array of terrains with a top notch suspension system to boot.

$2,300.00 from Ride Online

Who it’s for? Individuals who want a versatile, comfortable mountain bike.

How much will it cost? $2,200

Why we chose the Kona Precept 150:

Kona is well known for its reactive, lightweight suspension systems and the Swinger Independent Suspension system on the Precept 150 is one of its best. Like its other suspension configurations, the Swinger arrangement uses a single-pivot design for maximum absorption and minimal weight. Rugged, wide pivots and large bearings withstand flexing better than daintier systems.

The Precept 150 comes with 27.5-inch wheels and a pair of not quite “fat” tapered head tubes. This unique tube design slightly flattens as the tire meets the trail for better contouring and traction. While longer chainstays increase stability at higher speeds, many riders — especially descent daredevils — often prefer shorter chainstays for their handling along corners. Fortunately, the Precept 150 has chainstays under 17-inches and with a bottom bracket height just over 13-inches, the Precept 150 looks and feels compact and low-profile.

The best hardtail

Norco Fluid 6.2 HT+

Why should you buy this? It’s a classic, low-maintenance hardtail model.

Norco Fluid 6.2HT+

You will certainly feel every inch of the descent with the Norco Fluid 6.2HT+, nonetheless, this hardtail was designed for the climb.

$1,350.00 from Norco

Who it’s for? Individuals who like a smooth climb.

How much will it cost? $1,350

Why we chose the Norco Fluid 6.2HT+:

The “hardtail versus full-suspension” debate is one of the more polarizing arguments in mountain biking. Needless to say, you can’t have an extensive list of the cross-spectrum preferences without mentioning both models, and the Norco Fluid 6.2 HT+ is one of our favorite hardtails.

While the real GoPro moments are almost always reserved for the descent, the critical ascent is just as important. With this in mind, the Norco Fluid 6.2 HT+ uses a short stem and low rear-end, allowing you to virtually pounce uphill. But don’t worry, this model plunges with the best of them. Short chainstays (17 inches), a rather sharp head angle (67.5 degrees), and super-wide — burgeoning on fat — 2.8-inch tires grip the trail, ramp up the cornering, and complement control on descents. If you’re a diehard-tailer, look no further.

The best power-assistance

Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6 Fattie

Why should you buy this? Because you should.

Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6Fattie

With an onboard motor and loaded with features, the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6 Fattie is quite literally more than just a mountain bike.

$4,500.00 from Specialized

Who it’s for? The early adopters who like their mountain bikes like their Ferraris.

How much will it cost? $4,500

Why we chose the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6 Fattie:

What’s not to love — except for the mouthful of a name — about the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6 Fattie? It’s part classic fat boy, part full-suspension, with intuitive motorized assistance. The Turbo Levo line of bikes all include a beast of a motor with up to 530 watts of power.

But this isn’t some push-button accelerator. Simply applying torque to the process (regardless of terrain) could easily result in a skid. On ascents or reckless, white-knuckled descents, a haphazard jolt of acceleration could quite literally steer you in the wrong direction. Fortunately, the Turbo Levo system uses a backend algorithm to sense your torque, speed, and cadence, then amplifies this sequence for maximum efficiency.

The bike uses a circular series of 10 lights along the frame to illustrate the battery life — each represents 10 percent of the total charge. In the center of this readout is a basic two-button interface allowing you to increase or decrease power. The Bluetooth-enabled system also connects to your smartphone via the Mission Control app. This allows you to finagle a range of motor dynamics from acceleration response to increasing turbo. Mission Control also tracks the metrics of your ride for those so inclined.

The Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6 Fattie isn’t a one-trick-pony, and the bike itself is a beefy (albeit lightweight) aluminum fat boy. The 18-inch chainstays keep your rear wheel close for the casual wheelie, while the 3-inch front and rear wheel tires add unparalleled traction. These tires increase the total surface friction but with the added Turbo Boost, the increased workload is easily accounted for and then some. Do you need a robo-bike? Absolutely not. Is it nice to the have the option to be partially chauffeured to the top of the trail? Yes. Yes, it is.

The best full-suspension

Kona Process 153 AL/DL

Why should you buy this? The Process 153 AL/DL offers the brand-new patented Beamer Independent Suspension, which is one of the most advanced full-suspension systems on the market.

Kona Process 153 AL/DL

The Rocker Suspension system on the Kona Process 153 AL/DL flexes with the trailhead and saves your knees — even on a downhill tour de forc…

Who it’s for? Individuals looking to upgrade from their first full-suspension model to a higher-end cornering and pure descent monster.

How much will it cost? $3,600

Why we chose the Kona Process 153 AL/DL:

The Process 153 AL/DL is part of Kona’s brand-new Process G2 (Second Generation) line which uses a patented Beamer Independent Suspension — a design that’s quickly being hailed as one of the best full-suspension systems on the market. The actuated shock along the top tube uses a single-pivot design for superior absorption and durability. This minimal motion, designed with wide pivots and oversized bearings, holds up against inevitable bowing, adding a hefty dose of durability. The Process 153 AL/DL climbs efficiently enough to please the cross-country enthusiast, while the overall suspension and short chainstays keep the earth firmly and evenly beneath your feet — even on full-throttle descents.

The bike is available in either 27.5 or 29-inch wheels, adding to its overall versatility. The Process 153 AL/DL achieves greater balance and control thanks to the incorporated tapered head tubes. The tube is wider at the head to more evenly absorb shock and more aptly grab the trail. Not just a safe bet, the Process 153 AL/DL is a jack-of-all-trades, more than capable of conquering the full gamut of terrains.

The best budget

Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29

Why should you buy this? Someone looking for more than a basic mountain bike without breaking the bank.

Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29

More than just a budget option, the Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29 is one of the best mountain bikes we’ve seen under $900.

$850.00 from Specialized

Who it’s for? The casual or beginner mountain biker.

How much will it cost? $850

Why we chose the Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29:

For those keeping count, that’s not one but two hardtails on the list. If you’re in the market for your first mountain bike, or you’re a casual rider in need of a more than a nuts-and-bolts model, the Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29 is a solid bet. The Rockhopper utilizes a classic minimalist hardtail design without coming across as wholly utilitarian. It is steady and firm on climbs, as are most hardtail designs.

While full-suspension packages keep you grounded and own the descent to a better degree, the bonus mechanical elements increase the price and propensity for extra wear and part replacement. Rather than perpetually upgrading components, this bike, priced under $900, should give you years of performance, so feel free to ride this baby quite literally into the ground.

On rougher trails, you’ll certainly feel every inch of the descent, and depending on your preference, that may or may not be a good thing. If you live for cornering or simply the love of the downhill grind, you’ll prefer one of the other full-suspension models on this list, however, the Rockhopper is certainly more than just a grocery-getter.

Other things to consider

Is now a good time to buy?

Now is definitely a great time to buy. Bike sales increase as the mountain biking season approaches. This often leaves consumers at the wrong end of the supply-and-demand spectrum.

Should I buy online or from a retailer/independent dealer?

This is a matter of preference. However, unlike online purchases, going with an independent dealer allows you to try and negotiate a lower price and/or haggle for bonus deal sweeteners such as accessories or basic upgrades.

Also, dealing with a retailer or an independent dealer allows you to see the bike in person and take it for a test-ride. While a bike may appear ideal on a website, it’s better to make sure the bike meets your height and reach requirements before making a purchase.

Editor’s Recommendations

  • The best mountain bikes under $500
  • Whether you prefer clipless or flat, these are the best mountain bike pedals you can buy
  • The best Bluetooth speakers you can buy
  • Conquer the mountain with the Pesu e-bike, now available on Kickstarter
  • The best crossovers you can buy




21
Oct

Vector plans three ‘microsatellite’ launches in Virginia


Virginia’s governor announced that microsatellite delivery company Vector has arranged a trio of launches from the state’s spaceport on Wallops Island. While the notice gave no information on the payloads or customers, they will be very small compared to typical commercial satellites: The company’s launch vehicle, the 39-foot Vector-R, can only carry 145 pounds into orbit.

As @13NewsNow says, our vehicle looks pretty good against blue sky and white sand beach. Vector will be back soon! https://t.co/3CsMHA6f34

— VECTOR (@vectorspacesys) October 20, 2017

That’s entirely the point. Most microsatellites that weigh a couple to just over a hundred pounds often must ride alongside and work around the schedules of big-budget customers putting several-ton payloads into orbit. Unlike Space X’s 230-foot Falcon 9, which carries up to 50,000 pounds into orbit, Vector’s smaller rocket is likely far more affordable and flexible — like paying for a charter plane that will go to any small airfield instead of buying a seat on a jumbo jet that can only go to major airports.

When last we saw Vector, they’d launched out of Camden, Georgia for a successful delivery to sub-orbital heights. The company, made of industry vets from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing and Sea Launch, seems aimed to supply the need for much smaller payloads that those bigger companies don’t service well. As for Virginia, this is a win for its Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) facility on Wallops Island; Vector has agreed to three launches there over the next 24 months with an option for five more.

Source: Virginia Governor’s office

21
Oct

Senators want to know if Apple fought back on China’s VPN ban


Apple CEO Tim Cook wasn’t pleased about pulling VPN software from the company’s App Store in China, but this July, it happened anyway. As a result, many users who once counted on such software to dodge the country’s Great Firewall were left to their own devices (and we’ve explored the situation at length here). Now, senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have called on Cook in a letter to explain in detail how that process went down, out of concern that Apple is “enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the internet.”

The letter (which can be read in full here) poses 10 questions to the Apple CEO. It asks (among other things) whether Apple formally commented on the Chinese government’s Cybersecurity Law when it was presented as a first draft, whether Chinese authorities requested Apple removed the VPN apps, whether Apple has made any attempt to reintroduce said apps, and how many apps were removed in total. (A report from the BBC when the apps first disappeared put the count at around 60.)

Apple hasn’t issued an official statement on the matter yet, and our request for comment was met with a transcript of Cook’s statement on the issue during the company’s August 1st earnings call. The thrust of that statement can be summed up in one line: “We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business.”

In other words, Apple complied with the (arguably abhorrent) policy of another country because it makes a lot of money there. That’s not likely to change anytime soon, either. The Greater China region (which also includes Hong Kong and Taiwan) has been known to make or break quarterly earnings reports, and mainland China’s middle class is only continuing to grow in size and importance. According to a report from The Economist Intelligence Unit last year, nearly 35 percent of the country is expected full under the “upper middle-income” and “high income” umbrellas by 2030 — that works out to around 480 million people, essentially all of whom will need smartphones.

Cook hopes that these restrictions will be eased over time, but yeah, of course Apple aligned itself with Beijing on this one. The cash incentives here are no joke. The real ammunition that senators Cruz and Leahy have seized on is that Apple seems to embody two reputations that often seem antithetical to each other: that of a shrewd corporate tactician, and that of a principled company willing to take a stand on the important issues of the day. The former has stowed over $230 billion in what The Telegraph calls “offshore subsidiaries” in hopes that it’ll one day be able to bring it back to the US without paying an obscene tax bill. The latter is centered around a CEO that won a Free Expression award earlier this year, who said in his acceptance that Apple “defends [the freedom of expression] by enabling people around the world to speak up.”

We’ll monitor the situation and update this story if Apple explicitly responds to the letter.

21
Oct

Create spiffy video game streams using the new Razer webcam and mic


Why it matters to you

Video and audio quality make all the difference for streamers. The new Razer webcam and mic offer a big head start.

For upcoming video game streamers, competing with seasoned players is an uphill battle. In order to separate from other beginners, the biggest advantage is high-quality video and audio. In order to nurture budding streamers, Razer revealed two new additions to its Razer Broadcaster product line. With the Kiyo webcam and the Seiren X microphone, gamers can create a professional-level stream.

When it comes to watching streams, people like to see the player’s reactions. To show every detail, the Kiyo desktop camera features an adjustable ring light. Without additional accessories, streamers get high image quality with improved lighting. Lighting changes in any environment due to weather and time change. Kiyo’s 12 levels of brightness help maintain the ideal look no matter the conditions.

As many gamers would agree, video framerate is important. At 720p, the Kiyo webcam outputs at 60 frames per second and users can increase the resolution up to 1080p at the cost of lowering the framerate to 30 fps. Additionally, fast and accurate autofocus will make sure that streamers stand out from their backgrounds. Out of the box, the Razer Kiyo comes compatible with popular streaming software including Open Broadcaster Software and XSplit.

Great visuals mean nothing when the audio sounds like mud. The Seiren X mic is a professional-grade USB condenser microphone with a built-in shock mount.  This protects the stream from picking up accidental knocks and bumps when things get exciting. It also uses a super cardioid pickup pattern to record sound at a tighter and more precise angle. This reduces background noise like noisy pets or the television downstairs.

To ensure ease of use while maintaining important features, Razer used input from both professional and grassroots video game streamers around the world.

“Streaming has become an integral part of the gaming community,” Razer co-founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan said in a statement. “We took a hard look at what streamers really needed, and engineered products to support those specific use cases. The result are products that produce professional-quality streams while remaining accessible to beginner users.”

Both the Razer Kiro webcam and the Razer Seiren X are available through Razer’s website for $100 each.

Editor’s Recommendations

  • Have something you need to share? Here’s how to record your computer screen
  • Wowza ClearCaster brings professional-quality broadcasts to Facebook Live
  • Razer attacks the Xbox One Elite Controller with its vicious Wolverine Ultimate
  • Here are our picks for the best streaming device in any scenario
  • Meet the Samsung 360 Round, a pro-level 360 with 3D and impressive live-streams




21
Oct

Photo editor Macphun Luminar will soon add a Lightroom-like organizer tool


Why it matters to you

The Photoshop alternative will soon also replace Lightroom features without a subscription price.

Hundreds of thousands of digital photographs require more than just a fancy file folder system — Macphun, the developers behind Luminar, will soon be launching its own digital asset manager to organize, then edit all those RAW images. The tool, designed to compete with Adobe Lightroom, will be integrated into Luminar sometime during 2018.

Macphun is teasing the added feature with a pre-release look at some of the features the new tool will offer, shared on Thursday, October 19. The update will give Luminar both a “browse” and a “develop” section, giving the photo editor management tools, too. The sneak peek shows an album organization, along with options for favorites and recently modified images.

Integrating photo libraries into the existing Luminar RAW photo editor will give the software both organizing and editing tools. While Luminar is a Photoshop competitor, the change will also make the program a Lightroom competitor as well. Macphun says the assets manager will work on hard-drive stored photos, or with any cloud storage system, and, unlike Adobe’s option, is available for a one-time payment for $69 instead of a subscription.

The added organizational tool will be part of a free update launched next year, while access to some of the new features in Luminar 2018 Supernova begins in November. The updates include a new tool to add a control for artificial sun rays that, unlike just brushing them on, brightens the surrounding area as real sunlight does as well. Additional new filters include dodge and burn, hue shift, brilliance, and a matte option.

Macphun says that Look Up Tables Support will also launch with the new version, which will allow users to convert Lightroom presets for use in Luminar.

Luminar also works as a plug-in for Lightroom, mixing Adobe’s management system with new tools, including Luminar’s digital polarizing filter, golden hour filter and artificially intelligent “Accent A.I.” one-click edit. Adobe’s move to split Lightroom into two programs, however, affects plug-in programs — while plug-ins continue to remain compatible with Classic, they aren’t compatible with the new Lightroom CC.

Luminar 2018 also brings the Windows version out of beta testing and into public availability after several years of being a Mac-only program. Macphun says they will be releasing more details about the new digital asset manager soon, with more sneak peeks for guests at the Photo Plus expo in New York City next week.

Editor’s Recommendations

  • Adobe’s new Lightroom leverages the cloud for cross-platform photo editing
  • Photoshop will soon make curvy selections even easier with a new tool
  • Illustrator will soon give designers up to 1,000 art boards to play with
  • Here’s what HEIF and HEVC are, and why they’ll improve your iPhone with iOS 11
  • What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?




21
Oct

Crowdfunding conundrum: Why The Magic Device You Backed May Never Show Up


In recent months, I’ve gotten emails from backers of three different Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns. I wrote articles about all three products back in 2015, and none of them have shipped. They’re three very different pieces of hardware, but according to some of the creators, each product had a few hiccups in common. While crowdfunding fails get a lot of attention, even products that eventually make their way into backers’ hands often take longer than expected to arrive. Both Indiegogo and Kickstarter say they aim to ensure those giving money get satisfactory outcomes, but due to the nature of the business, things don’t always turn out that way.

The first thing backers should know about Kickstarter and Indiegogo is how they handle manufactured products, which is the focus of this article (as opposed to art, film, and other such projects). While the Kickstarter review process requires creators to show a working prototype, Indiegogo lets people launch products that are in the concept phase. In September, the platform made a change that requires projects to list what stage it’s in: concept, prototype, manufacturing, or shipping. Before that, entrepreneurs could submit a dream, a video, and some renderings without explaining that they didn’t really have any idea if their “Flamdoozler” would work. Sometimes, even if a campaign has a convincing prototype, it doesn’t mean it’s not a scam.

Don’t Read the comments

Backers often feel they’ve been taken for a ride when outcomes don’t meet expectations. If a campaign promises to ship in April 2016, they’ll likely be given some leeway, but backers will definitely be looking for answers come May of the next year. (You can watch the comments go from excitement to impatience to name-calling with a quick scroll.)

The Drumi foot-powered washer launched an Indiegogo campaign in November of 2015, with an expected ship date of July 2016. By December of 2015, Yirego, the company behind the electricity-free device, had already made some design updates. It’s gone through version after version (seven, according to the company), and the expected ship date came and went. Once Yirego finalized the design, it ran into other issues.

“No manufacturer has had any prior experience making a product like Drumi because it is so new and different,” Petal Wang of Yirego told Digital Trends in an email. “Our engineers worked around the clock with them to come up with different solutions to concur [sic] the technical challenges and figure out the specifications of the hundreds of unique parts that require their own custom build mold or tool.”

She sent an email to backers in late September saying the Drumi is finally in production but without an exact ship date.

“We definitely push creators to communicate often”

The last update on the Drumi Indiegogo page is from February 2017. In September, Indiegogo made it a requirement that campaigners post monthly updates. With that mandate, it seems like the platform is pushing creators to be up front about everything. It’s unlikely there will be new features to announce every month, but there are likely to be a good deal of problems and setbacks.

“We definitely push creators to communicate often,” Julio Terra, the director of Kickstarter’s Technology and Design Outreach program, told Digital Trends. “As you can imagine, our support team gets tons of support requests from backers of various products.”

Campaigners should share the good and the bad with backers, he said. Often the people creating the products are part of very small teams, and it’s common for backers’ comments to go unanswered. Wang of Yirego admitted that she has been focused on the product and is “little behind in providing updates to our customer and subscribers.”

Where’s my trash can?

Some creators seem to prefer emailing updates to backers as opposed to posting them on the crowdfunding sites. This leaves a lot of backers frustrated when they don’t seem to make it onto these email lists. That was the case with one backer who contacted me about the Bruno Smartcan. The garbage can has built-in suction, and the idea is you sweep debris toward the Bruno, eliminating the need for a dust pan. Bruno launched on Kickstarter in April 2015 and reached its funding goal with shipping expected to start in October of the same year. Before the promised ship date, however, Poubelle, the company behind Bruno, also launched another fundraiser for the Smartcan on Indiegogo.

The company did not meet its crowdfunding goal there, but backers who did give money were told to expect their cans in February 2016. (Kickstarter’s rules won’t allow a creator to start a second project or get a second round of funding for the same project if they haven’t delivered to their first backers, which is why they also launched on Indiegogo.) In May of this year, Bruno creator Jim Howard said the company would announce a new manufacturer in the coming weeks and start shipping this fall. In August, Howard sent another email saying they would be signing another manufacturing contract in two weeks and would update on Kickstarter when that happened. The company’s last Kickstarter post is from May – nothing since. The company is still taking pre-orders on its site, and now promises that the item will ship in December. That doesn’t seem to satisfy backers, though.

Your “website now says preorders expected delivery December 2017,” wrote Ryan Easton on Indiegogo’s website on August 23. “What does that mean for the Kickstarter backers? I am going to be shocked if retail preorders ship at the same time as ours… wait no I wont because you have not been updating the user base with actual time lines or progress reports.”

Help, please

Both Indiegogo and Kickstarter are trying to combat manufacturing issues in a few ways. In May, Kickstarter announced Hardware Studio, its partnerships with electronic components distributor Avnet and Dragon Innovation, which develops manufacturing plans. The Hardware Studio Toolkit has webinars, tutorials, and case studies to help creators learn from past successes. If manufacturers are at a fairly advanced stage in the development process, creators can apply to work with engineers from Avnet and Dragon to get guidance on issues they’re having. The two companies each offer something different, Terra said. Avnet has insight into the hardware side and can help a campaigner avoid choosing a chip that’s about to be discontinued or is low on stock at the moment.

Even big-name campaigners can run into trouble.

“All of a sudden you might be waiting six months just to receive delivery of a component that ends up holding up the entire manufacturing progress,” Terra said. “These are all things that first-time creators have a real struggle with.”

Indiegogo has similar partners, like electronics company Arrow, IBM for software solutions, and Riverwood Solutions for manufacturing consultations. Brookstone can also get involved with products all the way through selling them at their stores. Indiegogo tends to invite creators whose products are at all different levels of production, including those are that are ready to ship. It also attracts big companies that want to try unique, untested ideas. It’s where GE Appliances’ FirstBuild successfully raised money for its Paragon induction cooktop and Opal nugget ice maker.

Sadly FirstBuild’s Prisma cold-brew coffee maker fell just short of its goal, which proves that even big-name campaigners can run into trouble. Westinghouse went to Indiegogo to launch its Nucli smart lock. A sort of doorbell-lock combo you can open with your fingerprint, it certainly seemed like an ambitious project when it debuted in September 2015. Considering it was slated for delivery just three months later and Westinghouse has experience manufacturing locks, it seemed like a safe campaign to back. It’s been almost two years since the last campaign update. I reached out to Westinghouse several times and didn’t hear back until I spoke with Indiegogo. At the end of September, Westinghouse CEO Trey Mosier sent the following email to backers (and me):

“We appreciate your support and feedback regarding the NUCLI development. The team is committed to moving this project forward with the development of a reliable product. At this point, NUCLI does not yet meet our quality expectations. We will continue to work towards the goal of developing a product that meets our standards and will provide you updates as we have them. Thank you for your patience.”

There are now more than 1,000 comments on Nucli’s Indiegogo page, with most of the most recent ones expressing frustration with the lack of updates and availability of the product.

“The Westinghouse name is what made me contribute to this project,” wrote Brian Hilbern a few weeks ago. “Their name is still associated with this product so I hope they will be willing to do something about it.”

1,000 percent funded

While both crowdfunding platforms are working to improve the success rate, it doesn’t seem like they’ll ever be foolproof. With innovation comes risk. You’re not buying a product, you’re backing an idea, is the crowdfunders’ philosophy, but backers may not necessarily see it that way. Some people will never feel comfortable handing over their money for something they may never see, but there are ways to back projects that will have a higher chance of succeeding, Terra said. Look at the creators’ experience. Ask questions about where they are in the terms of production, the process of creating the prototypes, and whether they’ve talked to factories about manufacturing. Terra said campaigners should be willing to answer.

“One of the things we do see is that products that embrace openness and are willing to talk about it, that’s a really strong sign of that creator’s preparedness,” he said. Yet even if the creator thinks they have their timeline nailed down, there are always what Terra calls wildcards.

Products can actually be too successful. If a device blows past its goal, selling 10,000 units instead of 1,000, the creator has some work to do. While they have more money, the factory they lined up may not be equipped for that volume. There may not be enough of a certain component to fulfill all the orders. It won’t necessarily lead to disaster, but you probably shouldn’t expect to get your product sooner just because the creator now has 10 times the money he or she asked for.

These sorts of issues are why I always include “backer beware” on any crowdfunding article I write. Most people with a brilliant idea and slick video probably aren’t out to scam you, but they may not know the ins and outs of manufacturing and production, either. If something does catch your eye on a crowdfunding site, do some research but don’t necessarily dismiss it just because it’s not a guarantee. Backing something from prototype to finished product does offer something unique.

“Once this thing shows up, you know an awful lot about where it came from and all the sweat that went into it, versus something an iPhone, which is just this magical device that drops from the sky,” said David Gallagher, Kickstarter’s director of communications.

Editor’s Recommendations

  • Indiegogo now offers a marketplace where you can buy its coolest stuff
  • These crazy headphones let you record immersive 3D soundscapes anywhere
  • GoSun Go solar-powered grill can cook up a meal, even on a cloudy day
  • Store your beer and charge your phone with Sobro — a high-tech coffee table
  • Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: 8K VR, smoke-free fires, a drone for your home




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