Amazon is swallowing its pride to ensure its internet satellites get to orbit on time

18 hours 40 minutes ago

Amazon announced on Friday that it’s signed a contract with SpaceX to deliver batches of its Project Kuiper satellites to low Earth orbit in 2025. SpaceX is undoubtedly Amazon’s biggest competitor as it breaks into the satellite internet space, and already has a constellation of over 4,000 Starlink satellites in operation. It’s also a rival of Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos that has its own rockets in development. But when it comes to launches, SpaceX’s pace and the reliability of its Falcon 9 rocket is unmatched.

The contract with SpaceX is for three Falcon 9 launches, Amazon said in a blog post. They’re expected to lift off in mid-2025. Amazon is planning to start customer pilots of its Project Kuiper satellite internet service by the end of next year, and will soon start deploying the fleet that will support it. It launched its first two prototype satellites in October. The company already has deals for upcoming launches on United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan rocket, Arianespace’s Ariane 6 and Blue Origin’s New Glenn — all of which have been hit by development delays and may or may not make their first flights between this year and next.

Amazon said in its announcement that “the additional launches with SpaceX offer even more capacity to support our deployment schedule.” The company has said its Project Kuiper constellation will consist of 3,236 satellites, at least half of which must be in operation by summer 2026 to comply with its FCC license.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Cheyenne MacDonald

23andMe hackers accessed ancestry information on millions of customers using a feature that matches relatives

20 hours 11 minutes ago

An SEC filing has revealed more details on a data breach affecting 23andMe users that was disclosed earlier this fall. The company says its investigation found hackers were able to access the accounts of roughly 0.1 percent of its userbase, or about 14,000 of its 14 million total customers, TechCrunch notes. On top of that, the attackers were able to exploit 23andMe’s opt-in DNA Relatives (DNAR) feature, which matches users with their genetic relatives, to access information about millions of other users. A 23andMe spokesperson told Engadget that hackers accessed the DNAR profiles of roughly 5.5 million customers this way, plus Family Tree profile information from 1.4 million DNA Relative participants.

DNAR Profiles contain sensitive details including self-reported information like display names and locations, as well as shared DNA percentages for DNA Relatives matches, family names, predicted relationships and ancestry reports. Family Tree profiles contain display names and relationship labels, plus other information that a user may choose to add, including birth year and location. When the breach was first revealed in October, the company said its investigation “found that no genetic testing results have been leaked.” 

According to the new filing, the data “generally included ancestry information, and, for a subset of those accounts, health-related information based upon the user’s genetics.” All of this was obtained through a credential-stuffing attack, in which hackers used login information from other, previously compromised websites to access those users’ accounts on other sites. In doing this, the filing says, “the threat actor also accessed a significant number of files containing profile information about other users’ ancestry that such users chose to share when opting in to 23andMe’s DNA Relatives feature and posted certain information online.”

Following the discovery of the breach, 23andMe instructed affected users to change their passwords and later rolled out two-factor authentication for all of its customers. In another update on Friday, 23andMe said it had completed the investigation and is notifying everyone who was affected. The company also wrote in the filing that it “believes that the threat actor activity is contained,” and is working to have the publicly-posted information taken down.

Update, December 2 2023, 7:03PM ET: This story has been updated to include information provided by a 23andMe spokesperson on the scope of the breach and the number of DNA Relative participants affected.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Cheyenne MacDonald

Amazon just dropped the first teaser trailer for its Fallout series

22 hours 48 minutes ago

Amazon has released the first official teaser trailer for Fallout, its upcoming live-action series based on the best-selling video games. The clip gives us a look at Amazon’s take on the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and Yellowjackets actor Ella Purnell emerging from Vault 33 to meet it for the first time. The series will be set in Los Angeles 200 years after a nuclear war brought Earth to ruins.

The trailer arrives a few days after Amazon released stills from the show, now showing a deeper look at the characters and the horrors they’ll encounter in the wastes. And it so far seems a promising indication of how the series will approach its well-loved source material. 

Starring alongside Purnell, Fallout also features Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight) as a breakout ghoul, Aaron Moten (Emancipation) as a member of the Brotherhood of Steel and Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) as a vault overseer. There’s also a dog named CX404, which we see in the video and in marketing materials toting around a severed hand. Fallout comes out on Prime Video on April 12 next year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Cheyenne MacDonald

OpenAI’s GPT Store won’t be released until 2024

1 day ago

OpenAI is pushing the launch of its GPT Store to early 2024, according to an email seen by The Verge. The company introduced its GPT Builder tool in early November at its first developer conference, giving subscribers an easy way to create their own custom AI bots. At the time, OpenAI also said it would soon release the GPT Store for users to list their GPTs and potentially make money from them. It was initially slated for a November launch. But, with the surprise ouster of OpenAI’s since-reinstated CEO Sam Altman, the month didn’t quite pan out as planned.

“In terms of what’s next, we are now planning to launch the GPT Store early next year,” OpenAI said in its email to GPT Builder users on Friday. “While we had expected to release it this month, a few things have been keeping us unexpectedly busy!” The email also notes that the company has been making improvements to GPTs based on users’ feedback, and says some updates to ChatGPT are on the way.

OpenAI has been in the process of reorganizing its leadership following the turmoil of the past few weeks. The company confirmed on Wednesday that Altman was back as CEO, with Mira Murati now in place as CTO and Greg Brockman as President. It also announced the formation of a new initial board, which includes representation from Microsoft — its biggest investor — as a non-voting observer.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Cheyenne MacDonald

The Morning After: Google's geothermal power plant in the desert and more

1 day 3 hours ago

Sorry to interrupt your Saturday, but did you somehow miss that Google made a geothermal energy plant in the middle of Nevada? You know, that place with all the water for turbines? Or the incredibly dumb way security researchers were able to pull private information from ChatGPT? This week's YouTube-coated version of TMA covers that and getting far too enthusiastic (or entirely non-plussed) about all these other things from this week in tech.

This week:

Read this:

Not everything on Engadget benefits from heavy paraphrasing and a guy talking at a camera for under 10 minutes. This week, take a look at this great profile of the growth, growth and further growth of ChatGPT, OpenAI's chatbot. It reframed generative AI for the wider public, and had the biggest tech companies scrambling to catch up. And that was just its first year.

Like email more than video? Subscribe right here for daily reports, direct to your inbox.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Mat Smith

Walmart says it’s no longer advertising on X

1 day 19 hours ago

Walmart has seen enough from X. The retailer, America’s single biggest employer and largest company by revenue, told Reuters on Friday it’s no longer advertising on the platform formerly known as Twitter. The departure follows owner Elon Musk amplifying antisemitic posts and flinging expletives at fleeing advertisers. “We aren’t advertising on X as we’ve found other platforms to better reach our customers,” a Walmart spokesperson told Reuters.

Walmart’s exit adds to a growing list of companies that have pulled ads from the platform. Apple, Disney, IBM, Comcast and Warner Bros. Discovery are among the businesses no longer buying ads on X. A group of advertisers told The New York Times on Thursday their temporary pauses will likely become permanent. “There is no advertising value that would offset the reputational risk of going back on the platform,” Lou Paskalis, CEO of marketing consultancy AJL Advisory, told the paper.

X’s former advertisers had no shortage of reasons to jump ship. Musk’s latest series of self-inflicted wounds began when the billionaire appeared to endorse and amplify a post falsely claiming Jewish communities were stoking hatred against white people. Musk replied to the user who spewed the racist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, saying their comments reflected “the actual truth.”

Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

Watchdog group Media Matters then published a report showing ads from well-known brands placed next to antisemitic content. X responded by suing the organization, accusing it of “knowingly and maliciously [manufacturing] side-by-side images depicting advertisers’ posts on X Corp.’s social media platform beside Neo-Nazi and white national fringe content.”

Musk’s attempt to smooth things over only made things worse. After apologizing for amplifying the antisemitic content at The New York Times’ DealBook event, he told advertisers backing off of the platform to “Go fuck yourself.” His company now potentially stands to lose $75 million.

Walmart employs around 1.6 million people in the US. The retailer made $611 billion in revenue in the 2023 fiscal year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Will Shanklin

The Game Awards raises an old question: What does indie mean?

1 day 20 hours ago

The Game Awards got it wrong this year. One of the titles nominated for Best Independent Game, Dave the Diver, was produced by Nexon, one of the largest video game studios in South Korea. No matter how hard you squint, it is not indie. Dave the Diver is an excellent pixel-art game about deep-sea fishing and restaurant management, but it was commissioned and bankrolled by Nexon subsidiary Mintrocket, with billions of dollars and decades of experience at its back.

When The Game Awards nominees were announced on November 13, fans were quick to point out the error, and the recurring debate over what “indie” means was reignited. Taehwan Kim, Nexon’s overseer of Mintrocket, weighed in on November 14, saying Dave the Diver “may look like an indie, but it's not necessarily the case.” The official tweet listing the nominees for Best Independent Game now carries a reader-generated context tag reading, “Dave the Diver is not an indie game. Mintrocket, the game's developer, is a subsidiary of Korea's biggest game company Nexon. They are not independent in any sense of the word.”


A discussion around the definition of “indie” bubbled up throughout November, but it raised more questions than it answered. One common conclusion was that the media outlets who voted Dave the Diver into the independent category were fooled by its pixel art, a style that’s associated with indie games. During a live Q&A on Twitch on November 26, The Game Awards organizer Geoff Keighley argued that “independent” was a broad term with an unknowable definition, before essentially saying Dave the Diver’s inclusion in the indie category was the jury’s fault.

Specifically, Keighley said the following: “It’s independent in spirit and [it’s] a small game with a, I don’t know what the budget is, but it's probably a relatively small-budget game. But it is from a larger entity, whereas there are other games on that list that are from much smaller studios. Even like Dredge I think is published by Team17, so is that independent or not because you have a publisher? It’s a really complicated thing to figure out and come up with strict rules around it, so kinda we let people use their best judgment. And you can agree or disagree with the choices, but the fact that Dave the Diver was on that list meant that, out of all the independent games the jury looked at, or what they thought were independent games, that was one of the top five they looked at this year.”

The jury comprises 120 media outlets (Engadget has traditionally been one of these, but we did not participate in voting this year and look what happened), so Keighley is chalking the mistake up to mass hysteria and moving on. Meanwhile, there’s still little consensus on what constitutes an indie game, at The Game Awards or elsewhere.


I’ve reported on video games for 13 years and indies are a central theme of my coverage. I ran The Joystiq Indie Pitch back in the day, and I’ve made a concerted effort to write about smaller games from creators working outside of the mainstream machine, because these are the experiences that speak to me personally. The indie scene is the source of the industry’s magic. This isn’t just a debate about language — “indie” is a distinction that identifies which games and teams need outside support to survive and expand on their innovations. Understanding the label can help players make decisions about where to spend their money, the lifeblood of any game-development studio.

All that to say, the debate over the definition of “indie” is not new, but it is constantly changing, and it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating. So, I’m here to offer guidance on the question of what makes an indie game or studio indie. It is a weirdly complicated topic and my approach is one of many, but the loose framework I use could help resolve some common, recurring arguments. 

Basically — it’s all about the system, man.

I’m joking, but also I’m not. Generally, when I’m trying to decide whether something is actually indie, I rotate through three questions:

  1. Is the team on the mainstream system’s payroll?

  2. Is the game or team owned by a platform holder?

  3. Do the artists have creative control?

The first question is about identifying where a studio’s money is coming from and what kind of support a game has outside of sales. If a team is wholly owned by another company of any size, it is not indie. We’re not talking about publishing deals; this opening question is about acquisitions or subsidiaries of bigger studios. Dave the Diver is a prime example here — it’s developed by Mintrocket, a subsidiary of Nexon that was created just to develop more contained, experimental games for the publisher. Dave the Diver is definitely not indie, and we’re only on question one.

The second query feeds into the first, and it’s helpful in making fine distinctions about games that exist in gray areas. What about something like Cyberpunk 2077? It’s a big-budget game built by CD Projekt RED (CDPR) — a studio that, at first glance, seems like it could be indie. However, there are two factors that take it out of the running for me. First, CD Projekt, the umbrella organization that supports CDPR’s game-making, is a publicly traded company with shareholders and a board to answer to. Second, CD Projekt is the owner of GOG, a distribution hub that allows the studio to sell its own games and DLC outside of Steam and the Epic Games Store. This ability to sell directly to players at massive scale takes CD Projekt out of the indie realm. Generally, companies with the most influence and money are console makers and platform holders like Valve, Xbox, PlayStation, Epic Games, Ubisoft, EA, and, yes, CD Projekt. They are the AAA system, and anything they own is not indie.


Lastly, on to publishers. Sorry, Keighley, but securing a publisher has very little to do with whether a game is indie nowadays. We’re blessed in 2023 to have a thriving indie industry constantly pushing against the AAA complex with different goals, more diverse voices and a broader sense of innovation — and publishing is a big part of this system. Today, indie-focused publishers (of which there are many) tend to include clauses that protect a developer’s creative vision, preventing the larger company from interfering with artistic decisions and keeping the game indie to the core. Once upon a time, it might’ve made sense to only consider self-published games indie, but that era is long gone.

The indie scene has evolved massively since the early 2010s, when games like Braid, Super Meat Boy and Fez were carving out the market’s modern form. Back then, self-publishing was all the rage for independent developers because it was often their only option, and as a result there were more distinct lines between AAA, AA and indie games. Devolver Digital found its first breakout hit as an indie publisher with Hotline Miami in 2012, and that’s around the time the floodgates opened. In 2014, as the industry’s largest companies started funding and publishing programs for them, the number of indie games skyrocketed across platforms including Steam (remember Greenlight?), the App Store, Xbox, PlayStation and Ouya (RIP).

Today, indie games come standard on every console. There are multiple indie-focused publishers, including Devolver, Annapurna Interactive, Panic, Raw Fury, Team17 and Netflix, and most of them offer complete creative freedom as a main selling point. Meanwhile, platform holders like Sony and Xbox are hungry to sign distribution deals with developers of all sizes in an effort to score exclusives and pad their streaming libraries. It’s the most stable (and crowded) the indie scene has ever been. Having a publisher has no bearing on whether a game is indie.

Being owned by a publisher, however, changes everything (see question one). This is more of a concern than ever, as platform holders like Microsoft, Sony and Epic Games have recently been buying studios they like, no matter their size. Hell, even Devolver has dipped its toes in the acquisition pond recently — which, yeah, means those teams are no longer indie.


The “indie” label is transitory. Certain studios can be indie but an individual game may not be, and plenty of small companies flow between states as they age and take advantage of growth opportunities. Bungie, for example, started out as an independent outfit, then it was absorbed by the AAA complex under Xbox, and then it broke free and was briefly indie again, before Sony pulled it back into the mainstream system’s cold embrace.

So, yeah, that's my way of determining if a game or studio is indie. By all means, take my triplet of questions and have fun trying to break the logic — it probably won't take long. There is no perfect structure here and there are plenty of outliers within my own framework. Alan Wake II, according to my questions, would be considered an indie game — but its developer, Remedy Entertainment, is a publicly traded company, which brings shareholders and a board of directors. This pushes the studio and the game into The System for me, but honestly, I’m still unsure about those labels as I type this. That’s OK — when all else fails, look inside your game-loving soul and ask, can this team exist without my support? (Alan Wake II, for what it’s worth, is a delicious and unique experience that’s worth playing, regardless of your feelings on Remedy's shareholders).

Does Mintrocket need my support to keep Dave the Diver and its creative team going? Probably not, and definitely not in the same way as Larian Studios, the independent developer and publisher of Baldur’s Gate 3. Baldur’s Gate 3 is an excellent, expansive 3D adventure from an indie studio and it’s up for Game of the Year at The Game Awards, but it was snubbed in the Best Independent Game category. Meanwhile, Dave the Diver, a cute title backed by billions of dollars, is up for the indie award, but not Game of the Year. It seems like The Game Awards jury made the classic mistake of seeing pixel art and immediately calling it indie. That’s an unforced error, but it reveals one point where we can all agree:

Indie is not an aesthetic.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Jessica Conditt

Google’s new AI experiment composes abstract musical clips inspired by instruments

1 day 20 hours ago

Google’s new generative AI experiment lets you create music “inspired by” over 100 instruments worldwide. Instrument Playground starts by asking for a simple prompt containing a musical instrument’s name, optionally preceded by an adjective like “upbeat,” “strange” or “gloomy.” It will then spit out a 20-second audio clip as a starting point to compose (often extremely offbeat or abstract) music that may or may not include the sound of the specific instrument you entered.

Simon Doury, an Artist in Residence at Google Arts & Culture Lab, designed the experiment. It taps into Google’s MusicLM, a text-to-AI tool it made available to the public in May.

Instrument Playground invites you to “choose one of over 100 instruments from around the world you’d like to play,” suggesting some lesser-known to Americans like the veena from India, dizi from China or mbria from Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, prefixing your instrument prompt with an adjective lets you suggest styles like “moody,” “happy” or “romantic.”

The experiment works less literally than you might expect. For example, “angry tuba” doesn’t generate the aggressive brass solo you’d expect. Instead, it sounds more like a synthesized pipe organ with tuba aspirations. Similarly, “strange didgeridoo” came out like an ominous section of a Hans Zimmer score. The results seem like abstract compositions with layers of sound that (sort of) capture the feeling — more than the specific sound — of the prompt.

It also rejects some adjectives for inexplicable reasons. When I enter “quirky” or “psychedelic,” an error pop-up tells me it doesn’t allow prompts referencing specific artists.

Once the experiment generates a clip you like for a starting point, you can choose from “Ambient,” “Beat” and “Pitch” to control different aspects of the composition, turning it into something more uniquely yours. If you want to add more instruments (or whatever sounds it makes in response to instrument-based prompts), an advanced mode opens a sequencer to layer and loop up to four tracks for your oddball musical masterpiece. Finally, you can download a .wav file of your track once you’re happy with it.

Google included the following holiday-themed example to inspire you to get started. If that looks like something you want to play with, you can visit Instrument Playground and log in with your Google account to begin composing.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Will Shanklin

What did an iPhone camera do to this poor woman's arms?

1 day 20 hours ago

A woman was photographed standing in front of two mirrors with an iPhone camera, but the actual photo shows three completely different arm positions. The arms are in different locations in mirror number one, mirror number two and in actual real life. Is it Photoshop? Is it a glitch in the Matrix? Did the woman take a 25-year trip inside of Twin Peak’s black lodge? No, it’s just a computational photography error, but it still makes for one heck of an image.

It all comes down to how modern smartphone cameras deal with photography. When you click that camera button, billions of computational operations occur in an instant, resulting in a photo you can post online in hopes of getting a few thumbs up. In this case, Apple’s software didn’t realize there was a mirror in the shot, so it treated each version of the subject as three different people. She was moving at the instant the photo was taken, so the algorithm stitched the photo together from multiple images. The end result? Well, you can see it above.

Smartphone camera software always pulls from many images at once, combining at will and adjusting for contrast, saturation, detail and lack of blur. In the vast majority of cases, this doesn’t present an issue. Once in a while, however, the software gets a tad bit confused. If it was three different people, instead of one with a mirror, each subject would have been properly represented.

This is something that can actually be recreated by just about anyone with an iPhone and some mirrors. As a matter of fact, there’s a TikTok trend in which folks do just that, making all kinds of silly photos and videos by leveraging the algorithm's difficulties when separating mirror images from actual people.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Lawrence Bonk

Meta's apps are still promoting child predation content, report finds

1 day 21 hours ago

Meta is failing to stop vast networks of people using its platform to promote child abuse content, a new report in The Wall Street Journal says, citing numerous disturbing examples of child exploitation it uncovered on Facebook and Instagram. The report, which comes as Meta faces renewed pressure over its handling of children’s safety, has prompted fresh scrutiny from European Union regulators.

In the report, The Wall Street Journal detailed tests it conducted with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection showing how Meta’s recommendations can suggest Facebook Groups, Instagram hashtags and other accounts that are used to promote and share child exploitation material. According to their tests, Meta was slow to respond to reports about such content, and its own algorithms often made it easier for people to connect with abuse content and others interested in it.

For example, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection told the paper a “network of Instagram accounts with as many as 10 million followers each has continued to livestream videos of child sex abuse months after it was reported to the company." In another disturbing example, Meta initially declined to take action on a user report about a public-facing Facebook Group called “Incest.” The group was eventually taken down, along with other similar communities.

In a lengthy update on its website, Meta said that “predators are determined criminals who test app, website and platform defenses,” and that it had improved many of its internal systems to restrict “potentially suspicious adults.” The company said it had “expanded the existing list of child safety related terms, phrases and emojis for our systems to find” and had employed machine learning to uncover new search terms that could be potentially exploited by child predators.

The company said it’s using technology to identify “potentially suspicious adults” in order to prevent them from connecting with each other, including in Facebook Groups, and from seeing each other’s content in recommendations. Meta also told The Wall Street Journal it “has begun disabling individual accounts that score above a certain threshold of suspicious behavior.”

The social network is facing a growing backlash over its handling of child safety. The Wall Street Journal also recently reported that Instagram Reels recommendations are serving content aimed at people who “might have a prurient interest in children.” Dozens of states recently sued Meta for allegedly harming the mental health of its youngest users, and failing to keep children younger than 13 off its apps. Mark Zuckerberg will no doubt face intense questions about these allegations next month when he appears at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on child safety online. His counterparts from TikTok, Snap, X and Discord are also slated to testify.

Meanwhile, Meta is also facing new pressure from regulators abroad. European Union officials are using a new law to probe the company’s handling of child abuse material, following The Journal’s report. The company has been given a December 22 deadline to turn over data to the bloc.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Karissa Bell

A big Analogue Pocket restock is coming, but cart adapters are delayed again

1 day 21 hours ago

The acclaimed Analogue Pocket multi-system portable handheld console is a bona fide hit. It’s so popular, in fact, that it's been sold out for weeks. Have no fear, would-be purchasers. Analogue just announced a major restock. The consoles will be available to buy on December 4 at 11AM ET. The company promises that these orders will arrive in time for the holidays.

This restock only applies to the original black and white designs, and not those nifty limited edition colors, most of which remain sold out. If you miss the window on December 4, the company is doing another restock on December 8 at 11AM ET, but those won’t ship until February.

Analogue also announced a new operating system for the console, set to arrive in the next few days. Analogue Pocket OS v.1.2 fixes a bunch of bugs, adds support for new controllers, updates the music-making app Nanoloop and allows for new openFGPA developer tools. That’s just the first update. Analogue Pocket OS v2.0 arrives before the end of the month and gives third-party developers access to the original display modes, like the iconic Game Boy aesthetic, among other features. These updates follow last year’s OS v1.1.

It’s not just the Pocket getting some love. The Analogue Duo is finally shipping on December 11, three years after the original announcement and over six months after pre-orders went live. The Duo is an all-in-one system that promises to play every TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine title, even Bonk’s Adventure, a game that gave me no end of stress in childhood for obvious name-related reasons. The Duo plays both cartridges and compact discs. It’ll even run games that originally required the Arcade RAM add-on included as part of the Japan-only SuperGrafx console. Again, Analogue promises deliveries by the holidays.

The company’s also selling a limited-edition white dock for the Pocket, which also goes on sale December 4. However, this freshly-hued dock is more expensive than the original black model, at $130 instead of $100.

It’s not all good news for fans of retro gaming. Analogue announced a delay for the Pocket Adapter Set until February. This set adds new consoles to the lineup, so the system will be able to play TurboGrafx-16 cartridges, Neo Geo Pocket Color cartridges and Atari Lynx carts.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Lawrence Bonk

Telegram now offers all users limited transcriptions of voice messages

1 day 22 hours ago

Telegram has released a major update for its iOS and Android apps that includes an array of new and upgraded features. Since last year, Telegram Premium users have been able to get transcriptions of voice and video messages and now the platform is opening up that feature to everyone, albeit on a more limited basis. Free users will be able to convert two messages per week into text. Just hit the →A icon on a voice message and you'll get a text version of the memo. Telegram notes that it's rolling out this feature gradually, so you may not have access to it right away.

Elsewhere, Telegram is looking to improve channel discovery. Whenever you join a channel, you'll see a selection of similar public channels. Telegram is basing these recommendations on similarities in subscriber bases. You'll be able to view these recommendations at any time by going to a channel's profile.


You can now include a video comment or reaction with a story. You'll have the ability to resize this video message and move it around the screen. You can add a video message, a feature that takes a page out of the TikTok playbook, by holding down the camera icon in the story editor to capture a selfie clip. You can adjust the volume by holding a finger on the video track at the bottom of the screen.

Reposting someone else's story is now a cinch too. Just tap the share button on a story, then you'll have the option to repost it. Only stories that have their visibility set to public can be reposted. You can add a video comment to reposted stories too.

Elsewhere, Premium users can set up their profiles with unique color combos, everyone can apply custom wallpapers to each individual chat (Premium users can set the same wallpaper for both participants) and channel admins can customize the emoji that appear as reactions. In addition, any Telegram app can now detect a coding language in messages and highlight the syntax with proper formatting.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Kris Holt

Researchers quantify the carbon footprint of generating AI images

1 day 23 hours ago

Researchers at the AI startup Hugging Face collaborated with Carnegie Mellon University and discovered that generating an image using artificial intelligence, whether it's to create stock images or realistic ID photos, has a carbon footprint equivalent to charging a smartphone. However, researchers discern that generating text, whether it be to create a conversation with a chatbot or clean up an essay, requires much less energy than generating photos. The researchers quantify that AI-generated text takes up as much energy as charging a smartphone to only 16 percent of a full charge.

The study didn't just look into image and text generation by machine learning programs. The researchers examined a total of 13 tasks, ranging from summarization to text classification, and measured the amount of carbon dioxide produced per every 1000 grams. For the sake of keeping the study fair and the datasets diverse, the researchers said they ran the experiments on 88 different models using 30 datasets. For each task, the researchers ran 1,000 prompts while gathering the “carbon code” to measure both the energy consumed and the carbon emitted during an exchange.

Hugging Face/Carnegie Mellon

The findings highlight that the most energy-intensive tasks are those that ask an AI model to generate new content, whether it be text generation, summarization, image captioning, or image generation. Image generation ranked highest in the amount of emissions it produced and text classification was classified as the least energy-intensive task.

The researchers urge machine learning scientists and practitioners to “practice transparency regarding the nature and impacts of their models, to enable better understanding of their environmental impacts.” While the energy consumption associated with charging a smartphone per AI image generated may not seem dire, the volume of emissions can easily stack up when considering how popular and public AI models have become. Take ChatGPT for instance – the authors of the study point out that at its peak, OpenAI’s chatbot had upward of 10 million users per day and 100 million monthly active users today.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Malak Saleh

All the best Cyber Monday deals that are still live on Amazon right now

2 days ago

Cyber Monday may have come and gone, but quite a few of the deals are still live. We're also seeing new discounts and bundles pop up that weren't previously listed. If you didn't get everything you need during the frenzy of Black Friday sales, you can still save on Amazon Echos, Dyson vacs, Google Nests and Sony headphones. Amazon has the most deals remaining at the moment, but other retailers, including Sonos, Wellbots, Target and Walmart, still have some worthy sale prices too. There's no telling how long these leftover savings will last, so you may not want to wait much longer to shop. Here are the best Cyber Monday tech deals you can still get today. 

Amazon Echo Dot

The Echo Dot is Amazon’s most popular smart speaker and for Cyber Monday, it's down to $23. That matches the all-time low it hit for the last two Prime Days. The Dot is one of our favorite smart speakers because it has surprising volume and audio quality for its size. It's also a dead simple way to get Aexa’s help around the house. It can set timers, tell you the weather and remind you about things on your to-do list. It’s also a great to control your other smart home devices like smart plugs.

Sony WH-1000XM5

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is down to $328 at Amazon and B&H. That's a $72 drop from the MSRP and matches the low price it went for on Black Friday. This is the top pick in our guide to the best wireless headphones, and it earned a review score of 95 from us last May. We like the powerful noise cancelation and the comfortable fit. You can get up to 30 hours of listening on a charge and the app lets you customize the EQ levels. It also has useful features like Speak-to-Chat that automatically pauses your music when you start speaking and location-based settings that can, for example, enable ambient mode when you're in the office. 

Echo Pop with a smart bulb

Amazon is bundling its smallest speaker, the Echo Pop, with a Sengled smart bulp. The set is down to $18, which is a 70 percent discount and matches the all-time low the bundle sold for on Black Friday. The colorful half-sphere is is a great candidate for a voice-operated smart home controller, and you can use it to operate the bulb just by speaking. Alexa can also tell you the weather and news, set reminders and even play some music, though the sound quality won't be as high as it would with a larger speaker. The bulb is an honorable mention in our guide to smart bulbs thanks to its easy, if slightly unpolished app, and the fact that it outputs millions of colors on any schedule you’d like.

Apple Watch Series 9

The new Apple Watch Series 9, which Apple lists at $399, is seeing a $70 discount that brings it to $329 after you clip the on-page coupon at Amazon. That's the same low price it hit for Black Friday, and an early discount for a wearable that debuted alongside the iPhone 15 only as far back as September. The big change this time around is a new SiP (system in package) chip that allows for a Double Tap feature that lets you tap your thumb and forefinger together to answer calls and more. It also allows for the onboard processing of Siri requests, making simple demands (like starting a timer or a workout) happen faster.

Google Pixel Buds Pro 

The Google Pixel Buds Pro earbuds are just $120 from Wellbots when you use the code ENGBUDS80 that's a savings of $80, which puts the buds just $3 more than their all-time low. We called these earbuds the company’s best effort to date in our official review, praising the deep and punchy bass, the useful touch controls, wireless charging options and more. And they're currently our top pick for Android users in our guide to the best wireless earbuds.

Sonos Roam

The portable and waterproof Sonos Roam is 25 percent off and down to $134, which is the same as it went for during Black Friday. It’s our top pick for a portable smart speaker. You can stick it anywhere inside or out and it’ll deliver tunes and help from Alexa or the Google Assistant to control other devices, answer questions or kick off playlists. It works on Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth to play from your phone when you’re away from home. And while the sound isn’t as big as larger speakers, it still packs a surprising amount of bass and emits distinct highs.

A few other Sonos speakers and bundles are still on sale too. That includes the Roam bundled with the Ray for $45 off. The Ray is one of the recommendations in our soundbar guide thanks to its easy setup, compact size and great sound quality.  

Blink doorbell and Outdoor camera bundle

Prime members who would like some extra eyes on their property may want to check out Amazon's bundle of two Blink Outdoor 4 smart security cameras with a Blink video doorbell. It's down to $100 for the set, which is an impressive $215 off the full price of the three items bought separately. We saw a similar deal back in September, but it was for an earlier generation of the Outdoor cameras. The new fourth-generation model has improved image quality, better low-light sensitivity and an expanded field of vision. They run on two AA batteries so you can mount them just about anywhere and can run up to two years on a set. Both the cameras and doorbells let you hear and speak with whoever is outside. And the included Sync Module 2 lets you store clips locally. 

Samsung Pro Plus microSD card

If you need a new microSD card for your Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck or GoPro, a trio of Samsung microSD cards we recommend are also down their lowest prices to date. The 128GB version of the Samsung Pro Plus is down to $11 at Amazon, B&H and others, while the 256GB and 512GB models are down to $18 and $32, respectively. The Pro Plus is the top overall pick in our microSD card buying guide, as it consistently ranked among the fastest cards we tested despite its relatively affordable price tag.

Amazon Echo Show 5

The Echo Show 5 is Amazon’s smallest smart display and was completely refreshed back in May of this year. The processor and audio quality were improved, but the device is largely the same, acting as a screen-enabled bedside alarm clock or a handy kitchen display for recipe videos and the like. It’s currently down to $40 which is $50 off and a discount it has hit twice in the past couple months.

TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini

The smart plug we recommend for most homes is TP-Link's Kasa Smart Plug mini. A four-pack is on sale for $35 which is about $3 more than it sold for during Amazon's October Prime day sale, but still a decent $15 savings. Plugs like these are a simple way to add some smart capabilities to any home, letting you turn on lights with just your voice, set automated schedules and create routines triggered by other activities. These would make a great stocking stuffer for anyone you know who's curious about smart home connectivity but hasn't yet taken the plunge.

Logitech Litra Glow streaming light

Logitech's Litra Glow is our recommendation for a game streaming light and right now it's cheaper than it's ever been, thanks to an extra $10 coupon atop the 17 percent discount. The USB-powered light clips onto your monitor, near your webcam, to cast a soft glow without harsh shadows and helps you look better and more professional when you're on camera. It's highly adjustable too, giving you option for the brightness, warmth of the light, as well as the tilt and angle. 

TP-Link Deco EX75 Wi-Fi 6E mesh router

TP-Link’s Deco EX75 mesh router system with two beacons is down to $220, which is $80 off, but about $20 more than it went for on Cyber Monday. But if you missed the big sale, it's still a decent savings on our top pick for a Wi-Fi 6 mesh router system. The two-pack should cover up to 5,500 square feet with stable connectivity. When we tested the three-pack, we were impressed by how well the system balances power with user friendliness. Its network is reliable and fast, and its companion app is easy to use and clearly shows you things like all of the devices connected to your network, current speeds and more.

Google Nest Hub

Google's Nest Hub dropped to $50 for Cyber Monday, but has now gone back up to $60, which is still a 40 percent discount, at Target and Walmart. That's $20 higher than its all-time low. The Nest Hub is the top overall pick in our smart display buying guide, and we gave it a review score of 89 back in 2021. It has a 7-inch screen, so it's a bit bigger than the Echo Show 5 but should still be compact enough to fit neatly in a bedroom or small office. While it lacks a built-in camera, that may be a selling point for those who especially sensitive to their privacy (though no smart display is truly privacy-conscious). 

Bose Soundlink Flex

Bose’s SoundLink Flex dropped down to $119 for Black Friday and the deal is still live at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and from Bose. The $119 price matches the low we saw for Amazon's Prime sale in October, though it’s gone as low at $110 elsewhere. We recommend this portable speaker in our guide for the sub-$200 category. It delivers a good amount of bass for its size and is IP67 rated to handle the elements and even a splash when you're by the pool or at the beach next summer.

Vitamix Explorian blender

The Vitamix E310 is on sale for $289 at Amazon, Target and directly from Vitamix, and while that’s not an all-time low, it’s still a $60 discount on a particularly powerful blender. It’s our favorite blender from our guide to kitchen tech because it goes beyond smoothie duty to create salsas, sauces, dips and even soups (which the blender can heat to steaming in the container due to shear friction). Anyone coming from a standard blender will be impressed with the way it renders even the hardest, chunkiest ingredients silky smooth.

Solo Stove Cyber Monday deals

Solo Stove’s Cyber Monday deals knocked up to $245 off fire pit bundles, up to $100 off fire pits by themselves and even more. And most of those deals are still live. One standout is the Ranger Backyard Bundle 2, which is $145 off and down to $320. It includes the company’s most compact fire pit along with its accompanying shield, stand, lid and shelter. Everything you’d need for an easy setup right out of the box is included in this bundle, and the 2.0-version of the Ranger includes a removable base plate and ash pan, both of which make the fire pit much easier to clean.

Audible Cyber Monday sale

A Cyber Monday deal on Amazon's audiobook subscription service brings a Premium Plus membership down to just $6 per month for the first four months — that's more than half off the typical $15-per-month cost of access. Audible's Premium Plus subscription comes with one credit every month to purchase a new or best-selling title. It's a great digital gift to get friends or family if you're not going to see them in person this holiday season.

ProtonVPN Cyber Monday deal

Our favorite VPN service, ProtonVPN, is having a rare sale for Cyber Monday that brings a monthly subscription down to only $4 for a total of 30 months. That means you’ll pay $120 for two and a half years of access, which is a pretty good deal. ProtonVPN passed our tests with high marks, but what made it stand out among other VPN security services was its independently audited no-logs policy, and the fact that the company has proven they don't comply with law enforcement requests to reveal data. If you want to jump in head-first with Proton services, the company has discounted Proton Unlimited, which includes access to VPN, Mail, Calendar, Drive and Pass, to just under $9 per month for the first year.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra

The latest flagship noise-cancelling headphones from Bose, the QuietComfort Ultra is seeing a $50 discount at Amazon, Walmart and Bose direct, among others. These headphones debuted last month and retail for $429 at full price. One of our concerns in our review was that higher MSRP, so this deal takes some of the sting out of the purchase. We found this pair to offer exceptional ANC, a comfortable fit and sound quality that has more bass plus "increased clarity and enhanced warmth" compared to previous generations of the QC cans.

Dyson Cyber Monday deals

Dyson deals include a $250 discount on the Dyson V15 Detect Absolute, bringing the cordless vacuum down to $500. It’s hard to tell if this is a record-low price, but considering the standard V15 Detect is going for between $650 and $750 across the internet, we consider this to be a good deal. In addition to its strong cleaning power, the V15 Detect has a laser-powered optic cleaner head that illuminates the floor before you as you’re cleaning so you can see dust and grime more clearly. It also has a piezo sensor, which sizes and counts dust particles as you clean and shows you that information on its LCD display.

iRobot Roomba 694

The Roomba 694 went on sale for $159 on Cyber Monday and the deal is still live today. It's our current favorite budget robot vacuum thanks to its strong suction power, easy to use mobile app and handy spot-clean function. It doesn't come with a clean base, but it has Wi-Fi connectivity and voice control with Alexa.

Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1 robot vacuum

This Shark AI Ultra robot vacuum is on sale for $298, or half off its regular price. Shark makes some of our favorite robovacs, and this one has strong suction power, a self-cleaning brush roll and support for home mapping and voice control with Alexa and the Google Assistant. Shark's machines also stand out because their self-emptying bases, like the one included here, are bagless, so you don't have to constantly buy proprietary garbage bags to use with them.

PS5 + Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 bundle

If you or someone you love hasn’t gotten their hands on a PS5 yet, this bundle pairs the $500 console with the new (and critically acclaimed) Spider-Man 2 game for no extra cost. The PS5 remains one of the best gaming consoles you can get right now, and we found the open-world game to be even better than its predecessor in our review. In it, you can swap between playing as Peter Parker and Miles Morales, and it includes expanded combat mechanics.

Logitech G535

The Logitech G535 is another honorable mention in our gaming headsets guide, one that should specifically appeal to those who want a wireless option for less than $100. If that’s you, good news: It’s available for just under $80 at Amazon, B&H and Best Buy, which is about $25 off its usual street price. The G535’s noticeably light frame, relatively balanced sound and Bluetooth support all impress for the price; just note that it doesn’t work with Xbox, and that its mic sounds a bit thinner than the wired headsets highlighted above. Its battery life clocks in at 30 to 35 hours per charge, which is decent but not great.

Meta Quest 2 VR headset

The Meta Quest 2 VR headset is $50 off and down to $249 at several retailers. Despite the launch of the impressive Quest 3, we still consider the Quest 2 to be one of the best VR headsets available right now — precisely because of its more affordable price. It’s still the best way to jump into VR without spending a ton of money, and the Quest 2 has the perks of being completely cordless and comfortable to wear for long sessions. The hardware includes fast-switching LCDs with a smooth 90Hz refresh rate, and it comes with Meta’s sold motion controllers.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Our top recommendation in our streaming devices guide is the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, which is 40 percent off and down to $30 at Target and directly from Roku. That’s about $5 more than it was last Cyber Monday, but still a decent savings on a dongle that will turn any screen into a smart TV, complete with Roku's intuitive interface and its simple universal search function. The Roku Express 4K is on sale for $25. It has a shorter Wi-Fi range, lacks support for Dolby Vision and has a different format (a small set-top box instead of a stick that hides behind your TV) but is otherwise pretty similar for $5 less. 

Fire TV Stick 4K Max

The latest generation of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max was just announced in September during Amazon's Devices and Services event and it's now down to its lowest price yet, which is $40 and a 33 percent discount off the $60 list price. In addition to handling 4K video, it also supports Wi-Fi 6E and has a faster processor and bigger storage capacity compared to the previous generation. It'll also support Amazon's latest Fire TV feature, the Ambient Experience which displays art and shows widgets for weather, calendars, reminders and more when the TV is in standby. 

Apple MacBook Air M1

The older 13-inch MacBook Air that was released in 2020 and uses Apple’s M1 chip is on sale, with an entry-level config available for $750 if you click the on-page $99 coupon. We’ve seen this deal a handful of times over the last few months, but it matches the lowest price we’ve seen. It’s really worth stepping up to the M2 Air if you can: It’ll get you a more modern design, a faster chip, a sharper webcam and improved speakers. The 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD in this config is only suitable for casual use, and this model will almost certainly be discontinued when we get the inevitable M3 refresh. But if you’re on a stricter budget and really want a MacBook, the M1 Air is still well-built, long-lasting and fast enough for the essentials. We currently highlight it in our guide to the best budget laptops.

Samsung T9 SSD

The latest Samsung T9 portable SSD is on sale for $110 right now for a 1TB drive, which is the best price it’s been since it came out last month. You can snag this deal from Amazon or Samsung directly. The T9 is the newest iteration of Samsung’s popular portable drive that we’ve long been fans of, and it supports read and write speeds of up to 2,000 MB/s. It also has dynamic thermal guard to prevent overheating, plus it comes with a USB-C to C and USB-C to A cords so you can use it with a variety of devices.

Apple AirTag 

A four-pack of Apple AirTags is $79 right now at Amazon, thanks to a 19 percent discount. They go for $29 each at full price, so the deal will save you $9 a pop. AirTags are our top picks for Bluetooth trackers for iPhone users as they tap into Apple’s disturbingly vast FindMy network, using other Apple mobiles to find your lost stuff. 

Tile Mate

The Tile Mate Bluetooth tracker is one of our recommended affordable gifts and now it's more affordable at just $16.50 instead of $25 at Amazon. It will keep tabs on your keys or anything else it’s attached to, allowing you to ping and track items with your phone. It’s supported by the Tile 360 Life app, which is far smaller than Apple’s Find My network, but in our tests, it still managed to find our “lost” item in around ten minutes of being marked as lost.

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Apple's MacBook Pro M3 is on sale for $200 off

2 days ago

The just-released Apple MacBook Pro M3 is already on sale. You can snag the 14-inch model for $1,600 via Amazon. That’s a savings of $200, or 11 percent for the math fanatics out there. Not bad for a laptop that launched just three weeks ago.

Here are the pertinent specs. This model includes an 8-core CPU, a 10-core GPU and a 14.2-inch XDR display. You also get 8GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. These are average, if not spectacular, metrics, aside from that bountiful terabyte of storage. You can snag it in silver or Apple’s proprietary Space Gray.

If the power and screen are a bit lacking, Amazon has another MacBook Pro M3 on sale. This one has a 16.2-inch screen, a 12-core CPU and an 18-core GPU. That’s a good amount of power. You also get 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, with availability in black and gray. This model has been discounted to $2,300 from $2,500, another savings of $200.

These are Apple’s latest and greatest laptops. We admired the company’s newest MacBook in our official review, calling out the fast and efficient M3 chipset and the gorgeous display. The screen won’t beat a dedicated OLED, but it gets really close thanks to MiniLED backlights. We also liked the excellent keyboard and trackpad, and the overall form factor. These are, after all, MacBook Pros, the crown in Apple’s laptop lineup.

Remember, it’s near-impossible to make internal changes to these laptops once purchased, so check and double check on your likely RAM and storage requirements. The base model ships with just 8GB of RAM, which could slow you down in the long run.

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Lawrence Bonk

Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones are back on sale for $328

2 days 1 hour ago

Perplexing name aside, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is our favorite pair of wireless headphones for most people, and now the noise-canceling cans are back on sale for $328. This deal has popped up multiple times in the past year, most recently during the many Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales held over the course of November, but it still takes $72 off Sony's list price. While there've been a few steeper discounts since the headphones arrived in May 2022, we don't see them with much regularity. This offer is available at Amazon, Adorama and B&H; Sony also has it for $2 more.

Engadget Senior News Editor and audio expert Billy Steele gave the WH-1000XM5 a score of 95 in his review last year. This pair's active noise cancellation (ANC) is still among the better options we've tested, and its lightweight, well-constructed design should be comfortable for most to wear over extended periods. Battery life sits at a decent 30 or so hours per charge, the built-in mics are perfectly solid for phone calls and the whole thing can connect to two devices at once. The default sound profile emphasizes the bass, so it'll work best with hip-hop and pop music, though you can rein that in to something more neutral if you're willing to use the EQ tools in Sony's app. That app is home to a few other useful bonus features as well, including "Speak to Chat," which automatically pauses whatever you're playing when you start speaking.

The XM5 isn't without flaws: The design can't fold up (unlike the older Sony XM4s), and you can't manually adjust the strength of the ANC to the extent that you can on other pairs. Bose's QuietComfort Ultra delivers more powerful ANC on the whole, while Apple's AirPods Max can still offer more conveniences to iPhone owners. You can get better sound for the money, too. Taken as a complete package, however, the XM5 remains our top pick. 

If you want a pair of noise-canceling earphones, meanwhile, the Sony WF-1000XM5 has dropped back to $248. Again, that's a deal we've seen for much of the last month, but it matches the price we saw on Black Friday. The WF model tops our guide to the best wireless earbuds, as it provides most of the features noted above in an in-ear design that isolates a good chunk of outside noise even when the ANC isn't turned on.

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Jeff Dunn

Sci-fi RTS sequel Homeworld 3 will arrive on March 8

2 days 1 hour ago

The long-awaited sci-fi strategy sequel Homeworld 3 at last has a release date. It’s now slated to arrive on March 8. That’s another slight delay, given the February release window that developer Blackbird Interactive and publisher Gearbox were aiming for, but at least there’s now a concrete date. Those who pick up the Fleet Command edition, meanwhile, will get access 72 hours earlier.

In a short behind-the-scenes video, Blackbird CEO and co-founder Rob Cunningham said this was "really our original dream of Homeworld 2. The problem was, in the late '90s, early 2000s, the vision for Homeworld 3 was utterly impossible to make." Homeworld 2 debuted in 2003. Cunningham noted that Blackbird had to wait 20 years to achieve the kind of scale and scope it wanted.

The team has revealed a few more details about what's in store. Players will have a choice between the classic Homeworld control scheme or a more modern setup that should be familiar to fans of other real-time strategy games or MOBAs — you'll just need to click on an element in the environment to get there. There's also a focus on cover-based tactics. You can use a larger ship to protect yourself or even flank enemies.

Launch sequence initiated. Homeworld 3 is set for arrival on March 8, 2024.

Get a closer look at how powerful visuals and unique mechanics came together to create the immersive sci-fi strategy experience fans have been waiting for.

Pre-order now:

— Homeworld (@HomeworldGame) November 30, 2023

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Kris Holt

Inside the 'arms race' between YouTube and ad blockers

2 days 3 hours ago

YouTube recently took dramatic action against anyone visiting its site with an ad blocker running — after a few pieces of content, it'll simply stop serving you videos. If you want to get past the wall, that ad blocker will (probably) need to be turned off; and if you want an ad-free experience, better cough up a couple bucks for a Premium subscription.

Although this is an aggressive move that seemingly left ad blocking companies scrambling to respond, it didn’t come out the blue — YouTube had been testing something similar for months. And even before this most recent clampdown, the Google-owned video service has been engaged in an ongoing conflict — a game of cat-and-mouse, an arms race, pick your metaphor — with ad-blocking software: YouTube rolls out new ways to serve ads to viewers with ad blockers, then ad blockers develop new strategies to circumvent those ad-serving measures.

As noted in a blog post by the ad- and tracker-blocking company Ghostery, YouTube employs a wide variety of techniques to circumvent ad blockers, such as embedding an ad in the video itself (so the ad blocker can’t distinguish between the two), or serving ads from the same domain as the video, fooling filters that have been set up to block ads served from third-party domains.

It’s not that YouTube is alone in these efforts; many digital publishers make similar attempts to stymie ad blockers. To some extent, YouTube’s moves just get more attention because the service is so popular. As AdGuard CTO Andrey Meshkov put it in an email, “Even when they run a test on a share of users… the number of affected people is very high.”

At the same time, according to Ghostery’s director of product and engineering Krzysztof Modras, it’s also true that “as one of the world’s largest publishers, YouTube constantly invests in circumventing ad blocking.” And that those investments have been effective. Many of the most common ad blocking strategies, including DNS filtering (filtering for third-party domains), network filtering (which Modras described as “more selective” and better at blocking first-party requests) and cosmetic filtering (which can blocks ads without leaving ad-shaped holes in the website content) no longer work on the site.

Now, Modras said, YouTube seems to be “adapting [its] methods more frequently than ever before. To counteract its changes to ad delivery and ad blocker detection, block lists have to be updated at minimum on a daily basis, and sometimes even more often. While all players in the space are innovating, some ad blockers are simply unable to keep up with these changes.”

Keeping pace with YouTube will likely become even more challenging next year, when Google’s Chrome browser adopts the Manifest V3 standard, which significantly limits what extensions are allowed to do. Modras said that under Manifest V3, whenever an ad blocker wants to update its blocklist — again, something they may need to do multiple times a day — it will have to release a full update and undergo a review “which can take anywhere between [a] few hours to even a few weeks.”

“Through Manifest V3, Google will close the door for innovation in the ad blocking landscape and introduce another layer of gatekeeping that will slow down how ad blockers can react to new ads and online tracking methods,” he said.

For many users, the battle between YouTube and ad blockers has largely been invisible, or at least ignorable, until now. The new wall dramatically changes this dynamic, forcing users to adapt their behavior if they want to access YouTube videos at all. Still, the ad blocking companies suggest it’s more of a policy change than a technical breakthrough — a sign of a new willingness on YouTube’s part to risk alienating its users.

“It's not that YouTube's move is something new, many publishers went [down] this road already,” Meshkov said. “The difference is [the] scale of YouTube.” That scale affects both the number of users impacted, as well as the number of resources required to maintain these defenses on the publisher's side. “Going this road is very, very expensive, it requires constant maintenance," he added, "you basically need a team dedicated to this. There's just a handful of companies that can afford it."

As ever, ad blockers are figuring out how to adapt, even if it’s requiring more effort from their users, too. For example, Modras noted that “throughout much of October, Ghostery experienced three to five times the typical number of both uninstalls and installs per day, as well as a 30 percent increase in downloads on Microsoft Edge, where our ad blocker was still working on YouTube for a period of time.” All of this activity suggests that users are quickly cycling through different products and strategies to get around YouTube’s anti-ad block efforts, then discarding them when they stop working.

Meanwhile, uBlock Origin still seems to work on YouTube. But a detailed Reddit post outlining how to avoid tripping the platform's ad-block detection measures notes that because “YouTube changes their detection scripts regularly,” users may still encounter the site’s pop-up warnings and anti-adblock wall in “brief periods of time" between script changes (on the platform's end) or filter updates (on uBlock's side.) uBlock Origin may also stop working on Chrome next year thanks to the aforementioned Manifest V3. And if you’re hoping to use it on a non-Chrome browser, Google has allegedly begun deprecating YouTube's load times on alternate browsers, seemingly as part of the anti-ad block effort. While 404 Media and Android Authority, which both reported on this issue, were not able to replicate these artificially slowed load times, users were seemingly able to avoid them through the use of a “user-agent switcher,” which disguises one browser (say, Firefox) as another (in this case, Chrome).

Why do some ad blockers still work? The answer seems to boil down to a new approach: Scriptlet injection, which uses scripts to alter website behavior in a more fine-grained way. For example, Meshkov said an ad blocker could write a scriptlet to remove a cookie with a given name, or to stop the execution of JavaScript on a web page when it tries to access a page property with a given name.

On YouTube, Modras said, scriptlets can alter the data being loaded before it’s used by the page script. For example, a scriptlet might look for specific data identifiers and remove them, making this approach “subtle enough” to block ads that have been mixed in with website functionality, without affecting the functionality.

Scriptlet injection also plays a role in an increasingly crucial part of the ad blocker’s job: escaping detection. AdGuard’s Meshkov said this is something that teams like his are already working on, since they try escape detection as a general rule — both by avoiding activity that would alert a website to their presence, and by using scriptlets to prevent common fingerprinting functions that websites use to detect ad blockers.

Scriptlet injection seems to be the most promising approach right now — in fact, Modras described it as currently “the only reliable way of ad blocking on YouTube.”

Meshkov said that assessment is accurate if you limit yourself to browser extensions (which is how most popular ad blockers are distributed). But he pointed to network-level ad blockers and alternative YouTube clients, such as NewPipe, as other approaches that can work. A recent AdGuard blog post outlined additional other steps that users can try, such as checking for filter updates, making sure multiple ad blockers aren't installed and using a desktop ad-blocking app, which should be harder to detect than an extension. (AdGuard itself offers both network-level blocking and desktop apps.)

At least one popular ad blocker, AdBlock Plus, won’t be trying to get around YouTube’s wall at all. Vergard Johnsen, chief product officer at AdBlock Plus developer eyeo, said he respects YouTube’s decision to start “a conversation” with users about how content gets monetized.

Referencing the now independently run Acceptable Ads program (which eyeo created and participates in), Johnsen said, “the vast majority of our users have really embraced the fact that there will be ads [...] we’ve made it clear we don’t believe in circumvention.”

Similarly, a YouTube spokesperson reiterated that the platform’s ads support “a diverse ecosystem of creators globally” and that “the use of ad blockers violate YouTube’s Terms of Service.”

As the battle between YouTube and ad blockers continues, Modras suggested that his side has at least one major advantage: They’re open source and can draw on knowledge from the broader community.

“Scriptlet injection is already getting more powerful, and it’s becoming harder for anti-ad blockers to detect,” he said. “In some ways, the current situation has spurred an arms race. YouTube has inadvertently improved ad blockers, as the new knowledge and techniques gained from innovating within the YouTube platform are also applicable to other ad and tracking systems.”

But even if most users grow frustrated with the new countermeasures and decide to whitelist YouTube in their ad block product of choice, Modras suggested that ad blockers can still affect the platform's bottom line: “If users disable ad blocking on only YouTube and maintain their protection on other websites as they browse, the platform will quickly learn that they are still unable to effectively target ads to these users,” since it won’t have data about user activity on those other sites.

Regardless of what YouTube does next, Meshkov suggested that other publishers are unlikely to build a similar wall, because few if any services enjoy the same chokehold on an entire media ecosystem — not only owning the most popular video sharing service, but also the most popular web browser on which to view it. "YouTube is in a unique position as it is de facto a monopoly," he said. "That's not true for most of the other publishers.”

Even against those odds, ad block diehards aren't dissuaded in their mission. As Meshkov put it bluntly: “YouTube’s policy is just a good motivation to do it better.”

Correction, December 1 2023, 10:09am ET: A quote in the penultimate paragraph was incorrectly attributed to Krzysztof Modras rather than Andrey Meshkov. This has been amended. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Anthona Ha

The Xbox Series X is down to just $349 right now

2 days 3 hours ago

If you've been meaning to pick up an Xbox Series X but weren't able to grab one on Black Friday, good news: Walmart has a bundle that pairs the powerful console with a digital copy of the action-RPG Diablo IV on sale for $349. That's the largest discount we've tracked and a full $151 off the Series X's normal going rate. The game, meanwhile, normally goes for $70. This price also tops the best deals we've seen for the device over the past week; on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the bundle mostly sat at $440.

If the bundle runs out of stock — and given the extent of the discount, we expect it will fairly quickly — Walmart and Amazon also have the console alone on sale for the same $349. But again, you'll likely want to move fast to secure the deal.

As a refresher, the Series X is Microsoft's highest-end Xbox; it packs a stronger GPU and 6GB more RAM than the less expensive Series S, allowing it to play demanding games at higher frame rates and resolutions more consistently. It also comes with a disc drive and 1TB of storage as default. Microsoft has had some struggles producing first-party hits, but Xbox Game Pass remains one of the better values in gaming if you like to sample a wide range of titles, and the Xbox library is still home to plenty of games we like. Diablo IV isn't necessarily one of those, but it could still be worthwhile if you're in the mood for a "numbers go up" dungeon crawler. 

Hanging over every Xbox deal right now is a massive court document leak from September that included details of a potential Series X refresh, which could arrive sometime in 2024 and omit a disc drive altogether. Still, if you want to jump on the Xbox bandwagon today, the current Series X remains a strong value when it's discounted to this extent.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at
Jeff Dunn

The best audio interfaces in 2023

2 days 4 hours ago

A good audio interface can make all the difference if you make music, podcast, stream or even just enjoy listening to any of those things. Your Mac or PC’s built-in sound will be just fine for most pedestrian tasks, but for creators it’s likely going to fall short of what you need for audio recording. But there's a wealth of audio recording options out there that are all tailored to a variety of specific needs and use cases. The only catch is that it can be a bit overwhelming to try to decide which is best for you.

We’ve cooked up this guide to help you in that respect, highlighting the best options whether you simply want to record a guitar, to find the best audio interface for vocals or go live to an audience of thousands (or to at least sound good while you work on that number). And don’t worry about being overwhelmed with recording studio jargon, we’ll focus on the task in hand over the kHz and decibels so that you know which is best for the results you want without feeling like you’ve just come out of a math class.

Best audio interfaces on a budget

Audio interfaces aren’t just for creators. Maybe you work from home and want to be able to use a high-quality XLR microphone for work calls. Or perhaps you prefer to have physical controls for your headphones and mic? Or maybe you just appreciate the superior audio quality from a dedicated device to the one that came with your PC. If so, you likely don’t need to spend too much money - here are three options that won’t break the bank.

M-Audio M-Track Solo

It’s certainly not the prettiest device on this list, but what the M-Track Solo ($49) lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in functionality for the price. If you’re just looking for something to plug a microphone or guitar into - or both at the same time - the M-Track Solo is hard to beat.

For beginners or would-be podcasters, there’s also the M-Track Duo ($70) which adds a second XLR microphone connection so you can invite guests over and record them on their own channel making editing a lot easier - and you won’t need to get intimate with them as you share a microphone. There’s not a lot in terms of frills here, like MIDI or effects, but for the price it’s a solid choice.

Presonos AudioBox iOne

Unlike other PC components, like graphics cards, digital sound has natural limits meaning that older devices can still be relevant today - and often at a better price. Presonos’ AudioBox iOne ($70) is one such example. It’s primarily intended for creators that work with music software, but it’s a great all-around audio interface with all the essential connectivity for a now-reduced price.

As a bonus, the AudioBox iOne works well with iPads, too - not a guarantee at this price point. Though some might find the headphone amplification on the low side, in case that’s a feature important to you.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

There’s a reason why Focusrite’s Scarlett series of interfaces appear on so many recommendation lists - including two spots on this one: They offer a great balance of performance, reliability and price. At around $130, the Solo is not the absolute cheapest you can find, but it will get you started in streaming, podcasting and beyond just fine. In fact, if you just want a port for an XLR mic, improved headphone amplification and easy connections for speakers, the Solo could be the only interface you ever need that won’t feel underpowered or even as your needs evolve.

Best audio interfaces for streamers

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

Perhaps not surprisingly, the streaming category is one of the busiest when it comes to audio interfaces. That’s partly because most Twitchers and YouTubers have several different audio feeds to manage in unison. As such, products in this category come with a software component that lets you pipe your microphone, your group chat and your game audio to different places. Thankfully, this isn’t as confusing as it sounds - not with one of the following devices at least.

Roland Bridge Cast

Roland might be best known for its musical equipment, but the company does a sideline in streaming gear and the Bridge Cast ($299) is one of the strongest in this category. There are four hardware volume dials so you can adjust the mix of your mic, chat and game etc. in real time, and you can even control separate “submixes” for you and your audience in real time.

On top of the mix controls, there are some voice effects, microphone EQ and dedicated mute buttons for everything - these can also be used to trigger samples, too. With the option to pipe in phone audio via an aux port, Roland has made a strong case for the Bridge Cast as the streamer’s interface of choice.

TC Helicon GoXLR Mini

The original GoXLR was one of the first audio interfaces that really focused on what streamers wanted. The Mini was released a year later and was a hit in its own right, and remains popular today, long after its initial release. The physical faders give you tactile control over each part of your stream and the connectivity includes a 3.5mm microphone port next to the headphone port - perfect for gaming headsets that use a splitter.

Additional touches include a !@#$?* button to spare your audience when you get a bit spicy with your language and an optical port so your game console audio sounds pristine. Of course, there’s RGB lighting on the faders which is almost as important as the connectivity, right?

Elgato Wave XLR

If you don’t have the budget or, let’s face it, the desk space for a full-sized mixer to control your streams, Elgato’s Wave XLR is the minimalist’s choice. Not only is it discreet, it manages to eke out a lot of functionality from just one clickable knob and a capacitive mute button.

Despite the simplicity, the Wave XLR still delivers crisp, clear audio. Where it really comes into its own, though, is its modular integration with other Elgato products. When used in concert with the Stream Deck and the Wave Link app, for example, the experience opens up to include the ability to run audio plugins and create custom shortcuts to control the audio on your stream.

Beacn Mix Create

If you already have an audio interface you’re happy with but want the convenience of a mixer for your streams then the Mix Create by Beacn is exactly that. The lightweight USB mixer comes with a screen, but the brains of the operation is the software that creates separate audio feeds for your mic, game, browser and so on.

For streamers, it means hands on controls and the flexibility of a submix (i.e. the mix you hear and the mix listeners here can be different). Not only is this an elegant solution for those who already have a hardware interface, it means you can enjoy dedicated volume controls for things like YouTube and Spotify when you’re not going live.

Best audio interfaces for musicians

Whether you pluck strings or drop DJ-bombs, you’re going to want pro tools that provide you all the right ports while delivering rich, bit-perfect sound for your home studio. Unlike streamers that will want to be able to work with audio from a variety of digital sources, musicians and songwriters also want to record (and listen to) physical instruments in real time - so all of our selections have a focus on clean sound quality with good connectivity.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite’s second showing on this list is a little red box that, once you’re aware of it, you’ll start seeing everywhere from live streams to YouTube guitar tutorials. The popularity of the Scarlett audio interface is for more than its dashing red looks. The preamps - the part that turns your voice or instruments into usable sound – are widely regarded as some of the cleanest for music production at this price range.

With two combi-ports (there’s no MIDI here) the connectivity is fairly standard, but guitarists, singers and voice actors in particular will appreciate the “Air” feature that gently adds a sense of space to vocals - a trademark of Focusrite products.

Universal Audio Volt 276

When Engadget’s Managing Editor, Terrence O’Brien, reviewed the Volt 2/76 from Universal Audio he described it as “bringing something special to the table.” It’s a reference to the built-in compressor that emulates the company’s classic 1176 Limiting Amplifier hardware. All you need to know is it’s another tool to make your instrument or vocals sit better in the mix.

In a world awash with generic audio interfaces, genuinely useful features like this are what makes the Volt series stand out. Alongside the compressor, the Volt 276 has a pair of 5-pin MIDI connector ports and a button for “vintage” mode. The latter emulates the company’s popular Audio 610 preamp which, according to Universal Audio, was used by Van Halen and Ray Charles. Not bad company to be keeping! At $299, it’s a little on the spendier side, but it's a comprehensive choice for anyone who works with instruments, vocals and outboard MIDI gear.


If you need more connectivity than the standard 2 or 4 inputs, MOTU’s M6 has you covered. As the name suggests, there are up to six instrument inputs - four of which can be microphones - and a pair of 5-pin MIDI ports for synths. The M6 can even output CV signals to control even older music gear. The M6 also has dedicated buttons on each input channel for phantom power (for condenser microphones) and real-time headphone monitoring. If all that flexibility wasn’t enough, a small display for volume levels means you have a quick visual reference to make sure you keep your precious recordings out of the red.

Best for audio interfaces for podcasters

Whether you’re operating from a sound-treated studio or recording under a duvet in the back office, most podcasters have a few needs in common. First and foremost is the option to connect more than one high quality microphone. Second would be the ability to record remote guests easily whether they are using Zoom or calling in on a phone - which requires something called “mix minus” and isn’t a standard feature on most interfaces.

Lastly, many shows will want to be able to play music or audio from other sources in real time. All of the picks in this section exceed those basic compatibility requirements, which one is best for you will be determined by budget or specific needs.

Focusrite Vocaster Two

From the same company as the acclaimed Scarlett series, the Vocaster Two takes all the audio knowledge from its sister series and packages it into a more podcast-friendly format. Not only are there dual XLR mic or line inputs, there are two headphone ports, each with their own volume control so you and a live guest can podcast together in the same room.

Thanks to both a 3.5mm and Bluetooth inputs you have multiple options for including “call in guests”. There’s even a 3.5mm output for those who want to make a video-version of their podcast for YouTube - simply plug the Vocaster right into your camera for perfect audio as you record it. What’s more, the “auto gain” and “enhance” features will make sure you and your local guest will sound tippity top without having to apply any external effects.

Rodecaster Pro II

If you see yourself taking your podcasting to the next level, then the Rodecaster Pro II from Rode is hard to ignore. With four XLR combi ports, it’s perfect for multi-guest in-person shows, especially as it has physical faders for each channel along with easily accessible mute and solo buttons.

The Rodecasater Pro II also includes both a 3.5mm/aux port and Bluetooth for plugging in a phone plus dual USB ports that make it easy to feed in audio, like a Zoom call, from a PC or a tablet. Each microphone port has a wealth of effects available to enhance the audio, and the eight rubber pads let you fire off sound effects and intro/outro music at will. The pads can also trigger automated actions like musical fade-ins. In short, the Rodecaster II is quite a powerhouse, but obviously a fair amount more expensive than most interfaces on this list.

Best audio interfaces for music

What we call an audio interface today, we might well have once called a “sound card.” While today’s interfaces also serve up a host of connectivity options, the thing we need them for the most is often just good old fashioned listening to music. While everything on this list will reproduce music to a high standard, Hi-Fi heads might prefer something that will let them interface with more exotic audio formats, audio gear and high-end headphones.

Fiio K7

With phono, coaxial, optical and USB inputs, the K7 from Fiio is able to handle music and audio from almost any high fidelity source. Most traditional audio interfaces support playback of up to 48 kHz, the K7 can handle files all the way up to 384 kHz at 32-bit - perfect for the demanding audiophile.

On the front you’ll find two inputs: a 1/4" jack and a 4.4mm balanced headphone port along with a big ol’ volume dial.While its Hi-Fi aesthetic might not be the most razzle-dazzle, it does have an RGB LED around the dial to give it a pop of color (it also changes color depending on the “quality” of your audio source).

Fiio Q7

Don’t let the unusual design fool you, the Q7 from Fiio is an absolute audio powerhouse. It has the same digital inputs as the K7 but supports files with up to twice the maximum sampling rate (for those who absolutely must have 768kHz/32bit support).

More practically the Q7 can decode Tidal’s top-tier MQA files and there’s Bluetooth for connecting to your phone along with a built-in battery, too making this a portable high-end audio experience that won’t drain your laptop. Naturally, for the music listener that wants it all, there are jacks for every size of headphone, including 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced sets.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at
James Trew