Daily updated technology news

End of an era: iPod discontinued - the device that revolutionized music industry 11 May 2022, 10:06 am

End of an era: iPod discontinued - the device that revolutionized music industry

Sure, there were digital music players well before Apple introduced its first iPod back in 2001. But iPod was the device that made digital music a mainstream reality.

It also paved a way for new music industry revenue models by introducing legal and easy-to-use ways to purchase digital music. Since then, the digital music purchase model has died and been replaced by a streaming services, such as Spotify. But it was the iPod and Apple's music store that acted as catalysts for that transition.

Apple has already retired most of its iPod models, but the iPhone-like Apple iPod touch has remained in production. Until now.

Apple has announced that it will cease the production of iPod touch immediately and the device will be available through retail channels until the supplies last.

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Tiny player that changed the entire world: Winamp is now 25 years old 26 Apr 2022, 9:13 pm

Tiny player that changed the entire world: Winamp is now 25 years old

Sometimes history is shaped by small steps, leading into giant leaps. Those steps were taken in late 1990s by several tech companies - and as the result, the entire music business industry went through a shock that changed it permanently. One of those catalysts was a small Windows music player.

Legendary Winamp was arguably the first user-friendly audio player capable to play MP3 audio files. The very first version of Winamp was released back in 21st of April, 1997. So, it has been now 25 years since that event.

With hindsight, it is easy to see how various factors were in play back in those days. German tech institute Fraunhofer had developer the first digital audio file format that produced good enough quality with small enough filesizes.

CD-ROM drives were getting more and more popular, allowing people to transform their CD discs into digital MP3 files. And finally, along came the first MP3 player that made it easy and fun to manage massive music libraries - and not to hog your slow Pentium PC's all resources while doing all that.

Since those days, MP3 players have mostly vanished in favor of streaming services, such as Spotify. Even Winamp has been in hiatus for ages now - despite making a small comeback back in 2018 with its latest version.

But even Spotify and all other streaming services are standing on the shoulders of past giants. In this particular case, on shoulders of Winamp.

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Android 13 beta released 26 Apr 2022, 8:56 pm

Android 13 beta released

After the initial developer edition, Google has now launched the first official beta version of Android 13 operating system.

While the developer edition, launched back in February, was meant for .. well, developers, the new beta version is meant for all Android enthusiasts. Obviously, those willing to test the new OS are supposed to be users that can tolerate inevitable bugs, missing features and even data loss. But also for those who are willing to sacrifice such minor things in order to get a taste of the future.

Compared to the developer edition, Android 13 beta 1 doesn't cater much new to play with. Most notable changes involve the way media players work in Android.

In previous Android versions, if an app requires an access to files stored into the device, user must grant full permissions for the app to do so. With Android 13, app can specifically request access to only selected file types, such as images, videos or music - thus, mitigating the risk that the app could get into more sensitive data stored on the phone.

Another media related enhancement is for audio playback. Now Android can tell the app what output devices are available and which one of those the app could use. This should made it easier to add smart functionalities to media apps, like ability to choose the output device directly within the app (say, you might want to blast your Spotify playlist to your Bluetooth speaker while also having several other BT devices connected to your phone).

The new beta is available for supported Google Pixel phones and can be downloaded from here.

The actual, stable version of Android 13 is expected to launch in Autumn 2022. There is already a list of phones that will eventually get Android 13 update, so you might want to check if your current phone will get it.

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List of Android Performance class 12 phones (updated) 26 Mar 2022, 2:26 pm

List of Android Performance class 12 phones (updated)

Google introduced a new measure for Android phones with its Android 12 operating system. The new measure, dubbed as Performance class indicates to app developers how good the phone is, performance-wise.

Previously, game and app developers had to to guessing on whether the phone user is using, is capable of running games in full detail or to have enough oomph for certain heavy-weight app features.

With the introduction of Performance class inside Android itself, app developers can simply check from the operating system if the current phone is deemed powerful enough.

Currently, the highest possible classification is Performance Class 12. So, a game developer might only allow highest graphic details available only to phones that are classified as Performance class 12 phones.

Some of the Performance class 12 criteria:
  • at least 6GB of RAM memory
  • at least 12 megapixel rear camera
  • rear camera must be able to record 4K video @ 30fps framerate
  • device must be initialize a video codec in less than 50ms, even when under heavy load
  • when playing FullHD video, device must drop less than 1 frame every 10 seconds of playback video
  • must have at least 400dpi pixel density on display
  • at least FullHD display
  • must have minimum of 4MP selfie camera, with FullHD @ 30fps recording capability

Just meeting the requirements on paper is not enough, the device must also pass the certification process in order to gain the classification.

List of Performance Class 12 phones

Currently, these phones are certified for the Performance Class 12:

Notably absent from the list are Samsung's high-end phones, such as Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and company's foldable phones. Also, no Motorola phones in the list, at all.

Both manufacturers have phones that spec-wise should qualify, but companies haven't certified their phones. Thus, features like Snapchat's latest customizations wont work on those phones, as they rely on Performance Class 12 certification in order to work.

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OnePlus 8 series finally gets stable Android 12 20 Mar 2022, 1:00 pm

OnePlus 8 series finally gets stable Android 12

Since late 2020, OnePlus has been struggling to push out its Android updates in timely manner, which has frustrated its loyal fans quite a lot. But finally, some relief is coming: Android 12 goodness arrives to its year 2020 high-end line of phones.

OnePlus 8, OnePlus 8 Pro and OnePlus 8T started receiving Android 12 update as of yesterday.

According to OnePlus, the launch is phased, meaning that the full rollout of the OTA updates will happen in upcoming weeks, depending on region, model and carrier.

European users will have to wait a bit further, as the initial rollout is only for North American and Indian users. OnePlus cites "regulatory" issues for postponing the EU OTA slightly.

After Android 12 update, both OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro should get one more major Android update: Android 13. And the OnePlus 8T will get two major Android updates after this one: Android 13 and Android 14.

After this 8 series update push, OnePlus' Android 12 update timeline still has some work to do: OnePlus 7 series and most of the Nord models are still stuck with Android 11.

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Sony's surprise: Android 12 coming to Sony Xperia 10 II and Xperia 10 III 14 Mar 2022, 8:54 pm

Sony's surprise: Android 12 coming to Sony Xperia 10 II and Xperia 10 III

For recent years, Sony, has had a very limited selection of phones available globally. But even with a limited selection, company's track record for delivering Android updates hasn't been exactly a top notch. This seems to be changing.

Sure enough, Sony has been quite fast with providing Android 12 updates to its two hign-end phone series: Xperia 5 and Xperia 1 series. As per current Sony's Android 12 update status, Android 12 has been already released to year 2020 and year 2021 high-end models.

But originally company promised only one major Android update to its mid-priced phone series, Xperia 10. Now it seems that they've decided to opt for a better-than-promised update coverage. Sony's mobile phone division announced on its official Instagram account that both Xperia 10 II and Xperia 10 III are getting Android 12 "soon".

That would be the second major update for year 2020 Xperia 10 II. None of the lists published so far have expected that particular model to bag Android 12.

So, maybe the trend Samsung is setting, is forcing other companies to improve their Android update game, too.

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Loved by users, hated by Google: YT Vanced discontinued 13 Mar 2022, 9:35 pm

Loved by users, hated by Google: YT Vanced discontinued

Alternative YouTube player for Android, YT Vanced, is being discontinued. The app has been loved by its users and is probably one of the most downloaded Android apps that cannot be found from official Google Play store.

As YT Vanced app offers pretty much everything you could wish for for a YouTube app, it is also truly hated by Google. YT Vanced removed all the video ads from the player, but also uses crowdsourcing to detect sponsored messages by YouTubers - and allows skipping those, too.

It also allows background playback, thus, making it a viable Spotify alternative in order to play music from YouTube on your phone, without forcing to keep the player visible.

And the list of enhancements YT Vanced offers over official YouTube app goes on and on: true dark mode, saving battery for OLED displays, better gestures, showing the dislike counts, etc etc.

As most of the YT Vanced's features blatantly violate Google's TOS for YouTube, the app has never been found from official Google Play store. Instead, you'd have to download the .apk directly from the developers' website.

But it seems that Google's long-reaching hand has finally gotten to the developers: YT Vanced announced on its official Twitter account that the project will be discontinued.

The download links will still work for a day or two, but they'll stop working soon, too. Developers reckon that the current YT Vanced app - if you have it installed - will work for another two years or so. Until Google does next major API change to the YouTube itself.

Vanced has been discontinued. In the coming days, the download links on the website will be taken down. We know this is not something you wanted to hear but it's something we need to do. Thank you all for supporting us over the years.

-- Vanced Official (@YTVanced) March 13, 2022

If you want to try it out, you can still download it through the official YT Vanced website.

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Russia to legalize software and movie piracy 11 Mar 2022, 1:29 pm

Russia to legalize software and movie piracy

As Russia has been pushed to isolation after it attacked Ukraine and country is now considering ways how to deal with the new situation. As Russian society is heavily relying on Western technology, country has to decide how to overcome the situation where it doesn't have access to Western software, chips and more.

Even Russian heavy industry and many critical civilian corporations rely on Western software like databases, CRM systems and, obviously, Windows operating system. Some of those have open source alternatives available, but in order to quickly transition a sizable corporation from one platform (and set of enterprise software) to another one isn't a task that can be completed within a reasonable timeline.

Thus, Russian Ministry of Economic Development has laid out a plan on how to deal with the new situation. One of the proposed methods is to basically allow full-blown software piracy. It would allow using software from companies that don't do business with Russia anymore, whether the Russian user has a license or not. Proposal would make the use of such software non-punishable in Russian courts.

Additionally, the proposal also plans to cancel technology patents and compulsory licensing models. Proposal would give Russian government rights to inventions, utility models, software designs and databases - whether they are patented or not.

Publicly, even the movie piracy might become legal - or at least non-punishable. All major Hollywood studios have ceased movie distribution in Russia. Also, all Western streaming services have been shut down in the country. Thus, Russian audiences don't have legal access to new foreign TV shows and movies.

Russian ministry's plans can be found on TorrentFreak (in Russian, PDF).

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Spotify is down globally - again 8 Mar 2022, 7:40 pm

Spotify is down globally - again

Today, at around 18:00 UTC, Spotify went burning down - globally. Users haven't been able to log in to the streaming service since the service interruption began.

According the DownDetector, a service that monitors thousands of websites and services, the problems started immediately at around 18:00 UTC and have been on-going since then.

Spotify down 2022-03-08
Spotify status, according to DownDetector service

Problem has been noticed at Spotify, too, as they've tweeted about the issue on their official account:

Something's not quite right, and we're looking into it. Thanks for your reports!

-- Spotify Status (@SpotifyStatus) March 8, 2022

It seems that the problem is related to some part of Amazon Web Service cloud service, as also Discord seems to be experiencing similar downtime right now.

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Motorola's new flagship is here: Edge+ without an edge 24 Feb 2022, 5:50 pm

Motorola's new flagship is here: Edge+ without an edge

Motorola has announced their new flagship smartphone that carries the same same as the predecessor. The Edge+ moniker is an odd one, since the one main thing they've changed about the phone is the display flowing over each edge.

Nevertheless, the new and improved Edge+ sees to challenge the large phone category recently occupied by Samsung's greatest, Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Motorola even has stylus support for the new Edge+, albeit an optional extra if you decide to go that way. That also means there is no internal slot for the stylus like on the Ultra.

Specs-wise we're looking at a Snapdragon 8 gen 1 powered Android with a 6.7 inch Full HD+ display that offers up to 144 Hz refresh rate. In terms of RAM you can choose between 8 or 12 gigs and storage ranges from 128 to 512 gigabytes.

Other features include stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support, a 4800 milliamp hour battery with fast charging, 15-watt wireless charging as well as reverse charging that can charge the optional stylus.

Camera system now offers a 50 megapixel default shooter and another 50 MP ultrawide camera. Third senson on the back is a measly 2 MP for depth sensing and isn't available for photos. This means that unlike most of its competitors it does not offer a zoom camera.

However, it does offer a mighty selfie shooter, at least in terms of pure resolution. The front-facing camera has a 60 megapixel sensor, which dwarfs most competition, although quality is yet undetermined.

As software extras, Motorola offers a Smasung DeX-like experience with monitors and TVs. You can easily connect the mobile device with external displays and use it with the dedicated UI they call Ready For.

While the new Moto Edge+ is well-equipped it isn't quite up to par with the latest and greatest Samsung. But it is also fair bit cheaper. According to Engadget, it start at around a thousand dollars, but you'll get a $100 discount early on. Whether that is a fair price for the is for you to decide.

However, Motorola hasn't yet revealed the release date.

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Realme Android update policy outlined (2022) 23 Feb 2022, 10:59 am

Realme Android update policy outlined (2022)

Fastest growing phone brand in the world is currently Realme. Realme is a manufacturer that is owned by the same umbrella company that owns OnePlus, Oppo and Vivo, too.

Realme is currently pushing its way to Western European markets with affordable, yet feature-rich Android phones. Company uses its own Android skin, called Realme UI and has been slightly slow to make bold promises about its Android update policy in general.

But they recently clarified how they plan to deliver Android updates for their phones.

Here's the outline:

  • Realme GT and Realme GT Pro series will get three major Android updates
  • Realme GT Neo and Realme GT Master series will get two major Android updates
  • "Number models", such as Realme 8, will get two major Android updates
  • For everything else, such as Realme C series, Realme doesn't make any promises whatsoever, so phones might get only one Android update - or none at all.

For the upcoming updates, here's the summary of Realme's current handsets and how they'll get updated within next year or so:

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Google testing new dark mode: yellow links, actual black background 19 Feb 2022, 4:57 pm

Google testing new dark mode: yellow links, actual black background

Google's search results page is arguably the most visited webpage in the world. Due its huge popularity and instant recognition value, Google has been reluctant to change its core appearance. Most of the visual elements of the results page have remained intact for more than two decades.

But as we found out recently, Google is now conducting a limited test on handful of users that would change one very specific thing on its search results page: the link colors.

Company has kept the results' colors in "standard webpage blue" since the searvh itself was launched, back in 1990s.

But with the new limited dark mode test, Google has changed the link color for results from that good olde blue to pale yellow.

Google seems to be testing a new color scheme for its dark mode search results. Links are now yellow-ish and the background is completely black.

I get the new(?) colors when logged in to G and using Edge and also w/ incognito Chrome, but not on anything else. #serp #seo #google

-- Petteri Pyyny (@pyyny) February 18, 2022

Additionally, the new test version dark mode uses completely black background; the widely used dark mode version has "very dark gray" instead of real black as its background.

The change makes sense, as OLED displays become more popular even on desktop PCs. If the pixel is completely black, OLED display keeps that pixel totally switched off - thus, saving energy. But if the pixel is somewhat colored, even with very dark gray, the pixel has to be lit. So, a dark mode that is completely black§ saves energy for users using OLED or AMOLED displays.

And that might explain the trial, too: blue links on black background areb't as readable as yellow ones are. Actually, back in 1970s, when most computers had black background, most computer terminals used either green or yellow text in order to make them more readable.

In our tests, the new yellow/black Google version appeared only on one Windows 10 PC. On that PC, the new design popped up with Edge browser when logged in to Google services, but not in Edge's private mode. And on Chrome (on same PC), only the incognito mode revealed the new design, not the "normal" Chrome mode.

Google is most likely conducting a limited user research on usability and might change the dark mode appearance for everybody if the data they gather supports the decision.

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The first Android 13 version released: it is a developer preview, not for normal use yet 10 Feb 2022, 8:02 pm

The first Android 13 version released: it is a developer preview, not for normal use yet

Google announced today the first official developer preview of the upcoming Android 13 operating system. The release is meant purely for app developers and not for regular Android users.

The idea behind the developer preview release is to let developer community know what is coming up, so they can prepare their apps for the upcoming, actual release of the Android 13. Not all the new features are there yet - and it is bound be full of bugs and problems.

If you're adventurous, tho, you can download it and install it, provided you have a supported Google Pixel phone (Pixel 4 is the oldest Pixel to support Android 13). But we'd advise very strongly against that.

Anyways, this time around the visuals of the operating system aren't changing as much as they did when Google introduced Android 12. Android is simply taking its Android 12 -based Material You theming a step further, nothing else.

Privacy controls are now better: with various apps wanting to access your photos, you can actually choose which photos you want the app to have access to. So, in case of various social media apps, you don't have to allow them to go through all of your photos in order to upload a new selfie to your preferred social media.

Theming icons

In terms of visuals, Android 13 will now allow also the app icons to adapt to the selected Material You theme, making the entire operating system look more calm and balanced.

For those of us speaking more than one language, Android 13 finally allows choosing the preferred language per-app basis. So, for example, you can keep your actual operating system in English, but use selected apps in German. Or vice versa.

Tons of other tweaks are there, too, but we'll cover those in detail once the Android 13 gets more features, as it most likely will, before its expected release in Autumn 2022.

There's also a quite comprehensive list of phones that will get Android 13 once it gets officially released.

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Samsung will now provide four major Android updates to its flagship phones 9 Feb 2022, 4:32 pm

Samsung will now provide four major Android updates to its flagship phones

Samsung now is promising to deliver four major Android updates to its most recent flagship phones.

It seems like a distant memory when back in, say, 2016, Samsung was ridiculed by Android enthusiasts by its lack of long-term support for its Android handsets. In past years, manufacturers like OnePlus and Nokia, managed to carve themselves a niche among tech enthusiasts with their promise for long support times and several major Android updates.

Since then, Samsung has totally changed its game. Last year, company committed to provide at three major Android updates to all of its higher-end handsets.

But today, Samsung is pushing the promise even further. For its flagship phones, Samsung now promises to deliver four major Android updates.

The promise includes today's Samsung Galaxy S22 series, but also last year's Samsung Galaxy S21 series and its recent foldable phones, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. For other high-end phones, such as pricier A series phones, the three updates policy remains in place.

The update promise effectively means that SGS22 will get Android 13, Android 14, Android 15 and Android 16 updates. Android 16 is expected to be released in Autumn 2025, with updates rolling out probably around Q1/2026 for most flagship phones.

All the devices covered by the Samsung's four updates policy are:

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France wants to get rid of the Netflix button from TV remotes 4 Feb 2022, 4:23 pm

France wants to get rid of the Netflix button from TV remotes

France has a long tradition of defending its own national culture and language, to the degree of paranoia. For decades now, it has been illegal to air more than a certain percentage of non-French music on radio stations or to show non-French shows on TV channels. As the tide of streaming services has hit the country, new ideas are needed.

One of them is currently debated by the French National Assembly (parliament) that proposes to ban the ubiquitous Netflix button from all TV remotes sold in the country.

Reasoning behind this is that "too easy" access to Netflix (and other American streaming services that have their own remote buttons, such as Disney+ and Amazon Prime) is harming France's TV channels. So, withouth the easy-to-access streaming button on smart TVs, people would simply sit back and enjoy local TV channels instead.

France has already made it harder for TV manufacturers to promote foreign streaming services: since January, 2022 all smart TVs must highlight French streaming services in their menus over other services.

How France is going to force TV manufacturers to obey the proposed legislation is still somewhat of a mystery. Virtually all TV sets sold in France are the very same models that are sold in other European Union countries, too. Thus, in order to comply with the new law, manufacturers would have to make separate packaging - with crippled remotes - to French markets. Alternatively, manufacturers could remove the Netflix button altogether in entire Europe.

The Netflix button first appeared in American TV sets back in 2011 and were introduced in Europe in 2015.

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