Thursday, January 19, 2017

Apple adds Touch Bar support and iCloud file sharing to music editing apps

Apple has just updated both its consumer-friendly and pro-level music editing software to include more advanced file-sharing capabilities between the two apps, as well as support for the touch-sensitive Touch Bar on new MacBook Pro laptops. 

GarageBand 2.2. on iOS has a redesigned sound browser, includes “multi-take recording” (giving users the option of recording and switching between different takes), and has more advanced studio effects, like vocal effects, pitch correction, and distortion effects. It also now includes the Alchemy software synthesizer, which was previously in Logic Pro X, Apple’s pro music software. 

On the Logic front, Logic Pro X 10.3 has Touch Bar support, which is a very Apple-y way of saying that you can do stuff in the app via the new touch-sensitive strip on the keyboard of the 2016 MacBook Pro. In this case, MacBook Pro owners and Logic users can view Logic projects in a timeline on the Touch Bar and access things like volume, controls, and software instruments for music tracks. 

There’s also the ability to now record stuff in both apps and share it between the two via iCloud. Before, you could import a GarageBand file into Logic Pro, but you couldn’t get a Logic project into GarageBand. The updated software lets you work on tracks and add things on your iOS device (if you’re in transit, or offline) and then import it back to Logic Pro on Mac later on. 

The new software updates are free for existing users, but Logic Pro for new users will run you $200. GarageBand now ships free on newer Mac and iOS devices, part of a larger push that Apple has made around free utility software in recent years; on older devices, it costs $5. 

Logic Pro has gotten annual updates around the January timeframe for the past few years, often timed to the National Association of Music Merchants show in Los Angeles, while the GarageBand app was last updated in May 2016 to include Chinese music features.

The article was published on : theverge

Hulu’s offline playback is coming soon

Hulu has been talking about adding the ability to download movies and TV shows for offline viewing for a while now, but in a recent interview with AdWeek, Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins is gave a rough timetable on when to expect the feature, saying that “It's something that we're going be doing in a few months. We're working hard on the technology around that and getting the rights squared away.”

Netflix — one of Hulu’s biggest competitors when it comes to streaming video — notably added the ability to watch content offline back in November of last year, along with Amazon Video and Vudu, which also offer the feature. In Netflix’s case, not all of the company’s streaming catalog is available for download, something that will likely be the case with Hulu as well, based on Hopkins’ statement. 

The article was published on : theverge

Want to know how much power Switch has? Zelda runs at 900p, 30 fps

Nobody comes to Nintendo hoping for the hottest gaming hardware specs, but it's still important to know exactly how little power Nintendo is actually bringing to this console generation. The company recently confirmed to IGN that its flagship Zelda game, Breath of the Wild (which was originally announced for the Wii U, a Xbox 360-ish console power-wise), will run at 900p and 30 fps on the Switch when hooked up to a TV. On the Wii U the game will run at 720p / 30 fps and have slightly downgraded environmental sounds.

The Switch's built-in screen is 720p, but Nintendo has confirmed the console can support 1080p when docked. So the only thing that's holding Switch back is enough horsepower to render this open-world Zelda in a current-gen resolution, and Switch clearly falls short. Of course, not even the Xbox One or PS4 run every title in 1080p / 60. Grand Theft Auto V runs at 1080p / 30 on both systems, and Just Cause 3 runs at 900p on the Xbox but 1080p on the PS4. Still, this Zelda isn't a game that's going for photorealism, and it's a flagship first-party title, so I'd like to think if any modern AAA game would run at 1080p / 60 on the Switch, it would be Zelda.

And by now you're probably sick of me saying 1080p / 60 over and over again, so I'll add the usual caveats: Nintendo knows how to make games look great, resolution and horsepower be damned. Breath of the Wild obviously looks beautiful (if a little dated) in trailers and the gameplay footage I've seen. I'm just looking at this as a benchmark of how much power we can really expect out of the Switch, which will determine which games can be ported to it, and how well they'll play.

Also, I'll add one more note: the difference between 720p, 900p, and 1080p is noticeable to me, but rarely worth commenting on. The difference between 30 fps and 60 fps is a huge quality-of-life difference. I still want a Switch, and I still want to play this new Zelda game, but I'm just trying to brace myself for that Nintendo-level horsepower after coming down from a PS4 Pro high.

The article was published on : theverge

The lightest 13-inch laptop on the planet is only for serious business

I've done my research, crunched the numbers, and read other internet websites, and as far as I can tell you can't buy a modern 13.3-inch laptop that weighs less than the new Fujitsu LifeBook U937/P. The laptop weighs 799 grams, which is 1.76 pounds. Lenovo had a 1.72 pound laptop back in 2015, the LaVie Z, but that laptop now starts at 1.87 pounds according to Lenovo's own website, and it's sold out.

Fujitsu is light on details about the U937/P, other than the fact that it comes in black or red, is 15.5mm thick, and has a new Kaby Lake processor inside. But the brand name says it all: Fujitsu makes computers for enterprise, not for wayward millennials like me. For now I'll have to settle for keyboardless tablets if I want the lightest computer money can buy. Or buy a suit.

The article was published on : theverge

Google is doing a terrible job at shipping its Pixel smartphones

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL launched three months ago in October to a very enthusiastic response. They’re terrific smartphones. Our review headline called them a home run. But in the weeks since, it has become incredibly difficult for consumers to actually acquire either of them in a reasonable amount of time. Google has done a poor job of shipping adequate supply of both Pixels, as it’s now January and there’s still no easy way of obtaining the model you want without resorting to eBay or Swappa. That’s not so great for customers. And it’s hurting an incredible smartphone. The Pixel is the best Android phone you can buy — if you can actually manage to do the buying part.

The situation around the Pixel XL is the real sore spot. There are only two capacity choices for the Pixel phones: 32GB or 128GB. And according to’s online tracker, the 128GB XL hasn’t been in stock at Google’s online store since November 30th of last year. 

Availability problems extend beyond Google’s own site. Google and Verizon Wireless have made a fairly big deal about the Pixel phones being an “exclusive” for the carrier since launch. But the buying experience has been no better for Verizon customers. Orders placed today for the 128GB Pixel XL aren’t scheduled to ship until the second week of March. March!

That’s two months from now. It’s fairly difficult (though not impossible) to find the regular, 5-inch Pixel with 128GB of storage in stock at Verizon retail locations. But online orders for the smaller size are beginning to slide back weeks, too. The black 128GB Pixel is backordered into February. If you want the white color, you might wait until March.  
But getting back to the XL variant, it’s been completely absent for most walk-in customers. In fact, I’ve never been to a single Verizon store that’s had the 128GB Pixel XL in stock at any point. Checking the company’s in-store availability tool has never produced a positive result no matter what city I set as the search perimeter. It’s a ghost. Best Buy has also had scarce supply — and it’s only selling the 32GB Pixels. 

Google hasn’t yet released sales figures for the Pixel phones. Neither has Verizon. So it’s hard to get any dependable data on how well they’re selling. Analytics firms have suggested they’re performing strongly at Verizon stores. Better than your typical Nexus phone, at least. But can demand alone explain this bottleneck? Other phone makers have similar supply issues, but those almost always ease up within a few weeks after launch. The iPhone 7 Plus was pretty hard to come by in September and October, but not anymore. And remember that the iPhone is available from every major carrier and from any number of retail partners. That’s a lot of inventory to fill. 

The article was published on : theverge

Fujifilm’s first medium-format mirrorless camera arrives next month

Fujifilm has announced that the GFX 50S medium-format mirrorless camera will be available for purchase in the US in late February. The new camera will cost $6,499.95 for the body and will be accompanied by three new weather-resistant lenses: a 63mm f/2.8 for $1,499.95; a 32-64mm f/4 zoom for $2,299.95; and a 120mm f/4 macro for $2,699.95.

The GFX 50S is Fujifilm’s first medium-format digital camera and will go head to head with the similarly-priced Pentax 645Z and more expensive offerings from Hasselblad and PhaseOne. It has a new 51.4-megapixel 43.8mm x 32.9mm sensor (that’s nearly twice as large as a 35mm “full frame” sensor), Fujifilm’s X-Processor Pro imaging processor, 1080p video recording capability, and a detachable electronic viewfinder.

In addition to the three lenses available at launch, Fujifilm says it will also release 45mm f/2.8, 23mm f/4, and 110mm f/2 lenses later this year. All of the GF series of lenses are weather resistant, and Fujifilm will be releasing an adapter for the GFX 50S that allows older film-based medium format lenses to mount to it.

In our brief time with the camera after it’s initial unveiling last year, we found it to be a remarkably light and comfortable camera to use, despite the fact that it has a much larger sensor and lenses than DSLR cameras. The GFX 50S won’t be ideal for photography disciplines that require fast autofocus and operations, but it could be an excellent option for portrait and nature photographers looking for more detail and better image quality than full frame cameras currently provide.

The article was published on : theverge

Fujifilm upgrades the sensors in its excellent midrange X-series cameras

Fujifilm is announcing two new cameras today, though they will be very familiar to anyone that follows the company’s product lines. The new X100F and X-T20 are successors to the X100T and X-T10, respectively, and feature familiar designs with the new sensors and processors that debuted with the higher-end X-Pro2 and X-T2 last year. Both cameras will be available in the US starting next month.
The fixed-lens X100F (“F” stands for “fourth,” as it’s the fourth X100 series camera, in case you were wondering) carries over many of the features of its predecessor, including the clever and innovative three-mode hybrid electronic and optical viewfinder. It maintains the 23mm f/2 lens and basic overall design from the earlier X100 cameras, but gains the integrated shutter speed and ISO dial and rear joystick from the X-Pro2. Fujifilm says it also redesigned the controls of the X100F to all be accessible from the right side, to better enable one-handed shooting with the camera.

In addition to gaining the new 24-megapixel X-Trans III CMOS sensor, the X100F now has 91 phase detection focus points (up from 49) that cover 40 percent of the imaging area. The X100F will be available in silver or black at launch for $1,299.95.

The interchangeable lens X-T20 replaces the excellent X-T10 from 2015 and provides the same image quality as the more expensive X-series cameras while costing under $1,000. It, too, has the new 24-megapixel X-Trans III CMOS sensor and X-Processor Pro and has the new autofocus system used in the X100F, plus new continuous autofocusing settings. The X-T20 can also shoot video in 4K resolution, up from the 1080p output of its predecessor.
The X-T20 doesn’t have the rear joystick seen on other X-Series cameras, but instead features a full touchscreen. It will also come in silver or black for $899.95 for the body. A kit with the 16-50mm lens will sell for $999.95, while the 18-55mm kit option will run $1,199.95.

Finally, Fujifilm is also formally announcing the new 50mm f/2 WR X-mount lens, which will work with the X-T20, X-T2, X-Pro2, and other interchangeable lens X-Series cameras. It features a weather-resistant design and is compact and lightweight compared to Fujifilm’s 56mm f/1.2 lens. The 50mm f/2 will sell for $449.95 in February.

The article was published on : theverge

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Apple now allows bigger apps and games on the Apple TV

Apple has just alerted developers to a change in the rules for Apple for the Apple TV. Previously, apps were capped at 200MB for their initial size — but now they can be as large as 4GB, a 20x increase. Apple says it’s “now accepting” submissions from developers and that it’s making the change so that developers “can include more media in your submission and provide a complete, rich user experience upon installation.”

The change might encourage more developers to make their games available on the Apple TV. Although it’s not strictly fair to say that developers were unable to get big games on tvOS before, in order to do it they’d needed to store most of the data in Apple’s Cloud. It’s a feature called “On-Demand Resources,” which allows assets up to 20GB of data to be stored and available when needed — and it’s a feature that’s still available. But coding in support for those cloud resources is definitely an extra step — and it also means that a good game experience would require a good internet connection. With the newly raised app size limit, it could make it more palatable for developers to take their games from the iPhone and iPad to the Apple TV.

If that theory doesn’t make sense to you, here’s another: 4K content takes up a lot of space. Of course, the Apple TV doesn’t support 4K right now, but perhaps the change can provide some reason to hope that a future Apple TV will support 4K.

Or it could, as Federico Viticci writes at MacStories, simply be a thing Apple is doing simply because there’s little reason not to. Perhaps Apple has simply seen that people haven’t come anywhere near filling up the storage on their Apple TVs (they come in 32 and 64GB variants), so the overly conservative restriction on app sizes wasn’t necessary.

Whichever explanation you choose, we won’t see the effects of the change until developers take advantage of the new rules, which just went into effect today.

The article was published on : theverge

Microsoft's new Windows 10 Game Mode will maximize gaming performance

Microsoft has started officially testing a new Game Mode feature in Windows 10. Traces of the new option were found back in December, but the most recent test build of Windows 10 (15007) includes Game Mode in the Xbox app. MSPoweruser has supplied some screenshots of how you can enable the option, but Microsoft only just today unveiled Game Mode to the public in a post published to its Xbox Wire blog. 

Microsoft’s description lists the feature as a mode to let a PC make gaming the “top priority to improve your game’s quality.” It’s still not clear exactly how Game Mode will improve gaming performance, but it’s likely that Windows 10 will simply suppress system processes and other apps from taking too many CPU, GPU, and RAM resources away from the primary game being played.
Microsoft is also testing a game broadcasting feature in the Xbox app, thanks to its acquisition of Beam last year. While the feature is currently disabled, Windows 10 users will be able to easily stream game play to the Beam service with just the Xbox app once the Windows 10 Creators Update is released in April.

The article was published on : theverge

Nvidia’s leaked Shield Portable is the Switch competitor we may never see

A few months ago, rumors were flying that a new Nvidia Shield Portable might be on the way. Newly uncovered Federal Communications Commission filings have given us our first look at what a new version of the flip-up portable Android-based console could look like. 

The original Shield was released back in 2013, and while Nvidia has since released a variety of tablets and set-top boxes under the Shield branding, the rebranded Shield Portable hasn’t had a major update since it launched. 

The news is especially interesting on the heels of this week’s Nintendo Switch announcement, given that the Switch uses a custom Tegra processor, just like the Shield. A new Shield Portable would throw some interesting competition into the mix for the upcoming Nintendo device. 

Unfortunately, the odds of the second-generation Shield coming to market seem somewhat slim, given that the documents were submitted to the FCC on July 15th, 2016. Barring some extraordinary reason for Nvidia to delay the device, it seems probable that the company decided to cancel the product sometime after filing for approval. 

The article was published on : theverge

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