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Music

USB-IF Publishes Audio Over USB Type-C Specifications (anandtech.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AnandTech: The USB Implementers Forum this week published the USB Audio Device Class 3.0 (direct download) specification, which standardizes audio over USB Type-C interface. The new spec enables hardware makers to eliminate traditional 3.5mm mini-jacks from their devices and use USB-C ports to connect headsets and other audio equipment. Makers of peripherals can also build their audio solutions, which use USB-C instead of traditional analog connectors. Developers of the standard hope that elimination of mini-jacks will help to make devices slimmer, smarter and less power hungry. As reported, the USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification supports both analog and digital audio. Analog audio is easy to implement and it does not impact data transfers and other functionality of USB-C cables since it uses the two secondary bus (SBU) pins. The USB ADC 3.0 defines minimum interoperability across analog and digital devices in order to avoid confusion of end-users because of incompatibility. In fact, all ADC 3.0-compliant hosts should support the so-called headset adapter devices, which allow to connect analog headsets to USB-C. However, digital audio is one of the primary reasons why companies like Intel wanted to develop the USB-C audio tech on the first place, hence, expect them to promote it. According to the USB ADC 3.0 standard, digital USB-C headphones will feature special multi-function processing units (MPUs), which will, to a large degree, define the feature set and quality of headsets. The MPUs will handle host and sink synchronization (this is a key challenge for digital USB audio), digital-to-analog conversion, low-latency active noise cancellation, acoustic echo canceling, equalization, microphone automatic gain control, volume control and others. Such chips will also contain programmable amplifiers and pre-amplifiers, which are currently located inside devices. Besides, USB ADC 3.0-compatible MPUs will also support USB Audio Type-III and Type-IV formats (the latest compressed formats), but will retain compatibility with formats supported by ADC 1.0 and 2.0. Finally, among the mandated things set to be supported by USB-C Audio devices are new Power Domains (allows devices to put certain domains in sleep mode when not in use) as well as BADD (basic audio device definition) 3.0 features for saving power and simplified discovery and management of various audio equipment (each type of devices has its own BADD profile).
Businesses

New iPhone 7 Case Brings Back the Headphone Jack (thenextweb.com) 353

Apple removed the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, forcing users to use either Bluetooth, the Lightning port or included Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adaptor in order to listen to music through headphones. However, one company took it upon themselves to create an iPhone 7 case with a built-in 3.5mm headphone jack. The company is called Fuze and they recently launched an Indiegogo campaign that promises to bring the audio port back to the iPhone 7. The Next Web reports: To achieve this, the company is taking Apple's Lightning to 3.5mm adapter and building it straight into a case, where you can plug your headphones with "no dongles, no adapters, no problems." In addition to the audio port, the Fuze Case will also serve as a battery pack as it adds 2,400mAh of extra battery life to the iPhone 7 and 3,600mAh to the 7 Plus. It will be available in five different colors including white, black, gold, rose gold and blue. The case is currently available for $49 to "super early bird" backers, but will increase to $59 once more people have chipped in and will eventually sell for $69 in retail. The company expects to start shipping the accessory in December later this year.
Music

Spotify in Talks To Acquire SoundCloud (variety.com) 20

Janko Roettgers, writing for Variety: Spotify is in advanced talks to acquire rival music service SoundCloud, according to a report by the Financial Times. An announcement of the acquisition could be made soon, according to the Times. The acquisition would come just months after SoundCloud launched its own paid streaming service. A Spotify spokesperson declined to comment on the report when contacted by Variety; SoundCloud didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Spotify is the market leader in the growing paid streaming business, disclosing earlier this month that it now has more than 40 million paying subscribers. Its biggest competitor is Apple Music with 17 million paying subscribers.
Piracy

YouTube-MP3 Ripping Site Sued By IFPI, RIAA and BPI (torrentfreak.com) 308

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Two weeks ago, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry published research which claimed that half of 16 to 24-year-olds use stream-ripping tools to copy music from sites like YouTube. The industry group said that the problem of stream-ripping has become so serious that in volume terms it had overtaken downloading from 'pirate' sites. Given today's breaking news, the timing of the report was no coincidence. Earlier today in a California District Court, a huge coalition of recording labels sued the world's largest YouTube ripping site. UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, Arista Records, Atlantic Records and several others claim that YouTube-MP3 (YTMP3), owner Philip Matesanz, and Does 1-10 have infringed their rights. The labels allege that YouTube-MP3 is one of the most popular sites in the entire world and as a result its owner, German-based company PMD Technologies UG, is profiting handsomely from their intellectual property. YouTube-MP3 is being sued for direct, contributory, vicarious and inducement of copyright infringement, plus circumvention of technological measures. Among other things, the labels are also demanding a preliminary and permanent injunction forbidding the Defendants from further infringing their rights. They also want YouTube-MP3's domain name to be surrendered. "YTMP3 rapidly and seamlessly removes the audio tracks contained in videos streamed from YouTube that YTMP3's users access, converts those audio tracks to an MP3 format, copies and stores them on YTMP3's servers, and then distributes copies of the MP3 audio files from its servers to its users in the United States, enabling its users to download those MP3 files to their computers, tablets, or smartphones," the complaint reads. "Defendants are depriving Plaintiffs and their recording artists of the fruits of their labor, Defendants are profiting from the operation of the YTMP3 website. Through the promise of illicit delivery of free music, Defendants have attracted millions of users to the YTMP3 website, which in turn generates advertising revenues for Defendants," the labels add.
Iphone

People Are Drilling Holes Into Their iPhone 7 To 'Make a Headphone Jack' (craveonline.com) 201

TechRax -- a popular YouTuber who destroys technology for fame and riches -- has uploaded a video where he drills a hole into an iPhone 7, claiming it to be a "secret hack" to reinstall a headphone jack in the device. The only problem is that he didn't tell people it was a joke, and of course, some people fell for it. Crave Online reports: The YouTube video has amassed over 7.5 million views since being posted online last week, with it attracting 81,000 dislikes in the process. The comments section is currently torn between people who are in on the joke, people who criticize TechRax for damaging his iPhone 7, and most unfortunately, people who have tried the "hack" out for themselves. Although this is YouTube so you can never be quite sure of whether or not these folks are trolling, parsing the comments section reveals some pretty convincing complaints lobbed in TechRax's direction. It's also firmly believable that there are people dumb enough to attempt drilling a hole into their iPhone 7, which is unfortunate but that's the way the world is in 2016. You can read the comments under the YouTube video for more "convincing complaints." But as if the report didn't make it clear enough already, the video is a joke. Apple removed the headphone jack and there's no way to get it back, unless you use an adapter.
AI

Apple Is Getting Ready To Take On Google and Amazon In a Battle For The Living Room (qz.com) 114

An anonymous reader writes: Siri may soon be making the jump from your pocket to your end table. Apple has been working on a standalone product to control internet-of-things devices for a while, but a new report from Bloomberg suggests that the company has moved the project from a research phase to prototyping. It would theoretically be pitted against other smart-home devices, including Amazon's sleeper hit, the Echo, and Google's forthcoming Home Hub. According to the report, Apple's device would be controlled using its Siri voice assistant technology. It would be able to perform the same functions that it can complete now on iPhones, Macs, and other Apple products, such as being able to tell you when the San Francisco Giants are next playing, or possibly send a poorly transcribed text message. The device would also be able to control other internet-connected devices in the home, such as lights, door locks, and web-enabled appliances, as Google and Amazon's products can. It would also have the same ability to play music through built-in speakers.
Music

Stop Piracy? Legal Alternatives Beat Legal Threats, Research Shows (torrentfreak.com) 134

An anonymous reader writes: Threatening file-sharers with high fines or even prison sentences is not the best way to stop piracy. New research published by UK researchers shows that perceived risk has no effect on people's file-sharing habits. Instead, the entertainment industries should focus on improving the legal options, so these can compete with file-sharing. Unauthorized file-sharing (UFS) is best predicted by the supposed benefits of piracy. As such, the researchers note that better legal alternatives are the best way to stop piracy. The results are based on a psychological study among hundreds of music and ebook consumers. They were subjected to a set of questions regarding their file-sharing habits, perceived risk, industry trust, and online anonymity. By analyzing the data the researchers found that the perceived benefit of piracy, such as quality, flexibility of use and cost are the real driver of piracy. An increase in legal risk was not directly associated with any statistically significant decrease in self-reported file-sharing.
GNOME

GNOME 3.22 Desktop Environment Officially Released (softpedia.com) 121

Reader prisoninmate writes: Today, September 21, is a big day for Linux users, especially those who love the GNOME desktop environment, as the next major release is now officially available. Yes, that's right, we're talking about GNOME 3.22, dubbed Karlsruhe after the German host city of the annual GUADEC (GNOME Users And Developers European Conference) event, which took place last month between August 12-14, 2016. Prominent features of the GNOME 3.22 desktop environment include batch rename functionality and support for integration of compressed files built directly into the Nautilus file manager, a new Week View, support for alarms, and the ability to drag and drop events to the GNOME Calendar, as well as an updated GNOME Music app that supports handling of music libraries with thousands of tracks. There are lots of improvements for the GNOME Games app as well, as it now offers support for numerous retro gaming consoles. Among other improvements, we can mention Flatpak integration, photo sharing, revamped GNOME Software app with support for firmware updates, redesigned keyboard settings and a brand new GNOME Control Center panel, and a redesigned dconf Editor. A video overview of the new features of GNOME 3.22 is available on the official website.
Music

It Took a Couple Decades, But the Music Business Looks Like It's Okay Again (recode.net) 125

According to latest number from RIAA, music sales in the first half of the year were up 8.4 percent, to $3.4 billion -- the best performance the music industry has seen since its peak days back in the CD era. Recode adds: That boom is fueled entirely by the growth of paid subscription services. This year's numbers include Apple Music, which didn't exist a year ago but has 17 million worldwide subscribers today, as well as Spotify, which has been growing faster than Apple and has 40 million global subs. Digital downloads via stores like iTunes, meanwhile, are falling behind. Those sales dropped 17 percent to $1 billion. And some people still buy CDs, but soon that business will be a footnote: Those sales dropped 14 percent and now make up just 20 percent of U.S. sales. All good, right? Not according to Cary Sherman, who runs the RIAA, the labels' American trade group. He has a Medium post complaining that YouTube doesn't pay enough for all the music it streams, almost all of which is free.
Chrome

Google Chrome Beta For Android Now Lets You Play YouTube In the Background (techtimes.com) 51

The recently released version of Chrome on Android -- v54 (albeit in beta) -- finally brings a feature that users have been requesting for years: it lets them play YouTube songs in the background. Much like some of you, there are many out there who prefer listening to songs on YouTube instead of getting a subscription or otherwise downloading a music-streaming service. From a TechTimes report: With version 54, Google introduced a handful of updates to Chrome Beta. The new version introduces a handful of features that include background video and playback and a redesigned new tab page, among others. Among the features that are packed in the said beta version, background video playback is perhaps the most significant. In older iterations of Chrome, including version 53, videos will get paused once a new app is opened or after switching to the home screen. In version 54 beta, the videos will still get paused automatically but Android users are provided with an option to resume them via a media notification. Audio from the video will continuously be heard while using other apps.
Music

Pandora Has Announced Its $5 Subscription Service (recode.net) 64

Peter Kafka, writing for Recode: Earlier this week, Pandora signed two of the three big music labels to deals that will let it launch new streaming music services. Now it is launching one of them: Pandora Plus, an "ad-free radio experience with dramatically increased functionality," which will sell for $5 a month. Most Pandora users won't be able to listen to the service today: A Pandora rep says the service is going live to about 1 percent of its user base today and won't fully roll out to all of its users for another month or so. In the meantime, Pandora is still negotiating with Warner Music Group, the remaining big music label that hasn't signed a deal with the streaming service. Sources say the two sides have an agreement in principle, but were still papering the deal late last night -- apparently Pandora didn't want to wait before it announced the new service. Pandora also wants to launch a $10-a-month service, but that one may not launch for months. The new $5 service replaces Pandora's existing $5 ad-free service and has two new features: The ability to skip as many songs as you want and the option to download a limited number of songs for offline listening.
Cellphones

A Teenage Hacker Figured Out How To Get Free Data On His Phone (vice.com) 337

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Jacob Ajit is 17 and he just hacked his way to getting free phone data, presumably so that he can do whatever it is that teens do online these days without alerting his parents with overage fees. According to a Medium post Ajit posted on Wednesday, he made his discovery while playing around with a prepaid T-Mobile phone with no service. The phone was still able to connect to the network, although it would only take him to a T-Mobile portal asking him to renew the prepaid phone plan. For some reason, though, Ajit wrote that his internet speed test app still worked, albeit through a T-Mobile server. Ajit figured out that he was able to access media sent from any folder labelled "/speedtest," possibly because T-Mobile whitelists media files from speed tests regardless of the host. He tested his theory by setting up a "/speedtest" folder on his own site and filled it with media, including a Taylor Swift music video, which he was able to access. Ajit writes that he then created a proxy server that allows users to access any site with this method. All a T-Mobile user has to do is go to this page and input any URL they want to visit. "Just like that, I now had access to data throughout the T-Mobile network without maintaining any sort of formal payments or contract," Ajit wrote on Medium. "Just my phone's radios talking to the network's radios, free of any artificial shackles."
Books

Amazon Adds Audiobooks and Podcasts To Prime Membership (fortune.com) 60

If you're one of the 63 million Amazon Prime members out there, you may be happy to hear that Amazon will now grant you unlimited access to podcasts and audiobooks from Audible. Fortune reports: With Tuesday's news, Prime members will now be able to stream a rotating selection of more than 50 audiobooks. Prime members will also have free access to Amazon's newly launched on-demand audio service from Audible Channels, which provides ad-free podcasts and other audio content. Audible released the service in July, and is charging non-Prime members $4.95 each month to access the selection of podcasts. In addition to podcasts, Channels also includes access to audio versions of articles from major publications, comedy shows, short fiction, and more. Fingers crossed they have some engaging technology books in their rotating selection...
AI

Google's DeepMind Develops New Speech Synthesis AI Algorithm Called WaveNet (qz.com) 46

Artem Tashkinov writes: Researchers behind Google's DeepMind company have been creating AI algorithms which could hardly be applied in real life aside from pure entertainment purposes -- the Go game being the most recent example. However, their most recent development, a speech synthesis AI algorithm called WaveNet, beats the two existing methods of generating human speech by a long shot -- at least 50% by Google's own estimates. The only problem with this new approach is that it's very computationally expensive. The results are even more impressive considering the fact that WaveNet can easily learn different voices and generate artificial breaths, mouth movements, intonation and other features of human speech. It can also be easily trained to generate any voice using a very small sample database. Quartz has a voice demo of Google's current method in its report, which uses recurrent neural networks, and WaveNet's method, which "uses convolutional neural networks, where previously generated data is considered when producing the next bit of information." The report adds, "Researchers also found that if they fed the algorithm classical music instead of speech, the algorithm would compose its own songs."
Windows

Raspberry Pi Passes 10M Sales Mark (bbc.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: The Raspberry Pi has sold 10 million units -- continuing its success as the most popular British computer ever. The computer, about the same size as a credit card, was first released in 2012 and is widely used as an educational tool for programming. However, it can also be used for many practical purposes such as streaming music to several devices in a house. A new starter kit for Raspberry Pi, including a keyboard and mouse, has been released to celebrate the success. The kit also includes an SD storage card, official case, power supply, HDMI cable, mouse, keyboard and guidebook -- it costs $130 and will be available in the coming weeks. The Pi, which is manufactured in Wales, has been adopted by pupils, programmers and inventors around the world.
Iphone

Apple Cites 'Courage' As Reason To Remove 3.5mm Headphone Jack (arstechnica.com) 761

It didn't come as much of a surprise when Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller revealed that the iPhone 7 doesn't feature a headphone jack, since rumors have mentioned this possibility months before the announcement. In fact, what some may find more surprising is Apple's justification. The company cited three reasons why they decided to eighty-six the port, as well as one word: "courage." Ars Technica reports: "[Schiller said] the company can't justify the continued use of an 'ancient' single-use port. He described the amount of technology packed into the iPhone, saying each element in Apple's phones is fighting for space, and it's at a premium. Schiller explained that no company has tried to deliver a wireless experience between your devices and your headphones that fixes the things that are currently difficult to do -- and since there's only one major industry-wide wireless-audio standard, it's easy to assume that he's talking about Bluetooth there (though he didn't say the B-word out loud). To promote Apple's wireless-audio push, Schiller announced the new AirPods, which look mostly identical to the last official Apple earbud model, only with a small piece of plastic replacing the full cord. While Schiller and Apple designer Jonny Ive talked a lot about wireless being 'the future' of audio devices -- and thus being the reason for Apple's 'courage' to move on from the 3.5mm standard -- Apple is curiously not packing those AirPods into new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus boxes. Instead, those devices will ship with the updated Lightning EarPods by default. AirPods will begin shipping in late October and will cost $159."
Music

An Asteroid Has Been Named After Freddie Mercury (vice.com) 58

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard report: Freddie Mercury, frontman of Queen and transcendent being of pure performative joy and vitality, would have been 70 years old this Monday, September 5. To celebrate the occasion and honor Mercury's enormous impact on pop culture, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has officially changed the name of Asteroid 17473, located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, to "Freddiemercury." It's a fitting tribute to the man who exuberantly sang that he was "a shooting star leaping through the sky" in the heart-thumping rock rager "Don't Stop Me Now." Queen's lead guitarist Brian May, who also happens to be an astrophysicist with a namesake asteroid of his own, announced the news to the band's fans via YouTube on Sunday. Mercury's asteroid is about three and a half kilometers across, and has an albedo of about 0.3, which means it reflects only about 30 percent of the Sun's light. "It's a dark object, like a cinder in space, as many of these asteroids are," May said. "It's just a dot of light, but it's a very special dot of light."
Sony

Sony's Signature Walkman and Headphones Are $5,500 of Ridiculous (theverge.com) 99

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge: Like a grand old dinosaur that's being left behind by the evolution of the tech industry, Sony is in desperate recovery mode here at IFA. The company has new phones, a rather nice pair of noise-canceling headphones, the imminent PS VR, and... a truly outlandish combo of music player and headphones that costs a mighty $5,499.98. I guess there had to be some outlet for Sony's classic wild-eyed grandeur. Sony's new Signature audio series consists of the gold-plated NW-WM1Z Walkman, which weighs in at 455g (1lb) and $3,200, the $2,300 MDR-Z1R closed-back headphones, and a desktop headphone amp whose price I haven't even dared to look up. First impressions? The portable media player barely qualifies to be called portable. This new 256GB Walkman glints beautifully under IFA's bright lights, and its hefty case is machined to a perfect finish, but its weight is overwhelming. I simultaneously love it for its looks and hate it for its impracticality. Typical Sony, then!
Security

After Breaches At Other Services, Spotify Is Resetting Users' Passwords (vice.com) 33

And now, Spotify is asking its users to reset their passwords. The popular music streaming service is "actively resetting a number of users' passwords," Motherboard reports, adding that the company is doing this because of the data breaches at other services and websites. In an email to customers, the company said, "Don't worry! This is purely a preventative security measure. Nobody has accessed your Spotify account, and your data is secure." The move comes less than a week after Dropbox began resetting its users' passwords. Earlier today we learned that the cloud storage had been hacked, and as many as 68 million accounts are affected.
Chrome

Google Integrates Cast Into Chrome, No Extension Required (venturebeat.com) 43

An anonymous reader writes from a report via VentureBeat: On Monday, Google announced Google Cast is now built right into Chrome, allowing anyone using the company's browser to cast content to supported devices without having to install or configure anything. The Google Cast extension for Chrome, which launched in July 2013, is no longer required for casting. The report adds: "Here's how it works. When you browse websites that are integrated with Cast, Chrome will now show you a Cast icon as long as you're on the same network as a Cast device. With a couple of clicks, you can view the website content on your TV, listen to music on your speakers, and so on. In fact, Google today also integrated Hangouts with Google Cast: Signed-in users on Chrome 52 or higher can now use the 'Cast...' menu item from Chrome to share the contents of a browser tab or their entire desktop into a Hangout." The support document details all the ways you you can use Google Cast with Chrome.

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