KeepSolid VPN Unlimited Adds DNS Firewall for Customers

· Andrew Orr · Link

Logo of keepsolid vpn

KeepSolid’s VPN Unlimited added a new feature for its customers. This DNS firewall can block domains associated with malware, porn, drugs and alcohol, gambling, games, and more.

This benefit of KeepSolid DNS Firewall is closely connected with the previous one. If you don’t open a malicious website, you won’t get infected with malware. Better prevent than cure, agree? And there is really much to avoid, as malware attacks are exponentially increasing over time.

Great news for KeepSolid customers. And if you’re not a customer, I recommend reading my roundup of DNS services to use.

Internet Archive Releases National Emergency Library With 1.4 Million Books

· Andrew Orr · Link

As of March 24 the Internet Archive suspended wait lists for its collection of books by creating a National Emergency Library.

This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.

During the waitlist suspension, users will be able to borrow books from the National Emergency Library without joining a waitlist, ensuring that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials that the Internet Archive has digitized for the remainder of the US academic calendar, and that people who cannot physically access their local libraries because of closure or self-quarantine can continue to read and thrive during this time of crisis, keeping themselves and others safe.

The Social Distancing Lifetime Subscription Bundle Featuring Rosetta Stone: $199

· Bryan Chaffin · TMO Deals

The Social Distancing Bundle, with Rosetta Stone, 12min, and KeepSolid VPN

Our friends at Stack Commerce have put together a timely deal called the Social Distancing Lifetime Subscription Bundle. It features lifetime subscriptions to Rosetta Stone (24 languages), 12min (the micro book library), and KeepSolid VPN. Just the thing, or things, for being stuck at home. This bundle is $199 through our deal.

Could We See a US Digital Dollar Soon?

· Andrew Orr · Link

Image of a digital dollar

So right away, the answer to my headline is “probably not.” The article I’m linking to says language of digital dollars was removed from the final version of the stimulus package. But I think it’s worthwhile to think about.

The bill establishes a digital dollar, which it defines as ‘a balance expressed as a dollar value consisting of digital ledger entries that are recorded as liabilities in the accounts of any Federal Reserve Bank or … an electronic unit of value, redeemable by an eligible financial institution (as determined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System).’

Now may not be the time to introduce entirely new technologies, especially if they slow the release of the package. But I personally like the idea, although I don’t advocate for a completely cashless society as I’ve mentioned before.

Beats 1 Presenters Now Broadcasting Live From Their Homes

· Charlotte Henry · Link

Beats 1 Radio Logo

Presenters on Apple’s Beats 1 radio station began broadcasting from home on Monday to comply with coronavirus social-distancing guidelines, Engadget reported. They will, of course, be using a variety of Apple products to do so.

According to Apple, they will use FaceTime on their iPhones to conduct interviews with popular musicians like Elton John and Hayley Williams. It’s not clear whether or not the anchors will use iPhones to record the non-interview sections of their shows, but it would be surprising if they opted for smartphones over more professional audio equipment such as condenser microphones and preamps. However, exclusive programs from Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and more will indeed be recorded on their iPhones.

Neato Robot Vacuums Can Be Controlled With Siri Shortcuts

· Andrew Orr · Link

Neato Robotics announced today that it added support for Siri Shortcuts within its app. This means you can start controlling your robot vacuum with your voice.

By connecting your Neato to Siri Shortcuts, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, you can simply start cleaning just by using your voice.

I’d love to get a robot vacuum some day. In the meantime, if you have one of these products, try controlling it with a shortcut on your HomePod, Apple Watch, or iOS device.

Turn Your Goals Into Attainable Tasks with this Distraction-Free Habit Tracker: $21.24

· Bryan Chaffin · TMO Deals

Mindful Goals App

We have a deal on the Goals app from Mindful Suites. This app allows you to turn your goals into action plans you can integrate into your daily life. Built to measure your progress, track deadlines, send reminders and encouragements, and build positive reinforcement, Goals is designed to help you achieve more. It’s $24.99 through our deal, but coupon code SPRINGSAVE15 brings the checkout price down to $21.24.

How Twitch Helps Music Producers Connect With Fans

· Charlotte Henry · Link

Twitch Logo

Twitch is, of course, predominantly associated with gaming. However, DJ Mag found it is making increasing efforts to tie-up with the music industry too, particularly those who are producing dance and electronic music.

“We’ve seen non-gaming content on Twitch quadruple over the last three years, and we’re continuing to invest in new ways to grow and support this content,” Athena Koumis, a Music Partnerships Manager at Twitch who was hired in January 2020, tells DJ Mag. And that kind of content is getting more engagement from viewers, too… Many of the core characteristics underlying electronic music — percussive rhythms, repetitive hooks, vocal-free instrumentals and high-tech gear setups — make the genre particularly conducive to collaborations with gamers and game developers, and Twitch has frequently served as ground zero for these collaborations in the modern era.

All U.S. Firefox Users Can Now Scroll Ad-Free And Guilt-Free

· Charlotte Henry · Link

Mozilla has expanded its partnership with Scroll, the service that lets you avoid adverts while still generating revenue for publishers. A service called Firefox Better Web With Scroll is now available to all U.S. users, Techcrunch reported. You can support your favorite sites even if you don’t want to look at ads.

Last year, Firefox turned on something called Enhanced Tracking Protection for all its users by default, blocking third-party cookies and crypto-mining. Scroll, meanwhile, is a startup that recently launched a subscription service allowing you to read sites like BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, Salon, Slate and Vox without ads, with the revenue split among the publishers that you’re actually visiting. Mozilla has already been working with Scroll to collect feedback on this approach from small groups of Firefox users… Now, anyone in the United States who’s interested in trying this out can sign up for a Firefox account and install the Scroll extension. They’ll need to pay for a Scroll subscription as well — the company’s currently charging an introductory price of $2.49 per month, with plans to eventually increase to $4.99.

Backblaze Now Stores One Exabyte of Data

· Andrew Orr · Link

Cloud storage company Backblaze recently announced a milestone: It now stores one exabyte of data in its servers. Exabyte isn’t a word most of us come across often, so here’s a comparison: Gigabyte = 1,000 megabytes, Terabyte = 1,000 gigabytes, Petabyte = 1,000 terabytes, Exabyte = 1,000 petabytes or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.

But, while it’s great to keep our eyes on the future, it’s also important to celebrate what milestones mean. Yes, crossing an exabyte of data is another validation of our technology and our sustainably independent business model. But I think it really means that we’re providing value and earning the trust of our customers.

An astounding figure. Even more astounding is the fact that they’re already prepared for zettabyte-level storage, which is the next step up from exabyte. One zettabyte = 1,000 exabytes.

Cellebrite Releases Report of Digital Intelligence Trends 2020

· Andrew Orr · Link

Forensics company Cellebrite, mainly known for its iPhone hacking capabilities, released a report of top digital intelligence trends for 2020. One thing that stuck out at me:

…over 70 percent of officers are still asking witnesses and victims to surrender their devices…However, most people do not want to have their primary communication device taken away for an indefinite period. To combat this issue, 67 percent of agency management believe that mobility technology is important or very important to the agency’s long-term digital evidence strategy and 72 percent of investigators believe it is important to conduct in-the-field extractions of this data.

In other words, it sounds to me like LE wants the capability to extract data from devices on site, instead of sending it to a lab. Fast action is important for LE, but it may also be too fast for people to think about those pesky rights they have before handing their phone over.

Lawyers: Turn off Alexa and Google Home Before Confidential Meetings

· Andrew Orr · Link

Lawyers who are working from home are encouraged to turn off devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home because these products may eavesdrop.

“Perhaps we’re being slightly paranoid, but we need to have a lot of trust in these organizations and these devices,” Hancock said. “We’d rather not take those risks.”

The firm worries about the devices being compromised, less so with name-brand products like Alexa, but more so for cheap knock-off devices, he added.

It’s definitely not just cheap knock-offs.

Boost Focus and Productivity By Turning To-Do Lists into an Organized Schedule: $50.15

· Bryan Chaffin · TMO Deals

Focuster productivity app screenshots

We have a deal on Focuster, a web-based productivity app that turns your to-do lists into an organized schedule. It syncs with Google Calendar, which means it requires a Google account, and it prioritizes tasks, can auto-schedule them in your calendar, utilizes smart reminders, tracksyour progress, and much more. A lifetime subscription to this service is $59 through our deal, but coupon code SPRINGSAVE15 brings the checkout price down to $50.15.

Tim Cook: Apple is Donating 'Millions' of Masks to Help Healthcare Workers Fighting Covid-19

· Charlotte Henry · Link

Healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patient

Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted on Saturday that the company is donating “millions” of masks to help protect healthcare workers in the U.S. and Europe who are treating those with Covid-19. The Verge noted that this followed a statement made earlier in the day by Vice President Mike Pence.

Cook’s tweet appears to confirm a statement earlier in the day by Vice President Mike Pence. “The president and I literally heard directly from Apple that they’re donating 2 million industrial masks to this effort around the country and working with our administration to distribute those,” Pence said at a White House press briefing. How (and if) Apple was able to get the two million masks Pence referenced isn’t clear — The Verge has reached out to the company for more information. Globally, masks are in high demand, but supplies are running low.

Are Camera Apps Worth the Expense?

· Andrew Orr · Link

Alex Coleman writes about camera apps and why they’re probably not worth the purchase.

After shooting extensively with the latest versions of some of these apps, including an in-depth comparison against the stock camera app, I don’t believe there’s much value in keeping them installed. Put simply, the phone manufacturers have added enough “secret sauce” to their imaging pipeline that an app just won’t create a better quality image, in most cases.

You know, I have to agree with this. Just based on my own experience, I’ve used a ton of different camera apps over the years, and eventually stopped using every single one, until now I stick with Apple’s built-in camera app.

Should We Ban Targeted Advertising?

· Andrew Orr · Link

Gilad Edelman asks an important question at Wired: Why don’t we just ban targeted advertising?

The solution to our privacy problems, suggested Hansson, was actually quite simple. If companies couldn’t use our data to target ads, they would have no reason to gobble it up in the first place, and no opportunity to do mischief with it later. From that fact flowed a straightforward fix: “Ban the right of companies to use personal data for advertising targeting.”

Instead of, or in addition to, banning or restricting targeted advertising, I think we should go a step further and restrict data collection, which is what these companies use for these ads in the first place. When any startup without a track record can enter the business of collecting and selling our personal information, that’s a problem.

Freesay TWS Simultaneous Translation Earphones: $169.99

· Bryan Chaffin · TMO Deals

Freesay TWS Simultaneous Translation Earphones

We have a deal on a pair of Freesay TWS Simultaneous Translation Earphones. The company says these wireless earbuds deliver 97% accurate two-way translation, with 30+ languages under Wi-Fi or mobile hotspot connection. They also play music, have noise canceling, and come with a charging case that can be used in the translation process. They’re $199.99 through our deal, but coupon code SPRINGSAVE15 brings the checkout price down to $169.99.

Manfredi Gioacchini Used an iPhone to Document Climate Change in Antarctica

· Andrew Orr · Link

Photo of an iceberg

Documentary photographer Manfredi Gioacchini is documenting climate change in Antarctica. His tool? An iPhone.

“Most of the usage was related with video recording, in fact the audio of the new phone is incredible,” says the photographer. “That’s important in matters of the climate change… capturing the sounds of icebergs breaking down…”

He also managed to take advantage of the phone’s Night Mode, though it wasn’t necessary for most of the trip, since the sun never dipped below twilight. Scroll down to see Manfredi’s photos for yourself.

Important work, and also beautiful.

CarPlay Slows Driver Reactions Even More Than Alcohol, Study Finds

· Charlotte Henry · Link

CarPlay is fantastically useful, but new research reported on by AppleInsider suggests that it could severely limit your reaction time.  The study for UK road safety charity IAM RoadSmart showed that in-vehicle infotainment systems can impair drivers’ reactions even more than cannabis or alcohol do.

Regardless of the infotainment system, all users showed significantly slowed reaction time. Undistracted drivers typically showed a one-second reaction time. Those who used the voice-controlled Apple CarPlay saw a 36% increase in their reaction time, which rose to 57% when they used the touch interface. Android Auto users faired only slightly better—a 30% increase in reaction time when using voice control, and 53% when using touch controls. For comparison, those who drive under the influence at the drink-drive limit showed a 12% increase in reaction time, and those who used cannabis saw a 21% increase.

Netflix And YouTube Reducing Streaming Quality in Europe to Help Reduce Network Strain

· Charlotte Henry · Link

Netflix and YouTube are going to reduce their streaming quality for the next month, CNN reported. They are aiming to help reduce strain on networks as more-and-more people are forced to work from home due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Both companies said the measures will affect all video streams for 30 days. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. A spokesperson for Google (GOOGL), which owns YouTube, said: “We will continue working with member state governments and network operators to minimize stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience.” The changes follow appeals from EU officials for streaming services and individual users to ditch high definition video to prevent the internet from breaking. With so many countries on forced lockdowns to fight the spread of the virus, hundreds of millions working from home and even more children out of school, the officials were concerned about the huge strain on the internet.