Posts with «author_name|steve dent» label

Ducati's first electric motorcycle is designed for MotoE racing

Ducati has unveiled not just its first electric motorcycle but a key piece in the 2023 season of MotoE e-motocycle racing, it announced. The V21L prototype has that classic Ducati look but is swathed in carbon fiber and packs a 150HP electric motor with a 18kWh battery. As detailed in an announcement last year, Ducati will be the exclusive supplier of all 18 bikes used for FIM MotoE World Cup racing from 2023-2026.

It weighs in at 225 kilograms (496 pounds), with just under half the weight for the battery — very heavy for a racing bike (143 pounds more than ICE models), but still 26 pounds under the MotoE specification for 2023. It's also 35 kg (77 pounds) less than the Energica e-motocycles currently used in MotoE racing. 

The V21L can be charged to 80 percent in just 45 minutes and has enough range to complete the required seven laps of key GP tracks. It has reportedly hit speeds of up to 171 MPH at the Mugello MotoGP Circuit in Tuscany. 

The e-motorbike is quite a bet by (and on) Ducati considering it's never done one before, but the company said it used its extensive racing experience to design the model. At the same time, it'll take racing lessons learned back to its consumer models. 

"At this moment, the most important challenges in this field remain those related to the size, weight, autonomy of the batteries and the availability of the charging networks," said Ducati R&D director Vincenzo De Silva in a statement. "Helping the company's internal expertise to grow is already essential today to be ready when the time comes to put the first street electric Ducati into production."

Tesla faces new lawsuit over claims of racism and harassment at its Fremont factory

Tesla is facing another lawsuit by a group of former and current workers at its Fremont factory who allege that it knew about but failed to stop racist slurs, harassment and more, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The employees were "subjected to offensive racist comments and offensive racist behavior and discipline by colleagues, leads, supervisors, managers, and/or human resources personnel on a daily basis," the complaint states. 

One plaintiff named in the suit, Jasmine Wilson, worked as a quality inspector from August 2021 to March 2022. She alleges that she was the victim of racial epithets and sexual harassment from supervisors. In addition, they assumed she was a production associate because she was African-American, and berated her for not doing that job and wearing the wrong uniform, according to the suit. When she informed human resources, it was skeptical of her claims and never launched a promised investigation. 

Other employees also alleged racial slurs and graffiti on Tesla restroom walls, and said they were retaliated against after complaining. Some said they were given more strenuous positions than non-minority workers and passed over for promotions. 

Late last year, Tesla was sued by six women who accused it of "rampant" sexual harassment at the Fremont factory with catcalling, inappropriate touching, sexual comments and more. In December, a jury awarded former elevator operator Owen Diaz $137 million over racial abuse. The award was later reduced to $15 million, but that was rejected by Diaz and a federal judge ordered a new damages trial. Tesla has yet to comment on the latest lawsuit and eliminated its press relations department in 2020. 

The EU introduces new crypto rules to protect against fraud and climate impact

Europe and its member states have provisionally agreed on new crypto regulations that aim to protect consumers and service providers, the European Parliament announced. Called "MiCA" (markets in crypto-assets), it's designed to guard against things like fraud, criminal activity, climate impact and more. 

"In the Wild West of the crypto-world, MiCA will be a global standard setter," said Germany's MEP Stefan Berger in a statement. "MiCA will ensure a harmonised market, provide legal certainty for crypto-asset issuers, guarantee a level playing field for service providers and ensure high standards for consumer protection." 

A new legal framework is designed to protect market integrating by regulating public crypto offerings. A key provision is a public register administered by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) to address money laundering concerns. Major crypto-asset service provider (CASPs) will also have to disclose energy consumption and declare environmental and climate impact data to their national authority, which will in turn inform ESMA. 

This new regulation strengthens the European framework to fight money-laundering, reduces the risks of fraud and makes crypto-asset transactions more secure. The EU travel rule will ensure that CASPs can prevent and detect sanctioned addresses and that transfers of crypto-assets are fully traceable.

The law covers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether, but NFTs (nonfungible tokens) including "cinema tickets, digital collectibles from clothing brands or in-game items in computer games" will be exempt. However, those could later be re-classified as financial instruments or crytpo assets subject to MiCA, according to the rules. 

The law is still provisional, with key details like whether CASPs will need to be located in the EU still being debated, according to Bloomberg. Earlier version of the draft, first proposed in 2020, included a provision to ban Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that used energy-intensive mining processes. However, those were subsequently removed following industry complaints. 

The news follows a a bad run for crypto, with the collapse of TerraUSD and other tokens, the freezing of withdrawals at Celsius and a general decline in the market. The US has yet to implement its own rules on crypto, but US senators recently introduced a bipartisan bill designed to do just that. 

Months after launch, the DJI Mavic 3 is a much better drone

When it launched last year, the DJI Mavic 3 grabbed a lot of headlines with features like a big Four Thirds sensor and a second 7X telephoto camera. But it also drew some criticism for going on sale with key features like ActiveTrack and QuickShots still not available. That meant that I and others couldn’t assess those features in our early Mavic 3 reviews. And because of that, potential buyers couldn’t get a full picture of the drone before paying up to $5,000 for one.

Following three major firmware updates in December, January and May, all the promised functions and more are finally here. Now, I’m going to test them out using the same exact drone to see how well they work. At the same time, I’ll discuss this trend of selling products before key features are available – is this good or bad?

ActiveTrack, Quickshots and other AI features

Last year, I tested the mainstream Mavic 3 (not the Cine model) in the Fly More combo package with my drone pilot friend, Samuel Dejours. At the time, we rated it highly for things like video quality, obstacle avoidance, long battery life and more. However, the coolest AI features were nowhere to be seen.

This time, we’ve got three firmware updates, with the most recent coming from the end of May. Most of the AI features like QuickShots, ActiveTrack 5, MasterShots and others arrive in January. We’re also going to check out the “Nifty” update that arrived in May, allowing the Mavic 3 to fly closer to obstacles with a smoother trajectory.

Prior to Nifty, we tested the Mavic 3’s ActiveTrack and APAS 5.0 obstacle avoidance, and found it couldn’t keep up with the smaller and cheaper DJI Mini 3 Pro. Some of that is down to the Mini 3 Pro’s size and agility, but the Mavic 3 also seemed conservative when approaching obstacles.

Steve Dent/Engadget

In Normal mode, we found that ActiveTrack worked well as long as it didn’t have to deal with many obstacles. It usually flew at the angle and distance set, giving us stable and predictable shots. So it was already a decent tool for solo creators – but it didn’t do the things DJI showed in its Mavic 3 launch video like zipping around trees while filming a guy on a mountain bike.

With Nifty mode, though, it loses that shyness. When used with ActiveTrack, it’s willing to approach obstacles very closely while following your subject. That makes it possible to film in tricker situations and get far more dramatic shots as it passes behind, under and over impediments.

It does make things more unpredictable though, of course. You can never tell what route it’s going to take to avoid obstacles and sometimes it gets lost in the woods, literally. It will also deviate from your pre-selected path, as you’d expect, but then stay there at a new altitude or camera angle. Still, this often results in some interesting and unexpected shots.

Steve Dent/Engadget

However, the extra AI derring-do can put the Mavic 3 in harm's way, as you’re warned when you turn on Nifty mode – not ideal with a $2,000-$5,000 drone. It might be a good idea to get DJI’s $239 Care Refresh accident protection insurance if you use it frequently. An earlier release of DJI’s app warned that “you will be liable for any adverse consequences” when using the feature, but it no longer says that in the latest version.

Where Nifty is most useful is with manual piloting, we discovered. By engaging it, Samuel was able to fly in tighter spaces without the drone chickening out, while still getting basic obstacle protection. That allowed him to concentrate on the subject while the drone swooped around and passed closely by obstacles, resulting in some pretty thrilling footage.

The January update also introduced QuickShots, letting you do pre-programmed camera movements like Dronie, Helix, Rocket, Circle, Boomerang, and Asteroid. On top of that, the May update lets you shoot Log or HLG while using QuickShots, except for Asteroid mode.

Steve Dent/Engadget

These features are great for social media selfies, and actually not bad for grabbing some quick footage. For instance, if you want a perfect-looking orbit, you don’t need perfect piloting skills – just let the drone and obstacle detection do the job. Just make sure you’re in a relatively clear area.

MasterShots is a similar feature, letting you capture a series of pre-programmed moves. It then joins those shots together to create a little video set to music. It was updated in January with 4K 60 fps shooting, manual exposure adjustment and more.

Panorama offers wide-angle, 180-degree and Sphere modes, a neat but slightly cheesy feature for occasional use. Finally, the latest version of Hyperlapse does a flying time lapse with some cropping to reduce shakes and jitter. It can produce some dramatic shots, particularly for cityscapes with cloud cover and other dynamic situations. The latest version optimizes stability, making for smoother shots – but they’re not perfectly smooth if there’s a lot of wind.

Camera and GPS updates

Next, we’ll get into the bulk of updates that arrived in late May, mostly focused on camera improvements. Many of the changes are designed to make the 7X telephoto camera more useful.

The biggest change is the addition of 50 fps shooting for 4K and 1080p, up from 30fps before. It also introduces manual controls, letting you adjust the ISO and shutter speeds. DJI also introduced burst shooting and RAW capture. Those things do make the tele camera more useful and allow for more options in post. But they don’t address the relatively low resolution and mediocre optics.

At the same time, the main camera got a few key updates, like 200 fps slow motion at 1080p (with a significant crop), HLG for in-camera HDR capture, and a three times digital zoom. The latter is a welcome update, as it offers higher quality and more options (HLG, Log, 120fps slow-mo) than the tele camera.

Combined with earlier updates that added improved color accuracy and more, you can take full advantage of the larger sensor. It’s now good enough to replace much bigger drones that pack physical cameras in some cases, at a much lower cost. And while the tele camera doesn’t offer the best quality for content creation, it’s great for things like bird spotting, industrial work and more.

Finally, it’s worth noting that DJI appears to have fixed the GPS issue that caused a slow home lock on startup – a problem that has plagued users since launch.

Wrap-up

Steve Dent/Engadget

With all of that, the Mavic 3 finally delivers on its potential and DJI’s marketing. It does beg the question of why it went on sale without those things in the first place, though. I saw plenty of complaints from potential buyers, YouTubers and others to that effect.

I’m personally fine with it though. DJI is generally reliable with promised updates, other than the Ronin 4D RAW video debacle. Key features like image quality were present from day one, so buyers could immediately use the Mavic 3 to create content and make money. QuickShots, ActiveTrack and a lot of the other AI features are nice, but certainly not mandatory for many pro users

The biggest problem was that users couldn’t assess missing features ahead of purchase. To solve that, companies like DJI should at least have them ready in beta for reviewers, so we can give potential buyers a flavor of them. Details like that can weigh heavily on a buying decision for such an expensive product.

Samuel feels the same way. He was able to exploit the Mavic 3 for professional use, filming cityscapes, events, weddings, parties and more. Image quality was the most important factor for him, and while he did want the AI features, he was willing to wait. I think many other pros would feel the same – let us know what you think in the comments below.

Apple now lets apps use third-party payment providers in South Korea

Apple has started allowing developers to use alternative payment systems for apps in South Korea, it announced. It made the move to comply with a new law in the nation requiring major app stores to allow alternative payment methods. Apple is still taking a cut from app transactions, though, albeit with a slight reduction in the fee. 

To use alternatives to Apple's own payment system, developers must create a special version of their apps for the Korean App Store. Apple has approved four South Korean payment providers, KCP, Inicis, Toss and NICE and any others must be approved by Apple via a request on its developer website. Certain features like Ask to Buy and Family Sharing won't be available, and Apple takes no responsibility for subscription management or refunds. 

Apple originally appealed the law, but eventually agreed to reduce its usual 30 percent commission to 26 percent. That effectively matches Google, which unveiled its Play Store compliance plans shortly after the law was announced with a four percent discounts on its usual commission. 

Apple has faced attacks on its policies over the past few years, kicked off after Epic Games sued it for removing Fortnite from the App Store. In the US, proposed Senate bills would force Apple to allow app sideloading on iOS and other measures. Last year, Apple published a 16-page report explaining why it should be able to keep its ecosystem closed. 

EU consumer groups file complaint against Google over 'deceptive' sign-up practices

Consumer groups in Europe have filed complaints against Google for using "deceptive design, unclear language and misleading choices" in its sign-up process, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) said in a press release. "Contrary to what Google claims about protecting consumers’ privacy, tens of millions of Europeans have been placed on a fast track to surveillance when they signed up to a Google account," said BEUC deputy director Ursula Pachl. 

Europe's GDPR rules are supposed to make it easy to choose settings that protect your privacy, but Google violates that principal when you create an account, it claims. It also emphasizes that having a Google account is a must for the Android users if they want to get apps from Google Play. 

When you sign up to a @Google account, what the tech giant offers you is a #FastTrackToSurveillance instead of privacy by design. Enough! Together with consumer groups from our network, we are taking action & asking data protection authorities to step in. https://t.co/QpBWp77IPopic.twitter.com/iTLWwDUtRZ

— The Consumer Voice (@beuc) June 30, 2022

"Signup is the critical point at which Google makes users indicate their ‘choices’ about how their Google account will operate. With only one step, the consumer activates all the account settings that feed Google’s surveillance activities. Google does not provide consumers with the option to turn all settings ‘off’ in one click," the BEUC wrote. 

If you do want more privacy-friendly options, you have to use manual personalization involving "five steps with nine clicks and grappling with information that is unclear, complete and misleading," it added.

The group noted that it first filed complaints about Google's location-tracking practices three years ago and a decision has still not been made by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner in charge. Now, the BEUC has organized 10 consumer groups which have filed complaints in France, Norway, Greece and other EU member states. 

In reply, Google gave the following statement to TechCrunch

We know that consumer trust depends on honesty and transparency — which is why we’ve staked our future success on building ever simpler, more accessible controls and giving people clearer choices. And, just as important, doing more with less data. We welcome the opportunity to engage on this important topic with Europe’s consumer advocates and regulators. People should be able to understand how data is generated from their use of internet services. If they don’t like it, they should be able to do something about it. 

The company also said that it tried to follow EU guidance that requires a "two-fold obligation of being precise and complete on the one hand and understandable on the other hand." It added that it based its choices on "extensive research efforts, guidance from DPA's [data protection authorities] and feedback from testers." 

The BEUC said Google's practices haven't changed since it first filed its complaint, though. "We need swift action from the authorities because having one of the biggest players ignoring the GDPR is unacceptable," said Pachl. "This case is of strategic importance for which cooperation among data protection authorities across the EU must be prioritized and supported by the European Data Protection Board." Google has faced the EU's wrath before, receiving a $5 billion fine in 2018 over its app and browser choice practices. 

Major League Baseball wants to deploy strike zone robo-umpires in 2024

Major League Baseball will "likely" introduce an Automated Strike Zone System starting in 2024, commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN. The so-called robot umpires may call all balls and strikes then relay the information to a plate umpire, or be part of a replay review system that allows managers to challenge calls. "We have an automated strike zone system that works," Manfred said. 

The comments come in the wake of fan outrage over umpire's missed calls in recent games, including a brutal low strike error during a Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins tilt. "Enough is enough. Give me robo umps already," tweeted Grand Rapids ABC sports director Jamal Spencer. 

Enough is enough. Give me robo umps already https://t.co/Zsc8yBI9F4

— Jamal Spencer (@JamalSpencerTV) May 31, 2022

MLB has been experimenting with robo umps in minor league Atlantic Triple-A league since 2019. It uses a doppler radar system developed by TrackMan, best known for its golf speed measurement devices. The system works thusly, according to CBS: "Pitch gets thrown, TrackMan tracks and identifies the pitch's location, phone tells umpire whether it's a ball or strike, umpire physically makes the call behind the plate." 

In fairness to umpires, calling balls and strikes with 100 MPH fastballs and hard-breaking curveballs caught outside the zone is no easy feat. But that's exactly why fans, pundits and the league itself thinks that machines should take the job, leaving the plate umpire to judge tags and other more subjective plays. Mechanical systems also made Atlantic league games mercifully shorter by a full nine minutes, according to MLB data. 

Under baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, the league has the right to change rules unilaterally, provided it gives the union a season's notice. Manfred already said that such a system wouldn't be brought in next year, as the new competition committee won't have its first meeting until 2023. Once it does meet, though, the committee is very likely to approve the changes since it's dominated by ownership, according to ESPN

Snapchat+ is a new $4 monthly subscription service for 'passionate' users

Snap is launching an optional subscription service offering "exclusive, experimental, and pre-release features," it announced. The $4 a month service is aimed at "passionate" snapchat users and launching this week in the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The exclusive features are modest to start with, including the ability to change the app icon, see who re-watched a story and pin a friend to the top of your chat history as a "BFF," Snapchat SVP Jacob Andreou told The Verge. Some of those features like BFF will only be available to subscribers, but others may filter over to the main Snapchat app.

Snap relies mainly on its advertising model for revenue, so the new service is a break from that. It also makes money selling hardware like its Spectacles smart glasses and new Pixy drone, but that revenue is relatively small change compare to its ad business. The company recently announced a hiring freeze during its last earnings report and saw its stock price plunge dramatically over the last two months. 

Firefox can now automatically remove tracking from URLs

Mozilla's latest Firefox browser release has a new feature that prevents sites like Facebook from tracking you across websites, Bleeping Computer has reported. Called Query Parameter Stripping, it automatically removes strings of characters added to the end of an URL that allow Facebook, Hubspot, Olytics and other companies to track your clicks and serve targeted ads.

You've likely noticed these queries when you click on a link that comes from Facebook, for example. Rather than showing "https://www.engadget.com/example.html," it might show something like "https://www.engadget.com/example.html?fbclid=aa7-V4yb6Yfit_9_Pd" (not a real example). 

That jumble of characters after the question mark is a query parameter that can tell a company you've clicked on a link, helping them profile you for ad targeting. If you enable the stripping feature in the latest version of Firefox, it'll remove those characters before loading the URL, so Facebook will be none the wiser. It works via a blocklist and covers Olytics, Drip, Vero, HubSpot, Marketo and Facebook. 

To enable the feature, you simply select "Strict" for "Enhanced Tracking Protection" in the Privacy & Security settings. That doesn't work in Private Mode, but you can turn it on there too by typing "about:config" in the address bar, searching for strip and setting the 'privacy.query_stripping.enabled.pbmode' option to true, as Bleeping Computer points out. 

Nikon's mirrorless Z30 is an affordable, lightweight vlogging camera

Nikon has unveiled the 20.9-megapixel APS-C Z30, its smallest and lightest Z-series camera yet. Designed for vloggers and creators, it offers a flip-out display, 4K 30p video and a long 125-minute video record time when plugged in — but lacks an electronic viewfinder. 

The Z30 is Nikon's third APS-C (DX) mirrorless camera so far, after the Z50 and Z fc models. It uses the same giant Z-mount as the company's full-frame models, which effectively dominates the relatively small body. It has a simple but effective control setup with a mode dial on top, front and rear dials to set exposure, a photo/video selector switch, and buttons for ISO, exposure compensation, AF-lock and shooting mode. A new feature over the other DX models is a tally light on front so vloggers can see when they're recording.

Nikon

The hand grip is deep for such a small camera, but due to the large mount, there's not a ton of room between the lens for your fingers. As mentioned, it has a fully-articulating 3.0-inch screen that activates self-portrait mode when flipped out, letting you set key controls like exposure compensation with the camera at at arm's length. Other key features include built-in stereo mics, a microphone input and a single UHS-I SD memory card slot. Unfortunately, it lacks a headphone jack which is a negative for video creators. 

The Z30 competes with Sony's ZV-E10 vlogging camera and has one advantage over its rival. It can shoot 4K at up to 30fps using the full width of the sensor, where Sony's model has a 1.23x crop at 30fps. That's fairly important for vlogging, as a crop makes it harder to get yourself into the shot. It can also shoot 1080p at up to 120 fps for slow-mo, but unlike the ZV-E10, doesn't support log capture — only a "flat" profile. Like its Sony rival, the Z30 has no built-in IBS — only electronic stabilization.

Nikon promises reliably fast and sharp hybrid phase-detect autofocus with face, eye and animal AI detection. It's likely similar to the AF on the Z50 and Z fc models, which are decent but lag behind Sony's APS-C cameras in terms of AF speed and accuracy. It offers a picture control auto function depending on the scene, along with 20 creative profiles. However, there's no one-click "product showcase" or bokeh options like Sony offers on the ZV-E10. 

It has a relatively small battery (the same on the other two DX models) giving it a 330 shot CIPA rating. Unlike the Z50 and Z fc which were limited to 30 minutes, the Z30 can record up to 125 minutes of 1080p video and about 35 minutes of 4K. To get those figures, though, you'll have to plug the camera's USB-C port to power. 

Nikon

Nikon promises good photography performance as well, but it's already behind the 8-ball in that area without an electronic viewfinder. Still, you get shooting speeds up to 11 fps (mechanical shutter, JPEG/RAW), hybrid phase-detect AF and even the ability to shoot a photo while recording video. 

The Z30 arrives in mid-July at $710 for the body only, $850 with a kit Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, or $1,200 with the Nikkor Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 lens. Another option coming in November is the 14-140mm f/3.5-6.3 lens for $1,150. Nikon will also offer a Creators Accessory Kit for $150 with a SmallRig tripod grip, Nikon ML-L7 Bluetooth remote and a Rode VideoMicro microphone.

Along with the camera, Nikon also unveiled a new full-frame Z-mount lens, the Z400mm f/4.5 VR S. Nikon says it's the lightest lens in its class at 2.55 pounds, offers dust- and drip-resistant performance and a focus-breathing compensation function for video recording. It arrives in July 2022 for $3,250.