Bitwig is still something of an upstart in the world of digital audio workstations (DAW), but the rate at which it keeps improving and expanding its powers is truly impressive. With the official release of Bitwig Studio 4.1 the company is leaning hard into the sort of unpredictable and generative musical ideas it already excels at.
The big news in 4.1 is a collection of eight new Note FX bringing the total to 23. These allow you to manipulate MIDI on a per-note basis, for example by using an arpeggiator. But the eight new additions get a little more experimental and some take inspiration from the world of physics to deliver semi-random results. Dribble, for example, triggers notes based simulating a bouncing ball, repeating them "until gravity wins." Ricochet is similar except notes careen around a "room", retriggering with each collision.
Some of the new effects actually lean in the other direction and away from randomization. Quantize, for instance, is all about keeping your notes locked to the beat, though there is some leeway here via the "forgiveness" parameter.
The new collection of Note FX is rounded out by Humanize, Randomize, Strum, Bend and Note Repeats. The power of these new effects really comes unlocked when you start combining them. Bitwig's modular nature is part of what makes it so unique, including The Grid, its built-in sound design environment that lets you create custom instruments and effects.
Bitwig is also intruding a soundpack to take advantage of the added FX called Notes in Bloom. Inside are a collection of presets featuring the new Note FX, including some chained together that "make your played and held notes repeat, dance, bounce and create interesting rhythms in real time, so you can use them while playing live."
If you've been considering give Bitwig a try, now is a great time to do it. Both Studio and 16-Track are on sale until January 11th. The stripped back 16-track edition is marked down to $79, from $99. While the full-fledge Studio version is $100 off, bringing the price to just $299. While $299 isn't exactly impulse purchase territory, it's pretty inexpensive in the world of DAWs. Even with a pretty steep 25-percent discount for Black Friday Ableton's Live 11 suite is $562.
Pinterest will no longer enforce former employees' nondisclosure agreements when it comes to cases of racial and gender-based discrimination, according to NBC News. That's part of the terms the company has agreed to in order to settle the lawsuit filed by its shareholder, the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island, for allegedly enabling a culture of discrimination. In addition, it has committed $50 million towards increasing diversity and inclusion within the company.
The shareholder sued Pinterest after allegations made by former employees Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks became public. In a series of tweets, Ozoma detailed how she fought for a year to be paid and treated fairly. She said Pinterest responded inadequately when one of her white male colleagues shared her name and phone number to racist/misogynistic parts of the internet. Her colleague reportedly doxxed her after she suggested adding a warning on content from Ben Shapiro, whom she'd described as a "white supremacist."
Meanwhile, Banks said her manager made disparaging comments about her ethnicity (she's Black and Japanese) in front of colleagues. Both Ozoma and Banks said they were paid less than their manager, a white man, despite having similar workloads.
The Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island argued that by allowing those events to take place, executives perpetrated or knowingly ignored "the long-standing and systemic culture of discrimination and retaliation at Pinterest." Thus, they breached their fiduciary duty. Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner said:
"We pushed for these sweeping reforms to support Pinterest's employees with a fair and safe workplace, and to strengthen the company's brand and performance by ensuring that the values of inclusiveness are made central to Pinterest's identity."
As NBC News notes, the fact that Pinterest agreed to release employees from their NDAs reflects the work Ozoma has accomplished since she left the company. She co-sponsored the Silenced No More Act that will make it easier for workers to speak out about racism and harassment in the workplace even if they had previously signed NDAs. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it into law in October, and it will be enforced starting on January 1st.
Ozoma and Banks aren't the only former employees who spoke out against Pinterest. Former COO Françoise Brougher also said that she was fired after she told CEO Ben Silbermann that she was being given gendered feedback and was being paid less than her male counterparts. She sued the company last year and settled for $22.5 million.
Bobby Kotick has reportedly said he may consider resigning as CEO of Activision Blizzard if he can’t fix the company’s cultural problems fast enough. According to , Kotick held a meeting last week involving senior leadership at Blizzard Entertainment in which he said he was “ashamed” of some of the incidents that had occured at the studio under his tenure as CEO. He reportedly went to apologize for his handling of the current situation after he was told some employees would not be satisfied unless he were to resign. According to The Journal, Kotick left open the possibility of a resignation if he couldn’t fix the company’s problems “with speed.”
We’ve reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment.
Calls for Kotick to resign have steadily increased in frequency since The Wall Street Journal last week which alleged he knew about many of the sexual misconduct incidents that had occured at the company over the years. According to the outlet, Kotick has also been accused of mistreating women himself, including one episode involving a voicemail in which he allegedly threatened to have his assistant killed.
After the report came out on November 16th, Activision Blizzard employees and later calling for Kotick to be removed as CEO of the company. Since then, a group of has also called on Kotick to step down. In leaked emails, the heads of and both said they were troubled by the allegations that had come out of the publisher. In the latter case, Phil Spencer reportedly told employees he was “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments.”
One group Kotick has seemingly not lost support among is Activision Blizzard’s board of directors. On the same day The Journal published its report, the company’s board said it “remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.”
I’ve been obsessed with Balmuda’s fancy toaster for years. As some readers might know, I used to live in Japan while working for Engadget, and I’d browse around electronics superstores like Yodobashi Camera and Yamada Denki, gawping at high-level cameras, weird 3DS games that would never make it to the West and touring floors upon floors of home appliances and gadgets. There are entire shop floors dedicated to rice cookers, water boilers and the rest. And it is amazing.
Balmuda’s premium toaster oven was the apex, though. Fortunately, the company’s steam-based toaster has made it to the US in recent years and now, for $329, you can have the fluffiest slices of toasted bread you can imagine. But for those in Japan, Balmuda has now announced its first-ever smartphone.
It's a petite device with a full-HD 4.9-inch display. The company teamed up with Kyocera to manufacture the Android device, which has 5G and wireless charging. It comes with a 48-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera and a fingerprint sensor. The Balmuda Phone is powered by a Snapdragon 765 processor and, as you might tell, the device packs relatively middleweight specs. The company may be banking on its premium status to convince smartphone shoppers.
At the moment, the company doesn’t have plans to release the phone outside Japan.
Fender's acoustic-electric hybrid guitars are technical marvels — with a price to reflect that. Now, the instrument brand has unveiled its $1,200 Acoustic Player Telecaster with a simpler design with a three-way voice selector (versus five on other models) and one blend knob.
And yet Gmail and Hangouts were working fine, ugh.
A Google Cloud networking issue took down a handful of prominent websites late yesterday, including Spotify, Snapchat, Etsy and Discord. As one colleague put it: “Annoyed that my fun stuff is down, but Slack remains miraculously up, as does other work stuff.” Google announced the issue was partially resolved as of 1:17 PM ET but a full fix didn’t occur until around 3:15 PM ET. Google said it “will publish an analysis of this incident, once we have completed our internal investigation."
A new report says Kotick knew about the company's sexual harassment problems for years.
Employees at Activision Blizzard are calling for the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick following new revelations about the role he may have played in creating the toxic workplace culture that has mired the company. A Wall Street Journal report outlined Kotick's handling of the sexual harassment lawsuit from California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The newspaper claimed Kotick not only knew about many of the worst instances of abuse at the company, but in some cases, he may have also acted to protect employees accused of harassment.
"We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy," Activision Blizzard employee advocacy group A Better ABK said on Twitter after the report came out. "We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source."
Having slowly rolled out its OS update to the most powerful (and up-to-date) PCs, Microsoft is accelerating the rollout of Windows 11, making it more broadly available. Provided your system is running version 2004 or later of Windows 10 and you recently installed the September 14th, 2021 servicing update Microsoft released, you can now upgrade directly to Windows 11. When Microsoft first released the new OS on October 4th, the company said it expected to offer the upgrade to all eligible devices by mid-2022.
It’ll feature a library of ultra-high definition nature documentary videos.
Roku's added its first premium 8K channel to its platform: The Explorers. The only 8K Roku TVs on the market right now are from TCL, in 65- and 75-inch formats. TCL first showed off the TV at CES, and would you know it, the next CES is just around the corner. I’m sure there are more 8K TVs waiting to be revealed in January.
Ultra-high-definition premium content from The Explorers (which also offers free content through its channel) will typically cost $3/month. A tenth of that fee will be donated to The Explorers Foundation, which aims to preserve biodiversity. The channel will also offer 8K content at a time when it’s still rare. YouTube remains the main place for 8K footage.
Charts have a useful way for users to check out the top songs on a given day as well as what's trending. The company is giving fans and artists to check out, as well as a on which to peruse them.
New to the platform are weekly genre charts. You'll be able to see the top 200 songs across , with user playlists and editorial input used to categorize tunes. You can also take a peek at artist charts. These will be updated every Friday to show the top 200 artists globally, as well as in each of Spotify's top 65 markets, based on streams from an artist's entire catalogs.
What's more, users can dive into more than to see the biggest songs in specific locations. Local pulse charts, meanwhile, show how popular a song is in a city compared with how big that track is around the world. That should provide a sense of how listeners' tastes in one city match up against the broader Spotify userbase.
There are a few features tailored toward artists as part of this expansion. They can see when a song entered the chart, its peak position and streaks. Credits are now included for each song on charts under the "more" option. If a song is doing particularly well, artists and fans can share that success using promo cards that Spotify created.
Spotify also expanded its this year. There's now an option to see the top podcast episodes, in addition to the most popular shows.
Blade & Sorcery has been a strong showcase for VR, but it has a drawback: its PC-only nature has meant occasionally tripping over wires while you fight your fantasy battles. Thankfully, that won't be an issue for long. Warpfrog has unveiledBlade & Sorcery: Nomad, a stand-alone game coming to the Oculus Quest 2 on November 4th for $20. The basic concept remains the same — it's a "sandbox" brawler with immersive swordplay and magic — but the developers are taking advantage of the freedom that comes with a stand-alone headset.
The familiar Sandbox mode is now fine-tuned for room-scale VR. There's also a Dungeons mode that challenges you to fight through "semi-procedurally generated" chambers. In 2022, there will also be a mode with progression that rewards frequent play.
This probably won't get you to spring for a Quest 2 by itself. It might tip the balance if you were already curious about titles like GTA: San Andreas, though, and it may serve as a good introduction to what VR can do. If nothing else, it shows what's possible when you aren't tied to a computer.
Facebook has long been accused of playing favorites on multiple sides of the political spectrum, and it's now clear just how much of that uproar extends to the company's ranks. A leak to The Wall Street Journal reportedly shows Facebook leaders and staff have clashed numerous times over the social network's approach to conservative content, particularly outlets like Breitbart. Rank-and-file employees have accused Facebook of making "special exceptions" from policies for right-wing outlets, while senior-level staff warned of potential pitfalls.
Workers argued that Facebook kept Breitbart in a second tier of the News Tab, a section meant to focus on reliable news, despite very low trust and quality scores as well as misinformation violations. Facebook was not only making exceptions, one employee said, but "explicitly" endorsing outlets like this by including them as trusted partners. Staff claimed Facebook was "scared of political backlash" if it enforced policies equally, and believed the site let conservative influencers Diamond and Silk lobby fact checkers to avoid punishment for spreading misinformation.
Higher-ups countered with justifications for those decisions. They argued that booting a news outlet for trust scores would risk booting more mainstream outlets like CNN, for instance. When staff asked Facebook to intervene over Breitbart's alleged attempts to dodge sites' advertising blocks, a director said Facebook had to resist the urge and "rely on our principles and policies."
Facebook repeated its familiar stance in a response to the Journal, maintaining that limited access to low-quality material to "improve people's experiences," not due to political leanings. A spokesperson added that Facebook studied the effects of potential changes before implementing them, and that publishers like Breitbart still met requirements for honoring rules against misinformation and hate speech.
The revelations likely won't satisfy people on either side of the American political spectrum. Liberals may be concerned Facebook is knowingly allowing the spread of heavily spun and outright false claims, while the right wing may see it as evidence of a claimed anti-conservative bias. The insights reveal a more conflicted approach to material, though. They also underscore the importance of tools meant to automatically limit the reach of misinformation — they could minimize internal debates by curbing fake news without requiring as much human input.
Amazon tends to avoid livestreaming its big hardware events, but it's happy to share video after the fact — and this year's presentation is one you might want to see. The company has posted its complete fall 2021 hardware event stream online to illustrate everything it introduced in vivid detail, including a few decidedly left-field products. You can watch the whole affair below.
Don't be dismayed that Samsung passed on the Galaxy Note in 2021... you might get your stylus-equipped phone before too long. Frequent tipster OnLeaks has shared renders with Zouton, 91Mobiles and Digit that reportedly show the designs of next year's Galaxy S22 phones, including an Ultra model aimed squarely at Note fans. It would effectively be a sequel to the Galaxy Note 20, complete with an S-Pen slot and less rounded corners. There would also be a fourth camera you didn't even see on the S21 Ultra, although it's not clear what functionality you'd get.
The other models wouldn't be quite so thrilling, however. If accurate, the renders suggest the S22 and S22+ (possibly badged as the S22 Pro) wouldn't be radically different from the S21 on the outside. They'd sport flatter backs and a slightly refined camera bump, but not much more. Most of the changes would sit underneath. Rumors have the regular S22 models jumping to a 50MP main camera (up from 12MP) and using Qualcomm's next-gen Snapdragon chip or Samsung's equivalent Exynos.
It's not certain when Samsung will launch the S22 family, although it notably bumped up the S21 launch to January this year. If the company repeats that pattern, Note enthusiasts might only have to wait a few months more than usual to get their fix. That is, if they haven't already bought an S21 Ultra or Z Fold 3 and the pen to match — the lack of clear messaging on the Note's future may have cost Samsung some sales.
Binance is apparently facing more pressure from regulators over possible abuses at its cryptocurrency exchange. Bloombergsources said US officials have expanded their probe of Binance to include possible insider trading and market manipulation. The company hasn't been accused of wrongdoing, but Commodity Futures Trading Commission investigators have reportedly inquired with potential witnesses about issues like the location of Binance servers (and thus whether the US can pursue any cases).
The commission had previously launched an investigation into the sales of derivatives tied to cryptocurrencies. It's reportedly looking for internal Binance data that might show sales of those derivatives to American customers, breaking regulations that forbid those sales without registrations. The Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department are also probing possible money laundering on the exchange.
There are no guarantees of action. The CFTC and Justice Department have supposedly been investigating Binance for months, and any decisions might take a while longer.
Not surprisingly, Binance said it was above-board. A spokesperson told Bloomberg the exchange had a "zero-tolerance" approach to insider trades as well as ethical codes and security guidelines to prevent those actions. The company added that it fires offenders at a bare minimum. The CFTC has declined to comment.
The heightened scrutiny of Binance, if accurate, would come as part of a larger US crackdown on cryptocurrencies. Officials are concerned the lack of consumer protections (including regulation) might hurt customers who sign up for services expecting the same safeguards they have with conventional money. In this case, the focus is on accountability — insider trading could wreck valuable investments and erode trust in Binance and other crypto exchanges.