Posts with «language|en-us» label

The Morning After: House votes in favor of bill that could ban TikTok

The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Saturday that could ban TikTok in the country or force its parent company to sell it. Under the revised version, ByteDance would have up to a year to divest, up from six months, originally. The bill now moves to the Senate, which could vote on it in just a matter of days — maybe even this Tuesday.

For that reason, I’m keeping this intro short, because I’ll probably be writing about this TikTok saga, all over again, later this week.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

Biden signs bill to reauthorize FISA’s warrantless surveillance program

Engadget Podcast: PlayStation 5 Pro rumors and a look back at the Playdate

Baldur’s Gate 3 developer confirms it won’t make the sequel

Tesla makes its controversial Full Self-Driving software cheaper by $4,000

​​You can get these reports delivered daily direct to your inbox. Subscribe right here!

Apple’s next innovation: The calculator?

It’s an app, apparently.

Apple’s calculator for Macs is reportedly getting a massive update with macOS 15 to turn it into a note-taking, currency-converting hybrid app. To start with, AppleInsider said the calculator will get a design overhaul, which swaps its number boxes with round buttons. (Innovation!). There will also be a rich history feature to keep track of your calculations. Hopefully, you can still be juvenile and solve for 55378008.

Continue reading.

Tesla cuts Model Y, X and S prices in the US

It’s ending the referral program too.

Another round of price cuts has shaved $2,000 off the starting prices of Tesla’s Model Y, Model X and Model S for buyers in the US. Tesla’s Model Y now starts at $42,990 for the rear-wheel drive base model, while the base Model S has dropped to $72,990 and the Model X starts at $77,990. The company will be hoping these subsequent price cuts will help with all that recent bad news. Its controversial full self-driving software update has had a discount too.

Continue reading.

The best Mario Kart racer, according to science

Pareto principles and Princess Peach.


Data scientist Antoine Mayerowitz has tackled that age-old question: Who is the best character for Mario Kart? Objectively, the answer is a few different combinations. Mayerowitz’s Pareto front analysis lets you narrow your possibilities down to the 14 most efficient. One of them, with the most ideal balance of speed, acceleration and mini-turbo, is Cat Peach driving the Teddy Buggy with roller tires and cloud glider. Yes, write that down. Or check out the project’s website for other racer recommendations.

Continue reading.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Proton Mail’s paid users will now get alerts if their info has been posted on the dark web

Proton Mail has introduced Dark Web Monitoring for its paid users, which will keep them informed of breaches or leaks they may have been affected by. If anything's been spotted on the dark web, the feature will send out alerts that include information like what service was compromised, what personal details the attackers got (e.g. passwords, name, etc.) and recommended next steps. At launch, you’ll have to visit the Proton Mail Security Center on the web or desktop to access these alerts, but the company says email and in-app notifications are on the way.


Dark Web Monitoring is intended to be a proactive security measure. If you’ve used your Proton Mail email address to sign up for a third-party service, like a social media site, and then hackers steal user data from that service, it would let you know in a timely manner if your credentials have been compromised so you can take action (hopefully) before any harm is done. It seems a fitting move for the service, which already offers end-to-end encryption and has made privacy its main stance since the beginning. Dark Web Monitoring won’t be available to free users, though.

“While data breaches of third-party sites leading to the leak of personal information (such as your email address) can never be entirely avoided, automated early warning can help users stay vigilant and mitigate worse side effects such as identity theft,” said Eamonn Maguire, Head of Anti-Abuse and Account Security at Proton.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Tinder is making it easier to share date details with family and friends

Tinder has revealed a feature that both helps users share their excitement about a date with loved ones and acts as a safety tool. The Share My Date feature lets users share details about a planned date with a single link.

The URL can point to details including the location, date and time of the rendezvous along with a photo of your match and a link to their profile. The page can include some notes too. You can edit your date plans so those you share that link with have the most up-to-date info. Dates can be set in the app up to 30 days in advance. For those lucky folks out there who have a bunch of matches they make IRL plans with, you can create an unlimited number of dates and share those with your loved ones.

Tinder says that around 51 percent of users under 30 already share date details with their friends, while 19 percent of users do so with their mom. It's always a good idea to let someone know where and when you're going on a date and details about the person you're meeting up with, just to be safe. Share My Date could simplify the process a bit. Back in 2020, debuted a date check-in feature that let users send details about their date to emergency contacts if things weren't going well.

Tinder will roll out Share My Date over the coming months. It'll be available in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, India, Ireland, Germany, France, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Switzerland, Mexico, Netherlands, Italy, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Tesla makes its controversial Full Self-Driving software cheaper by $4,000

Tesla has reduced the price of its Full Self-Driving software in the US and Canada. Per a post from the company on X, it now costs $8,000 in the US (or $11,000 for buyers in Canada) to add the so-called Full Self-Driving Capability. This is down from $12,000 ($16,000 CAD), according to Electrek, which also reports that Tesla has discontinued the $6,000 Enhanced Autopilot option. Current owners with that package can upgrade to FSD for $2,000.

Tesla’s driver assistance features have been under scrutiny from regulators for years, and despite the name, Full Self-Driving isn’t meant to fully take over for a human driver at this stage. On its website, Tesla notes that current FSD features “require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.” In March, the company reportedly introduced a mandate requiring its staff to give buyers a demonstration of FSD before they’re able to take home their new cars, so they can see what the software has to offer.

The latest price drop comes a few days after Tesla slashed the monthly cost of its subscription for FSD — which it has recently been referring to as Full Self-Driving (Supervised). The subscription, which previously cost $199/month, now goes for $99/month. Tesla also cut the starting prices of its Model Y, X and S vehicles this weekend by $2,000 each. Earlier this month, Tesla reported that its vehicle deliveries for Q1 2024 fell short of expectations, with an eight percent drop year-over-year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Biden signs bill to reauthorize FISA warrantless surveillance program for two more years

President Biden this weekend signed into law a bill that reauthorizes a controversial spying program under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Section 702 of FISA, which has now been extended for two more years, allows for warrantless intelligence gathering on foreign targets. While its focus is on the communications of targets located outside the US, that includes any exchanges with people stateside, meaning Americans’ records can get swept up in these collections too.

The Senate vote on reauthorizing Section 702 came down to the wire. It was set to expire on Friday at midnight, but was recently given an extension until April 2025, according to The New York Times, lest it lapse while disagreements over proposed amendments dragged on. Section 702’s extension period was also shortened, cutting it down to two years instead of the previous five. Congress did ultimately miss the deadline on Friday, but it passed with a 60-34 vote, CBS News reported. The White House issued a statement not long after saying the president “will swiftly sign the bill into law.”

Section 702 was first signed into law in 2008 and has been renewed twice already, allowing US intelligence agencies to use data from internet and cell phone providers without a warrant to keep tabs on foreign targets’ communications.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

House votes in favor of bill that could ban TikTok, sending it onward to Senate

The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Saturday that could either see TikTok banned in the country or force its sale. A revised version of the bill, which previously passed the House in March but later stalled in Senate, was roped in with a foreign aid package this time around, likely meaning it will now be treated as a higher priority item. The bill originally gave TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, six months to sell the app or it would be banned from US app stores. Under the revised version, ByteDance would have up to a year to divest.

The bill passed with a vote of 360-58 in the House, according to AP. It’ll now move on to the Senate, which could vote on it as soon as days from now. President Joe Biden has previously said he would support the bill if Congress passes it.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Tesla cuts Model Y, X and S prices in the US and says it’s ending the referral program

Another round of price cuts has shaved $2,000 off the starting prices of Tesla’s Model Y, Model X and Model S for buyers in the US. The company’s North America branch posted on X about the change Friday night, at the same time announcing that Tesla is ditching its referral program benefits in all markets. According to Tesla, the “current referral program benefits will end after April 30.”

Tesla’s Model Y now starts at $42,990 for the rear-wheel drive base model, $47,990 for the Model Y Long Range or $51,490 for the Model Y Performance. The base Model S has dropped to $72,990 while the Model S Plaid now starts at $87,990. The Model X starts at $77,990 (base) or $92,990 (Plaid). The changes come during a rocky few weeks for the company, which just issued a recall for Cybertrucks over possible issues with the accelerator pedal, reportedly laid off 10 percent of its employees and reported a decline in deliveries for the first quarter.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

What we're listening to: The Tortured Poets Department and Eternal Sunshine

In this installment of what we're listening to, Reviews Editor Cherlynn Low dives into new releases from Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, and explores what music means to us when songs are consumed more like books and journal entries.

Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor, Reviews

April 19 should have been declared a global holiday. It was, after all, the release day of Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated album, The Tortured Poets Department (TTPD). How could we be expected to work on this most hyped of Fridays, when there were lyrics to overanalyze and melodies to emo-walk to?

Taylor Swift - The Tortured Poets Department

I’ll admit: I hate myself a bit for the eagerness with which I hit play on albums like TTPD and Ariana Grande’s Eternal Sunshine (ES). Both musicians had recently left long-term relationships and got together with new beaus, amid rabid press coverage and relentless speculation on Reddit. I usually prefer to hear from the people involved instead of reading tabloid articles based on what “friends close to” said, and for Swift and Grande, songs are usually as close as we’ll get to primary sources. 

I saw these albums as opportunities to get their takes on what went down. Granted, it’s always wise to take their words with generous helpings of salt, the same way therapists tend to remember that their patients’ retelling of stories can be skewed or unreliable.

Both Grande and Swift have made their lives the subject of their music for years, and they often have an air of defensiveness. Titles like “Look What You Made Me Do” and “Yes, and?” make me think of people who blame others or don’t care about the consequences of their actions. Even songs like Swift’s “Anti-Hero” from her last album and Grande’s “Thank U, Next” seem at first glance to be about taking accountability, but really continue the theme of dodging real responsibility.

I’m not sure if music has always been rooted in scrutinizing the artist’s life, but it certainly seems to have become more popular in recent years. The level of interest and analysis around things as simple as word choice or order has probably never been as high, either. It’s also worth considering that these two much-hyped albums were released within two months of each other. Granted, Swift’s new music has only been out for about 40 hours, and there are 31 whole songs spanning a full 65 minutes and 8 seconds, so I will need to listen to it a few more times for it all to sink in.

Grande’s album, which dropped last month, was scrutinized by fans and critics alike. It was released shortly after her divorce from Dalton Gomez and her budding relationship (reportedly) with fellow Wicked cast member Ethan Slater.

When I first played through ES, I was mostly underwhelmed and annoyed. There was, as expected, no accountability for what her actions did to the mother of a newborn and a lot of romanticizing of her latest man. But even on just my second listening, I knew I had a few favorite tracks. Other Engadget staff members agree with me: ES is a solid album with quite a few bangers. 

Ariana Grande - Eternal Sunshine

I may not endorse Grande’s behavior — and no one asked me to — but damn, I can’t help liking her music. And it’s probably because I’m hooked on the melodies and production, not the lyrical content.

Swift, on the other hand, seems more of an aspiring wordsmith. Much has been said about her lyrical abilities, and I have no desire to retread those waters. I’ll just say that as an occasional aspiring poet myself, I have to admire the laissez faire approach of rhyming “department” with “apartment.”

I’m more intrigued by what seems to me like the priority of a song’s words over its tune and sound. Like Billboard states, TTPD’s title alone “calls even more attention to her lyricism than usual.”

Swift’s music has always felt like journal entries meant for the public, chock-full of inside references, Easter eggs and thinly veiled digs at former lovers. Her earlier works were therefore highly relatable for scores of teenagers around the world. But as her success ballooned, so has she grown out of touch with the average person, and her songs have consequently become more like glimpses into a life that mere mortals can only dream about. While her pieces continue to feel like blogs or Tumblr posts, Swift controls the narrative by carefully orchestrating not just synths, guitars and lyrics, but also pap walks and delicately timed public appearances.

Unlike Grande, who has mostly avoided appearing with Slater at high-profile events and also hasn’t hidden as many Easter eggs in her songs, Swift has not been afraid to show off and show up for her new partner. She’s not publicity-averse; she seems to anticipate and almost courts it.

With the general strategy around TTPD, like announcing it at the Grammy’s and slow teases of lyrics and cover art, it certainly seems like these days, the billionaire with a private jet problem is more focused on her myth and financial value than the art of songwriting.

Swift surprised everyone at 2AM on April 19 by releasing a whole 15 more songs alongside the initial 16 people were expecting for TTPD. This meant that anyone who pre-ordered the original album would miss out on basically an entire second album worth of tracks and need to spend more. The Swift team also made several versions of the physical album available, like collectors’ editions — all blatant cash grabs designed to maximize revenue.

Grande is guilty of this too, making so many different iterations of “Yes, and?” when that single was released in what seemed like an attempt to place the song at the top of streaming charts. ES also has different versions of cover art for fans to spend their hard-earned money on.

Here’s the thing. Do I care deeply about either of these albums? Nope. Did I eagerly listen to them, hoping to glean insight on their seemingly messy and chaotic relationships? Yes. But despite Swift’s marketing and positioning herself as a poet — and TTPD offering more of a look at her fling with Matty Healy from The 1975 — I realized I just didn’t quite like her album musically. In fact, my favorite Swift songs like “Wildest Dreams” and “Delicate” are beautiful symphonies of atmospheric synths and instrumentation.

Maybe I’m just learning that I care more about music than lyrics. Or maybe I think good songs are a combination of the two and should speak for themselves without having to rely on hype, gossip and marketing tactics. To be fair, that’s true of all art, whether it’s film, photography or poetry. And while the irony of my being sucked into playing TTPD and ES due to the promise of learning about their lives isn’t lost on me, I guess I just wish I could listen to music (and read books and watch movies) without having to worry or be so concerned about the creator’s choices and actions. But in 2024 (and beyond), that seems no longer feasible.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Apple will reportedly unveil a genre-defining calculator app at WWDC 2024

Apple's calculator for Mac computers serves its purpose just fine, but it's reportedly getting massive updates with macOS 15 that turn it into a note-taking, currency-converting hybrid app. To start with, AppleInsider said the calculator will receive a design overhaul that swaps its number boxes with round buttons. You'll even reportedly be able to resize the calculator. If you make it bigger, the round buttons get stretched and turn pill-shaped, though they go back to their original form if you make the calculator smaller again. 

A new history tape that you can access with the click of a button will show you previous calculations, so you no longer have to note them down if you're working with a lot of data and need to see a trend or keep track of what information you've processed so far. You'll be able to see the bar whatever mode the calculator is in, even if it's in scientific or programmer mode and not just in basic. The updated app will apparently come with Notes integration, as well, allowing you to more easily create notes with mathematical notation like you could on competing products like Microsoft's OneNote. Finally, the new calculator will make it easier to work with numbers in different currencies by incorporating the conversion tool into its user interface. You no longer have to access the tool via the drop-down menu every time you want to see how much a certain amount is in another currency. 

According to AppleInsider, the company is expected to introduce these and more features for the iOS 18 and macOS 15 at Apple's Worldwide Developers' Conference that's set to take place in June this year. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Microsoft's AI tool can turn photos into realistic videos of people talking and singing

Microsoft Research Asia has unveiled a new experimental AI tool called VASA-1 that can take a still image of a person — or the drawing of one — and an existing audio file to create a lifelike talking face out of them in real time. It has the ability to generate facial expressions and head motions for an existing still image and the appropriate lip movements to match a speech or a song. The researchers uploaded a ton of examples on the project page, and the results look good enough that they could fool people into thinking that they're real. 

While the lip and head motions in the examples could still look a bit robotic and out of sync upon closer inspection, it's still clear that the technology could be misused to easily and quickly create deepfake videos of real people. The researchers themselves are aware of that potential and have decided not to release "an online demo, API, product, additional implementation details, or any related offerings" until they're sure that their technology "will be used responsibly and in accordance with proper regulations." They didn't, however, say whether they're planning to implement certain safeguards to prevent bad actors from using them for nefarious purposes, such as to create deepfake porn or misinformation campaigns. 

The researchers believe their technology has a ton of benefits despite its potential for misuse. They said it can be used to enhance educational equity, as well as to improve accessibility for those with communication challenges, perhaps by giving them access to an avatar that can communicate for them. It can also provide companionship and therapeutic support for those who need it, they said, insinuating the VASA-1 could be used in programs that offer access to AI characters people can talk to. 

According to the paper published with the announcement, VASA-1 was trained on the VoxCeleb2 Dataset, which contains "over 1 million utterances for 6,112 celebrities" that were extracted from YouTube videos. Even though the tool was trained on real faces, it also works on artistic photos like the Mona Lisa, which the researchers amusingly combined with an audio file of Anne Hathaway's viral rendition of Lil Wayne's Paparazzi. It's so delightful, it's worth a watch, even if you're doubting what good a technology like this can do. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at