Posts with «personal finance - career & education» label

Snapchat's newest in-app tool encourages young people to run for office

Snap is introducing a new tool to help more young Americans get involved in politics. Dubbed “Run for Office,” the Mini adds a curated database of more than 75,000 local and state elected positions Snapchat users can browse directly through the app.

Before you see a list of opportunities, the tool will ask you to share some of the issues you’re passionate about in your daily life. Those can include things like the environment, the economy, education and more. Additionally, Snapchat users can also use the tool to nominate their friends.

The company built Run for Office with help from New American Leaders and nine other candidate recruitment organizations. Once someone indicates they’re interested in pursuing an opportunity, the Mini will connect them with those groups to provide them with candidate training.

“Running for office shouldn’t be just for those who are white and wealthy. If we want a democracy that works for and represents all of us, then we need leaders who reflect our increasingly diverse, multicultural communities” said Ghida Dagher, president of New American Leaders. 

By Snap’s estimation, it’s ideally positioned to help get more young people involved in politics since it reaches approximately 90 percent of 13 to 24-year-olds in the US. This isn’t the company’s first foray into politics. Ahead of the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election, the company added voting resources to help drive higher voter turnout in those contests.

Tesla sales continue to surge in the face of chip shortages

In the third quarter of 2021 Tesla sold 241,300 cars. That's 102,000 more than the same time period last year. Sure, that's only slightly more than half of the 446,997 cars that GM sold in the last three months. But, that number represents a steep 33-percent decline year-over-year for GM. And (if my math is correct) would mean that it sold more cars than Subaru globally over the last three months.

That Tesla has surged while other automakers are struggling isn't a huge surprise once you start digging into the details, though. While other manufacturers have felt the brunt of the global chip shortage Tesla has begun sourcing different silicon, according to The Verge, and rewriting its software to work with those new components. 

Additionally the company only recently began selling its popular Model Y in Europe and it's still relatively new to the Chinese market as well, giving it plenty of room for growth.

Of course, things aren't all rosy for Tesla. The company is still facing investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board here in the US. And it's only a couple of month removed from a massive recall of nearly 300,000 vehicles in China. Not to mention both its Roadster, Cybertruck and electric semi-truck are facing prolonged delays. 

Snapchat's new lenses and stickers can teach you basic sign language

Snapchat is rolling out new augmented reality lenses and stickers that can give you cursory lessons on sign language. The company has developed the new features as part of its efforts for the Weak of the Deaf with guidance from its Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing team members. Its new AR Lenses use AI and computer vision technology by SignAll, which can recognize and translate American Sign Language. 

One of the lenses will teach you how to fingerspell, in which you form individual letters with your fingers to spell a word. The other new lenses will teach you how to fingerspell your username, as well as some common words like "love" and "smile." You can scan the Snapcodes below to access them and then share a clip of you signing on the app.


In addition to the new lenses, Snap has also launched new general, Bitmoji and Cameos selfie stickers with common signs. The hope is that these new elements can boost awareness and help more people learn a new way to communicate. Jennica Pounds, a deaf software engineer at Snap who was a key figure in the project said:

"A big motivation for me is my own oldest son, who absolutely loves to talk, but has had a hard time learning ASL. I'm passionate about this technology because I truly believe it's going to break so many applications wide open. It's tech like this that will help families like mine communicate and grow together."


EA dips back into college football with Campus Legends event in Madden NFL 22

Electronic Arts is dipping back into college football with a limited-time mode in Madden NFL 22. The Campus Legends mode features ten school teams, including rosters filled with college football icons, as well as current and former NFL stars who are alumni of those squads.

The event is available through the Superstar KO multiplayer mode. The college teams are Clemson University, University of Miami, Louisiana State University, University of Florida, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas, University of Southern California (USC), University of Oregon, University of Nebraska and Michigan State University.

The NEW Campus Legends event is now live, ft. 🔟 historic programs to challenge your friends with! 💥

Rivalry Happens Here ➡️

— Madden NFL 22 (@EAMaddenNFL) August 31, 2021

EA notes Madden 22 is now the first game since 2013 to include a college football experience. The publisher announced earlier this year that it's bringing back the College Football series. The next game in the no-longer-dormant franchise is likely years away though, so college football modes in Madden might have to do the trick for now.

To mark the release of the mode, former college and NFL stars Vince Young and Reggie Bush will play against each other as their respective alma maters (University of Texas and USC). The pair faced off in the Rose Bowl in 2006, and they'll return to the Rose Bowl Stadium to repeat the matchup in Madden 22. You can watch the showdown tonight starting at 7PM ET on the NFL YouTube or Madden NFL Twitch channels.

You have a few weeks to check out Campus Legends. The mode will be available until September 27th.

Loupedeck Live is a compelling alternative to Elgato's Stream Deck

Life’s too short to drag a mouse more than three inches or remember elaborate keyboard combinations to get things done. This is 2021 and you can have a pretty, dedicated button for almost any task if you want. And if you partake in anything creative, or like to stream, there’s a very good chance that you do. Loupedeck makes control surfaces with many such buttons with a particular focus on creatives. Its latest model is the “Live” ($245) and it’s pitched almost squarely against Elgato’s popular Stream Deck ($150). Both have their own strengths, and I’ve been using them side by side for some time now. But which one have I been reaching for the most? And does the Loupedeck Live do enough to command almost a hundred more dollars?

First, we should go into what the Loupedeck Live actually is and why it might be useful. In short, it’s a PC or Mac control surface covered in configurable buttons and dials. The buttons have mini LCD displays on them so you can easily see what each does with either text, an icon or even a photo. Behind the scenes is a companion app, which is where you’ll customize what each button or dial does. Many popular applications are natively supported (Windows, MacOS, Photoshop, OBS and many more). But if the software you use supports keyboard shortcuts, you can control it with the Live.

So far, so Stream Deck? Well, kinda. The two are undeniably very similar, but there are some important differences. For one, the Stream Deck’s only input type is a button; Live has rotary dials too. This makes Loupedeck’s offering much more appealing for tasks like controlling volume, scrolling through a list or scrubbing a video and so on. But there are also some UI differences that give them both a very different workflow, too.


James Trew / Engadget

Like Elgato, Loupedeck currently offers three different models. With the Stream Deck, the difference between versions is all about how many buttons there are (6, 15 and 32). The different Loupedecks are physically distinct and lend themselves to certain tasks. The Loupedeck CT, for example, has a girthy dial in the middle for those that work with video. The Loupedeck+ offers faders and transport controls and the Live is the smallest of the family with a focus on streaming and general creativity.

At a more superficial level, both the Stream Deck and the Live look pretty cool on your desk, which clearly is vitally important. Elgato decided to make its hardware with a fixed cable, whereas Loupedecks have a removable USB-C connection. I wouldn’t normally bother to mention this, but it’s worth noting as that means you can use your own (longer/shorter) lead to avoid cable spaghetti. You can also unplug it and use it to charge something else if needed. Minor, but helpful functionality if your workspace is littered with things that need topping off on the reg like mine is.

Clearly, one of the main advantages with the Live will be those rotary dials. If you work with audio or image editing at all, they are going to be much more useful than a plain ol’ button for many tasks. For example, I wanted to set up some controls for stereo panning in Ableton Live. On the Stream Deck I need to employ two buttons to get the setup I wanted: pan left one step / pan right one step and it takes a lot of presses to move from one extreme to the other. With the Live, I can simply assign it to one of the rotaries (clicking it will reset to center). From there, I can dial in the exact amount of panning I want in one deft movement.

That’s a very simple example, but if you imagine using the Live with something like Photoshop for adjusting Levels, you can see how having several rotaries might suddenly become incredibly useful.

Another practical difference between these two devices is the action on the buttons. On the Stream Deck, each one is like a clear Jolly Rancher with a bright display behind it. The buttons have a satisfying “click” to them and are easy to find without really looking. The Live, on the other hand, feels more like someone placed a divider over a touchscreen. That’s to say, the buttons don’t have any action/movement at all, instead delivering somewhat less satisfying vibrations to let you know you’ve pressed them.


James Trew / Engadget

The real difference between these two, though, is the workflow. I had been using the Stream Deck for a couple of months before the Loupedeck Live. The Stream Deck is, at its core, a “launcher.” Assign a button to a task and it’ll do that task on demand. You can nest multiple tasks under folders to expand your options nearly endlessly, but the general interface remains fixed. So, if you wanted to control Ableton and Photoshop, for example, you might have a top-level button for each. That button would then link through to a subfolder of actions and/or more subfolders (one for editing, one for exporting actions and so on). These buttons remain fixed no matter what application you are using at a given moment.

With Loupedeck, it’s all about dynamic profiles. That’s to say, if I am working in Ableton, the Loupedeck will automatically switch to that profile and all the buttons and rotaries will change to whatever I have assigned them to for Ableton. If I then jump into Photoshop, all the controls will change to match that software, too. Or put another way, the Stream Deck is very “trigger” based (launch this, do this key command). The Loupedeck is more task-related, with pages, profiles and workspaces for whatever app is active. The net result is, once you have things customized to just how you want them, the Loupedeck Live is much more adaptive to your workflow as it “follows” you around and has more breadth of actions available at any one time. But at first, I was trying to make it simply launch things and found that harder than it was on a Stream Deck until I figured out how to work with it.

This “dynamic” mode can also be turned off if you prefer to keep the same controls available to you at any one time, but for that you can also assign set custom “workspaces” to any of the seven circular buttons along the bottom — so if you want your Photoshop profile to open with the app, but also have some basic system/trigger controls available, they can just be one button push away.

This approach definitely makes the Loupedeck feel more tightly integrated to whatever you’re doing “right now” rather than a nifty launcher, but it also takes a bit to get your head around how it wants to do things. At least in my experience. With the Stream Deck I was able to get under its skin in a day, I am still reading up on what the Live can do after some weeks, and need to keep reminding myself how to make certain changes. As a reverse example, launching an app is something Stream Deck was born to do. With a Loupedeck, you have to create a custom action and then assign that to a profile you can access at any time (i.e. a custom workspace) or add that action to various different profiles where you want it to be available.

Both do offer the option for macros/multi-actions and work in very similar ways in that regard. If, say, you want to create a shortcut to resize and then save an image, you can do so with either by creating a list of actions to be carried out in order. You can add a delay between each step and include text entry, keyboard shortcuts and running apps — all of which allows you to cook up some pretty clever “recipes.” Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to get things right, but once you do it can simplify otherwise fairly lengthy/mundane tasks.

James Trew / Engadget

Where the Stream Deck takes things a little further is with third-party plug-ins. These are usually more complex than tasks you create yourself (and require some programming to create). But thanks to Elgato’s active community, there are already quite a few on offer and the number is growing every day. Some of them are simple: I can have a dynamic weather widget displayed on one of the keys, others are more practical — I use one that switches my audio output between my headphones and my PC’s built-in speakers. Some of my colleagues speak highly of a Spotify controller and the Hue lights integration — both of which came from the Stream Deck community.

Loupedeck offers a way to export (and thus share) profiles, but as far as I can tell right now, there’s no way to do anything more complex than what you can do with custom controls — if that were to change in the future that could really enhance the functionality considerably.

Beyond the hardware controls and the user interface, it’s worth mentioning that both the Live and the Stream Deck have native support for specific apps. “Native” means that the companion software already has a list of drop and drag controls for select apps. Elgato’s controller, unsurprisingly, has a strong focus on things like OBS/Streamlabs, Twitch and, of course, the company’s own game capture software and lights along with some social tools and audio/soundboard features (for intro music or effects).

The Loupedeck Live also offers native controls for OBS/Streamlabs (but not Twitch) but tends to skew toward things like After Effects, Audition, Premier Pro and so on. The list of native apps supported is actually quite extensive and many more (like Davinci or iZotope RX) are available to download. If streaming is your main thing, Elgato’s solution is affordable and definitely more streamlined for that. The Loupedeck, however, is going to be more useful for a lot of other things — it’ll help with streaming, but also help you design the logo for your channel.

So which?

At this point, you can probably guess what the wrap-up is. Elgato’s Stream Deck offers less functionality overall but that can be greatly expanded as the number of plugins continues to grow. But likewise, it’ll always be somewhat limited by its singular input method (buttons). The Loupedeck Live is much more ambitious, but with that, trades off some of the simplicity. If you were looking for something that can take care of simple tasks and skews toward gaming or podcasting, save yourself the $100 and go with a Stream Deck, but if you want something that can pick up the slack for multiple desktop apps and tools, you probably want to pat your pockets a little more for the Loupedeck Live.

Nura's newest wireless earbuds are only available through a subscription

Do you churn through wireless earbuds quickly enough that you're eager for an upgrade every couple of years? Nura might have a solution. The Nuratrue maker has introduced Nurabuds that aren't quite as sophisticated as the earlier model (more on that in a moment), but are only available through a "Nuranow" subscription. Pay $5 per month (plus a $19 one-time fee) and you'll get a fresh set of earbuds every 24 months, much like your carrier's phone installment plan.

You'll also get "discounts, benefits and giveaways" as part of your monthly outlay, according to Nura.

The Nurabuds themselves are similar on the surface to the Nuratrue buds from before, complete with active noise cancellation and a world-amplifying social mode (ambient or transparency mode on rival devices). They're IPX4 water-resistant, too. Battery life is limited to four hours for the buds and 10 hours with the charging case, though. More importantly, you can't perform the Nuratrue's signature hearing test — you'll have to either import an existing profile or trust that Nura's "in-house" sound meets your needs.

This might be a viable option if you use your earbuds often enough to wear down the battery in two years, or if you just want to stay current. However, the subscription model might not make sense if you aren't a stickler for Nura's (admittedly quite good) audio quality. Amazon's second-gen Echo Buds, for example, offer ANC, water resistance and other helpful features for as little as $100 in a one-time payment that lets you upgrade on your own terms. Nura is clearly betting that its reputation and people's habits will work in its favor — possibly a wise bet, but a bet nonetheless.

Researcher says a US terrorist watchlist was exposed online for three weeks

The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) may have exposed the records of nearly 2 million individuals and left them accessible online for three weeks. Security researcher Bob Diachenko says he discovered a terrorist watchlist on July 19th that included information like the name, date of birth and passport number of those listed in the database. The cluster also included “no-fly” indicators.

According to Diachenko, the watchlist wasn’t password protected. Moreover, it was quickly indexed by search engines like Censys and ZoomEye before the Department of Homeland Security took the server offline on August 9th. It’s unclear who may have accessed the data.

“I immediately reported it to Department of Homeland Security officials, who acknowledged the incident and thanked me for my work,” Diachenko said in a LinkedIn post spotted by Bleeping Computer. “The DHS did not provide any further official comment, though.” We’ve reached out to the Department of Homeland Security.

Among the watchlists the TSC maintains is America’s no-fly list. Federal agencies like Transportation Security Administration (TSA) use the database to identify known or suspected terrorists attempting to enter the country. Suffice to say, the information included in the exposed watchlist was highly sensitive.

A recent bipartisan Senate report recently warned of glaring cybersecurity holes at several federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security. It said many of the bodies it audited had failed to implement even basic cybersecurity practices like multi-factor authentication and warned national security information was open to theft as a result.

Zoom's new Focus mode hides people who might distract you

Zoom has unveiled a new feature called Focus Mode designed to keep students from distracting each in virtual classrooms. When activated, it allows the teacher to see all the students, but each student can only see the teacher or host. That way, a teacher could activate it during lectures to minimize distractions and then turn it on for class discussions. 

On top of seeing the teacher, students will also see their own video and any presentations, along with the names of other students and emoji reactions. With the setting turned off, students can see all the other students and their reactions, as shown below. 


The app appears to be available on any Zoom desktop client, presumably including free versions. That could also make it useful for family gatherings, small business meetings and other situations where you might need to keep distractions to a minimum (or provide space for people less comfortable with showing their face on camera). If you want to make the setting mandatory for all users in your account, you can lock it. 

The feature arrives as the new school year approaches with the threat of COVID-19 and particularly the Delta version potentially keeping students out of schools. On top of the Focus mode, Zoom also detailed some back-to-school tips to make distance learning work better, with suggestions like checking your internet connection, creating a learning space and learning about lighting and other app features. 

What you'll get in the 'Back 4 Blood' open beta

After playing a few hours of Back 4 Blood, the new co-op survival shooter from Left 4 Dead studio Turtle Rock, I was left with two questions: How is this legal? And, when can I play again? Turns out, right now.

The Back 4 Blood open beta runs from August 5th to 9th, and again from August 12th to 16th, on PC, Xbox and PlayStation consoles. I got a sneak peek at what the beta has to offer on PC, with an emphasis on PvE content, since there were some technical issues with PvP modes during my playtime. Those have been resolved and I’m told PvP is ready to rock for the open beta.

Not that you should expect it to be perfect. Turtle Rock Studios is using the open beta to fine-tune Back 4 Blood ahead of its release on October 12th, and developers are serious about gathering as much feedback as possible. There’s plenty to track: The game uses a Left 4 Dead-style AI director that adjusts the difficulty level in real-time as you plow through hordes of Ridden in your own special way. There’s also a card system that allows players to build decks of class-specific perks, plus corruption cards that apply randomized effects to every level, changing up the gameplay each time. And it’s a true cross-platform game, running across console generations and PC. All of this is on top of a new PvP mode and the core PvE gameplay, which has to feel like butter if it’s going to satisfy Turtle Rock’s Left 4 Dead fans.

I’m one of those fans, and I have to say, I’m enjoying the hell out of Back 4 Blood. Left 4 Dead is a pivotal game of my past, and Back 4 Blood taps into those good feelings in a delicious way.

Turtle Rock Studios

I’m most interested in PvE, since that’s the core of my nostalgia in this case, and I ended up playing about two hours of the main co-op mode with some new friends. The open beta features two PvE maps for co-op runs and two maps for the Swarm PvP mode, where teams of four take turns fighting each other as the Cleaners (the main characters) and the Ridden (the infected former humans). A new character, Mom, joins the roster of playable Cleaners for the first time, too.

One thing that stands out in Back 4 Blood is its sense of replayability. While the levels feel familiar, they’re filled with secrets and they naturally encourage dynamic play, offering various ways to approach any single encounter. The card system adds a lovely layer of customization to the game, while the corruption cards make each new round just a little different, just a little more exciting. There’s a variety of weapons and items to gather as well, and a healthy allotment of ammo drops throughout the maps, especially if you go exploring. 

Shooting the Ridden is immensely satisfying with any gun, while getting snatched up or knocked down by a Special Ridden is shocking basically every time. Meanwhile, the dialogue among the Cleaners is cute, with references to “the new normal,” lizard people in the government and the lamestream media, to name a few joke opportunities. The protagonists of Back 4 Blood aren’t shocked and running for their lives; they’re on a mission to eradicate the Ridden and create safe zones for human life to resume. It’s a refreshing perspective twist.

I ran into a few issues during my time with Back 4 Blood’s open beta content, but nothing that felt insurmountable at this stage of development. Essentially, I trust Turtle Rock to take the feedback from the open beta and apply it to the game in the smartest, most gory way possible for its launch in October.

I actually chatted with Turtle Rock executive producer Matt O’Driscoll about the beta and what developers hope to get out of it.

"These next two weeks are so vital to us," he said. "We're gonna get so much data for how people play this. Is easy too easy? Is it too hard? Is nightmare mode impossible? Like, all these kind of little things. Or, how do people build decks? Someone's gonna build a deck that I'm sure is gonna kind of break something in the game."

You heard him, Cleaners — get to breaking.

Back 4 Blood is definitely a lot like Left 4 Dead, but updated for modern systems and sensibilities. The question for most players in the open beta will be whether it’s too much like Left 4 Dead — but personally, I say bring it on, Turtle Rock. After all, it’s not like Valve is gonna give us Left 4 Dead 3. Or any 3, for that matter.

Apple's digital student IDs are coming to Canada and more US schools

With the start of a new school year quickly approaching, Apple is once again expanding the availability of its contactless student IDs. Following an initial rollout in 2018 and subsequent expansions since, the software is making its way to Canada for the first time.

In 2021, the University of New Brunswick and Sheridan College outside of Toronto will allow students to add their ID cards to Apple Wallet and use their iPhones and Apple Watches to access facilities and pay for food and other items and services across campus. In the US, “many more” schools, including Auburn University, Northern Arizona University, University of Maine and New Mexico State University, will adopt the software this fall.

It will likely take many more years before every school offers digital student ID cards, but the technology is clearly becoming more ubiquitous. In April, Apple said it saw more students use their mobile IDs to make purchases and access campus facilities than their plastic counterparts for the first time since it launched the software. In the fall, the University of Alabama, one of the early adopters of the tech, will exclusively issue mobile IDs to students with the necessary hardware, marking a first for the platform.