Posts with «software» label

Instagram is fixing an audio bug that happened when users exported their Reels

Meta is denying that it purposely muted the audio of downloaded Reels videos to keep users from exporting them to TikTok, The Vergereported. A company spokesperson blamed an “audio glitch” for the incident and said it’s in the process of being fixed. The outlet reported earlier this week that users who wanted to export their Reels onto another app (cough, cough TikTok) were forced to publish the video first — or risk losing its audio. Prior to this development, Instagram users could film and edit a video using Reels’ tools and opt to download and publish it elsewhere.

Although Meta is hoping to position Reels as the future of Instagram and Facebook, it has struggled to take the crown from the reigning short-form video app, TikTok. Creators and brands often cross-post Reels onto their TikTok accounts (or vice versa), meaning that Instagram and Facebook are no longer exclusive destinations for that content. TikTok gives users the ability to easily cross-post videos made on the platform to Facebook and Instagram Reels, but doing the reverse on the Meta-owned platforms requires manually downloading the video first. Reels and TikTok have different editing tools, so it’s easy to see why a user may want to edit in one specific platform and cross-post — not to mention that it simply saves time.

Meta is still working on fixing the audio glitch on Reels as of Friday afternoon, a spokesperson told Engadget in an email. The glitch appears to only impact iPhone users. “Due to a bug, the Reels download feature is not working as intended for iOS users and in some cases, audio is missing in downloads — we’re working to fix the issue as soon as possible," the company said in its statement. 

Winamp's revival includes platforms for musicians and fans

Winamp's plans to regain relevance include much more than finally updating its audio software. The company has opened invitations to a creator service that gives musicians tools to distribute, promote and (of course) profit from their work. While most details won't emerge in earnest until features begin unlocking in September, this is slated to include fan subscription support debuting in November. Your favorite artist could offer special content at different tiers — it appears to be a Patreon-style platform for music.

The invitations are limited to 25,000 people. They'll receive a year of free access to tools as well as a Creator Pass that promises "exclusive perks," including digital tokens of Winamp's well-known llama.

Don't worry that Winamp might ignore its signature player software. The company maintains that it will parallel the service rollouts with improvements to the client. The aim is to create the "music superapp" listeners want, Winamp said.

The creator service and retooled software could help Winamp adapt to an era where streaming and subscriptions have largely replaced downloads. With that said, there are challenges. Many listeners are tied to first-party streaming apps like Apple Music and Spotify. They aren't guaranteed to turn to outside software and services, even if they might miss out on rewards.

The Morning After: Russia teases its own space station ahead of leaving the ISS

Russia decommissioned its last self-run space station, Mir, in 2001. Now Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, has shared a model of the country’s future station, as it prepares to move out of the International Space Station. Nicknamed ROSS by state-controlled media, it would launch in two phases, starting with four modules and expanding to six with a service platform. The design would accommodate four people in rotating tours and reportedly offer better monitoring of Earth than Russia gets from the ISS today.

State media claim the first phase will launch between 2025 and 2030, with Russia expected to leave the ISS in 2024. It announced its departure from the ISS in July in response to sanctions and other measures following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

Samsung's 55-inch curved gaming monitor has six speakers and two remotes

The newest Odyssey Ark is $3,500.


Samsung has gone all-out on its next-generation monitor. Samsung claims the Ark is the world’s first 55-inch monitor with a 4K resolution, a 165Hz refresh rate and a 1ms response time. You also get support for HDR 10+ and Dolby Atmos audio, and it’s got six built-in speakers that create a dome of sound. Oh, and you can use it vertically.

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Android 13 is rolling out to Pixel phones today

The software is out of beta and brings some small but useful new tools.

Android 13 is coming out of beta and will start rolling out to Google’s Pixel phones today, with devices from Samsung, ASUS, Nokia (HMD), Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, Sony, Xiaomi and more expected to get the update later this year.

The latest version of Google's mobile operating system brings more granular privacy controls, a new photo picker, Bluetooth LE audio and more. Messaging app streaming might be the most notable new feature, letting you cast your messaging apps to your Chromebook so you can chat with your friends on your laptop. Google said this works with Messages "and many of your other favorite messaging apps." The company added you'll "soon be able to copy content — like a URL, picture, text or video — from your Android phone and paste it on your tablet," or the other way around.

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Yet another Lord of the Rings game is in development

From a company that worked on the movie trilogy’s special effects.

Wētā Workshop is working on a new Lord of the Rings game alongside publisher Private Division. The game is in early development and few details have been announced, but Wētā Workshop has "the broadest creative license to interpret the underlying lore of the books," according to a press release. If you’re wondering who or what WētāWorkshop is, it worked on Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies as well as The Hobbit trilogy. The special effects powerhouse is also collaborating with Amazon on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. It set up its gaming division in 2014.

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TikTok adds an AI image generator to its app

It’s a very, very simple version of DALL-E.


TikTok has introduced a basic AI greenscreen effect in its Android and iOS apps that turns your text descriptions into artwork. It's much simpler than OpenAI's DALL-E 2, producing abstract blobs rather than photorealistic depictions — which makes it a lot less interesting. However, AI art tools like DALL-E are usually limited to a select group of users. TikTok, meanwhile, has over a billion monthly users — while few of them are likely to ever use AI-generated art, the addition brings the technology to a much wider audience.

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Peloton may open its workout content to competing bikes and treadmills

The company is also redesigning its bikes for home assembly.

Peloton may soon allow users of competing fitness equipment to stream its workouts to their bikes and treadmills. In an interview with Bloomberg, CEO Barry McCarthy said the company is “rethinking” its digital strategy. Peloton could adopt a freemium model offering some features and workouts in its mobile and TV app for free. Currently, the software costs $13 per month. In the future, people with stationary bikes or treadmills from companies like Bowflex, Echelon and NordicTrack could also stream Peloton's content to their equipment’s display.

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Apple reportedly tested search ads in Maps in bid to expand advertising business

Apple may be planning to bring ads to more of its first-party apps. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, the company has conducted internal tests of a version of Maps that features search ads. Apple already employs similar advertisements within the App Store.

Developers can pay the company to get their software to show up at the top of the search results page when you input specific terms. Gurman suggests search ads in Maps would work in much the same way. For instance, a Japanese restaurant could pay Apple for their business to show up higher in local listings when people use search terms like “sushi.” Gurman believes Apple could implement similar ads in its Podcasts and Books apps. He says the company could begin offering an ad-supported tier through Apple TV+.

Gurman attributes the potential push to Todd Teresi, the vice president in charge of the company’s advertising division. Teresi recently began reporting directly to services chief Eddy Cue and has reportedly talked of greatly expanding his team’s impact. The division generates about $4 billion in annual revenue. Teresi’s ambition is to increase that number to the double digits. That would require a significant expansion of Apple’s current advertising efforts.

A wider advertising push would be an about-face for a company that has, at least externally, positioned itself as a champion of user privacy. With the release of iOS 14.5, Apple introduced a feature called App Tracking Transparency. The prompt allows you to prevent apps from logging your activity across other apps and websites. In 2022, it’s estimated the policy will cost Facebook parent company Meta approximately $13 billion in lost revenue. When Apple announced ATT at WWDC 2020, the company publicly said it designed the feature to protect user privacy. A recent report from The Wall Street Journal, which said the company pursued a revenue-sharing agreement with Facebook, suggests its motivations with ATT may have not been so altruistic.

Zoom fixes security flaw that let attackers hijack your Mac

Zoom users with Macs can rest a little easier. Ars Technicareports Zoom has updated its Mac software to patch a vulnerability that let would-be intruders take control of systems. The video calling software's auto-updater software not only had root-level access, but had a signature verification system that you could fool simply by giving your package a familiar file name. A hacker could force your app to downgrade or otherwise enable exploits.

Objective-See Foundation (OSF) creator and researcher Patrick Wardle first discovered the security hole, and disclosed it to Zoom in December last year. Zoom fixed that problem, but introduced another bug in the process. Zoom addressed that, too, but Wardle found still another flaw. The OSF founder discussed his findings at Def-Con last week. Zoom acknowledged the issue that day, and patched it afterward.

This isn't the first time Zoom has grappled with security headaches, including for the Mac. In 2019, the company raced to fix a webcam hijack exploit that relied on a locally-created web server. Increased scrutiny of Zoom at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020 also prompted a full-scale review of the company's practices. While that did lead to changes, it's clear Zoom isn't immune to missteps.

Android 13 is rolling out to Pixel phones today

Android 13 is coming out of beta and will start rolling out to Pixels today, with devices from Samsung, ASUS, Nokia (HMD), Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, Sony, Xiaomi and more expected to get the update later this year. The latest version of Google's mobile operating system brings more granular privacy controls, a new photo picker, Bluetooth LE audio and more. Those who want even more personalization from the company's Material You theme generator may appreciate the additional customized app icons.

One of the more intriguing updates is messaging app streaming, which will let you cast your messaging apps to your Chromebook so you can chat with your friends on your laptop. Google said this works with Messages "and many of your other favorite messaging apps." Inter-device copy and paste will be getting easier too, with the company saying you'll "soon be able to copy content — like a URL, picture, text or video — from your Android phone and paste it on your tablet" or the other way around.

There are plenty of small touches that make Android 13 feel refreshed, like an animated progress bar in the updated media playback box on the lock screen, as well as a QR code scanner shortcut. Many other improvements are coming to the L version of Android, which is designed to make navigating larger screened devices more intuitive.

You'll also find HDR video capability on third-party camera apps, support for braille displays for Google's screen reader Talkback and an update media output switcher. The company lists more details on what's changed on its website so you can check them out there.

TikTok adds an AI image generator, but it's no DALL-E

You don't need to fire up DALL-E if you want AI to create images from text — you just need a popular social media app. The Vergenotes TikTok has introduced a rudimentary "AI greenscreen" effect in its Android and iOS apps that turns your text descriptions into artwork. It's much simpler than OpenAI's DALL-E 2, producing abstract blobs rather than photorealistic depictions, but it might do the trick if you want an original background for your latest video.

As The Verge explains, though, there may be strong reasons to limit the AI generator's capabilities. Even if the required computational power isn't a problem, the potential output might be. Right now, attempts to generate sexual or violent images fizzle out. They may be relevant to your keywords, but they aren't explicit. That could help creators avoid bans, and spare TikTok any further legal scrutiny.

If nothing else, the effect makes AI image generation much more accessible. Experimental tools like DALL-E are still limited to a select group. TikTok, meanwhile, has over 1 billion monthly users — while few of them are likely to ever use AI-generated art, the addition brings the technology to a much wider audience. Don't be shocked if there are similar implementations elsewhere.

Apple blocked the latest Telegram update over a new animated emoji set

Ever since Apple launched the App Store, developers big and small have gotten caught up in the company's approval process and had their apps delayed or removed altogether. The popular messaging app Telegram is just the latest, according to the company's CEO Pavel Durov. On August 10th, Durov posted a message to his Telegram channel saying the app's latest update had been stuck in Apple's review process for two weeks without any real word from the company about why it was held up. 

As noted by The Verge, the update was finally released yesterday, and Durov again took to Telegram to discuss what happened. The CEO says that Apple told Telegram that it would have to remove a new feature called Telemoji, which Durov described as "higher quality vector-animated versions of the standard emoji." He included a preview of what they would look like in his post — they're similar to the basic emoji set Apple uses, but with some pretty delightful animations that certainly could help make messaging a little more expressive. 

"This is a puzzling move on Apple's behalf, because Telemoji would have brought an entire new dimension to its static low-resolution emoji and would have significantly enriched their ecosystem," Durov wrote in his post. It's not entirely clear how this feature would enrich Apple's overall ecosystem, but it still seems like quite the puzzling thing for Apple to get caught up over, especially since Telegram already has a host of emoji and sticker options that go far beyond the default set found in iOS. Indeed, Durov noted that there are more than 10 new emoji packs in the latest Telegram update, and said the company will take the time to make Telemoji "even more unique and recognizable."

There are still a lot of emoji-related improvements in the latest Telegram update, though. The company says it is launching an "open emoji platform" where anyone can upload their own set of emoji that people who pay for Telegram's premium service can use. If you're not a premium user, you'll still be able to see the customized emoji and test using them in "saved messages" like reminders and notes in the app. The custom emoji can be interactive as well — if you tap on them, you'll get a full-screen animated reaction. 

To make it easier to access all this, the sticker, GIF and emoji panel has been redesigned, with tabs for each of those reaction categories. This makes the iOS keyboard match up with the Android app as well as the web version of Telegram. There are also new privacy settings that let you control who can send you video and voice messages: everyone, contacts or no one. Telegram notes that, like its other privacy settings, you can set "exceptions" so that specific groups or people can "always" or "never" send you voice or video messages. The new update — sans Telemoji — is available now.

Security researcher reveal Zoom flaws that could've allowed attackers to take over your Mac

Zoom's automatic update option can help users ensure that they have the latest, safest version of the video conferencing software, which has had multiple privacy and security issues over the years. A Mac security researcher, however, has reported vulnerabilities he found in the tool that attackers could have exploited to gain full control of a victim's computer at this year's DefCon. According to Wired, Patrick Wardle presented two vulnerabilities during the conference. He found the first one in the app's signature check, which certifies the integrity of the update being installed and examines it to make sure that it's a new version of Zoom. In other words, it's in charge of blocking attackers from tricking the automatic update installer into downloading an older and more vulnerable version of the app. 

Wardle discovered that attackers could bypass the signature check by naming their malware file a certain way. And once they're in, they could get root access and control the victim's Mac. The Verge says Wardle disclosed the bug to Zoom back in December 2021, but the fix it rolled out contained another bug. This second vulnerability could have given attackers a way to circumvent the safeguard Zoom set in place to make sure an update delivers the latest version of the app. Wardle reportedly found that it's possible to trick a tool that facilitates Zoom's update distribution into accepting an older version of the video conferencing software. 

Zoom already fixed that flaw, as well, but Wardle found yet another vulnerability, which he has also presented at the conference. He discovered that there's a point in time between the auto-installer's verification of a software package and the actual installation process that allows an attacker to inject malicious code into the update. A downloaded package meant for installation can apparently retain its original read-write permissions allowing any user to modify it. That means even users without root access could swap its contents with malicious code and gain control of the target computer.

The company told The Verge that it's now working on a patch for the new vulnerability Wardle has disclosed. As Wired notes, though, attackers need to have existing access to a user's device to be able to exploit these flaws. Even if there's no immediate danger for most people, Zoom advises users to "keep up to date with the latest version" of the app whenever one comes out. 

Facebook and Instagram apps can track users via their in-app browsers

If you visit a website you see on Facebook and Instagram, you've likely noticed that you're not redirected to your browser of choice but rather a custom in-app browser. It turns out that those browsers inject javascript code into each website visited, allowing parent Meta to potentially track you across websites, researcher Felix Krause has discovered. 

"The Instagram app injects their tracking code into every website shown, including when clicking on ads, enabling them [to] monitor all user interactions, like every button and link tapped, text selections, screenshots, as well as any form inputs, like passwords, addresses and credit card numbers," Krause said in a blog post. 

His research focused on the iOS versions of Facebook and Instagram. That's key because Apple allows users to opt in or out of app tracking when they first open an app, via its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) introduced in iOS 14.5. Meta has previously said that the feature was "a headwind on our business 2022... on the order of $10 billion." 

Meta said that the injected tracking code obeyed users preferences on ATT. "The code allows us to aggregate user data before using it for targeted advertising or measurement purposes," a spokesperson told The Guardian. "We do not add any pixels. Code is injected so that we can aggregate conversion events from pixels. For purchases made through the in-app browser, we seek user consent to save payment information for the purposes of autofill."

Krause noted that Facebook isn't necessarily using the javascript injection to collect sensitive data. However, if the apps opened a users' preferred browser like Safari or Firefox, there would be no way to do a similar javascript injection on any secure site. By contrast, the approach used by the Instagram and Facebook in-app browsers "works for any website, no matter whether it's encrypted or not," he said. 

According to Krause's research, WhatsApp doesn't modify third-party websites in a similar way. As such, he suggests that Meta should do the same with Facebook and Instagram, or just use Safari or another browser to open links. "It's what's best for the user, and the right thing to do." For more, check out the summary of his findings here