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Apple, Artificial Intelligence, Gadgets, machine learning, Mobile, Siri, TC, Tech, text-to-speech

Did you notice that Siri sounds a little more sprightly today? Apple’s ubiquitous virtual assistant has had a little virtual work done on her virtual vocal cords, and her newly dulcet-ized tones went live today as part of iOS 11. (Check out a few more lesser-known iOS 11 features here.)

It turns out a lot of work went into this little upgrade. The old methods of creating speech from text produced the familiar but stilted voices we’re all familiar with from the last decade or two. Basically you took a big library of voice sounds — “ah,” “ess,” etc. — and stuck them together to make words.

The new way, like everything else these days, involves machine learning. Apple detailed the technique earlier in the year (published, even), but it’s worth recounting here. First Apple recorded more than 20 hours of a “new voice talent” performing tons of scripted speech: books, jokes, answers to questions.

A sentence being broken down into pieces.

That speech was then segmented into tiny pieces called half-phones; phones are the smallest sounds that make up speech, but of course they can be said in different ways — rising, falling, quicker, slower, with more or less aspiration, that kind of thing. Half-phones… well, obviously, they’re half a phone.

All these tiny sound pieces were run through a machine learning model that figures out more or less which piece makes sense in which situation. This type of “er” sound when starting a sentence, that type when ending a sentence — that kind of thing. (Google’s WaveNet did something like this by reconstructing voice sample by sample, which Apple’s researchers acknowledge, but also point out isn’t really practical.)

The resulting voice system, while still synthetic, sounds less robotic and more lifelike, in part because the new speaker seems to be a bit more energetic to begin with — but also because it incorporates all her little idiosyncrasies, those of a real voice speaking sentences the speaker understands.

In fact, it incorporates those idiosyncrasies so completely that Molly Babel, a speech expert consulted by Popular Science, instantly pinpointed where Siri is “from.”

“She is textbook Californian,” Babel said. Well, what were you expecting?

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Culture / Cultural Comment, Tech

Americans tend to think that we’re a pretty homogeneous nation, in terms of our vocabulary. Yes, there are Southern drawls, and there’s Boston and Brooklyn and Appalachia and Minnesota, but the words themselves, we believe, are pretty much the same. But there are often significant regional differences, and these are beautifully explicated in the Dictionary of American Regional English, the six-volume study of America’s dialects, affectionately known as DARE.

There’s nothing terribly mysterious about the process of writing a dictionary. You figure out what you want to include, research it, and then write it up. But there are a lot of ways to do your research. If your subject is ancient Greek, you read everything there is, organize your words, and look at every example. If your subject is dialect, the problem is to figure out how people say things, and what people call things, in places that may not be that easy to get to. Several nineteenth-century projects, most notably the English Dialect Dictionary, managed this by sending surveys through the post and hoping to get useful answers back. A modern option is to remain in one’s office and telephone people around the country, the process used by the Atlas of North American English (which focusses almost entirely on pronunciation). The other obvious thing to do is go everywhere in person. In the late nineteenth century, Edmond Edmont rode by bicycle around France, and corners of Belgium and Switzerland, conducting seven hundred interviews to research what became the Atlas Linguistique de la France.

When DARE began its fieldwork, in 1965, its teams travelled in “Word Wagons”: campers outfitted with detailed surveys, recording equipment, and linguistics graduate students. The wagons travelled to more than a thousand communities, which were not always ready to welcome sixteen-hundred-question surveys, massive reel-to-reel tape recorders, or graduate students. But they persevered, completing almost three thousand interviews, with a total of 2.3 million questions that were keyboarded in a prominent early example of the value of computing in the humanities. Recordings of the interviews, and of a story called “Arthur the Rat,” which was written to elicit important pronunciation features, show the variation in speech sounds. This fieldwork, combined with extensive original textual research, formed the core of the dictionary, which was ultimately published from 1985 to 2013.

The purpose of DARE is to “document the words, phrases, and pronunciations that vary from region to region in the United States”; it also explores social variations—for example, African-American vernacular English. The history of DARE goes back to 1889, at the founding of the American Dialect Society, one of the major goals of which was to produce a dictionary of American dialects. But as with many large-scale scholarly projects, it took several decades of unsystematic and abortive work before Frederic G. Cassidy, a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, developed and tested his extensive questionnaire addressing terms for weather, courtship, farming, health, money, religion, food, and more. When this proved successful, funding was secured to begin the fieldwork in earnest. After the Word Wagons returned home, the computerized survey results allowed editors to categorize the answers based on the speakers’ age, sex, ethnicity, education, and urban-versus-rural upbringing.

Much coverage of DARE focusses on the “funny” words—this magazine included Volume V in its Best Books of 2012 list, with the note, “If you want to play ring-a-levio or pom pom pullaway with a schnickelfritz, you need this book.” But as with the occasional wry definitions in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, of 1755 (“lexicographer . . . a harmless drudge”), to focus on these words misses the point. DARE gives serious treatment to a massive corpus of prominent terms, only a few of which are evocative names for heavy rainstorms. The coverage is immense; all of the familiar regional questions are here: “pop” versus “soda”; waiting “on line” (as New Yorkers do) versus “in line”; the distribution of “hero,” “hoagie,” “grinder,” “Cuban,” “submarine,” and “torpedo” as names of long sandwiches; the pronunciation of “ask” as “ax”—all with extensive quotations from the surveys and from American literature illustrating them.

Putting the dictionary online has given easy access to the entire range of questions, and the pleasure of reading them is hard to overstate. As Joan Hall, who took over the editorship after Cassidy’s death, in 2000, noted, “If you select Boats and Sailing topic and then click on the first question, you’re taken to the map with all the responses for a small rowboat. When you get to dinghy, batteau, johnboat, skify, dinky, pram, punt, pirogue, dock boat, etc., and click on each one and see great regional patterns, you think, ‘My gosh! I had no idea!’ And that happens over and over again. The differences in vocabulary can still amaze.” And earlier this year, the entire set of recordings from the fieldwork were placed online, allowing everyone to hear “Arthur the Rat” from a thousand communities around the country.

It’s no wonder that DARE has been lauded since its inception; William Safire called it “the most exciting new linguistic project in the twentieth century.” As Hall observed, “People are invariably fascinated. When they hear examples from their region which differ from elsewhere, they say, ‘What? My language is normal, they’re weird!’ Whenever I have radio shows, we get tons of call-ins from people talking about their language.”

While discussions of dialect often focus on old-fashioned subjects such as terms for cowsheds, or names of different kinds of fishing equipment, the lexicon of the modern urban world shows regional variation as well. The device used to control a TV set from the couch can be called a “zapper,” “clicker,” “remote,” “flipper,” “switcher,” and dozens more. The cardboard sleeve that wraps around a takeout coffee cup to insulate one’s hand from the heat is known as a “sleeve,” “collar,” “jacket,” “zarf,” “cozy,” “clutch”. Pronunciations also change over time; the notion that Americans all want to sound like a TV newscaster, and that this will lead to uniformity in our speech, is a myth; Americans generally want to sound like their neighbors, and the evidence shows clearly that major dialect regions are actually diverging.

Since the completion of the dictionary, the DARE editors have been updating existing entries, designing a new language survey—fewer cowsheds and rowboats, more remote controls and coffee cups. A pilot project yielded fascinating results; the editors discovered a previously undiscussed word for cutting a place in line, “budge,” localized in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. But the project proved difficult; people responded very well to personal interviews, but these were impractical on a limited budget. “For any real new progress, political winds will need to change,” Hall ruefully said. Sadly, this week the lexicographic community learned that DARE would be shutting down.

DARE was primarily supported by grants, especially from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation. In recent years, small individual donations played an increasing role in the project’s funding. The institutional donors pretty much felt that they did their job to get the dictionary to “Z.” The publicity from the completion of the main text led to an influx of enough money to finish Volume VI, which included maps and indices, but that was it. In the last few years, the staff applied for additional grants to update and add new entries; these failed to materialize. Squeaking by on royalties and individual gifts, and with several editors working on a volunteer basis, the dictionary was able to publish some quarterly updates, but by the beginning of this year, it was necessary to lay off the staff.

Now the hundreds of boxes of files are going into the University of Wisconsin archives, after some last-minute work to insure that the most important records are indexed properly. Editors will try to keep some visibility—continuing to do radio interviews, for example—but this will also be on a mostly volunteer basis.

DARE will probably prove to be the last major dictionary based on personal fieldwork, as more modern techniques take over. By creating an interesting survey and getting people to complete it online, you can get a lot of data. This was the method of the Harvard Dialect Survey, a set of a hundred and twenty-two questions created by the linguist Bert Vaux, who is now at Cambridge University. When the Times created an interactive quiz based on the data, in 2013, its story “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk” became its highest-traffic piece of the entire year, despite being published on December 21st—demonstrating just how fascinated people remain about their local speech.

And instead of any method of studying the speech of individuals, the most modern thing of all is corpus analysis: taking billions of words of text—from geotagged posts on Twitter, from online regional newspapers—and running them through elaborate statistical processing. The computational linguist Jack Grieve uses this approach to generate maps revealing truths about language that no one had—or, for that matter, could have—noticed before. This is probably the direction that future research will take; it’s relatively inexpensive and yields fascinating results that dramatically add to our understanding of language. But one can’t help feeling that it’s a shame to take the words out of the mouths of their speakers.

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The motherboard is the bedrock upon which your computer is built. It’s arguably the single most important factor in your build. Everything from processor, to maximum RAM, to total number of drives, all depends on the motherboard to be stable and capable platform.

On top its importance as the foundation of your computer, a motherboard is one component that can’t easily be swapped out. For instance, if your graphics card quits or no longer fits your needs, it’s not hard to swap it out for a flashy new one. But if your motherboard quits, or you find yourself needing more PCIe slots or RAM, you basically have to rip the whole thing apart. 

That’s why getting a good motherboard is so important. The sheer number of options, from chipset to form factor to available ports, makes motherboard shopping somewhat daunting. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be. We’ve compiled this list of the best motherboards by chipset and form factor, so you can start building the computer of your dreams right now.

Coming to terms

Before we get into the recommendations, a little bit of a primer for  the uninitiated. Motherboards come in several different form factors,  the most common of which are ATX and Micro ATX. There are a whole bunch  of other form factors, but generally speaking, the case you end up  buying will probably support one or both of these sizes.

A  socket-type refers to the actual socket where the processor “plugs into”  the motherboard itself. Different manufacturers have different sockets  for their CPUs, and different CPUs from the same manufacturer might not  share a common socket. For example, Intel Core processors come in  LGA1151 – but, also LGA1155 – and sometimes LGA1150. AMD processors also  have varying socket sizes.

Best Intel motherboard: EVGA Z270 Classified K

Find the top of your game

Form Factor: E-ATX | Socket: LGA-1151 | Chipset: Intel Z270 | Memory Support: Dual-Channel 4 x DDR4 3600MHz+ (up to 64GB) | Multi-GPU support: 2-way SLI, Crossfire | Features: 1 x U.2, 1 x PCIe M.2 (Key E, Key M)

Tons of ports

Plenty of room for expansion

Big price tag

This absolute beast from EVGA is an Intel builder’s dream. It has dual Ethernet ports, HDMI and DisplayPort, Thunderbolt and USB Type-C, along with an “enthusiast layout” for easy SLI builds. It’s overclockable, with 3 BIOS profiles to support that basic human need to make a computer go way over its limits. It also comes with “enthusiast stickers.” Who doesn’t love stickers?

Best budget Intel motherboard: MSI B250M Gaming Pro

Light things up with this low-cost motherboard from MSI.

Form Factor: Micro ATX | Socket: LGA-1151 | Chipset: Intel B250 | Memory Support: Dual-Channel 2 x DDR4 2400MHz (up to 32GB) | Multi-GPU support: No | Features: 1 x PCIe M.2 (32-110mm), Intel Optane Memory Ready

Micro ATX form factor


Not much room for expansion

Only 2 RAM slots

You don’t need to break the bank to get your computer off on the right footing. This board from MSI is a great, inexpensive solution. It’s limited in options for future expansions, so it’s ideal for a one-and-done build. Since it’s a gaming motherboard it has support for things like “Mystic Light Sync,” which lets you synchronize all your RGB lighting with a single click.  

Best Intel Micro ATX motherboard: ASRock B250M Pro4

A smaller form-factor with some room for you to improve

Form Factor: Micro ATX | Socket: LGA-1151 | Chipset: Intel B250 | Memory Support: Dual-Channel 4 x DDR4 2400MHz (up to 64GB) | Multi-GPU support: 2-Way SLI, AMD Quad CrossFire X | Features: 1 x U.2, 1 x M.2 (Key M), Intel Optane Memory Ready

On-board video support

Supports 7.1 channel surround

 Limited PCIe expansion

This Micro ATX motherboard from ASRock packs a lot of features onto a smaller form factor. You lose out on the possibility of extra PCIe slots, but there are 4 memory slots to upgrade to a maximum 64GB DDR4 RAM. It also has support for on-board graphics, so if you’re building a computer piecemeal, you can still use it before buying a dedicated graphics card.

Best Intel Mini ITX motherboard: Asus ROG Strix Z270I Gaming

This small motherboard is ready for some heavy lifting

Form Factor: Mini ITX | Socket: LGA-1151 | Chipset: Intel Z270 | Memory Support: Dual-Channel 2 x DDR4 4,600MHz (up to 64GB) | Multi-GPU support: No | Features: 1 x PCIe M.2 (Key M), Intel Optane Memory Ready

Cool RGB lighting

Reinforced PCIe slot for heavy graphics cards

 RAM maxes out at 32GB

This small motherboard packs a punch. Not only does it support Intel HD graphics, it also has a “SafeSlot” PCIe slot that’s reinforced to better hold today’s positively monstrous graphics cards. On top of that, it’s actually really cool looking, with RGB lighting that syncs with other AURA Sync-enabled peripherals and products.

Best AMD motherboard: MSI X370 Gaming Pro Carbon

Form Factor: ATX | Socket: AM4 | Chipset: AMD X370 | Memory Support: Dual-Channel 2 x DDR4 3,200MHz (up to 64GB) | Multi-GPU support: 2-way SLI, CrossFire | Features: 2 x M.2 (Key M)

Amazing looking motherboard

Built-in waterpump fan connector

 No on-board video

When it comes to AMD motherboards, the Gaming Pro Carbon from MSI does not mess around in the slightest. Not only is it packed with lots of features to make it extra appealing for AMD gaming PC builds, it has awesome Mystic Light RGB settings that can be adjusted via smartphone app. Besides looking great, it has plenty of room for expansion and support for dual graphics cards.

Best Budget AMD motherboard: Asus Prime A320M-K

A low-cost AMD motherboard to maximize cost to power.

Form Factor: Micro ITX | Socket: AMD AM4 | Chipset: AMD A320 | Memory Support: Single-Channel 2 x DDR4 3,200MHz (up to 32GB) | Multi-GPU support: No | Features: 1 x PCIe M.2 (Key M)

 Great price

 Limited expansion

Budget builds are almost always based around AMD hardware. Not because AMD is “budget,” but because it’s just cheaper than Intel and Nvidia. Start the build off on the right, low-cost foot with this motherboard from ASUS. It has everything you need to pull off a solid computer build, without having to break the bank. It lacks visual bells and whistles, but hey, it’s a budget solution.

Best AMD Micro ATX motherboard: ASRock AB350M Pro4

Nothing flashy, but plenty of performance to love

Form Factor: Micro ITX | Socket: AMD AM4 | Chipset: AMD Promontory B350 | Memory Support: Dual-Channel 4 x DDR4 3,200MHz (up to 64GB) | Multi-GPU support: 2-Way SLI, AMD Quad CrossFireX | Features: 1 x PCIe M.2 (Key M)

Excellent price

Supports RAM overclocked to 3200MHz

 Not flashy or exciting

If you want to get where you need to go, and you don’t care about things like fancy RGB lighting or eye-catching, futuristic-looking heat dissipators, the AB350M Pro4 is the motherboard for you. In spite of its plain-Jane looks and no-frills aesthetic, this is a solid motherboard with plenty of room to expand and grow with your computer needs.

Best AMD Mini ITX motherboard: ASRock AB350 Gaming-ITX

An overclocker’s dream in a small form factor

Form Factor: Mini ITX | Socket: AM4 | Chipset: AMD B350 | Memory Support: Dual-Channel 2 x DDR4 3,466MHz (up to 32GB) | Multi-GPU support: No | Features: 1 x M.2 (Key M)

Blazing-fast RAM speeds

On-board graphics support

 RAM tops out at 32GB 

Small and powerful, this ASRock motherboard is a beast, supporting overclocked memory speeds up to 3,466MHz for CPUs that support it. If that wasn’t enough to get your motor running, it also supports 4K resolutions and full Blu-ray support through its HDMI ports. Yes, ports: it has two, as well as on-board video support.

Best Intel Core X-Series motherboard: ASRock X299 Taichi

This one goes up to 11, but more accurately, 4400MHz memory

Form Factor: ATX | Socket: LGA-2066 | Chipset: Intel X299 | Memory Support: Quad-Channel 8 x DDR4 4,400MHz (up to 128GB) | Multi-GPU support: Nvidia 3-Way SLI, AMD 3-Way CrossFireX | Features: 3 x PCIe M.2 (Key M)

Gigantic memory support

Slots for 8 RAM modules

High price

The X-series processors are here and they’re spectacular, so if you want to take advantage of all they have to offer, you need an X-series motherboard. This ASRock X299 is an excellent choice, with support for overclocked memory speeds up to 4400MHz(!!!) and 8 different slots for memory modules. It also supports up to 128GB of RAM, so with an X-series processor and a good graphics card (or 3…) this thing will absolutely tear apart anything you throw at it.

Best AMD Ryzen Threadripper motherboard: ASRock X399 Professional Gaming sTR4

This is the motherboard AMD dreams are made of

Form Factor: ATX | Socket: sTR4 | Chipset: AMD X399 | Memory Support: Dual -Channel 4 x DDR4 3,200MHz (up to 128GB) | Multi-GPU support: 4-Way SLI, AMD Quad CrossFireX | Features: 1 x U.2, 3 x PCIe M.2 (Key M)

4-way SLI or Crossfire support

Awesome RGB lighting

 Really expensive

If you’re the type of builder with deep pockets and an “everything and the kitchen sink” build mentality, this Ryzen Threadripper board is definitely for you. It supports 4-way SLI or Crossfire configurations, so you can just empty your bank account in the name of PC glory. All that graphical power is supported by as much as 128GB DDR4 memory, and there’s even a flashy RBG lighting scheme to really drive home the point.

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fitness, ftc, gear, Mobile, pact, pactinc, settlement, Tech

“Consumers who used this app expected the defendants to pay them rewards when they achieved their health-related goals, and to charge them only when they did not,” said the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Tom Pahl in a statement. “Unfortunately, even when consumers held up their end of the deal, Pact failed to make good on its promises.” The FTC also claims that Pact didn’t adequately tell its members how to cancel the service and stop recurring charges.

The FTC claimed that Pact, Inc. engaged in unfair and deceptive practices that violated the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shopper’s Confidence Act, or ROSCA, which prohibits charging consumers without it being clearly disclosed. The settlement makes it so that the defendants cannot continue to charge their customers without a “clearly and conspicuously” disclosure. Pact customers who were wrongfully charged will get more than $940,000 in refunds, as part of a $1.5 million settlement overall (the discrepancy in final amount and the refund amount has been suspended). The company must notify customers and complete payments within 30 days of the settlement order.

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Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent a sobering, self-reflective email to employees today following the London transport authority’s decision not to renew the company’s license. In what is an uncharacteristic move for a company plagued by rampant sexism and regulatory abuse, much of which was a product of the leadership style of former chief exec and founder Travis Kalanick, Khosrowshahi told Uber employees that “there is a high cost to a bad reputation.”

Text of the email was first published on Twitter by Bloomberg reporter Eric Newcomber. An Uber representative confirmed to The Verge the authenticity of the email.

“Irrespective of whether we did everything that is being said about us i London today (to be clear, I don’t think we did), it really matters what people think of us,” Khosrowshahi wrote, “especially in a global business like ours, where actions in one part of the world can have serious consequences in another.” It’s clear now that Uber is taking these controversies as teachable moments, and that a ban in a city as large and instrumental to its business as London could push it to improve its systemic issues.

Those issues include Uber’s use of Greyball, custom software which allowed the company to dodge law enforcement and regulatory officials from using the full app for potential sting operations. Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transportation authority, cited Greyball, among other offenses, when it declined to renew Uber’s license, saying the company’s “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”

“Going forward, it’s critical that we act with integrity in everything we do, and learn how to be a better partner to every city we operate in,” Khosrowshahi concludes. “That doesn’t mean abandoning our principles — we will vigorously appeal TfL’s decision — but rather building trust through our actions and our behavior. In doing so, we will show that Uber is not just a really great product, but a really great company that is meaningful contributing to society, beyond its business and its bottom line.”

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Apple buyback, Apple trade-in, Apple TV buyback, Apple Watch buyback, Apple Watch recycle, Apple Watch trade up, Apple Watch trade-in, News, Newsstand, recycling, Tech, Top stories, Watch Store

If you just got a new Apple Watch Series 3 (or are about to), you should think about trading in your old watch.

Cult of Mac has a popular gadget buyback program that pays more for used Apple Watches than competing trade-in services, and it’s a lot easier and safer than Craigslist or eBay.

Cult of Mac’s buyback program pays more

With the new Series 3 watches on sale Friday, now is a great time to think about upgrading. We’ve teamed up with a U.S. recycling company to offer what we believe is the highest-paying buyback program right here at

We are confident that in almost every case, we can offer more cash than big-name trade-in companies like Gazelle, Amazon and Best Buy.

We pay cash for old iPhones, iPads, iPods, MacBooks and of course, Apple Watches. Rival buyback companies like Gazelle don’t yet offer trade-ins on the Apple Watch. It’s “coming soon,” says the company’s website.

As you can see in the chart below, in all but one case we pay more than competing services that do buy used Apple Watches, like BuyBack World and Stopoint.

Apple Watch trade in prices
Cult of Mac will buy your old Apple Watch, and we pay more than the competition.
Chart: Cult of Mac

Broken Apple Watch? No problem

We accept both used and broken devices — even broken Apple Watches with cracked faces.

We offer higher prices across the board, but we make especially generous offers for products with cracked screens or missing bands, which some other buyback programs won’t touch. If you have broken devices lying around, now’s the time to trade them in.

We also take wearables from Fitbit, Jawbone and Pebble.

See for yourself

But don’t take our word for it. Please check out prices yourself. Get an obligation-free quote from our Apple Watch buyback page and then head over to BuyBack World and Stopoint to compare their prices. We are confident that we can beat them.

It’s super easy

All you have to do is click on the Apple Watch buyback page and select what kind of device you have. We’ll mail you a box with a return label already attached. As soon as we receive the device from you, we’ll mail out a check. The entire process, from submitting the form online to getting your check in the mail, usually takes about a week.

We also buy iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and even Apple TVs

We’re able to pay for a wide array of products, not just the newest ones in the best condition. We’ll pay for MacBooks from 10 years ago, iPads run over by cars, and iPhones that have been dropped in a puddle. If you have an old Apple TV, we’ll buy that too.

Our partner: MyPhones Unlimited

To bring you this new service, we teamed up with MyPhones Unlimited, a startup company based in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

With a passion for recycling and keeping e-waste out of landfills, MyPhones Unlimited has none of the overhead of big recycling companies, which spend millions of dollars on advertising every year. These savings are passed directly on to customers as higher buyback prices.

Nothing goes to landfill

Every device purchased is refurbished and resold so it can find a second home. Anything that is beyond repair is recycled. In addition to buying your used gadgets, we’ll also recycle old devices free of charge. Everything sent to MyPhones is resold, refurbished or recycled. Nothing is thrown away to leak toxins into landfills.

Get your quote today

We hope this new program is a great new service for Cult of Mac readers.

Ready to turn your old Apple devices into money? Visit now to get your quote.

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Apple, cameras, Gadgets, iPhone, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, Mobile, Photography, TC, Tech

If our review didn’t convince you that the cameras in the latest iPhones are something special, perhaps DxOMark’s lab-heavy evaluation process will do the trick. The camera testing site unequivocally states that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have the best smartphone cameras it’s ever tested — though they aren’t without their flaws.

Where the cameras stand out is in the everyday situations where you just want to get the shot, and don’t want to have to worry about using “low light mode” or watch helplessly as the camera struggles to focus properly on your puppy’s gambols.

On these occasions, the iPhones excel, offering accurate autofocus, extremely good detail in most lighting situations, and superior performance in the faux-bokeh category everyone is so hot on these days. The zoom in the Plus is also best-in-class, though in smartphones that still remains a bit like a dog walking on its hind legs — it’s amazing that it works at all.

It beat out its nearest competitors, the excellent Pixel and HTC U11, which topped the charts until today in most categories. Low light detail and HDR performance gave the iPhone an edge, and its much more natural background blur function wins handily (especially in the Plus).

DxOMark includes plenty of context and sample pictures that are worth perusing. One in particular stood out to me, however:

Phone cameras have come a long way in just a few years, and there’s plenty more to do.

There’s still plenty to improve. The autofocus, while accurate (which really is the most important thing), isn’t the quickest. Video, while good, is judged to fall behind the Pixel’s. Portrait mode still produces artifacts around the borders of the blur, but far less noticeable ones than the Pixel. And they didn’t mention the studio lighting mode, possibly because like me they think it looks pretty bad most of the time.

It’s a well-earned victory by Apple, but the competition is about to strike back: the new Pixel is set to arrive soon. As Matthew pointed out in the review, smartphone reviews are quickly turning into camera reviews, and Google knows that as well as anyone else. We’ll see what the competition brings to the table on October 4, when it’s set to be unveiled.

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Bio, Biotech, chan zuckerberg initiative, Education, Facebook, Finance, Fundings & Exits, Mark Zuckerberg, Personnel, Philanthropy, shareholders, TC, Tech

Mark Zuckerberg has gotten so rich that he can fund his philanthropic foundation and retain voting control without Facebook having to issue a proposed non-voting class of stock that faced shareholder resistance. Today Facebook announced that it’s withdrawn its plan to issue Class C no-vote stock and has resolved the shareholder lawsuit seeking to block the corporate governance overhaul.

Instead, Zuckerberg says that because Facebook has become so valuable, he can sell a smaller allotment of his stake in the company to deliver plenty of capital to his Chan Zuckerberg Initiative foundation that aims to help erradicate disease and deliver personalized education to all children.

“Over the past year and a half, Facebook’s business has performed well and the value of our stock has grown to the point that I can fully fund our philanthropy and retain voting control of Facebook for 20 years or more” Zuckerberg writes. Facebook’s share price has increased roughly 45% from $117 to $170 since the Class C stock plan was announced, with Facebook now valued at $495 billion.

Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, and their daughters Max and August

“We are gratified that Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg have agreed not to proceed with the reclassification we were challenging” writes Lee Rudy, the partner at Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP that was representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit seeking to block the no-vote share creation. Zuckerberg was slated to testify in the suit later this month, but now won’t have to. “This result is a full victory for Facebook’s stockholders, and achieved everything we could have hoped to obtain by winning a permanent injunction at trial.”

“I want to be clear: this doesn’t change Priscilla and my plans to give away 99% of our Facebook shares during our lives. In fact, we now plan to accelerate our work and sell more of those shares sooner” Zuckerberg wrote. “I anticipate selling 35-75 million Facebook shares in the next 18 months to fund our work in education, science, and advocacy.” That equates to $5.95 billion to $12.75 billion worth of Facebook share Zuckerberg will liquidate.

When Zuckerberg announced the plan in April 2016, he wrote that being a founder-led company where he controls enough votes to always steer Facebook’s direction rather than cowing to public shareholders lets Facebook “resist the short term pressures that often hurt companies.” By issuing the non-voting shares, “I’ll be able to keep founder control of Facebook so we can continue to build for the long term, and Priscilla and I will be able to give our money to fund important work sooner.”

A spokesperson for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative told TechCrunch that this outcome is very good for the foundation, because it provides more predictability to its funding. The plan will also allow Zuckerberg to deliver cash to the CZI sooner, which its new CFO Peggy Alford will be able to allocate between its health, education, and advocacy projects.

With the new plan to sell shares, it’s unclear what might happen to Zuckerberg’s iron grip on Facebook’s future in “20 years or more”.

Dropping the Class C share plans may be seen as a blow to Facebook board member Andreessen Horowitz who Bloomberg revealed had coached Zuckerberg through pushing the proposed plan through the rest of the board. But given Zuckerberg’s power, Andreessen is unlikely to be ousted unless the Facebook CEO wants him gone.

Zuckerberg strolls through the developer conference of Oculus, the VR company he pushed Facebook to acquire

For the foreseeable future, though, Zuckerberg will have the power to shape Facebook’s decisions. His business instincts have proven wise over the years. Acquisitions he orchestrateded that seemed pricey at first like Instagram and WhatsApp have been validated as their apps grows to multiples of their pre-buy size. And Zuckerberg’s relentless prioritization of the user experience over that of advertisers and outside developers have kept the Facebook community deeply engaged instead of pushed away with spam.

Zuckerberg’s ability to maintain power could allow him to continue to make bold or counterintuitive decisions without shareholder interference. But the concentration of power also puts Facebook in a precarious position if Zuckerberg were to be tarnished by scandal or suddenly unable to continue his duties as CEO.

Zuckerberg warned investors when Facebook went public that “Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission.” And yet Facebook has flourished into one of the world’s most successful businesses in part because shareholders weren’t allowed to sell its ambitions short.

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crowdsourcing, Google, google search, movies, Reviews, Search, TC, Tech, television, tv

Google has added a new feature that allows web users to contribute their own movie and television reviews right within Google search results – a step towards the possible implementation of Google’s own Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB-like reviews service. But before you get too excited about this, be aware that the feature is currently only available in India.

The addition was first spotted by the blog Android Police, which noted that the search giant had last year introduced like and dislike buttons on movie and TV shows’ results cards.

Google confirmed to us the new feature is live, but clarified it was something that’s only available on web, mobile, and the Google app in India, in the English language, for the time being.

The user-submitted reviews are also automatically filtered for any inappropriate content, Google says, and they can be flagged by individual users if something inappropriate manages gets through Google’s system.

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Above: screenshots of movie reviews, credit: Android Police

After the user leaves the review and submits it, the reviews themselves will then appear in the Knowledge Panel for various TV shows and movies at the top of the search results on

The feature is another example of Google opening up Google Search results to include user-generated content. For instance, Google this summer introduced a feature called “Posts on Google” that allows local businesses the ability to publish their events, products and services directly to Google Search. Celebrities, sports teams, sports leagues, movie studios and museums can also use this feature.

However, Google tells us the new movie and TV show reviews feature is not using the same technology as Posts on Google.

Rather, it’s more closely related to the experience you see for restaurant reviews, also contributed by users. When you click on a restaurant in Google’s Knowledge Panel, you’re taken to a Maps page with details like store hours, location, busy times, and critics reviews. Here, you’ll see other reviews contributed by Google users at the bottom.

In that case, the crowdsourced reviews are referred to as “Google reviews,” and they are summarized as an aggregate star rating at the top of the business’s Maps listing as well. (e.g. “4.0 stars 512 Google reviews”).

In the TV show and movie listings product, they are instead referred to as “Audience reviews.”

Google declined to comment on its plans to expand its new reviews product beyond the Indian market. But if it did so, it would be another notable attack on crowdsourced user review services – similar to how Google’s business reviews became a viable alternative to Yelp reviews over the years.

The feature also arrives at a time when Amazon-owned IMDB is distancing itself from its more social elements. For example, IMDB closed down its comments section this year, saying they no longer provided a positive and useful experience. That leaves some more room in the market for Google to step in and cater to those who want to express their opinions on entertainment matters. If successful, Google could do the same for other categories as well, like books, podcasts, albums, and more, if it chose to.

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Most of the tele talk these days is about Ultra HD / 4K TVs, and generally the super-sized ones too. Companies like Samsung are even talking about how 55-inch screens have become their biggest selling TV size.

While the days when a 32-inch TV was considered the height of show-off AV opulence may be long gone, the 32-inch TV has certainly not gone out of fashion. On the contrary, it continues to be one of the biggest-selling segments of the TV market – and this really isn’t a surprise when you think about it. 

When households are putting TVs in second, third, and even fourth rooms, the 32-inch screen size offers a perfect balance between affordability and practicality: It’s big enough to be comfortably viewable even in typically large rooms such as kitchens and conservatories, but not so big that it overwhelms smaller spaces such as bedrooms or studies.

Which TVs does TechRadar recommend?

While there always exceptions to the rule, we’ve come up with a list of a few things to look for when buying a new 32-inch TV. 

First off, it pays to be smart. Second-room TVs can benefit more from a good range of ‘smart’ features than main living room TVs. After all, it’s clearly much easier to watch content streamed wirelessly over the internet on a second room TV than go to the hassle of trying to install an aerial point or second-room set-top box. With this in mind, we’d recommend that you try and get a 32-inch TV with built-in Wi-Fi that carries integrated video streaming services and supports DLNA file sharing from other devices on your network.

Second, shoot for a 1920×1080 resolution wherever possible. Pretty much every 32-inch TV these days is classed as ‘HD Ready’, meaning it has a high definition resolution and can play high definition sources. There are, though, two different resolutions that meet the HD Ready criteria: 1366×768, and ‘full HD’ 1920×1080. A set with a 1920×1080 resolution has the potential to give you cleaner, crisper, more detailed pictures than 1366×768 screens.

Lastly, just make sure the TV you have in mind has all the connections you need. For instance, PS4s, Xbox Ones and DVD/Blu-ray players will need HDMIs, the Nintendo Wii will need a component or even composite video input, PCs will likely need a VGA input, and Sky/Cable set top boxes will need another HDMI. Once you’ve got your list together, make sure your chosen TV has enough connections to handle everything without you having to keep swapping connection cables over.

Keep these tips in mind (along with the additional in-depth tips offered on page two) and you should have no problem finding the small screen of your dreams. 

However, just in case you can’t find something, we’ve come up with a short list of what we think our the best 32-inch TVs of 2017 to help you along. 

1. Sony KDL-32RE4 (UK only)

Sony’s 32RE4 packs HDR into a 32-inch screen

Screen size: 32-inch | Tuner: Freeview HD | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Panel technology: LED | Smart TV: Smart Hub | Curved: No | Dimensions: 543 x 156 x 826 mm

HDR support

Great for gamers

Not a smart TV

Screen is a bit dim

We’ve chosen to highlight Sony’s 32RE4 because, uniquely, it supports high dynamic range video. The screen won’t be bright enough to do HDR full justice, but any sort of HDR impact is welcome. Gamers may be particularly drawn to it given the HDR potential of the Xbox One S and PS4 consoles. Unlike 4K, HDR doesn’t need a big screen to deliver palpable picture quality improvements. Just remember you’ll need to feed the TV HDR sources to unlock its HDR potential.


2. VIZIO D32X-D1 (US Only)

Apps and full array backlighting for less than you might expect

Screen size: 32-inch | Tuner: N/A | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Panel technology: LED | Smart TV: VIZIO Internet Apps Plus | Curved: No | Dimensions: 505 x 733 x 184 mm

1080p resolution

Full array backlighting

Remote isn’t great 

Sound quality isn’t top class

VIZIO has never been known for catchy or easy to remember model names, so it’s only fitting that one of the best small screens from the company has a name like D32X-D1. While it might not have the catchiest name in the world, VIZIO’s small screen has a lot going for it – including a full 1080p resolution and an app tray full of the most popular streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu. 

3. Samsung UN32M5300 (US Only)

Samsung’s M5300 Series is the top of its class for 2017

Screen size: 32-inch | Tuner: NA | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Panel technology: LED | Smart TV: Smart Hub | Curved: No | Dimensions: 29.2 x 18.5 x 5.7 inches

1080p resolution

Great app selection

Only 2 HDMI ports

Only optical audio supported

Samsung has been a leader in the 32-inch screen space for years. The top of the line model from the South Korean manufacturer this year is the UN32M5300. Why? It offers full 1080p images and its Tizen operating system for a price that most folks can afford. Sure, it doesn’t have the most connections in the world, but hey, the small compromises are absolutely worth it.


4. LG 32LJ610V (UK Only)

LG’s 32-inch screen is great for bright, open rooms

Screen size: 32-inch | Tuner: Freeview HD | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Panel technology: LED | Smart TV: No | Curved: No | Dimensions: 480 x 720 x 160mm

Good for bright rooms

webOS smart TV platform

Design could use work

IPS panel

The 32LJ610V is a bit on the ugly side by 32-inch TV standards, and it uses an IPS panel, making it a bad option for dark room environments. However, its picture is bright enough to stand out in light rooms, and best of all its webOS smart TV system makes it fantastically easy to use. Two out of three isn’t so bad, right?


5. Toshiba 32D3753DB (UK only)

Toshiba’s 32-inch screen is for cinephiles with DVD collections

Screen size: 32-inch | Tuner: Freeview HD | Resolution: 1366 x 768 | Panel technology: LED | Smart TV: Cloud TV | Curved: No | Dimensions: 498 x 745 x 215

DVD combo

Freeview Play

Only 720p resolution

If you’re still rocking shelves full of DVDs or you’ve got a habit of popping the latest bargain bucket DVD title in with your weekly shopping, this new Toshiba model features a built-in DVD drive. 

It likely won’t rival the other models here on all-round picture quality, but it still looks attractive despite its combi design, and supports the Freeview Play smart system in the UK. Which adds up to a lot of features for its £299 price tag.

  • Head on over to page two to read more about 32-inch TVs!

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