Daily Archives: August 8, 2020

An In-Depth Guide to the Microphones – bandcamp.com

Posted: August 8, 2020 at 11:59 pm

LISTS An In-Depth Guide to the Microphones By Grayson Haver Currin August 07, 2020 Original artwork by Phil Elverum

For the last 25 years, across more than 60 releasesfirst as the Microphones and then as Mount EeriePhil Elverum has used the humdrum details of his daily life as fodder for experimental folk, indie rock, and even heavy metal. He has articulated his search for validation and truth in a world that can seem designed to prove how little you matter. That sentiment stretches cleanly from 2001s The Glow Pt. 2, Elverums boundless examination of young adult heartache, to 2017s A Crow Looked at Me, his heartrending document of life as a widower and single father after his wife, Genevive Castre, died.

When it comes to namesof projects and even his ownone could reckon Elverum to be obsessed.

At the start of 2003, just as albums like The Glow Pt. 2 began to make the Microphones an indie rock commodity, he dropped that moniker for Mount Eerie, the name of the last proper Microphones LP and a reference to the mountain perched over his hometown of Anacortes, WA. The songwriter soon supplemented his surname, Elvrum, with a second e, matching that of a small Norwegian city when he spent a winter in the far north of the country.

But for Elverum, none of that actually matters too much. Names are window dressings, he suggests: superficial marketing tactics that distract from what an artist has to say about life and the quest for meaning. That is the premise of Microphones in 2020, his astounding first album as the Microphones in 17 years. On its single, 45-minute track, Elverum, now 42, revisits his arts origins, trying to locate and reignite the unifying impulse that guided him as an artist in his early twenties. The names, sounds, and circumstances may have changed, but his desires remain the same: this luxurious privilege to sit around frowning and wondering what it means, he sings, playing with words and trying to prove that names mean nothing.

There is no easy distinction between the Microphones and Mount Eerie. When Elverum started the Microphones, he was a young audio enthusiast, a kid thrilled by the process of discovery that recording entailed. He worked with a ragtag cast of collaborators, so his equipmentlike, microphonesbecame his bandmate. As he learned more about recording and began to codify an aesthetic, he started to focus more on language, refining the poetry that best expressed his feelings. Such is the essence of Mount Eerie.

At least until now: Microphones in 2020 may be the most compelling, exacting, and poignant writing of his career. I hope this record is the end of all names, but I know thats probably not possible, says Elverum from home, laughing.

We sorted through six highlights of what Elverum has called the Microphones: an overwhelming catalog, without even considering Mount Eerie. We asked him how he feels about those records now, after spending so much time pondering what the Microphones have meant in his life.

By the time Phil Elverum began making his first masterpiece, The Glow Pt. 2, in the spring of 2000, he was more than four years deep into his recording obsession. On a series of tapes conceived in the rear of an Anacortes record store, hed plundered almost every sound he could imagine, turning drones, drums, and acoustic guitars into miniature composites. Now in Olympia, hed thrown himself into the capital citys scene wholesale. He lived in the legendary Track House for $175 a month and volunteered at the food co-op for cheap groceries. He spent his free time across the street at Dub Narcotic Studio, trawling Calvin Johnsons massive trove of aging equipment.

The Glow Pt. 2 captured the collision of Elverums youthful energy and budding experience, the exact moment his understanding of recording and the rawness of his nerves dovetailed. An unflinching, 20-song document of heartache that feels like an extinction-level event, it tells us everything: how he thought he understood love and permanence, how he sulks and even stalks, how he wants to disappear. But the world of sound Elverum conjures here, a homespun backdrop of unrest and intrigue, keeps the songs churning. It is a complicated portrait of a young person learning how to lose, the quality that makes it perennially poignant.

K Records released The Glow Pt. 2 on September 11, 2001. It feels now like it did thena headlong escape into someone elses woe, a place where the grief and worry were so immersive that you had no choice but to step away from your fear for a while. The Glow repeatedly flirts with abject despair, with the prospect of just giving up. But after an hour, Elverum sits cold and alone in the dark, surrounded only by the insects who know his red blood is still warm. That is, things suckbut at least hes still here to tell the tale.

I always think Im making something thats the best I can possibly do, says Elverum. Usually I am wrong, but I always have that feeling. Mirah had been with me on tour while I was writing some of The Glow Pt. 2, and she had been coming in and out of Dub Narcotic, overhearing what I was working on. And I remember her saying, Wow, Phil, Im really excited. This record is going to be something special. I like it now. But legacy is so baffling. Its almost arbitrary, the things that get put on pedestals, but Im lucky to have benefited from that arbitrariness.

For a decade, St. Ives epitomized the record label as a community art project. On early and very limited editions from the likes of Animal Collective, Man Forever, and Fruit Bats, bands would paint recycled record covers themselves, alternately rendering ornate designs and slapdash expressionist pastiche. The Indiana label seemed especially suited to an early-20s Elverum, a prolific painter and photographer who constantly doodled in notebooks. His debut on St. Ives2001s discursive Blood, limited to 300 copieswas the labels first release aside from a compilation of Hoosier favorites.

When St. Ives asked Elverum for a follow-up, he strolled into Dub Narcotic on February 2, 2002. He set up a single microphone, a pump organ, and a piano, then pressed Record at 2 p.m. After 40 minutes, Elverum had finished Little Bird Flies Into a Big Black Cloud, an extemporaneous vocal rendition of a recently released chapbook. You can hear him shuffling the pages after Three Steps, a stepwise spoken-word guide to considering mortality and the endlessness of your imagination, and witness him faltering as he tries to find a note during I Got Stabbed, a meditation on prying apart your feelings for art. It is as personal as the hand-painted covers for this edition of 400, now a pricey collectors item.

His use of language herebeautiful lines that are somehow both spare and florid, triangulating the sensations of his feelingsrepresents a crucial development. Hed been listening to Will Oldham and Little Wings, trying to learn how he could mirror the sonic care of the Microphones with words. He maps his feelings to trees, flowers, oceans, and soil, shaping a personal pantheism of frailty and strength, beauty and decay. Youre a warming wind from a distant sun, he croons during one fraught moment. Im an iceberg and Ill melt and out Ill run.

Phil Elverum doesnt see Little Bird Flies Into A Big Black Cloud so much as a record as an exercise in anti-production, a counterpoint to his developed sound experiments. Were only talking about it because the Internet came around and leveled out the accessibility of everything, he says. It now has the same size thumbnail as all the other albums. But I like to have things available and not seem exploitative of cultivated scarcity. I still think this record is only worth 400 copies, but I also like saying, Heres everything. You get to decide how many copies its worth.'

Early in the decade, Elverum was driving between New England tour stops when he found himself with a day off in New Hampshire. Passing through the states iconic White Mountains, he decided to climb, despite encroaching winter weather. Partway up Mount Jefferson, the snow began to drift down as Elverum passed signs demanding that hikers turn back during worsening conditions. He pressed ahead, eventually staring out across a tremendous, cloud-shrouded gorge: I imagined going to the brink and looking beyond this life, he remembers, to the other side of death.

Elverum also missed his hometown of Anacortes, two hours up Washingtons puzzle-piece coastline from Olympia. He pined for the sight of the towns own Mount Erie, a stubby tree-covered mountain with a dramatically exposed rock face. Inspired by the 9th century Buddhist poet Han-shan who wrote his poetry on the rocks of mountains, Elverum decided to bind his songs to Anacortes little peak forever with an album that used it as a symbol of lifes arduous journey and eventual end. That is the premise of Mount Eerie, Elverums last full LP as the Microphones for nearly 20 years.

Mount Eerie is Elverums most elemental but complex album. It is the archetypal story of birth and death and afterlife, cast in an extended metaphor about ascending a peak and peering out into the canyon of life below. But its five seamless movements shift between harsh noise and plaintive folk, between throbbing dance music and ghoulishly chanted harmonies. A Greek chorus even narrates Elverums climb up the mountain, toward his end. The culmination of years spent experimenting with sound, examining the uncertainty of existence, and expressing those ideas through increasingly sylvan images, the operatic Mount Eerie offered an aptly climactic finale for the Microphones.

Mount Eerie is a concept-story album, but I wanted it to flow directly out of The Glow Pt. 2, says Elverum. I started it with the same sound The Glow ends with; that thing is common through everything I make, a thread that ties it together. I like forefront-ing the connections, but its almost all for me. I intentionally dont think about what fans will notice, or if anyone is even going to listen at all.

In 2002, Elverum asked the fans on K Records website for an outlandish favor: he wanted to spend a winter in Northern Norway, writing and thinking in Arctic seclusion. A fan in Bod, a mid-sized city ringed by rugged peaks and the Norwegian Sea, offered him a show and eventually pointed him toward a cabin two hours away. Elverum, who is of Scandinavian descent himself, spent months therebattling the relentless cold, confronting the turmoil of a recent breakup, and writing lots. His diaries from that time became the 134-page Dawn: Winter Journal, while his songs, which cut to the quick of living in solitary sadness, became a gripping Mount Eerie LP, also titled Dawn.

Mid-winter, Elverum briefly left his cabin for a long journey to Shibuya, stepping into the streets in snow pants and a heavy coat. He was there to play several shows with Calvin Johnson, Little Wings, and Japanese indie rock band The Moools. Elverum had already decided to drop the Microphones moniker for Mount Eerie, but he kept it for these sets for whatever name recognition it may confer. Its in quotation marks on this subsequent live albums coverin Elverums mind, he was already something new.

The enduring power of Live in Japan is the sense that a hermit is being let out of its hut, that the beast with feelings is emerging from a cave to share. Elverum is alternately playful and tortured, finding joy in relationships while painfully recognizing they have limits. During the gripping We Squirm, Elverum offers a late Microphones and early Mount Eerie cri de cur: I say let feelings hold you/ I say embrace your captors/ I say get to know them deep, he sings at the end of the songs breathless single verse, his voice crashing against the rocks of his heavy strums.

I dont like live albums that much, but I decided to release this one because so many of the songs were documents of something that would never happen again, Elverum says of the record. All the other Microphones things I repress from time to time, but Im not going to let this one fade away. Its weird, super raw, hard to listen to. I had been in this cabin in Norway, going head-to-head with my demons. All of a sudden, Im in Japan, performing this raw stuff to strangers that maybe didnt even understand the language. Its a document of being mid-exorcism.

By early 2007, Elverum had taken several tentative steps as Mount Eerie, releasing one full album and a bevy of singles and conceptual experiments. He was still on the eve of the recordsnotably 2008s Dawn and Lost Wisdomthat would codify the projects stark sound and frank core. He realized, however, that two new songs wouldnt fit Mount Eeries increasingly confessional aesthetic: Dont Smoke and Get Off the Internet, released in 2007 as a 7 attributed to the Microphones. Wouldnt the name just make these punk tunes stranger?

They are indeed outliers in Elverums oeuvre, preachy imperatives that tell listeners what to do rather than reframe what he has done himself. Slyly written to the tune of We Are the World and traced by spectral harmonies and sighing guitars, Get Off the Internet foretold the FOMO and exhaustion of our digital futures, a preemptive warning that a world of wonder and meaning exists beyond browser windows. Dont Smoke may grate when heard as a puritanical straight-edge plea; considered more broadly, its an enduring anthem for solidarity and self-reliance, for letting the nasty habits of the past die at last. We are the ones/ We have to do it, he urges in a rare moment of motivational earnestness. No more parents or gods.

As Elverum tells it, When I made those songs, it was me being a little snot, wanting to fuck with people. I was telling people what the rules are. And I wanted to poke with whatever preciousness existed around the name the Microphones. The songs seemed like their own thing, too. They were overtly political and definitely written with the audience in mind, though I normally try to ignore the fact that people will listen.

Early last summer, Elverum surprised his most ardent fans with a most unexpected twist: he would play one set as the Microphones in July, 16 years since his last album under that name. It was a reunionthough not really, since the band had always been an amorphous collective, anyway. Instead, Elverum had reunited with old friends to resurrect What the Heck Fest, the low-key, homecoming-style fte hed helped anchor in Anacortes in the early 00s. For Elverum, it felt fitting to dust off the mothballed name hed used for those early days, but he didnt want to settle for old favorites.

That feeling spawned a 20-minute metatextual saga Elverum premiered at the 2019 festival. He wondered aloud how hed shaped the Microphones, how it had shaped him, and what reviving the name said about the art hed always made. What were the threads that tied the melancholy teenager whod started this project in Anacortes because he loved recording, to the 41-year-old widower and acclaimed songwriter whod returned? The finished song, Microphones in 2020, is arguably the third Microphones masterpiece and a definitive framework for Elverums entire career.

This uninterrupted 45-minute tone poem rises around a tiny choir of acoustic guitars, shimmering like a moon glow on an endless ocean horizon. Elverum zooms in and out on his life, using seemingly small moments as chances to ask very big questions about why making art matters. He remembers playing alone in the garden as a toddler and wonders if thats why hes clung to mountains and oceans, fog and rain as a writer. He recounts a transformative experience watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a film that pushed him to express truths greater than mere romantic disappointment. He borrows from Mayhem as well as himself, quoting and alluding to his past work as he examines how the pieces of his life cohere.

Midway through the track, Elverum sings of his early days, I was already who I am. Not 20 minutes later, he appears to contradict himself, singing, I am older now, and I no longer feel the same way that I did even 5 seconds ago, his voice cracking as he squeezes in the syllables. This miraculous paradox is central to his creative lifethe idea of growing where youre rooted. Microphones in 2020 feels like a roadmap for pursuing new ideas, vividly illustrated with a renewed understanding that doing just that has been your lifes work.

Its not a good feeling to get dangerously close to self-indulgent nostalgia, Elverum says. Its distasteful to me. I made this as an antidote, and playing this felt weird and new and challenging. Thats where I want to be as an artist. I dont want to indulge in the comfort of repeating something I know works. I want to be moving forward, and Ive always been that way. Fingers crossed that Im done making albums about the baggage of the past for a little while.

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Google launches the final beta of Android 11 – TechCrunch

Posted: at 11:58 pm

With the launch of Android 11 getting closer, Google today launched the third and final beta of its mobile operating system ahead of its general availability. Google had previously delayed the beta program by about a month because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Image Credits: Google

Since Android 11 had already reached platform stability with Beta 2, most of the changes here are fixes and optimizations. As a Google spokesperson noted, this beta is focused on helping developers put the finishing touches on their apps as they prepare for Android 11, including the official API 30 SDK and build tools for Android Studio.

The one exception is some updates to the Exposure Notification System contact-tracing API, which users can now use without turning on device location settings. Exposure Notification is an exception here, as all other Android apps need to have location settings on (and user permission to access it) to perform the kind of Bluetooth scanning Google is using for this API.

Otherwise, there are no surprises here, given that this has already been a pretty lengthy preview cycle. Mostly, Google really wants developers to make sure their apps are ready for the new version, which includes quite a few changes.

If you are brave enough, you can get the latest beta over the air as part of the Android Beta program. Its available for Pixel 2, 3, 3a, 4 and (soon) 4a users.

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Google to roll out its digital learning platform to 23 million students and teachers in Indias Maharashtra state – TechCrunch

Posted: at 11:58 pm

Google has partnered with one of the largest states in India to provide its digital classroom services to tens of millions of students and teachers, the search giant said today, as it makes a further education push in the worlds second largest internet market.

The company, which recently announced plans to invest $10 billion in India, said it had partnered with the government of the western state of Maharashtra that will see 23 million students and teachers access Googles education offering at no charge.

Thursdays announcement follows a recent survey by the Maharashtra government in which it had sought teachers interest in digital classroom alternatives. More than 150,000 teachers signed up for the program in less than 48 hours, Google said.

Maharashtra is the worst hit Indian state by COVID-19, with more than 460,000 confirmed cases. The state, like others in India, complied with New Delhis lockdown order in late March that prompted schools and other public places to close across the nation.

All of us had questions regarding the future of education. We have come a step closer to answering these questions due to the pandemic, said Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of Maharashtra, in a statement.

Varsha Gaikwad, the education minister of Maharashtra, said the partnership with Google will help her department roll out tech solutions to students in about 190,000 schools.

Our goal is to make Maharashtra the most progressive state in education by making effective use of online resources, platforms, bandwidth and technology, using the power of the internet to reach out to the masses and bridge the gap in education, she said.

The pandemic, which has brought several sectors to their knees in the country, has accelerated the growth of startups that operate digital learning platforms in the country. Byjus, Facebook -backed Unacademy, Vedantu and Toppr among other startups have amassed tens of millions of new students since March this year.

Google is providing students and teachers with a range of services, including G Suite for Education, Google Forms for conducting quizzes and tests, access to Google Meet video conferencing services and Google Classroom, which enables educators to create, review and organize assignments, as well as communicate directly with students.

The company said it has also made Teach from Anywhere, a hub for educators, in Marathi, a very popular language in the state of Maharashtra.

Our teachers and schools have the huge responsibility in shaping the future of our new generation, and we continue to be honored to play a role in offering digital tools that can enable more teachers to help even more students stay firmly on their journey of learning, during these times and beyond, wrote Sanjay Gupta, country head and vice president of Google India, in a blog post.

The company has rushed to work with educators in India in recent months.Last month, Google announced that it had partnered with the Central Board of Secondary Education, a government body that oversees education in private and public schools in India, to provide its education offerings to more than 1 million teachers across 22,000 schools in India.

It also unveiled a grant of $1 million to Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF), a foundation in India that works with partners to provide underprivileged children with education opportunities from Google.org, Googles philanthropic arm.

Googles global rival, Facebook, also partnered with CBSE last month to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety and online well-being, and augmented reality for students and educators in the country.

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Heres how to make a claim in the $7.5M Google Plus security flaw settlement – The Verge

Posted: at 11:58 pm

Anyone in the United States who held a Google Plus account between January 1, 2015 and April 2, 2019, and believes they were impacted by a security flaw that Google disclosed in 2018 can now register for a payout from a class action settlement. The lawsuit has settled for a total of $7.5 million. Each class action member is eligible for a payout of up to $12 after attorney fees and other costs are accounted for, although this could vary depending on the number of people who submit a claim. You have until October 8 to register.

Although Google said at the time that there was no evidence the exposed data was ever accessed, the company wasted no time in announcing that it would shut down its social network after publicly admitting the lapse. When it announced the shutdown, Google said that its social network had seen low usage and engagement, which is unsurprising given it never really managed to compete against social media heavyweights like Facebook and Twitter.

Although its reached a settlement, Google denies the allegations made in the lawsuit. It denies any wrongdoing, and believes that no users sustained any damages or injuries due to the software bugs.

If youre interested in making a claim, then you can do so over on the settlements website, where youll need to provide the email address associated with your Google Plus account. As well as holding an account between the dates listed, your data must have been exposed as part of the security lapse (Google has previously said that as many as 500,000 users were affected). A final fairness hearing is scheduled for November 19.

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Heres what Googles complicated privacy email about audio is really about – The Verge

Posted: at 11:58 pm

Google is returning to having humans analyze and rate anonymized audio snippets from its users. However, its also taken the major step of automatically opting every single user out of the setting that allows Google to store their audio. Thats why you might be getting an email today: Google would like you to opt back in to the program, and its trying to provide clearer information detailing what its all about.

Those are very big moves that affect a huge number of people though Google says the precise number of users getting the email is confidential. It should land in the inbox of anybody who has interacted with a product that uses Googles voice AI, including apps like Google Maps and services like Google Assistant.

Heres a PDF of the email that is being sent to virtually everybody whos spoken into a microphone with a Google logo next to it, which reads in part:

To keep you in control of your audio recording setting, weve turned it off for you until you are able to review the updated information. Visit your Google Account to review and enable the audio recordings setting if you choose.

It will link to this URL (which Im listing out because you should never just click a URL to an account setting without double-checking it): https://myactivity.google.com/consent/assistant/vaa

It is difficult to remember now, but last summer, one of the biggest stories in tech was how every major company was using humans to review the quality of their AI transcriptions. When some of those audio recordings began to leak, it rocked Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook.

That meant techs 2019 summer of scandal was characterized by technical explanations of how machine learning works, apologies, outrage, walkbacks, and ultimately every company finally started making it easier for users to know what data was being stored and how to delete it. Ill put a bunch of the stories in a sidebar just to give you a sense of how intense it was.

All of those companies got significantly better at providing real disclosures about how audio data was used and made it easier to delete it or opt out of providing it entirely. Most of those big tech companies also went back to using human reviewers to improve their services with disclosures and / or asking users to consent again.

But Google didnt bring back human reviewers after it paused the practice globally last September. When it did, it promised: We wont include your audio in the human review process unless youve re-confirmed your [Voice & Audio Activity] VAA setting as on. Todays email, then, is that promise made real albeit it much later than everybody else.

When you click the link in the email, youll be taken to a very short website that has the YouTube video below explaining Googles policies. Youll also be able to click a link that provides more granular detail on how Google stores and uses audio.

If you opt in to allowing Google to store your audio, it gets used in two ways. There is a period where is it associated with your account. Google uses that data to improve voice matching, and you can go there to review or delete any of that data. As of June 2020, the default timeline for data getting automatically deleted is 18 months but only for accounts created after June 2020. If your account is older than that, youll need to manually change your deletion timeline.

After that, your audio will be chopped up and anonymized, at which point it may be sent along to human reviewers to check for transcription accuracy. And as its been a point of contention, Ill add that some of those reviewers will be at third-party vendors. Only anonymized data will be sent to humans, Google says.

One strange caveat to all this: although Google is turning off the setting to save audio recordings for everyone, its not changing the policies for audio that has already been uploaded. If you want that deleted, you can go and do it yourself. If you dont bother, however, Google tells me that humans wont be reviewing any audio that was uploaded during the pause.

Google is presenting all of this as a setting change rather than a policy shift. In fact, the company tells me that its privacy policy isnt changing; this is a separate opt-in consent thats allowed under its terms. Theres no official blog post or other communication, so the email and that website it links cover it for Google.

If you are looking to opt out or delete data from any of these big companies, here are a few links to get you started:

Update August 5th, 1:40PM ET: Clarified that the default 18-month timeline for auto-deletion is only automatically applied to accounts created after June 2020. Users with older accounts need to actively select their own deletion timelines.

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Why Google bet $450M on ADT – The Real Deal

Posted: at 11:58 pm

ADT CEO Jim DeVries and Google CEO Sundar Pichai (ADT; Pichai by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images; Nest via wallpaperflare)

Google and ADT are teaming up to go after the burgeoning smart-home market.

In a partnership announced Monday, Google said it will invest $450 million for a 6.6 percent stake in the security giant. In exchange, Google will receive access to about 6.5 million of ADTs customers to drive sales of Nest products. ADT, meanwhile, will get the backing of a Silicon Valley heavyweight as it competes against tech-driven security solutions.

Although the companies said theyre focusing on residential and small-business customers first, CEO Jim DeVries said the partnership comes with a long list of opportunities. Their investment demonstrates skin in the game, he said during an investor presentation Monday.

Wall Street looked at the deal favorably ADTs stock closed at $13.48 per share, up 56.6 percent from its closing price of $8.61 on July 31. Trading volume on Monday topped 187.1 million, compared to an average of 4.8 million.

1. The most basic part of the deal combines Nest hardware with ADTs installation and monitoring. ADT will offer Google devices to customers starting this year.

2. ADT and Google are also each planning to invest another $150 million to market and develop new products. The first $50 million is coming soon, said DeVries. The next two tranches are based on milestones that were confident well be achieving.

3. Why now? The global smart home market is massive, with some estimates projecting it will grow from $78.3 billion in 2020 to $135.3 billion by 2025. In March, SmartRent, which develops smart home software and hardware for multifamily landlords, raised $60 million.

4. Smart homes is an area that 145-year-old ADT has been chasing. Last year, for example, it acquired I-View Now, a video verification company, for an undisclosed sum.

5. ADT also has a joint product with Amazon dubbed Alexa Guard which links the cloud-based voice assistant to ADTs security system. Basically, Alexa is able to listen for things like breaking glass and smoke alarms. DeVries said that the relationship will continue, and that ADT would still integrate the two systems when customers request it.

6. Some background on Google Nest: Google bought Nest for $3.2 billion in cash in 2014. In addition to its flagship thermostat device, Nest also makes smart speakers, smoke detectors and security systems (including doorbells, cameras and locks).

7. For ADT, the Google deal has another key upside. ADT will use the $450 million to fuel growth and pay debt. After being bought (and later taken public) by Apollo Global Management, ADT has more than $10 billion in debt, according to its most recent annual report.


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Files by Google adds PIN protection for your most sensitive files on Android – The Verge

Posted: at 11:58 pm

The Files by Google app, which primarily gives Android users an easy way to manage files and free up space on their phone, is getting a new PIN-protected Safe Folder feature. After setting up a four-digit PIN, you can store any of your sensitive files in this encrypted folder. The folder is locked the moment you switch away to another app, and its contents are only accessible through Files by Google.

According to Google, the feature is mainly designed to help people who share Android devices, which it says is common for women in many parts of the world. Safe Folders keep important files like identity documents safe and secure from accidental deletion or sharing by kids, for example. And yes, it could also help anyone who wants to keep any sensitive photos private.

AndroidPolice warns that transferring a file into your secure folder means it disappears from other file browsers and gallery apps, so be sure you dont delete or uninstall the Files app or clear its app data to avoid losing your private files completely. The same goes for forgetting your PIN.

Last year, Microsoft added a similar secure folder to OneDrive called Personal Vault. Along with PIN protection, you can also secure files in your Personal Vault using biometric security like fingerprint or facial authentication, or a two-factor authentication (2FA) code. Microsofts implementation also lets you protect documents in the cloud, while Googles is on-device only, according to XDA-Developers.

Google says the Safe Folder feature is rolling out in the beta starting today, and AndroidPolice notes that its appearing in version 1.0.323 of the Files by Google app. Google says the app now boasts over 150 million monthly active users worldwide.

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Google’s version of iPhone AirDrop is rolling out to Android phones now. Here’s how to use the new feature – CNET

Posted: at 11:58 pm

Nearby Share is quick and easy, just make sure you set it up first.

For years -- years! -- iPhone owners have used AirDrop to quickly and easily share files, photos, videos and links with other nearby iPhones ($699 at Apple). By using AirDrop, you don't have to fuss with texting a photo, compressing it and ruining its overall quality, or clog up your conversation thread with random links and files.

Now, Android phones are finally getting Google's version of AirDrop, called Nearby Share.

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Google announced the new feature in early August, and I've been able to test it out on a Pixel 4 XL and a Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus. It works just like AirDrop, but you'll need to do a couple of things before you can start using it yourself. Here's what you need to know.

Google's Pixel phones are one of the first to get Nearby Share.

As is typically the case with new Android features, Google is slowly rolling out Nearby Share, so it may take some time before it will show up on your phone.

You can check to see if the feature has been added to your device by following the instructions listed below. Google is adding Nearby Share to its own Pixel and Samsung phones first, and the feature will eventually come to all phones running Android 6.0 and above.

Google has plans to turn on Nearby Share file transfers between Android and Chrome OS, but for now, it's limited to sharing between Android phones and tablets.

If Nearby Share shows up as an option, congrats! If not, you'll need to wait a bit longer.

Before you'll see Nearby Share as a sharing option, you'll need to enable it. There isn't an update you need to install or anything you can do on your end at all. It will simply appear when it's added to your device.

On your phone, open the Settings app and select Google > Device connections > Nearby share.

If Nearby Share isn't listed as an option, you don't have the feature yet, and you'll need to sporadically keep checking.

You care in complete control of your privacy.

The first time you open the Nearby Share page, you'll be asked to turn it on. Tap Turn On and then select one of three privacy options:

With Nearby Share turned on and set up, you can use it to send documents, photos, videos or links to people who are in the same room as you.

If you're sending a file, ask your friend to unlock their phone and leave the display turned on. If you're on the receiving end, you'll need to have your phone unlocked and the screen on.

If you've ever sent a photo in a text message, you're already a pro at using Nearby Share.

With both phones actively in use, here's what you'll do to send using Nearby Share:

1. When you find something you want to share, such as a link in Chrome, you'll need to open the Share menu.

2. Find Nearby Share in the list of apps; tap it.

3. A small window will show up at the bottom of your screen, letting you know it's looking for a contact to share with. Once it finds your friend's device, tap on their profile icon.

4. The receiving device will display a prompt, letting them know who is trying to send them something, and what it is. Have them tap Accept, and whatever you're sending will be transferred from your phone to theirs, like magic.

If you run into issues with the transfer failing to complete, Google recommends turning Bluetooth off then back on, moving the devices within a foot of each other, or toggling airplane mode on and off.

When testing the feature, I also briefly saw a prompt that mentioned making sure to have the contact's Google email in your address book as a troubleshooting step.

After you've gotten the hang of Nearby Share, take a few minutes to learn all of Android 10's navigation gestures. Or if you'd rather see what's coming with Android 11, we have some features we love. If you have a compatible phone, you can install Android 11 right now.

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Google's version of iPhone AirDrop is rolling out to Android phones now. Here's how to use the new feature - CNET

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Apple and Googles COVID-19 tracking system will make its full US debut in new Virginia app – The Verge

Posted: at 11:58 pm

This week, Virginia plans to release a COVID-19 exposure notification app based on the specifications published by Apple and Google in April. The app, called COVIDWISE, is the first fully deployed implementation of Apple and Googles system in the US and was beta tested by the state department of health.

The specification is designed to preserve patient privacy, particularly around their location and whether they have tested positive for COVID-19. No location data or personal information is ever collected, stored or transmitted to VDH as part of the app, a health department official told Virginia Public Media, which first reported the news. You can delete the app or turn off exposure notifications at any time.

If someone tests positive for the coronavirus, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will give them a PIN number that they can choose to use to report that result within the app. Then, other users of the app should get a notification if their phones were near the sick person at some point in the past 14 days. However, those notifications will only go out to phones when the exposure met a threshold for a strength and duration of the Bluetooth signal that can be estimated as a user being within six feet of the other user for 15 minutes (based on the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions definition of close contact).

Apple and Googles system relies on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and does not track physical location through GPS. Instead, it collects and stores signals from nearby phones. Phones trade anonymous keys, which change every 15 minutes. The companies announced their partnership in April and released the systems API to health departments in May.

Apps that automate the contact tracing process can help flag people who were near someone with COVID-19, even if they may not remember interacting. They can also provide instant notification of a possible virus exposure. But theyre not a replacement for manual contact tracing because theyre only able to monitor the contacts between people who have smartphones and decide to use the app. The VDH said its not using the app as part of its own contact tracing process, but that it offers a way for users to track their own potential exposures.

The more people who download the app, the more effective it will be. If enough of the population downloaded this app and enabled it on their phone, we would have an automated way of figuring out who you have been around, Danny Avula, director of the Richmond and Henrico health districts in Virginia, told VPM.

Alabama launched a closed pilot for its own exposure notification app, called GuideSafe, this week. The pilot is open to anyone in the state with an .edu email address. Its part of the states return-to-campus plans, said University of Alabama at Birmingham president Ray Watts. The app is aiming for 10,000 downloads each on Apple and Android phones.

Twenty US states are interested in apps that use the Apple and Google system, Google said last week. Alabama, South Carolina, and North Dakota each had projects in development in May. The Association of Public Health Laboratories is also building a national server that will allow apps to work across state lines.

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Apple and Googles COVID-19 tracking system will make its full US debut in new Virginia app - The Verge

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Googles AI-powered platform Keen aims to be an alternative to mindlessly browsing online feeds – The Financial Express

Posted: at 11:58 pm

By Shriya Roy

Everyone, especially millennials, are familiar with Pinterest. A social networking site, it allows users to share and discover new interests by posting (also known as pinning) images or videos to their own or others boards. They can also browse what other users have pinned. The platform is focused on the concept of allowing users to share their tastes and interests with others and discovering those of like-minded people. Launched in 2010, the app was touted as a rival to social media giant Facebook.

In the latest technological development, though, Google has taken on Pinterest with its new artificial intelligence-powered app Keen. Google is pitching Keen as the new way to share your passions with people. On Keen, users can curate special boards based on their interests. For example, if someone likes football, they can make a football-themed board (called a keen), which Google will auto populate with content relevant to that particular interest.

Keen is being pitched as a rival to Pinterest, but unlike the latter, it works through Googles AI and search engine technology. Unlike Pinterest, Keen does not just passively recommend content in response to search queries, it actively searches and suggests relevant content to users. Its a social platform, so users can also share their themed boards with others or even invite friends to be collaborators to help build the best board.

Keen, which draws on Googles machine learning expertise to curate topics, aims to be an alternative to mindlessly browsing online feeds, said co-founder CJ Adams. On Keen, you say what you want to spend more time on and then curate content from the web, and people you trust, to help make that happen. You make a keen, which can be about any topic, be it baking delicious bread at home, getting into birding or researching typography. Keen lets you curate the content you love, share your collection with others and find new content based on what you have saved, said Adams.

The platform provides an easy way to save bookmarks or links in a visually pleasing format, helping increase traffic and popularity. The content curated can be kept private, shared with a certain number of people or with the public. Users can also follow other peoples keens and get alerts when new content is added.

Ken can especially be beneficial to website publishers and content marketers in the long run, as it can help them devise various marketing strategies. The best part about it is that the more information Keen gathers about ones preferences, the more accurate the results get. Interestingly, the user interface of the app resembles a magazine. It presents a good collation of ideas and aids with developing an idea from snippets of information and searches.

While Pinterest still remains the top used app, many other such apps and platforms have come up in the past few years. Mamby, for one, is a social media platform that has everything that Pinterest offers, but also uses an advanced algorithm and rewards its users by paying them for the number of likes and views their posts get. Juxtapost, a close second to Pinterest, is based on the same idea of browsing, viewing and gathering ideas. FoodGawker is another Pinterest alternative specifically dedicated to foodies.

It is specifically dedicated to sharing and viewing pictures of food. Designspiration, on the other hand, is for designers, where they can get ideas and share their own as well. While Keen aims to counter the singular popularity of Pinterest, encompassing all check boxes and adding a touch of AI, it is still to be seen if it can successfully make a mark.

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Googles AI-powered platform Keen aims to be an alternative to mindlessly browsing online feeds - The Financial Express

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