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Main article: Flash

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Hot off the press: New tickets to the 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize

19:45 | 21 January

Party on, startuppers. We’ve just printed up a fresh batch of tickets to our 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize in San Francisco on February 7. If you haven’t snagged yours yet, don’t wait, because tickets to this event fly off the proverbial shelf. Buy your ticket right now.

Our annual winter soiree features 1,000 of Silicon Valley’s brightest minds, makers and visionaries relaxing over passed canapes and delightful libations. It’s the perfect way to meet your colleagues, expand your network, shake off the winter blues and just have some fun.

Let’s face it — networking works better in a relaxed setting. You never know who you’ll meet at a TechCrunch party — it might be a relationship that takes your business to new heights. Our parties have a history of creating startup magic.

We’re not kidding when we say this is a popular event. Case in point: our demo table packages sold out in a flash. As you swill and chill, be sure to check out the up-and-coming startups showcasing their tech. We have a limited number of tickets left, and they’re going fast.

  • When: Friday, February 7, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Galvanize, 44 Tehama St., San Francisco, CA 94105
  • Ticket price: $85

In addition to networking, comradery and great food and drink our Winter Party comes replete with party games, activities and photo ops. Bring your best karaoke chops and impress the crowd. Oh, and no TechCrunch party is complete without door prizes, TC swag and a chance to win tickets to Disrupt SF, our flagship event coming in September 2020.

Don’t miss out on the 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize on Feb. 7 in San Francisco. Tickets are going fast — get yours now while you still can!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at the 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

 


0

MicroEJ is taking over IoT on Earth and beyond

18:13 | 14 January

The internet of things (IoT) market is expanding at a rate where distinguishing it as a separate category is beginning to seem a bit absurd. Increasingly, new products — and updates of existing ones — are smart and/or connected. One company is changing the fundamental calculus behind this shift by lowering the barrier considerably when it comes to what it costs to make something ‘smart,’ both in terms of the upfront bill of materials, along with subsequent support and development costs.

MicroEJ CEO Fred Rivard took me through his company’s history from its founding in 2004 until now. Much of those earlier years were spent in development, but since around 2012 or so, the French company has been deploying for IoT devices what Android is to smartphones — a flexible, extensible platform that can operate on a wide range of hardware profiles while being relatively easy to target for application and feature developers. MicroEJ takes the ‘code once, deploy anywhere’ maxim to the extreme, since its platform is designed from the ground up to be incredibly conservative when it comes to resource consumption, meaning it can run on hardware with as little as one-tenth or more the bill of materials cost of running more complex operating platforms — like Android Things, for instance.

“We take category of device where currently, Android is too big,” Rivard said. “So it doesn’t fit, even though you would like to have the capability to add software easily devices, but you can’t because Android is too big. The cost of entry is roughly $10 to $15 per unit in hardware and bill of material — that’s the cost of Android […] So it would be great to be able to run an Android layer, but you can’t just because of the cost. So we managed to reduce that cost, and to basically design a very small layer that’s1000 times smarter than Android.”

 


0

No, Spotify, you shouldn’t have sent mysterious USB drives to journalists

21:29 | 23 December

Last week, Spotify sent out a number of USB drives to reporters with a note: “Play me.”

It’s not uncommon for reporters to to receive USB drives in the post. Companies distribute USB drives all the time, including at tech conferences, often containing promotional materials or large files, such as videos that would otherwise be difficult to get into as many hands as possible.

But anyone with basic security training under their hat — which here at TechCrunch we do — will know to never plug in a USB drive without taking some precautions first.

Concerned but undeterred, we safely examined the contents of the drive using a disposable version of Ubuntu Linux (using a live CD) on a spare computer. We examined the drive and found it was benign.

On the drive was a single audio file. “This is Alex Goldman, and you’ve just been hacked,” the file played.

The drive was just a promotion for a new Spotify podcast. Because of course it was.

The USB drive that Spotify sent journalists. (Image: TechCrunch)

Jake Williams, a former NSA hacker and founder of Rendition Infosec, called the move “amazingly tone deaf” to encourage reporters into plugging in the drives to their computers.

USB drives are not inherently malicious, but are known to be used in hacking campaigns — like power plants and nuclear enrichment plants — which are typically not connected to the internet. USB drives can harbor malware that can open and install backdoors on a victim’s computer, Williams said.

“The files on the USB itself may contain active content,” he said, which when opened can exploit a bug on an affected device.

A spokesperson for Spotify did not comment. Instead, it passed our request to Sunshine Sachs, a public relations firm that works for Spotify, which would not comment on the record.

Plugging in random USB drives is a bigger problem than you might think. Elie Bursztein, a Google security researcher, found in his own research that about half of all people will plug in random USB drives into their computer.

John Deere earlier this year caused a ruckus after it distributed a promotion drive that actively hijacked the computer’s keyboard. The drive contained code which when plugged in ran a script, opened the browser, and automatically typed in the company’s website. Even though the drive was not inherently malicious, the move was highly criticized as malware often acts in an automated, scripted way.

Given the threats that USB drives can pose, Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division CISA last month updated its guidance about USB drive security. Journalists are among those who are frequent targets by some governments, including targeted cyberattacks.

Remember: always take precautions when handling USB drives. And never plug one in unless you trust it.

 


0

Finding free money for your social impact startup

00:31 | 3 December

David Teten Contributor
David Teten is an advisor to emerging investment managers and a Venture Partner with HOF Capital. He was previously a partner for 8 years with HOF Capital and ff Venture Capital. David writes regularly at teten.com and @dteten.

Congratulations; you’ve decided to launch a technology-enabled startup with a positive social impact! Nearly every major Silicon Valley venture-capital firm has now invested in a B Corp; maybe you will be one of them!

The bad news: some venture capitalists have a bias against startups with an explicit positive social impact on the grounds that they have a smaller addressable market, and that the founders are not sufficiently focused on creating shareholder wealth. And of course, effectively all venture capitalists are going to require some equity for their investment.

Fortunately, there are a wide range of organizations that specifically want to support you, not just the VC community. I’m now researching non-dilutive funding for Action Tank, a startup I’m gestating to “Make America Functional Again.” I worked with outsourced research firm Wonder* to identify all of the institutions we could who support tech impact startups with cash and community, and in many cases without dilution.  I emphasize my focus here is organizations which are backing for-profit companies and do not take equity. If you think I’ve missed any, please contact me.

I suggest start by looking at the many programs offered by the Fortune 500’s startup networks. In addition, there are many other groups will give you cash, training, and community with few or no strings attached:

Ashoka is a foundation that engages in scouring for and choosing the leading social entrepreneurs across the globe, who it refers to as Ashoka Fellows.

Aspen Tech Policy Hub. “Our program mixes the best of both Washington and Silicon Valley, bringing together stakeholders in policy and technology to train the next generation of policy entrepreneurs. The Aspen Tech Policy Hub is a West Coast policy incubator, training a new generation of tech policy entrepreneurs. We take tech experts, teach them the policy process through an in-residence fellowship program in the Bay Area, and encourage them to develop outside-the-box solutions to society’s problems. We model ourselves after tech incubators like Y Combinator, but train new policy thinkers and focus the impact of their ideas.

Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation (BHSI) Fellowship. Since 2011, the Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation (BHSI) Fellowship has supported the work of 36 innovators—representing the United States as well as 18 other countries on five continents—who address pressing global issues, from healthcare delivery to college persistence and sustainable construction in developing nations.  From the beginning, the BHSI Fellowship has created meaningful, customized experiences for Fellows with connections to influential business and civic leaders, exposure to a broad audience as a speaker at Chicago Ideas, and over $3 million in financial support and in-kind contributions.”

The Clayton, Dubilier & Rice Fund for Entrepreneurial Studies. “The Clayton, Dubilier & Rice Fund for Entrepreneurial Studies supports entrepreneurs attempting to build something that advances business and society in revolutionary ways. “

Columbia Business School Tamer Fund for Social Ventures. Requires Columbia affiliation.

Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation identifies entrepreneurs that display characteristics of “exceptional social leadership through discretion, influence, vision, ambition, intelligence, and follow-through.” 

DV Hacks, led by BCG Digital Ventures: “A 48-hour hackathon to improve how we live, work, collaborate, and learn.”

Echoing Green is a foundation that distinguishes transformational leaders via its fellowships. Their foci include addressing environmental sustainability, racial and gender equity, economic development concerns, etc.

Future Labs Flash Pitch. “For pre-seed and seed companies based in the U.S. and Israel with a focus on AI for social impact,” 

Google AI for Social Good. “Our 20 selected organizations will receive coaching from Google’s AI experts, Google.org grant funding from a $25 million pool, and credits and consulting from Google Cloud. They will also be offered the opportunity to join a customized 6-month Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator program, including guidance from our nonprofit partner, DataKind, to jumpstart their work. We looked for projects across a range of social impact domains and levels of technical expertise, from organizations that are experienced in AI to those with an idea for how they could put their data to better use. “

Google for Startups Accelerator. “Geared toward social impact startups working to create a healthier and more sustainable future, the accelerator provides access to training, products and technical support. Startup founders will work with Google engineers and receive mentoring from over 20 teams at Google, as well as outside experts and local mentors.  

J.M.Kaplan Innovation Prize. “The J.M.K. Innovation Prize seeks out innovators who are spearheading transformative early-stage projects in the fields of the environment, heritage conservation, and social justice. The J.M.K. Innovation Prize is open to nonprofit and mission-driven for-profit organizations that are tackling America’s most pressing challenges through social innovation. In 2019, we will award up to ten prizes, each including a cash award of $150,000 over three years, plus $25,000 for project expenses, for a total award of $175,000. 

Kairos Fellows. “The Kairos Fellowship is designed to build the next generation of leaders in the field of technology, analytics, digital campaigning, and online organizing.”

MIT Solve initiative. “MIT Solve advances lasting solutions from tech entrepreneurs to address the world’s most pressing problems. Solve is a marketplace for social impact: we find tech entrepreneurs from around the world and broker partnerships across our community to scale their innovative work — driving lasting, transformational change.”

Mulago Foundation Rainer Arnhold Fellowship. “The course brings Fellows and faculty together for an intensive week to work on design for maximum impact and scalability. Held in a retreat center on the coast in Bolinas, California, the course gives Fellows the rare opportunity to focus completely on their ideas and a systematic way to apply them.”

Bloomberg New Economy Forum Solutions. “Mike Bloomberg announces an open call for solutions to global challenges facing the new economy. Entrepreneurs, academics, founders, and big thinkers are invited to submit their solutions to societal problems that need momentum, support, and adoption from the private sector.”

Notley Ventures.Notley is a catalyst for social innovation unlocking opportunities with today’s impact organizations and changing communities.  Our mission is to scale and support businesses, nonprofits, individuals, and programs making positive change in the world.” 

Recurse Center. “The Recurse Center is a self-directed, community-driven educational retreat for people who want to get better at programming.”

Skoll Foundation. “The Skoll Foundation drives large-scale change by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and innovators who help them solve the world’s most pressing problems.”

Summit Fellows. “Through a series of invitation-only events, Summit fosters a global community of entrepreneurs, academics, athletes, artists, astronauts, authors, chefs, engineers, explorers, philanthropists, spiritual leaders, scientists, and beyond.”

Thiel Fellowship. “Founded by technology entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel in 2011, the Thiel Fellowship is a two-year program for young people [under 22] who want to build new things. Thiel Fellows skip or stop out of college to receive a $100,000 grant and support from the Thiel Foundation’s network of founders, investors, and scientists.”

Pioneer.app.Get funding and guidance for your project.  Pioneer is a weekly contest for creative people around the world making their ideas become real.  Winners get $7000, a round-trip ticket to Silicon Valley, access to world-class mentorship, and more.”

Roddenberry Foundation Catalyst Fund. “The Catalyst Fund awards small grants for early-stage, innovative, and unconventional ideas that address serious global challenges.“

SEIF Awards Tech for Impact. The SEIF Awards target European impact entrepreneurs who develop or make innovative use of technologies to tackle social and/or environmental challenges and contribute to the UN SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]. Each Award grants the winners CHF 10’000. Together with our partners UBS and PwC we provide finalists a unique opportunity to increase their international awareness, gain reputation and present themselves to a top-class jury.

Three dot dash. “Powers the most influential social entrepreneurs between the ages of 13 -19, who have found a solution or innovation to address a basic human need.” 

YC120 (part of Y Combinator). “We’d like to find more curious, creative people who are doing exciting work in emerging fields and give them an opportunity to start building their network. “

VentureCrush FG.  Pando Daily wrote: “VentureCrushFG takes no equity, there is no co-working space, and no demo day. The application process is not advertised. Most applicants come from referrals.” “VentureCrushFG[‘s]…stellar reputation among founders and investors is due, in part, to the success of its most high-flying companies.” “If anything, it’s more of a community than an accelerator, a way to keep a strong network of alumni, mentors and investors connected. Between one and two hundred techies are part of the group, including founders, execs, 40 to 50 VCs and a few dozen angel investors.””

We Company Creator Awards. “This global competition is open to entrepreneurs, performers, startups, and nonprofits-anyone who embodies our mantra, Create Your Life’s Work.”

World Summit Awards for Young Innovators. “WSA Young Innovators is a special recognition for young social entrepreneurs under 30 years of age, using ICTs to take action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Together with the WSA winners of each year, they are honored as outstanding digital innovation with social impact.”

You may also want to look at product-based crowdfunding, e.g., Indiegogo*. Other traditional options for non-dilutive financing include grants, loans, SBIR, STTR, vouchers and tax credits, include:

You’re eligible for the many accelerators, as well as specifically the impact accelerators. See Conveners Impact Accelerator Selection Tool. Some specific accelerators:

There are many VCs who have a stated focus on social impact; for full lists see Impact Capital Managers and InvestorFlow. Oliver Libby, Managing Partner, H/L Ventures, notes, “it is important to remember that impact funders occupy the same spectrum of returns as regular investors.  From 100% loss capital (e.g. a grant) to shooting for massive returns (some impact VCs), an entrepreneur can unlock everything in between, including first-loss capital, impact bonds, patient capital from program-related investments and families, and more.  The market is also coming to understand that high impact can sometimes come with high returns too.”   

Rachel Butler, President, Cavendish Impact Foundation (where I’m an advisor), mentioned fiscal sponsorship as an option. “It’s an arrangement where an entity in need of funding (and it can be a for-profit, social enterprise) teams up with a 501(c)(3) that has an aligned mission, and money can be raised through the 501(c)(3) and used to support a specific project being done by the social enterprise.

So, for example, if the 501(c)(3) has in its mission to support improving education, and a for-profit social enterprise is developing an app to help improve access to better education for people in underserved communities, the 501(c)(3) could support that specific project. The 501(c)(3) does have to maintain discretion about how they use the funds (as a safeguard to just having it be an arrangement for funneling philanthropic funds), and there are some other stipulations, but otherwise it’s pretty straightforward.  The ‘Project’ can actually do the fundraising, as an agent of the 501(c)(3), and have the money directed to the 501(c)(3). The project is usually something that has a fairly short timeframe with measurable milestones that indicate progress. The 501(c)(3) also takes an administrative fee for their role in the collaboration.“

Bill Warren, CEO of Peeps Democracy, Inc., wrote, “another type of funding source for a social impact entrepreneur to think about is startup challenges/competitions at her/his alma mater. For example, Duke sponsors a $10,000 annual prize for students, faculty, or alumni working on a startup in the clean energy space. These prizes can be a great source of non-dilutive funding for early-stage ventures and also offer free exposure to academic thought-leaders and other alumni, who might support your startup via mentorship or investment. “

Emily Rasmussen, founder & CEO of Grapevine.org, suggests turning philanthropic donations into for-profit investments using Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), which are like Health Savings Accounts for charitable giving. You make a tax deductible donation into a DAF account, get an immediate tax deduction, and then donate your funds out to charities over time. In the meantime, your funds are invested to help grow your fund, just like an endowment. With some 501(c)(3) DAF sponsors (e.g Impact Assets), after making  a tax-deductible donation into their DAF account, donors can then advise the sponsor to invest their charitable assets into a specific social enterprise deal. These deals are sourced by the donor investor and any future returns go back into the DAF account and are available for future impact investments or charitable donations.

Lastly, I suggest reviewing these links on fundraising:

* I’m an investor in this company.

Thanks to Emily Campbell, Esq., of The Campbell Firm PLLC for helpful input; she has advised me on some legal matters in the past.

 


0

The slow death of Flash continues as Google begins to remove it from search

01:48 | 30 October

The death of Flash has been a long time coming… and a long time going on, too. For years we’ve heard that it’s on its way out, but who among us has not found an errant Flash video or widget in the last month or two? To hasten its demise Google is taking the understandable step of… pretending it doesn’t exist.

Yes, Google Search will stop indexing Flash content starting later this year. Why was it even doing so today, years after any sane webmaster stopped using it? Well, there’s a lot of legacy content out there. Probably Google wanted to give the long tail a chance to curl up.

Deindexing Flash doesn’t mean if you have website that serves it, it’ll be ignored entirely. But any information accessed through that Flash container, like a storefront, video description, game, or what have you will be skipped over by Google’s crawlers.

And if we’re honest, you’ll probably get demoted pretty hard by the algorithm too.

Most people probably won’t notice any change, partly because Flash-serving websites aren’t often very high on the list anyway, and of course the major browsers all block Flash by default. Even Adobe is giving it up.

If you want to play some of those old Flash games, and really some of them were pretty awesome, you’ll still be able to find them if you search directly for them — there are sites collecting them that will want to show up for Google and as such will work to appear prominently in search results for things like “cool old flash games” and the like.

So is Flash dead now? Probably not, but I wouldn’t call what it’s doing living, either. Still, I imagine we’ll get a few more uses out of that top image.

 


0

Gnarbox 2.0 backup SSD is a photographer’s best friend in the field and at home

18:06 | 9 October

Working photographers, and enthusiasts who just love taking plenty of pictures, know that even the biggest SD cards can sometimes fill up, especially when you’re working with large file sizes, shooting both JPG and RAW, and shooting 4K video. The solution? A good mobile backup drive. There are a number of options out there that fit the bill, but the newly released Gnarbox 2.0 might be the best of them all, because it works like a miniature independent photo computer in addition to packing speedy SSD storage onboard.

This is the second generation of Gnarbox’s backup solution, and while I used the original, HDD-based version to great effect for a long time, the 2.0 version adds a ton of useful features, including super-fast SSD storage ranging from 256GB to 1TB in capacity, a new OLED display that makes it even easier to use in the field, and a removable battery that means you can pack spares to stay powered up and ready.

Simple, no fuss backup

It’s not the fanciest feature that the Gnarbox 2.0 offers, but it might be the one you use most: Quick and painless backup of SD cards. There’s an SD port on the device itself that can transfer at speeds up of to 75MB/s, and it has USB-C ports that can transfer direct from cameras or from card readers at up to 350MB/s depending on their transfer capabilities. When you plug in an SD card or camera, you get an option on the screen to totally back up the contents of the attached drive with one click, which makes it incredibly easy to dump and delete and clear up space to keep shooting.

Gnarbox 2.0 6

During a 9-day trip that included two events and a vacation to shoot, I made frequent use of this feature. Shooting with the new Sony A7R IV in both RAW and JPG, even my 128GB SD + 64GB SD backup cards filled up pretty quickly, but I would just slide one of the cards into the Gnarbox’s slot and hit the backup button before changing venues and it’d be fully backed up within a few minutes.

In my experience, this process has been rock-solid reliable, and gives me effectively 10x the space for a shoot vs. just relying on my cards alone (I don’t typically have a similar sized backup SD card on the road, let alone 10). By default, the Gnarbox 2.0 stores all your media in backup folders organized by capture date, too, which makes them super easy to sort through once you get back to base.

A mobile review and rating machine

Once all that great capture content is on your Gnarbox 2.0, you can also very easily connect to the drive using Gnarbox’s mobile apps to either review what you’ve got, or go through and rate your photos quickly to make the process of working through them once you’re installed at your workstation easier.

There are two apps from Gnarbox available right now, including Gnarbox Safekeep and Gnarbox Selects. Safekeep gives you access to all your device’s settings and can also act as a file browser for shuttling photos between apps. But Selects is probably what you’re going to be using most – it not only offers fast RAW previews (compatible with every major camera’s RAW formats) but also lets you quickly add ratings, keyboard tags and more to make sure your collection is primed for edit when you get back to your desktop.

With Selects, you can review either files on the Gnarbox SSD itself, or on attached memory cards or storage media (so yes, you can use this with something like a Samsung T5 if you’re already using that as a backup solution). All this info will then show up in applications like Adobe Lightroom to expedite your workflow.

This can shave hours off the process of organizing your photos, since it means you can do the rating and reviewing up front without having to wait for everything to import and then trying to recall what you were going for with the shoot in the field after the fact.

Easy sharing from the field

Speaking of saving time, the Gnarbox 2.0 also helps you move more quickly from capture to sharing, which is incredibly useful if you’re working on a live event or doing photojournalism of something happening in the moment. The device supports Lightroom mobile out of the box, meaning you can navigate to it as a source for a new collection and move files over directly when connected to your phone or tablet. This makes it awesome for adding quick edits to RAW files, exporting finished JPGs and sharing directly to social apps and websites.

With Apple’s new iOS 13 filesystem changes, the Gnarbox 2.0 can also be addressed as a mass storage device, so you should be pretty wide open in terms of options for working with various editing software. This is also great for mobile video workflows, since Gnarbox 2.0 works just as well for storing video capture as well as photos.

Home workstation companion

Gnarbox 2.0 3The Gnarbox 2.0 is great on the go, but it’s also perfect for plugging in as a home work drive once you’re back from the shoot. I’m reviewing the 1TB version, so the amount of available on board storage is a big advantage here, since it can essentially provide all the space you need to give you all of your working files in one place.

As mentioned, it supports high-speed USB-C transfer, which makes working with the files directly from the drive on your main workstation much more pleasant. That also means you don’t necessarily have to move things over local to get to work, which saves you a step and spares your computer’s disk space.

Gnarbox 2.0 switches to USB Mass Storage mode pretty easily, using the onboard OLED menu system. You do need to make this switch manually however, because by default the USB-C port that it uses to make the computer connection is used for charging the Gnarbox’s battery. Once you’re in that mode, however, it’s as easy as connecting Gnarbox 2.0 to your computer and then navigating to it as you would any other connected mass storage device.

Photos on the drive are organized by capture date, as mentioned (you can customize how it creates its folder structure if you want) and you can also select it as an import target in any photo editing software, like Lightroom or Capture One.

Bottom line

Gnarbox 2.0 5Gnarbox has taken their time to create a thoughtful and thorough successor to their original product with the Gnarbox 2.0. It’s a unique blend of field photo server and mini computer, made more versatile with clever touches like the removable battery packs and dust/splash resistance. Ultimately, there really isn’t anything in the market that can compete with the Gnarbox 2.0 on everything it provides, though devices like WD’s My Passport Wireless Pro and the LaCie Rugged Boss SSD can offer some key parts at lower prices depending on your needs.

At $899 for the 1TB version I reviewed, ($499 and $599 for the 256 and 512GB versions, respectively), the Gnarbox 2.0 clearly isn’t for everyone. It’s a professional tool for a professional workflow, and it’s priced as such. That said, the value it provides for busy photographers who need a companion storage solution with utmost flexibility for working both at home and on the road is definitely going to make it worth the cost of admission for some.

 


0

GoPro teases next-generation action camera announcement for October 1

16:49 | 23 September

GoPro’s successor to the Hero 7 is likely coming on October 1, as the action camera maker has posted a teaser with the date to its official website. The tagline “This is Action” appears over a fast cut mash-up of variety of shots, including off-road racing, underwater diving and what looks like close-up footage of Frank Zapata (or someone else with a jetpack) flying around, along with the date.

The mostly shadowed image above is the closest we get to an official product shot, but we’ve seen leaks sourced from photo-focused rumor site Photo Rumors that suggest a redesign with added expandability options for advanced accessories including front-facing display monitors and external flash. These leaks also include some potential specs, like a new GP2 chip to help with on-board image stabilization, better lenses and image quality, and a new 12MP sensor, in addition to the new optional housing and accessories.

this is action gopro

GoPro’s Hero 7 introduced HyperSmooth stabilization, which provides gimbal-like results without the actual gimbal thanks to advanced digital stabilization technology that GoPro developed in-house. But the company also saw the introduction of its strongest-yet competitor in the market this year with the DJI Osmo Action, a GoPro-like action camera from drone and gimbal-maker DJI, which is at least on par with the Hero 7 in terms of stabilization and quality, with added features aimed at the vlogging market like a built-in front-facing display.

The slogan “This is Action.” could actually be interpreted as a dig against its newest rival, since Action is capitalized and the DJI camera is literally named the “Osmo Action.” Hopefully GoPro does indeed get a little spicy about its competitor, since it’s a market that could definitely stand to benefit from some genuine competition in the higher end of the category.

 


0

The Sony RX100 VII is the best compact camera you can buy

15:57 | 17 September

Sony’s latest advanced compact camera is the highly pocketable RX100 VII, the seventh iteration of the RX100. Since its debut, this line of cameras has proven a very popular option among enthusiasts looking for a great travel camera, vloggers, and even pros who want a compact backup option just in case. The RX100 VII should suit all those needs very well, provided you’re okay with coughing up the $1,200 asking price.

Not that $1,200 is too expensive for what you’re getting, since Sony has packed tremendous value in the Mark VII, including an extremely versatile 24-200mm (35mm equivalent) zoom range, 20fps continuous burst mode shooting, a flip-up touch screen, built-in images stabilization and the same powerful autofocus technologies you’ll find on its flagship full-frame interchangeable lens pro cameras.

Sony RX100 VII 2

Pocket power

The Sony RX100 VII satisfies a specific need, but it’s one that a lot of people probably have: Striking a balance between image quality, range and portability. One the convenience end of the spectrum, the ultimate device is probably your smartphone, since you have that with you always. On the IQ and range side, you’re looking at a top-end DSLR with a high-quality, low aperture zoom lens that can weigh more than a large dog. The RX100 VII manages to be so impressive because it can delivery near the portability of a smartphone, with some of the photography chops of a setup that typically requires its own suitcase.

Inside the RX100 VII you’ll find a 1-inch sensor, which is very big relative to smartphone imaging sensors. This is important because it means there’s no contest between which will capture a better image, with lower noise, greater depth-of-field and better color rendering. For all the software magic that companies like Apple and Google can bring to the photography table, nothing yet can totally compensate for simply having a larger sensor.

Sony RX100 VII 4

The RX100 VII’s compactness isn’t just impressive because of the large sensor it packs inside, however; you also get an EVF, an integrated flash, an external microphone jack and an articulating LCD display. To get all of this into a package this small is astounding – the EVF in particular is a great feature for anyone who wants to be a bit more direct and particular with their shot composition, while the flip-up LCD means you can also have a great selfie screen and monitor for use when vlogging.

Sony RX100 VII 5

Last but not least in terms of its portability benefits, you can charge the RX100 VII via USB directly so that you can leave any additional charging hardware at home. The camera has a micro USB port for both data and power, and while it would’ve been nice to see this upgraded to USB-C on this camera to keep up with the latest in terms of computer and smartphone charging, it’s still better than requiring an external charger.

Zoom zoom

Sony decided on a very long zoom range for the RX100 VII, which sports a 24-200mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8-4.5 powered retracting zoom lens. That’s the same range and aperture as the RX100 VI, which opts for more range over the brighter 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens found on the V and earlier.

While you’ll lose some ability to separate your subject from the background vs. a brighter lens, you get a lot more reach for shooting action or wildlife. The added range definitely makes it a better all-around travel camera, too, and makes it possible to get some shots you otherwise just wouldn’t be able to get at all with a shorter lens.

The long end of the zoom range also offers stunningly sharp images, especially in bright, daylight conditions. In the examples below, you can see some of the 200mm samples shot on the RX100 VII next to the 24mm wide versions of the same scenes to get a sense of just how close you can get with this lens, and the quality of the images possible even at those extreme zoom lengths.

[gallery ids="1881962,1881963,1881944,1881943,1881946,1881947,1881889,1881888"]

At the wide end, you have plenty of real estate to capture great sweeping architectural or landscape shots, and the sharpness is also fantastic in great light. There’s some distortion, but it’s mostly corrected by Sony’s software on JPG output. That 24mm wide angle is also the right width for arm-length selfies, though you’re probably going to want at least a short selfie stick for vlogging applications to give yourself a little more in the way of framing options.

DSC03049

Sticky AF

Leaving aside the fact that this is one of the better sensors available on the market for a camera this size, there’s another very compelling reason to pick up this camera, and one that likely gives it the edge over competitors from other companies. I’m talking about Sony’s autofocus system, and the RX100 VII gets the latest and greatest that Sony has developed, which is found only in much more expensive cameras from the company like the A9 and the new A7R IV.

You get face and eye tracking, for both human and animal subjects, and these are both best-in-class when compared with other camera makers’ systems. The animal one in particular is a Sony speciality, and worked amazingly well on my real dog – and on Sony’s Aibo robot dog, captured at the Sony Ginza experience center in Tokyo.

[gallery ids="1881912,1881911"]

The face and eye detection settings are available in both still shooting and movies, and you can set eye preference (left or right), too. The newest AF feature, however, is object tracking, which allows you to point your AF point at a specific object and have the camera automatically track that object as you zoom or move, or as the object moves within frame. You can choose from a range of options regarding how large of a focal area to track, and this works in tandem with human face detection so that the camera will automatically focus on the subject’s face when it’s visible, and on them more generally when it’s not, which is amazing for sports or action photography.

In practice, this works extremely well. Sony’s claims about how well this sticks, and how good it is at picking a subject back up after it moves behind an object, for instance, are spot on. This is really the best AF system available on a camera in the pocketable category, at any price point, and it’s truly amazing to experience. In the shots below, you can see how it allowed me to capture a very clear picture of a soaring hawk at the 200mm tele zoom, how it tracked a bike in motion and got a clear image of the rider’s face, and how it froze a motor bike in motion during a burst series (all the shots were in focus, by the way).

[gallery ids="1881884,1881883,1881881,1881887,1881936"]

Low light

Another area where Sony’s RX100 VII and its 1-inch sensor are going to have a leg up on your smartphone is in sub-optimal lighting conditions. Bigger sensors mean bigger pixels and less noise, with better blacks and shadows. Sony is also using a backside illuminated stacked sensor, and there’s built-in optical image stabilization which means you can take sharper photos at lower shutter speeds, letting in more light for clearer images.

In practice, what you get are pretty good low light photos, especially outdoors with ambient light present, or in decently well-lit indoor settings. In poorer lighting conditions or when you’re trying to freeze action in low light, you’re going to get fairly noisy results, especially when compared to an APS-C or full-frame camera. Sony’s tech can do a lot to make the most of less than ideal photographic conditions, but at some point, it runs up against the limits of what’s possible.

Sony also doesn’t get quite as aggressive with computational photographic techniques for digitally compensating for lower available light, as do the Pixel phones and the latest iPhone 11. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though – the images from the RX100 VII present more accurate night and indoor photos, by comparison, and you can still get much better indoor images with the RX100 VII than you can with any smartphone.

[gallery ids="1881909,1881908,1881907,1881906,1881905,1881904,1881903,1881902,1881901,1881900,1881899,1881898,1881897,1881896,1881895,1881894,1881878,1881877"]

As you can see in the gallery above, the camera does extremely well as long as there’s one well-lit subject or element in frame. It’s less effective when the image overall is uniformly dim, but if you’re looking for great photos in those conditions, you should probably consider upgrading to a larger camera with a larger sensor anyways.

Movie maker

The RX100 VII’s greatest strength might just be how good it is at shooting video for a device this size. Video out of the camera with very minimal adjustment from the default shooting settings produces highly usable results, for both home video enthusiasts and for YouTubers or vloggers looking to produce great looking content without lugging an entire film production studio along with them on their travels.

Once again, the versatile zoom range really shines here, and the you can even shoot at the tele end of the zoom handheld and get totally usable footage provided you’re a bit careful about movement, as you can see in the third clip in the sequence below, which was shot at the 200mm range. Low-light footage looks great, as is evident from the second clip in sequence, and at the wide end you can capture sweeping landscape vistas or flip up the screen and turn the camera around for selfie-style video.

The added microphone port makes it an even more powerful filmmaking tool, and if you pick up their optional VCT-SGR1 shooting grip, combined with a small shotgun mic or something like the Rode Wireless Go, you’ve got everything you need to create very compelling travel diaries in an incredibly lightweight package that will be able to produce quality and get zoom and wide shots that are impossible on a smartphone.

Bottom line

The RX100 VII is a delight of a camera and an easy recommendation to make. There’s nothing that compares in this size category in terms of the range of features, autofocus capabilities, video prowess and performance as a general all-rounder. This is the do-everything travel camera that you could really only dream of five years ago, and it’s become more ideal for this use with every generation that Sony introduces.

Whether you’re looking to step up your photographic possibilities from your smartphone, or you want to supplement your professional or advanced enthusiast equipment with a pocket camera that’s available as a b-camera for video or to grab a few choice stills, the RX100 VII is hard to top. It’s only downside is that $1,200 asking price, which is definitely above average for a compact camera – but on a value basis, $1,200 isn’t at all expensive for everything this camera has to offer.

Full sample gallery

[gallery ids="1881963,1881962,1881961,1881960,1881959,1881958,1881957,1881956,1881955,1881954,1881953,1881952,1881951,1881950,1881949,1881948,1881947,1881946,1881944,1881943,1881942,1881941,1881940,1881939,1881938,1881937,1881936,1881935,1881933,1881932,1881931,1881930,1881929,1881928,1881927,1881926,1881925,1881924,1881923,1881922,1881921,1881920,1881919,1881918,1881917,1881916,1881915,1881914,1881913,1881912,1881911,1881910,1881909,1881908,1881907,1881906,1881905,1881904,1881903,1881902,1881901,1881900,1881899,1881898,1881897,1881896,1881895,1881894,1881893,1881892,1881891,1881890,1881889,1881888,1881887,1881886,1881885,1881884,1881883,1881882,1881881,1881880,1881879,1881878,1881877,1881876,1881875,1881874"]

 


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Microsoft wants to bring exFAT to the Linux kernel

20:30 | 28 August

ExFAT, the Extended File Allocation Table, is Microsoft’s file system for flash drives and SD cards, which launched in 2006. Because it was proprietary, mounting these drives and cards on Linux machines generally involved installing additional software. Today, however, Microsoft announced that it is supporting the addition of exFAT to the Linux kernel and publishing the technical specifications for exFAT.

“It’s important to us that the Linux community can make use of exFAT included in the Linux kernel with confidence. To this end, we will be making Microsoft’s technical specification for exFAT publicly available
to facilitate development of conformant, interoperable implementations.”

In addition to wanting it to become part of the Linux kernel, Microsoft also says that it hopes that the exFAT specs will become part of the Open Invention Network’s  Linux definition. Once accepted, the code would benefit “from the defensive patent commitments of OIN’s 3040+ members and licensees,” the company notes.

Microsoft and Linux used to be mortal enemies — and some in the Linux community definitely still think of Microsoft as anti-open source. These days, though, Microsoft has clearly embraced open source and Linux, which is now the most popular operating system on Azure and, optionally, part of Windows 10, thanks to its Windows Subsystem for Linux. It’ll still be interesting to see how the community will react to this proposal. The aftertaste of Microsoft’s strategy of  “embrace, extend and extinguish” still lingers in the community, after all, and not too long ago, this move would’ve been interpreted as yet another example of this.

 


0

Amazon acquires flash-based cloud storage startup E8 Storage

01:38 | 1 August

Amazon has reportedly acquired Isreali storage tech startup E8 Storage, according to Reuters, CNBC and Globes. The acquisition will bring the team and technology from E8 in to Amazon’s existing Amazon Web Services center in Tel Aviv, per reports.

E8 Storage’s particular focus was on building storage hardware that employs flash-based memory to deliver faster performance than competing offerings, according to its own claims. How exactly AWS intends to use the company’s talent or assets isn’t yet known, and Amazon did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

AWS acquisitions this year include TSO Logic, a Vancouver-based startup that optimizes data center workload operating efficiency, and Israel-based CloudEndure, which provides data recovery services in the event of a disaster.

 


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