Hulu’s basic ad-free plans are increasing by a dollar per month

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Disney is jacking up the prices of two Hulu plans. As of October 8th, the standard plan is increasing from $6 to $7 per month, the ad-free option is also jumping up by a dollar a month to $13. As Deadline notes, the Hulu + Live TV Disney Bundle prices are staying the same.

The cost of Disney+, ESPN+ Disney Bundle plans have increased in recent months, so it’s not exactly shocking that Hulu has followed suit. It’s the first change to on-demHulu plans since the basic option actually dropped by $2/month in February 2019. Disney bumped up the live TV subscription price by $10/month last December.

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Technics made a black version of its SL-1200 turntable you can actually buy

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After dipping its toes in the last year, Technics is back to releasing new turntables audiophile equipment. The company announced a raft of new products on Monday. The SB-G90M2 leads the company’s fall lineup. Like the SB-G90, the M2 is a three-way bass reflex speaker pair. It features a two-way coaxial driver that combines a 25mm dome with a 160mm aluminum midrange cone two 160mm subwoofers. The SB-GM90M2 will go on sale in October, with each one costing $2,699. 

For those who don’t have nearly $3,000 to spend on a single speaker, Technics also announced its new SB-C600 bookshelf speakers. You’ll pay $999 for a pair of them. They went through much of the same design process as the SB-GM90M2 to reduce distortion vibrations. Each one features a 15cm woofer paired with a 25mm aluminum dome tweeter. You can buy them starting in November.

Technics / Panasonic

Alongside the two speakers systems, Technics announced an updated version of its SU-G700 amplifier. The mark two model borrows features from the company’s reference-level SU-R100 amp. Among other features, it includes its JENO anti-jitter distortion technology. In designing the SU-G700M2, Technics sourced new semiconductor parts, including some made from , to improve power delivery. The company says the new model is more efficient reactive than its predecessor better at driving a variety of speakers. There’s also a Phono Input Phase selector to improve playback when you listen to older vinyl albums that were recorded with the inverted phase. The SU-G700M2 goes on sale in October for $2,699. It will be available in both black silver versions, with the former including an extra “-K” in its model designation.

Lastly, Technics announced a new version of its direct-drive turntable. If the SL-1210G looks familiar, it’s because the company released a limited edition black model of the SL-1200G, known as the , back in June 2020. A spokesperson for Technics told the SL-1210GAE sold out almost immediately. The SL-1210G then gives those who missed the GAE another chance to get the company’s historic turntable in black. The GAE will cost $3,999 when it goes on sale next month.

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The fight to study what happens on Facebook

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Facebook recently added a new report to its transparency center. The “widely viewed content” report was ostensibly meant to shed light on what’s been a long-running debate: What is the most popular content on Facebook?

The 20-page report raised more questions than answers. For example, it showed that the most viewed URL was a seemingly obscure website associated with former Green Bay Packers players. It boasted nearly 90 million views even though its official Facebook page has just a few thousfollowers. The report also included URLs for e-commerce sites that seemed at least somewhat spammy, like online stores for CBD products Bible-themed t-shirts. There was also a low-res cat GIF several blmemes that asked people to respond with foods they like or don’t like or items they had recently purchased.

Notably absent from the report were the right-wing figures who regularly dominate the unofficial “Facebook Top 10” Twitter account, which ranks content by engagement. In fact, there wasn’t very much political content at all, a point Facebook has long been eager to prove. For Facebook, its latest attempt at “transparency” was evidence that most users’ feeds aren’t polarizing, disinformation-laced swamps but something much more mundane.

Days later, The New York Times reported that the company had prepped an earlier version of the report, but opted not to publish it. The top URL from that report was a story from the Chicago Sun Times that suggested the death of a doctor may have been linked to the COVID-19 vaccine. Though the story was from a credible news source, it’s also the kind of story that’s often used to fuel anti-vaccine narratives.

Almost as soon as the initial report was published, researchers raised other issues. Ethan Zuckerman, an associate professor of public policy communication at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, called it “transparency theatre.” It was, he said, “a chance for FB to tell critics that they’re moving in the direction of transparency without releasing any of the data a researcher would need to answer a question like ‘Is extreme right-wing content disproportionately popular on Facebook?’”

The promise of ‘transparency’

For researchers studying how information travels on Facebook, it’s a familiar tactic: provide enough data to claim “transparency,” but not enough to actually be useful. “The findings of the report are debatable,” says Alice Marwick, principal researcher at the Center for Information Technology Public Life at University of North Carolina. “The results just didn’t hold up, they don’t hold up to scrutiny. They don’t map to any of the ways that people actually share information.”

Marwick other researchers have suggested that this may be because Facebook opted to slice its data in an unusual way. They have suggested that Facebook only looked for URLs that were actually in the body of a post, rather than the link previews typically shared. Or perhaps Facebook just has a really bad spam problem. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two. “There’s no way for us to independently verify them … because we have no access to data compared to what Facebook has,” Marwick told Engadget.

Those concerns were echoed by Laura Edelson, a researcher at New York University. “No one else can replicate or verify the findings in this report,” she wrote in a tweet. “We just have to trust Facebook.” Notably, Edelson has her own experience running into the limits of Facebook’s push for “transparency.”

The company recently shut down her personal Facebook account, as well as those of several NYU colleagues, in response to their research on political ad targeting on the platform. Since Facebook doesn’t make targeting data available in its ad library, the researchers recruited volunteers to install a browser extension that could scoop up advertising info based on their feeds.

Facebook called it “unauthorized scraping,” saying it ran afoul of their privacy policies. In doing so, it cited its obligation to the FTC, which the agency later said was “misleading.” Outside groups had vetted the project confirmed it was only gathering data about advertisers, not users’ personal data. Guy Rosen, the company’s VP of Integrity, later said that even though the research was “well-intentioned” it posed too great a privacy risk. Edelson others said Facebook was trying to silence research that could make the company look bad.“If this episode demonstrates anything it is that Facebook should not have veto power over who is allowed to study them,” she wrote in a statement.

Rosen other Facebook execs have said that Facebook does want to make more data available to researchers, but that they need to go through the company’s official channels to ensure the data is made available in a “privacy protected” way. The company has a platform called FORT (Facebook Open Research Transparency), which allows academics to request access to some types of Facebook data, including election ads from 2020. Earlier this year, the company said it would expthe program to make more info available to researchers studying “fringe” groups on the platform.

But while Facebook has billed FORT as yet another step in its efforts to provide “transparency,” those who have used FORT have cited shortcomings. A group of researchers at Princeton hoping to study election ads ultimately pulled the project, citing Facebook’s restrictive terms. They said Facebook pushed a “strictly non-negotiable” agreement that required them to submit their research to Facebook for review prior to publishing. Even more straightforward questions about how they were permitted to analyze the data were left unanswered.

“Our experience dealing with Facebook highlights their long running pattern of misdirection doublespeak to dodge meaningful scrutiny of their actions,” they wrote in a statement describing their experience.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company only checks for personally identifiable information, that it’s never rejected a research paper.

“We support hundreds of academic researchers at more than 100 institutions through the Facebook Open Research Transparency project,” Facebook’s Chaya Nayak, who heads up FORT at Facebook, said in a statement. “Through this effort, we make massive amounts of privacy-protected data available to academics so they can study Facebook’s impact on the world. We also pro-actively seek feedback from the research community about what steps will help them advance research most effectively going forward.”

Data access affects researchers’ ability to study Facebook’s biggest problems. And the pandemic has further highlighted just how significant that work can be. Facebook’s unwillingness to share more data about vaccine misinformation has been repeatedly called out by researchers public health officials. It’s all the more vexing because Facebook employs a small army of its own researchers data scientists. Yet much of their work is never made public. “They have a really solid research team, but virtually everything that research team does is kept only within Facebook, we never see any of it,” says Marwick, the UNC professor.

But much of Facebook’s internal research could help those outside the platform who are trying to understthe same questions, she says. “I want more of the analysis research that’s going on within Facebook to be communicated to the larger scholarly community, especially stuff around polarization [and] news sharing. I have a fairly strong sense that there’s research questions that are actively being debated in my research community that Facebook knows the answer to, but they can’t communicate it to us.”

The rise of ‘data donation’

To get around this lack of access, researchers are increasingly looking to “data donation” programs. Like the browser extension used by the NYU researchers, these projects recruit volunteers to “donate” some of their own data for research.

NYU’s Ad Observer, for example, collected data about ads on Facebook YouTube, with the goal of helping them understthe platform’s ad targeting at amore granular level. Similarly, Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, has a browser add-on called Rally that helps researchers study a range of issues from COVID-19 misinformation to local news. The Markup, a nonprofit news organization, has also created Citizen Browser, a customized browser that aids journalists’ investigations into Facebook YouTube. (Unlike Mozilla NYU’s browser-based projects, The Markup pays users who participate in Citizen Browser.)

“The biggest single problem in our research community is the lack of access to private proprietary data,” says Marwick. “Data donation programs are one of the tactics that people in my community are using to try to get access to data, given that we know the platform’s aren’t going to give it to us.”

Crucially, it’s also data that’s collected independently, that may be the best way to ensure true transparency, says Rebecca Weiss, who leads Mozilla’s Rally project. “We keep getting these good faith transparency efforts from these companies but it’s clear that transparency also means some form of independence,” Weiss tells Engadget.

For participants, these programs offer social media users a way to make sure some of their data, which is constantly being scooped up by mega-platforms like Facebook, can also be used in a way that is within their control: to aid in research. Weiss says that, ultimately, it’s not that different from market research or other public science projects. “This idea of donating your time to a good faith effort — these are familiar concepts.”

Researchers also point out that there are significant benefits to gaining a better understanding of how the most influential powerful platforms operate. The study of election ads, for example, can expose bad actors trying to manipulate elections. Knowing more about how health misinformation spreads can help public health officials understhow to combat vaccine hesitancy. Weiss notes that having a better understanding of why we see the ads we do — political or otherwise — can go a long way toward demystifying how social media platforms operate.

“This affects our lives on a daily basis there’s not a lot of ways that we as consumers can prepare ourselves for the world that exists with these increasingly more powerful ad networks that have no transparency.”

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Apple will hold its iPhone 13 event on September 14th

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You won’t have to wait long to learn more about the iPhone 13 — more. Apple has announced a “California Streaming” event on September 14th at 1PM Eastern. The invitation doesn’t offer many clues, but there are plenty of rumors as to what you can expect for the new iPhone other devices that might make an appearance during the presentation.

The iPhone 13 (or whatever it might be called) is poised to be a subtle evolution of the iPhone 12. It will reportedly include a smaller notch an always-on display that can ramp up to a smooth 120Hz. You might also see improved cameras across the line, with improved ultra-wide sensors more stabilization. It would include the seemingly obligatory chip upgrade (A15?) a slightly larger battery, although the rumored satellite call support might be limited to emergency use in certain areas.

As for the rest? An Apple Watch Series 7 might debut alongside the new iPhone, sporting redesigned cases larger screens as well as improved performance wireless tech. You might also see updated iPads, including a possible iPad mini redesign. New AirPods might arrive as well. Don’t count on seeing new Macs, though — while new MacBook Pro Mac mini models might be in the pipeline this fall, they might not appear until a later event.

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Bose’s high-end Smart Soundbar 900 includes Dolby Atmos support

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Bose has announced a new soundbar that replaces the Smart Soundbar 700 at the higher end of its lineup. Unlike the previous model, the Smart Soundbar 900 has Dolby Atmos support.

The company claims the Soundbar 900 goes beyond the overhead spatial audio offered by most Atmos soundbars. It says Bose PhaseGuide tech can create horizontal audio effects as well. The Soundbar 900 blends Bose’s spatial audio knowhow with custom arrays, dipole transducers low-profile transducers to create “a layer of realism,” according to the company. Even if the show or movie you’re watching doesn’t support Dolby Atmos, Bose says its tech can still create effective spatial audio effects by remixing signals.

Bose is promising strong bass performance with almost no distortion with the help of its QuietPort tech. The Adaptiq feature, meanwhile, calibrates audio for your space.

The speaker includes decent connectivity, including HDMI eARC for hooking it up to your TV, as well as WiFi, Bluetooth, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Spotify Connect AirPlay 2 support. You can link the device to other Bose smart speakers, including as part of a multi-room system, expyour home theater setup with a subwoofer or rear satellite speakers. The Soundbar 900 is also compatible with the company’s new QuietComfort 45 headphones.

The device has rounded corners it’s 2.3 inches tall, a little over four inches deep 41 inches long (a couple of inches longer than the Soundbar 700). It’s designed primarily for 50-inch larger TVs; it might look out of place below a smaller screen.

The Smart Soundbar 900 costs $900. Pre-orders open today, the speaker will be available on September 23rd.

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