Spotify aims to turn podcast fans into podcast creators with ‘Create podcast’ test – gpgmail


Spotify is testing a new ‘Create podcast’ feature that shows up atop a user’s list of their subscribed podcasts in the app interface, as first uncovered by Jane Manchung Wong (@wongmjane) (via Engadget). The button then provides a takeover promotion directing users to download Anchor, the podcast creation app that Spotify acquired in February.

This is yet another example of the investment that Spotify is making in podcasts – both their consumption and their creation. The subscription streaming company also unveiled a new analytics dashboard for podcasts earlier this year, and released it to all creators earlier in August. Because the company is also primarily a music streaming service, these insights include showing podcast creators what artists their listeners primarily gravitate towards.

Spotify has also launched a personalized playlist that mixes music with podcasts, opened up its podcast submission tool to all creators, and redesigned its navigation in-app to put podcasts on more equal footing with music, all in 2019 alone. The company is clearly doubling down on podcasts as a key element of its overall platform, building on a number of acquisitions on both the content and creation side.

Podcasts represent a way for Spotify to both diversify its revenue and open up a new line of business wherein it can own more of the upside, since its current licensing relationships with music labels mean it gets very little of the money paid from subscribers to its service based on their streams of songs. Especially via selling ads to creators and advertisers, Spotify stands to be able to make more from podcasts in terms of profit if it can continue to increase usage among listeners.




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Microsoft will let some Windows 7 customers get free security updates for an extra year – gpgmail


In four months time, Windows 7 will reach end-of-life and will no longer receive security updates.

That’s going to be a problem for some enterprises which still run the decade-old operating system. Starting January 14, 2020, Windows 7 computers will stop receiving security patches, leaving enterprises vulnerable to malware.

According to latest data, some 37% of all desktop consumer and enterprise computers still run Windows 7, with Windows 10 marginally ahead at 41%.

There will be, however, some reprieve for enterprise customers with active Windows 10 subscriptions.

A little-publicized document published by Microsoft says top-tier customers with Windows E5, Microsoft 365 E5, and Government E5 subscriptions will get extended security updates for a year at no additional charge. After the year expires, Microsoft will charge each enterprise device $50 to receive updates for a second year and $100 per device for a third year.

Qualifying subscriptions must remain active until the end of the year and throughout the extended security updates period to continue to receive security updates, the document said.

But for everyone else on other Windows subscription plans, Microsoft will begin charging from the moment Windows 7 falls out of support in January, with a final cut-off for extended security updates in January 2023.

The software and services giant began warning users in March that they would soon stop receiving critical and necessary security updates. Microsoft recommends users upgrade to Windows 10, or obtain extended security updates as a “last resort.”

News of the security update extension was first reported by Computerworld.


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Microsoft’s new Chromium-based Edge browser is now in beta – gpgmail


Microsoft today launched the first beta builds of its new Chromium-based Edge browser for Windows and Mac. The new beta channel, which will see a new update roughly every six weeks, will join the existing dev and canary channels, which will continue to see daily and weekly updates, respectively.

Over the course of the last few months of preview releases in the existing channels, Microsoft gathered about 140,000 pieces of feedback. With this — and a sufficient amount of telemetry it also received from early adopters — the company now feels that it knows enough about how well Edge works on a wide range of machines and that it is stable enough for enthusiasts, web developers and business users to give it a try before its wider release.

“Beta represents the most stable preview channel, as features are added to Beta only after they have cleared quality testing in first the Canary channel and then the Dev channel,” Microsoft explains in today’s announcement. “Major version updates can be expected roughly every six weeks, alongside periodic minor updates for bug fixes and security.”

At this point, Microsoft has also put all of the infrastructure in place to update the browser and tested it thoroughly through the early preview phase. If need be, that means the team can release an unscheduled beta when it discovers a bug and know that its update systems will work just fine.

Just like Chrome, Firefox and most other browsers, Microsoft will continue to test new features in the canary and developer builds before enabling them in the beta builds. The current canary build, for example, features a very useful global media control button that lets you control YouTube, Spotify and other video and music services without having to switch tabs. Features like this will come to the beta channel in the coming months.

Also available in the beta, but currently behind a flag, are Microsoft’s tracking-prevention features. Soon, the beta build will also get support for collections, Microsoft’s modern take on bookmarks, though as far as I can tell, that feature isn’t currently enabled in the canary and developer releases yet either (Correction: it went live in the canary release with this update). Other new features that’ll soon make their way to the beta are Internet Explorer mode for those companies that still use legacy applications that rely on Microsoft’s old, pre-Edge browser.

With this release, Microsoft is also launching a security bounty program for Edge. Security researchers who find and disclose any high-impact vulnerabilities in the beta and dev channel releases are eligible for rewards of up to $15,000.

As a Microsoft spokesperson stressed in an interview ahead of today’s release, the team is also quite happy about the fact that it has now contributed more than 1,000 commits to the Chromium project. That project is mostly led by Google engineers, but it’s good to see that Microsoft’s plans for ramping up its contributions are paying off. By moving to Chromium, Microsoft gave up developing its own engine. At the time, the company argued that continuing to invest in an engine that only had a few users wasn’t exactly useful in keeping the overall web ecosystem healthy, and that it could have more impact by working on Chromium instead. That work, it seems, is starting to pay off now.

As the team told me, a lot of the work so far has gone into bringing Edge to beta status and making sure that all of the core features are working. That means you won’t see a lot of features in the browser that really set Edge apart from the competition (Collections are a good example here). As those core features become ever more stable, though, we’ll see the team focus more on tools and features that will differentiate Edge from the likes of Chrome.

Personally, I switched to the new Edge shortly after the first developer and canary releases and have been on the daily update channel ever since. Despite its preview status, the browser has been very stable on both Windows 10 and the Mac. Some versions were better than others, but I didn’t experience and major blocking bugs in the process, and Edge has proven to be a fast and stable browser. That bodes well for the beta program.


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Minecraft to get big lighting, shadow and color upgrades through Nvidia ray tracing – gpgmail


Minecraft is getting a free update that brings much-improved lighting and color to the game’s blocky graphics using real-time ray tracing running on Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics hardware. The new look is a dramatic change in the atmospherics of the game, and manages to be eerily realistic while retaining Minecraft’s pixelated charm.

The ray tracing tech will be available via a free update to the game on Windows 10 PCs, but it’ll only be accessible to players using an Nvidia GeForce RTX GPU, since that’s the only graphics hardware on the market that currently supports playing games with real-time ray tracing active.

It sounds like it’ll be an excellent addition to the experience for players who are equipped with the right hardware, however – including lighting effects not only from the sun, but also from in-game materials like glowstone and lava; both hard and soft shadows depending on transparency of material and angle of light refraction; and accurate reflections in surfaces that are supposed to be reflective (ie. gold blocks, for instance).

This is welcome news after Minecraft developer Mojang announced last week that it cancelled plans to release its Super Duper Graphics Pack, which was going to add a bunch of improved visuals to the game, because it wouldn’t work well across platforms. At the time, Mojang said it would be sharing news about graphics optimization for some platforms “very soon,” and it looks like this is what they had in mind.

Nvidia meanwhile is showing off a range of 2019 games with real-time ray tracing enabled at Gamescom 2019 in Cologne, Germany, including Dying Light 2, Cyperpunk 2077, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Watch Dogs: Legion.


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The ClockworkPi GameShell is a super fun DIY spin on portable gaming – gpgmail


Portable consoles are hardly new, and thanks to the Switch, they’re basically the most popular gaming devices in the world. But ClockworkPi’s GameShell is something totally unique, and entirely refreshing when it comes to gaming on the go. This clever DIY console kit provides everything you need to assemble your own pocket gaming machine at home, running Linux-based open-source software and using an open-source hardware design that welcomes future customization.

The GameShell is the result of a successfully Kickstarter campaign, which began shipping to its backers last year and is now available to buy either direct from the company, or from Amazon. The $159.99 ($139.99 as of this writing on sale) includes everything you need to build the console, like the Clockwork Pi quad-core Cortex A7 motherboard with integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 1GB of DDR3 RAM, but it comes unassembled.

You won’t have to get out the soldering iron – the circuit boards come with all components attached. But you will be assembling screen, keypad, CPU, battery and speaker modules, connecting them with included cables, and then installing them in the slick, GameBoy-esque plastic shell. This might seem like an intimidating task, depending on your level of technical expertise: I know I found myself a bit apprehensive when I opened the various boxes and laid out all the parts in front of me.

But the included instructions, which are just illustrations, like those provided by Lego or Ikea, are super easy to follow and break down the task into very manageable tasks for people of all skill levels. All told, I had mine put together in under an hour, and even though I did get in there with my teeth at one point (to remove a bit of plastic nubbin when assembling the optional Lightkey component, which adds extra function keys to the console), I never once felt overwhelmed or defeated. The time-lapse below chronicles my enter assembly process, start to finish.

What you get when you’re done is a fully functional portable gaming device, which runs Clockwork OS, a Linux-based open-source OS developed by the company. It includes Cave Storyone of the most celebrated indie games of the past couple of decades, and a number of built-in emulators (use of emulators is ethically and legally questionable, but it does provide an easy way to play some of those NES and SNES games you already own with more portability).

There’s a very active community around the GameShell that includes a number of indie games to play on the console, and tips and tricks for modifications and optimal use. It’s also designed to be a STEM educational resource, providing a great way for kids to see what’s actually happening behind the faceplate of the electronics they use everyday, and even getting started coding themselves to build software to run on the console. Loading software is easy, thanks to an included microSD storage card and the ability to easily connect via WiFi to move over software from Windows and Mac computers.

Everything about the GameShell is programable, and it features micro HDMI out, a built-in music player and Bluetooth support for headphone connection. It’s at once instantly accessible for people with very limited tech chops, and infinitely expandable and hackable for those who do want to go deeper and dig around with what else it has to offer.

Swappable face and backplates, plus open 3D models of each hardware component, mean that community-developed hardware add-ons and modifications are totally possible, too. The modular nature of the device means it can probably get even more powerful in future too, with higher capacity battery modules and improved development boards.

I’ve definitely seen and used devices like the GameShell before, but few manage to be as accessible, powerful and customizable all at once. The GameShell is also fast, has great sound and an excellent display, and it seems to be very durable with decent battery life of around three hours or slightly ore of continuous use depending on things like whether you’re using WiFi and screen brightness.


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GitHub gets a CI/CD service – gpgmail


Microsoft’s GitHub today launched the beta of a new version of GitHub Actions with full continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) capabilities built right into the service. General availability is planned for November 13.

The company also today announced that it now has more than 40 million developers on its platform.

Ten months ago, GitHub launched Actions, its workflow automation platform. Developers could already take actions to trigger all kinds of events and use that to build custom CI/CD pipelines. At launch, the GitHub team stressed that Actions allowed for building these pipelines, but that it was a lot more than that. Still, developers were obviously quite interested in using Actions for CI/CD.

“Since we introduced GitHub Actions last year, the response has been phenomenal, and developers have created thousands of inspired workflows,” writes GitHub CEO Nat Friedman in today’s announcement. “But we’ve also heard clear feedback from almost everyone: you want CI/CD! And that’s what we’re announcing today.”

With this updated version of Actions, developers can now build, test and deploy their code on any platform and run their workflows in containers or virtual machines. Developers also can test multiple versions of their applications in parallel thanks to a new feature called “matrix builds,” which lets you, for example, test three different versions of Node.js on Linux, Windows and MacOS at the same time. Because GitHub Actions are defined in a basic YAML file, making those changes is only a matter of adding a few lines to the file.

Supported languages and frameworks include Node.js, Python, Java, PHP, Ruby, C/C++, .NET, Android and iOS. Actions is also integrated with the GitHub Package Registry.

As the application is built, you also get live logs streamed to the Action console, and it’s easy to link to any line in a log file to discuss issues with the rest of your team.

These new features are available for free during the beta and will remain free for all public repositories.

Actions for GitHub Enterprise Server will launch next year and will include a hybrid option that will allow you to keep the code in a private data center and still use GitHub to orchestrate the workflows.

“GitHub Actions is the democratization of CI/CD and software automation. Developers can write workflows reacting to any GitHub platform event and reference open-source GitHub Actions — reusable pieces of code — to supercharge their software lifecycle the same way they are used to writing application code,” said Max Schoening, GitHUb’s senior director of Product Design. “It truly is community-powered CI/CD with a pricing model that works for everyone.”

With this launch, GitHub is now also competing more directly with some of the CI/CD startups that have built businesses on top of the platform. That’s likely to create a bit of friction.

“GitHub has made a commitment to keeping their platform open to all partners, but only time will tell,” CircleCI CEO Jim Rose said in a statement. “Ultimately, developers are smart and will choose the best, most powerful tools available on the market, and we’re confident that that’s where CircleCI will continue to be. […] With more than nine years of data and experience on how teams move from idea to delivery, CircleCI is the leader in CI/CD and we are confident we have the best solution for developers.”

I expect that Rose’s comment will echo that of other CI/CD players, though it’s also worth noting, as Rose did, that Actions can be integrated with other continuous integration services to allow developers to trigger builds on their platforms. These providers can also make their own Actions available on GitHub.

“We see GitHub actions as complementary to what Codefresh does. It’s an additional way that users can leverage Codefresh to build robust pipelines in a scalable way. One interesting thing is that GitHub followed our lead in how they architected Actions. You can actually use GitHub actions as steps inside a Codefresh pipeline. So you see, we’re actually very aligned,” said Dan Garfield, the chief technology evangelist at CI/CD platform Codefresh. “Developers can find the Codefresh action right on GitHub!”

When I asked GitHub about this, Schoening provided the following statement: “GitHub and our community believe in choice and an open ecosystem. That is something we take seriously and build into everything we do. GitHub Actions lets developers integrate with all their existing tooling, mix and match new developer products, and hook into all parts of the software lifecycle, including existing CI/CD partners.”


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Earbuds lets audiences stream the playlists of athletes, entertainers and each other – gpgmail


Earbuds, a new startup from Austin founded by former Detroit Lions lineman Jason Fox, wants to bring the power of social media to your eardrums.

The company is one of a growing number of startups trying to rejuvenate the music streaming market by combining it with social networking so that audiences can listen to the playlists of their favorite athletes and entertainers… and their friends.

For Fox, the idea for Earbuds sprung from his experiences in the NFL, watching how other players interacted with crowds and hearing about the things fans wanted to know about their favorite players’ routines.

“We were playing Caroline in the first game of the season and Cam Newton was warming up right next to me,” Fox recalled. “He was jamming. Getting the crowd into it. And I was thinking there’re 85,000 people here and millions of more people watching at home…  And I thought… how many people would love to be in his headphones right now?”

Earbuds founder Jason Fox

It wasn’t just Cam Newton who received attention. Fox said at every press conference one or two questions would be about what songs teammates played before games. On social media, players would take screenshots of their playlists and post them to platforms like Twitter or Instagram, Fox said.

The company has been out in the market in a beta version since February and has focused on lining up potential Earbuds devotees from among Fox’s friends in the NFL and entertainers from music and media.

“We made a decision to tweak something and make it very very heavily around influencers because that’s what’s really driving traffic for us,” Fox says. 

Screen Shot 2019 08 07 at 5.44.50 PM

Image courtesy of Earbuds

At its core, the app is just about making music more social, according to Fox. “There’s a social platform for everything, but in the days of terrestrial media distribution music has remain isolated,” he says. 

Logging on is easy. Users can create a login for the app or use their Google or Facebook accounts. One more step to link the Earbuds app with Spotify or Apple Music (the company offers one month free of the premium versions of either service to new users) and then a user can look for friends or browse popular playlists.

A leaderboard indicates which users on the app have streamed the most music and users can create their own streams by adding songs from their libraries to build in-app playlists.

Earbuds isn’t the first company to take a shot at socializing the music listening experience. The olds may remember services like Turntable.fm, which took a stab at making music social but shut down back in 2013. Newer services, like Playlist, are also combining social networking features with music streaming. That site focuses on connecting people with similar musical tastes.

Fox thinks that the ability to attract entertainers like Nelly (who’s on the app) and athletes could be transformative for listeners. Basically these artists and athletes can become their own online radio station, he says.

Fox spent nearly a year meeting with streaming services, music labels, athletes, artists and college students (the app’s initial target market) before even working with developers on a single line of code. The initial work was done out of Los Angeles, but after a year Fox moved the company down to Austin and rebuilt the app from the ground up to focus more on the user experience.

Early partnerships with Burton on an activation had snowboarders streaming their music as they rode a halfpipe proved that there was an audience, Fox said. Now the company is working on integrations across different sports and even esports.

Fox raised a small friends and family round of $630,000 before putting together a $1.5 million seed to get the app out into the market. Now the company is looking for $3 million to scale even more as it looks to integrations with sports teams and other streaming services like Twitch (to capture the gaming audience).

The company currently has seven employees.

Earbuds is available on iOS.

Screen Shot 2019 08 07 at 5.51.32 PM


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