Opinion: After a rocky few years, the future of the Mac is now brighter than ever

Over the last week, we’ve gained a very clear picture of what to expect from the 2021 MacBook Pro update: a slight redesign, more IO ports, the end of the Touch Bar, and the return of MagSafe. Essentially, Apple is undoing the changes it introduced with the 2016 MacBook Pro, an update that proved to be controversial for multiple reasons.

With the Apple Silicon transition moving along swiftly and rumors of updates across the entire Mac lineup, it’s a good time to be a Mac fan. It’s also worth stepping back and questioning how we ended up here in the first place.

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Boston Globe will consider people’s requests to have articles about them anonymized

The Boston Globe is starting a new program by which people who feel an article at the newspaper is harmful to their reputation can ask that it be updated or anonymized. It’s reminiscent of the EU’s “right to be forgotten,” though potentially less controversial, since it concerns only one editorial outlet and not a content-agnostic search engine.

The “Fresh Start” initiative isn’t for removing bad restaurant reviews or coverage of serious crimes, but rather for more commonplace crime desk reporting: a hundred words saying so-and-so was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, perhaps with a mugshot.

Such stories do serve a purpose, of course, in informing readers of crime in their area. But as the Globe’s editor, Brian McGrory points out:

It was never our intent to have a short and relatively inconsequential Globe story affect the futures of the ordinary people who might be the subjects. Our sense, given the criminal justice system, is that this has had a disproportionate impact on people of color. The idea behind the program is to start addressing it.

Evidence of bias in policing, which is turned into inherited bias in reporting, is a serious problem and one the country has been grappling with for decades. But it is exacerbated by the nature of the digital record.

An employer looking at an application has only to search for the name or a few other details to find any standout information, such as a crime sheet entry with a mugshot. And while outlets often cover low-level arrests, they rarely cover low-level acquittals or dropped charges. No one clicks on those, after all. So for many the result is incomplete and therefore potentially damaging information.

The attempt in Europe to fix this at the search engine level has been met with opposition and difficulty, since search engines are not in charge of the information they index and felt they should not be put in the position of deciding what should or shouldn’t be removed. Furthermore the task may be complex, as a single article may be replicated or referenced dozens or thousands of times, or backed up on a site like the Internet Archive. What then?

At the same time, it’s certainly less of a threat to free speech to ask a search engine to limit discoverability than to ask a publication to remove or change its content. The debate is ongoing.

The Globe’s approach is nowhere near as comprehensive as making Google “forget” a person’s record, but it is considerably simpler and less open to opposition. The paper exerts editorial control over itself, of course, and the question is not one of putting a piece of information down the memory hole, but revisiting whether it was newsworthy to begin with.

“It’s changing how we look at our coverage,” said managing editor for digital Jason Tuohey in the Globe announcement of its new endeavor. “If we change a story like this with the Fresh Start committee, why would we assign one like it next week?”

The newspaper has established a 10-person committee to examine petitions from people asking to have articles updated — never removed, it’s important to add. While an earlier effort like this at the Cleveland Plain Dealer required people to show a court record expungement order, there is no legal bar to meet here.

The team admits off the bat that this will be complicated. Automated or fraudulent requests will surely pour in, public figures will take a shot, there will be conflicting opinions on what evidence, if any, is required to confirm an event or identity, and so on. And at the end, all that will be accomplished is one article, perhaps even just one line, will be altered — long after it has been replicated across the web and archival infrastructure. But it’s a start.

One paper doing this may not have a large effect, but if the program is successful other outlets may take notice. And as Tuohey noted, the wisdom of publishing the information in the first place starts to look shaky when one learns how ramshackle the justice system really is. Perhaps it’s only fair that people have a shot at applying that newfound skepticism to events of years past.

Anyone who thinks they could benefit from Fresh Start can apply here.

Microsoft withdraws Xbox Live Gold price hike following uproar from users

Updated at 10:26PM PT, January 22: Microsoft is backtracking on the planned price hike of Xbox Live Gold, less than 24 hours after making the announcement as the gaming giant attempts to mend its relationship with fans.

“We messed up today and you were right to let us know. Connecting and playing with friends is a vital part of gaming and we failed to meet the expectations of players who count on it every day. As a result, we have decided not to change Xbox Live Gold pricing,” the company wrote in a blog post.

Microsoft said it is going a step further to make up with Xbox users. The company said free-to-play games on Xbox will no longer require an Xbox Live Gold subscription for online play. “We are working hard to deliver this change as soon as possible in the coming months,” the company wrote.

Our original story from earlier Friday follows.

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In what feels like an attempt at kicking some bad news under the rug on a Friday, Microsoft announced this morning that the price of Xbox Live Gold is going up.

Here’s how the price changes break down:

  • The one-month plan is going from $10 per month to $11.
  • The three-month plan is going from $25 to $30.
  • The six-month plan is going from $40 to $60 — but only for new customers, says Microsoft.

“But what about the twelve-month plan? Didn’t they used to offer those?”

They did! It was $60 — or the price that a six-month subscription will go for now. They stopped selling twelve-month plans back in July of last year, presumably because this change was on the horizon and they would’ve had to acknowledge on the price tag that 12 months of Live Gold would cost $120.

The good news: the price hike on the six-month plan only impacts new customers. If you’ve already got a six-month subscription (or are grandfathered into an auto-renewing twelve-month subscription), Xbox Support confirmed in a tweet that the price won’t increase:

If you’re on the one-month or three-month plans, though, it sounds like you’ll be paying the new price.

So why bump the cost? Microsoft doesn’t officially outline their reasoning (beyond pointing out that they haven’t increased the price in years, or as long as a decade in some regions), but one can assume it’s at least partially to make the $15 a month Xbox Game Pass (which bundles Xbox Live Gold with a library of all-you-can-eat, on-demand titles) that much more alluring.

Manish Singh contributed to this report.

‘Channels’ live TV app adds Picture in Picture support on iOS and Apple TV

Live TV app “Channels” is out with an update today for Apple TV and iOS that brings the highly requested Picture in Picture support. After a good amount of work, the Channels team was able to figure out how to offer PiP without the need for transcoding or a DVR server.

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Apple TV+ picks up new ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ drama with Brie Larson

A new drama series is set to debut on Apple TV+ called Lessons in Chemistry. According to Variety, Brie Larson will executive produce as well as star in the new series.

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Latest Apple Arcade games for iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, Apple TV [Spire Blast and NUTS]

Apple Arcade launched with close to 100 titles and the service is seeing new games added regularly. Follow along with our guide on the latest from Apple’s gaming service.

New for January 22: Spire Blast and NUTS.

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EVgo to go public via SPAC in bid to power EV charging expansion

EVgo, the wholly owned subsidiary of LS Power that owns and operates public fast chargers for electric vehicles, has reached a deal to become a publicly traded company through a merger with special-purpose acquisition company Climate Change Crisis Real Impact I Acquisition Corporation.

The combined company, which will be listed under the new ticker symbol “EVGO” will have a market valuation of $2.6 billion. LS Power and EVgo management, which today own 100% of the company will be rolling all of its equity into the transaction. Once the transaction closes in the second quarter, LS Power will hold a 74% stake in the newly combined company.

EVgo has raised about $575 million in proceeds through the business combination, including a $400 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE. Investors include Pacific Investment Management Company LLC (PIMCO), funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Wellington Management, Neuberger Berman Funds and Van Eck Associates Corporation, according to the announcement.

EVgo’s leadership will remain intact, with Cathy Zoi continuing as CEO of the combined company.

The deal is the latest in a long string of electric-vehicle-related companies to merge with so-called blank check companies, eschewing the traditional path to an IPO. Arrival, Canoo, ChargePoint, Fisker, Lordstown Motors, Proterra and The Lion Electric Company are some of the companies that have merged with SPACs — or announced plans to — in the past eight months.

EVgo is not a new entrant to the electric vehicle industry. The company was founded in 2010 and has spent better part of the decade scaling up its infrastructure. Today, EVgo has chargers in more than 800 locations in 67 major metropolitan markets across 34 states. The company has landed a number of partnerships, including with Albertsons, Kroger and Wawa to locate its chargers at these properties.

EVgo has also struck deals with automakers such as GM and Nissan as well as ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber. In July, GM and EVgo announced plans to add more than 2,700 new fast chargers over the next five years.

While electric vehicles still make up just a fraction of total cars, trucks and SUVs on today’s roads, the industry has forecast that the EV market will increase more than 100-fold between 2019 and 2040, EVgo said. The funds raised through the public market will be used to accelerate its expansion, according to the company.

“Just a few years ago, electric vehicles were considered niche,” EVgo CEO Cathy Zoi said in a statement. “Today, improved technology, lower costs, greater selection and a better appreciation for the performance of EVs is increasingly making them the vehicle technology of choice. With that, the need for fast charging is on the rise.”

Zoi noted that public charging will be essential to meet the needs of the estimated 30% of Americans who do not have access to at-home charging as well as the growing number of fleets that are switching to electric vehicles.

Apple hit with another antitrust complaint after App Store rejects ‘Corona Control Game’

Apple’s antitrust complaints continue grow with the latest one being filed with the European Commission by Florian Mueller, a German developer. The case is based on Mueller’s app originally called “Corona Control Game” being rejected by the App Store.

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MacBooks from $790 highlight today’s best deals, plus iPhones go on sale, more

Today’s best deals include MacBook Pros, a new Verizon flash sale on iPhones, and various iOttie car mounts. Head below for all of that and more in the latest 9to5Toys Lunch Break.

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Pinterest launches an AR-powered try-on experience for eyeshadow

Pinterest is expanding its virtual makeup try-on capabilities with today’s launch of a new augmented reality feature that allows online shoppers to virtually try on new eyeshadow. Initially, Pinterest is allowing try-on with 4,000 shades from brands like Lancome, YSL, Urban Decay and NYX Cosmetics.

The feature leverages Pinterest’s existing Lens visual search technology, its skin tone ranges feature and computer-vision-powered recommendations, the company says. We also understand Pinterest is incorporating elements from data partner ModiFace, including digitization parameters that ensure the products recognized are mapped to ModiFace’s database for higher-quality rendering.

This is not Pinterest’s first virtual makeup feature. The company had previously launched an AR try-on experience for lipstick a year ago, which has now grown to include 10,000 shades, discoverable from 48 million beauty pins from brands like Estée Lauder, bareMinerals, Neutrogena, NARS, Cle de Peau, Thrive Causemetics, NYX Professional Makeup, YSL Beauté, Lancôme and Urban Decay. Retailers, including Kohl’s, have also used AR try-on to reach consumers.

With the newly launched eyeshadow try-on, users can filter the product search results by factors like color, price range and brand. If they find something they like, they can then purchase it immediately, save it to a board, or browse a “more like this” section to find more Pins offering similar shades.

video of AR eyeshadow effect

Image Credits: Pinterest

The expansion to eyeshadow means users can now experiment with more of a full makeup look, rather than just try on individual shades. There’s a toggle that lets users switch between lipstick and eyeshadow to try on multiple products at once, Pinterest says.

AR-powered virtual makeup experiences have been growing in popularity over the years, thanks in part to AR beauty apps like ModiFace’s YouCam MakeupSephora’s Virtual ArtistUlta’s GLAMLab and others. L’Oréal has also offered Live Try-On on its website and partnered with Facebook to bring virtual makeup to the site. Target’s online Beauty Studio also offers virtual makeup.

More recently, Google entered the AR virtual makeup space, initially with the launch of a more limited feature on YouTube that allowed some beauty influencers to incorporate an AR try-on experience for products in their videos. In December 2020, however, Google more fully embraced AR try-on with the launch of virtual makeup try-on within Google Search, also in partnership with ModiFace.

But Pinterest’s expansion to eyeshadow means it’s once again ahead of Google when it comes to visual search technology and virtual makeup. Not only does it offer more lipstick shades than Google, it now also offers eyeshadow try-on.

Pinterest says the AR try-on feature is being made available for free to brands who want to create visual shopping experiences and reach customers earlier in their decision-making process. The company says it continues to generate revenue through ads, including shopping ads, and not by monetizing its AR features or doing any revenue share on the try-ons that turn into sales.

“As we make Pinterest more shoppable through products like AR Try on, the platform becomes more engaging and actionable to Pinners, which can result in increases in usage and click-through of ads,” a spokesperson explains. “Organic features like Try on and ingestion of catalogs to create product Pins can oftentimes complement a paid strategy where brands drive traffic across the site,” they noted.

The support for eyeshadow try-on is timely. Some beauty brand sales have been depressed by the pandemic, and particularly lipsticks, since it makes no sense to use lip color when your face is under a mask. Instead, current beauty trends have shifted to highlighting the eyes, with bright and bold colors for eyeshadow shades, the wild floating eyeliner look, large false lashes, and more — trends that are also designed to look good when filmed for social media posts, of course.

Pinterest says it has indications that its AR features are converting undecided shoppers to customers. In 2020, Pinterest found that users would try on an average of six lipstick shades once they began the AR try-on experience, and then were five times more likely to show purchase intent on try-on compared with standard Pins.

The new eyeshadow try-on is live starting today using the Lens camera in the Pinterest app for iOS and Android.