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Discord is now branding itself as a general, non-gaming voice and video chat service

Written about 13 hours ago by IanDorfman

Discord has announced that it is shifting away from its video game focus and focusing on being an inclusive and more accessible voice and video chat service.

On the official Discord blog, the service's Founder and CEO Jason Citron alongside Chief Technical Officer Stanislav Vishnevskiy shared their reasoning and goals driving this change. As the service has grown to house over 100 million monthly active users, its original gaming focus doesn't reflect the diverse nature of its users and their use cases for it. People use it to discuss all kinds of topics across art and hobbies, and some just use it to keep in contact with friends.

Citron and Vishnevskiy believe that this popularity is due to Discord's focus on talking without trying to be a social network or multipurpose application. With the update corresponding to their blog post, Small Discord iconDiscord has launched a revamped onboarding flow to make it simpler for people to sign up and use. Server-based video calling has also publicly launched.

This rebranding officially positions Discord out of just the gaming-focused chat services like Small TeamSpeak iconTeamSpeak and Small Mumble iconMumble and into the wider world of voice and video chat clients like Small Wire iconWire, Small Hangouts iconHangouts, Small WhatsApp iconWhatsApp, and more. It is reflected in every part of Discord's web presence, including a newly redesigned website without the gaming focus of previous designs.

Discord is a free service available via both the web at discord.com/app, as well as for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS operating systems via discord.com/download

Further coverage:
Discord Blog

Written by iandorfman

Newest version of Windows 10 removes update deferral options in settings

Written 3 days ago by IanDorfman

In a move that will pose controversial for enterprise users, version 2004 of Microsoft's flagship Windows 10 operating system has removed the ability to defer from installing updates in its built-in settings application.

Microsoft put out the following statement in its documentation (as seen here via GitHub):

"Last year, we changed update installation policies for Windows 10 to only target devices running a feature update version that is nearing end of service. As a result, many devices are only updating once a year. To enable all devices to make the most of this policy change, and to prevent confusion, we have removed deferrals from the Windows Update settings Advanced Options page starting on Windows 10, version 2004.

If you wish to continue leveraging deferrals, you can use local Group Policy (Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update > Windows Update for Business > Select when Preview builds and Feature Updates are received or Select when Quality Updates are received)."

This removal of more granular control over when your enterprise's machines install updates that may break compatibility with apps important to your business's productivity is something to consider before pushing out version 2004 of Small Windows 10 iconWindows 10. Other options to consider include switching to an operating system that enables to exercise full control over what is installed and when, such as Small Red Hat Enterprise Linux iconRed Hat Enterprise Linux.

Further coverage:
The Windows Times

Written by iandorfman

eM Client 8 now available, featuring a complete redesign, multi-instance support, and more

Written 6 days ago by IanDorfman

The latest version of the eM Client for email accounts has released, bringing a complete redesign to every part of the UI alongside new features such as notes, reply watching, email "snoozing," and more.

In a post celebrating the release, the eM Client blog details several of the new and revised features that have been incorporated into the new design for the email client. The most readily apparent change is the redesigned user interface, which aims to simplify both navigation and operation of the client on both Windows and macOS. Alongside the new design comes several new features, including a new "all attachments' view that lets you view and manage every attachment from every email across all of the accounts you've added into Small eM Client iconeM Client.

Other new features include:
• Support for running multiple instances of eM Client at once on the same machine
• Direct file attachment from cloud services like Small Dropbox iconDropbox and Small Google Drive iconGoogle Drive
• A lookup service for Small GnuPG iconGnuPG public keys in order to more easily send encrypted communication via email
• Notes support for both client- and server-side instances so they can be used as reminders and synced across all of your devices

A full list of every new change and feature in version 8 can be found on eM Client's blog. eM Client 8 is available both for free as well as commercially and can be downloaded from emclient.com/download.

Written by iandorfman

The HEY email service has triggered an important change in Apple's App Store policy

Written 7 days ago by IanDorfman

Following a week of debate between Apple and Basecamp over the monetization policies for its new Small HEY iconHEY email service's iOS app, Apple has seemed to take Basecamp's open letter calling for developers to have more choice in how they function relative to the Small Apple App Store iconApple App Store's guidelines.

In a post on its official newsroom, Apple announced the two changes it plans on implementing to its App Store review process. Developers will now be able to appeal decisions that Apple's App Store moderation team made about their software violating the store's guidelines. If the appeal is successful and warrants it, this will cause the guideline to be changed for the App Store at large. Additionally, any non-legal guideline violations that Apple believes an already listed app has infringed upon will not stop security and bug fixes.

App developers that want to distribute their software on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices will not have any other legally authorized way to share their work outside of the App Store, though these amendments that Apple has announced to its review process are undoubtedly a step in the right direction for developers to be able to exercise just a bit more freedom in how their distribution can be handled. No time frame for these changes has been announced outside of "this summer." HEY is once again available on the App Store with a 14-day free trial for all iOS app users.

Further coverage:
Apple Newsroom
Engadget

Written by iandorfman

Mixer live streaming service shutting down July 22nd, redirecting to Facebook Gaming

Written 9 days ago by IanDorfman

Mixer, the video game live streaming platform formerly known as Beam that was acquired by Microsoft in August of 2016, today announced that it will be shutting down on July 22nd. The official reason given for the shutdown was that the time it would take to scale up Mixer's usage was "out of measure with the vision and experiences that Microsoft and Xbox want to deliver for gamers now."

In the post announcing the shutdown, Small Mixer iconMixer shared its plan to transition streamers that utilize Mixer to the Small Facebook Gaming iconFacebook Gaming live streaming platform. These plans include granting Mixer Partners equivalent partner status on Facebook Gaming, with all existing agreements being matched "as closely as possible." This will also apply to streamers that use Mixer's open monetization plan, which will be automatically eligible for Facebook Gaming's "Level Up Program" for stream monetization and growth.

For the viewers, the post recommends that any paid items that can be applied towards streams (such as Embers and Sparks) be used before the July 22nd shutdown. Until the end of June, any paid currencies applied towards partner streamers will be paid out double. Any currencies and subscriptions left unspent after the shutdown will be reimbursed with Xbox Gift Card credit usable in the Small Microsoft Store iconMicrosoft Store for PC and Xbox.

For Mixer streamers and viewers that do not want to migrate to Facebook Gaming, the largest gaming-focused live streaming alternative continues to be the Amazon owned Small Twitch iconTwitch service. Other gaming live stream services such as Small DLive iconDLive and Small Smashcast iconSmashcast are also available.

After the July 22nd shutdown, Mixer's official website will redirect to facebook.com/gaming/.

Further coverage:
Mixer blog

Written by iandorfman

Chromium looking to improve browser compatbility based on MDN web dev survey

Written 13 days ago by IanDorfman

In response to findings from the 2019 Mozilla Developer Network Web DNA Report, the Chromium development team wrote an official blog post discussing the results and planning how to improve the open-source browser's compatibility.

Chrome Software Engineer Stephen McGruer describes how the MDN ran an additional Browser Compatibility Survey in March of 2020 in order to help the Small Chromium iconChromium development team better understand what developers need. Over 3,000 developers took the survey, with many also providing more detailed feedback in post-survey questionnaires.

The following major points came up in the survey enough for the Chromium devs to focus on them for the purpose of this post:

• Flexbox: as a frequently used web layout tool that adjusts layouts dynamically based on differently sized viewports, Chrome's web team will implement a Chromium Flexbox implementation using the browser's LayoutNG layout engine

• Scrolling: Research will be done into how virtual keyboards impact viewport units in different Chromium-based web browsers, input event inconsistencies, and differences in scrolling behavior across browsers

• Form controls: form stylability will be worked on with focus on more precise specifications and consistency, though the team has "nothing specific to announce" outside of looking into the issue more through the remainder of 2020

• CSS Grid: Chromium does not support subgrid, but will in the future due to the Small Microsoft Edge iconMicrosoft Edge development team working on a LayoutNG-based Chromium implementation

• Launching new web features while maintaining compatibility, with McGruer stating that the dev team will be "more rigorous" in how it implements and communicates new web-based features

No defined timetable has been given as to when these improvements will be implemented in Chromium directly alongside the popular web browsers it powers such as Small Google Chrome iconGoogle Chrome, though the post concludes with the Chromium development team "looking forward to a more compatible 2021."

Further coverage:
Chromium blog

Written by iandorfman

FameBit influencer marketing platform becoming YouTube BrandConnect

Written 14 days ago by IanDorfman

Influencer marketing has become a necessity for popular social media and video sharing site creators. Sites like Small FameBit iconFameBit have provided valuable services such as self-service brand research and collaboration offers. This will change come July 31st when FameBit is shut down in lieu of a new YouTube service.

Announced via a FameBit support article, the influencer marketing platform will be completely axing its self-service brand research and proposal site and pouring all of its resources into its full service offering that does the brand matching for creators alongside complete end-to-end promotional campaign management. Along with this focus, the service will now be called Small YouTube BrandConnect iconYouTube BrandConnect.

The official YouTube blog post formally announcing BrandConnect refers to this changeover as an "evolution," stating that the service will on ease of use for content creators in order to drive industry growth. According to the post, this approach has been working, with the past 2 years showing a 260% increase in the growth of its full-service product. In comparison, statistics concerning the discontinued self-service product show that its comprised only 4% of FameBit's creator payouts, with the rest coming from full-service.

As of the announcement, YouTube BrandConnect will be available to 25,000 FameBit subscribers via Small YouTube Studio iconYouTube Studio, with more availability options and supported regions coming "in the months ahead." Existing FameBit subscribers will be able to log into FameBit.com until July 31st in order to end existing campaigns and settle any outstanding payments.

Further coverage:
Official YouTube Blog
FameBit Help Center
TechCrunch

Written by iandorfman

Windows 10 May 2020 Update issues potentially induce hard drive data loss

Written 17 days ago by IanDorfman

Another Windows 10 feature update, another round of early discovered potential issues.

The Small Windows 10 iconWindows 10 May 2020 Update, version 2004, is currently only available to users that actively seek it out via Windows Update. This is likely due to the numerous issues present in the current build of the update, many of which have been acknowledged by both Microsoft as well as PC hardware makers.

The most major issue currently present in the May 2020 Update impacts Windows 10's built-in Storage Spaces feature that allows users to group hard drives together into a storage pool in order to prevent data loss. This works similarly to a RAID setup. The May 2020 Update makes it so you cannot set up a storage pool using the OS's control panel UI due to an error. Though it is still possible to set it up using Small PowerShell iconPowerShell, only advanced users will be able to use this workaround with confidence. The update is also reportedly corrupting existing storage spaces drives set to write all data in parity.

Other less serious issues with the May 2020 Update include the Small Windows Disk Defragmenter iconWindows Disk Defragmenter not displaying the dates for the latest automatic or manual hard drive scans. Additionally, the update breaks the audio visualizations feature built in to Small Windows Media Player iconWindows Media Player.

As of this post, no timetable has been established for when these issues with Windows 10 version 2004 will be resolved so it can be distributed automatically to all instances of the operating system. In the mean time, it is highly recommended to not install the May 2020 Update.

Further coverage:
MSPoweruser
Windows Latest

Written by iandorfman

Firefox Private Network beta is shifting from free to paid access

Written 21 days ago by IanDorfman

In fall of 2019, Firefox developer Mozilla launched a beta version of its Small Firefox Private Network iconFirefox Private Network browser extension and virtual private network service. Thought it's been offered for free since then, that will soon change.

Mozilla laid out its next steps for the Firefox Private Network in an official blog post. In it, the announcement was made that the browser extension will be moving from free to paid subscription access for the next phase of the beta testing period. The plan is to make this transition available first in the United States before later rolling it out to other countries.

The new beta comes with additional features due to its paid nature. Three separate instances of the Small Mozilla Firefox iconMozilla Firefox web browser can utilize a single Firefox Private Network subscription simultaneously for access. The extension's icon will be updated to better differentiate it from the VPN service.

The $3 a month "unlimited beta" plan will be offered to existing "limited" beta users as well as new users "starting in a few weeks." Additionally, Mozilla will be sharing information on the VPN as a separate service "in the coming weeks."

Written by iandorfman

itch.io offering $5 bundle of over 1,000 games in support for racial justice and equality

Written 23 days ago by IanDorfman

In light of the recent United States-centered and internationally felt push for racial equality, game storefront Small itch.io iconitch.io is offering a $5 bundle of over 1,000 independently developed games. All of the proceeds from the bundle will go to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Community Bail Fund.

Some of the most notable titles in the bundle include the following:

Small Oxenfree iconOxenfree
Small Celeste iconCeleste
Small 2064: Read Only Memories icon2064: Read Only Memories
Small Octodad iconOctodad: Dadliest Catch

Though the bundle does not include keys for storefronts like Small Steam iconSteam or the Small Epic Games Store iconEpic Games Store, itch.io defines itself as an alternative to those storefronts in how it is operated in a way that benefits both developers and consumers alike.

On top of being open source, itch.io has also offered open revenue sharing since October of 2013. This allows developers to set how much money they receive and how much money itch.io as a storefront receives. It also does not require people to sign up for an account in order to support games and creators while receiving the content they like from them.

The bundle is available for purchase on itch.io/b/520 and runs until June 16th, 2020.

Written by iandorfman

Telegram 6.2 released, adds video editor, better gif support, and more

Written 25 days ago by IanDorfman

The latest stable release of the Telegram messenger app that supports end-to-end encrypted communication has implemented a new video editor alongside multiple other features, quality of life improvements, and miscellaneous optimizations.

In a post on the official Telegram blog, the Telegram development team introduces the video editor by looking back to the app's photo editor, which was originally implemented back in 2015. This video editor is seen as an evolution of that. The video editor supports both two-tap automatic video quality enhancement as well as a manual editor suite that can modify 12 different parameters like brightness and saturation.

In addition to these features, Small Telegram iconTelegram 6.2 also implemented support for animated stickers. These can be applied to any existing photo or video, with the photos they are applied to being automatically converted to animated GIFs in order to support the movement of any applied stickers. In general, GIF support on Telegram has been improved, with better loading times and newly implemented "Trending" and "Recent" GIF panel sections.

On top of the major features above, Telegram 6.2 for Android has received an improved set of smooth animations as well as an optimized video player. A more under the hood feature that the Android release of Telegram now has is revamped cache management, allowing Telegram to take up less storage space on your smart device. This can be seen by going to "Settings > Data and Storage > Storage Usage."

Telegram 6.2 is now available for Android, iOS, macOS, Linux operating systems, and Windows.

Further coverage:
Telegram Blog

Written by iandorfman

Zoom's free calls will not be encrypted, can be shared with law enforcement

Written 28 days ago by IanDorfman

In another bit of controversial news, the Zoom video conferencing service has once again found itself under fire for security. In this case, however, the lack of security in this case is a deliberate function of the service and not an exploit.

One of the staples of popular messaging and video chat services in today's world is a focus on privacy. Whether it's HIPPA compliance for counseling or end-to-end encryption for ensuring the communication you have with your friends and family is truly protected from any prying eyes or bad faith interception, many chat and conferencing services have ramped up their security in the face of COVID-19. Small Zoom iconZoom is included in these, but there is one major oversight: free conference calls made using Zoom are not encrypted, meaning that their contents can be shared with any authority Zoom sees fit according to the service's privacy policy.

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said the following in an interview with Bloomberg:

"Free users for sure we don’t want to give that because we also want to work together with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose."

Meanwhile, other services capable of voice and video chat and conferencing, such as Small FaceTime iconFaceTime and Small Google Duo iconGoogle Duo, have built-in, always active end-to-end encryption. These services carry an implicit trust for their users, unlike Zoom, at least according to the words of its CEO. For those who put importance into the security and confidentiality of their communications with others, alternatives such as FaceTime, Google Duo, Small Signal iconSignal, and more are highly recommended in lieu of Zoom.

Further coverage:
Bloomberg
Boing Boing

Written by iandorfman