Techio

Snapchat Spectacles: Everything you need to know

Tired of staring at your phone and ignoring your surroundings in order to stay connected? Well, Snapchat (now Snap Inc., technically) has the answer. The company’s Spectacles sunglasses have lit up the internet, a result of both the product’s unique nature and its initial limited availability.

Now that Spectacles can be purchased online, avid snappers will no doubt have lots of questions about the fashion-forward eye candy, so let’s not waste time. Scroll down to learn more about Spectacles.

How to find a pair

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Spectacles (available in black, coral, or teal) went on sale in late 2016, and could only be purchased using a Snapchat Snapbot vending machine, or from the dedicated pop-up store in New York. That has all changed over the past months, and Spectacles are now much easier to find and buy. If the cool tech eyewear is for you, then Spectacles can be purchased for $130 on the Spectacles website, plus taxes and shipping. From July 19, Spectacles can be purchased through Amazon for the same price, and in all the official colors.

In early June, Snap Inc. launched Spectacles in the U.K., after first selling them only in the United States. All three colors are sold through the local Spectacles website for 130 British pounds. Also on July 19, Amazon U.K. started to sell Spectacles, just like in the United States.

Just a few days later, Snap debuted a pop-up shop in a brick and mortar location — and not just any brick and mortar location. The social media company chose none other than the famed London department store Harrods to become the first in-person vendor of the Spectacles (previously, you could only buy the glasses online or through a Snapbot vending machine).

The kiosk doesn’t really integrate much technology, surprisingly enough. Rather, there’s just a mirror for you to check out how the Spectacles look, and an Android phone that displays the sorts of 360-degree videos you can record with the eyewear.

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Snap’s pop-up Snapbot location in New York City. The store closed on February 19.

Before you buy

Well, it goes without saying, you will need an iOS or Android phone running Snapchat in order to use Spectacles. If you aren’t already a Snapchat user or you find it confusing, we don’t think Spectacles will change that outlook.

Note: You will also need to be using an iPhone 5 or newer that’s running at least iOS 8, or an Android device that’s running at least Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) with Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi Direct.

However, there are other things to keep in mind. Spectacles isn’t one-size-fits-all. For one of our editors, the Spectacles felt small and tight on the face. Snap says this can be adjusted by an optician, but be careful: applying heat or water to where the electronics are (in the front of the frame) may fry them. If Spectacles feels loose, Snap suggests tightening the screw of each temple – where the arm joins the lens frame.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to try them before you buy. If you decide you don’t like Spectacles after you receive one, Snap offers a 30-day return policy, provided you have a receipt and your pair isn’t damaged or altered. You can also exchange for a new pair if you encounter any problems that you can’t troubleshoot.

If you wear prescription glasses, you can swap out the Spectacles lenses for ones that match your prescription. An optician needs to do this for you.

Snap has released news special edition Spectacles, such as a pair designed to be compatible with goggles. There’s also a secret project in the works that involves augmented reality.

What’s in the box?

The Spectacles comes inside a magnetically-sealed, wedge-shaped case in Snap’s trademark yellow. For a glasses case it is somewhat large and hefty – you probably wouldn’t want to carry it around in your coat pocket. It’s made of a soft material that should protect the Spectacles in case of accidental drops. Inside, you’ll also fine a USB charging cord.

The case also doubles as a portable charging cradle. When seated inside the case, contact points at the joint of the Spectacles’ left arm (when folded) connect magnetically. One end of the cord ($10 for a replacement) is then connected to the case, while the other end has a standard USB connector for plugging into a computer, portable battery, or wall charger. The cord can also connect directly to the Spectacles, eliminating the need to use the case. Once the cord is attached and charging, you will see LEDs light up. Snap recommends using a USB wall charger, however, there isn’t one included.

Inside the case is a built-in battery that can be used for on-the-go, standalone recharging. When fully charged, the case can recharge a pair of Spectacles up to four times. Without the case, it takes approximately 90 minutes to fully charge a pair of Spectacles using a wall outlet, according to Snap. To see how much juice is left, double-tapping on the side of the left arm (where the shutter button is) will light up a number of LEDs that correspond to the percentage of battery life left. You can also find battery info via the Spectacles menu in the Snapchat app.

Double-tap on the side of Spectacles, and the front LEDs illuminate to show battery life. (Credit: Snap Inc.)

Snap says the Spectacles’ battery should last a day or 100 snaps on a single charge (one Snap is considered one 10-second video), but we’ve seen reports that indicate battery life is much shorter. If you use the Spectacles often, you may want to bring along the case.

Low battery indicator inside the frame. (Credit: Snap Inc.)

Unlike regular sunglasses, Spectacles requires extra care. Do not use one in water.

Wells Fargo accidentally leaks 1.4 gigabytes of information on high net worth clients

Why it matters to you

Wells Fargo is having a tough time of things these days, and this accidental leak is just the latest faux pas.

The latest high profile leak to make headlines wasn’t the result of an attack, a security breach, or even a bug. Rather, the leak of thousands of sensitive documents from embattled bank Wells Fargo was the result of an accident. As the New York Times reported, “Wells Fargo … turned over — by accident, according to the bank’s lawyer — a vast trove of confidential information about tens of thousands of the bank’s wealthiest clients.”

It is estimated that a staggering 50,000 individual customers had their data inadvertently shared with lawyers as part of 1.4 gigabytes of files (on a CD, no less) that Wells Fargo willingly turned over. And that data included quite a bit of sensitive information, including customers’ names, social security numbers, the size of their investment portfolio, and the fees the banks charged. The majority of the affected customers are clients of Wells Fargo Advisors, the branch of the bank that serves high-net-worth investors.

Initially, the documents requested from Wells Fargo were part of a defamation lawsuit against a bank employee, and were intended to be no more than a few emails and documents directly related to the case. But clearly, lawyers for Gary Sinderbrand, the employee in question, received much more than they bargained for. According to the Times, “The files were handed over … with no protective orders and no written confidentiality agreement in place between [a former employee’s] lawyers and Wells Fargo’s.”

That means that it would be totally legal for the recipients of these files to simply release the materials or include them in legal findings, making them publicly available.

So how did this happen? According to Bressler, Amery & Ross, the law firm Wells Fargo hired to deal with the case, was working with an outside vendor who apparently failed to adequately vet the documents to ensure that only necessary files were being sent over. Lawyer Angela Turiano called the disclosure was “inadvertant” and in an email exchange, noted, “Obviously this was done in error and we would request that you return the CD asap so that it can be properly redacted.”

Lawyers for Sinderbrand noted that the former employee plans on keeping the CD and its contents confidential. “We are continuing to evaluate his legal rights and responsibilities,” laywers said. “Wells Fargo has not identified what specific documents it asserts were inadvertently exposed.”

Verizon slowed down YouTube, Netflix, and other video streaming services as part of a “test”

Why it matters to you

Network regulation by carriers may make it harder for you watch streaming video online — just as Game of Thrones is getting good.

Subscribe to Netflix and stream movies over Verizon? Chances are you were throttled. On Friday, the internet provider acknowledged that it capped customers’ speeds to 10Mbps this week as part of a “video optimization test.”

“We’ve been doing network testing over the past few days to optimize the performance of video applications on our network,” a Verizon spokesperson told Ars Technica. “The testing should be completed shortly. The customer video experience was not affected.”

Verizon said that the experiment, which used a new “video optimization system” designed to slow down streams from specific video sources, was temporary, and that the quality of video shouldn’t have been affected. But some YouTube users on Reddit and Howard Forums reported excessive buffering, longer-than-average loading times, and other visual issues brought on by Verizon’s throttling.

At least two Verizon subscribers observed reduced speeds in the YouTube app’s “stats for nerds” section.

“YouTube is being throttled to 10Mbps as well,” one person wrote on Thursday. “In the ‘stats for nerds’ it would load at roughly 1,250KBps which translates to 10Mbps. Put the VPN on and that number tripled easily. Didn’t have an issue playing 1080p in 60fps, though.”

“Confirmed here too,” another person wrote. “1440p videos are throttled at a constant 9.95Mbps. I wasn’t even able to keep up and buffered at a few points.”

Verizon’s traffic-shaping would appear to skirt the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which generally outlaw throttling. But Verizon says that the test fell within the bound’s of the FCC’s exceptions, which allow carriers to impose limitations as long as they’re (1) metered out equally across services, and (2) imposed for the purposes of network management.

“We deliver whatever the content provider gives us,” a Verizon spokesperson said. “We’re always looking for ways to optimize our network without impacting our customers’ experience.”

As Ars Technica notes, Verizon’s throttling wasn’t severe enough to impact most subscribers’ experiences. Netflix says that its highest mobile quality setting, Unlimited, “may use up to 1GB per 20 minutes or more depending on your device and network speeds.” Assuming the download rate is relatively consistent, a connection of less than 7Mbps — much slower than the 10Mbps limit to which Verizon subjected subscribers — would be sufficient.

Until last year, Netflix throttled its own video streams on AT&T and Verizon in order to help users stay under their data caps. But it changed when it began letting users choose from several different quality settings.

It’s not the first time an internet provider has been caught imposing caps on services. In 2008, Comcast began throttling — and in some cases blocking altogether — peer-to-peer (P2P) BitTorrent traffic on its network. The cable provider initially denied responsibility for the reduced speeds, but later acknowledged in a memo to the FCC that it had “engaged in traffic management techniques” in order to “ensure a high-quality, reliable Internet experience.”

In 2009, it agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit brought on by angry customers for $16 million.

Spotify is being hit with yet another two lawsuits involving copyright infringement

Why it matters to you

It may be your favorite music service, but it’s certainly not popular among songwriters or the court system. Spotify faces another couple lawsuits.

It may be the most popular music streaming service in the world, but that won’t be a compelling defense for Spotify now that it’s being hit with yet another two lawsuits. Back in May, the wildly popular music platform settled a $200 million class-action lawsuit from songwriters for $43 million, but the company is far from out of the woods. Two new lawsuits were launched earlier this week in Nashville, Tennessee, and they could certainly put a wrinkle in Spotify’s plans to IPO this year.

The new lawsuits come a couple months after its most recent court battle, but it’s clear that when it comes to copyright law, Spotify still has a lot to learn. One of the new cases being brought against Spotify comes from songwriter Bob Gaudio, who claims that famous songs like Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Rag Doll are being distributed without proper licensing.

Bluewater Music Services Corporation brings the second case against Spotify — the publishing rights company claims that “anything less than the maximum $150,000 statutory damage award for each of the Infringed Works involved herein would encourage infringement, amount to a slap on the wrist, and reward a multibillion dollar company, about to go public, that rules the streaming market through a pattern of willful infringement on a staggering scale.”

While Spotify has certain licensing deals and has purchased some blanket licenses, individual songs that are owned by publishers and songwriters aren’t necessarily covered by these licenses. Every time one of those songs is played, the writers are meant to get a payout. But Spotify has admitted that finding each of those writers has proved a “daunting” task, and is one that the company apparently doesn’t always complete. And that’s getting Spotify in a lot of hot water.

GM is putting app developers directly in the driver’s seat

GM is giving developers a fast lane to make it easier to build connected car apps for infotainment systems. 

The automaker is offering up its next-generation infotainment software development kit (NGI SDK) to the general development community with a new twist: App makers will actually be able to test their creations IRL with the new Dev Client program.

The automaker claims it’s the first time a car company is giving developers a shot to work on their apps in a real production vehicle this early in the process. The friendlier, more open platform could turn the GM dashboard into a new space for connected car innovation — if it catches on with developers.    

“By introducing GM Dev Client, we’re giving developers the missing link they need to finalize their applications,” said John McFarland, director of Global Digital Experience in a release.

The app creation process is streamlined, with an open developers network ready for new applicants. Once they’re ready to make something, developers can download the new SDK, which has been available since January, to build out their app and begin emulating the in-car environment to kick things off.   

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Once an app design goes through GM’s internal review process, it can be downloaded to the developer’s own car for real-world testing. App makers will have to have at least one friend in the car with them, however, since safety features kick in so that a connected laptop can only be used in the passenger seat while a car is moving. 

GM is also planning to offer the SDK with a new set of templated frameworks, like a media player layout or a point of interest layout, to give developers a more focused starting point for projects. Those should roll out by the end of the year, according to the company.

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