All posts in “Tech News”

The US government is suing Edward Snowden for his book profits

The Justice Department has filed a civil lawsuit against Edward Snowden that would recover all proceeds of his recently released memoir, the department announced on Tuesday. The charges coincide with the official publication of the book, which is titled Permanent Record.

Snowden’s memoir was allegedly not submitted to the CIA or NSA for pre-publication review, a required practice among former employees of intelligence agencies. As such, the department considers the book a breach of Snowden’s fiduciary obligations, and names the publishers as co-defendants in the suit.

Given the still-classified programs and materials discussed in the memoir, it is unlikely that the book would have been approved for publication by the agencies. Snowden remains a de facto fugitive from the US government, and would likely face charges under the Espionage Act if he returned to the country. But the new civil case could nonetheless cause problems for Snowden, potentially enjoining his publishers from releasing any of the proceeds from the book.

Crucially, the suit does not seek to block the release of Snowden’s memoir, as doing so would be illegal under the First Amendment.

Amazon Music HD is here to steal audiophiles away from Tidal

Disclosure

Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

Amazon enters the HQ streaming game
Amazon enters the HQ streaming game

Image: Amazon

Tired of being the third or fourth option when it comes to music streaming, Amazon upped its game with Amazon Music HD.

According to Amazon, starting Tuesday, Amazon Music HD will have over 50 million songs in what it considers High Definition: “a bit depth of 16 bits and a sample rate of 44.1kHz,” which is CD quality.

It will also have “millions” more in what it calls Ultra HD, with “a bit depth of 24 bits and a sample rate up to 192 kHz.” That’s considered better than CD quality.

[embedded content]

Amazon isn’t the first to offer premium music streaming. Tidal’s HiFi delivers music in 16 bits/44.1kHz, and it offers a “Masters” series, which it says sounds as crisp and clear as the music’s master recordings (24 bits/96kHz). Spotify has flirted with similar options but doesn’t offer anything that high quality. 

If Amazon has an advantage over Tidal, it’s the price. Tidal’s HiFi tier costs $19.99 a month while Amazon HD is offering new subscriptions at $12.99/month for Prime members and $14.99/month for Amazon customers. If you’re already an Amazon Music subscriber, you can add the HD service to your existing account for an added $5 per month. There’s also a 90-day free trial in case you want to test the waters.

So far, the Ultra HD service only includes a handful of albums, such as Taylor Swift’s Lover and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, but playlists feature songs from Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, and others. 

All in all, Amazon’s foray into ultra high-quality music streaming has a lot to offer, especially with that generous free trial period.

But there are two big caveats. First of all, the ability to actually hear the difference depends on your equipment. Not all speakers and headphones are good enough to fully take advantage of Amazon Music HD and Tidal HiFi. If you own a Sonos speaker, you’re good! But if you listen to most of your music on run-of-the-mill Apple Earbuds, you won’t get that premium experience.

And that brings us to the other big caveat: it’s all personal preference. At this point, the big music streaming services offer quality streaming at their regular price tiers. For instance, Spotify offers streaming to premium users at up 320 Kb/s, which is pretty damn good. Amazon and Apple Music are similar. So similar, in fact, that unless you’re a hardcore audiophile, you may not notice much of a difference.

In the end, there’s only one way to figure it out: try it for yourself and see. If nothing else, it’s good to have even more options out there for listeners to choose from.

The Big Bang Theory lands exclusively on HBO Max in deal reportedly worth more than $1 billion

Just one day after Netflix secured the streaming rights to Seinfeld in a deal reportedly worth more than $500 million, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max has gone one step further, acquiring the rights to The Big Bang Theory in a deal reportedly worth more than $1 billion.

The deal gives WarnerMedia’s HBO Max the exclusive domestic streaming rights for five years, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That means another streaming service could carry the show in global markets. The deal also extends the syndication deal between Warner Bros. Television and TBS through 2028.

It’s one of the biggest deals to date, although part of that has to do with the syndication rights on traditional cable, too. NBCUniversal reportedly paid around $500 million for the rights to stream The Office, and WarnerMedia also reportedly spent $425 million reacquiring the rights to Friends. The shows will stream on NBCUniversal’s untitled streaming service and HBO Max respectively.

“We’re thrilled that HBO Max will be the exclusive streaming home for this comedy juggernaut when we launch in the spring of 2020,” Robert Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia’s entertainment and direct-to-consumer divisions, told The Hollywood Reporter. “This show has been a hit virtually around the globe, it’s one of the biggest shows on broadcast television of the last decade, and the fact that we get to bring it to a streaming platform for the first time in the US is a coup for our new offering.

The Big Bang Theory was rumored to be one of the hottest TV shows in the bidding wars between streaming players. Alongside it was rumors that Two and a Half Men, also a Chuck Lorre production, would go to HBO Max. The Hollywood Reporter doesn’t suggest if that deal is still being worked on.

Although The Big Bang Theory airs on CBS, which has its own streaming competitor, CBS All Access, the show is distributed by Warner Bros. Television. This essentially keeps it in the family. Having a “comfort” show like The Big Bang Theory for subscribers on a new service — HBO Max — is important, but extending syndication rights through traditional cable is a big part of this deal.

The big question is a cultural one; people worried that HBO’s brand would be diluted by non-HBO content on a streaming service like HBO Max will have to see how a show like The Big Bang Theory plays to its new subscriber base.

Snapchat introduces 3D camera mode to add dimension to selfies

Snapchat continues to up its selfie game, and today it’s introducing a new camera mode that it says makes selfies more 3D-like. Starting today, people with an iPhone X or newer can use “3D Camera Mode” to capture a selfie and and apply 3D effects, lenses, and filters to it. People who receive or take these Snaps, even if they don’t have an iPhone X, can move their phone around to get a better sense of the dimensions. A Snap spokesperson says the company will eventually support additional devices.

Snap first introduced the idea for 3D effects with Snaps when it announced its latest version of Spectacles, which include a second camera to capture depth. The effects and filters add things like confetti, light streaks, and miscellaneous animations.

The 3D selfies captured in Snapchat can be shared on the app or saved to a user’s camera roll and shared elsewhere. Sharing outside the app will take away the ability for people to move their phone around to change the image’s perspective. I haven’t had a chance to test this mode yet, but I’m particularly interested to see how the 3D photos translate outside of Snapchat, given that Snapchat’s most popular features are often used in the app and then saved to share on Instagram.

[embedded content]

New Snapchat feature will let you take 3D selfies

Want to take 3D photos of your body on Snapchat? We’ve got some awesome news for you. 

Snapchat launched a nifty new feature Tuesday that will allow its users to send and receive photos taken in “3D Camera Mode.” This is a new kind of photo taken with Snapchat that adds depth to the image and lets users superimpose frames, captions, and accessories at different depths within the photos. They also appear differently to viewers depending on how you rotate your camera. 

The result looks like a super-saturated VR still. Viewers can move their phones around to watch the perspectives change within the photo and to explore the photos from different angles. 

[embedded content]

Anyone will be able to view the photos, but only users who have an iPhone X or above will be able to take them. That makes sense, since this was the first model of iPhone with the “TrueDepth” front-facing camera system, which is what enables Face ID. The Snapchat feature is only available in selfie mode on these iPhones, though Snapchat says it’s working on bringing the feature to Android.

The new feature comes with a host of “effects” that lets users adorn their newly three-dimensional still. Snap first rolled out these 3D effects with its Spectacles 3 in August.

Some of Snapchat’s signature lenses, like animal ears and sunglasses, are available in 3D. You can toss a flower frame or a deep pastel background into your photo or let word art and emojis float somewhere in between. While the photos aren’t videos, the ability to check them out from different angles makes them dynamic.

To get the feature, you should go ahead and update your Snapchat app. Then, open the app to the camera, navigate to the 3D option option in the dropdown menu, and voila. You’re ready to make some three-dimensional photos.

Snapchat’s sense of play and ability to keep adding fresh and fun (albeit sometimes insensitive) features consistently sets them apart. Of course, we’re sure it’ll only be a matter of time before Instagram decides to add the same thing with a slightly different name.