Dish will install your smart home gadgets for a flat fee

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Dish

Dish is having another go at the smart home. The satellite TV provider has been offering smart technology installation services to its own customers for years, but today it launches OnTech, a service that will set up a whole range of devices for you, whether you’re an existing customer or not.

OnTech technicians can help install everything from smart locks and video doorbells to mesh WiFi networks and multi-room audio. Most installations cost a flat $99 and can be booked for the same day, although bigger jobs will cost slightly more. Partner brands include the likes of Google Nest, WeMo, Yale and Klipsch, and if you don’t already have the gear ready for installation you can purchase it through OnTech and the technician will bring it along with them.

It’s not an unsurprising move from Dish. Its pay-TV business hasn’t been doing particularly well so it’s been in the market for new revenue streams. It makes sense that Dish would leverage its ongoing relationships with products such as the Amazon Alexa — as well as its existing presence inside customers’ homes — to provide a service that falls somewhere between contract-based subscription services and “concierge services”, such as Best Buy’s GeekSquad. OnTech will initially launch in 11 regions, including areas in Missouri, Texas, Utah, Georgia, California, Colorado and New York.

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The best multi-effects pedal for new guitarists

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When I first started playing guitar way back in 1995 (or maybe it was 1994?) the idea of a digital multi-effects pedal was still pretty new. The Zoom 505 was the biggest game in town, if you wanted a pile of effects in a compact package for a reasonable price. It was also the first pedal I ever bought. But, if I’m being honest, a lot of the sounds you got out of it were not great. And it could be a little confusing to operate at times.

Thankfully things have come a long way since the mid ’90s.

Digital effects can often compete with their analog counterparts now. And even cheap processors are powerful enough to handle multiple effects simultaneously in a live audio application. These are also usually the first stop for a budding guitarist. Your average 16-year-old starting their first band can’t go out and buy half a dozen pedals from the likes of Earthquaker Devices, JHS or even a relatively affordable stalwart like Electro Harmonix. So I decided to go back and check out a bunch of entry-level multi-effects pedals from Zoom, Line 6, Digitech and Mooer to figure out where a new guitarist should spend their cash.

When deciding which pedal was the best for a beginner I took a number of things into consideration. Obviously, one of the most important was the quality of the effects. Even a $20 unit is a waste of money if it sounds like garbage. Another is versatility. While the MS-70CDR from Zoom is pretty well regarded (and a pedal I’ve been eyeing recently), it focuses on chorus, delay, and reverb only. And lastly there’s price. There are a ton of absolutely amazing multi-effects units out there, like the H9 family from Eventide, but those start at $400. That’s way more than any guitarist still learning the ropes should spend.

We decided $200 was the absolute ceiling when it came to an entry-level device. And after months of testing, I’m comfortable saying that the Zoom G1X Four is the best choice for a novice guitarist. At only $100 it’s a heck of a bargain. And while the G1 Four can be had for just $80, I think it’s more than worth it to drop the extra $20 and get the model with an expression pedal. It’ll be a huge help for filter effects like wah; volume swells if you’re dabbling in shoe gaze; or pitch shifting if you want to get real weird.


The Zoom G1 Four
Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

Buy Zoom G1X Four on Amazon – $100

(Full transparency, I tested the G1 Four and not the G1X Four. But the two devices are almost identical except for the addition of an expression pedal and a few extra effects that take advantage of it.)

First and foremost: Most of the effects here are pretty good. Not all of them are useful (“Bomber” in particular is a head scratcher). And some are, shall we say, a little sterile sounding — especially the overdrives and distortions. But on the whole it’s a solid sounding pedal, especially for the price. The reverbs and delays aren’t bad at all, and should please even more demanding players. And the chorus options, while not exactly faithful recreations of the pedals that inspired them, are more than usable.

There’s over 70 effects built into the G1X Four. Plus 13 amp models and even speaker cabinet simulations. The latter are really designed for using with headphones, but you can shape your tone in interesting ways by using them in front of your own amp. Even if you can only find a few effects you really enjoy (and it’s almost impossible not to), you’re still getting your money’s worth. One piece of advice though: ignore the pre-made patches that are loaded in 40 of the 50 save slots by default. Most are kinda cheesy sounding and frankly don’t showcase the best side of the pedal. (Almost all of them have just a touch too much delay for some reason.)

Multi-effects pedals

All this being said, the effects here aren’t significantly better or worse than what you get in other pedals in the price range. The Mooer GE100 and Digitech Element XP, for example, do some things better and others slightly worse. The Digitech might take a very slight edge in terms of pure quality of the effects (especially if you focus on the out-of-the-box patches and distortion), but not enough to make you stand up and notice.

Where the Zoom really beats the competition is on ease of use and features. It has more effects (which you can chain together in any order you choose), more amp models and a desktop app that makes building patches and saving them a breeze. While navigating, tweaking and combining effects on the pedal itself is relatively intuitive, doing it on a desktop is quite a bit faster. And that extra bit of speed will make finding your way around the almost endless combinations much less tedious. I’m in no way suggesting you keep this thing tethered to you computer. That sounds like a nightmare. But you can pull together at bunch of custom patches, load them on the Zoom and never look back.

And honestly, even without the app it’s far easier to use than the previously mentioned Mooer and Digitech pedals, or some of Zoom’s more expensive models like the G3Xn. The interface is richer that the simple-to-a-fault Element XP and more logical than the GE100. I never found a need to look at a manual when using the G1X Four, which is more than I can say for most of the other units I tried.

Multi-effects pedals

Add in a tuner, a 30-second looper and 68 rhythm patterns to practice alongside, and you’ve got basically the complete package for anyone still in the exploratory phase of their guitar playing. The biggest weakness of the G1X Four is the build quality. Now, to be clear, no $100 multi-effects pedal is built to withstand the rigors of tour life. In fact, most aren’t really meant to leave your bedroom. But the Zoom feels particularly flimsy, especially with its plastic foot switches. That being said, I beat the hell out of my Zoom 505 from the mid ’90s until the early aughts, and it was still kicking when I finally gave it to a friend. So I have no reason to believe the G1X Four will break easily. Just don’t expect rugged metal construction here.

Multi-effects pedals

Buy Line 6 M5 on Amazon – $147

Now there is one last thing to consider. Many modern amps like the Fender Mustang series and Boss’ Katana line have plenty of built-in effects. If you own one of these, and you’re more interested in expanding your sonic palette than just layering on as many effects as possible, I have another option for you: the Line 6 M5. It’s a little more expensive at $150 and you can only use one effect at a time, unlike the Zoom where you can stack five or nine with the Digitech. (It’s a “stompbox modeler” as opposed to a proper multi-effects pedal.) But, the quality of that one effect is going to be well beyond what the other pedals mentioned here can produce. And, since it’s built like a tank, it has a good chance of finding a permanent place on your pedal board.

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5 Keys to Improve Your Cybersecurity

cybersecurity

Cybersecurity isn’t easy. If there was a product or service you could buy that would just magically solve all of your cybersecurity problems, everyone would buy that thing, and we could all rest easy.

However, that is not the way it works. Technology continues to evolve. Cyber attackers adapt and develop new malicious tools and techniques, and cybersecurity vendors design creative new ways to detect and block those threats. Rinse and repeat.

Cybersecurity isn’t easy, and there is no magic solution, but there are a handful of things you can do that will greatly reduce your exposure to risk and significantly improve your security posture.

The right platform, intelligence, and expertise can help you avoid the vast majority of threats, and help you detect and respond more quickly to the attacks that get through.

Challenges of Cybersecurity

Effective cybersecurity is challenging for a variety of reasons, but the changing perimeter and the confusing variety of solutions don’t help.

Long ago, during a time that is all but a distant memory by tech standards, cybersecurity was built around a concept of inside vs. outside, and us vs. them. The servers, applications, users, and data inside the network were inherently trusted, and everything outside of the network was assumed to be a potential threat.

The advent of free public Wi-Fi, portable laptops, mobile devices, and cloud computing have eroded the idea that there is any sort of perimeter, and most attacks leverage valid credentials and appear to be legitimate users, so the old model of defending the perimeter is no longer valid.

Meanwhile, as new platforms and technologies are developed, cybersecurity vendors inevitably create targeted point solutions for each one.

The result is a confusing mix of tools and services that protect specific facets of the environment, but don’t play well with each other and don’t provide a holistic view of the whole infrastructure so you can understand your security posture as a whole.

The constantly expanding and evolving threat landscape doesn’t make it any easier, either. Attacks are increasingly complex and harder to identify or detect—like fileless or “Living off the Land” (LotL) attacks.

The complexity of the IT infrastructure—particularly in a hybrid or multi-cloud environment—leads to misconfiguration and other human error that exposes the network to unnecessary risk. Attackers are also adopting machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate the process of developing customized attacks and evading detection.

Improve Your Cybersecurity

All of that sounds daunting—like cybersecurity is an exercise in futility—but there are things you can do. Keep in mind that your goal is not to be impervious to attack—there is no such thing as perfect cybersecurity.

The goal is to increase the level of difficulty for an attacker to succeed in compromising your network and to improve your chances of quickly detecting and stopping attacks that occur.

Here are 5 tips to help you do that:

  • Assess your business objectives and unique attack surface — Choose a threat detection method that can address your workloads. For instance, cloud servers spin up and spin down constantly. Your detection must follow the provision and deprovision actions of your cloud platform(s) and collect metadata to follow events as they traverse this dynamic environment. Most SIEMs cannot do this.
  • Eliminate vulnerabilities before they need threat detection — Use vulnerability assessments to identify and remove weaknesses before they become exploited. Assess your full application stack, including your code, third party code, and code configurations.
  • Align data from multiple sources to enhance your use cases and desired outcomes — Collect and inspect all three kinds of data for suspicious activity: web, log, and network. Each data type has unique strengths in identifying certain kinds of threats and together present a whole picture for greater accuracy and actionable context.
  • Use analytics to detect today’s sophisticated attacks — ensure your threat detection methods look at both real-time events and patterns in historical events across time. Apply machine learning to find what you do not even know to look for. If you use SIEM, enlist machine learning to see what correlation missed and better tune your SIEM rules.
  • Align security objectives to your business demands — There is more than one way to improve your security posture and detect threats. While SIEMs are a traditional approach, they are most useful for organizations that have a well-staffed security program. A SIEM alone is not the best solution for security monitoring against today’s web applications and cloud environments.

5 Recommendations to Strengthen Your Security Program

Jack Danahy, Senior Vice President, Security for Alert Logic, recently presented a webinar titled “Five Recommendations to Strengthen Your Security Program.”

If you want to learn more about the challenges organizations, face today with cybersecurity, and what you can do to improve your security posture, check out the recording of the webinar.

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No Man’s Sky fans crowdfund a billboard message to thank developer for work

No Man’s Sky fans have raised over $4,800 to post a “thank you” message to Hello Games on a billboard outside the game developer’s office. The money was raised using a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe that was started by Reddit user Cameron G, and will also buy lunch and beer for the development team after it concludes on July 14th. After hitting its initial target of $1,750, to pay for the billboard itself, the goal was subsequently raised to $6,000, with the extra funds due to be donated to the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation.

The campaign marks a remarkable turnaround for No Man’s Sky. At launch, the game was met with a hostile reception that the game’s director Sean Murray later said was “as bad as things can get.” Now, however, it has a healthy community of fans around it who are willing to raise thousands for charity in a grand gesture of appreciation for its developer. Since release, Hello Games has transformed the game with a series of substantial free updates that have added features like multiplayer, base building, and even VR support. This summer, the developer says it will release a “radical” new multiplayer experience for the game as part of a three part No Man’s Sky: Beyond expansion.

Before the billboard’s message can be posted, however, Cameron will have to select its final design. The current plan is for the community to vote between two potential designs, the initial black and white line-drawn version, and a new color version. Both designs feature the same “Gib” emote, which Cameron says is “supposed to convey a fun/cheeky expression of desire/want for the new update.”

Although Cameron says he has not been in contact with Hello Games about the campaign, Murray tweeted a link to its GoFundMe page last week.

Ultimately, Cameron says the campaign is a way of showing appreciation and recognition of Hello Games’ work, but he also says he wants others to see what the developer has achieved with its post-launch support for the game.

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TikTok users are turning a top creator’s apology video into new TikTok creations

TikTok users have been dueting with an apology video from one of the platform’s biggest creators in response to allegations of sexually inappropriate interactions with underage fans.

Sebastian Kretzmann, a member of the popular creator collective Strawberry Milk Gang who’s known by fans as “RadicalSeb,” was accused last week of sending graphic sexual messages to underage fans, including suggesting sexually explicit acts they wanted to perform. In response, fans have used TikTok has a way to voice their concern over the situation, many of whom are doing so with the platform’s duets feature, which lets them appear in split screen beside another person’s video to react, respond, or remix it.

Kretzmann is one of the most prolific creators on TikTok. Best known for their comedic sketches, queer-focused content, and eKid persona, Kretzmann built up an impressive following of more than 330,000 followers and 16.1 million likes since joining the app. Their TikTok popularity has led to a line of merchandise available for fans to purchase and even rumors of a possible tour with other members of Strawberry Milk Gang. They may not be the most popular creator, but their fanbase is pretty big and dedicated.

TikTok has more than 500 million global users, and that makes moderation — especially for communications that happened off-platform — a challenging task. That’s why other massive communities, like fans and creators on YouTube, have learned to self-police within their own circles, using tools on and off their platforms to highlight troublesome behavior so that fans know to steer clear. Unlike Tumblr and YouTube, which have been around for more than a decade, TikTok communities haven’t had to deal with this before, and the actions around Kretzmann seem to be the first time we’ve seen self-policing play out on TikTok on a large scale.

The duets have played alongside an apology video Kretzmann posted, addressing several of the accusations in-depth. Kretzmann was hanging out with friends in a group chat and on a video call when they made sexually explicit comments to an underage boy, according to Kretzmann’s video. Kretzmann acknowledged that one of the video chat participants was underage (referring to one boy as 15), but they continued to make lewd comments. Still, Kretzmann argued that they never asked for anyone in the group — underage or otherwise — to send sexually explicit photos.

“I didn’t think that was going to make this person feel uncomfortable because I’m friends with them and I’m just being myself in the friend group,” Kretzmann said. “I feel completely disgusted and feel bad. I made people feel uncomfortable. What I said was wrong. And I feel bad about it. I am sorry.” We’ve reached out to Kretzmann for comment.

Everything that has been alleged against Kretzmann occurred through apps other than TikTok, but Kretzmann’s status on TikTok meant the accusations traveled through the platform. To people inside of TikTok, the controversy dominated conversation — the story overtook the app, as users’ entire “For You” homepage recommendations became dominated by memes and responses to the situation. Response videos have garnered more than 435,000 views so far, made up of duets, memes, and straight-forward opinions, under the “#radicalseb” hashtag. There are several other hashtags, too.

Creator “drama” has become an industry unto itself on YouTube. There are entire channels with hundreds of thousands of subscribers dedicated to examining the most recent developments in the community. On YouTube, it started as a way of providing information to confused viewers, but it also became a form of self-policing. If people weren’t paying attention to the stars of their own community, YouTube commentators and drama channels would.

Now, TikTok is doing the same thing. Popular TikTok user and former Vine star, HawkHatesYou, used her platform on TikTok to accuse Kretzmann of additional lewd behavior with underage teenagers. In a followup, HawkHatesYou said she decided to comment on it as a way to protect children.

“What about pressuring my friends to send dick pics,” HawkHatesYou said. “What about being on FaceTime with a 17-year-old and showing your balls? What about the 17-year-old boy you made explicit comments to in there? What about all of the other people that you hurt?”

Kretzmann has made their TikTok account private and no longer allows comments on their Instagram posts. Other members of the Strawberry Milk Gang have disavowed Kretzmann’s actions and haven’t collaborated with them since. As TikTok continues to grow, creator controversies will happen more often — and TikTok users will continue to learn how to deal with controversies just as users on other major user-generated content platform have already.

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