Month: November 2020

6 Organizations You Can Join Remotely to Make a Difference

Unless you’ve been at a meditation retreat, you may have noticed that 2020 has been a disaster. I’d summarize what happened, but I don’t think anyone really needs—or wants—a reminder. But 2020’s turmoil might have inspired you to make a difference in the new year, so here are six organizations you can join to remotely nudge the world in the right direction—no matter how gradually.

Amnesty Decoders

amnesty international

Comprising a network of over 53,000 global volunteers, Decoders aggregate information from online sources to help Amnesty International advance its human rights advocacy. Volunteers contribute as much as they want, and liaise with each other via a collaborative discussion forum.

Between identifying Sudanese villages that are susceptible to attacks and analyzing misogynistic tweets about female politicians in India, Decoders have generated concrete, actionable results.

Smithsonian Transcription Center

This is a great opportunity if you want to learn more about African American and women’s history, mysteries of the universe, and astrophysics, among other subjects. Volunteers transcribe and review a vast array of historical documents and collections, increasing their accessibility by rendering them text-searchable in search engines.

This is a no-strings-attached endeavor and doesn’t even require account registration. Your transcriptions will help with scientific and humanities research, preserve materials for future generations, and ensure representation of marginalized communities.

Without Borders

You’ve likely heard of Doctors Without Borders, but there are many lesser known iterations tailored for photographers, teachers, lawyers, and virtually every occupation (there’s even a Clowns Without Borders if you want to refer your ex).

You can find remote opportunities on Charity Village or their respective websites. If you’re multilingual, make sure to check out Translators Without Borders, which is always seeking language support.

Be My Eyes

be my eyes

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects volunteers with visually impaired people who need help with daily tasks. For example, when someone with low vision can’t distinguish the cans in their cupboard, they’ll use the app to start a one-way video call, and the first volunteer to answer will help.

Winning a slew of Google Play awards, Be My Eyes is used by almost 230,000 visually impaired people in over 150 countries. Given its broad reach, you can also volunteer to translate the app.

Standby Task Force (SBTF)

The SBTF is a network of over 1,800 digital humanitarians who extract information from websites and social media to create interactive maps, allowing response agencies to understand the on-the-ground situation during a disaster or emergency.

The organization has participated in relief efforts all over the world, such as in the Philippines during Typhoon Haiyan and Europe when the refugee crisis occurred. You’d be a stellar fit if you’re familiar with geographic information systems or have general research and Internet skills.

Crisis Text Line

Volunteers, known as Crisis Counselors, answer texts from distressed people after undergoing 30 hours of free online training about active listening and problem management. The training costs the organization $1,008, so Counselors are expected to commit at least four hours weekly and are most needed between 10pm and 6am EST (7pm and 3am PST).

This is perfect if you’re a night owl who’s tired of ending up on “The Weird Side of the Internet” at 1am. If you’re outside the US, there are several international chapters as well.

The post 6 Organizations You Can Join Remotely to Make a Difference appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

The Trump administration will add SMIC, China’s largest chipmaker, to its defense blacklist: report

SMIC, one of largest chip makers in the world, is among several companies that the Department of Defense plans to designate as being owned or controlled by the Chinese military, reports Reuters. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order, set to go into effect on January 11, that would bar U.S. investors from buying securities from companies on the defense blacklist.

In a statement to Reuters, SMIC said it continues “to engage constructively and openly with the U.S. government” and that it “has no relationship with the Chinese military and does not manufacture for military end-users or end-uses.”

The largest semiconductor maker in China, SMIC holds about 4% of the worldwide foundry market, estimates market research firm TrendForce. Its U.S. customers have included Qualcomm, Broadcom and Texas Instruments.

There are currently 31 companies on the defense blacklist. SMIC is one of four new companies that the Department of Defense plans to add, according to Reuters. The others are China Construction Technology, China International Engineering Consulting Corp and China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC).

The company delisted from NYSE in May 2019, but it said that the decision was prompted by the limited trading volume and high administrative costs, not the U.S.-China trade war or the U.S. government’s blacklisting of Huawei and other Chinese tech companies.

SMIC has already been impacted by export restrictions that prevent them from purchasing key equipment from American suppliers. At the beginning of October, it told shareholders that export restrictions set by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security could have “material adverse effects” on its production.

The executive order, and the possible addition of new companies to the defense blacklist, is in-line with the Trump administration’s hard stance against Chinese tech companies, including Huawei, ZTE and ByteDance, that it claims are a potential national security threat through their alleged ties to the Chinese government and military. But the future of a lot of the current administration’s policies after the Joe Biden assumes the presidency on January 20 is uncertain.

TechCrunch has contacted SMIC for comment.

Save $100 on an 8-quart Ninja Foodi and cook for the whole family

Save $100 on an 8-quart Ninja Foodi and cook for the whole family

Save $100: The Ninja® Foodi™ TenderCrisp 9-in-1 8-Quart Deluxe XL pressure cooker is on sale at Walmart for $149 as of Nov. 30. 


Thanksgiving may have passed, but the delicious home cooking doesn’t have to end. 

Don’t worry, we’re not completely delusional. We know everyday can’t be exactly like Thanksgiving and that cooking for the entire family is a lot of work. That’s why we’re here to make sure you don’t miss this Ninja Foodi deal in the sea of endless Cyber Monday sales. 

The Ninja® Foodi™ TenderCrisp 9-in-1 8-Quart Deluxe XL pressure cooker can serve up to 10 people with its eight-quart pot and five-quart Cook & Crisp basket. Plus, the included Deluxe Reversible Rack can be used to cook more protein at once and utilize every bit of space.  Read more…

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Extend your NordVPN subscription for free with this limited-time offer

Extend your NordVPN subscription for free with this limited-time offer

SAVE 68%: A two-year subcription to NordVPN is on sale for £2.86 per month as of Nov. 29, and includes an extra three months for free.


We know you’re probably fed up of hearing about VPN deals, but we’re not sorry. There have been loads of impressive deals dropped by the leading providers over the Black Friday shopping season, and you should know about them.

NordVPN is offering one of the best of these Black Friday deals, but it’s only available for a limited time. A two-year subcription to NordVPN is on sale for £2.86 per month as of Nov. 29, and includes an extra three months for free. This might change as we move into Cyber Monday, so we recommend securing this deal when you can. Read more…

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What to make of Stripe’s possible $100B valuation

This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here.

Welcome to a special Thanksgiving edition of The Exchange. Today we will be brief. But not silent, as there is much to talk about.

Up top, The Exchange noodled on the Slack-Salesforce deal here, so please catch up if you missed that while eating pie for breakfast yesterday. And, sadly, I have no idea why Palantir is seeing its value skyrocket. Normally we’d discuss it, asking ourselves what its gains could mean for the lower tiers of private SaaS companies. But as its public market movement appears to be an artificial bump in value, we’ll just wait.

Here’s what I want to talk about this fine Saturday: Bloomberg reporting that Stripe is in the market for more money, at a price that could value the company at “more than $70 billion or significantly higher, at as much as $100 billion.”

Hot damn. Stripe would become the first or second most valuable startup in the world at those prices, depending on how you count. Startup is a weird word to use for a company worth that much, but as Stripe is still clinging to the private markets like some sort of liferaft, keeps raising external funds, and is presumably more focused on growth than profitability, it retains the hallmark qualities of a tech startup, so, sure, we can call it one.

Which is odd, because Stripe is a huge concern that could be worth twelve-figures, provided that gets that $100 billion price tag. It’s hard to come up with a good reason for why it’s still private, other than the fact that it can get away with it.

Anyhoo, are those reported, possible prices bonkers? Maybe. But there is some logic to them. Recall that Square and PayPal earnings pointed to strong payments volume in recent quarters, which bodes well for Stripe’s own recent growth. Also note that 14 months ago or so, Stripe was already processing “hundreds of billions of dollars of transactions a year.”

You can do fun math at this juncture. Let’s say Stripe’s processing volume was $200 billion last September, and $400 billion today, thinking of the number as an annualized metric. Stripe charges 2.9% plus $0.30 for a transaction, so let’s call it 3% for the sake of simplicity and being conservative. That math shakes out to a run rate of $12 billion.

Now, the company’s actual numbers could be closer to $100 billion, $150 billion and $4.5 billion, right? And Stripe won’t have the same gross margins as Slack .

But you can start to see why Stripe’s new rumored prices aren’t 100% wild. You can make the multiples work if you are a believer in the company’s growth story. And helping the argument are its public comps. Square’s stock has more than tripled this year. PayPal’s value has more than doubled. Adyen’s shares have almost doubled. That’s the sort of public market pull that can really help a super-late-stage startup looking to raise new capital and secure an aggressive price.

To wrap, Stripe’s possible new valuation could make some sense. The fact that it is still a private company does not.

Market Notes

Various and Sundry

And speaking of edtech, Equity’s Natasha Mascarenhas and our intrepid producer Chris Gates put together a special ep on the education technology market. You can listen to it here. It’s good.

Hugs and let’s both go do some cardio,

Alex

Don’t miss the best deals from Lovehoney’s Black Friday sale

Don't miss the best deals from Lovehoney's Black Friday sale

SAVE UP TO 50%: Save on sex toys and lingerie in Lovehoney’s Black Friday sale, with deals live until midnight on Nov. 29.


We have already made plenty of noise about Lovehoney’s impressive Black Friday sale, and we’re going to shout about it just once more. You can save up to 50% on a wide range of sex toys and lingerie sets until midnight on Nov. 29, so this really is your last chance to bag the best deals.

Lovehoney has made your life a little easier by lining up a selection of top deals from the sale, but we recommend checking out everything that’s on offer. There is something for everyone in this sale, whether you’re single, in a relationship, or somewhere in between. Read more…

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Facebook’s Libra could launch in January

According to a report from the Financial Times, Facebook-backed cryptocurrency Libra could launch in January. More interestingly, the Libra Association, the consortium created by Facebook, could scale back its ambitions once again.

When it was first unveiled, the Libra cryptocurrency was supposed to be a brand new currency tied to a basket of fiat currencies and securities. Originally, it wouldn’t be based on a single real world currency, but on a mix of multiple currencies.

Many central banks and regulators have been concerned about this vision. That’s why the Libra Association changed course and started working on several single-currency stablecoins.

Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that don’t fluctuate in value against a specific fiat currency. For instance, one unit of a USD-backed stablecoin is always worth one dollar. Libra mentioned USD, EUR, GBP or SGD as base currencies for its various stablecoins.

According to the Financial Times, the Libra Association now plans to launch a single dollar-backed coin. It’ll compete directly with other stablecoins, such as USDC, PAX and Tether (USDT). The Libra Association still plans to roll out other currencies, but it’ll happen at a later time.

Facebook will most likely launch its own Libra wallet at the same time. Originally called Calibra, the Facebook subsidiary has been rebranded to Novi back in May.

In addition to a standalone app that will let you send and receive Libra tokens, you’ll be able to manage your Novi account from Messenger and WhatsApp. Facebook expects people to start using Novi for remittance purposes and peer-to-peer payments.

It’s unclear whether other members of the Libra Association also plan to launch their own Libra-based service at the same time. Members include Farfetch, Lyft, Shopify, Spotify and Uber.

This is your last chance to secure CyberGhost VPN’s Black Friday deal

This is your last chance to secure CyberGhost VPN's Black Friday deal

Save 82%: A three-year subscription to CyberGhost VPN is on sale £1.99 per month for Black Friday, and includes three extra months of coverage for free.


Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best times to shop for deal on VPNs, but what are you supposed to do if an offer isn’t live throughout the shopping season? Should you jump on a deal or wait for something better?

CyberGhost VPN’s impressive Black Friday deal expires at midnight on Nov. 27, but what if something better is just around the corner? CyberGhost VPN could be readying a big deal for Cyber Monday, but waiting would be a risky game to play. Read more…

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Alibaba vies for a piece of China’s booming EV market

There’s no lack of news these days on China’s tech giants teaming up with traditional carmakers. Companies from Alibaba to Huawei are striving to become relevant in the trillion-dollar auto industry, which itself is seeking an electric transition and intelligent upgrade as 5G comes of age.

State-owned automaker SAIC Motor, a major player in China, unveiled this week a new electric vehicle arm called Zhiji, in which Alibaba and a Shanghai government-backed entity are minority shareholders. The tie-up comes as Chinese EV startups like Xpeng and Nio and their predecessor Tesla see their stocks soaring in recent months.

Alibaba’s ties with SAIC can be traced back to 2015 when they jointly announced a $160 million investment in internet-connected cars. The partners moved on to form a joint venture called Banma (or ‘Zebra’) and Alibaba has since developed a slew of auto solutions for the Banma platform to enable everything from voice-activated navigation to voice ordering coffee, which is, of course, linked to the Alipay e-wallet.

Alibaba is certainly not SAIC’s exclusive supplier, as it’s also worked closely with the likes of BMW and Audi as well over the years.

For SAIC’s new EV brand, Alibaba will continue to be its “technology solution provider,” an Alibaba spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The other tech giant making big moves in auto is Huawei. Just this week, the telecoms equipment and smartphone maker announced it would fold its smart car unit into its consumer business group, which previously focused on handsets. The expanded group will continue to be steered by Richard Yu, regarded as the man who helped grow Huawei from an underdog in the mobile industry to a leading global player.

Huawei’s ambition in auto is “not to manufacture cars but to focus on developing ICT [information and communications technology] to assist automakers in producing cars,” the firm asserts in the statement, addressing rumors that it wants to encroach on traditional carmakers’ turf.

Huawei’s phone business has taken a hit since U.S. sanctions hobbled its supply chain. It sold its budget phone brand Honor recently in the hope that the spinoff, independent from Huawei, will be free from trade curbs.

Ranking the Best Original RPG Soundtracks

When you’re playing a role-playing game, you often seek to be immersed in its world. Apart from seeing all the wonderful sights, one of the core elements in many RPGs is their soundtrack. To say that there have been tons of RPGs that have epic soundtracks on them is an understatement. We can fill this list with just JRPGs if that’s the case.

However, we’ll try to cast the net wider, so to speak, in order to cover a variety of musical gems in different titles within the gargantuan RPG genre. Here are the best original RPG soundtracks:

Final Fantasy X

The Final Fantasy franchise is synonymous with RPG and JRPGs. Ask any gamer what their favorite RPG is, and it’s likely that they would mention at least one Final Fantasy game in their top 3 or top 5. As for the original soundtrack, you can pick any one Final Fantasy game and there’s a high chance that one or many of their songs would get stuck in your head.

Final Fantasy X has one of the most memorable original soundtracks in any game, let alone an RPG. Legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu is known for his musical contributions to the Final Fantasy franchise, and Final Fantasy X is no exception. Uematsu masterfully orchestrates his wonderful sound of whimsy, adventure, danger, and hopefulness in every song in Final Fantasy X.

In terms of capturing the whole islandic and South Pacific vibe that Spira evoked, Final Fantasy X’s soundtrack reels you in – from the first time you hear To Zanarkand, to the moment when you reach the shores of Besaid and other locales, up to the epic random battles (and one particularly awesome boss battle), the songs and melodies of this world will surely remain with you even after you have finished the game.

Chrono Trigger

best rpg soundtrack chrono trigger
Via store.steampowered.com

While we’re here, we also need to include Chrono Trigger in the list of best original JRPG soundtracks. Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda combine their musical expertise in this game, resulting in a truly fantastic masterpiece.

Chrono Trigger is highly considered by many as one of the must-play classic JRPGs, and it’s not hard to see why. Chrono Trigger has one of the best gameplay, stories, and characters in the genre, and the soundtrack further enraptures players into its world.

From the songs Peaceful Days, Memories of Green, and to the iconic To Far Away Times, Mitsuda and Uematsu’s music exemplifies the sheer excitement you would feel as you control Chrono, Marle, and company to different dungeons, castles, and other fantastical worlds.

Persona 5

If you’re looking for a funkier and modern mesh of sonically catchy and toe-tapping music in your RPG, look no further than Persona 5. Composed by Shoji Meguro, ToshikiKonishi, Kenichi Tsuchiya, Atsushi Kitajoh, and RyotaKozuka, with vocals by Lyn Inaizumi, Persona 5’s soundtrack perfectly captures the setting of the game. Some of the memorable tunes of the game include Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There, Life Will Change, and Phantom. 

The game lets you control a wily group of high school students who set off on wild fantastical adventures. That’s why Persona 5’s original soundtrack feels exactly like what a teenager living in modern-day Tokyo who juggles exploring the Metaverse, ridding it of malevolent intent from the hearts of adults while trying to maintain a relationship with friends and keeping his grades up in school would listen to.

You feel like you are Joker, and as him, you can see yourself listening to these funky, upbeat, and highly stylish songs on your music player.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Now, you might wonder why we’ve listed Metal Gear Solid in this list. While we acknowledge that when you say RPG, you think of many JRPG titles, we also need to include western RPGs, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has to be part of games that have the best original soundtracks.

Set in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War, you play Naked Snake and are tasked to rescue a Russian rocket scientist who is creating a superweapon and thwarting the threat of the imposing and diabolical Cobra Unit from using the superweapon and starting World War 3.

Such a plot feels like a spy movie, and Metal Gear Solid 3’s soundtrack perfectly sets the tone. The game starts with the eponymous Snake Eater theme song, written by Norihiko Hibino and performed by Cynthia Harrell.

Its magnificent score sounds like the intro theme of a James Bond movie, and the succeeding soundtracks further enhance the sense of danger, and the corresponding stealth and cunning you need to complete your mission.

The pulse-pounding music that suddenly plays when you are spotted by enemies, the suspenseful boss fight themes, on top of the amazing ambient sounds of the Russian wilderness where you will spend a good portion of the game, further pulls you into the narrative that yes, you are Naked Snake, and you have to complete your mission in order to save countless lives.

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim

best rpg soundtrack the elder scrolls 5 skyrim
Via nintendo.com

Finally, we wrap this list with The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. As far as immersing yourself in a dynamic world of high fantasy, Skyrim has that covered and then some. When it comes to setting the tone for an epic story and adventure, few soundtracks can deliver in such a magnificent way than Skyrim’s original musical scores.

Composer Jeremy Soule masterfully crafted truly mesmerizing songs that beautifully capture the world of Skyrim.

As you go about in your adventures as the Dragonborn, each different track that plays when you enter a town and interact with its many denizens, explore ancient crypts, and defeat many Frostbite Spiders and Draugr, Skyrim’s soundtrack is right there with you and making you feel like you’re actually in that world. You feel the liveliness of towns, the creepy, damp crypts, and dungeons.

One of the best in-game fight themes always happens whenever you encounter a dragon. When a Dragon is near, whatever in-game song that’s been playing slowly fades, and it is replaced by the intro of war drums.

As you try to look around and finally see the Dragon soaring above you, or when it finally lands near you, the Dragonborn Song finally starts, signaling that an epic battle between Sword, Fangs, and Claws is about to happen. And once you finally vanquish the Dragon, the epic Dragonborn song also slowly fades, as if it’s declaring that you are victorious.

Such is the power of Skyrim’s soundtrack – it swells at just the right moments during your many adventures in the game to make it even more unforgettable.

And that’s the list of the five best original RPG soundtracks. There are many exciting and sonically-immersive RPG games you can download and play such as the ones listed above.

The post Ranking the Best Original RPG Soundtracks appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Take your gaming to the next level with the best deals on monitors this Black Friday

Take your gaming to the next level with the best deals on monitors this Black Friday

SAVE UP TO 20%: PC monitors from brands like Samsung, LG, and HP are on sale for Black Friday, saving you up to 20% on list price.


Gaming is about so much more than the console, controller, and game. Obviously, all of this is important, but the visuals are also key. 

Amazon has launched a wide range of deals on monitors as part of its Black Friday Week sale, meaning you can take your gaming experience to the next level for less. You can find deals on all the biggest brands, including the likes of Samsung, LG, HP, and Dell.

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Rockstar programmer: Rivers Cuomo finds meaning in coding

“Hi, I’m Rivers from the band, Weezer,” Rivers Cuomo says with a slight smile and a wave. He turns away from the camera for a bit, before launching into his best infomercial pitch. “Imagine you’re on tour, and you’re sitting in your dressing room or your tour bus. You’re backstage. You have stage fright, you’re stressing out. You’re pacing back and forth. And then on top of that, your tour manager is constantly calling you, asking you logistical questions.”

As far as internet pitch videos go, it’s not the most universal. If anything, the three-minute clip loses any hope of populist appeal by the end. In a final shot, the singer in a maroon SpaceX hoodie is the last up the ramp onto a private jet. The plane door closes revealing a Weezer flying “W” logo.

“Download Drivetimes now, on GitHub,” Cuomo adds in voice-over. “This is CS50X.”

It’s not the most polished app pitch video, and Cuomo’s elevator pitch could probably do with a bit of refining before approaching venture capitalists about a seed round. As far as final projects for online programming courses go, however, it’s something to behold. The images alternate between pages of code, Google spreadsheets and POV shots as he takes the stage for a co-headlining tour with the Pixies.

It helped earn Cuomo a 95 in the class.

But while, in its current configuration, the Drivetime tour scheduling tool might have limited appeal, the musician’s final project from Harvard’s follow-up course, CS50W, is immediately apparent for an army of fans who have followed his quarter-century-plus career. This week Cuomo dropped more than 2,400 demos totaling more than 86 hours. Spanning 1976 to 2015, the songs range in quality from tape-recorded sketches to more polished fare. Some would eventually find their way onto Weezer’s 13 albums, or assorted side projects. Others wouldn’t be so lucky.

Available through Cuomo’s “Mr. Rivers’ Neighborhood” site, the tracks are gathered into nine bundles, each available for $9 a piece. “By the way,” Cuomo writers at the bottom of a disclaimer, “this market is my final project for a course I’m taking in web programming.”

For half-a-decade, the platinum-selling rock star has been moonlighting as a computer programming student.

“I was always a spreadsheet guy,” Cuomo tells TechCrunch. “Around 2000, I think I started in Microsoft Access and then Excel. Just keeping track of all my songs and demos and ideas. Spreadsheets got more and more complicated to the point where it was like, ‘Well, I’m kind of almost writing code here in these formulas, except it’s super hard to use. So maybe I should actually do programming instead.’ ”

It would be an odd side hustle for practically any other successful musician. For Cuomo, however, it’s the next logical step. In the wake of the massive success of Weezer’s self-titled debut, he enrolled as a sophomore at Harvard, spending a year living in a dorm. He would ultimately leave school to record the band’s much-loved follow-up, Pinkerton, but two more more enrollments in 1997 and 2004 found the musician ultimately graduating with an English BA in 2006.

CS50 found Cuomo returning to Harvard — at least in spirit. The course is hosted online by the university, a free introduction to computer science.

“I went through some online courses and was looking for something that looked appealing and so I saw the Harvard CS50 was very popular,” Cuomo says. “So I was like, ‘Well, I’ll give this a shot.’ It didn’t take immediately. The first week course was using Scratch. I don’t know if you know that, but it’s like kind of click and drag type of programming, and you’re making a little video game.”

A six-week course stretched out for six months for the musician. That same year, the musician — now a father of two — played dozens of shows and recorded Weezer’s 10th album, the Grammy-nominated White Album.

“When we hit Python halfway through the course,” Cuomo says, “I was just amazed at how powerful it was and intuitive it was for me, and I could just get so much done. Then by the end of the course, I was writing programs that were really helping me manage my day-to-day life as a traveling musician and then also managing my spreadsheets and managing my work as a creative artist.”

For Cuomo, productivity has never been much of an issue. The band has two albums completed beyond this year’s Black Album, and he’s already begun work on two more follow-ups. What has seemingly been a bigger issue, however, is organizing those thoughts. That’s where the spreadsheets and database come in.

The “thousands” of spreadsheets became a database, cataloging Cuomo’s own demos and work he was studying from other artists.

“For years it seemed like kind of a waste of time or an indulgence,” he says. “I should be writing a new song or, or recording a song rather than just cataloging these old ideas, but I’ve found that, years later, I’m able to very efficiently make use of these ancient ideas because I can just tell my Python program, ‘Hey, show me all the ideas I have at 126 BPM in the key of A flat that start with a third degree of the scale and the melody and are in Dorian mode and that my manager has given three stars or more to.’ ”

He admits that the process may be lacking in some of the rock and roll romanticism for which fans of the bands might hope. But in spite of drawing on pages of analytics, Cuomo insists there’s still magic present.

For Cuomo, productivity has never been much of an issue. Given his level of productivity, however, organizing all of those thoughts can get tricky. That’s where the spreadsheets and database come in.

“There’s still plenty of room for spontaneity and inspiration in what we traditionally think of as human creativity,” Cuomo explains. “One of my heroes in this realm is Igor Stravinsky. There’s a collection of his lectures called “The Poetics of Music.” And he had a note in that collection. He said he has no interest in a composer that’s only using one of his faculties, like a composer that says, ‘I am only going to write what pops into my head spontaneously when I’m in some kind of a creative zone. I won’t use any of my other tools.’

“He says, ‘No, I prefer to listen to the music of a composer who’s using every faculty at his disposal, his intuition, but also his intellect and his ability to analyze and categorize and make use of everything he has.’ I find that those ended up being the most wild and unpredictable and creative compositions.”

And there’s been no shortage of compositions. Cuomo says the band has two albums completed beyond this year’s Black Album, and he’s already begun work on two more follow-ups. After decades of feeling beholden to the 18-month major label album release cycle, the singer says that after the Demos project, he has a newfound interest in finding more ways to release music directly to fans.

“I don’t feel like I’m really good at understanding the big-picture marketplace and how to make the biggest impact in the world,” he says. “My manager is so good at that, but I just told them like, ‘Hey, this feels like something here. First of all, it’s really fun. The fans are really happy. It’s super easy for everyone involved.’ The coding part wasn’t easy, but for everyone else, it’s a couple of clicks and you’ve got all this music, and it’s a cheap price, and there’s no middleman. PayPal takes a little bit, but it’s nothing like a major label. So, this could be something. And there’s just something, it feels so good when it’s directly from me to the audience.”

For now, computer science continues to take up a major chunk of his time. Cuomo estimates that he’s been spending around 70% of his work hours on programming projects. On Wednesday nights, he helps out with programming for a meditation site (another decades-long passion), and he plans to take Harvard’s follow-up CS50M course, which centers around developing for mobile apps.

There are, however, no immediate plans to quit his day job.

“I can’t see me getting a job at a startup or something or maintaining somebody’s website,” he says. “But maybe the line between rock star and web developer is getting blurred so that musicians will be making more and more use of technological tools. Besides just the music software, we’ll be making more and more use of means of distribution and organization and creativity that’s coming out in the way we code our connection to the audience.”

 

15 Holiday Marketing Tips for Small and Big Businesses

How prepared are you for the holiday sales? Since October, holiday shopping has brought in billions after billions of dollars in revenue.

Just recently between Nov. 1 and Nov. 11, AliBaba Singles Day sales brought in a whopping $75 billion in sales with 800 million shoppers participating, according to reports.

Although the pandemic has affected the lives and livelihoods of billions, the holiday season is one many look forward to, to spend quality time with family and friends. Gifts play an important role in these exchanges. In fact, 25% of holiday shoppers will be buying gifts for others this season.

Similarly, 64% of people are as excited about holiday shopping this year as in previous years. Another report tells us that 75% of holiday shoppers will be conducting up to 50% of their holiday purchases online.

How prepared are you for this prepared set of shoppers this holiday season?

In this post, I’ll highlight 15 key things to include in your holiday sales preparedness checklist to help you maximize sales this season.

Dates

Holiday shopping typically starts in October with Thanksgiving and Halloween sales.

The holiday shopping calendar highlights major holiday shopping events throughout the year.

This should form a core part of your overall marketing strategy. By knowing the dates in advance, you can better strategize and prepare.

Deals

With the dates marked, you can plan out the type and number of deals available to your customers for each shopping event throughout the year.

Shoppers are usually looking out for the deal of a lifetime, especially during the holiday season. You should find out the best way to offer deals that won’t steal your profits.

You can keep an eye on your competitors. Find out what kinds of deals they’re offering their new and returning customers.

Discounts

holiday marketing tip

Prior to sales, some customers make it a point of duty to document the current prices of items in their shopping lists.

This is because most retailers do not actually offer discounts, they simply mark-up the price and “slash” it again.

Ensure you’re giving real discounts. Promote it via your newsletter, social media handles, website, etc.

Paid Ads and Promotions

If you’re a dropshipper for instance, much of your marketing will be in the form of paid ads and promotions.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Google, etc., allow you to run paid ads to promote your business.

Test run them and stick with what works best for you. Also, hone your targeting and copywriting skills to reduce costs and improve effectiveness.

Website

This holiday season, your website can either make or mar your entire marketing efforts. Is it fast loading, easily navigable, searchable, and fast to checkout?

If your e-commerce website isn’t user-friendly, you will be losing customers in droves and leaving money on the table.

Conduct a detailed website audit with a view to optimizing every touchpoint along your customer journey map. This is very key to an enjoyable user experience.

SEO

SEO is all about search and discoverability, on-site and off-site. 87% of buyers start their online buying journey with research, using Amazon or Google.

To succeed with e-commerce SEO, you have to think like a typical shopper. Some shoppers conduct product-specific search, others prefer store-specific search.

Optimize for search on your website and for search engines like Google. Enable auto suggest/autocorrect features to help shoppers find what they’re looking for.

Social Media

Are your social media handles doing their bit? Have you designed banners or planned out posts to promote your upcoming deals, discounts, or sales?

Are you planning to use an influencer, run multiple social media ads, hire a new social media manager, or improve your LinkedIn marketing strategy?

Social media, with billions of daily active users, can play a major role in your holiday marketing drive. Do not ignore it.

Photography

Product presentation is also important in e-commerce. Shoppers cannot touch, feel or taste products in your webstore.

There are three simple ways to ace this. One, take professional product photographs with killer product descriptions.

Two, incorporate product videos for a more in-depth, 3-D experience. Three, use VR to let shoppers virtually try-on products before purchase. Shopify Plus has this capability.

Shopping

A smooth shopping experience will guarantee you happy customers and repeat purchases, which can increase customer average order value and lifetime value.

A fast loading, navigable, and searchable site with speedy checkout and multiple payment gateways, is a shopper’s delight.

A bad shopping experience, on the other hand, could lead to cart abandonment, high churn, and negative reviews.

Checkout

Sometimes, online shoppers abandon cart not necessarily because of a bad shopping experience. Maybe they’re just window shopping or checking out shipping cost.

They could also forget their shopping cart and get distracted by work, colleagues, a meeting, an appointment, etc. How do you plan to recover such abandoned carts?

Many shopping carts, e-commerce platforms, software, apps, or plugins can help you automate shopping cart recovery this holiday season.

Payments

holiday marketing payment tips

Payment problems are a pain in the neck when it comes to online shopping. It takes considerable time to search for different products, fill up your shopping cart, and complete checkout.

For the past three days I’ve been unable to make payment for items in my shopping cart due to issues with payment gateways. Some of these are holiday items.

Getting this far and not being able to complete an order can be frustrating. Ensure that you have multiple payment options available.

Packaging

Packaging is another key component of e-commerce sales, especially this holiday season. Pakible provides comprehensive packaging solutions for retailers of all sizes.

If you’re a dropshipper, you probably won’t see your product packaging before they’re shipped to your customers, but it is important that you do.

Product packaging can create a positive or negative first impression, so watch it. You can also brand your products with special packaging or printed labels.

Shipping

After you have packaged your customer orders, you would need to ship them. With e-commerce, you can ship products across the world to your customers wherever they are.

A trusted shipping carrier can help you get your orders to your customers as fast as possible, for as low as possible.

Long shipping times and high shipping fees are two of the biggest turn-offs for online shoppers. Ensure that you’re guilty of neither.

Delivery and Fulfillment

Your customers’ orders have arrived at your storing and sorting location. Now it is time for last mile logistics, and a lot can go wrong between your warehouse and your customer’s door.

For instance, a delivery truck with perishable groceries may break down for hours leading to delays and decomposition, which can lead to order cancellation.

Timely and professional delivery is one of the most important legs of your online shopper’s journey. Make it delightful, and your customers will reward you with even more business; awful and they’re gone.

Returns

Returns are almost avoidable but inevitable. If you sell fashion items or apparel, ensure that your size charts are comprehensive and detailed. Include in-depth product description and use professional photographs.

Over 50% of shoppers engage in bracketing, i.e. the act of buying all sizes, colors, etc., of an item with the intent to keep only the one that fits and return all the others.

This is a costly practice. On National Returns Day (Jan. 2, 2020), UPS returned 1.9 million holiday purchases. Returns cost billions of dollars. They also create extra greenhouse gas emissions (due to reverse logistics), and some of them end up in landfills.

Conclusion

This holiday sales preparedness checklist can help you plan your holiday marketing in advance, minimize losses, and maximize profits this season.

The post 15 Holiday Marketing Tips for Small and Big Businesses appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

The FCC rejects ZTE’s petition to stop designating it a “national security threat”

The Federal Communications Commission has rejected ZTE’s petition to remove its designation as a “national security threat.” This means that American companies will continue to be barred from using the FCC’s $8.3 billion Universal Service Fund to buy equipment and services from ZTE .

The Universal Service Fund includes subsidies to build telecommunication infrastructure across the United States, especially for low-income or high-cost areas, rural telehealth services, and schools and libraries. The FCC issued an order on June 30 banning U.S. companies from using the fund to buy technology from Huawei and ZTE, claiming that both companies have close ties with the Chinese Communist Party and military.

Many smaller carriers rely on Huawei and ZTE, two of the world’s biggest telecom equipment providers, for cost-efficient technology. After surveying carriers, the FCC estimated in September that replacing Huawei and ZTE equipment would cost more than $1.8 billion.

Under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, passed by Congress this year, most of that amount would be eligible for reimbursements under a program referred to as “rip and replace.” But the program has not been funded by Congress yet, despite bipartisan support.

In today’s announcement about ZTE, chairman Ajit Pai also said the FCC will vote on rules to implement the reimbursement program at its next Open Meeting, scheduled to take place on December 10.

The FCC passed its order barring companies deemed national security threats from receiving money from the Universal Service Fund in November 2019. Huawei fought back by suing the FCC over the ban, claiming it exceeded the agency’s authority and violated the Constitution.

TechCrunch has contacted ZTE for comment.

Save up to 50% on Beats headphones this Black Friday

Save up to 50% on Beats headphones this Black Friday

SAVE UP TO 50%: Beats headphones are on offer in Amazon’s Black Friday Week sale, saving you up to 50% on list price.


Amazon has really delivered with its Black Friday Week sale, with impressive deals on everything from laptops to robot vacuum cleaners. Something we haven’t seen a lot of yet are Apple deals, but they are still out there. You just need to know where to look.

We have tracked down the best deals on Beats headphones, with up to 50% off popular wired and wireless models. You can pick up Beats EP, Beats Solo3, Beats Studio3, and more sets at heavily discounted rates.

More about Beats, Black Friday, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Uk, and Uk Deals

Learn to Say No to Alternatives

We all know about how a class of calligraphy became the ground of innovation for Steve Jobs, who introduced the ‘first computer with beautiful typography’ to humanity.

Or, how while walking, Nikola Tesla got the breakthrough idea of a brushless AC motor.
These were two remarkable gentlemen who lived centuries apart, but there was one thing common about them – they dreamt big!

Just like Jobs or Tesla, there are others with an entrepreneurial mind, ambitious and full of ideas. But the difference between someone who could materialize an idea, and one who couldn’t is the notion of ‘alternatives’.

Saying ‘NO’ to alternatives makes space for monomaniacal (obsessed with a single idea) focus, and focus as we know is the key to success.

“Build your life around the vital few. Distraction dilutes your genius.” – Robin Sharma

You may be a genius with many ideas, but the moment you start thinking on the lines of choices, your ideas lose potential.

How?

When we have multiple ideas, instinctively we start working on them. All at once. This creates restlessness within us. It clogs our thoughts, mars our actions, and instead pushes us towards reacting on unnecessary issues.

It’s the point where we get stuck in the myth of multitasking. We look busy working on multiple ideas but end up wasting a lot of time.

Hence, to save yourself from getting stuck, here are a few tricks:

Do the most difficult things first

how do you say no to alternative

Author Brian Tracey in his book, Eat the Frog, explained that when you jot down all your tasks, look at them, and pick the one that scares the most, it imbibes monomaniacal focus very easily, because once you take up the most difficult task, nothing else can shake you.

Probably a reason why it was Arjuna (one of the protagonists in the Indian epic Mahabharata) who could look at the fish’s reflection in the water and hit the arrow straight-up to strike the fish’s eye. His level of focus was such that nothing could shake him off of his goal of hitting the revolving fish’s eye.

Beware of the myth of multitasking

Multitasking means messing up several things, at once. More like sitting in a History class and thinking of Mathematics. Instead, when you dedicate more time to one task, it helps you hone your craft faster.

For the longest time in my life and career, I have been known as an efficient multitasker. But, all these experiences helped me realize that multi-tasking damages the quality quotient of any work, which is nothing but the ability to apply the power of intellect and emotions for producing anything.

And, all this does affect you adversely over years.

Regenerate and keep up your energy

saying no

You need to have a lot of energy to focus, and the best way to regenerate energy is by taking occasional breaks and spending some ‘me time’.

Being a forerunner of a global organization, a business advisor, and an entrepreneurial coach, I am always surrounded by people and meetings.

After the pandemic hit, my meetings never reduced but transferred their base to a virtual platform. This meant more time near the system, and with my phone. The process kind of drains me but instead of techlashing, I regenerate my energy by meditating early in the morning and then going on daily morning and evening walks with my wife. It’s soothing and keeps my spirits high the whole day, besides the usual rounds of espresso or two.

Constantly remind yourself of your ultimate goal

Getting diverted due to daily trivialities is obvious. Hence, set a regular reminder for yourself. Create deadlines for yourself, but also be humble with your deadlines, and meet them. This will boost your confidence and keep you centered.

In bygone days, Brahmin scholars (the working class of Hindu professors, teachers, priests) use to tie the tip of their hair to a nail on the wall. This is to ensure that they didn’t doze off while studying. They used to read the chapters aloud and that is how they could byheart entire books of shlokas.

There’s a saying that ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’.

So, if you dare to think big, learn to make no room for alternatives, first.

The post Learn to Say No to Alternatives appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Tune out the world with these heavily discounted wireless headphones

Tune out the world with these heavily discounted wireless headphones

SAVE OVER £100: The Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) wireless headphones are on sale for £209.99 on Amazon, saving you 36% on list price for Black Friday.


You’re in luck if you’re looking to purchase a new set of headphones because there are absolutely loads of deals to consider this Black Friday. You can find deals on all the top brands, including Bose, Sony, JBL, Philips, and many more.

It’s always difficult to pick a favourite deal from the bunch, because we know that some devices will suit some shoppers better than others. Headphones are all so different, and the process of picking a product comes down to personal preference. Read more…

More about Headphones, Black Friday, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Uk, and Uk Deals

N26 launches mid-tier subscription plan for €4.90 per month

Challenger bank N26 is adding a third subscription product called N26 Smart. N26 Smart is designed to be a mid-tier subscription plan with advanced banking features but without a travel insurance package.

In Europe, in addition to the free plan, N26 already provides two subscription tiers called N26 You and N26 Metal. N26 You costs €9.90 per month and comes with higher limits, such as five free ATM withdrawals instead of three and free withdrawals in foreign currencies.

With an N26 You account, you can create sub-accounts (N26 Spaces), share them with other N26 users or use them to save money. As an N26 You subscriber, you also get a travel insurance package with medical travel insurance, trip and flight insurance and more. You can also access some partner offers.

N26 Metal is the most expensive plan and costs €16.90 per month. In addition to everything in N26 You, you get car rental insurance when you’re abroad and phone insurance. As the name suggests, you also get a metal card.

The new N26 Smart subscription costs €4.90 and works well for people who don’t need travel insurance. With an N26 Smart subscription, you can create up to ten sub-accounts. You get five free ATM withdrawals per month. You can also call N26 support directly in addition to in-app support chat.

N26 is launching a new round-up feature for N26 Smart users. It lets you round each purchase up to the nearest Europe and save it in a separate sub-account. N26 Smart account also access colorful debit cards — the same colors as N26 You.

This is just a first step as N26 plans to revamp its subscription products altogether. In the near future, N26 You will become N26 International. There will be more features focused on borderless banking. N26 Metal will become N26 Unlimited.

As for the free N26 Standard account, the company wants to focus on digital cards. Some users are going to switch to the N26 Smart plan to keep some of the features that they’ve been using with a free account. That move should help the company’s bottom line.

Image Credits: N26

The promise and challenge of Roblox’s future in China

In a much-anticipated move, California-based gaming firm Roblox filed to go public last week. One aspect driving the future growth of the children- and community-focused gaming platform is its China entry, which it fleshes out in detail for the first time in its IPO prospectus.

Like all gaming companies entering China, Roblox must work with a local publishing and operations partner. And like Riot Games, Supercell, Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, Nintendo and many more, Roblox chose Tencent, the world’s largest gaming firm by revenue, according to Newzoo.

The partnership, which began in 2019, revolves around a joint venture in which Roblox holds a 51% controlling stake and a Tencent affiliate called Songhua owns a 49% interest. The prospectus notes that Tencent currently intends to publish and operate a localized version of the Roblox Platform (罗布乐思), which allows people to create games and play those programmed by others.

User-generated content is in part what makes Roblox popular amongst young gamers, but that social aspect almost certainly makes its China entry trickier. It’s widely understood that the Chinese government is asserting more control over what gets published on the internet, and in recent times its scrutiny over gaming content has heightened. Industry veteran Wenfeng Yang went as far as speculating that games with user-generated content will “never made [their] path to China,” citing the example of Animal Crossing.

Roblox says it believes it’s “uniquely positioned” to grow its penetration in China but its “performance will be dependent on” Tencent’s ability to clear regulatory hurdles. It’s unclear what measures Roblox will take to prevent its user-generated content from running afoul of the Chinese authorities, whose appetite for what is permitted can be volatile. Tencent itself has been in the crosshairs of regulators over allegedly “addictive” and “harmful” gaming content. It also remains to be seen how Roblox ensures its user experience won’t be compromised by whatever censorship system that gets implemented.

Roblox chose Tencent as its Chinese partner. / Image: Roblox

At the most basic level, Roblox claims it works to ensure user safety through measures designed “to enforce real-world laws,” including text-filtering, content moderation, automated systems to identify behaviors in violation of platform policies, and a review team. The company expresses in its filing optimism about getting China’s regulatory greenlight:

While Tencent is still working to obtain the required regulatory license to publish and operate Luobulesi [Roblox’s local name] in China, we believe the regulatory requirements specific to China will be met. In the meantime, Luobu is working towards creating a robust developer community in China.”

The company is rightfully optimistic. China is the world’s largest gaming market and Tencent has a proven history of converting its social network users into gamers. Roblox’s marketing focus on encouraging “creativity” might also sit well with Beijing’s call for tech companies to “do good,” an order Tencent has answered. Roblox’s Chinese website suggests it’s touting part of its business as a learning and STEM tool and shows it’s seeking collaborations with local schools and educators.

Nonetheless, the involvement of Tencent is the elephant in the room in times of uncertain U.S.-China relations. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. or CFIUS, which is chaired by the Treasury Department, was inquiring about data practices by Tencent-backed gaming studios in the U.S. including Epic and Riot, Bloomberg reported in September.

Roblox isn’t exempt. It notes in the prospectus that CFIUS has “made inquiries to us with respect to Tencent’s equity investment in us and involvement in the China JV.” It further warns that it “cannot predict what effect any further inquiry by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. into our relationship with Tencent or changes in China-U.S. relations overall may have on our ability to effectively support the China JV or on the operations or success of the China JV.”

The other obstacle faced by all foreign companies entering China is local clones. Reworld, backed by prominent Chinese venture firms such as Northern Light Venture Capital and Joy Capital, is one. The game is unabashed about its origin. In a Reddit post responding to the accusation of it being “a ripoff of Roblox,” Reworld pays its tribute to Roblox and admits its product is “built on the shoulders of Roblox,” while claiming “it did not take any code from Roblox Studio.”

The Beijing-based startup behind Reworld has so far raised more than $50 million and had about 100 developers working on Reworld’s editing tool and 50 other operational staff, its co-founder said in a June interview. In comparison, Roblox had 38 employees in China by September, 38 of whom were in product and engineering functions. It’s actively hiring in China.

Roblox cannot comment for the story as it’s in the IPO quiet period.

All the best Black Friday deals in the UK: ExpressVPN, NordVPN, PureVPN, and more

All the best Black Friday deals in the UK: ExpressVPN, NordVPN, PureVPN, and more

We’ve checked all the best VPN offers from Black Friday 2020, and we’ll be posting a handpicked selection of the very best deals on this page. If you’re looking for something else, we recommend checking out the following pages: 


BEST BLACK FRIDAY VPN DEAL: WATCH U.S. NETFLIX IN THE UK 

A three-year subscription to CyberGhost VPN is on sale for £1.99 per month for Black Friday, and includes an extra three months for free. CyberGhost VPN is one of the best VPNs for security and streaming, and can unlock leading sites like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, and more. Read more…

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Unlock American Netflix from anywhere in the world with PureVPN

Unlock American Netflix from anywhere in the world with PureVPN

SAVE 86%: A five-year subscription to PureVPN is on sale for £1.12 per month as of Nov. 18, saving you 86% on list price.


We’re all looking for new and exciting ways to pass the time at the moment, but all this bread baking and online learning takes a lot of effort. For a more relaxing escape, we recommend investing in streaming services.

The likes of Netflix and Prime Video offer absolutely loads of content that can keep you occupied all weekend. The only annoying thing about these services is that some content will not be available in your location. You can bypass these restrictions though, and all you need is a VPN. Read more…

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A bug meant Twitter Fleets could still be seen after they disappeared

Twitter is the latest social media site to allow users to experiment with posting disappearing content. Fleets, as Twitter calls them, allows its mobile users post short stories, like photos or videos with overlaying text, that are set to vanish after 24 hours.

But a bug meant that fleets weren’t deleting properly and could still be accessed long after 24 hours had expired. Details of the bug were posted in a series of tweets on Saturday, less than a week after the feature launched.

full disclosure: scraping fleets from public accounts without triggering the read notification

the endpoint is: https://t.co/332FH7TEmN

— cathode gay tube (@donk_enby) November 20, 2020

The bug effectively allowed anyone to access and download a user’s fleets without triggering a notification that the user’s fleet had been read and by whom. The implication is that this bug could be abused to archive a user’s fleets after they expire.

Using an app that’s designed to interact with Twitter’s back-end systems via its developer API. What returned was a list of fleets from the server. Each fleet had its own direct URL, which when opened in a browser would load the fleet as an image or a video. But even after the 24 hours elapsed, the server would still return links to fleets that had already disappeared from view in the Twitter app.

When reached, a Twitter spokesperson said a fix was on the way. “We’re aware of a bug accessible through a technical workaround where some Fleets media URLs may be accessible after 24 hours. We are working on a fix that should be rolled out shortly.”

Twitter acknowledged that the fix means that fleets should now expire properly, it said it won’t delete the fleet from its servers for up to 30 days — and that it may hold onto fleets for longer if they violate its rules. We checked that we could still load fleets from their direct URLs even after they expire.

Fleet with caution.

Save 20% on new styles in Puma’s Cyber Week sale

Save 20% on new styles in Puma's Cyber Week sale

SAVE 20%: Puma has launched its Cyber Week sale, with 20% off new styles using the code PUMA20.


We’ve already been treated to plenty of Black Friday deals on everything from console bundles to mattresses, but we haven’t seen a lot of movement from leading fashion brands.

That could be about to change though, because Puma has dropped its Cyber Week sale. You can save 20% on all of Puma’s new styles, and all you need is a code. Apply the code PUMA20 at the checkout to save on workout clothes, jackets, trainers, sweatshirts, running gear, and more.

More about Puma, Black Friday, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Uk, and Uk Deals

Daily Crunch: Roblox is going public

Roblox opens its books, Snap makes an acquisition and Pfizer and BioNTech seek regulatory approval for their vaccine. This your Daily Crunch for November 20, 2020.

The big story: Roblox is going public

The child-friendly gaming company filed confidentially to go public in October, but it only published its S-1 document with financial information late yesterday.

How do the numbers look? Well, Roblox is certainly growing quickly — total revenue increased 56% in 2019, and then another 68% in the first three quarters of 2020, when it saw $588.7 million in revenue. At the same time, losses are growing as well, nearly quadrupling to $203.2 million during those same three quarters.

The company also acknowledged that its success depends on its ability to “provide a safe online environment” for children. Otherwise, “business will suffer dramatically.”

The tech giants

Snap acquired Voisey, an app to create music tracks overlaying your own vocals — Voisey users can apply audio filters to their voices, and they can browse and view other people’s Voisey tracks.

Despite commitment to anti-racism, Uber’s Black employee base has decreased — Uber’s latest diversity report shows a decline in the overall representation of Black employees in the U.S.

Google, Facebook and Twitter threaten to leave Pakistan over censorship law — This comes after Pakistan’s government granted blanket powers to local regulators to censor digital content.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Loadsmart raises $90M to further consolidate its one-stop freight and logistics platform — Loadsmart offers booking for freight transportation across land, rail and through ports, all from a single online portal.

ORIX invests $60M in Israeli crowdfunding platform OurCrowd — OurCrowd also says that the two groups will collaborate to create financial products and investment opportunities for the Japanese and global market.

Kea raises $10M to build AI that helps restaurants answer the phone — CEO Adam Ahmad says the startup has created a “virtual cashier” who can do the initial intake with customers, process most routine orders and bring in a human employee when needed.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right — Don’t yell at me, Danny Crichton said it!

Why is GoCardless COO Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas pivoting to become a full-time VC — “I think this is the best moment in entrepreneurship in Europe.”

What is Roblox worth? — A deeper dive into Roblox’s numbers.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Pfizer and BioNTech to submit request for emergency use approval of their COVID-19 vaccine today — These emergency approvals still require supporting information and safety data, but they are fast-tracked relative to the full, formal and more permanent approval process.

Mixtape podcast: Building a structural DEI response to a systemic issue with Y-Vonne Hutchinson — Hutchinson is the CEO of ReadySet, a consulting firm that works with companies to create more inclusive and equitable work environments.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Rocket Lab makes its first booster recovery after successful launch

New Zealand-born launch provider Rocket Lab took a step towards making its launch vehicles reusable today with the safe splashdown and recovery of an Electron booster after it successfully took its payload to orbit. The image above is the view from the booster up into the parachute that brought it safely down.

Reusing the first stage of launch vehicles — that is to say, the booster that takes the payload from the ground to the edge of space, where a second stage takes over — has the potential to vastly reduce the cost of getting to orbit. For decades these precision-engineered machines, which cost millions to produce, have been abandoned after use and allowed to break up on reentry.

SpaceX first demonstrated recovery of its Falcon 9 rockets in 2015, landing one on a drone ship after several failed attempts with other launches. A used first stage was first re-launched in 2017.

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck announced last year that the company would be attempting its own method of recovering a used booster. Instead of the complex propulsive controlled landing of the Falcon 9, the booster would descend safely under a parachute, and be intercepted and captured by a helicopter before splashdown.

Image Credits: Rocket Lab

Today’s mission, however, skipped the helicopter step as perhaps being a bit ambitious for a first try. After delivering some 30 satellites and a 3D-printed gnome to the edge of the atmosphere, the Electron’s booster returned to Earth and was tracked to where it splashed down about two hours later.

According to a press release from Rocket Lab sent after the launch, the descent and recovery went exactly as planned:

Approximately two and a half minutes after lift-off, at an altitude of around 80 km, Electron’s first and second stages separated per standard mission procedure. Once the engines shut down on Electron’s first stage, a reaction control system re-oriented the stage 180-degrees to place it on an ideal angle for re-entry, enabling it to survive the incredible heat and pressure known as “The Wall” during its descent back to Earth. A drogue parachute was deployed to increase drag and to stabilize the first stage as it descended, before a large main parachute was deployed in the final kilometres of descent. The stage splashed down as planned. Rocket Lab’s recovery team will transport the stage back to Rocket Lab’s production complex, where engineers will inspect the stage to gather data that will inform future recovery missions.

“What the team achieved today in recovering Electron’s first stage is no mean feat. It took a monumental effort from many teams across Rocket Lab, and it’s exciting to see that work pay off in a major step towards making Electron a reusable rocket,” said Beck.

The recovery crew is securing Electron’s first stage and preparing to bring it back via ship to our production complex. Pics to follow once we have them! https://t.co/LnVAhmvbdo

— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) November 20, 2020

We’ll update this post with further developments. You can watch a replay of the launch below.

Save up to 36% with the best ‘FIFA 21’ deals this Black Friday

Save up to 36% with the best 'FIFA 21' deals this Black Friday

SAVE UP TO 36%: FIFA 21 is on sale as part of Amazon’s Black Friday event, saving you up to 36% on list price.


We know that the world of gaming is kind of preoccupied at the moment, and the only thing anyone wants to know about is stock for the Xbox Series X and PS5. We’re not coming to you with news about this unfortunately, because it seems like nobody knows what’s going on.

Instead, we’re bringing you deals on FIFA 21, whether you want them or not. You can save up to 36% on FIFA 21 from Amazon as of Nov. 20, with options for PS4 and Xbox One.

More about Fifa, Black Friday, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Uk, and Uk Deals

Amazon Business customers can save 30% with this Black Friday code

Amazon Business customers can save 30% with this Black Friday code

SAVE 30%: Until Nov. 30, new Amazon Business customers will get a 30% off on their first work purchase up to £200. 


Amazon Business still feels like a bit of a secret, but if you’re looking to save time and reduce your business costs, it should be something to consider.

Amazon Business lets you consolidate your team’s spend in a single multi-user account, with built-in features to control how and what users buy. You can keep purchasing costs low with easy access to competitive pricing and improved cash flow, and you still get access to a familiar marketplace that reduces the complexity of buying for work. Read more…

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African fintech startup Chipper Cash raises $30M backed by Jeff Bezos

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has raised a $30 million Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with participation of Bezos Expeditions — the personal VC fund of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Chipper Cash was founded in San Francisco in 2018 by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled. The company offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout — a merchant-focused, fee-based payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business. The company has scaled to 3 million users on its platform and processes an average of 80,000 transactions daily. In June 2020, Chipper Cash reached a monthly payments value of $100 million, according to CEO Ham Serunjogi .

As part of the Series B raise, the startup plans to expand its products and geographic scope. On the product side, that entails offering more business payment solutions, crypto-currency trading options, and investment services.

“We’ll always be a P2P financial transfer platform at our core. But we’ve had demand from our users to offer other value services…like purchasing cryptocurrency assets and making investments in stocks,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has added beta dropdowns on its website and app to buy and sell Bitcoin and invest in U.S. stocks from Africa — the latter through a partnership with U.S. financial services company DriveWealth.

“We’ll launch [the stock product] in Nigeria first so Nigerians have the option to buy fractional stocks — Tesla shares, Apple shares or Amazon shares and others — through our app. We’ll expand into other countries thereafter,” said Serunjogi.

On the business financial services side, the startup plans to offer more API payments solutions. “We’ve been getting a lot of requests from people on our P2P platform, who also have business enterprises, to be able to collect payments for sale of goods,” explained Serunjogi.

Chipper Cash also plans to use its Series B financing for additional country expansion, which the company will announce by the end of 2021.

Jeff Bezos’s backing of Chipper Cash follows a recent string of events that has elevated the visibility of Africa’s startup scene. Over the past decade, the continent’s tech ecosystem has been one of the fastest growing in the world by year year-over-year expansion in venture capital and startup formation, concentrated in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Bringing Africa’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online has factored prominently. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data.

As such, fintech has become Africa’s highest-funded tech sector, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019. Even with the rapid venture funding growth over the last decade, Africa’s tech scene had been performance light, with only one known unicorn (e-commerce venture Jumia) a handful of exits, and no major public share offerings. That changed last year.

In April 2019, Jumia — backed by investors including Goldman Sachs and Mastercard — went public in an NYSE IPO. Later in the year, Nigerian fintech company Interswitch achieved unicorn status after a $200 million investment by Visa.

This year, Network International purchased East African payments startup DPO for $288 million and in August WorldRemit acquired Africa focused remittance company Sendwave for $500 million.

One of the more significant liquidity events in African tech occurred last month, when Stripe acquired Nigerian payment gateway startup Paystack for a reported $200 million.

In an email to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Bezos Expeditions confirmed the fund’s investment in Chipper Cash, but declined to comment on further plans to back African startups. Per Crunchbase data, the investment would be the first in Africa for the fund. It’s worth noting Bezos Expeditions is not connected to Jeff Bezo’s hallmark business venture, Amazon.

For Chipper Cash, the $30 million Series B raise caps an event-filled two years for the San Francisco-based payments company and founders Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled. The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.

Chipper Cash founders Ham Serunjogi (R) and Maijid Moujaled; Image Credits: Chipper Cash

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds. The startup expanded into Nigeria and Southern Africa in 2019, entered a payments partnership with Visa in April and raised a $13.8 million Series A in June.

Chipper Cash founder Ham Serunjogi believes the backing of his company by a notable tech figure, such as Jeff Bezos (the world’s richest person), has benefits beyond his venture.

“It’s a big deal when a world class investor like Bezos or Ribbit goes out of their sweet spot to a new area where they previously haven’t done investments,” he said. “Ultimately, the winner of those things happening is the African tech ecosystem overall, as it will bring more investment from firms of that caliber to African startups.”

Communicating with the Hard of Hearing (HOH) Does Not Have To Be Hard. Read These 7 Tips!

Listening is demanding!

You might not agree with this statement unless you are part of the 466 million people in the world who are hard of hearing. And the WHO expects this number to rise to 630 million by 2030, and over 900 million in 2050!

Having been diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of ten, I have been wearing hearing aids for about forty years now. From personal experience, I’ve come up with tips to help you accommodate people who are hard of hearing so that they can enjoy social interactions.

By interacting with others, they’ll feel less isolated and that will encourage them to further socialize. Instead of hiding in a quiet corner, that person wearing the hearing aids can have fun mingling with others just as anyone else in the room.

Why is listening a challenge for the Hard of Hearing (HOH)?

Listening is a challenge because you miss so many words. This can create funny situations if your response is much different than what was expected. Because what you have heard is not at all the same as what was said!

Unfortunately, if you have only recently been diagnosed with hearing loss, you might not appreciate the humour, since you are still battling to come to terms with this new way of living. You will often withdraw and avoid social situations in order not to feel embarrassed. And, to avoid the fatigue from concentrating so hard to make sense of what is said.

The worst thing you can do to a person with hearing loss it to respond with “Never mind” when asked to repeat something they have missed. They experience it as an instant dismissal, showing a lack of respect, and making them feel as if they are not important.

Let us talk about how you can help to make social situations better for the HOH.

How can you effectively communicate with the Hard of Hearing?

When it comes to effective communication, all the 7 Little-Known Tips for Effective Communication applies. Still, there are some other tips to follow that will help when communicating with people with hearing loss.

Always get our attention before speaking to us

Remember that if we do not look at you, it is unlikely that we will hear you (or know that you are talking to us). We also find it hard to determine the direction sounds are coming from. This makes it difficult for us to focus on the sounds we hear.

Look at us while talking

Not only will this help us to hear more words, but we also use body language clues and lip-reading to assist with comprehending what we hear.

Give us context

Since we miss so many words or sometimes only hear parts of words, comprehension becomes difficult without any context to guide us. If during a conversation we hear “ot”, it may be pot, rot, or lot. The context will help us to figure out the right word and help us to correctly follow the conversation.

Do not cover your face or mouth when talking

communicate with a hearing impaired person

Not only does this dampens the sound, but it also robs us of a valuable aid (lip reading) that helps us to follow a conversation.

But what about masks?

Due to the pandemic, everybody must wear masks to protect themselves and others. Masks pose a serious challenge for the HOH. Not only does it dampen sound, but also lip-reading cannot be utilized to aid in comprehension.

To assist the hard of hearing, make sure that you face us when talking. Pull down your mask if it is safe to do so. For example, if you are also wearing a clear facial screen or working behind a protective screen.

If this is not possible, you can raise your voice and try to speak as clearly as possible, (but please, do not scream!) If all else fails, simply write down what you need to say.

Volume does not help

When you realize the person did not hear you, the instinct is to speak louder. But this does not help as it distorts the sound. And you form the words differently, which make it harder to lip-read. You should try and speak clearer, or re-phrase, rather than repeat.

Be aware of environmental factors

Even normal hearing people struggle in noisy environments. The older type analogue hearing aids increase volume on all sounds (voices and background noise). This makes it difficult for people with hearing loss to follow conversations in noisy environments as it is impossible to pick up voices against all the background noise.

The new digital hearing aids do a much better job of cutting out background noise but it is still not perfect.

Bad lighting can also be a hindrance since it makes lip-reading impossible if you cannot see people’s faces.

In this type of situation, allow the HOH person to choose the setting which is optimally suited for them to follow the conversation. Or, take the courtesy to have a conversation with them in a quiet corner.

Group conversations are a challenge

communicating with a hearing impaired person

People with hearing loss can only focus on one person at a time.

This means that, often, we will miss the first part of the sentence when a different speaker starts talking. And there is no way to predict who the next speaker will be. This is hard to overcome, but it helps if the person next to you can repeat things that you have missed, or fill you in if the topic of the conversation changes.

But most of all, it’s important that everyone in the group understands if the person with hearing loss does not participate that much in the conversation.

For most of you, hearing and listening are effortless. Something that just happens without you putting any effort into it. But not for people with hearing loss. Even though hearing aids help, it is not like glasses which take you from your blurred vision to perfect sight.

Which one of these tips will you put in practice today? Because some of these tips can also help to improve your communication in general!

The post Communicating with the Hard of Hearing (HOH) Does Not Have To Be Hard. Read These 7 Tips! appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Panasonic explores a European battery deal with Norway’s largest energy and industrial companies

Panasonic, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of lithium ion batteries, has signed a preliminary agreement with the Nordic energy company, Equinor, and engineering and industrial company, Norsk Hydro, to collaborate on building a battery business in Northern Europe.

The three companies said that over the coming months they’ll work to assess the market for lithium-ion batteries in Europe and explore the potential for building a big battery business in Norway.

“This collaboration combines Panasonic’s position as an innovative technology company and leader in  lithium-ion batteries, with the deep industrial experience of Equinor and Hydro, both strong global players,  to potentially pave way for a robust and sustainable battery business in Norway,” said Mototsugu Sato, executive vice president of Panasonic, in a statement. “We are pleased to enter into this initiative to explore  implementing sustainable, highly advanced technology and supply chains to deliver on the exacting needs  of lithium-ion battery customers and support the renewable energy sector in the European region.” 

As part of the agreement, the companies will explore the potential for an integrated battery value chain and for co-locating supply chain partners, according to a statement.

Panasonic is running neck and neck with LG Chem to be the leading supplier of batteries for electric vehicles in the world. The company’s main customers for batteries are Tesla and Toyota, while LG counts automakers including General Motors, Groupe Renault, Hyundai, Ford Motor Company, and Volvo as its main customers. 

Panasonic’s push into Northern Europe alongside two big regional players in hydrocarbons and renewable energy is a sign of the potential that exists in the European market beyond automotive.  

“Our companies seek to be leaders in the energy transition. The creation of this world-class battery  partnership demonstrates Equinor’s ambition to become a broad energy company,” said Al Cook, Executive Vice President of Global Strategy & Business  Development in Equinor, in a statement. “We believe that battery storage will play an increasingly important role in bringing energy systems to net zero emissions. By pooling our different areas of energy expertise, our companies will seek to create a battery business that is  profitable, scalable and sustainable.” 23

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A Short and Illustrative Course on the Different Types of Wine

Discovering the wonders of wine can be daunting. Given that there are so many options available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed whenever you’re visiting a liquor store. While learning how to distinguish the difference between red and white wine can be useful, it doesn’t represent the whole picture.

If you want to take your wine appreciation up a notch, then the first thing you should do is to learn about the different types available. All wines are made from fermented grapes, but it’s important to know that each kind has its own distinct touch.

Regional influences, grape varieties, and the difference in the winemaking method can significantly affect a wine’s flavor, and knowing how to distinguish each will allow you to pick the right bottle. Before you start reading about amazing wine facts and figures, let’s have a quick overview of each variety.

Red Wine

red wine

Arguably the most popular kind, red wine is made out of dark-colored grapes. To make the drink, black grapes are fermented at high temperatures to extract their color, tannin, and aroma fully.

The color and taste of red wine can vary, from light to bold, and this level of concentration is defined by the brewer’s methods. However, all bottles share a similar trait of having a smooth and strong taste.

Red wines are best paired with big meals. This is why many fine dining establishments usually serve a tall glass for the main course. If you’re planning to buy some, popular bottles would be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.

White wine

People fall into various misconceptions when it comes to white wine. Many think that the beverage is made out of white grapes alone, but it can actually be made out of red or black grapes, as well. The winemaking process is similar to its red counterpart; the main difference in production is that white wine does not ferment the skin of the fruit.

Compared to the strong and bold flavor of red wine, white wine is known for its lighter taste. It’s the perfect companion for light meals and appetizers such as salad, fish, and cold cuts. If you want to go on a light drinking session with your significant other, the varieties recommended are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Moscato.

Rose wine

Rose wine gives you the best of both worlds. Its flavor is closer to white wine, but it’s also reminiscent of red due to its exposure to grape skins. Rose wine can be made two ways: First, by fermenting red or black grapes for as quick as 12–36 hours. Second, by blending red and white wine into a single concoction.

The flavor and color of rose wine can vary according to the brewer. While its taste is more similar to white, there are also darker and stronger variations. Just remember to test out different kinds so you can eventually find the right blend for you. To get you started, the bottles good for both large and casual gatherings would be Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio, and Sangiovese.

Sparkling wine

sparkling wine

When people think of sparkling wine, the first thing that comes to mind is a celebration. Whenever a sports team wins a championship, athletes pop some bottles of this kind and shower themselves with the drink as a sign of victory. But when it comes to casual drinking, sparkling wine is the go-to beverage for parties.

Sparkling wine is made in a variety of ways, but the common factor is that all fermentation methods add carbon dioxide into the process. This is why the drink bubbles like soda and explodes when shaken. Each region has its unique brew, and a famous example would be the Champagne from France.

If you want to experience the rich flavor of this wine, it is best enjoyed with cheese, salad, or fish.

Dessert wine

Dessert wines are the perfect finisher. The wine is named as such not only because it is the sweetest kind of them all, but also because it is usually consumed after a meal. It follows a similar fermentation to red and white wine, but brandy is added into the mix to retain the beverage’s natural sugars.

While dessert wine is intended to be taken after a big meal, it can also be consumed with a plate of appetizers or used as a palette cleanser before the main course. Popular bottles would be Sherry Marsala, Vermouth, and Madeira.

Know your wines

Wine is one of the world’s favorite drink for a reason—it tastes good, paves the way for a good time, and even comes with a ton of health benefits when consumed in right doses.

Luckily enough, you don’t have to be a connoisseur or an expert to appreciate and enjoy the drink fully. By simply knowing the different types available, it will be much easier for you to pick the right bottles depending on the need. Just remember to consume the drink in moderation and to eat healthily at home to maximize the beverage’s health benefits.

The post A Short and Illustrative Course on the Different Types of Wine appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

PingCAP, the open-source developer behind TiDB, closes $270 million Series D

PingCAP, the open-source software developer best known for NewSQL database TiDB, has raised a $270 million Series D. TiDB handles hybrid transactional and analytical processing (HTAP), and is aimed at high-growth companies, including payment and e-commerce services, that need to handle increasingly large amounts of data.

The round’s lead investors were GGV Capital, Access Technology Ventures, Anatole Investment, Jeneration Capital and 5Y Capital (formerly known as Morningside Venture Capital). It also included participation from Coatue, Bertelsmann Asia Investment Fund, FutureX Capital, Kunlun Capital, Trustbridge Partners, and returning investors Matrix Partners China and Yunqi Partners.

The funding brings PingCAP’s total raised so far to $341.6 million. Its last round, a Series C of $50 million, was announced back in September 2018.

PingCAP says TiDB has been adopted by about 1,500 companies across the world. Some examples include Square; Japanese mobile payments company PayPay; e-commerce app Shopee; video-sharing platform Dailymotion; and ticketing platfrom BookMyShow. TiDB handles online transactional processing (OLTP) and online analytical processing (OLAP) in the same database, which PingCAP says results in faster real-time analytics than other distributed databases.

In June, PingCAP launched TiDB Cloud, which it describes as fully-managed “TiDB as a Service,” on Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. The company plans to add more platforms, and part of the funding will be used to increase TiDB Cloud’s global user base.

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8 Quick Tips for Better Zoom Meetings

It’s been months since the lockdown that pushed a majority of workers to work from home. Employees bid farewell to face-to-face meetings and sought refuge in virtual conferences to collaborate. Most of us have learned how to use zoom by now. Which is why today, we are going to talk about how you can improve your experience by providing Zoom tips and tricks.

On average, we lose 10 minutes and 40 seconds of our time on meeting delays. According to Booqed, that’s an annual total of 3 days and 2 hours. This is a significant dip in productivity. Just imagine what you could have accomplished in that period.

The pointers on this list can help you accomplish more tasks in a better way. You’ll find handy Zoom meeting tips for attendees, admins, and teachers.

Automatically schedule meetings

There is a more efficient way for you to set your monthly or weekly calls. Zoom lets users set scheduled meetings and even link it to your Google and Microsoft calendar. This will help you remember important events and team huddles.

To do this, go to the Zoom web portal. From there, you can go to Room Management > Zoom Rooms before going to the Account Settings. Click the Meeting tab, press the switch for “Automatic start scheduled meeting,” and you’re all set.

The platform also gives you the option to create meeting alerts that will appear 10 minutes before the scheduled time.

Have an icebreaker handy

prepare for a zoom meeting

Whether you are experiencing delays or merely trying to catch up with your co-participants, it’s always a good idea to have a small activity ready. An icebreaker can help you forge stronger connections and energize the meeting room. It can even get your creative juices flowing!

Try games as I Spy or the mobile app Among Us, among others. If you’re not the video game type of team, you can fire up the team by simply asking each other questions. Ask them about what habits they’ve acquired, or Netflix shows that have been keeping them glued to their sofa.

Reduce noise

One of the most well-known Zoom etiquettes is keeping the noise on your end controlled. This helps maintain audio clarity and lessens distractions for everyone in the meeting.

Zoom already has a potent noise canceling feature. It reduces the noise of keyboards and even goes as far as adjusting volumes automatically when a person is speaking.

However, you can really kick it up a notch with online tools. You can find a variety of noise-canceling tools to help you drown the sounds of your rowdy neighbors or your dog’s barking. You can opt for Krisp or even Google’s Sound Amplifier.

Touch up with the help of the beauty feature

When it comes to the visual aspect of meetings, everyone has probably heard of Zoom backgrounds. But not everyone knows that Zoom has a Touch Up My Appearance feature.

It can blur out imperfections and make you seem like you put in a lot of effort to get ready for the meeting. This video enhancement is activated by going to Settings > Video tab > then checking the box for “Touch up my appearance.”

You can even adjust your camera for low light environments to go the extra mile.

Make use of waiting rooms

Internet trolls are a relenting force, and they are responsible for “Zoombombings,” where they invade meetings to cause a distraction. Typically, trolls insert obscene materials that may contain homophobic and racist content. People combat this by setting a password, but you can also use waiting rooms.

Zoom waiting rooms give the admin control on who can enter the room while providing the attendees with a holding area. Apart from security, you can also make the most of this feature by using it for interviews, recitations, and other purposes.

Use collaboration tools

The video conferencing tool has a collaborative annotation feature. It comes with tools for text, lines, and drawing to give the participants a chance to doodle on the shared screen. This is perfect if you are having a brainstorming session with your business team or even if you’re a teacher who wants a student to solve a problem on the screen.

Additionally, the platform also provides a whiteboard to give you a blank canvas to write on.

Record the meeting

preparing for a zoom meeting

Doing this will help you have a copy of the meeting, which will come in handy if you missed out on some parts for note-taking. Keeping a historical record of discussions will also come in handy when verifying information and documenting activities.

You can also send this resource to your teammates or classmates who weren’t able to attend the meeting.

Learn shortcuts

Did you know that you can mute and unmute yourself with the space bar? Zoom is bursting with keyboard shortcuts, allowing you to make commands in seconds. There are shortcuts for screen toggling, settings management, changing the layout, and more.

Here are some of the best shortcuts:

  • Alt+M: For the host only. Use this for muting and unmuting audio for everyone.
  • F6: Navigate Zoom popup windows.
  • Alt+Shift+T: Screenshot
  • Ctrl+T: Strike a chat with someone
  • Ctrl+Shift+A: Use this for accepting inbound calls.
  • Ctrl+Shift+E: Use this for ending the call you’re currently in.

Want more? You can check out the official website for a complete list of shortcuts and hotkeys.

The post 8 Quick Tips for Better Zoom Meetings appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Apple responds to Gatekeeper issue with upcoming fixes

Apple has updated a documentation page detailing the company’s next steps to prevent last week’s Gatekeeper bug from happening again, as Rene Ritchie spotted. The company plans to implement the fixes over the next year.

Apple had a difficult launch day last week. The company released macOS Big Sur, a major update for macOS. Apple then suffered from server-side issues.

Third-party apps failed to launch as your Mac couldn’t check the developer certificate of the app. That feature, called Gatekeeper, makes sure that you didn’t download a malware app that disguises itself as a legit app. If the certificate doesn’t match, macOS prevents the app launch.

Hey Apple users:

If you’re now experiencing hangs launching apps on the Mac, I figured out the problem using Little Snitch.

It’s trustd connecting to https://t.co/FzIGwbGRan

Denying that connection fixes it, because OCSP is a soft failure.

(Disconnect internet also fixes.) pic.twitter.com/w9YciFltrb

— Jeff Johnson (@lapcatsoftware) November 12, 2020

Many have been concerned about the privacy implications of the security feature. Does Apple log every app you launch on your Mac to gain competitive insights on app usage?

It turns out it’s easy to answer that question as the server doesn’t mandate encryption. Jacopo Jannone intercepted an unencrypted network request and found out that Apple is not secretly spying on you. Gatekeeper really does what it says it does.

“We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices. We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their devices,” the company wrote.

But Apple is going one step further and communicating on the company’s next steps. The company has stopped logging IP addresses on its servers since last week. It doesn’t have to store this data for Gatekeeper .

“These security checks have never included the user’s Apple ID or the identity of their device. To further protect privacy, we have stopped logging IP addresses associated with Developer ID certificate checks, and we will ensure that any collected IP addresses are removed from logs” Apple writes.

Finally, Apple is overhauling the design of the network request and adding a user-facing opt-out option.

“In addition, over the the next year we will introduce several changes to our security checks:

  • A new encrypted protocol for Developer ID certificate revocation checks
  • Strong protections against server failure
  • A new preference for users to opt out of these security protections”