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Technology

A pro-Iranian operation has spread coronavirus disinformation across Facebook and Twitter

As the novel coronavirus pandemic has swept across the world over the last few weeks, a pro-Iranian influence operation has spread disinformation over social media suggesting that the US government created the disease, according to a new report from Graphika.

The International Union of Virtual Media (IUVM) “is a prolific operator” that hosts and creates pro-Iran and pro-Palestinian video reports, news articles, and memes.

According to Graphika, this content is linked out over social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In recent weeks, the disinformation operation has pivoted toward blaming the US for creating the coronavirus and critiquing its sanctions against Iran, alleging that they have hurt the nation’s ability to combat the disease.

The IUVM began posting about the virus in late February, around the same time that Iran confirmed its first death related to COVID-19. In its following posts, the disinformation group started posting articles claiming that “it is no coincidence that the virus selectively goes to countries that are considered enemies of the United States, namely China, Iran, some EU countries, including Italy,” according to the report, suggesting the virus was a US creation in order to remain a dominant global power.

“The IUVM operation is significant and manned by a well-resourced and persistent actor, but its effectiveness should not be overstated,” the report said.

Still, the IUVM’s accounts have only accrued around 5,000 followers across platforms. Twitter and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Platforms like Facebook have worked with Graphika and other researchers in the past to remove coordinated disinformation operations like IUVM’s before they’re able to establish a larger audience.

Facebook first removed the IUVM network two years ago with the help of FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, and it has continued to disrupt the group when posts and accounts pop up. “Graphika’s report is a good example of how industry and researchers work together to stop influence operations,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge.

Iran has been one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic and was an early epicenter of the disease. According to The New York Times on Wednesday, Iran’s government confirmed that around 4,700 people out of the 76,389 confirmed cases have died as a result of the disease.

Graphika’s report comes just a day after the Defense Department publicly rebuked foreign governments, including Russia, China, and Iran, for capitalizing on the pandemic by sewing anti-American sentiment.

“These are messages that are endangering global health because they’re undermining the efforts of governments, of health agencies and of organizations that are in charge of disseminating accurate information about the virus to the public,” Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Technology

The iPhone SE 2’s camera setup is going to lean on Apple’s software

Apple’s newly announced second-generation iPhone SE (or iPhone SE 2 as we’ll be calling it) is the company’s first phone with a single rear camera since 2018’s iPhone XR. While its camera hardware is basic, the new $399 device is powered by last year’s A13 Bionic chip, so it will benefit from Apple’s more recent work on image processing. It’s a combination that could reveal how much of Apple’s photography strengths lie in hardware and how many lie in software.

From a hardware perspective, the iPhone SE 2 has a relatively simple setup. On its rear is a single 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera, which, from a numbers perspective, is exactly the same as what could be found on the back of the iPhone XR. It’s also similar to the 2017 iPhone 8 that the SE 2’s appearance so closely imitates. That means there’s no extra 12-megapixel ultrawide camera like the iPhone 11, and there’s no 12-megapixel telephoto camera like the 11 Pro. Around the front, there’s a 7-megapixel selfie camera, which is, again, the same resolution as the cameras in the 8 and the XR.

While the hardware is a little old-fashioned, the software side of the photography equation is more interesting. As previously mentioned, the iPhone SE 2 is powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic chip, which made its debut on last year’s iPhone 11 lineup. Apple says it’s using this chip’s image signal processor and the Neural Engine to offer a host of software-based improvements to the SE 2’s photographs.

The most significant of these is the fact that the phone is now using a more advanced version of its Smart HDR algorithm that debuted with last year’s iPhone 11 lineup. “Semantic rendering,” as the company calls it, is designed to recognize individual elements within an image in order to light them properly.

Essentially, Smart HDR works by taking a series of underexposed frames and an overexposed frame and uses them to grab additional detail where it thinks the image needs it. Then Semantic rendering alters the photo based on what’s in it. It might sharpen hair, for example, de-noise the sky, or light a face more evenly. You can read more about the technology in our iPhone 11 Pro review from last year, and it should mean photographs are much more evenly lit.

Compared to the iPhone 8, the SE 2 is also unique in being able to create portrait mode photographs with just a single lens. (The iPhone 8 Plus had the feature because it had dual cameras.) The iPhone XR had this same feature, and in our review, we actually preferred it to how that year’s XS generated its portrait mode shots since the XR’s main camera had a wider field of view and aperture. Since the SE 2’s camera has that same wide f/1.8 aperture as the XR, we’ve got high hopes. The same technology is also available on the front-facing camera to create portrait mode shots from its single lens.

In other areas, however, the camera technology found in the iPhone SE 2 has been around for much longer. Optical image stabilization, a 6-element lens, a flicker sensor, 4K 60fps video recording, slo-mo, and cinematic stabilization could all be found in the iPhone 8. Then again, this is Apple’s budget device, so it’s not surprising that it’s not breaking much new ground.

There are inevitably going to be areas where the iPhone SE 2’s hardware will be a limitation. For example, there’s no wide-angle lens here, and no amount of software processing is going to be able to capture data from outside of the main camera’s field of view. But in those cases where you’d normally only rely on the phone’s main camera, Apple’s updated software could do a lot more of the heavy lifting, and we’ll get our best look yet at how far it’s come.

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Technology

iPhone SE vs. iPhone 11 vs. iPhone 11 Pro: how Apple’s newest iPhone compares to its flagships

After months of rumors, Apple has finally announced a new iPhone SE. The new phone looks a lot like the iPhone 8, as it has a 4.7-inch LCD screen, Touch ID, a glass back, and thick top and bottom bezels. But on the inside, it’s powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic chip, which is significantly more powerful than the iPhone 8’s A11 Bionic chip and is also what’s inside Apple’s iPhone 11 series of phones. And the second-generation iPhone SE’s $399 starting price makes it a lot cheaper than the iPhone 11.

With the introduction of the new iPhone SE, Apple now offers iPhones with the A13 Bionic chip at four different starting price points, ranging from $399 all the way up to $1,099. Within that price range, you can pick from a number of different screen sizes, screen resolutions, camera options, and more.

The second-generation iPhone SE’s $399 starting price makes it an intriguing option. For nearly half the price of the iPhone 11, which starts at $699, you’ll be getting an iPhone that should be able to handle most tasks you throw at it, thanks to that A13 Bionic chip. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of an iPhone 11 or an 11 Pro, that means the new iPhone SE could be a good option for you.

If you’re trying to decide which at an A13 Bionic-equipped iPhone might be best for you, we’ve collected the specs, features, and prices of each of them into the table below to help you make a decision.

The table is best viewed in landscape mode on mobile devices.

2020 iPhone SE vs. iPhone 11

Category 2020 iPhone SE iPhone 11 iPhone 11 Pro iPhone 11 Pro Max
Category 2020 iPhone SE iPhone 11 iPhone 11 Pro iPhone 11 Pro Max
Starting price $399 $699 $999 $1,099
OS iOS 13 iOS 13 iOS 13 iOS 13
Display 4.7-inch (1334 x 750) LCD 6.1-inch (1792 x 828) LCD 5.8-inch (2436 x 1125) OLED 6.5-inch (2688 x 1242) OLED
Dimensions 67.3 x 138.4 x 7.3mm 75.7 x 150.9 x 8.3mm 71.4 x 144.0 x 8.1mm 77.8 x 158.0 x 8.1mm
Weight 148g 194g 188g 226g
Battery capacity Up to 13 hours of video playback Up to 17 hours of video playback Up to 18 hours of video playback Up to 20 hours of video playback
Wireless charging Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fast charge-capable Yes Yes Yes Yes
Processor A13 Bionic A13 Bionic A13 Bionic A13 Bionic
RAM TBA 4GB, allegedly 4GB, allegedly 4GB, allegedly
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
Ports Lightning charging port Lightning charging port Lightning charging port Lightning charging port
Rear cameras 1: 12MP (F/1.8, OIS, auto focus) wide angle 2: 12MP (F/1.8, OIS, auto focus) wide angle, 12MP (F/2.4) ultra wide angle 3: 12MP (F/1.8, OIS, auto focus) wide angle, 12MP (F/2.4) ultra wide angle, 12MP (F/2.0) telephoto 12MP (F/1.8, OIS, auto focus) wide angle, 12MP (F/2.4) ultra wide angle, 12MP (F/2.0) telephoto
Front cameras 7MP (F/2.2 aperture) 12MP (F/2.2 aperture) 12MP (F/2.2 aperture) 12MP (F/2.2 aperture)
Night mode No Yes Yes Yes
Biometrics Touch ID unlock Face ID unlock Face ID unlock Face ID unlock
Wi-Fi 6 Yes Yes Yes Yes
IP rating IP67 IP68 IP68 IP68
True Tone screen Yes Yes Yes Yes
Haptic Touch Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dual SIM Yes, with eSIM Yes, with eSIM Yes, with eSIM Yes, with eSIM
Aluminum Yes Yes No No
Stainless Steel No No Yes Yes
Colors 3: black, silver, red 6: black, green, yellow, purple, red, white 4: gold, space gray, silver, midnight green 4: gold, space gray, silver, midnight green

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Technology

iPhone SE 2020: Apple announces new $399 phone

Apple has officially announced the new iPhone SE, a lower-cost iPhone that starts at $399 for a version with 64GB of storage. It has the same basic shape and look as the iPhone 8, which means it has a 4.7-inch screen, large bezels on the top and bottom, and a home button with Touch ID. It’s a design that stayed consistent since the iPhone 6, which makes the iPhone SE essentially the fifth generation of that same look. Apple knows this design well.

It is available for preorder this Friday, April 17th, and it will ship on April 24th. There will be a 128GB model offered for $449 and a 256GB model for $549. Like other iPhones, it will come with a free year of Apple TV Plus. It will come in black, white, and Product Red.

The iPhone SE is essentially an iPhone 8 with a better camera and processor — and a lower price tag. Although it’s a relatively old design, this iPhone SE has Apple’s A13 Bionic chip, the same that’s available in the latest iPhone 11 and 11 Pro models.

That should ensure that it has a much longer lifespan than the $449 iPhone 8 model that it replaces in Apple’s lineup, which had an A11 chip from 2017. There won’t be a plus-sized version of the second-generation iPhone SE, but the iPhone 8 Max will continue to be sold in certain markets.

Image: Apple

The processor also lets the new iPhone SE gain some new camera features. There’s a single 12-megapixel camera lens on the back (along with a flash). Apple says it’s using the A13 Bionic’s chips to improve its Smart HDR photography, which combines multiple shots into a single photo to improve lighting and detail.

It also has a portrait mode with technology Apple calls “monocular depth sensing.” It uses machine learning to detect depth and faces — which, unfortunately, means that it will only work on people, not pets. It includes optical image stabilization, and Apple says it can do “cinematic” stabilization on video as well as support 4K video at 60fps. The front-facing selfie camera is 7-megapixels, and it can also do portrait mode effects.

Many of the new second-generation iPhone SE parts are identical to the iPhone 8. It should have about the same battery life as the iPhone 8 (but no word on exact battery size). Apple says that cases designed for the iPhone 8 will work fine on the SE. It has Apple’s 4.7-inch IPS LCD Retina display with True Tone color. It sounds as though it’s the exact same display as what’s on the iPhone 8.

That’s not a problem from a quality perspective. This IPS display is well-known and well-regarded, but it does mean that people who were holding out for a smaller phone are out of luck. Apple says that this is the most popular screen size it has ever sold — 500 million devices and counting — and that’s part of the reason it’s using this screen size now.

It only comes with a dinky 5W charger in the box, though it can support 18W fast charging if you have the right adapter. It uses a Lightning connector for charging, of course, and it will also support Qi wireless charging. There is no headphone jack, but it will come with Lightning headphones in the box.

Rounding out some of the other modernized specs, it supports Wi-Fi 6, Gigabit LTE, and supports dual-SIMs. (The second one is an eSIM, however.) It also supports Haptic Touch, which is Apple’s replacement for 3D Touch, amounting to a long press with haptic feedback.

The 2020 iPhone SE is another major smartphone release coming in the midst of the pandemic. The SE’s lower cost and Touch ID sensor may have slightly more appeal than usual, especially as people realize that they’ll be wearing masks much more often. Apple noted that it believes that people are depending on their phones more than ever right now, but there’s no getting around the fact that its physical stores are closed. Apple’s website and app offer good customer support, but it remains to be seen what the appetite for new phones will be right now. Best Buy will be offering curbside pickup at locations where that is available.

The iPhone SE looks like a very good deal overall. It’s a $400 phone with what appears to be a strong camera and the very same processor that’s in Apple’s most expensive iPhones. As noted above, that means a phone purchased today should be getting software updates for many years to come.

Deciding whether it’s a good phone will have to wait for a full review, but I suspect more than a few people who have been waiting for this phone will be a little disappointed. The original iPhone SE from 2016 is beloved in part because it is so small compared to most other smartphones. It had the same design as the iPhone 5 — and while that screen is tiny by today’s standards, it also still feels like a more natural size for some. Apple stopped selling the original SE in 2018.

For people who thought the iPhone 6, iPhone 7, and iPhone 8 were too large, the second-generation iPhone SE is unlikely to change their minds. But it’s clear that phone screens are all going to be big from now on, which makes 4.7 inches the new small.

Image: Apple

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Tutorials

Grass Seed; The Ultimate Guide To Rescuing Your Lawn

In desperate need of grass seed to fix your patchy lawn? Your ordinary suburban lawn might never look like the pristine green expanses of Wimbledon, but with a little loving care (and some grass seed!) it could still be the admiration of the neighbourhood.

One of the easiest ways to make your lawn look better is by fixing the bare patches.

Grass Seed; The Ultimate Guide To Rescuing Your Lawn

grass seed - puppy on lawn

These areas of uncovered earth have various different causes:

  • Lawn diseases 
  • The removal of moss or weeds
  • Cats and dogs peeing on the same patch of grass repeatedly
  • Sunlight burning through the grass in a hard summer
  • Moles and other friendly underground critters poking their head up!
Please note that this page may contain affiliate links

Whatever the reason for the baldness, the expert process outlined in this post can be applied over the course of a few weeks to restore a uniform look to your lawn. This technique can be used for holes of any size—from small saucer-sized worn areas on paths, to brand new lawns.

 

Pro TIP

Before you get started fixing the hole, figure out why it got there in the first place and make sure it won’t simply reappear again once you have covered it with fresh grass!

The best time to sow the new seeds is in September,  as they will germinate quickly and establish before the cold weather sets in. This is the quickest way to get new grass, but you can also sow grass seeds anytime from late summer to mid-autumn. The reason being that during this time weeds are less likely to suffocate the new seedlings, but the soil will still be warm and damp with rain.

If you are tempted to use turf instead of grass seeds, this can be a wise choice for large areas, but grass seeds have a couple of advantages for smaller areas.

Firstly,  grass seed comes in several different varieties, typically at low cost. You can choose a shady mix for grass under trees, a blend for dry areas, a fine ornamental mix for purely decorative lawns, and a hard-wearing mix for family lawns.

Secondly, grass seed can easily be put on slopes, corners, and hard-to-reach areas, unlike turf.

Just follow these simple steps to successfully patch a hole with grass seed:

 

Related: How To Start Gardening On A Budget

 

Grass seed - tilling soil

Preparing the soil for the grass seed

  1. Prepare the area by removing any remaining old grass and clearing away stones or weeds
  1. Loosen the soil  with a fork so seeds can take root
  1. Rake over the soil to leave it level

Optional: rake in a fertiliser a few days before sowing for super results!

  1. The secret to healthy grass is effective drainage, so depending on the soil quality, you may also want to add some sharp sand to improve the water flow.

 

grass seed - sowing

Sowing the grass seed

  1. Take a handful of seeds and scatter them thinly at approximately 50g per square metre.
  1. Gently rake the seeds in to the soil
  1. Use a watering can to softly add some moisture (without drowning the seeds or washing them away!).

 

caring for lawn seedlings

Looking after the seedlings

  1. You may wish to cordon off the area with string to prevent people from trampling the seeds.
  1. If you have a lot of local bird life, then cover the seeds with netting to prevent them from enjoying your grass seed for breakfast.
  1. Keep the seedlings moist at all times. 
  1. If any weeds spring up, pull them out to prevent unwanted competition for the grass.

 

When can I cut the new grass?

  • Wait patiently until the seedlings have become a tangle of green grass blades around 5cm (2inches) high. This should take around two months. If you cut too early, you can damage the seedlings and ruin your new grass, so depending on your local climate and mowing season, you may wish to wait until the spring to ensure the grass is fully established.
  • On the first mow, tread carefully and mow slowly to avoid damaging the grass. Ensure the grass is dry as wet blades of grass can slip off the blade and get tangled.
  • Be extra careful if you have a hover mower, as the blowing of the air may disturb loose seedlings. The ideal mower to use for the job is a cylinder push mower. These are lightweight and easy to manoeuvre, and the blades cut with a scissoring action for a cleaner cut.

 

Author bio: Landscape architect and lawnmower enthusiast Laurence Bennet believes that sustainable gardening could play a key role in tackling environmental challenges.

 


 

Grass seed - happy dog



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Technology

How to start live-streaming in OBS

I keep writing about live-streaming like it’s accessible and easy to do — which it’s not. It’s actually quite difficult to get started. Sorry! My bad. I didn’t mean to lead you astray. If you’re still Twitch-curious, I have a gift for you: a guide for how to get started.

Before I dive in, I’ll begin with a few caveats. First, there are many ways to stream. Zoom allows you to stream directly to YouTube, for example, and you can always go live on Instagram. Some ways of streaming are easier; others are more difficult. All require a bit of knowledge about how to read forums and not want to die while doing the necessary troubleshooting. This is not a comprehensive guide.

Second, this isn’t meant to be exhaustive. I’ve been streaming for a little while on my own channel, and most of what I’m going to lay out is just the stuff I’ve picked up since I’ve been on Twitch. Third, please know that even if you do everything right, something will still probably not work. That’s okay. Become one with the troubleshooting, and do things systematically so you’re always able to work backward and find the source of your problem. Also, remember that troubleshooting live on stream is a rite of passage.

Fourth, this guide also assumes you’re a beginner and that you’re not planning to either buy a new PC just to stream or to extensively modify one you already own (e.g., buying an internal capture card). It’s also focused on streaming using Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), an open-source piece of software that a ton of people use to live stream. (If you’ve already got your setup working and just want to learn how to use OBS, feel free to skip ahead to the section “How to Stream with OBS.”)

If that’s you, let’s dive in!

Step 1: Hardware

This is where your journey begins, traveler. Actually, now that I think of it, we should back up a little.

Step 0: Why do you want to stream, and what do you want to get out of it?

This is the real start of your adventure. Why do you want to stream? Be honest with yourself. (And feel free to message me about why! I will probably include your answers in a future entry of this column.) Is it because you want to gain fame, fortune, and influence online? Is it because you want to take your friendly gaming sessions up a notch? Is it because you have a specialized skill — e.g., cooking, yoga, etc. — that you want to share with people? Is it just cause it seems like a fun thing to do?

These are all valid reasons to start streaming, but it’s also important to ask the questions in the first place because it’ll influence what kind of setup you’re eventually going to want. But that’s a later step.

Step 1 (again): Hardware

This is where you’ll determine the actual quality of your stream. There are three questions to ask: What machine do you plan to stream on? What kind of webcam and microphone do you have access to? What’s your internet connection like?

Any answer is fine; I used to stream PS4 gameplay through a 2017 MacBook Air via the console’s remote play function, which should honestly be illegal. (It did work; however, I would not recommend doing this.) The reason these questions are important to answer is twofold: your software options will change based on what operating system you’re running (Windows, macOS, mobile, console), and the quality of your stream will differ based on what your webcam / microphone / internet connection is like.

Ideally, you’re going to want to use the fastest, newest computer you’ve got, and the best microphone and webcam in your arsenal. Your computer is the brains of the operation, no matter what you’re streaming. It has to be fast enough to both handle whatever you’re doing on it — DJing? Gaming? — while it’s also encoding and uploading a video stream to Twitch (or whatever platform you’ve chosen to use). If it’s older, your computer will scream at you, which is fine. Ignore its screams and the wild amount of heat it’s generating. Do not wonder whether you could bake a cookie on the heatsink.

So here’s what to do: connect your mic and your webcam (no shame if those are on board) to your computer, and test them to see if everything is working. A tip: getting clear audio is more important, at least initially, than having great video. If everything works, great!

Next, check your internet speed. You’re going to want a fast connection — specifically a fast upload speed. I’d say around 8–9 Mbps upload is the minimum for a stable HD video output. If you don’t quite have that, don’t fret! There are some software settings I’ll go over later that you can crunch to fit your pipes.

If you’re planning to stream console games, the other piece of gear you might want to have on hand — aside from extra HDMI cables and a long Ethernet cable — is a capture card. A capture card is a cool device that duplicates the audio and video coming out of your consoles and sends it to your computer as a video input, which your streaming software can then recognize and stream. The current standard is Elgato’s HD60s, which retails for around $200, though you can get a refurbished one for a slightly cheaper price. (The S+ has way more features but is commensurately more expensive.)

Other hardware to consider: lighting and green screens. Probably the most important thing you can do for yourself after getting a good mic is investing in good lighting for your streaming space. It helps your camera do the vital work of making you look good. That can mean anything from setting up a lamp behind your camera so it lights your face / body properly to investing in a dedicated ring light that will ensure that everything looks even. Green screens are another popular tool to upgrade what your stream looks like. Basically, you set it up behind you, and you can use your streaming software to edit out your background so you’re directly in front of your video output. (Think Zoom’s virtual backgrounds, but with the game you’re playing.)

Got all that? Great! Now it’s time to move on.

Step 2: Software

I’m not going to lie to you: there are a lot of buttons, and you’re going to need to click a lot of them. This can be intimidating. But you can do it! It’s a matter of trying everything until you find a solution. It’s time to wrinkle your brain.

I’ll divide this section by platform.

Windows

Congratulations! You have the most options. In the beginning, live-streaming was developed mostly for enterprise users and hardcore gamers, which means the software was developed for people who had Work Machines — machines that needed to be powerful enough to render Crysis or do corporate Excel sheets.

Let’s focus on the free offerings. You have basically three options: Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), Streamlabs OBS, and XSplit. (There’s also Twitch Studio, which streams specifically to Twitch.) Each has its charms; of the three, I prefer regular OBS because it feels standard in a way that my brain appreciates. In fact, I’d recommend using OBS for the majority of people. Streamlabs is also incredibly customizable and fairly easy to set up, with a built-in ecosystem of overlays, extensions, and themes baked right in.

macOS

Hello, Mac users. You’re actually quite lucky because it’s only within the last year that it’s become easier to stream on a Mac. Elgato introduced OBS Link, which greatly simplifies the use of a capture card on Macs — which you literally couldn’t do before without processor-intensive, hacky workarounds — and Streamlabs made its macOS debut, at very long last. Your options are Streamlabs OBS and regular OBS, which are both very solid.

Mobile

The first thing I should say is: yes, you can do this. Twitch and Mixer will let you stream from your phone if you download their dedicated apps, for example. But your options will be limited and fragmented by platform. There’s Periscope, which lets you stream to Twitter, and Instagram Live, which does exactly what it sounds like it does. (You can also live-stream to YouTube from a mobile device if you have more than 1,000 subscribers.)

What you can stream depends on the platform and the app you’re using. Mixer allows you to stream mobile games, while Twitch doesn’t. Streamlabs’ mobile app, on the other hand, will allow you to broadcast whatever’s on your screen to the platform of your choice. If you’re really dedicated to streaming off your phone, godspeed. You have a tough row to hoe. While it’s possible to stream, the audio and video quality is generally much lower, it’s harder to customize the stream itself, and it’s very limiting in what you can actually do on stream. (It should be said that you can, in fact, stream from iOS devices to OBS using Elgato Screen Link — which is good if you’d like to stream mobile games.)

Console

This is the easiest way to stream. All you have to do is connect your Twitch / Mixer / YouTube account to your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One console, and you’re good to go. There are, however, significant drawbacks. You can’t customize your stream at all, and there are weird UI elements that kind of get in the way of gameplay. The consoles handle audio just fine, but adding video gets a lot trickier. (Translation: If you want to upgrade your stream, you’re going to buy a console-specific webcam. Sorry!) Here’s a more in-depth guide for how to start streaming on console.

How to stream with OBS

Right. So now that we have the options out of the way, it’s time to dive into the software. For this part of the guide, I’m going to stick with regular OBS because it’s what I know best and because it also translates to Streamlabs OBS. (It’s also the same on both macOS and Windows.)

Step 2.5: OBS

Don’t be afraid, traveler. OBS can seem like the Big Bad in the live-streaming universe, but it’s really a powerful ally — if you can master what it’s trying to tell you. OBS is a way station: it is the point where your inputs (webcam, microphone, game capture) and outputs (your stream) merge.

The first thing to know about OBS is that it looks like this.

This used to scare me; now, it comforts me because I am in control (mostly).

The first thing you’ll notice are the menus down at the bottom: Scenes, Sources, Mixer, Scene Transitions, and Controls. The second thing you should look at are the numbers at the very bottom, labeled “LIVE,” “REC,” and “CPU.” Once you open OBS, you should start to see your CPU usage rise. When you’re live, expect that number to get higher.

Basically, OBS works like this: scenes are the building blocks of any stream. Whatever’s in a scene is what’s put on your stream. You customize scenes with sources, which you can add, and you check audio levels for basically any source within a scene via the mixer.

From left to right: Scenes, Sources, Audio Mixer, Scene Transitions, Controls.

Scene transitions are there if you want to customize what it looks like when you switch between scenes, but I haven’t found that it matters much, personally speaking. (Think PowerPoint transitions.) Controls does exactly what it says. Those little gray buttons are how you’ll push everything live. We’ll return to Settings in a moment.

What we’re going to do now is set up three scenes in OBS: a “stream starting soon” scene, a “live” scene, and one that’s for intermissions — you know, just in case you have to run to the bathroom or refresh your drink.

So let’s start with the Stream Starting Soon scene. The first thing you should do is delete all of the preprogrammed scenes because they’re empty and because renaming them is about 5 percent more of a pain in the ass than it should be. To do that, highlight the scene and click the minus button at the bottom of the box. Great!

Now click the “+” button next to it, and enter the name of the scene. Something like “Stream Starting Soon.” You’re going to want to be clear and specific because you don’t want to be hunting for scenes while you’re streaming. This is part of OBS’s flexibility: you can have as many scenes as you want, and they can be as specific as you want them to be. If you want to have silly graphics and not have to remake them every time you want them on-screen, the Scenes tool is what you’re going to use.

You’ll notice I’m using a Mac here because that’s what I write on. It’s also cool because it’s the same for Windows, even if the UI looks a little different.

Now that we have a scene, let’s move to sources. Click on the “+” button under sources. Whoa! It’s a long list!

Unfortunately, all of these things mean something. For now, let’s focus on the most important thing: creating a cool graphic that shows off our personality for the people who are going to see our channel. So now: open up Photoshop / MS Paint / etc., and get to work! Save that file somewhere specific, too, because we’re going to need it.

Okay! Time to go back to OBS. Highlight your scene again, and click the “+” button in sources; next, navigate to “Image” and name the source — again, be very specific — and make sure the “make source visible” box is checked. Maybe name it something like “This is my starting soon screen lol.” Hit browse, find the image file, upload it, and then click okay. Here’s what mine looks like so far.

Oh no, my image doesn’t fit my streaming canvas because I didn’t size it right in Paintbrush! If this is you, that’s an easy enough fix. Just manipulate the image the same way you would if you were resizing anything else, by dragging the corners around. If you really beefed it, resize the image in your image editor so that it fits your screen dimensions, which you can find in Settings > Video > Base (Canvas) Resolution.

Anyway, great! We have our first scene. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

The next thing you should know is what those things under audio mixer actually do. Pound for pound, Desktop Audio is probably the most powerful thing you should know about in the audio mixer settings. Basically, Desktop Audio sends whatever sounds are on your computer out onto your stream. That’s Spotify, YouTube, game music from whatever you’re playing on your computer — everything. With one major caveat: it plays everything that’s pointed at Desktop Audio. If you go into its settings by clicking on the gear just below it, you’ll see a number of options for where it can get audio from. And this is where it starts to get complicated. You can prevent a ton of troubleshooting down the line if you make sure your audio is routed to the same place.

This setting is not scene-specific, although it does change based on where the sources in the scene have their outputs pointed. Basically, if there is an audio source that has its output pointed at Desktop Audio, and the source is in the scene that’s currently active, you’ll hear it. Sources don’t output video or audio if they’re not in an active scene. Let’s take a look at the scenes / sources / audio mixer triumvirate again. No reason, it’s just nice to look at.

Ahh yeah… that’s the good stuff.

When I’m streaming, I like to do a little pre-show to give people time to filter over to my channel. Mostly it’s just a “live soon” scene with some chill beats playing under it, while I putter around my apartment and finish setting things up. I use YouTube; you can use whatever you want — whatever you’re playing on your computer will output to desktop audio, provided desktop audio is getting audio from the place you’ve sent the music. Copyright policies differ based on the platform you’re using, but it’s generally a great idea not to use copyrighted material; you don’t want a strike on your account or a temporary suspension. (If you’re into more advanced stuff, you can find and make animated overlays for your starting soon screen, but that is definitely beyond the scope of this how-to.) We’ll talk briefly about audience stuff later, but the main thing to remember is that streaming is something of a second-screen activity — like a podcast, almost.

The next thing you should do is repeat the same steps as above to create an intermission scene that you can quickly flip to if you need to. You got this!

Finally: the live scene. This is where things get a bit more complicated. Start the same way you did before by creating a new scene. In the source tab, add two new sources: one for audio input capture and one for video capture device. What we’re going to do here is add your webcam and your microphone to your sources, so that your audience can see and hear you. In the menus that pop up for those sources, select the devices that you’re going to use, and give the sources appropriate names (“logitech webcam,” “blue yeti microphone,” etc.).

The video capture device — your webcam — should pop up on the OBS canvas, but your audio device won’t. A note here that should save you some troubleshooting time: if your webcam is being used by a different piece of software, it will not show up in OBS. Make sure you close any other software that might be using your camera.

Your microphone will show up as a new set of bars in your audio mixer. Now’s the time to make sure your levels are appropriate. Generally, you want to be peaking in the yellow part of the mix for everything; if you hit the red bit of the bar, it’s going to sound terrible. Your audience will tell you to adjust as needed — just slide the volume bars underneath the offending input to change the levels.

Now it’s time to build in everything else. One of the best things about streaming is that it’s infinitely customizable; you can add browser sources to capture audio, play alerts on your channel when someone subscribes or follows, and basically anything else you can think of. For right now, we’ll keep it simple. Let’s add a game to your streaming output. (If you’re not planning to play a video game on stream, feel free to skip this bit.)

We’ll start with games on your computer because the process is slightly easier to explain — and it’s different on Mac and Windows. We’ll start with Mac this time.

To add a game to your sources list in OBS, you’re going to have to do a bit of a workaround, for now, and use a Window Capture. These work similarly to Video Input Capture sources, but instead of capturing a video, you’re going to capture the specific window of the game you’re playing. Find the window that has the game running in the menu in the same way, and add / name the source in the same way you did the others. On Windows, there’s an option called Game Capture, which allows you to either capture any currently full-screen window or pick a specific game to broadcast.

To add a console game is harder because it introduces another piece of software — Elgato Game Capture HD. (This is if you’ve decided to go with the Elgato HD60s/s+.) Remember, you’re going to need the capture card to send its video and audio to your computer and your television at the same time. We’ll start with Windows.

First, make sure your console is on, and that you’ve correctly attached the HDMI cables to the capture card and that the capture card is plugged into the appropriate USB port on your streaming PC. (If you’re using a PS4, make sure you disable HDCP copy protection on PS4 in settings, as you’ll make your screen look weird and have horrible clicking noises come out of your TV otherwise. For other consoles, go here.)

Next, you’ll need to boot up Game Capture HD. You should see whatever’s on your TV in this app. Look at the top right where a small image of your capture card should be, and click through to its settings by clicking on the gear under it. You should be able to change the settings there based on which console you have plugged into your capture card. It’s important to change the settings to match your console here because this changes what’s going on inside the card itself, and the signals it outputs to your computer.

Finally, return to OBS and add a new video capture source to your live scene. You should see your Elgato capture card as an option, labeled by the port it’s in; choose it. Your console’s video will now be mirrored in OBS.

For Macs, the process is different. You have to download a separate piece of software called OBS Link, which is what will allow your computer to recognize the input signal from the Elgato capture card as a video capture device, which you can then add to your stream. (It’s important to note that the S+ can connect to Macs directly and doesn’t need OBS Link to function.) You can find more information about how to set that up here.

Phew. Lots to do, right? And you’re not ready to stream yet. But you do have a live screen!

Step 2.7: OBS Settings

Now we dive into the settings. This is extremely important because, as I mentioned above, this is how we’re going to optimize for our pipes. (If you’re using Streamlabs, the software has probably done this for you at startup.) The first thing you should do is open up settings, navigate to video settings, and then change the frame rate — “Common FPS Values” in OBS — to 30. This will drop the processor load considerably. To futz with it further, feel free to go to town on the “Output (Scaled) Resolution”; if your stream is still choppy, drop the output resolution. Your viewers will probably notice a commensurate drop in quality, however.

There are a ton of other options in here. The other important box is under output where you can find your computer’s streaming settings. Changing the encoder, bitrate, and presets will change how your viewers experience your stream, so feel free to play around in here. If something breaks, you’ll know what did it.

But the most important part of this section is connecting OBS to your streaming platform. Go to the Stream tab and choose your service. If it asks you for a stream key, go to your settings on the platform you’ve decided to use; it should be in there somewhere. Never give out your stream key because if someone else has it, they can stream anything they want to your channel.

Step 2.97: Record yourself

You’re almost there. And you’re probably wondering: huh, what does this actually look like? Well, I have some good news for you. Whatever is showing on the screen in OBS is what the stream will output. But if you want to see and hear what your mic and webcam are like in action, you should grab a quick recording of yourself so you can see for yourself before you stream to an audience. To do that, hit the “Start Recording” button under Controls. It’ll record whatever is happening in OBS, and save it to the location delineated in Settings > Output > Recording. You can watch your broadcast there!

Step 3: Stream!

Now that you have your hardware set up and your software configured, it’s time to do some final checks before you go live. The first: do you have a place where you can easily read chat? That can be your phone, a tablet, an old computer — just some place where you can see what people are saying and respond to them. The difference between live-streaming and something like live TV is that streaming is about interaction; you talking with your viewers is what people come for. The other thing is having a channel page that shows you off: what you’re interested in, what you play, and what kinds of things you like to do. Go ahead and play around with themes, overlays, and extensions until you find a look and branding that you like.

The main thing to remember, though, is that streaming isn’t really about the audience you draw in — though that is really cool — it’s about being social and having a good time.

If you know you can keep it fun, you’re ready to go live. Go ahead and press that button. (You’ll immediately be live with whatever is on your screen in OBS, just in case that wasn’t clear.) One last thing: to switch scenes while OBS is running, just click on the scene. A final tip: if you’re taking an intermission and your microphone is active on the intermission scene, make sure you mute it until you get back.

Oh, and if you have any questions, you know who to call.

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TurboGrafx-16 Mini review: a great plug-and-play console that’s also a history lesson

When I was a kid, I spent almost as much time reading about games in magazines as I did actually playing them. There was always so much that was beyond my grasp: a role-playing game from Japan that looked like an anime come to life or fighting game machines that would never come to my local arcade. I would often obsess over expensive consoles that I knew I would never actually own.

The TurboGrafx-16 was one of those consoles. The device — which debuted in North America in 1989, fitting snugly between the NES and SNES launches — wasn’t a big hit outside of Japan where it was known as the PC Engine. It was expensive and unwieldy and didn’t have a killer app like Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog to boost sales. But that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for it; in fact, the oddball factor made the TurboGrafx even more enticing. It was full of games that I’d never heard of and didn’t fully understand, yet wanted desperately to play.

Now, I finally have that chance.

The TurboGrafx-16 Mini is available now for $99.99, and it’s the latest in a growing line of miniature plug-and-play devices based on beloved consoles. (While you can purchase the console now, shipments in Europe and North America have been delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.) It’s a trend Nintendo started in 2016 with the NES Classic, and so far, it has covered everything from well-crafted tiny consoles like the excellent Sega Genesis Mini to more disappointing fare like Sony’s slapdash PlayStation Classic. One thing all of those devices had in common, though, is that they were miniature versions of best-selling hardware. The TurboGrafx-16 Mini fills a different niche. For many people, it won’t be a chance to revisit classic games from their youth, but instead an opportunity to discover a period of retro gaming they likely missed the first time.

The most notable thing about the TurboGrafx-16 Mini hardware is that it’s not exactly mini. Sure, it’s smaller than an Xbox, but compared to other miniature consoles, it’s downright huge. The device measures 240 mm x 156 mm x 35 mm, and roughly, it’s about the same size as two SNES Classics placed side by side. (If you’re looking for a smaller option, there’s always the Japan-only PC Engine Mini or Europe’s CoreGrafx Mini, which are functionally almost identical.) Like the original device, the TurboGrafx-16 Mini is a black, rectangular slab with a curve on its back. The new version mostly looks like the original, though a number of features — like the cartridge slot on the front and auxiliary switches on the side — are purely decorative now.

Aside from the console itself, you’ll also get a single controller that plugs into the front of the TurboGrafx via USB, as well as a separate Micro USB cable for power; though, it should be noted that the console doesn’t come with an AC adaptor to actually plug that cable in. You’ll need to provide your own. In a nice touch for fans of cable management, the rear, curved section of the mini-console pops off, so that you can plug in the HDMI and USB cables, but in a way that looks nice and tidy once you put the cover back on. Overall, it’s about what you’d expect from a mini-console at this point, with a plastic construction that isn’t exactly premium but sits a notch or two above feeling cheap. At the very least, the power switch is very satisfying to flip on.

Of course, the most important part of any plug-and-play device is its library, and the TurboGrafx 16 comes with a lot of games. There are 25 English titles, but you can also swap over to the PC Engine option in the main menu at any point for 32 more Japanese games. There’s some overlap between the two, and not every title is playable if you can’t speak Japanese. Hideo Kojima’s cyberpunk adventure Snatcher, for instance, is full of text, so it won’t work if you don’t know the language. But there are a number of titles like Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, and plenty of classic shoot-‘em-ups that are perfectly accessible even if you don’t understand Japanese.

It’s a meaty collection, one that covers a number of genres; there are lots of shmups, some side-scrolling action games and platformers, and a number of adventure and role-playing titles. What the library doesn’t have is a particular standout title. When I first booted up a PlayStation Classic, for instance, I immediately hopped into Final Fantasy VII; likewise, I dived straight into Super Mario World on the SNES Classic. There’s no such obvious blockbuster game on the TurboGrafx Mini because there wasn’t really one on the TurboGrafx-16

For me at least, plugging in those other mini-consoles was an act of remembering, a chance to revisit games I already loved in an accessible way. Playing the TurboGrafx-16 Mini was an act of discovery. There are some games I already knew, like the oozing pinball adventure Alien Crush, because they’ve been available on other platforms like the dearly departed Wii Virtual Console. And games like Splatterhouse and R-Type weren’t TurboGrafx exclusives, so I had sampled them in arcades. But much of the library was unfamiliar, and this made jumping into new games exciting.

I’m not going to say that every title on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini holds up. The bizarre, slapstick platformer JJ & Jeff is excruciatingly bland, and Air Zonk is entirely forgettable when put up against the other shooters on here. But there’s a lot of great stuff in this library, from the Zelda-like adventure Neutopia and its sequel to the strategy game Military Madness. I’ve lost a lot of time over the past week playing Ys I & II, a collection of classic RPGs that I distinctly remember pining for in those old magazines. There’s something really cool about finally being able to play these games 30 years later. If you never owned a TurboGrafx, the new mini version is a bit like being handed a box full of old cartridges that you have to discover on your own.

When it comes to actually playing the games, you have a fairly standard set of options. Each game has four save slots, so you don’t have to mess around with passwords, and there are five display options, including one that turns your TV into a TurboExpress handheld console for some reason. (I would not recommend using this beyond the novelty factor.) Naturally, you can also add CRT-style scanlines. I can’t attest to the accuracy of the emulation, but every game I played looked crisp and clear, and I had no issues with control responsiveness.

And while the main menu is pretty simple — you can organize games by things like title and release date — there are some welcome touches. For one, there’s the bouncy menu music, which sounds like a long-lost chiptunes classic. But there are also the animations; when you boot up a game, you get to see a pixelated cartridge slotted in or, in the case of games that released on the CD-ROM add-on, a virtual disc spinning about. It’s a nice, digital way of adding in some of those lost tactile sensations.

Really, what you get out of the TurboGrafx-16 Mini depends on what you’re looking for. If you were one of the few who actually owned the original device, there’s likely some nostalgia value here, as there has been with past mini-consoles. But for everyone else — the people whose experience with the TurboGrafx-16 was limited to fleeting encounters in an arcade or old issues of EGM — that hook isn’t necessarily there, so you’ll need to approach the games with an open mind. It’s a rare opportunity where old games can seem new.

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American Football established Minecraft as a concert venue for the foreseeable future

For the first time in a month, I had somewhere to be on a Saturday night. It was a mini-music festival where emo fans and electronic music aficionados gathered, staring up at a handcrafted house that loomed over a massive stage. But first, I had to stand in a lengthy queue with a bunch of strangers wearing concert T-shirts that all read the same phrase: “I literally went to the American Football house in Minecraft.

The classic emo band American Football headlined a lengthy concert on April 11th, appearing alongside popular musicians like Baths and Anamanaguchi — but something was off. There was no jumping around onstage. There weren’t any dudes standing at the back of the venue nursing tallboys and nodding their heads while American Football played “Never Meant.” Bathroom lines didn’t exist, and coat check wasn’t a concern. That’s because the entire event took place online across Minecraft, which hosted the “physical” show, and Discord, where bands and DJs came to talk with fans.

Doors (in this case, servers) opened at 6PM ET, and like any show, there was a mad dash of people rushing to get in. Trying to get into the venue turned out to be a tedious affair. The servers kept bumping players off, and that was only if people managed to connect in the first place. Many couldn’t.

Those stuck outside were left to commiserate in a Twitch live stream where the show’s organizer, OpenPit, was streaming from the main concert hall floor. Tiny blockheads jumped around as musicians like Bean Boy and Drive 65 played their sets. It felt like being stuck in the coatcheck line, hearing the opening act play their set and feeling the vibrations pulsating the floor under your feet, but not being able to actually see the show.

Viewers in the OpenPit Twitch chat.

Like many of my new American Football-stanning friends, I was left to spam the “Join Server” button in Minecraft while watching OpenPit’s Twitch stream. It got me thinking about something former Amazon Studios strategist and analyst Matthew Ball wrote in a lengthy piece about a future “metaverse.” Ball noted that “the technology simply does not yet exist for there to be hundreds, let alone millions of people participating in a shared, synchronous experience.” Even a Marshmello concert in Fortnite, which drew 11 million viewers, making it the biggest Fortnite event at the time, didn’t consecutively serve 11 million people.

“In truth, there were more than 100,000 instances of the Marshmello concert, all of which were slightly out of sync and capped at 100 players per instance,” Ball wrote. “Epic can probably do more than this today, but not into several hundred, let alone millions.”

In the rare moments when I could get on the server, the scene was cooler than I expected. It’s hard to replicate the minutia of a real-life concert in Minecraft, but that’s what organizers OpenPit tried to do — down to exclusive concert tees, a quintessential pit area, and restricting stage access.

A common message that would appear whenever the servers didn’t connect.

I made my way toward a lounge area upstairs that was limited to VIP concertgoers who had bought passes, with the proceeds going to charity. I was jealous of the VIP attendees. They received in-game band tees and were allowed to roam around the venue without worry. Anytime I tried to go upstairs into the lounge, behind the stage, or into mysterious rooms in which I could see other people entering and exiting throughout the night, it was like an invisible bouncer stopped me, as if he took one look at my normal green shirt — the one that new Minecraft players wear — and knew I wasn’t part of the cool crowd.

Still, I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to hop over the translucent barrier so I could get a better view of the concert hall. I couldn’t stop thinking about how goofy I must have looked to other blocks in the room and the thousands of people watching at home as my Minecraft character just jumped up and down for minutes on end.

By 7:30PM, the servers were better but not perfect. OpenPit swore it was going to fix the ongoing issues as people demanded refunds in a chaotic and rapidly moving Twitch chat. The venue lobby inside Minecraft repopulated over and over again while the servers disconnected and reconnected, but I was just divorced from it enough, sitting on my couch with a glass of wine, that it wasn’t overly aggravating.

One of the biggest disadvantages of virtual concerts is also their most obvious: you’re not actually there. That makes answering the phone, reading an email, or checking TikTok much more appealing, especially when the video is choppy, audio is laggy, and intermittent server problems make it hard to get too absorbed in the show. Eventually, I decided to mute the in-game audio and rely on OpenPit’s Twitch live stream, which seemed to come from a direct feed and wasn’t as choppy.

When everything was working, the show went from being something happening on a screen to an actual immersive event. By 9:30PM, when Six Impala and Baths went on, the room moved to a cohesive energy. Minecraft players would spam “Jump! Jump!” when it was time to mosh, and everyone did. The room became a sea of digital avatars jumping around, many wearing concert tees celebrating the show, decked out in white-and-black checkered vans. Sure, there weren’t any deafening screams coming from the pit or beer spilling from excited fans, but it felt like attending an actual concert.

One of the shirts people were wearing during the show.

Digital concerts have been growing in popularity. OpenPit has thrown a number of shows, including plays on popular festivals like Coachella (Coalchella), infamous events like Fyre Fest (Firefest), and lavish affairs like the Met Gala (Mine Gala).

Concerts have been held in other games, too. Fortnite threw a huge event with DJ Marshmello, while smaller artists like Soccer Mommy tried to connect with fans in Club Penguin Rewritten. Even Second Life, one of the earliest MMO games, has welcomed artists for virtual shows. The easier it got for large swaths of people to gather in one space, without a devastating amount of lag, the better virtual concerts got.

Virtual concerts used to feel like a gimmick, an event for current players to check out, and a reason for possible new players to sign up. They were a chance for artists to garner some additional attention and find a new way to play a set for fans. When Fortnite hosted Marshmello’s concert in February 2019, it was the biggest in-game event at the time, with 10.7 million people attending, according to publisher Epic Games.

Things are different now. Like some weird Footloose world, gathering in public spaces to see a band play isn’t going to happen. Amid the pandemic, there are two ways for bands to play shows for fans: live-stream a show from their homes on YouTube, Twitch, or Instagram, or host a virtual event in a game like Minecraft.

The American Football house in question. Photo taken from the makeshift bar at the back of the venue.

I’m not someone who spends a lot of time in Minecraft or Fortnite, nor am I someone who spends a lot of time at shows. On any other night, in any other version of our lives right now, this isn’t something I would have attended. I suspect it’s the same for some other people who showed up Saturday night to stand in front of a handcrafted version of the house that appeared on American Football’s 1999 album cover. Attending the show was just something to do — a newfound luxury in a moment where minutes, hours, days, and weeks seem to blend together.

“It’s so special to be here with my friends,” Anamanaguchi singer Peter Berkman said over Discord, his voice seemingly ringing out throughout the venue. “Take care of yourselves, listen to a lot of music, play a lot of video games.”

Something special happened when American Football went on at 11:20PM, though. The venue chilled. Minecraft avatars stopped jumping around as the pluck of guitar strings from “Stay Home” started playing. People in Minecraft started spamming the chat tool, thanking American Football for their music. Some wrote messages about American Football saving their lives; others spoke about heartbreak. It was like the forum page of an emo site was being projected on the wall while the band played. And, just like that, the moment of clarity that comes from being in a sea of people when your favorite band takes the stage arrived.

American Football band member Steve Holmes onstage as fans watch from the pit area.

American Football played their set, the little Minecraft avatars for each band member moving around the stage. A clap track would play after some of the songs, simulating what it might sound like if we were all in the same room physically instead of just pixelated dots. Getting to this point wasn’t without its issues. Minecraft concerts aren’t going to replace being able to actually jump, dance, scream, and cry as your favorite band or musician plays onstage. Even without tech problems like lag and server overload, there are some physical experiences that can’t be translated into code.

But what I needed, what a lot of people seemed to need on Saturday, Minecraft accomplished: it became a place to gather. By the time “Never Meant” come on, I was surprised at how emotional the show made me, and based on the Twitch chat I checked in on, it was the same for more than 10,000 people watching. Maybe it was because we were all experiencing this moment together, the first big communal event I’ve been to since self-quarantining about a month ago, or maybe it was the fact that emo’s original poster boys were onstage trying to bring some comfort into a world that desperately needs it.

Before American Football started playing, guitarist and singer Mike Kinsella quipped about the situation we’re all in. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

“So this is the future, huh,” he joked. “Honestly, I thought there’d be more pixels.”



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How to record your screen on an iPhone

Recording your iPhone screen can be super helpful, whether you want to save a clip of the game you’re playing, record part of a live stream on Instagram, or create a how-to video for your friends. You can send the video clip you record to a relative or friend, upload it to Twitter, or post it to your Instagram story. Here are the steps on how to record your screen, whether you have a newer or older iPhone.

Screen recording is built into iPhones, but in order to use it, you first need to check to see if the screen record button is in your Control Center. To open the Control Center, swipe down from the top-right corner if you’re using an iPhone X or later, or swipe up if you have an iPhone 8 or earlier. Check to see if you have the screen record button, which looks like a dot with a circle around it. If you don’t, here’s how you can add it:

  • Open up Settings
  • Tap “Control Center”
  • Tap “Customize Controls”

  • This is where you add and remove items from your Control Center menu. Scroll down and press the green button with a + next to “Screen Recording.” That will move it from the “More Controls” section at the bottom to the “Include” section at the top.

Record your screen

Now, you’re ready to record your screen. (Just know that there are apps that block screen recording.) To begin:

  • Open up the app or website you want to record
  • Swipe up to pull up the Control Center menu (iPhone 8 or earlier) or pull down the menu from the top-right corner (iPhone X or later)
  • Tap the crescent moon button to switch on Do Not Disturb, which will temporarily pause calls and notifications. This is useful because when you record your screen, you’ll record everything that shows up, including notifications. If you press and hold the Do Not Disturb button, you’ll see more options, like switching the notifications off for just an hour or scheduling when you want to pause them.

  • While you’re still in the Control Center, tap the screen record button to start recording. Once you hit the screen record button, a timer will start, which gives you three seconds before it starts recording. Tap the screen to hide the Control Center menu.

Now you’re set to record both the video and the audio of whatever you’re watching or listening to on your phone — however, you won’t record any audio that isn’t generated from your phone. If you want to record yourself talking (or any other external sounds) in addition to recording the audio you’re playing on your phone, you’ll have to turn your microphone on:

  • Before you start recording, press and hold the screen record button. Tap the microphone button on the pop-up screen to turn the microphone on. Then tap “Start Recording.” The countdown will begin in this window. Tap anywhere on the screen to exit the screen, and then tap the next screen to close the Control Center.
  • Keep in mind that once you turn the microphone on, it will stay on the next time you record your screen unless you go back in and turn it off

  • To stop recording, swipe up (or down) to access the Control Center again and tap the record button again
  • Unless you have media open (you’re watching a YouTube video or Instagram story, for example), you’ll see a red bar at the top of your screen (or top left if you have a newer iPhone) showing that you’re recording. If you tap on that bar, you’ll get a pop-up window asking you if you want to stop recording. Tap “Stop.”

  • The video will be stored with the rest of your photos and videos in your Photos app

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Dell XPS 13 (2020) review: the best Windows laptop gets better

Every time a new XPS 13 comes out, the question is always the same: is it still the best Windows thin-and-light laptop? I’ll spare you the suspense here: the answer is yes.

If there’s one thing Dell is great at, it’s not making sweeping innovations that change what we expect out of a laptop (at least, not with its XPS line). It’s figuring out what needs to be fixed and methodically addressing issues without breaking anything else along the way. Two years ago, it was the god-awful nosecam. Last year, it was the small touchpad and the 16:9 screen. Those were easy fixes and Dell corrected them. The result is a laptop that’s not perfect — but it does most things almost perfectly. Configurations on Dell’s website currently start at $1,199 — the one I tested is listed for $1,749.

The most noticeable change you’ll see from last year’s XPS is the display. No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: the 16:9 screen is (finally!) no more. Dell has shaved a big chunk off the bottom bezel — it’s gone from 19.5mm to 4.6mm. (There’s also a dropped barrel hinge that hides a bit of it below the keyboard deck).

Dell has downsized the top and side bezels as well, resulting in a 16:10 display that’s 6.8 percent larger than that of its predecessor. The company claims a 91.5 percent screen-to-body ratio. It’s a lot of pixels — almost a million more than last year’s 1080p panel. And a few extra millimeters makes a big difference; I felt like I had more space than I usually do on 16:9 panels, and usually didn’t have to zoom out to comfortably work in two windows side by side.

The nearly bezel-less design also lends the whole device a new premium sort of aesthetic. With the logo and the white plastic bumpers gone, in combination with the extended keyboard and touchpad (more on those later), no space is wasted. It’s 2.8 pounds, the same weight as the MacBook Air, but a bit thinner at 0.58 inches. I feel like I’m looking at, and holding, a very nice computer.

The screen gets so bright (up to 500 nits) that I found it uncomfortable to use above 30 percent while I was browsing indoors. The Alien: Covenant trailer looked great, with deep and vivid colors and minimal glare to distract from dark indoor scenes. To nitpick, there was a bit of a blue cast to everything, which turning off the laptop’s Ambient Light Sensor did a bit to neutralize, but didn’t eliminate. It likely won’t impact a casual user’s viewing experience.

As usual, Dell offers a number of configurations of the XPS 13 on its website. I’ve got the $1,749 one, which includes a Core i7-1065G7, 16GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 1920 x 1200 touchscreen.

The $1,199 base model has a Core i5-1035G1, 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a non-touch display — $1,299 gets you that configuration with a touchscreen. These specs should be enough for anyone who just intends to browse. If you plan on gaming, you’ll probably want more storage and RAM.

The 4K model starts at $1,549; that also buys 8GB RAM, 256GB storage, and a Core i5. And you can max the thing out with an i7, a 2TB SSD, 16GB RAM, a 3840 x 2400 touch display, and Windows 10 Pro for $2,309. (There’s also a $999 model with a Core i3 and 4GB RAM floating around somewhere, but it’s not currently listed on Dell’s website).

I haven’t been able to test a 4K model, but the 1920 x 1200 touchscreen looks good enough that anyone who’s not doing creative work probably doesn’t need to shell out extra for the higher-resolution panel. In addition, the lower-resolution model still gives you a touchscreen option, which wasn’t the case on older models, where you had to pony up for a 4K screen just to have touch capability. This one is more than adequate for gaming and Netflix viewing, and other reviews indicate that the 4K model is dimmer and will likely suck battery life to below acceptable levels.

There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a headphone jack, and a microSD slot (and the laptop ships with a USB-A adapter). It’s nice to have USB-C on each side, and I know legacy ports are falling out of fashion, but I’d personally trade one of the Thunderbolts for a built-in USB-A. I still have some older peripherals I hope to get more use out of — you may not, but a more diverse port selection means neither of us would need a dongle.

Now, about this new processor. You’re not alone if you’re confused by Intel’s big mess of 10th Gen chips, so here’s the TL;DR. The late 2019 XPS 13 is powered by a Core i7-10710U, which is a Comet Lake chip with six cores and 12 threads. This XPS has an i7-1065G7, which is an Ice Lake processor — four cores and eight threads. This might look like a downgrade on paper, but that actually depends on what you’re trying to do. Extra cores give you an advantage in computational tasks — crunching numbers, compiling code, elaborate things in Excel. But Ice Lake is better for tasks that might leverage a GPU (gaming, photo and video work, etc.) thanks to Iris Plus, its far superior Gen 11 integrated graphics.

Iris Plus delivered perhaps the best gaming performance I’ve seen from an integrated GPU. The XPS breezed through League of Legends, averaging frame rates in the low 160s and never dipping below 110, and pulled a consistent 70fps in Rocket League on maximum settings, with a low of 41. Overwatch was even playable on Ultra settings, hovering in the low 40s with a low of 21. (On Epic settings, it delivered mid-30s. On Medium, low 50s). That’s comparable to the performance we got from last year’s Razer Blade Stealth, which ran an MX150 discrete graphics card. I’m comfortable saying now that if you want to do light gaming, you no longer need to bother with a low-tier MX chip. This system got the job done just fine.

Of course, the XPS isn’t a gaming rig by any means. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was not playable, stumbling along at an average of 17fps on the lowest settings. It wasn’t just a stuttery experience; it was like watching a flip book. I’m aware that running Tomb Raider on this machine is overkill; anyone who wants to play that isn’t buying an XPS 13 with integrated graphics as their primary device. I only mention such a graphics-heavy task because it’s the point where the limits start to show.

The XPS handled my daily multitasking — swapping between 15-20 Chrome tabs, Slack, and Spotify, often with downloads running in the background — without a stutter. Multitasking did cause some heat, particularly in the keyboard area. Outside of gaming, the device was never uncomfortable in my lap, but my fingers could often feel the heat beneath the keycaps when I was running as few as eight tabs — and the keyboard was downright hot during games (even League). The good news is that the XPS does a good job of keeping the CPU cool. I never experienced throttling, and the i7 stayed fairly consistently in the high 60s and low 70s throughout my 30-minute session of Tomb Raider. The fans, meanwhile, were audible, but not annoyingly loud.

The heat is my only major complaint about this device; everything else ranges from adequate to exceptional. The battery life, for example, is not the best in the category, but it’s still very good. Handling my typical workload (described above) at 50 percent brightness (brighter than I typically need indoors, as noted earlier), the XPS lasted seven hours and 20 minutes on the battery saver profile (which didn’t cause any slowdown). That should just about get you through a work day, and the screen is bright enough that you can easily browse at 30 or 40 percent if you need more juice.

I was also able to finish a 90-minute movie at maximum brightness with about 80 percent left in the tank. Even gaming on battery was decent; I got three hours of League of Legends in performance mode at full brightness. The game was playable for much of that time, dropping below acceptable thresholds at around 15 percent.

For the past year, the XPS 13’s keyboard and touchpad have been my favorite keyboard and touchpad on the market. Their 2020 variants continue to earn their stripes. Dell hasn’t ported over the butterfly keys of the XPS 2-in-1; these keys have 1mm of travel, and they’re snippy, satisfying, and not too loud. My fingers flew, and I made fewer mistakes than usual. The keyboard is now edge-to-edge, and the keycaps are 9 percent larger. That doesn’t seem like much, but I can feel the difference. The touchpad is also 17 percent larger than last year’s model; the surface is delightfully smooth and the click is effortless.

The audio isn’t what you’ll get from a competent external speaker, but it’s still about as good as anything I’ve ever heard from a laptop. Bass wasn’t strong, but the percussion had some oomph, and the bottom-mounted speakers filled a decent-sized room. The sound was a bit distorted at max volume, but crystal clear at 90.

If the XPS 13 has a true weakness, it’s the webcam. The 2.25mm 720p shooter delivers an almost comically grainy picture — my hair looked like a blurry blob, and my background was either washed out or very dark with no middle ground. Miraculously, though, Windows Hello worked just fine, recognizing me instantly in diverse settings and conditions. And Dell deserves credit for squeezing a functional camera into a bezel so tiny — really, I’ll take anything over the nosecam of prior years. (If facial recognition isn’t your speed, a fingerprint reader is also reliable).

For a flagship product, this has been a boring review. That’s a good thing, though, because I really don’t have much to say. The XPS 13 speaks for itself. This isn’t a laptop that’s trying to push boundaries or rewrite the rules; it’s just giving users what they want. I would take a better webcam, I would take better cooling, I would take a USB-A, and I would take a slightly more color-accurate screen. But none of those are glaring flaws because they aren’t big impediments to the user experience. And in the areas that matter most — build, display, keyboard, touchpad, battery life, performance — the XPS 13 doesn’t just check all the boxes. It blows the boxes off the page.

Dell is still charging a price premium for this package, and you’ll pay a little more for the XPS 13 than some of its direct competitors (Apple aside). But most people will be satisfied with the mid-tier $1,299 model and I don’t think anyone will feel like they aren’t getting their money’s worth with this laptop.

There are a number of laptops out there that get just about everything right. But most of them have at least one area of serious concern where the XPS edges them out. On HP’s Spectre x360, it’s the 16:9 screen. On the Surface Laptop 3, it’s the lack of Thunderbolt. On the Surface Pro 7, it’s the dated design. On the MacBook Air, it’s the battery life. To be the best laptop you can buy, the XPS 13 doesn’t need to do everything perfectly; it just needs to do everything a little bit better. And for yet another year, it does.

Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge

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