A couple of gaming hardware announcements just dropped from team Razer. What makes the Core X graphics enclosure arguably the most notable of the bunch is the inclusion of a standard Thunderbolt 3 connection on the rear of the device.
In addition to Razer’s own systems and Windows 10 PCs, the new enclosure is compatible with Apple products running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4. That’s part of a whole new focus on gaming for Apple’s devices, unveiled back at WWDC roughly this time last year, along with the promise of VR development support.
In late March, external GPU support officially arrived for High Sierra 10.13.4, and now Razer’s ready to get on-board. The Core X is designed to hold up to three desktop graphics cards and can charge a connected laptop through the aforementioned Thunrderbolt 3 connection.
The enclosure is available now for $299. Along with the X, Razer’s Core V2 is now also compatible with Macs via Thunderbolt 3. That one will run you $499. Good new all around for Mac users ready to get serious about gaming.
Also new today is the Razer Blade 15.6-inch, an ultra thin gaming notebook the company has taken to calling “the world’s smallest…in its class.” The 15.6-inch display comes 1920 x 1080, standard, which users can upgrade to 4k. All of that is surrounded by some skinny 4.9mm bezels.
Inside is an 8th gen Core i7 processor, coupled with either a either GeForce GTX 1060 or GeForce GTX 1070graphics. There’s also up to 16GB of memory and up to 512GB of storage inside, loaded with what Razer says is $420 of games and software. The system features a 16.8 million color keyboard and output for up to three external displays.
FL Studio aka Fruity Loops has hit a version the developers are dubbing FL Studio 20. At age 20, the software still includes lifetime free updates – and a bunch of new features, including freezing of audio, and Hell freezing over.
The “Hell freezing over” bit you’ll see a lot around this release. It’s a reference to a claim developers Image-Line made that they’d add native Mac support “when Hell freezes over.” The comment at the time wasn’t so outrageous: FL Studio had been built a Windows-native development toolchain that made porting unthinkable. And while about ten years ago the company flirted with using emulation layer WINE to provide rudimentary support, that approach wasn’t terribly satisfying.
Now, Mac users can be first class FL Studio citizens if they so choose. FL Studio 20 is entirely Mac native – not running any kind of emulation. Of course, it may be hard to Image-Line to shake the Windows association, and some Mac users are coming the opposite direction, opting for the power-for-price ratio on Windows PCs. But the Mac still represents a huge portion of musicians, and this means choosing FL doesn’t require choosing a particular OS.
(I will say, though – a new Razer Blade is out. And even the old Razer Blade remains cheaper and better equipped than the Mac. Now you do have to disable some Windows 10 annoyances, like a CPU-hogging malware check and automatic updates on by default. Ahem.)
Hell isn’t the only thing FL Studio can freeze. You can now bounce selected audio and pattern clips to audio, render clips to audio, consolidate clips or tracks or takes by bouncing, and more. That’s a huge difference in the FL workflow.
There are plenty of other new features in version 20, too:
Time Signature support (both in playlists and patterns, independently – so, yes, polymetric support if you like – and you thought FL Studio was just for 4/4 trance.)
Playlist Arrangements. Here’s something I find I’m often missing in linear DAWs – you can now set up multiple alternate arrangements, including audio, automation, and pattern clips, all in one project. That could be massive for tasks from trying out alternative song ideas to specific game or live performance sound designs. (I could see a theater show design using this … or fitting a score to different versions of a film trailer … and so on.)
Plugin Delay Compensation, rebuilt. FL already had delay compensation, both automatic and plugin varieties, but it’s been rebuilt from the ground up, say the developers. And it sounds very useful: “Mixer send compensation, Wet/Dry mixer FX compensation, Audio input compensation, Metronome compensation, Plugin Wrapper custom values remembered per-plugin and improved PDC controls in the Mixer.”
Graph Editor is back! This should never really have left, but a “classic” FL feature has returned, letting you edit MIDI information from the Channel Rack – a very Fruity Loops workflow.
Better recording. There’s now a live display of recorded audio and automatic grouping of tracks as you record – both overdue but welcome.
There are loads of improvements to various plugins, of course, plus lots of other fixes and improvements. Details in the manual:
It’s also pretty remarkable that FL Studio has hit 20 years without ditching its lifetime free upgrade policy. FL users have a substantially different relationship with the software than do users of most typical DAWs, both because of its unique workflow and interface and that lifetime policy. But I’m personally intrigued to give it another go – bouncing and working delay compensation make a big dfference, and FL remains a peculiar, interesting toybox full of nice stuff. I think the fact that FL has perhaps not been taken as seriously as tools like Cubase or Ableton Live might itself be a badge of honor – if you can adapt to its often nonstandard ways of working, it offers some big rewards on a small budget.
And… uff… Image-Line again launch with a video with truly terrible music. (Sorry, guys!) But… who cares? Go make whatever music you want in it. It’s a production tool!
How to watch the Image-Line launch video without clawing out your eadrums
Okay, so… I have a theory.
Maybe one reason people assume FL Studio is for people making terrible dance music is … because Image-Line (sorry, guys) insist on putting terrible dance music beds underneath the videos. Oh, sure, Ableton can throw a big posh party in Berlin and toss moody high-contrast artist photos beneath a stylish typeface they hired a London design consultancy to choose for them. FL Studio’s video is slightly more … uh … pedestrian.
So I’ve found a solution. First, cue up this delightful live performance of “Söngur heiftar” by classic Icelandic black metal band Misþyrming. It’s a little longer than the FL Studio 20 launch video, so don’t panic … you’ve got up to 60 seconds to then hit play on the FL Studio launch video, and hit the mute button in YouTube.
It’s the “Dark Side of the Moon” / Wizard of Oz approach to making music tech marketing videos more palatable. And it kind of fits. You’re welcome.
You’ll need the sound back on for this one, but here’s an extended tutorial video explaining what’s new:
Wall Street responded favorably Monday to Adobe’s plans to acquire the e-commerce platform Magento for $1.68 billion.
Analysts called it a "sensible extension" into digital commerce for Adobe, and "the best option" to help Adobe compete with rivals like Salesforce in commerce.
Wall Street responded favorably on Monday following Adobe’s announcement that it plans to acquire the privately-held e-commerce platform Magento for $1.68 billion.
Adobe shares popped a slight 0.68% in after hours trading, though analyst notes remained positive on the news.
"Overall, we view the acquisition as a sensible extension into the digital commerce market," said Evercore ISI analyst Kirk Materne in a note Monday.
Magento’s platform competes with companies like Shopify and BigCommerce. Analysts lauded the deal for its potential to position Adobe as a strong contender against Salesforce in the arena of digital marketing and customer relationship management (CRM).
Adobe, best known products like Photoshop and Adobe Reader, plans to add Magento’s e-commerce product to its Experience Cloud, which currently includes analytics, advertising and marketing tools. The combined platform with serve both business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies.
Materne noted that he expects that the Experience Cloud will outperform analyst estimates "on an organic basis" following the acquisition.
Alex Zukin, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, called the acquisition "the best option for a move into the $13 billion" e-commerce market.
"With the percentage of transactions in both the B2B and B2C space rapidly accelerating toward digital channels, any customer-centric enterprise software player, in our minds, needs to have a commerce offering," Zukin said.
Despite their support, the analysts did express some concern that Adobe’s acquisition will be dilutive to earnings, since Adobe will not benefit from Magento’s revenue in the near-term.
Magento brought in $150 million in revenue in 2017, and Zukin said he expects that number to reach $200 million in 2018.
Netflix has posted the trailer for Sense8‘s long-in-the-making series finale, and it’s clear the mysterious sci-fi show isn’t going to go gently into that good night when it wraps up on June 8th. The promo emphasizes the bond between the Sensates (“we are more human than any other human will be,”) and makes clear that the stakes are extra-high — our heroes are not only in a race to save Wolfgang, but are edging ever closer to tracking down BPO’s Chairman. And this being a Wachowski production, you can be sure that will involve plenty of martial arts and gunplay.
The finale is bound to remain bittersweet for fans. It’ll tie up loose ends from the second season of the show, but it’s definitely not the third season many viewers were hoping for. If nothing else, though, the trailer suggests that Netflix is willing to give Sense8 a proper send-off, even if it’s a relatively brief one.
According to the study, about one in four Americans didn’t read a book last year. Kimmel wagered that that figure was actually too high, and sent his team to ask pedestrians to name literally any book.
A lot of people blanked entirely, or gave answers like The Lion King. To be fair, it is a weirdly broad question. Read more…
In the beginning, the laurel-or-yanny clip said laurel and nothing but laurel. Here is the original version of the clip, recorded by an opera singer working for Vocabulary.com. Chances are, you’ll hear it as laurel too. Let’s compare it to the viral clip and we’ll see exactly what changed, and why half of us hear the viral clip as yanny.
The original recording came from Vocabulary.com’s 2007 effort to include pronunciations for the site’s most commonly looked-up words. This was the recording made for the word laurel. It was spoken by Jay Aubrey Jones, one of eight singers commissioned by the company to read the words from home using a provided laptop, microphone, and portable sound booth. (Opera singers are trained to read IPA, the pronunciation code that dictionaries also use.) Jones personally read about 36,000 words for the site.
There were so many sound clips to process, says Vocabulary.com co-founder and chief technical officer Marc Tinkler, that software did everything automatically: trimming the beginning and end of each file, applying a noise-reduction filter if needed, and converting to the mp3 format that saves space and bandwidth.
The beauty of the mp3 format is that it can compress sound files into a small enough amount of space to easily share around the internet. The drawback of the mp3 format is that it does this by removing sounds from the recording and introducing some glitchy, tinny noises. If you’re okay with a file that’s only slightly compressed, you can leave in most of the original sound information. But, says Tinkler, “this was back in 2007 or 2008, so we were pretty aggressive in the downsampling process.”
I asked Tinkler if there was any chance he had the original file for comparison. He found it on a DVD in a storage closet, and uploaded it to Soundcloud for all to hear. Technically this is not the exact original, because Soundcloud provides it as an mp3 but it was originally recorded in an even higher quality format. But it’s more original, shall we say, than the version you and your friends have been arguing over. And it’s clear enough that we can now tell exactly what happened when the file was compressed.
What Got Lost
Compressing the laurel clip had a major casualty: the second speech formant. Without this part of the sound spectrum, an L can sound like “ee” and an R can sound maybe a little bit like an N.
Here’s why. Sound waves each have a frequency. The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch we hear. But the sound of speech includes many frequencies at the same time. Our ears and brains pick out the strongest frequencies from this mess of sound. Speech scientists call these formants. The two lowest-pitch formants give us enough information to tell the difference between one vowel sound and another.
If you open up a sound file in an analysis program, you can see these formants. That’s exactly what my father, a speech scientist at California University of Pennsylvania, did when I showed him the viral clip. He opened the mp3 in a program called Wavesurfer and proceeded to show me, on his laptop at the kitchen table, how I was wrong to hear laurel because the formants match up to the sounds “ee”, “a”, something ambiguous that could be an “n”, and a final “ee.” Yanny.
But, he conceded, there’s just enough ambiguity that you could hear laurel if you really wanted to. (He suspected at first that the file was carefully crafted to be ambiguous, an intentional audio illusion.) For the record, I have never heard anything but laurel from this file.
My dad can read the formants just from the black-and-white spectrogram view, but Wavesurfer helpfully detects them and color-codes them. Wavesurfer agrees with my dad, and reads this file as saying yanny. But if you give it the original file, it highlights a different set of formants: the ones that say, very clearly, laurel.
To understand what happened, take a look at the red and green lines. These are the first two formants, which we’ll call F1 (red) and F2 (green). They both hover around the bottom of the spectrogram. A third formant, F3, floats high above them in blue, dipping down very close to the F2 during the R sound in laurel.
But then look at the processed clip, the one that you’ve been sharing with your friends. (Click the arrow in the slideshow above.) It’s noisier overall, thanks to the mp3 compression. That noise blurs out the difference between the F1 and F2, leaving both Wavesurfer and our brains to figure there’s maybe only one formant down there, the F1. That means that the higher-up line, the one that dips down in the middle, looks like it must be the F2.
At the beginning of the clip, the F1 and F2 down low next to each other are compatible with hearing an L. But if F1 is down there, and F2 is way up above 2000 hertz, that’s an “ee” or a Y sound. Obliterating the second formant changes how we interpret the sound.
But There’s Enough Room to Disagree
The viral, processed clip doesn’t entirely remove the second formant, just makes it harder to discern among the noise. If you’re expecting to hear laurel, and if your ears and brain can find two formants in the low frequencies, you can still hear it as laurel. But to a different person, the sounds of yanny might stand out more, as Gizmodo reported earlier this week.
So what about those videos and slider tools that show you can change what you hear by listening to just the high or the low frequencies? It turns out that phenomenon, too, comes down to the speech formants.
If you cut off the higher frequencies, you’ll be left with just the lower part of the spectrum, where the original F1 and F2 were. Your brain will work a little harder to be able to tell those two formants apart, instead of locking on to what it thinks is an F2 higher up. By contrast, if you listen to just the higher frequencies of the clip, your brain picks up on the real F3 as a possible F2, and assumes there must be a single F1 down in the lower part of the spectrum.
So this trick changes your perception not because yanny is “in” one part of the spectrum and laurel “in” another, but because either way your brain is only hearing some of the formants, and is guessing at what the others might be.
"But I really wanted to eventually work digitally because it seems like that’s what the art buying public is looking for in the world of illustration these days, and I like the speed of it," he said.
Ulriksen is just one of a new batch of professional artists who have embraced tablets like Apple’s iPad and its Pencil stylus to make illustrations easier, faster, and more ready for the computers and screens most art is consumed on these days.
There was also a professional reason: the world is going digital.
"For almost 20 years I did inside work for The New Yorker as well and then Condé Nast got a new creative director and it was out with the old in with the new and the new is all digital art," Ulriksen said. "So almost all the The New Yorker art these days save for a couple of people, it’s digital."
So he ended asking some friends what he should get, and last October, he ended up buying an iPad Pro, Apple’s $100 Pencil stylus, an app called Procreate, and started playing around.
As soon as he started experimenting with digital art, he found out that a lot of the techniques he admired from a distance were actually pretty easy to pull off.
"When I would see digital work in a publication, I go, ‘how do they do that, how do they get that that texture, how do they get the splatter? How they get it to look so, you know, rough and tumble, because you know because I don’t know how to do that as a painter so well," he said.
After experimenting with every brush in Procreate, he had his answer.
"And so all of a sudden it’s like, it’s the brushes! That’s how they do it. There’s texture brushes and there’s splatter brushes and there’s paint roller brushes," Ulriksen said. "Now I’ve learned that secret."
One of his first projects with digital art is a series of "victory cards." Every time the San Francisco Giants win, he recreates an old-school Topps baseball card in his signature style.
It’s the continuation of a series that he stared back in 2014 — only back then, it was on ink and paper.
"The season’s coming up, why don’t I redo the Giants baseball card idea but now I can do it in color and I can also use it as an exercise to try to learn this tool," Ulriksen said.
Since he already had some drawings from before, his process was a streamlined. He take a photo of his old work with the iPad, changes the opacity to make it lighter, and then makes a new layer and draws on top of it. "I’ve already got my black and white drawing and now it’s just a matter of rendering it in color," he said.
He uses the opportunity to experiment with texture, with focus, and with making hyper-flat images. He’s also found that adapting work or making changes on the fly is much easier digitally than with paper or paint. "You do a painting you’re kind of committed to the painting," he said.
"I want to make it look like this is in shadow. I’m not really good at that as a painter. But with the iPad it’s just like I’ll just make it more of a transparent layer," he continued.
Another advantage to digital art is that it makes follow-up pieces much more economical for working artists. Ulriksen recenly did a full-page piece for Mother Jones, but at the last moment, the art director realized the magazine needed a horizontal version for the website.
"What might have taken a few days to do (with a smidgen more money and even less desire) instead took a little over an hour. I copied the art, placed it in the requested format and then added to the background," Ulriksen said.
Check out some of his work below:
Here’s his most recent card. One of the cool things about Procreate is that it lets Ulriksen create time lapse images of his process.
He draws a card every time the Giants win.
Most of the cards he draws are players from long ago. Dave Dravecky played for the Giants in the ’80s.
Some victory cards can take over two hours to complete; others can be completed in about 40 minutes.
Michiganders were tricked into believing the mushrooms kicked in early Sunday night after nature gifted them one of its most coveted natural phenomenons–the Northern Lights, or for science nerds, aurora borealis.
Many people staked out spots along the Straits of Mackinac–the waterway connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron–to get the most scenic view of the light show bouncing off the water.
As a refresher, Northern Lights are caused by collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere, seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. But you already knew that.
Dustin Dilworth of D3 Imagery posted a 42-second time-lapse video of the northern lights over the Mackinac Bridge that has since gone viral–amassing 178,000 views and 7,000 shares. For good reason.