Crappy in-display fingerprint readers are ruining new phones

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In-display fingerprint readers — biometric sensors embedded within the screens of many new phones — are garbage. They must be purged from all future devices unless they get significantly better soon.

There, I said it, and boy does it feel great to get that off my chest. Because it’s true. 

As a tech reviewer, I’m in the enviable position of being able to test out new devices before they trickle down to everyone.  

Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s not. It sucked to live without a headphone jack on the iPhone 7, but was life-changing to use AirPods before anyone else could. It was really fun to use phones like the Vivo Nex S and Oppo Find X, with its motorized cameras, and even the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, with its fidgety sliding design.

But I can’t get behind the in-display fingerprint sensors that are being included in virtually every new Android phone.

They’re all terrible.

Unlike physical fingerprint readers such as Touch ID on the iPhone 8 (and older), the Pixel Imprint sensor on the back of Google Pixel phones, or the reader on the back of the Galaxy S9 and Note 9, in-display fingerprint readers are slower and less responsive.

For an in-display fingerprint reader to be considered an upgrade, it needs to succeed at two things:

  1. Work as fast (or faster) than the physical one it replaces.

  2. Work as as reliably or better than the sensor it replaces.

At the time of this rant, no in-display fingerprint reader meets both of these two requisites. 

It was fine to give Chinese phone maker Vivo a pass for the wonky, first-gen in-display fingerprint reader inside of the X20 Plus. But that phone was the first of its kind to include the new biometric tech. 

To shrug and give new phones launching in 2019 the same break for including half-baked in-display fingerprint readers simply because it’s new tech is not OK. It’s unacceptable to spend $1,000 for a Samsung Galaxy S10+ only to get a fingerprint reader that’s inferior to the one on the previous Galaxy S9.

I’ve tried just about all of the in-display sensors — Galaxy S10, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, OnePlus 6T, and even the one on the new Nokia 9 PureView — and none of them live up to the hype.

Tradeoffs are inevitable when it comes to new technologies, but when new innovation is a noticeable step backwards from what came before, we should stop and ask big tech companies why?

What good is using an in-display fingerprint reader for unlocking your phone if it’s constantly telling you it failed to recognize your fingerprint or to press harder into the screen?

It’s kind of mind-boggling when somebody needs to make a video showing how it makes no difference if you tap or tap-and-hold your finger on the S10’s in-display reader.

Another problem with in-display fingerprint readers: many screen protectors don’t play nice with them. Because some sensors, like the one in the OnePlus 6T, require light to illuminate your fingerprints before capturing an image of them, screen protectors can actually get in the way.

Same goes for ultrasonic fingerprint readers like the one in the Galaxy S10 and S10+. Only instead of blocking light, many third-party screen protectors can block the ultrasound waves emitted from the grooves of your finger when it touches the sensor. And the only one that seems to work takes like 30 minutes. No thank you.

Regular fingerprint readers don’t have issues with screen protectors because they’re not inside of the display.

But if in-display fingerprint sensors aren’t good enough yet, shouldn’t phone makers put more dollars into research and development to make facial recognition and face unlock systems more reliable and secure? Since face unlock is often touted as more convenient, anyway?

You would think yes. But the opposite seems to be happening. Whereas the Galaxy S8 and S9 both had secure iris scanners, the S10’s doesn’t. As a result, the face unlock feature on the S10 is wimpy — like comically easy to fool with a printed photo or video on your phone. Unbox Therapy’s Lewis Hilsenteger was able to bypass the S10’s face unlock with a YouTube video of himself. Another person fooled the face unlock on her brother’s S10 and they’re not even twins. Like, oh damn. 

The reality is, you can’t get a notch-free display or screen with only a “hole punch” if you want a secure facial recognition system like Face ID on the iPhone X, XS, and XR. Unlike the 2D-based face unlock recognition on phones like the S10, the 3D-based Face ID on the latest iPhones requires many sensors (i.e. flood illuminator, infrared camera, dot projector, etc.) housed in the notch. Some phones like the Oppo Find X get around this by hiding the front-facing camera and its sensors inside of a motorized mechanism, but that introduces its own durability issues.

Using these crummy in-display readers made me realize one very obvious thing: Apple was right to go with Face ID instead of trying to put Touch ID in the screen. Face ID isn’t perfect by any means — for example, it doesn’t work well sideways in bed or at all if you’ve got a scarf or mask covering your mouth — but more times than not it does work quickly and reliably. The same just can’t be said for in-display fingerprint sensors. 

So why did we want these in-display fingerprint readers again? Does anyone really want them if they’re so bad? So that we can get sleeker phones without a sensor on the back or on the side? Thinner phones? Give me a break. If this was true, the Galaxy S10e and its side-mounted fingerprint reader wouldn’t exist.

Until these in-display fingerprint sensors get significantly better, they’re going to be a stain on otherwise excellent phones.

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Learn How to Shoot Stunning Milky Way Photos in 5 Minutes

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If you’re looking for a quick and simple astrophotography tutorial for shooting the Milky Way, then we have just the right stuff for you. In his very basic video tutorial, Mike Perea gives a rundown of all the stuff you need to know to get that beautiful band of stars in your night photos. Whether you don’t have a lot of time to lengthy astrophotography tutorials or are looking for a simple one that works, this is definitely one you should keep in your bookmarks for future reference.

from The Phoblographer http://bit.ly/2J5RVK0
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Reviewed: 7 of the Best Cameras for Astrophotography

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There are few genres of photography that are quite as rewarding as astrophotography. The thrill of pointing your camera to the skies and being able to see the magic that hides in plain sight is truly a magical experience. Getting great astrophotography shots is possible with any camera really, but there are a few that stand out as star performers thanks to their impeccable image quality, and virtually noise free images up to ISO 6400. Use one of the seven cameras we suggest and you’ll be over the moon with your results.

from The Phoblographer http://bit.ly/2THM5m8
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Use Ableton Live faster with the free Live Enhancement Suite

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Day in, day out, a lot of producers spend a lot of time editing in Ableton Live. Here’s a free tool that automates some common tasks so you can work more quickly – easing some FL Studio envy in the process.

This one comes to us from Madeleine Bloom’s terrific Sonic Bloom, the best destination for resources on learning and using Ableton Live. Live Enhancement Suite is Windows-only for the moment, but a Mac version is coming soon.

The basic idea is, LES adds shortcuts for producers, and some custom features (like sane drawing) you might expect from other tools:

Add devices (like your favorite plug-ins) using a customizable pop-up menu of your favorites (with a double right-click)

Draw notes easily with the ~ key in Piano Roll.

Pop up a shortcut menu with scales in Piano Roll

Add locators (right shift + L) at the cursor

Pan with your mouse, not just the keyboard (via the middle mouse button, so you’ll need a three-button mouse for this one)

Save multiple versions (a feature FL Studio users know well)

Ctrl-shift-Z to redo

Alt-E to view envelope mode in piano roll

And there’s more customizations and multi-monitor support, too.

Ableton are gradually addressing long-running user requests to make editing easier; Live 10.1 builds on the work of Live 10. Case in point: 10.1 finally lets you solo a selected track (mentioned in the video as previously requiring one of these shortcuts). But it’s likewise nice to see users add in what’s missing.

Oh, and… you’re totally allowed to call it “Ableton.” People regularly refer to cars by the make rather than the model. We know what you mean.

Here’s a video walking through these tools and the creator Dylan Tallchief’s approach:

More info:

LES Collaborators:
Inverted Silence: https://soundcloud.com/invertedsilence
Aevi: https://twitter.com/aevitunes
Sylvian: https://sylvian.co/

https://www.patreon.com/dylantallchief
https://www.twitter.com/dylantallchief
https://soundcloud.com/dylantallchief
https://facebook.com/dylantallchief
https://www.twitch.tv/dylantallchief

Give it a go – will try to check in when there’s a Mac version.

https://enhancementsuite.me/

PS, Windows users will want to check out the excellent open source AutoHotkey for automation, generally.

The post Use Ableton Live faster with the free Live Enhancement Suite appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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Fireworks Shows Will Never Be The Same After Plane Shoots Lasers And Fireworks While Flying Over Crowd

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It’s hard to know for sure which type of video has a worse reputation, fireworks videos or concert clips. In both cases, you see people holding their phones nonstop and taking videos they’ll truly never watch again.

Seriously, nobody’s going back to watch ‘4th of July Fireworks 2015!’ in that iPhone album.

This, however, is worth watching a thousand times. Fireworks shows will never be the same if this catches on. This went down in Australia at the 2019 Avalon Airshow in Avalon, Australia. What takes place is a plane blasting lasers into the crowd, shooting fireworks from its wings like it’s firing the guns, and it all takes place to Sandstorm 2006 by Dream Chaser.

It’s quite possible this type of fireworks show already exists here in America and I just haven’t seen it yet but I’ve seen 4th of July fireworks shows in Florida, Texas, Las Vegas, NYC, upstate New York, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few others…and I’ve never seen anything like this

It’s just a matter of time until someone makes the connection that we have the most powerful military in the world by a factor of a few million. Americans LOVE a good fireworks show. I used to think we were the best at them but Dubai has routinely been blowing away our 4th of July fireworks displays for years with their New Year’s Eve extravaganzas.

Also, I was in Iceland for NYE a few years ago and they took their fireworks more seriously than anywhere I’d ever been. Starting like 30 or 45 minutes before midnight, they started shooting off fireworks in every direction imaginable everywhere in the city. It was well over a full hour of nonstop fireworks in every direction, and they were still shooting them off the next morning.

(h/t r/videos)

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Diver Survived After Being Swallowed Headfirst By A Whale And Someone Actually Captured Footage Of It All

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Bryde's Whale breaching while eating anchovies

iStockphoto / Baramee Temboonkiat

A 51-year-old diver in South Africa was swallowed headfirst by a whale while snorkeling with sharks. The diver didn’t even see the whale coming because he had his eyes trained on the sharks. After all, if there are sharks in the area that’s what you want to be paying attention to if you know what’s good for your personal safety…normally

In this instance, the divers were on hand to see a feeding frenzy during an annual sardine migration. The Bryde’s whale swooped in out of nowhere to grab a mouthful of sardines and managed to grab the diver’s head and body in its mouth in an instant.

According to Fox News, the diver almost immediately felt the pressure of the whale swallowing him followed by immediate relief because he 51-year-old Rainer Schimpf realized the whale wasn’t large enough to swallow him and he was going to be okay if he just held on. He said it was “kind of an instant relief.”

The chances of being swallowed by a whale? Probably slimmer than the chances of winning the Powerball lottery 50 times. The chances of someone on hand to capture footage of you being swallowed by a whale?Equally as improbable.

“We were very astonished that out of nowhere this whale came up,” he told Sky News. “I was busy concentrating on the sharks because you want to know if the shark is in front of you or behind you, left or right, so we were very focused on the sharks and their behavior — then suddenly it got dark.”

Schimpf, who has worked as a dive operator for over 15 years, said he was in the water with two others for just a matter of minutes before the whale appeared. He had happened to be with a group recording a sardine run, which is where marine animals such as dolphins, whales, and sharks gather fish into bait balls.

“So my next thought was that the whale may take me down into the ocean and release me further down, so I instantly held my breath,” he told Sky News. “Obviously he realized I was not what he wanted to eat so he spat me out again.” (via Fox News)

You can see the diver’s body hanging out of the whale’s mouth here:

These Bryde’s Whales can weigh up to 90,000 pounds and grow up to 55-feet in length. You’d think that would be big enough to swallow a human being whole but in this instance, I don’t think the animal was large enough.

This story had a much happier ending than the biblical tale of Jonah who was swallowed into the whale of a belly. This guy was able to swim away and be rescued, without any interference from the sharks, and now he has one of the craziest stories on the planet. He can bust this out at any bar across the world, people won’t believe him, he can then Google his own name, and probably score free beers wherever he goes.

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The future of flying

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From 3500 feet up California is a glorious patchwork quilt of green and gold, textured by rippling mountains and shining water. Ahead of us we see the Carquinez Bridge and the Bay; behind us, the fingers of Lake Berryessa curl into the steep hills. Twenty minutes ago I stood barefoot in the soft grass on the bank of one of those narrow coves, many miles from any road. Twenty minutes from now I will be driving to Five Guys for lunch.

“Hey,” I think to myself, “even a flying car couldn’t do this.”

Last year I became a Valley cliché, took up pilot training, and wrote about the experience — and the decrease in pilots worldwide, and the looming pilot shortage — for TechCrunch. ICON Aircraft, the manufacturers of a radically new kind of light airplane, the amphibious ICON A5, saw that and invited me to come to their Vacaville headquarters to experience a few days of their training. (At no cost to me, I should disclose, aside from paying the TSA $110 because I am a suspicious Canadian.) I turned up fearing that since, for tedious reasons, my training has been on hiatus since last July, I’d be so rusty I could barely fly.

It turned out that wasn’t a problem at all. Maybe I wasn’t really rusty at all … or maybe I was, but the A5 is so easy to fly that it didn’t matter.

I ended last year’s piece with “I think flying seems like a very 20th-century activity in the popular imagination.” That obviously isn’t true of ultramodern commercial jets, but it is of general aviation. It’s not at all unusual to learn to fly in a “six pack” airplane whose instruments and controls have basically not changed in 50 years or more. Sometimes they are actually are 50 years old.

Even the more “modern” “glass cockpit” light aircraft have screens with weirdly complex, user-hostile dials-and-knobs controls rather than a simple touchscreen. Even the vintage-2000 Diamond aircraft with which I started my training “features” a starting procedure which involves combining the mixture and the throttle in just the right way; significant left-turning tendencies such that you sometimes have to perform high-speed differential braking just to take off in a straight line; manual fuel-tank management; etc.

Individually these things are not such a big deal. Eventually these things are not such a big deal. But learning to navigate three-dimensional space, and land safely at busy airports — especially while dealing with restricted airspaces and air traffic control — is complicated enough that anything which adds to the initial cognitive load is a big deal.

Worse yet, most individual training is by independent Certified Flight Instructors with very different attitudes, beliefs, and curriculae. Some like to start students doing landings quite early, and some save it for quite a bit later. Some like to demonstrate, some like to instruct. It’s more a master/apprentice experience than an actual school.

Flight schools are obviously more consistent, and, in retrospect, probably a better way to learn, not least because you fly a lot in a short period of time, rather than trying to schedule with a capable but overcommitted CFI and ending up flying only every couple of weeks, which significantly retards your progress. Not that I’m speaking from bitter experience or anything.

Aaaaanyway. Let us not dwell on the unfortunate past. Let us talk about ICON, because both their aircraft and their training feel like a big step forward, right down to their instrument panel. On the A5, that panel is dominated by an Angle Of Attack indicator, which describes how much bite your airplane’s wings are taking out of the air. This is is insanely useful, especially when you are landing, when AOA is critical.

This instrument doesn’t even exist on other light aircraft. In my previous planes, Diamonds and Cessnas, landing was a complicated dance of carefully watching and managing speed, power, and seat-of-the-pants feel, while also mostly looking outside, such that one arrives at the runway at just-the-right-angle, then, a few feet above ground, rounds out at just-the-right-time to the next just-the-right-angle.

In the A5, you just set your power, make sure the AOA gauge is pointing the right way, and then glide happily down, occasionally glancing down at that single instrument, before bringing it up a notch for the round-out. Sure, you still might have to make adjustments for wind or height or whatever. But it’s a lot easier. Again, the cognitive load is so much less.

Military aircraft have AOA indicators, because, well, they’re so very useful, but no other general aviation airplane comes with one. You can buy them aftermarket, but that’s not the same. Why don’t other common general-aviation aircraft have them? Once again: because most general aviation has been stuck in the bad old days.

That extends to a slew of other things, too. The A5 is built for simplicity. No mixture to mess with; no manually controlled propeller RPM to adjust mid-flight; no magnetos to check in the run-up. In fact, if you cover the AoA gauge, altimeter, and attitude indicator, the controls look a lot like a car’s. This is by design.

You don’t even need high-octane aviation fuel; it actually runs better on standard 91-octane gasoline. (Although you can use either, or both.) The two-person cockpit, designed by BMW designers, is remarkably comfortable, and the view from its canopy is unparalleled, since its 100-horsepower engine and propeller are behind you rather than on its nose.

Perhaps best of all, it is fully amphibious. Its carbon fiber hull resembles a Jet Ski with wings, and on the water it can basically behave like one too (although that’s frowned on in excess, because the spray can wear at the propeller, and if you get crazy with it you risk dipping a wing into the water.) Takeoffs and even landings on sizable bodies of water in good conditions are ridiculously easy, courtesy of that AOA gauge.

You can even lower the landing gear, wheel it down/up a ramp to/from the water, and fly it for years without ever having to land it on a runway. What’s more, the wings fold back, which takes one person 10 minutes, so that the entire airplane can easily be stored in a nine-foot-wide trailer and driven to and from the water.

That really changes one’s perspective on flying. Instead of being limited to point-to-point flights between a fixed set of runways, anywhere on any reasonably large body of water can be your destination, weather permitting, and you can gas up at any marina. (It would be especially great in Canada, which is riven by countless lakes; the A5 is still classified as an experimental airplane there, but hopefully that will change soon, because e.g. Northern Ontario is practically made for it.)

On one flight this week we landed in a broad channel of water, navigated down a little winding side cove, beached — well, “grassed” — the plane on the shore, walked around a bit, then got back in, pushed off, restarted the engine, taxied out to the open water, and flew back to Vacaville … all very casually, keeping one eye on the wind and terrain to ensure it would be easy to get in and out of course, but really no big deal.

Let’s talk about stalls, because stalls are dangerous, and tend to happen when your plane is most vulnerable, i.e. taking off or departing. They are especially dangerous (PDF) when they progress into a spin. The most aerodynamically remarkable thing about the A5 is its stall resistance. It is the first production aircraft certified as spin resistant by the FAA, courtesy of a wing which is essentially divided into two sections, one of which stalls before the other, meaning the outer wing retains authority even when the inner wing is stalling.

Honestly, having flown it, I’m not sure how you would get it into a spin even if you wanted to. I put it into a power-on stall and held it there for full 15 seconds, banking from side to side, while the warning horn blared at me … and it gained altitude. In a power-off stall it lost height, but only at circa 10 feet per second, and was still amenable to banking. An “accelerated stall,” i.e. one while banking sharply at high speeds, is a maneuver sufficiently sketchy that student pilots have it demonstrated to them but do not usually attempt it themselves. I did one in the A5 and, just like the other stalls, it was anticlimactic in the extreme.

Oh, and if you were to get into serious trouble aloft, it also comes with a Complete Aircraft Parachute — although, to be honest, that seems to exist more to reassure your passenger than because you might use it in any conceivable circumstance, other than suddenly being struck blind or suffering an in-flight stroke.

ICON’s military background (its founders and early employees were largely Marine Corps pilots) has informed its training philosophy, too. They stress humility and being quick to volunteer your mistakes. Their training materials are much more accessible than the dense standard FAA tomes, and just the existence of a consistent curriculum across trainers is a big step forward. Their training focuses on a “sport pilot” license, which is restricted compared to “private pilot” — you can only fly light aircraft (nothing bigger than the A5), by day, in good visibility, below cloud cover — but it also requires less training, and is a very viable step towards the latter.

It will by now be more than apparent to you that I loved this airplane, and also really liked ICON’s training. Having established that, though, let’s talk about some downsides and concerns.

First, it would be disingenuous to write about ICON without mentioning the cloud of tragedy which still hangs over the company. Two years ago ICON’s lead engineer and another employee were killed in a crash on Lake Berryessa. According to the NTSB, the crash was due to pilot error, apparently when mistaking a dead-end canyon for one which led into the main body of the lake while flying at low altitude over water.

Later that year they released new low-altitude guidelines … and three weeks later, one of their first customers, former Major League Baseball superstar Roy Halladay, crashed his A5 into the Gulf of Mexico while flying at low altitude, and died. That too was declared pilot error; Halladay apparently had “high concentrations of morphine and amphetamine” along with Ambien in his system at the time.

On the one hand, even expert pilots (the chief engineer in question had flown F-16s in the Air Force) can make mistakes, and obviously one should never, ever, ever do drugs and fly. On the other, one can’t help but wonder if the fact that the A5 is so easy to fly in and out of water — landing it on a lake in good conditions is objectively easier than, say, docking a powerboat in a slip on a windy day, and takeoffs are easier yet — breeds a dangerous complacency when over water. Obviously the way to combat this is with training, and I can attest that ICON’s training today has a heavy focus on humility and caution, especially at low altitude … and yet, that kind of complacency will remain a risk factor.

Second, there’s no question that none of this comes cheap. Airplanes are expensive in general but the A5’s list price of $389,000 is noticeably more than that of, say, a new Cessna 172, the world’s most popular starter / training aircraft … which carries twice as many passengers and almost twice as much weight. The A5 is very much a light aircraft; my CFI and I’s combined 410 pounds meant we could only fill the tank halfway to stay within weight/balance restrictions, although it’s also miserly enough with fuel that that wasn’t any problem. It’s a great little airplane, but there’s no question that you’re paying more money for a smaller plane.

Their intent is to lead off as the Ferrari of light aviation, and eventually build something more like — well, not a Honda, but maybe a Maserati, in terms of relative price. They burned through some goodwill by initially claiming the list price would be $189,000. Right now they’re ramping up their production facilities in Tijuana (where all the carbon fiber components are made) and Vacaville (where those components are assembled along with everything else.)

One can imagine the price diminishing as production quantities achieve economies of scale … but it’s still never going to be anything like the price of, say, a used Cessna 172, which can easily drop down into five figures.

The A5, and its easier/improved flying experience, and ICON’s more consistent training, and the simpler sport-pilot license associated with it, all do combine to make flying substantially more accessible … to the rich. It certainly won’t help the pilot shortage, though. Anyone who can afford an A5 doesn’t need to start flying professionally.

The big question is, will its advances — simpler & touchscreen cockpits, a built-in AOA gauge, spin-resistant wings, consistent training, etc. — filter down to the more affordable end of the industry, and/or into more affordable ICON aircraft? I optimistically think it will. Not anytime in the next few years, no. But much faster than we’ll get, say, affordable hex-rotor VTOL flying cars.

When people imagine flying they imagine it as a magical, dreamlike experience, and it frequently is — but at the same time, learning to fly can sometimes be more Type II fun than Type I. (I suspect that this, more than the admittedly high cost, is why a lot of student pilots peter out and never finish their certification.) Whatever the price point, the ICON people deserve kudos for building an aircraft which makes flying reliably far more the latter than the former. If that experience can scale semi-affordably — admittedly two huge ifs — then instead of facing a pilot shortage we’ll have a happy, excited, adventure-seeking glut of pilots out there, soaring from runway to runway and from lake to lake. May you try it yourself and enjoy it as much as I do.

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