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Tech News

The best website builder for small businesses

July 22, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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By Kevin Purdy

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full website builder guide here.

After researching 17 of the top website-building services and hosts, building 20 websites with seven of the most promising ones, and changing hundreds of little things on each page, we believe Wix is the best way for a small business to put up a professional-looking website. Its templates, setup interview, and editing tools create modern, clean-looking sites that you can easily customize, and adding crucial tools like contact forms or restaurant menus is easier than with other website-building tools. Wix’s customer support is reliable, its free trial is generous, and its pricing is clear and fair for small businesses.

Beyond the basics of site editing, Wix offers a wealth of plug-ins for adding Google Maps, OpenTable, appointment booking, and other tools to your website. Its search engine optimization tools are easy to understand and use, and thanks to Wix’s size and scale, your site should remain reliable and available even under heavy traffic.

Weebly lacks the variety of templates that Wix provides, and it can’t automatically build you a site by asking you about your business. But Weebly’s editing interface is simpler and provides less room for error with its drag-and-drop boxes. Weebly also (paradoxically) offers deeper access to the code behind your site, but has fewer useful plug-ins and forms from the start. You should try Weebly if you can’t find a template or generated site you like on Wix, if you want to make some specific changes to your site using code (or a code-savvy helper), or if price is the most important factor for you, as the Starter package for Weebly costs one-third less than Wix’s comparable Combo package.

Every designer we spoke with specifically recommended Shopify for any business that’s looking to sell goods online. Although our top picks have built-in ecommerce tools, it makes more sense for most businesses to use Shopify, or at least its Lite version, and embed Shopify’s tools into their websites—Shopify works with both of our top picks, and you won’t be locked in if you decide to change your site later.

Why you should trust us

I’ve written a number of Wirecutter guides to software, including tax software, budget apps, and picks in our home-office guide. Before joining Wirecutter, I wrote about the Web and apps for years, both as an editor at the productivity and software site Lifehacker and as a freelancer for publications including Fast Company, Fortune, and ITworld. I have some experience building websites, with very basic tools (Notepad and HTML), ridiculously convoluted tools (Jekyll, which powers my personal site), and some of the modern building tools reviewed here, including WordPress and Squarespace.

In addition to using my own experience, I enlisted the help of a dozen Wirecutter writers and editors

Tech News

Ridesharing livestreams on Twitch raise privacy worries

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

When you step into a ridesharing car, you probably assume that whatever you do inside the vehicle won’t be recorded for posterity. But what if it turned out that you were not only on camera, but live on the internet? Like it or not, that’s happening — and not always with permission. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has cited the example of Jason Gargac, an Uber and Lyft driver who has been broadcasting “hundreds” of trips on Twitch without explicitly obtaining consent. While Gargac has taken steps to protect passengers (such as muting addresses and moderating lewd chat comments), at least some of these customers said they wouldn’t have entered the car had they known they were in a livestream — and it was possible to identify some of them through details in archived videos.

Gargac has asserted that his streams are legal, since Missouri allows one-party recording of conversations. However, it doesn’t appear that he’s entirely forthright with passengers about what’s happening. A sticker on the car tells passengers that they consent to being recorded if they enter the vehicle, but it describes the camera as “for security.” There’s no mention of the internet stream. And in a sense, it’s taking advantage of customers who either aren’t aware of the sticker or don’t have much choice. If you’re entering the car at night or are in a hurry, are you going to give much heed to a sticker as you hop in?

There might not be much the ridesharing companies can do, at least not without changes to their policies. Both Uber and Lyft have responded with statements that drivers are required to obey local laws, which technically puts drivers like Gargac in the clear. Uber has offered passengers credit and promised not to pair affected riders with the driver. We’ve asked Twitch for comment as well. Gargac has taken care to avoid at least some terms-of-service violations, but it’s not certain whether these are enough.

Regardless of the legality, streams like this raise plenty of questions about the nature of recording laws in the livestreaming era, not to mention the policies of the companies involved. Although Gargac argues that his car is a public space and thus doesn’t have an expectation of privacy, that’s clearly not how some passengers see it. They’re often holding deeply personal conversations or conducting themselves in less-than-flattering ways, and certainly aren’t expecting to have their behavior broadcast online. Stricter policies could ensure that passengers both offer genuine consent and know that their privacy will be protected if they do agree to a livestream.

Tech News

Facebook hopes to launch an internet satellite in early 2019

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

3DSculptor via Getty Images

Facebook has cooperated on internet satellite initiatives (with less-than-ideal results), but there’s been precious little word of plans to make its own satellite beyond high-level promises. Now, however, there’s something tangible. Both publicly disclosed FCC emails and a direct confirmation to Wired have revealed that Facebook aims to launch an internally developed satellite, Athena, sometime in early 2019. A spokesperson didn’t share details, but the shell organization Facebook used to keep filings hidden (PointView Tech LLC) talked about offering broadband to “unserved and underserved” areas with a low Earth orbit satellite on a “limited duration” mission.

This is likely just an experiment rather than a full-fledged deployment. Low Earth orbit satellite internet would require a large cloud of satellites to provide significant coverage, similar to SpaceX’s planned Starlink network. However, it shows that the company isn’t done building its own high-altitude hardware now that it has stopped work on its internet drone.

Whatever Athena shapes up to be, Facebook’s motives likely remain the same. As with Alphabet’s Loon internet balloons, there’s a strong commercial incentive to connect underserved regions. Even if Facebook doesn’t charge a thing for access, it could benefit by adding millions of new users who’d view ads and use services (including through Instagram and WhatsApp). It would also look good to investors, as Facebook would keep its audience growing at a time when there’s seemingly no more room to grow.

Tech News

Recommended Reading: The accent struggle for Alexa and Google Assistant

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Engadget

The accent gap
Drew Harwell,
The Washington Post

Smart speakers (and the virtual assistants they house) offer voice control for so many connected devices it’s hard to keep count. Those audio gadgets can also assist with a range of questions — that is, if they can understand you. The Washington Post took a close look at the performance of Alexa and Google Assistant when it comes to understanding people with strong accents. The results show that while these devices are certainly handy and increasingly popular, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Zuckerberg: The Recode interview
Kara Swisher,
Recode

The Facebook CEO covered a range of topics, including its evolving approach to fake news and a comment about Holocaust deniers that warranted a clarification afterwards.

For one last night, make it a Blockbuster night
Justin Heckert,
The Ringer

News of the one remaining Blockbuster store in the US circulated late last week, and The Ringer examined the end of an era.

The gospel according to Pusha T
Josie Duffy Rice,
The Atlantic

An interesting profile on the Kanye West protégé following the release of his latest album Daytona.

My search for the spirit of Prime Day at an Ariana Grande concert in a giant Amazon box
Hudson Hongo,
Gizmodo

Just trust me on this one.

Tech News

'GTA: Online' goes clubbin' next week with 'After Hours'

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Rockstar Games

A little bit of Liberty City is coming to GTA: Online very, very soon. “Gay” Tony Prince, first seen in Grand Theft Auto IV‘s “The Ballad of Gay Tony” expansion from 2009, is opening up a nightclub in Los Santos and needs your help. “A perfect cover for all illicit activities, Nightclubs can be customized, staffed and promoted, offering players a brand new business opportunity,” Rockstar teased last month. Judging by the trailer, the main mission in “After Hours” is securing a DJ for Prince’s latest venture. “Run your nightclub business from setup, design, staffing and promotion; the more popular the nightclub, the faster your secure safe will fill up,” Rockstar promised.

Oh, and the DJs you’re trying to lock down? You may have heard of them before: The Black Madonna, Solomun and Tale of Us all appear in the game, with Pitchfork reporting the trio were all face-scanned and motion captured for their respective roles. So yeah, they should look and move around like you’d expect.

There are probably a few other clues about the expansion hidden in the trailer embedded below. Some of the cinematography may even give eagle-eyed fans a bit of nostalgia for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City‘s TV commercial. And, to catch a self-aware nod to the virtual Prince’s reception from the real-world LGBT community, make sure you stick around until the video’s final moments. “After Hours” is out next week, July 24th.

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Tech News

Smart record presses promise consistent audio quality at a global scale

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Toronto Star via Getty Images

The manufacturer of what’s one of the best sounding record pressing machines today is taking a step into the future. Viryl Technologies recently announced its WarmTone and LiteTone models will soon connect to the internet. After a test pressing is complete, an engineer will upload the press’ settings to the cloud. The promise is two records that sound near-identical regardless if one was made in America and another in Germany. That consistency is important, as the sound quality and audio characteristics can vary wildly from record to record, plant to plant and pressing to pressing. Every one of its 40ish machines across the globe will operate from the same data for each album.

Essentially, it’s a global test pressing, available everywhere simultaneously.

The tech is called PhonoHive. Labels will submit their record orders online, picking how many, where and when it needs them. The company claims that this will shave down production time and cut costs. Currently, there’s a six-month gap between a label placing an order and it arriving in record stores. “PhonoHive will be granted capacity for incoming orders at a set turnaround time of 6-8 weeks,” according to the company. That’s a 66 percent decrease in turnaround time.

As far as costs go, this will save labels on having to ship heavy boxes full of vinyl around the world; in theory this will allow for regional pressings. It’d benefit touring musicians too, allowing them to only buy and bring what they need when they hit the road, picking up extras along the way if necessary.

That extra four months is massive. Eventually that could lead to greater efficiencies thanks to economies of scale. Even better, it would translate to you spending far less time listening to MP3s that came with your pre-order and more with the vinyl.

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Tech News

Mark Zuckerberg: CEO, billionaire, troll

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

We imagine the scene at Facebook right now is like Kim Jong-il’s funeral. Employees weeping in hallways, dripping anguished snot onto keyboards, beating their chests with unsold Facebook phones in an orgy of anguish at the injustice of media coverage regarding Mark Zuckerberg’s unprompted defense this week of giving Holocaust deniers a voice on the platform.

But I think we’ve finally figured out what’s going on at Facebook after all.

You know that guy. The one who pops into a chill online community and makes everyone miserable. The one who says he’s “just asking questions” about women able to do math, black people and evolution, shooting victims and paid actors, the validity of the Holocaust.

He’s the one that mods have to kick out for “JAQing off” (“Just Asking Questions”) because he clearly has bad intentions to harm the community and recruit hate. The troll who feigns naïveté and uses free speech as a foil.

This week we learned that if you give that guy a platform for his voice, he’ll out himself real fast. Right now, headlines blare Zuckerberg in Holocaust denial row and Fortune 500 C.E.O. Says Holocaust Deniers Must Be Given “a Voice”.

To be clear, on Tuesday Zuckerberg gave a wandering kid-glove interview with Kara Swisher of Recode, the same day Facebook’s representatives went to the mat to avoid telling the House Judiciary Committee exactly how InfoWars gets to stay on Facebook while it pretends to decry hate speech.

Zuckerberg told Recode that Facebook won’t ban Holocaust deniers or race-war conspiracy propagators like InfoWars just because they’re “getting it wrong.” Also, booting them would go against his and Facebook’s “responsibility” to “give people a voice.” Even in his next-day backtracking, Mr. Zuckerberg and his company doubled-down on giving that guy a safe space, a voice, and a platform.

As Matt Ford at The Atlantic tweeted, in the original interview Zuckerberg wasn’t even asked about his company’s policy of fostering Holocaust denial, “he just said he’d keep it on Facebook on his own.”

So, I guess that was Zuckerberg’s last podcast? pic.twitter.com/niUS5NPuQR

— Mat Honan (@mat) July 19, 2018

Then came the headlines. Quickly followed by Mark Zuckerberg pulling a Trump, telling his softball interviewer that he misspoke. “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he wrote in a warm personal email to Kara Swisher.

We imagine loyal Facebook employees on the floor in the breakroom, tearing up chunks of rubber floor mats and chewing them, swallowing through their own howls and moans, sobbing. “No one understands what Mark really means,” they cry.

But we all know that one way to double-down is to split hairs. It’s the hallmark of trolling. It’s what that guy is really good at.

Nowhere is this more clear than this week’s Channel Four (UK) Dispatches episode Inside Facebook: Secrets of the Social Network. The episode

Tech News

Facebook could have another Cambridge Analytica on its hands

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Alexander Koerner via Getty Images

Facebook has suspended a Boston-based analytics firm from both Facebook and Instagram as it investigates the company’s data collection practices, the Wall Street Journal reports. Facebook said that so far, it hasn’t found any evidence that the company has improperly obtained any Facebook or Instagram information, but it would be looking into whether Crimson Hexagon violated any of its policies on how to collect, share and store user data. “We don’t allow developers to build surveillance tools using information from Facebook or Instagram,” Facebook told Engadget. “We take these allegations seriously, and we have suspended these apps while we investigate.”

This move comes as Facebook continues to deal with privacy concerns stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

On its website, Crimson Hexagon boasts that it can provide “instant access to over one trillion consumer conversations from social media, forums, blogs, reviews and more.” Along with brands like Samsung, Twitter, Adidas and GM, the Wall Street Journal reports that Crimson Hexagon has held contracts with both US government agencies and a Russian nonprofit group with connections to the Kremlin. The publication asked Facebook about what oversight it had over the company’s storage of user data and its government contracts. Facebook told the Wall Street Journal that it wasn’t aware of some of Crimson Hexagon’s contracts but said today that it would suspend its apps while it investigates further.

“We are investigating the claims about Crimson Hexagon to see if they violated any of our policies,” Ime Archibong, Facebook’s VP of product partnerships, said in a statement. “People can share their information with developers on Facebook and Instagram — just as they can when they download an app on their phone. We also have APIs so that developers can use public or aggregated information to produce anonymized insights for business purposes.” He added, “Facebook has a responsibility to help protect people’s information which is one of the reasons why we have tightened our APIs significantly over the last few years.”

The social media giant said Crimson Hexagon is cooperating with its investigation and that it plans to meet with the company’s staff in the coming days.

Tech News

AT&T expands its 5G network to North Carolina and Kansas City

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Education Images via Getty Images

AT&T’s mobile 5G network will expand to three new cities this year. Folks in two of North Carolina’s biggest population centers — Charlotte (above) and Raleigh — and those in Kansas City will have access to the faster wireless signal. Previously, it announced Atlanta, and Dallas and Waco in Texas. “We’re deliberately launching with a mix of big and mid-sized cities,” AT&T said in a press release. “All Americans should have access to next-gen connectivity to avoid a new digital divide.”

In addition to news about “real” 5G, AT&T also shed some light on the status of its pseudo-5G network. Another eight cities have come online with LTE-LAA today: Austin, Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, San Antonio, San Jose, Tampa and Tuscaloosa.

Back in January, the telco announced that its new true 5G network would be available in a dozen cities by year’s end. Now to start speculating what combination of burgeoning metropolises and smaller burgs will gain access.

Tech News

A live-action 'Stargirl' series is coming to DC's streaming service

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

DC

When DC officially announced its own streaming service, we couldn’t help but ask whether it could offer enough content to justify its $8-per-month pricing. For loyal fans, the price is probably worth it, because in addition to old Batman animated shows and movies, it will serve as the exclusive home to the comic giant’s originals. DC’s Geoff Johns has revealed one of those originals during his spotlight panel at SDCC 2018: a live-action series based on teen superhero Stargirl.

On his spotlight panel, @geoffjohns announces a new addition to @TheDCUniverse lineup: Stargirl, on a mission to bring back the legacy of the Justice Society! #DCSDCC pic.twitter.com/kbKyjMSuRe

— DC (@DCComics) July 19, 2018

Stargirl aka Courtney Whitmore is the first character Johns made for DC, and he based her on his late sister. In the show, we’ll see her as a high school sophomore who brings together a group of unlikely heroes to form the Justice Society of America, which you might know as the precursor to the Justice League. As a prominent member of the JSA, she appeared in many other DC shows over the years — just last year, she showed up in CW’s Legends of Tomorrow as a WWII-era superhero. It’s unclear if DC is considering the actress (Sarah Grey) who played her in Legends for the series’ title role, but we’ll likely hear more about it the nearer we are to its 2019 premiere.