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Google's Chrome browser will block battery-draining, data-guzzling ads – Mashable

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Google is working to make the Chrome browser shut down ads that drain your device’s battery life or needlessly consume your internet’s bandwidth. 

The scale of the problem is pretty minor, affecting 0.3 percent of all the ads on the internet, according to Chrome Product Manager Marshall Vale. Nevertheless, these intrusive ads can hog system resources without your knowledge. 

“These ads (such as those that mine cryptocurrency, are poorly programmed, or are unoptimized for network usage) can drain battery life, saturate already strained networks, and cost money,” Vale wrote in a Thursday blog post.

In response, Google will limit the system resources an online ad can use before you click on it. “When an ad reaches its limit, the ad’s frame will navigate to an error page, informing the user that the ad has used too many resources,” Vale added. As the example below shows, the intrusive ad will come up as a gray blank space, rendering it useless. 

According to Vale, Google plans on targeting the most egregious ads that use more CPU or network bandwidth than 99.9 percent of ads that tap the same system resources. Specifically, the company will block ads that meet any of the following criteria

  • Uses the main CPU for more than 60 seconds in total.

  • Uses the main CPU for more than 15 seconds in any 30-second window.

  • Uses more than 4 megabytes of network bandwidth.

“While only 0.3 percent of ads exceed this threshold today, they account for 27 percent of network data used by ads and 28 percent of all ad CPU usage,” Vale added.

The plan is to experiment with the ad-blocking technique over the next few months before rolling out the feature in a Chrome stable release near the end of August. However, you can actually activate the feature now. Simply type in “chrome://flags/ #enable-heavy-ad-intervention” into the browser’s web address bar. You’ll then be brought to a screen, where you can turn it on. 

Shady ad companies and in-browser cryptocurrency mining providers will probably hate the move, but the upcoming change is part of the company’s ongoing effort to prevent users from flocking to more powerful ad-blocking software, which risks undermining Google’s main business of serving ad space.

“Our intent with this extended rollout is to give appropriate time for ad creators and tool providers to prepare and incorporate these thresholds into their workflows,” Vale said. “To help advertisers understand the impact of this intervention on their ads, they can access reports to learn which ads Chrome unloaded.”

This article originally published at PCMag
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Apple Podcasts Update Enables Annual Subscriptions – PCMag

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Apple this week unveiled a host of fresh podcast tools for managing storage across devices, enabling annual subscriptions, and allowing creators to more easily distribute content through third-party providers.

With the release of iOS 15.5, iPadOS 15.5, and macOS 12.4, podcasters can now present annual subscription plans(Opens in a new window) alongside monthly offerings through the new plan picker, which appears when listeners tap “Subscribe” or “Try Free” on a show or channel with a subscription option. Annual plans are selected by default.

To make the move from monthly to annual subscription, open the Apple Podcasts app and navigate to Listen Now > Account > Manage Subscriptions, then choose your preferred program and upgrade to a 12-month plan. Changes can be made on a per-podcast basis. The picker also displays how much listeners can save with an annual subscription (if lower than the monthly alternative).

While you’re at it, check out Apple’s new automatic download preferences, available through your iDevice Settings app. Open the Podcasts tab and tap Automatically Download to choose how many episodes are saved for offline streaming: a certain number per show, all recent episodes, all new episodes, or none. Customize individual shows by tapping “…” on a program page, opening the Settings, and selecting a preference from Automatically Downloaded.

Users will be prompted to remove automatically downloaded episodes that don’t meet the newly selected criteria; those that were manually downloaded or saved will not be removed, though the app does recommend removing old downloads to free up storage space.

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Apple also introduced a new feature for podcast creators: Delegated Delivery(Opens in a new window) aims to save creators time and energy by letting authorized platforms publish free and premium episodes to Apple Podcasts on their behalf. Starting this fall, creators can use their favorite hosting providers’ dashboards to schedule the release of exclusive, early access, bonus, and ad-free content using WAV, FLAC, and MP3 files. Initial partners include Acast, ART19, Blubrry, Buzzsprout, Libsyn, Omny Studio, and RSS.com; more providers will be “announced in the future.”

While anyone can utilize the new feature—free to all creators through Apple Podcasts Connect—to publish gratis shows, a $19.99 annual Apple Podcasters Program(Opens in a new window) membership is required to share premium shows and episodes. Creators can check support for Delegated Delivery via the Hosting Providers page(Opens in a new window); interested providers, meanwhile, can contact Apple for more information.

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Ecobee releases two new smart thermostats with a classic glass face look – MobileSyrup

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A recent leak suggested that Ecobee might be working on two new smart thermostats. Now the Toronto-based company has officially announced its new Smart Thermostat Premium and Smart Thermostat Enhanced.

“Today’s introduction of Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium and Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced pushes the boundaries of the category to improve comfort, home health, and security, while continuing to deliver the energy saving features synonymous with ecobee.” reads the company’s press release.

Both of the new devices feature radar, which Ecobee says is its most advanced sensor technology to date, along with improved occupancy and motion detection and a 50 percent larger display that boasts Ecobee’s new UI (user interface). The Smart Thermostat Premium and Enhanced have been outfitted with a “stunning glass face and smooth waterfall edges” for a classic look and feel, whereas the updated radar can now detect motion from further away. The new radar, unlike an infrared sensor, is hidden inside the thermostat, providing a clean look for the device on your wall.

Both the new devices can be controlled with your Apple Watch or by integrating them with Apple Homekit+. What makes the Premium version better, however, is that it now shows the indoor air quality carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, and relative humidity with alerts to warn you if air quality inside your house is poor. The Thermostat will also share tips like ‘open a window’ to improve indoor air quality.

“Smart Thermostat Premium and Smart Thermostat Enhanced are Ecobee’s first products to be paper manual-free with a mobile-only approach to installation,” reads the Toronto-based company’s news release.

Both new smart thermostats are now available to order in Canada via Ecobee’s website. Follow the links to check out the Smart Thermostat Premium and Smart Thermostat Enhanced, available for $329.99 and $239.99, respectively.

Image credit: Ecobee

Source: Ecobee

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iOS 15.5 and macOS 12.4 bring updates to Podcasts, digital payments, and more – Ars Technica

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Enlarge / Apple’s Studio Display received a firmware update today to improve its webcam performance.
Andrew Cunningham

Apple released new software updates for all of its platforms on Tuesday. That includes the following:

  • iOS 15.5 for iPhones and the iPod touch
  • iPadOS 15.5 for iPads
  • macOS 12.4 for Macs
  • watchOS 8.6 for the Apple Watch
  • tvOS 15.5 for the Apple TV
  • HomePod Software 15.5 for HomePods
  • Studio Display Firmware 15.5 for the Studio Display
  • Swift Playgrounds 4.1 for iPad and Mac

These are almost certainly the last updates before the company’s annual developer conference, which is scheduled to kick off on June 6. Among other things, Apple will announce iOS and iPadOS 16, macOS 13, and watchOS 9 at the conference, but those updates won’t arrive until later this year.

iOS 15.5

Today’s iOS update offers just enough new user-facing features to earn that 15.x label instead of 15.x.x, which is usually reserved for bug fixes and the like.

All told, though, it’s a small update. The built-in Podcasts app gets “a new setting to limit episodes stored on your Mac and automatically delete older ones.”

And 15.5 allows the iPhone to be used as a point-of-sale device without any additional hardware, as reported in February.

Previously, vendors like farmer’s market stalls and home repair services used iPhones with attached add-on hardware from companies like Stripe to receive payments.

Now the iPhone doesn’t need those attachments; Stripe works just fine with an iPhone fresh out of the box.

Additionally, iOS 15.5 brings safety features in the Messages app meant to prevent children from being exposed to inappropriate content in the following new countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

macOS 12.4

On the macOS side, Apple names just two user-facing changes in its release notes. It adds support for Studio Display Firmware Update 15.5 (which claims to improve webcam performance on Apple’s new monitor), and the built-in Podcasts app gets the same new feature that iOS did.

However, macOS 12.4 includes more than 50 security updates under the hood, according to Apple’s support documentation.

watchOS 8.6

watchOS 8.6 is a relatively minor update. It expands some of the Watch’s health features—namely irregular heart rhythm detection and the ECG—to Apple Watch users in Mexico.

Other updates

Studio Display Firmware 15.5 attempts to address some user complaints about the monitor’s webcam quality. Apple hasn’t shared any details about what’s in the HomePod firmware update or tvOS 15.5.

There’s also Swift Playgrounds 4.1 for Mac and iPad. It’s not an OS update, but it landed around the same time. It allows users to use Playgrounds to build apps with SwiftUI on the Mac, and it deepens App Store Connect integration for publishing apps, among other things.

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