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Netflix Update to Deliver Better Audio on Android With xHE-AAC Codec – Gadgets 360

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Netflix is rolling out a new update that promises better audio quality on Android devices, including a fix for sudden volume changes, better sound in noisy environments, and better performance on slower mobile data connections. The company has implemented the Extended HE-AAC with MPEG-D DRC (xHE-AAC) audio codec on its streaming platform for Android mobile devices running Android 9 Pie and newer software. Although the technical aspects behind the change are quite complicated, the simplest way to explain the change is that Netflix is now promising “studio-quality audio” to go with its already excellent video content on Android devices.

Netflix has listed all of the changes brought about by the xHE-AAC audio codec in detail in a blog post. A key change that will make a difference to users across the world but particularly in India is the variable bitrate for audio streaming. This means that the codec will be able to adapt to the quality of the Internet connection; slower mobile data connections will see the stream scale back a bit to adjust, while maintaining some level of sound quality.

Additionally, all of this could mean that you’ll be able to watch Netflix movies and TV shows using your smartphone’s speakers — that is, without headphones — and still be able to hear dialogues and other sounds intelligibly even in noisy environments. The Netflix update will also offer a solution for the issue of sudden volume changes that often have users rushing to grab either the volume button or headphones to avoid disturbing others in the household.

The new upgrade is the latest in Netflix’s efforts to offer high-quality video and audio on its streaming platform. While some of its picture technologies such as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos require supporting hardware and fast Internet connections to work, small tweaks such as xHE-AAC will enable improvements even at the most basic level, especially for users who rely on slower mobile data connections as is common in India.


Can Netflix force Bollywood to reinvent itself? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Ali Pardiwala
Ali Pardiwala writes about audio and video devices for Gadgets 360 out of Mumbai, and has covered the industry for a decade now. Ali is a Senior Reviewer for Gadgets 360, where he has regularly written about televisions, home entertainment, and mobile gaming as well. He is a firm believer in 4K and HDR on televisions, and believes that true wireless earphones are the future of the personal audio industry. Ali is available on Twitter as @AliusPardius and on email at alip@ndtv.com, so do send in
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'It’s flagrant and wanton disregard for the public health measures' – The North Bay Nugget

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Cluster of COVID cases traced to Renfrew house party

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By Aedan Helmer

A “flagrant disregard” for public health orders in Renfrew County has led to a cluster of infections officials have traced a group of people who attended a house party, then multiple other homes and businesses while infected with COVID-19.

Acting medical officer of health Dr. Robert Cushman said the spike in cases — there are 14 known cases linked to the spreader event, and officials are still tracing high-risk contacts — could jeopardize the county’s return to the Green (Prevent) level of the province’s colour-coded framework.

Officials could also decide to extend shutdown orders only to the Arnprior and McNabb-Braeside area of the county, where the spread has been identified.

“I think (Friday), in fact, was the worst day since we started this (pandemic) last March for the Renfrew County and district health unit,” Cushman said in his daily video address.

“Many of these cases attended the same social gathering and then they went to four different households, and they went to seven different businesses and workplaces, and in fact some of these businesses have been shut down.

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“And then after that, one or two of them went to an additional private social gathering and spread the disease even further,” Cushman said.

“I’m very concerned about this, because clearly people aren’t paying attention to their social network,” Cushman said.

While public health measures like hand-washing, masking and distancing are crucial, Cushman said the “key” is avoiding travel and “keeping your network very small — confined to your household or to your workplace.”

“But having a carefree party outdoor activity and later indoor activity — during this time, during this winter — is just not on. It’s flagrant and wanton disregard for the public health measures, which are so important to keep us, our families, our loved ones and our community safe.”

Renfrew County was one of the first regions in the province to return to the “Green” following the province-wide lockdown, and Cushman said, “This is going to jeopardize that, very possibly.

“But why should all of Renfrew County suffer if (the cases are) confined to the Arnprior area?” Cushman said, suggesting officials could “levy stricter restrictions on just that area.”

“I’m very concerned about this last event, because it’s flagrant disregard and disrespect for what we’re trying to do,” Cushman said.

He said there was also some positive news for the region.

“The vaccines are starting to roll, we are starting to immunize staff and families that provide essential care, and in a few days will be doing second doses for long-term care home residents,” Cushman said. “In the meantime, we need to really behave and be extremely careful.”

He asked residents to speak up if they witness others engaging in “egregious misbehaviours.”

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The latest 'Valorant' agent controls space and time – Yahoo News Canada

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The Canadian Press

What’s in an adjective? ‘Democrat Party’ label on the rise

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two days before the assault on the U.S. Capitol, Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Republican, said supporters of then-President Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud were basically in a “death match with the Democrat Party.” A day later, right-wing activist Alan Hostetter, a staunch Trump supporter known for railing against California’s virus-inspired stay-at-home orders, urged rallygoers in Washington to “put the fear of God in the cowards, the traitors, the RINOs, the communists of the Democrat Party.” The shared grammatical construction — incorrect use of the noun “Democrat” as an adjective — was far from the most shocking thing about the two men’s statements. But it identified them as members of the same tribe, conservatives seeking to define the opposition through demeaning language. Amid bipartisan calls to dial back extreme partisanship following the insurrection, the intentional misuse of “Democrat” as an adjective remains in nearly universal use among Republicans. Propelled by conservative media, it also has caught on with far-right elements that were energized by the Trump presidency. Academics and partisans disagree on the significance of the word play. Is it a harmless political tactic intended to annoy Republicans’ opponents, or a maliciously subtle vilification of one of America’s two major political parties that further divides the nation? Thomas Patterson, a political communication professor at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, said using “Democrat” as an adjective delivers a “little twist” of the knife with each usage because it irritates Democrats, but sees it as little more than that. “This is,” he says, “just another piece in a big bubbling kettle of animosities that are out there.” Others disagree. Purposely mispronouncing the formal name of the Democratic Party and equating it with political ideas that are not democratic goes beyond mere incivility, said Vanessa Beasley, an associate professor of communications at Vanderbilt University who studies presidential rhetoric. She said creating short-hand descriptions of people or groups is a way to dehumanize them. In short: Language matters. “The idea is to strip it down to that noun and make it into this blur, so that you can say that these are bad people — and my party, the people who are using the term, are going to be the upholders of democracy,” she said. To those who see the discussion as an exercise in political correctness, Susan Benesch, executive director of the Dangerous Speech Project, said to look deeper. “It’s just two little letters — i and c — added to the end of a word, right?” she said. “But the small difference in the two terms, linguistically or grammatically, does not protect against a large difference in meaning and impact of the language.” During the “Stop the Steal” rallies that emerged to support Trump’s groundless allegations that the 2020 election was stolen from him, the construction was everywhere. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel accused “Democrat lawyers and rogue election officials” of “an unprecedented power grab” related to the election. Demonstrators for the president’s baseless cause mirrored her language. After Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was removed from her House committees for espousing sometimes dangerous conspiracy theories, she tweeted: “In this Democrat tyrannical government, Conservative Republicans have no say on committees anyway.” Trump’s lawyers used the construction frequently during his second impeachment trial, following the lead of the former president, who employed it routinely while in office. During a campaign rally last October in Wisconsin, he explained his thinking. “You know I always say Democrat. You know why? Because it sounds worse,” Trump said. “Democrat sounds lousy, but you know what? That’s actually their name, the Democrat Party. Right? The Democrat Party. So I always say Democrat.” In fact, “Democratic” to describe some version of a U.S. political party has been around since Thomas Jefferson and James Madison formed the Democratic-Republican Party in the 1790s. Modern Democrats are loosely descended from a split of that party. The precise origins of Republicans’ truncated phrasing are difficult to pin down, but the Republican National Committee formalized it in a vote ahead of the 1956 presidential election. Then-spokesman L. Richard Guylay told The New York Times that “Democrat Party” was “a natural,” because it was already in common use among Republicans and better reflected the “diverse viewpoints” within the opposing party — which the GOP suggested weren’t always representative of small-d democratic values. Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who had just led his notorious campaign against alleged communists, Soviet spies and sympathizers, was the most notable user of the phrase “Democrat Party” ahead of the vote. The current RNC did not respond to emails and phone messages seeking comment for this story. The construction was used sparsely in the following decades, but in recent times has spread to become part of conservatives’ everyday speech. At the height of last summer’s racial justice protests, the group representing state attorneys general criticized “inaction by Democrat AGs” to support law enforcement. In explaining its rules for cleaning Georgia’s voter roles, the office of Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said it was following a process started in the 1990s under “a Democrat majority General Assembly and signed into law by a Democrat Governor.” Asked recently what he would think of his former health director running for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine responded, “I’m going to stay out of Democrat primaries.” Using Democrat as a pejorative is now so common that it’s almost jarring to hear a Republican or conservative commentator accurately say “Democratic Party.” Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said she wishes both parties would abandon their heightened rhetoric toward each other. She spoke out forcefully in September after the Ohio Republican Party maligned a “Democrat common pleas judge” who had ruled against them. The party later apologized. Her objection was the politicization of the judiciary, which she has fought against, and not specifically the GOP’s misuse of the word “Democrat.” But in a later interview, she said the language was a reflection of today’s hyperpartisan political environment. “It’s used as almost like a curse word,” said O’Connor, a Republican. “It’s not being used as a compliment or even for purposes of being a benign identifier. It’s used as a condemnation, and that’s not right.” For their part, Democrats rarely push back, even when the phrase is used in state legislative chambers or on the floor of Congress. It wasn’t always that way. Then-President George W. Bush departed from his written remarks and used the phrase “Democrat majority” in his 2007 State of the Union address. He was swiftly rebuked and apologized. “Now look, my diction isn’t all that good,” a rueful Bush said. “I have been accused of occasionally mangling the English language, so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic party.” Bush’s self-deprecating joke highlighted a key issue around Republicans’ use of “Democrat” as an epithet, says political scientist Michael Cornfield, an associate professor at George Washington University. Democrats don’t have a comparable insult for Republicans. “It’s a one-way provocation,” he said. In the 1950s, Democrats toyed with a tit-for-tat approach in which they would refer to Republicans as “Publicans,” the widely despised toll collectors of ancient Rome. Republicans scoffed at the effort, which they rightly noted no one would understand. Republicans also could turn it around as a way to burnish their brand: In British usage, a publican is someone who owns a pub. Meanwhile, “Republic” — without the “a-n” — isn’t derogatory. It’s known as a “God word” in American politics, just as small-d “democratic” is, meaning a revered cultural concept that’s universally understood. The truncated “Democrat,” on the other hand, “rhymes with rat, bureaucrat, kleptocrat, plutocrat,” Cornfield said. “‘Crats’ are bad. So you can see why they do it.” David Pepper, a former Democratic Party chairman in Ohio, says Republicans’ phrasing has “clearly been thought about.” Even so, he doesn’t see trying to erase it as a good use of Democrats’ time as the party seeks to reset the national agenda after four years of Trump. He said that while President Joe Biden has pledged national unity, “the other side is literally trying to make the other party sound like rodents.” “To me,” Pepper said, “that’s absurd and disturbing at the same time.” ___ AP news researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report. Julie Carr Smyth, The Associated Press

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Abbotsford Airport had 4th highest traffic in Canada in 2020, and its number are down – Chilliwack Progress – Chilliwack Progress

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Abbotsford International Airport (YXX) became the fourth most active airport in Canada during the pandemic – and its total traffic was down from 2019.

December ended what was described as a “devastating year” for air travel, according to a Statistics Canada report (Feb. 25) on the total air movements at the 90 airports under NAV Canada.

Statistics Canada defines air movements as any “take-off, landing, or simulated approach by an aircraft as defined by NAV Canada.” The numbers show Canada’s major international airports are seeing comparable runway activity as smaller airports.

Total aircraft movements at top 10 Canadian airports, 2020. Statistics Canada report.

Vancouver International Airport, for instance, had the third most traffic with 156,540 total aircraft movements in 2020 (down 53 per cent from 2019), while YXX had 137,265 (down just 17 per cent).

Month-over-month since May, Abbotsford Airport has consistently been in the top five for aircraft movements, even reaching number two for July and August when their traffic surpassed 2019’s numbers.

Other international airports are seeing similar declines. Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson Airport – Canada’s busiest airport historically – experienced the largest drop at 62 per cent, having over 280,000 fewer take-offs and landings in 2020.

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, other international take-offs and landings nosedived to levels not seen in 20 years,” the report says.

Across the country, international flights were down 58 per cent for the year, flights to the U.S. fell by 68 per cent, while domestic movements declined 36 per cent, according to the report.

Year-over-year change in aircraft movements, by sector. Graph from Statistics Canada.

More restrictions were announced by the federal government on Jan. 29, 2021 to curb the spread of COVID-19 and the new variants. Airlines have since suspended all flights to and from Mexico and other Caribbean countries until April 30.

As of February, all international flights are being funnelled through four Canadian airports, and passengers have to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departure, and must quarantine for three days at a government approved hotel.

RELATED: New travel rules leave flight options on U.S. airlines for Canadian sun seekers

RELATED: Abbotsford Airport hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic


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patrick.penner@missioncityrecord.com

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