Mazda’s handsome CX-30 crossover goes turbo for 2021 – Roadshow

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Mazda's not fixing what isn't broken, so the CX-30 keeps its good looks while gaining bulk power.

Mazda

Mazda's CX-30 crossover is a handsome little fellow with a lovely interior and a chassis that makes it a whole lot more fun to drive than you might expect. Unfortunately, it also has kind of a lame duck engine, which, while efficient, left a lot to be desired in the acceleration department.

Thankfully, according to an announcement made Friday by Mazda, we know that's going to change. Specifically, the 2021 CX-30 will be getting the 2.5-liter turbo inline-four-cylinder engine that Mazda debuted in the Mazda3 Turbo. In the 3, it makes 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque on premium gas. The CX-30 Turbo also gets Mazda's i-Activ all-wheel drive as standard, which most buyers will expect on a crossover these days anyway.

The 2021 CX-30 isn't just getting upgrades under the hood, either. Mazda is also throwing some decent safety tech at it. The new features on deck include automatic emergency braking that works in reverse at speeds between two and four miles per hour and ties into the cross-traffic alert system. Also new is Mazda's Traffic Jam Assist, which can provide limited steering input at speeds under 40 miles per hour while adaptive cruise control is enabled.

It's not all sunshine and roses, though. Mazda is seemingly not addressing some of the more prominent criticisms we had with the compact crossover -- specifically the sluggish infotainment system and a lack of USB ports around the cabin, particularly for rear passengers. Now, neither of those is likely to be a dealbreaker if you value an involved drive and good looks, which is probably why you were considering the CX-30 anyway.

Mazda tells us that the 2021 CX-30 is set to hit dealers by the end of 2020, though it's keeping both pricing information and package structuring to itself. That said, we'd expect pricing to land somewhere north of $30,000, given the $29,900 asking price for the Mazda3 Turbo.

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Science Journals Are Purging Racist, Sexist Work. Finally

One paper from 2012 linked darker skin to aggression and sexuality in humans. Another from that year claimed to show that women with endometriosis are more attractive. A third, published last December, lamented physicians who posted casual pictures of themselves online—including some in which they’re wearing bikinis—as being unprofessional.

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All three of these articles have recently been retracted after outraged readers took to social media. In the past three months, at least four other articles, too, have been called out for both their content and their lack of scientific rigor, and then either flagged or withdrawn by their science publishers.

It’s playing like a preview for “The Purge: Academia.” Just as politicians and entertainers are confronted with years-old tweets that aren’t quite in keeping with the image they want, journals have been faced with ugly papers from their archives—some old and long-ignored—that their readers find unsettling. These papers were deeply flawed, and removing them from the literature is a good thing. But the reactive nature of the moves raises questions. Publishers’ typical narratives would suggest that problems such as these would be caught by peer review, before a manuscript is accepted; rather than acknowledged only later, in the middle of a public backlash.

For some of these retracted papers, the question is not whether they’re offensive but rather how they managed to get published in the first place. Take, for example, the one that argued that Blacks and Hispanics lack the cultural fundamentals for success in the American economy; or the commentary in a leading chemistry journal that was hostile to efforts to increase diversity. Another argument against affirmative action, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, was taken down on account of its “many misconceptions and misquotes,” as well as “inaccuracies, misstatements, and selective misreading of source materials.”

That hasn’t stopped conservatives from decrying the “censorship” of cancel-culture mobs on social media, and dismissing the recent moves as an exercise in virtue-signaling. Indeed, the fact that journals waited nearly a decade after publication to issue some of these retractions—and then moved very quickly—hints at a sliver of truth in the conservative critique. If a paper from 2012 didn’t meet a journal’s standards for scholarship to begin with, what’s so different now?

The critics are right: journals do have a double-standard, and it is political. They move briskly to pull unworthy papers tinged by politics while ignoring hundreds, or likely thousands, of credible allegations of fraud or major error. Just ask Elisabeth Bik, who some five years ago carefully documented and reported evidence of image manipulations in around 800 academic papers, often to no avail. In many cases, the publishers of those articles are the same as those that hop to it when social-media-powered petitions make their way to their inboxes.

Of course, no one (that we know of, at least) is arguing that #AllPapersMatter, and not all bad articles are created equal. For example, a paper that advocates racist pseudoscience almost certainly would cause more harm than one that over-hypes the benefits of doing a Superman flex in the bathroom mirror before a job interview, or an uncited and entirely forgettable article with one or two duplicated figures. Papers claiming benefits of snake oil should also be prioritized for retraction. Journals should act quickly to pull these more dangerous studies, while a little less alacrity on the others is understandable—to a degree, as long as they do something at some point.

But journals often act as if they’re monuments to their own rectitude rather than repositories of valid scientific information. The Lancet took a dozen years to retract the bogus study linking autism to early childhood vaccinations. Science has yet to pull a 2011 article, which was almost immediately debunked, claiming to have found a bacterium that lives on arsenic. And the infamous “Study 329,” in which SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline) downplayed the potential harms of its mood drug Paxil, remains in the pages of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, almost 20 years later.

To be fair, small publishers may not have the person-power to conduct a thorough review of their back catalog. Retractions aren’t always, or even generally, simple administrative matters. Clear-cut claims of plagiarism, for example, must still be vetted with software and the human eye to compare text and make sure that overlapping sections are indeed theft. Allegations of manipulated images require investigation of figures that even experts may find difficult to decipher. Questions about shoddy statistics and tortured methodology, which may blur the line between acceptable practice and bad science, often require adjudication by independent experts. Oh, and authors of papers on the chopping block don’t always agree that their work should be retracted. They can drag things out for months or years, or, in some cases, even sue journals in response.

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GoPro Hero 9 Black Review: Time to Upgrade

You can almost set your seasonal clock by the release of a new GoPro camera. This year is no different; pandemic notwithstanding, the Hero 9 arrives precisely as the weather starts to cool.

Last year’s Hero 8 brought a new cageless design with built-in mounting rings and a more compact front lens. This year takes that form and enlarges it slightly. The Hero 9 is larger in all dimensions, though not noticeably heavier. It also fixes one major flaw in the Hero 8’s design: The lens cover is now replaceable (should you scratch it).

GoPro didn’t stop there, though. It’s now possible to add alternative lenses. At the moment, that means you can attach GoPro’s $100 Max Lens mod (sold separately), which brings half of the field of view found in GoPro’s 360-degree Max camera. Pair that with a new sensor that captures 5K video, a full-color front screen, and the ability to pull 14-megapixel stills from video, and you have a compelling reason to upgrade if you haven’t done so in a few years.

Living Larger

The first standout feature in the Hero 9 is the 23.6-megapixel sensor. That’s quite a jump from the predecessor’s 12-megapixel sensor. More megapixels means the Hero 9 Black can shoot 5K video and snap 20-megapixel still images.

5K video on its own isn’t that useful for most of us, since very few devices or streaming services support anything over 4K, but the extra pixels mean you can crop your video and still end up with 4K footage. With the huge field of view in a GoPro, the ability to crop and zoom in on your subject after the fact is a tremendous advantage.

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Photograph: GoPro

The disadvantage is that you’re limited to 30 frames per second (fps) in 5K, whereas at 4K you can shoot 60 fps. That means for fast-paced action—think Hero 9 strapped to your head while snowboarding a narrow chute—you’re likely better off switching to the lower resolution and higher frame rate. For broader shots with less motion, the higher resolution at lower frame rates will be better, opening up cropping possibilities when you edit.

The other downside with shooting at 5K is that most mobile devices aren’t capable of playing it, so there’s no previewing in the mobile app. You’ll have to download the footage to your laptop or desktop.

The 20-MP still images are perhaps an even more noticeable step up from previous Hero sensors. RAW images are considerably sharper, and there’s less smearing of fine details. The physical limitations of small lenses aren’t gone—purple fringing is quite common but easy to remove with software.

The new sensor also brings the ability to grab a 14.7-MP still image from videos. That’s a high enough resolution to be perfectly usable not just on the web, but in print. The great thing about this is that you can leave the camera in 5K video mode and then pull out high-quality still images later, so there’s never a chance you’ll miss the action.

Shooting in the dedicated photo mode still has some advantages, particularly the ability to shoot RAW images, but in my testing I was more than happy with the JPG results pulled from video 95 percent of the time. That’s primarily how I’ve been using the Hero 9—always in video mode. I figure it’s better to have the image in 14.7-megapixel JPG than miss the shot entirely in a quest to get a RAW image.

The other major new feature is the full-color front screen. The DJI Osmo Action camera beat GoPro here by several years, and it’s something I’ve missed whenever I switched back to GoPros. But while DJI got there first, GoPro has one-upped it with an always-on design that somehow doesn’t affect battery life. With the Osmo Action, you manually switch from front to rear screen as needed; the Hero 9 has both ready to go at all times. It makes the Hero 9’s front screen considerably more useful.

It’s worth noting that battery life has improved too, thanks to a larger battery. In a side-by-side 4K test with the Hero 8, the Hero 9 lasted 23 minutes longer, running for a full 2 hours and 11 minutes. In a more real-world test, the Hero 9 usually lasted me half a day, so you’ll still want to pack an extra battery if you’re planning a full day of shooting. Unfortunately, if you’re upgrading from an older Hero model, your extra batteries won’t work with the Hero 9.

Also, GoPro is claiming that battery performance in cold weather, in particular, is much better, but I have no way to test this yet.

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Photograph: GoPro

The last physical change of note is the new removable lens cover. This was my biggest gripe about the last model, so it’s nice to see GoPro address this shortcoming, but the company also added the ability to put a new mod on the existing lens. The Max lens mod adds a wider field view and potentially opens up some new filming possibilities. It’s not a full 360-degree lens like Insta360’s One R, which can be either an action camera or a 360-degree camera depending on which lens you use, but it’s nice to see GoPro moving in a similar direction.

The other mods introduced with the Hero 8 are still available and compatible.

Software Power

While the hardware upgrades are welcome, much of what’s really exciting about the Hero 9 lies in the software. In fact, there are too many software upgrades to cover them all in detail, but two deserve special mention. The first is Scheduled Capture. If you’ve ever wanted to do a sunrise time-lapse but hate waking up early, this one is for you. You can set up your shot, leave the camera outside your tent, and sleep in while the Hero 9 does all the work.

The second major update is to HyperSmooth, which is now at version 3.0. Designed to cut down on camera shake even in incredibly jolting and bumpy filming scenarios, the latest version is nothing short of astounding. GoPro sent me a radio-controlled car to test this out, and I drove it through the roughest stretches of the woods around my house. The resulting video looks like it was shot on a professional gimbal; it really is that smooth.

GoPro has also revamped and simplified its online subscription, offering perks like unlimited video storage space for backups, total camera replacement, and discounts at the GoPro store. You can buy the Hero 9 for $350 and get a 1-year subscription, but if you don’t need the subscription, you’ll have to pay $450. I suggest getting the discounted price and the subscription—you can always cancel when it’s time to renew it if you didn’t see much value after a year.

That’s still a lot to pay for an action camera. Thankfully, if you don’t need all the new bells and whistles, the Hero 7 and Hero 8 are still on sale for less.

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Today only: College students can get 1-year MasterClass subscription for $1 – CNET

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Many college students would welcome a class in mixology.

MasterClass

Calling all college students! Seeking a little "elective" learning? How about cooking classes with Gordon Ramsay, acting taught by Natalie Portman or even magic with Penn & Teller? That's the idea behind MasterClass, a streaming service offering instruction from world-renowned experts in their fields.

A one-year subscription normally costs $180, but today (Thursday, Sept. 17), college students who have a valid .edu email address (or other proof of college registration) can get one year of MasterClass for $1. That's utterly fantastic and, in my humble opinion, too good to pass up. Again, this deal is available today only.

Your subscription affords unlimited access to the MasterClass library, which includes over 85 classes covering topics including business, writing, fashion and culinary arts. Each class includes an average of 20 lessons of around 10 minutes each.

Take note, however, that the service automatically renews unless you cancel, so do add a reminder to your calendar for this time next year, so you can decide whether you want to continue before getting billed.

Like this? Be sure to check out all the other free and cheap perks for college students.

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The Best iPad (2020): Which Apple Tablet Should You Buy?

If you’re thinking about getting an iPad Pro, we think you should consider the new iPad Air. It’s probably good enough for you and has a similarly large edge-to-edge display for less money.

The iPad Pro is the absolute best iPad, but it doesn’t come cheap. Unlike the others, it doesn’t have a home button or Touch ID, but it uses the front camera for Face ID just like most modern iPhones. It has slim edges around the screen, which allows for a larger display that comes in two sizes. The 12.9-incher is about the size of a magazine, and it’s wonderful for drawing with the Apple Pencil (a separate purchase), but the 11-inch model is plenty for most people. The Pencil is like the one on the new iPad Air—it magnetically sticks to the edge of the iPad Pro and wirelessly charges.

The 2020 Pro is still one of the most powerful iPads you can get, not just in performance but with other facets as well. It has more speakers for better sound quality, more microphones to pick up your voice clearer, and you get an extra camera. The 12-megapixel main camera is joined by a 10-megapixel ultrawide lens for snapping sweeping scenes, like on the iPhone 11. There’s also a lidar sensor, the kind used to measure depth for self-driving cars, but here it’s used for better augmented reality. However, as senior writer Lauren Goode notes in her review (9/10, WIRED Recommends), it’s not a drastic improvement, especially if you barely use AR apps. It’s also the only iPad in the lineup with a 120-Hz screen refresh rate, which makes everything look silky smooth.

Like the Air, it’s compatible with the Magic Keyboard and the Smart Keyboard.

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Hong Kong Is a Troubling Case Study in the Death of Democracy

Her campaign message was based more on continuing the protest movement from within government than traditional electoral promises. “We are not telling our voters, ‘Hey, vote for us and we will achieve the demands that you want,’ or ‘Hey, vote for us and we can pressure the government into giving in to our demands.’” she says. Such promises, she says, would be lies.

Ho was part of a loose alliance of younger politicians, whose ideas skewed more toward “localism”—a posture roughly rooted in promoting and protecting a Hong Kong identity and way of life separate from the mainland, though it has at times given rise to xenophobia, nativism, and ugly incidents of anti-mainland violence. Localism “includes a multitude of groups with different goals, ranging from advocating greater autonomy to independence for Hong Kong,” academic Ying-ho Kwong wrote in a paper examining the rise of the movement. “Most of them have developed a strong sense of local identity and object to growing political encroachment by the Beijing government into Hong Kong’s political, economic, and social affairs.”

Others in the loosely affiliated group included Winnie Yu, a nurse and chairwoman of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, which led a medical workers’ strike in February to force the government to take faster action against the pandemic, and Jimmy Sham, a protest organizer and gay rights campaigner who was physically attacked on multiple occasions last year.

Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, a former land activist and current lawmaker became—at 43, more than two decades older than its youngest members—the elder statesman of the group. Despite some minor controversies—printing her campaign banners at a shop owned by Beijing supporters and effusive praise from activist Joshua Wong that rankled some journalists—Ho won convincingly, capturing some 26,000 votes in the July primary. Yu, Sham, and Chu, as well as 13 others from their camp were victorious as well, sweeping aside more traditional pro-democracy candidates and setting the city up for the possibility of a wave of boisterous, youthful lawmakers who had little time for diplomatic pleasantries and a seemingly bottomless reserve of anger toward Beijing.

Their plan, dubbed the 35-plus strategy, was hatched by legal scholar turned pro-democracy tactician Benny Tai and was audacious in its forthrightness. Protesters a year earlier laid siege to the city’s legislative council building, breaking through its glass doors and windows from outside, before storming the chamber. Now, they planned to use September’s elections to win, as the title suggested, 35 or more seats, seizing control of the city’s main political mechanism from the inside. Then they would set about upending the lawmaking and governance mechanisms, monkey-wrenching the system to “initiate a political crisis,” Ho says. “We are heading to a very dark period,” she added, her message and tone somewhat undercut as she paused to snap a picture of a dainty slice of cake shaped like a wedge of cheese.

It was a high-stakes gambit against an opponent, the Chinese Communist Party, that has for the past seven decades ensured its dominance through control, intimidation, and rule-rigging. The approach fits with the “laam caau” philosophy adopted by more radical protesters last year. The Cantonese phrase, drawn from gambling lingo, suggests a strategy of shared destruction, a sort of Pyrrhic victory that, while damaging Hong Kong, strikes a blow to city leaders and Beijing as well. The idea, for its most fervent adherents, is distilled in the slogan “If we burn, you burn with us.”

With majority control, Tai argued, lawmakers could wield their “most lethal constitutional weapon” and take drastic actions, like withholding approval of the city’s budget, thus forcing Lam to resign. In the most extreme circumstance, Beijing could intervene and dissolve the legislative council altogether—laying bare to the world that the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong has been ruled since it was handed back to China from Britain in 1997 has become irreparably broken.

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AirPods Studio rumors: Apple’s over-ear headphones could debut in October – CNET

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Will the AirPods Studio echo the design of the Beats Solo Pro?

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Apple's September event gave us a number of new Apple Watches and iPads, but other long-awaited products including the iPhone 12 were missing from the virtual event. One of these speculated devices is the AirPods Studio, a pair of over-ear headphones that have been hinted at for quite some time. (Another is the AirTags, which also could make their debut in October alongside the expected launch of the iPhone 12.)

Like other high-end headphones and the AirPods Pro, the AirPods Studio headphones are likely to have noise cancellation and a transparency mode that can pipe in external sounds for personal safety and awareness of your surroundings. Although Apple owns Beats and has several over-ear headphones like the Solo Pro already available, there's been speculation about an Apple-branded pair since early 2018

Considering the success of AirPods in the wireless earbud market, Apple may look to bring all of its audio gear under one umbrella. Here's everything we've heard about the AirPods Studio so far.

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A mystery headphone appears in iOS 14

We got some indication of what AirPods Studio might look like, at least in terms of what its icon looks like in iOS, when it was first spotted in iOS 14 code by 9to5Mac back in May. The image shows a standard over-ear headphone with padded cups and a white or grey color, although this could just be a variance for light and dark modes in iOS. 

This isn't the first time a glyph or product image showed up in software before an official release: the AirPods Pro, PowerBeats Pro and PowerBeats 4 all were spotted in glyph form before being announced.

An earlier report from Bloomberg also reported that Apple was working on several versions of over-ear headphones, including a fitness-oriented model and one with premium leather-like finishes. There was speculation that the headphones may have interchangeable components too, like being able to switch out ear cups. You can already customize products like the Apple Watch with a myriad of metal finishes, colors and bands, so it's no surprise that Apple may do something similar with other wearables like headphones.

Later, an image and video appeared online by a Twitter user known as @choco_bit, who claims to show the so-called Sport variant of the AirPods Pro. The images are of headphones with two squareish cups and a headband that appears to be padded with something similar to the HomePod mesh. The video shows what could be a case for the headphones.

Apple leaker Jon Prosser also followed up with the render below, which looks similar to the models pictured above.

Prosser earlier said the AirPods Studio would start at $349, putting them in the same ballpark as premium headphones such as the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4.

AirPods Studio could have unique sensors and audio tools

The most intriguing thing about the AirPods Studio are the rumors about what's inside. According to that same 9to5Mac report, they may have a sensor to detect whether the headphones are on your head or resting on your neck, which would allow them to play and pause music accordingly. This is similar to the AirPods, which have sensors that detect when you take one out of your ear.

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The AirPod Pro know when you take them out of your ears.

Angela Lang/CNET

Unlike other over-ear headphones, the AirPods Studio might not have a right or wrong way to wear them. They may automatically be able detect how you put the headphones on and adjust the left and right channels accordingly.

The AirPods Pro have an adaptive equalizer that changes the sound automatically, depending on variables such as your ear shape. But they don't offer a user-adjustable EQ unless you change the settings in an app like Apple Music or Spotify. If the AirPods Studio want to seriously compete with brands like Bose and Sony, Apple will likely need to give us a dedicated equalizer to tweak the sound settings on the AirPods Studio.

As for battery life, we don't yet have details of how long the AirPods Studio might last. But the Beats Solo Pro, which is an Apple-owned headphone that costs $300 (£270, AU$429), offers 22 hours of listening time with noise cancellation active (or up to 40 without).

Read more: Apple's spatial audio feature should have Bose and Sony worried

It's safe to assume the AirPods Studio would have some sort of touch panel, or way to control playback without needing to reach for your phone or use the voice assistant. This would be similar to the regular AirPods that have tap controls, or stem controls in the case of the AirPods Pro.

Will the Beats name fade? Will Apple keep AirPods and Beats separate?

That's one big question we don't know the answer to yet. Apple has always kept the Beats headphones fairly separate from AirPods, even though they share some of the same internals. The Solo Pro released in 2019, for example, have active noise cancellation, transparency mode and the same chip that's in the AirPods for fast connections to Apple devices. They also come with voice-activated Hey Siri.

One sign that the Beats Solo Pro might be on the way out is they just received a substantial $100 price cut at retailers including Amazon and Best Buy.

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YouTube’s recommendation system is criticized as harmful. Mozilla wants to research it – CNET

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Mozilla wants to research YouTube's recommendation rabbit hole.

Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

YouTube's video recommendation system has been repeatedly accused by critics of sending people down rabbit holes of disinformation and extremism. Now Mozilla, the nonprofit that makes the Firefox browser, wants YouTube's users to help it research how the controversial algorithms work.  

Mozilla on Thursday announced a project that asks people to download a software tool that gives Mozilla's researchers information on what video recommendations people are receiving on the Google-owned platform. 

YouTube's algorithms recommend videos in the "What's next" column along the right side of the screen, inside the video player after the content has ended, or on the site's homepage. Each recommendation is tailored to the person watching, taking into account things like their watch history, list of channel subscriptions or location. The recommendations can be benign, like another live performance from the band you're watching. But critics say YouTube's recommendations can also lead viewers to fringe content, like medical misinformation or conspiracy theories. 

Mozilla's project comes as YouTube, which sees more than 2 billion users a month, already contends with viral toxic content. Earlier this year, the company struggled to contain shares of the Plandemic, a video that spread false information about COVID-19. YouTube and other platforms have also drawn blowback for helping to spread the QAnon conspiracy theory, which baselessly alleges that a group of "deep state" actors, including cannibals and pedophiles, are trying to bring down President Donald Trump. The stakes will continue to rise over the coming weeks, as Americans seek information online ahead of the US presidential election.

"Despite the serious consequences, YouTube's recommendation algorithm is entirely mysterious to its users," Ashley Boyd, vice president of advocacy and engagement at Mozilla, said in a blog post. "What will YouTube be recommending that users in the US watch in the last days before the election? Or in the following days, when the election results may not be clear?" 

To take part in Mozilla's project, people will need to install an "extension," a type of software tool, for Firefox or Chrome, the browser Google makes. The tool, called the Regret Reporter, will let people flag videos they deem harmful and send the information to Mozilla's researchers. 

People can also add a written report that says what recommendations led to the video and mention anything else they think is relevant. The extension will also automatically collect data on how much time a person is spending on YouTube. Mozilla said it hopes to gain insights about what patterns of behavior lead to problematic recommendations.

Asked about the project, YouTube said it takes issue with Mozilla's methodology.

"We are always interested to see research on these systems and exploring ways to partner with researchers even more closely," Farshad Shadloo, a YouTube spokesman, said in a statement. "However it's hard to draw broad conclusions from anecdotal examples and we update our recommendations systems on an ongoing basis, to improve the experience for users." 

He said YouTube has made more than 30 policy and enforcement updates to the recommendation system in the past year. The company has also cracked down on medical misinformation and conspiracy content. 

Mozilla has scrutinized YouTube's algorithms in the past. Last year, the organization awarded a fellowship to Guillaume Chaslot, a former YouTube engineer and outspoken critic of the company, to support his research on the platform's artificial intelligence systems. In July, Mozilla unveiled a project it funded called "TheirTube," which lets people see how YouTube's recommendations could look for people with various ideological views. 

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Sony Xperia 5 II is a smaller Xperia 1 II with a 120Hz display for $950 – CNET

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The Sony Xperia 5 II takes the core of the later Xperia 1 II and adds new features like 4K 120fps video recording, and a sizable overhaul of the Game Enhancer app.

Sony

The Sony Xperia 5 II (read as five mark two) takes the $1,200 Xperia 1 II shrinks the body down, trades in the 4K display for a 120Hz high refresh rate screen and adds the ability to record 4K 120fps 10-bit video, which is a first for any phone. It does all this while lowering the price to a more wallet-friendly $950 (about £730 or AU$1,300), but that price will be out of reach for many who are experiencing financial hardship during the pandemic.

When I reviewed the Xperia 1 II, I was honestly impressed at the level of control I had over photo and video capture. I even made a short film with it. The Xperia 5 II, like its larger brother, is aimed squarely at journalists, mobile gamers and creative professionals such as photographers and filmmakers.

The smaller Xperia is similar to the Xperia 1 II, which isn't a bad thing. Both have a Snapdragon 865 processor, EyeAF, the same triple-rear camera, the Photo Pro and Cinema Pro software, the same battery and the same dedicated hardware shutter button. Both also lack support for 5G in the US. Sony says the upcoming Xperia Pro will be the first phone to offer support for US 5G networks.

But there are some differences between the two Xperia phones. The Xperia 5 II packs a 6.1-inch full-HD display with 120Hz refresh rate instead of a 6.5-inch 4K display with a 60Hz refresh rate in the Xperia 1 II. The 5 II can record video up to 4K 120fps, whereas the Xperia 1 II tops out at 4K 60fps. And the 5 II comes with 128GB of storage, while the 1 II has 256GB.

The new Xperia 5 II has a special graphene layer to reduce heat. It also a heat-suppression mode called H.S. Power Control, which can change external power from charging the battery to just powering the phone. All this adds up to keep the phone cooler when gaming which, when combined with Sony's revamped Game Enhancer, could make for a solid mobile gaming experience.

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The Xperia 5 II has all the features the Xperia 1 II has including EyeAF (for people and pets), 20fps burst mode with autofocus and auto exposure taken for each frame, RAW file support and the Photo Pro app.

Sony

Perhaps one of the nerdiest features is the option to tether the Xperis 5 II to a camera such as the Sony Alpha A7S III and transfer photos and videos via File Transfer Protocol. 

I look forward to getting my hands on the phone and testing out all these features. You can preorder the Sony Xperia 5 II for about $950 starting Sept. 29 and it ships on Dec. 4. If you preorder Xperia 5 II by Nov. 29 you'll receive a gaming bundle worth over $400 including a gaming headset, a 10,000-mAh power bank and 21,600 Call of Duty Mobile Points.

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PS5 games are $10 more expensive. Is that fair? – CNET

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Looks like we'll be paying $69.99 US for AAA big budget games.

Captura de pantalla Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

In 1992, when I was around 11 years old, my mum paid £65 for Street Fighter 2 on the Super Nintendo. 

65 British Pounds. With today's exchange rate, that's about $85. But in 1992, rates were different. Back then £65 was closer to almost 100 US dollars.

My mum paid $100 for Street Fighter 2: World Warrior. But it gets worse.

From 1992 until 2020 the rate of inflation was roughly 2.25% annually, so when you do the maths, things get even crazier. Adjusted for exchange rates, adjusted for inflation... 

My Mum pretty much paid 186 US dollars for Street Fighter 2 on the Super Nintendo.

Breaking even

Today Sony, while revealing the price of the upcoming PlayStation 5 ($499, or $399 for the Digital Edition), also revealed that many next-generation video games are getting a price increase. Games like the upcoming Demon's Souls, that once cost $59.99, will now cost $69.99 on the PlayStation 5. Some people don't like that.

My first instinct upon hearing the news was to remember my poor old Mum, who once paid $186 for a video game. In that context it's hard to complain about a $10 bump in prices. Maybe the bump was long, long overdue? 

Over the last decade we've watched video games evolve dramatically. We've watched production costs increase. We've watched studios and human beings buckle beneath the oppressive weight of fan and market expectations for big budget games like Destiny or The Last of Us. In 2020 a video game like Breath of the Wild, that cost Nintendo $100 million to make, requires around 2 million units sold to break even. 

Just to break even.

Fortnite Wolverine

Folks are used to playing Fortnite -- essentially -- for free.

Epic Games

It's obviously a lot more complicated than that. Development costs have increased, yes -- but in most cases production costs have decreased. One of the reasons Street Fighter 2 was so expensive in 1992 was the cost of the cartridges themselves. In 2020 the production and distribution of video games has become far more streamlined. The way we play (and pay) for video games has changed dramatically. Despite inflation, in many ways we're paying less for video games. In some cases, we pay nothing at all.

Fortnite, maybe the biggest game of the last five years, is free-to-play and makes the majority of its money from micro-transactions. Many games, like Apex Legends and Call of Duty: Warzone, followed in those footsteps.

Add to the mix services like Xbox Game Pass, which charges players a Netlix-esque monthly fee to play an ever-growing catalogue of video games we'd previously have paid full-price for. If you were a Game Pass subscriber you could have played a big budget AAA single player experience like Gears of War 5 essentially for free, on launch day. 

Now that consumers have become conditioned to those types of offers, it might be difficult to put that genie back in the bottle. In the near future, will consumers still be prepared to pay -- not just full price -- but full price plus an additional $10? It's difficult to say. I suspect the answer is yes but who the hell knows at this point.

The safest bet

One crucial factor is the transition to digital. Sony and Microsoft's long term battle to wrestle control of video game sales from retailers like Gamestop began last generation, but it'll step up dramatically in the next. 

This time around, with both the Xbox Series X and the PS5, consumers have the option on day one: They can buy a version of the console that plays discs and continue buying video games in stores like the "good ol' days" or they can buy a console that plays digitally acquired games only.

And when you do that? You're completely at the whim of what Microsoft and Sony charge for their video games. Until now, big retailers have aggressively discounted new titles, particularly in stores like Walmart where video games serve as loss leaders for other products like toasters. When games go digital, those juicy discounts will stop. 

And that future is all but guaranteed. As of 2018, 87% of all games sales were made digitally. At best, disc-based consoles are a token gesture for a retail video game market in steep decline.

xbox-pricing

Xbox Game Pass could change everything.

Microsoft

But regardless of their perceived similarities, Microsoft and Sony seem to have increasingly divergent goals. Sony is more traditional. It clearly seeks to make money selling the games themselves. This video game price increase reflects that. Microsoft appears more future facing. It sees its future in the subscription model (Xbox Game Pass) and cloud gaming (Project xCloud). 

The truth is publishers have been experimenting with pricing for years. Many full priced games regularly still feature microtransactions. EA experimented with running literal advertisements in its most recent UFC game, a game most paid full-price of $59.99 for. It's hard to justify price increases when you're milking the cow from both ends.

But the elephant in the room is COVID-19. We're in the midst of an epidemic and a global recession. In the US employment is starting to rise, but as recently as August over 10% of Americans didn't have a job. Hardly the best time to factor in a price increase for video games -- a pastime that's grown dramatically as people are stuck at home in lockdown. 

It's a contradiction that reflects the complexity of this issue. We've never been more desperate for video games, but there's a chance we can't afford to pay for them. We live in an economy where it makes sense to charge more for video games, but we've also spent the last decade giving them away for free. 

The balls are in the air and there's no definitive way to figure out where they'll land. 

The safest bet is this: The games industry has grown to such a size it can support all sorts. The hardcore early adopters willing to play $69.99 for Demon's Souls at launch; the teenagers for whom the PS5 will be nothing but a glorified Fortnite machine; the casual players who buy consoles years down the track and play catch-up with discounted games; the folks who are happy to lock themselves into Microsoft's subscription based vision for the future. 

There's room for all of us in the video game universe. Some of us are even willing to pay $186 for Street Fighter 2.

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