author_name|Will Shanklin

Walmart says it’s no longer advertising on X

Walmart has seen enough from X. The retailer, America’s single biggest employer and largest company by revenue, told Reuters on Friday it’s no longer advertising on the platform formerly known as Twitter. The departure follows owner Elon Musk amplifying antisemitic posts and flinging expletives at fleeing advertisers. “We aren’t advertising on X as we’ve found other platforms to better reach our customers,” a Walmart spokesperson told Reuters.

Walmart’s exit adds to a growing list of companies that have pulled ads from the platform. Apple, Disney, IBM, Comcast and Warner Bros. Discovery are among the businesses no longer buying ads on X. A group of advertisers told The New York Times on Thursday their temporary pauses will likely become permanent. “There is no advertising value that would offset the reputational risk of going back on the platform,” Lou Paskalis, CEO of marketing consultancy AJL Advisory, told the paper.

X’s former advertisers had no shortage of reasons to jump ship. Musk’s latest series of self-inflicted wounds began when the billionaire appeared to endorse and amplify a post falsely claiming Jewish communities were stoking hatred against white people. Musk replied to the user who spewed the racist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, saying their comments reflected “the actual truth.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 29: C.E.O. of Tesla, Chief Engineer of SpaceX and C.T.O. of X Elon Musk takes the stage during the New York Times annual DealBook summit on November 29, 2023 in New York City. Andrew Ross Sorkin returns for the NYT summit for a day of interviews with Vice President Kamala Harris, President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-Wen, C.E.O. of Tesla, Chief Engineer of SpaceX and C.T.O. of X Elon Musk, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and leaders in business, politics and culture.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

Watchdog group Media Matters then published a report showing ads from well-known brands placed next to antisemitic content. X responded by suing the organization, accusing it of “knowingly and maliciously [manufacturing] side-by-side images depicting advertisers’ posts on X Corp.’s social media platform beside Neo-Nazi and white national fringe content.”

Musk’s attempt to smooth things over only made things worse. After apologizing for amplifying the antisemitic content at The New York Times’ DealBook event, he told advertisers backing off of the platform to “Go fuck yourself.” His company now potentially stands to lose $75 million.

Walmart employs around 1.6 million people in the US. The retailer made $611 billion in revenue in the 2023 fiscal year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google’s new AI experiment composes abstract musical clips inspired by instruments

Google’s new generative AI experiment lets you create music “inspired by” over 100 instruments worldwide. Instrument Playground starts by asking for a simple prompt containing a musical instrument’s name, optionally preceded by an adjective like “upbeat,” “strange” or “gloomy.” It will then spit out a 20-second audio clip as a starting point to compose (often extremely offbeat or abstract) music that may or may not include the sound of the specific instrument you entered.

Simon Doury, an Artist in Residence at Google Arts & Culture Lab, designed the experiment. It taps into Google’s MusicLM, a text-to-AI tool it made available to the public in May.

Instrument Playground invites you to “choose one of over 100 instruments from around the world you’d like to play,” suggesting some lesser-known to Americans like the veena from India, dizi from China or mbria from Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, prefixing your instrument prompt with an adjective lets you suggest styles like “moody,” “happy” or “romantic.”

The experiment works less literally than you might expect. For example, “angry tuba” doesn’t generate the aggressive brass solo you’d expect. Instead, it sounds more like a synthesized pipe organ with tuba aspirations. Similarly, “strange didgeridoo” came out like an ominous section of a Hans Zimmer score. The results seem like abstract compositions with layers of sound that (sort of) capture the feeling — more than the specific sound — of the prompt.

It also rejects some adjectives for inexplicable reasons. When I enter “quirky” or “psychedelic,” an error pop-up tells me it doesn’t allow prompts referencing specific artists.

Once the experiment generates a clip you like for a starting point, you can choose from “Ambient,” “Beat” and “Pitch” to control different aspects of the composition, turning it into something more uniquely yours. If you want to add more instruments (or whatever sounds it makes in response to instrument-based prompts), an advanced mode opens a sequencer to layer and loop up to four tracks for your oddball musical masterpiece. Finally, you can download a .wav file of your track once you’re happy with it.

Google included the following holiday-themed example to inspire you to get started. If that looks like something you want to play with, you can visit Instrument Playground and log in with your Google account to begin composing.

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Apple patches two security vulnerabilities on iPhone, iPad and Mac

Apple pushed updates to iOS, iPadOS and macOS software today to patch two zero-day security vulnerabilities. The company suggested the bugs had been actively deployed in the wild. “Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been exploited against versions of iOS before iOS 16.7.1,” the company wrote about both flaws in its security reports. Software updates plugging the holes are now available for the iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Researcher Clément Lecigne of Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) is credited with discovering and reporting both exploits. As Bleeping Computer notes, the team at Google TAG often finds and exposes zero-day bugs against high-risk individuals, like politicians, journalists and dissidents. Apple didn’t reveal specifics about the nature of any attacks using the flaws.

The two security flaws affected WebKit, Apple’s open-source browser framework powering Safari. In Apple’s description of the first bug, it said, “Processing web content may disclose sensitive information.” In the second, it wrote, “Processing web content may lead to arbitrary code execution.”

The security patches cover the “iPhone XS and later, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2nd generation and later, iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPad Pro 11-inch 1st generation and later, iPad Air 3rd generation and later, iPad 6th generation and later, and iPad mini 5th generation and later.”

The odds your devices were affected by either of these are extremely minimal, so there’s no need to panic — but, to be safe, it would be wise to update your Apple gear now. You can update your iPhone or iPad immediately by heading to Settings > General > Software Update and tapping the prompt to initiate it. On Mac, go to System Settings > General > Software Update and do the same. Apple’s fixes arrived today in iOS 17.1.2, iPadOS 17.1.2 and macOS Sonoma 14.1.2. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Bipartisan Senate bill would kill the TSA’s ‘Big Brother’ airport facial recognition

US Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a bipartisan bill Wednesday to end involuntary facial recognition screening at airports. The Traveler Privacy Protection Act would block the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from continuing or expanding its facial recognition tech program. It would also require the government agency to explicitly receive congressional permission to renew it, and it would have to dispose of all biometric data within three months.

Senator Merkley described the TSA’s biometric collection practices as the first steps toward an Orwellian nightmare. “The TSA program is a precursor to a full-blown national surveillance state,” Merkley wrote in a news release. “Nothing could be more damaging to our national values of privacy and freedom. No government should be trusted with this power.” Other Senators supporting the bill include Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The TSA began testing facial recognition at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in 2018. The agency’s pitch to travelers framed it as an exciting new high-tech feature, promising a “biometrically-enabled curb-to-gate passenger experience.” The TSA said this summer it planned to expand the program to over 430 US airports within the next few years.

The program at least technically allows travelers to opt-out, but that process isn’t always transparent in practice. Merkley posted the video above to X in September, demonstrating how agents guided travelers to the facial scanner without mentioning that it’s optional. No signs near the booths said it was optional or explicitly mentioned the gathering of facial data, either. The booths were arranged so that flyers would have difficulty entering their driver’s license or ID (required) without stepping in front of the facial scanner.

Advocacy groups supporting the bill include the ACLU, Electronic Privacy Information Center and Public Citizen. “The privacy risks and discriminatory impact of facial recognition are real, and the government’s use of our faces as IDs poses a serious threat to our democracy,” wrote Jeramie Scott, Senior Counsel and Director of EPIC’s Project on Surveillance Oversight, in Markley’s press release. “The TSA should not be allowed to unilaterally subject millions of travelers to this dangerous technology.”

“Every day, TSA scans thousands of Americans’ faces without their permission and without making it clear that travelers can opt out of the invasive screening,” Sen. Kennedy wrote in a separate news release. “The Traveler Privacy Protection Act would protect every American from Big Brother’s intrusion by ending the facial recognition program.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Evernote officially limits free users to 50 notes and one measly notebook

Evernote has confirmed the service’s tightly leashed new free plan, which the company tested with some users earlier this week. Starting December 4, the note-taking app will restrict new and current accounts to 50 notes and one notebook. Existing free customers who exceed those limits can still view, edit, delete and export their notes, but they’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan (or delete enough old ones) to create new notes that exceed the new confines.

The company says most free accounts are already inside those lines. “When setting the new limits, we considered that the majority of our Free users fall below the threshold of fifty notes and one notebook,” the company wrote in an announcement blog post. “As a result, the everyday experience for most Free users will remain unchanged.” Engadget reached out to Evernote to clarify whether “the majority of Free users” staying within those bounds includes long-dormant accounts that may have tried the app for a few minutes a decade ago and never logged in again. We’ll update this article if we hear back.

Evernote’s premium plans, now practically essential for anything more than minimal use, include a $15 monthly Personal plan with 10GB of monthly uploads. You can double that to 20GB (and get other perks) with an $18 tier. It also offers annual versions of those plans for $130 and $170, respectively.

The company acknowledged in its announcement post that “these changes may lead you to reconsider your relationship with Evernote.” Leading alternatives with more bountiful free plans include Notion, Microsoft OneNote, Google Keep, Bear (Apple devices only), Obsidian and SimpleNote.

Earlier this year, Evernote’s parent company, Bending Spoons, moved its operations from the US and Chile to Europe, laying off nearly all of the note-taking app’s employees. When doing so, it said the app had been “unprofitable for years.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

EVs are way more unreliable than gas-powered cars, Consumer Reports data indicates

Consumer Reports has published an extensive ranking of vehicle reliability, and the results pour cold water on the dependability of EVs and plug-in hybrids. The survey says electric vehicles suffer from 79 percent more maintenance issues than gas- or diesel-powered ones, while plug-in hybrids have 146 percent more problems. The troubles portray the industry’s growing pains with the relatively new technology as the planet sets record temperatures, and scientists warn of rapidly approaching deadlines to thwart global climate catastrophe.

The survey polled CR’s members about issues with their rides from the past year, gathering data on 330,000 vehicles. The publication’s data included models from 2000 to 2023, alongside a few (early launched) 2024 models. CR studied 20 “trouble areas,” including relatively minor issues like squeaky brakes or a broken interior trim and more problematic ones related to the transmission, engine or EV battery. The number of potential trouble areas varies by type: internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles have 17, EVs have 12, traditional hybrids have 19 and plug-in hybrids have all 20.

The publication combined the data with its own track testing, owner satisfaction survey results and safety info. It then averaged it to assign each brand a numerical score (out of 100).

Marketing photo of the Lexus UX hybrid vehicle. The silver model drives down a city street with dramatic lighting.
The Lexus UX, a rare plug-in hybrid that scored well in the survey.

Non-plugin hybrids scored well, with the survey indicating they suffer from 26 percent fewer issues than gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. CR highlighted the most reliable brands in that space, including the Lexus’ UX and NX Hybrid and Toyota’s Camry Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid and RAV4 Hybrid.

If only plug-in hybrids (PHEV) could enjoy those ratings. Instead, their longer list of trouble spots led to 146 percent more problems than traditional gas-powered vehicles. Lowlights include the Chrysler Pacifica, which scored an abysmal 14 out of 100, and Audi Q5. However, several PHEVs defied the category’s expectations, including “standouts” like the Toyota RAV4 Prime and Kia Sportage. Several others, including the BMW X5, Hyundai Tucson and Ford Escape, scored “average” in reliability.

Fully electric cars and SUVs, the vehicles many automakers aim to fill their dealership lots with by 2030, have mediocre average scores: 44 and 43, respectively. Electric pickups, the newest technology in the bunch, perhaps unsurprisingly scored worse with an average of 30.

Lexus came out on top among EV brands. All but one of its models scored above average or better in CR’s ratings. And the lone exception, the NX, still had an average score. Toyota also did well, including the 4Runner SUV, which CR describes as “among the most reliable models in the survey.” However, its electric Tundra pickup scored poorly. Other EVs with above-average scores include Acura’s RDX and TLX.

Photo of the Tesla Model 3 sitting outdoors next to a field. Green grass, trees and hills are visible in the distance.
Photo by Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

Once practically synonymous with electric vehicles, Tesla had overall scores in the middle of the pack (alongside brands like Chevrolet, Buick, Ram, Cadillac and Dodge). CR says the Elon Musk-led company’s EV powertrains tend to fare better than those from traditional automakers. However, Ars Technica notes the company’s reliability scores struggled more with things like bodywork, paint / trim and climate systems.

Regionally speaking, Asian automakers enjoyed the highest average scores in the survey at a healthy 63. European companies were second with an average of 46, while US brands slumped with a somewhat disappointing score of 39.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at