Apple’s ‘California Streaming’ Sets the Stage for this Year’s Lineup of New Releases

The much anticipated Apple unveiling event for the year has come and passed, and tech lovers from around the globe now await the roll-out of the company’s new set of products, which should come out very soon. Dubbed “California Streaming,” Apple’s all-virtual unveiling event on September 14, 2021, has introduced the world to some of its latest iterations of flagship products such as the iPhone, AirPods, and Apple Watch.

Arguably one of the more anticipated announcements from Apple this 2021 is the release of its latest smartphone model, the iPhone 13. Reports came out earlier that the newest version of the iconic phone wouldn’t sport many aesthetic changes, which the company confirmed after an unveiling of the final output. Instead, the phone’s reported upgrades will primarily be around its camera output as the Apple iPhone 13 will have improved lenses, sensors, and imaging.

Despite sticking to the 12-megapixel resolution, there are significant upgrades to the iPhone’s camera, including a camera sensor with a 1.9µm pixel size and a brighter aperture of f/1.5. The previous model has a 1.7µm pixel size and f/1.6 lens. For reference, what that means is the iPhone 13 will be able to capture up to 2.2x more light than its predecessor. In addition, the phone will also have a telephoto camera with a 77mm f/2.8 lens for an optical magnification of 3x for more long-range shots.

The Apple iPhone 13 will have four models—the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. All models will have an improved A15 Bionic chip and longer battery life. There will also be a 1TB variant on the lineup as soon as products start shipping. The company also announced a release of its newest color, Sierra Blue.

Also announced during the event was the release of a newer model for the lowest-cost iPad, which would now have an A13 processor and a 12-megapixel front-facing camera to keep up with the rising use of tablets for video conferencing on programs like Zoom. The iPad’s lens will also have a wider lens, enabling it to capture more people in one shot and a wireless LTE connection. It also announced a new iteration of the iPad mini, which would follow the iPhone 12’s flatter design language without the fingerprint sensor and smaller bezels.

Other product updates announced include the third generation of AirPods, a new Apple Watch design, which would start coming out later in the fall, and a few others. Apple will also be making significant improvements on the software side of the customer experience. Announced was a significant upgrade to its subscription plan for fitness training services and a new set of shows to come out on Apple TV+ with stars like Reese Witherspoon and Jon Stewart, to name a few. Apple’s TV+ subscription currently costs $4.99 a month. There was also mention of iOS 15 software updates, which should be coming out soon, starting with the newer iPhones.

Apple’s CEO and frontman Tim Cook hosted the unveiling, who presented many of Apple’s most significant announcements to over 300,000 live viewers on the YouTube stream. The rollout of the new products will start as early as this month.

The Human/Tech Team-Up Against Ransomware

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ransomware attacks have risen more than 400% in frequency.  The reasons for growth are clear.  In the era of remote work, businesses are using more software and networked devices than ever, exposing them to a wider array of vulnerabilities.  The advent of ransomware as a service has opened the door for less talented hackers to carry out successful cyber attacks.  Gangs provide their clients with easy to use malware in exchange for 20-30% of the ransom.  Most importantly, ransomware attacks are lucrative.  Businesses make multi-million dollar payouts to attackers, and law enforcement rarely pursues cyber criminals.  It’s the perfect storm for cyber crime.

As criminals thrive, legal businesses suffer.  The costs associated with cyber attacks is expected to reach over $20 billion in 2021.  75% of organizations will face attacks in the next 5 years.  Businesses are struggling to keep up with the growing threat against them.  The majority have an IT security budget of less than $10,000.  For perspective, the average recovery costs for a business victimized by ransomware in 2021 is $2 million.

The problem is even more dire for small and medium businesses (SMBs for short).  62% of SMBs lack in-house cybersecurity expertise.  There is a shortage of qualified experts out there, and those that do operate in the market offer their services to the highest bidder.  With the average annual salary of a cybersecurity engineer sitting at nearly $95,000, many businesses see such talent as sitting out of their reach.  Despite that, SMBs would still benefit from making a recovery plan.  6 in 10 SMBs don’t have a documented process for how to respond and recover in the event of a cyber attack.

Can software fill the gap?  Security companies are creating more advanced artificial intelligence algorithms every year.  Yet technology alone can’t deter motivated attackers.  Even as tech works wonders, it introduces new challenges.  Deploying, configuring, and maintaining cybersecurity technology is a job in itself.  69% of cybersecurity pros admit they aren’t leveraging their security portfolios to their full potential.  If they aren’t using software the best way they could be, what hope is there that tech amateurs can maximize their potential?  

Furthermore, AI solutions aren’t foolproof.  They often lead to an explosion of false positives and excessive alerts.  Every day, the average person received 63.5 notifications.  There are not enough hours in a day to work through all the alerts.  This is why human expertise is an important part of cybersecurity.  Trained analysts have an advantage when detecting and responding to ransomware.  They can understand context, relevance, and attack motivations in a way AI is not currently capable of doing. 

In an ever-expanding cyber attack landscape, businesses need the best in class technology to work alongside cybersecurity expertise.  People, processes, and technology must work together to keep operations safe.  The less time regular employees spend preventing a cyber attack, the more time they have free to do their intended jobs.  Everyone benefits that way.

Dolly Parton Declines Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nomination

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Dolly Parton, singer of Grammy Hall of Fame songs “Coat of Many Colors,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “Jolene,” announced in a statement on Monday that she has taken herself out of consideration from the 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, stating that she feels she has not “earned that right.” 

Parton has also previously turned down a Presidential Medal of Freedom from the Trump administration. She has also said that she isn’t sure if she would accept one from the Biden administration.

The 1999 Country Music Hall of Fame features Parton, and, in 2001, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In addition, her three aforementioned songs are all in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Other Rock Hall nominees are Eminem, Beck, A Tribe Called Quest, Carly Simon, and Duran Duran. On April 29, fans can vote for their choice through the Rock Hall website, and inductees will be announced in May.

Read Parton’s full statement below:


“Dolly here! Even though I am extremely flattered and grateful to be nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I don’t feel that I have earned that right. I really do not want votes to be split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out.

I do hope that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will understand and be willing to consider me again – if I’m ever worthy. This has, however, inspired me to put out a hopefully great rock’n’roll album at some point in the future, which I have always wanted to do! My husband is a total rock’n’roll freak, and has always encouraged me to do one. I wish all of the nominees good luck and thank you again for the compliment. Good luck!”

Jane Campion Express Regrets Over Mentioning Venus and Selena Williams at Critics Choice Awards Speech

Photo: CNN

Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog director, expressed her regrets for comparing her job in an industry dominated by males with the experiences of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. She did it while accepting an award for the best director during the ceremony.

The statement said, “I made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved. I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world-class athletes.” 

“The fact is the Williams sisters have, actually, squared off against men on the court (and off), and they have both raised the bar and opened doors for what is possible for women in this world. The last thing I would ever want to do is minimize remarkable women. I love Serena and Venus. Their accomplishments are titanic and inspiring. Serena and Venus, I apologize and completely celebrate you,” she added. 

Venus and Serena Williams are the children of the Williams family patriarch portrayed by Will Smith in King Richard

Campion said her adoration to “the guys” in her almost all-male category before commenting about the Williams sisters in front of the audience. 

“Serena and Venus, you are such marvels,” she stated, “however, you do not play against the guys like I have to.” 

Just a while back, Campion also spoke out about another Hollywood personality who slammed her position in the industry when she replied to award-winning actor Sam Elliot’s talk-about comments about her proficiency to direct The Power of the Dog as a woman from New Zealand. 

The movie follows the American West with unusual themes, including aging masculinity and commodification.

“I’m sorry, he was being a little bit of a b-tch, and, I’m sorry to say it, he’s not a cowboy, he’s an actor,” said Campion on the red carpet at the DGA Awards. 

“The West is a myth exposed. There’s a lot of room on the range. I think it’s a little bit sexist because you think about the number of amazing westerns that were made in Spain by Sergio Leone. I consider myself a creator, and I think he sees me as a woman or something lesser first, and I don’t appreciate that,” she added.

William Hurt Dies at 71

Photo: Shutterstock

Kiss of the Spider Woman star William Hurt has died at the age of 71.

Hurt’s son Will confirmed the actor’s death in a statement: “It is with great sadness that the Hurt family mourns the passing of William Hurt, beloved father and Oscar-winning actor, on March 13, 2022, one week before his 72nd birthday. He died peacefully, among family, of natural causes. The family requests privacy at this time.”

Hurt was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2018.

Hurt was born on March 20, 1950 in Washington, D.C. He attended Juilliard School and was classmates with Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve. He made his professional stage debut in 1977, and he first appeared in film in the 1980 science fiction body horror film Altered States, which also featured a young Drew Barrymore.

In 1982, Hurt cemented his stardom with the neo-noir thriller Body Heat directed by Lawrence Kasdan with co-star Kathleen Turner and the 1983 ensemble dramedy The Big Chill by the same director.

Hurt won Best Actor in 1985 with Kiss of the Spider Woman and was nominated twice for the same award for Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Broadcast News (1987).

Hurt was in a relationship with Children of a Lesser God co-star Marlee Matlin, the details of which were revealed in the latter’s 2009 autobiography I’ll Scream Later. In the autobiography, Matlin claimed that their relationship involved drugs and physical abuse by Hurt.

Hurt released the following statement as a response: 

“My own recollection is that we both apologized and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologize for any pain I caused. And I know we have both grown. I wish Marlee and her family nothing but good.”

Hurt received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for A History of Violence in 2005. This became his final nomination. Still, Hurt continued to act in film, on stage, and in television, even reuniting with The Big Chill co-star Glenn Close in 2009 on the FX drama Damages. He went on to receive an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor.

Hurt is also known for his role of Secretary of State Thadeus Ross in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: Civil War, and Black Widow, which was Hurt’s final performance.

The World of Asphalt Recycling

As the most recycled material on Earth, asphalt is very versatile and useful.  Asphalt is a refined, petroleum-like material made from crude oil that is also called bitumen.  It contains sulfur, hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen.  Due to asphalt’s  binding abilities, resistance to changing temperature, and structural durability, it is mostly used to build parking lots, roadways, and roof shingles.  

Asphalt is a 100% renewable construction resource that the U.S. created 420 million tons of in 2019.  In the same year, 3,600 asphalt production sites were located in the country.  Almost 40 billion barrels of bitumen was also stored in the U.S. 

The material’s circular life cycle essentially dictates the asphalt economy.  A recycling company obtains the asphalt once it can no longer be used properly.  An extraction process removes the usable asphalt from the unusable portions.  The usable material is then resold to companies who reuse it for paving, waterproofing, and more.  The U.S. recovers almost 99% of asphalt each year, helping to protect the planet as well as our wellbeing.  

There are several other benefits of recycling asphalt, including protecting the planet’s atmosphere from receiving 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), which reduces greenhouse gases by up to 61%.  Asphalt recycling also reduces the amount of shingle waste being dumped in landfills and U.S. dependency on oil sources from other countries.  In fact, one shingled roof can produce an amount of asphalt that is sufficient enough to lay down 200 feet of a two-lane highway.  Reusing asphalt can lower processing costs to $25 for each recycled batch while saving U.S. taxpayers almost $2 billion.  

The asphalt recovery industry is worth more than $7 billion today with the shingle recovery market close on its heels.  At least 20 U.S. states have 50 or more roofing recovery sites with an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9% between 2020 and 2027.  Demands for asphalt in the U.S. are predicted to increase by 3% year over year as well with sustainable programs helping to reduce binder manufacturing costs by an estimated 35%.  Furthermore, the Vermont Act 175 has made shingle recycling mandatory for Vermont with even more states expected to follow. 

Recycling asphalt shingles is not the same as recycling asphalt as the bitumen is extracted from the shingle using a solvent in a four-step process.  The first step involves grounding the waste asphalt shingle (WAS) to create coarse pieces so nail debris can be removed before mixing the shingle pieces with a solvent to create a liquid slurry that dissolves the bitumen.  The solid waste then lands at the bottom of the tank as the bitumen and other solvents make their way to the surface.  Afterwards, the rest of the solvents are separated from the oil using heat, allowing the solvent to be used again and the oil to be packaged neatly.  

The recycling of asphalt and bitumen allows asphalt, asphalt shingles, and bitumen oil to be resold and reused, making the asphalt recovery market a sustainable and interesting industry.

The Road To Ransomware Recovery

Ransomware attacks are becoming more widespread, more devastating to businesses, and are happening all-to-often. The total cost of ransomware increased by 243% from 2020 to 2021 alone, with the current annual sum of ransomware attack damage being up to $20 billion. 

According to Sophos, average ransom demands in 2020 were $108,000 for small businesses (those with < 1,000 employees) and $225,000 for large business (those with 1,000 – 5,000 employees. The average ransom paid by mid-sized organizations was $170,404. Additionally, the typical costs of rectifying a ransomware attack were double the ransom itself. The average bill for ransomware attack recovery reached $1.85 million, which includes downtime, people time, device cost, network cost, lost opportunity, and the ransom paid.

Increasingly, ransomware demands are being tailored to each victim. Attackers adjust their demands to reflect their victims’ ability to pay, and the effort needed to breach their security. Larger enterprises are more likely to be hit by ransomware than smaller ones, and are left to recover from higher ransom demands as well as more sophisticated attacks. Smaller businesses face more basic attacks with lower ransom demands and more generic tactics. There are also attack disparities across country lines, with victims in developed economies facing higher demands. Across the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, and Australia the average ransom is 26% higher than the global average, reaching $214,096.

On top of the gargantuan problem that is ransomware attacks tails another that worsens them: cyber insurance claims are being denied. In the first half of 2020, 41% of cyber-insurance claims were related to ransomware attacks. As ransomware attacks have become more common, insurers have imposed limits or stopped covering ransomware altogether.

In the U.S.73% of insurers have begun declining more applications for cyber coverage. Virtually all insurers are reducing coverage for high-risk sectors, auditing applicants’ security when they apply, lowering total coverage limits, and capping ransom payouts, making the journey to ransomware recovery long, difficult, and oftentimes, unsuccessful.

Legislative initiatives are also working against ransomware attack recovery. Regulatory changes will increase costs to businesses that fail to prevent an attack. In the European Union, GDPR imposes fines on businesses that fail to protect consumer data. In the United States, California’s CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) allows consumers to sue businesses after a breach — without having to prove the breach caused harm. In 2020, the United States Treasury began prosecuting those who facilitate ransomware payments made to sanctioned individuals and jurisdictions. Worldwide, law enforcement agencies discourage ransomware payments — believing giving in to demands will encourage more attacks (though still, paying ransoms is not illegal). Businesses are left to recuperate on their own as they lack conducive laws or insurance plans to aid them.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to take the necessary precautions to safeguard your assets and data. To invest in cybersecurity is to invest in the security of your business and a trajectory of success.  Today’s ransomware attacks deploy much more than just hefty ransoms, putting whole corporations at stake. Protect your business from ransomware to ensure that you aren’t.

Family Confirms New Posthumous Selena Album

Photo: Getty Images

Tejano icon Selena Quintanilla Perez’s family announced in interviews their plans to release a new album this spring, marking 27 years since Selena, then 23, was tragically shot and killed by her former employee, Yolanda Saldivar — an incident that inspired both an acclaimed biopic and a Netflix miniseries.

Abraham Quintanilla, Selena’s father, told Latin Groove News that the yet-untitled project would be distributed through Warner Music. It will contain 13 ballads and cumbias, composed of ten unreleased songs and three new arrangements of previous songs.

Producer A.B. Quintanilla, the singer’s brother, also recently explained to Tino Cochino Radio: “It’s a crazy concept album. I remixed all her vinyls and just, with this album, with an EDM world, with arpeggiators and with keyboards, I made her flow to cumbia. Normal songs that were not normally recorded in cumbia.” 

Quintanilla explained that they digitally altered her voice to make her sound older because some of the tracks were recorded when she was a teenager. 

“We were also able to de-tune her voice to make her sound older than what she was. So, she was 14 or 15, we were able to make her sound like she just stepped out of the booth at 23 years old.” 

He added that “by de-tuning her voice a little bit, it actually made her sound deeper, like she sounded before she passed.”

Abraham says he is in awe at how “26 years later the public still remembers Selena. They haven’t let go of her. They’re waiting for a project like this to come out, and I know it will be well received by the public.” 

He adds, “I said right after she passed away that I was going to try to keep her memory alive through her music, and we have done that.”