Tech News

Belkin’s AirPlay 2 adapter for your speakers is simple genius

AirPlay 2 is a convenient way of wirelessly streaming music from Apple devices like your iPhone, but if you’re not rocking newer, connected speakers then Belkin’s new AirPlay 2 dongle could upgrade your existing audio system. The Belkin Soundform Connect is deceptively simple: a small adapter with wired audio outputs on one side, and support for Apple’s streaming inside.

Belkin offers a choice of digital optical and analog 3.5mm outputs, depending on what powered speakers or receiver you might be using. Once connected, and powered on, the Soundform Connect should show up on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS devices as just another potential AirPlay 2 connection, alongside any HomePod, Apple TV, or other compatible device you might have.

There’s support for up to 16-bit, 44.1 kHz audio, so don’t get any ideas about streaming the new, maximum-quality lossless tracks that Apple Music is adding. Still, if you have an existing soundbar, speaker set, or an old-school A/V rack with a receiver and amp on it, this could be a simple way to upgrade them to support wireless music too.

Since you can group multiple AirPlay 2 devices and play music across them all, Belkin’s adapter could also be used to add to a multi-room audio system. Presumably – though Belkin doesn’t bill it as such – you could plug it into a car’s 3.5mm aux-in port and power it via the included USB-C to USB-A cable. That way, you’d be able to AirPlay 2 stream to your vehicle’s head unit.

We’ve seen an increasing number of third-party devices supporting AirPlay 2 over the years, as Apple capitalizes on its established user-base of iPhone and iPad owners. Most Sonos speakers from the past few years support the standard for audio, and if you haven’t wanted to spend $150+ on an Apple TV, more affordable streaming boxes – like Roku’s $40 Express 4K+ – now offer AirPlay 2 support for video as well. Several smart TVs also have the functionality baked-in.

Belkin’s Soundform Connect is available to order now, priced at $99.99.

Disclosure: SlashGear uses affiliate links, If you click on a link in this article and buy something we’ll get a small cut of the sale.

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Tech News

Brain genius hacks an Apple AirTag… but don’t panic

When I hear something’s been hacked, it conjures images of Le Carré-style spies and national security leaks, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, it’s just a brain genius hacking an Apple AirTag.

Over the weekend, Twitter user Stacksmashing managed to break into Apple’s tracking device. They also managed to dump the firmware of Apple’s new device (although this hasn’t been made public).

Feast your eyes on this:

We can all agree on one thing: this is cool. Apple is renowned for the strong security of its devices, so actually hacking an AirTag is a fantastic achievement. But there’s a bigger question to answer…

Should we be worried that someone hacked an AirTag?

Let’s try and break this down logically. First, we need to find out exactly what Stacksmashing managed to achieve. From a user perspective, the most notable element is they managed to alter the NFC URL.

Effectively, when you tap an AirTag with your phone, it normally directs you to Apple’s Find My service. Stacksmashing managed to alter this so it opened a website of their choice. Like this:

Obviously this could be used to redirect someone towards a malicious website, but this hacked AirTag opens up another question: can it be used for even more nefarious purposes?

A point raised in the Twitter thread is whether or not this hacked or jailbroken AirTag could be used for tracking and recording. Effectively, someone could disable anti-stalking measures and follow you. It’s also broadly possible to use the accelerometer inside the hardware to record audio. In other words, an AirTag could become a spying device.

So… should you be worried?

Not really. At least not yet. In order to hack the AirTag, Stacksmashing had to take it apart, whip out the soldering iron, and power it externally. In other words, if someone’s going to do this with an AirTag you own, it’s gonna take a lot of time and access.

If someone really wants to spy on you, there are far easier ways to do than this. An AirTag being hacked isn’t going to impact you currently.

Really, we should be pleased that someone’s managed this feat. Apple is bound to take note of this and, hopefully, will take further steps to ensure that these devices can’t be easily used to erode someone’s privacy.

Still, massive respect to Stacksmashing. This is cool as fuck.

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Tech News

Fender Mustang Micro is a low-cost guitar amp with a genius design

Fender has added a new personal amp to its line-up, with the Fender Mustang Micro not only adding some individual amplification but throwing in tones and effects too. Joining the Mustang series as the smallest – and most affordable – model, the Mustang Micro is more compact than a cellphone but still has space to fit Bluetooth and more.

Unlike standalone amps, the Mustang Micro is designed to plug directly into the guitar’s output. A set of wired headphones plug into it in turn, and then you get a choice of 12 different amp models to flip between.

There are also 12 effects that Fender has pulled from the rest of its Mustang range. Altogether, the company says, there’s a range of amp styles from clean through to heavy metal, and effects like modulation, delay, and reverb. It’s all self-contained, too, so there’s no need to lug around a separate effects processor.

As for the Bluetooth, meanwhile, that can be used to pair wirelessly with a smartphone, tablet, or other audio source. Play music on that, and you can jam along on the guitar, with the combined audio piped out to the headphones.

Fender has clearly thought through the design, too. The input plug rotates around 270-degrees, and the controls are chunky and easy to access regardless of the amp’s position. The li-ion battery inside recharges via USB, and lasts for around four hours, the company promises.

That USB port can also be used with a PC or Mac, with the Mustang Micro acting as an audio interface for your guitar. It’s also used to load new firmware, Fender says.

As for pricing, it’s the cheapest Mustang model, at $99.99. It’s available to order now.

Disclosure: SlashGear uses affiliate links, If you click on a link in this article and buy something we’ll get a small cut of the sale.

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Tech News

Elgato’s new mouse mat doubles as a green screen (and it’s genius)

If you’ve stopped by Twitch anytime in the past few years, you’ve likely noticed that a lot of streamers are using green screens these days. Rather than show the room around them with their webcam, they’ll instead use chroma keys and green screens to hide everything except for them, keeping the focus entirely on themselves and the gameplay.

Green screens and streaming now seem to go together like peanut butter and chocolate, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Elgato’s latest announcement: a desk mat that doubles as a green screen. Officially dubbed the Green Screen Mouse Mat, there’s probably a few wondering why you’d need a chroma key desk mat, but Elgato makes the case rather effectively.

For instance, many competitive gamers and speedrunners will often have hand cams that show off their hand movements and button inputs. With the Green Screen Mouse Mat, you can treat those cameras just as you would a chroma key webcam and green screen, ultimately covering up less of the game with your hand cam.

There’s also the fact that trading card pack openings have become a popular category on Twitch, and using something like this on your desk could allow you to easily use an overlay while the camera is focused on your hands and your pulls. So, if you’re a a streamer who regularly uses green screens or has an overhead camera that’s focused on your mouse/keyboard, controller, or just desk in general, this could be a good addition to your streaming setup.

Of course, that’s all assuming that you’re okay with having a bright green mouse mat on your desk rather than one that’s more of a neutral color. If that’s not a roadblock for you, you can pick up Elgato’s Green Screen Mouse Mat from the company’s website for $29.99.

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EA Just Made Genius Mobile Gaming Power Play With Glu Mobile

Electronic Arts has been on a buying spree for the last few months – but its latest purchase was an absolutely essential one.

The publisher announced plans Monday to acquire Glu Mobile in a deal worth $2.1 billion. It’s a pairing that might not make sense at first. Why, after all, would the company behind Madden, Mass Effect, and Battlefield want a mobile gaming company best known for fare like Design Home, Diner Dash, and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood?

It comes down to a few things. First, EA desperately needed a mobile division. Despite several attempts to make an impact in the mobile space over the past 10 years or so, EA has never been especially successful. Activision’s buyout of Candy Crush Saga developer King five years ago set the company on a mobile path that has been hugely profitable. EA (and its investors) have been trying to find a way to emulate that.

Glu, of course, isn’t King. A game featuring Kim Kardashian doesn’t have the widespread appeal of Candy Crush. But it’s stupidly popular and is a cash machine. Last year, Glu had revenues of $540 million. And it has a healthy future with its own games, including Disney Sorcerer’s Arena.

By acquiring Glu, EA bypasses recruiting and staffing a team that gets how the mobile game audience works. It will add over 500 mobile developers and more than 15 live services that span a variety of genres. More importantly, it will gain knowledge in the casual sport and lifestyle genres – something that can be especially valuable as it tries to broaden the audience for FIFA, Madden, and NCAA Football.

“Our acquisition of Glu combines amazing teams and deeply engaging products to create a mobile games leader with proven expertise across many fast-growing genres,” said Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts. “Mobile continues to grow as the biggest gaming platform in the world, and with the addition of Glu’s games and talent, we’re doubling the size of our mobile business. With a deep IP portfolio and an expanding global audience, we’ll deliver more exciting experiences for our players and drive further growth for Electronic Arts.”

Glu also comes with a Major League Baseball deal via MLB Tap Sports Baseball. That not only broadens the potential for EA Sports, it gives the company a successful template for its franchises to follow.

EA isn’t a complete nonplayer in mobile, of course. It does have Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies among its catalog, both of which are standards. Neither, though, has a buzz about them these days. So the new thinking Glu provides could give the company fresh inroads to customers.

EA also just came a step closer to wrapping up its purchase of Codemasters, gaining the approval of that company’s shareholders. Very few of its franchises have solid mobile offerings – and while they don’t seem to be a fit for Glu’s area of specialty right now, it’s another avenue EA could explore at some point.

Glu and EA are an odd couple, yes. But they bring different players to the table, which is likely part of what made a purchase so appealing. EA has a good understanding of the core console and PC gamers with games like Battlefield. And it has a handle, at least, on casual gamers who flock to its sports titles (though there are certainly core players who devour those games).

It has zero presence, though, with the lifestyle audience – the people who play games like Design Home and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and would never consider themselves gamers, though they spend heavily on those titles and others like them. Glu has a lock on those. And, utilized properly, that could add significantly to the bottom line at EA.

Editors’ Choice

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