HP dumps Apple's Beats audio, partners with Bang & Olufsen

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ByAgam Shah

Hewlett-Packard once relied on Beats for audio technology in its PCs and tablets, but that was before Apple acquired it. HP has now found a new audio partner in Bang & Olufsen.

HP will use Bang & Olufsen audio technology to its PCs, tablets and accessories. The companies will “custom tune” audio for each PC model; different models typically have different hardware specifications in order to meet different expectations. For example, a gaming laptop typically delivers more booming sound than a low-cost laptop.

HP will put the Bang & Olufsen brand on the high-end Spectre, Omen, Envy and some other commercial PCs. The B&O Play label will be on lower-cost Pavilion PCs and tablets. The companies will also resell audio Bang & Olufsen accessories for HP hardware.

The first Bang & Olufsen branded PCs will appear this spring, HP said. The PCs will likely have a sticker attached or logo engraved on them to highlight the audio technology, similar to stickers for operating systems and processors widely found on laptops and desktops.

HP for a long time partnered with Beats for audio in PCs as well as some all-in-ones. HP laptops still sell on HP’s website with the Beats brand on it. But the partnership crumbled after Apple acquired Beats for $3 billion last year.

After the acquisition, HP stopped attaching Beats logos or brand names to its PCs, and instead started saying it was using homegrown audio technology. At the launch of the recent HP Spectre X360 last month, an HP executive declined to tell the IDG News Service whether the homegrown technology was influenced by Beats, or if it had Beats amplifiers in them. HP has excellent in-house technology to boost audio in PCs, said Mike Nash, vice president of product management for consumer personal systems, at the time.

Audio is becoming more significant in PCs and tablets, particularly with more music and movie streaming services now available. The partnership will Bang & Olufsen will fill a big audio hole left by Beats in HP’s PC and tablet lineup. HP will work with Bang & Olufsen to develop audio circuitry that will go on PC motherboards.

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Photo: Gordon Mah Ung

UglyEmail reveals when senders secretly track your email activity, personal info

by Ian Paul

Advertising companies aren’t just tracking your web browsing habits—some marketers secretly monitor your email usage to discover a startling amount of information about you, too.

While senders are limited to only tracking specific messages they’ve sent to you, doing so can reveal whether you’ve opened the email or clicked any links in the message. It can also expose your general location and what kind of device you’re using.

If you’re curious about which messages are monitoring you and which one’s aren’t, a new extension for Chrome called UglyEmail can help. This extension—by developer Sonny Tulyaganov—monitors your inbox to find messages using pixel tracking. This is a common marketing technique where companies insert a transparent (and therefore invisible to you) one-pixel image into a message.

The pixel image has code in it designed to send back information about you to the company. As soon as you open a message with a pixel tracker in it, the image pings the marketer’s servers and the information flow begins. Pixel tracking shows up in all kinds of messages, including newsletters you subscribe to.

Thanks to UglyEmail you can find out when a message has a tracker and decide not to open that email.

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UglyEmail helps you watch the watchers.

Using UglyEmail is simple. Just install the extension from the Chrome Web Store and it should start working. In my tests, it didn’t show up until after I’d restarted Chrome, opened a Gmail tab, and then refreshed that same tab.

When it’s working, you’ll see an eye icon next to the name of the message’s sender, as pictured in the image above. This allows you to see at a glance which messages are tracking you.

UglyEmail isn’t perfect, however. For starters, it only alerts you to messages with pixel trackers from three companies: Yesware, Bananatag, and Streak. The extension is also a little finicky. If you switch from the Primary tab to the Social tab in your inbox, for example, the UglyEmail icons you saw in the Primary tab will disappear. UglyEmail doesn’t work with Google Inbox, either.

UglyEmail also needs permission to “read” your email to be of any use, which is oh, oh so ironic. The good news is Tulyaganov told Wired that any personal data stays on your device and doesn’t get stored or transmitted by the extension.

Any performance issues and limitations should improve as development continues on UglyEmail. For now the extension is only for Gmail and only works on Chrome, but a Firefox version is in the works.

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Ian is an independent writer based in Tel Aviv, Israel. His current focus is on all things tech including mobile devices, desktop and laptop computers, software, social networks, Web apps, tech-related legislation and corporate tech news.