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You can migrate your photos from Facebook to Google next year

Ars Technica - December 2, 2019 - 5:55pm

Enlarge / A wall of user photos form a Facebook logo at the company's data center in Lulea, Sweden. (credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND | AFP | Getty Images)

If you feel like you don't want to spend much time on Facebook anymore but don't want to lose up to 15 years' worth of shared photos, good news: the company is rolling out a tool that will let you export your image library directly to Google Photos.

Facebook announced the new tool in a corporate blog post today. The initiative springs from the Data Transfer Project, a collaboration among Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter to make some data transferable among those platforms.

The pilot begins this week in Ireland (where Facebook has been under investigation for alleged violations of EU data privacy law). The tool is then expected to roll out to users in the rest of the world sometime in the first half of 2020. Users who have the option available to them will see the tool in Facebook's settings under Your Facebook Information.

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Dealmaster: All of the laptops worth buying during Cyber Monday 2019

Ars Technica - December 2, 2019 - 4:51pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Electronics sales are plentiful during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so this is one of the best times of the year to buy a new laptop. To help you make an informed decision while removing the need to wade through the sea of deals, the Dealmaster is back with all of the worthwhile laptop deals you can buy right now for Cyber Monday.

Of note from our list are a few deals on some of our favorite laptops, like the 7th-gen Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Now you can get Lenovo's premium workstation with an 8th-gen Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and a 14-inch 1080p display for $999. This slashes $400 off the laptop's regular price, and in general, it's always worth waiting for the rare sales that bring the price of the X1 Carbon down to $1,000 or less. This is the newest version of the X1 Carbon, but you'll have to settle for an 8th-gen Intel processor rather than the newest 10th-gen processors (you can get the X1 Carbon with those, but you'll have to pay more).

HP has a good deal on the Envy x360 15t—a model with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, a 15.6-inch FHD touchscreen, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and 16GB of Optane memory is now just $649. The Envy 13 laptop impressed us by being an affordable alternative to the Spectre series of laptops, and this deal is for the 15-inch convertible version. It's a laptop that's arguably as sleek as its Spectre counterpart and nearly as powerful, and this Cyber Monday price makes it even more of a no-brainer purchase.

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Super Mario Maker 2 becomes Super Zelda Maker with playable Link

Ars Technica - December 2, 2019 - 4:36pm

Link from the Legend of Zelda series is among the new characters coming to Super Mario Maker 2 in a free downloadable update coming Dec. 5.

At first glance, it may seem like Link, who will only be playable in the Super Mario Bros. game style, is just a rehash of the cosmetic Link Amiibo costume that was available in the first Super Mario Maker on the Wii U. But this version of Link is more than just a visual upgrade, with the ability to attack enemies with sword and dash attacks, block projectiles with a shield, and throw bombs that can destroy blocks. Link can also shoot arrows in three different directions to collect far-off items.

Link's integration into Super Mario Maker follows the addition of a "Dungeon Maker" mode in the recent Switch re-release of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Neither one is quite the full-fledged "Zelda Maker" game some fans have been clamoring for, but it shows Nintendo is at least toying with the idea in a few different ways.

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AI cameras to catch texting Australian drivers

BBC Technology News - December 2, 2019 - 3:46pm
The system, which can spot a driver holding a phone, was activated in New South Wales on 1 December.

An Ariane rocket launches for the 250th time—the views were jawdropping

Ars Technica - December 2, 2019 - 3:10pm

Last week, an Ariane 5 rocket launched from Europe's primary spaceport in French Guiana. Normally, such launches garner little attention outside of aerospace circles because they're typically successful and take place in a pretty remote location—in the jungles of South America.

However, Tuesday's launch of a pair of communications satellites to geostationary transfer orbit is notable for a couple of reasons. For one, the rocket company Ariane Group, and the European Space Agency invited a talented pair of photographers to capture the Ariane 5 launch in exquisite detail. The fruits of the work by Trevor Mahlmann and John Kraus appear in the photo gallery above.

Arianespace also has (or soon will) reached some notable milestones in the history of its launch program. Last Tuesday's mission marked the 250th time a member of the Ariane fleet of rockets—there have been five versions, Ariane 1 through 5—has taken flight. Moreover, on December 24, the Ariane family of rockets will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

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Facebook to let users upload all photos to Google

BBC Technology News - December 2, 2019 - 3:07pm
It's part of the company's drive to let people move their data to other services.

How neural networks work—and why they’ve become a big business

Ars Technica - December 2, 2019 - 2:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

The last decade has seen remarkable improvements in the ability of computers to understand the world around them. Photo software automatically recognizes people's faces. Smartphones transcribe spoken words into text. Self-driving cars recognize objects on the road and avoid hitting them.

Underlying these breakthroughs is an artificial intelligence technique called deep learning. Deep learning is based on neural networks, a type of data structure loosely inspired by networks of biological neurons. Neural networks are organized in layers, with inputs from one layer connected to outputs from the next layer.

Computer scientists have been experimenting with neural networks since the 1950s. But two big breakthroughs—one in 1986, the other in 2012—laid the foundation for today's vast deep learning industry. The 2012 breakthrough—the deep learning revolution—was the discovery that we can get dramatically better performance out of neural networks with not just a few layers but with many. That discovery was made possible thanks to the growing amount of both data and computing power that had become available by 2012.

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Amazon's AI musical keyboard 'sounds terrible'

BBC Technology News - December 2, 2019 - 1:37pm
The device automatically elaborates on tunes played by keyboardists, using a variety of musical styles.

Android 'spoofing' bug helps targets bank accounts

BBC Technology News - December 2, 2019 - 11:45am
Banking apps were hit by cyber-thieves who spoofed login pages to steal account details.

Meng Wanzhou: Oil paintings and books for Huawei executive fighting extradition

BBC Technology News - December 2, 2019 - 8:22am
Meng Wanzhou is fighting extradition to the US on charges of violating sanctions against Iran.

Amazon pulls Auschwitz-themed Christmas ornaments

BBC Technology News - December 2, 2019 - 5:57am
Poland's Auschwitz Memorial called on the retailer to halt sales of the "disturbing" merchandise

General election 2019: Facebook bans Tory ad over BBC footage

BBC Technology News - December 1, 2019 - 9:56pm
The social media giant says the Tory video infringed the BBC's intellectual property rights.

Never mind the naysayers: Emoji are a vital part of online communication

Ars Technica - December 1, 2019 - 8:41pm

Enlarge / The Emoji Movie (2017) anthropomorphized the ubiquitous icons we use to convey emotion in online communications. (credit: YouTube/Sony Pictures)

In 1982, a computer scientist named Scott Fahlman was chatting on an online bulletin board and used a combination of a colon, a hyphen, and a round bracket to indicate that he was joking. This was likely the first emoticon, a kind of emotional shorthand that emerged in online communications to compensate for the loss of in-person tonal clues (facial expressions, gestures, and so forth). Then came emoji, which started spreading rapidly into wider use around 2011. Emoji are now used by roughly 90% of the online population.

That makes them a keen topic of interest to linguists like Philip Seargeant. Seargeant is a senior lecturer in applied linguistics at The Open University in England. His specialty is the study of language and social media, with a particular focus on the politics of online interaction. Given his linguistics expertise, he naturally found himself intrigued by the rise and eventual dominance of emoji in online communication, and that fascination led to his first popular science book: The Emoji Revolution: How Technology is Shaping the Future of Communication.

"I've always been interested in a mixture of the visual as a sort of language," Seargeant told Ars. "Emoji are often seen as very frivolous, a little bit childlike. But at the same time there's something more serious about the way they're being used, despite their cartoonish look—both in the way people use them, and in the sophistication they have as language."

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That time a monkey flew to the edge of space and then smashed into a destroyer

Ars Technica - December 1, 2019 - 2:20pm

Sam the rhesus monkey had already experienced one hell of a ride to the edge of space when he splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean—but his adventure didn’t end there. Although the dry, original accounts of Sam's 1959 flight offer scant detail about the journey, mainly confirming that NASA’s new Mercury capsule kept him alive, Bob Thompson tells a more colorful story.

Now in his early 90s, Thompson can still dominate a room with his commanding voice. And on a recent January morning, standing in his kitchen, Thompson did just that as he recounted the landing of Sam nearly six decades ago. In doing so, he offered a parable for NASA as it considers rescue operations for its Orion spacecraft at sea.

Back in December 1959, NASA was 18 months away from Alan Shepard’s flight into space. The agency still had rockets and spacecraft to test. And scientists knew almost nothing about the effect of weightlessness on humans or how to keep them alive. More immediately, they wondered about the safety of a new launch-abort system, needed to get the crew capsule quickly away from the rocket in case of an accident. Rockets blew up a lot back then.

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China due to introduce face scans for mobile users

BBC Technology News - December 1, 2019 - 1:03am
Beijing wants people to use only real identities online but there is concern over data collection.

Never Surrender is a heartfelt tribute to sci-fi action comedy Galaxy Quest

Ars Technica - November 30, 2019 - 8:15pm

Trailer for Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary.

Galaxy Quest, the glorious 1999 science fiction action comedy starring Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver (among others), will turn 20 on December 25 of this year. And what better way to celebrate this important milestone than with a documentary feature? Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary is an entertaining, heartfelt tribute that comes to us (believe it or not) from the same folks behind the wildly popular online Honest Trailers series.

(Spoilers for Galaxy Quest below.)

The premise of the movie is deceptively simple: what if aliens watched transmissions of a popular science fiction TV show from Earth and thought it was real? An alien race called the Thermians model their entire society on the principles of a fictional Galaxy Quest TV show, building real, functional versions of the spaceship and much of the technology from the series. When their very existence is threatened by a reptilian humanoid general from another species named Roth'h'ar Sarris, they travel to Earth to ask their heroes for help—arriving in the middle of a Galaxy Quest fan convention.

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Quantum computing’s also-rans and their fatal flaws 

Ars Technica - November 30, 2019 - 4:00pm

Enlarge / IBM's 16-qubit quantum computer from 2017. (credit: IBM quantum experience)

Last month, Google claimed to have achieved quantum supremacy—the overblown name given to the step of proving quantum computers can deliver something that a classical computer can't. That claim is still a bit controversial, so it may yet turn out that we need a better demonstration.

Independent of the claim, it's notable that both Google and its critics at IBM have chosen the same type of hardware as the basis of their quantum computing efforts. So has a smaller competitor called Rigetti. All of which indicates that the quantum-computing landscape has sort of stabilized over the last decade. We are now in the position where we can pick some likely winners and some definite losers.

Why are you a loser?

But why did the winners win and the losers lose?

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Google attempts to protect users from sketchy stem cell clinics

Ars Technica - November 30, 2019 - 2:45pm

Enlarge / Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019. (credit: Lyu Liang | VCG | Getty Images)

Transplanted stem cells can be as lifesaving as donated organs, but the Food and Drug Administration in September warned consumers that some stem cell clinics only pretend to be in the business of miraculous recoveries.

Now, Google is attempting to protect its users after years of showing ads for questionable stem cell treatments. The company stated that it will stop allowing "bad actors" to post Google ads that "take advantage of individuals by offering untested, deceptive treatments." Enforcement of the new policy started at the end of October, said Google spokesperson Alex Krasov. That change, while helpful, is unlikely to shutter clinics that cloak themselves in a façade of reputable science in order to peddle questionable stem cell treatments.

The risky business of unproven treatments

Different types of stem cell treatments are at varying stages of development. Transplants of bone-marrow stem cells are well-established treatments for a number of cancers. But the identification of other types of stem cells has allowed researchers to develop new therapies that are just beginning to enter clinical testing. Unfortunately, many stem cell clinics have latched onto the hype and are offering unapproved treatments for which there is no experimental evidence.

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Facebook bows to Singapore's 'fake news' law with post 'correction'

BBC Technology News - November 30, 2019 - 1:23pm
It is the first time the social media giant has added a correction to a post under the new law.

Apple to take 'deeper look' at disputed borders

BBC Technology News - November 30, 2019 - 4:24am
The review comes after the tech giant was criticised for maps showing Crimea as Russian territory.

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