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Industry & Technology

The coldest computers in the world

BBC Technology News - August 7, 2020 - 12:27am
New computers promise to cruise through old problems, but involve mind-boggling low temperatures.

E-skin recreates sense of touch and other tech news

BBC Technology News - August 7, 2020 - 12:15am
BBC Click’s LJ Rich looks at some of the best technology news stories of the week.

Is the US about to split the internet?

BBC Technology News - August 7, 2020 - 12:13am
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he wants a "clean" internet free of "untrusted" Chinese apps.

Cosplay and Covid: Video gamers defy the virus

BBC Technology News - August 7, 2020 - 12:10am
Video game meet-up ChinaJoy was one of the first big shows staged in China since the pandemic began.

Cadillac reveals the Lyriq, its new long-range electric SUV

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 12:00am

On Thursday night, Cadillac unveiled a new SUV, the Lyriq. It's the brand's first battery-electric vehicle and the first vehicle to use General Motors' new BEV3 platform and Ultium battery technology, which is set to spawn 22 new BEVs across the company's range of brands between now and 2023. Cadillac isn't spilling all the beans about the Lyriq just yet, but it did share some info with Ars ahead of the livestream launch. The headline figures are a range of "beyond 300 miles" (482km) on a single charge, DC fast charging at "over 150kW," and the fact that it will come in rear- and all-wheel drive configurations.

Additionally, it's going to feature a massive 33-inch display on the dashboard that combines the main instrument panel and the infotainment system, a dual-plane augmented reality heads-up display (that features information like vehicle speed on a close plane, and navigation directions on a far plane), and advanced driver assistance systems, including the latest version of Super Cruise and the ability to remotely park itself.

Recently, I spoke with Michael Harpster, global chief engineer for electric and hybrid propulsion systems at GM, to find out a bit more about the new BEV3 platform and the lessons that GM has learned from its previous vehicles like the EV1 and Chevrolet Bolt EV. "We were doing the math, and you know, we've got 25 years of production EV experience, going back to the EV1. So, there's a huge history of General Motors and electric vehicles," he told me, adding that his team at GM still includes a couple of engineers who worked directly on the EV1, which was in production between 1996 and 1999.

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Coronavirus clobbers Uber, leading to $1.8 billion quarterly loss

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 11:05pm

Enlarge / Passengers load their luggage into their Uber cars at Sydney Airport on August 05, 2020. (credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic hammered Uber's finances in the second quarter of 2020, the company announced on Thursday. Gross bookings for Uber's core ride-hailing business plunged by 75 percent compared with a year earlier—from $12.2 billion to $3 billion.

That was offset somewhat by rapid growth in Uber's delivery business. Delivery bookings more than doubled from $3.4 billion to $7 billion.

The company lost $1.8 billion in the second quarter on a GAAP basis. Ignoring one-time charges, Uber has been losing around $1 billion per quarter for the last couple of years.

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Updated hurricane-season outlooks: Expect plenty more storms

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 11:03pm

Enlarge / Hurricane Isaias passed north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on July 31 before spinning up the East Coast. (credit: NASA EO)

Hurricane season in the Atlantic has so far been quite active, with nine storms chewing through the alphabet already—two of them (Hanna and Isaias) reached hurricane strength before making landfall. Unfortunately, this pattern isn’t expected to let up, as hurricane outlooks have upgraded the odds that this highly active season is going to continue. In fact, NOAA is suggesting that we could be considering names starting with Y before things settle down for the winter.

In May, NOAA’s hurricane season outlook gave 60-percent odds of above-average activity, with something like 13 to 19 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.

On Thursday, NOAA released an updated outlook with higher probabilities. “The season is now expected to be one of the more active in the historical record,” it notes. The outlook now calls for between 19 and 25 named storms and with seven to 11 hurricanes, though the number of major hurricanes is unchanged. Because the potential energy available for storms can produce one big storm or multiple smaller ones, the total is often calculated as “Accumulated Cyclone Energy,” or ACE. An above-normal hurricane season hits 120 percent of the median ACE, while clearing 165 percent defines an extremely active season. The new outlook sees the 2020 season hitting anywhere from 140 to 230 percent of median ACE.

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FCC lowers some prison phone rates after blaming states for high prices

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 8:58pm

Enlarge (credit: Jason Farrar)

The Federal Communications Commission today voted unanimously to lower the prices inmates pay for phone calls from prisons and jails, but the organization reiterated its position that state governments must take action to lower prices on the majority of inmate calls.

Today's action is a proposal to "substantially reduce [the FCC's] interstate rate caps—currently $0.21 per minute for debit and prepaid calls and $0.25 per minute for collect calls—to $0.14 per minute for debit, prepaid, and collect calls from prisons, and $0.16 per minute for debit, prepaid, and collect calls from jails." This is part of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which means the commission will take public comment before finalizing the new caps and could change the plan before making it final.

Since the proposed rate cap limits prices on interstate calls only, it won't affect the approximately 80 percent of prison calls that don't cross state lines. Last month, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urged state governments to cap intrastate calling prices, saying the FCC lacks authority to do so. Pai said that "33 states allow rates that are at least double the current federal cap, and 27 states allow excessive 'first-minute' charges up to 26 times that of the first minute of an interstate call."

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Catch up with Final Fantasy VII Remake for a new low of $40 today

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 7:55pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is headlined by a new low price on Final Fantasy VII Remake, with the PlayStation 4 exclusive currently available for $40 at various retailers. The discount covers both physical and digital copies. For reference, we've typically seen the game retail between $50 and $60 online since it launched this past April.

As for the game itself, "remake" is the key word here. Final Fantasy VII Remake isn't just the original PlayStation classic in high definition: it's the first installment in a planned series of action RPGs, one that takes the first few hours of the original and stretches them out into a full-length 35-hour melodrama.

On paper, that whole sentence sounds like a nightmare. But Remake manages to make it work through a thrilling combat system that fuses real-time action and menu-based commands, as well as a surprisingly subversive story that interrogates the game's past and its fanbase's expectations. It certainly has problems—some of them small, others impossible to truly look past—but if you're in the mood for a modernized JRPG, Remake is worth a look during these slower summer months.

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Trump campaign’s false COVID-19 claims taken down by Facebook and Twitter

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 6:45pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

For the first time, both Facebook and Twitter acted to remove content shared by the campaign to re-elect President Donald Trump from their platforms, citing policies against spreading false claims about COVID-19.

Both the @TeamTrump campaign Twitter account and the official Donald Trump Facebook account shared a video late yesterday in which Trump claimed children are immune from the novel coronavirus. The video was a clip from an interview in which the president spoke by phone with Fox & Friends hosts about schools reopening this fall. "My view is that schools should be open," Trump said. "If you look at children, children are almost—and I would almost say definitely—but almost immune from this disease. So few, they’ve got stronger, hard to believe, I don’t know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this. They don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem. They are virtually immune from this problem."

Children are in fact people and are just as susceptible as the rest of us to breathing in and sneezing out germs. (Possibly more so, if you ask any parent of a toddler.) Kids do, on average, tend to have much less severe cases of COVID-19 than adults when they catch it, but repeated outbreaks in camps and schools since June have made it abundantly clear that children can both catch and transmit the virus.

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Coronavirus: England's contact-tracing app readies for launch

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 6:04pm
The app will use QR barcode scans as well as Bluetooth handshakes to determine if users are at risk.

Fifa 21: 'Toxic behaviour' cut from goal celebrations

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 5:47pm
Players will no longer be able to use the "shushing" goal celebration to gloat and stall games.

Google kills the Pixel 4, making it the shortest-lived Pixel ever

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 5:46pm

The Pixel 4 is dead. That's the official confirmation that Google sent to The Verge after people noticed that the Google Store listed the phone as "out of stock." The Pixel 4 started shipping October 24, 2019, so it was available for only nine-and-a-half months.

The Verge writes:

"Google Store has sold through its inventory and completed sales of Pixel 4 [and] 4 XL,” a Google spokesperson confirms to The Verge. “For people who are still interested in buying Pixel 4 [and] 4 XL, the product is available from some partners while supplies last. Just like all Pixel devices, Pixel 4 will continue to get software and security updates for at least three years from when the device first became available on the Google Store in the US.”

The Pixel 4 had the shortest life span of any Pixel phone, only lasting half as long as the other high-end models. The Pixel 1, 2, and 3 were all for sale for around 18 months. The midrange Pixel 3a, had a similarly short lifespan and was discontinued after about 13 months of sales.

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Trump admin shrugs off FCC court loss to fight Calif. net neutrality law

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 5:27pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Rafe Swan)

The Trump administration and broadband industry are resuming their fight against California's net neutrality law, with the US Department of Justice and ISP lobby groups filing new complaints against the state yesterday.

The case is nearly two years old but was put on hold because California in October 2018 agreed to suspend enforcement of its law until after litigation over the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of US net neutrality rules and the FCC's attempt to preempt state net neutrality laws. That lawsuit was decided in October 2019 when the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the FCC repeal of its own rules but overturned the FCC's attempt to impose a blanket, nationwide preemption of any state net neutrality law.

"At bottom, the Commission lacked the legal authority to categorically abolish all 50 States' statutorily conferred authority to regulate intrastate communications," judges in that case wrote. But that doesn't prevent the Trump administration and ISPs from trying to block state laws on a case-by-case basis.

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Twitter to label state-controlled news accounts

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 5:02pm
The social network will stop affected accounts being promoted by its recommendation algorithms.

TikTok twins charged over bank robbery 'prank'

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 4:15pm
Alan and Alex Stokes are accused of faking a bank robbery "to gain popularity on social media".

Sony takes on Bose with new WH-1000XM4 noise-cancelling headphones

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 4:00pm

Sony on Thursday announced its latest flagship pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones: the WH-1000XM4. The new over-ear cans are the follow-up to Sony's WH-1000XM3, which have been widely regarded as being among the best premium pairs of noise-cancelling headphones on the market—and have been an Ars favorite—since launching in 2018.

The XM4 is available for pre-order starting today, with shipping to start sometime in "mid-August," according to Sony. The headphones cost $350, which is the same price as the XM3 at launch and Bose's competing QuietComfort 35 II, but $50 less than Bose's Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

I've had the XM4 on hand for the past couple of days; I plan to have a more detailed comparison in the near future, but for now I can share some initial impressions alongside today's news.

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Seeed Studio’s Odyssey is a mini-PC for big projects and small wallets

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 3:43pm

Today we're going to take a look at Seeed Studio's Odyssey X86J4105—a maker/builder-tailored, Celeron-powered mini-PC. The little device seems like what you'd get if a Chromebox and a Raspberry Pi made sweet, sweet love—it's a Celeron-powered all-in-one system-on-chip (SoC) board, sold without a case, with Raspberry Pi-compatible GPIO headers and an Arduino coprocessor for more hardware-based maker projects.

I have a confession to make: I've never really loved the Raspberry Pi. Heresy, I know! But despite how seriously cheap the much-loved little boxes are, they never seem quite powerful enough for the projects I'd be interested in tackling. On occasion, I've flirted with other ARM mini-PCs that are a little more expensive and a lot more powerful—like Odroid XU4, or the newer Odroid N2—but they still felt pretty constrained compared to even budget x86 PCs. The Odyssey seems tailor-made to address those performance concerns.

Specifications and capabilities Specs at a glance: Odyssey X86J4105 OS Windows 10 Enterprise (activated) CPU Quad-core Celeron J4105 RAM 8GiB LPDDR4 GPU integrated Intel UHD 600 Wi-Fi Dual-band Intel 9650 Wi-Fi 5 + Bluetooth 5.0 SSD Sandisk 64GB (59.6GiB) eMMC Connectors
  • 40-pin Raspberry Pi-compatible GPIO
  • 28-pin Arduino header
  • 3.5mm audio combo jack
  • 2x Intel I211 1Gbps Ethernet
  • 1x SATA
  • 2x M.2 (1 B-key, 1 M-key)
  • 2x USB2 type-A
  • 1x USB3.1 type-A
  • 1x USB 3.1 type-C
  • 1x MicroSD card slot
  • 1x SIM (LTE) slot
  • 1x 12-19VDC power
Price as tested Odyssey with activated Win10 Enterprise: $258
Seeed re_computer case: $20 Seeed Studio Odyssey X86J4105 Mini PC Buy Now $229 from Amazon (64GB eMMC)$218 from Seeed Studio (64GB eMMC) (Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

Odyssey's quad-core Celeron SoC might not be a powerhouse by desktop standards—but it's more than powerful enough to run a full Windows 10 desktop experience. Add in 8GiB of RAM, 64GB eMMC storage, one SATA-III port, two 1Gbps Ethernet jacks, dual M.2 slots (one B-key and one M-key), Intel 9560 Wi-Fi, Intel UHD 600 graphics and a full-size HDMI port, and it's hard to figure out what this $260 box can't do.

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Uber to expand across UK with Autocab takeover

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 2:41pm
The move will see Uber made available in about 170 towns and cities.

TikTok deal tests Microsoft’s decades of China experience

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 2:23pm

Enlarge (credit: Cindy Ord | Getty Images)

More than two decades of efforts by Microsoft to put down roots in China may soon bring a partial pay-off if it succeeds in steering through the purchase of TikTok’s US business.

But as relations between the US and China continue to deteriorate, the software company’s long-term bet on the Chinese market is also facing its most uncertain period yet.

Microsoft’s involvement in the Chinese tech world, dating from its creation of a research centre in Beijing in the late 1990s, has left it with important personal connections. Zhang Yiming, the founder of ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, worked at Microsoft, though only for a few months before he left to join a start-up.

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