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Industry & Technology

Lawn chairs and kitchen tables: Ergonomics in the involuntary work-from-home era

Ars Technica - 1 hour 54 min ago

Enlarge / This is your skeleton. This is your skeleton working from home. Any questions? (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

With offices shuttered around the world, many people are experiencing working from home for the first time—or experiencing it in much longer doses than they were used to. Many companies are planning to keep employees working remotely at least part of the time well into 2021. And some are considering making it permanent.

Countless people have had to improvise their work-at-home workspaces. But now that we're several months in, some of that improvisation may be wearing thin. And one of the things that often gets pushed to the back burner in all this improvisation is ergonomics. If you haven't worked from home regularly in the past, and you're now sitting at the kitchen table every day working from a corporate-issued laptop, you're probably feeling the physical strains of this never-going-to-be-normal reality.

As someone who has worked primarily from home for a quarter of a century, I've had a lot of time to figure out what does and does not work in a home office. The changes that have come with COVID-19—including having my wife and daughter in lockdown with me, both working from home themselves—have required some adjustments and some re-equipping. We needed our home workspaces to support the new world of work while maintaining comfort and a reasonable level of sanity mid-pandemic.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

TikTok threatens legal action against Trump US ban

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 10 min ago
The Chinese firm says it is "shocked" by an order for US companies to stop doing business with the app.

Facebook removes QAnon conspiracy group with 200,000 members

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 11 min ago
Facebook has joined Twitter and TikTok in taking action against QAnon conspiracy-theory content.

New cars can stay in their lane—but might not stop for parked cars

Ars Technica - 2 hours 20 min ago

Enlarge / A test vehicle collides with a dummy car at a AAA test track in California. (credit: AAA)

In recent years, a number of car companies have—like Tesla—begun offering driver assistance systems that offer lane-keeping as well as adaptive cruise control. This might seem like a big step toward a "self-driving car," since a system like this can travel down the freeway for miles without human intervention. But a new report from AAA underscores the limitations of these systems.

Its most dramatic finding: the advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) on the latest cars still struggle to avoid collisions with parked vehicles. They tested cars from BMW, Kia, and Subaru; none consistently avoided running into a fake car partially blocking the travel lane.

The researchers also examined the ADAS in the Cadillac CT6 and the Ford Edge, but these cars' systems weren't included in the parked-vehicle test because their driver assistance systems wouldn't engage on AAA's closed course. They were included in other tests conducted on public highways.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rocket Report: South Korea’s SpaceX dilemma, Rocket Lab finds a quick fix

Ars Technica - 3 hours 53 min ago

Enlarge / An overview of Astra's picturesque launch site for Rocket 3.1. (credit: John Kraus for Astra)

Welcome to Edition 3.11 of the Rocket Report! A lot of the most interesting news this week came in the world of small launch, with Electron announcing a quick return to flight as well as boosting the capacity of its Electron booster. We were also surprised to see such a robust fundraising effort by ABL Space Systems.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Astra attempts launch of second orbital rocket. The launch window for launching Rocket 3.1 from the company's spaceport on Kodiak Island, Alaska, opened Sunday night. A combination of technical issues with the rocket and ground systems, as well as weather issues, precluded launches on Sunday through Wednesday.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fall Guys review: A perfect amount of cheap, stupid fun with online friends

Ars Technica - 4 hours 8 min ago

Enlarge / Try not to get whacked on your way to this race's finish line. (credit: Mediatonic / Devolver Digital)

Have you been looking for a good online multiplayer game that's accessible to anyone who can use a joystick and three buttons? Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is that game. Imagine the minigame zaniness of Mario Party combined with the simple, squishy controls of Gang Beasts, then remixed to deliver the kind of fun that won't have you screaming in sheer anger at your friends. (Meaning, much better than Mario Party.)

The biggest catch, as those comparisons hint at, is Fall Guys' weakness as a solo game. Every match you'll play in the game's launch version is a battle against up to 59 online strangers, and the same design elements that make this a fun game with friends will leave you frustrated and furious when it's just you versus the world.

Fall Guys is a must-play with friends in your online party, a more tiring slog when played alone, and a party game that currently lacks any form of local-multiplayer functionality. If that sales pitch hasn't lost you, read on.

Tails, balls, and whacks

Each Fall Guys session takes place over five rounds of elimination contests, whittling the fray down from 60 competitors to a single winner. In every round, you control a slow, bean-shaped "fall guy," likely named after its floppy balance issues. You'll run and jump through obstacle courses, between swinging pendulums and platforms, and across soccer-like arenas, and anything less than a smooth landing will see your colorful, squeaky character topple over, get up, and try again.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple defends Xbox streaming block on iPhones

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 10 min ago
Apple is denying consumers cloud gaming, says Microsoft, as streaming service is blocked on iPhones.

Facebook founder sees wealth hit $100bn after TikTok rival launch

BBC Technology News - 10 hours 46 min ago
The social media giant's shares rose on Thursday after the launch of its new TikTok rival Instagram Reels.

More than 20GB of Intel source code and proprietary data dumped online

Ars Technica - 14 hours 54 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Tillie Kottman)

Intel is investigating the purported leak of more than 20 gigabytes of its proprietary data and source code that a security researcher said came from a data breach earlier this year.

The data—which at the time this post went live was publicly available on BitTorrent feeds—contains data that Intel makes available to partners and customers under NDA, a company spokeswoman said. Speaking on background, she said Intel officials don’t believe the data came from a network breach. She also said the company is still trying to determine how current the material is and that, so far, there are no signs the data includes any customer or personal information.

“We are investigating this situation,” company officials said in a statement. “The information appears to come from the Intel Resource and Design Center, which hosts information for use by our customers, partners and other external parties who have registered for access. We believe an individual with access downloaded and shared this data.”

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The coldest computers in the world

BBC Technology News - 15 hours 26 min ago
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 - 15 hours 38 min ago
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 - 15 hours 41 min ago
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 - 15 hours 43 min ago
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 - 15 hours 53 min ago

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.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Coronavirus clobbers Uber, leading to $1.8 billion quarterly loss

Ars Technica - 16 hours 48 min ago

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.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Updated hurricane-season outlooks: Expect plenty more storms

Ars Technica - 16 hours 50 min ago

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.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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."

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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.

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