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Industry & Technology

Ren Zhengfei says US government 'underestimates' Huawei

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 38 min ago
A dispute over Huawei has escalated with implications for the firm, the tech sector and consumers.

Police facial recognition surveillance court case starts

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 45 min ago
Campaigners say police use of the technology is like taking DNA or fingerprints without consent.

Teaching machines to write better adverts than humans

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 13 min ago
AI-powered advertising copywriters are coming, but can they be taught to be as inventive as humans?

Are barcodes the way to protect dementia patients?

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 15 min ago
How technology and community support is keeping people with dementia in Japan safe.

Playing Tetris by committee with multiple players

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 35 min ago
How a revamped Nintendo controller allows eight people to control a game simultaneously.

Electric cars still need to win over UK drivers

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 35 min ago
Only one in four people would consider buying a fully electric car in the next five years, a study says.

Microsoft publishes first Edge for macOS preview, promises to make it truly “Mac-like”

Ars Technica - 9 hours 56 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

One of the most important ways that Microsoft wants to make the new Chromium-based Edge different from the current EdgeHTML-based Edge is in its support for other platforms. The original Edge was, for no good reason, tied to Windows 10, meaning that Web developers on platforms such as Windows 7 or macOS had no way of testing how their pages looked, short of firing up a Windows 10 virtual machine.

The new browser is, in contrast, a cross-platform affair. The first preview builds were published for Windows 10, with versions for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 promised soon; today, these are joined by builds for macOS.

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The macOS version resembles the Windows 10 builds that we've seen so far, but it isn't identical. Microsoft wants to be a good citizen on macOS by producing not just an application that fits the platform's standards—using the right fonts, icons, spacing, and so on—but which also adapts to Apple's unique hardware. To that end, the company is working on support for the Touch Bar found on some of Apple's portable systems, using it for media control, tab switching, or access to bookmarks. Microsoft will also work to ensure that Edge's support as a Progressive Web App host properly adopts macOS behaviors with regard to interaction with the Dock, app switcher, and Spotlight.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

World of Warcraft Classic beta testers are reporting vanilla WoW features as bugs

Ars Technica - 10 hours 19 min ago

Nostalgic World of Warcraft (WoW) fans have been calling for game publisher Activision-Blizzard to release World of Warcraft Classic for years, and they're finally getting their wishWorld of Warcraft Classic is now in beta, but some players have been surprised by what they've found when playing it.

WoW Classic seeks to recreate the "vanilla WoW" experience—that is, WoW as it existed before a series of seven game-altering major expansion packs from 2007's The Burning Crusade to 2018's Battle for Azeroth. To achieve this, Blizzard has rebuilt the game based on archived data from back in 2005 and 2006 (patch 1.12 is the goalpost—the current game is on patch 8.1.5). The company has committed to meticulously presenting the experience exactly as it was back then—warts and all—with only a small number of unavoidable or critical changes.

The argument for this is simple: what makes classic WoW great to one player might be different from what makes it great for another. And who are Blizzard's designers to say which old features were just good or bad design for each player? It's an approach that shows Blizzard believes (at least to some degree) that WoW doesn't just belong to its creators but to its fans. That struggle between authorial intent or game design orthodoxy and "the player is always right" is at the heart of many of gaming's big contemporary controversies. But so far, Blizzard seems committed to its plan with regards to WoW Classic.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Massive 2015 natural gas leak caused by microbial corrosion, report says

Ars Technica - 10 hours 33 min ago

Aliso Canyon methane leak 6. (credit: Earthworks / Flickr)

A massive natural gas leak at a storage facility in Southern California was caused by microbial corrosion of well equipment, according to a new independent report from analysis firm Blade Energy Partners. The report blames the storage facility owner, Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) for failing to conduct follow-up inspections of equipment, despite knowing about 60 smaller leaks at the facility that had occurred since the 1970s.

The final leak—which spewed 109,000 metric tons of methane into the air over five months between 2015 and 2016—was the biggest methane leak in US history. (A larger loss of methane occurred in 2004 in Texas, but a corresponding fire immediately combusted the methane into carbon dioxide.) But the California leak at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Field was particularly devastating because methane, unfortunately, is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The new report (PDF) was commissioned three years earlier to find the root cause of the leak. According to a press release from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Blade Energy Partners found that the leak came from a seven-inch outer well casing which had corroded due to exposure to microbes from groundwater. The natural gas storage facility at Aliso Canyon is made up of dozens of vast underground caverns which were previously filled with oil before they were pumped and emptied decades ago. Since then, the caverns have been used to store natural gas to supply the Southern California area.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google Glass still exists: Meet Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2

Ars Technica - May 20, 2019 - 9:19pm

Google Glass is not only a product that still exists inside Google, but today, Google is announcing a new version of Google Glass, called "Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2." It has a new design, new specs, and a $999 price tag. We can't believe it either.

Google has a blog post detailing the new product, and Google.com/glass has been resurrected with all sorts of details on the new face computer. The new Google Glass has a thicker, bulkier design, which probably helps to fit a larger 820mAh battery compared to the original's 570mAh. Given that Glass is now an enterprise-focused product, it makes sense that Google is promoting a design with built-in safety glasses, although a more traditional frameless style is still available.

Google was even nice enough to provide a mostly full spec sheet. Glass Enterprise 2 is powered by the "Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform," which contains a quad-core 1.7Ghz CPU built on a 10nm manufacturing process. Google calls this a "significantly more powerful multicore CPU (central processing unit)" than the old Intel Atom SoC in the first Enterprise Edition of Google Glass. The company says, "This enables significant power savings, enhanced performance, and support for computer vision and advanced machine-learning capabilities."

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A disillusioned Aaron Paul longs for someone “real” in Westworld S3 trailer

Ars Technica - May 20, 2019 - 7:48pm

HBO released the first teaser for Westworld season 3 right before last night's Game of Thrones finale.

HBO took advantage of the record number of viewers tuning in to the Game of Thrones finale last night to release the first teaser for season three of Westworld. The teaser is deliberately vague on details, but it looks like we're in for a dystopian near-future scenario set not in the original theme park but in the real outside world.

(Some spoilers for first two seasons below.)

If you're new to the series, the titular Westworld is one of six immersive theme parks owned and operated by a company called Delos Inc. It's essentially Live Action Role Play (LARP-ing) combined with a choose-your-own-adventure experience. The park is populated with a "cast" of very human-looking androids, called hosts, who follow a bunch of intertwining narratives, rebooting the same narrative every day. The park's well-heeled visitors can pretty much do whatever they like to the hosts—rape, pillage, torture, murder—and they do so more often than not, because they don't see the hosts as anything more than unfeeling props in their private dramas.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Baltimore ransomware nightmare could last weeks more, with big consequences

Ars Technica - May 20, 2019 - 5:47pm

Enlarge / Days after Mayor "Jack" Young took over for disgraced Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, ransomware took down Baltimore City's networks. It may be weeks or months before things return to normal—and "normal" wasn't that great, either, based on the city's IT track record. (credit: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

It's been nearly two weeks since the City of Baltimore's networks were shut down in response to a ransomware attack, and there's still no end in sight to the attack's impact. It may be weeks more before the city's services return to something resembling normal—manual workarounds are being put in place to handle some services now, but the city's water billing and other payment systems remain offline, as well as most of the city's email and much of the government's phone systems.

The ransomware attack came in the midst of a major transition at City Hall. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young assumed office officially just days before the attack, after the resignation of former mayor Catherine Pugh, who is facing an ever-expanding corruption investigation. And some of the mayor's critical staff positions remained unfilled—the mayor's deputy chief of staff for operations, Sheryl Goldstein, starts work today.

To top it off, unlike the City of Atlanta—which suffered from a Samsam ransomware attack in March of 2018—Baltimore has no insurance to cover the cost of a cyber attack. So the cost of cleaning up the RobbinHood ransomware, which will far exceed the approximately $70,000 the ransomware operators demanded, will be borne entirely by Baltimore's citizens.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Making industrial chemicals “green” requires a lot of renewable electricity

Ars Technica - May 20, 2019 - 5:32pm

Enlarge / Huntsman Olefins petrochemical industry, manufacturer of ethylene and propylene, Wilton, Teesside, UK. (credit: Photo by Photofusion/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

When we think about climate change, we most often think about emissions from two sectors: energy and transportation. But industry makes a big contribution to climate change, too. Industrial emissions come from a lot of different things, including the manufacture of common chemicals. Often, these chemicals are made by reforming fossil fuels using heat that's also provided by burning fossil fuels.

Overall, the chemical industry consumes about 10 percent of global final energy, according to the International Energy Agency.

In a recent PNAS paper, researchers from universities in Germany and California tried to estimate how effectively the chemical industry could decarbonize and whether such a decarbonization is likely.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Optical neural network at 50zJ per op? Nope, but it’s still a good idea

Ars Technica - May 20, 2019 - 5:02pm

Enlarge (credit: BeeBright/Getty Images)

Artificial intelligence (AI) has experienced a revival of pretty large proportions in the last decade. We've gone from AI being mostly useless to letting it ruin our lives in obscure and opaque ways. We’ve even given AI the task of crashing our cars for us.

AI experts will tell us that we just need bigger neural networks and the cars will probably stop crashing. You can get there by adding more graphics cards to an AI, but the power consumption becomes excessive. The ideal solution would be a neural network that can process and shovel data around at near-zero energy cost, which may be where we are headed with optical neural networks.

To give you an idea of the scale of energy we're talking about here, a good GPU uses 20 picoJoules (1pJ is 10-12J ) for each multiply and accumulate operation. A purpose-built integrated circuit can reduce that to about 1pJ. But if a team of researchers is correct, an optical neural network might reduce that number to an incredible 50 zeptoJoules (1zJ is 10-21J).

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ajit Pai oks T-Mobile/Sprint merger, “requires” 5G rollout that’ll happen anyway

Ars Technica - May 20, 2019 - 4:45pm

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with his oversized coffee mug in November 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

T-Mobile and Sprint are one big step closer to getting the US government's approval to merge, as Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today announced his support for the deal combining two of the four largest US mobile carriers.

Pai's announcement virtually guarantees that the FCC will approve the deal; FCC approval would be finalized after the Republican-controlled commission votes. But T-Mobile and Sprint still need to convince the Department of Justice, which hasn't yet said whether it will sue to block the merger on antitrust grounds.

Pai's statement on the merger said he's approving it in large part because T-Mobile and Sprint "committed to deploying a 5G network that would cover 97 percent of our nation's population within three years of the closing of the merger and 99 percent of Americans within six years." They also committed to deploying 5G to 85 percent of rural Americans within three years and 90 percent within six years.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Report: Sony employees caught off guard by Microsoft cloud partnership

Ars Technica - May 20, 2019 - 4:09pm

Enlarge / The kinds of Azure server racks that could soon play host to Sony content under a recent cooperation deal.

Following Microsoft and Sony's surprising announcement of a cloud gaming partnership last week, Bloomberg has a bit of behind-the-scenes analysis that uses unnamed insider sources to explain how the deal came about.

Though Sony confirmed to Bloomberg that talks between the two console giants had been going on since last year, the announcement still caught rank-and-file employees at Sony off guard, according to Bloomberg's sources. "Managers had to calm workers and assure them that plans for the company’s next-generation console weren’t affected," as Bloomberg summarizes the view from inside the company.

Sony has already spun its 2012 purchase of streaming gaming company Gaikai into over 700,000 subscribers for its cloud-based PlayStation Now service, which launched in 2015. But Sony's server and network infrastructure has proven insufficient to provide the "as good as local" experience promised (but yet to be proven) by major competitors like Google's recently announced Stadia service. That led Sony to reach out to other companies with more established cloud infrastructure to expand its streaming gaming footprint.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

NASA’s full Artemis plan revealed: 37 launches and a lunar outpost

Ars Technica - May 20, 2019 - 2:53pm

Enlarge / A Blue Moon lander, built by Blue Origin, with an ascent vehicle (built by another company) on top. (credit: Blue Origin)

In the nearly two months since Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return to the Moon by 2024, space agency engineers have been working to put together a plan that leverages existing technology, large projects nearing completion, and commercial rockets to bring this about.

Last week, an updated plan that demonstrated a human landing in 2024, annual sorties to the lunar surface thereafter, and the beginning of a Moon base by 2028, began circulating within the agency. A graphic, shown below, provides information about each of the major launches needed to construct a small Lunar Gateway, stage elements of a lunar lander there, fly crews to the Moon and back, and conduct refueling missions.

This decade-long plan, which entails 37 launches of private and NASA rockets, as well as a mix of robotic and human landers, culminates with a "Lunar Surface Asset Deployment" in 2028, likely the beginning of a surface outpost for long-duration crew stays. Developed by the agency's senior human spaceflight manager, Bill Gerstenmaier, this plan is everything Pence asked for—an urgent human return, a Moon base, a mix of existing and new contractors.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google reportedly ends business with Huawei, will cut it off from Play Store [Updated]

Ars Technica - May 20, 2019 - 2:47pm

Enlarge / Huawei's latest flagship, the P30 Pro. (credit: Huawei)

Update: Statements from Google and Huawei, other companies join the ban

Huawei sent a statement to Ars Technica and others about the ban, saying "Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally. We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally."

Trade War! USA v. China

View more stories Google issued only a terse one-liner, saying "We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications." On Twitter, the company's official Android account was a bit friendlier, saying "For Huawei users' questions regarding our steps to comply w/ the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US gov't requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device."

Meanwhile, other US companies have started to cut off Huawei, with Bloomberg reporting that Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Xilinx have stopped supplying chips to Huawei. Intel is a big one, as it means Huawei laptops are pretty much dead. Bloomberg also reports that Huawei apparently saw this ban coming, and has stockpiled three months worth of chips from US companies.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Huawei's Android loss: How it affects you

BBC Technology News - May 20, 2019 - 1:19pm
Google's move to end business ties with Huawei will affect current devices and future purchases.

Warning over using augmented reality in precision tasks

BBC Technology News - May 20, 2019 - 1:03pm
Those using headsets to complete tricky tasks over-estimate how well they perform, a study suggests.

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