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Industry & Technology

Why your new work colleague could be a robot

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 2 min ago
Better sight, better hands and more intelligence are allowing robots to take on more and more jobs.

Samsung’s 2020 TV lineup forces high-end buyers to go 8K whether they want it or not

Ars Technica - 1 hour 29 min ago

Most people in the United States and other markets are still on the precipice of making the jump from high-definition TVs to 4K ones, but Samsung is already de-emphasizing 4K in its 2020 lineup in favor of 8K TVs. Reports on the European product lineup show that Samsung will this year only offer top features and specs on 8K TVs, not their 4K counterparts.

Recently, Samsung’s most attractive high-end TVs have been its 4K QLED models. And those TVs have arguably been some of the highest-quality LCD TVs out there, bested in many tests only by LG’s OLED lineup (and besting the OLEDs in some others).

But we were a little concerned when Samsung failed to announce specific, mainstream 4K models from its 2020 lineup at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, even as it announced a plethora of 8K sets. It turns out there was a reason: the company’s high-end QLED lineup will be 8K only, and 4K TVs will be relegated to the more affordable TU line.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Coronavirus outbreak on Diamond Princess hits 454; 14 infected Americans return

Ars Technica - 1 hour 44 min ago

Enlarge / SAN ANTONIO, TX - FEBRUARY 17: American evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on February 17, 2020, in San Antonio, Texas. The Diamond Princess cruise ship where the passengers were evacuated from, docked at the Japanese city of Yokohama, is believed to be the highest concentration of novel coronavirus cases outside of China, where the outbreak began. (credit: Getty | Edward Ornelas)

Fourteen Americans tested positive for carrying the new coronavirus just as they began their return to the United States from Yokohama, Japan, where they had been trapped aboard the luxury cruise ship Diamond Princess in a quarantine that began February 3.

As of today, February 17, Japanese health officials have confirmed 454 cases of COVID-19 on the ship, including 99 cases reported since yesterday. The cluster is, by far, the largest of any COVID-19 flare ups outside of China, where the outbreak began and has caused the vast majority of infections and deaths.

The new cases in the returning Americans will nearly double the current number of COVID-19 cases in the US, bringing the total from the current 15 to 29.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple warns coronavirus will hurt iPhones supplies

BBC Technology News - February 17, 2020 - 11:47pm
The tech giant says it is "experiencing a slower return to normal conditions" in China than expected.

Bio-electronic device can produce electricity using nothing but humidity

Ars Technica - February 17, 2020 - 10:55pm

Enlarge / The structure of some of the protein wires used by bacteria. (credit: Pacific Northwest National Lab)

There's a huge variety of ways that we can potentially generate all the power we need for tiny medical sensors or other devices with minimal power needs. But there's often a big gap between those sorts of use cases and something that could, say, charge your phone as you walk around wearing a sweater. The electricity-producing devices either don't scale up or start off at such low power levels that you'd need a couple of tents to power a phone.

But today, Nature released a paper that describes a device the authors say should be able to work, providing power for medical sensors on the low end and scaling up to compete with solar panels on the high end. And all the device needs to produce power is ambient humidity. Better yet, the potential for developing the device was accidentally discovered by a grad student who was looking to do something else entirely.

A jolt of low-voltage serendipity

A surprising amount of scientific discovery is driven by annoyance. The Cosmic Microwave Background was famously discovered by people working on a microwave receiver who couldn't get rid of an irritating source of noise—even after trying to clean out all the pigeon guano from the hardware. In the case of the recent work, a graduate student named Xiaomeng Liu was trying to work with some fiber-like proteins made by bacteria. In many species, these sub-microscopic fibers are good conductors, and a number of labs study their properties and those of the bacteria that produce them.

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Jeff Bezos pledges $10 billion to stop climate change

Ars Technica - February 17, 2020 - 10:00pm

Enlarge / Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Inc. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, will spend $10 billion to combat climate change. He announced the news in an Instagram post on Monday.

"Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet," Bezos writes. "I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share."

Bezos says that his new Bezos Earth Fund will fund "scientists, activists, NGOs—any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world." He says he'll begin issuing grants in the summer.

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Data shows Tesla owner experienced repeated glitch days before deadly 2018 crash

Ars Technica - February 17, 2020 - 9:45pm

Enlarge / Walter Huang's Model X in a tow yard days after his fatal crash. (credit: NTSB)

On March 23, 2018, a glitch in Tesla's Autopilot technology contributed to the death of Walter Huang in Mountain View, California. As Huang's Model X approached a left exit on US Highway 101, the software apparently got the lane lines mixed up. The car steered to the left, putting itself in the space between the diverging lanes. Seconds later, it crashed into a concrete lane divider at 70 miles per hour. Huang was taken to the hospital but died soon afterward.

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board released dozens of new documents that provide a detailed understanding of the circumstances of Huang's death. The documents confirm a claim by Walter Huang's family that he had experienced this particular glitch, in this particular spot, multiple times prior to his fatal crash. He complained to family and friends about the issue. However, the NTSB was not able to confirm another key claim: that Huang reported the issue to Tesla.

Forensic data also suggests one reason Huang might not have been paying attention to the road in the final seconds before his death: he was in the habit of playing a game called Three Kingdoms in his car while driving to work. Logs from his Apple-provided iPhone showed that he used the app during his morning commute every day the week of his fatal Friday crash. However, those logs don't provide enough information to say if he was interacting with the game in the final seconds before his death.

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Got small kids? Now’s a good time to buy a Fire Kids Edition tablet

Ars Technica - February 17, 2020 - 9:15pm

Enlarge / The 8" version of the Fire HD Kids Edition is the sweet spot—small enough for young kids, but noticeably bigger and nicer than the 7", with lots more storage. (credit: Amazon)

If you have little kids and need an inexpensive, safe source of games, media, and books for them, we've got good news for you—Amazon's Fire Kids Edition line of tablets are all on Black Friday-level sale right now. The Fire 7 Kids Edition is down from $100 to $60, the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is down from $130 to $80, and the Fire HD 10 Kids Edition is down from $200 to $150. (The non-Kids Edition slates are on sale as well, with the Fire 7 available for $40, the Fire HD 8 available for $60, and the Fire HD 10 available for $110).

Amazon's 8" Fire Kids Edition tablet—normally $130, now $80—hasn't been this cheap since Black Friday. (credit: Camelcamelcamel)

If you're already a Fire Kids Edition user, that might be all you need to know. But for new(er) parents who haven't figured out what electronics to get for their little ones yet, let's go over some features—and advice—from a father of three who's been there and done that.

Fire HD—sort of an Android device, but not really

There are only two major tablet operating systems right now: Google's Android and Apple's iOS. In the technical sense, Amazon's Fire HD tablets—including the Kids Edition line—are without a doubt Android.

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Fight or flight: How horror movies manipulate our brains for peak excitement

Ars Technica - February 17, 2020 - 8:36pm

Enlarge / There's a demon behind you! Patrick Wilson starred in Director James Wan's 2010 film Insidious, one of two films used in a recent MRI study on fear. (credit: Blumhouse Productions)

When we watch horror movies, our brains are hard at work, with lots of interconnected cross-talk between different regions to anticipate perceived threats and prepare to respond accordingly. This enhances our excitement while watching, according to scientists at the University of Turku in Finland. Researchers used an MRI to map the neural activity of subjects while the subjects watched horror movies. Their findings are described in a recent paper published in the journal NeuroImage.

According to co-author Matthew Hudson, now at the National College of Ireland in Dublin, the objective was to take a closer look at dynamic interactions in the brain during an intense emotional experience. Most prior studies on neural mechanisms have adopted a binary approach, in that the focus is on comparing two conditions. But this ignores the temporal dynamics between the two conditions—the continuous fear response.

Hudson told Ars, "We wanted to use a naturalistic stimuli and new ways to analyze neural data to try and understand exactly how the fear response changes over time" rather than simply comparing brain activity before and after a perceived threat. Horror movies provided the perfect fear-inducing stimulus.

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Jeff Bezos: World's richest man pledges $10bn to fight climate change

BBC Technology News - February 17, 2020 - 8:14pm
The Amazon boss and world's richest man gives 8% of his fortune to fight the planet's "biggest threat".

HQ Trivia: Quiz app ends with drunken broadcast after 'running out of money'

BBC Technology News - February 17, 2020 - 6:52pm
A buyout collapsed, leading to the app closing and a presenter paying for final game's $5 prize.

Samsung’s “Ultra Thin Glass” doesn’t seem much stronger than plastic

Ars Technica - February 17, 2020 - 5:48pm

Enlarge / The Galaxy Z Flip's "glass" isn't any more scratch-resistant than plastic. (credit: JerryRigEverything)

There comes a point in the life of every foldable smartphone when, after a wave of hype and highly controlled early looks, the phone actually hits the hands of the general public—and durability issues immediately pop up. We've seen it with the Galaxy Fold, which died in the hands of reviewers and was delayed for six months; the Huawei Mate X, which had its launch limited to China and broke after a single drop; and the Moto Razr, which has a creaky hinge that jams easily and a display that delaminates. This weekend it was the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip's turn to disappoint us. The initial shipments are going out, and we're already seeing that Samsung's much-hyped flexible glass cover isn't much more durable than plastic.

YouTuber JerryRigEverything regularly does destructive durability tests on phones, partly by attacking a device with a set of Mohs picks. These pointy metal tools that are calibrated to the Mohs scale of mineral hardness allow a user to determine the hardness of a surface by doing a scratch test. You start with the softest pick and work your way up the set until you find something that can scratch the surface you're testing. A modern smartphone with Corning's Gorilla Glass scratches at level 6 on the Mohs hardness scale.

The Galaxy Z Flip features a first-of-its-kind flexible glass cover that Samsung calls "Ultra-Thin Glass." Until now, foldables have had to suffer through life with plastic display covers, which scratch easily, don't provide much protection, and just like a resistive touchscreen, feel bad to swipe around on, thanks to the squishy pliability of the display. With this new invention of flexible glass, the Z Flip promised a return to a hard, smooth, scratch-resistant display surface.

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Coronavirus cancels F1 and Formula E races, could make EU miss CO2 target

Ars Technica - February 17, 2020 - 5:32pm

Enlarge / A man wearing a face mask rides his bicycle along an empty street in Beijing on February 12, 2020. (credit: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Coronavirus disease 2019—COVID-19 to its friends—hasn't racked up a bodycount like the influenza epidemic of 1918, but in this far more globalized world, it's still causing quite a degree of havoc. There are now over 71,000 confirmed cases reported so far, and fears of that number growing by orders of magnitude have resulted in the postponement or cancellation of large public events both in China and beyond. Last week we learned that Mobile World Congress, an annual tradeshow in Spain, won't happen in 2020—now we can start adding auto shows to that list.

On Monday, it emerged that the Beijing auto show—which was scheduled for April of this year—will be postponed, presumably until the health crisis is over. According to Autocar, rumors that the show would be cancelled or postponed had been circulating for a week, with no official response until now.

The Beijing auto show is in good company; last week the promoters of the Chinese Grand Prix—an F1 race scheduled to take place in Shanghai on April 19—successfully petitioned the FIA (the sport's organizing body) and Formula 1 to postpone the event until an as-yet-undecided date toward the end of the 2020 F1 season. Although there is no official word on the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix—set for April 5—some in the sport are concerned about attending that race in Asia as well.

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Z Flip and Razr: Folding screens bubble and scratch, tests find

BBC Technology News - February 17, 2020 - 3:42pm
Reviewers find more durability issues in new handsets from Samsung and Motorola.

Police force denies creating 'child hacker' poster

BBC Technology News - February 17, 2020 - 3:16pm
The poster said the authorities should be told about children who had tools used by cyber-security experts.

SpaceX nailed the launch but missed a landing on Monday [Updated]

Ars Technica - February 17, 2020 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / SpaceX launched its first batch of operational Starlink satellites in November. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

10:15am ET Update: The launch of a Falcon 9 rocket proceeded normally on Monday morning, but just when the first stage was due to land on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, the rocket did not appear. Later in the SpaceX webcast, the company confirmed that the first stage made a "soft landing" in the water near the drone ship. SpaceX has yet to provide any additional details about what may have gone awry during the landing attempt.

Meanwhile, 60 Starlink satellites were successfully deployed into an elliptical orbit. Over the coming weeks, they will use on-board thrusters to circularize their orbits.

Original post: SpaceX is readying a Falcon 9 rocket for the launch of 60 more Starlink satellites on Monday morning. If successful, the mission will bring the total number of satellites in its low-earth orbit Internet constellation to nearly 300.

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Charging into the mainstream: Volvo electrifies its first class-8 truck

Ars Technica - February 17, 2020 - 2:26pm

The reality of a production-ready fully electric semi is now upon us, at least for the short-haul routes. Last week, Volvo Trucks revealed the VNR Electric, the centerpiece of an ambitious and highly collaborative $90-million pilot project. It's known as Low-Impact Green Heavy Transport Solution, or LIGHTS for short. In addition to Volvo, which has invested $36.7 million, 14 other entities from both the public sector and private enterprise have signed on to this collaboration.

"Bringing electric trucks commercially to market takes more than the launch of the truck," says Keith Brandis, vice president of partnerships and strategic solutions at Volvo Group. "With the LIGHTS program, Volvo and its partners are working on creating a true holistic strategy," simultaneously studying not only the performance of the truck itself, but also variables such as maintenance needs, route logistics, infrastructure requirements, and environmental impact.

"Goods movement in the region is one of the biggest contributors to smog-causing emissions and 22 percent of emissions from California's overall transport sector," says Harmeet Singh, chief technology officer at Greenlots, the company developing and deploying the charging infrastructure for the LIGHTS program.

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Linux distro review: Intel’s own Clear Linux OS

Ars Technica - February 17, 2020 - 2:12pm

Intel's Clear Linux distribution has been getting a lot of attention lately, due to its incongruously high benchmark performance. Although the distribution was created and is managed by Intel, even AMD recommends running benchmarks of its new CPUs under Clear Linux in order to get the highest scores.

Recently at Phoronix, Michael Larabel tested a Threadripper 3990X system using nine different Linux distros, one of which was Clear Linux—and Intel's distribution got three times as many first-place results as any other distro tested. When attempting to conglomerate all test results into a single geometric mean, Larabel found that the distribution's results were, on average, 14% faster than the slowest distributions tested (CentOS 8 and Ubuntu 18.04.3).

There's not much question that Clear Linux is your best bet if you want to turn in the best possible benchmark numbers. The question not addressed here is, what's it like to run Clear Linux as a daily driver? We were curious, so we took it for a spin.

Read 41 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Israeli soldiers duped by Hamas 'fake women' phone ruse

BBC Technology News - February 17, 2020 - 11:47am
Hamas militants hacked dozens of smartphones by posing as female admirers, Israel's military says.

Amazon: Suspect child car seats found for sale on its store again

BBC Technology News - February 17, 2020 - 6:37am
Trading standards officers are probing the products, which Amazon has now removed from sale.

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