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Dick Barnes, pioneer behind oldest working computer, dies

BBC Technology News - April 24, 2019 - 5:35pm
Dick Barnes co-designed the machine used by engineers who built the world's first commercial nuclear reactor.

The Oscars decides Netflix is OK after all, following DOJ warning

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 5:23pm

Enlarge / An Oscar statuette. (credit: Getty Images | Christopher Polk )

Netflix and other streaming platforms won't be banned from the Oscars as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has rejected calls from Steven Spielberg and others to restrict eligibility for the annual awards.

The Academy's Board of Governors approved rules for the February 2020 Oscars and left the eligibility requirement unchanged. Just as before, feature-length films must be shown for at least one week in a Los Angeles County theater to be eligible, a requirement Netflix-backed movies such as Roma met on their way to winning awards. Proposals to require theater runs of at least four weeks were rejected.

"We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions," Academy President John Bailey said in an announcement yesterday. "Our rules currently require theatrical exhibition, and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration. We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues."

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Leaked report: crashed Russian Air Force MiG-31 was shot down by wingman

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 5:16pm

Almost exactly two years ago, a Russian Air Force MiG-31 Foxhound supersonic interceptor went down during an exercise over the Telemba proving grounds in Buryatia, a Siberian semi-autonomous Russian republic that borders Mongolia. (Telemba was one of the sites for Vostok, Russia’s giant wargames staged last fall with Chinese and Mongolian troops in attendance.) The incident was described by Russia’s Defense Ministry at the time as a simple mishap: the fighter “crashed during a training flight,” and both crewmembers had ejected and parachuted to safety.

Now, however, the independent Russian news organization Baza has revealed leaked government documents that give somewhat more embarrassing details about the incident: the jet was shot down by another MiG-31. The accident was caused as a result of the second aircraft crew’s “violation of safety measures and missions for flight, expressed in the premature activation of the aircraft’s on-board radar station by the navigator and the unauthorized launch of the R-33 guided missiles by the commander,” the leaked report states. But the incident was also the result of a failure of the aircraft’s target-identification system (also known as an identification friend or foe, or IFF, system).

The MiG-31 was the first aircraft to use a phased array radar—the Zaslon passive electronically scanned array radar, capable of being used for both search and weapons targeting. (The passive phased arrays can be used to electronically steer radio signal beams, allowing some antennas to remain in search mode while others are used to lock on for a missile attack.)

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iFixit’s Samsung Galaxy Fold teardown reveals how the phone is dying

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 5:06pm

It might be delayed for at least a month, but Samsung's futuristic Galaxy Fold has hit the iFixit Teardown table. How exactly did iFixit get its hands on a phone that has never been for sale and has had all its review units recalled? It's probably best not to think too much about it. What matters is that we get to see the insides!

Between this teardown and an earlier blog post, iFixit has been building a compelling theory for why the Fold has been dying an early death for some reviewers. The problem, simply, is ingress. While most other smartphones are resistant to the ingress of just about everything, to the point of being water resistant, the Galaxy Fold is full of holes.

Samsung Galaxy Fold

View more stories Traditional slab-style smartphones have their displays bonded to a Gorilla Glass panel, which is then glued onto the front of the phone for a water-proof seal. That doesn't work for a foldable display that needs to bend and move, so the Galaxy Fold has a plastic display that rests on top of the phone and is held on only with a thin, plastic bezel that is glued along the edge. These bezels aren't flexible enough to cover the folding area of the phone, though, so they just don't. The plastic bezel stops before the hinge, so the display edge is just exposed to the world, opening a hole into the device.

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Windows 10 May 2019 update blocked for anyone using USB or SD storage

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 4:54pm

Enlarge / Better unplug all these if you want the new Windows version. (credit: Miia Sample)

While it's not officially out yet, the Windows 10 May 2019 update is available to Windows Insiders on the Release Preview distribution channel (and also to MSDN subscribers). So anyone who wants to get a head start on the next major iteration of Windows 10 can do so right now—unless they have USB storage connected to their PC.

Because of an issue that's frankly remarkable, Microsoft is blocking the update for anyone using USB storage or SD storage. That is to say: if you have a USB hard disk or thumb drive, or an SD card in an SD card reader, the update won't install. Perhaps more strangely, this is only the case if you're currently running version 1803 or 1809; upgrading from 1709 or 1703 (both of which are still supported, at least for Enterprise and Education users) means everything is, apparently, fine.

The reason for blocking the update is that it appears to be prone to shuffling the drive letters assigned to USB and SD storage devices. In other words, while your USB drive might show up as "D:" now, it could end up getting renamed to "E:" after upgrading to 1903. Fortunately, there is a straightforward workaround: unplug the drives and remove the memory card, and the installation will proceed normally. You can then plug them back in after it's finished.

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Report: Cheaper Switch coming by June

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 3:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton)

A new, cheaper version of the Switch will be released by the end of June, according to one "person familiar with the matter" cited in a recent Bloomberg report. That's the most specific time frame yet for the still-rumored release of a redesigned version of Nintendo's system and coincides well with the E3 expo, a major gaming convention in June.

A Nikkei report earlier this month suggested the new unit would be available in the fall. That report followed a Wall Street Journal report from last month which said the cheaper redesign might arrive "as early as this summer, complete with reduced features and, possibly, no ability to dock to a TV."

Bloomberg also echoes Nikkei in suggesting that a "more powerful version" of the system, rumored by the WSJ, is not currently in the works. But a more "modest upgrade" to the standard Switch hardware could be coming before the end of the year, according to Bloomberg's sources.

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Ford invests $500 million in electric car startup Rivian

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 2:25pm

Enlarge / Will startup Rivian be the first company to bring a battery electric truck to market? Deliveries start next year. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

On Wednesday morning, Ford announced that it will invest $500 million in the electric vehicle startup Rivian. Assuming regulatory approval, the two will form a strategic partnership, with Ford taking a minority stake in Rivian. Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of automotive, will get a seat on Rivian's board, but more importantly, Ford will use Rivian's battery EV platform to build a new Blue Oval-badged BEV.

"This strategic partnership marks another key milestone in our drive to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility. Ford has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, with Bill Ford being one of the industry's earliest advocates, and we are excited to use our technology to get more electric vehicles on the road" said RJ Scaringe, Rivian founder and CEO.

"As we continue in our transformation of Ford with new forms of intelligent vehicles and propulsion, this partnership with Rivian brings a fresh approach to both," said Jim Hackett, Ford president and CEO. "At the same time, we believe Rivian can benefit from Ford’s industrial expertise and resources."

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Hate speech: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube told off by MPs

BBC Technology News - April 24, 2019 - 2:18pm
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are accused of not doing their jobs as they face questions from MPs.

South Indian Ocean has seen a record number of major hurricanes this season

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 2:10pm

Enlarge / Mozambiqueans are seen at desolated buildings following the Cyclone Idai in Sofala region in Beira, Mozambique on March 31, 2019. (credit: Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

By some measures, it has been the busiest South Indian Ocean hurricane season on record. In terms of damage and major hurricanes, it appears to have been the worst in modern history.

Hurricane scientists define the South Indian Ocean basin as the part of the ocean south of the equator, and west of 135 degrees longitude—this encompasses an area from Africa to the western part of Australia. The "cyclone" season for the South Indian Ocean generally runs from about September through April, but for record-keeping purposes it runs from July 1 of a given year to June 30 the next.

The 2018-2019 season, which began on July 1, has recorded 17 storms, according to statistics maintained by University of Colorado hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, and based on data from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. While that by itself is not a record, as the basin has had as many as 22 storms dating back to 1980, the storms this season have been especially strong.

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Electron qubit non-destructively read: Silicon qubits may be better

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 2:03pm

Enlarge (credit: Takashi Nakajima)

I suspect that if you asked an engineer at Intel about quantum computing, they probably wouldn’t want to know about it unless the chips could be fabricated using standard fabrication technology. Using standard processes means using electrons as the basis for quantum computing.

Electrons are lovely in many respects, but they are rather extroverted. It doesn’t matter what you do, they will run off and play with the neighbors. The constantly interacting electron does not look after its quantum state, so quantum information is rapidly lost, making processing really difficult. This makes the achievement of a quantum non-demolition measurement in an electron system rather remarkable.

Don’t demolish my quantum state

So, what is a quantum non-demolition measurement? Let’s start with the quantum state of an electron. Electrons have a property called spin. For any given orientation (let’s choose vertical), the electron’s spin can take on two values: up and down. I can measure and set these states: I set the state to up and measure the state to be up, for instance. But, this is a quantum property, so we can also set the state to be some mixture of the two, say 50 percent up and 50 percent down. This is called quantum superposition.

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Huawei: Why UK is at odds with its cyber-allies

BBC Technology News - April 24, 2019 - 12:49pm
The US has been pressing other nations to ban use of the Chinese firm's 5G kit on security grounds.

Guidemaster: The best Qi wireless charging pads for your smartphone

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 12:45pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Wireless charging has a long way to go before it replaces wired charging, but the technology has advanced dramatically in the past few years. Everyone with the newest smartphones, wearables, and other gadgets can get behind the idea—simply place your device on a charging pad or stand and let it sit. Within a few minutes, you'll have more battery power than you did before, and you didn't have to fuss with wires or cables to get it.

But quite a bit of technology goes into making an accessory that makes your life that much easier. Most wireless chargers come in the form of circular or rectangular pads, some of which are propped up on legs to make stands that take up minimal space and work well as nightstand or desk accessories. But don't be fooled by their minimalist exteriors—there are a number of things you should know before investing in a wireless charging pad. To navigate this murky world, Ars tested out some of the most popular devices available now to see which are worth buying.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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