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Industry & Technology

Solar panels replaced tarmac on a motorway. Here are the results.

Ars Technica - September 23, 2018 - 5:30pm

Enlarge / A road to nowhere? (credit: Robert B.D. Brice/Wattway)

Four years ago a viral campaign wooed the world with a promise of fighting climate change and jump-starting the economy by replacing tarmac on the world’s roads with solar panels. The bold idea has undergone some road testing since then. The first results from preliminary studies have recently come out, and they’re a bit underwhelming.

A solar panel lying under a road is at a number of disadvantages. As it’s not at the optimum tilt angle, it’s going to produce less power and it’s going to be more prone to shading, which is a problem as shade over just 5 percent of the surface of a panel can reduce power generation by 50 percent.

The panels are also likely to be covered by dirt and dust, and would need far thicker glass than conventional panels to withstand the weight of traffic, which will further limit the light they absorb.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Mercedes will still sell CLA-Class alongside new A-Class sedan - Roadshow

cNET.com - News - September 23, 2018 - 5:00pm
In fact, a new CLA is expected to arrive next year.

OnePlus takes just 45 days to bring Android 9 Pie to the OnePlus 6

Ars Technica - September 23, 2018 - 4:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Google Android)

OnePlus continues its trend of getting better and better at updates. Earlier this year, it finally released a formalized update plan for its devices, and now it's releasing one of its fastest device updates in recent memory. The OnePlus 6 is being updated to Android 9 Pie.

This release comes just 45 days after Google's release of Android 9 Pie. This might sound pretty slow compared to the millions of users that just got iOS 12 on launch day, but for Android, anything under three months is pretty good! OnePlus' old flagship, the OnePlus 5T, took a whopping five months to get updated from Android 7.1 Nougat to 8.0 Oreo, so this is a big improvement.

The update speed of Android devices is worth paying attention to this release cycle because things are actually different. Android 8.0 Oreo totally revamped the Android update process with Project Treble, a massive undertaking that modularized the OS away from the hardware. With Treble in place with Oreo, the update from Oreo to Pie should be faster and easier. So far we've seen a few signs that it might be working.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“Rainbow” weevil could hold the secret to generating nature’s colors in the lab

Ars Technica - September 23, 2018 - 4:00pm

Enlarge / The colorful spots of a rainbow weevil (left) as seen through a bright-field light microscope (right). (credit: Bodo D. Wilts)

There are many insects that boast one or two bright colors on their cells. But the so-called "rainbow weevil" is unique because it has many different colored spots. Now researchers from Yale-NUS College and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland have discovered the mechanism behind this rainbow effect, and it is very like the way that squid or cuttlefish shift color for camouflage. They described their results in a recent paper in the journal Small.

Nature produces color in its creatures in various ways. For instance, the bright colors in butterfly wings don't come from any pigment molecules but from how the wings are structured. The scales of chitin (a polysaccharide common to insects) are arranged like roof tiles. Essentially they form a diffraction grating, except photonic crystals only produce certain colors, or wavelengths, of light, while a diffraction grating will produce the entire spectrum, much like a prism.

This is a naturally occurring example of what physicists call photonic crystals, or photonic bandgap materials. That's because photonic crystals are "tunable," precisely ordered in such a way as to block certain wavelengths of light while letting others through. Alter the structure by changing the size of the tiles, and the crystals become sensitive to a different wavelength. Even better (from an applications standpoint), the perception of color doesn't depend on the viewing angle.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Cody Wilson arrives back in the States, enters US Marshals custody

Ars Technica - September 23, 2018 - 3:50pm

Enlarge / In addition to a press release, USMS sent an updated wanted poster to media. (credit: USMS)

In a late evening press release on Saturday, September 22, US Marshals announced they have received and taken custody of Cody Wilson at the International Airport in Houston. The 3D printed guns activist is charged in nearby Travis County for the alleged sexual assault of a female minor.

US Marshals shared this image of Wilson arriving into custody in Houston. (credit: USMS)

Wilson's arrival marks the end of a multi-day, international search. It started on Wednesday, September 19, when a warrant (PDF) was issued for Wilson in Austin, Texas. Austin police revealed later that afternoon that the Defense Distributed founder had flown to Taipei, Taiwan earlier in the month (on September 6) but skipped his return flight after receiving a tip about the allegations.

On Thursday, September 20, Wilson was spotted trying to rent an apartment in Taipei. Wilson reportedly tried to pass himself off as an American student living in the city, and he even made an initial downpayment on a rental. But the rental agency ultimately recognized Wilson and called the authorities, leading to Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau to pick up the search.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

This starter audiophile system sounds outrageously good for $88 - CNET

cNET.com - News - September 23, 2018 - 3:25pm
The Lepai LP2020TI stereo integrated amplifier and a pair of Dayton Audio B652 Air speakers dazzle the Audiophiliac.

Microsoft Surface family: Rumored specs, features, leaks, price, release date - CNET

cNET.com - News - September 23, 2018 - 3:00pm
The Surface Laptop 2 and everything else Microsoft could announce at its Oct. 2 event.

Thrustmaster TPR: The best flight sim pedals you can buy in a store like a normal person

Ars Technica - September 23, 2018 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / This is probably the TPR pedals' best angle—looks almost like a race car engine. (credit: Lee Hutchinson)

Specs at a glance: Thrustmaster Pendular Rudder pedals Manufacturer Thrustmaster Device type Flight simulator rudder pedals with toe brakes Axes Three Sensor type 3D Hall effect magnetic Controller precision 16-bit (all axis) Interface USB type-B Price $499.99 at Amazon

As someone who's gone so far as to put money in a Polish bank account for a Belarusian man named Slaw in exchange for high quality pedals, I was overjoyed when Thrustmaster’s PR people reached out recently and offered to send a review sample of their new TPR rudder pedals. As a long-time Thrustmaster Warthog owner, the key question I had about the company’s new rudder pedals was about build quality: would they be worth the $499 MSRP, or would they be like the Warthog stick and throttle—beautiful on the outside but stuffed full of crazy wires and hot glue and plastic?

Let’s answer that question right up front: no, they’re not like the Warthog. I took the things apart, and there were no loose wires and no hot glue. It’s all neat and tidy in there (and we’ve got pictures and more details a little further down).

Overall, the TPR pedals are an impressive freshman effort by Thrustmaster in a niche field where they haven’t played before—that is, high-end rudder pedals. The quality is there, but the design itself feels less like a cohesive whole and more like a design-by-committee product. It gets the job done—very well, in fact!—but I don’t think anyone could call it pretty.

Read 68 remaining paragraphs | Comments

AI learns to decipher images based on spoken words—almost like a toddler

Ars Technica - September 23, 2018 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / Given this picture and audio of the word "airliner," a neural network identifies the portions of the image where there's an airplane (indicated by the red lines). The software learned to do this entirely by looking at 400,000 pictures, each paired with a brief, free-form spoken description of the scene. (credit: David Harwath et al.)

Babies learn words by matching images to sounds. A mother says "dog" and points to a dog. She says "tree" and points to a tree. After repeating this process thousands of times, babies learn to recognize both common objects and the words associated with them.

Researchers at MIT have developed software with the same ability to learn to recognize objects in the world using nothing but raw images and spoken audio. The software examined about 400,000 images, each paired with a brief audio clip describing the scene. By studying these labels, the software was able to correctly label which portions of the picture contained each object mentioned in the audio description.

For example, this image comes with the caption "a white and blue jet airliner near trees at the base of a low mountain."

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Exploring Wanli UFO Village - CNET

cNET.com - News - September 23, 2018 - 2:00pm
On a beach in northern Taiwan, a few dozen Futuro and Venturo houses, designs of the future from the 1960s, sit abandoned and rotting away. It's a fascinating place; here's how it looks.

GM files patent application for a 'clutch-by-wire' system - Roadshow

cNET.com - News - September 23, 2018 - 1:00pm
This new system would function like an e-throttle and could open up new possibilities for the manual transmission.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai pens memo warning employees against bias - CNET

cNET.com - News - September 22, 2018 - 10:26pm
Pichai says the idea that Google alters search results to favor a political agenda is "absolutely false." He also says employees will be held accountable.

NAD’s Bluetooth Viso HP70: Ready for audiophile prime time? - CNET

cNET.com - News - September 22, 2018 - 5:17pm
NAD comes late to Bluetooth and noise-canceling headphones -- was it worth the wait?

Here's what was missing from Amazon's crazy event this week - CNET

cNET.com - News - September 22, 2018 - 3:26pm
Not a lot -- but it was telling.

Two Japanese robots are now happily hopping on an asteroid [Updated]

Ars Technica - September 22, 2018 - 3:15pm

Enlarge / The Hayabusa2 spacecraft spies its shadow Thursday night as it descends toward Ryugu to deploy two small rovers. (credit: JAXA)

Saturday update: More than 24 hours after they were released by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft to fly down to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, the Japanese Space Agency has finally provided an update on the fate of the two tiny robots. And they're doing quite well indeed.

"We are sorry we have kept you waiting!" the space agency, JAXA, tweeted. "MINERVA-II1 consists of two rovers, 1a & 1b. Both rovers are confirmed to have landed on the surface of Ryugu. They are in good condition and have transmitted photos & data. We also confirmed they are moving on the surface."

Then, the rovers shared some pictures, including these two.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Founders of Gloomhaven groans beneath its own weight

Ars Technica - September 22, 2018 - 3:00pm

Enlarge

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.

“In the age after the Demon War, the continent enjoys a period of prosperity. Humans have made peace with the Valrath and Inox. Quatryls and Orchids arrive from across the Misty Sea looking to trade. It is decided that a new city will be built on the eastern shores—a hub of trade and a symbol of many races working in harmony. Each race brings their own specialty to the city, and each race holds a desire for influence over the city by contributing the most to its construction.”

This, the opening paragraph of Founders of Gloomhaven’s bewilderingly dense manual, might mean something to hardcore board gamers—but to anyone who hasn’t played the original Gloomhaven, the current heavyweight champion of board gaming, it’s confusing (to say the least). As you’ll see, confusion and complexity are the order of the day with Founders.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The curious sudden rise of free US election 'net security guardians

The Register - September 22, 2018 - 1:54pm
There is no such thing as a gratis lunch, after all

Analysis Nothing super-fuels a security sales pitch like the sort of threat it’s hard to ignore.…

Post-Cody Wilson’s arrest, few know what’s up with his company or legal efforts

Ars Technica - September 22, 2018 - 1:30pm

Enlarge / At Defense Distributed's nondescript space among the North Austin business parks, it was business as usual on September 21, 2018. (credit: Nathan Mattise)

AUSTIN, Texas—On the surface, everything appears to be normal at Defense Distributed, the firearms company founded by 3D printed guns activist Cody Wilson. Employees have been reporting to work as usual. Sales of the Ghost Gunner and the related 3D-printed gun files on a USB stick continue. And the Defense Distributed team has been working to fulfill those just like any other week.

But of course, it hasn't been just any other week for the Austin company. On Wednesday, September 19, an arrest warrant was issued for Wilson related to his alleged sexual assault of an unnamed underage girl. And on Friday, September 21, Wilson was arrested in Taipei, Taiwan. He flew to the country roughly two weeks earlier, and the Austin Police Department said that Wilson had skipped his return flight to the US after they believe the man received a tip about the allegations.

So while business at Defense Distributed rolls along at the moment, the company founder likely faces criminal charges upon returning to his home city. And that means Wilson could be effectively out at Defense Distributed.

Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

9 great reads from CNET this week - CNET

cNET.com - News - September 22, 2018 - 1:00pm
Fallout shelters are the new real estate craze; Amazon wants Alexa to take over the world; and don't expect a 5G iPhone anytime soon.

Watch Android Auto and Apple CarPlay slug it out in a Mazda CX-9 - Roadshow

cNET.com - News - September 22, 2018 - 1:00pm
YouTubers "The Straight Pipes" sit down to find out which platform is better now that Apple CarPlay supports Google Maps.

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