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Industry & Technology

Report: Cheaper Switch coming by June

Ars Technica - 2 hours 12 min ago

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 - 3 hours 18 min ago

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 - 3 hours 25 min ago
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 - 3 hours 33 min ago

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 - 3 hours 39 min ago

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 - 4 hours 53 min ago
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 - 4 hours 57 min ago

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 make 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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Huawei row: UK to let Chinese firm help build 5G network

BBC Technology News - 5 hours 38 min ago
The US wants its intelligence allies, including the UK, to exclude the Chinese telecoms giant.

Considering methane leaks, is moving from coal to natural gas all that good?

Ars Technica - 6 hours 12 min ago

Enlarge / DUNKIRK, NEW YORK, 2016: A NRG-owned coal-fired energy facility that planned to convert to a natural gas facility. (credit: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Coal is among the most polluting fuels that nations around the world use regularly to create electricity. It's especially bad in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and in order to slow climate change, we'll need to retire coal plants sooner rather than later.

Many have argued that, rather than retiring coal plants completely, they should be altered to burn natural gas if possible. Natural gas emits less than half the amount of carbon dioxide that coal does when it's burned, and it also emits fewer nitrogen oxides and less sulfur dioxide, pollutants that are harmful to human health. Natural gas is also dispatchable; unlike with renewables, we don't have to wait for the sun or the wind to appear to start generating electricity.

But using natural gas comes with less-obvious costs. Natural gas itself is mostly methane (CH4), which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas before it's combusted, although its lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than CO2. Numerous recent reports show that natural gas operations leak an uncertain amount of that methane—making it difficult to determine whether replacing coal with natural gas is actually better, at least in the short term, when lifecycle analyses of both fuels are compared.

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Microsoft Paint: Fans rejoice as art app saved 'for now'

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 52 min ago
After suggestions Paint could be removed from Windows, Microsoft says it's staying - "for now".

Jacinda Ardern leads effort to curb online extremism

BBC Technology News - 13 hours 28 sec ago
New Zealand and France will host a summit aimed at curbing the use of social media to promote terrorism.

Donald Trump meets Twitter's Jack Dorsey at White House

BBC Technology News - 14 hours 59 min ago
Twitter says CEO Jack Dorsey spoke with the president about "the health of public conversation".

How virtual reality may help Grenfell survivors 'let go of emotions'

BBC Technology News - 15 hours 58 min ago
England footballer Les Ferdinand is using VR to try to help young men deal with the trauma of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Netherlands 'hosts most child sex abuse images'

BBC Technology News - 16 hours 44 min ago
About half of such images reported to the Internet Watch Foundation in 2018 were hosted in the Netherlands.

Review: Avengers Endgame is three of Marvel’s best films, rolled into one

Ars Technica - 17 hours 31 min ago

Enlarge / The beginning of the End... game. (credit: Marvel Studios)

Ars Technica takes spoilers seriously. This Avengers Endgame review has been written with a bare minimum of plot details, for those interested in seeing the film completely fresh-eyed starting on Friday, April 26.

The buzz word "inevitability" comes up a few times during the three-hour course of Avengers Endgame. And it's fitting: there's no ignoring the buzz and build-up for this film, which began with the mega-event of Infinity War and continued with two huge teases in the satisfying (and arguably time-killing) films Ant Man 2 and Captain Marvel.

It's gonna be big, epic, full of drama, this Endgame thing. Inevitable, right? And isn't the continuation of Disney's money-printing Marvel Cinematic Universe just as inevitable? How can this movie—whose trailers have focused on loss and grief—have any teeth if superhero business is supposed to continue as usual?

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Swirling patterns in Starry Night match those in gassy star nurseries

Ars Technica - 18 hours 1 min ago

Enlarge / The bold blue and yellow swirls of Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night (1889) share turbulent properties with the molecular clouds that give birth to stars. (credit: Museum of Modern Art/Public domain)

In 2004, NASA published an image by the Hubble Space Telescope of turbulent eddies of dusty clouds moving around a supergiant star. The agency noted that this "light echo" was reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh's masterpiece, Starry Night. Now, two Australian graduate students have mathematically analyzed the painting and concluded it shares the same turbulent features as molecular clouds (where literal stars are born). They described their work in a paper posted to the physics arXiv.

The notion that van Gogh's often troubled life was reflected in his work is not especially new. In a 2014 TED-Ed talk, Natalya St. Clair, a research associate at the Concord Consortium and coauthor of The Art of Mental Calculation, used Starry Night (1889) to illuminate the concept of turbulence in a flowing fluid. In particular, she talked about how van Gogh's technique allowed him (and other Impressionist painters) to represent the movement of light across water or in the twinkling of stars. We see this as a kind of shimmering effect, because the eye is more sensitive to changes in the intensity of light (a property called luminance) than to changes in color.

In physics, turbulence relates to strong, sudden movements within air or water, usually marked by eddies and vortices. Physicists have struggled for centuries to mathematically describe turbulence. It's still one of the great remaining challenges in the field. But a Russian physicist named Andrei Kolmogorov made considerable progress in the 1940s when he predicted there would be a mathematical connection (now known as Kolmogorov scaling) between how a flow's speed fluctuates over time and the rate at which it loses energy as friction.

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Crap artists rejoice! MS Paint is getting a last-minute reprieve

Ars Technica - 18 hours 16 min ago

Enlarge / Who needs Aurich's artistic talents, anyway? (credit: Peter Bright)

Long, long ago, Microsoft quietly announced that it was going to remove the venerable mspaint.exe from Windows 10. The app was listed as deprecated, indicating intent to remove it in a future Windows 10 update, and the app itself was even updated to warn users that it was going to be removed from Windows in a future release.

Microsoft said that Paint would still be installable from the Store, but it was no longer going to be included by default. The app was even updated to include a "Product alert" button on its ribbon that, when clicked, showed a message box to warn that Paint would soon be moving to the Store. Paint's role would be filled by the new Paint 3D application, which contains most Paint features, as well as lots of 3D things.

But there's good news. The very latest builds of the Windows 10 May 2019 Update have removed the "Product alert" button, and Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc has confirmed that Paint will in fact continue to be shipped with Windows 10. You won't need to get it from the Store. As such, there will be nothing standing between Windows users and terrible artwork.

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Millimeter-wave 5G isn’t for widespread coverage, Verizon admits

Ars Technica - 18 hours 31 min ago

Enlarge / A Verizon booth at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles in September 2018. (credit: Verizon)

Verizon's early rollout of millimeter-wave 5G is producing high speeds and throughput, but the high-frequency spectrum isn't suitable for widespread coverage, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said today.

One day after T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray wrote that millimeter-wave spectrum "will never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments," wireless industry analyst Craig Moffett asked Vestberg about Ray's statement during a Verizon earnings call.

Vestberg responded that millimeter-wave spectrum "has lived up to our expectation on performance" and will get better as Verizon improves the software for managing the spectrum. But he added a significant caveat.

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Twitter shuts down 5,000 pro-Trump bots retweeting anti-Mueller report invective

Ars Technica - April 23, 2019 - 10:10pm

Enlarge / The since-suspended account for the empty "news site" The Globus was at the center of a 5,000 bot Twitter army denouncing the Mueller campaign and posting pro-Trump (and pro-Saudi) messages. (credit: via Internet Archive)

Twitter has suspended over 5,000 accounts tied to a network amplifying a message denouncing the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a "RussiaGate hoax." According to a researcher, the accounts—most of which had only posted three or four times in the past—were connected to other accounts previously used to post pro-Saudi messages.

In response to an inquiry by Ars, a Twitter spokeswoman said, "We suspended a network of accounts and others associated with it for engaging in platform manipulation—a violation of the Twitter Rules." An investigation into the network is still ongoing, the spokeswoman said, but no determination has yet been made about who was behind the campaign.

"In cases such as this, attribution is difficult," the spokeswoman noted. "If we do have reasonable evidence to support state-backed activity, we will disclose the accounts as part of our information operations archive." (This archive is the data repository used to reveal operations of networks previously tied to election manipulation and other state-backed information operations.)

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Intel puts 8 cores, 16 threads, and a 5GHz turbo option in a laptop processor

Ars Technica - April 23, 2019 - 9:30pm

Enlarge / An eight-core/16-thread Coffee Lake die. (credit: Intel)

The first processors to include Intel's ninth-generation Core branding came out last year with a limited line-up: just a handful of high-end desktop processors in the Coffee Lake family. Today, the company has unveiled a bumper crop of new ninth-gen chips. There's a set of H-series processors for laptops and a complete range of desktop processors across the Celeron, Pentium, and Core brands, from i3 all the way to i9.

The most exciting of these are the mobile H-series parts and in particular the top-of-the-line Core i9-9980HK. This is a 45W processor with eight cores, 16 threads, and 16MB of cache, with a base clock speed of 2.4GHz and a turbo speed of 5GHz. The "K" on the name also indicates that the chip is overclockable: for those truly monstrous gaming laptops with high-powered cooling systems, you'll be able to go beyond the default speeds. This chip, along with its close partner, the i9-9880H (8C/16T, 2.3-4.8GHz), has a new feature called "Thermal Velocity Boost," too. TVB allows the chip to run 100MHz quicker if it detects that the system still has thermal headroom to do so; as long as case temperatures are below 50°C, it'll give you some extra speed. In fact, TVB is the only way to hit 5GHz; without it, the maximum turbo speed drops to 4.9GHz.

The chip will be good for powerhouse mobile workstations, too; it supports up to 128GB RAM when used with the latest 32GB DDR4 modules, and it can be paired with a discrete GPU using its 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes. Intel has dubbed these powerhouse laptops as "musclebooks;" they'll be hefty desktop replacements and are likely to be outfitted with oversized cooling systems in order to more consistently reach the high clock speeds their processors are capable of. They won't come cheap, though; the i9-9980HK has a recommended price of $583 for the processor.

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