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Industry & Technology

Huawei row: 'Inquiry to be held' into National Security Council leak

BBC Technology News - 11 min 13 sec ago
Cabinet sources tell the BBC a formal inquiry will be held into leak from National Security Council.

Huawei leak row: Government 'cannot exclude' criminal investigation

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 15 min ago
A cabinet minister condemns the leaks from a National Security Council meeting about a UK 5G network.

New type of plastic is a recycling dream

Ars Technica - 1 hour 53 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Elliot Margolies)

Recycling sounds great in principle (because it is), but a frustrating number of devils lurk in the details. For example, while some materials like aluminum can readily be melted down and turned right back into new aluminum cans, recovered plastics tend to be lower quality than “virgin” material. That’s because recycled plastic retains some of its previous properties—like Lego bricks that can’t be separated. The next plastic you make won’t be exactly the same type, and the recycled material won’t fit perfectly into its new spot.

To improve this situation, plastics engineers want to create new materials that can cleanly and easily break down to the most basic components—individual Lego bricks that can be reassembled into absolutely anything. The difficulty of this task is increased by all the pigments, flame retardants, and other additives used in plastics. But a group led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Peter Christensen has developed a new plastics process that conquers these challenges.

The basic building block of a plastic is called a “monomer”—connect monomers together and you create “polymers” with the useful physical properties you’re after. In this case, the researchers are using triketones and amines as building-block monomers. The process for putting them together sounds like minor sorcery (as chemistry often does): combining chemical ingredients causes different building blocks to form, which then spontaneously assemble.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tesla’s autonomy event: Impressive progress with an unrealistic timeline

Ars Technica - 2 hours 32 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson / Tesla)

There's an old joke in the software engineering world, sometimes attributed to Tom Cargill of Bell Labs: "the first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time."

On Monday, Tesla held a major event to show off the company's impressive progress toward full self-driving technology. The company demonstrated a new neural network computer that seems to be competitive with industry leader Nvidia. And Tesla explained how it leverages its vast fleet of customer-owned vehicles to collect data that helps the company train its neural networks.

Elon Musk's big message was that Tesla was close to reaching the holy grail of fully self-driving cars. Musk predicts that by the end of the year, Tesla's cars will be able to navigate both surface streets and freeways, allowing them to drive between any two points without human input.

Read 51 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft hits $1 trillion market valuation

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 56 min ago
It is one of only three public companies to have achieved the milestone, along with Apple and Amazon.

Google Stadia will support “a variety of business models”

Ars Technica - 3 hours 31 min ago

Last month, when Google revealed its upcoming Stadia streaming gaming platform, it left open the major question of precisely how Google and game developers would make money from these games running on remote servers. In an on-stage discussion at LA's GamesBeat Summit this week, though, Google's Phil Harrison mentioned that "our platform at a fundamental level has been architected to support a very wide variety of what people call 'monetization options.' Everything from purchase to transaction to subscription."

That's not quite a direct confirmation that all those different options will be available to developers on Stadia. All Harrison would reveal is that "there is no technical limitation on how we have architected the platform to support a variety of business models." (Emphasis ours.). But that architecture would be a very odd thing for Harrison to bring up if, say, Google was planning to impose a one-size-fits-all subscription on Stadia users.

In discussing Stadia, Harrison has put a lot of focus on how the platform makes it easy for players to share a game through a link in a text message, for instance, or by letting people instantly jump in to an instance of a game they're watching on YouTube at a specific point on the video. This form of game discovery could "change the way game value is perceived by players," Harrison said, by removing the "retail store pressure" and limited "outward facing" selection of brick-and-mortar and digital storefronts. "When a game is a link, the Internet is your store," he said. "That means we can change the perceived value of games."

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Russia's Facebook is now balanced, as all things should be

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 32 min ago
Social media website VKontakte temporarily removes 400,000 users by mimicking Avengers: Infinity War.

US Uber drivers plan 12-hour shutdown over pay and conditions

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 57 min ago
The drivers' protest coincides with the ride-hailing firm's debut on the stock market.

Days Gone impressions: Fun motorcycle times hampered by everything else

Ars Technica - 5 hours 44 min ago

Enlarge / Your hopes for a lengthy, charisma-filled biker romp in Days Gone should be tempered for many reasons. One of them is the fact that main character Deacon (left) doesn't interact nearly as much with his buddy Boozer as we'd originally hoped. (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Sony's streak of must-play, open-world video games does not necessarily come to a grinding halt with this week's new PS4 exclusive Days Gone. But it's absolutely a tougher elevator pitch than the likes of Spider-Man, God of War, and Horizon Zero Dawn.

Each of those Sony exclusives has some game-changing gem I can use to insist that they're worth investing in for dozens of hours—that sort of unmistakable highlight to finish the sentence "polished open-world adventure and," including massive-city web-slinging, polished story, and robo-dino safaris, respectively. The special sauce in Days Gone, which arrives with the baggage of "yet another zombie game" as a loud descriptor, is a lot tougher to extract. It's there, but it's mild.

What follows is not a comprehensive Days Gone review, but rather my take after 10 hours of the game convinced me I had seen enough to declare this a fine-enough game rental—nothing more, nothing less.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Signature of changing fundamental constants may hide in copper block

Ars Technica - 6 hours 45 min ago

(credit: L. F. Pašteka/Comenius University)

Once upon a time, I was involved in an abortive attempt to measure the variation of the fundamental constants. Thanks to that experience, I’ve always had an interest in these measurements, so a new paper describing an alternative way to detect changes in fundamental constants caught my eye.

The fundamental constants—the speed of light, Planck’s constant, the charge of the electron, etc.—are taken to be fixed in value. But there is no theory to explain the fundamental constants, nor is there a reason for them to be constant. They could have been different in the past, and they may be different in the future. Spectroscopic measurements of stars and galaxies at ever-increasing distances tell us that if the fundamental constants were different, it wasn’t by much. We now know that the limit for the relative variation of alpha is 10-17 per year.

Which constants should we measure?

When it comes to these measurements, physicists and astronomers generally focus on alpha and mu. Alpha, otherwise known as the fine structure constant, is a combination of the electric charge, the speed of light, and Plank’s constant. It describes the strength in binding energy between negatively charged electrons and the positively charged nucleus of an atom. Hence, it can be directly measured in the light emitted by hydrogen in distant stars. 

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Zozo quits Europe after Zozosuit flop

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 53 min ago
A failed experiment with a body-measuring suit has eaten away at fashion retailer Zozo's profits.

Cautious rollout of the world’s first malaria vaccine, which is 39% effective

Ars Technica - 7 hours 52 sec ago

Enlarge / A health surveillance assistant (HAS) gets malaria vaccine from its bottle into an injection to be administered to a child at the beginning of the malaria vaccine implementation pilot program at Mitundu Community Hospital in Malawi's capital district of Lilongwe on April 23, 2019. (credit: Getty | Amos Gumulira)

Sometimes, a vaccine is a slam dunk. Take the 97.5-percent-effective Ebola vaccine, for instance, or the 97-percent-effective measles vaccine. Other times, a vaccine is a dud, however, offering little to no protection and clearly destined for the dustbin.

Then there is a third group: the vaccines that fall in the middle. They might protect some, but far from all. The fate of these vaccines is less certain—an open question, in fact.

Such is the case of the world’s first malaria vaccine, which on Tuesday, April 23, was cautiously added to routine vaccinations in the African nation of Malawi as part of a pilot program. Ghana and Kenya will also introduce the vaccine in coming weeks.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

First teaser for new Swamp Thing TV series brings on the straight-up horror

Ars Technica - 17 hours 20 min ago

Swamp Thing teaser trailer.

DC Universe has dropped the first teaser for its forthcoming TV adaption of Swamp Thing, and tonally it feels more like a horror film than your standard comic superhero fare. And that makes sense, given that one of the executive producers is Aquaman Director James Wan, who brought us The Conjuring and Insidious franchises and (just last week) The Curse of La Llorana.

(Spoilers for the DC character below.)

The original Swamp Thing character was created in 1971 by comics writer Len Wein as he was riding the subway in Queens. ("I didn't have a title for it, so I kept referring to it as 'that swamp thing I'm working on.' And that's how it got its name," he told Wizard Entertainment in 2004.) Swamp Thing has had several human incarnations over the ensuing decades, but the best-known is Alec Holland, a scientist who invents a formula to solve the world's food-shortage problem. A criminal organization sets fire to his secret facility in Louisiana, and he runs, burning, into the swamp, drenched in his own bioreactive formula and presumed dead.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tesla reports big first quarter loss

Ars Technica - 17 hours 35 min ago

Enlarge / Elon Musk. (credit: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

After two back-to-back quarters of profits, Tesla lost $702 million in the first quarter of 2019, the company announced on Wednesday.

Tesla has been expected to post a loss for the quarter ever since the company admitted earlier his month that it had suffered a big drop in Model S and Model X deliveries. But the quarter's losses were larger than many Wall Street analysts expected.

Markets weren't fazed by the negative earnings news. After initially falling about 2 percent, Tesla's stock price bounced back and is now about where it was when the earnings numbers were released.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft 3Q19 revenue up 14% on the back of strong cloud and, uh, Windows?

Ars Technica - 18 hours 5 min ago

(credit: Julien GONG Min / Flickr)

In the third quarter of its 2019 financial year, which ran up until March 31, 2019, Microsoft's revenue was $30.6 billion, up 14 percent year on year. Operating income was up 25 percent to $10.3 billion, net income up 19 percent to $8.8 billion, and earnings per share up 20 percent to $1.14.

Microsoft has three reporting segments: Productivity and Business Processes (covering Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Skype, Dynamics, and LinkedIn), Intelligent Cloud (including Azure, Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, and Enterprise Services), and More Personal Computing (covering Windows, hardware, and Xbox, as well as search and advertising).

Productivity group revenue was up 14 percent to $10.2 billion, with operating income rising 28 percent to $4.0 billion. There's no one standout in the division but, rather, strong growth across the entire division; commercial Office products and service revenue was up 12 percent, consumer revenue up 8 percent, Dynamics revenue up 13 percent, with Dynamics 365 revenue growing by 43 percent, and LinkedIn revenue was up 27 percent. The number of commercial Office 365 seats is up 27 percent with more than 180 million monthly active users, and consumer Office 365 subscribers were up 12 percent to 34.2 million. The transition to the cloud continues to shift where Microsoft makes its money: while commercial Office 365 revenue was up 30 percent, perpetually licensed Office revenue fell by 19 percent.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Massachusetts offshore wind project gets green light at roughly 8.9 cents/kWh

Ars Technica - 18 hours 35 min ago

Enlarge / A rendering of the Vineyard Wind installation. (credit: Vineyard Wind)

Last May, Massachusetts chose companies representing a project called Vineyard Wind to negotiate long-term contracts for an 800 megawatt (MW) offshore wind project that would serve some 400,000 homes. This month, the state approved the negotiated contracts, clearing the way for Vineyard Wind to become the second (and the biggest) offshore wind farm in the United States.

The approval also included a promise from Vineyard Wind to invest $15 million to a fund that will "promote the use of battery storage in low-income communities" and "further the development of energy storage systems across the state."

There's a lot of untapped potential for offshore wind in the US. Currently, the nation only has one offshore wind farm: a 30MW site off of Rhode Island. But in places like Europe, offshore wind makes a significant contribution to energy generation, and the technology is maturing quickly there, with costs falling in tandem.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

AT&T says 5G will be priced like home Internet—pay more for faster speeds

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 10:59pm

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. (credit: AT&T)

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson today said that 5G will likely be priced similarly to wireline Internet, with customers paying more for faster speeds.

With 5G, "I will be very surprised if... the pricing regime in wireless doesn't look something like the pricing regime you see in fixed line," Stephenson said during an earnings call today. (See transcript.)

Some customers "are willing to pay a premium for 500Mbps to 1Gbps speed and so forth," Stephenson continued. "And so I expect that to be the case. We're two or three years away from seeing that play out."

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Neo-Nazi's Facebook account left active

BBC Technology News - April 24, 2019 - 8:35pm
The social network says it is investigating why the profile was not removed - as it had promised.

Huawei 5G row: Ministers demand leak inquiry

BBC Technology News - April 24, 2019 - 8:15pm
One senior minister said leaking from the security council - the "holy of holies" - was extraordinary.

In meeting with Twitter chief, Trump complains about lost followers

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 8:09pm

Enlarge / Trump giving Jack Dorsey advice on how to run Twitter better, April 23. (credit: White House )

On April 23, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had a meeting in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump. According to an email message to Twitter employees from Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's global lead for legal, policy, and trust and safety, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “the health of the public conversation on Twitter.”

In the email thread, first revealed by Motherboard, Dorsey himself explained, “As you know, I believe that conversation, not silence, bridges gaps and drives towards solutions." Dorsey pointed out that he had met "with every world leader who has extended an invitation to me, and I believe the discussions have been productive, and the outcomes meaningful.” While Dorsey noted that some employees might be less than thrilled with him taking the meeting, "In the end, I believe it’s important to meet heads of state in order to listen, share our principles and our ideas.”

The meeting came just two days after Twitter suspended some 5,000 accounts believed to be "bots" involved in a campaign to boost "#RussiaGate" and other hashtags related to posts critical of the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller—bots that had connections to an account previously used to boost pro-Saudi propaganda.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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