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Industry & Technology

Microsoft hits $1 trillion market valuation

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 47 min ago
It is one of only three public companies to have achieved the milestone, along with Apple and Amazon.

Huawei leak row: Government 'cannot exclude' criminal investigation

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 53 min ago
A cabinet minister condemns the leaks from a National Security Council meeting about a UK 5G network.

Google Stadia will support “a variety of business models”

Ars Technica - 2 hours 22 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 - 3 hours 23 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 - 3 hours 48 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 - 4 hours 35 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 - 5 hours 36 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. 

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Failed Zozosuit hits company profits

BBC Technology News - 5 hours 43 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 - 5 hours 51 min 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.

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

Ars Technica - 16 hours 11 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.

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Tesla reports big first quarter loss

Ars Technica - 16 hours 26 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 - 16 hours 56 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 - 17 hours 26 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

Out of bounds: Why basketball players believe they weren’t last to touch ball

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 7:52pm

Enlarge / Boston Celtics' Al Horford and Indiana Pacers' Thaddeus Young chase a ball out of bounds during a March game. A new study found that a self-centered bias in time perception might affect how each perceives who touched the ball last. (credit: Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe/Getty Images)

With the NBA playoffs in full swing, emotions are running high among super-fans, inevitably leading to lots of heated arguments about bad referee calls and disputed plays. For instance, when a ball goes out of bounds, it can sometimes be challenging to determine which player touched it last. Both players will undoubtedly argue their opponent touched it last, trying to give possession of the ball to their own team. The other player will just as forcefully argue the opposite.

Who is right? According to a new paper in Science Advances, both players are subject to a kind of temporal bias whereby they will perceive themselves touching the ball first. "Our brains tell us that actions generated by ourselves come before simultaneous external events," the authors write. "Briefly, we have identified what may be a principal cause of arguments in ball games, and it's about time."

According to co-author Ty Tang, a graduate student in psychology at Arizona State University, the idea for the study emerged from conversations with his advisor, Michael McBeath, about subjective perception, particularly of time. This naturally evolved into how this subjective perception plays out in sports, specifically arguments over who touched the ball last before it went out of bounds in basketball. Tang proposed a series of three experiments to determine if the players might genuinely experience hitting the ball before their opponents in such scenarios. It wasn't the chaotic environment of a live basketball game, but it allowed them to control the variables to produce a robust study.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

EPA administrator asked to back up climate claims made on TV with science

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 7:24pm

Enlarge / Acting Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler listens as President Donald J. Trump leads a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on July 18, 2018, in Washington, DC. (credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

In an appearance on CBS News in late March, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler told Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett that the threat posed by climate change is "50 to 75 years out."

Now, environmental lobby group Sierra Club has asked the EPA for any scientific evidence that backs up this claim. The group filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the agency, hoping to receive documentation that could back up Wheeler's claim.

The move is preliminary, but it's interesting because it follows in the footsteps of a successful challenge by another activist group: PEER, or Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. In 2017, PEER submitted a FOIA request for scientific evidence that could support statements made by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on CNBC, where the administrator claimed that carbon dioxide was not known to be a major factor in climate change.

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Motor technology from Model 3 helps Tesla boost Model S range 10%

Ars Technica - April 24, 2019 - 6:07pm

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Tesla's Model S is known for its long range, with the 100kWh version rated to travel 335 miles (540 km) between charges. On Tuesday, Tesla announced changes to the Model S drivetrain that boosted the range by more than 10 percent to 370 miles (595 km).

Similar improvements have pushed the range of the high-end Model X up to 325 miles (525 km). And that's all without increasing the vehicle's battery capacity. The cars are simply able to go 10 percent further for every kWh of charge—which translates to electricity savings for Tesla customers.

Several factors combined to produce these impressive efficiency gains. Tesla switched one of the motors in the Model S and Model X to a new technology pioneered in the Model 3. The company also announced an improved suspension system and other efficiency tweaks throughout the vehicle. The impressive result: greater than 93 percent energy efficiency.

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