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Industry & Technology

Apple refreshes MacBook Pro with updated keyboard, 8-core 9th gen Intel CPUs

Ars Technica - 1 hour 18 min ago

Enlarge / The 2017 and 2018 15-inch MacBook Pros side-by-side. Each has a butterfly keyboard. (credit: Samuel Axon)

In the second update to the current crop of MacBook Pros since they were released in July 2018, Apple this week has expanded the available CPU options for both the 13-inch and 15-inch models. The 15-inch MacBook Pro has moved to Intel's 9th generation CPUs and offers 8-core options for the first time in the product line's history. The 13-inch saw a more modest CPU specifications bump. The MacBook Pro's price points remain the same.

Just as importantly, Apple has made another update to its butterfly keyboards in the MacBook Pro. This marks the fourth generation of the butterfly keyboard that has divided users and seen some widely publicized hardware failures that resulted in an ongoing repair program from Apple. Apple claimed significant improvements to reliability in the third generation that shipped with laptops introduced in 2018, but users continued to report issues.

Apple says it has changed the material it is using in the new, fourth-generation keyboards, and the company expects the change to substantially reduce the prevalence of issues with keys double-typing without user input, or failing to type at all with user input. The company hasn't yet gotten more specific than that, so we'll have to wait on teardowns and testing to learn more.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Huawei’s US ban: A look at the hardware (and software) supply problems

Ars Technica - 1 hour 23 min ago

President Trump's Huawei ban is in full effect, and companies from all over the country are announcing they will no longer be doing business with Huawei. Google, Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Intel are all cutting ties with Huawei, and once this new 90-day exemption is up, really every US company would no longer be allowed to supply Huawei with technology or services. Trump's executive order is very broad, prohibiting "any acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in, or use of any information and communications technology or service" by any foreign company the US government deems a threat, in this case, Huawei.

With Huawei cut off from US technology, exactly how hard will it be for the company to continue to make smartphones? For an idea of how much Huawei would need to change, let's do a parts audit on the company's latest flagship smartphone, the Huawei P30 Pro. We'll see where each component comes from and what other options exist out there in the ecosystem. Between spec sheets, teardowns from iFixit, and EE Times, we can whip together a pretty good list of components and their countries of origin.

The Power of HiSilicon

(credit: Huawei)

The System on a Chip is the heart of any smartphone, supplying most of your basic three-letter computer components like the CPU, GPU, LTE modem, GPS, and more. Huawei is better off than most companies in this area—it's one of the few companies (along with Samsung) that has its own chip-design division. Huawei's "HiSilicon" group designs SoCs for its smartphones, and the Huawei P30 Pro uses the HiSilicon Kirin 980 SoC. HiSilicon has its own LTE modem solution and is a leader in 5G modems.

Read 27 remaining paragraphs | Comments

See how much faster Sony’s next PlayStation can load Spider-Man

Ars Technica - 1 hour 33 min ago

Sony's official video comparing performance of PS4 Pro vs next-gen PlayStation pic.twitter.com/2eUROxKFLq

— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) May 21, 2019

Last month, Sony showed Wired a demo highlighting how the PS4's successor would utilize SSD storage to heavily improve load times over the PS4. Now we can all see a similar demo for ourselves, thanks to video captured at a recent investor presentation.

The video above, taken by the Wall Street Journal's Takashi Mochizuki, shows a scene from Insomniac's Spider-Man loading in 0.83 seconds on Sony's "next generation" console, compared to 8.1 seconds on the PS4 Pro. That's a smaller improvement than the one cited by Wired (which reported a change from "15 seconds" to "0.8 seconds, to be exact") but it's still a difference that can add up over the course of hours spent with a game.

Sony's demo also showed how the upcoming console's SSD can help improve game situations where content is streamed continuously from the hard drive rather than loaded in large chunks. In a fly-through on Spider-Man's version of New York City, a PS4 Pro had to pause every few seconds when the apparent flight speed got too fast. On the next PlayStation, the data streams without any apparent loading pauses even at the increased speed.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Bleach peddled as 'miracle' autism cure on YouTube

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 41 min ago
An investigation by Business Insider led the site to take down most - but not all - of the videos.

Driverless cars: Cambridge University model cars 'talk' to avoid jams

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 44 min ago
Researchers say it shows driverless cars working together could improve traffic flow by at least 35%.

Black Mirror S5 is almost here and Netflix just dropped three new trailers

Ars Technica - 1 hour 52 min ago

Nicole Beharie and Anthony Mackie star in "Striking Vipers," one of three new episodes in the upcoming fifth season of the Netflix anthology series Black Mirror.

The long-awaited fifth season of Black Mirror debuts next month, and Netflix just released three—count 'em—new one-minute trailers to stoke fans' anticipation.

Black Mirror is the creation of Charlie Brooker, co-showrunner with Annabel Jones. The series explores the darker side of technology and its impact on people's lives in the near future, and it's in the spirit of classic anthology series like The Twilight Zone. Brooker developed Black Mirror to highlight topics related to humanity's relationship to technology, creating stories that feature "the way we live now—and the way we might be living in 10 minutes' time if we're clumsy." The series debuted on the British Channel 4 in December 2011, followed by a second season. Noting its popularity, Netflix took over the series in 2015, releasing longer seasons 3 and 4 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The first season 5 teaser dropped last week, showcasing an impressive cast that includes Anthony Mackie, Miley Cyrus, Topher Grace, Nicole Beharie, Damson Idris, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, among others. We only caught glimpses of what the three episodes might be about, and now we have a separate trailer for each yielding a bit more information.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft: Gaming should be for everyone, shouldn’t be toxic stew

Ars Technica - 2 hours 2 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's Xbox chief Phil Spencer has written a paean to video gaming, calling games a unifying force that anyone and everyone can enjoy. He rejoices in gaming's ability to sustain communities, foster friendships, and even reduce stress and depression. He also describes the shift gaming has made; games aren't just the domain of teenage boys but have grown far beyond that: most gamers are adults, and nearly half are women.

But against these positive elements, Spencer recognizes the many flaws in the gaming community. Online life as a whole includes a "growing toxic stew of hate speech, bigotry, and misogyny," he writes, but games can be part of the solution. Spencer says that games have a uniquely equalizing ability to bring people together—we're all just names on a screen, substantially eroding differences in class, race, gender, and so on—and so present an environment that can help dismantle prejudice.

The purpose of his essay is to call on the gaming industry to work together to make gaming a safe space, one where gaming's positive features can be celebrated, without being mired in the same toxicity as contaminates the rest of the online world. To that end, he outlines three principles he wants the games industry to follow.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Natural cycles had little to do with 20th-century temperature trends

Ars Technica - 2 hours 12 min ago

Enlarge (credit: UpNorthMemories)

Reconstructing crime scenes is more or less what most geoscientists do for a living. Sometimes the “whodunnit” revolves around a mass extinction event 66 million years ago, and sometimes it’s about an extreme weather pattern just last week. But as with a homicide investigation, geologists also have to consider natural causes.

A new study led by the University of Oxford’s Karsten Haustein takes a look at the influence of natural causes on the temperatures of the last century. While natural variability inherent to the climate system was thought to play a role in some features of our temperature record, the new results suggest that the record is dominated by external forces—though some of those are natural, too.

Explaining wiggles

It’s well-established that human activities are the dominant cause of recent climate change. But looking at the instrumental temperature record, which goes back to the late 1800s, there are significant wiggles that look curious. Why, for example, did global temperatures drop for a time after World War II before resuming their upward ascent in the late 1970s?

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Get Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptop for just $849

Ars Technica - 2 hours 27 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of deals today. Topping our list is a pre-Memorial Day doorbuster from Lenovo for a very popular ThinkPad machine. Now you can get the 5th-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon, featuring an Intel Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD for just $849.

The X1 Carbon is a favorite of many, including a few Ars staffers, for its no-nonsense, yet sleek design as well as its power and practicality. Its carbon fiber chassis keeps it lightweight, and at about 16mm thick, it's quite thin as well. Its keyboard stands out as one of the most comfortable we've ever used on a laptop, and TrackPoint ball users will appreciate that Lenovo retained that beloved trackpad alternative. Every model also comes standard with a fingerprint sensor on the palm rest area as well as a versatile array of ports that includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-A ports, and a full-sized HDMI port.

The 5th-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon isn't the newest model—it debuted in 2017 and was updated in 2018 with newer processors and small changes, including a new physical camera shutter over the webcam and an optional IR camera. Lenovo is also gearing up to debut the 7th-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon later this year, which will include Whiskey Lake chips, an optional 4K display panel, and the high starting price of $1,709.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

PlayStation boss: “We believe the streaming era is upon us.”

Ars Technica - 2 hours 50 min ago

Enlarge / PlayStation Now currently offers 780 streaming games, and Sony promises to expand that catalog significantly going forward.

In a wide-ranging investor presentation that focused on Sony's future gaming plans, Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan echoed comments from companies like Google in saying "we believe the streaming era is upon us and is about to begin a period of rapid growth."

To support that bold statement, Ryan cited Sony's own internal data on the 5.6 million PS4 owners that use the system's Remote Play functionality, which essentially turns the console into a home server that can stream games to PC/Mac, iOS, and Xperia-branded Android devices. The "growing appetite" for that feature among PS4 users is "one of the concrete reasons we feel the move to streaming is upon us," Ryan said, and the feature will make a return for the PS4's console successor.

Sony has also learned a lot about streaming's potential from PlayStation Now, the streaming game service it launched in 2015. In opening remarks, Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said examining usage patterns for PlayStation Now's 700,000 subscribers has taught the company "what kinds of games fit the needs of people who subscribe to such a service. We intend to strengthen content catalog, including AAA titles, and are working to make those improvements."

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

AT&T outclassed Verizon in hurricane response, and it wasn’t close, union says

Ars Technica - 3 hours 31 min ago

Enlarge / PANAMA CITY, Fla. - OCTOBER 19: Mark Mauldin hangs a sign near the front of his property expressing his dissatisfaction with his Verizon cell phone service following Hurricane Michael, which slammed into the Florida Panhandle on October 10. (credit: Getty Images | Scott Olson )

After Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc on Florida last year, AT&T restored wireless service more quickly than Verizon because it relied on well-trained employees while Verizon instead used contractors that "did not have the proper credentials," according to a union that represents workers from both telecoms.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) made the allegations yesterday in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission, which recently found that carriers' mistakes prolonged outages caused by the hurricane. Many customers had to go without cellular service for more than a week.

It's not surprising for a union to argue that union workers are preferable to contractors, of course. But it seems clear that AT&T did a better job than Verizon after the storm. In the days following the October 2018 hurricane, Florida Governor Rick Scott slammed Verizon for its poor hurricane response while praising AT&T for quickly restoring service.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

War Stories: Lucas Pope and what almost sank Return of the Obra Dinn

Ars Technica - 3 hours 43 min ago

Video shot and edited by Justin Wolfson. Click here for transcript.

Lucas Pope is an important name in modern gaming—not only did he help bring us Uncharted and Uncharted 2, but he's also responsible for the indie smash hit Papers, Please, which managed to pack a surprising amount of storytelling and emotion into what is effectively a document stamping simulator.

But we're particularly fond of Pope's 2018 murder mystery Return of the Obra Dinn, where players must figure out what happened to all 60 souls aboard a ship that has turned up in port bereft of life (think sort of a mash-up of Clue and Event Horizon). The game's low-fi monochrome graphical style is meant to evoke '80s- and '90s-era Macintosh adventure games, and it works stunningly well—the stark polygonal shapes and 1-bit stipple-shading are instantly evocative of the era. (For me, firing up Obra Dinn triggers powerful memories of hours spent at my high school computer lab, eschewing real work to play a seemingly endless pile of HyperCard adventures. Though I fought on the side of the IBMs in the Great BBS Platform Wars of the early '90s, I just couldn't keep my paws off of those damn Macs.)

In Obra Dinn, players use a small device on or near each of the ship's 60 bodies to show them a brief moment in time where that person died, and the player must then make sure that the means of that person's death is properly recorded in a logbook. It's a mechanism that mixes together elements of logic puzzles and text adventures, and while Pope put a lot of time and thought into the pick-a-word sentence builder and the various semantic structures players might use to frame their murder theories ("Tom knifed Bob" and "Tom stabbed Bob" and "Tom cut Bob" all have to be interpreted by the game as holding the same underlying meaning), there was one monster he wasn't prepared to face: localization.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Female-voice AI reinforces bias, says UN report

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 50 min ago
Voice assistants need to be gender-neutral argues a UN study.

The (End)Game of Thrones: Mythical pet redemption, VFX, and finale silver linings

Ars Technica - 4 hours 23 min ago

Enlarge / The Stark children during happier times? (Back in April when the final season of Game of Thrones premiered in Belfast and no one else knew what was coming.) (credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO)

Like many workplaces, the Ars Orbital HQ has been filled with many Game of Thrones proclamations these last six weeks. With the series finale now behind us, we've compiled other staffers' final thoughts below. For a full review of the series' final season, head to Jennifer Ouellette's thorough analysis. Warning: It's all spoilers from here on out.

A matter of time

HBO is well-known for canceling beloved series before their time, occasionally offering as recompense a couple of movie-length “episodes” after the fact to tie up loose ends for the diehards. If not for its mammoth budget and record-breakingly bombastic set pieces—plus, of course, the fact that the show is one of the biggest cultural touchstones of the past decade—the final season of Game of Thrones would have felt much like one of those hurried cancelled-show denouements, the kind where writers frantically check off boxes and smash round plot points into square holes.

Over much of its existence, Game of Thrones was nothing if not unhurried, occasionally to a fault. The show felt like something that was always going to be there, and conceiving of an ending to its many slow-moving plot threads and character arcs generally seemed so far away that it wasn’t worth speculating about. It was always going to be an unenviable task to bring such a mammoth work to any sort of conclusion, nevermind a universally satisfying one, and we have little reason to believe that the broad contours of the show’s ending differ drastically from George R.R. Martin’s vision. In fact, if the ending had been given time to breathe (at least a full season, but more realistically two), we might have had a successful ending (assuming some of the more galling decisions were also left on the cutting room floor).

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google changes policy on abortion advertising

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 29 min ago
Advertisers will be made to disclose whether they provide abortions before running ads in the US, UK and Ireland.

Pre-E3 2019: Oculus wants you to paddle a stealth VR kayak—and it’s awesome

Ars Technica - 4 hours 58 min ago

Enlarge / Are you telling me you don't pack remote-detonation explosives, a dozen clips full of bullets, and a silenced pistol on your family kayak trip? Phantom: Covert Ops, a VR stealth game coming later this year to Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift, would like to have a word with your camping-trip organizer. (credit: Oculus Studios / nDreams)

SANTA MONICA, California—I could not stop giggling.

I had just watched a pitch for a new single-player stealth video game from Oculus Studios, titled Phantom: Covert Ops, and was intrigued. The video looked like an interesting game's opening sequence, in which players slip into a defended terrorist compound by paddling beneath its steel belly in a very quiet kayak. That's a cool, REI-style way to begin a VR version of Metal Gear Solid, I thought. I was sure we'd soon see a hero hop onto land and get down to VR-espionage business.

Then the 30-second video ended, and a producer for the game gestured to a series of Oculus Quest demo stations while talking at length about this "military kayak" system and how it enabled "free and comfortable exploration" within the confines of VR.

Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

For the fifth year in a row, a named storm has formed early in the Atlantic

Ars Technica - 5 hours 33 min ago

Enlarge / Subtropical Storm Andrea, about 475km southwest of Bermuda, isn't much to look at. (credit: NOAA)

On Monday evening, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center determined that a low pressure system in the Atlantic Ocean had sustained winds of 40mph, and therefore should be named Subtropical Storm Andrea. This was the first named storm of the 2019 Atlantic season, and it could bring some moderate rainfall to Bermuda on Wednesday before dissipating.

Officially, the Atlantic hurricane season does not begin until June 1, and notionally ends on Nov. 30. However, the formation of Andrea marks the fifth year in a row—dating to Tropical Storm Ana in 2015—that a named storm has formed before June 1.

This is unprecedented. According to Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane scientist at the University of Colorado, the development of Andrea breaks the previous record of four consecutive years with a pre-June storm formation. The former record was set from 1951 through 1954, he told Ars. The total of seven pre-June storms this decade, the 2010s, has also tied the number recorded in the 1950s.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

US warns of threat from Chinese drone companies

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 11 min ago
The alert raises concerns that the Chinese government might gain access to confidential data.

General Motors designs a new “brain and nervous system” for its vehicles

Ars Technica - 6 hours 53 min ago

Enlarge / An illustration of the new Cadillac CT5 with the electrical systems highlighted in teal. (credit: General Motors)

A common criticism of the increasingly digital nature of new cars and trucks is that all these new features are being shoehorned into systems that were not designed with features like connectivity in mind. The ubiquitous Controller Area Network bus (CANbus) first showed up in a new vehicle in 1991, long before anyone thought that it was a good idea to connect every new car to the Internet. To that end, on Monday, General Motors revealed an all-new platform architecture, designed with the needs of future-proofed connected autonomous electric vehicles in mind. "It's the brain and nervous system of the vehicles, and it's five times more capable than the one fitted to current vehicles," said Al Adams, GM's director of electric architecture and technology.

Adams is referring to the fact that the new electronic platform can manage processing up to 4.5TB per hour. One feature of the new electronic platform is support for much higher bandwidth, which means component connections of 100Mb/s, 1Gb/s, and 10Gb/s. Some of that will be helpful for the inclusion of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and Adams said that the new electronic architecture will speed the rollout of GM's impressive "Super Cruise" driver assistance package across the automaker's lineup. It will also allow for higher resolution displays within the vehicle, whether that's the main instrument display in front of a driver or HD infotainment screens for the passengers.

The system has been designed with over-the-air updates in mind, an often-requested feature now that Tesla has proven the idea out. "Almost all the modules on the system have the ability to be OTA updated," explained Adams. "The interface is much like a smartphone and enables us to change the vehicle's character."

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

We probably don’t descend from Australopithecus sediba

Ars Technica - 8 hours 13 min ago

Enlarge / According to Du and Alemseged, A. sediba is probably not our direct ancestor. (credit: Brett Eloff courtesy Profberger and Wits University)

Sometime around 2 million years ago, a group of bipedal hominins in Eastern Africa gradually evolved into something that looked and acted enough like us to be part of our genus, Homo. This was an important moment in the evolutionary history of our species, but paleoanthropologists aren’t sure yet exactly which species actually gave rise to our branch of the hominin family tree. A new study, however, suggests that we can probably rule out one of the contenders.

Where did we come from?

The top contenders include a species called Australopithecus sediba, known from the fossilized remains of two adults and four children who apparently fell to their deaths in Malapa Cave around 1.9 million years ago. The other top contender is called A. afarensis, best known from the 3.2-million-year-old skeleton nicknamed Lucy and a set of preserved footprints near Laetoli, Tanzania.

Both species walked on two legs and probably made stone tools, but their shoulders, arms, and hands were also still built for climbing trees. So which species is actually our ancestor, and which is just a distant cousin?

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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