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SpaceX has won a big NASA contract to fly cargo to the Moon

Ars Technica - March 27, 2020 - 8:31pm

Enlarge / Illustration of the SpaceX Dragon XL as it is deployed from the Falcon Heavy's second stage in high Earth orbit on its way to the Gateway in lunar orbit. (credit: SpaceX)

Last summer, NASA put out a call for companies who would be willing to deliver cargo to a proposed station in orbit around the Moon, called the Lunar Gateway. On Friday, NASA announced that the first award under this "Gateway Logistics" contract would go to SpaceX.

The company has proposed using its Falcon Heavy rocket to deliver a modified version of its Dragon spacecraft, called Dragon XL, to the Lunar Gateway. After delivering cargo, experiments and other supplies, the spacecraft would be required to remain docked at the Gateway for a year before "autonomous" disposal.

“This contract award is another critical piece of our plan to return to the Moon sustainably,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a news release. “The Gateway is the cornerstone of the long-term Artemis architecture, and this deep space commercial cargo capability integrates yet another American industry partner into our plans for human exploration at the Moon in preparation for a future mission to Mars.”

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Coronavirus: Tesla donates hundreds of ventilators to New York

BBC Technology News - March 27, 2020 - 8:20pm
New York has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the US and a shortage of ventilators.

Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus [Updated 3/27]

Ars Technica - March 27, 2020 - 8:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

More than 576,800 people have been infected with a new coronavirus that has spread widely from its origin in China over the past few months. Over 26,000 have already died. Our comprehensive guide for understanding and navigating this global public health threat is below.

This is a rapidly developing epidemic, and we will update this guide periodically to keep you as prepared and informed as possible.

March 8: Initial publication of the document.
Latest Updates: A new section on loss of smell. Updated global and US case counts.
A list of all updates and additions to this document can be found at the end.

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Broadband speeds fall in dozens of big US cities during pandemic

Ars Technica - March 27, 2020 - 7:08pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | imaginima)

Home-Internet download speeds have fallen during the COVID-19 pandemic in dozens of the biggest US cities as millions of Americans stay home due to school and business closures. However, typical download speeds remain high enough to support normal broadband-usage patterns, with the vast majority of cities still above the Federal Communications Commission's 25Mbps standard.

In 88 of the 200 most populous US cities, Internet users "experienced some degree of network degradation over the past week compared to the 10 weeks prior," BroadbandNow said in a report released Wednesday. Of those, 27 cities suffered speed reductions of at least 20 percent.

New York City speeds fell by 24 percent, with median download speeds down to 51.93Mbps—still enough for bandwidth-intensive services like streaming video. While New York City has been hit hard by the spread of the novel coronavirus, the city's broadband experience isn't replicated everywhere. Seattle, where the virus is also rampant, hasn't suffered a drop in download speeds, though Seattle's speeds were already below New York City's. Seattle's most recent median-download speed was 27.1Mbps, while Seattle's median results ranged from 20.8Mbps to 29.1Mbps in the previous 10 weeks.

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Coronavirus: Peak District drone police criticised for 'lockdown shaming'

BBC Technology News - March 27, 2020 - 6:23pm
Derbyshire Police is accused of "nanny policing" after sharing aerial shots of Peak District walkers.

White House suspends environmental protection, citing coronavirus

Ars Technica - March 27, 2020 - 6:18pm

Enlarge / A man and a woman, properly socially distanced from the rest of Los Angeles, take in a view of the city on a low air quality day in November, 2019. (credit: Mario Tama | Getty Images)

2020 has a new motto: "Cancelled due to the coronavirus." Businesses, schools, sports, travel, film, and TV production, conferences, meetings, and basically any and all business as usual has been suspended in the US as individuals and institutions try to slow the spread of COVID-19. We have, at least, had outdoor space to go to—staying at least six feet away from others as we do—when we need a break from the four walls of our homes. But those spaces, along with the air we breathe and the water we drink, may get a whole lot less pleasant going forward, as the Trump administration is adding environmental protection regulations to the temporary cancellation list.

The Environmental Protection Agency is launching a "temporary enforcement discretion policy" due to the pandemic, it said late yesterday. The move comes as trade groups representing the oil and gas industry have been asking the White House and the EPA for compliance waivers.

Under the new policy, the agency will mostly not be investigating civil non-compliance with environmental regulations, although it "does not provide leniency for intentional criminal violations" of the law. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a written statement that the policy is designed to provide discretion "under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment."

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Food wholesalers offer online orders to sell stock

BBC Technology News - March 27, 2020 - 5:41pm
After trade from business stops, food and drink wholesalers are launching online home deliveries.

Amid pandemic closures, GameStop says it’s seeing increased business

Ars Technica - March 27, 2020 - 5:17pm

Enlarge / Ah, for the carefree days when you could wander into a GameStop and not worry about keeping six feet from other shoppers...

You might think that GameStop being forced to close a majority of its global retail storefronts due to concerns about the novel coronavirus would be bad for business. But CEO George Sherman said in an earnings call last night that the retailer has "seen an increase in store and online traffic over the past few weeks" that might actually help its bottom line.

"Despite having most of our European stores closed for the last few weeks, the increased demand for our products across the world has led to a positive 2% comparable sales results for the March month-to-date period through Saturday," GameStop CFO Jim Bell said during the call. "As millions of consumers adapt to remote work, play, and learning, we're pleased to be able to serve their needs," Sherman added.

Though that's an impressive statistic at first blush, it looks a bit weaker when you put it in context. "Through Saturday," for instance, doesn't cover the time since GameStop finally decided to close all of its US stores (which make up the vast majority of its worldwide retail space) to regular foot traffic. "I think when this all began, there was a pretty good level of demand that we saw while our stores were fully opened and that is the sales period that Jim talks about when you talk about through Saturday of last week," Sherman noted.

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AI Versus the Coronavirus

Slashdot - March 27, 2020 - 4:45pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

MacBook Air teardown finds positive progress for repairability

Ars Technica - March 27, 2020 - 4:37pm

iFixit, a company that sells gadget-repair parts and publishes regular teardowns of popular devices, dug into the new MacBook Air this week and found it to be a slight step-up for MacBooks in terms of repairability.

The site found that the move from the butterfly keyboard to the new scissor-switch one only added “half a millimeter to the thick end of the new Air.” And the site speculates that these keys should be much more reliable, noting that no silicone barrier is needed as it was on the butterfly keyboard to mitigate that design’s problems.

Keyboard aside, the teardown uncovered a larger heartsink for the CPU, plus a couple of things that might make this laptop a bit easier to service than its predecessor.

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OnePlus 8 Pro will finally add wireless charging, IP68 water-resistance

Ars Technica - March 27, 2020 - 4:27pm

Enlarge / The camera assembly of the OnePlus 8 Pro. (credit: OnLeaks)

OnePlus has been regularly pumping out the best Android phones for several years now, so soon all eyes will be on the OnePlus 8 Pro, the company's upcoming flagship smartphone for 2020. A pair of recent leaks gives us a look at the official press render and the specs.

First up, OnLeaks has a pair of official press renders of the device. Just like the CAD-based renders that OnLeaks posted back in October, these pictures show a design that isn't far off from previous OnePlus devices, with the big changes being a move to a hole-punch front camera and a new rear camera assembly. The back has four cameras now, an upgrade from the three cameras that were on the back of the OnePlus 7T. The display still looks like it's curved along the sides, too.

The official OnePlus 8 Pro press render, from every angle. (credit: iGeeksBlog)

The second batch of details comes from leaker Ishan Agarwal, who posted a spec sheet for the OnePlus 8 Pro and OnePlus 8. The regular OnePlus 8 sticks close to last year, with a 6.55-inch 90Hz display and an upgrade to the Snapdragon 865. The 8 Pro has about what you would expect from a flagship phone in 2020: a 6.78-inch, 120Hz OLED display, a Snapdragon 865, 8 or 12GB of RAM, 128 or 256GB of storage, and a 4510mAh battery. The front camera is 16MP, while the rear camera has two 48MP cameras, an 8MP camera, and a 5MP camera. We don't know what each camera is for yet.

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Charter gives techs $25 gift cards instead of hazard pay during pandemic

Ars Technica - March 27, 2020 - 4:16pm

Enlarge / A Charter Spectrum vehicle. (credit: Charter)

Charter Communications is giving its cable technicians $25 restaurant gift cards instead of hazard pay for going into customer homes during the coronavirus pandemic, BuzzFeed reported yesterday. The gift cards are a "token of our appreciation," an internal email from management on Monday said, BuzzFeed reported. Of course, many restaurants are closed during the pandemic, so restaurant gift cards aren't the most useful perk Charter management could have chosen.

"These gift cards never expire, so if you choose a restaurant that is currently not open, the card will remain valid for future use... Please take some time out of your busy day to enjoy a meal and recharge," the email read.

Several Charter employees did not appreciate the minimal gesture. "It's really insensitive, it shows they don't care," one New York City-based technician told BuzzFeed. "You think a gift card is supposed to make us feel better?"

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Coronavirus: Online child abuse warning during lockdown

BBC Technology News - March 27, 2020 - 4:04pm
Europol is warning that online child abusers are preparing to take advantage of more unsupervised kids online.

2019 saw over 60 gigawatts of wind power installed

Ars Technica - March 27, 2020 - 3:22pm

Enlarge (credit: Gary Norton/DOE)

On Wednesday, the Global Wind Energy Council, an industry trade organization, released its review of the market in 2019. During the past year, wind power saw its second-largest amount of new installed capacity ever, with over 60GW going in. But the news going forward is a bit more uncertain, with the report predicting that after years of double-digit growth, the industry would see things tail off into steady-but-unspectacular territory. And that prediction was made before many key markets started dealing with the coronavirus.

A very good year

Wind power is now one of the cheapest options for generating electricity. In many areas of the globe, building and maintaining wind power is cheaper per unit of power than it is to fuel a previously constructed fossil fuel plant. While offshore wind remains more expensive, its prices have dropped dramatically over the last several years, and it is rapidly approaching price parity with fossil fuels.

But cost isn't the only thing at issue. Renewables may require new transmission lines to feed their power to where people actually live, and managing wind's intermittent nature may require grid upgrades once its percentage gets high enough. And due to the past successes of wind, a significant number of the best sites are now already in use in some regions. Given those issues, it can be difficult to justify shutting down power plants that may have decades of service left in their expected lifespan. This is especially true in fully industrialized countries, where total electricity use has been trending downward, largely due to gains in energy efficiency.

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Coronavirus: Vodafone offers 30 days free mobile data

BBC Technology News - March 27, 2020 - 3:18pm
Vodafone is offering half a million pay monthly mobile customers 30 days of free unlimited data.

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