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Samsung Galaxy Fold: Broken screens delay launch

BBC Technology News - April 22, 2019 - 6:30pm
Samsung delays the release of its foldable smartphone after reviewers report broken screens.

Google cuts the Pixel 3 price in half for Project Fi’s birthday

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 6:20pm

We're on the lookout for the mid-range Pixel, which is expected to bring some of Google's flagship smartphone goodness to a lower price range. If you;'re in the market for a device like that, why not skip the mid-ranger and just buy the full flagship smartphone? Today only, Google is running an exceptional deal on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL: they're available for half price as a way to celebrate Google Fi's birthday. So instead of $800 for the Pixel 3, you can pick up Google's smaller flagship for $400. The bigger Pixel 3 XL drops from $1,000 (for the 128GB version) to $500.

Buying the Pixel 3 for half price does come with some caveats. First, it's through the Project Fi site, and the terms of the deal say you have to "activate" the phone with Google Fi. Fi doesn't have a contract though, so assuming you use 0GB of data, that just means you'll be on the hook for one month of $20 service. The deal is good until 11:59pm PT today only (April 22) or while supplies last. It is only open to US residents.

We've complained about the limited amount of RAM in the Pixel 3 and 3 X and the idea that it's not competitive in price or design with devices like the OnePlus 6T. For half-price, though, this sale represents a pretty sweet deal. You're getting a great stock Android device with the fastest Android updates that will arrive until October 2021. It has one of the best mobile cameras on Earth, and if you're the crazy type that likes to play with beta builds of Android, the Pixel 3 gives you the earliest access. This is the lowest price we've ever seen for the device, so it seems hard to go wrong with a purchase here.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Microsoft engineer complains that company is biased against white men

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 6:12pm

Enlarge (credit: Rory Finneren)

Some Microsoft employees are criticizing the company's efforts to increase hiring from under-represented demographics to make its staff more diverse, according to messages leaked to Quartz.

Threads started by an as-yet unnamed female program manager and posted on the internal Yammer message board in January and April assert that white and Asian men are being penalized or overlooked because of hiring practices that reward managers for hiring people outside of those groups. (Quartz hasn't named the employee who is apparently identified in the messages.) Further, the employee questions the value of diversity at all: "Many women simply aren't cut out for the corporate rat race, so to speak, and that's not because of 'the patriarchy,' it's because men and women aren't identical." She follows up that it is "established fact" that the "specific types of thought process and problem solving required for engineering of all kinds (software or otherwise) are simply less prevalent among women," and that women simply aren't interested in engineering jobs.

Established fact?

Of course, these claims seemingly ignore troves of evidence showing how bias seeps into hiring and the workplace. Research has shown merely having a male name produces a more positive assessment of a job application, having a male presenter produces more positive reactions to pitches, and that managers skew their judgement criteria so as to favor men. Software developers who don't happen to be white and male are paid less than white men, and women, unlike men, are viewed negatively when they attempt to negotiate higher pay.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Windows 10 apps: Which are worth keeping? Which ones should you dump?

ZDnet Blogs - April 22, 2019 - 6:12pm
Every installation of Windows 10 includes a huge collection of built-in apps. Some are Universal apps that are updated from the Microsoft Store. Others are legacy apps that hang around because other programs expect them to be there. If you prefer a tidy system, many (but not all) of these apps can be uninstalled, especially if you prefer a third-party alternative. This gallery offers a comprehensive look at how to unclutter your copy of Windows 10.
Categories: Opinion

A Model S burst in flames in a parking lot, Tesla will investigate

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 5:40pm

Enlarge / Smoke billows out from under a Tesla Model S shortly before it erupted into flames in a parking garage in Shanghai, China, on April 21st. (credit: Weibo)

Tesla is sending an investigative team to a Shanghai parking garage to see if it can determine what caused a Model S electric vehicle to explode into flames over the weekend. News of the car's spontaneous combustion spread on social media, complete with CCTV footage from the parking garage. Wisps of smoke began to emerge from underneath the Model S, which then exploded into flame.

Good or bad, negative or positive I will post anything about Tesla or EVs in China. This happened today in Shanghai, China

Another judge sets back Trump attempts to open up federal lands to fossil fuels

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 5:25pm

Enlarge / Coal mine in Utah. (credit: Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

On Friday, a federal judge in Montana District Court dealt the Trump Administration another setback pertaining to leasing out federal lands for fossil fuel extraction.

In an order (PDF), the judge said that the US Department of the Interior (DOI) had to conduct a review of the impacts of its decision to lease federal land for coal mining under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Under the Obama Administration, the DOI placed a moratorium on leasing federal land out for coal mining. The move was expected to have significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions: according to the Friday order, "the federal coal program, as of 2014, stands responsible for an estimated eleven percent of total United States greenhouse gas emissions." Coal use has tumbled in the five years since 2014, but it still remains a significant fuel source in many parts of the country.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

After the Galaxy Fold breaks in the hands of reviewers, Samsung delays launch [Updated]

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 5:00pm

Update: Samsung has made the delay official. In a press release, Samsung confirmed the Wall Street Journal report, saying "While many reviewers shared with us the vast potential they see, some also showed us how the device needs further improvements that could ensure the best possible user experience. To fully evaluate this feedback and run further internal tests, we have decided to delay the release of the Galaxy Fold. We plan to announce the release date in the coming weeks."

Samsung's press release even goes into some of the problems discovered with the display so far, saying "Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance. We will take measures to strengthen the display protection. We will also enhance the guidance on care and use of the display including the protective layer so that our customers get the most out of their Galaxy Fold."

Why this was only discovered now, and not during testing, is pretty strange. Samsung's admission that it will be tweaking the design of the Galaxy Fold this late into the production is also unprecedented. The theory of the Galaxy Fold launch being rushed to market is looking more plausible with each passing day.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

There’s just no getting away from microplastic contamination

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 4:16pm

Enlarge / The Pyrenees Mountains, now with microplastics. (credit: flickr user: Paula Funnell)

Microplastics may be having a moment in the spotlight, as the public is increasingly aware of their presence in the environment around us. But as more evidence of their presence comes to light, it’s becoming clearer that we don’t yet have a handle on how big or bad the problem is. A huge amount of small plastic particles end up in the sea, but recent research has also found them in lakes and mountain river floodplains, and even as airborne pollution in megacities.

A new paper in Nature Geoscience reports finding microplastics in a region that should be pristine: the French Pyrenees Mountains. The researchers estimated that the particles could have traveled from as far as 95km away, but they suggest that it could be possible for microplastics to travel even farther on the wind—meaning that even places relatively untouched by humans are now being polluted by our plastics.

The mystery of the disappearing plastic

Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic are produced. In 2016, this figure was estimated to be around 335 million tonnes. We have no idea where most of this ends up. The amounts that are recovered in recycling plants and landfill don't match the amount being produced. Some of it stays in use, sometimes for decades, which explains part of the discrepancy. An estimated 10 percent ends up in the oceans. Although these numbers could change with further research, there's still a gap.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

This semi-autonomous truck tech could seriously boost fuel efficiency

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 3:23pm

Enlarge (credit: Peloton)

Hype necessarily recedes as the blunt realities of actually developing autonomous vehicles sets in. For the companies developing robotaxis, that means a scaling back of ambition (like Waymo) or the pushing back of timelines (just about every major OEM). In the trucking sector, we've seen this as a splash of cold water poured over the idea of driverless road trains speeding along highways. But a company called Peloton thinks that running two big rigs close together can still work—and still boost fuel efficiency and safety—as long as you keep human drivers in the cab and in the loop.

Although Peloton's PlatoonPro tech involves some clever vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-cloud (V2C) technology, it only counts as level 1 automation on the SAE scale. That's because the system only links together the accelerating and braking functions in the platoon; the human driver in each cab is still responsible for steering and remains in charge.

Conceptually, the idea is an evolution of the adaptive cruise control system already fitted to many cars—and even some class 8 trucks—already on the road. These systems use information from a forward-looking radar to match the speed to a vehicle ahead, maintaining a constant gap between the two as the one in front speeds up or slows down. Peloton's approach leverages this idea, but it adds the V2C element (using 4G).

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Here’s what we know, and what we don’t, about the Crew Dragon accident

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 2:53pm

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Spacecraft completed a pad abort test in May, 2015. This image shows the vehicle's eight SuperDraco thrusters firing as intended. (credit: SpaceX)

During a series of engine tests of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft this past Saturday, the vehicle experienced what the company has characterized as an "anomaly." Based upon an unauthorized leaked video of the accident, the company was counting down toward a firing of the Dragon's SuperDraco thrusters when the vehicle exploded. SpaceX has not validated the video, but it is consistent with verbal accounts of the failure that have been shared with Ars.

After the accident, large dramatic clouds of orange smoke billowed above "Landing Zone 1," where SpaceX conducted Saturday's engine tests. According to one source, the orange plumes were the result of between one and two tons of nitrogen tetroxide—the oxidizer used by Dragon's SuperDraco engines—burning at the location. After a dramatic weekend, what follows is a summary of what we know, what we don't know, and where SpaceX goes from here.

What was destroyed?

The Crew Dragon capsule in question is the same one that successfully flew a demonstration mission to the International Space Station in March. The spacecraft was being prepared for a launch abort test this summer. During this test, the Dragon would have launched from Florida on a Falcon 9 booster and then fired its powerful SuperDraco engines to show that the Dragon could pull itself safely away from the rocket in case of a problem with the booster before or during flight.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Galaxy S10+ review: Too many compromises for the sky-high price

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 1:00pm

Samsung's flagship Galaxy S smartphone line is back with the Galaxy S10 and S10+. Since the launch of the Galaxy S8 in 2017, Samsung has stuck with the same basic design for two years across four major devices: the S8, Note8, S9, and Note9. The Galaxy S10 firmly fits into the Galaxy S8 family tree, but with new display and fingerprint technology, the S10 represents the biggest design upgrade since that release in 2017.

Samsung Galaxy S10

View more stories As usual, Samsung is gunning for the title of "spec-sheet champion" with the Galaxy S10, and the company is turning in devices with bigger displays, bigger batteries, faster SoCs, more RAM, and more storage. This is one of the first devices that gives us a look at the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, and it's also one of the first devices with "Wi-Fi 6," aka 802.11ax support. The S10 is also the first device with a Qualcomm-made ultrasonic fingerprint reader, and it features Samsung's new "hole-punch" display tech for the camera cutout. If all that's not enough for you, the Galaxy S10+ can hit even more stratospherically high configurations—and prices—that would rival some laptops, topping out at 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for a whopping $1,600.

We reviewed the bigger Galaxy S10+, where even the base configuration results in a $1,000 smartphone. And if spending that much cash, we're not really in the mood for the kinds of excuses and compromises that would be acceptable at a lower price point. When a device manufacturer turns up with sky-high prices like this, it's only fair to go in with sky-high expectations.

Read 56 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ars asks: What’s stopping your workplace from adopting newer technology?

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / Artist's impression of some fancy tech that you probably can't have because the company that makes it isn't on your company's list of approved vendors. (credit: Caiaimage / Robert Daly / Getty)

One of the things I enjoy most about writing for Ars is the opportunity to interact with such an enormous pool of brilliant IT folks. The Ars readership is overflowing with that most valuable of demographics: the proverbial "IT decision maker," or just "ITDM." From the sysadmin trenches to the C-suite, you guys do it all—not just turning the wrenches that keep business operational, but deciding which wrenches to buy, too.

But even while so many of us work at businesses whose products shape the future, as ITDMs we also often find ourselves faced with a tremendous number of obstacles when it comes to modernizing our own business tech and processes. You all know the drill, because you've all been through it—a new vendor shows up with a product that seems like it would solve so many of your problems, and you're interested in evaluating it, but the solution they're pitching gets shot down by a steering committee or design review board because it might require some unforecasted expense to conduct a mandatory IT security audit of the thing. Or because the head of the steering committee once had a bad experience with that vendor three jobs ago. Or simply because it's different, and here at $COMPANY, we do things a certain way.

Or perhaps you work in a large company with a tremendous amount of "IT inertia," and change happens as slowly as steering the Titanic. Maybe your company sees current and future IT trends like "edge computing" or the "hybrid cloud" not as desirable directions but as enormous security and regulatory nightmares waiting to be unleashed. Maybe you work in an industry with iron-clad change control requirements; maybe you're at a Fortune 100 company that is just now starting to consider alternatives to the traditional "datacenter full of servers and SANs" architecture.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Supercooled water in “snowball chamber” might be able to find dark matter

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 12:43pm

Enlarge / Still photograph of supercooled water turning into snow, shot on an iPhone camera at 120 FPS slow-motion. (credit: Matthew M. Szydagis)

Like many people, physicist Matthew Szydagis has been amused by all those YouTube videos showing people banging on a bottle filled with water, causing it to quickly freeze in response to the blow. The trick is to supercool the water beforehand—that is, cool it below the freezing point without the water actually freezing. (Yes, it's possible.) But when he saw the same phenomenon depicted in Disney's 2013 animated film Frozen, he realized he might be able to exploit the effect to hunt for dark matter, that most elusive of substances.

The result is his so-called "snowball chamber," which relies on a newly discovered property of supercooled water. A professor at SUNY's University of Albany, Szydagis gave an overview of this research at the American Physical Society's annual April meeting, held earlier this month in Washington, DC. A draft paper can be found on arXiv, and a final version is being prepared for journal submission.

“All of my work is motivated by the search for dark matter, a form of matter we’re sure is out there because we can observe its indirect gravitational effects,” Szydagis said. “It makes up a significant fraction of the universe, but we have yet to uncover direct, conclusive and unambiguous evidence of it within the lab.” The detector could also be useful for detecting nuclear weapons in cargo, for understanding cloud formation, and for studying how certain mammals supercool their blood when they hibernate.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

DNA from medieval Crusader skeletons suggests surprising diversity

Ars Technica - April 22, 2019 - 11:45am

Enlarge (credit: Claude Doumet-Serhal)

European soldiers and civilians poured into the Levant in the 12th and 13th centuries, often killing or displacing local Muslim populations and establishing their own settlements in an effort to seize control of sites sacred to three major religious groups.

But in a new study, DNA from the skeletons of nine soldiers hints that the armies of the Crusades were more diverse and more closely linked with local people in Lebanon than historians previously assumed. The genetic evidence suggests that the Crusaders also recruited from among local populations, and European soldiers sometimes married local women and raised children, some of whom may have grown up to fight in later campaigns.

Living and dying side by side

For centuries, the mingled, charred bones of at least 25 soldiers lay buried in two mass graves near the ruins of the Castle of St. Louis, a 12th- to 13th-century Crusader stronghold near Sidon, in south Lebanon. Several of the skeletons (all apparently male) bore the marks of violent death, and the artifacts mingled with the bones—buckles of medieval European design, along with a coin minted in Italy in 1245 to commemorate the Crusades—mark the pit's occupants as dead Crusader soldiers, burned and buried in the aftermath of a battle. From nine of them, geneticist Marc Haber and his colleagues at the Wellcome Sanger Institute obtained usable DNA sequences, which offer a rare look into the ranks of the soldiers who fought on one side of the 200-year series of wars.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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