Google

Google Pays Apple $3 Billion Per Year To Remain On the iPhone, Analyst Says (cnbc.com) 101

In a note to investors on Monday, Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said Google is paying Apple billions of dollars per year to remain the default search engine on iPhones and iPads. "The firm believes that Google will pay Apple about $3 billion this year, up from $1 billion just three years ago, and that Google's licensing fees make up a large bulk of Apple's services business," reports CNBC. From the report: "Court documents indicate that Google paid Apple $1 billion in 2014, and we estimate that total Google payments to Apple in FY 17 may approach $3 billion," Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said. "Given that Google payments are nearly all profit for Apple, Google alone may account for 5% of Apple's total operating profits this year, and may account for 25% of total company OP growth over the last two years."

AMD

AMD Launches Radeon RX Vega 64 and Vega 56, Taking On GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 (hothardware.com) 84

MojoKid writes: AMD has finally launched its Radeon RX Vega series of graphics cards today, based on the company's next generation Vega 10 GPU architecture. There are three base card specs announced, though there are four cards total, with a Limited Edition air-cooled card as well. Three of the cards have 64 NGCs (Next Generation Compute Units) with 4096 stream processors, while Radeon RX Vega 56 is comprised of 56 NCGs with 3584 SPs. Base clocks range from roughly 1150 to 1400MHz, with boost clocks from 1470MHz to 1670MHz or so. All cards come with 8GB of HBM2 and sport 484GB/sec of memory bandwidth, except for Vega 56, which has a bit less, at 410GB/s. They are power-hungry as well, ranging from the 345 Watt liquid-cooled Radeon RX Vega 64, to the 295 Watt air-cooled RX Vega 64 and 210 Watt Radeon RX Vega 56. Performance-wise, Radeon RX Vega 64 is neck-and-neck with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1080, winning some and losing some, with flashes of strength in DirectX 12-based games and benchmarks. Vega 64 also maintains generally better minimum frame rates versus GTX 1080. Radeon RX Vega 56 is a more credible midrange threat that handily out-performs a GeForce GTX 1070 across the board. In DX12 gaming, Radeon RX Vega 56 stretches its lead over the similarly-priced GTX 1070. Both cards, however, are more power-hungry, louder and run hotter than NVIDIA's high-end GeForce GTX 1080. Radeon RX Vega 64 cards will retail for $499 (Liquid Cooled cards at $699), while Radeon RX Vega 56 drops in at $399. All cards should be available at retail starting today.
Businesses

Andy Rubin's Essential Is Now Valued at Over a Billion Dollars Without Shipping a Single Phone (theverge.com) 75

An anonymous reader shares a report: Essential, the new phone startup from Android founder Andy Rubin, is now a unicorn, according to reports from over the weekend. If you're not up to date on the parlance of Silicon Valley, a unicorn is a company that's valued at over $1 billion dollars, which is no small feat in today's market. This title is even more impressive, given that Essential has yet to ship a single device to consumers. According to a report, Foxconn's FIH Mobile filing for a $3 million investment in Essential for around 0.25 percent of the fledgling phone company revealed Essential's new unicorn status with a valuation of around $1.2 billion.
Displays

Samsung Pushes Its 4K/HDR TV Service in Europe (4k.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes 4K.com: Samsung Electronics has announced that its premium Smart TV content service, TV Plus, is now available for users of Samsung Smart TVs in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom... Owners of eligible Samsung Smart TVs with 4K / HDR capabilities in the above-mentioned European countries now have direct access to premium 4K UHD HDR content offered by Samsung, in partnership with Rakuten TV, and can find their favorite shows using the TV Plus straightforward interface... The expansion comes at what could be considered a strategically well timed moment in the European market, given that 4K TV sales in the huge continental market are steadily growing year by year and are expected to rise to over 17 million 4K TV units shipped by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, TV Plus content has become a success in Southeast Asia since its launch, where 70% of Smart TV users in Korea are watching TV PLUS channels, and 41% of Smart TV users in Vietnam are using TV PLUS.
Microsoft

Microsoft Blamed Intel For Its Own Bad Surface Drivers (thurrott.com) 169

Paul Thurrott reveals a new internal Microsoft memo from corporate vice president Panos Panay which acknowledges "some quality issues" with their launch of Surface Book and Surface Pro 4. But an anonymous reader quotes a darker story from Thurrott.com: Multiple senior Microsoft officials told me at the time that the issues were all Intel's fault, and that the microprocessor giant had delivered its buggiest-ever product in the "Skylake" generation chipsets. Microsoft, first out of the gate with Skylake chips, thus got caught up by this unreliability, leading to a falling out with Intel... Since then, however, another trusted source at Microsoft has provided me with a different take on this story. Microsoft, I'm told, fabricated the story about Intel being at fault.

The real problem was Surface-specific custom drivers and settings that the Microsoft hardware team cooked up. The Skylake fiasco came to a head internally when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella met with Lenovo last year and asked the firm, then the world's biggest maker of PCs, how it was dealing with the Skylake reliability issues. Lenovo was confused. No one was having any issues, he was told. I assume this led to some interesting conversations between the members of the Microsoft senior leadership team. But the net result was that Microsoft had to push out some existing designs quickly to get ahead of the reliability issues.

The Surface Book ultimately had a 17% return rate after its late-2015 launch, while the Surface Pro 4's return rate was 16%. So though Microsoft later pushed to improve subsequent releases, Panay's memo claims that "These improvements were unfortunately not reflected in the results of this [Consumer Reports] survey." The memo also reiterates high customer-satisfaction metrics, which Thurrott says "supports the contention that I made two days ago... Customers who spend more on premium products tend to be more satisfied even when they are unreliable because they need to justify their own decision-making process."

"He also suggests that what Consumer Reports calls a 'failure' is perhaps overly-broad and that some incidents -- like a frozen screen or unresponsive touch -- are not 'failures' but are rather just minor incidents that are easily rectified by the user."
Data Storage

Intel Unveils One-Petabyte Storage Servers For Data Centers (theinquirer.net) 58

Slashdot reader #9,219 Guy Smiley shared this report on a new breed of high-density flash storage. The Inquirer reports: Intel has unveiled a brand new form factor for solid state disc drives (SSDs)... Intel Optane's new "ruler" format will allow up to a petabyte of storage on a single 1U server rack... By using 3D-NAND, the ruler crams in even more data and will provide more stability with less chance of catastrophic failure with data loss. The company has promised that the Ruler will have more bandwidth, input/output operations per second and lower latency than SAS... As part of the announcement, Intel also announced a range of "hard drive replacement" SSDs -- the S4500 and S4600 0 which are said to have the highest density 32-layer 3D NAND on the market, and are specifically aimed at data centres that want to move to solid state simply and if necessary, in stages.
Microsoft

Microsoft Dismisses Consumer Reports' Surface Complaints, But Doesn't Offer Much Evidence 66

Microsoft has publicly responded to Consumer Reports, saying that it disagrees with the publication's Surface reliability findings. But the company hasn't offered much in the way of evidence. In a blog post, Surface chief Panos Panay writes: In the Surface team we track quality constantly, using metrics that include failure and return rates -- both our predicted 1-2-year failure and actual return rates for Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are significantly lower than 25%. Additionally, we track other indicators of quality such as incidents per unit (IPU), which have improved from generation to generation and are now at record lows of well below 1%. Surface also ranks highly in customer satisfaction. 98% of Surface Pro 4 users and Surface Book users say they are satisfied with their device, and our Surface Laptop and new Surface Pro continue to get rave reviews. Long-time watcher Paul Thurrott writes: Does changing the time frame from "by the end of the second year of ownership" to "1-2 year failure rate" skew the results because more failures happen later in a product's lifetime? Also, he introduces the notion of "return rates" here. By definition, the feedback that Consumer Reports receives is from product owners, not those who have returned products. If someone is almost two years into device ownership, they are not returning the product. They're just using it. And dealing with it. So consider the issue muddled, in just one carefully-constructed sentence. Which I believe was crafted to confuse the issue. But there is more. "Additionally, we track other indicators of quality such as incidents per unit (IPU), which have improved from generation to generation and are now at record lows of well below 1 percent," Panay offers. It's not possible to understand how an "incident" relates to a "failure." Mostly because he doesn't explain the term. Likely because doing so would betray that this is an apples to oranges comparison. [...] I will point the reader to Welcome to Surfacegate, my description of Microsoft's feeble attempts to ignore and then slowly fix endemic issues with those exact two Surface models. And anecdotally, I'll point to the fact that the three Surface Book models I've used have all had reliability problems. But the biggest issue I have with "customer satisfaction" is that it's kind of a bullshit measurement when it comes to premium products.
United States

Hearing Loss of US Diplomats In Cuba Is Blamed On Covert Device (bostonglobe.com) 224

bsharma shares a report from The Boston Globe: The two-year-old U.S. diplomatic relationship with Cuba was roiled Wednesday by what U.S. officials say was a string of bizarre incidents that left a group of American diplomats in Havana with severe hearing loss attributed to a covert sonic device. In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Barack Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Some of the diplomats' symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been exposed to an advanced device that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences. It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose.
United States

US Product Safety Commission Warns That Some Fidget Spinners Explode (cnn.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Fidget spinners are supposed to be calming and fun, especially for students struggling to focus. But after some dangerous incidents involving the popular gizmos, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued new fidget spinner safety guidance for consumers and businesses. There have been a handful of choking incidents reported with the toys, as well as two instances of battery-operated spinners catching on fire and another incident in which a fidget spinner melted, the agency said. No deaths have been reported. The agency also issued safety guidance on battery-operated fidget spinners. Consumers should always be present when the product is charging, never charge it overnight and always use the cable it came with, the statement said. Users should unplug their spinner immediately once it's fully charged and make sure they have working smoke detectors in their home.

"As the agency investigates some reported incidents associated with this popular product, fidget spinner users or potential buyers should take some precautions," Ann Marie Buerkle, acting chief of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said in a statement. "Keep them from small children; the plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard; and older children should not put fidget spinners in their mouths." Fidget spinners should be kept away from children under the age of 3, the statement said.

Security

Scientists Create DNA-Based Exploit of a Computer System (technologyreview.com) 43

Archeron writes: It seems that scientists at University of Washington in Seattle have managed to encode malware into genomic data, allowing them to gain full access to a computer being used to analyze the data. While this may be a highly contrived attack scenario, it does ask the question whether we pay sufficient attention to data-driven exploits, especially where the data is instrument-derived. What other systems could be vulnerable to a tampered raw data source? Perhaps audio and RF analysis systems? MIT Technology Review reports: "To carry out the hack, researchers led by Tadayoshi Kohno and Luis Ceze encoded malicious software in a short stretch of DNA they purchased online. They then used it to gain 'full control' over a computer that tried to process the genetic data after it was read by a DNA sequencing machine. The researchers warn that hackers could one day use faked blood or spit samples to gain access to university computers, steal information from police forensics labs, or infect genome files shared by scientists. To make the malware, the team translated a simple computer command into a short stretch of 176 DNA letters, denoted as A, G, C, and T. After ordering copies of the DNA from a vendor for $89, they fed the strands to a sequencing machine, which read off the gene letters, storing them as binary digits, 0s and 1s. Yaniv Erlich, a geneticist and programmer who is chief scientific officer of MyHertige.com, a genealogy website, says the attack took advantage of a spill-over effect, when data that exceeds a storage buffer can be interpreted as a computer command. In this case, the command contacted a server controlled by Kohno's team, from which they took control of a computer in their lab they were using to analyze the DNA file." You can read their paper here.
AMD

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Launched: Performance Benchmarks Vs Intel Skylake-X (hothardware.com) 122

Reader MojoKid writes: AMD continues its attack on the desktop CPU market versus Intel today, with the official launch of the company's Ryzen Threadripper processors. Threadripper is AMD's high-end, many-core desktop processor, that leverages the same Zen microarchitecture that debuted with Ryzen 7. The top-end Ryzen Threadripper 1950X is a multi-chip module featuring 16 processor cores (two discrete die), with support for 32 threads. The base frequency for the 1950X is 3.4GHz, with all-core boost clocks of up to 3.7GHz. Four of the cores will regularly boost up to 4GHz, however, and power and temperature permitting, those four cores will reach 4.2GHz when XFR kicks in. The 12-core Threadripper 1920X has very similar clocks and its boost and XFR frequencies are exactly the same. The Threadripper 1920X's base-clock, however, is 100MHz higher than its big brother, at 3.5GHz. In a litany of benchmarks with multi-threaded workloads, Threadripper 1950X and 1920X high core-counts, in addition to strong SMT scaling, result in the best multi-threaded scores seen from any single CPU to date. Threadripper also offers massive amounts of memory bandwidth and more IO than other Intel processors. Though absolute power consumption is somewhat high, Threadrippers are significantly more efficient than AMD's previous-generation processors. In lightly-threaded workloads, Threadripper trails Intel's latest Skylake-X CPUs, however, which translates to lower performance in applications and games that can't leverage all of Threadripper's additional compute resources. Threadripper 1950X and 1920X processors are available starting today at $999 and $799, respectively. On a per-core basis, they're less expensive than Intel Skylake-X and very competitively priced.
Hardware

Consumer Reports Pulls Microsoft Laptop Recommendation (go.com) 126

The breakage rate for Microsoft's Surface devices is significantly worse than for other manufacturers' laptops and tablets, Consumer Reports said, adding that it was removing its "recommended" designation for Surface products. From a report: The consumer advocacy group said Thursday that it can no longer recommend Microsoft laptops or tablets because of poor reliability compared to other brands. Microsoft said the findings don't accurately reflect Surface owners' "true experiences." The consumer group says Microsoft machines have performed well in laboratory testing. But a subscriber survey found start-up and freezing problems. The devices losing their "recommended" status are the Surface Laptop (128GB and 256GB versions) and Surface Book (128GB and 512GB versions).
Software

Researchers Build True Random Number Generator From Carbon Nanotubes (ieee.org) 144

Wave723 writes: IEEE Spectrum reports on a true random number generator that was created with single-walled semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Researchers at Northwestern University printed a SRAM cell with special nanotube ink, and used it to generate random bits based on thermal noise. This method could be used to improve the security of flexible or printed electronics. From the report: "Once Mark Hersam, an expert in nanomaterials at Northwestern University, and his team had printed their SRAM cell, they needed to actually generate a string of random bits with it. To do this, they exploited a pair of inverters found in every SRAM cell. During normal functioning, the job of an inverter is to flip any input it is given to be the opposite, so from 0 to 1, or from 1 to 0. Typically, two inverters are lined up so the results of the first inverter are fed into the second. So, if the first inverter flips a 0 into a 1, the second inverter would take that result and flip it back into a 0. To manipulate this process, Hersam's group shut off power to the inverters and applied external voltages to force the inverters to both record 1s. Then, as soon as the SRAM cell was powered again and the external voltages were turned off, one inverter randomly switched its digit to be opposite its twin again. 'In other words, we put [the inverter] in a state where it's going to want to flip to either a 1 or 0,' Hersam says. Under these conditions, Hersam's group had no control over the actual nature of this switch, such as which inverter would flip, and whether that inverter would represent a 1 or a 0 when it did. Those factors hinged on a phenomenon thought to be truly random -- fluctuations in thermal noise, which is a type of atomic jitter intrinsic to circuits." Hersam and his team recently described their work in the journal Nano Letters.
Android

T-Mobile To Launch Its Own Branded Budget Smartphone (cnet.com) 17

In a throwback to a time when carriers differentiated themselves by branding and selling exclusive phones, T-Mobile announced Wednesday that it's launching its very own budget Android smartphone called the Revvl. CNET reports: The Revvl, which runs on Android Nougat, offers pretty basic specs: a 5.5 inch HD display, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. But it also throws in a fingerprint sensor and will cost T-Mobile customers just $5 a month with no down payment through the company's Jump! upgrade program. It goes on sale Thursday. In a blog post, T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said the company is catering to those who want the latest smartphone technology but can't afford to pay for high-end devices.
Privacy

Disney Sued For Allegedly Spying On Children Through 42 Gaming Apps (washingtonpost.com) 40

schwit1 shares a report from The Washington Post (Warning: may be paywalled; alternative source): The Walt Disney Co. secretly collects personal information on some of their youngest customers and shares that data illegally with advertisers without parental consent, according to a federal lawsuit filed late last week in California. The class-action suit targets Disney and three other software companies -- Upsight, Unity and Kochava -- alleging that the mobile apps they built together violate the law by gathering insights about app users across the Internet, including those under the age of 13, in ways that facilitate "commercial exploitation."

The plaintiffs argue that Disney and its partners violated COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law designed to protect the privacy of children on the Web. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, seeks an injunction barring the companies from collecting and disclosing the data without parental consent, as well as punitive damages and legal fees. The lawsuit alleges that Disney allowed the software companies to embed trackers in apps such as "Disney Princess Palace Pets" and "Where's My Water? 2." Once installed, tracking software can then "exfiltrate that information off the smart device for advertising and other commercial purposes," according to the suit. Disney should not be using those software development companies, said Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "These are heavy-duty technologies, industrial-strength data and analytic companies whose role is to track and monetize individuals," Chester said. "These should not be in little children's apps."
Disney responded to the lawsuit, saying: "Disney has a robust COPPA compliance program, and we maintain strict data collection and use policies for Disney apps created for children and families. The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in court."
Power

Mass Market Hopes For Battery-free Cell Phone Technology (reuters.com) 102

Mark Hanrahan, writing for Reuters: Researchers in the United States have unveiled a prototype of a battery-free mobile phone, using technology they hope will eventually come to be integrated into mass-market products. The phone is the work of a group of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and works by harvesting tiny amounts of power from radio signals, known as radio frequency or 'RF' waves. "Ambient RF waves are all around us so, as an example, your FM station broadcasts radio waves, your AM stations do that, your TV stations, your cellphone towers. They all are transmitting RF waves," team member Vamsi Talla told Reuters. The phone is a first prototype and its operation is basic - at first glance it looks little more than a circuit board with a few parts attached and the caller must wear headphones and press a button to switch between talking and listening.
Robotics

AI Factory Boss Will Tell Workers and Robots How To Work Together (fastcompany.com) 54

tedlistens writes from a report via Fast Company: Robots are consistent, indefatigable workers, but they don't improvise well. Changes on the assembly line require painstaking reprogramming by humans, making it hard to switch up what a factory produces. Now researchers at German industrial giant Siemens say they have a solution: a factory that uses AI to orchestrate the factory of the future, by both programming factory robots and handing out assignments to the humans working alongside them. The program, called a "reasoner," figures out the steps required to make a product, such as a chair; then it divides the assignments among machines based their capabilities, like how far a robotic arm can reach or how much weight it can lift. The team has proved the technology can work on a small scale with a test system that uses just a few robots to make five types of furniture (like stools and tables), with four kinds of leg configurations, six color options, and three types of floor-protector pads, for a total of 360 possible products.

Siemens's originally gave its automated factory project the badass Teutonic moniker "UberManufacturing." They weren't thinking of the German word connoting "superior," however, but rather of the on-demand car service. Part of their vision is that automated factories can generate bids for specialty, limited-run manufacturing projects and compete for customers in an online marketplace. "You could say, 'I want to build this stool,' and whoever has machines that can do that can hand in a quote, and that was our analogy to Uber," says Florian Michahelles, who heads the research group.

Transportation

You Can Trick Self-Driving Cars By Defacing Street Signs (bleepingcomputer.com) 272

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: A team of eight researchers has discovered that by altering street signs, an adversary could confuse self-driving cars and cause their machine-learning systems to misclassify signs and take wrong decisions, potentially putting the lives of passengers in danger. The idea behind this research is that an attacker could (1) print an entirely new poster and overlay it over an existing sign, or (2) attach smaller stickers on a legitimate sign in order to fool the self-driving car into thinking it's looking at another type of street sign. While scenario (1) will trick even human observers and there's little chance of stopping it, scenario (2) looks like an ordinary street sign defacement and will likely affect only self-driving vehicles. Experiments showed that simple stickers posted on top of a Stop sign fooled a self-driving car's machine learning system into misclassifying it as a Speed Limit 45 sign from 67% to 100% of all cases. Similarly, gray graffiti stickers on a Right Turn sign tricked the self-driving car into thinking it was looking at a Stop sign. Researchers say that authorities can fight such potential threats to self-driving car passengers by using an anti-stick material for street signs. In addition, car vendors should also take into account contextual information for their machine learning systems. For example, there's no reason to have a certain sign on certain roads (Stop sign on an interstate highway).
Intel

Intel's 8th-Gen 'Coffee Lake' Core CPUs Will Be Revealed During the Great American Eclipse (pcworld.com) 98

Brad Chacos, writing for PCWorld: Intel's response to AMD's disruptive Ryzen processors is soon to get its time in the sun. Well, sort of. On Tuesday, Intel announced plans to livestream the launch of its 8th-generation "Coffee Lake" processors on August 21 -- the same day that the great American solar eclipse casts its shadow across the United States. Intel's throwing shade. Eighth-gen Coffee Lake chips will be built using a revised version of Intel's 14nm process technology for an unprecedented fourth time, following in the footsteps of Broadwell, Skylake, and Kaby Lake architectures. You'll probably also need a new motherboard to use them. But most notably, Intel claims 8th-gen Core chips will be up to 30 percent faster than today's Kaby Lake processors in some applications. Intel chips haven't seen a performance leap like that in years. Beyond that, little is officially known about Coffee Lake, though the churning internet rumor mill thinks that Intel will up the core counts this time around to combat the threat of Ryzen.
EU

Massive Solar Plant In the Sahara Could Help Keep the EU Powered (digitaltrends.com) 257

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: In the global race to ditch fossil fuel reliance for more renewable energy sources, Europe is already making some impressive strides. That is likely to ramp up considerably thanks to a new European Union plan to build a large solar plant in the Sahara desert -- with the ability to generate enough power to keep much of Europe juiced up. In all, the enormous solar farm aims to produce 4.5 gigawatts of power, which can then be transmitted across the Mediterranean from Tunisia to mainland Europe. TuNur's proposed solar farm utilizes an enormous quantity of mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a central collector, which uses molten salt to store the energy as heat. Three HVDC submarine cables will then transport the power to Europe. The first cable will link Tunisia and Malta, the second will link Tunisia to central Italy, and a third will link Tunisia to the south of France. "We are opening a new energy corridor to allow Europe to import cheap solar power from the Sahara on a massive scale," Daniel Rich, Chief Operating Officer of TuNur, the company behind the project, told Digital Trends. "This will help Europe meet its Paris Climate Agreement emissions reduction commitments quickly and cost effectively. It also will give a much-needed boost to the Tunisia economy through significant investment into the country, creation of thousands of jobs, new tax revenues, and the establishment of a new solar industry that can help support their future domestic demand."
AMD

Preview of AMD Ryzen Threadripper Shows Chip Handily Out-Pacing Intel Core i9 (hothardware.com) 180

MojoKid writes: AMD is still days away from the formal launch of their Ryzen Threadripper family of 12 and 16-core processors but OEM system builder Dell and its Alienware gaming PC division had an inside track on first silicon in the channel. The Alienware Area-51 Threadripper Edition sports a 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 1950X processor that boosts to 4GHz with a base clock of 3.4GHz and an all-core boost at 3.6GHz. From a price standpoint, the 16-core Threadripper chip goes head-to-head with Intel's 10-core Core i9-7900X at a $999 MSRP. In early benchmark runs of the Alienware system, AMD's Ryzen Threadripper is showing as much as a 37% percent performance advantage over the Intel Core i9 Skylake-X chip, in highly threaded general compute workload benchmarks like Cinebench and Blender. In gaming, Threadripper is showing roughly performance parity with the Core i9 chip in some tests, but trailing by as much as 20% in lower resolution 1080p gaming, as is characteristic for many Ryzen CPUs currently, in certain games. Regardless, when you consider the general performance upside with Ryzen Threadripper versus Intel's current fastest desktop chip, along with its more aggressive per-core pricing (12-core Threadripper at $799), AMD's new flagship enthusiast/performance workstation desktop chips are lining up pretty well versus Intel's.
Transportation

Tesla Seeks $1.5 Billion Junk Bonds Issue To Fund Model 3 Production (reuters.com) 159

As Tesla seeks fresh sources of cash to increase production of its new Model 3 sedan, the company announced on Monday that it would raise about $1.5 billion through its first-ever high-yield junk bond offering. "The debt offering marks Tesla's debut in the junk-bond market and the company will start road-shows on Monday, IFR reported, citing lead bankers on the deal," reports Reuters. From the report: Tesla has been riding high on investor expectations that its Model 3 will be a mass-market hit, with shareholders pushing its market value above that of General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co, the top two U.S. automakers that produce millions of cars each annually. But Tesla has yet to make an annual profit and its stock is a favorite among short-sellers, who continue to bet Tesla will fall short of its shareholders' high hopes. So far, Tesla has been raising money to pay its bills with a combination of equity offerings and convertible bonds, which eventually convert into shares. In March, the company raised $1.4 billion through a convertible debt offering. Following the announcement, Standard & Poor's assigned a "B-1" rating for the bond issue -- deep into junk credit territory. S&P also maintained its "B-" long-term corporate credit rating on Tesla. "We could lower our ratings on Tesla is execution issues related to the Model 3 launch later this year or the ongoing expansion of its Models S and X production lead to significant cost overruns," S&P said in a statement on the bonds. Meanwhile, Moody's assigned a junk "B3" rating to the bond issue and said the company's rating outlook was stable.
AMD

AMD Confirms Linux 'Performance Marginality Problem' On Ryzen (phoronix.com) 120

An anonymous reader writes: Ryzen customers experiencing segmentation faults under Linux when firing off many compilation processes have now had their problem officially acknowledged by AMD. The company describes it as a "performance marginality problem" affecting some Ryzen customers and only on Linux. AMD confirmed Threadripper and Epyc processors are unaffected; they will be dealing with the issue on a customer-by-customer basis, and their future consumer products will see better Linux testing/validation. Ryzen customers believed to be affected by the problem can contact AMD Customer Care. Michael Larabel writes via Phoronix: "With the Ryzen segmentation faults on Linux they are found to occur with many, parallel compilation workloads in particular -- certainly not the workloads most Linux users will be firing off on a frequent basis unless intentionally running scripts like ryzen-test/kill-ryzen. As I've previously written, my Ryzen Linux boxes have been working out great except in cases of intentional torture testing with these heavy parallel compilation tasks. [AMD's] analysis has also found that these Ryzen segmentation faults aren't isolated to a particular motherboard vendor or the like, contrary to rumors/noise online due to the complexity of the problem."
Operating Systems

Android 8.0's 'Streaming OS Updates' Will Work Even If Your Phone Is Full (arstechnica.com) 40

Regardless of whether or not your phone is full of pictures, or videos, or apps, you will still be able to download and install an OS update with Android 8.0. According to the latest source.android.com documentation, Google has cooked up a scheme to make sure that an "insufficient space" error will never stop an update again. Ars Technica reports: Where the heck can Google store the update if your phone is full, though? If you remember in Android 7.0, Google introduced a new feature called "Seamless Updates." This setup introduced a dual system partition scheme -- a "System A" and "System B" partition. The idea is that, when it comes time to install an update, you can normally use your phone on the online "System A" partition while an update is being applied to the offline "System B" partition in the background. Rather than the many minutes of downtime that would normally occur from an update, all that was needed to apply the update was a quick reboot. At that point, the device would just switch from partition A to the newly updated partition B. When you get that "out of space" error message during an update, you're only "out of space" on the user storage partition, which is just being used as a temporary download spot before the update is applied to the system partition. Starting with Android 8.0, the A/B system partition setup is being upgraded with a "streaming updates" feature. Update data will arrive from the Internet directly to the offline system partition, written block by block, in a ready-to-boot state. Instead of needing ~1GB of free space, Google will be bypassing user storage almost entirely, needing only ~100KB worth of free space for some metadata. Ars Technica goes on to note that the feature will be backported to Google Play Services, and will be enabled on "Android 7.0 and later" devices with a dual system partition setup.
Businesses

Can Elon Musk Be Weaned Off Government Support? (thehill.com) 270

mi shares an opinion piece written by Jenny Beth Martin via The Hill: A study published in 2015 by The Los Angeles Times revealed that just three of Musk's ventures -- SolarCity Corp. (which manufactured and installed solar energy systems before its 2016 merger with Tesla Motors Inc.), Tesla Motors Inc. (which manufactures electric vehicles), and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX (which builds rocket ships) -- had received $4.9 billion in government subsidies to that point in time. By now, Musk's various ventures have sucked well over $5 billion from government coffers. Worse: in order to induce car buyers to spend their money on electric vehicles, the federal government offers a $7,500 rebate on the purchase price. Some states enhance that rebate with rebates of their own. In California, for instance, purchasers of electric vehicles get a state-funded rebate of $2,500 more.

Slashdot reader mi asks: "Why are you and I subsidizing Elon Musk's products and when will his businesses be able to compete on their own?"

Intel

Intel Releases Final Core i9 Specs and Release Dates -- And Threadripper Is Faster (Sometimes) (pcworld.com) 91

On Monday, Intel took the wraps of final details of its Core i9 microprocessors. From a report: Remember that Intel's Core X-series family (also called the Core i9) was announced with several key omissions: namely the clock speeds of the 12-core Core i9-7920X and above, as well as the thermal design power, or TDP. On Monday, Intel filled those in. The 12-core Core i9-7920X launches Aug. 28 while the 14-, 16-, and 18-core Core i9 chips ship on Sept. 25. Perhaps most important, though, is that we now know how fast Intel's Core i9s will run. When Intel inadvertently revealed that its 12-core Core i9-7920X was 2.9-GHz -- slower than the comparable AMD Threadripper -- a subset of the internet had a small freakout. We now know that that will be true for the remaining Core i9s as well, but with a big caveat. Here are the remaining speeds and feeds for the high-end Core i9 chips:
Core i9-7980XE (18 cores, 36 threads): 2.6GHz; Boost, 4.2GHz to 4.4 GHz.
Core i9-7960X (16 cores, 32 threads): 2.8GHz; Boost, 4.2GHz to 4.4 GHz.
Core i9-7940X 14 cores, 28 threads: 3.1GHz; Boost: 4.3GHz to 4.4GHz.
Core i9-7920X (12 cores, 24 threads): 2.9-GHz; Boost: 4.3-GHz to 4.4GHz.

Note that the boost speeds refer to both Intel's Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 and 3.0. [...] Essentially, both Intel and AMD can claim the title of fastest processor. Threadripper's base clock speeds are faster, but Intel's boost speeds climb higher than Threadripper can. It's also important to note that while Threadripper consumes 180 watts, even the fastest Core i9 chips Intel has announced have a lower TDP of 165 watts.

Businesses

Amazon Owns a Whole Collection of Secret Brands (qz.com) 110

Mike Murphy, writing for Quartz: After decades of selling products -- and knowing exactly what people are buying, and when they are buying it -- Amazon has started cutting out the middle-man by selling self-produced items. Through its AmazonBasics house brand, it sells all sorts of small items, from iPhone chargers, to batteries, power strips -- even foam rollers, backpacks and washcloths. It's the sort of stuff that you might not be too brand loyal over -- who really minds whether it's a Duracell or a Panasonic battery? Amazon sees that a product is selling well, and may decide to work with manufacturers to make the product itself -- it's a tactic that is already worrying vendors, and can't bode well for partnerships in the long run. But those are the obvious instances. Now, Amazon is selling products across a wide array of categories, using a host of brands that do not exist outside the confines of amazon.com and do not make it clear that they are Amazon-made products. Trawling through over 800 trademarks that Amazon has either been awarded or applied for through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Quartz identified 19 brands that are owned by Amazon and sell products or have product pages on amazon.com: Arabella, for lingerie products; Beauty Bar for cosmetics; Denali for tools; Franklin & Freeman for men's shoes; Happy Belly for fresh food; James & Erin for women's clothing; Lark & Ro for women's clothing; Mae for underwear; Mama Bear for baby products; Myhabit for consumer goods; North Eleven for women's clothing; NuPro for tech accessories; Pike Street for linen; Pinzon (by Amazon) for linen; Scout + Ro for kid's clothing; Single Cow Burger for frozen food; Small Parts for spare parts; Smart is Beautiful for clothing; and Strathwood for furniture.
Power

New Catalyst Is Better At Splitting Water Into Hydrogen And Oxygen (phys.org) 133

schwit1 shared an article from Phys.org: Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen to produce clean energy can be simplified with a single catalyst developed by scientists at Rice University and the University of Houston. The electrolytic film produced at Rice and tested at Houston is a three-layer structure of nickel, graphene and a compound of iron, manganese and phosphorus. The foamy nickel gives the film a large surface, the conductive graphene protects the nickel from degrading and the metal phosphide carries out the reaction... Rice chemist Kenton Whitmire and Houston electrical and computer engineer Jiming Bao and their labs developed the film to overcome barriers that usually make a catalyst good for producing either oxygen or hydrogen, but not both simultaneously... Whitmire said the material is scalable and should find use in industries that produce hydrogen and oxygen or by solar- and wind-powered facilities that can use electrocatalysis to store off-peak energy.
In a comment on the original submission, Slashdot reader Martin S. opines, "If we can crack H20 and C02 we could make fuel to run existing vehicles with existing infrastructure and that fuel could be carbon neutral by using off peak renewable energy from wind farms and solar."
Businesses

It's the 40th Anniversary of Radio Shack's TRS-80 (smithsonianmag.com) 301

An anonymous reader quotes Smithsonsian: It was with minimal expectations that, on August 3, 1977, Tandy Corporation teamed up with Radio Shack to release the TRS-80, one of the first personal computers available to consumer markets. While Don French -- a buyer for the Tandy Radio Shack consumer electronic chain -- had convinced some Tandy executives of the need to release a personal computer, most felt it was unlikely to gross substantial profits. This bulky item with complex operating procedures would never sell, they thought, more than 1,000 units in its first month... As it turned out, the TRS-80 surpassed even the most cautious sales estimates by tenfold within its first month on the market; the burgeoning prospects of a new era in personal electronics and computing could no longer be denied.
It had no hard drive and four kilobytes of memory, according to the article. Radio Shack's $600 PC was preceded by the MITS Altair, as well as PCs from both Apple and IBM, but "the TRS-80 was one of the first products that came fully assembled and ready to use, bridging the gap in accessibility between hobbyists -- who took interest in the actual building of the computer -- and the average American consumer, who wanted to know what this new, cutting-edge technology had in store for them."

Does this bring back any memories for anyone?
Power

Startup Unveils Revolutionary New Rechargeable Alkaline Batteries (nytimes.com) 137

Slashdot reader cdreimer quotes the New York Times: Alkaline batteries can be made far more cheaply and safely than today's lithium-ion batteries, but they are not rechargeable... Ionic Materials could change that equation with an alkaline battery the company said could be recharged hundreds of times. One additional benefit of the company's breakthrough: An alkaline battery would not be as prone to the combustion issues that have plagued lithium-ion batteries in a range of products, most notably some Samsung smartphones. Cheaper and more powerful batteries are also considered by many to be the driver needed to make the cost of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar competitive with the coal, gas and nuclear power that support the national energy grid.
The company "has demonstrated up to 400 recharge cycles for its prototypes," and it's now even investigating aluminum-based alkaline batteries which would also be lighter than lithium-ion batteries. The company is backed by Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy, who also envisions the batteries being used in electric cars.
Open Source

Linux Kernel Hardeners Grsecurity Sue Open Source's Bruce Perens (theregister.co.uk) 307

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Register: In late June, noted open-source programmer Bruce Perens [a longtime Slashdot reader] warned that using Grsecurity's Linux kernel security could invite legal trouble. "As a customer, it's my opinion that you would be subject to both contributory infringement and breach of contract by employing this product in conjunction with the Linux kernel under the no-redistribution policy currently employed by Grsecurity," Perens wrote on his blog. The following month, Perens was invited to court. Grsecurity sued the open-source doyen, his web host, and as-yet-unidentified defendants who may have helped him draft that post, for defamation and business interference. Grsecurity offers Linux kernel security patches on a paid-for subscription basis. The software hardens kernel defenses through checks for common errors like memory overflows. Perens, meanwhile, is known for using the Debian Free Software Guidelines to draft the Open Source Definition, with the help of others.

Grsecurity used to allow others to redistribute its patches, but the biz ended that practice for stable releases two years ago and for test patches in April this year. It offers its GPLv2 licensed software through a subscription agreement. The agreement says that customers who redistribute the code -- a right under the GPLv2 license -- will no longer be customers and will lose the right to distribute subsequent versions of the software. According to Perens, "GPL version 2 section 6 explicitly prohibits the addition of terms such as this redistribution prohibition." A legal complaint (PDF) filed on behalf of Grsecurity in San Francisco, California, insists the company's software complies with the GPLv2. Grsecurity's agreement, the lawsuit states, only applies to future patches, which have yet to be developed. Perens isn't arguing that the GPLv2 applies to unreleased software. Rather, he asserts the GPLv2, under section 6, specifically forbids the addition of contractual terms.

Robotics

MegaBots Is Finally Going To Take On Japan In the World's First Giant Robot Duel (qz.com) 38

A company called MegaBots released a video two years ago challenging a Japanese collective to a giant robot fight. About a week later, the Japanese group, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, agreed. Now, according to MegaBots co-founderes, Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti, the battle is set to take place in September. Quartz reports: The battle would have happened a bit sooner, but apparently there have been "logistical issues at the originally-chosen venue," according to a release shared with Quartz by MegaBots. Unfortunately for fans hoping to see the battle in action -- presumably including those who backed the Kickstarter project to the tune of $550,000 to bring this robot to life -- the event will be closed to the public and recorded, for fears over the teams' ability to keep spectators safe. (One of the earliest conversations MegaBots had with Suidobashi was trying to figure out how the human pilots inside the robots would themselves "figure out how to not die.") Fans will be able to watch the fight on MegaBots' Facebook and YouTube sites, but it's not clear whether the fight will be live.
Android

BLU Claims Innocence, Gets Phones Reinstated On Amazon (slashgear.com) 43

Earlier this week, Amazon suspended budget phone maker BLU from selling its phones on the site, citing a "potential security issue." A few days have passed and BLU has made its defense. SlashGear reports: AdUps, the Chinese company that provides affordable firmware update software to countless budget Android phones, is not spyware and not even Kryptowire, the security firm that broke the news last year, called it that, insists BLU. To be fair, Kryptowire really didn't. In its 2016 report, it simply described AdUps' OTA software as "FIRMWARE THAT TRANSMITTED PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION (PII) WITHOUT USER CONSENT OR DISCLOSURE." Curiously, that is more or less how the FTC defines spyware (PDF). In its 2017 follow-up, it did drop the second part of that phrase and simply reported on "mobile devices for Personally Identifiable Information (PII) collection and transmission to third parties." While BLU, and a few other OEMs, was caught unaware by the first report, it's insisting on its innocence in this second instance. Its defense stems from the argument that it is doing nothing that violates its Privacy Policy and, therefore, doesn't constitute any wrongdoing. Yes, that privacy policy that barely anyone reads, which can't legally be blamed on manufacturers anyway.

In other words, when you agreed to use BLU's devices, you basically agreed that such PII could possibly be transmitted to a third party outside the US. In this particular case, that does apply to the situation with AdUps. Interestingly, the policy's copyright dates back to 2016, when the AdUps issue first came up. The Internet Archives doesn't seem to have any version of that page before April this year. And so we come to BLU's second arguments: everybody's doing it. The data that AdUps collects is the same or even just a fraction of what other OEMs are collecting. Google is hardly the bastion of privacy and other OEMs are also collecting such data and sending it to servers in China, as is the case with Huawei and ZTE. Finally, BLU says that Kryptowire's new report really only identifies the Cubot X16S, from a Chinese OEM, as the only smartphone really spying on its users.
UPDATE: BLU has confirmed that its devices "are now back up for sale on Amazon."
Network

Apple Plans To Release a Cellular-Capable Watch To Break iPhone Ties (bloomberg.com) 92

According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to release a version of the Apple Watch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device's reliance on the iPhone. From the report: Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home. Intel Corp. will supply the LTE modems for the new Watch, according to another person familiar with the situation. Apple is already in talks with carriers in the U.S. and Europe about offering the cellular version, the people added. The carriers supporting the LTE Apple Watch, at least at launch, may be a limited subset of those that carry the iPhone, one of the people said.
Android

Lenovo Switches To Stock Android For All Future Smartphones (ndtv.com) 80

Lenovo is canning its Vibe Pure UI Android skin in favor of the stock version of Google's mobile OS for its future smartphones, starting with the upcoming K8 Note, according to an interview from Gadgets 360 with Anuj Sharma, Lenovo India's head of marketing. From a report: Lenovo has confirmed that going forward, it will be abandoning its Vibe Pure UI Android customisation which ran on top of its recent Android smartphones in almost all markets. "What we have done in last 11 months is we looked at what we had in terms of software perspective. We have been close to the consumers and we saw what they were asking for. There was a certain trend and we have now decided to cut the Vibe Pure UI off from our phones. So you will now get the stock Android which consumers have been asking for," Sharma told Gadgets 360.
Intel

Intel's Upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs Won't Work With Today's Motherboards (pcworld.com) 240

Intel's upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs won't work with existing 200-series motherboards that support Kaby Lake, a manufacturer confirmed on Wednesday. In a Twitter post by Asrock last Saturday, the company confirmed the news when asked if "the Z270 Supercarrier [will] get support for the upcoming @intel Coffee Lake CPUs." Their response: "No, Coffee Lake CPU is not compatible with 200-series motherboards." PCWorld reports: According to at least one reliable source outside of Intel, the new Coffee Lake CPU will indeed not be compatible with Z270 boards, even though the chipsets with the upcoming Z370 appear to be the same, PCWorld was told. The source added that there are hopes in the industry that Intel will change its mind on compatibility. Tomshardware.com said it had independently confirmed the news with Asrock officials as well.

Why this matters: The vast majority of new CPU sales are in new systems, and they likely won't be impacted by the incompatibility. However, there's also a very large and very vocal crowd of builders and upgraders who still swap out older, slower CPUs for newer, faster CPUs to maximize their investment. An upgrade-in-place doesn't sell an Intel chipset, but it at least keeps them on the Intel platform. If consumers are forced to dump an existing Z270 motherboard for a newer Z370 to get a six-core Coffee Lake CPU, Intel risks driving them into the arms of AMD and its Ryzen CPUs.

Businesses

Uber Knowingly Leased Unsafe Cars To Drivers, Says Report (usatoday.com) 35

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Uber knowingly rented recalled Honda sports utility vehicles to its drivers in Singapore, where at least one of which caught fire. USA Today reports: The paper reported Uber's Singapore office bought more than 1,000 Honda Vezel sports utility vehicles to rent to its drivers there. The cars contained a faulty electrical part that could catch on fire and Honda had recalled in Japan and elsewhere. There had been at least six reports of fires in the Vezel. In a statement Uber said that as soon as it learned of a Honda Vezel catching fire, it took swift action to fix the problem, coordinating with Singapore's Land Transport Authority as well as technical experts. However it acknowledged that it could have done more. The company said it has since introduced robust protocols and hired three dedicated experts in Singapore to ensure that it is fully responsive to safety recalls.
Power

Tests Show Workers At Hanford Nuclear Facility Inhaled Radioactive Plutonium (king5.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from King 5, a local news station for Seattle, Washington: On June 8 approximately 350 Hanford workers were ordered to "take cover" after alarms designed to detect elevated levels of airborne radioactive contamination went off. It was quickly determined that radioactive particles had been swept out of a containment zone at the plutonium finishing plant (PFP) demolition site. The work is considered the most hazardous demolition project on the entire nuclear reservation. At the time Hanford officials called the safety measure "precautionary." Officials from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, which owns Hanford, and the contractor in charge of the demolition, CH2M Hill, downplayed the seriousness of the event with statements including, it appeared "workers were not at risk", "(the alarm went off) in an area where contamination is expected" and there was "no evidence radioactive particles had been inhaled" by anyone.

The KING 5 Investigators have discovered those statements are incorrect. An internal CH2M Hill email sent to their employees on July 21 was obtained by KING. It states that 301 (test kits) have been issued to employees and of the first 65 workers tested, a "small number of employees" showed positive results for "internal exposures" (by radioactive plutonium). Sources tell KING the "small number of employees" is twelve. Twelve people out of 65 is 20 percent. Still outstanding are 236 tests. A communication specialist with CH2M Hill sent a statement that more positive results are expected. "We expect additional positive results because analytical tests like a bioassay can detect radiological contamination at levels far lower than what field monitoring can detect," said Destry Henderson of CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company.

Security

WikiLeaks Reveals CIA Tool For Hacking Webcams, Microphones (thestack.com) 107

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: WikiLeaks has released a new set of documents in the CIA Vault 7 leak, outlining the "Dumbo" hacking tool which allows control of webcams and microphones. The release explains that the tool is capable of completely suspending processes on webcams and corrupting video recordings. Dumbo's is tasked specifically with gaining and exploiting physical access to target computers used in CIA field operations, the release notes. According to WikiLeaks, the tool allows for the identification, control and manipulation of monitoring and detection systems, such as webcams and microphones, running the Microsoft Windows operating system. The technology first identifies all installed devices, whether they are connected locally, wirelessly, or across wired networks. Once Dumbo has detected all of these devices, it identifies all the related processes, which may include recording, monitoring or detection of video, audio and network streams. These operations can then be suspended by the operator. "By deleting or manipulating recordings the operator is aided in creating fake or destroying actual evidence of the intrusion operation," the release added. Dumbo does require direct access to the target computer and is run from a USB stick. The release states that it supports 32bit Windows XP, Windows Vista, and newer versions of Windows operating system. However, 64bit Windows XP and Windows versions prior to XP are not supported.
Mozilla

Mozilla's Send is Basically the Snapchat of File Sharing (theverge.com) 107

Mozilla has launched a new website that makes it really easy to send a file from one person to another. From a report: The site is called Send, and it's basically the Snapchat of file sharing: after a file has been downloaded once, it disappears for good. That might sound like a gimmick, but it underscores what the site is meant for. It's designed for quick and private sharing between two people -- not for long-term hosting or distributing files to a large group. It supports files up to 1GB, and after uploading something, it'll give you a link to send to someone else. That link will expire once they've downloaded it or once 24 hours have passed.
Transportation

Hyperloop One's Full-Scale Pod Reaches 192 MPH In New Nevada Track Test (techcrunch.com) 249

On July 29, 2017, Hyperloop One competed a test at its full-scale Nevada test track that travelled a high speed, running nearly the entirety of the 500 meter (1640 foot) test route. "XP-1, the company's first Hyperloop pod, reached speeds of up to 192 mph during the test, which is getting closer to the planned functional speeds of future Hyperloop installations planned for Dubai elsewhere," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The new test breaks the recorded speed record for any Hyperloop tests ever conducted, including those done by research organizations participating in SpaceX's pod design competition. It was conducted on July 29, 2017, and included a 300 meter acceleration phase, with gradual breaking to come to a stop after that point. Hyperloop One depressurized the tube for the test track down to conditions similar to those at 200,000 feet above sea level, which is part of the Earth's atmosphere where there is very little friction and resistance to the rarified air. The company says that all aspects of the system, from motors, to electronics, to the vacuum pump and magnetic levitation mechanism worked well during the test.
Data Storage

IBM and Sony Cram Up To 330 Terabytes Into Tiny Tape Cartridge (arstechnica.co.uk) 71

IBM and Sony have developed a new magnetic tape system capable of storing 201 gigabits of data per square inch, for a max theoretical capacity of 330 terabytes in a single palm-sized cartridge. From a report: To achieve such a dramatic increase in areal density, Sony and IBM tackled different parts of the problem: Sony developed a new type of tape that has a higher density of magnetic recording sites, and IBM Research worked on new heads and signal processing tech to actually read and extract data from those nanometre-long patches of magnetism. Sony's new tape is underpinned by two novel technologies: an improved built-in lubricant layer, which keeps it running smoothly through the machine, and a new type of magnetic layer. Usually, a tape's magnetic layer is applied in liquid form, kind of like paint -- which is one of the reasons that magnetic tape is so cheap and easy to produce in huge quantities. In this case, Sony has instead used sputter deposition, a mature technique that has been used by the semiconductor and hard drive industries for decades to lay down thin films.
Software

Are App Sizes Out of Control? 386

In a blog post, Trevor Elkins points out the large sizes of common apps like LinkedIn and Facebook. "I went to update all my apps the other day when something caught my eye... since when does LinkedIn take up 275MB of space?!" Elkins wrote. "In fact, the six apps in this picture average roughly 230MB in size, 1387MB in total. That would take an 8Mbit internet connection 24 minutes to download, and I'd still be left with 27 additional apps to update! More and more companies are adopting shorter release cycles (two weeks or so) and it's becoming unsustainable as a consumer to update frequently."

Should Apple do something to solve this "systematic" problem? Elkins writes, "how does an app that occasionally sends me a connection request and recruiter spam take up 275MB?"

Further discussion via Hacker News.
Facebook

Facebook Is Working On a Video Chat Device (bloomberg.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook Inc. is working on a video chat device for the home -- the first major hardware product from its experimental Building 8 lab. Featuring a laptop-sized touchscreen, the device represents a new product category and could be announced as soon as next spring's F8 developer conference, according to people familiar with the matter. They say the large screen and smart camera technology could help farflung people feel like they're in the same room, which aligns with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg's mission of bringing Facebook users closer together. The device is in the prototype phase but is already being tested in people's homes. Geared to the living room, the video chat device will feature a wide-angle camera lens, microphones and speakers that are all powered by artificial intelligence to boost performance, the people said. A version of the device in testing includes a thin, vertical stand that holds a large touchscreen measuring between 13 and 15 inches diagonally, the people said. Facebook has considered running a version of the Android operating system on its device instead of building its own core operating system, according to the people. Facebook is testing a feature that would allow the camera to automatically scan for people in its range and lock onto them, one of the people said. Facebook is also working on a standalone smart speaker to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, reports Bloomberg. The social media giant is "hiring Apple veterans to help create a Siri-style voice assistant that would run on both devices."
Power

US Nuclear Comeback Stalls As Two Reactors Are Abandoned (theaustralian.com.au) 389

Brad Plumer reports via The New York Times (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source): In a major blow to the future of nuclear power in the United States, two South Carolina utilities said on Monday that they would abandon two unfinished nuclear reactors in the state, putting an end to a project that was once expected to showcase advanced nuclear technology but has since been plagued by delays and cost overruns. The two reactors, which have cost the utilities roughly $9 billion, remain less than 40 percent built. The cancellation means there are just two new nuclear units being built in the country -- both in Georgia -- while more than a dozen older nuclear plants are being retired in the face of low natural gas prices. Originally scheduled to come online by 2018, the V.C. Summer nuclear project in South Carolina had been plagued by disputes with regulators and numerous construction problems. This year, utility officials estimated that the reactors would not begin generating electricity before 2021 and could cost as much as $25 billion -- more than twice the initial $11.5 billion estimate. The utilities also struggled with an energy landscape that had changed dramatically since the large reactors were proposed in 2007. Demand for electricity has plateaued nationwide as a result of major improvements in energy efficiency, weakening the case for massive new power plants. And a glut of cheap natural gas from the hydraulic fracturing boom has given states a low-cost energy alternative. Facing those pressures, the two owners of the project, South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper, announced they would halt construction rather than saddle customers with additional costs.
Businesses

Apple's Shares Rise On Better-Than-Expected iPhone Sales (fortune.com) 60

Apple reported a 7.2% rise in quarterly revenue on Tuesday, thanks to better-than-expected sales of its iPhones. "The company said iPhone sales rose 1.6% to 41.03 million in the third quarter ended July 1, above analysts' average estimate of 40.7 million units," reports Fortune. "Apple sold 40.4 million iPhones a year earlier." From the report: Apple's shares rose 4% in after-hours trading on Tuesday to $ 156.00. Many customers wait for Apple to launch its new smartphones before deciding on upgrading or replacing their current devices, which usually results in iPhone demand tapering in the months before a release. The company forecast total revenue of between $49 billion and $52 billion for the current quarter, while analysts on average were expecting $49.21 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Analysts on average expect the company to sell 45.55 million iPhones in the current quarter, according to FactSet. Apple sold 45.51 million iPhones in the year-ago quarter.
Security

Hackers Can Turn Amazon Echo Into a Covert Listening Device (helpnetsecurity.com) 114

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: New research released by MWR InfoSecurity reveals how attackers can compromise the Amazon Echo and turn it into a covert listening device, without affecting its overall functionality. Found to be susceptible to a physical attack, which allows an attacker to gain a root shell on the Linux Operating Systems and install malware, the Amazon Echo would enable hackers to covertly monitor and listen in on users and steal private data without their permission or knowledge. By removing the rubber base at the bottom of the Amazon Echo, the research team could access the 18 debug pads and directly boot into the firmware of the device, via an external SD card, and install persistent malware without leaving any physical evidence of tampering. This gained them remote root shell access and enabled them to access the "always listening" microphones. Following a full examination of the process running on the device and the associated scripts, MWR's researchers investigated how the audio media was being passed and buffered between the processes and the tools used to do so. Then they developed scripts that leveraged tools embedded on the device to stream the microphone audio to a remote server without affecting the functionality of the device itself. The raw data was then sampled via a remote device, where a decision could then be made as to play it out of the speakers on the remote device or save the audio as a WAV file. The vulnerability has been confirmed to affect the 2015 and 2016 editions of the device. The 2017 edition of the Amazon Echo is not vulnerable to this physical attack. The smaller Amazon Dot model also does not carry the vulnerability. More technical details can be found here.
Iphone

New iPhone To Have Tap to Wake, Attention Detection, and Virtual Home Button, Says Report (theverge.com) 59

HomePod's firmware has revealed several new features coming to the upcoming iPhone, such as a tap to wake function, facial expression and attention detection, and virtual home button. "Apple accidentally released the firmware over the weekend resulting in a frenzy of analysis about previously unknown features," reports The Verge. From the report: Developers including Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo have been tweeting their findings, notably the discovery of the new iPhone's bezel-less screen design. They've also concluded that the resolution for the iPhone 8 could be as much of a visual leap forward from current-generation iPhones as the iPhone 4's Retina display was from the original iPhone. Apple is using codenames for both its face recognition feature and the bezel-less phone, called "Pearl ID" and "D22" respectively. A potential "attention detection" feature is also mentioned in the code, with some speculating that may mean the phone will remain silent for notifications if it knows you're looking at the screen already. Facial references such as "mouthstretch," "mouthsmile," and "mouthdimple" were also found, which are most likely a nod to Apple's rumored facial recognition feature that can even detect faces in the dark using infrared. A tap to wake feature has also been discovered, and should be similar to the Windows Phone function that allows users to double-tap the screen to wake the phone.
Businesses

NVIDIA Announces Quadro And TITAN xP External GPU Solutions, OptiX 5.0 SDK (hothardware.com) 36

Brandon Hill, writing for HotHardware: AMD isn't the only hardware company making waves this week at SIGGRAPH 2017. NVIDIA is looking to bolster its position in the professional graphics arena with a few new breakthroughs. The first of which is the addition of two new external graphics solutions that are targeted at professional artists and designers who primarily work with notebooks. NVIDIA is making it possible for these professionals to use either Pascal-based TITAN xP or Quadro graphics cards within an external GPU (eGPU) enclosure. NVIDIA will be partnering with a number of hardware partners including Bizon, Magma, and Sonnet, who will make compatible solutions available in September. NVIDIA is also playing up two of its strengths in artifice intelligence (AI) by launching the OptiX 5.0 SDK. With version 5.0, the OptiX is gaining ray tracing support to help speed up processing with regards to visual designs. This new release also adds GPU-accelerated motion blur along with AI-enhanced denoising capabilities.
Android

Is the iPhone 'Years' Ahead of Android In Photography? (9to5mac.com) 408

Former Google senior vice president of Social, Vic Gundotra, said that Android phones are years behind the iPhone when it comes to photography. In a Facebook post, Gundotra said: "The end of the DSLR for most people has already arrived. I left my professional camera at home and took these shots at dinner with my iPhone 7 using computational photography (portrait mode as Apple calls it). Hard not to call these results (in a restaurant, taken on a mobile phone with no flash) stunning. Great job Apple." 9to5Mac reports: In response to a comment suggesting that the Samsung S8 camera was even better, Business Insider spotted that Gundotra disagreed. He said that not only was Apple way ahead of Samsung, but Android was to blame. From Gundotra's Facebook post: "I would never use an Android phone for photos! Here is the problem: It's Android. Android is an open source (mostly) operating system that has to be neutral to all parties. This sounds good until you get into the details. Ever wonder why a Samsung phone has a confused and bewildering array of photo options? Should I use the Samsung Camera? Or the Android Camera? Samsung gallery or Google Photos? It's because when Samsung innovates with the underlying hardware (like a better camera) they have to convince Google to allow that innovation to be surfaced to other applications via the appropriate API. That can take YEARS. Also the greatest innovation isn't even happening at the hardware level -- it's happening at the computational photography level. (Google was crushing this 5 years ago -- they had had 'auto awesome' that used AI techniques to automatically remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, add vignetting, etc... but recently Google has fallen back). Apple doesn't have all these constraints. They innovate in the underlying hardware, and just simply update the software with their latest innovations (like portrait mode) and ship it. Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don't mind being a few years behind, buy an Android."

Slashdot Top Deals