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Hardware

Iconic Feature Phone Nokia 3310 Coming Back this Month, VentureBeat Says (venturebeat.com) 94

The iconic Nokia 3310 feature phone is all set for a return, according to a report. VentureBeat adds: HMD Global Oy, the Finnish manufacturer with exclusive rights to market phones under the storied Nokia brand, is planning to announce four such handsets at Mobile World Congress later this month, according to a person briefed on the company's plans. Known primarily for its plentiful battery life and nearly indestructible build, the 3310 was released at the turn of the millennium as a replacement to the also-popular 3210.
Transportation

Father of Driver In Violent Tesla Crash Blames Sedan's 'Rocket-Ship' Acceleration (autoweek.com) 640

"A Tesla crash that resulted in the deaths of the driver and a passenger in Indianapolis last November is drawing new controversy after the father of one of the victims made comments regarding the role of the Model S in the incident," Autoweek reports. "The crash occurred in downtown Indianapolis on Nov. 3, 2016, with the Model S driven by 27-year-old Casey Speckman striking a tree and catching fire. Speckman was pronounced dead at the scene while her passenger, 44-year-old Kevin McCarthy, succumbed to his injuries after being taken to the hospital." From the report: A report released last week by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department disclosed that Speckman had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21, almost three times the legal limit in the state of Indiana, The Indianapolis Star reports. Another new detail has emerged since the violent crash was first reported: The Tesla could have been been trying to maneuver around a vehicle traveling on the wrong side of the street, suggested by closed-circuit footage obtained by the attorney of the driver's father, Jon Speckman. The coroner's report cited blunt-force injuries caused by the crash as the causes of death for both victims, noting the vehicle's fire as a contributing factor, according to The Indianapolis Star. Jon Speckman recently made comments to the newspaper blaming the acceleration of the Tesla Model S. "Had she been in another vehicle, she would have been alive for me to yell at her for driving after drinking," Speckman told The Indianapolis Star in an interview at his attorney's office. "This is a vehicle that travels from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds," Speckman also said during the interview. "She's clearly having to swerve to miss a vehicle going the wrong way on a one-way street. If her foot should happen to hit the accelerator, it's like a rocket ship. I don't know why they have to make a car that does that."
Google

Engineers On Google's Self-Driving Car Project Were Paid So Much That They Quit (theverge.com) 95

According to a new report from Bloomberg, most of the money Google spent on it self-driving car project, now spun off into a new entity called Waymo, has gone to engineers and other staff. While it has helped retain a lot of influential and dedicated workers in the short run, it has resulted in many staffers leaving the company in the long run due to the immense financial security. The Verge reports: Bloomberg says that early staffers "had an unusual compensation system" that multiplied staffers salaries and bonuses based on the performance of the self-driving project. The payments accumulated as milestones were reached, even though Waymo remains years away from generating revenue. One staffer eventually "had a multiplier of 16 applied to bonuses and equity amassed over four years." The huge amounts of compensation worked -- for a while. But eventually, it gave many staffers such financial security that they were willing to leave the cuddly confines of Google. Two staffers that Bloomberg spoke to called it "F-you money," and the accumulated cash allowed them to depart Google for other firms, including Chris Urmson who co-founded a startup with ex-Tesla employee Sterling Anderson, and others who founded a self-driving truck company called Otto which was purchased by Uber last year, and another who founded Argo AI which received a $1 billion investment from Ford last week.
Apple

Apple Suspends Sales of LG's UltraFine 5K Monitor Over Hardware Issues (appleinsider.com) 79

Roger Fingas, writing for AppleInsider: Apple has temporarily stopped sales of LG's UltraFine 5K monitor, due to technical problems associated with a lack of proper shielding from wireless interference. Over the weekend, Apple retail staff were told to keep the product on display yet not sell any units if people asked, according to a Business Insider source. The site added that it heard the same from a representative at a New York Apple store. Separately, AppleInsider has confirmed the organized removal from sale of the Thunderbolt 3 display. Sources inside Apple not authorized to speak on behalf of the company indicated that retail locations are retaining demonstration displays, but not selling any stock on-hand that it may receive that may actually have the shielding fix, nor filling any pending orders until otherwise informed. Big blow to Apple, which has given up on external monitors business. But at least, it's comforting to know people who wish to purchase a new display for their MacBook or MacBook Pro have several company-approved alternatives. Oh wait, they don't.
Hardware

Researchers Working on Liquid Battery That Could Last For Over 10 Years (engadget.com) 217

Jon Fingas, writing for Engadget: If Harvard researchers have their way, you may not have to worry about replacing power backs quite so often. They've developed a flow battery (that is, a battery that stores energy in liquid solutions) which should last for over a decade. The trick was to modify the molecules in the electrolytes, ferrocene and viologen, so that they're stable, water-soluble and resistant to degradation. When they're dissolved in neutral water, the resulting solution only loses 1 percent of its capacity every 1,000 cycles. It could be several years before you even notice a slight dropoff in performance. The use of water is also great news for both the environment and your bank account. As it's not corrosive or toxic, you don't have to worry about wrecking your home if the battery leaks -- you might just need a mop.
Iphone

Apple Joins Wireless Power Consortium Amid Rumors of iPhone With Wireless Charging (theverge.com) 79

If you've been holding out hope for wireless charging to come to the iPhone, chew on this: Apple joined the Wireless Power Consortium. From a report: Last week, a leaked note suggested that Apple is working on adding wireless charging to three phones scheduled for release in 2017. The technology may be similar to what the company has already implemented with the Apple Watch, though other reports have hinted at charging solutions that can add power to devices from a distance. The Wireless Power Consortium is the group behind Qi, a wireless charging standard that uses inductive power transfers to charge without cords.
Robotics

Elon Musk: Humans Need To Merge With Machines Else They Will Become Irrelevant in AI Age (cnbc.com) 251

Billionaire Elon Musk is known for his futuristic ideas. So it didn't come as a surprise when on Monday at the World Government Summit in Dubai, he predicted that over time we will see a "closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence." He added, via a CNBC report: "It's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output." Musk explained what he meant by saying that computers can communicate at "a trillion bits per second", while humans, whose main communication method is typing with their fingers via a mobile device, can do about 10 bits per second. In an age when AI threatens to become widespread, humans would be useless, so there's a need to merge with machines, according to Musk. "Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem," Musk explained.
Wireless Networking

Qualcomm's New 802.11ax Chips Will Ramp Up Your Wi-Fi (cnet.com) 53

Your home Wi-Fi performance could soon get much better thanks to new Wi-Fi chips that Qualcomm announced today, the IPQ8074 system-on-chip (SoC) for broadcasters (routers and access points) and the QCA6290 SoC for receivers (Wi-Fi devices). They belong to the first end-to-end commercial Wi-Fi portfolio to support the all-new 802.11ax standard. From a report on CNET: Qualcomm says the IPQ8074 is a highly-integrated all-in-one platform designed for access points, gateways and routers. The 14nm chip integrates an 11ax radio, MAC and baseband, and a quad-core 64-bit A53 CPU as well as a dual-core network accelerator. It uses a 12x12 Wi-Fi configuration (8x8 on the 5GHz band and 4x4 on the 2.4GHz band) and supports MU-MIMO for uplink. As a result, it can deliver up to 4.8 Gbps while maintaining fast connections over a larger coverage area than any 802.11ac chip. On the client side, Qualcomm says the QCA6290 SoC can offer up to a 4x increase in throughput speed in a crowded network. It supports 2x2 MU-MIMO and can realize the full benefits of the 8x8 MU-MIMO thanks to its 8x8 sounding mechanism. The chip can combine 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands using its Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS) feature to deliver up to 1.8 Gbps Wi-Fi speed. Compared with 802.11ac, the chip can reduce power consumption by two-thirds.
Displays

Magic Leap CEO Defends His AR Company After Leaked Photo (mashable.com) 62

Saturday Business Insider claimed that augmented reality company Magic Leap was "scrambling to finish a working prototype before an important board meeting next week," publishing a photo described by their source as an early January prototype. An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: The image depicts a man with a kit on his back that looks as if it's in the early stages of development, but [CEO Rony] Abovitz's tweet suggested it was not intended as consumer technology. "The photo you are all excited about is NOT what you think it is," he wrote. "The photo shows an @magicleap R&D test rig where we collect room/space data for our machine vision/machine learning work. We do this in order to understand lighting, texture, various surfaces." As Mashable noted earlier, the leaked photo has done little to assuage fears the company's technology has been overhyped... A December report in The Information raised questions about whether Magic Leap was ready for primetime amid concerns that much of its work could not be commercialised or miniaturised. Two former employees also reportedly told the outlet a promotional video showing the technology in action was in fact created by the special effects company, Weta Workshop.
Magic Leap raised $1.39 billion from investors (including Google), and Abovitz's last tweet Saturday reassured fans that "We will not let you down." Mashable even suggested that "this might just be a bit of clever marketing spin by Magic Leap to greatly lower expectations before unveiling a polished product in the coming months... The worst case scenario is that this does represent the latest version of the company's prototype meant for consumers, in which case there's very little chance we will see a Magic Leap device available to consumers any time in 2017."
Displays

Nanorods Emit and Detect Light, Could Lead To Displays That Communicate Via Li-Fi (ieee.org) 33

schwit1 quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Ever since 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, quantum dots have been in a market struggle to displace light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as a backlight source for liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Now an advance by a team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in South Korea and Dow Chemical may turn the display market on its head by eliminating the need for backlights in LCD devices. They have produced a LED pixel out of nanorods capable of both emitting and detecting light. In research described in the journal Science, the international team of researchers mixed three types of semiconductors to produce engineered nanorods. "The nanorods contain three different semiconductor materials," explains Shim. "The first semiconductor, which is attached at the tips of the nanorod, is the quantum dot that emits and absorbs visible light." The other two semiconductors are the main body of the rod and the shell around the quantum dot. These components facilitate and control the flow of electrons (negative charges) and holes (positive charges) to and from the quantum dot. The semiconductor materials in the rod and the shell each have a band gap in which no electron states can exist as well as band alignment. With these two semiconductors in contact with the quantum dot, the nanorods are extremely efficient at both emitting and detecting light.
Japan

Excessive Radiation Inside Fukushima Fries Clean-Up Robot (gizmodo.com) 307

"A remotely-controlled robot sent to inspect and clean a damaged reactor at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant had to be pulled early when its onboard camera went dark, the result of excess radiation," reports Gizmodo. "The abbreviated mission suggests that radiation levels inside the reactor are even higher than was reported last week -- and that robots are going to have a hell of a time cleaning this mess up." From the report: Last week, Gizmodo reported that radiation levels inside the containment vessel of reactor No. 2 at Fukushima reached a jaw-dropping 530 sieverts per hour, a level high enough to kill a human within seconds. Some Japanese government officials questioned the reading because Tokyo Electric Power Company Holding (TEPCO) calculated it by looking at camera interference on the robot sent in to investigate, rather than measuring it directly with a geiger counter or dosimeter. It now appears that this initial estimate may have been too low. Either that, or TEPCO's robot is getting closer to the melted fuel -- which is very likely. High radiation readings near any of the used fuel are to be expected. Yesterday, that same remotely operated robot had to be pulled when its camera began to fail after just two hours of exposure to the radiation inside the damaged reactor. Accordingly, TEPCO has revised its estimate to about 650 sieverts per hour, which is 120 more sieverts than what was calculated late last month (although the new estimate comes with a 30 percent margin of error). The robot is designed to withstand about 1,000 accumulated sieverts, which given the failure after two hours, jibes well with the camera interference. This likely means that the melted fuel burned through its pressure vessel during the meltdown in March of 2011, and is sitting somewhere nearby.
Medicine

Amputees Control Virtual Prosthetic Arm Using Nerve Signals (newscientist.com) 8

CanadianRealist writes: Current prosthetic arms are usually controlled by detecting signals from the user twitching muscles in the shoulder or arm. This allows only a limited number of possible movements, such as grasp and release. Researchers have developed a new technique that interprets signals from motor neurons in the spinal cord, allowing for a greater range of control of an arm. Signals from nerves associated with hand and arm movements were mapped to the corresponding movements. Test subjects were able to move a virtual prosthetic arm with greater freedom than has been achieved with muscle-controlled prosthetics. (Note: A virtual prosthetic arm was used rather than a real one as this work is still in the early stages.) The study has been published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Spam

Spammer Faces Decades In Prison For Sending More Than 1 Million Spam Emails (suntimes.com) 146

mi quotes a report from Chicago Sun-Times: A man has been indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly sending more than a million spam emails. The indictment charges 36-year-old Michael Persaud of Scottsdale, Arizona, with 10 counts of wire fraud and seeks the forfeiture of four computers, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office. The indictment was returned Dec. 9, 2016, and was unsealed after Persaud was arrested last month in Arizona. Between 2012 and 2015, Persaud used multiple IP addresses and domains to send spam emails over at least nine networks, including several servers in Chicago, according to the indictment. He sent more than a million spam emails to people in the U.S. and abroad, using false names to register domains and creating fraudulent "from address" fields to conceal the fact that he was the one sending the emails. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
mi leaves us with some rather unpleasant imagery, writing: "Personally, I wish [the sentence] carried removal of 1 square millimeter of skin for each message instead."
Businesses

Lockheed Martin Screwup Delays Delivery of Air Force GPS Satellites (bloomberg.com) 68

schwit1 writes: Incompetence by a Lockheed Martin subcontractor will delay the delivery of 32 new Air Force GPS satellites and will likely cost the government millions. Bloomberg reports: "Lockheed has a contract to build the first 10 of the satellites designed to provide a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System used for everything from the military's targeting of terrorists to turn-by-turn directions for civilians' smartphones. The program's latest setback may affect a pending Air Force decision on whether to open the final 22 satellites to competition from Lockheed rivals Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. 'This was an avoidable situation and raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris program management,' Teague said in a Dec. 21 message to congressional staff obtained by Bloomberg News. The parts in question are ceramic capacitors that have bedeviled the satellite project. They take higher-voltage power from the satellite's power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem. Last year, the Air Force and contractors discovered that Harris hadn't conducted tests on the components, including how long they would operate without failing, that should have been completed in 2010. Now, the Air Force says it found that Harris spent June to October of last year doing follow-up testing on the wrong parts instead of samples of the suspect capacitors installed on the first three satellites. Harris 'immediately notified Lockheed and the government' after a post-test inspection, Teague said in his message." So, the subcontractor first failed to do the required tests, then they did the tests on the wrong parts. Sounds like the kind of quality control problems we have seen recently in Russia and Japan. The worst part? The contract is a cost-plus contract, which means the U.S. tax payer has to absorb the additional costs for fixing the screw-up, not Lockheed Martin or its subcontractor.
Intel

Intel Confirms 8th Gen Core On 14nm, Data Center First To New Nodes (anandtech.com) 78

Ian Cutress, writing for AnandTech: Intel's 8th Generation Core microarchitecture will remain on the 14nm node. This is an interesting development with the recent launch of Intel's 7th Generation Core products being touted as the 'optimization' behind the new 'Process-Architecture-Optimization' three-stage cadence that had replaced the old 'tick-tock' cadence. With Intel stringing out 14nm (or at least, an improved variant of 14nm as we've seen on 7th Gen) for another generation, it makes us wonder where exactly Intel can promise future performance or efficiency gains on the design unless they start implementing microarchitecture changes.
Iphone

All Three New 2017 iPhones To Feature Wireless Charging, Says Analyst (macrumors.com) 143

In late October, Nikkei Asian Review released a report claiming Foxconn was testing wireless charging modules for the iPhone 8. Another report has surfaced recently that further reinforces those claims. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo now claims that all three new iPhones expected to launch later this year will feature wireless charging. MacRumors reports: Kuo said wireless charging increases the internal temperature of smartphones, so he expects the rumored iPhone 8 with an OLED display and glass casing to have a new 3D Touch module with "additional graphite sheet lamination" in order to prevent the device from malfunctioning due to overheating. An excerpt from Kuo's research note obtained by MacRumors: "While we don't expect general users to notice any difference, lamination of an additional graphite sheet is needed for better thermal control and, thus, steady operation; this is because FPCB is replaced with film, which is more sensitive to temperature change of the 3D touch sensor in OLED iPhone." The new 3D Touch module could be up to $5 more expensive for Apple to procure per phone. While that is a minimal increase, it lends further credence to a report claiming the high-end iPhone 8 could cost upwards of $1,000 in the United States due to a significant redesign and the use of premium parts.
EU

86 Percent of New Power in Europe From Renewable Sources in 2016 (theguardian.com) 189

Renewable energy sources made up nearly nine-tenths of new power added to Europe's electricity grids last year, in a sign of the continent's rapid shift away from fossil fuels. From a report on The Guardian: But industry leaders said they were worried about the lack of political support beyond 2020, when binding EU renewable energy targets end. Of the 24.5GW of new capacity built across the EU in 2016, 21.1GW -- or 86% -- was from wind, solar, biomass and hydro, eclipsing the previous high-water mark of 79% in 2014. For the first time windfarms accounted for more than half of the capacity installed, the data from trade body WindEurope showed. Wind power overtook coal to become the EU's second largest form of power capacity after gas, though due to the technology's intermittent nature, coal still meets more of the blocâ(TM)s electricity demand.
Transportation

Tesla To Start Pilot Production of Model 3 This Month (reuters.com) 112

According to Reuters, Tesla is planning to "begin test-building its Model 3 sedans on February 20, a move that could allay concerns about the company meeting its target to start production in July." The sources familiar with the matter did not mention how many of the Model 3 vehicles Tesla aims to build in February, though the number is likely to be small to test the assembly system and the quality of vehicle parts. From the report: Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk last year told investors and more than 370,000 customers who put deposits down for a Model 3 that he intended to start building the cars in July 2017. At the time, many analysts and suppliers said the timeline was too ambitious and would be difficult to achieve, pointing to Tesla's history of missing aggressive production targets. If Tesla succeeds in starting pilot production of the sedan at its factory in Fremont, California on Feb. 20, the company would be able to share the news with shareholders two days later when it reports fourth-quarter results and better answer any questions about the Model 3 rollout. Musk had told investors last year that the company could miss the July 2017 startup target if suppliers do not meet deadlines.
Android

Android Wear 2.0 Is An Evolutionary Update To Google's Smartwatch OS (techcrunch.com) 40

Google is officially launching Android Wear 2.0 today -- the biggest update to the company's wearable operating system since its launch in 2014. While Android Wear 2.0 will be launching with two new flagship watches from LG -- the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style, a number of existing Wear watches will also get this update in the coming weeks and months. TechCrunch reports: The first thing you'll notice when you get a 2.0 watch is the overall update to its design -- both in terms of the overall look but also the user experience. The look of Wear 2.0 now skews closer to Google's Material Design guidelines. While the overall look will still feel familiar to Wear 1.0 users, the update put a stronger emphasis on cards, for example. This means every notification now gets a full screen to show its preview and you can use the watch's dial to scroll through them (assuming your watch has a dial, of course -- otherwise you can obviously still use the touch screen to scroll). The other marquee feature of Wear 2.0 is support for standalone apps that don't need a companion app to run on your phone. That means developers can write apps that are purely geared toward the watch and they can then publish it on the Google Play store, which is now also available directly on the watch. That sounds more useful than it is -- unless you plan on getting an LTE-enabled watch and leave your phone at home. That's an option now that you could run Hangout or Google Music directly on the watch, but, except for runners, that's likely not a typical use case. At the end of the day, the most important use case for a smartwatch remains dealing with notifications. Everything else often feels like an unnecessary complication. [In summary, Frederic Lardinois writes via TechCrunch:] The Android smartwatch market could use a revolution to kickstart what now occasionally feels like a moribund ecosystem. Wear 2.0 doesn't feel revolutionary. It is, however, a perfectly adequate update that addresses many of the issues with Android Wear. It also puts it on parity with its competitors, like Apple's watchOS or Samsung's Tizen. It does also introduce some new use cases for LTE-enabled watches, but I can't help but feel that this will remain a niche category. Much, however, will depend on Google's hardware partners who will now have to bring Wear 2.0 to life.
Facebook

Facebook Is Closing 200 of Its 500 VR Demo Stations At Best Buy Stores Across US (businessinsider.com) 128

According to Business Insider, "Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus Rift virtual-reality demo stations at Best Buy locations across the U.S." The reason has to do with "store performance," as multiple Best Buy pop-ups told Business Insider that "it was common for them to go days without giving a single demonstration." From their report: Oculus spokeswoman Andrea Schubert confirmed the closings and said they were due to "seasonal changes." "We're making some seasonal changes and prioritizing demos at hundreds of Best Buy locations in larger markets," she said. "You can still request Rift demos at hundreds of Best Buy stores in the U.S. and Canada." "We still believe the best way to learn about VR is through a live demo," she continued. "We're going to find opportunities to do regular events and pop ups in retail locations and local communities throughout the year." Best Buy spokeswoman Carly Charlson said stores that no longer offer demos will continue to sell the Oculus Rift headset and accompanying touch controllers, which cost $600 and $200 respectively. Multiple "Oculus Ambassador" workers BI spoke with said that, at most, they would sell a few Oculus headsets per week during the holiday season, and that foot traffic to their pop-ups decreased drastically after Christmas. "There'd be some days where I wouldn't give a demo at all because people didn't want to," said one worker at a Best Buy in Texas who asked to remain anonymous. Another worker from California said that Oculus software bugs would often render his demo headsets unusable.

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