Android

Is the Chromebook the New Android Tablet? (computerworld.com) 182

An anonymous reader shares a report from Computerworld, where JR Raphael makes the case for why it's time to call the Chromebook the new Android tablet: What does a traditional Android tablet do that a convertible Chromebook doesn't? No matter how long you mull, it's tough to come up with much. Nowadays, a Chromebook runs the same apps from the same Google Play Store. It has an increasingly similar user interface, with a new touch-friendly and Android-reminiscent app launcher rolling out as we speak. It's likely to have an Android-like way of getting around the system before long, too, not to mention native integration of the Google Assistant (which is launching with the newly announced Pixelbook and then presumably spreading to other devices from there). But on top of all of that, a Chromebook offers meaningful advantages a traditional Android tablet simply can't match. It operates within the fast-booting, inherently secure, and free from manufacturer- or carrier-meddling Chrome OS environment. The operating system is updated every two to three weeks, directly by Google, for a minimum of five years. That's a sharp contrast to the software realities we see on Android -- and if you think the updates on Android phones are bad, let me tell you: The situation with Android tablets is worse.

In addition to the regular selection of Android apps, a Chromebook also gives you a desktop-caliber browser experience along with a laptop-level keyboard and capable trackpad. (And, as a side perk, that means you've got a built-in multi-mode stand for your tablet, too.) It's the best of both worlds, as I've put it before -- a whole new kind of platform-defying, all-purpose productivity and entertainment machine. And while it won't immediately lead to the outright extinction of traditional Android tablets, it certainly makes them seem like a watered-down and obsolete version of the same basic experience.

Books

Amazon Finally Makes a Waterproof Kindle (theverge.com) 67

After 10 years of Kindles, Amazon has finally made a kindle e-reader with an IPX8 waterproof rating. The new Kindle Oasis features a 7-inch display and aluminum back. The Verge reports: Unlike last year's Kindle Oasis, which used a magnetic case you attached to the e-reader to extend its battery life, the new Oasis relies entirely on its built-in battery. It has a similar physical design, with one thicker side that tapers down on the other side, for one-handed reading. But Amazon has made a point of saying that it managed to fit in a bigger battery, while keeping the tapered side of the device at 3.4 millimeters. The resolution of the e-paper display is the same at 300 ppi, but it has a couple extra LED lights now for a brighter, more even-looking display. And it also has ambient light sensors that adjust the brightness as you move from room to room, or from outdoors to indoors. There are physical page-turn buttons, plus the touchscreen page-turn option; Amazon says it's worked on both the hardware and software side of things to make page-turning feel faster. The new e-reader has been tested in two meters of water for up to 60 minutes. It's also been tested in different water environments, like hot tubs, pools, and bubble baths.
Facebook

Facebook Announces $199 Oculus Go Standalone VR Headset (variety.com) 86

Facebook is going to ship a standalone VR headset called Oculus Go next year. The headset, which won't require a PC or phone to run, will be available early next year for $199. From a report: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg officially announced the new product during his keynote speech at Facebook's fourth Oculus Connect virtual reality (VR) developer conference in San Jose, Calif. Wednesday, where he framed the device as an important step towards bringing VR to the masses. "We want to get a billion people in virtual reality," Zuckerberg said. Facebook VP of VR Hugo Barra said that the company developed custom lenses for the headset, which allow for a wide field of view. The display is a fast-switch LCD screen with a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels, and it comes with integrated headphones. The company will be shipping first headsets to developers in November.
Transportation

Dutch Government Confirms Plan To Ban New Petrol, Diesel Cars By 2030 (electrek.co) 349

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Today, the new Dutch government presented its detailed plan for the coming years and it includes making all new cars emission-free by 2030 -- virtually banning petrol- and diesel-powered cars in favor of battery-powered vehicles. The four coalition parties have been negotiating their plans since the election in March and now after over 200 days, they have finally released the plan they agreed upon. NL Times posted all the main points of the plan and in "transportation," it includes: By 2030 all cars in the Netherlands must be emission free. While some local publications are reporting "all cars," we are told that it would be for "all new cars" as it is the case for the countries with similar bans under consideration. The potential for the ban has been under consideration in the country since last year. The year 2025, like in Norway, has been mentioned, but they apparently decided for the less ambitious goal of 2030.
IBM

How Does Microsoft Avoid Being the Next IBM? (arstechnica.com) 223

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: For fans of the platform, the official confirmation that Windows on phones isn't under active development any longer -- security bugs will be fixed, but new features and new hardware aren't on the cards -- isn't a big surprise. This is merely a sad acknowledgement of what we already knew. Last week, Microsoft also announced that it was getting out of the music business, signaling another small retreat from the consumer space. It's tempting to shrug and dismiss each of these instances, pointing to Microsoft's continued enterprise strength as evidence that the company's position remains strong. And certainly, sticking to the enterprise space is a thing that Microsoft could do. Become the next IBM: a stable, dull, multibillion dollar business. But IBM probably doesn't want to be IBM right now -- it has had five straight years of falling revenue amid declining relevance of its legacy businesses -- and Microsoft probably shouldn't want to be the next IBM, either. Today, Microsoft is facing similar pressures -- Windows, though still critical, isn't as essential to people's lives as it was a decade ago -- and risks a similar fate. Dropping consumer ambitions and retreating to the enterprise is a mistake. Microsoft's failure in smartphones is bad for Windows, and it's bad for Microsoft's position in the enterprise as a whole.
Japan

Tokyo Preparing For Floods 'Beyond Anything We've Seen' (tampabay.com) 98

In the face of an era of extreme weather brought on by climate change, global cities are working to improve their defenses. The New York Times reports (Warning: may be paywalled; alternative source) of Tokyo's $2 billion underground anti-flood system that consists of tunnels that divert water away from the region's most vulnerable floodplains. The city is "preparing for flooding beyond anything we've seen," says Kuniharu Abe, head of the underground site. From the report: But even in Tokyo, the onset of more frequent and intense storms has forced officials to question whether the region's protections are strong enough, a concern that has become more urgent as the city prepares to host the 2020 Olympic Games. Across Japan, rainfall measuring more than 2 inches an hour has increased 30 percent over the past three decades, the Japan Meteorological Agency estimates. The frequency of rainfall of more than 3 inches an hour has jumped 70 percent. The agency attributes the increase of these intense rains to global warming, heralding a new era in a country that is among the world's wettest, with a language that has dozens of words for rain. [...]

Experts have also questioned the wisdom of erecting more concrete defenses in a country that has dammed most of its major river systems and fortified entire shorelines with breakwaters and concrete blocks. Some of these protections, they say, only encourage development in regions that could still be vulnerable to future flooding. In eastern Saitama, where the Kasukabe facility has done the most to reduce floods, local industry has flourished; the region has successfully attracted several large e-commerce distribution centers and a new shopping mall. Still, the Kasukabe operation remains a critical part of Tokyo's defenses, say officials at Japan's Land Ministry, which runs the site. Five vertical, underground cisterns, almost 250 feet deep, take in stormwater from four rivers north of Tokyo. A series of tunnels connect the cisterns to a vast tank, larger than a soccer field, with ceilings held up by 60-foot pillars that give the space a temple-like feel. From that tank, industrial pumps discharge the floodwater at a controlled pace into the Edo river, a larger river system that flushes the water into Tokyo Bay.

Advertising

Alphabet's Waymo and Intel Are Launching Public Campaigns To Build Trust In Self-Driving Cars (theverge.com) 191

Alphabet's Waymo and Intel announced plans today to sponsor ads about self-driving cars. "Alphabet's Waymo is launching a public education campaign today called "Let's Talk Self-Driving" aimed at addressing the skepticism many people have about autonomous technology," reports The Verge. Meanwhile, "Intel said it would be airing its commercial starring LeBron James in the run-up to the NBA season opener on October 17th. From the report: The ad campaign will launch first in Arizona, before spreading to other states. Waymo is preparing to launch its first commercial ride-hailing service powered by its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans, according to a recent report in The Information. This public education campaign would appear to be a prelude to inviting ordinary people to take a ride in a driverless vehicle. Both companies recognize that in order to make lots of money, there will need to be a robust effort to persuade people that autonomous vehicles are as safe, if not safer, than human-operated ones. Recent polls suggest that most people wouldn't take a ride in a driverless car, even if they like the idea surrounding the technology.
Iphone

Face ID Is Coming To the iPad Pro Next Year, Says Report (macrumors.com) 73

According to MacRumors, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said iPad Pro models set to be released in 2018 will come equipped with a TrueDepth Camera and will support Face ID. Apple is believed to be adding TrueDepth cameras to the iPad Pro to introduce a user experience that's consistent with the iPhone X and boost competitiveness. From the report: According to Kuo, TrueDepth Cameras will be limited to the iPad Pro, which is Apple's main flagship tablet device. Kuo also predicts 2018 iPhone models will adopt the new camera technology coming in the iPhone X, as he has mentioned in a previous note: "We predict iOS devices to be equipped with TrueDepth Camera in 2018F will include iPhone X and 2018 new iPhone and iPad models. Because of this, we believe more developers will pay attention to TrueDepth Camera/ facial recognition related applications. We expect Apple's (U.S.) major promotion of facial recognition related applications will encourage the Android camp to also dedicate more resources to developing hardware and facial recognition applications."
Earth

EPA Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule (nytimes.com) 316

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source: The Trump administration announced Monday that it would take formal steps to repeal President Barack Obama's signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of America's efforts to tackle global warming. At an event in eastern Kentucky, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions. The repeal proposal, which will be filed in the Federal Register on Tuesday, fulfills a promise President Trump made to eradicate his predecessor's environmental legacy. Eliminating the Clean Power Plan makes it less likely the United States can fulfill its promise as part of the Paris climate agreement to ratchet down emissions that are warming the planet and contributing to heat waves and sea-level rise. Mr. Trump has vowed to abandon that international accord.

In announcing the repeal, Mr. Pruitt made many of the same arguments that he had made for years to Congress and in lawsuits: that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. (Last year, the Supreme Court blocked the rule from taking effect while courts assessed those lawsuits.) A leaked draft of the repeal proposal asserts that the country would save $33 billion by not complying with the regulation and rejects the health benefits the Obama administration had calculated from the original rule.

Microsoft

Microsoft Exec Says Windows 10 Mobile is No Longer a 'Focus' (engadget.com) 135

From a report: Microsoft's Joe Belfiore informed Twitter users that new features and hardware for Windows 10 Mobile "aren't the focus" any more. There will be fixes and security patches, of course, but you shouldn't expect more than that. As for why the platform has been all but dropped? The executive boils it down to one main reason: the difficulty of getting developers to write apps. Microsoft tried paying companies to produce apps and even wrote them itself when creators couldn't or wouldn't get involved, but the number of users was "too low for most companies to invest." Why build an app for a relatively small bunch of Windows phone owners when there are many more Android and iOS users? Belfiore himself switched to Android for the "app/[hardware] diversity." It's a bit more complicated than that, of course. You can point to a few other factors in Windows' fate on phones, such as slowness in responding to Apple and Google as well as an inconsistent hardware strategy (you could rarely count on getting a timely sequel to a handset you liked). Whatever the reason, it's safe to say that Microsoft isn't just acknowledging that Android and iOS hold a clear lead -- it's quashing any hopes for a comeback, at least for the foreseeable future.
Open Source

Linux Now Has its First Open Source RISC-V Processor (designnews.com) 161

"SiFive has declared that 2018 will be the year of RISC V Linux processors," writes Design News. An anonymous reader quotes their report: When it released its first open-source system on a chip, the Freeform Everywhere 310, last year, Silicon Valley startup SiFive was aiming to push the RISC-V architecture to transform the hardware industry in the way that Linux transformed the software industry. Now the company has delivered further on that promise with the release of the U54-MC Coreplex, the first RISC-V-based chip that supports Linux, Unix, and FreeBSD... This latest development has RISC-V enthusiasts particularly excited because now it opens up a whole new world of use cases for the architecture and paves the way for RISC-V processors to compete with ARM cores and similar offerings in the enterprise and consumer space...

"The U54 Coreplexes are great for companies looking to build SoC's around RISC-V," Andrew Waterman co-founder and chief engineer at SiFive, as well as the one of the co-creators of RISC-V, told Design News. "The forthcoming silicon is going to enable much better software development for RISC-V." Waterman said that, while SiFive had developed low-level software such as compilers for RISC-V the company really hopes that the open-source community will be taking a much broader role going forward and really pushing the technology forward. "No matter how big of a role we would want to have we can't make a dent," Waterman said. "But what we can do is make sure the army of engineers out there are empowered."

Transportation

42 Solar-Powered Cars Race in 31st Annual 'Solar Challenge' Race (engadget.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: It's a special moment in the history of clean energy: the 30th anniversary World Solar Challenge has begun. A total of 42 solar-powered cars (the largest field to date) left Darwin, Australia on October 8th to travel roughly 1,880 miles to Adelaide. The race officially lasts a week, but it's likely going to end considerably sooner for the front-runners -- the world record holders, Tokai University, took just under 30 hours in 2009...

This year, the race regulations are a clear sign of how rapidly solar technology is changing. Teams have to use a smaller solar collector than before: cars in the Challenger class can have no more than 43 square feet of solar cells versus nearly 65 square feet for the previous race, in 2015. That's half the area allowed on cars from the original 1987 race. In other words, technology is advanced enough now (both in solar cells and the underlying vehicle designs) that you don't need a sea of panels to keep a car running.

Power

CNN Skeptical of Elon Musk's 'Big Promises' (cnn.com) 206

An anonymous reader writes: Tesla's electric semi-truck will be launched three weeks later than planned, CNN reports. It's been bumped to November 16th because Tesla says it's "diverting resources" to address problems with its Model 3 sedan production -- they've produced just 17.3% of the cars they'd planned -- and to make more batteries to send to areas hit by hurricanes. CNN notes Tesla's Model X "didn't start shipping until two years after it was supposed to roll out," and production of its Model S sedan "was also much slower than originally promised." Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, complains Tesla "may well have far too much on its plate. It should focus and deliver on some key promises."

But Elon Musk "has a history of some pretty pie-in-the-sky promises," complained CNN business anchor Maggie Lake, citing Musk's claim that he had verbal approval for an underground hyperloop connecting New York City to Washington D.C. ("This is news to City Hall," said New York's press secretary at the time, and no actual approval has ever been produced.) Lake also noted Musk's promise to fix South Australia's blackout problems by building the world's largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days back in March. Last Friday Tesla signed a contract to begin the work, so the 100-day countdown has begun.

CNN's report ran under the headline "Elon Musk: Big Dreamer or Monorail Salesman?" -- referencing a satirical 1993 episode of The Simpson's. "Here's a spoiler alert," the segment concludes. "If you haven't seen that episode...the monorail plan doesn't work out too well. Let's put it that way."
Google

Clever Hack Fakes A Sleep Timer For Google Home (vortex.com) 50

Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: I've long been bitching about Google Home's lack of a basic function that clock radios have had since at least the middle of the last century -- the classic "sleep timer" for playing music until a specified time or until a specific interval has passed... Originally, sleep timer type commands weren't recognized at all by GH, but eventually it started admitting that the concept at least exists... Officially, GH still responds with "Sleep timer is not yet supported" when you give commands like "Stop playing in an hour"... A somewhat inconvenient but seemingly serviceable way to fake a sleep timer is now possible with Google Home. I plead guilty, it's a hack. But here we go.
The hack exploits the new "Night Mode" in the firmware, which lets you set a maximum volume for specific hours of the day, creating silent (but still-active) music streaming. "Yep, a hack, but it works," writes Lauren. "And it's the closest we've gotten to a real sleep timer on Google Home so far."

Any other Slashdot readers have their own favorite personal assistant tricks?
Earth

100K Lose Power As America Faces Its Third Hurricane In Three Weeks (go.com) 119

An anonymous reader writes: The good news: Hurricane Nate was eventually downgraded to "a tropical storm" at 4:30 Sunday morning (EST), moving north-northeast with maximum winds of 70 mph. The bad news: 100,000 people don't have power in Mississippi and Alabama, and a tornado watch is in effect until 11 a.m. "Even though Nate has made landfall and will weaken today, we are still forecasting heavy rain from Nate to spread well inland towards the Tennessee Valley and Appalachian mountains," ABC News meteorologist Daniel Manzo said Sunday morning. Saturday the Gulf Coast near Biloxi, Mississippi was hit with 85 mph winds and a storm surge of between four to five feet. "Gulf Coast residents are waking up to a wet, windy -- and in some cases, powerless -- Sunday morning," reports ABC News, "but it's still not as devastating as they expected."

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