Displays

iPhone X Has the 'Most Innovative and High Performance' Smartphone Display Ever Tested (macrumors.com) 233

The display in the iPhone X is produced by Samsung and improved by Apple, says screen technology analysis firm DisplayMate. The company has released a display shoot-out for the iPhone X, praising Apple's technology in areas like the higher resolution OLED screen, automatic color management, viewing angle performance, and more. Mac Rumors reports: According to DisplayMate, the iPhone X has the "most innovative and high performance" smartphone display it has ever tested. DisplayMate also congratulated Samsung Display for "developing and manufacturing the outstanding OLED display hardware in the iPhone X." iPhone X matched or set new smartphone display records in the following categories: highest absolute color accuracy, highest full screen brightness for OLED smartphones, highest full screen contrast rating in ambient light, and highest contrast ratio. It also had the lowest screen reflectance and smallest brightness variation with a viewing angle. The iPhone X's 5.8-inch OLED display includes a taller height to width aspect ratio of 19.5:9, 22 percent larger than the 16:9 aspect ratio on previous iPhone models (and most other smartphones). Because of this DisplayMate noted that the iPhone X also has a new 2.5K higher resolution with 2436x1125 pixels and 458 pixels per inch. The iPhone X's display resolution provides "significantly higher image sharpness" than can be analyzed by a person with normal 20/20 vision at a 12-inch viewing distance. DisplayMate said this means that it's now "absolutely pointless" to increase the display resolution and pixels per inch of the iPhone any further, since there would be "no visual benefit" for users.
Music

A Global Shortage of Magnetic Tape Leaves Cassette Fans Reeling (wsj.com) 276

A reader shares a report: Steve Stepp and his team of septuagenarian engineers are using a bag of rust, a kitchen mixer larger than a man and a 62-foot-long contraption that used to make magnetic strips for credit cards to avert a disaster that no one saw coming in the digital-music era. The world is running out of cassette tape (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). National Audio Co., where Mr. Stepp is president and co-owner, has been hoarding a stockpile of music-quality, an-eighth of an inch-wide magnetic tape from suppliers that shut down in the past 15 years after music lovers ditched cassettes. National Audio held on. Now, many musicians are clamoring for cassettes as a way to physically distribute their music. The company says it has less than a year's supply of tape left. So it is building the first manufacturing line for high-grade ferric oxide cassette tape in the U.S. in decades. If all goes well, the machine will churn out nearly 4 miles of tape a minute by January. And not just any tape. "The best tape ever made," boasts Mr. Stepp, 69 years old. "People will hear a whole new product."
Printer

3D Printing Doubles the Strength of Stainless Steel (sciencemag.org) 96

sciencehabit writes: Researchers have come up with a way to 3D print tough and flexible stainless steel, an advance that could lead to faster and cheaper ways to make everything from rocket engines to parts for nuclear reactors and oil rigs. The team designed a computer-controlled process to not only create dense stainless steel layers, but to more tightly control the structure of their material from the nanoscale to micron scale. That allows the printer to build in tiny cell wall-like structures on each scale that prevent fractures and other common problems. Tests showed that under certain conditions the final 3D printed stainless steels were up to three times stronger than steels made by conventional techniques and yet still ductile.
The work was done using a commercially-available 3D printer, according to Science magazine. "That makes it likely that other groups will be able to quickly follow their lead to make a wide array of high-strength stainless steel parts for everything from fuel tanks in airplanes to pressure tubes in nuclear power plants."
Iphone

iFixit's iPhone X Teardown Reveals Two Battery Cells, 'Unprecedented' Logic Board (macrumors.com) 89

iFixit has posted its teardown of the iPhone X, revealing a new TrueDepth camera system, stacked logic board, L-shaped two-cell battery pack, and Qi-based inductive charging coil. Mac Rumors reports: Like every other model since the iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone X is a sideways-opening device. A single bracket covers every logic board connector. iFixit said the miniaturized logic board design is incredibly space efficient, with an unprecedented density of connectors and components. It noted the iPhone X logic board is about 70 percent of the size of the iPhone 8 Plus logic board. The extra room allows for a new L-shaped two-cell battery pack rated for 2,716 mAh, which is slightly larger than the iPhone 8 Plus battery. iFixit's teardown includes some high-resolution photos of the iPhone X's new TrueDepth camera system that powers Face ID and Animoji. For those unfamiliar, a flood illuminator covers your face with infrared light. Next, the front-facing camera confirms a face. Then the IR dot projector projects a grid of dots over your face to create a three-dimensional map. Last, the infrared camera reads this map and sends the data to the iPhone X for authentication. Like the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, the inside of the iPhone X's rear shell is affixed with an inductive charging coil based on the Qi standard. iFixit gave the iPhone X a so-called repairability score of six out of a possible 10 points. It said a cracked display can be replaced without removing Face ID's biometric hardware, but it added that fussy cables tie unrelated components together into complex assemblies that are expensive and troublesome to replace.
Power

Four Automakers Team Up To Create an Electric Car Charging Network Across Europe (theverge.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A group of automakers has created a new company to build a network of 400 fast chargers across Europe ahead of the wave of new electric cars they've promised in the next few years, as countries push EVs as a way to meet emissions goals. Ionity, announced Friday by BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and the Volkswagen Group, will install a network of 400 high-power EV chargers across Europe by 2020. There are already 20 chargers under the Ionity network that are being installed this year in Germany, Austria, and Norway at 75-mile intervals, the companies said. Those chargers would also be maintained through partnerships with stores such as Tank & Rast, Circle K, and OMV. Such a network is also necessary to compete with the efforts from Tesla's Supercharger network, which is now 7,000 strong worldwide. It uses the company's own connector and started a major European expansion three years ago. To that, Ionity has invited other companies to join the venture in which the four initial automakers have an equal share.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Mining Heats Home For Free In Siberia (qz.com) 106

Quartz has published a video on YouTube about two entrepreneurs who have figured out how to heat their homes for free by mining bitcoin. The "miner" -- that is, the machine mining the bitcoins -- warms up liquid that is then transferred to the underfloor heating system. The cottage has two miners, which bring in about $430 per month from processing bitcoin transactions -- all while keeping the 20 square meter space warm.
Businesses

Broadcom Explores Buying Qualcomm (bloomberg.com) 69

phalse phace writes: Bloomberg news is reporting that Broadcom may be planning to make an offer to buy Qualcomm. From the report: "Broadcom Ltd. is considering a bid of more than $100 billion for Qualcomm Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be the biggest-ever takeover of a chipmaker. Broadcom is speaking to advisers about the potential deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. The offer of about $70 a share would include cash and stock and is likely to be made in the coming days, the people said." If the deal goes through, Broadcom would become "the world's third largest chipmaker behind Intel Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. and give it a huge swath of the supply chain of vital phone components such as Wi-Fi and cellular modem chips. The two companies are already among the top ten providers of chips ranked by revenue in an industry that's consolidating rapidly."
Power

Republican Tax Plan Kills Electric Vehicle Credit (arstechnica.com) 481

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The nascent market for electric cars will suffer a big setback if the Republican tax plan released on Thursday enters into law. Among the changes to the current tax code would be an end to the Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit. That's the tax incentive that currently means up to $7,500 back from the IRS when you purchase a new battery or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Since the start of 2010, the EV tax credit has been $2,500 for a plug-in vehicle with at least 5kWh battery capacity. Every extra kWh nets another $417 up to a maximum of $7,500, although you would need at least that amount in income tax liability -- the IRS won't cut you a check to make up the full amount. It was never meant to be permanent; once an automaker sells 200,000 qualifying vehicles (starting from January 1, 2010) its eligibility is phased out over a matter of months. But in the almost seven years since, no one has reached that limit yet. Tesla will almost certainly be first, with General Motors not far behind; between them, they've sold a lot of Model Ses and Chevrolet Volts. If this tax plan is enacted, it will surely mean pain for both companies, as well as anyone else hoping to sell a lot of EVs here in the U.S. The data is pretty clear -- tax incentives sell electric cars, and the market for EVs can dry up very fast when they're abolished, as Georgia's recent experience shows.
Upgrades

Xbox One X is the Perfect Representation of the Tech Industry's Existential Crisis (mashable.com) 190

A reader shares commentary on the newly launched Xbox One X gaming console: Fundamentally, Xbox One X is the same machine that Microsoft released in 2013. It plays the same games, runs the same apps, depends on the same operating system. You can still plug your cable box into it and watch OneGuide magically sync with your local TV listings. Most of the things you can do look a little better and run a little faster/more efficiently, sure. The actual casing is smaller than the previous iterations, too. It's a gorgeous $500 machine. That's why I keep eyeballing it. My brain screams, "Why do you exist?" The Xbox One X does not answer. This is a familiar problem in 2017. Look around at all the tech in your life and do a quick, informal poll: How many of those items become outdated every year or every few years when a newer, shinier version of the same thing comes along? I'm talking about your iPhone and iPad. Your Amazon Echo and Kindle. Your Pixel and Daydream VR headset. Your Apple Watch. Your Roku, your Apple TV, your Chromecast. Incremental upgrades that push features like 4K! HDR! Wireless charging! Slimmer design! No headphone jack! (Wait, no, that last one is awful.) Breathless bullet point after breathless bullet point. Some of these additions have genuine utility and add value to the product. Many don't, or depend on you also possessing some other piece of incrementally upgraded tech (like the kinds of fancy-shmancy TVs that play the nicest with Xbox One X).
Google

Some Google Pixel 2 XL Units Shipped Without an Operating System (androidpolice.com) 34

Corbin Davenport, writing for AndroidPolice: Some Pixel 2 XL units are being shipped without Android properly installed. Obviously, the phone can't boot without the OS. It may be possible to flash a factory image, since fastboot is supposed to allow signed images to be flashed with the bootloader still locked, but the affected phones could have other problems that prevent this from working. The company confirmed the veracity of the story, but did not share more details. It said, however, that the issue had been resolved.
Bug

Google Explains Tuesday's Drive, Docs Bug That Marked Some Files As Violating Terms of Service (9to5google.com) 97

On Tuesday, Google's cloud-based word processing software was randomly flagging files for supposedly "violating" Google's Terms of Service, resulting in some users not being able to access or share their files. Google today explained the issue and addressed concerns that arose. 9to5Google reports: Several users on Tuesday morning reported no longer being able to open certain files they were working on in Docs, while others were locked out mid-edit. "On Tuesday, October 31, we mistakenly blocked access to some of our users' files, including Google Docs," Google said in a blog post. "This was due to a short-lived bug that incorrectly flagged some files as violating our terms of service (TOS)." Afterwards, Google provided a comment to Gizmodo noting that a code push made earlier that morning was at fault and that full access had been restored to users hours after the bug first arose. Today's clarification goes on to explain how that error on Tuesday caused Drive to "misinterpret" responses from the antivirus system designed to protect against malware, phishing, and spam. As a result, Docs "erroneously mark[ed] some files as TOS violations, thus causing access denials for users of those files."
United States

Trump Says Broadcom Is Moving Headquarters To US From Singapore (bloomberg.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: President Donald Trump said semiconductor company Broadcom Ltd. is returning its headquarters to the U.S. from Singapore. Broadcom Chief Executive Officer Hock Tan joined Trump Thursday in the Oval Office for the announcement. Tan said the move to domicile the company in the U.S. would bring $20 billion in revenue into the country. The two men didn't specify the site of the new main location. Broadcom's website lists San Jose, California, as an existing corporate co-headquarters and has done so since the present company was created in 2016 in one of the semiconductor industry's largest acquisitions when Avago Technologies Ltd. acquired then-Broadcom Corp. The company's shares declined as much as 4 percent to $248.87 after the announcement. The stock had gained 47 percent this year through Wednesday's close.
Iphone

App Developer Access To iPhone X Face Data Spooks Some Privacy Experts (reuters.com) 71

A reader shares a report: Apple won accolades from privacy experts in September for assuring that facial data used to unlock its new iPhone X would be securely stored on the phone itself. But Apple's privacy promises do not extend to the thousands of app developers who will gain access to facial data in order to build entertainment features for iPhone X customers, such as pinning a three-dimensional mask to their face for a selfie or letting a video game character mirror the player's real-world facial expressions. Apple allows developers to take certain facial data off the phone as long as they agree to seek customer permission and not sell the data to third parties, among other terms in a contract seen by Reuters. App makers who want to use the new camera on the iPhone X can capture a rough map of a user's face and a stream of more than 50 kinds of facial expressions. This data, which can be removed from the phone and stored on a developer's own servers, can help monitor how often users blink, smile or even raise an eyebrow.
ISS

The International Space Station Is Getting Its First Printer Upgrade in 17 Years (mashable.com) 174

Lance Ulanoff, writing for Mashable: Somewhere, 254 miles above us, an astronaut is probably printing something. Ever since the International Space Station (ISS) welcomed its first residents in November of 2000, there have been printers on board. Astronauts use them to print out critical mission information, emergency evacuation procedures and, sometimes, photos from home. According to NASA, they print roughly 1,000 pages a month on two printers; one is installed on the U.S. side of the ISS, the other in the Russian segment. ISS residents do all this on 20-year-old technology. "When the printer was new, it was like 2000-era tech and we had 2000-era laptop computers. Everything worked pretty good," recalled NASA Astronaut Don Pettit, who brought the first printer up to the ISS. But "the printer's been problematic for the last five or six years," said Pettit who's spent a total of one year on the station. It's not that the Space Station has been orbiting with the same printer since Justin Timberlake was still N'Sync. NASA had dozens of this printer and, as one failed, they'd send up another identical model. But now it's time for something truly new. In 2018, NASA will send two brand new, specialized printers up to the station. However, figuring out the right kind of printer to send was a lot more complicated than you'd probably expect. NASA has turned to HP for its IT supply and needs. The agency requires the following things in its printer: print and handle paper management in zero gravity, handle ink waste during printing, be flame retardant, and be power efficient. HP, Mashable reports, has recommended the HP Envy 5600, its all-in-one (printer, scanner, copier, fax) device that retails for $129.99. The model has been modified, according to the report.
Japan

Can Japan Burn Flammable Ice For Energy? (cnn.com) 153

dryriver writes: Japan is a country that currently has to import 90% of its fuels for energy generation, having very little in the way of oil, coal or natural gas reserves in the country. Since the Fukushima disaster, its 50-plus nuclear reactors have been mostly idle. This makes Japan one of the least self-sufficient countries in terms of energy generation in the developed world. But there is an untapped energy resource that Japan has in abundance: ice that has large quantities of methane trapped in it. These ice crystals hold a remarkable quantity of natural methane gas. It is estimated that one cubic meter of frozen gas hydrate contains 164 cubic meters of methane. Japan has so far spent over $1 billion on research and development efforts in order to find a way to efficiently extract the methane from the ice. Where is this methane rich ice located? Engineers have so far focused on Nankai Trough, a long, narrow depression 50 kilometers off the coast of central Japan, which had been extensively surveyed over many years. Analysis of extracted core samples and seismic data has revealed that 1.1 trillion cubic meters of methane -- enough to meet Japan's gas needs for more than a decade -- lies below the floor of the trough. Some experts think that if an efficient method is found to extract methane from flammable ice, it could change the energy map of the entire world. Flammable ice has either been found, or is suspected to be present in large quantities, off the coastlines of all 5 continents in the world (the linked article has a map showing the currently known locations). Ten years from now the price of energy around the world may thus not be set by how much oil, coal or natural gas costs at that point in time, but rather by how much methane extraction from flammable ice costs.
Cellphones

Razer Unveils Gaming Smartphone With 120Hz UltraMotion Display, 8GB RAM and No Headphone Jack (cnet.com) 168

Computer hardware company Razer has unveiled its first smartphone. While the design doesn't appear to be up to par with the competition, it does pack some impressive specifications under the hood. The Razer Phone features a 5.7-inch, 2,560x1,440-resolution display, Snapdragon 835 chipset with 8GB of RAM, 12-megapixel dual camera with a wide-angle lens and 2x optical zoom, 4,000mAh battery, dual front-facing stereo speakers, and Android 7.1.1 Nougat running out of the box. While there is a microSD card slot for expandable storage, there is no headphone jack, no waterproofing, and no wireless charging. The device also won't support CDMA carriers like Verizon or Sprint. CNET reports: [W]here most new flagship phones are shiny rounded rectangles with curved screens, the Razer Phone is unabashedly a big black brick. It flaunts sharp 90-degree corners instead of curved edges. You can even stand the phone on end. The 5.7-inch, 2,560x1,440-resolution screen is flat as a pancake, and you'll find giant bezels above and below that screen, too -- just when we thought bezels were going out of style. When the Razer Phone ships Nov. 17 for $699 or £699 -- no plans for Australia at launch -- the company says it'll be the first phone with a display that refreshes 120 times per second, like a high-end PC gaming monitor or Apple's iPad Pro. And combined with a dynamic refresh technique Razer's calling Ultramotion (think Nvidia G-Sync), it can mean beautiful, butter-smooth scrolling down websites and apps, and glossy mobile gameplay.
Data Storage

CIA Releases 321GB of Bin Laden's Digital Library (arstechnica.com) 125

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Today, the Central Intelligence Agency posted a cache of files obtained from Osama Bin Laden's personal computer and other devices recovered from his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan by Navy SEALs during the raid in which he was killed on May 2, 2011. The 470,000 files, 321 gigabytes in all, include documents, images, videos, and audio recordings, including Al Qaeda propaganda and planning documents, home videos of Bin Laden's son Hazma, and "drafts" of propaganda videos. There is also a lot of digital junk among the files.

The CIA site presents a raft of warnings about the content of the downloads: "The material in this file collection may contain content that is offensive and/or emotionally disturbing. This material may not be suitable for all ages. Please view it with discretion. Prior to accessing this file collection, please understand that this material was seized from a terrorist organization. While the files underwent interagency review, there is no absolute guarantee that all malware has been removed."

Microsoft

Fewer Than 1 in 100,000 New Surface Devices Go Wrong, Microsoft Says (zdnet.com) 119

A reader shares a ZDNet report: Microsoft has shaken off claims that its Surface range is unreliable and said that fewer than 1 in 100,000 of new Surface devices have gone wrong. The ratings service Consumer Reports raised a question mark over the reliability of the Surface line as a whole earlier this year. At the time, Consumer Reports surveyed 90,000 subscribers and found that 25 percent of Microsoft laptops and tablets will give owners problems by the end of the second year of ownership. Ryan Gavin, Microsoft's general manager for Surface, challenged the finding and said that the Surface devices are getting more reliable with each new generation. "One of the things you're seeing is the reliability of our products over time, with every generation getting better and better and better." Reliability issues among newer devices, such as the Surface Laptop and Studio, had been reported for only a fraction of devices, he said. "We're talking about incidents per device of less than 0.001%."
Power

We May Not Have Enough Minerals To Even Meet Electric Car Demand (jalopnik.com) 341

Citing two reports from Reuters and Bloomberg, Jalopnik reports on the scarcity of metals necessary for electric cars. From the report: [W]hile demand for nickel keeps increasing, half the world's nickel supply is too low in quality to use for car batteries. All of which is going to have seismic effect on the world's suppliers. In short: There will be winners and losers, and the winners will be the ones with the highest-grade stuff -- not unlike, I suppose, the illicit drugs market. "Some of the biggest producers of the higher-grade ores, including BHP Norilsk Nickel, Vale and Sumitomo Corp, are moving quickly to take advantage and seal long-term supply deals with battery producers," reports Reuters. "Among those losing out would be lower-grade nickel mines like Cerro Matoso in Columbia, owned by South32 Ltd and Glencore's Koniambo in New Caledonia, as well as Anglo American's mines in Brazil producing ferronickel."

What of cobalt? Bloomberg sent a writer and photographer to Cobalt, Ontario, about 300 miles north of Toronto, to find out. The town, which began life as a silver town, also is believed to have some cobalt, though no one's really found much yet. The search for a new source of cobalt isn't taking place in just Cobalt, Ontario, of course, as mining companies worldwide try to capitalize on the our electric car future. But the search is ramping up as the world's biggest source of cobalt -- the Democratic Republic of Congo, where about half of all cobalt comes from -- is increasingly unstable, making car manufacturers nervous and cobalt all the more valuable.

Power

Colorado Taking Steps To Get Its Own Hyperloop (usatoday.com) 98

According to USA Today, Colorado's transportation department is looking at the possibility of a Rocky Mountain hyperloop to curb traffic woes. You could travel from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, a distance of about 125 miles with Denver in the middle, in less than 20 minutes. From the report: After partnering with Virgin Hyperloop One, one of the companies racing to develop the super-speed technology that essentially would transport vehicles and people pods on electric skates in a big pneumatic tube, Colorado Department of Transportation officials plan to spend the next nine months crunching the numbers to determine what it might take to bring this type of transit to Colorado. Above-ground routes are cheaper to build. But Musk's Boring Co., another company testing the technology, has been focusing on hyperloop transportation in tunnels. The proposed Rocky Mountain hyperloop would be centered at Denver International Airport and stretch about 100 miles north to Cheyenne, Wyo.; about 125 miles south to Pueblo, Colo.; and about 100 miles west to Vail, Colo. It carries a hefty $24 billion price tag. State transportation officials estimated it would need an initial investment of $3 billion just to get the first 40 miles from the airport north to Greeley, Colo., completed. Why a hyperloop? State officials estimate Colorado's population will grow by nearly 50% in the next 20 years.

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