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Portables (Apple)

Consumer Reports Updates Its MacBook Pro Review (consumerreports.org) 246

Reader TheFakeTimCook writes: Last month, the new MacBook Pro failed to receive a purchase recommendation from Consumer Reports due to battery life issues that it encountered during testing. Apple subsequently said it was working with Consumer Reports to understand the results, which it said do not match its "extensive lab tests or field data." According to an article from Consumer Reports, Apple has since concluded its work, and says it learned that Consumer Reports was using a "hidden Safari setting" which triggered an "obscure and intermittent bug" that led to inconsistent battery life results. With "normal user settings" enabled, Apple said Consumer Reports "consistently" achieved expected battery life. Apple stated: "We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life." Apple said it has fixed the Safari bug in the latest macOS Sierra beta seeded to developers and public testers this week.
Businesses

Fitbit Buys Vector, Romanian Startup's Existing Smartwatches Won't Receive Software Updates Anymore (engadget.com) 101

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: One of the more surprising smartwatches of 2015 was from Vector, a Romanian startup led by former Citizen executives. Its 30-day battery life, Pebble-esque UI and classic watch design made it a great device for someone seeking a less ostentatiously geeky wearable. Now, the company has revealed that Fitbit has purchased it and its employees will be joining the fitness wearables firm. Unfortunately for Vector owners, Fitbit will be integrating Vector's hardware and software know-how into its own organization. That means that Vector, as a brand, will die off, and while its watches will remain operational, you can kiss any hope for software updates and new hardware goodbye.
Crime

Two Triple-Screen Laptops Were Stolen From Razer's CES Booth (theverge.com) 165

In a Facebook post, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan said two of their prototype laptops shown off at CES 2017 were stolen. "We treat theft/larceny, and if relevant to this case, industrial espionage, very seriously -- it is cheating, and cheating doesn't sit well with us," Tan wrote. "Penalties for such crimes are grievous and anyone who would do this clearly isn't very smart." Both items were prototype models of a laptop, called Project Valerie, that has three 4K displays. The Verge reports: Tan says that Razer is working with law enforcement and CES management to investigate. He's also asking show attendees to email legal@razerzone.com with any info they might have on what happened. A company representative added that a $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction. The alleged theft occurred "after official show hours," says Allie Fried, director of global events communications for the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES. "The security of our exhibitors, attendees and their products and materials are our highest priority," Fried wrote in an email to The Verge. "We look forward to cooperating with law enforcement and Razer as the incident is investigated."
AMD

AMD Announces X300 and X370 AM4 Motherboards For Ryzen, All CPUs Unlocked (hothardware.com) 71

MojoKid writes: AMD has a lot riding on Ryzen, its new generation CPU architecture that is supposed to return the chip designer to a competitive position versus Intel in the high-end desktop X86 processor market. Late last week, at CES 2017, AMD has lined up over a dozen high-performance AM4 motherboards from five hardware partners, including ASRock, ASUS, Biostar, Gigabyte, and MSI. All AM4 motherboards are built around one of two desktop chipsets for Ryzen, the AMD X370 or X300. Motherboards based on the X370 chipset are intended for power users and gamers. These boards bring more robust overclocking controls and support for dual graphics cards, along with more I/O connectivity and dual-channel DDR4 memory support. The X300 is AMD's chipset for mini-ITX motherboards for small form factor (SFF) system platforms. The X300 also supports dual-channel DDR4 memory, PCIe 3.0, M.2 SATA devices, NVMe, and USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 1. Finally, AMD representatives on hand at CES also reported that all Ryzen processors will be multiplier unlocked, hopefully for some rather flexible overclocking options. There will also be several processors in the family, with varying core counts depending on SKU, at launch.
Network

Verizon Purges Unlimited Data Customers, Targets Those Using 200GB (arstechnica.com) 196

If you're a Verizon customer on an unlimited data plan who uses more than 200GB a month, you will soon need to switch to a limited plan or be disconnected, according to Verizon. "Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a small group of customers on unlimited plans who use more than 200GB a month that they must move to a Verizon Plan by February 16, 2017," Verizon spokesperson Kelly Crummey told Ars Technica today. Ars reports: Since Verizon stopped offering unlimited data to new smartphone customers in 2011, this change affects only longtime customers who were allowed to hang on to the old plans. Verizon could simply force all customers who aren't under contract to switch to new plans, but instead it has periodically made moves that reduce the numbers of unlimited data subscribers. This policy will apply to people who average more than 200GB "over several months," Verizon said. Customers who do not move to limited plans "will be disconnected," Verizon confirmed. On limited plans, customers get reduced speeds after they exceed monthly data limits unless they purchase extra 4G LTE data. Verizon previously purged its unlimited data rolls in August 2016. In that case, Verizon set a limit of 500GB a month, the company told Ars today. This is more specific information than we previously reported. Shortly before the August 2016 move, Verizon told us that it was targeting customers who were "using data amounts well in excess of our largest plan size (100GB)," but Verizon did not specify that it was only targeting customers using at least 500GB. With the threshold being dropped from 500GB to 200GB, the latest move will affect customers who weren't using enough data to be caught up in the last round.
Businesses

Volkswagen Unveils 'ID Buzz' Electric Microbus Concept (ibtimes.co.uk) 52

New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: Given the emissions scandal that rocked Volkswagen in 2015, we reckon Scooby Doo and the gang would opt for something a little more environmentally-sound were they to be reinvented for the 21st Century. VW's new ID Buzz electric concept car, unveiled at the International Auto Show in Detroit on 8 January, is exactly the sort of thing we can imagine the overbearing talking dog and four meddlesome kids driving around in today. The ID Buzz is the second electric concept vehicle to come from Volkswagen in recent months, following the VW I.D. concept car unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September 2016. The ID Buzz is a re-imagining of sorts of the German automaker's classic VW Microbus, with 'Buzz' being a phonetic play on 'bus' and, according to VW, "refers to the silent buzzing of the drive system." The all-electric van boasts a driving range of up to 270 miles, which VW says is comparable to traditional petrol-powered vehicles, and features a "fully-autonomous" mode that allows the driver's seat to swing round 180 degrees for a more social seating arrangement. Additional cutting-edge features include a heads-up display that projects navigational information as augmented reality images, which can appear as directional cues as much as 49 feet ahead of the car. This provides a more visual system that marks directions on the road itself, rather than having to rely on a 2D image as in the case with traditional sat-navs. VW calls the effect "astonishingly realistic."
Power

Next-Gen Samsung EV Battery Gets 300+ Miles of Range From 20-Minute Charge (techcrunch.com) 198

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Samsung's SDI battery subsidiary announced a new battery cell designed for use in electric vehicles that offers improved density to manage a max range of up to 372 miles on a full charge, with a quick charge capacity that will help it regain 310 miles or so of charge on just 20 minutes of charging. Unveiled at the North American International Auto Show for the first time, the new battery tech come with a 10 percent decrease in the number of units and weight required vs. current production battery units made by Samsung SDI. Mass production isn't set to begin until 2021, but the tech should arrive in time to supply the first crop of autonomous cars, which are also targeting street dates sometime within that year from a range of manufacturers. A 20-minute charge delivering that kind of range would help considerably with making EVs more practical for more drivers; it's around the time you'd spend at a rest stop using the restroom and grabbing coffee or a snack, after all. By comparison, Tesla's superchargers currently manage to provide around 170 miles of range on a half-hour charge, so Samsung's planned tech could approximately double that.
Businesses

'OLED TVs Will Finally Take Off in 2017' (engadget.com) 238

From a feature article on Engadget: After years of taunting consumers with incredible picture quality, but insanely high prices, OLED TVs are finally coming down to Earth. Prices are falling, there will be even more models to choose from and, at least based on what we've seen from CES this year, LCD TVs aren't getting many upgrades. If you've been holding out on a 4K TV upgrade, but haven't had the budget to consider OLED up until now, expect things to change this year. Even before CES began, it was clear the OLED market was beginning to change. Throughout 2016, LG steadily lowered the prices of its lineup -- its cheapest model, the B6, launched at $4,000, but eventually made its way down to $2,000 by October. Come Black Friday, LG also offered another $200 discount to sweeten the pot. A 55-inch 4K OLED for $1,800! It was such a compelling deal I ended up buying one myself. Since then, the B6's price has jumped back up to $2,500, but I wouldn't be surprised to see its price come back down again. So why the big discounts? LG reportedly increased the production of its large OLED panels by 70 percent last year, likely in anticipation of more demand. That could have led to a slight oversupply, which retailers wanted to clear out before this year's sets.
Wireless Networking

LG Threatens To Put Wi-Fi in Every Appliance it Introduces in 2017 (arstechnica.com) 376

An anonymous reader shares a report: During the company's CES press conference today, LG marketing VP David VanderWaal says that "starting this year" all of LG's home appliances will feature "advanced Wi-Fi connectivity." One of the flagship appliances that will make good on this promise is the Smart Instaview Refrigerator, a webOS-powered Internet-connected fridge that among other things supports integration with Amazon's Alexa service.
Businesses

Apple's iPhone Turns 10 (www.bgr.in) 168

An anonymous reader shares a report: "Every once in a while there is a revolutionary product that comes along, that changes everything," that's how Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone 10 years ago. To think about it, the iPhone did not have anything that anyone associated with a smartphone. On top of that, it was expensive, you could not share files over Bluetooth, it did not support 3G, it did not have an expandable storage slot and you needed iTunes for everything. But despite that, and to the horror of its rivals, everyone wanted one. Veteran journalist Steven Levy spoke with Phil Schiller, VP of Worldwide Marketing at Apple on the occasion.
Toys

Ask Slashdot: What's The Most Useful 'Nerd Watch' Today? 232

He's worn the same watch for two decades, but now Slashdot reader students wants a new one. For about 20 years I've used Casio Databank 150 watches. They were handy because they kept track of my schedule and the current time. They were very cheap. They required very little maintenance, since the battery lasts more than a year and the bands last even longer. Since they were waterproof, I don't even have to take them off (or remember where I put them!) They were completely immune to malicious software, surveillance, and advertising. However, their waterproof gaskets have worn out so they no longer work for me. Casio no longer makes them or any comparable product (their website is out of date).
Today's watches include everything from heart rate monitors to TV remote controls, and Casio even plans to release a new version of their Android Wear watch with a low-power GPS chip and mapping software. But what's your best suggestion? "I don't want a watch that duplicates the function of my cell phone or computer," adds the original submission -- so leave your best answers in the comments. What's the most useful nerd watch today?
Power

Vast New Tomb Now Covers The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Site (slashdot.org) 173

The final stage of the Chernobyl clean-up took over 20 years to build -- and will seal up the site for the next 100 years. Slashdot reader MrKaos writes: 30 years and seven months since the explosion...the project known as the 'Shelter Implementation Plan' has been rolled into place, sealing the crippled Chernobyl reactor. More than 10,000 people were involved in the project, which includes an advanced ventilation systems and remote controlled robotic cranes to dismantle the existing Soviet-built structure and reactor. This sarcophagus -- or New Safe Confinement -- is taller than the Statue of Liberty and larger than Wembley stadium.
Over one million people worked on the initial clean-up, the BBC reports, calling this new sarcophagus "the largest object people have ever moved," and its installation was apparently pretty surreal. "World leaders jostle with global executives and anonymous men dressed in full camouflage as platters of shrimp, foie gras and cheesecake are passed around by white-gloved staff...just 330 feet away from the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history."
NES (Games)

Hackers Unlock NES Classic, Upload New Games Via USB Cable (arstechnica.com) 86

Just because Nintendo doesn't officially let their tiny replica NES receive new games doesn't mean hackers won't find a way to add their own. This week, hackers in Japan and Russia figured out soft-mod solutions to adding new games to the NES Classic, meaning you don't need to grab a screwdriver or a soldering iron to mod your own console. Ars Technica reports: According to the whiz kids at Reddit's NESClassicMods community, the solution won't work until you've created a save file in Super Mario Bros' first slot. (Chances are, you've already done this just by playing the game, since creating game saves is so easy with this system.) Once you've done that, connect your NES Classic Edition to a computer via a micro-USB cable, then boot the NES in "FEL" mode. This is done by holding down the system's reset button while pushing down the power button from a powered-off state. While you're booting, you should also run a "sunxi-FEL" interface on your computer. (An open-source version of compatible "USBBoot" software can be found here.) The rest of the steps land firmly in "operate at your own risk" territory, as they require copying your NES Classic's internal data to your computer, then modifying and adding files via an application made by hackers. Doing so, by the way, includes the dubious step of supplying your own ROM files, which you may have either dumped from your own cartridges or downloaded from other Internet users. One tool linked from that Reddit community, however, comes with two open-source NES ROMs that are in the legal free-and-clear to upload to your hardware. Once you've added your own game files, which should also include custom JPGs that will appear in the NES Classic's "box art" GUI, you'll have to repack the hardware's kernel, then fully flash the hardware yourself. Do all of those steps correctly, and you'll see every single game you've added appear in the slick, default interface.
AMD

AMD Declares Ryzen Will Be a Four-Year Architecture (extremetech.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ExtremeTech : Having spent over four years designing the architecture, the company plans to keep it around for at least that long. That's according to CTO Mark Papermaster, who was on-hand to discuss the chip. First things first -- AMD is promising a hard launch for Ryzen, without any paper launches, limited availability, or limited product introductions. When Zen debuts it'll debut in multiple (still unknown) configurations, not a single eight-core part. As PCWorld details, Papermaster also confirmed the four-year target and emphasized that it didn't mean AMD wouldn't iterate the core. "We're not going tick-tock," Papermaster said. "Zen is going to be tock, tock, tock." There are several ways to read this sentence. Tick-tock refers to Intel's previous practice of introducing new CPU architectures in one product cycle and new manufacturing nodes in the other. AMD has never strictly deployed an equivalent approach over multiple product cycles. I wouldn't necessarily conclude that Papermaster is saying AMD won't deploy Zen on new manufacturing nodes over time, but that AMD intends to implement an aggressive series of tweaks and improvements to the current core as time goes by. There's a significant lag between when a design tapes out and when it ships to consumers. This means AMD's CPU design team is almost certainly hard at work on Zen's successor already, even though Zen hasn't actually shipped yet. While I can't make any concrete predictions about how Zen will compete against specific products in Intel's lineup, the demos we've seen and the product information already available has convinced me that Ryzen will be at least a meaningful and significant improvement on AMD's overall power efficiency, performance, and performance-per-watt.
Music

Dell Unveils XPS 27 All-In-One With 10 Speaker Dual 50W Sound System (hothardware.com) 53

MojoKid writes: Over the past couple of years, Dell has been driving a redesign effort of its consumer and commercial product lines and has systematically been updating both design signatures and the technology platforms within them. Dell's premium consumer XPS product line, perhaps more so than any other, has seen the most significant design reinvention with the likes of its XPS 13 and XPS 15 notebook line. At CES 2017, Dell announced the XPS 27 7760 all-in-one PC that has a radically new look that draws at least one design cue from its XPS notebook siblings, specifically with respect to the display bezel, or the lack thereof. Though Dell isn't officially branding the touch-enabled version of XPS 27 with an "InfinityEdge" display, the side and top bezel is cut to a minimum, accentuating a beautiful 4K IPS panel. However, the machine's display might not be the most standout feature of the 2017 Dell XPS 27. Under that display, Dell actually expanded things mechanically to make room not only for a Windows Hello capable camera but a 10 speaker sound system that was designed in conjunction with Grammy Award-winning music producer and audio engineer, JJ Puig, that takes the system's audio reproduction and output capabilities to a whole new level. Its sound system is very accurate with dual 50 watt amplifiers at less than 1% THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) and a 70Hz to 20KHz frequency response. Though the system is currently built on Intel's Skylake platform, Kaby Lake versions are imminent and with discrete AMD Radeon R9 M470X graphics, it has decent gaming and multimedia chops as well.
Transportation

Corning Brings Gorilla Glass To The Automotive Industry (digitaltrends.com) 114

At CES 2017, Corning has unveiled a concept car covered in Gorilla Glass. The car is augmented with the same Gorilla Glass that has protected smartphones for years, making the vehicle significantly more durable than a car wearing normal glass. Digital Trends reports: Corning's concept features hybrid Gorilla Glass on the windshield, sunroof, rear window, side windows, and the dashboard, which adds up to noticeable weight savings all around. Corning says Gorilla Glass is 30 percent lighter than the soda lime glass featured on most production vehicles, which not only improves fuel economy, it moves the center of gravity lower in the car to improve handling. In addition to the physical advantages, Gorilla Glass is also clearer than normal glass, which allows for more vibrant head-up displays, connected surfaces, and entire dashboards that function as touchscreens. That's not all though, because on the rear window, Corning slipped an electronically controlled opacity film between the layers of glass. With the push of a button, the window went from crystal clear to a dark tint. That'll surely come in hand if you feel the sudden need for privacy. "By bringing Corning Gorilla Glass to the automotive industry, Corning is delivering lighter, tougher, and more optically advantaged solutions, enabling improved fuel efficiency, and a safer, more enhanced user experience for both drivers and passengers," said Marty Curran, executive vice president at Corning. "Corning's leading position in mobile device cover glass has provided an excellent launch pad for glass solutions enabling smartphone like connectivity in cars. We are excited to be demonstrating all of these new technologies and opportunities in a custom-built connected car, shown for the first time at CES."
Iphone

Original iPhone Prototype With iPod Click Wheel Surfaces Online (macrumors.com) 35

Famed Apple leaker Sonny Dickson has shared an early prototype of the original iPhone, with a collection of images and a video that provides a glimpse into one version of the iPhone that Apple created and tested before ending up with the first iteration of the device. Mac Rumors reports: The prototype includes some similar features to the first generation iPhone, like an aluminum chassis, multi-touch compatible screen, 2G connectivity and Wi-Fi, but its entire user interface is taken directly from the click wheel system of Apple's original iPod line. Called "Acorn OS," the prototype software includes an on-screen click wheel on the bottom half of the screen and a menu system on the top half, and the two are bisected by a bar with rewind, menu, play/pause, and fast-forward buttons. On the menu are options such as "Favorites," "SMS," "Music," "Settings," and "Recents," and it's navigated by circling around the click wheel to go up and down, with a center press confirming an action, just like on the iPod. Dickson references Apple's patent for a "multi-functional hand-held device," filed and published in 2006, as proof that such a prototype did exist at one point and could potentially have been an alternate version of the iPhone. In one of the patent's drawings, a click wheel can be seen as a possible input method for the proposed device. The patent's abstract describes a product with "at most only a few physical buttons, keys, or switches so that its display size can be substantially increased."
Android

Google CEO Says Next Wave Of Affordable Smartphones Should Cost $30 (phandroid.com) 181

An anonymous reader writes: Google started the Android One program to get affordable smartphones into all corners of the globe. Those devices cost around $100, which is very good for an up-to-date device. However, Google CEO Sundar Pichai doesn't think $100 is good enough. Even $50 is too much. His goal is $30. "The right price point for smartphones in India is $30, and pursuing high-quality smartphones at the price point will unlock it even more." ndia currently has the largest base of Android users, and most of those users have phones that cost less than $150. Pichai went on to say that cheaper devices are only part of the solution. They also need services that can run reliably on "flaky" networks. He says Google is working on making more services adapt to slow internet.
Biotech

A Squishy Clockwork BioBot Releases Doses of Drugs Inside the Body (ieee.org) 15

the_newsbeagle writes: Making micro-machines that work inside the body is tricky, because hard silicon and metal devices can cause problems. So bioengineers are working on soft and squishy gadgets that can be implanted and do useful work. Here's a soft biobot that's modeled on a Swiss watch mechanism called a Geneva drive. With every tick forward, the tiny gizmo releases a dose of drugs. Getting the material properties just right was a challenge. "If your material is collapsing like jello, it's hard to make robots out of it," says inventor Samuel Sia.
Earth

A Coal-Fired Power Plant In India Is Turning Carbon Dioxide Into Baking Soda (technologyreview.com) 197

schwit1 quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: In the southern Indian city of Tuticorin, locals are unlikely to suffer from a poorly risen cake. That's because a coal-fired thermal power station in the area captures carbon dioxide and turns it into baking soda. Carbon capture schemes are nothing new. Typically, they use a solvent, such as amine, to catch carbon dioxide and prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere. From there, the CO2 can either be stored away or used. But the Guardian reports that a system installed in the Tuticorin plant uses a new proprietary solvent developed by the company Carbon Clean Solutions. The solvent is reportedly just slightly more efficient than those used conventionally, requiring a little less energy and smaller apparatus to run. The collected CO2 is used to create baking soda, and it claims that as much as 66,000 tons of the gas could be captured at the plant each year. Its operators say that the marginal gain in efficiency is just enough to make it feasible to run the plant without a subsidy. In fact, it's claimed to be the first example of an unsubsidized industrial plant capturing CO2 for use. schwit1 notes: "A 'climate change' project that doesn't involve taxpayer dollars? Is that even allowed?"

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