Desktop PC Shipments Dip Below 100m/Year (theregister.co.uk) 54

Desktop PC shipments dipped below 100 million in 2017 and there's worse to come across the personal computing device market according to analyst firm IDC. From a report: The company on Wednesday published a summary of its Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker for 2017's final quarter in which it totted up shipments for the year across all forms of PC and slate-style tablets. The headline figure was a 2.7 per cent year-over-year decline. The firm said "commercial PC renewal momentum remained as the main catalyst in a market that was also tempered by lackluster demand for legacy form factor devices and component shortages." There was a little good news in 2017 with growth in notebook sales, as they grew more strongly than in any year since 2012, but the overall picture was poor.

Amazon Buys Smart Doorbell Maker Ring For a Reported $1 Billion (cnbc.com) 90

hyperclocker shares a report from CNBC: Amazon is buying smart doorbell maker Ring, a deal that will allow the company to expand its home security and in-house delivery services. In an email statement to CNBC, Ring's spokesperson confirmed the deal, saying: "We'll be able to achieve even more by partnering with an inventive, customer-centric company like Amazon. We look forward to being a part of the Amazon team as we work toward our vision for safer neighborhoods." Amazon is expected to keep Ring as an independent business, much like it has with its other acquisitions, like Zappos and Twitch, according to GeekWire, which earlier reported details of the deal. Financial details of the move were not disclosed, but Reuters reported it could be worth more than $1 billion, making it one of the largest acquisitions in Amazon's history.

New Apple Patent Imagines an OLED Screen As a Keyboard For MacBooks (theverge.com) 119

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a patent titled "dual display equipment with enhanced visibility and suppressed reflections." The documentation for what is patent number 9,904,502 outlines a device that would use a second display as a dynamic keyboard. Two implementations of this design are described in the patent application, according to Patently Apple. The first utilizes a permanent hinge, while the second allows the screen to be removed and used separately, along the lines of Microsoft's Surface Pro range and other two-in-one computers. The patent documentation makes it clear that the implementation is not intended as an accessory that would allow two iPads to be paired together, with one serving as the keyboard. Additionally, illustrations associated with the application explicitly state that one screen is an OLED display, while the other is an LCD. A double-display set-up could provide easy access to a different keyboard layout language, context-sensitive controls, or even a large sketching surface to use in conjunction with something like an Apple Pencil. However, that flexibility would come at the cost of the traditional typing experience offered by a mechanical keyboard.

Relying on Renewables Alone Significantly Inflates the Cost of Overhauling Energy (technologyreview.com) 248

A growing number of US cities and states have proposed or even passed legislation that would require producing all electricity from renewable energy sources like solar and wind within a few decades. That might sound like a great idea. But a growing body of evidence shows it's not. From a report: It increasingly appears that insisting on 100 percent renewable sources -- and disdaining others that don't produce greenhouse gases, such as nuclear power and fossil-fuel plants with carbon-capture technology -- is wastefully expensive and needlessly difficult. In the latest piece of evidence, a study published in Energy & Environmental Science determined that solar and wind energy alone could reliably meet about 80 percent of recent US annual electricity demand, but massive investments in energy storage and transmission would be needed to avoid major blackouts. Pushing to meet 100 percent of demand with these resources would require building a huge number of additional wind and solar farms -- or expanding electricity storage to an extent that would be prohibitively expensive at current prices. Or some of both.
Operating Systems

Apple To Suspend iTunes Store Support For 'Obsolete' First-Gen Apple TV (arstechnica.com) 123

The original Apple TV, first introduced in 2007, will no longer be able to connect to the iTunes Store due to new security changes to be implemented by Apple. The news comes from a support document, which also mentions that PCs running Windows XP or Windows Vista will lose access to the most recent version of iTunes. Ars Technica reports: According to the document, the "obsolete" original Apple TV won't be updated in the future to support access to the iTunes Store. After May 25, users will only be able to access iTunes on second-generation Apple TVs and newer streaming devices. The same security changes affecting the first-gen Apple TV will also affect Windows XP and Vista machines. Users on such devices can still run previous versions of iTunes, so they should still be able to play their music library without problems. However, affected users won't be able to make new iTunes purchases or re-download previous purchases. Only machines running Windows 7 or later after May 25 will have full access to iTunes, including the ability to make new purchases and re-download older purchases.

Pop-Up Cameras Could Soon Be a Mobile Trend (techcrunch.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: There's an interesting concept making its way around Mobile World Congress. Two gadgets offer cameras hidden until activated, which offer a fresh take on design and additional privacy. Vivo built a camera into a smartphone concept that's on a little sliding tray and Huawei will soon offer a MacBook Pro clone that features a camera hidden under a door above the keyboard. This could be a glimpse of the future of mobile design. Cameras have long been embedded in laptops and smartphones much to the chagrin of privacy experts. Some users cover up these cameras with tape or slim gadgets to ensure nefarious players do not remotely activate the cameras. Others, like HP, have started to build in shutters to give the user more control. Both DIY and built-in options require substantial screen bezels, which the industry is quickly racing to eliminate.

With shrinking bezels, gadget makers have to look for new solutions like the iPhone X notch. Others still, like Vivo and Huawei, are look at more elegant solutions than carving out a bit of the screen. For Huawei, this means using a false key within the keyboard to house a hidden camera. Press the key and it pops up like a trapdoor. We tried it out and though the housing is clever, the placement makes for awkward photos -- just make sure you trim those nose hairs before starting your conference call. Vivo has a similar take to Huawei though the camera is embedded on a sliding tray that pops-up out of the top of the phone.


Tesla Model 3 Torn Down, Hacked and Set On a Dynamometer, Exposing Unusual Tech Details (electrek.co) 227

Rei writes: With an estimated 8,670 Model 3s delivered, a race is on as competitors and owners work to figure out its limits and explore the tech behind it. Many-time Tesla teardown expert "Ingineerix" has posted a series of videos and discussed his findings on Reddit. Among them: what appears to be the industry's first switched reluctance motor, a massive "smuggling compartment" allocated for a future front-wheel motor, no physical fuses (all solid-state), significant wiring harness length reductions via the use of multiple body controllers, a swappable crash energy absorption system, a liquid-cooled compute unit, and redundant controllers for all safety-related systems. He followed up by posting a screenshot of the car tricked into "factory mode" to reveal its internal specs, including a 1200A max discharge current, 370kW max discharge power, and a 76 kWh pack with 72,5kWh usable. Meanwhile, Munro and Associates tore down a Model 3 for an undisclosed, "not Tesla" client, releasing a video criticizing its build quality and for difficulty in accessing the HV cables in the event of an accident (Munroe's claims were dismissed by Ingineerix). Meanwhile, engineers from German automakers were extremely impressed by what they found during their teardown -- particularly the power electronics system, which they described as "compact, expandable, fully integrated, modular, easily accessible, well-protected, reasonably priced and astonishingly clever in many details." Other owners have been putting their cars on dynamometers to measure their power. Drag Times suffered some skid and measured a conflicting 281 / 327.6 hp with 552 lb-ft torque. Contrarily, Tesla Repair Channel found consistent readings around 250hp when starting from 30mph, but consistently around 390 hp when starting from 10mph. The reason for the discrepancy is not yet clear.

Apple Confirms It Uses Google's Cloud For iCloud Services (cnbc.com) 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: A file that Apple updated on its website last month provides the first acknowledgment that it's relying on Google's public cloud for data storage for its iCloud services. The disclosure is fresh evidence that Google's cloud has been picking up usage as it looks to catch up with Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud infrastructure business. Some media outlets reported on Google's iCloud win in 2016, but Apple never provided confirmation. Apple periodically publishes new versions of a PDF called the iOS Security Guide. For years the document contained language indicating that iCloud services were relying on remote data storage systems from Amazon Web Services, as well as Microsoft's Azure. But in the latest version, the Microsoft Azure reference is gone, and in its place is Google Cloud Platform. Before the January update, Apple most recently updated the iOS Security Guide in March. The latest update doesn't indicate whether Apple is using any Google cloud services other than core storage of "objects" like photos and videos. The document also doesn't make it clear when Apple started storing data in Google's cloud.
The Matrix

Nokia's Banana Phone From The Matrix is Back (theverge.com) 93

The Verge: Back in 1999, Keanu Reeves was famous for playing Neo in The Matrix, and not for looking sad on a bench. Nokia was also the "world's leading mobile phone supplier" back then, and it used this popularity to feature its Nokia 8110 "banana phone" in The Matrix film. At the time everyone who considered themselves cool (definitely me) wanted a Nokia phone just like Neo's, but most of us had to settle for the Nokia 7110 with its spring-loaded slider. Now HMD, makers of Nokia-branded phones, is bringing the Nokia 8110 back to life as a retro classic . Just like the Nokia 3310 that was a surprise hit at Mobile World Congress last year, the 8110 plays on the same level of nostalgia. The slightly curved handset has a slider that lets you answer and end calls, and HMD is creating traditional black and banana yellow versions. The Nokia 8110 runs on the Smart Feature OS, so this is a basic featurephone and you're not going to get access to the Android apps found on other Nokia Android smartphones. The Nokia 8110 will be available in May for just 79 euros ($97).

Samsung Announces the Galaxy S9 With a Dual Aperture Camera, AR Emojis (arstechnica.com) 137

Samsung has taken the wraps off of its latest flagship, the Galaxy S9, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The S9 features a familiar body with an upgraded camera, relocated fingerprint scanner, and newer processor. As usual, there are two versions: the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+. Ars Technica reports: The S9 is one of the first phones announced with the new 2.8Ghz Snapdragon 845 SoC in the US, while the international version will most likely get an Exynos 9810. Qualcomm is promising a 25-percent faster CPU and 30-percent faster graphics compared to the Snapdragon 835. The rest of the base S9 specs look a lot like last year, with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 3000mah battery, and a 5.8-inch 2960x1440 OLED display. The S9+ gets the usual bigger screen (6.2 inches @ 2960x1440) and bigger battery (3500mAh), but one improvement over last year is a RAM bump to 6GB. Neither RAM option is really outstanding for a phone this expensive, considering the much cheaper OnePlus 5T will give you 6GB and 8GB options for RAM at a much lower price. Both S9 models have headphone jacks, MicroSD slots, a new stereo speaker setup (one bottom firing, one doubles as the earpiece), IP68 dust and water resistance, wireless charging, and ship with Android 8.0 Oreo.

Both the Galaxy S9 versions are getting a main camera with two aperture settings. Just like a real camera, the Galaxy S9 has a set of (very tiny) aperture blades that can move to change the amount of incoming light. On the S9 they're limited to two different positions, resulting in f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures. In low light the aperture can open up to f/1.5 to collect as much light as possible, while in normal or bright light it can switch to f/2.4 for a wider depth of field. Samsung is also answering Apple's Animojis with "AR Emoji." They work just like Apple's Animoji: using the front sensors to perform a primitive version of motion capture, the phone syncs up a character's facial expressions to your facial expressions.
The Galaxy S9 clocks in at $719.99 and the S9+ is going for $839.99. In the U.S., preorders start March 2 at all four major carriers, and the phones ship out on March 16.

Tesla Deploys Over 300 Powerwalls To Give Hawaiian School Kids AC (electrek.co) 147

Fred Lambert reports via Electrek: As part of a state initiative, Tesla deployed over 300 Powerwalls in schools to cool down hot classrooms in Hawaii. Hawaii has a problem with hot temperatures in public classrooms that is affecting students negatively. The problem was so significant that the Hawaii State Department of Education had to intervene. They put together a $100 million fund, which has already helped cool down 1,190 classrooms to date, with contracts set for more than 1,300 classrooms, according to The Garden Island. In order to roll out the program without significantly increasing energy costs for public schools, they partnered with Tesla to pair Powerwalls with solar power to reduce the impact of running the air conditioners in classrooms across the state. It also resulted in an interesting learning opportunity about renewable energy and energy storage for students.

'Memtransistor' Brings World Closer To Brain-Like Computing 94

the gmr writes: According to a recent article published in the journal Nature, researchers at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering have developed a "memtransistor," a device that both stores information in memory and processes information. The combined transistor and memory resistor work more like a neuron and purports to make computing more brain-like. The new "memtransistor" would use less energy than digital computers and eliminate the need to run memory and processing as separate functions while also being more brain-like. Lead researcher Mark C. Hersam clarified the brain-like efficacy of the memtransistor: "...in the brain, we don't usually have one neuron connected to only one other neuron. Instead, one neuron is connected to multiple other neurons to form a network. Our device structure allows multiple contacts, which is similar to the multiple synapses in neurons... [but] making dozens of devices, as we have done in our paper, is different than making a billion, which is done with conventional transistor technology today." Hersam reported no barriers to scaling up to billions of devices. This new technology would make smart devices more capable and possibly more seemingly-human. The devices may also promote advances in neural networks and brain-computer interfaces, new technologies also recently reported at Futurism.

Worldwide Smartphone Shipments Down For First Time Ever (theregister.co.uk) 77

According to Gartner, global sales of smartphones have declined year-on-year for the first time since the research company started tracking the global smartphone market in 2004. "Global sales of smartphones to end users totaled nearly 408 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 5.6 percent decline over the fourth quarter of 2016," reports Gartner. The Register reports: In Gartner's Q4 sales stats, Samsung maintained a narrow lead in global volume shipments of smartphones -- but every major (top five) vendor outside of those based in China saw unit shipments slip. Several major factors caused the market shrinkage, said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner. "First, upgrades from feature phones to smartphones have slowed right down due to a lack of quality 'ultra-low-cost' smartphones and users preferring to buy quality feature phones. Second, replacement smartphone users are choosing quality models and keeping them longer, lengthening the replacement cycle of smartphones. Moreover, while demand for high quality, 4G connectivity and better camera features remained strong, high expectations and few incremental benefits during replacement weakened smartphone sales," Gupta added. This is a characteristic of the emerging markets, where all the action is -- not mature markets like the UK or USA. Samsung leap-frogged Apple by virtue of its sales declining slower than the market average -- Sammy's numbers were 3.6 per cent to 74.02 million units.

Automated Cars Are Not Able To Use the Automated Car Wash (thetruthaboutcars.com) 150

schwit1 shares a report from The Truth About Cars: [T]he simple task of washing a self-driving car is far more complicated than one might expect, as anything other than meticulous hand washing a big no-no. Automated car washes could potentially dislodge expensive sensors, scratch them up, or leave behind soap residue or water spots that would affect a camera's ability to see. According to CNN, automakers and tech firms have come up with a myriad of solutions to this problem -- though a man with a rag and some water appears to be the most popular. Toyota, Aptiv, Drive.AI, May Mobility, and Uber have all said they use rubbing alcohol, water, or glass cleaner to manually wash the sensors, before carefully finishing the job with a microfiber cloth. While it's more than just a little ironic that these automated vehicles require gobs of attention and pampering from human hands just to function correctly, some companies are working on a way around it. General Motors' Cruise has said it will design and implement sensor-cleaning equipment in production vehicles.
Data Storage

Putting Civilization in a Box For Space Means Choosing Our Legacy (space.com) 92

When SpaceX's record-breaking Falcon Heavy rocket made its first test launch in early February , the craft didn't just hurl Elon Musk's shiny red roadster and spacesuit-clad mannequin to space. It had another, smaller payload, which at first glance seems much less impressive: a 1-inch-wide (2.5 centimeters) quartz disc with Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" trilogy encoded in laser-etched gratings . From a report: The famous science fiction series is only the beginning of the discs' planned contents. At a time when traditional hard drives are just breaking into the terabyte range, the quartz medium can hold up to 360 terabytes per disc. It also boasts a life span of 14 billion years. That's longer than the current age of the universe. This disc was symbolic; future devices will contain much more, and more useful, information. But the technology speaks to grander issues that humanity is now pondering: becoming a multiplanetary civilization, storing information for thousands or millions of years, and contacting and communicating with other intelligences (alien and Earthling).

So how should we record our knowledge and experiences for posterity? How should we ensure that this information is understandable to civilizations that may be quite different from our own? And, most importantly, what should we say? Humans have faced challenges like these before. Ancient civilizations built monuments like the pyramids and left artifacts and writing, sometimes deliberately. Later researchers have used this material to try to piece together ancient worldviews. However, in the modern era, we've set our sights much further: from centuries to millennia, from one planet to interstellar space, and from one species to many.

Data Storage

Dropbox Shows How It Manages Costs By Deleting Inactive Accounts (cnbc.com) 29

Dropbox employs a somewhat unusual technique to lower its costs, the cloud software company revealed on Friday in its filing to go public . From a report: In a process the company calls "infrastructure optimization," Dropbox said it deletes users' accounts if they don't sign in for a year and don't respond to emails. That keeps the company from incurring storage costs for inactive users, a tactic Yahoo has used in the past. Dropbox said that the costs of revenue dropped 6 percent in 2017 to $21.7 million, mostly due to a $35.1 million reduction "in our infrastructure costs." As it prepares to lure public market investors, Dropbox is paying particularly close attention to its expenses. The company operates in an intensively competitive market against vendors including Apple, Amazon, Box, Google and Microsoft. Once reliant on Amazon Web Services , Dropbox has moved away from public cloud in recent years and has been building its own data center infrastructure to store the majority of user data. Another way it's managed costs is by making sure that there weren't too many copies of users' files on third-party infrastructure.

Japanese Scientists Invent Floating 'Firefly' Light (reuters.com) 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Japanese engineering researchers say they have created a tiny electronic light the size of a firefly which rides waves of ultrasound, and could eventually figure in applications ranging from moving displays to projection mapping. Named Luciola for its resemblance to the firefly, the featherweight levitating particle weighs 16.2 mg, has a diameter of 3.5 mm (0.14 inch), and emits a red glimmer that can just about illuminate text. But its minuscule size belies the power of the 285 microspeakers emitting ultrasonic waves that hold up the light, and have a frequency inaudible to the human ear, allowing Luciola to operate in apparent total silence. It took two years for Luciola to get this far, said circuit design specialist Makoto Takamiya, a member of the Kawahara Universal Information Network Project that developed the device. The developers expect Luciola to find applications in the so-called Internet of Things, in which regular objects, such as cars, or domestic appliances such as air-conditioners, are connected to networks to send and receive data. Equipped with movement or temperature sensors, Luciola could fly to such objects to deliver a message or help to make moving displays with multiple lights that can detect the presence of humans, or participate in futuristic projection mapping events.

Dropbox Files To Go Public 41

Ten years after its launch, Dropbox has filed to go public. The cloud storage company has been around since 2007 and has raised more than $600 million in funding. TechCrunch reports: We knew that it had already filed confidentially, but the company has now unveiled its filing, meaning the actual IPO is likely very soon, probably late March. The company says it will be targeting a $500 million fundraise, but this number is usually just a placeholder. The filing shows that Dropbox had $1.1 billion in revenue last year. This compares to $845 million in revenue the year before and $604 million for 2015. The company is not yet profitable, having lost nearly $112 million last year. This shows significantly improved margins when compared to losses of $210 million for 2016 and $326 million for 2015. Dropbox has been cash flow positive since 2016.

Tesla Will Supply Free Charging Stations To Office Parking Lots 39

Tesla has unveiled a new "workplace charging" program today, which offers businesses free Tesla wall connectors and will also cover installation, provided they meet certain qualifications set forth by the California carmaker. "Tesla won't cover the cost of operating the charging stations, and the company says there could be other permitting, construction, zoning, or labor costs," reports The Verge. From the report: The workplace charging stations will be compatible with all Tesla cars, but not with other EVs, and they won't show up on publicly available Tesla charging maps. The wall chargers are 240 volts, or "Level 2," which is capable of topping off a battery pack in a handful of hours, though the company says the charge rate will vary by location depending on the infrastructure available.

'Automating Jobs Is How Society Makes Progress' (qz.com) 236

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz, written by Per Bylund, assistant professor at Oklahoma State University: Analysts discuss the automation of jobs as if robots are rising from the sea like Godzilla, rampaging through the Tokyo of stable employment, and leaving only chaos in their wake. According to data from PWC, 38% of jobs in the U.S. could become automated by the early 2030s. Meanwhile, a report from Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research warned that half of all American jobs could be replaced by automation. These prophecies of doom fail to recognize that automation and increased productivity are nothing new. From the cotton gin to the computer, automation has been happening for centuries. Consider the way automation has improved the mining industry over the past 100 years. Without machines, humans were forced to crawl into unstable passageways and chip away at rocks with primitive tools while avoiding the ever-present dangers of gas poisoning and cave-ins. Not only was this approach terrible for health, but it was also a highly inefficient use of skilled human laborers. With machines doing the heavy lifting, society was able to dedicate resources to building, servicing, and running the machinery.

Fewer people now do the traditional physical labor, but this advancement is celebrated rather than mourned. By letting machines handle the more tedious -- and, in some cases, dangerous -- tasks, people were liberated to use their labor in more efficient, effective, and fulfilling ways. Critics of automation miss the point. Nobody works for the sake of work -- people strive to create value, which helps pay our salaries and feed our families. Automation effectively opens the door for more new endeavors that will elevate our species to greater heights. Just as past generations turned away the mines for better careers, modern workers whose jobs are altered by automation will see their roles in society evolve rather than disappear.

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