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05-31-2018 Science&Technology
iOS 11.4 arrives with AirPlay 2, Messages in iCloud

We're about a week away from seeing what iOS 12 will be like, but in the meantime the latest version of iOS 11 is now available to download. iOS 11.4 is here, bringing two overdue features promised last year: AirPlay 2 and iMessages in iCloud.

AirPlay 2 is all about multiroom audio, and it also brings stereo dual-HomePod music playback to HomePods. AirPlay 2 will also work on Apple TV, and can be controlled with iPhones and iPads.

But another key feature in iOS is the long-expected addition of Messages in iCloud, which syncs across all devices and deletes iMessages across everything, so you won't get quite as spammed. It also backs up iMessages so that any new device in the account can get old iMessages without restoring a backup.

Messages in iCloud will use end-to-end encryption, and uses cloud storage instead of local storage for message archives and attachments. And it also works with SMS across devices.

The update was pushed out to compatible iPhone and iPads around 10 a.m. PT Tuesday. The Apple TV is also getting an update to TVOS version 11.4.

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Editors' note: This story was originally published at 10:01 a.m. PT. It has been updated with additional context and links to related stories.

Read Original Article     ON:   Cnet

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05-31-2018 Environment
Stunning new Hurricane Maria death toll confirms Puerto Rico’s devastating losses after the storm

More than 4,600 Puerto Ricans may have died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in large part due to delayed medical care, according to a new survey of people on the island collected and analyzed by researchers at Harvard and other institutions.

The study, published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that Hurricane Maria may be the deadliest natural disaster to hit US soil in 100 years, with a mortality rate twice as high as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. The only other US disaster on record with a higher death toll is the Galveston, Texas, hurricane of 1900, when somewhere between 6,000 and 12,000 people died.

The new estimate of 4,600 “excess deaths” occurring between September 20, the day Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, and December 31 stands in stark contrast to the government’s official count of 64, a gross underestimate that has remained unchanged for months. The new research also validates previous analyses of mortality data and reports from the ground by journalists and other researchers that found that the death toll was well over 1,000.

To come up with the new estimate, researchers surveyed some 3,300 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico in January and February, asking them about deaths in the family between September 20 and December 31 and factors that may have contributed to each death. They also asked about damage to their homes, and whether they were displaced and had access to food, water, health care, electricity, and cellphones. (On average, households went 84 days without electricity, 68 days without water, and 41 days without cellphone coverage after the Category 4 storm hit.)

The researchers then compared the results with Puerto Rico’s official death statistics from the same time period in 2016. They found a 62 percent increase in the mortality rate in 2017, which added up to an estimated 4,645 deaths linked to the storm (with a range of 793 and 8,498 deaths). About one-third of the deaths were attributed to delays or interruptions in health care, which in many cases was a result of widespread power outages across the island for weeks and months after the storm knocked out 80 percent of the island’s grid.

And, they wrote, the estimate of total deaths “is likely to be conservative since subsequent adjustments for survivor bias and household-size distributions increase this estimate to more than 5,000.”

Alexis Santos, a Puerto Rican demographer at Penn State who conducted his own analysis of mortality following the hurricane, told Vox the study’s methodology was consistent with how other scholars have tried to measure the death toll. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Vox

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05-31-2018 Science&Technology
Kim Jong Un’s Quest to Make North Korea Normal Again

Moments after Kim Jong Un became the first North Korean leader to cross into the south last month, he convinced his counterpart Moon Jae-in to step back with him across the border.

The message? Things will only be done on Kim’s terms.

That’s becoming ever clearer in the run-up to Kim’s planned meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore next month. The on-again, off-again summit remains in doubt as the U.S. tries to figure out what it will take for Kim to trade away his nuclear arsenal.

Discerning the motives of Kim—a 30-something leader often lampooned in the West as an overweight madman with a funny haircut—will be key to understanding what kind of deal is possible. Judging from his public statements and state-run media, at least two things appear evident: He wants a deal to ease sanctions, but he won’t give up his nuclear weapons until he feels safe enough to retain power without them.

“The word that defines Kim Jong Un’s current state is anxiety—fear for both his life and the security of his leadership,” said Youngshik Bong, a researcher at Yonsei University’s Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“He wants to be the leader of an ordinary country, but the justification of abandoning nuclear weapons and missiles in return for economic prosperity isn’t guaranteed to be welcomed by the entire political elite,” Bong said. “Opponents will be quiet as long as there is a viable inflow of economic prosperity and a sudden improvement of living standards with the lifting of economic sanctions.”

In many ways, the world is just getting to know Kim, presumed to be the third and youngest son of former dictator Kim Jong Il. Prior to his recent outreach, some of the only insight on his personality came from former NBA star Dennis Rodman—who said last year he’s “always calm, he’s always smiling, especially when he’s with family.”

His recent interactions with the outside world—including two meetings each with Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korea’s Moon—showed another side to the brutal dictator presumed to have killed his family members in a bid to consolidate power. He’s proven to be a skillful diplomat who can use humor, humility and flattery to achieve his goals.

In March, Kim made his first trip overseas, a secretive journey by train to meet Xi in Beijing—repairing ties with North Korea’s largest trading partner. Xi told Kim that China had made a “strategic choice” to have friendly ties with North Korea, and they would “remain unchanged under any circumstances.” The two leaders followed it up with another meeting in early May.

Kim’s two summits with Moon have revealed even more about his personality. In April, when Kim walked into South Korea, both leaders declared “a new era of peace” and sought a formal end to the seven-decade-old Korean War.

Read Original Article     ON:   Bloomberg

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05-31-2018 Science&Technology
Diamond dynasty De Beers stoops to conquer with new line of man-made diamond jewelry

They first launched nearly a decade ago with names like Diamond Foundry, Brilliant Earth, Mia Donna and Pure Grown Diamonds, with millions of dollars in financing and a mission to reshape the diamond industry. They were startups that were going to popularize man-made diamonds for the masses in a way that would make the industry more sustainable and wring billions of dollars from the roughly $100 billion diamond market.

Now, it looks like they’re going to be quarrying up the industry’s remains thanks to news that the De Beers Group, one of the giants of the jewelry and mining industry, is going to start selling its own brand of jewelry crowned by lab-grown diamonds. Called Lightbox Jewelry, the new brand will launch in September. The idea is to sell the jewelry at a lower price point to consumers who want diamonds but don’t want to have to pay luxury prices for them.

Diamonds will retail from $200 for a quarter-carat stone up to $800 for a one-carat stone and will be available in different hues from pink, blue and white diamonds in earring and necklace designs.

It’s sure to be a blow for lab-grown manufacturers like Diamond Foundry, which raised $100 million from high-profile investors like Mark and Alison Pincus; serial entrepreneur Ev Williams; early Facebook COO Owen Van Natta; and actor Leonardo DiCaprio — who played a mercenary gem smuggler in the 2006 film “Blood Diamond.”

For De Beers, today’s announcement of a new jewelry line was a very public reversal from a company that two years earlier had turned up its nose at the thought of man-made jewelry providing a competitive offering to existing products.

“Lightbox will transform the lab-grown diamond sector by offering consumers a lab-grown product they have told us they want but aren’t getting: affordable fashion jewelry that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now,” said Bruce Cleaver, the CEO of De Beers Group, in a statement.

For De Beers the trick is walking a fine line between acknowledging that there’s no real difference between the lab-grown products it’s shilling and the higher-end stones that it mines without making the jewelry come off as sounding cheap.

It’s also a bid to undercut the legitimacy of competitors that are trying to impinge on De Beers’ high-end turf.

“Our extensive research tells us this is how consumers regard lab-grown diamonds — as a fun, pretty product that shouldn’t cost that much — so we see an opportunity here that’s been missed by lab-grown diamond producers. Lab-grown diamonds are a product of technology, and as we’ve seen with synthetic sapphires, rubies and emeralds, as the technology advances, products become more affordable,” Cleaver continued. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Crunch

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05-31-2018 Science&Technology
YouTube Removes 30 Music Videos for 'Gestures of Violence'

YouTube has removed more than 30 music videos, concentrated in one genre, after British police blamed them for inciting murder and violent crime.

The decision came after Cressinda Dick, commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, said in a public radio interview earlier this month that drill music – a subset of rap and trap whose name comes from slang for automatic weapons – specifically promotes and glamorizes violence, with lyrics that describe stabbings, gang fights and violence against women with “great detail, joy and excitement."

"Extreme violence against women is often talked about," Dick added. "Most particularly, in London we have gangs who make drill videos and in those videos, they taunt each other. They say what they’re going to do to each other and specifically what they are going to do to who."

In the last two years, the police force has flagged 50 to 60 music videos on YouTube’s platform that they claim help sparked violence in the UK, which has seen a nationwide surge in knife crime. (London’s murder rate rose by 44 percent in 2018.) According to the BBC, YouTube has now complied with requests to take down around half of the clips that the police force deemed excessively violent.

"The gangs try to outrival each other with the filming and content – what looks like a music video can actually contain explicit language with gangs threatening each other," Mike West, detective superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, told British news outlets. "There are gestures of violence, with hand signals suggesting they are firing weapons and graphic descriptions of what they would do to each other."

But the backlash from musicians and fans, who allege that the videos reflect personal experiences rather than promote violence, has been swift. More than 5,000 drill musicians have signed an online petition protesting YouTube’s decision to ban the music. Pressplay, a company that promotes drill music videos, said on Instagram that its representatives met with YouTube last week and learned that "police have forced YouTube" to scrub the videos because of "what’s happened lately" – likely alluding to London’s spate of violent crimes and high-profile criminal court cases this year, which included a teenage rapper being sentenced to life in prison for stabbing another person to death. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Rolling Stones

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05-31-2018 Science&Technology
Qualcomm Announces XR1 Platform: Dedicated SoC for VR/XR Headsets, Coming Late 2018

For the better part of the past few years now, Qualcomm has been making a serious and concentrated effort to establish themselves as the dominant player in the mobile VR space. And as the first generation of standalone VR headsets have come out, those efforts on both the hardware side and even more on the software/dev support side are finally paying off. Rivaled only by Samsung’s phone-based Gear VR system, if you’re using a standalone VR headset today, it’s almost certainly powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC.

Now amidst the backdrop of the annual Augmented World Expo, Qualcomm is taking the next step on the hardware side of matters. This evening the mobile juggernaut is announcing their first dedicated VR/AR/XR platform/SoC, the Snapdragon XR1.

The XR1 is Qualcomm’s first purpose-built silicon for what the company is dubbing eXtended Reality devices, a catch-all term for virtual/augmented/mixed reality. The creation of the platform means that Qualcomm feels the market for standalone headsets has finally grown enough that it’s reached a point where they can justify the costs of a dedicated platform, including the silicon engineering and even more expensive developer and consumer relation campaigns that go with it. In that sense everything up until now has been the company laying the groundwork for this moment – and not that Qualcomm hasn’t been serious up until now – but this marks a significantly higher investment on their part than their efforts up until now.

The XR1 is, in turn, part of what is becoming a two-pronged strategy for Qualcomm on the XR SoC front. Qualcomm sees the mobile headset market as encompassing three markets: entry-level “cardboard” devices used with phones, “high quality” but economically priced 3DoF headsets like the Oculus Go, and then “premium quality” 6DoF headsets like the Lenovo Mirage. Of these three groups, Qualcomm intends to go after the latter two.

For the best experiences, Qualcomm will continue pushing their flagship-class (and flagship-priced) smartphone SoCs like the Snapdragon 845. However for devices like the Oculus Go and other headsets, where cost is a greater concern and vendors are okay with trading-off features to meet mass-market prices, this is the territory Qualcomm is going after with the XR1. In practice then, the XR1 is a successor-of-sorts to the Snapdragon 821 and other older SoCs that have been tapped for these first-generation headsets. It replaces relatively cheap-but-aging SoCs with even cheaper silicon purpose-built for XR headsets and headsets alone; smartphones need not apply. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Anand Tech

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05-31-2018 Entertainment
Morgan Freeman demands retraction, apology from CNN over sexual harassment report

Morgan Freeman isn’t taking these sexual harassment allegations lightly. A lawyer for the 80-year-old Oscar-winning actor is demanding CNN issue a retraction for its report accusing Freeman of inappropriate behavior — but the network is not backing down.

Yahoo Entertainment obtained a copy of the 10-page letter from Robert M. Schwartz addressed to Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, which says the outlet has “defamed Mr. Freeman.”

“CNN has inflicted serious injury on his reputation and career,” the letter states. “At a minimum, CNN immediately needs to issue a retraction and apologized to Mr. Freeman through the same channels, and with the same level of attention, that is used to unjustly attack him.”

The attorney’s letter alleges that the report has already had “devastating consequences” for the Shawshank Redemption actor. “Mr. Freeman is being viewed in the global court of public opinion as someone akin to notorious harassers and accused rapists, such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey,” the letter reads. “CNN had no justification for doing that.”

It also notes those who work with Freeman have felt the need to distance themselves. “The damage CNN has inflicted is real. And given Mr. Freeman’s career and many motion picture and television commitments, it is substantial,” the letter continues. “If CNN has any decency or any allegiance to journalistic integrity, it will immediate [sic] retract the article and issue a public apology to Mr. Freeman.”

Read Original Article     ON:   Yahoo

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05-31-2018 Science&Technology
Leak: Motorola One Power brings the notch to Android One

Though Motorola has announced plenty of phones with small bezels – with more seemingly on the way – it’s so far avoided the trendy iPhone X-style display cutout. Until now; a leak by Android Headlines suggests Motorola is working on a notch-tastic phone called the Motorola One Power.

The leaked image shows a phone with a rather obviously Apple-inspired design; it looks like an iPhone X and iPhone 7 had a baby. It has a metal back, but vertically aligned cameras. There are thin bezels throughout, although there’s a substantial notch up top and thick lip at the bottom. Meanwhile, the fingerprint sensor appears to be housed on the Motorola logo.

The device will run Android One, which is essentially Google’s branding for phones that run a ‘pure’ version of Android, with no bloatware and fast updates. Android One devices are often intended to be budget and mid-range models – like the Moto X4 – but we don’t know any specs on this device yet. That said, the dual cameras and screen design suggests it will fall into the midrange category or above

Also, did you notice something unusual? It’s called the Motorola One Power, not the usual Moto branding the company has been using since 2013’s Moto X. It’s not clear why the company is bringing back the old name, especially as the company just released the Moto G6 and is expected to announce the Moto Z3 soon.

Android Headlines points out Lenovo (which owns Motorola) has gone back and forth between the names; and I wouldn’t be surprised if the longer form sticks it out in the long run.

There’s no telling when this device will hit the market, but given the Moto Z3 is thought to be right around the corner, I’d bet it would be later in the year.

Read Original Article     ON:   The Next Web

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05-30-2018 Science&Technology
Google's mobile augmented reality platform arrives in China

Google's ARCore is helpful for making augmented reality widely available to Android users, but there's a glaring problem: it requires the Play Store to get updates. That's no good in countries like China, where Google's services are either unavailable or blocked.

Thankfully, Google has a workaround. It's now making ARCore available in China through the Xiaomi App Store. You'll need Xiaomi's Mi Mix 2S to take advantage of the AR features, but this beats having to sit on the sidelines while the rest of the world uses immersive apps.

More ARCore partners are "coming soon," Google teased.

The search giant isn't a stranger to this kind of end run. When it wanted to bring Android Wear to China, it initially teamed up with Mobvoi to make the platform available. And in both cases, the motivation is the same. If Google didn't make the technology available in China, it risked ceding control of key technology to either third-party Android developers or direct competitors like Apple (whose ARKit is readily available in China). No matter how ARCore fares in the country, this keeps Google's foot in the door.

Read Original Article     ON:   Engadget

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05-30-2018 Politics
Top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol heading to US

Seoul (CNN)One of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's top officials is traveling to the United States as the two countries lay the groundwork for on-again, off-again talks between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.

Trump himself confirmed the news of Kim Yong Chol's trip to the US early Tuesday, tweeting: "We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!"

Once he touches down on American soil, Kim would be the most senior official to visit the United States since 2000, when Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok traveled to Washington to meet with former US President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. Then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright traveled to North Korea later that month.

His trip comes as the United States and North Korea attempt to revive the summit, a potential diplomatic triumph for two countries technically still at war.

The talks nearly fell apart last week when Trump said he was calling off the June 12 meeting in Singapore, following incendiary comments from a senior North Korean foreign ministry official who called Vice President Mike Pence a "political dummy." The White House also said in a background briefing that North Korean officials hadn't answered their calls, frustrating their attempts to plan for the meeting.

But after a conciliatory statement from North Korea, Trump revived hopes for the meeting late Saturday night. Over the weekend Kim Jong Un called an impromptu meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the Demilitarized Zone and reiterated his commitment to denuclearizing.

Kim's right hand man

Kim Yong Chol and Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong, have been two of the most visible and important players in Pyongyang's push for rapprochement with South Korea and the United States this year.

Kim Yong Chol's trip to the US indicates that Washington and Pyongyang have direct lines of communication open and are working closely together to work though issues ahead of the summit. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   CNN

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05-30-2018 Politics
Despite Ireland’s abortion referendum, Northern Irish women’s rights are unlikely to change any time

The Republic of Ireland overturned the nation’s abortion ban in a historic referendum last week. However, women in Northern Ireland still encounter the strictest abortion rules in the UK, and there is no sign this will change any time soon.

Abortion has been illegal in Ireland since 1861 and was enshrined into the constitution in 1983 with the 8th amendment, which recognizes that an unborn fetus has a right to life equal to a mother’s, effectively eliminating all abortions—even in cases of rape and incest. When Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal the 8th amendment, prime minister Leo Varadkar heralded the nation’s “quiet revolution.”

The UK’s women and equalities minister Penny Mordaunt said the referendum gave “hope” to those in Northern Ireland. Though the UK legalized abortion in 1967, its law was not extended to Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. The only times women are able to get abortions in Northern Ireland is when there is a risk to the mother’s life, or a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health.

There are main three reasons why Northern Ireland is unlikely to make any changes toward its stance on abortion any time soon.

Northern Ireland has not had a working devolved government in almost 18 months, after several rounds of talks between the Democratic Unionist (DUP) and Sinn Féin parties broke down. DUP leader Arlene Foster has said that Ireland’s referendum has no bearing on Northern Ireland, and any changes to the law would have to be debated in the Northern Ireland Assembly. So a debate, let alone a law change, won’t be happening in the foreseeable future.

Even if a debate did happen, the DUP has been the linchpin in halting the extension of abortion rights to Northern Ireland, and takes a hardline view of same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, UK prime minister Theresa May is unlikely to intervene. After her disastrous snap election, resulting in her Conservative party hemorrhaging seats, she has become dependent on DUP’s support to prop up her party in parliament. May has already made it clear she’s not getting involved despite increased pressure to act. Her spokesperson said in a statement that it’s a matter for Northern Ireland to decide. May’s government took a similar stance when it was asked to get involved with Northern Ireland’s block on same-sex marriage.

Read Original Article     ON:   Quartz

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05-30-2018 Science&Technology
A couple says that Amazon's Alexa recorded a private conversation and randomly sent it to a friend

A couple in Portland, OR, claimed that a speaker in their home, powered by the Amazon Alexa smart voice assistant, recorded a private conversation and sent the recording to a friend.

Originally reported by KIRO-TV ,the couple got a call two weeks ago from a random friend who told them to immediately unplug all their devices because the friend had heard their conversation in his home. The friend, who lives 176 miles away in Seattle, proved it was true by providing details on the conversation, according to the report.

"Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future," the company told KIRO-TV. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

"I felt invaded," the woman, named Danielle, told KIRO-TV. "A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, 'I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it.'"

It's not exactly clear at this point how this happened. However, Amazon has added voice-messaging features to the Alexa agent, making it possible to send recordings to other users. It's possible that the couple somehow invoked this feature unknowingly.

After the friend sent the couple the recording, the two of them unplugged every Alexa device in their house. They said they have Alexa-powered devices wired everywhere to control everything from their security system to their lighting.

Danielle also said the device had not advised her that it was sending out a recording of their conversation.

She then proceeded to take the incident to Amazon, she said, calling repeatedly until she was able to get in touch with an engineer. He apologized profusely, thanked her for bringing it to the company's attention, but did not explain why the device sent the recording nor if it was a widespread issue, she said.

She also says that Amazon also offered to "de-provision" the Alexa-powered speakers, which basically means stripping the device's functions down to only smart home features. She claims that Amazon refused her request to refund her on all of her devices.

This isn't the first time in recent memory that Alexa has come under scrutiny for unwanted behaviors: In March, Amazon had to adjust Alexa to not laugh unsettlingly at random.

Read Original Article     ON:   Aol

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05-25-2018 Science&Technology
Apple is reportedly working with Volkswagen on building self-driving vans

“Hey Siri, call me a ride.”

Apple has signed a deal with German automaker Volkswagen to develop self-driving cars for its employees, The New York Times reported May 23. The contract doesn’t involve VW Beetles or wagons, sadly, but rather the company’s new, boxy T6 Transporter vans.

Reports that Apple has been working on autonomous technology have swirled for years, with some of the earliest rumors even suggesting it was working on a minivan. What’s been codenamed “Project Titan” within Apple is a long-term project to develop car technology that has flitted between producing software and full-on vehicles over the years. As part of the project, Apple has employed renowned car designers and electric-vehicle charging engineers, poached away from companies including Tesla, Aston Martin, and Alphabet, and yet reports have suggested that it’s scaled back its research as the company couldn’t settle on a path forward. At one point the project had upwards of 1,000 people working on it.

In mid-2017, CEO Tim Cook spoke publicly about Apple’s self-driving ambitions for the first time, saying it was working on “autonomous systems.” It also was awarded a testing license in California around the same time, and now has more of its own modified autonomous vehicles on the road in the state than competitors Waymo and Uber (although those companies both operate in other states as well).

It’s still unclear whether Apple’s end ambitions are to build and sell its own autonomous vehicles, or just the software inside. But the Times’ report suggests Apple has more than just a passing interest. The Times also reported that Apple tried to form partnerships with luxury brands Mercedes and BMW, but was ultimately unsuccessful as it wanted full control over the data and design of the project. It’s now focusing on turning vans into autonomous shuttles for employees, allowing it to make its real-world deployment of autonomous technologies in a controlled environment, as companies such as Ford have done. Others, like Waymo and Uber, are testing on public roads. In March, an autonomous Uber struck and killed a pedestrian passing in front of it when the car’s safety driver couldn’t react quickly enough.

Apple and Volkswagen weren’t immediately available to comment.

Read Original Article     ON:   QZ

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05-24-2018 Science&Technology
New Acer Laptops Come With Amazon Alexa Preloaded, But Others Will Get It Too

Acer has officially announced several Windows 10 laptop lines with Amazon's Alexa built in, marking an industry first. The company plans a wider Alexa rollout in the future.

HP has already been offering an Alexa-equipped all-in-one PC, but Acer is now bringing the feature to the laptop segment. Several notebook lines running Windows 10, including the Acer Spin 3 and Spin 5 (both 13- and 15-inch versions) which are now available for purchase at various retailers, are coming with Alexa preloaded.

Acer Laptops With Amazon Alexa

As expected, Amazon Alexa grants users access to a number of tasks easily fulfilled through its artificial intelligence props. Users can control their smart home devices, get the weather forecast, check the news or sport scores, play music, create shopping or to-do lists, add things to their calendar, and perform other such tasks simply by uttering voice commands.

It's worth pointing out, however, that laptops might not be as receptive as smart speakers when it comes to voice recognition from across the room, so users might want to sit closer to the device when issuing a voice command.

The Acer Nitro 5 Spin laptop line for gamers will get Amazon Alexa as well, with the rollout set to commence in June. The voice-powered assistant will also hit select Acer Aspire, Swift, and Switch notebook models, along with Acer Aspire AIOs, within the next few weeks as they hit retail.

Amazon Alexa Rolling Out To Existing Acer Devices

While new Acer laptops will come with Alexa preloaded, Acer has not forgotten about existing models. Customers who already purchased other devices from Acer's portfolio can rest assured that Alexa will become available later on, thanks to an update via the Acer Care Center.

The Acer Spin 5 will be the first line to get the update on May 23, followed by the Acer Spin 3 on May 26.

"The Acer Spin 3 and Spin 5 convertible notebooks are the ideal products for the industry debut of Alexa voice functionality on notebooks," boasts Jerry Kao, Acer's IT Products Business president. "We are thrilled to be the first to market with these flexible systems, which feature industry-leading audio and the latest technologies for convenient, time-saving and intuitive interactions."

Steve Rabuchin, Amazon Alexa vice president, adds that the company is thrilled to have new means of making Alexa available to customers. This enables consumers to enjoy the perks of voice control and Alexa on more devices, including laptops, which should only increase the convenience.

Read Original Article     ON:   The Verge

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05-23-2018 Science&Technology
Google and Microsoft disclose new CPU flaw, and the fix can slow machines down

Microsoft and Google are jointly disclosing a new CPU security vulnerability that’s similar to the Meltdown and Spectre flaws that were revealed earlier this year.

Labelled Speculative Store Bypass (variant 4), the latest vulnerability is a similar exploit to Spectre and exploits speculative execution that modern CPUs use. Browsers like Safari, Edge, and Chrome were all patched for Meltdown earlier this year, and Intel says “these mitigations are also applicable to variant 4 and available for consumers to use today.”

However, unlike Meltdown (and more similar to Spectre) this new vulnerability will also include firmware updates for CPUs that could affect performance. Intel has already delivered microcode updates for Speculative Store Bypass in beta form to OEMs, and the company expects them to be more broadly available in the coming weeks. The firmware updates will set the Speculative Store Bypass protection to off-by-default, ensuring that most people won’t see negative performance impacts.

“If enabled, we’ve observed a performance impact of approximately 2-8 percent based on overall scores for benchmarks like SYSmark 2014 SE and SPEC integer rate on client 1 and server 2 test systems,” explains Leslie Culbertson, Intel’s security chief.

As a result, end users (and particularly system administrators) will have to pick between security or optimal performance. The choice, like previous variants of Spectre, will come down to individual systems and servers, and the fact that this new variant appears to be less of a risk than the CPU flaws that were discovered earlier this year.

Microsoft started offering up to $250,000 for bugs that are similar to the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws in March, and the company says it discovered this new bug back in November. “Microsoft previously discovered this variant and disclosed it to industry partners in November of 2017 as part of Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure (CVD),” says a Microsoft spokesperson. Microsoft is now working with Intel and AMD to determine performance impacts on systems.

“We are continuing to work with affected chip manufacturers and have already released defense-in-depth mitigations to address speculative execution vulnerabilities across our products and services,” says a Microsoft spokesperson. “We’re not aware of any instance of this vulnerability class affecting Windows or our cloud service infrastructure. We are committed to providing further mitigations to our customers as soon as they are available, and our standard policy for issues of low risk is to provide remediation via our Update Tuesday schedule.” ...

Read Original Article     ON:   The Verge

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05-21-2018 Entertainment
Deadpool 2 Review Roundup: Marvel’s Foul-Mouthed Hero Returns For A Worthy, Still R-Rated Follow-Up

WARNING: The following article may contain spoilers for Deadpool 2.

Reviews for Deadpool 2 are now coming in, and it looks like the sequel to 2016's record-breaking R-Rated Marvel superhero adaptation is reaping mostly positive reviews, much like its predecessor.

Expectations for the sequel were high considering the first Deadpool film was a box office knockout, earning $783 million globally and winning the hearts of critics and audiences alike thanks to its clever spins on the typical superhero movie formula. Now, several critics say Deadpool 2 surpasses the first outing in terms of upending the tropes associated with the genre and mixing sharp comedy with fast-paced action. Some are more critical of the film, however, pointing out what they believe to be ethnic stereotypes among supporting characters.

No matter how divided the critics may be on Deadpool 2, it's hard to argue against the fact that the film is a highly refreshing take on the persistent superhero movie formula. It doesn't attempt to revamp the tired old techniques that make superhero films bombastic, dynamic, and spectacle-filled experiences but uses those and pokes fun at them afterward, aware that these old tropes are trite and overused — but that they work.

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