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Four Ways To Reduce Bad Scientific Research
Posted by News Fetcher on April 27 '19 at 08:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I-see-what-you-did-there department:
An experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford argues that in two decades, "we will look back on the past 60 years -- particularly in biomedical science -- and marvel at how much time and money has been wasted on flawed research."

[M]any researchers persist in working in a way almost guaranteed not to deliver meaningful results. They ride with what I refer to as the four horsemen of the reproducibility apocalypse: publication bias, low statistical power, P-value hacking and HARKing (hypothesizing after results are known). My generation and the one before us have done little to rein these in. In 1975, psychologist Anthony Greenwald noted that science is prejudiced against null hypotheses; we even refer to sound work supporting such conclusions as 'failed experiments'...

The problems are older than most junior faculty members, but new forces are reining in these four horsemen. First, the field of meta-science is blossoming, and with it, documentation and awareness of the issues. We can no longer dismiss concerns as purely theoretical. Second, social media enables criticisms to be raised and explored soon after publication. Third, more journals are adopting the 'registered report' format, in which editors evaluate the experimental question and study design before results are collected -- a strategy that thwarts publication bias, P-hacking and HARKing. Finally, and most importantly, those who fund research have become more concerned, and more strict. They have introduced requirements that data and scripts be made open and methods be described fully.

I anticipate that these forces will soon gain the upper hand, and the four horsemen might finally be slain.

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After $702M Loss, Tesla Stock Sinks To Lowest Price in Two Years
Posted by News Fetcher on April 27 '19 at 07:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bears-vs-bulls department:
Tesla stock price "slumped 5% on Friday to its lowest in two years," reports Reuters, citing in part "a pitch by Chief Executive Elon Musk on autonomous cars that failed to win over investors."

Musk is still battling to convince investors that demand for the Model 3, the company's first car aimed at the mass consumer market, is "insanely" high, and that it can be delivered efficiently to customers around the world.... On Wednesday, Tesla posted a worse-than-expected loss of $702 million for the March quarter. Musk said Tesla would return to profit in the third quarter and that there was "some merit" to raising capital....

Tesla's stock has now fallen 29 percent in 2019 and the company's market capitalization has declined to $41 billion from $63 billion in mid-December. After overtaking the market capitalizations of General Motors and Ford Motor in 2017, Tesla slipped back below GM in January, and on Friday it dipped back below the market value of Ford, which saw its stock surge 10% after reporting a better-than-expected quarter. Analysts now expect Tesla's revenue to expand 19% in 2019, compared with 83% growth in 2018 and 68% growth in 2017, according to Refinitiv.

MarketWatch helpfully illustrated the -5.04% drop in Tesla's stock price over three days by animating it over a picture of Elon Musk's face in front of a bullseye.

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PepsiCo Sues Four Indian Farmers For Using Its Patented Lay's Potatoes
Posted by News Fetcher on April 27 '19 at 06:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: PepsiCo has sued four Indian farmers for cultivating a potato variety that the snack food and drinks maker claims infringes its patent, the company and the growers said on Friday. Pepsi has sued the farmers for cultivating the FC5 potato variety, grown exclusively for its popular Lay's potato chips. The FC5 variety has a lower moisture content required to make snacks such as potato chips. The company is seeking more than $142,840 each for alleged patent infringement.

"We have been growing potatoes for a long time and we didn't face this problem ever, as we've mostly been using the seeds saved from one harvest to plant the next year's crop," said Bipin Patel, one of the four farmers sued by Pepsi. Patel did not say how he came by the PepsiCo variety. PepsiCo, which set up its first potato chips plant in India in 1989, supplies the FC5 potato variety to a group of farmers who in turn sell their produce to the company at a fixed price. The company said the four farmers could join the group of growers who exclusively grow the FC5 variety for its Lay's potato chips. "PepsiCo India has proposed to amicably settle with the people who were unlawfully using the seeds of its registered variety. PepsiCo has also proposed that they may become part of its collaborative potato farming program," the company spokesman said in a statement.

While the spokesman said the farmers can sign an agreement to cultivate other available varieties if they do not wish to grow the FC5 potato variety for PepsiCo, it raises the question of whether farmers should have the right to grow and sell trademarked crops. More generally, it brings up the controversial question: should plants be patented? The original ending of the "Little Shop of Horrors" movie musical has a scene with an agent haggling over the rights to the giant plant. He shouts "We don't have to deal with you. A god-damn vegetable is public domain! You ask our lawyers!"

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E-Trade Is Close To Launching Cryptocurrency Trading
Posted by News Fetcher on April 27 '19 at 02:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-player-enters-the-arena department:
E-Trade is getting ready to let its approximately five million customers trade cryptocurrencies on its platform, according to Bloomberg citing a person familiar with the matter. "The firm will start by adding Bitcoin and Ethereum, and will consider adding other currencies in the future." From the report: E-Trade would be one of the largest securities brokerages to allow crypto trading. It will enter into a competitive market with startups like Coinbase, which have made names for themselves as go-to places for such transactions. Closely held Coinbase reached a valuation of $8 billion in 2018 and projected sales of $1.3 billion. Fintech startup Robinhood, most recently valued at $5.6 billion, has also added cryptocurrency trading as a way to woo millennial customers. E-Trade could help legitimize cryptocurrency trading for wary investors. On Thursday, New York's Attorney General accused leading exchange Bitfinex of trying to hide $850 million in missing funds, causing the price of Bitcoin to drop 7 percent.

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Scientists Live-Tweet Chilling Faux Asteroid Impact Scare
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 11:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fictional-events department:
The world's top asteroid experts are gathering on Monday, April 29 at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in Washington D.C. to take part in a hypothetical asteroid impact exercise that will test how Earth responds to the threat of a potentially devastating space rock. CNET reports: NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office developed the exercise along with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. "The point is to investigate how NEO observers, space agency officials, emergency managers, decision makers, and citizens might respond to an actual impact prediction and evolving information," NASA said. The ESA Operations Twitter account is now live-tweeting the entire scenario, from the discovery of the asteroid (named 2019PDC) to the increasingly grim odds it might hit Earth. The first tweet sounds innocuous. It's a casual mention of international news reports confirming the asteroid's discovery.

The team is appending each tweet with the all-caps hashtag #FICTIONALEVENT so no one will freak out. It's still sobering to follow the events, which recently worsened from a 1 in 250 chance of impact to 1 in 100. ESA Operations will continue to update the plot in the coming week. Participants will receive daily briefings and must role-play the responses from astronomers, space agencies and governments. In reality, we know of no imminent threats from asteroids, but NASA is constantly tracking their movements through space.

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Comcast Usage Soars 34 Percent To 200GB a Month, Pushing Users Closer To Data Cap
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 08:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's nickel-and-dimed department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast said its customers' monthly Internet data usage increased 34 percent between Q1 2018 and Q1 2019, rising to a median of 200GB. The rise is being driven by streaming video, and, in particular, 4K video, Comcast said. The median customer is using only about 20 percent of Comcast's 1TB data cap, which is enforced in 27 of Comcast's 39 states. But the rise in median usage almost certainly means that more Comcast customers are exceeding the 1TB cap.

OpenVault research on the U.S. cable industry found [in January] that 4.1 percent of households were using at least 1TB a month, up from 2.1 percent the previous year. That same research found that U.S. cable Internet customers were using an average of 268.7GB per month. Comcast used to reveal the percentage of its customers that exceed its data cap, but the company seems to have stopped making that data public. In late 2013, when the cap was 300GB, Comcast was saying that only 2 percent of its customers used more than that. By late 2015, that was up to 8 percent.

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Elon Musk Makes Deal With SEC Not To Discuss Tesla's Finances Without a Lawyer's Approval
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sigh-of-relief department:
Two months after the SEC asked a federal judge to hold Tesla CEO Elon Musk in contempt for breaking terms of a settlement agreement with a tweet, the two have reportedly reached an agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, which still needs to be approved by a judge, Musk agreed not to tweet or otherwise disseminate information about Tesla's finances, production numbers or certain other information without a lawyer's approval. CNBC reports: The late Friday agreement [...] lays out exactly what kind of information requires formal legal review before being shared. This oversight process is now required for the company's blog, statements made on investor calls, as well as social media posts for material information. [CNBC has the laundry list of items laid out in the filing included in their report.]
This superseding agreement settles a dispute between the SEC and Musk about whether the Tesla chief violated the terms of their original deal in which he had agreed to clear his tweets containing material information about the company before posting. The SEC had asserted that Musk never sought clearance for any tweet. The SEC first charged Musk last year, alleging he made fraudulent statements on Twitter. On Aug. 7, Musk tweeted that he had "funding secured" to take Tesla private at $420 per share. In the first deal, Musk had also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $20 million and forfeit his role as chairman of the board for at least three years. The company also paid a $20 million fine. "Some feared the SEC situation was not going to be resolved favorably so this resolution is a sigh of relief for the bulls. Tesla has enough bad news on its plate so this removes one headache for the Street with the focus now core demand and profitability," said Dan Ives, managing director for equity research at Wedbush Securities.

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Ask Slashdot: Why Are 3D Games, VR/AR Still Rendered Using Polygons In 2019?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shapes-and-sizes department:
dryriver writes: A lot of people seem to believe that computers somehow need polygons, NURBS surfaces, voxels or point clouds "to be able to define and render 3D models to the screen at all." This isn't really true. All a computer needs to light, shade, and display a 3D model is to know the answer to the question "is there a surface point at coordinate XYZ or not." Many different mathematical structures or descriptors can be dreamed up that can tell a computer whether there is indeed a 3D model surface point at coordinate XYZ or behind a given screen pixel XY. Polygons/triangles are a very old approach to 3D graphics that was primarily designed not to overstress the very limited CPU and RAM resources of the first computers capable of displaying raster 3D graphics. The brains who invented the technique back in the late 1960s probably figured that by the 1990s at the latest, their method would be replaced by something better and more clever. Yet here we are in 2019 buying pricey Nvidia, AMD, and other GPUs that are primarily polygon/triangle accelerators. Why is this? Creating good-looking polygon models is still a slow, difficult, iterative and money intensive task in 2019. A good chunk of the $60 you pay for an AAA PC or console game is the sheer amount of time, manpower and effort required to make everything in a 15-hour-long game experience using unwieldy triangles and polygons. So why still use polygons at all? Why not dream up a completely new "there is a surface point here" technique that makes good 3D models easier to create and may render much, much faster than polygons/triangles on modern hardware to boot? Why use a 50-year-old approach to 3D graphics when new, better approaches can be pioneered?

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Apple Considered Purchasing Intel's Smartphone Modem Chip Business
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 04:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's strategic-alternatives department:
Apple reportedly considered acquiring parts of Intel's smartphone modem chip business as they looked into ways to speed up their own efforts to build modem chips for smartphones. MacRumors reports: Intel and Apple entered into discussions last summer and the talks continued for months, but ended right around the time Apple settled its legal dispute and reached a supply agreement with Qualcomm. Sources at Intel that spoke to The Wall Street Journal said that Intel is exploring "strategic alternatives" for its smartphone modem chip business, and is still interested in a sale to Apple or another company.

In an interview yesterday, Intel CEO Bob Swan confirmed that Intel is considering alternatives "based on what's best" for Intel's IP and employees: "Selling the modem business would allow Intel to unload a costly operation that was losing about $1 billion annually, according to another person familiar with its performance. Any sale would likely include staff, a portfolio of patents and modem designs related to multiple generations of wireless technology, said Patrick Moorhead, principal at Moor Insights & Strategy, a technology firm."

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FBI Searches Microbiome Testing Startup uBiome In Billing Probe
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's Theranos-2.0 department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: Special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched the offices of lab-test startup uBiome Inc. on Friday morning (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The FBI is investigating uBiome's billing practices. An FBI spokeswoman said, "I can confirm that special agents from the FBI San Francisco Division are present at 360 Langton Street in San Francisco conducting court-authorized law-enforcement activity. Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, I cannot provide any additional details at this time." According to public records, uBiome has a headquarters office at that address.

uBiome sells tests for the microbiome, which refers to the group of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract and other parts of the body, under names including Explorer and SmartGut. The company, which calls itself the "leading microbial genomics company," was one of the earliest firms in the microbiome testing field, launching in 2012 with a crowdfunding campaign that raised $350,000. Last year, uBiome said it had raised $83 million from firms including OS Fund and Y Combinator. uBiome describes its SmartGut and SmartJane tests as "an insurance-reimbursed test ordered by a health-care provider." "We are cooperating fully with federal authorities on this matter. We look forward to continuing to serve the needs of healthcare providers and patients," a spokeswoman for uBiome said Friday. In an interview last week that included questions about scrutiny of uBiome's billing practices, uBiome Chief Executive Jessica Richman said that "compliance is our highest value" and that uBiome's billing and other practices are proper.

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Google 'Thanos' For an Epic 'Avengers: Endgame' Easter Egg
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's spoiler-free department:
Zorro shares a report from CBS News: If you're looking for more "Avengers: Endgame" content to fill the void until you get to see the movie, Google has the perfect Easter egg for you. Open Google, search "Thanos," click the Infinity Gauntlet on the right side -- and watch as half of your search results turn to dust. The gauntlet -- complete with the six Infinity Stones -- will snap its fingers when clicked, just as Thanos did in "Avengers: Infinity War." But this time, instead of eliminating half of the universe's population, Thanos will eliminate half your Google Search results, perfectly balancing the internet. Make sure you turn the sound on.

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Google Bans Developer With Half a Billion App Downloads From Play Store
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rule-breaker department:
Google is banning app developer DO Global and removing their apps from the Google Play Store after it discovered the company was committing ad fraud. "As of today, 46 apps from DO Global, which is partly owned by internet giant Baidu, are gone from the Play store," reports BuzzFeed. "BuzzFeed News also found that DO Global apps no longer offer ad inventory for purchase via Google's AdMob network, suggesting the ban has also been extended to the internet giant's ad products." From the report: Prior to the app removals, DO Global had roughly 100 apps in the Play store with over 600 million installs. Their removal from the Play store marks one of the biggest bans, if not the biggest, Google has ever instituted against an app developer. DO Global was a subsidiary of Baidu until it was spun out last summer; Baidu retains a 34% stake. BuzzFeed News reported last week that at least six apps from DO included code that made them fraudulently click on ads even when a user was not using the app. The apps were also listed in the Play store under the generic developer names "Pic Tools Group" and "Photo Artist Studio," hosted their privacy policies on Tumblr, and did not disclose they were owned by DO. It's a violation of Play store policy to conceal ownership information, and to commit ad fraud. The ad fraud was detected by Check Point security, which responded to a request from BuzzFeed News to examine apps uncovered during its investigation.

Google removed those six apps, and claimed its internal systems had also flagged most of them for removal. Another 40 DO apps disappeared from the Play store this week, including 20 using the Do Global Games developer name, and 14 listed under Applecheer Studio. The apps listed different addresses and contact information in the store, making it difficult for the average user to see they were all owned by the same major developer.

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Bitcoin Drops 7 Percent On Allegations of $850 Million Fraud By Bitfinex By New York Attorney General
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: The price of Bitcoin has dropped seven per cent after New York's Attorney General accused leading exchange Bitfinex of trying to hide $850 million in missing funds. The accusation came in a legal filing [PDF] on Thursday that claims Bitfinex raided the reserves of Tether -- a digital currency that is kept at parity with the U.S. dollar in order to allow traders to switch easily between real and virtual currencies -- in order to make up the massive shortfall. Both Tether and Bitfinex are headquartered in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands and, according to the NY Attorney General, are owned and run by the same group of executives and staff.

Tether is a so-called "stablecoin" and the company claims that every Tether virtual coin is backed by a dollar held in reserves, the idea being that people can be assured of its stability. But last month, on March 4, the NY Attorney General notes that Tether changed that assurance to note that "every Tether is always 100 per cent backed by our reserves, which include traditional currency and cash equivalents and, from time to time, may include other assets and receivables from loans made by Tether to third parties." [...] As part of that investigation, the OAG uncovered documents that purportedly show that in mid-2018 Bitfinex didn't have sufficient real-world currency deposits to meet customer demand.

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Turnover Hits Apple's Famed Industrial Design Team
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 02:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Apple's famous and close-knit industrial design team that works under design chief Jony Ive is undergoing major changes, WSJ reported this week. From the report: Rico Zorkendorfer and Daniele De Iuliis, who together have more than 35 years of experience at Apple, decided to leave the company recently [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], people familiar with the departures said. Another member of the team with a decade of experience, Julian Honig, plans to leave in the coming months, people familiar with his plans said. Mr. Zorkendorfer said he was taking a break from his professional life to spend time with his family, adding that he felt privileged to work on Apple's design team. Mr. De Iuliis didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. Mr. Honig declined to comment.

The departures of members of the core design team that revived Apple in the 2000s and did the work behind the iPhone, iPad and watch come amid a pause in new products, as the company emphasizes new subscription services this year instead of new gadgets amid slowing iPhone sales. It also follows chief designer Jony Ive's resumption a little over a year ago of day-to-day oversight for the industrial design group.

The roughly two-dozen person team known internally as ID is responsible for establishing the look and feel of all of Apple's products, including the iPhone, one of the most successful products of all time. The tech giant has replenished its design ranks in recent years, adding creatives from apparel company Nike, independent studios and design schools. Recent hires will assume more responsibility for product development as veterans leave.

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A Bookstore, Finally, Comes To the Bronx
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's refreshing-change department:
In no place Barnes & Noble's diminished fortune felt as intensely as it was in the Bronx, where gratitude for what it provided far outweighed snobbishness. From a report: Five years ago when Barnes & Noble announced that it was closing the only branch it had opened there, residents and local civic leaders were angry and heartbroken and fought to save it. At the time, there were 90 bookstores in Manhattan. But the Bronx essentially had just the one, and now it would disappear.

Noelle Santos, who worked in human resources, was especially torn up. In 2014 she was on Facebook when she stumbled upon a petition to save Barnes & Noble. It pointed out how alarming it was that the Bronx was getting more and more cellphone stores and chain restaurants but would be left without a place to buy novels or training manuals or SAT preparation guides. Ms. Santos grew up in the Bronx, in Soundview, a rough neighborhood, and she stayed in the Bronx for college and graduate school. But she suddenly felt a radical need to do change things.

"Up to that point I had measured my success by how far I could get away from the Bronx," she told me recently. "I was disappointed in myself for thinking about leaving a community in no better condition that I had found it," she said. "I had never been inside an independent book store before I decided to open one." On Saturday, she will open such a store, The Lit. Bar.

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Slashdot Asks: Look and Interior of Future Self-Driving Cars?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's billion-dollar-question department:
In the not-so-distant future, pending regulatory approvals, self-driving cars will be everywhere. A handful of top companies are working to improve the reliability of their autonomous vehicles as we speak. But what about their design?

What are some changes that you think could be made to the exterior and interior of a self-driving car? If someone is not required to steer the wheel, do they even need to look ahead? One can argue that seats in the car should be rearchitected to face each other. Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk suggested this week that in two years, his automaker firm could explore cars "with no steering wheels or pedals." What would you like to see in a self-driving car?

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Founder of Voat, the 'Censorship-Free' Reddit, Begs Users To Stop Making Death Threats
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-going-on department:
New submitter scullyitsaliens writes: The Reddit clone Voat has reportedly been contacted by a "US agency" about threats being made on the censorship-free website, according to its founder Justin Chastain. In a post on Wednesday, Chastain (who goes by PuttItOut on Voat) told users they need to "chill on the 'threats,'" as the platform had been officially approached by an unnamed agency over some of its content. Chastain said he didn't want to litigate free speech, but that Voat would cooperate with law enforcement and remove "gray area" posts if asked. Voat users took offense to the perceived curtailing of their ability to post racial slurs and endorse violence.

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Zuckerberg Warns of Authoritarian Data Localization Trend
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's taking-a-stand department:
If free nations demand companies store data locally, it legitimizes that practice for authoritarian nations, which can then steal that data for their own nefarious purposes, according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. From a report: He laid out the threat in a new 93-minute video of a discussion with Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari released today as part of Zuckerberg's 2019 personal challenge of holding public talks on the future of tech. Zuckerberg has stated that Facebook will refuse to comply with laws and set up local data centers in authoritarian countries where that data could be snatched. Russia and China already have data localization laws, but privacy concerns and regulations proposals could see more nations adopt the restrictions.

Germany now requires telecommunications metadata to be stored locally, and India does something similar for payments data. While in democratic or justly ruled nations, the laws can help protect user privacy and give governments more leverage over tech companies, they pave the way for similar laws in nations where governments might use military might to see the data. That could help them enhance their surveillance capabilities, disrupt activism or hunt down dissidents.

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Intel Starts Qualification of Ice Lake CPUs, Raises 10nm Volume Expectation for 2019
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 10:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
During its Q1 earnings call, Intel provided an update regarding its 10 nm process technology as well as the ramp up of its Ice Lake-U processor for notebooks, which is the company's first 10 nm design that will be mass produced and broadly available. From a report: Qualification for the new processors has already started, so systems based on Ice Lake-U will be available by the holidays, as promised. Furthermore, Intel believes that it will be able to ship more 10 nm parts than it originally anticipated. Intel started production of its Ice Lake-U processors in Q1, but Intel has been building up a stockpile of them first before they are sent to PC makers for qualification. Once the CPUs are qualified -- something that Intel expects to happen in Q2 -- the manufacturer can start sales/shipments of these CPUs, which will likely happen in Q3. Considering the lead-time required to get built systems on to store shelves, Ice Lake-U-based PCs are on track to hit the market in Q4 (something Intel reaffirmed today).

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Sinemia, a Would-be Rival To MoviePass, Shuts Down US Movie-Ticket Subscription Service
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '19 at 10:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's end-of-road department:
Sinemia, a would-be rival to MoviePass, is closing down its U.S. operations -- telling customers it could not find "a path to sustainability" amid legal headaches, competitive pressures and the challenging economics of the business model. From a report: The company announced the shutdown in a notice on its website Thursday. "While we are proud to have created a best in market service, our efforts to cover the cost of unexpected legal proceedings and raise the funds required to continue operations have not been sufficient," Sinemia said in the statement. "The competition in the U.S. market and the core economics of what it costs to deliver Sinemia's end-to-end experience ultimately [led] us to the decision of discontinuing our U.S. operations." From the notice, it's not clear whether Sinemia will be extending refunds that may be due to subscribers.

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