By msmash from Slashdot's in-the-aftermath department
It's been called the "Super Bowl of Astronomy," but when the American Astronomical Society's winter meeting plays out in Seattle this week, some of the stars won't be taking the field. From a report: The AAS meeting is just one of the scientific endeavors diminished by the partial government shutdown in Washington, D.C., which entered its 17th day today. NASA representatives, and researchers whose travel would typically be funded by NASA, have had to cancel their plans to be in Seattle due to the tiff involving the Trump administration and Republicans on one side, and Democrats on the other.
The shutdown affects only a quarter of the federal government -- which means that the Defense Department and the Energy Department can continue research and development activities. Work continues as well at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and at the National Institutes of Health. But most employees at NASA as well as at the Agriculture Department, the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service are on furlough. Further reading: National Parks Face Years of Damage From Government Shutdown.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Amazon has a new way to prevent thieves from stealing packages. In early 2019, Amazon will offer to deliver packages right into your garage, the company announced Monday at CES. The service is called Key for Garage, and joins Amazon's Key for Home and Key for Car services. From a report: Key for Garage, like Key for Home, requires some additional hardware. You'll need a $80 Chamberlain myQ Smart Home bridge, which will let Amazon talk to your garage door opener so that it can be opened by a delivery person. Folks who already own that hub will be able to use it. You'll also need an Amazon Prime subscription. Unlike Key for Home, you don't need a camera to record the delivery. This method of delivery might be welcomed by people who didn't like Key for Home (previously simply known as Amazon Key), which didn't always work well if you had dogs at home, didn't want to let Amazon into your house, or had an alarm system.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's reality-check department
Google's Assistant and Amazon's Alexa are rapidly increasing their reach, and Apple's Siri is supposedly getting smarter. But all of these AI assistants are still too clumsy in day to day. David Pierce, writing for WSJ: My virtual assistant desperately wants to help me. Google Assistant, Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri -- even Samsung's Bixby and others -- have begun allowing users to set up "routines" that combine many actions into a single command. Shout "OK Google, good morning!" at your smart speaker and it can (in theory) open the blinds, turn on the lights, show you traffic and your calendar and turn on NPR. Tell Alexa to start a dance party, and watch it turn on the disco ball and fire up the "Glitter and Glowsticks" playlist. These routines embody what virtual assistants are meant to do, connecting all our gadgets and services and making everything work together. All you have to do is ask. And maybe not even that -- these tools aim to get to know you so well, they'll anticipate your needs. But these multistep systems are complicated to create, and they often require buying "smart" accessories and memorizing specific phrases.
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By msmash from Slashdot's competition-heating-up department
AMD has been pushing its Ryzen lineup of processors for a few years now, with the company looking to put pressure on Intel's seemingly unbeatable hold on the chip landscape. From a report: At CES 2019, AMD unveiled its second generation of Ryzen laptop chips, which look to jump ahead of Intel's 14nm roadblock to offer some of the first 12nm processors on the market. To that end, AMD is launching a new lineup of Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, and Ryzen 7 chips across both the 15W U-series and 35W H-series lineups, almost all of which are built off of the company's new 12nm Zen+ architecture. For the more powerful H-series, there are a pair of new chips: the Ryzen 7 3750H, offering four cores / eight threads, a base clock speed of 2.3 GHz (which can boost to 4.0 GHz), and the Ryzen 5 3550H, also a four core / eight thread processor, but with a 2.1 GHz base speed (which can boost to 3.7 GHz), and only eight GPU cores to the Ryzen 7 3750H's ten. Further reading: AMD Gets Serious About Chromebooks at CES 2019.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
For several decades, the areal density of hard disks increased by an average of nearly 40 percent each year. But in recent years, that rate has slowed to around 10 percent. Seagate and Western Digital, the leading manufacturers of hard drives, differ with each other on how to get around this. From a report: In back-to-back announcements in October 2017, Western Digital pledged to begin shipping drives based on what is known as microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) in 2019, and Seagate said it would have drives that incorporate heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) on the market by 2020. If one company's solution proves superior, it will reshape a US $24 billion industry and set the course for a decade of advances in magnetic storage. Companies that wish to store huge amounts of data do have other options, but hard drives are still the go-to choice for enterprise storage needs that fall somewhere between faster, more expensive solid-state drives built on flash memory, and slower, cheaper magnetic tape.
Seagate now aims to debut a 20+ terabyte drive based on HAMR in 2020, and Western Digital promises MAMR drives that will hold roughly 16 TB later this year. Western Digital expects to quickly scale up to MAMR drives with 40 TB of capacity by 2025, while Seagate believes it can achieve similar capacities through HAMR, though it has not publicly stated a target date. Both companies are essentially starting from the same place, with hard drives that share a few key components. The disk, for example, is a thin platter that has been coated with some form of magnetic material made up of countless individual grains, each of which is magnetized in one particular direction. Ten or so grains in a cluster, all with magnetization pointing in the same direction, represent a bit.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
New Trump administration policies aimed at curbing China's access to American innovation have all but halted Chinese investment in U.S. technology startups, as both investors and startup founders abandon deals amid scrutiny from Washington. From a report: Chinese venture funding in U.S. startups crested to a record $3 billion last year, according to New York economic research firm Rhodium Group, spurred by a rush of investors and tech companies scrambling to complete deals before a new regulatory regime was approved in August. Since then, Chinese venture funding in U.S. startups has slowed to a trickle, Reuters interviews with more than 35 industry players show. U.S. President Donald Trump signed new legislation expanding the government's ability to block foreign investment in U.S. companies, regardless of the investor's country of origin. But Trump has been particularly vocal about stopping China from getting its hands on strategic U.S. technologies.
The new rules are still being finalized, but tech industry veterans said the fallout has been swift. "Deals involving Chinese companies and Chinese buyers and Chinese investors have virtually stopped," said attorney Nell O'Donnell, who has represented U.S. tech companies in transactions with foreign buyers. Lawyers who spoke to Reuters say they are feverishly rewriting deal terms to help ensure investments get the stamp of approval from Washington. Chinese investors, including big family offices, have walked away from transactions and stopped taking meetings with U.S. startups. Some entrepreneurs, meanwhile, are eschewing Chinese money, fearful of lengthy government reviews that could sap their resources and momentum in an arena where speed to market is critical. This comes at a time when Chinese investors have visibly become more active in emerging markets such as India.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong celebrated on Monday the ground breaking of the electric automaker's first non-U.S. factory. From a report: "China is becoming the global leader in electric vehicle adoption, and it is a market that is critical to Tesla's mission to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy," Musk said, according to a company statement coinciding with the ceremony for the Shanghai factory. In Twitter posts before the event, Musk said that the factory will produce "affordable versions" of Model 3 and Model Y vehicles for the Greater China region, and that the plan is to "finish initial construction this summer, start Model 3 production end of year and reach high volume production next year."
According to the company, the so-called Gigafactory in Shanghai "will allow Tesla to localize production of Model 3 and future models sold in China, with plans to eventually produce approximately 3,000 Model 3 vehicles per week in the initial phase and to ramp up to 500,000 vehicles per year when fully operational (subject to local factors including regulatory approval and supply chain constraints)."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
When the government eventually reopens, park experts warn reversing damage won't be as easy as throwing out the trash. From a report: National parks are America's public lands, but right now they're America's trashcans. That's because the U.S. federal government, embattled over funding for a border wall, has shut down, leaving national parks open and largely unattended. Since the shutdown began, brimming trashcans, overflowing toilets, and trespassing has been reported at many parks locations. "Never before have I seen the federal government tempt fate in national parks the way we are today," says Diane Regas, president of the Trust for Public Land. "It's not about what has happened already. It's about what could happen if you don't have the appropriate staffing."
According to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), staffing varies by park, but some 16,000 parks service employees are furloughed, leaving a small number active for policing and security. The government shut down three times in 2018, but only three days last January and less than a day that following February. As of Friday, the government had been partially shut down for 13 days.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Albums sold on vinyl and cassette both saw a growth in sales according to BuzzAngle Music's End-Year Report profiling U.S. music industry consumption for 2018. From a report: Vinyl sales grew by just shy of 12% from 8.6 to 9.7 million sales, while cassette sales grew by almost 19% from 99,400 to 118,200 copies sold in the US, The Verge reported. Sixty-six percent of those vinyl sales were of albums that are more than three years old and feature classic bands like The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd, reported BuzzAngle. Cassettes saw popularity in newer releases. CDs on the other hand have declined by 18.5% in popularity leading to a total decline in physical album sales of over 15%, reported The Verge. Meanwhile, audio streaming saw an increase of 41.8%, the largest of all music consumption.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
If the late 2018 deal that brought Apple Music to Amazon Echo speakers wasn't surprising enough, Samsung today announced a similar partnership with Apple for 2018 and 2019 Samsung Smart TVs: support for iTunes movies, iTunes TV shows, and AirPlay 2 will be coming in spring 2019. From a report: The deal is all but unprecedented for Apple, which has historically restricted playback of iTunes videos solely to its own devices, including Apple TVs, iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Macs, with no support for competing media players such as Roku, or various smart TV platforms. That said, PCs running iTunes have been able to play iTunes videos, and the company has allowed third-parties to license both AirPlay and AirPlay 2 for years. According to Samsung, a firmware update to 2018 Smart TVs will add a new iTunes Movies and TV Shows app in more than 100 countries. AirPlay 2 will become available on Samsung Smart TVs in 190 countries around the world. There are lots of unanswered questions about this iTunes deal. The Verge: Is Apple going to allow Samsung's smart TV tracking to snoop on iTunes viewers? Smart TVs are notorious for tracking what people watch, but Apple's entire brand is privacy. What usage data will Samsung see from the iTunes app?
Samsung smart TVs run Tizen, Samsung's wacky custom operating system. Is Apple building a Tizen iTunes app? Is there a Tizen team inside Apple? Or is Samsung building this app? Who will be in charge of updating it and fixing bugs? Smart TV apps are not known for being updated well or very often.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's fixing-things department
Google Drive has a pretty bad spam problem, and it seems Google doesn't care. Spammers can share files that automatically appear in your Drive, and there's no way to stop it. From a report: Google Drive's sharing system is the problem. Since it doesn't offer any sharing acceptance, all files and folders shared with your account are automatically available to you in Drive -- they just show up. To make matters worse, if you only have "View" permission, you can't remove yourself from the share. It's a mess. And to make matters even worse, this is far from a new problem, but Google still hasn't done anything to fix it.
Google got back to us with a statement saying that changes are coming to Drive's sharing features and they're"making it a priority." Here's the statement in full: "For the vast majority of users, the default sharing permissions in Drive work as intended. Unfortunately, this was not the case for this user and we sincerely apologize for her experience. In light of this issue, we are evaluating changes to our spam, abuse, and blocking features that will prevent this kind of activity from taking place on Drive. In the interim, users who are experiencing similar issues can remove themselves from the folder, and the folder should not reappear in either 'My Drive' or 'Shared with Me' unless they revisit it."Read Replies (0)