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Monday, February 26th, 2024
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11:00 pm
Open Source Movie Streaming Project 'Movie-Web' Shut Down By Hollywood Complaint
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: In recent months, Movie-Web has quickly gained popularity among a particular group of movie aficionados. The open source software, which is still available on GitHub, allows anyone to set up a movie search engine capable of streaming content from third-party sources. These external sources tend to have large libraries of pirated entertainment. Movie-web's developers are not oblivious to the legal ramifications but since they don't host any files, they hoped to avoid legal trouble. The software just provides a search engine for third-party content, they argued. [...] Yesterday, the movie-web.app domain was suddenly taken down. According to a message posted on the official Discord server, this is the result of a "court action" from several movie companies including Warner Bros. Netflix, Paramount, Universal, and Disney. [I]t appears that action was taken against the movie-web.app domain. It seems likely that registrar Namecheap suspended the domain after receiving a legal complaint from the aforementioned Hollywood companies. [Update: After publishing the article we learned that there is a legal action that requires registrars to take action against several 'pirate' domains. We're looking into the matter and will follow this up later.] Namecheap updated the domain's status to clientHold, which effectively rendered the domain inaccessible. The measure is often used to suspend pirate site domains following copyright holder complaints. The surprise takedown only affects movie-web's publicly hosted 'demo' instance. On Discord, the movie-web team says that it has no plans to bring this website back in any shape or form. "As a team, we always said that if we were taken down, we would go down without a fight and we have decided to stick to that. We have zero interest in getting involved with legal matters, and so we will not be trying to circumvent this takedown in any way," developer 'BinaryOverload' writes.

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11:40 pm
Doom Is Now Playable On a Lawnmower
Landscaping tech company Husqvarna has partnered with Bethesda to bring the original 1993 Doom to its $2,000+ robotic lawnmowers. Kotaku reports: This new way to play Doom arrives in April on all Nera robotic lawnmower models. You don't have to pay for the game, either, just a $2,000+ lawnmower. Instead, just download it and play the shooter via the robo-mower's built-in screen. To rotate your view, you turn the knob and to shoot demons, you press it down. You hold the start button to move forward. A few caveats to mention. First, this isn't available in the United States. Why? I don't know. Perhaps we can't be trusted with video games on lawnmowers? Secondly, this isn't all of Doom. Instead, it's just the first episode -- Knee Deep In The Dead -- which is arguably its most famous one, sure, but just keep in mind you won't be able to play the rest of the beloved shooter in the middle of your backyard on a tiny LCD screen. Sorry. Sadly, this won't be a permanent feature that you can show off to family and friends for years to come. Instead, Doom and all its demons and guns will be removed from lawnmowers on September 9. So enjoy it while you can.

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10:20 pm
OnePlus Watch 2 Launches With Wear OS 4, 100-Hour Battery
Almost 3 years after launching the first OnePlus Watch, the Chinese smartphone company is launching a successor -- this time powered by Wear OS 4. Utilizing a "hybrid interface," the OnePlus Watch 2 is able to offer 100 hours of battery life, or just over four full days of use. 9to5Google reports: To achieve that goal, the OnePlus Watch 2 actually runs two separate operating systems. Wear OS handles things like apps and watchfaces, while a RTOS powered by a secondary chipset handles more lightweight tasks. A "smart mode" on the watch allows the watch swap back and forth between its two operating systems and two chipsets. Wear OS is powered by the Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 and it is Wear OS 4. The RTOS is powered by a BES 2700 MCU Efficiency chipset. Switching between the two OS's is something you're likely to not even notice, OnePlus claims: "The BES2700 Efficiency Chipset runs RTOS and handles background activity and simple tasks, while the Snapdragon W5 handles more demanding tasks, like running your favorite Google apps. This optimized approach, enabled by the Wear OS hybrid interface seamlessly managing the transition between chips, means users will experience a smartwatch that effortlessly does it all while extending the time between charges." Powering the Watch 2 is a 500 mAh battery which features 7.5W charging with a special charger that connects to a typical USB-C cable. The charger is magnetic, of course, and OnePlus claims a full charge in 60 minutes or less. The 1.43-inch AMOLED display of the OnePlus Watch 2 is covered in a slightly curved sapphire glass, while the watch chassis is built from stainless steel. You'll have the choice of black or silver colors with either black or green bands, respectively. The whole package is also 5ATM water resistant. Rounding out the main specs you'll find 32GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. The OnePlus Watch 2 goes on sale today at $299.

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9:40 pm
'Every PC Is Going To Be an AI PC'
During a briefing at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Meghana Patwardhan, VP of Commercial Mobility at Dell Technology, told The Register that while the immediate future would consist of two worlds -- one with AI hardware and one without -- "every PC is going to be an AI PC in the longer term." From the report: In terms of new hardware, Dell used the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona to show off new versions of its Surface-baiting Latitude 7350 convertible -- "the world's most serviceable commercial detachable," according to the company -- and its workstation-class Precision 3680 tower. Other devices in the Precision range include mobile workstations and the 3280 Compact Form Factor PC. Dell was also determined to present itself as a leader in hybrid working with the Premier Wireless ANC headset, replete with AI-based noise cancellation. Duringt our talk, AI was never far from the lips of Dell's spokespeople as the company talked up the energy efficiency and future-proofing it saw in dedicated AI hardware, such as Neural Processing Units (NPUs) that are increasingly cropping up in CPUs. To illustrate the point, Dell boatsed about how much more efficient background blurring is on video calls when AI hardware is running compared to when it isn't. Hopefully, Microsoft will soon deliver a version of Windows capable of demonstrating a use for AI hardware that is more than hiding distractions in the background. Further reading: AI PCs To Account for Nearly 60% of All PC Shipments by 2027, IDC Says

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9:00 pm
Sony Claims To Offer Subs 'Appropriate Value' For Deleting Digital Libraries
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Sony is making an effort to appease customers who will lose their entire Funimation digital libraries when the anime streaming service merges into Crunchyroll. Currently, though, the company's plan for giving disappointed customers "an appropriate value" for their erased digital copies isn't very accessible or clear. Earlier this month, Sony-owned Funimation announced that customers' digital libraries would be unavailable starting on April 2. At that time, Funimation accounts will become Crunchyroll accounts. Sony acquired Crunchyroll in 2021, so some sort of merging of the services was expected. However, less expected was customers' lost access to online copies of beloved anime that they acquired through digital codes provided in purchased Funimation DVDs or Blu-rays. Funimation for years claimed that customers would be able to stream these copies "forever, but there are some restrictions." Rahul Purini, Crunchyroll's president, explained the decision while speaking to The Verge's latest Decoder podcast, noting that the feature was incorporated into the Funimation platform. "As we look at usage of that and the number of people who were redeeming those and using them, it was just not a feature that was available in Crunchyroll and isn't in our road map," Purini said. The executive claimed that Funimation is "working really hard directly" with each affected customer to "ensure that they have an appropriate value for what they got in the digital copy initially." When asked what "appropriate value" means, Purini responded: "It could be that they get access to a digital copy on any of the existing other services where they might be able to access it. It could be a discount access to our subscription service so they can get access to the same shows through our subscription service. So we are trying to make it right based on each user's preference." It could be that they get access to a digital copy on any of the existing other services where they might be able to access it. It could be a discount access to our subscription service so they can get access to the same shows through our subscription service. So we are trying to make it right based on each user's preference. Clarifying further, Purini confirmed that this means that Sony is willing to provide affected customers with a new digital copy via a streaming service other than Crunchyroll. The executive said that the company is handling subscribers' requests as they reach out to customer service. Notably, this approach to compensating customers for removing access to something that they feel like they purchased (digital copies are considered a free addition to the physical copies, but some people might not have bought the discs if they didn't come with a free digital copy) puts the responsibility on customers to reach out. Ahead of Purini's interview, Sony didn't publicly announce that it would offer customers compensation. And since Funimation's terms of use include caveats that content may be removed at any time, customers might have thought that they have no path for recourse.

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6:01 pm
Google Says Microsoft Offered To Sell Bing To Apple in 2018, But Search-quality Issues Got in the Way
Microsoft offered to sell its Bing search engine to Apple in 2018, Google said in a court filing earlier this month. The document, from Google's antitrust case against the U.S. Justice Department, was unsealed on Friday. From a report: In the filing earlier this month, Google argued that Microsoft pitched Apple in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2020 about making Bing the default in Apple's Safari web browser, but each time, Apple said no, citing quality issues with Bing. "In each instance, Apple took a hard look at the relative quality of Bing versus Google and concluded that Google was the superior default choice for its Safari users. That is competition," Google wrote in the filing. The Justice Department said in its own newly unsealed filing that Microsoft has spent almost $100 billion on Bing over 20 years. The Windows and Office software maker launched Bing in 2009, following search efforts under the MSN and Windows Live brands. Today Bing has 3% global market share, according to StatCounter. In the fourth quarter, Microsoft generated $3.2 billion from search and news advertising, while Google search and other revenue totaled $48 billion. Google said in its filing that when Microsoft reached out to Apple in 2018, emphasizing gains in Bing's quality, Microsoft offered to either sell Bing to Apple or establish a Bing-related joint venture with the company.

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6:40 pm
LockBit Ransomware Gang Resurfaces With New Site
wiredmikey writes: The LockBit ransomware operators launched a new leak site over the weekend, claiming they restored their infrastructure following a law enforcement takedown and invited affiliates to re-join the operation. Over the weekend, an individual involved with the RaaS, who uses the moniker of "LockBitSupp", launched a new leak site that lists hundreds of victim organizations and which contains a long message providing his view on the takedown.

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5:21 pm
Apple's Decision To Drop iPhone Web Apps Comes Under Scrutiny in the EU
Apple could soon face an investigation over its decision to discontinue iPhone web apps in the European Union, according to a report from the Financial Times. The Verge: The European Commission has reportedly sent Apple and app developers requests for more information to assist in its evaluation. "We are indeed looking at the compliance packages of all gatekeepers, including Apple," the European Commission said in a statement to the Financial Times. "In that context, we're in particular looking into the issue of progressive web apps, and can confirm sending the requests for information to Apple and to app developers, who can provide useful information for our assessment."

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4:40 pm
Supreme Court Hears Landmark Cases That Could Upend What We See on Social Media
The US Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments Monday in two cases that could dramatically reshape social media, weighing whether states such as Texas and Florida should have the power to control what posts platforms can remove from their services. From a report: The high-stakes battle gives the nation's highest court an enormous say in how millions of Americans get their news and information, as well as whether sites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok should be able to make their own decisions about how to moderate spam, hate speech and election misinformation. At issue are laws passed by the two states that prohibit online platforms from removing or demoting user content that expresses viewpoints -- legislation both states say is necessary to prevent censorship of conservative users. More than a dozen Republican attorneys general have argued to the court that social media should be treated like traditional utilities such as the landline telephone network. The tech industry, meanwhile, argues that social media companies have First Amendment rights to make editorial decisions about what to show. That makes them more akin to newspapers or cable companies, opponents of the states say. The case could lead to a significant rethinking of First Amendment principles, according to legal experts. A ruling in favor of the states could weaken or reverse decades of precedent against "compelled speech," which protects private individuals from government speech mandates, and have far-reaching consequences beyond social media. A defeat for social media companies seems unlikely, but it would instantly transform their business models, according to Blair Levin, an industry analyst at the market research firm New Street Research.

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4:01 pm
Lenovo's Laptop Concept is Fully Transparent, But the Point Isn't Entirely Clear
An anonymous reader shares a report from the ongoing Mobile World Congress trade show: This year's big scrum gatherer was Lenovo's long-rumored transparent laptop. It's real. It functions surprisingly well and -- nearest anyone can tell -- its existence is a testament to form over function. That's a perfectly fine thing to be when you're a concept device. When it comes to actually shipping a product, however, that's another conversation entirely. [...] Broadly speaking, it looks like a laptop, with a transparent pane where the screen should be. It's perhaps best understood as a kind of augmented reality device, in the sense that its graphics are overlaid on whatever happens to be behind it. It's a crowd pleaser, with a futuristic air to it that embodies all manner of sci-fi tech tropes. The transparent display has become a kind of shorthand for future tech in stock art, and it's undeniably neat to see the thing in action. [...] The bottom of the device is covered in a large capacitive touch surface. This area serves as both a keyboard and a large stylus-compatible drawing surface. The flat surface can't compete with real, tactile keyboards, of course. Typing isn't the greatest experience here, as evidenced by previous dual-screen Lenovo laptops. But that's the tradeoff for the versatility of the virtual version.

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3:22 pm
$1 Billion Donation Will Provide Free Tuition at a Bronx Medical School
Dr. Ruth Gottesman, a longtime professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is making free tuition available to all students going forward. From a report: The 93-year-old widow of a Wall Street financier has donated $1 billion to a Bronx medical school, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, with instructions that the gift be used to cover tuition for all students going forward. The donor, Dr. Ruth Gottesman, is a former professor at Einstein, where she studied learning disabilities, developed a screening test and ran literacy programs. It is one of the largest charitable donations to an educational institution in the United States and most likely the largest to a medical school. The fortune came from her late husband, David Gottesman, known as Sandy, who was a protege of Warren Buffett and had made an early investment in Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate Mr. Buffett built. The donation is notable not only for its staggering size, but also because it is going to a medical institution in the Bronx, the city's poorest borough. The Bronx has a high rate of premature deaths and ranks as the unhealthiest county in New York. Over the past generation, a number of billionaires have given hundreds of millions of dollars to better-known medical schools and hospitals in Manhattan, the city's wealthiest borough. While her husband ran an investment firm, First Manhattan, Dr. Gottesman had a long career at Einstein, a well-regarded medical school, starting in 1968, when she took a job as director of psychoeducational services. She has long been on Einstein's board of trustees and is currently the chair. In recent years, she has become close friends with Dr. Philip Ozuah, the pediatrician who oversees the medical college and its affiliated hospital, Montefiore Medical Center, as the chief executive officer of the health system. That friendship and trust loomed large as she contemplated what to do with the money her husband had left her.

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2:31 pm
Microsoft Strikes Deal With Mistral in Push Beyond OpenAI
Microsoft has struck a deal with French AI startup Mistral as it seeks to broaden its involvement in the fast-growing industry beyond OpenAI. From a report: The US tech giant will provide the 10-month-old Paris-based company with help in bringing its AI models to market. Microsoft will also take a minor stake in Mistral, although the financial details have not been disclosed. The partnership makes Mistral the second company to provide commercial language models available on Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform. Microsoft has already invested about $13 billion in San Francisco-based OpenAI, an alliance that is being reviewed by competition watchdogs in the US, EU and UK. Other Big Tech rivals, such as Google and Amazon, are also investing heavily in building generative AI -- software that can produce text, images and code in seconds -- which analysts believe has the capacity to shake up industries across the world. WSJ adds: On Monday, Mistral plans to announce a new AI model, called Mistral Large, that Mensch said can perform some reasoning tasks comparably with GPT-4, OpenAI's most advanced language model to date, and Gemini Ultra, Google's new model. Mensch said his new model cost less than 20 million euros, the equivalent of roughly $22 million, to train. By contrast OpenAI Chief Executive Sam Altman said last year after the release of GPT-4 that training his company's biggest models cost "much more than" $50 million to $100 million.

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2:01 pm
Nvidia CEO Says Kids Shouldn't Learn To Code
theodp writes: Asked at the recent World Government Summit in Dubai what people should focus on when it comes to education, what should they learn, and how they should educate their kids and their societies, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang made a counterintuitive break from tech CEOs advising youngsters to learn how to code. Huang argued that, even at this early stage of the AI revolution, programming is no longer a vital skill. With coding taken care of by AI, Huang suggested humans can instead focus on more valuable expertise like biology, education, manufacturing, or farming From the video: "You probably recall over the course of the last 10 years, 15 years, almost everybody who sits on a stage like this would tell you it is vital that your children learn computer science, everybody should learn how to program, and in fact it's almost exactly the opposite. It is our job to create computing technology such that nobody has to program and that the programming language, it's human, everybody in the world is now a programmer. This is the miracle, this is the miracle of artificial intelligence. For the very first time, we have closed the gap, the technology divide has been completely closed and it's the reason why so many people can engage artificial intelligence. It is the reason why every single government, every single industrial conference, every single company is talking about artificial intelligence today. Because for the very first time you can imagine everybody in your company being a technologist. "And so, this is a tremendous time for all of you to realize that the technology divide has been closed. Or another way to say it, the technology leadership of other countries has now been reset. The countries, the people that understand how to solve a domain problem in digital biology, or in education of young people, or in manufacturing or in farming, those people who understand domain expertise now can utilize technology that is readily available to you. You now have a computer that will do what you tell it to do to help automate your work, to amplify your productivity, to make you more efficient. And so, I think that this is just a tremendous time. The impact of course is great and your imperative to activate and take advantage of the technology is absolutely immediate. And also to realize that to engage AI is a lot easier now than at any time in the history of computing. It is vital that we upskill everyone and the upskilling process, I believe, will be delightful, surprising, to realize that this computer can perform all these things that you're instructing it to do and doing it so easily." Huang's words come as tech-backed nonprofit Code.org-- which is lobbying to make CS a high school graduation requirement in all 50 states -- hedges its bets by also including AI usage as part of its mission through its new TeachAI initiative (trademark pending). Interestingly, conspicuous by its absence from the Who's Who of tech giants on the advisory committee for the Code.org staffed-and-operated TeachAI is Nvidia (Nvidia is also missing from the list of Code.org donors). So, is it time to revisit the question of Is AI an Excuse for Not Learning To Code?

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12:34 pm
Bezos, Nvidia Join OpenAI in Funding Humanoid Robot Startup
OpenAI, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Jeff Bezos are all part of a pack of investors in a business "developing human-like robots," reports Bloomberg, "according to people with knowledge of the situation..." At the startup — which is named "Figure" — engineers "are working on a robot that looks and moves like a human. The company has said it hopes its machine, called Figure 01, will be able to perform dangerous jobs that are unsuitable for people and that its technology will help alleviate labor shortages." Figure is raising about $675 million in a funding round that carries a pre-money valuation of roughly $2 billion, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Through his firm Explore Investments LLC, Bezos has committed $100 million. Microsoft is investing $95 million, while Nvidia and an Amazon.com Inc.-affiliated fund are each providing $50 million... Other technology companies are involved as well. Intel Corp.'s venture capital arm is pouring in $25 million, and LG Innotek is providing $8.5 million. Samsung's investment group, meanwhile, committed $5 million. Backers also include venture firms Parkway Venture Capital, which is investing $100 million, and Align Ventures, which is providing $90 million... The AI robotics industry has been busy lately. Earlier this year, OpenAI-backed Norwegian robotics startup 1X Technologies AS raised $100 million. Vancouver-based Sanctuary AI is developing a humanoid robot called Phoenix. And Tesla Inc. is working on a robot called Optimus, with Elon Musk calling it one of his most important projects. Agility Robotics, which Amazon backed in 2022, has bots in testing at one of the retailer's warehouses. Bloomberg calls the investments in Figure "part of a scramble to find new applications for artificial intelligence."

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8:34 am
Would You Use a Laptop with a Transparent Screen?
At CNN's product review site, one electronics reporter wrote they were "dumbfounded", "surprised," and "shocked" by the transparent screen on Lenovo's ThinkBook Transparent Display prototype. "This Micro LED screen is no slouch, either; a Full HD panel with up to 1,000 nits of brightness..." Let's get the big issue out of the way early: Lenovo is merely boasting what it can do, not what it will do. That's what a "concept" product means, of course. That said, it's still the most exciting thing I've seen in laptops in quite some time... Thinking of major use cases for such a laptop, I basically considered any time you're out in public and want a more complete world view. While websites with white backgrounds look more opaque than transparent, the black backgrounds of a Notepad document and animations of space and fish fit the experience much better, as I could see the plants that Lenovo had placed behind the screen. The more websites use dark modes, the better this will go, too. Admittedly, I can also imagine some will blanch at the fact that such a laptop completely removes your privacy as a user. From those shopping for loved ones in the same room to those working on important business documents, the ThinkBook Transparent Display laptop could use a non-transparent mode, just like the LG OLED T offers. That said, I'm sure teachers would love to see what their kids are working on in the classroom. The Verge calls it "an exceptionally cool-looking device that's capable of some fun novelties." The key draw is its bezel-less 17.3-inch MicroLED display, which offers up to 55 percent transparency when its pixels are set to black and turned off. But as its pixels light up, the display becomes less and less see-through, until eventually, you're looking at a completely opaque white surface with a peak brightness of 1,000 nits... How often, of course, do you actually want to see the empty desk behind your laptop? Would it be beneficial to be able to see your colleague sitting across from you, or would it be distracting? One of Lenovo's big ideas is that the form factor could be useful for digital artists, helping them to see the world behind the laptop's screen while sketching it on the lower half of the laptop where the keyboard is (more on this later).... 720p still feels like a very work-in-progress spec on a 17.3-inch laptop like this, but at least text shown on the screen during my demo was perfectly readable... Lenovo's transparent laptop concept feels like a collection of cool technologies in search of a killer app. And yet Lenovo's executive director of ThinkPad portfolio and product Tom Butler tells the Verge he has "very high confidence" this will be in a real laptop within the next five years. (The Verge add that he "hopes that revealing this proof of concept will start a public conversation about what it could be useful for, setting a target for Lenovo to work toward.") But would you use a laptop with a transparent screen?

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4:34 am
Waymo's Self-Driving Cars Keep Hitting Things: A Cyclist, a Gate, and a Pickup Truck
The Washington Post reports: Google's self-driving car company, Waymo, is hitting resistance in its quest to expand 24/7 robotaxi service to other parts of California, including a series of incidents that have fed public officials' safety concerns about the vehicles coming to their cities. Over eight days in February, for example, a Waymo vehicle smashed into a closing gate while exiting the University of Southern California's campus; the next day, another collided with a cyclist in San Francisco. Later that week, a mob of people vandalized and lit one of its cars on fire. Days later, the company announced a voluntary recall of its software for an incident involving a pickup truck in Phoenix. [Though it occurred three months ago, the Post reports that after the initial contact between the vehicles, "A second Waymo vehicle made contact with the pickup truck a few minutes later."] This string of events — none of which resulted in serious injuries — comes after Waymo's main competitor, General Motors-owned Cruise, recalled its fleet of driverless cars last year... [Waymo] is now the lone company trying to expand 24/7 robotaxi service around California, despite sharp resistance from local officials. "Waymo has become the standard-bearer for the entire robotaxi industry for better or for worse," said David Zipper, a senior fellow at the MIT Mobility Initiative. While Waymo's incidents are "nowhere near what Cruise is accused of doing, there is a crisis of confidence in autonomous vehicle companies related to safety right now." The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) delayed deciding whether Waymo could expand its service to include a portion of a major California highway and also Los Angeles and San Mateo counties, pending "further staff review," according to the regulator's website. While Waymo said the delay is a part of the commission's "standard and robust review process," the postponement comes as officials from other localities fear becoming like San Francisco — where self-driving cars have disrupted emergency scenes, held up traffic and frustrated residents who are learning to share public roads with robot cars... Zipper said it is a notable disparity that "the companies are saying the technology is supposed to be a godsend for urban life, and it's pretty striking that the leaders of these urban areas really don't want them," he said. Waymo offers ride-hailing services in San Francisco and Phoenix — as well as some free rides in Los Angeles, according to the article. It also cites a December report from Waymo estimated that overich 7.1 million miles of testing, there were 17 fewer injuries and 20 fewer police-reported crashes "compared to if human drivers with the benchmark crash rate would have driven the same distance in the areas we operate."

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Sunday, February 25th, 2024
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11:34 pm
Are Corporate Interests Holding Back US Electrical Grid Expansion?
Long-time Slashdot reader BishopBerkeley writes: Though it does not come as much of a surprise, a new study highlighted in IEEE Spectrum delves into how corporate profit motives are preventing the upgrading and the expansion of the U.S. electrical grid. The full report can be downloaded here from the source [the nonprofit economic research group NBER]. Besides opening up the market to competition, utilities don't want to lose control over regional infrastructure, writes IEEE Spectrum. "[I]nterregional lines threaten utility companies' dominance over the nation's power supply. In the power industry, asset ownership provides control over rules that govern energy markets and transmission service and expansion. When upstart entities build power plants and transmission lines, they may be able to dilute utility companies' control over power-industry rules and prevent utilities from dictating decisions about transmission expansion." The article begins by noting that "The United States is not building enough transmission lines to connect regional power networks. The deficit is driving up electricity prices, reducing grid reliability, and hobbling renewable-energy deployment. " Utilities can stall transmission expansion because out-of-date laws sanction these companies' sweeping control over transmission development... One of the main values of connecting regional networks is that it enablesâ"and is in fact critical forâ"incorporating renewable energy... Plus, adding interregional transmission for renewables can significantly reduce costs for consumers. Such connections allow excess wind and solar power to flow to neighboring regions when weather conditions are favorable and allow the import of energy from elsewhere when renewables are less productive. Even without renewables, better integrated networks generally lower costs for consumers because they reduce the amount of generation capacity needed overall and decrease energy market prices. Interregional transmission also enhances reliability,particularly during extreme weather... Addressing the transmission shortage is on the agenda in Washington, but utility companies are lobbying against reforms. The article points out that now investors and entrepreneurs "are developing long-distance direct-current lines, which are more efficient at moving large amounts of energy over long distances, compared with AC," and also "sidestep the utility-dominated transmission-expansion planning processes." They're already in use in China, and are also becoming Europe's preferred choice...

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Monday, February 26th, 2024
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2:34 am
$500 Drone Calculates Its GPS Coordinates Offline from Downloaded Google Maps and a Camera
From a report: A team of drone enthusiasts have built a sub-$500 drone that uses a camera and Google Maps to provide itself with GPS co-ordinates, removing the need for a GPS satellite signal. And all of this was done in 24 hours during the El Segundo Defense Tech Hackathon. The drone the trio opted for is a custom designed and 3D printed fixed wing featuring a large single motor towards the rear and a downward facing camera used for geo-referencing... Doesn't Google Maps still require internet, you may ask? Google Maps allows users to download segments of maps ahead of time, usually for use when you are travelling or camping out in remote areas. In this instance, the team used this feature to their advantage, allowing the drone to continue operating... Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 for sharing the news.

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Sunday, February 25th, 2024
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10:34 pm
Julia v1.10 Improves Performance, and Gnuplot Gets Pie Charts
Julia 1.0 was released in 2018 — after a six-year wait. And there's now another update. LWN.net gets you up to speed, calling Julia "a general-purpose, open-source programming language with a focus on high-performance scientific computing." Some of Julia's unusual features: - Lisp-inspired metaprogramming - The ability to examine compiled representations of code in the REPL or in a "reactive notebook" - An advanced type and dispatch system - A sophisticated, built-in package manager. Version 1.10 brings big increases in speed and developer convenience, especially improvements in code precompilation and loading times. It also features a new parser written in Julia... [I]t is faster, it produces more useful syntax-error messages, and it provides better source-code mapping, which associates locations in compiled code to their corresponding lines in the source. That last improvement also leads to better error messages and makes it possible to write more sophisticated debuggers and linters... Between the improvements in precompilation and loading times, and the progress in making small binaries, two major and perennial complaints, of beginners and seasoned Julia users alike, have been addressed... StaticCompiler and related WebAssembly tools will make it easier to write web applications in Julia for direct execution in the browser; it is already possible, but may become more convenient over the next few years. Thanks for sharing the article to long-time Slashdot reader lee1 — who also wrote No Starch Press's Practical Julia: A Hands-On Introduction for Scientific Minds . lee1 also reminds us that Gnuplot 6.0 was released in December: lee1 writes: This article surveys the new features, including filled contours in 3D, adaptive plotting resolution, watchpoints, clipping of surfaces, pie charts, and new syntax for conditionals.

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9:34 pm
Scientists Create DVD-Sized Disk Storing 1 Petabit (125,000 Gigabytes) of Data
Popular Science points out that for encoding data, "optical disks almost always offer just a single, 2D layer — that reflective, silver underside." "If you could boost a disk's number of available, encodable layers, however, you could hypothetically gain a massive amount of extra space..." Researchers at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology recently set out to do just that, and published the results earlier this week in the journal, Nature. Using a 54-nanometer laser, the team managed to record a 100 layers of data onto an optical disk, with each tier separated by just 1 micrometer. The final result is an optical disk with a three-dimensional stack of data layers capable of holding a whopping 1 petabit (Pb) of information — that's equivalent to 125,000 gigabytes of data... As Gizmodo offers for reference, that same petabit of information would require roughly a six-and-a-half foot tall stack of HHD drives — if you tried to encode the same amount of data onto Blu-rays, you'd need around 10,000 blank ones to complete your (extremely inefficient) challenge. To pull off their accomplishment, engineers needed to create an entirely new material for their optical disk's film... AIE-DDPR film utilizes a combination of specialized, photosensitive molecules capable of absorbing photonic data at a nanoscale level, which is then encoded using a high-tech dual-laser array. Because AIE-DDPR is so incredibly transparent, designers could apply layer-upon-layer to an optical disk without worrying about degrading the overall data. This basically generated a 3D "box" for digitized information, thus exponentially raising the normal-sized disk's capacity. Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader hackingbear for sharing the news.

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