Communications

Engineers Discover How To Make Antennas For Wireless Communication 100x Smaller Than Their Current Size (sciencemag.org) 129

Engineers have figured out how to make antennas for wireless communication 100 times smaller than their current size, an advance that could lead to tiny brain implants, micro-medical devices, or phones you can wear on your finger. Science Magazine reports: The new mini-antennas play off the difference between electromagnetic (EM) waves, such as light and radio waves, and acoustic waves, such as sound and inaudible vibrations. EM waves are fluctuations in an electromagnetic field, and they travel at light speed -- an astounding 300,000,000 meters per second. Acoustic waves are the jiggling of matter, and they travel at the much slower speed of sound -- in a solid, typically a few thousand meters per second. So, at any given frequency, an EM wave has a much longer wavelength than an acoustic wave. Antennas receive information by resonating with EM waves, which they convert into electrical voltage. For such resonance to occur, a traditional antenna's length must roughly match the wavelength of the EM wave it receives, meaning that the antenna must be relatively big. However, like a guitar string, an antenna can also resonate with acoustic waves. The new antennas take advantage of this fact. They will pick up EM waves of a given frequency if its size matches the wavelength of the much shorter acoustic waves of the same frequency. That means that that for any given signal frequency, the antennas can be much smaller. The trick is, of course, to quickly turn the incoming EM waves into acoustic waves.

The team created two kinds of acoustic antennas. One has a circular membrane, which works for frequencies in the gigahertz range, including those for WiFi. The other has a rectangular membrane, suitable for megahertz frequencies used for TV and radio. Each is less than a millimeter across, and both can be manufactured together on a single chip. When researchers tested one of the antennas in a specially insulated room, they found that compared to a conventional ring antenna of the same size, it sent and received 2.5 gigahertz signals about 100,000 times more efficiently, they report in Nature Communications.

Businesses

Bill Gates and Richard Branson Back Startup That Grows 'Clean Meat' (bloomberg.com) 243

A large global agricultural company has joined Bill Gates and Richard Branson to invest in a nascent technology to make meat from self-producing animal cells. "Memphis Meats, which produces beef, chicken and duck directly from animal cells without raising and slaughtering livestock or poultry, raised $17 million from investors including Cargill, Gates and billionaire Richard Branson, according to a statement Tuesday on the San Francisco-based startup's website," reports Bloomberg. From the report: This is the latest move by an agricultural giant to respond to consumers, especially Millennials, who are rapidly leaving their mark on the U.S. food world. That's happening through surging demand for organic products, increasing focus on food that's considered sustainable and greater attention on animal treatment. Big poultry and livestock processors have started to take up alternatives to traditional meat. To date, Memphis Meats has raised $22 million, signaling a commitment to the "clean-meat movement," the company said.
Chrome

Chrome Adds Warning For Extensions That Take Over Your Proxy Settings (bleepingcomputer.com) 36

An anonymous reader writes: "Google engineers have added two new features to the Chrome browser that will alert users of extensions that hijack proxy settings or the new tab page," reports Bleeping Computer. Google has been testing these two techniques sparingly with a small subset of users for more than a year, but they have now landed in Google Canary. The techniques are used by malicious Chrome extensions to hijack traffic and insert ads, or to redirect search traffic to affiliate search engine programs. The addition of these popup alerts are part of Google's plan to fight malicious Chrome extensions that have been starting to plague the Web Store.
United States

Roku Is the Top Streaming Device In the US and Still Growing, Report Finds (techcrunch.com) 96

Roku is the top streaming media player device in the U.S., and its growth is only increasing. According to the latest industry report from market intelligence firm Parks Associates, 37 percent of streaming devices in U.S. households are Roku devices, as of the first quarter of this year. That's up from 30 percent in the same quarter last year, the report notes. TechCrunch reports: The growth is coming at the expense of Roku's top competitors, like Apple and Google, with only Amazon's Fire TV able to increase its install base during the same timeframe. Fire TV devices are in 24 percent of U.S. households, as of Q1 2017, up from 16 percent last year. That climb allowed Amazon to snag the second position from Google's Chromecast, which has an 18 percent share. Lagging behind, Apple TV's market share fell to 15 percent -- a drop that Parks Associates Senior Analyst Glenn Hower attributes to Apple TV's price point. Roku last fall overhauled its line of streaming players with the intention of plugging every hole in the market. That strategy is seemingly paying off. There's now a Roku device to meet any consumer's needs -- whether that's an entry-level, portable and affordable "stick," to rival the Fire TV Stick or the Chromecast dongle, or a high-end player with 4K and HDR support, lots of ports, voice search remote, and other premium bells and whistles.
Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg Says Facebook Will Add Subscriptions For News Stories (mashable.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: After years of simply forcing news organizations to heel to the almighty algorithm and craft their content for the News Feed, Facebook has added several features in the hopes of winning back the love of publishers. One of the biggest changes to come is subscriptions via Facebook. Here's how it works: Publishers using Instant Articles, Facebook's fast-loading article pages, will be able to have a paywall (certain number of articles per month) or have locked articles (freemium model). For either case, Facebook users will be prompted to subscribe to read more. All payments will be processed directly via publishers' websites, and Facebook will not take a cut -- at least not now. "If people subscribe after seeing news stories on Facebook, the money will go directly publishers who work hard to uncover the truth, and Facebook won't take a cut. We plan to start with a small group of U.S. and European publishers later this year and we'll listen to their feedback," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
Google

Google Invites Users To 'Check If You're Clinically Depressed' (theverge.com) 124

Google will now invite U.S. users to "check if you're clinically depressed" by using a clinically-validated screening questionnaire. "The move announced on Wednesday comes out of work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and represents the first time that the search giant has promoted a mental health self-assessment tool in search results," reports Financial Times. From the report: The intervention by the world's most popular search engine comes as people increasingly seek medical advice online: Google says one in 20 searches are health-related, although it will not disclose what proportion are about depression. It is also the latest public move by a technology business to take greater responsibility for content that users see on its platform, after criticism that companies such as Facebook and Google failed to help people distinguish verified from false information. A box of verified information about symptoms and treatments for clinical depression already tops U.S. Google search results for "depression" or queries such as "do I have depression." Google does this for other common conditions, including flu and tonsillitis, and symptoms such as headaches, using information provided by the Mayo Clinic, a non-profit medical organization. But for depression it has added a link inviting users to "check if you're clinically depressed." This takes searchers to a questionnaire widely used by doctors to measure levels of depressive symptoms. People who complete the test get a score indicating the severity of their symptoms, which can aid a physician's diagnosis.
Windows

Microsoft .NET Core 2.0 For Linux Released; Redhat Will Bundle Microsoft's .NET (zdnet.com) 185

Billly Gates writes: Microsoft recently released Visual Studio 15.3 for Windows and Visual Studio 7.1 for Mac with .NET core 2.0. In addition to porting Microsoft Code and SQL Server to Linux, they have ported .NET. Redhat will bundle .NET in their software offerings instead of relying on Mono. .NET core is Microsoft's open-source .NET platform which is not based off Mono and available for Linux, Mac, and Windows here.
Government

FTC Approves Amazon's Acquisition of Whole Foods (cnbc.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The Federal Trade Commission will allow Amazon to continue its $13.7 billion deal to acquire Whole Foods. The FTC conducted an investigation to gauge whether the merger would decrease competition under federal regulations, Bruce Hoffman, acting director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition, said in a statement Wednesday. It ultimately decided not to pursue the matter further. Whole Foods shareholders approved Amazon's acquisition deal hours before the FTC's announcement.The two companies expect to finalize the agreement during the second half of the year. However, source familiar with the matter told CNBC the deal could happen sooner rather than later.
Bitcoin

Here's Why People Don't Buy Things With Bitcoin (vice.com) 376

An anonymous reader shares a report: One reason for this, if you live in Toronto like me (or anywhere else for that matter), is that there's basically nowhere to spend digital coins in the real world. Coinmap, a service that maps bitcoin-accepting locations all over the world, shows a few places that accept bitcoin in Toronto, but it's clearly out of date -- I called several businesses listed on the site and they had no idea what bitcoin even is. A bigger problem is perfectly illustrated in a Reddit post from Wednesday morning complaining that a bitcoin transaction worth just $9 still hasn't gone through the network after two days of waiting. Two. Days. The likely reason is that the fee attached to the transaction in order to incentivize faster confirmation -- 50 cents, which is about as much of a premium as I'd pay for a $9 transaction -- simply wasn't enough. "Should I have paid $3 on a $9 transfer to get it processed?" the person wrote.
Privacy

Wading Through AccuWeather's Response (daringfireball.net) 81

On Tuesday, ZDNet reported that popular weather app AccuWeather was sending location-identifying information to a monetization firm, even when a person had disabled location data from the app. In a response, AccuWeather said today "if a user opts out of location tracking on AccuWeather, no GPS coordinates are collected or passed without further opt-in permission from the user." But it is misleading people. John Gruber of DaringFireball writes: The accusation has nothing to do with "GPS coordinates." The accusation is that their iOS app is collecting Wi-Fi router names and MAC addresses and sending them to servers that belong to Reveal Mobile, which in turn can easily be used to locate the user. Claiming this is about GPS coordinates is like if they were caught stealing debit cards and they issued a denial that they never stole anyone's cash. The accusation comes from Will Strafech, a respected security researcher who discovered the "actual information" by observing network traffic. He saw the AccuWeather iOS app sending his router's name and MAC address to Reveal Mobile. This isn't speculation. They were caught red-handed. GPS information is more precise, and if you grant the AccuWeather app permission to access your location (under the guise of showing you local weather wherever you are, as well as localized weather alerts), that more precise data is passed along to Reveal Mobile as well. But Wi-Fi router information can be used to locate you within a few meters using publicly available databases. Seriously, go ahead and try it yourself: plug your Wi-Fi router's BSSID MAC address into this website, and there's good chance it'll pinpoint your location on the map. "Other data, such as Wi-Fi network information that is not user information, was for a short period available on the Reveal SDK, but was unused by AccuWeather," the company writes. In what way is the name and MAC address of your router not "user information"? And saying the information was "unused by AccuWeather" is again sleight of hand. The accusation is not that AccuWeather itself was using the location of the Wi-Fi router, but that Reveal Mobile was. Here are Reveal Mobile's own words about how they use location data.
Google

Google Unveils a New, Cheaper Networking Option For Cloud Customers: the Public Internet (geekwire.com) 20

Google Cloud Platform customers will have a new option when selecting the type of network used to deliver their traffic to their users: they can keep using Google's network, or they can save some money with the new option of using public transit networks. An anonymous reader shares a report: Google has long argued that one of the best reasons to use its public cloud service is the strength of its fiber network, developed and enhanced for more than a decade to support the global data centers powering its search engine. But there are some applications that don't require that level of performance, and so Google is now offering a cheaper networking service -- costing between 24 percent to 33 percent less -- that uses the transit networks that deliver the bulk of traffic to internet service providers, said Prajakta Joshi, product manager for cloud networking at Google. The new "Standard Tier" should offer performance comparable to what customers would experience through "other cloud providers," Joshi said, although both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure operate fiber networks outside of the public internet.
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Never Again Sneakily Force Windows Downloads on Users (betanews.com) 200

A reader shares a report Windows users in Germany were particularly unimpressed when Microsoft forcibly downloaded many gigabytes of files to upgrade from Windows 7 and 8 to Windows 10. Having held out for 18 months, and losing its case twice, Microsoft has finally agreed to stop its nefarious tactics. After a lengthy battle with Germany's Baden-Wurtenberg consumer rights center, Microsoft made the announcement to avoid the continuation of legal action. A press release on the Baden-Wurtenberg website reveals that Microsoft has announced it will no longer download operating system files to users' computers without their permission: Microsoft will not download install files for new operating systems to a user system's hard disk without a user's consent. The consumer rights center hoped for this resolution to be reached much sooner, but Microsoft's decision will please the courts and could have a bearing on how the company acts in other countries.
Hardware

Samsung Says It's Working on an Amazon Echo Competitor (cnbc.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: Samsung is working on a smart speaker that will be launched "soon", the company's mobile chief told CNBC, which will pit it against the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Google, in the hotly-contested space. DJ Koh, the president of Samsung's mobile division, said a smart speaker was on the way. "Maybe soon we will announce it. I am already working on it," Koh told CNBC in an interview ahead of the Note 8 smartphone launch which took place on Wednesday. And it appears the company could be moving fast on the product. "As I mentioned I wanted to provide a fruitful user experience at home with Samsung devices, and I want to be moving quite heavily on it," Koh said.
News

We Can't Stop Checking the News Either. Welcome to the New FOMO (wired.com) 111

An anonymous reader shares an article: Countless studies have shown that social-driven FOMO (fear of missing out) stems from a person's primitive desire to belong to a group, with each snap, tweet, or post a reminder of what separates you from them. This other type of FOMO, the all-news, all-the-time kind, is new enough that nobody has really studied it much, yet of the half-dozen experts in sociology, anthropology, economics, and neurology I spoke to, all quickly recognized what I was describing, and some even admitted to feeling it themselves. "We scroll through our Twitter feeds, not seeking anything specific, just monitoring them so we don't miss out on anything important," says Shyam Sundar, a communications researcher at Pennsylvania State University. This impulse could stem from the chemical hits our brains receive with each news hit, but it could also derive from a primitive behavioral instinct -- surveillance gratification-seeking, or the urge that drove our cave-dwelling ancestors to poke their heads out and check for predators. In times of perceived crisis, our brains cry out for information to help us survive. Maybe this alarm stems from steady hits of @realDonaldTrump. Maybe it's triggered by left-wing Resistance types. Or could it be #FakeNews, ISIS, guns, police violence, or street crime, all propagated through our social media bubbles with headlines that are written specifically to grab our attention? This feels like a processing problem. "One thing we learn about human beings: We're meaning-making machines," Kross says. And social mania may be ideal for mainlining breaking news, but it's not great at providing meaning and context.
PlayStation (Games)

The Asterisk on Madden's Annual Release Legacy (polygon.com) 23

Madden '96 for PlayStation never shipped, yet it changed the history of football video games -- and sports games in general -- for decades in its wake. Polygon has the behind-the-scene story. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt: The story starts back in 1992, when EA Canada (formerly Distinctive Software) began working on Super Nintendo versions of the NFL series. Over its first two entries -- John Madden Football and John Madden Football '93 -- the studio struggled to match the quality of Blue Sky Productions' Sega Genesis work. EA Canada's developers faced a coding challenge: The slower processor speed of Nintendo's 16-bit console limited what they could do. The games hovered around 15-20 frames of animation per second, making the games feel sluggish despite looking nice in stills. As the studio moved on to its third try, Madden NFL '94, it seemed like the performance issues would continue. Enter Visual Concepts, then a 6-year-old upstart known for parody fighting game ClayFighter and platformer Lester the Unlikely. The team had been working on isometric helicopter sim Desert Strike for EA, and had been getting a lot out of the SNES hardware.
Businesses

Apple Puts Brakes on Self-driving Car Project, Report Says (theguardian.com) 78

Apple is following the road taken by Waymo, the autonomous vehicle subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet, and downshifting on its still-unannounced self-driving car project, according to a report in the New York Times. From a report: The company has been working on its automotive technology under the internal code name "Project Titan" since at least 2014, and once intended to build its own vehicle from start to finish, creating a true "Apple Car." Now it's put the car-building side of the project on hold, perhaps indefinitely, as it instead focuses on creating and perfecting the software and hardware necessary to get a self-driving car on the streets. Apple is now planning on working with other car-makers to get its self-driving tech into the garages and driveways of customers, according to the paper. One upcoming example of that collaboration: an autonomous shuttle service that will ferry employees back and forth between the company's Silicon Valley offices in Palo Alto and Cupertino. That project, which will use conventional cars with self-driving kit bolted on, is known as "Pail", standing for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, the street address of the company's main campus. The name highlights the delays in the project, since Apple's main campus is already in the process of being moved to Apple Park, an enormous ring-shaped office down the road.
Hardware

Samsung Unveils Galaxy Note8 With 6.3-inch Infinity Display, Dual Rear Cameras (venturebeat.com) 95

VentureBeat reports: After months of leaks, Samsung today unveiled the Galaxy Note8 in an event in New York City. The company's latest stylus-equipped flagship smartphone is expected to be available for preorder starting tomorrow, August 24. The phone ships "in mid-September" with Android 7.1.1 Nougat, but you can expect it will be upgradeable to Android Oreo, which was only officially announced two days ago. The Galaxy Note8 succeeds the Galaxy Note7 (you may think that's obvious, but the Note7 succeeded the Note5). Samsung is likely holding its breath with the Galaxy Note8 given the Galaxy Note7 fiasco due to exploding batteries that led to a product recall. The direct result of this is that the Note8 has a smaller 3300mAh battery, which can be charged either via the USB-C port or wirelessly. Samsung's Galaxy Note8 features a 6.3-inch SuperAMOLED edge display (1440 x 2960 resolution, 18.5:9 aspect ratio, 521 pixels per inch) and has minimal top and bottom bezels which the company markets as Infiniti. For those wondering, yes, this is the biggest screen ever on a Note device. The phone is powered by an Exynos 8895 system-on-chip globally and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 in the U.S., 6GB of RAM, and starts at 64GB of internal storage (128GB and 256GB variants also available, all expandable via a microSD slot). The device is also IP68-certified, meaning it is dust and water resistant. The phone weighs 195g and physical dimensions come in at 162.5mm by 74.6mm by 8.5mm. No word on pricing yet. Update: Between $930-$960.
The Internet

Wal-Mart To Enter Voice-Shopping Market Via Google Platform (reuters.com) 33

Wal-Mart Stores is teaming up with Google to enter the nascent voice-shopping market, currently dominated by Amazon.com, adding another front to Wal-Mart's battle with the online megastore. From a report: Google, which makes the Android software used to run most of the world's smartphones, will offer hundreds of thousands of Walmart items on its voice-controlled Google Assistant platform from late September, Walmart's head of e-commerce, Marc Lore, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. Lore, who joined the world's largest retailer after it bought his e-commerce company Jet.com, said Wal-Mart would offer a wider selection than any retailer on the platform. Amazon, whose voice-controlled aide Alexa allows users to shop from the retailer, has the lion's share of the U.S. voice-controlled device industry, with its Echo devices accounting for 72.2 percent of the market in 2016, far ahead of the Google Home gadget's 22 percent, according to research firm eMarketer.
The Internet

How a Tax Inspector Used Google Search To Locate the Founder of SilkRoad (bbc.com) 95

An anonymous reader shares a report: You could buy any drug imaginable, wherever you were in the world, on the Silk Road website. Hidden on the dark web, it made millions of dollars every week. The US government had been trying to shut it down for more than two years when tax agent Gary Alford was brought in to try to trace the money which passed through the site. In his spare time, Gary started searching Google to try to find the mysterious mastermind behind the site: Dread Pirate Roberts. And he was successful. Gary spent hours trawling the internet for the first ever mention of Silk Road. He says he came across a posting on Bitcoin forum. In the post, Roberts had shared his Gmail account. That escalated the investigation. Gary spoke with BBC describing the rest.
Firefox

Mozilla Testing an Opt-Out System For Firefox Telemetry Collection (bleepingcomputer.com) 227

An anonymous reader writes: "Mozilla engineers are discussing plans to change the way Firefox collects usage data (telemetry), and the organization is currently preparing to test an opt-out clause so they could collect more data relevant to the browser's usage," reports Bleeping Computer. "In a Google Groups discussion that's been taking place since Monday, Mozilla engineers cite the lack of usable data the Foundation is currently receiving via its data collection program. The problem is that Firefox collects data from a very small fraction of its userbase, and this data may not be representative of the browser's real usage." Mozilla would like to fix this by flipping everyone's telemetry setting to enabled and adding an opt-out clause. Engineers also plan to embed Google's RAPPAR project [1, 2] for anonymous data collection.
Sony

Sony Blocks Yet Another Game From Cross-Console Play With Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 151

"Back in June, Sony told Eurogamer that the company did not have 'a profound philosophical stance' against letting PS4 users play games with those on other platforms," reports Ars Technica. "That said, the company's continued refusal to allow for cross-console play between PS4 and Xbox One players has become an absolute and unmistakable trend in recent months." The latest game to be denied by Sony for cross-console play is Ark: Survival Evolved, which comes out of a two-year early access period next week on Windows, Mac, PS4, and Xbox One. From the report: In a Twitter response posted over the weekend, Ark lead designer and programmer Jeremy Stieglitz said that cross-platform play between PS4 and Xbox One is "working internally, but currently Sony won't allow it." This isn't a huge surprise, considering that the developers of Rocket League, Minecraft, and Gwent have made similar statements in recent months. Since Microsoft very publicly opened Xbox Live to easy cross-platform play back in March, Sony has said that it's "happy to have a conversation" about the issue, but it has failed to follow through by allowing any linkage between the two competing consoles (cross-platform play between the PS4 and PC has been available in certain games since the PS4's launch, though).

The question continues to be why, exactly, Sony seems so reluctant to allow any games to work between its own PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live. Speaking with Eurogamer in June, Sony's Jim Ryan suggested that, in the case of Minecraft, Sony was wary to expose that game's young players to "external influences we have no ability to manage or look after." Ryan also told Eurogamer that cross-platform decisions were "a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders." That suggests there may be some financial issues between the parties involved that are preventing cross-console play from moving forward. Perhaps Sony wants someone else to pay for the work required to get its network talking to Microsoft's? The bottom line, though, might be that Sony just doesn't want to partially give away its sizable advantage in console sales by letting Microsoft hook into that vast network of players.

Businesses

German Company Building An Electric 'Air Taxi' Makes Key Hires From Gett, Airbus and Tesla (techcrunch.com) 74

Lilium, the Germany company known for building an electric "air taxi," is announcing a number of key hires from notable companies in the transportation space. While the company is still in its early days, it is ambitiously striving to make flying cars a reality. Back in April, the company launched its first public (and successful) test flight in Germany. TechCrunch reports: [The key hires] are Dr Remo Gerber, former MD for Western Europe at Gett, who joins Lilium as Chief Commercial Officer; Dirk Gebser, who takes up the position of VP of Production and previously held manufacturing executive roles at Airbus and Rolls Royce; and Meggy Sailer, who joined Lilium as Head of Recruitment in February and was formerly Tesla's Head of Talent EMEA. In a call with Gerber, he told me he was "super happy" to be joining the German startup, noting that there are very few companies in Europe with the same level of ambition. "It is definitely the most fascinating job I could have ever imagined," he says, audibly excited. "I've done quite a few things in my time and I've seen quite a few companies but never anything even remotely like that." To add a little color, Gerber pointed out that his training is in physics ("a long time ago") and that his grandfather was a pilot in World War II, and his uncle also a pilot. This, and the first time he saw the Lilium jet fly, made the opportunity to join a startup building a new kind of air travel "irresistible."

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