Operating Systems

Google's Fuchsia OS On the Pixelbook (arstechnica.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Google: Our early look at Fuchsia OS last May provided a glimpse into a number of new interface paradigms. Several months later, we now have an updated hands-on with Google's future operating system that can span various form factors. This look at the in-development OS eight months later comes courtesy of Ars Technica who managed to get Fuchsia installed on the Pixelbook. The Made by Google Chromebook is only the third officially supported "target device" for Fuchsia development. As our last dive into the non-Linux kernel OS was through an Android APK, we did not encounter a lockscreen. The Ars hands-on shows a basic one that displays the time at center and Fuchsia logo in the top-left corner to switch between phone and desktop/tablet mode, while a FAB (of sorts) in the opposite corner lets users bring up WiFi controls, Login, and Guest.

Only Guest is fully functioning at this stage -- at least for non-Google employees. Once in this mode, we encounter an interface similar to the one we spotted last year. The big difference is how Google has filled in demo information and tweaked some elements. On phones and tablets, Fuchsia essentially has three zones. Recent apps are above, at center are controls, and below is a mixture of the Google Feed and Search. The controls swap out the always-displayed profile icon for a Fuchsia button. Tapping still surfaces Quick Settings which actually reflect current device battery levels and IP address. Impressively, Ars found a working web browser that can actually surf the internet. Google.com is the default homepage, with users able to visit other sites through that search bar. Other examples of applications, which are just static images, include a (non-working) phone dialer, video player, and Google Docs. The Google Calendar is notable for having subtle differences to any known version, including the tablet or web app.

Businesses

Tim Cook Says Power Management Feature In Older iPhones Will Be Able To Be Turned Off In Future Update (macrumors.com) 153

In an interview with Rebecca Jarvis of ABC News, Apple CEO Tim Cook touched on the ongoing controversy over power management features in older iPhones. He says that a future update will allow customers to turn off the power management feature that has caused older iPhones to slow down. Mac Rumors reports: According to Cook, when the power management features were first introduced in iOS 10.2.1, Apple did explain what was going on, but following the controversy, he believes Apple should have been clearer. The company did indeed mention that the shutdown issue was caused by uneven power delivery and explained that its power management system had been tweaked, but there was no clear notice that it could cause devices to operate more slowly at times. Cook says Apple "deeply apologizes" to customers who thought the company had other motivations. Apple is introducing better battery monitoring features in a future iOS update, and Cook says Apple will also allow customers to turn off the power management feature, which is new information that the company has not previously shared. The majority of the interview was focused on the announcements that Apple made today. The company plans to contribute $350 billion in the U.S. economy over the next five years, as well as issue employees a bonus of $2,500 of restricted stock units following the introduction of the new U.S. tax law.
Businesses

Ford is Throwing $11 Billion at Its Electric Car Problem (theverge.com) 172

Ford said on Monday it will boost its investment in electric vehicles to $11 billion in the next five years, more than doubling a previous commitment. Company's chairman Bill Ford said the car maker would have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its range by the same period. It comes as countries around the world put more pressure on car makers to rein in carbon emissions. From a report: It was a dramatic escalation in Ford's crosstown rivalry with General Motors, which has seen its stock prices rise thanks to its commitments to both electrification and autonomy. GM has said it plans to roll out at least 20 new electric cars by 2023, a goal that puts it in a position to bring battery-powered driving to the mainstream. Last week, it unveiled a concept autonomous car without steering wheel or pedals. Meanwhile, the Blue Oval has had a challenging 2017. It remains strongly profitable, but its sale are stagnant, its costs have increased faster than expected, and its margins have failed to meet targets.
Medicine

New Ingestible Pill Can Track Your Farts In Real Time (arstechnica.com) 76

A group of Australian researchers have developed an ingestible electronic capsule to monitor gas levels in the human gut. "When it's paired with a pocket-sized receiver and a mobile phone app, the pill reports tail-wind conditions in real time as it passes from the stomach to the colon," reports Ars Technica. The invention has been reported in the journal Nature Electronics. From the report: The authors are optimistic that the capsule's gas readings can help clear the air over the inner workings of our intricate innards and the multitudes of microbes they contain. Such fume data could clarify the conditions of each section of the gut, what microbes are up to, and which foods may cause problems in the system. Until now, collecting such data has been a challenge. The capsule is 26mm in length, with a 9.8mm external diameter -- like a large vitamin. Its polymer shell surrounds sensors for temperature, CO2, H2, and O2, as well as a button-size silver oxide battery and a transmission system. One end of the capsule contains a gas-permeable membrane that allows for fast diffusion of gut gases.
Power

Power Outage Brings CES To a Standstill For Nearly 2 Hours (cnet.com) 58

A major power outage brought a major portion of the Consumer Electronics Show in the Las Vegas Center to a standstill for nearly 2 hours today. The lights went out at around 11:13 a.m. PT, just as the second day of CES 2018 was ramping up, and didn't turn back on until around 12:34 p.m. PT. CNET reports: It came a day after more than an inch of rain fell in Las Vegas, which caused flash flooding in the desert city. (Wednesday's weather is clear and warm, and it's unclear if the power outage was at all related.) The first reports of the blackout came from the convention center's Central Hall, which houses the giant booths for show mainstays including Sony, Samsung, LG and Intel -- though Samsung's booth still had limited electricity thanks to its own private backup power. By noon, security guards were refusing entry to parts of the Convention Center. The website of Nevada Energy, the power provider, listed the cause of the problem as "customer-owned electrical equipment."
Businesses

Senator Wants Apple To Answer Questions on Slowing iPhones (reuters.com) 169

The chairman of a U.S. Senate committee overseeing business issues asked Apple to answer questions about its disclosure that it slowed older iPhones with flagging batteries, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing a letter. From the report: The California-based company apologized over the issue on Dec. 28, cut battery replacement costs and said it will change its software to show users whether their phone battery is good. Senator John Thune, a Republican who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a Jan. 9 letter to Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook that "the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency."
Power

Tesla's New York Gigafactory Kicks Off Solar Roof Production (bloomberg.com) 103

In an email Tuesday, Tesla said that its manufacturing of the long-awaited electricity-producing shingles began last month at a factory in Buffalo built with backing from New York State. It comes more than a year after Tesla unveiled the shingles to a mix of fanfare and skepticism. Bloomberg reports: The appeal: a sleek, clean solar product, especially for homeowners seeking to replace aging roofs. The tiles -- from most angles -- look like ordinary shingles. They allow light to pass from above and onto a standard flat solar cell. Tesla, the biggest U.S. installer of rooftop-solar systems, piloted the product on the homes of several employees. The company expects to begin installing roofs for customers within the next few months.

Tesla started production of solar cells and panels about four months ago at its Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo. New York committed $750 million to help build the 1.2 million-square-foot factory, which currently employs about 500 people. The plant will eventually create nearly 3,000 jobs in Western New York and nearly 5,000 statewide, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in 2015.

Crime

Apple Investigated By France For 'Planned Obsolescence' (bbc.com) 313

AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: French prosecutors have launched a probe over allegations of "planned obsolescence" in Apple's iPhone. Under French law it is a crime to intentionally shorten the lifespan of a product with the aim of making customers replace it. In December, Apple admitted that older iPhone models were deliberately slowed down through software updates. It follows a legal complaint filed in December by pro-consumer group Stop Planned Obsolescence (Hop). Hop said France was the third country to investigate Apple after Israel and the U.S., but the only one in which the alleged offense was a crime. Penalties could include up to 5% of annual turnover or even a jail term.
Power

Wireless Charging Nears Unification As Powermat Cedes To Qi (engadget.com) 37

Powermat, the only contender to the dominant format Qi, has joined the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and now backs its rival. "Qi has become the dominant wireless charging standard on the market and the recently launched Apple iPhone lineup is evidence of this success," Powermat said in a statement. "[We] will share technology innovation to further unlock wireless charging potential, and will expedite the growth of the wireless charging infrastructure." Engadget reports: Powermat was barely hanging on as a standard, but as it mentioned, Apple's favoring of Qi for its upcoming chargers pretty much sealed its fate. The company was forced to upgrade its chargers to support Qi at Starbucks locations, for instance, so that Apple's Qi-supported iPhone X- and 8-owning clients could juice up. Until a few years ago, there were essentially three standards, the Alliance for Wireless Power, the Power Matters Alliance (no joking), and Qi, which was already the dominant player. The first two merged to form the Airfuel alliance in 2015, of which Powermat was the main player.
Cellphones

Would You Use a Smartphone-Style Laptop With a Three-Day Battery Life? (king5.com) 194

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: "Always connected personal computers" -- or ACPCs -- refer to a new breed of Windows laptops with three key features: a battery that can last multiple days; instant-on access when you open the lid or touch a key; and an optional high-speed cellular connection, to avoid hunting for a Wi-Fi hotspot to get online. In other words, your laptop is going to behave a lot more like your smartphone...

In fact, with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, ASUS is claiming battery life of up to 22 hours of continuous video playback, and up to 30 days on standby. At $799, the ASUS NovaGo (model # TP370) will also be the first always-connected PC with a 360-degree flip hinge -- making it a "2-in-1" that can convert from laptop mode to a tablet by bending back the 13.3-inch screen -- and the first with Gigabit LTE speeds, for an always on, always connected experience.

ASUS's media relations director touts the high-speed cellular connections -- which consumers pay for separately -- as 3 to 7 times faster than broadband. "It allows you to download a 2-hour movie in about 10 seconds."

And Qualcomm's senior director of product management says there's more ways that it's like a smartphone. "Even when the screen is off, it's still connected, so when I open the lid, it does facial recognition, and I'm in."
HP

HP Recalls 50,000 Lithium-Ion Laptop Batteries Over Fire Risk (consumerreports.org) 41

HP announced this week that it is recalling the lithium-ion batteries in more than 50,000 laptops because of the danger of fire in cases of battery malfunction. From a report: "These batteries have the potential to overheat, posing a fire and burn hazard to customers," the company said in a statement. "For this reason, it is extremely important to check whether your battery is affected." The recall affects the battery, not the entire computer. Consumers should run HP's Validation Utility software to determine if their battery has been recalled. If the battery needs to be replaced, they should then install an update that will put the device in Battery Safe Mode, which will discharge the battery and prevent it from being charged until it's replaced. This update will allow consumers to continue using the computers safely with AC power while they wait for a new battery. The recall affects batteries sold with, or as accessories for, the following models: HP Probook 640 G2, HP ProBook 640 G3, HP ProBook 645 G2, HP ProBook 645 G3, HP ProBook 650 G2, HP ProBook 650 G3, HP ProBook 655 G2, HP ProBook 655 G3, HP ZBook 17 G3, HP ZBook 17 G4, HP ZBook Studio G3, HP x360 310 G2, HP Pavilion x360, HP ENVY m6, and HP 11 Notebook PC.
Power

Why Most Electric Cars Are Leased, Not Owned (bloomberg.com) 206

Bloomberg's research shows that drivers in the U.S. lease almost 80 percent of battery-powered vehicles and 55 percent of plug-in hybrids. "The lease rate for the country's entire fleet hovers around 30 percent," reports Bloomberg, noting that Tesla does not divulge how many of its vehicles are leased since it sells its cars directly rather than through dealerships. From the report: The lopsided consumer preference for leases is fueled by the meager demand for battery-powered vehicles on the used market. Partly this is a consequence of public policy meant to spur electric vehicle adoptions: buyers of pre-owned cars can't grab thousands of dollars in federal and state incentives. The high lease rate is also fueled by the bet [many] are making that upcoming models will far exceed today's in value and capabilities. Perhaps electric vehicles will truly arrive when they are no longer compared to smartphones, which become obsolete after three years.
Chrome

Windows 10's Edge vs Chrome: We're Faster and Win in Battery Face-off, Says Microsoft (zdnet.com) 157

Microsoft has kicked off 2018 with two new ads promoting Windows 10 Edge's battery efficiency and speed compared with Google Chrome. From a report: Microsoft published the two new ads on New Year's Eve, pitting Edge against Chrome, the world's most popular browser. "Microsoft Edge is up to 48 percent faster than Google Chrome," Microsoft says in one of the 30-second ads. Not only that, but Microsoft argues that Edge is safer too, thanks to SmartScreen, its built-in equivalent of Google's Safe Browsing anti-phishing technology. Microsoft says: "Edge blocks 18 percent more phishing sites than Google Chrome." Microsoft doesn't cite the source of this statistic, but in October, NSS Labs released a report comparing Edge on the locked-down Windows 10 S with Chrome on Chromebooks, suggesting that Edge blocks more phishing URLs than Chrome.
Transportation

Norway Powers Ahead (Electrically): Over Half New Car Sales Now Electric or Hybrid (reuters.com) 192

Sales of electric and hybrid cars rose above half of new registrations in Norway in 2017, a record aided by generous subsidies that extended the country's lead in shifting from fossil-fuel engines, data showed on Wednesday. From a report: Pure electric cars and hybrids, which have both battery power and a diesel or petrol motor, accounted for 52 percent of all new car sales last year in Norway against 40 percent in 2016, the independent Norwegian Road Federation (OFV) said. "No one else is close" in terms of a national share of electric cars, OFV chief Oeyvind Solberg Thorsen said. "For the first time we have a fossil-fuel market share below 50 percent." Norway exempts new electric cars from almost all taxes and grants perks that can be worth thousands of dollars a year in terms of free or subsidized parking, re-charging and use of toll roads, ferries and tunnels.
Iphone

Apple Will Replace Old iPhone Batteries Regardless of Diagnostic Test Results (macrumors.com) 191

After apologizing to customers for slowing older iPhones down as the batteries degrade, Apple has started offering battery swaps for $29. This has led to some confusion as Apple did not clarify how it qualified batteries as eligible for the discounted replacement, as the Apple Genius Bar uses a diagnostic test to check whether a battery can retain 80 percent of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles. According to Mac Rumors, Apple has confirmed that they will replace the battery if your iPhone 6 or later even if it passes a Genius Bar diagnostic test. From the report: Apple has since independently confirmed to MacRumors that it will agree to replace an eligible battery for a $29 fee, regardless of whether an official diagnostic test shows that it is still able to retain less than 80 percent of its original capacity. The concession appears to have been made to mollify the anger of customers stoked by headlines suggesting that Apple artificially slows down older iPhones to drive customers to upgrade to newer models. Anecdotal reports also suggest that customers who paid $79 to have their battery replaced before the new pricing came into effect on Saturday, December 30, will receive a refund from Apple upon request.
Power

Slashdot Asks: How Should Apple Have Responded To the Battery Controversy? 177

Yesterday, Apple officially apologized for slowing down older phones in order to compensate for degrading batteries. In a letter to customers, Apple said, "We apologize," offering anyone with an iPhone 6 or later a battery replacement for $29 starting in late January through December 2018 -- a discount of $50 from the unusual replacement cost. They're also promising to add features to iOS that provide more information about the battery health in early 2018.

Apple's response has left many wondering whether or not it is enough. Even though they are discounting the cost of a battery replacement, for example, they are still profiting from each battery replacement. At the end of the day, "Apple only came clean after independent investigation, giving the whole situation an air of underhanded secrecy," writes Macworld. Should Apple have responded differently to the battery controversy? In the first place, should Apple even issue a software update to older devices to purposefully throttle the CPU and prevent the phones from randomly shutting down when experiencing rapid power draw?

Quinn Nelson via Snazzy Labs explains the controversy and how it is largely exaggerated.
Iphone

Apple Apologizes For iPhone Slowdown Drama, Will Offer $29 Battery Replacements (theverge.com) 254

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Apple just published a letter to customers apologizing for the "misunderstanding" around older iPhones being slowed down, following its recent admission that it was, in fact, slowing down older phones in order to compensate for degrading batteries. "We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down," says the company. "We apologize." Apple says in its letter that batteries are "consumable components," and is offering anyone with an iPhone 6 or later a battery replacement for $29 starting in late January through December 2018 -- a discount of $50 from the usual replacement cost. Apple's also promising to add features to iOS that provide more information about the battery health in early 2018, so that users are aware of when their batteries are no longer capable of supporting maximum phone performance.
Cellphones

HTC, Motorola Say They Don't Slow Old Phones Like Apple Does (theverge.com) 133

After Apple confirmed last week that it reduces the performance of older iPhones to improve battery life, it has left many wondering whether or not other smartphone manufacturers do the same. HTC and Motorola are the two most recent OEMs to say they don't throttle their phones' processor speeds as their batteries age. The Verge reports: In emails to The Verge, both companies said they do not employ similar practices with their smartphones. An HTC spokesperson said that designing phones to slow down their processor as their battery ages "is not something we do." A Motorola spokesperson said, "We do not throttle CPU performance based on older batteries." The Verge also reached out to Google, Samsung, LG, and Sony for comment on whether their phone processors are throttled in response to aging batteries. A Sony spokesperson said a response would be delayed by the holidays, and a Samsung spokesperson said the company was looking into it. The responses begin to clarify whether or not throttling processor speeds is typical behavior in smartphones -- as of last week, we knew that Apple was doing it, but not whether it was common practice among competitors. HTC and Motorola's responses start to suggest that it's not.
Power

FCC Approves First Wireless 'Power-At-A-Distance' Charging System (engadget.com) 138

The FCC has approved the first wireless charger that works from up to three feet away. Engadget reports: San Jose-based startup, Energous, announced on Tuesday that it has received the first such FCC certification for power-at-a-distance wireless charging with its WattUp Mid Field transmitter. The transmitter converts electricity into radio frequencies, then beams the energy to nearby devices outfitted with a corresponding receiver. This differs from the resonant induction method that the Pi wireless charging system relies upon and offers a greater range than the Belkin and Mophie chargers that require physical contact with the device. The WattUp can charge multiple devices simultaneously and should work on any number of devices, from phones and tablets to keyboards and earbuds, so long as they're outfitted with the right receiver. What's more, the WattUp ecosystem is manufacturer-agnostic -- like WiFi -- meaning that you'll still be able to, for example, charge your Samsung phone even if the transmitter is made by Sony or Apple.
Transportation

Elon Musk Confirms Tesla Pickup Truck Coming 'After Model Y' (electrek.co) 200

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that a Tesla pickup truck is coming "right after Model Y." He said that he already has "the core design/engineering elements" in his mind and wants to bring it to market right after Model Y. Musk later added that the Tesla pickup will be "similar in size" or "slightly bigger" than a Ford F150 "to account for a really gamechanging (I think) feature I'd like to add." Electrek reports: Musk had previously confirmed that Model Y, a small SUV or crossover built on the Model 3 platform, would be Tesla's priority once Model 3 production is ramped up. That's why it was surprising for Tesla to unveil the next generation Roadster at the Tesla Semi event since the vehicle was expected to come out after Model Y, which has yet to be unveiled. At the same event, Musk also released the first image of a Tesla electric pickup truck, but some people still think it's a joke. He claimed that it was a smaller version of Tesla Semi and "a pickup truck that can carry a pickup truck." While it sounded like a joke, Musk had previously mentioned his intention to leverage work on the Tesla Semi to create a Tesla pickup truck.

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