The Internet

'I'm Suing New York City To Loosen Verizon's Iron Grip' (wired.com) 38

New submitter mirandakatz writes: New York City is lagging far behind when it comes to ensuring ubiquitous, reasonably priced fiber optic internet access for every resident. There's a jaw-dropping digital divide in the city, and more than a quarter of households are still using dial-up. The city could be doing more to fix that -- but it's not. That's why Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and fierce advocate for nationwide fiber, is suing the city. At Backchannel, Crawford writes that "the city's intransigence should be embarrassing to it. Instead of a plan, instead of exercising power and acting coherently, all we've got is shuffling and nay-saying. Getting information regarding access is the key to transforming telecommunications policy in the U.S. -- as well as in New York City. We must do better." "New York City is the regulator of all the underground conduit in those two boroughs -- meaning the pipes running under the streets through which fiber optic lines are threaded," Crawford writes. "At any moment, it could require that additional conduit be built where it doesn't now exist. It could require that choked-up conduit that is now decades old be cleaned and repaired. And it could require that that conduit run to every building in the city, and require that all new buildings have neutral connection points in their basements allowing many competitors to hawk their services to tenants. If the city took these steps [...] it would foster a vibrantly competitive marketplace for retail fiber-based services for everyone. Dozens of competitors. Low prices for data transmission. But the problem is that, as far as I can tell, the city that never sleeps is, in fact, asleep: It is not taking advantage of its powers. That is why I sued the city five years ago seeking information about its regulatory efforts."
Education

The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows (utexas.edu) 89

An anonymous reader shares a study: Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach -- even if it's off. That's the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they're not using them. In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants' available cognitive capacity -- that is, the brain's ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent. The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.
Microsoft

Google Chrome Bests Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Opera In Independent Battery Life Tests (betanews.com) 102

An anonymous reader shares a report: YouTuber Linus Tech Tips has pitted Microsoft Edge against Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera and discovered that it does not deliver as strong a performance as Microsoft claims. Linus Tech Tips took four Dell Inspiron laptops, with the same specs, and found that Microsoft Edge trails Chrome and Opera in battery life tests. It would seem that it still beats Firefox, after all. However, the results are much, much closer than what Microsoft's own tests indicate. On average, the difference between Chrome, which offers the best battery life, and Microsoft Edge is under 40 minutes. Opera comes closer to Microsoft Edge than Chrome in this test. Even Creators Update, which based on Microsoft's test should help Microsoft Edge obliterate the competition, didn't help make it faster than Chrome. Linus says he used the same methodology that Microsoft used in its set of battery tests earlier this year, in which it declared Edge as the winner.
Movies

Twitch Announces Six-Day Marathon Of Classic MST3K Episodes (betanews.com) 24

BrianFagioli quotes Beta News: Twitch was designed as a video game streaming service, but since Amazon bought it, it seems to be evolving into something more. While it is still primarily a platform for showing off gaming, people are using it for general videos, broadcasting pretty much anything. Heck, the service has even offered marathons of classic TV shows, such as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Power Rangers. Last week Twitch announced its latest marathon offering -- Mystery Science Theater 3000... The "MST3K" marathon will last an impressive six straight days, where 38 episodes will be shown. The experience begins on June 26th at 2pm ET.
China

Tesla Is 'In Talks' To Build a Factory In China (qz.com) 55

Tesla confirmed yesterday that it is "in talks" with the municipal government of Shanghai to manufacture its vehicles in the country. Tesla said in a statement: "Tesla is working with the Shanghai Municipal Government to explore the possibility of establishing a manufacturing facility in the region to serve the Chinese market. As we've said before, we expect to more clearly define our plans for production in China by the end of the year. Tesla is deeply committed to the Chinese market, and we continue to evaluate potential manufacturing sites around the globe to serve the local markets. While we expect most of our production to remain in the U.S., we do need to establish local factories to ensure affordability for the markets they serve." Quartz reports: The announcement follows more than a year of speculation that the electric-vehicle maker would set up shop in China, and confirms that Tesla is altering its China strategy away from merely exporting vehicles in order to reach more Chinese consumers. Earlier this year, Musk made a stealth visit to China to visit Wang Yang, one of the nation's highest-ranking officials, to discuss Tesla's plans. Tesla has been selling vehicles in China since 2014, but to date, its share of the electric vehicle market remains marginal, at just 2% as of June 2016, according to trade blog CleanTechnica. There are several reasons for this, one of which is price. Tesla currently exports its vehicles to China, and the government places an import tax of 50% on Tesla cars. The sticker price for the most simple Model S in China is $104,972, compared to $69,500 in the US.
Businesses

Samsung Begins Production For Its First Internet of Things-optimised Exynos Processor (zdnet.com) 50

An anonymous reader shares a report: Samsung Electronics has launched the Exynos i T200, its first processor optimised for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the company has announced. The South Korean tech giant said the chip has upped security and supports wireless connections, with hopes of giving it an advantage in the expanding IoT market. The Exynos i T200 applies Samsung's 28-nanometer High-K Metal Gate process and has multiple cores, with the Cortex-R4 doing the heavy lifting and an independently operating Cortex-M0+ allowing for multifunctionality. For example, if applied to a refrigerator, Cotext-R4 will run the OS and Cotex-M0+ will power LED displays on the doors.
Facebook

Facebook Has a New Mission: Bring the World Closer Together (cnn.com) 106

Facebook CEO believes the company's primary purpose is a social one -- the same it has had for year -- but he's ready to update this mission for the first time. From a report: "We used to have a sense that if we could just do those things, then that would make a lot of the things in the world better by themselves," Zuckerberg told CNN Tech. "But now we realize that we need to do more too. It's important to give people a voice, to get a diversity of opinions out there, but on top of that, you also need to do this work of building common ground so that way we can all move forward together." The company even has a new mission statement: "To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." This marks the first time the company has overhauled its mission, which had previously been "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." Zuckerberg believes he has just the tool for the job: Facebook Groups, which are now used by a billion people. "A lot of what we can do is to help create a more civil and productive debate on some of the bigger issues as well," Zuckerberg told CNN Tech.
Intel

AMD Looks To 'Crush' Intel's Xeon With New Epyc Server Chips (extremetech.com) 135

AMD has unveiled the first generation of Epyc, its new range of server processors built around its Zen architecture. Processors will range from the Epyc 7251 -- an eight-core, 16-thread chip running at 2.1 to 2.9GHz in a 120W power envelope -- up to the Epyc 7601: a 32-core, 64-thread monster running at 2.2 to 3.2GHz, with a 180W design power. From a report: These chips are built on the same fundamental architecture as the company's Ryzen CPU cores, and they're aimed at the incredibly powerful data center market. AMD's 32-core / 64-thread Epyc CPUs combine four eight-core dies, each connected to the other via the company's Infinity Fabric. According to AMD, this approach is significantly cheaper than trying to pack 32 cores into a single monolithic die -- that approach would leave the company potentially throwing away huge amounts of silicon during its production ramp. The Infinity Fabric is deliberately over-provisioned to minimize any problems with non-NUMA aware software, according to Anandtech. Each 32-core Epyc CPU will support eight memory channels and two DIMMs per channel, for a total maximum memory capacity of 2TB per socket, or 4TB of RAM in a two-socket system. Each CPU will also offer 128 lanes of PCI Express 3.0 support -- enough to connect up to six GPUs at x16 each with room left over for I/O support. That's in a one-socket system, mind you. In a two-socket system, the total number of available PCI Express 3.0 lanes is unchanged, at 128 (64 PCIe 3.0 lanes are used to handle CPU -- CPU communication). Anandtech has a longer writeup with more details on the CPUs power efficiency and TDP scaling. Further reading: ZDNet, press release.
Power

Domestic Appliances Guzzle Far More Energy Than Advertised, Says EU Survey (theguardian.com) 205

Chrisq writes: An EU study has found that many electronic devices and appliances use more energy in real-world conditions than in the standard EU tests. Often the real world figures are double those in the ratings. Sometimes this is achieved by having various optional features switched off during the test. For example, switching on modern TV features such as "ultra-high definition" and "high-dynamic range" in real-world test cycles boosted energy use in four out of seven televisions surveyed -- one by more than 100%. However some appliances appear to have "defeat devices" built in, with some Samsung TVs appearing to recognize the standard testing clip: "The Swedish Energy Agency's Testlab has come across televisions that clearly recognize the standard film (IEC) used for testing," says the letter, which the Guardian has seen. "These displays immediately lower their energy use by adjusting the brightness of the display when the standard film is being run. This is a way of avoiding the market surveillance authorities and should be addressed by the commission."
Businesses

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Has Resigned Due To Investor Pressure (recode.net) 59

Travis Kalanick has resigned as chief executive of Uber after pressure from investors, ending eight years of leading the ride-hailing company that has expanded round the globe but became mired in controversies. From a report: Kalanick had become a giant liability to the car-hailing company for a growing number of reasons, from sketchy business practices to troubling lawsuits to a basic management situation that was akin to really toxic goat rodeo. Thus, he had to go, even though some sources said he had the voting power to stay. But big investors also have leverage and a big enough group of them joined to use it. Those investors include Benchmark, Fidelity and Menlo Ventures, all of whom sent Kalanick a joint letter called "Moving Uber Forward" on Tuesday afternoon. Interestingly, Google Ventures was not among the group, even though its parent company Alphabet is now in a major lawsuit with Uber over the alleged theft of self-driving car technology from its Waymo unit.
Earth

Sweden Passes Bill To Become Carbon Neutral By 2045 (newscientist.com) 224

Sweden is the first country to significantly upgrade its carbon ambitions since the Paris accord in 2015. The country has passed a new bill committing to cut its net carbon emissions to zero by 2045. New Scientist reports: The law was drawn up by a cross-party committee and passed with an overwhelming majority in parliament by 254 votes to 41. The legislation establishes an independent Climate Policy Council and requires an action plan to be updated every four years. Sweden had previously committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. It already gets 83 per cent of its electricity from nuclear energy and hydropower, having met its 2020 target of 50 per cent renewable energy eight years ahead of schedule. To achieve carbon-neutral status, the country will focus on reducing emissions from transport by increasing the use of biofuels and electric vehicles. It plans to cut domestic emissions by at least 85 per cent, and offset remaining emissions by planting trees or investing in projects abroad.
OS X

The Behind-the-Scenes Changes Found In MacOS High Sierra (arstechnica.com) 205

Apple officially announced macOS High Sierra at WWDC 2017 earlier this month. While the new OS doesn't feature a ton of user-visible improvements and is ultimately shaping up to be a low-key release, it does feature several behind-the-scenes changes that could help make it the most stable macOS update in years. Andrew Cunningham from Ars Technica has "browsed the dev docs and talked with Apple to get some more details of the update's foundational changes." Here are some excerpts from three key areas of the report: APFS
Like iOS 10.3, High Sierra will convert your boot drive to APFS when you first install it -- this will be true for all Macs that run High Sierra, regardless of whether they're equipped with an SSD, a spinning HDD, or a Fusion Drive setup. In the current beta installer, you're given an option to uncheck the APFS box (checked by default) before you start the install process, though that doesn't necessarily guarantee that it will survive in the final version. It's also not clear at this point if there are edge cases -- third-party SSDs, for instance -- that won't automatically be converted. But assuming that most people stick with the defaults and that most people don't crack their Macs open, most Mac users who do the upgrade are going to get the new filesystem.

HEVC and HEIF
All High Sierra Macs will pick up support for HEVC, but only very recent models will support any kind of hardware acceleration. This is important because playing HEVC streams, especially at high resolutions and bitrates, is a pretty hardware-intensive operation. HEVC playback can consume most of a CPU's processor cycles, and especially on slower dual-core laptop processors, smooth playback may be impossible altogether. Dedicated HEVC encode and decode blocks in CPUs and GPUs can handle the heavy lifting more efficiently, freeing up your CPU and greatly reducing power consumption, but HEVC's newness means that dedicated hardware isn't especially prevalent yet.

Metal 2
While both macOS and iOS still nominally support open, third-party APIs like OpenGL and OpenCL, it's clear that the company sees Metal as the way forward for graphics and GPU compute on its platforms. Apple's OpenGL support in macOS and iOS hasn't changed at all in years, and there are absolutely no signs that Apple plans to support Vulkan. But the API will enable some improvements for end users, too. People with newer GPUs should expect to benefit from some performance improvements, not just in games but in macOS itself; Apple says the entire WindowServer is now using Metal, which should improve the fluidity and consistency of transitions and animations within macOS; this can be a problem on Macs when you're pushing multiple monitors or using higher Retina scaling modes on, especially if you're using integrated graphics. Metal 2 is also the go-to API for supporting VR on macOS, something Apple is pushing in a big way with its newer iMacs and its native support for external Thunderbolt 3 GPU enclosures. Apple says that every device that supports Metal should support at least some of Metal 2's new features, but the implication there is that some older GPUs won't be able to do everything the newer ones can do.

United States

Swiss Supercomputer Edges US Out of Top Spot (bbc.com) 64

There have only been two times in the last 24 years where the U.S. has been edged out of the top spot of the world's most powerful supercomputers. Now is one of those times. "An upgrade to a Swiss supercomputer has bumped the U.S. Department of Energy's Cray XK7 to number four on the list rating these machines," reports the BBC. "The only other time the U.S. fell out of the top three was in 1996." The top two slots are occupied by Chinese supercomputers. From the report. The U.S. machine has been supplanted by Switzerland's Piz Daint system, which is installed at the country's national supercomputer center. The upgrade boosted its performance from 9.8 petaflops to 19.6. The machine is named after a peak in the Grison region of Switzerland. One petaflop is equal to one thousand trillion operations per second. A "flop" (floating point operation) can be thought of as a step in a calculation. The performance improvement meant it surpassed the 17.6 petaflop capacity of the DoE machine, located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The U.S. is well represented lower down in the list, as currently half of all the machines in the top 10 of the list are based in North America. And the Oak Ridge National Laboratory looks set to return to the top three later this year, when its Summit supercomputer comes online. This is expected to have a peak performance of more than 100 petaflops.
Youtube

Google Announces New Measures To Fight Extremist YouTube Videos (cnet.com) 286

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: YouTube will take new steps to combat extremist- and terrorist-related videos, parent company Google said Sunday. "While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now," Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, said in an op-ed column in the London-based Financial Times.
Here's CNET's summary of the four new measure Google is implementing:
  • Use "more engineering resources to apply our most advanced machine learning research to train new 'content classifiers' to help us more quickly identify and remove such content."
  • Expand YouTube's Trusted Flagger program by adding 50 independent, "expert" non-governmental organizations to the 63 groups already part of it. Google will offer grants to fund the groups.
  • Take a "tougher stance on videos that do not clearly violate our policies -- for example, videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content." Such videos will "appear behind a warning" and will not be "monetized, recommended or eligible for comments or user endorsements."
  • Expand YouTube's efforts in counter-radicalization. "We are working with Jigsaw to implement the 'redirect method' more broadly. ... This promising approach harnesses the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits, and redirects them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining."

China

Chinese Satellite Breaks Distance Record For Quantum-Key Exchange (sciencemag.org) 42

slew writes: Science Magazine reports a team of physicists using the Chinese Micius satellite (launched back in August 2016) have sent quantum-entangled photons from a satellite to ground stations separated by 1200 kilometers, smashing the previous world record. Sending entangled photons through space instead of optical fiber networks with repeaters has long been the dream of those promoting quantum-key exchange for modern cryptography. Don't hold your breath yet, as this is only an experiment. They were only able to recover about 1000 photons out of about 6 billion sent and the two receiving stations were on Tibetan mountains to reduce the amount of air that needed to be traversed. Also the experiment was done at night to minimize interference from the sun. Still, baby steps... Next steps for the program: a bigger satellite for more power and moving to quantum teleportation instead of simple key exchange. The results of the experiment were published in the journal Science.
Earth

Coal Market Set To Collapse Worldwide By 2040 As Solar, Wind Dominate (bloomberg.com) 375

Jess Shankleman reports via Bloomberg: Solar power, once so costly it only made economic sense in spaceships, is becoming cheap enough that it will push coal and even natural-gas plants out of business faster than previously forecast. That's the conclusion of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlook for how fuel and electricity markets will evolve by 2040. The research group estimated solar already rivals the cost of new coal power plants in Germany and the U.S. and by 2021 will do so in quick-growing markets such as China and India. The scenario suggests green energy is taking root more quickly than most experts anticipate. It would mean that global carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels may decline after 2026, a contrast with the International Energy Agency's central forecast, which sees emissions rising steadily for decades to come.

The report also found that through 2040:
-China and India represent the biggest markets for new power generation, drawing $4 trillion, or about 39 percent all investment in the industry.
-The cost of offshore wind farms, until recently the most expensive mainstream renewable technology, will slide 71 percent, making turbines based at sea another competitive form of generation.
-At least $239 billion will be invested in lithium-ion batteries, making energy storage devices a practical way to keep homes and power grids supplied efficiently and spreading the use of electric cars.
-Natural gas will reap $804 billion, bringing 16 percent more generation capacity and making the fuel central to balancing a grid that's increasingly dependent on power flowing from intermittent sources, like wind and solar.

Education

Mathematical Biology Is Our Secret Weapon In the Fight Against Disease (scientificamerican.com) 57

An anonymous reader shares excerpts from a Scientific American article: In recent years, increasingly detailed experimental procedures have lead to a huge influx in the biological data available to scientists. This data is being used to generate hypotheses about the complexity of previously abstruse biological systems. In order to test these hypotheses, they must be written down in the form of a model which can be interrogated to determine whether it correctly mimics the biological observations. Mathematics is the natural language in which to do this. In addition, the advent of, and subsequent increase in, computational ability over the last 60 years has enabled us to suggest and then interrogate complex mathematical models of biological systems. The realisation that biological systems can be treated mathematically, coupled with the computational ability to build and investigate detailed biological models, has led to the dramatic increase in the popularity of mathematical biology. Maths has become a vital weapon in the scientific armoury we have to tackle some of the most pressing questions in medical, biological and ecological science in the 21st century. By describing biological systems mathematically and then using the resulting models, we can gain insights that are impossible to access though experiments and verbal reasoning alone. Mathematical biology is incredibly important if we want to change biology from a descriptive into a predictive science -- giving us power, for example, to avert pandemics or to alter the effects of debilitating diseases.
Software

Vivaldi 1.10 Released (vivaldi.com) 61

Reader x_t0ken_407 writes: Vivaldi, the successor to Opera 12.16 (Presto) in spirit, admittedly has a long way to go but continues to steadily mature with the release of version 1.10:

Releasing Vivaldi 1.10, we give you the power for making the Start Page more personal than ever before. You're the one who gets to decide how your Start Page looks, feels and performs. We've also added the much-requested ability to dock the Developer Tools.

Other new features and improvements include:
-Sorting of Downloads in the Side Panel by name, size, date added and date finished, as well as manually.
-Toggle image visibility from the View menu or via configurable keyboard shortcut.
-Quick Commands improvements for users that like to control everything in their browser from their keyboard. The Quick Commands menu lets users navigate to tabs, find search terms, filter lists of available commands and much more.
-Address Bar dropdown list can now exclude bookmarks and typed history.
-Controlling new tabs via third-party extensions with additional functionality, such as productivity tools or reminders.


Power

Wind, Solar Surpassed 10 Percent of US Electricity In March, Says EIA (thehill.com) 179

According to the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, wind and solar produced 10 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. for the first time in March. The Hill reports: The Energy Information Administration's (EIA) monthly power report for March found that wind produced 8 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. that month, with solar producing 2 percent. The two sources combined to have their best month ever in terms of percentage of overall electricity production, EIA said. The agency expects the two sources topped 10 percent again in April but forecasts that their generation will fall below that mark during the summer months. Due to the way geographic wind patterns affect the generation of electricity, the two sources typically combine for their best months in the spring and fall. Annually, wind and solar made up 7 percent of electric generation in 2016, EIA said.
Television

Netflix Has More American Subscribers Than Cable TV (engadget.com) 74

According to Leichtman Research estimates from the first quarter of 2017, there are more Netflix subscribers in the U.S. (50.85 million) than there are customers for major cable TV networks (48.61 million). While it doesn't mean Netflix is bigger than TV because it doesn't account for the 33.19 million satellite viewers, it represents a huge milestone for a streaming service that had half as many users just 5 years ago. Engadget reports: The shift in power comes in part through Netflix's ever-greater reliance on originals. There's enough high-quality material that it can compete with more established networks. However, it's also getting a boost from the decline of conventional TV. Those traditional sources lost 760,000 subscribers in the first quarter of the year versus 120,000 a year earlier. Leichtman believes a combination of cord cutters and reduced marketing toward cost-conscious viewers is to blame. Cable giants might not be in dire straits, but they're clearly focusing on their most lucrative customers as others jump ship for the internet.

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