Android

Chrome OS Is Almost Ready To Replace Android On Tablets (theverge.com) 61

Several news features rolling out to Chromebooks paint a picture of the future of Chrome OS as the rightful replacement for Android tablet software. Those include a new split-screen feature for multitasking while in tablet mode, and a screenshot feature borrowed from Android. The Verge reports: As it stands now, Chrome OS is very close to taking up the mantle there, and features like this push it ever closer to becoming the hybrid OS for all types of Google-powered screens. This has been in the works for quite a while as Google's Chrome and Android teams have coordinated closely to ensure the influx of low-cost, hybrid computing devices like 2-in-1 Chromebooks get the best of both worlds. There is, of course, Android app compatibility on Chrome OS, an initiative that first arrived somewhat half-baked last year and has taken months to fully jell as Google worked out the kinks. For instance, just last month Google added the ability for Android apps on Chromebooks run in the background. In July of last year, Google also began embarking on a touch-focused redesign of Chrome OS to make the software more functional in tablet mode. We're likely not getting the full-blown merging of the two divisions and their respective platforms anytime soon, or perhaps ever, as Google has played with the idea for years without ever seeming to decide that one platform should supersede the other. In essence, however, Android remains Google's dominant mobile OS, while Chrome OS has been taking on more responsibility as Chromebooks have steadily become more capable and tablet-like.
Programming

Is Python Really the Fastest-Growing Programming Language? (stackoverflow.blog) 254

An anonymous reader quotes Stack Overflow Blog: In this post, we'll explore the extraordinary growth of the Python programming language in the last five years, as seen by Stack Overflow traffic within high-income countries. The term "fastest-growing" can be hard to define precisely, but we make the case that Python has a solid claim to being the fastest-growing major programming language... June 2017 was the first month that Python was the most visited [programming language] tag on Stack Overflow within high-income nations. This included being the most visited tag within the US and the UK, and in the top 2 in almost all other high income nations (next to either Java or JavaScript). This is especially impressive because in 2012, it was less visited than any of the other 5 languages, and has grown by 2.5-fold in that time. Part of this is because of the seasonal nature of traffic to Java. Since it's heavily taught in undergraduate courses, Java traffic tends to rise during the fall and spring and drop during the summer.

Does Python show a similar growth in the rest of the world, in countries like India, Brazil, Russia and China? Indeed it does. Outside of high-income countries Python is still the fastest growing major programming language; it simply started at a lower level and the growth began two years later (in 2014 rather than 2012). In fact, the year-over-year growth rate of Python in non-high-income countries is slightly higher than it is in high-income countries... We're not looking to contribute to any "language war." The number of users of a language doesn't imply anything about its quality, and certainly can't tell you which language is more appropriate for a particular situation. With that perspective in mind, however, we believe it's worth understanding what languages make up the developer ecosystem, and how that ecosystem might be changing. This post demonstrated that Python has shown a surprising growth in the last five years, especially within high-income countries.

The post was written by Stack Overflow data scientist David Robinson, who notes that "I used to program primarily in Python, though I have since switched entirely to R."
Safari

Safari Should Display Favicons in Its Tabs (daringfireball.net) 189

Favicon -- or its lack thereof, to be precise -- has remained one of the longest running issues Safari users have complained about. For those of you who don't use Safari, just have a look at this mess I had earlier today when I was using Safari on a MacBook. There's no way I can just have a look at the tabs and make any sense of them. John Gruber, writing for DaringFireball: The gist of it is two-fold: (1) there are some people who strongly prefer to see favicons in tabs even when they don't have a ton of tabs open, simply because they prefer identifying tabs graphically rather than by the text of the page title; and (2) for people who do have a ton of tabs open, favicons are the only way to identify tabs. With many tabs open, there's really nothing subjective about it: Chrome's tabs are more usable because they show favicons. [...] Once Safari gets to a dozen or so tabs in a window, the left-most tabs are literally unidentifiable because they don't even show a single character of the tab title. They're just blank. I, as a decade-plus-long dedicated Safari user, am jealous of the usability and visual clarity of Chrome with a dozen or more tabs open. And I can see why dedicated Chrome users would consider Safari's tab design a non-starter to switching. I don't know what the argument is against showing favicons in Safari's tabs, but I can only presume that it's because some contingent within Apple thinks it would spoil the monochromatic aesthetic of Safari's toolbar area. [...] And it's highly debatable whether Safari's existing no-favicon tabs actually do look better. The feedback I've heard from Chrome users who won't even try Safari because it doesn't show favicons isn't just from developers -- it's from designers too. To me, the argument that Safari's tab bar should remain text-only is like arguing that MacOS should change its Command-Tab switcher and Dock from showing icons to showing only the names of applications. The Mac has been famous ever since 1984 for placing more visual significance on icons than on names. The Mac attracts visual thinkers and its design encourages visual thinking. So I think Safari's text-only tab bar isn't just wrong in general, it's particularly wrong on the Mac.
Earth

Remote Pacific Island Is the Most Plastic-Contaminated Spot Yet Surveyed (arstechnica.com) 132

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Plastic is durable -- very, very durable -- which is why we like it. Since it started being mass-produced in the 1950s, annual production has increased 300-fold. Because plastic is so durable, when our kids grow up and we purge our toy chests, or even just when we finish a bottle of laundry detergent or shampoo, it doesn't actually go away. While we're recycling increasing amounts of plastic, a lot of it still ends up in the oceans. Floating garbage patches have brought some attention to the issue of our contamination of the seas. But it's not just the waters themselves that have ended up cluttered with plastic. A recent survey shows that a staggering amount of our stuff is coming ashore on the extremely remote Henderson Island. Henderson Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Pitcairn Group of Islands in the South Pacific, roughly half way between New Zealand and Peru. According to UNESCO, Henderson is one of the best examples we have of an elevated coral atoll ecosystem. It was colonized by Polynesians between the 12th and 15th centuries but has been uninhabited by humans since then. It is of interest to evolutionary biologists because it has 10 plant species and four bird species that are only found there. Despite its uninhabited status and its extremely remote location, a recent survey of beach plastic on Henderson Island revealed that the island has the highest density of debris reported anywhere in the world: an estimated minimum of 37.7 million items weighing 17.6 tons. This represents the total amount of plastic that is produced in the world every 1.98 seconds. Further reading: Here And Now
Power

Researchers Predict Next-Gen Batteries Will Last 10 Times Longer (newatlas.com) 171

Lithium-metal electrodes could increase the storage capacity of batteries 10-fold, predict researchers at the University of Michigan, allowing electric cars to drive from New York to Denver without recharging. Using a $100 piece of technology, the team is now peeking inside charging batteries to study the formation of "dendrites," which consume liquid electrolytes and reduce capacity. Slashdot reader Eloking quotes New Atlas: Battery cells are normally tested through cycles of charge and discharge, testing the capacity and flow potential of the cells before being dissected. Dasgupta and his team...added a window to a lithium cell so that they could film the dendrites forming and deforming during charge and discharge cycles.
In a video interview they're reporting that dendrites can actually help a battery if they form a small, even "carpet" inside of the battery which "can keep more lithium in play." According to the article, "The future of lithium-ion batteries is limited, says University of Michigan researcher Neil Dasgupta, because the chemistry cannot be pushed much further than it already has. Next-generation lithium cells will likely use lithium air and lithium sulfur chemistries."
Cellphones

DJI Unveils the Mavic Pro, a Foldable and Ultra-Portable Camera Drone (petapixel.com) 55

It didn't take long for DJI to respond to GoPro's voice-controlled Karma drone. Today, the company has unveiled the Mavic Pro, an ultra-portable drone that can fold up into roughly the "size of a standard water bottle," DJI says. Of course, it also features a high-resolution camera and several autonomous software tricks. PetaPixel reports: Despite its petite form factor, the drone packs a punch: there's a 4K camera on the front, a visual navigation system, a 4.3-mile (7km) range, and a 27-minute flight time. By comparison, the Karma has a range of 0.62 miles (1km) and a flight time of 20 minutes. The Mavic Pro can be operated with a remote controller for long-range uses, or simply with your smartphone if you're not planning to fly it far. For the latter, the drone can go from folded up to in flight in less than a minute. In the Mavic Pro is a new FlightAutonomy system, which uses 5 cameras, GPS and GLONASS navigation, 2 ultrasonic rangefinders, redundant sensors, and 24 computing cores to serve as the drone's "brain and nervous system." Using FlightAutonomy, the Mavic Pro can follow positions and routes while avoiding obstacles at 22mph (36kph), allowing you to create advanced flights with minimal input and flying skills. What's more, the drone can even be controlled with your physical gestures, making it easy to shoot an aerial selfie if you so desire. A new compact remote controller has been designed for the Mavic Pro, and it features an LCD screen with essential data, dedicated buttons (e.g. Return-to-Home, Intelligent Flight pause), and a OcuSync video link system that provides live view at 1080p resolution. DJI is also announcing DJI Goggles to go along with the Mavic Pro. Wearing the goggles allows you to fly the drone with an immersive 85-degree view in full 1080p, viewing the world through the eyes of the drone. The DJI Mavic Pro will be available starting October 15th, 2016, with a price tag of $749 for just the drone and $999 with a remote controller bundled in. The DJI Mavic introduction video can be viewed here.
Businesses

GoPro Launches Karma Drone and Voice-Controlled Hero5 Cameras (cnet.com) 14

The long-awaited GoPro drone has officially launched. Dubbed Karma, GoPro's new drone works with the Hero5 and Hero5 Session, two new flagship cameras. The Hero5 features a 2-inch touch display, 12-megapixel photos with RAW support, built-in GPS, electronic image stabilization, waterproofing up to 33 feet (10 meters), and voice control. The GoPro Hero5 Session on the other hand consists of a tiny cube camera that is capable of 4K video recording at 30 fps and 10-megapixel photos. It too is waterproof up to 33 feet (10 meters) and offers support for voice commands. You can say, "GoPro, start recording," and it will start recording. They are also both cloud-connected, meaning they can auto-upload photos and video to an account when the camera is charging (requires a paid subscription to GoPro's new cloud service). While the Karma works with the Hero5 and Hero5 Session, it also works with the Hero4 cameras. CNET reports: The Karma's small, too. Like fold-it-up-and-stick-it-in-a-regular-backpack small. In fact, it even comes with the backpack. And of course it's made with the new Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session cameras, but will also work with the Hero4 cameras. So you're not stuck with a camera that's permanently attached to a drone, you're getting a camera you can use on its own or in the drone. Perhaps its greatest asset is the three-axis camera stabilizer on the drone. Not only will it keep your video looking smooth in the air, but it can be removed and attached to the included Karma Grip. GoPro says the grip can then be used handheld, perfect for running, riding, skating, etc. alongside your friends, or mounted on other gear. Karma arrives on October 23 for $799 without a camera, $999 with a Hero5 Session and $1,099 with the Hero5 Black.
AT&T

Ten Lies T-Mobile Told Me About My Data Plan 237

reifman (786887) writes "Last June, my post "Yes, You Can Spend $750 in International Data Roaming in One Minute on AT&T" was slashdotted and this led to T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeting 'how crappy @ATT is' and welcoming me to the fold. Unfortunately, now it's TMobile that's having trouble tracking data; it seems to be related to the rollout of their new DataStash promotion. Just like AT&T, they're blaming the customer. Here are the ten lies T-Mobile told me about my data usage today."
Earth

MARS, Inc: We Are Running Out of Chocolate 323

schwit1 writes There's no easy way to say this: You're eating too much chocolate, all of you. And it's getting so out of hand that the world could be headed towards a potentially disastrous (if you love chocolate) scenario if it doesn't stop. ... Chocolate deficits, whereby farmers produce less cocoa than the world eats, are becoming the norm. Already, we are in the midst of what could be the longest streak of consecutive chocolate deficits in more than 50 years. It also looks like deficits aren't just carrying over from year-to-year—the industry expects them to grow. Last year, the world ate roughly 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced. By 2020, the two chocolate-makers warn that that number could swell to 1 million metric tons, a more than 14-fold increase; by 2030, they think the deficit could reach 2 million metric tons.
Medicine

New MRI Studies Show SSRIs Bring Rapid Changes to Brain Function 138

A story at the Los Angeles Times reports that researchers at the Max Planck Institute have found that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, various of which are widely used in anti-depressant medications, cause changes in healthy subjects' brain architecture just hours after ingestion. As the article mentions, one reason that this rapid change is surprising is that patients taking SSRIs to treat depression typically take considerably longer (weeks) to perceive a change in mood. A slice from the story: When more serotonin was available, this resting state functional connectivity decreased on a broad scale, the study found. This finding was not particularly surprising -- other studies have shown a similar effect in brain regions strongly associated with mood regulation. But there was a two-fold shock: Some areas of the brain appeared to buck the trend and become more interdependent. And all the changes were evident only three hours after the single dosage. ... The rapid connectivity shifts noted by the study might therefore be precursors to longer-term changes, perhaps starting with remodeling of synapses, the microscopic gaps where chemical neurotransmitters such as serotonin flood across to an adjacent brain cell, the study suggests. But this type of brain scanning can’t pick up changes at such a scale, so the hypothesis will have to be tested other ways[.] ... Study subjects did not have diagnoses of depression, so researchers will need to generate similar maps among those diagnosed with depression, and re-map them during and after depressive episodes, as well as after treatment, Sacher said. Comparisons might then show whether a certain initial architecture predicts treatment success.
Cellphones

Xiaomi Arrives As Top Smartphone Seller In China 82

New submitter redseo writes Xiaomi, known as the Apple of China, and recently enjoying its new-found fame and glory in the Indian market, has achieved yet another milestone. It has overtaken Samsung, to become China's best selling smartphone manufacturer, in Q2 2014. Xiaomi sold total of 15 million smartphones in China in Q2, which is a three-fold increase from a year ago. That's pretty good for a company founded only four years ago, with no stores of its own. (And though Xiaomi's phones are not widely sold in the U.S., they're offered by third-party sellers on Amazon and elsewhere; CNet has mostly good things to say about the company's Mi 3.)
The Media

ProPublica's Guide To News App Tech 12

dstates writes "ProPublica, the award winning public interest journalism group and frequently cited Slashdot source, has published an interesting guide to app technology for journalism and a set of data and style guides. Journalism presents unique challenges with potentially enormous but highly variable site traffic, the need to serve a wide variety of information, and most importantly, the need to quickly develop and vet interesting content, and ProPublica serves lots of data sets in addition to the news. They are also doing some cool stuff like using AI to generate specific narratives from tens of thousands of database entries illustrating how school districts and states often don't distribute educational opportunities to rich and poor kids equally. The ProPublica team focuses on some basic practical issues for building a team, rapidly and flexibly deploying technology and insuring that what they serve is correct. A great news app developer needs three key skills: the ability to do journalism, design acumen and the ability to write code quickly — and the last is the easiest to teach. To build a team they look to their own staff rather than competing with Google for CS grads. Most news organizations use either Ruby on Rails or Python/Django, but more important than which specific technology you choose is to just pick a server-side programming language and stick to it. Cloud hosting provides news organizations with incredible flexibility (like increasing your capacity ten-fold for a few days around the election and then scaling back the day after), but they're not as fast as real servers, and cloud costs can scale quickly relative to real servers. Maybe a news app is not the most massive 'big data' application out there, but where else can you find the challenge of millions of users checking in several times a day for the latest news, and all you need to do is sort out which of your many and conflicting sources are providing you with straight information? Oh, and if you screw up, it will be very public."
Google

Google I/O Day Two 46

Yesterday Timothy was at Google I/O watching the keynote but there is still plenty of announcements on day two. Today's first big theme: Chrome. Tim reports: "Brian Rakowski VP for (and inventor of) Chrome, shows device transferability among devices of tabs, bookmarks, with a multi-part contrived story, looking at his opened tabs from home and work, etc. from a phone running Chrome. Not only can open tabs from there, but (and this is cool), 'we've made sure the back button works as well.' So you can open a page from a different computer, and have the browsing history of that tab as well. This Chrome syncing affects settings, bookmarks, etc. Also, for those transferred tab pages, pre-loading! So when you click on a tab, it's been loading and now should be read, BAM." As before we'll be updating the story live (below the fold) with his updates as they stream in.
Google

Google Unveils Nexus 7 Tablet, Nexus Q 'Social Streaming Device' 261

Through some stroke of fortune, your friendly editor Timothy Lord is at Google I/O watching the keynote. We'll be updating the story live (below the fold) with his updates as they stream in. Starting things off, he reported a few features of Android Jelly Bean. First, graphics will be triple-buffered for extra smoothness; the graphics demo was reportedly impressive enough that the audience swooned. Text input has been improved with new dictionaries and a predictive keyboard that will learn better over time. Additionally, voice typing will now work offline. English will be initially supported, with Farsi, Thai, and Hindi support to follow. Hit the link below to see further updates, including details on the Nexus 7 tablet and the Nexus Q streaming device.

Businesses

Valve Switching Team Fortress 2 To Free-To-Play Increased Revenue Twelvefold 196

An anonymous reader writes "We've frequently discussed the growing trend among video game publishers to adopt a business model in which downloading and playing the game is free, but part of the gameplay is supported by microtransactions. There have been a number of success stories, such as Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online. During a talk at the Game Developers Conference this week, Valve's Joe Ludwig officially added Team Fortress 2 to that list, revealing that the game has seen a 12-fold increase in revenue since the switch. He said, 'The trouble is, when you're a AAA box game, the only people who can earn you new revenue are the people who haven't bought your game. This drives you to build new content to attract new people. There's a fundamental tension between building the game to satisfy existing players and attract new players.' He also explained how they tried to do right by their existing playerbase: 'We dealt with the pay-to-win concern in a few ways. The first was to make items involve tradeoffs, so there's no clear winner between two items. But by far the biggest thing we did to change this perception was to make all the items that change the game free. You can get them from item drops, or from the crafting system. It might be a little easier to buy them in the store, but you can get them without paying.'"
Displays

CES Recap: Gadgets and Blisters 53

I was in Las Vegas last week to see the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. (Officially, it's the International Consumer Electronics Show, but no one calls it "ICES.") I've been to CES just a few times before, but usually as the finish line of a marathon drive from Seattle, rather than a plane flight from Tennessee as it was this time around. I've also never arrived with an armload of video equipment, which brings its own hassles. (Did you notice our videos?) Following are a few thoughts about the experience.
Censorship

Egyptians Turn To Tor To Organize Dissent Online 152

An anonymous reader writes "Even as President Obama prepares to follow Mubarak with his own 'internet kill switch', Egyptians were turning to the Tor anonymiser to organise their protests online. The number of Egyptians connecting to the internet over Tor rose more than five-fold after protests broke out last week before crashing when the Government severed links to the global internet. Information security researcher, Tor coder and writer of the bridge that allowed Egypt's citizens to short-circuit government filters, Jacob Appelbaum, told SC Magazine Egyptians were 'concerned and some understand the risk of network traffic analysis.' Appelbaum has himself been the subject of attention from US security services who routinely snatch his electronics and search his belongings when he re-enters the country and who subpoenaed his private Twitter account last December." Which helps explain why Appelbaum is helping to organize a small fundraiser to get more communications gear into Egypt.

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