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Cellphones

Is Microsoft Building A Foldable 'Surface' Phone? (hothardware.com) 93

"This past week, Microsoft received a new patent for a foldable handset, and once again there are rumors that it is related to the long awaited, mythical Surface Phone," writes HardOCP, noting Samsung and LG are also rumored to be working on foldable phones. An anonymous reader quotes Hot Hardware: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made it clear that he doesn't want to kick out just another run-of-the-mill smartphone that looks and functions like every other device out there, but one that is unique in some aspect... This is not the first time Microsoft has filed a patent for what could be a folding Surface Phone. Just two months ago it was discovered that Microsoft filed a patent for a "Mobile Computing Device Having a Flexible Hinge Structure"...
Microsoft's patents include curved edges "intended to draw light away from the gaps, which would create an optical illusion of one continuous image," according to the article. "In this way, Microsoft could create a folding phone with multiple active displays appearing as a single, continuous image."
AI

The First Practical Use For Quantum Computers: Chemistry (technologyreview.com) 42

"The first quantum computer to start paying its way with useful work in the real world looks likely to do so by helping chemists," writes MIT Technology Review, "trying to do things like improve batteries or electronics." An anonymous reader quotes their report: So far, simulating molecules and reactions is the use case for early, small quantum computers sketched out in most detail by researchers developing the new kind of algorithms needed for such machines... "From the point of view of what is theoretically proven, chemistry is ahead," says Scott Crowder, chief technology officer for the IBM division that today sells hardware including supercomputers and hopes to add cloud-hosted quantum computers to its product line-up in the next few years...

Researchers have long used simulations of molecules and chemical reactions to aid research into things like new materials, drugs, or industrial catalysts. The tactic can reduce time spent on physical experiments and scientific dead ends, and it accounts for a significant proportion of the workload of the world's supercomputers. Yet the payoffs are limited because even the most powerful supercomputers cannot perfectly re-create all the complex quantum behaviors of atoms and electrons in even relatively small molecules, says Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a chemistry professor at Harvard. He's looking forward to the day simulations on quantum computers can accelerate his research group's efforts to find new light-emitting molecules for displays, for example, and batteries suitable for grid-scale energy storage.

Microsoft is already focusing on chemistry and materials science in its quantum algorithm effort, saying a hybrid system combining conventional computers with a small quantum computer "has great promise for studying molecules." Meanwhile, the article argues that breaking encryption, "although a genuine threat, is one of the most distant applications of the technology, because the algorithms involved would require an extremely large quantum processor."
Google

Google Glass Enters The Manufacturing Sector (npr.org) 61

NPR recently profiled one of the 100 factory workers now using Google Glass at the agricultural equipment manufacturer AGCO. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Google Glass tells her what to do should she forget, for example, which part goes where. "I don't have to leave my area to go look at the computer every time I need to look up something," she says. With Google Glass, she scans the serial number on the part she's working on. This brings up manuals, photos or videos she may need. She can tap the side of headset or say "OK Glass" and use voice commands to leave notes for the next shift worker...

Peggy Gullick, business process improvement director with AGCO, says the addition of Google Glass has been "a total game changer." Quality checks are now 20 percent faster, she says, and it's also helpful for on-the-job training of new employees... Tiffany Tsai, who writes about technology, says it's one of a growing number of companies -- including General Electric and Boeing -- testing it out... Companies working in the health care, entertainment and energy industries are listed as some of the Google Glass certified partners.

AGCO plans to have 200 workers using Google Glass by the end of this year.
Displays

What the Death of CRT Display Means For Classic Arcade Machines (venturebeat.com) 184

An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report:The cathode-ray-tube technology that powered the monitors for nearly every classic arcade game in the twentieth century is defunct. Sony, Samsung, and others have left it behind for skinnier and more lucrative LCDs and plasmas, and the CRTs that are left are about to sell out. The current stock of new 29-inch CRT monitors is dwindling. Online arcade cabinet and parts supplier Dream Arcades has fewer than 30 of those large displays sitting on its shelves. When it sells out of the current inventory, it will never get another shipment in that size again. "We've secured enough [of the other sizes] to get us all the way through next year," says Michael Ware, founder of Dream Arcades. "After that, that's it." The future of arcade-cabinet restoration is looking bleak. "The old arcade games are like aging people," says Walter Day, founder of high-score-keeping site Twin Galaxies. "They have old livers and aging kidneys. There will come a day when very few arcade cabinets have original components. Time will wear them out." To be clear, it's not that games like Donkey Kong or Pac-Man will suddenly become unplayable. The games can run on newer LCD screens, but they may not look as the developers intended.
Microsoft

Windows 10 Build 15048 Has a Windows Mixed Reality Demo You Can Try (betanews.com) 42

Microsoft's big push into mixed reality involves headsets from multiple manufacturers (including ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo), and developer kits with Acer's headset will begin a phased rollout this month. But Windows 10's latest "Insider Preview" build already includes a mixed reality simulator with a first-person 3D environment that can be navigated with the W, A, S and D keys. Slashdot reader Mark Wilson writes: From the look of the changelog for Windows 10 build 15048 that was released a few days ago to Insiders, it looked to be little more than a bug fixing release. But in fact Microsoft has already started to include references to -- and even a portal for -- Windows Mixed Reality. We have seen reference to Windows Holographic in Windows 10 before, but this is the first time there has been anything to play with. It coincides nicely with Microsoft revealing that Windows Mixed Reality is the new name for Windows Holographic, and it gives Insiders the chance to not only see if their computer meets the recommended specs, but also to try out a Windows Mixed reality simulation.
Displays

For This Year's iPhone, Apple Is Ditching Lightning Connector and Home Button, But Embracing USB Type-C and Curved Display (wsj.com) 223

Apple has decided to adopt a flexible display for at least one model of the new iPhone, reports WSJ. From the report: People with direct knowledge of Apple's production plans said the Cupertino, Calif., company has decided to go ahead with the technology, and it will release a phone model using the OLED screens this year (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). The technology allows manufacturers to bend screens in ways they couldn't previously -- such as by introducing a curve at the edge of the phone as in some Samsung models. However, once the phone is manufactured, the OLED screen can't be bent or folded by the user, at least with current technology. Using OLED displays would allow Apple to introduce a phone with a new look to fuel sales. They said Apple would introduce other updates including a USB-C port for the power cord and other peripheral devices instead of the company's original Lightning connector. The models would also do away with a physical home button, they said. Those updates would give the iPhone features already available on other smartphones.
Displays

Slashdot Asks: Are Curved TVs Worth It? (cnet.com) 179

New submitter cherishjoo shares a report written by David Katzmaier via CNET: When the first curved TVs appeared more than three years ago I asked whether they were a gimmick. As a TV reviewer I had to give the curve a fighting chance, however, so I took a curved Samsung home to live with my family for awhile, in addition to subjecting it to a full CNET review. In the end, I answered my own question with the headline "Great picture quality, but the curved screen is a flat-out gimmick." Since then most of the video geeks I know, including just about everybody I hear from on Twitter, Facebook and article comments, pooh-poohs curved TV screens as a useless distraction. A curved TV takes the traditional flat screen and bends it along a gentle arc. The edges end up a bit closer, ostensibly providing a slight wraparound effect. Curved TV makers, citing huge curved screens like IMAX, call their sets more "immersive" than their flat counterparts, but in my experience that claim doesn't hold water at in-home (as opposed to theatrical) screen sizes and viewing distances. The only real image-quality benefit I saw to the curve was a reduction in reflections in some cases. That benefit wasn't worth the slight geometric distortions introduced by the curve, not to mention its awkwardness when hung on the wall. That said, the curve doesn't ruin an otherwise good picture. In TVs, assuming similar prices, curved vs. flat boils down to a choice of aesthetics. As Katzmaier mentioned, curved TVs have been on the market for several years now, and while manufacturers continue to produce them, the verdict on whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is still murky. Here's our question for you: Are curved televisions worth the inflated price tag? If you are in the market for a new TV, does the fact that the display is curved entice you or steer you away?
Businesses

Tech Breakthroughs Take a Backseat in Upcoming Apple iPhone Launch (reuters.com) 114

Stephen Nellis, reporting for Reuters: The new iPhone is expected to include new features such as high-resolution displays, wireless charging and 3-D sensors. Rather than representing major breakthroughs, however, most of the innovations have been available in competing phones for several years. Apple's relatively slow adoption of new features both reflects and reinforces the fact smartphone customers are holding onto their phones longer. Timothy Arcuri, an analyst at Cowen & Co, believes upwards of 40 percent of iPhones on the market are more than two years old, a historical high. That is a big reason why investors have driven Apple shares to an all-time high. There is pent-up demand for a new iPhone, even if it does not offer breakthrough technologies. It is not clear whether Apple deliberately held off on packing some of the new features into the current iPhone 7, which has been criticized for a lack of differentiation from its predecessor. Still, the development and roll-out of the anniversary iPhone suggest Apple's product strategy is driven less by technological innovation than by consumer upgrade cycles and Apple's own business and marketing needs.
Displays

Some Recyclers Give Up On Recycling Old Monitors And TVs (vice.com) 274

An anonymous reader writes: "In many cases, your old TV isn't recycled at all and is instead abandoned in a warehouse somewhere, left for society to deal with sometime in the future," reports Motherboard, describing the problem of old cathode-ray televisions and computer monitors with "a net negative recycling value" (since their component parts don't cover the cost of dismantling them). An estimated 705 million CRT TVs were sold in the U.S. since 1980, and many now sit in television graveyards, "an environmental and economic disaster with no clear solution." As much as 100,000 tons of potentially hazardous waste are stockpiled in two Ohio warehouses of the now-insolvent recycler Closed Loop, plus "at least 25,000 tons of glass and unprocessed CRTs in Arizona...much of it is sitting in a mountainous pile outside one of the warehouses."
One EPA report found 23,000 tons of lead-containing CRT glass abandoned in four different states just in 2013.
Intel

System76 Refreshes Ubuntu Linux Laptops With Intel Kaby Lake, NVIDIA GTX 10 Series, and 4K (betanews.com) 126

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: System76 is refreshing three of its laptops with some high-end parts. The Oryx Pro, Serval WS, and Bonobo WS are now all equipped with 7th generation Intel Kaby Lake processors. In addition, all three can be had with 4K displays and NVIDIA GTX 10 series graphics too. While the Oryx Pro already had the option of 4K and GTX 10, it is the 7th gen Intel chips that are new to it. In fact, all of the company's laptops now come with Kaby Lake standard. The computer seller throws some shade at Apple by saying, "The HiDPI displays that ship on the laptops have 3.1 million more pixels than Apple's 'Retina' displays, enabling sharper text, 4K video, and higher res gaming. Beyond that, the displays give video and photo professionals the ability to work more easily with higher resolution multimedia."
Apple

Apple Suspends Sales of LG's UltraFine 5K Monitor Over Hardware Issues (appleinsider.com) 79

Roger Fingas, writing for AppleInsider: Apple has temporarily stopped sales of LG's UltraFine 5K monitor, due to technical problems associated with a lack of proper shielding from wireless interference. Over the weekend, Apple retail staff were told to keep the product on display yet not sell any units if people asked, according to a Business Insider source. The site added that it heard the same from a representative at a New York Apple store. Separately, AppleInsider has confirmed the organized removal from sale of the Thunderbolt 3 display. Sources inside Apple not authorized to speak on behalf of the company indicated that retail locations are retaining demonstration displays, but not selling any stock on-hand that it may receive that may actually have the shielding fix, nor filling any pending orders until otherwise informed. Big blow to Apple, which has given up on external monitors business. But at least, it's comforting to know people who wish to purchase a new display for their MacBook or MacBook Pro have several company-approved alternatives. Oh wait, they don't.
Communications

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Things That Every Hacker Once Knew? (ibiblio.org) 615

Open source guru Eric Raymond turns 60 this year, prompting this question from an anonymous reader: Eric Raymond's newest writing project is "Things Every Hacker Once Knew," inspired by the day he learned that not every programmer today's knows the bit structure of ASCII. "I didn't write it as a nostalgia trip -- I don't miss underpowered computers, primitive tools, and tiny low-resolution displays... In any kind of craft or profession, I think knowing the way things used to be done, and the issues those who came before you struggled with, is quite properly a source of pride and wisdom. It gives you a useful kind of perspective on today's challenges."

He writes later that it's to "assist retrospective understanding by younger hackers so they can make sense of the fossils and survivals still embedded in current technology." It's focusing on ASCII and "related technologies" like hardware terminals, modems and RS-232. ("This is lore that was at one time near-universal and is no longer.") Sections include "UUCP and BBSes, the forgotten pre-Internets" and "The strange afterlife of the Hayes smartmodem" (which points out some AT commands survived to this day in smartphones). He requests any would-be contributors to remember that "I'm trying to describe common knowledge at the time." This got my thinking -- what are some that every programmer once knew that have since been forgotten by newer generations of programmers?

Eric Raymond is still hard at work today on the NTPsec project -- a secure, hardened, and improved implementation of Network Time Protocol -- and he promises donations to his Patreon page will help fund it. But what things do you remember that were commonplace knowledge "back in the day" that have now become largely forgotten? Leave your best answers in the comments. What are some things that every hacker once knew?
Displays

Magic Leap CEO Defends His AR Company After Leaked Photo (mashable.com) 62

Saturday Business Insider claimed that augmented reality company Magic Leap was "scrambling to finish a working prototype before an important board meeting next week," publishing a photo described by their source as an early January prototype. An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: The image depicts a man with a kit on his back that looks as if it's in the early stages of development, but [CEO Rony] Abovitz's tweet suggested it was not intended as consumer technology. "The photo you are all excited about is NOT what you think it is," he wrote. "The photo shows an @magicleap R&D test rig where we collect room/space data for our machine vision/machine learning work. We do this in order to understand lighting, texture, various surfaces." As Mashable noted earlier, the leaked photo has done little to assuage fears the company's technology has been overhyped... A December report in The Information raised questions about whether Magic Leap was ready for primetime amid concerns that much of its work could not be commercialised or miniaturised. Two former employees also reportedly told the outlet a promotional video showing the technology in action was in fact created by the special effects company, Weta Workshop.
Magic Leap raised $1.39 billion from investors (including Google), and Abovitz's last tweet Saturday reassured fans that "We will not let you down." Mashable even suggested that "this might just be a bit of clever marketing spin by Magic Leap to greatly lower expectations before unveiling a polished product in the coming months... The worst case scenario is that this does represent the latest version of the company's prototype meant for consumers, in which case there's very little chance we will see a Magic Leap device available to consumers any time in 2017."
Displays

Nanorods Emit and Detect Light, Could Lead To Displays That Communicate Via Li-Fi (ieee.org) 33

schwit1 quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Ever since 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, quantum dots have been in a market struggle to displace light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as a backlight source for liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Now an advance by a team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in South Korea and Dow Chemical may turn the display market on its head by eliminating the need for backlights in LCD devices. They have produced a LED pixel out of nanorods capable of both emitting and detecting light. In research described in the journal Science, the international team of researchers mixed three types of semiconductors to produce engineered nanorods. "The nanorods contain three different semiconductor materials," explains Shim. "The first semiconductor, which is attached at the tips of the nanorod, is the quantum dot that emits and absorbs visible light." The other two semiconductors are the main body of the rod and the shell around the quantum dot. These components facilitate and control the flow of electrons (negative charges) and holes (positive charges) to and from the quantum dot. The semiconductor materials in the rod and the shell each have a band gap in which no electron states can exist as well as band alignment. With these two semiconductors in contact with the quantum dot, the nanorods are extremely efficient at both emitting and detecting light.
Displays

French Politician Uses Hologram To Hold Meetings In Two Cities At the Same Time (reuters.com) 101

neutrino38 writes: The French presidential election is approaching fast. One of the candidates, Jean-Luc Melenchon, used a hologram to hold two public meetings at once. With a political program that is mostly socialist and very left leaning, some people pointed out that he used private innovation to stand out from the crowd. Reuters notes that this is "not the first politician to employ such technology," adding that "in 2014, then-Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan used a huge hologram of himself to attract wider support, while India's Narendra Modi trounced the opposition with a campaign that included holograms of his speeches in villages across the country." You can watch part of one of Melenchon's virtual meetings here.
Chrome

Chrome 56 Quietly Added Bluetooth Snitch API (theregister.co.uk) 229

Richard Chirgwin, writing for The Register: When Google popped out Chrome 56 at the end of January it was keen to remind us it's making the web safer by flagging non-HTTPS sites. But Google made little effort to publicise another feature that's decidedly less friendly to privacy, because it lets websites ask about users' Bluetooth devices and harvest information from them through the browser. That's more a pitch to developers, as is clear in this YouTube video from Pete LePage of the Chrome Developers team. "Until now, the ability to communicate with Bluetooth devices has been possible only for native apps. With Chrome 56, your Web app can communicate with nearby Bluetooth devices in a private and secure manner, using the Web Bluetooth API," Google shares in the video. "The Web Bluetooth API uses the GATT [Generic Attribute Profile - ed] protocol, which enables your app to connect to devices such as light bulbs, toys, heart-rate monitors, LED displays and more, with just a few lines of JavaScript." In other words, the API lets websites ask your browser "what Bluetooth devices can you see," find out what your fridge, and so on, is capable of, and interact with it.
Classic Games (Games)

Pong's Inventor Unveils Three New VR Arcade Games - Including Pong (technologyreview.com) 27

Pong's creator is now "a grizzled guy in his mid-70s" who believes there's a market for people who'd prefer to try out virtual reality headsets at videogame arcades. An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: In 1972, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell invented Pong, a version of table tennis that, in many ways, launched the video-game industry. Forty-five years later, Bushnell is using that same simple game to test the waters for virtual-reality arcade gaming. Bushnell's latest venture is a company called Modal VR, which is building its own wireless virtual-reality headsets and games that it plans to roll out in places like arcades, malls, and movie theaters in the coming months.
Bushnell's company has built three games -- a fighting game called Mythic Combat and Project Zenith a first-person shooter set in outer space. (More than 16 players can gather in the same virtual space.) Their third game, a VR adaptation of Pong "was originally put together as a joke, in homage to Bushnell's past -- but the company decided to use the simple two-player game anyway to demonstrate what it's working on at the World's Fair Nano technology fair in San Francisco in late January."

The article describes players who "donned a prototype bulky black headset and played Pong in virtual reality, running from side to side to control the game's simple white paddles -- which a smiling Bushnell said was fitting because "we're at the Pong stage of VR."
Communications

LG Confirms 5K Mac Monitor Has Issue When Placed Near a Router, Says New Batch To Have Enhanced Shielding (recode.net) 67

Late last month, we learned that LG's UltraFine 5K Display, which was designed in part by Apple to work with the new MacBook Pro and as a replacement for the Thunderbolt Display, would flicker, disconnect, or freeze computers if placed within two meters of a router. The company has acknowledged the issue, and says it will add enhanced shielding to its 5K monitors to prevent interferences with nearby wireless routers in the upcoming batch. From a report: "LG apologizes for this inconvenience and is committed to delivering the best quality products possible, so all LG UltraFine 27-inch 5K displays manufactured after February 2017 will be fitted with enhanced shielding," the company said in an email. Existing models will be able to be retrofitted with the enhanced shielding, which will allow the monitor to be placed near a router.
GNU is Not Unix

KDE Plasma 5.9 Released (softpedia.com) 89

KDE has announced the release and general availability of the KDE Plasma 5.9 desktop environment for GNU/Linux operating systems. While it only took a few months to develop and isn't a long-term supported (LTS) version like KDE Plasma 5.8, the update does have several new features and improving Wayland support. Softpedia reports: Probably the most important one, which will make many KDE users upgrade from KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS or previous versions, is the return of Global Menus, a feature that was available in the KDE 4 series of the desktop environment. Only now, after numerous requests from users, did the KDE developers manage to implement Global Menus again in KDE Plasma 5.9. Quite a multitude of improvements have landed in the KDE Plasma 5.9 desktop environment for those who use the next-generation Wayland display server. These include the ability to take screenshots, support for using the color picker, implementation of borderless maximized windows for full-screen support, and support for dragging apps by clicking on an empty area of the user interface using the Breeze style. KDE Plasma Wayland support allows users to set color schemes for windows, which may come in handy for accessibility, implements auto-hide support for panels, and properly displays the window icon on the panel when using X11 apps. Moreover, there's now a new settings tool for configuring touchpads, which you can see in action in the second video attached below. Wayland users can also set up gestures and relative motions. KDE Plasma 5.9 also adds several cool new tools that promise to enhance your productivity. For example, you'll be able to drag a screenshot taken with the Spectacle utility from the notification pop-up straight into a web browser form, chat window, or email composer. There's also a brand-new drag and drop functionality that lets you add widgets directly to the system tray area, and it's now possible to add widgets directly from the full-screen Application Dashboard launcher. KRunner actions like "Open containing folder" and "Run in Terminal" are now displayed in the application launchers for search results powered by KRunner, of course, and there's now a new applet that lets users group multiple widgets together in a single one. You can read the announcement and download KDE Plasma 5.9 via their website.
Displays

LG's UltraFine 5K Display Becomes Useless When It's Within Two Meters of a Router (9to5mac.com) 173

The LG UltraFine 5K Display was designed in part by Apple to work with the New MacBook Pro and as a replacement for the Thunderbolt Display, which was discontinued late last year. According to 9to5Mac, the display apparently wasn't designed to work next to routers as it will flicker, disconnect, or freeze computers when it's within two meters of a router due to electromagnetic interference. The Verge reports: In emails to 9to5Mac, LG acknowledged the problem -- which LG says isn't an issue for any of its other monitors -- noting that routers "may affect the performance of the monitor" and that users should "have the router placed at least two meters away from the monitor" to avoid issues. Once the monitor was moved into a different room away from the router, 9to5Mac says the issues subsided. Despite the fact that it's insane to require a router to be far away from what is likely the main computer in your home, there's been no indication that LG is working on a fix for the issue, which may be more troublesome.

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