Tech News Feed

Star Wars character Lando Calrissian is pansexual, and I couldn't be happier - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2018-05-18 16:17
Commentary: When it comes to representation in a galaxy far, far away, it's good to know Lando sees beyond gender to fall in love the way I do.

Save 40 Percent on 6-Core Dell Vostro Desktop Tower

PCMag News - Fri, 2018-05-18 16:13
A wired mouse and keyboard are included for free, so you'll just need to provide a display.

'The Dark Overlord' Hackers Shrug Off Reported Arrest

PCMag News - Fri, 2018-05-18 16:13
'The authorities have done nothing to affect our operations. None of our members have been lost to an arrest,' a member of the group told PCMag.

Trump Personally Pushed Postmaster General To Double Rates on Amazon, Other Firms: Report

SlashDot - Fri, 2018-05-18 16:10
President Trump personally urged the leader of the U.S. Postal Service to double the rates the agency charges Amazon and other firms for delivery packages in several private conversations in 2017 and 2018, The Washington Post reported Friday (alternative source). From the report: Postmaster General Megan Brennan has so far resisted Trump's demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries. Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery. Few U.S. companies have drawn Trump's ire as much as Amazon, which has rapidly grown to be the second-largest U.S. company in terms of market capitalization. For more than three years, Trump has fumed publicly and privately about the giant commerce and services company and its founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post.

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Sprint offers cheaper unlimited phone plan to lure in baby boomers - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2018-05-18 16:09
Are you 55 or older? Sprint has a new plan just for you.

BeerBox Is A Vending Machine That Opens Your Beer For You

TechCrunch - Fri, 2018-05-18 16:00

When you hear about beer vending machine BeerBox, you might wonder: Why don’t we have machines like this already?

Founder Robert Gaafar explained that there are actually several reasons why beer vending machines haven’t made sense in the past. For one thing, there’s the obvious legal necessity of ensuring that people are 21 years or older. For another, many venues won’t sell you a closed container of alcohol, because it can be used as a projectile (so you either get draft beer in a cup, or an already-opened can or bottle). Plus, a normal vending machine might shake up the can too much, resulting in a foamy mess.

So BeerBox is a vending machine that opens the can for you. The company is part of the accelerator at ZY Ventures, the innovation arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Gaafar said that if all goes well, BeerBox could eventually spin out as a separate company.

He added that BeerBox is meant to address “a pain that we’ve all felt” at concerts or festivals or ball games — the long lines at the bar: “It’s like, do I really want a drink? I might miss the next quarter.”

“These venues would love to sell more beer at the end of the day but they’re limited with real estate,” Gaafar said. “They can’t build more bars in the arenas, nor do they necessarily want to hire more people to staff that.”

The machine was developed in partnership with Intelligent Product Solutions. Ralph Cassara, the company’s senior director of architecture and embedded software, explained that the can-opening functionality represents even more of a “unique technical challenge” than you might think.

One aspect was simply studying how your fingers open a can of beer and figuring out how to replicate that mechanically. But Cassara also noted that the cans can be loaded into BeerBox top-first or bottom-first, so the machine needs to detect the can’s orientation, and then locate the tab at the top of the can.

And where another beer vending startup called Civic is focused on using blockchain to solve the age verification issue, Gaafar said that’s addressable with human checks — just put the BeerBox (or, eventually, multiple BeerBoxes) in an area that’s only accessible to guests who’ve shown their ID.

The current BeerBox prototype can hold 150 25-ounce cans of beer (though Gaafar said that will end up going down to 110 cans as the machine is redesigned for airflow). Payments are cashless, but the company is also planning new models that support secure, offline payments. And while the prototype we saw only dispensed Bud Light, he said it will eventually will include a touchscreen for ordering multiple types of beer.

In the meantime, you’ll be able to see the BeerBox at select concert and sports venues this summer.

zGlue launches a configurable system-on-a-chip to help developers implement customized chipsets

TechCrunch - Fri, 2018-05-18 16:00

The complexity and cost of packing an array of sensors and power inside a small amount of space has opened the door to a wider and wider variety of use cases for internet-connected devices beyond just smart thermostats or cameras — and also exposed a hole for getting those ideas into an actual piece of hardware.

So there are some startups that are looking to address this hole by providing developers a path to creating the customized chipsets they need to power those devices. zGlue is one of those, led by former Samsung engineering director Ming Zhang and former Misfit founder Sonny Vu.  The company’s chiplets are built around the kind of system-on-a-chip approach that you’ll see in most modern devices, where everything is in a single unit that reduces some of the complexity of moving processes around a larger piece of hardware — shrinking the space constraints and allowing all these actions to happen on a device, such as a smartphone. As more and more IoT devices come online, they may all have varying form factor demands, which means companies — like zGlue and others — are emerging to address those needs.

“From the developer point of view, think of us as a system that is not different from any thing else on the market, user-interface-wise,” Zhang said. “It is just smaller in size, faster in time to market, and flexible — customizable by individuals rather than just by Apple and Qualcomms. [We’re] democratizing chip innovation so it is no longer [a] privilege of Fortune 500 companies.”

The company’s first product is called the zOrigin, a “chip-stacking” product that aims to allow developers to embed the sensors and processes necessary for their devices. Stemming from an ARM 32-bit core processor (meaning it can handle more complex and precise calculations), the first launch costs $149 and can include pieces like a Bluetooth radio, accelerometers, and other necessary features.

zGlue’s chipsets have embedded memory, which is an increasingly common approach to try to reduce the number of trips going from the actual processing power to where the information is stored. Those trips cost power, speed, and can restrict the scope of use cases for internet-connected devices. Zhang said the chiplets are packaged closer together — literally reducing the space that information has to cross — in order to speed it up, though that of course carries consequences when it comes to heat constraints these processors can have.

“That’s the price to pay for the continuation of Moore’s law, as it has in the past 40 years,” Zhang said. “Heat dissipation in our system is not going to be any worse than a conventional system. In fact, with the silicon substrate in place, it’s easier to conduct heat compared to a conventional package or board substrate.”

As a kind of templated approach, zGlue is geared toward helping developers produce a custom setup that the can implement into devices that may require a wide set of sensors. The company says it looks to help developers go from a design to a prototype in a few weeks, and then reduce the turnaround time from a prototype to production in “weeks or months,” depending on the complexity and volume.

While this is one example of trying to get a prototype chip out into the wild, there are a few others as well. Si-Five, for example, offers developers a way to prototype custom silicon for their specific niches based on the hardware and IP the startup has. The goal there is to offer both a prototype flow and the ability to graduate into a production flow, allowing developers and companies to get products out the door that require custom silicon. Si-Five hardware is based on the RISC-V architecture, an open-source instruction set for silicon, and the company most recently raised $50.4 million.

Zhang, too, said RISC-V offers some potential, especially in its own scope. “RISC-V is a great tool to build small, fast, and low power IoT applications,” he said. “The nature of open source makes it more available to more people. We welcome and embrace RISC-V to join the family of ‘MCU’ chiplets supported by our technology.”

When it comes to inference — the machine learning processes that happen on the hardware to execute some kind of action, like image recognition, based on trained models — Zhang said the chipsets would support it, but he would not comment further. There is a blossoming ecosystem around custom silicon that looks to speed up inference on devices like cars or IoT devices, which is geared toward reducing the space and power constraints of those chips while also running those processes much more quickly. Companies like Mythic have raised significant venture funding in order to build that kind of hardware.

DIY fitness tracker: zOrigin wearable kit arrives in August for $149 - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2018-05-18 16:00
An open platform and chipset aim to make a new world of custom-made smart shoes, clothes, trackers, watches and who knows what else.

Netflix lands political comedy with Jennifer Aniston and Tig Notaro

Engadget - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:59
Netflix is continuing its recent string of big comedy coups. The service has acquired First Ladies, a political comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and comedienne Tig Notaro. The movie (penned by Notaro and wife Stephanie Allynne) will chronicle the e...

Enter to win* a Black Panther Blu-ray and autographed mag! - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:47
Two winners will get a Blu-ray/digital copy of Black Panther. The grand prize includes a copy of CNET magazine autographed by Chadwick Boseman. This giveaway ends May 20, 2018.

Meghan and Harry should hire these #RoyalWeddingBands - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:39
We'd like to see the Queen get down to Insane Crown Posse and Earl Jam.

Trump reportedly urged Postmaster General to charge Amazon more

Engadget - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:36
President Trump has been angry at Amazon for some time now. He has said that the company and others like it are a bad deal for the US Postal Service. After these remarks, the White House convened a task force to take a closer look at the USPS and its...

New NASA planet hunter TESS shares first photo from space - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:31
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite gets all starry-eyed in its first shot.

BlackBerry Key2 may get Qualcomm's Snapdragon 660 chip - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:30
The new smartphone is also rumored to come with 4GB and 6GB of RAM.

Alleged Owners of Mugshots.com Have Been Arrested For Extortion

SlashDot - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:20
Reader schwit1 writes: The alleged owners of Mugshots.com have been charged and arrested. These four men Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee, and David Usdan only removed a person's mugshot from the site if this individual paid a "de-publishing" fee, according to the California Attorney General on Wednesday. That's apparently considered extortion. On top of that, they also face charges of money laundering, and identity theft. If you read a lot of articles about crime, then you're probably already familiar with the site (which is still up as of Friday afternoon). They take mugshots, slap the url multiple times on the image, and post it on the site alongside an excerpt from a news outlet that covered the person's arrest. According to the AG's office, the owners would only remove the mugshots if the person paid a fee, even if the charges were dismissed. This happened even if the suspect was only arrested because of "mistaken identity or law enforcement error." You can read the affidavit here.

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MIT Team Teaches Autonomous Cars to Drive Without a Map

PCMag News - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:13
MIT researchers develop 'MapLite' approach that could accelerate autonomous technology.

Sprint offers free LTE data to anyone who buys a Snapdragon PC

Engadget - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:10
The best thing about Qualcomm and Microsoft's "Always Connected PC" platform is the promise of being online anywhere, anytime. But that can also come at a cost -- data isn't free. That is, until now. Sprint is offering free unlimited 4G LTE to anyone...

The Internet of Trash: IoT Has a Looming E-Waste Problem

SlashDot - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:03
As we add computing and radios to more things, we're also adding to the problem of e-waste. The United Nations found that people generated 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste globally in 2016, and expects that to grow to 52.2 million metric tons by 2021. From a report: There are two issues. We're adding semiconductors to products that previously had none, and we're also shortening the life of devices as we add more computing, turning products that might last 15 years into ones that must be replaced every five years. In fact, many small connected devices such as trackers, jewelry, or wearables are designed to fail once the battery dies. At that point, the consumer tosses it out and buys another.

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In time for hacking season, the US has no cybersecurity coordinator

Engadget - Fri, 2018-05-18 15:00
Picture the scene: John Bolton stands proudly against a backdrop of an American flag, smiling beneath his pruriently confrontative mustache, dusting his hands off as befits a man who's just completed a task of wistfully virile middle-management. Joh...

VR in the sky is better than VR in your home

Engadget - Fri, 2018-05-18 14:30
I'm watching someone on the edge of a helicopter as he counts down with his hands. Three, two, one, and we leap. Well, I don't actually leap. Instead, I fall forward into an iFly indoor skydiving wind tunnel and I start to float. In my helmet, I'...

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