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Report: New MacBook Pro models will arrive this year with MagSafe, M1 successor - Ars Technica
Apple is also considering dropping the Touch Bar.
Enlarge/ This is the 16-inch MacBook Pro as it's being sold now. According to today's report, the new one will generally look quite similar. 84 with 64 posters participating, including story author According to a report in Bloomberg, Apple plans to launch new versions of its MacBook Pro laptops "around the middle of the year," and these machines will feature speed and display enhancements, as well as a return of the MagSafe charging design seen in MacBook computers several generations ago. Citing "a person with knowledge of the plans," the Bloomberg story claims that Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro will get a 14-inch successor, just as the 15-inch MacBook Pro became a 16-inch model when the screen bezel was reduced to allow more screen real estate in a similarly sized chassis. Both the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro are slated for the middle of the year and will incorporate Apple's custom silicon. The company first introduced its own silicon with the M1 chip included in November refreshes of the low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini. The new machines described today would have a successor to Apple's M1 chip with more CPU cores and "enhanced graphics." While the overall design of the laptops is not expected to be significantly different from current models (beyond the screen size in the smaller MacBook Pro), there is one major design change that may please fans of Macs prior to the Touch Bar and USB-C redesign introduced a few years ago: the return of the MagSafe charger. Mac laptops once had charging cables that slotted easily into their ports, thanks to magnets, and were intended to gracefully disconnect without tugging on the laptop if someone pulled the cord or tripped on it. Over the past few years, the company purged this feature from its lineup, but it introduced a related tech using the same name in its iPhone 12 lineup last year. Advertisement According to the report, the MagSafe connector in the new MacBook Pro models will have a similar shape to that of MagSafe connectors in Macs of old. It will also allow the laptops to charge faster than before. The report does note that the computers will still have multiple USB-C ports as well, though. The new MacBook Pros are also said to have brighter displays with better contrast. This report doesn't explain how Apple will achieve this exactly, but recent supply-chain rumors and analysts have been predicting that Apple will incorporate Mini LED displays in its upcoming machines, which would likely produce that result. Bloomberg's source also says that Apple has been testing versions of the laptops without the Touch Bar, which was introduced to the lineup a few years back. The Touch Bar is a strip-shaped touch screen at the top of the keyboard that replaces the function keys with either virtual versions of those keys or other, app-specific functions. While many apps support the Touch Bar, some power users have complained that the Touch Bar is not always as convenient as physical keys. Finally, the report ends with a footnote that Apple plans to also update the MacBook Air with a new design but that it won't arrive as soon as the MacBook Pro updates. It doesn't outline any details about the MacBook Air redesign. Update: Bloomberg ran an additional report today claiming that both iMac sizes are also due for a major update. They would include Apple Silicon chips, reduced bezels, and an elimination of the metal chin below the display. They would also sport flat chassis, in contrast to the curved design of the current iMac. The report also repeats prior claims that the Mac Pro will see a smaller, Apple Silicon successor that will live alongside the Intel model in Apple's lineup, and vaguely alludes to a cheaper, consumer-oriented alternative to Apple's expensive ProDisplay XDR monitor.
US declares Xiaomi a “Communist Chinese military company,” bans investments - Ars Technica
Xiaomi won't suffer the suffocating supply chain bans of Huawei—at least, not yet.
Enlarge/ The Xiaomi Mi 11. 56 with 33 posters participating The latest shot in the US Government's war on leading Chinese smartphone vendors is directed at Xiaomi, which today has landed on the US government's list of "Communist Chinese Military Companies" via a new executive order. The declaration makes it illegal for US citizens to own Xiaomi stock. The US and China have been trading blows for a year and a half now over Huawei, which was added to the "entity list" by the US Department of Commerce. While on the entity list, American companies can't collaborate with Huawei or export products to it. It becomes illegal for Huawei to import any product of "US-Origin." US Origin doesn't just mean products made in the US by US companies; there's also a "viral" component to the law, where any product made internationally with some US-origin components also counts as a US-origin product. View more stories While Huawei got an all-encompassing ban, it doesn't look like Xiaomi is in the same boat right now. Huawei landed on the Department of Commerce's entity list, while Xiaomi is now on the Department of Defense's list of Communist Chinese Military Companies (Huawei is also on this list). The DOD designation seems to only ban US investment in Xiaomi, and any American stakeholders need to divest their holdings by November 11, 2021. (Xiaomi is a public company and had an IPO back in 2018.) The suffocating supply chain restrictions that apply to Huawei don't (yet?) apply to Xiaomi. The DOD says the list is meant to "highlight and counter the Peoples Republic of Chinas (PRC) Military-Civil Fusion development strategy," which the government says is a plan to funnel advanced technology to the Chinese Military through "PRC companies, universities, and research programs that appear to be civilian entities." Advertisement Xiaomi has issued a response on Twitter, saying it "is not owned, controlled, or affiliated with the Chinese military, and is not a "Communist Chinese Military Company" as defined by the NDAA" (the NDAA is the National Defense Authorization Act that gives the DOD the power to make this list). The IDC has Xiaomi as the number 3 smartphone manufacturer worldwide, behind Samsung and Huawei, and a spot ahead of Apple. Xiaomi regularly pumps out high-spec, low-cost Android phones to compete in the cutthroat Chinese and Indian markets. It started life as an Apple clone maker, but today Xiaomi is one of the fastest movers in the industry and regularly beats bigger companies in shipping new technologies and components to the market. It shipped the world's first Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 phone, the Xiaomi Mi 11, and it's leading the charge in under-display cameras. Being Chinese is a market advantage for Xiaomi. A company like Apple has to have US designers communicate to Chinese manufacturing across a 12-hour time zone difference and a language barrier, while Xiaomi's Chinese designers and Chinese manufacturers can communicate more easily and quickly, allowing the company to develop products faster. As Xiaomi may be the number 3 smartphone manufacturer worldwide, any kind of ban on the company in the US isn't going to do much. Years ago, Xiaomi gave hints about entering the US smartphone market, but it never had the stomach to go through with it and instead only launched the US version of Mi.com as a seller of small accessories. In the US, you can buy a Xiaomi Android TV box, headphones, security cameras, and battery packs, along with stranger things like air purifiers, light bulbs, and toy robots.
Google says it’s closing the Fitbit acquisition—uh, without DOJ approval? - Ars Technica
Google doesn't have DOJ approval, but it says it has waited long enough.
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- The Fitbit Inspire 2, which Osterloh seems interested in.
- The Fitbit Sense, which also got a shoutout in Google's post.
- The Fitbit Versa 2 smartwatch.
- Nest's Google account migration page.
- Google wants you to disconnect all your Works with Nest stuff, which will stop working. For me, my favorite Nest app is dead.
Dire wolves aren’t wolves at all—they form a distinct lineage with jackals - Ars Technica
The extinct canids had been isolated from wolves for 3 million years.
14 with 12 posters participating Dire wolves had a burst of newfound fame with their appearance in Game of Thrones, where they were portrayed as a far larger version of more mundane wolves. Here in the real world, only the largest populations of present-day wolves get as large as the dire wolf, which weighed nearly 70 kilograms. These animals once shared North Americaand likely preywith predators like the smilodon, a saber-toothed cat. Prior to the arrival of humans, dire wolves were far more common than regular wolves, as indicated by the remains found in the La Brea tar seeps, where they outnumber gray wolves by a factor of about 100. Like the smilodon and many other large North American mammals, the dire wolf vanished during a period of climate change and the arrival of humans to the continent, even as gray wolves and coyotes survived. And with their departure, they left behind a bit of a mystery: what were they? A new study uses ancient DNA from dire wolf skeletons to determine that they weren't actually wolves and had been genetically isolated from them for millions of years. Looks like a wolf, but... When it comes to canids, species boundaries and their relationship to anatomy are fuzzy. Domesticated dogs have incredibly diverse morphologies yet are all part of one species and can still interbreed with the gray wolves from which they were derived. Gray wolves and coyotes can also interbreed. So the question of whether gray wolves and dire wolves are closely related, as suggested by their similar appearances, would also hint at whether the dire wolf has made genetic contributions to any current species. Advertisement The new work, done by a large, international collaboration (full disclosure: I've been rock climbing with one of the authors) started with the traditional means of trying to answer this question: by looking at the skeletons of dire wolves. But this analysis, which involved over 700 individual skeletons, didn't produce much. Although they differ by enough that the two species could be consistently identified, there were no dramatic differences that suggest a significant evolutionary distance. So the team turned to more modern methods. It's possible to isolate fragments of collagen, a protein that's a major component of bone and frequently has subtle differences between species. The sequence of dire wolf collagen had enough differences to suggest that dire wolves were distantly related to many other modern dog-like species. But the similarities among all of them were high enough to keep the researchers from resolving the relationships among these species. Next, the team started isolating DNA from remains and managed to obtain some from five samples, originating from across the United States, from Idaho to Tennessee. The skeletons ranged in age from 13,000 to over 50,000 years old. An analysis of the shorter mitochondrial genome produced results similar to collagen. It indicated that dire wolves were a distinct lineage that was distant from that of wolves and coyotes, but the analysis was confused both by small differences between species and the fact that some lineages (like wolves and coyotes) had interbred. A distant relative That left the analysis dependent on the sequence of the regular nuclear genome. Because of the age of the samples, the DNA was very damaged and yielded only a small portion of the animals' full genomes (only from 1 to 20 percent of the genome was obtained, depending on the sample). To fully explore the canid lineage, the researchers also obtained the genome sequence from a North American wolf and two jackalsmost other species on this branch of the evolutionary tree had been sequenced. Advertisement The tree based on these sequences indicate that the last fox species branched off from the rest of the canids about 7 million years ago. The next branch, occurring about 6 million years ago, produced a branch that includes both jackal species and the dire wolf. Everything else, including African wild dogs, various wolf species, and the coyote, were all on a separate branch of the lineage and are far more closely related to each other than to the dire wolf. There's a fair amount of uncertainty here, as there typically is in evolutionary sequence analyses; the split between the dire wolf and the other major branch could have occurred anywhere from 4 to over 8 million years ago. But it's clear that, despite their physical similarities, dire wolves are part of a distinct lineage that's only distantly related to dogs. Given that other canid species seem to have engaged in semi-regular interbreeding, the researchers checked for signs of that here. This showed that there was no clear indication that dire wolves had interbred with either wolves or coyotes, despite sharing a continent for many thousands of years. There is a hint of a possibility that dire wolf ancestors had interbred with the ancestor of wolves, coyotes, and dholes somewhere around 3 million years ago, but the signal for this is somewhat weak. Overall, this is interesting as a fact itself. A couple of generations of D&D players have probably been told that a dire wolf is a really big wolf, and we now know that's wrong. But it's also likely to cause us to go back and rethink some fossils that we've had for years. We've got a number from North America that have been interpreted under the view that all the canids on the continent were part of a closely related cluster of species. Now that we know that there were two very distinct lineages here, we can go back and try to determine if any of the older fossils are more closely related to one or the other lineage. Nature, 2021. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03082-x (About DOIs).
N95 masks, gamer style: Razer’s crazy face-mask prototype revealed - Ars Technica
CES prototype may be vaporware, but high-end features have us intrigued.
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- The Razer Project Hazel N95 mask concept.
- LED grid, customizable by users. While this mask wearer's mouth is visible, it's obscured somewhat by the mask's transparent plastic.
- Another angle, seemingly posed to terrify everyone.
- Depending on the angle and lighting, the Project Hazel face mask seems to let a lot of light in.
- Razer Project Hazel N95 mask on a pair of models, one of whom seems to be asking herself if she left the oven on before leaving home today.
- We're not sure if the white one is a 3D render or the real deal, as the only photos we've seen have included the black model.
- Storage case, meant for both recharging the ventilators and applying ultraviolet disinfectant to the slots.
- Same case idea, now in white!
- ...which includes some status signage. This is the part of the reveal that has us most optimistic that this may be a real headset someday (albeit, not a cheap one).
- CGI highlight of silicon nose guard.
- Voice augmentation, as boosted through at least one ventilation slot.
NASA extends Juno, turning spacecraft into an Io, Europa, and Ganymede explorer - Ars Technica
What's up with all those volcanoes on Io, anyway?
Enlarge/ NASAs Juno spacecraft soared directly over Jupiters south pole when JunoCam acquired this image on February 2, 2017. 52 with 33 posters participating NASA has announced that it will extend the missions for two of its interplanetary explorers launching during the last decadethe Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter and the InSight lander on the surface of Mars. The Juno extension means the spacecraft will now operate in the Jovian system through 2025. This will effectively transform the spacecraft from a mission to study Jupiter into a full-fledged Jovian system explorer, complete with close flybys of several of Jupiter's moons as well as its system of rings. Back in the inner Solar System on the surface of Mars, the InSight mission will now run through December 2022. During these additional two years, the lander will continue to operate its seismometer to identify Marsquakes, as well as continue to collect detailed information about weather at the surface. After determining that both missions had done exceptional science to date, an independent review panel recommended extensions of both to NASA. "The Senior Review has validated that these two planetary science missions are likely to continue to bring new discoveries and produce new questions about our solar system," said Lori Glaze, director of the planetary science division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. For us, the extended Juno mission is most tantalizing. After its launch in 2011, Juno entered into a polar orbit around Jupiter in July 2016. Since that time, it has completed more than 30 orbits around the largest planet in the Solar System, studying Jupiter's composition and magnetic field. It has also survived an exceptionally harsh radiation environment. Advertisement The extension indicates that scientists and engineers believe the spacecraft is healthy enough to continue working and will be able to more than double its number of orbits in the Jupiter system to 76. Over the next five years, the spacecraft will adjust its orbit such that Juno will be able to fly much closer to some of Jupiter's most intriguing Moons. As part of a research plan submitted by Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator, the spacecraft will fly to within 1,000km of the surface of Ganymede this summer to within 320km of Europa in late 2022 and to within 1,500km of the volcanically active Io twice in 2024.
- Three of the white oval storms known as the String of Pearls are visible near the top of the image. Each of the alternating light and dark atmospheric bands is wider than Earth and rages around Jupiter at hundreds of km per hour.
- Close-up of enhanced-color image of Jupiters clouds obtained by NASAs Juno spacecraft.
- An image of a crescent Jupiter and the iconic Great Red Spot.
- NASAs Juno spacecraft skimmed the upper wisps of Jupiters atmosphere when JunoCam snapped this image on February 2 from an altitude of about 14,500km above the giant planets swirling cloud tops.
- Jupiters south pole from an altitude of 52,000km. The oval features are cyclones, up to 1,000km in diameter.
- This image highlights a swirling storm just south of one of the white oval storms on Jupiter.
- This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian galaxy of swirling storms.
- The face of Jupiter? By rotating the image 180 degrees and orienting it from south up, two white oval storms turn into eyeballs, and the face of Jupiter is revealed.
- A close-up of the bright clouds that dot Jupiters south tropical zone.
- Approaching the pole, the organized turbulence of Jupiters belts and zones transitions into clusters of unorganized filamentary structures, streams of air that resemble giant tangled strings.
- A perijove pass: This sequence of enhanced-color images shows how quickly the viewing geometry changes for NASA's Juno spacecraft as it swoops by Jupiter.
Elon Musk is the world’s richest person - Ars Technica
Musk will earn even more Tesla stock if he hits revenue and profit targets.
135 with 49 posters participating Elon Musk has become the world's richest man, surpassing previous record-holder Jeff Bezos, according to CNBC. Musk is now worth more than $180 billion. Musk's rising wealth reflects the meteoric rise of Tesla's stock. The company's share price closed at $816 on Thursday, up almost 8 percent for the day. That share price values Tesla at almost $800 billionseveral times more than any other car company. CNBC says that Musk's rise to become the richest man in the world is the fastest in history. At the start of 2020, just over a year ago, Musk was worth only $27 billion. At the time, Tesla stock traded for less than $100 (adjusting for a 2020 stock split). The stock increased to more than $700 over the course of 2020. Then, in the first week of 2021, it rose above $800. Musk will become even wealthier in the coming years if he is able to grow Tesla's revenue and profits. A risky but generous pay package approved by shareholders in 2018 offers Musk up to 12 grants of stock options if Tesla reaches certain milestones for the company's valuation, revenue, and profits. So far, Musk has qualified for four of the 12 payouts. Advertisement To earn the first payout, Tesla's stock needed to rise to $100 billion and Tesla needed to reach a certain threshold of either revenues or profits. Musk became eligible for a second payout when Tesla reached a value of $150 billionagain along with a revenue or profit target. This process continues until the 12th payout, for which Musk qualifies when Tesla's market value rises to $650 billion and Tesla reaches higher revenue and profit targets. The revenue and profit rules are a bit complicated, but for example, Musk will get all 12 awards if Tesla achieves revenues of $175 billion and profits of $6 billion over a one-year period. Between Q4 2019 and Q3 2020, Tesla earned revenues of $28 billion and profits of $550 million. So Tesla will need to grow substantially before Musk gets all of these payments. If he qualifies for these payouts, they will add substantially to Musk's wealth. Each option award entitles Musk to purchase 1 percent of Tesla's shares at a deeply discounted price. So if Musk earns all eight remaining awards, they will add tens of billions of dollars to his net worth. There's little mystery about how Musk wants to use his tremendous wealth: he's determined to send human beings to Mars. His other company, SpaceX, is hard at work developing Starship, a rocket built to enable interplanetary travel. Starship is designed to dramatically reduce the cost of getting people and cargo into space and between planetsperhaps enough that someone with a net worth of more than $200 billion could personally finance a significant Mars program.
SpaceX to begin its 2021 launch campaign Thursday evening - Ars Technica
This launch continues the trend of SpaceX using increasingly experienced first stages.
Enlarge/ A Falcon 9 rocket stands ready to launch the Turksat 5A mission. 21 with 19 posters participating SpaceX will seek to kick off what promises to be a busy year of launches on Thursday evening, when a Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch the Turksat 5A communications satellite. The 3.4-ton satellite will be deployed into a geostationary transfer orbit. The launch will take place from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission has a four-hour launch window that opens at 8:28pm ET (01:28 UTC Friday), with a backup opportunity a day later. The weather forecast is generally favorable, with a 70 percent chance of "go" conditions on Thursday. The mission will use previously flown hardware for both the rocket's first stage, as well as the payload fairing. This will be the fourth flight of this booster core, which previously launched a GPS III satellite for the US Space Force in June 2020 as well as two Starlink missions for SpaceX, most recently on October 24. Each half of this mission's payload fairings has also flown one earlier mission. Advertisement This launch continues the trend of SpaceX using increasingly experienced first-stage rockets for commercial missions. In December, for example, the company flew a communications satellite for Sirius on the seventh flight of a first stage. In an interview, SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell told Ars that customers are confident in "flight proven" rockets and that it's typically left to SpaceX to determine the best rocket for each mission. "You're buying a launch service, and we will provide you the best vehicle that we can in the timeframe that you need to fly," Shotwell said she tells customers. "And we basically put the control for the most part in our hands." It's not clear how many Falcon 9 rockets SpaceX will launch in 2021, but barring catastrophe, that number will be high. Amid the pandemic in 2020, SpaceX managed to set a record for total launches, with 26. The company will likely eclipse that with several missions each for NASA, the Department of Defense, and commercial customers on top of its own plans to build out its Starlink Internet constellation and provide service to more US households and businesses. The Turksat 5A mission will be webcast, with the stream below beginning about 15 minutes prior to liftoff.
Samsung backtracks on $1,000 Chromebooks with cheaper Galaxy Chromebook 2 - Ars Technica
The price of Samsung's flagship Chromebook has been nearly cut in half. It's $549.
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- The Galaxy Chromebook 2. It's still extremely red.
- For a more reserved color scheme, here's a gray model.
- Things to take note of here: 1) the 360 hinge, 2) the new, humongous cooling vents (last year's model had heat issues) and 3) the USB-C port.
- This gives us a look at the other side, where there is another USB-C port, a headphone jack, volume rocker, and microSD slot. That also looks like a bottom-firing speaker on the left.
- Tent mode. It's kind of a shame this is only a 16:9 display when there is so much vertical bezel.
- The back of the red model.
“Shkreli Award” goes to Moderna for “blatantly greedy” COVID vaccine prices - Ars Technica
Moderna used $1 billion from feds to develop vaccine, then set some of the highest prices.
Enlarge/ COVID-vaccine-maker Moderna (right), has been placed in the ranks of Martin Shkreli (left). 111 with 77 posters participating View more stories One of the leading developers of COVID-19 vaccines has now been placed in the ranks of people like Martin Shkrelithe disgraced pharmaceutical executive infamous for jacking up the price of an old, life-saving drug by more than 5,000 percent. He is now serving an 84-month prison sentence from a 2017 conviction on fraud counts unrelated to the drug pricing. Moderna, maker of one of only two vaccines granted emergency authorizations to prevent COVID-19 in the US, has been shamed with a 2020 Shkreli Award by the Lown Institute, a healthcare think tank. The awards, announced annually for four years now, go to perpetrators of the ten most egregious examples of profiteering and dysfunction in health care. Award judges cited Modernas pricing of its COVID-19 vaccine, which was developed with $1 billion in federal funding. Still, despite the tax-payer backing, Moderna set the estimated prices for its vaccine significantly higher than other vaccine developers. In August, the company set the estimated price range of $32 to $37 per dose, making the two-dose regimen $64 to $74 per person. At the time, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its partner BioNTechwhich now have the other US-authorized COVID-19 vaccinehad inked a deal with the US government to supply doses at $19.50 each, for a two-dose regimen of $39 per person. Notably, Pfizer and BioNTech developed their vaccine without any federal funding. Also, Johnson & Johnson had a deal to supply the US government with doses of its vaccinestill in the worksat a rate of $10 per dose. Advertisement In November, amid criticism, Moderna reportedly lowered its estimated cost to range in price from $25 to $37 per dose. And, in the end, it signed a deal with the US government to provide the vaccine at a price of $15 per dose, or $30 for a two-dose regimen per person. Still, the Lown Institutes judges wrote that, given the upfront investment by the US government, we are essentially paying for the vaccine twice. Award judge Deborah Blum added, This is so blatantly greedy from a company that has no track record in producing vaccines and built its current one with taxpayer help. Blum is a Pulitzer Prize winning science journalist and director of the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Moderna made another appearance on the award list. Judges noted that Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, CEO of Brigham and Womens Hospital and a member of Modernas board, penned an op-ed in February defending high drug prices. Nabel did not disclose her role at Moderna in the op-ed. She also faced questions of conflicts-of-interest after Brigham and Womens Hospital was selected as a trial site for Modernas vaccine. Award judges noted that Nabel had received $487,500 in Moderna stock options and other payments in 2019 and sold $8.5 million worth of Moderna stock in 2020 after the companys stock nearly quadrupled amid fanfare around its COVID-19 vaccine. Nabel resigned from Moderna's board amid criticism in July. Moderna did not immediately respond to Ars request for comment.