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Samsung's New Galaxy Tab S5e Is Its Lightest and Thinnest Tablet Ever
Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Tab S5e, its lightest and thinnest tablet ever made. "At $399, it's not only far more affordable than the flagship $649 Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, it's arguably surpassed it in some ways," reports The Verge. From the report: For starters, the Tab S5e has the thinnest and lightest metal unibody of any Galaxy Tab, measuring 5.5mm thin and weighing just 400 grams -- even compared to the 11-inch iPad Pro at 5.9mm thick and 468 grams, the Tab S5e is both lighter and thinner. The company also claims they've maximized space with the Tab S5e's massive 81.8 percent screen-to-body ratio, which on paper, is an improvement over the Tab S4's lower 79 percent ratio. It's also right on the heels of the 11-inch iPad Pro's ~82.9 percent screen-to-body ratio. And unlike Samsung's previous attempt to make its 10.5-inch tablet more affordable, this slate doesn't skimp on the screen and not nearly as much on the processor. Samsung's Tab S5e is a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED device with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 2560 x 1600 resolution, while its octa-core Snapdragon 670 processor should provide solid mid-range performance. Samsung's also promising up to 14.5 hours of battery life. The Tab S5e is also the first tablet from the Korean tech giant to ship with Pie, the latest version of Android, along with the new Bixby 2.0 virtual assistant and information tool. Samsung is also carrying features like Dex, a desktop-style Android environment, over from other Galaxy devices, like the Note 9 and Tab S4. It allows users to interact with their device using the screen, a mouse, keyboard, or all three. Other features include AKG-tuned, quad surround sound speakers, 64GB of internal storage (microSD expandable to 512GB), with 4GB RAM (upgradable to 6GB RAM/128GB storage), and 13-megapixel back and 8-megapixel front-facing cameras. Cellular models will follow the Wi-Fi versions later this year.

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Robot Squeezes Suspected Nuclear Fuel Debris in Fukushima Reactor
A robot outfitted with remotely controlled pinchers poked at debris that's suspected to contain molten nuclear fuel at the bottom of one of Fukushima's nuclear reactors, World Nuclear News reports. From a report: The poking and prodding is part of the ongoing cleanup effort at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the site of a major nuclear accident in 2011. The dextrous robot was dangled into the Unit 2 reactor on February 13th, according to a news release from the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). Unit 2 is one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant that overheated after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, which caused the reactor core to melt. TEPCO suspects that radioactive fuel may have melted through the bottom of the reactor vessel to fall into the containment structure surrounding it. The company has to find the radioactive debris and figure out how to remove them, so TEPCO has been sending in a series of robots to scout out the reactors. It's a dangerous journey that some of the robots haven't survived.

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An Insect-bot Mimics Desert Ants by Looking at the Sky To Navigate
From a report: A new robot can navigate without GPS, using the same light-sensing abilities as desert ants. Desert ants survive in searingly hot conditions in the Sahara. They sometimes have just a few minutes to forage for food before they risk burning to death. As a result, they are very efficient navigators, using bands of polarized light, invisible to humans, to get around. They also carefully count their steps. These two tactics help to keep them alive. AntBot: The bot, described this week in Science Robotics, is fitted with UV light sensors that can detect polarized light from the sun. This is known as a "celestial compass" and is designed to mimic the way desert ants see the sun's light. This helps it work out the direction it's going in. The robot also counts its steps, much like its desert muse. In tests, it successfully managed to complete an outdoor homing task, where it was required to go to several checkpoints and then return to a fixed location within a range of 14 meters.

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Nvidia CEO Foresees a Great Year for PC Gaming Laptops
Nvidia has predicted that the year ahead would be a good one for the company, with demand for laptop gaming gear remaining strong. From a report: Looking forward, Huang said it would be a big year for gaming laptops, as Nvidia knows that more than 40 Turing-based gaming laptops (based on the GeForce RTX 2060) are poised to launch during the year. Those laptops use mid-range RTX cards based on graphics processing units (GPUs) using Nvidia's new Turing architecture -- the GeForce RTX graphics cards that can do real-time ray tracing -- that are battery efficient. Huang acknowledged that visibility is limited. I asked him if cloud gaming would be a disruptive force during the year. But he noted that Nvidia had been providing its own cloud gaming solution, GeForce Now, with relatively little impact on the market for three years. So he said it remains to be seen if cloud gaming and the "Netflix of games" would make an impact on the market. In the meantime, he said that gaming laptops would launch.

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Renewables Will Be World's Main Power Source By 2040, Says BP
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: In a not-too-distant future, renewable energy becomes the world's biggest source of power generation. A quarter of the distances that humans travel by vehicle will be in electric cars. U.S. dominance in the oil market begins to wane, and OPEC's influence is resurgent, as crude demand finally peaks. That is the vision laid out by British oil and gas giant BP on Thursday in its latest Annual Energy Outlook. The closely followed report lays out a vision through 2040 for Earth's energy future, provided government policy, technology and consumer preferences evolve in line with recent trends. BP forecasts that the world's energy demand will grow by a third through 2040, driven by rising consumption in China, India and other parts of Asia. About 75 percent of that increase will come from the need to power industry and buildings. At the same time, energy demand will continue to grow in the transportation sector, but that growth will slow sharply as vehicles become more efficient and more consumers opt for electric cars. But despite the increase in supply, BP thinks two-thirds of the world's population will still live in places with relatively low energy consumption per head. The takeaway: The world will need to generate more energy. The report says natural gas consumption will grow by 50 percent over the next 20 years, increasing in virtually every corner of the globe. "Throughout most of that time, the world will continue to consume more oil year after year, until demand ultimately peaks around 108 million barrels per day in the 2030s," reports CNBC. "This year, OPEC expects global oil demand to reach 100 million bpd." Meanwhile, coal consumption is forecasted to flatline, as China and developed countries quit the fossil fuel in favor of cleaner-burning and renewable energy sources. "However, BP sees India and other Asian nations burning more coal to meet surging power demand as the nations become more prosperous," reports CNBC.

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Year-Over-Year Smartwatch Sales Jumped By 61% In the US Last Year
New research from The NPD Group reveals that the smartwatch market overall is growing at an impressive rate and that the Apple Watch remains the best-selling wearable on the market. "Specifically, year-over-year smartwatch unit sales in the U.S. jumped by 61% while revenue jumped by 51%," reports BGR. "As for specific revenue figures, the report relays that smartwatch revenue from November of 2017 through November of 2018 checked in at $5 billion. One particularly interesting data point is that 88% of all smartwatch sales can be attributed to Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit." From the report: "Over the last 18 months smartwatch sales gained strong momentum, proving the naysayers, who didn't think the category could achieve mainstream acceptance, had potentially judged too soon," NPD analyst Weston Henderek said in a press release. "The ability to be truly connected via built-in LTE without the need to have a smartphone nearby proved to be a tipping point for consumers, as they now recognize the value in being able to complete a wide range of tasks on the device including receiving notifications, messaging, accessing smart home controls, and more." Indeed, Apple executives have pointed to the inclusion of LTE connectivity on the Apple Watch Series 3 as a huge selling point. Notably, Apple Watch sales during the 2017 holiday quarter were record-breaking. More recently, Tim Cook said that revenue from Apple wearables line jumped by 50% "thanks to strong sales of both Apple Watch and AirPods."

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Insurance Giant Allstate Buys Independent Phone Repair Company, Joins Right To Repair Movement
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Allstate, one of the largest insurance companies in the United States, just made a curious purchase. Through its subsidiary SquareTrade, the insurance giant bought iCracked, one of the largest independent smartphone repair companies in the country. The acquisition means that Allstate has become one of the most powerful proponents of right to repair legislation in the United States. According to Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of Repair.org, which is pushing for the legislation, the company has already loaned a lobbyist to the effort in New Hampshire. This is potentially big news for the right to repair movement, which is trying to get laws passed in 15 states this year that would make it easier for independent repair professionals to get repair tools and parts for consumer electronics. Thus far, it's been largely a grassroots effort from organizations like Repair.org and iFixit. Companies such as Apple, John Deere, Facebook, Microsoft, and trade organizations that represent huge tech companies have used their considerable political power to lobby against these bills. But Allstate's purchase of iCracked is a potential gamechanger. iCracked is a giant chain that does a lot of third party repairs. A change in the laws would benefit it, and now Allstate, as much as the average consumer. "iCracked has been a major supporter of right to repair, and we really appreciate their valuable contribution to the fight for freedom," Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, told Motherboard in an email. "I'm optimistic that this partnership will elevate the visibility of the work that we're doing together." "SquareTrade continues to work with manufacturers as well as the independent repair community," Jason Siciliano, VP and Global Creative Director of SquareTrade told me in an email. "As this issue evolves, we will maintain good relationships and continue to listen to the key players on all sides of the debate and will work towards sensible solutions whether they are led by the industry or regulators."

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The LG G8 Has a Vibrating OLED Screen For a Speaker
LG's next upcoming flagship smartphone is the LG G8, which is expected to debut at Mobile World Congress at the end of the month. While much of the phone is similar to last year's model, LG yesterday announced some news on the phone's audio capabilities. "The phone uses the same 'Crystal Sound OLED' branding that LG has used on some of its TVs before; this means that the entire display will vibrate to work as a speaker, which was previously rumored," reports The Verge. "The news also confirms that the G8 will be the first flagship G-series phone not to use an LCD." From the report: The G8 still has a bottom-facing speaker for louder use cases like speakerphone calls, and LG says this can be paired with the top part of the screen for 2-channel stereo sound. Elsewhere, the signature quad DAC from LG's recent flagship phones returns -- which means there'll be a headphone jack -- as does the "Boombox Speaker" functionality that produces surprisingly bassy sound when the phone is placed on a table. LG has already confirmed that the G8 will have a front-facing 3D camera with a time-of-flight sensor, while rumors suggest there could be an optional second screen accessory.

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Open Source Project Aims To Make Ubuntu Usable on Arm-Powered Windows Laptops
A group of programmers and device hackers are working to bring proper support for Ubuntu to Arm-powered Windows laptops, starting with first-generation Snapdragon 835 systems, like the HP Envy x2 and Asus NovaGo. From a report: The aarch64-laptops project provides prebuilt images for the aforementioned notebook PCs, as well as the Lenovo Miix 630. Although Ubuntu and other Linux distributions support aarch64 (ARMv8) by default, various obstacles including the design and configuration of Qualcomm Snapdragon processors make these default images not practically usable. The aarch64-laptops project developers are aiming to address these difficulties, though work is still ongoing. Presently, the TouchPad does not work properly on the Asus, with all three lacking proper support for on-board storage and Wi-Fi, which rely on UFS support. According to their documentation, this is being worked on upstream.

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Your GPS Devices May Stop Working On April 6 If You Don't Or Can't Update Firmware
Zorro shares a report from The Register: Older satnavs and such devices won't be able to use America's Global Positioning System properly after April 6 unless they've been suitably updated or designed to handle a looming epoch rollover. GPS signals from satellites include a timestamp, needed in part to calculate one's location, that stores the week number using ten binary bits. That means the week number can have 210 or 1,024 integer values, counting from zero to 1,023 in this case. Every 1,024 weeks, or roughly every 20 years, the counter rolls over from 1,023 to zero. The first Saturday in April will mark the end of the 1,024th week, after which the counter will spill over from 1,023 to zero. The last time the week number overflowed like this was in 1999, nearly two decades on from the first epoch in January 1980. You can see where this is going. If devices in use today are not designed or patched to handle this latest rollover, they will revert to an earlier year after that 1,024th week in April, causing attempts to calculate position to potentially fail. System and navigation data could even be corrupted, we're warned. U.S. Homeland Security explained the issue in a write-up this week. GPS.gov also notes that the new CNAV and MNAV message formats will use a 13-bit week number, so this issue shouldn't happen again anytime soon. The site recommend users consult the manufacturer of their equipment to make sure they have the proper updates in place.

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Electric Car Batteries Might Be Worth Recycling, But Bus Batteries Aren't Yet
Iwastheone shares a report from Ars Technica: Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University published a paper in Nature Sustainability this week that looks at the emissions and economic costs associated with recycling automotive batteries. They specifically addressed batteries with three types of cathode chemistry: nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC), nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (NCA), and iron phosphate (LFP). The first two cathode chemistries are common in passenger vehicles, and LFP is common in buses (bus maker BYD uses LFP batteries, for example). Since the packaging of batteries is important to the recycling method, cylindrical batteries (the types of cells that Tesla makes) are compared to pouch cell batteries in the analysis. The researchers also compared recycling methods. These include pyrometallurgical recycling (exposing the valuable parts of the battery to high temperatures and then recovering those metals as alloys), hydrometallurgical recycling (leaching valuable metals from batteries and separating the desired metals from the resulting solution), and "direct cathode recycling," where the battery's cathode is retained as-is, but new lithium is added in such a way that the battery regains its original performance. Ultimately, LFP-cathode batteries were not able to avoid additional emissions under any recycling circumstances. The iron materials used in those bus batteries are already efficient to mine, the paper notes. This results "in a smaller GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions offset from the recovered materials that is insufficient to offset the energy and GHG emissions associated with the recycling processes considered." For now, new bus batteries seem to be cheaper and better for the environment than recycled bus batteries. The story is more complicated for electric passenger vehicle batteries, however. For both NMC and NCA cells, hydrometallurgical and direct cathode removal recycling methods do result in a reduction of GHG emissions, but only recycling via direct cathode removal with pouch cells shows a statistically significant reduction in emissions.

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Google Will Spend $13 Billion On US Real Estate In 2019
In a blog post today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is building new data centers and offices and expanding several key locations across the U.S., spending $13 billion this year. CNBC reports: Pichai outlined the plans, which include opening new data centers in Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Nebraska, the first time the company will have infrastructure locations in those states. The company is also doubling its workforce in Virginia, providing greater access to Washington, D.C., with a new office and more data center space, and expanding its New York campus at Hudson Square. Google is showing its willingness to further open its wallet, after a year in which capital spending more than doubled to $25.46 billion. The company didn't say home much each location will cost or provide information on tax incentives from local communities. Pichai said the plans will likely create tens of thousands of construction jobs across Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Virginia, as well as Oklahoma and South Carolina, where the company is expanding existing data centers. Google didn't say how many new jobs the data centers and business offices would create. Pichai also said that the company is adding new office buildings in Texas and Massachusetts, building out more space in Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington state and Georgia, and redeveloping California locations near Los Angeles and in the Bay Area, including the Westside Pavillion and Spruce Goose Hangar.

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You Can Now Run Windows 10 on the Raspberry Pi 3
Raspberry Pi is finally ready for the full Windows 10 experience. From a report: A new installer lets you put Windows 10 on Arm, including the Pi. And it's made by the same people who got Windows 10 on Arm onto Lumia 950 and 950 XL handset. You can find the Github page here, in which developer Jose Manuel Nieto Sanchez call the tool "super easy to use" and "no-hassle." It requires a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B or B+, a microSD card (he recommends an A1 rating) and a Windows 10ARM64 image, which is linked to from the page where you get the download instructions.

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New iPhones To Stick With Lightning Over USB-C, Include Slow-Charging 5W USB-A Charger In Box
For those hoping the next iPhone would ditch the Lightning port in favor of the more versatile USB-C port, you'll surely be disappointed by the latest rumor. "Japanese site Macotakara says that not only will the 2019 iPhone use Lightning, Apple will also continue to bundle the same 5W charger and USB-A to Lightning cable in the box," reports 9to5Mac. "This is seen as a cost saving measure. It seems that customers wanting faster iPhone charge times will still have to buy accessories, like the 12W iPad charger." From the report: The site explains that Lightning port is not going anywhere and Apple is resistant to changing the included accessories to maintain production costs. Apple can benefit from huge economies of scale by selling the same accessories for many generation. As such, Apple apparently will keep bundling Lightning EarPods, Lightning to USB-A cable, and the 5W USB power adaptor, with the 2019 iPhone lineup. This is disappointing as Apple began shipping an 18W USB-C charger with its iPad Pro line last fall, and many expected that accessory to become an iPhone standard too. Even if the iPhone keeps the Lightning port, Lightning can support fast-charging over the USB Type-C protocol. It's not clear if the cost savings of this decision would be passed on to consumers with lower cost 2019 iPhone pricing.

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Microsoft Teases HoloLens 2
"Microsoft is expected to announce the next generation HoloLens headset at an already announced event on February 24, and the company's doing a bit more to stoke the flames," reports TechCrunch. One of the key people behind the original HoloLens, Alex Kipman, tweeted a video showing "vague forms of chips and cables [that] take shape out of melted ice, rocks and air," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The original headset was ahead of the mixed reality wave, but now that AR is starting to catch on all over the industry, the timing could be right for a big second-generation launch. Reports have suggested a Qualcomm 850 chip and new Project Kinect Sensors. The headset is also said to be cheaper and smaller than its developer-focused predecessor, which could put Microsoft in prime position to push augmented reality forward.

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