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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Chinese Phone Maker Huawei Launches Mate 20 Pro Featuring In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor, Two-Way Wireless Charging, 3 Rear Cameras and 4,200mAh Battery
Huawei's new Mate 20 Pro has a massive screen, three cameras on the back and a fingerprint scanner embedded in the display. From a report: The new top-end phone from the Chinese firm aims to secure its place at the top of the market alongside Samsung, having recently beaten Apple to become the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in August. The Mate 20 Pro follows Huawei's tried and trusted format for its Mate series: a huge 6.39in QHD+ OLED screen, big 4,200mAh battery and powerful new Huawei Kirin 980 processor -- Huawei's first to be produced at 7 nanometres, matching Apple's latest A12 chip in the 2018 iPhones. New for this year is an infrared 3D facial recognition system, similar to that used by Apple for its Face ID in the iPhone XS, and one of the first fingerprint scanners embedded in the screen that is widely available in the UK, removing the need for a fingerprint scanner on the back or a chin on the front. The Mate 20 Pro is water resistant to IP68 standards and has a sleek new design reminiscent of Samsung's S-series phones, with curved glass on the front and back. The back also has an new pattern etched into the glass, which is smooth to the touch but ridged when running your nail over it. On the back is a new version of Huawei's award-winning triple camera system using a 40-megapixel standard camera, an 8-megapixel telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom and new for this year is a 20-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera, replacing the monochrome sensor used on the P20 Pro. The Mate 20 Pro runs EMUI 9, which is based on Android 9 Pie. The variant with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage is available for 899 Euro starting today.

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Medtronic Locks Down Vulnerable Pacemaker Programming Kit Due To Cybersecurity Concerns
AmiMoJo shares a report from The Register: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising health professionals to keep an eye on some of the equipment they use to monitor pacemakers and other heart implants. The watchdog's alert this week comes after Irish medical device maker Medtronic said it will lock some of its equipment out of its software update service, meaning the hardware can't download and install new code from its servers. That may seem counterintuitive, however, it turns out security vulnerabilities in its technology that it had previously thought could only be exploited locally could actually be exploited via its software update network. Malicious updates could be pushed to Medtronic devices by hackers intercepting and tampering with the equipment's internet connections -- the machines would not verify they were actually downloading legit Medtronic firmware -- and so the biz has cut them off.

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The Full Photoshop CC Is Coming To the iPad In 2019
The "real version" of Photoshop is coming to the iPad next year, complete with a user interface similar to the desktop application and all the main tools. Ars Technica reports: Photoshop for iPad has a user interface structured similarly to the desktop application. It is immediately familiar to users of the application but tuned for touch screens, with larger targets and adaptations for the tablet as well as gestures to streamline workflows. Both touch and pencil input are supported. The interface is somewhat simpler than the desktop version, and although the same Photoshop code is running under the hood to ensure there's no loss of fidelity, not every feature will be available in the mobile version. The first release will contain the main tools while Adobe plans to add more in the future. Cloud syncing is a key element of Photoshop on iPad. Edits made on the iPad will be synchronized transparently with the desktop -- no conversions or import/export process to go through. Using a feature not available in the iPad version should then be as simple as hitting save and then opening the file on the desktop, picking up where you left off. Adobe is also reportedly building a tablet painting app called Project Gemini, which "simulates real brushes, paints, and materials as well as the interactions between them," reports Ars. "It combines raster graphics, vector drawing, and the Photoshop engine into a single application designed for artwork and illustration."

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Printer Makers Are Crippling Cheap Ink Cartridges Via Bogus 'Security Updates'
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Printer maker Epson is under fire this month from activist groups after a software update prevented customers from using cheaper, third party ink cartridges. It's just the latest salvo in a decades-long effort by printer manufacturers to block consumer choice, often by disguising printer downgrades as essential product improvements. For several decades now printer manufacturers have lured consumers into an arguably-terrible deal: shell out a modest sum for a mediocre printer, then pay an arm and a leg for replacement printer cartridges that cost relatively-little to actually produce. The Electronic Frontier Foundation now says that Epson has been engaged in the same behavior. The group says it recently learned that in late 2016 or early 2017, Epson issued a "poison pill" software update that effectively downgraded user printers to block third party cartridges, but disguised the software update as a meaningful improvement. The EFF has subsequently sent a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, arguing that Epson's lack of transparency can easily be seen as "misleading and deceptive" under Texas consumer protection laws. "When restricted to Epson's own cartridges, customers must pay Epson's higher prices, while losing the added convenience of third party alternatives, such as refillable cartridges and continuous ink supply systems," the complaint notes. "This artificial restriction of third party ink options also suppresses a competitive ink market and has reportedly caused some manufacturers of refillable cartridges and continuous ink supply systems to exit the market."

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The New and Improved MacBook Keyboards Have the Same Old Problems
Casey Johnston, writing for The Outline: Apple never actually caved to user complaints that its top-of-the-line computers developed sticky or dead keyboards very easily, despite having now been served with several keyboard-related class action lawsuits. In June, the company offered to repair computers with these keyboards for free for four years following the date of purchase (the cost of being without their computer notwithstanding). It claimed only a "small percentage" of users were affected. I was one of them, several times, and there were many, many others. Compared to this time last year, its computer sales are down ten percent, and not a few people have been holding off on purchasing any computer from its line in fear of getting stuck with a keyboard that doesn't work. In July, Apple slightly redesigned the very low profile butterfly keyboard on its MacBooks and MacBook Pros, not because "a small percentage" of the previous version was rendered useless by a speck of dust, the company said, but to make it quieter; it even invited the tech press to try it out. iFixit teardowns of the hardware revealed that, in fact, Apple had added a silicone membrane under the keys that looks quite a bit like it's meant to keep dust and debris from lodging under the key and locking it up. Was that the idea? No, Apple unequivocally said. [...] But checking around online, it appears the new keyboards have the same old issues. They may be delayed, but they happen nonetheless. The MacRumors forum has a long thread about the the "gen 3 butterfly keyboard" where users have been sharing their experiences since Apple updated the design.

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Intel To Support 128GB of DDR4 on Core 9th Gen Desktop Processors
Ian Cutress, writing for AnandTech: One of today's announcements threw up an interesting footnote worthy of further investigation. With its latest products, HP announced that their mainstream desktop platforms would be shipped with up to 32GB of memory, which was further expandable up to 128GB. Intel has confirmed to us, based on new memory entering the market, that there will be an adjustment to the memory support of the latest processors. Normally mainstream processors only support 64GB, by virtue of two memory channels, two DIMMs per memory channel (2DPC), and the maximum size of a standard consumer UDIMM being 16GB of DDR4, meaning 4x16GB = 64GB. However the launch of two different technologies, both double height double capacity 32GB DDR4 modules from Zadak and G.Skill, as well as new 16Gb DDR4 chips coming from Samsung, means that technically in a consumer system with four memory slots, up to 128GB might be possible.

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Patent Filings Reveal New Details About Microsoft's Vision For a Foldable, Dual-Screen Surface Device
A patent application published this week by Microsoft adds more fuel to the fire about the possibility of a new hybrid dual-screen Microsoft Surface device that blurs the lines between phone and tablet. From a report: The patent filing is for a "hinged device" with a "first and second portion" that includes a "flexible display." It would sport a hinge in the middle, similar in appearance to the one on the Surface Book, as well as familiar smartphone components like a bezel and camera. The inventor listed on the document is Kabir Siddiqui, who has been named on previous patent documents related to a foldable Surface device. He's also credited with inventing features like the Surface kickstand and camera. The patents represent one of the clearest signs yet that Microsoft has shown interest in building a "new and disruptive" category that includes elements of a smartphone, tablet and computer all in one. Rumblings of a new Surface phone-like device, under the codename Andromeda, have persisted for years, though the company has yet to confirm such a plan.

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Slashdot Asks: Can Anything Replace 'QWERTY' Keyboards?
MIT Technology Review recently discussed new attempts to replace the standard 'QWERY' keyboard layout, including Tap, "a one-handed gadget that fits over your fingers like rubbery brass knuckles and connects wirelessly to your smartphone."It's supposed to free you from clunky physical keyboards and act as a go-anywhere typing interface. A promotional video shows smiling people wearing Tap and typing with one hand on a leg, on an arm, and even (perhaps jokingly) on some guy's forehead... But when I tried it, the reality of using Tap was neither fun nor funny. Unlike a conventional QWERTY keyboard, Tap required me to think a lot, because I had to tap my fingers in not-very-intuitive combinations to create letters: an A is your thumb, a B is your index finger and pinky, a C is all your fingers except the index. The article also acknowledges the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout and other alternatives like the one-handed Twiddler keyboard, but argues that "neither managed to dent QWERTY's dominance."[W]hat if the future is no input interface at all? Neurable is a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that's working on a way to type simply by thinking. It uses an electrode-dotted headband connected to a VR headset to track brain activity. Machine learning helps figure out what letter you're trying to select and anticipate which key you'll want next. After you select several keys, it can fill in the rest of the word, says cofounder and CEO Ramses Alcaide.... Then there's the device being built over at CTRL-Labs: an armband that detects the activity of muscle fibers in the arm. One use could be to replace gaming controllers. For another feature in the works, algorithms use the data to figure out what it is that your hands are trying to type, even if they're barely moving. CEO and cofounder Thomas Reardon, who previously created Microsoft's Internet Explorer, says this too is a neural interface, of a sort. Whether you're typing or dictating, you're using your brain to turn muscles on and off, he points out. While a developer version will be shipped this year, Reardon "admits that it is still not good enough for him to toss his trusty mid-'80s IBM Model M keyboard, which he says still 'sounds like rolling thunder' when he types." But do any Slashdot readers have their own suggestions or experiences to share? Can anything replace 'QWERTY' keyboards?

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America Finally Abandons Plan To Convert Plutonium Bombs Into Nuclear Fuel
MOX hoped to convert plutonium from Cold War bombs into fuel for nuclear power plants, but even though the project was about 70% complete, Washington has pulled the plug. Slashdot reader Mr. Dollar Ton shared this story from Reuters:The Department of Energy told Senate and House of Representatives committees in May that MOX, a type of specialized nuclear recycling plant that has never been built in the United States, would cost about $48 billion more than the $7.6 billion already spent on it. Instead of completing MOX, the Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, wants to blend the 34 tonnes of deadly plutonium -- enough to make about 8,000 nuclear weapons -- with an inert substance and bury it underground in New Mexico's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Burying the plutonium would cost nearly $20 billion over the next two decades and would require 400 jobs at Savannah River, the Department of Energy has estimated.

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It Was Flat Sales That Helped Microsoft Become America's #5 PC Maker
An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Microsoft was the fifth-biggest PC maker in the U.S. in the third quarter of this year, according to industry advisory firm Gartner. The top spot in the U.S. belongs to HP, with about 4.5 million machines sold, ahead of Dell at 3.8 million, Lenovo at 2.3 million, and Apple at 2 million. The gap between fourth and fifth is pretty big -- Microsoft sold only 0.6 million Surface devices last quarter -- but it suggests that Microsoft's PC division is heading in the right direction, with sales 1.9 percent higher than the same quarter last year. The company pushed down to sixth place was Acer. The current quarter should be better still; the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, and Surface Studio have all been given hardware refreshes which, when combined with the always-busy holiday season, should stimulate higher sales. Globally, both Gartner and IDC reported a flat PC market (up 0.1 percent in Gartner's view, down 0.9 percent in IDC's), after the previous quarter's modest growth. "The PC market continued to be driven by steady corporate PC demand, which was driven by Windows 10 PC hardware upgrades," said one Gartner analyst. In defining what constitutes a PC, Gartner includes notebooks and "premium" ultramobile devices -- but does not include iPads or Chromebooks.

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Samsung Says Its Foldable Phone Will Be a Tablet You Can Put In Your Pocket
The CEO of Samsung's mobile business, D.J. Koh, said you'll be able to use its upcoming foldable smartphone as a tablet that you can put in your pocket. While the phone has been teased and hyped up for several months, Koh stressed that it will not be a "gimmick product" that will "disappear after six to nine months after it's delivered." It'll reportedly be available globally. CNET reports: However, the foldable Samsung phone, like the Galaxy Round, will be Samsung's testbed device to see how reviewers and the market react. The Galaxy Round, which bowed vertically in the middle, was Samsung's first curve-screen phone. It's a direct ancestor to the dual curved screens we see on today's Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones. The larger screen is important, Koh said. When Samsung first released the original Galaxy Note, he said, competitors called its device dead on arrival. Now, after generations of Notes phones, you see larger devices like the iPhone XS Max and the Pixel 3 XL, proving that consumers want bigger screens. A foldable phone would let screen sizes extend beyond 6.5 inches.

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The UK Invited a Robot To 'Give Evidence' In Parliament For Attention
"The UK Parliament caused a bit of a stir this week with the news that it would play host to its first non-human witness," reports The Verge. "A press release from one of Parliament's select committees (groups of MPs who investigate an issue and report back to their peers) said it had invited Pepper the robot to 'answer questions' on the impact of AI on the labor market." From the report: "Pepper is part of an international research project developing the world's first culturally aware robots aimed at assisting with care for older people," said the release from the Education Committee. "The Committee will hear about her work [and] what role increased automation and robotics might play in the workplace and classroom of the future." It is, of course, a stunt. As a number of AI and robotics researchers pointed out on Twitter, Pepper the robot is incapable of giving such evidence. It can certainly deliver a speech the same way Alexa can read out the news, but it can't formulate ideas itself. As one researcher told MIT Technology Review, "Modern robots are not intelligent and so can't testify in any meaningful way." Parliament knows this. In an email to The Verge, a media officer for the Education Committee confirmed that Pepper would be providing preprogrammed answers written by robotics researchers from Middlesex University, who are also testifying on the same panel. "It will be clear on the day that Pepper's responses are not spontaneous," said the spokesperson. "Having Pepper appear before the Committee and the chance to question the witnesses will provide an opportunity for members to explore both the potential and limitations of such technology and the capabilities of robots." MP Robert Halfon, the committee's chair, told education news site TES that inviting Pepper was "not about someone bringing an electronic toy robot and doing a demonstration" but showing the "potential of robotics and artificial intelligence." He added: "If we've got the march of the robots, we perhaps need the march of the robots to our select committee to give evidence."

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Boston Dynamics' Robot Went From a Drunk Baby To a Nimble Ninja in a Matter of Years
In a new video from robotics company Boston Dynamics, which Alphabet sold to SoftBank last year, a robot is shown hopping over a log and then up a series of blocks, an activity called parkour. From a report: In previous videos, the robot did a backflip -- now it's leaping over obstacles and climbing up large, uneven stairs with fleet-footed ease. But Atlas wasn't always so graceful. In some of the first videos where Boston Dynamics' robots could walk upright, way back in 2015, Atlas lumbered through the woods, looking like it was narrowly avoiding falling with each step, rather than moving with any kind of purpose.

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Razer Phone 2 Launches With Notch-less Display, Wireless Charging, and RGB Lighting
Last November, Razer unveiled a smartphone designed for gamers who value performance and power over bells and whistles like waterproofing and wireless charging. At an event Wednesday night, Razer took the wraps off its successor, aptly named Razer Phone 2, which sports a brighter, notch-less, 5.72-inch IGZO LCD display with a 2560x1440 resolution and HDR, wireless charging, IP67 water- and dust-resistance rating, and RGB lighting behind the Razer logo on the rear. Given the addition of waterproofing and wireless charging, the Razer Phone 2 appears to be much more well-rounded than its predecessor, making the decision all the more difficult when shopping for a premium, high-end smartphone. AnandTech reports: This display is rated at 645 nits peak, up to 50% higher than the previous Razer Phone, and also supports HDR. Razer states that the display also has wide color gamut, which turns out to be 98.4% of DCI-P3. Also on the front, it has two front facing speakers in identical positions to the previous generation, and it has a front facing camera and sensor (albeit with swapped positions). That front camera is an 8MP f/2.0 unit, capable of recording at 1080p60, a user-requested feature for streaming and selfie recording. The front of the device is Corning Gorilla Glass 5, an upgrade from GG3 in the last generation. When we move to the rear, things change much more noticeably. Instead of the aluminum rear, Razer has a full Gorilla Glass 5 back, which helps enable Qi Wireless Charging, a much requested feature. This is alongside QuickCharge 4+ through a Type-C cable. On the rear we have the dual cameras, this time placed in the center just above the logo. This time around Razer has gone with a 20MP Sony IMX363 f/1.75 main camera with OIS, and an 8MP Sony IMX 351 f/2.6 telephoto camera to enable some extra zoom functionality. Below the cameras is the Razer logo, which has a full 16.8million color RGB LED underneath which users can adjust through the onboard Chroma software. The Razer Phone 2 is still very much power-focused, as it features Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 845 CPU with a "vapor chamber cooling" which can allow the phone to draw 20-30% more power than other flagships. There's 8GB of LPDDR4X memory, 64GB of UFS storage with support for a microSD card, and a whopping 4,000mAh. Razer says their new smartphone will be priced at $799 and will start shipping in mid-November.

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Google Home Hub Is Nothing Like Other Google Smart Displays
On Tuesday, Google announced the Google Home Hub, a 7-inch display that gives you visual information, making it easier to control smart home appliances and view photos and the weather. The unusual thing about it is that it doesn't run the smart display software that it introduced for third-party OEMs. Ars Technica explains: First, let's talk about what the third-party smart displays run. When Google created its smart display software, it also came up with a turnkey solution for OEMs. So far, we've seen Lenovo, LG, and Samsung's JBL all produce devices on the same basic platform. Just like with smartphones, these devices are all an extension of the Android/Qualcomm partnership -- they run Android Things on Qualcomm's SD624 Home Hub Platform. Android Things is Google's stripped-down version of Android that is purpose-built for IoT products, and the third-party smart displays are the first commercial devices to run the OS. Unlike regular phone Android, Android Things is not customizable by third-parties. All Android Things devices use an OS image direct from Google, and Google centrally distributes updates to all Android Things devices for three years. Android Things doesn't really have an interface. It's designed to get a device up and running and show a single app, which on the smart displays is the Google Smart Display app. Qualcomm's "Home Hub" platform was purposely built to run Android Things and this Google Assistant software -- the SD624 is for smart displays, while the less powerful SDA212 is for speakers. When it came time to build the Google Home Hub, Google didn't use any of this. After talking to Google's VP of product management, Diya Jolly, Ars Technica's Ron Amadeo discovered that the Home Hub is actually built on Google's Cast platform and uses an Amlogic chip instead of Qualcomm's SD624 Home Hub Platform. When asked why Google was using a totally different platform from the third parties, Jolly told Amadeo, "There's no particular reason. We just felt we could bring the experience to bear with Cast, and the experiences are the same. We would have easily given the third-parties Cast if they wanted it, but I think most developers are comfortable using Android Things." Amadeo seems to think it has to do with the low price, as it undercuts the cheapest third-party Google smart display (Lenovo's 8-inch model) by fifty bucks.

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