Space

SpaceX Livestreams Sunday's Rocket Launch (space.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes Space.com: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the 10 satellites for Iridium Communications is scheduled to liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1:25 p.m. PDT (4:25 p.m. EDT/2025 GMT). The live webcast is expected to begin about 1 hour before the opening of the launch window, and you can watch it on SpaceX's website, or at Space.com. This is the second of eight planned Iridium launches with SpaceX. The launches will deliver a total of 75 satellites into space for the $3 billion Iridium NEXT global communications network. "Iridium NEXT will replace the company's existing global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space," according to a statement from Iridium. "It represents the evolution of critical communications infrastructure that governments and organizations worldwide rely upon to drive business, enable connectivity, empower disaster relief efforts and more."
After the mission the booster rocket will attempt to land on a droneship. The droneships name is "Just Read The Instructions."
Businesses

McDonald's Hits All-Time High As Wall Street Cheers Replacement of Cashiers With Kiosks (cnbc.com) 628

McDonald's is expected to increase its sales via new digital ordering kiosks that will replace cashiers in 2,500 restaurants. As a result, the company's shares hit an all-time high, rallying 26 percent this year through Monday. CNBC reports: Andrew Charles from Cowen cited plans for the restaurant chain to roll out mobile ordering across 14,000 U.S. locations by the end of 2017. The technology upgrades, part of what McDonald's calls "Experience of the Future," includes digital ordering kiosks that will be offered in 2,500 restaurants by the end of the year and table delivery. "MCD is cultivating a digital platform through mobile ordering and Experience of the Future (EOTF), an in-store technological overhaul most conspicuous through kiosk ordering and table delivery," Charles wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. "Our analysis suggests efforts should bear fruit in 2018 with a combined 130 bps [basis points] contribution to U.S. comps [comparable sales]." He raised his 2018 U.S. same store sales growth estimate for the fast-food chain to 3 percent from 2 percent.
Open Source

Opus 1.2 Released 22

jmv writes: The Opus audio codec, used in WebRTC and now included in all major web browsers, gets another major upgrade with the release of version 1.2. This release brings quality improvements to both speech and music, while remaining fully compatible with RFC 6716. There are also optimizations, new options, as well as many bug fixes. This Opus 1.2 demo describes a few of the upgrades that users and implementers will care about the most. It includes audio samples comparing to previous versions of the codec, as well as speed comparisons for x86 and ARM.
AI

'I'm Not Sure I Understand' -- How Apple's Siri Lost Her Mojo (wsj.com) 148

Apple has struggled to make Siri as smart as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa because of disagreements among its staff and its decisions to limit how long it stores user data, former Apple employees told The Wall Street Journal. The company unveiled a new version of Siri during its WWDC keynote address on Monday but failed to show the world how it's much better than competing products from Google and Amazon (alternative source). There are a few areas where blame can be placed. The Journal said Apple keeps data for only six months while Google and Amazon continue to hold on to it, learning more and more about specific users as they continue to use the personal assistants. From a report: Some former executives, close observers and even devoted customers say Apple's innovative power appears to be waning, stymied by a lack of urgency and difficulty bringing ideas to fruition. In nearly six years under Chief Executive Tim Cook, Apple's stock has soared but the company has not delivered a breakthrough product on par with the string of hits under late founder Steve Jobs, which included the iPod, iPhone and iPad. "Siri is a textbook of leading on something in tech and then losing an edge despite having all the money and the talent and sitting in Silicon Valley," said Holger Mueller, a principal analyst Constellation Research, a technology research and advisory firm.
Republicans

Trump Wants To Modernize Air Travel By Turning Over Control To the Big Airlines (theverge.com) 341

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, President Donald Trump endorsed a plan to hand over oversight of the nation's airspace to a non-profit corporation that will likely be largely controlled by the major airlines. Republicans argue that privatizing air traffic control will help save money and fast track important technological upgrades. But Democrats and consumer groups criticize that plan as a corporate giveaway that will inevitably harm passengers. The air traffic reform proposal, which fell short in Congress last year, would transfer oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a government-sanctioned, independent entity that would be made up of appointees from industry stakeholders. The effort picked up steam when the union representing air traffic controllers endorsed the plan, citing years of understaffing by the FAA. Some passengers may balk at the idea of handing over day-to-day management of the nation's highly complex air traffic control system to the same companies that rack up tens of thousands of customer complaints a year, and occasionally physically assault or drag passengers off their planes. But the Trump administration argues this is the only way to modernize a system that still runs on technology that's been around since World War II. The FAA is already years into a technology upgrade known as NextGen, which involves moving from the current system based on radar and voice communications to one based on satellite navigation and digital communications. The FAA wants to use GPS technology to shorten routes, save time and fuel, and reduce traffic delays by increasing capacity.
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Is Refunding Up To $70 Million In-App Purchases Made By Kids (cnn.com) 40

The Federal Trade Commission announced that refunds are now available for parents whose children made in-app purchases without their knowledge. Amazon dropped its appeal of last year's ruling by a federal judge who sided with the Federal Trade Commission in the agency's lawsuit again Amazon. According to a TechCrunch report, "the FTC's original complaint said that Amazon should be liable for millions of dollars it charged customers, because of the way its Appstore software was designed -- that is, it allowed kids to spend unlimited amounts of money in games and other apps without requiring parental consent." CNNMoney reports: According to the FTC, more than $70 million in charges may be eligible for refunds on in-app purchases made between November 2011 and May 2016. In 2014, Apple and Google refunded customers whose children made purchases in their mobile app stores, and the companies were forced to be more explicit about in-app purchases. Both firms no longer call apps "free" when they are free to download but have upgrades you can buy. Amazon sent eligible consumers an email to receive a refund. If you didn't get one and think you should be eligible, you can click here, or go to the Message Center to find out more information.
Intel

Apple To Refresh Entire MacBook Lineup Next Month, Air and Pro To Feature Kaby Lake (bloomberg.com) 234

Apple will unveil new laptops during its annual developer conference, known as WWDC, next month, reports Bloomberg. The company is going to refresh the MacBook Pro (as well as Air and just the 'MacBook' models) with new seventh-gen processors from Intel, the newest available, the report adds. Last year, Apple launched three new MacBook Pro laptops with older sixth-generation chips, which means people who already own the newer model may be a bit dismayed by Apple's refresh. From the article: Apple is planning three new laptops, according to people familiar with the matter. The MacBook Pro will get a faster Kaby Lake processor from Intel, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. Apple is also working on a new version of the 12-inch MacBook with a faster Intel chip. The company has also considered updating the aging 13-inch MacBook Air with a new processor as sales of the laptop, Apple's cheapest, remain surprisingly strong, one of the people said.
Communications

Draft Horses Are Helping Upgrade Cell Towers In Wisconsin (npr.org) 96

Companies that provide cell phone service are constantly racing to provide the most reliable signal. In Wisconsin, one of the providers has turned to a surprising option to get the job done: draft horses. From a report on NPR: The horses are helping U.S. Cellular upgrade equipment on about 200 cell towers in Wisconsin, some of which are served by hard-to-navigate access roads. "We call them roads. They're more of a path," says Brandi Vandenberg, the company's regional planning manager for engineering. "So when you don't have a firm structure to travel on, any type of inclement weather can make it a challenge." Wisconsin's deep snow and heavy rains can make the access roads all but impassable for trucks. Vandenberg says with construction planned at so many tower sites, the company has a tight timetable for delivering equipment and scheduling technicians to install it. Jason Agathen, a driver for CH Coakley, the logistics company hired to coordinate the tower upgrades, knows how tricky the access roads can be. Agathen has delivered thousands of pounds of electronics gear to the cell tower sites. One trip, he says, involved snow so deep it blew the transmission on an ATV. So the company hired farmer Jason Julian of Medford, Wisc., and his draft horses to keep the tower upgrades on track.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Nadella Banks On LinkedIn Data To Challenge Salesforce (reuters.com) 34

Microsoft is rolling out upgrades to its sales software that integrates data from LinkedIn, an initiative that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Reuters was central to the company's long-term strategy for building specialized business software. From the report: The improvements to Dynamics 365, as Microsoft's sales software is called, are a challenge to market leader Salesforce.com and represent the first major product initiative to spring from Microsoft's $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, the business-focused social network. The new features will comb through a salesperson's email, calendar and LinkedIn relationships to help gauge how warm their relationship is with a potential customer. The system will recommend ways to save an at-risk deal, like calling in a co-worker who is connected to the potential customer on LinkedIn. [...] The artificial intelligence, or AI, capabilities of the software would be central, Nadella said. "I want to be able to democratize AI so that any customer using these products is able to, in fact, take their own data and load it into AI for themselves," he said. On Monday, LinkedIn said it has surpassed 500 million members globally, one of the first big milestones for the business social network since its acquisition.
Ubuntu

Canonical Founder Talks About Ubuntu Desktop Switching From Unity To GNOME, And Focus On Cloud (google.com) 80

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth on Friday talked about the move to switch Ubuntu's desktop user interface from Unity to GNOME, and putting a stop to development of Ubuntu software for phones and tablet: I would like to thank all of you for your spirit and intellect and energy in the Unity8 adventure. [...] Many elements of the code in the Ubuntu Phone project continue -- snaps grew out of our desire to ship apps reliably and efficiently and securely, the unity8 code itself will continue to be useful for UBports and other projects. And the ideas that we have pushed for are now spreading too. Finally, I should celebrate that Ubuntu consists of so many overlapping visions of personal computing, that we have the ability to move quickly to support the Ubuntu GNOME community with all the resources of Canonical to focus on stability, upgrades, integration and experience. That's only possible because of the diversity of shells in the Ubuntu family, and I am proud of all of our work across that full range.
Microsoft

Class Action Lawsuit Launched Over Forced Windows 10 Upgrades (courthousenews.com) 347

Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes The Register: Three people in Illinois have filed a lawsuit against Microsoft, claiming that its Windows 10 update destroyed their data and damaged their computers. The complaint, filed in Chicago's U.S. District Court on Thursday, charges that Microsoft Windows 10 [installer] is a defective product, and that its maker failed to provide adequate warning about the potential risks posed by Windows 10 installation -- specifically system stability and data loss... The attorneys representing the trio are seeking to have the case certified as a class action that includes every person in the U.S. who upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 and suffered data loss or damage to software or hardware within 30 days of installation. They claim there are hundreds or thousands of affected individuals.
Microsoft responded that they'd offered free customer service and other support options for "the upgrade experience," adding "We believe the plaintiffs' claims are without merit." But the complaint argues Windows 10's installer "does not check the condition of the PC and whether or not the hard drive can withstand the stress of the Windows 10 installation," according to Courthouse News, which adds that the lead plaintiff "says her hard drive failed after Windows 10 installed without her express approval, and she had to buy a new computer."
Communications

Southwest Airlines Is Doing Away With Pneumatic Tubes, Paper Tickets (consumerist.com) 92

As part of Southwest's biggest tech upgrade in its 45 years of existence, the company will doing away with several of its antiquated practices, including paper tickets and the use of pneumatic tubes to send messages at airports. Consumerist reports: The airline says the goal of these upgrades is to keep planes moving in and out of airports as quickly as possible. "We're looking for minutes," Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told Bloomberg. "How do I save a minute here, a minute there? In 2017, we are more deliberate in our continuous improvement efforts." The new reservation system will allow Southwest to accept foreign money -- something its rivals can already do -- bounce back faster from storms, and have more control over price changes and schedules. Ramp workers will be getting tablets with real-time information to speed up airplanes' "turn time" -- how quickly they can deboard and reboard passengers and take off again. Tarmac staffers also won't be using pneumatic tubes anymore to send notes via canister about lost luggage and other communications to the cargo workers in charge of calculating jet weight and balance. Digital transmissions will replace that system, as well as printouts for workers who transport bags to and fro. Customers will be seeing changes as well, as the new reservation system means Southwest can ditch paper tickets altogether and stick with electronic tickets only.
Microsoft

Microsoft Has Cancelled the Second-Gen HoloLens, Working on Third-Gen For 2019 Launch (thurrott.com) 113

Citing several unnamed sources, long-time blogger Brad Sams is reporting that Microsoft has canceled the second iteration of the HoloLens in an attempt to focus on even more advanced HoloLens. The company, he says, now plans to launch that third iteration of HoloLens in 2019. From the report: Back when the first version of HoloLens came out, Microsoft created a roadmap that highlighted several release points for the product. This isn't unusual, you start with the first device, second generation devices are typically smaller and more affordable and then with version three you introduce new technology that upgrades the experience; this is a standard process path in the technology sector. Microsoft, based on my sources, is sidelining what was going to be version two of HoloLens and is going straight to version three. By skipping what was version two on their roadmap, the company can accelerate version three which will be closer to a generational leap and help keep Microsoft ahead of the competition. My sources are telling me that this version of HoloLens will not arrive until 2019.
Windows

CNET Editor Rails Against Non-Consensual Windows Updates (cnet.com) 498

schwit1 shares this angry commentary from a CNET senior editor: Maybe you're delivering a presentation to a huge audience. Maybe you're taking an online test. Maybe you just need to get some work done on a tight deadline. Windows doesn't care. Windows will take control of your computer, force-feed it updates, and flip the reset switch automatically — and there's not a damn thing you can do about it, once it gets started.

If you haven't saved your work, it's gone. Your browser tabs are toast. And don't expect to use your computer again soon; depending on the speed of your drive and the size of the update, it could be anywhere from 10 minutes to well over an hour before your PC is ready for work. As far as I'm concerned, it's the single worst thing about Windows. It's only gotten worse in Windows 10. And when I poked around Microsoft, the overarching message I received was that Microsoft has no interest in fixing it.

The editor recalls rebooting his Windows laptop while listening to a speech by Steve Jobs in 2010. (The reboot locked his computer for 20 minutes while updates were installed, "the first of three occasions that a forced Windows update would totally destroy my workflow at a critical moment.") He shares stories from other frustrated Windows users, urges readers to send him more anecdotes, and argues that Microsoft has even begun "actively getting rid of ways to keep users from disabling automatic updates."
Open Source

Raspberry Pi Gets Competitors (hackaday.com) 115

Hackaday reports that Asus has "quietly released their Tinker board that follows the Pi form factor very closely, and packs a 1.8 GHz quad-core ARM Cortes A17 alongside an impressive spec At £55 (about $68) where this is being written it's more expensive than the Pi, but Asus go to great lengths to demonstrate that it is significantly faster."

And though the Raspberry Pi foundation upgraded their Compute Module, Pine64 has just unveiled their new SOPINE A64 64-bit computing module, a smaller version of the $15 Pine64 computer. An anonymous reader quotes ComputerWorld: At $29, the SOPINE A64 roughly matches the price of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, which ranges from $25 to $30. The new SOPINE will ship in February, according to the website. The SOPINE A64 can't operate as a standalone computer like the Pine64. It needs to be plugged in as a memory slot inside a computer. But if you want a full-blown computer, Pine64 also sells the $15 SOPINE Baseboard Model-A, which "complements the SOPINE A64 Compute Module and turns it into a full single board computer," according to the company...

The original Pine64 was crowdsourced and also became popular for its high-end components like a 64-bit chip and DDR3 memory... It has 2GB RAM, which is twice that of Raspberry Pi's compute module. SOPINE also has faster DDR3 memory, superior to DDR2 memory in Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 board.

AT&T

Second Time In 9 Months: AT&T Raises Phone Activation Fee $5, Now Charges $25 (arstechnica.com) 70

For the second time in 9 months, ATT is raising its activation and upgrade fee. In April 2016, the fee for non-contract customers was raised from $15 to $20. Today, it has been raised another $5, from $20 to $25, according to PhoneScoop. Ars Technica reports: As the mobile carrier switched from contracts to device payment plans, ATT initially did not charge an activation and upgrade fee for customers who brought their own phone or bought one from ATT on an installment plan. But in July 2015, ATT started charging a $15 activation fee to customers who don't sign two-year contracts. (ATT also raised the activation/upgrade fee for contract customers from $40 to $45 in July 2015.) The $25 fee is charged for new activations or upgrades when customers purchase devices on installment agreements, ATT says. Customers who bring their own phone to the network are charged the $25 fee when they activate a new line of service, but not when they upgrade phones on an existing line. "We are making a minor adjustment to our activation and upgrade fees. The change is effective today," ATT told Ars. ATT also still charges the $45 activation and upgrade fee on two-year contracts, but those contracts are "available only on select devices."
Data Storage

Raspberry Pi Upgrades Compute Module With 10 Times the CPU Performance (arstechnica.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Raspberry Pi Compute Module is getting a big upgrade, with the same processor used in the recently released Raspberry Pi 3. The Compute Module, which is intended for industrial applications, was first released in April 2014 with the same CPU as the first-generation Raspberry Pi. The upgrade announced today has 1GB of RAM and a Broadcom BCM2837 processor that can run at up to 1.2GHz. "This means it provides twice the RAM and roughly ten times the CPU performance of the original Compute Module," the Raspberry Pi Foundation announcement said. This is the second major version of the Compute Module, but it's being called the "Compute Module 3" to match the last flagship Pi's version number. The new Compute Module has more flexible storage options than the original. "One issue with the [Compute Module 1] was the fixed 4GB of eMMC flash storage," the announcement said. But some users wanted to add their own flash storage. "To solve this, two versions of the [Compute Module 3] are being released: one with 4GB eMMC on-board and a 'Lite' model which requires the user to add their own SD card socket or eMMC flash." The core module is tiny so that it can fit into other hardware, but for development purposes there is a separate I/O board with GPIO, USB and MicroUSB, CSI and DSI ports for camera and display boards, HDMI, and MicroSD. The Compute Module 3 and the lite version cost $30 and $25, respectively.
Businesses

'OLED TVs Will Finally Take Off in 2017' (engadget.com) 238

From a feature article on Engadget: After years of taunting consumers with incredible picture quality, but insanely high prices, OLED TVs are finally coming down to Earth. Prices are falling, there will be even more models to choose from and, at least based on what we've seen from CES this year, LCD TVs aren't getting many upgrades. If you've been holding out on a 4K TV upgrade, but haven't had the budget to consider OLED up until now, expect things to change this year. Even before CES began, it was clear the OLED market was beginning to change. Throughout 2016, LG steadily lowered the prices of its lineup -- its cheapest model, the B6, launched at $4,000, but eventually made its way down to $2,000 by October. Come Black Friday, LG also offered another $200 discount to sweeten the pot. A 55-inch 4K OLED for $1,800! It was such a compelling deal I ended up buying one myself. Since then, the B6's price has jumped back up to $2,500, but I wouldn't be surprised to see its price come back down again. So why the big discounts? LG reportedly increased the production of its large OLED panels by 70 percent last year, likely in anticipation of more demand. That could have led to a slight oversupply, which retailers wanted to clear out before this year's sets.
Displays

Samsung Claims Its New QLED TVs Are Better Than OLED TVs (theverge.com) 190

Samsung recently unveiled its latest flagship televisions at CES 2017, the QLED series. The company is challenging the notion that OLED TVs represent the pinnacle of picture quality in the living room. According to Samsung, the QLED TV represents its best achievement in image quality and viewing experience yet. The Verge reports: Of course Samsung would say that at an event meant to showcase said product. But the company insists it's made very real improvements compared to the flagship TVs it unveiled only a year ago. One of those upgrades pertains to brightness. The QLED TVs reach a peak brightness between 1,500 and 2,000 nits -- up from the 1,000 peak from 2016's lineup. Color reproduction has also been improved. The QLED sets handle DCI-P3 "accurately" and are capable of reproducing "100 percent color volume" -- something Samsung claims to be a world first. "This means they can express all colors at any level of brightness -- with even the subtlest differences visible at the QLED's peak luminance -- between 1,500 and 2,000 nits." Samsung says all of this is possible because it's using a new metal material along with the quantum dot nanocrystals. On the software end, Samsung's 2017 TVs are still powered by Tizen and feature basically the same user interface as last year. But there are some new additions like a sports mode that aggregates scores and other content from your favorite teams and an expanded Music section that lets you Shazam music as it's playing in a TV show and immediately launch that track in Spotify another streaming services. Samsung is also looking to clean up how its TVs look in your living room. New this year is a clear-colored "Invisible Connection cable" that runs from the TV to an external breakout box where you'll find all the HDMI ports and other critical connections (besides power, which is a separate input).
Intel

Intel Core I7-7700K Kaby Lake Review By Ars Technica: Is the Desktop CPU Dead? (arstechnica.co.uk) 240

Reader joshtops writes: Ars Technica has reviewed the much-anticipated Intel Core i7-7700K Kaby Lake, the recently launched desktop processor from the giant chipmaker. And it's anything but a good sign for enthusiasts who were hoping to see significant improvements in performance. From the review, "The Intel Core i7-7700K is what happens when a chip company stops trying. The i7-7700K is the first desktop Intel chip in brave new post-"tick-tock" world -- which means that instead of major improvements to architecture, process, and instructions per clock (IPC), we get slightly higher clock speeds and a way to decode DRM-laden 4K streaming video. [...] If you're still rocking an older Ivy Bridge or Haswell processor and weren't convinced to upgrade to Skylake, there's little reason to upgrade to Kaby Lake. Even Sandy Bridge users may want to consider other upgrades first, such as a new SSD or graphics card. The first Sandy Bridge parts were released six years ago, in January 2011. [...] As it stands, what we have with Kaby Lake desktop is effectively Sandy Bridge polished to within an inch of its life, a once-groundbreaking CPU architecture hacked, and tweaked, and mangled into ever smaller manufacturing processes and power envelopes. Where the next major leap in desktop computing power comes from is still up for debate -- but if Kaby Lake is any indication, it won't be coming from Intel. While Ars Technica has complained about the minimal upgrades, AnandTech looks at the positive side: The Core i7-7700K sits at the top of the stack, and performs like it. A number of enthusiasts complained when they launched the Skylake Core i7-6700K with a 4.0/4.2 GHz rating, as this was below the 4.0/4.4 GHz rating of the older Core i7-4790K. At this level, 200-400 MHz has been roughly the difference of a generational IPC upgrade, so users ended up with similar performing chips and the difference was more in the overclocking. However, given the Core i7-7700K comes out of the box with a 4.2/4.5 GHz arrangement, and support for Speed Shift v2, it handily mops the floor with the Devil's Canyon part, resigning it to history.

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