Friday, June 08, 2018
Thursday, June 07, 2018
"Nasa’s veteran Curiosity rover has found complex organic matter buried and preserved in ancient sediments that formed a vast lake bed on Mars more than 3bn years ago.
The discovery is the most compelling evidence yet that long before the planet became the parched world it is today, Martian lakes were a rich soup of carbon-based compounds that are necessary for life, at least as we know it.
Researchers cannot tell how the organic material formed and so leave open the crucial question: are the compounds remnants of past organisms; the product of chemical reactions with rocks; or were they brought to Mars in comets or other falling debris that slammed into the surface? All look the same in the tests performed.
But whatever the ultimate source of the material, if microbial life did find a foothold on Mars, the presence of organics meant it would not have gone hungry. “We know that on Earth microorganisms eat all sorts of organics. It’s a valuable food source for them,” said Jennifer Eigenbrode, a biogeochemist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
“While we don’t know the source of the material, the amazing consistency of the results makes me think we have a slam-dunk signal for organics on Mars,” Eigenbrode added. “It is not telling us that life was there, but it is saying that everything organisms really needed to live in that kind of environment, all of that was there.”
The car-sized rover, which has trundled a careful 12 miles (19.3km) since it landed in the planet’s Gale crater nearly six years ago, detected a slew of organic molecules in pieces of Martian mudstone it drilled from the ancient lake bed and heated in its onboard oven. When the samples reached 500 to 820C, the rover’s instruments detected a range of so-called aromatic, aliphatic and thiophenic vapours. The science team believes these are breakdown products of even larger organic molecules, similar to those found in coal, which were trapped in the Martian rocks in the distant past."
Nasa Mars rover finds organic matter in ancient lake bed | Science | The Guardian
"Several billion years ago, when it was a young planet, Mars was different. Liquid water pooled in deep craters carved out of the landscape by violent collisions with space rocks. Rivers snaked through the jagged terrain. The planet was wrapped in a warm, thick atmosphere, and mountaintops pierced a sky not unlike our own..."
A New Glimpse Into the Martian Past - The Atlantic
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Tuesday, June 05, 2018
"Project Crostini or Linux Apps was a Pixelbook only thing. Looks like this is changing. According to a Redditor, the Samsung Chromebook Plus now supports Linux apps on Chrome OS version 68.
Samsung Chromebook Plus Gets Linux apps - Chrome Story
Samsung Chromebook Plus Gets Linux apps - Chrome Story
Monday, June 04, 2018
Supreme Court rules in favor of baker who would not make wedding cake for gay couple - The Washington Post. The Sisyphean cycle of progress and regress in American human rights protections continues.
"The Supreme Court on Monday ruled for a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple, but it left undecided whether a business owner’s religious beliefs or free speech rights can justify refusing some services to gay people.
Instead, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s 7-to-2 decision focused on what he described as religious bias on the part of Colorado Civil Rights Commission members who ruled against baker Jack Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop.
“The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here,” Kennedy wrote, adding that the commission’s decision that the baker violated the state’s anti-discrimination law must be set aside.
But Kennedy acknowledged that the decision was more of a start than a conclusion to the court’s consideration of the rights of those with religious objections to same-sex marriage and the rights of gay people, who “cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.”
Future cases that raise those issues “must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market,” he wrote."
Supreme Court rules in favor of baker who would not make wedding cake for gay couple - The Washington Post
"We expected coming into WWDC that iOS 12 would focus less on major new features and more on improving performance and eliminating bugs, and that’s partially true based on what Apple showed onstage today. “For iOS 12, we are doubling down on performance,” said software VP Craig Federighi. But the new update for iPhones and iPads does include some significant additions, changes, and improvements. Screen Time, Memoji, Group FaceTime, and grouped notifications are just some of the new things that you’ll notice when you install iOS 12 this fall (or sooner if you join the beta coming later this month). The update will be available on all the same devices that received iOS 11.
PERFORMANCE, PERFORMANCE, PERFORMANCE
Apple is working to make iOS feel faster than ever — particularly on older iPhones and iPads. Federighi said that in Apple’s tests on an iPhone 6, apps launch 40 percent faster, the system keyboard comes up 50 percent faster, and opening the camera is 70 percent faster. Apple is working to speed things up for the full range of devices supported by iOS 12. Federighi also talked up improvements for when devices are under load and being used heavily.
Like Google, Apple is trying to help users strike a better, healthier balance between gadgets and life. A new Screen Time feature in iOS 12 will detail how much time you’re spending on your device and using individual apps. It can break down app usage by category (games, social media, etc.) and track which apps are sending you the most notifications. Screen Time will provide a weekly summary of your usage habits.
Similar to Android P, you’ll be able to set time limits for each app. iOS will automatically notify you when you’re running out of the allotment of time you’ve given to each application. A “time’s up” message will display when the counter runs out. If you want to continue using that application, you can simply request more time. Apple is also applying this abundance of usage data to parental controls, giving parents greater control over how often their kids are staring at a screen.
Apple is taking a huge, overdue step to fix its messy notifications situation: iOS 12 will support grouped notifications, so you’ll be able to interact with or dismiss multiple notifications from the same app at once. Grouped notifications show up in a stack to give you a sense of how many are waiting for you. Apple is also giving users more control over which apps are allowed to send notifications that vibrate their phone. “Quiet” notifications will show up in Notification Center, but not on your lock screen. They also won’t make sounds or interrupt you in any way.
NEW ANIMOJI WITH TONGUE DETECTION
The roster of Animoji characters that first debuted with the iPhone X is expanding again with a ghost, koala, tiger, and tyrannosaurus rex. And starting with iOS 12, Animoji will be able to detect when you’re sticking out your tongue and mimic that.
MEMOJI: CUSTOM EMOJI THAT LOOK LIKE YOU
But the bigger advancement around personalized avatars is what Apple calls Memoji. In iOS 12, you’ll be able to create characters that have your own appearance, choosing skin color, hairstyle, and outfitting your Memoji with accessories. It’s like a cross between Bitmoji and Nintendo’s Mii characters. Samsung introduced something like this with the Galaxy S9 to mixed reviews, but Apple seems to have put a lot of work into Memoji.
Apple’s video chat app will soon be capable of hosting more than one-on-one conversations. iOS 12 will introduce group FaceTime sessions that can include up to a staggering 32 people. Group FaceTime will be supported across iOS and macOS. When multiple people are on a call, their video windows will get larger when they’re speaking and shrink when they’re not. And for conversations where your face feels a little boring, you’ll be able to use Animoji and Memoji characters during calls.
BETTER AUGMENTED REALITY EXPERIENCES
Apple has been working with Pixar on a new file format specifically designed for augmented reality applications. It’s called USDZ, and Federighi likened it to “something like AR Quick Look.” A number of companies including Adobe, Autodesk, and Sketchfab have already announced that they’ll be integrating and building apps around USDZ.
iOS 12’s more powerful augmented reality is being put to use right away in a new Apple app called Measure. As the name suggests, the software allows you to accurately measure objects or walls around you. You put the object in the camera frame, tap and drag out a line, and it measures it. Several third-party apps already offer this functionality using ARKit, but now Apple is creating its own and taking advantage of the new, more precise AR capabilities in the upcoming version of iOS. Safe to say it’ll have a leg up on the competition.
Apple is trying to own the conversation around augmented reality and establish iOS as the platform that’s leading breakthroughs for the unique, mixed world experiences that AR makes possible. The company is updating its ARKit framework and giving developers the ability to create shared experiences; two users on different iPhones can see the same thing when running the same app.
The Photos app in iOS 12 will automatically offer up search suggestions. And a new “For You” tab will suggest filters and effects you might want to apply to images you’ve taken. Photos will also now make sharing suggestions. Friends who receive photos are prompted to share back their own pics and video from the same event. A lot of these new features are a clear attempt by Apple to catch up to Google Photos.
SIRI OPENS TO MORE APPS
Apple claims Siri is the most popular digital assistant in the world, and to help bolster that lead, it’s allowing developers more integration with iOS 12. Third-party apps can build shortcuts to allow Siri to carry out popular quick actions. Apple demonstrated a simple “Hey Siri, I lost my keys” as an example of a shortcut built for the Tile tracking device.
In what might be a dream for power users, Apple is introducing a new Shortcuts app that lets users string together multiple actions that can be triggered by a single, custom Siri request. This, again, is something similar to what Google and Amazon are already doing with their respective digital assistants. But a dedicated Shortcuts application will help get users trying out this new functionality as soon as iOS 12 ships.
CARPLAY IS GETTING GOOGLE MAPS AND WAZE
Apple announced that its in-car platform CarPlay will add support for two of the most popular turn-by-turn navigation apps — Google Maps and Waze — after the launch of iOS 12.
The Apple News app is getting minor improvements such as a new Browse tab.
A COMPLETELY REBUILT STOCKS APP
For the first time in years, Apple is putting real work into the iPhone’s built-in Stocks app. It’s coming to iPad, will support after-hours stock prices, and will now include content from Apple News that might be relevant to your current investments or influencing the market.
VOICE MEMOS IS COMING TO THE IPAD AND ADDING ICLOUD SYNCING
Apple announced that the Voice Memos app has similarly been redesigned and will come to the iPad with the release of iOS 12. And helpfully, your recordings will now be available across devices thanks to iCloud syncing.
IBOOKS BECOMES APPLE BOOKS
Apple is rebranding its ebook app from iBooks to Apple Books. Along with the name change comes a refreshed design that focuses on discoverability. A new Book Store tab “makes it easy to explore new titles and browse the top charts, curated collections, and special offers,” according to Apple.
Apple iOS 12 update: the 17 biggest new features coming to the iPhone - The Verge
Tesla can change so much with over-the-air updates that it’s messing with some owners’ heads - The Verge
"When Consumer Reports recently found that the braking distance on the Tesla Model 3 was worse than that of a Ford F-150, CEO Elon Musk took the criticism and found a solution. Days later, Tesla shipped an over-the-air update that, according to CR’s testing, improved the braking distance by 19 feet. It’s a wild idea: your car automatically downloads some code, and it’s instantly safer. It also wasn’t possible even a few years ago, and some have held it up as an ideal example of how futuristic technologies can make our lives better. Analysts said it was “unheard of.” Jake Fisher, CR’s director of auto testing (and the person who originally flagged the issue), said he’d “never seen a car that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update.”
Others, like Navigant Research’s Sam Abuelsamid, looked at the recent Model 3 braking distance issue as a sign of a larger problem with Tesla’s quality control. He wrote this week that the fact there was that much room for improvement on the braking capabilities of the car shows there’s something “fundamentally broken in what they were doing” with the Model 3. Shouldn’t Tesla, which by now has made and sold over 300,000 cars around the globe, have caught this problem before CR did?
We don’t yet know why the Model 3’s braking was underperforming, and we may never know. That matters less than what the update actually signaled.
THE BRAKE FIX WAS A SIGN OF JUST HOW DEEP TESLA CAN DIG WITH AN OVER-THE-AIR UPDATE
Tesla has shipped OTA updates to its cars for years now that have changed everything from its Autopilot driver assistance system to the layout and look of its touchscreen interfaces. At one point last year, it even used an update to extend the range of some cars to help customers evacuate the path of Hurricane Irma."
Tesla can change so much with over-the-air updates that it’s messing with some owners’ heads - The Verge
Sunday, June 03, 2018
Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends - The New York Times
As Facebook sought to become the world’s dominant social media service, it struck agreements allowing phone and other device makers access to vast amounts of its users’ personal information.
Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said. The deals, most of which remain in effect, allowed Facebook to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, “like” buttons and address books.
But the partnerships, whose scope has not previously been reported, raise concerns about the company’s privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The New York Times found.
Facebook came under intensifying scrutiny by lawmakers and regulators after news reports in March that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, misused the private information of tens of millions of Facebook users.
In the furor that followed, Facebook’s leaders said that the kind of access exploited by Cambridge in 2014 was cut off by the next year, when Facebook prohibited developers from collecting information from users’ friends. But the company officials did not disclose that Facebook had exempted the makers of cellphones, tablets and other hardware from such restrictions.
“You might think that Facebook or the device manufacturer is trustworthy,” said Serge Egelman, a privacy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the security of mobile apps. “But the problem is that as more and more data is collected on the device — and if it can be accessed by apps on the device — it creates serious privacy and security risks.”
In interviews, Facebook officials defended the data sharing as consistent with its privacy policies, the F.T.C. agreement and pledges to users. They said its partnerships — which it decided to begin winding down in April — were governed by contracts that strictly limited use of the data, including any stored on partners’ servers. The officials added that they knew of no cases where the information had been misused.
The company views its device partners as extensions of Facebook, serving its more than two billion users, the officials said.
“These partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform,” said Ime Archibong, a Facebook vice president. Unlike developers that provide games and services to Facebook users, the device partners can use Facebook data only to provide versions of “the Facebook experience,” the officials said.
Some device partners can retrieve Facebook users’ relationship status, religion, political leaning and upcoming events, among other data. Tests by The Times showed that the partners requested and received data in the same way other third parties did.
Facebook’s view that the device makers are not outsiders lets the partners go even further, The Times found: They can obtain data about a user’s Facebook friends, even those who have denied Facebook permission to share information with any third parties.
In interviews, several former Facebook software engineers and security experts said they were surprised at the ability to override sharing restrictions.
“It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant who formerly served as the F.T.C.’s chief technologist.