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Florida Records 15,000 New Covid-19 Cases in a Day, the Most for Any State During the Pandemic

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Florida broke the nation’s covid-19 single-day case record on Sunday, reporting 15,299 new infections, the most new cases ever reported by a state during the pandemic. The news underscores the raging state of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S., proving once again that the virus will not simply “sort of just disappear

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zipcube
4 hours ago
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Oh Thank God...

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Mark it, folks: July 11, the first time President Donald Trump wore a face mask in public during a raging pandemic. And all it took was more than 134,000 people dying from covid-19 for him to finally—finally—put one on.

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zipcube
4 hours ago
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UK government takes $500 million stake in space exploration firm OneWeb

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OneWeb satellite proposal Image: OneWeb

As part of a consortium that includes Indian telecom Bharti Global, the UK government will invest $500 million and take a “significant equity share” in space exploration firm OneWeb, it announced Friday. OneWeb, which has its headquarters in the UK, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US in March, after it was unable to secure financing. Bharti Global also will invest $500 million as part of the deal.

OneWeb is one of several companies working on an Internet-from-space project, using a combination of low-altitude satellites to beam internet connectivity to ground terminals on Earth’s surface. It was slated to launch a constellation of 650 spacecraft, and its plans included providing internet coverage for the Arctic. So far, it has launched 74 satellites for the project.

Friday’s deal with the UK, which gives the country a 20 percent stake, will allow OneWeb to complete construction of the satellite constellation, the government said in a statement, “making the UK a world leader in science, research and development.” UK Secretary of State for Business Alok Sharma said the deal “presents the opportunity to further develop our strong advanced manufacturing base right here in the UK.” The UK lost access to the European Union’s Galileo satellite system in 2018 as part of its departure from the EU, and the UK’s plans to build its own global navigation satellite system are on hold due to cost concerns.

OneWeb said in a statement Friday that the company was seeking to resume operations as soon as possible.

News of the OneWeb deal drew criticism from some space experts in the UK, however. Dr Bleddyn Bowen, a space policy expert at the University of Leicester, told The Guardian that the deal amounted to “bolting an unproven technology on to a mega-constellation that’s designed to do something else.” OneWeb’s satellites are in low-Earth orbit, but most other countries’ GPS systems are in medium-Earth orbit, The Guardian noted.

The deal is subject to US regulatory approval and is expected to close before the end of the year.

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zipcube
17 hours ago
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Microsoft just sank to a new low by shoving Edge down our throats

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

If I told you that my entire computer screen just got taken over by a new app that I’d never installed or asked for — it just magically appeared on my desktop, my taskbar, and preempted my next website launch — you’d probably tell me to run a virus scanner and stay away from shady websites, no?

But the insanely intrusive app I’m talking about isn’t a piece of ransomware. It’s Microsoft’s new Chromium Edge browser, which the company is now force-feeding users via an automatic update to Windows.

Seriously, when I restarted my Windows 10 desktop this week, an app I’d never asked for:

  1. Immediately launched itself
  2. Tried to convince me to migrate away from Chrome, giving me no discernible way to click away or say no
  3. Pinned itself to my desktop and taskbar
  4. Ignored my previous browser preference by asking me — the next time I launched a website — whether I was sure I wanted to use Chrome instead of Microsoft’s oh-so-humble recommendation.

Did I mention that, as of this update, you can’t uninstall Edge anymore?

It all immediately made me think: what would the antitrust enforcers of the ‘90s, who punished Microsoft for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, think about this modern abuse of Microsoft’s platform?

But mostly, I’m surprised Microsoft would shoot itself in the foot by stooping so low, using tactics I’ve only ever seen from purveyors of adware, spyware, and ransomware. I installed this copy of Windows with a disk I purchased, by the way. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I like to think I still own my desktop and get to decide what I put there.

That’s especially true of owners of Windows 7 and Windows 8, I imagine, who are also receiving unwanted gift copies of the new Edge right now:

And I’m not surprised that some angry Windows users are already railing against the fact that this came as part of a forced Windows update, which Microsoft has already had a damn hard time justifying without invading people’s desktops as well. It’s going to be harder to buy the argument that forced updates are necessary for security when they’re pulling double-duty as an intrusive marketing tool.

Heck, we can’t even get Americans to wear life-saving masks in public right now.

Microsoft isn’t trying to hide most of this, by the way: it lays out the so-called “First Run Experience” in this update changelog. So I figured I’d see if the company might say more. Here is a list of questions I sent Microsoft, which the company declined to substantively answer on the record or on background:

  • What was the goal and reasoning here?
  • Why does Microsoft feel that this is appropriate?
  • Was it a success, and if so, by what metric?
  • What does Microsoft’s telemetry show users are doing in response to being confronted with Edge pins, desktop icons, auto-launch, and reset default apps?
  • Would Microsoft do this again?
  • Will Microsoft stop this now, and/or change anything about this update?
  • What is Microsoft’s philosophy on dark pattern software design?

The only justifications the company could provide me are that, technically, the new Edge is replacing the old Edge that already comes with Windows 10; Microsoft wants you to use the best, most secure version of its browser; and you can still say no — though in this case, a “no” involves force-closing Edge, reaffirming your default browser choice, and having to spend a minute deleting unwanted junk on your desktop.

Time to reaffirm the browser choice I already made years ago.

Here’s one more question: Microsoft, do you think this behavior makes Windows users actually want to try Edge?

Because if I’m being honest, after the initial shock wore off, I found Edge easy enough to ignore. The experience mostly just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Before, I had actually been interested in this new Chromium-based version of Edge! I had been planning to check it out. I’ve been toying with Firefox and Opera for weeks now, considering a potential migration away from Chrome.

Now — as a user, not a journalist — I can’t help but feel like I should ignore Edge on principle. And if there’s a sizable fraction of users who feel the same, somebody inside Microsoft is facepalming hard right about now.

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zipcube
17 hours ago
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Palmer Luckey’s surveillance startup Anduril signs contract for ‘virtual border wall’

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An Anduril Lattice sentry tower Anduril Industries

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has signed a deal with Anduril, the “virtual border wall” startup launched by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. The Washington Post reports that the agency awarded Anduril a five-year contract to deploy portable surveillance towers meant to detect moving vehicles and human figures across the US border. The deal will see CBP purchase 140 towers in 2021 and 2022, supplementing 60 towers that were already part of a pilot program. A company executive told the Post that the deal was worth “several hundred million dollars.”

Anduril has been working with CBP since 2018, and it’s secured additional contracts with groups like the US Marine Corps and UK Royal Navy. Its sentry towers use a variety of sensors, including LIDAR, to capture data. An AI system called Lattice then analyzes it to distinguish between different kinds of moving objects. The goal is to detect humans crossing the US border while minimizing the number of false alarms from animals. Anduril has also produced other technology like a battering-ram drone that is not part of the CBP contract.

Supporters of “virtual border wall” technology typically describe it as an alternative to an expensive and intrusive border wall like the one Trump built his 2016 presidential campaign around, although this technology will be rolled out alongside physical wall construction. An earlier effort called SBINet failed in 2011, but advances in computer vision have led companies like Anduril to revisit the concept.

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zipcube
17 hours ago
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Byton suspending operations for six months due to financial trouble

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Chinese EV startup Byton is halting operations for at least six months due to financial problems that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has confirmed to The Verge, following reports from The Detroit Bureau and local media. This comes after employees in China have complained they are collectively owed millions of dollars while the company struggled to complete a $500 million funding round.

Byton already furloughed hundreds of workers at its North American headquarters in Silicon Valley in April and all but admitted that its first vehicle — an all-electric SUV with a massive dashboard screen called the M-Byte — would be delayed again due to the impact of the pandemic. This is all despite Byton being backed by China’s oldest state-owned automaker, First Auto Works (FAW), and having already completed a new factory in Nanjing, China, last year.

“Like everywhere, the COVID-19 [pandemic] has posed great challenges to BYTON’s funding and business operations,” Byton spokesperson Dave Buchko said in a statement to The Verge. As a result, he said, the company’s management and its board of directors decided to implement the six-month suspension. Most of the company’s employees in China will be furloughed, with “only a small group of the team will be retained to stand by for possible business needs.”

Byton was founded in 2016 with backing from Chinese internet giant Tencent and Taiwanese manufacturing conglomerate Foxconn by former BMW executives Carsten Breitfeld (who led the i8 program) and Daniel Kirchert. Byton announced the concept version of the M-Byte at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, and shortly after, it revealed that FAW was investing in and partnering with the startup.

The FAW deal was initially seen as a vote of confidence in what Breitfeld and Kirchert were building, especially since so many other EV startups at the time were struggling for funding and desperate to partner with big OEMs. But it eventually became a source of tension for Breitfeld, who left the startup in early 2019. Last September, as The Verge first reported, Breitfeld said that the Chinese government — via FAW — “pushed the direction of Byton [to a place that was] not in line with what I thought we should do.”

Breitfeld said at the time that Byton had used the Nanjing factory and other assets as collateral for the money that FAW invested and that he felt the state-owned automaker was “going to drive it to a stage where the whole Byton thing will be shut down, they will just keep the plant and the [electric vehicle] platform.”

Breitfeld’s exit is, in fact, now part of a new legal dispute between the startup and its co-founder. In August 2019, Byton filed a previously unreported lawsuit against the Breitfeld accusing him of stealing and using the startup’s trade secrets at Iconiq, a separate Chinese EV startup that he worked following his split with Byton (and before he became CEO of Faraday Future). Byton claims Breitfeld announced his new position with Iconiq at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2019, despite not resigning from Byton until the following month.

The also startup alleges that Breitfeld wrongfully poached employees on his way out, that they were “using and relying on Byton’s confidential and trade-secret information to allow Iconiq to compete directly with Byton,” and that “many of the depictions and descriptions of lconiq’s vehicles are remarkably similar to Byton’s vehicles.”

Breitfeld has disputed much of this in court filings and contends that Byton’s board of directors removed him as CEO in January 2019 before ultimately terminating him in April of that year. Breitfeld also alleges that Byton only filed the lawsuit to preempt any legal action he might take to receive the millions of dollars of compensation he believes he is contractually owed. That includes the remainder of his annual net salary from 2019, plus “deferred compensation benefits, pension insurance, German pension, annual leave, home trip expenses,” plus the value of “tax advice, housing, cars, driver, school fees for his children, [and] guaranteed salary for his wife,” which were all provided by Byton. Breitfeld also believes Byton should “repurchase of all of his equity interest” in the company.

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zipcube
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