Tech News Feed

Can Russia's Luna-25 Moon Mission Transcend Earthly Politics?

Scientifc America - Fri, 2023-08-18 09:00

In the latest chapter of an ongoing “moon rush,” Russia’s Luna-25 mission will attempt the nation’s first lunar landing in nearly 50 years

Inside the Factory Where Robots Are Building Your Next Samsung Phone - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2023-08-18 08:00
CNET gets a behind-the-scenes look at Samsung's assembly line.

Current Refinance Rates on Aug. 18, 2023: Rates Tick Higher - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2023-08-18 08:00
Several important refinance rates advanced this week. Though refinance rates change daily, experts expect rates to continue to climb.

Today's Mortgage Rates for Aug. 18, 2023: Rates Increase - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2023-08-18 08:00
This week, a handful of important mortgage rates moved up. If you're in the market for a mortgage, see how your payments might be affected by inflation.

The Morning After: Fisker reveals more about its Alaska electric pickup

Engadget - Fri, 2023-08-18 07:15

Fisker has shed some more light on its Alaska electric pickup, which it says will have a base price of just $45,400. The Alaska is a work-friendly vehicle, letting you run your business from the cockpit. It has dedicated work glove and cowboy hat storage, a slide-out laptop tray and a cup holder big enough to hold a day’s worth of water.

The default flatbed is 4.5 feet, but you can drop the partition to increase that to 7.5 feet. Lower the seats and the liftgate and you can push it to 9.2 feet, big enough to haul several sheets of plywood from one job to the next. But much as Fisker may promise this will be one of the lightest and cheapest EVs in its class, we’ll wait to see how much it actually costs when it debuts in 2025 before making a judgment.

– Dan Cooper

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Can modeling microphones deliver on their copycat promise?It’s a Swiss Army-microphone for audio pros on a budget.Image of the Sphere LX Microphone in front of a blurred background of an audio screen.Photo by James Trew / Engadget

Professional microphones are as unique as the instruments they’re built to record, each with their own voices. The Sphere LX is a $1,000 modeling microphone designed to alter its qualities to ape the voices of several extremely expensive studio microphones. James Trew explores what it’s like to use this chameleonic device, comparing it to several of the pro microphones it’s trying to impersonate. I may not find the technical intricacies of audio engineering that gripping, but James’ in-depth report is a must-read, even for me.

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The Xbox 360 store will close in July 2024Farewell, old friend.

After nearly two decades of faithful service, the Xbox 360 store will close for good on July 29, 2024. Microsoft’s Movies & TV app will stop working on the same day as the company pulls the last vestiges of support for its console. The company has already promised games compatible with newer consoles will stay on the Xbox One and Series X/S storefronts. And media bought via the Xbox 360 will stay in your library, so you shouldn’t lose too much of anything.

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Lenovo's leaked Legion Go is part Steam Deck, part Nintendo SwitchIt’s got detachable controllers!Leaked image purporting to be Lenovo's Legion Go on a white background.Windows Report

With the Legion Go, Lenovo may have its own rival to the Steam Deck, Ayaneo and ASUS’ ROG Ally. A leak, including product renders, suggests it’s a PC gaming handheld equipped with AMD’s new Phoenix processors and a pair of Switch-like detachable controllers. It looks very possible to prop this thing on a table, addressing the issues of hand fatigue so common with other PC-class handhelds. Just a shame it won’t be able to play Tears of the Kingdom.

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Acura's ZDX EV has an estimated 325 miles of range and starts around $60,000If those range claims are accurate, it’s pretty compelling.Promotional image of a blue Acura ZDX EV in a blue environment lit with exclusively blue light.MullenLowe

The Acura ZDX is the latest all-electric vehicle from Honda’s premium brand, due to launch in early 2024. The ZDX boasts CarPlay, Android Auto, a Bang & Olufsen audio setup and an as-yet unofficial range of 325 miles on a single charge. The base model is likely to cost around $60,000, and it’s certainly a pretty-looking way to get around.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Best Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 Cases in 2023 - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2023-08-18 07:00
Protect your Galaxy Z Flip 4 from drops, cracks and spills with one of the best cases available.

Can Computing Clean Up Its Act?

SlashDot - Fri, 2023-08-18 07:00
Long-time Slashdot reader SpzToid shares a report from The Economist: What you notice first is how silent it is," says Kimmo Koski, the boss of the Finnish IT Centre for Science. Dr Koski is describing LUMI -- Finnish for "snow" -- the most powerful supercomputer in Europe, which sits 250km south of the Arctic Circle in the town of Kajaani in Finland. LUMI, which was inaugurated last year, is used for everything from climate modeling to searching for new drugs. It has tens of thousands of individual processors and is capable of performing up to 429 quadrillion calculations every second. That makes it the third-most-powerful supercomputer in the world. Powered by hydroelectricity, and with its waste heat used to help warm homes in Kajaani, it even boasts negative emissions of carbon dioxide. LUMI offers a glimpse of the future of high-performance computing (HPC), both on dedicated supercomputers and in the cloud infrastructure that runs much of the internet. Over the past decade the demand for HPC has boomed, driven by technologies like machine learning, genome sequencing and simulations of everything from stockmarkets and nuclear weapons to the weather. It is likely to carry on rising, for such applications will happily consume as much computing power as you can throw at them. Over the same period the amount of computing power required to train a cutting-edge AI model has been doubling every five months. All this has implications for the environment. HPC -- and computing more generally -- is becoming a big user of energy. The International Energy Agency reckons data centers account for between 1.5% and 2% of global electricity consumption, roughly the same as the entire British economy. That is expected to rise to 4% by 2030. With its eye on government pledges to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, the computing industry is trying to find ways to do more with less and boost the efficiency of its products. The work is happening at three levels: that of individual microchips; of the computers that are built from those chips; and the data centers that, in turn, house the computers. [...] The standard measure of a data centre's efficiency is the power usage effectiveness (pue), the ratio between the data centre's overall power consumption and how much of that is used to do useful work. According to the Uptime Institute, a firm of it advisers, a typical data centre has a pue of 1.58. That means that about two-thirds of its electricity goes to running its computers while a third goes to running the data centre itself, most of which will be consumed by its cooling systems. Clever design can push that number much lower. Most existing data centers rely on air cooling. Liquid cooling offers better heat transfer, at the cost of extra engineering effort. Several startups even offer to submerge circuit boards entirely in specially designed liquid baths. Thanks in part to its use of liquid cooling, Frontier boasts a pue of 1.03. One reason lumi was built near the Arctic Circle was to take advantage of the cool sub-Arctic air. A neighboring computer, built in the same facility, makes use of that free cooling to reach a pue rating of just 1.02. That means 98% of the electricity that comes in gets turned into useful mathematics. Even the best commercial data centers fall short of such numbers. Google's, for instance, have an average pue value of 1.1. The latest numbers from the Uptime Institute, published in June, show that, after several years of steady improvement, global data-centre efficiency has been stagnant since 2018. The report notes that the U.S., Britain and the European Union, among others, are considering new rules that "could force data centers to become more efficient." Germany has proposed the Energy Efficiency Act that would mandate a minimum pue of 1.5 by 2027, and 1.3 by 2030.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Math's 'Hairy Ball Theorem' Has Surprising Implications

Scientifc America - Fri, 2023-08-18 07:00

Here’s what the hairiest problem in math can teach us about wind, antennas and nuclear fusion

Beats Studio Buds + are $40 off right now

Engadget - Fri, 2023-08-18 05:55

Only a few months after they first came out, the Beats Studio Buds + are down to an all-time low price. The company's latest noise-canceling headphones are 24 percent off at Woot, dropping from $170 to $130. While you shop, it's important to keep in mind that, though Amazon owns Woot, it has a different return policy.

We gave the Beats Studio Buds + an 84 in our review when they launched. A few of the new features impressed us, but the price increase from $150 to $170 seemed a bit steep for the product — something this deal more than makes up for. Updates rolled out with the Beats Studio Buds + included 16 percent more battery life, three times bigger microphones and acoustic vents added to the front and side. As a whole, the sound quality and noise canceling are both better than its predecessor. Plus, the placement of the headphones' control button has moved to avoid accidentally pressing it while adjusting their fit (a big problem plaguing the originals).

At the same time, a few things are lacking from the Beats Studio Buds +, such as automatic pausing, wireless charging and a sound that — while improved — doesn't measure up to competitors like AirPods. But, if you want solid headphones for a decent price, these are certainly a good option. The markdown will be available on Woot for the next four days or until they sell out of their stock.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Rally's and Checkers are using AI chatbots for Spanish-language food orders

Engadget - Fri, 2023-08-18 05:09

Checkers and Rally's restaurants have launched the first Spanish ordering system that uses AI, Checkers restaurants announced. The system from a company called Hi Auto is already in use at 350 of those restaurants, following two months of beta testing at five locations. The service allows for a more "inclusive environment" by accommodating Spanish speakers, the company said, but it remains to be seen whether customers or employees will embrace it.

The system takes orders via a virtual assistant and detects the customer's language spoken, automatically switching between English and Spanish. Hi Auto says it has "unique customization capabilities" that let franchises easily scale the system up. The company promises to streamline ordering with a greater than 95 percent order accuracy rate.

"Our expanded partnership with Checkers and Rally’s represents a huge breakthrough for the country’s Spanish-speaking and bilingual communities, and allows every restaurant to cater to the Spanish speaking population at any time," said Hi Auto CEO Roy Baharav.

AI drive-through order-taking is a unique challenge, however, thanks to an environment that tends to be noisy and chaotic. "You may think driving by and speaking into a drive-thru is an easy problem for AI, but it’s actually one of the hardest," Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian recently told The Wall Street Journal in reference to the company's recent collaboration with Wendy's. And the tech isn't necessarily reliable, either. The WSJ reported that three people out of 10 using AI systems asked to speak with a human employee due to errors or the desire to speak to a person.

Hi Auto is up against some giants, as well. One of the first companies to look at the tech was McDonald's, which teamed up with IBM to accelerate its own AI ordering systems, and starting testing them in 10 Chicago-area restaurants last year. It's also competing with Google Cloud, which is testing its systems at White Castle on top of Wendy's.

The system does offer features restaurant chains want, though. It can "upsell relentlessly" on items like deserts and french fries, resulting in higher orders, according to CNN. It may also allow restaurants to cut employees, boosting their bottom lines but reducing the number of jobs available to young people. That said, the restaurant with the highest customer service marks last year was Chick-fil-A, thanks in part to its face-to-face human ordering system, according to a recent survey from Intouch Insight.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

SUSE To Flip Back Into Private Ownership

SlashDot - Fri, 2023-08-18 05:08
Two years after being listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, the Linux-for-enterprise company SUSE is switching back to private ownership. The Register reports: On Wednesday the developer announced that its majority shareholder, an entity called Marcel LUX III SARL, intends to take it private by delisting it from the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and merging it with an unlisted Luxembourg entity. Marcel is an entity controlled by EQT Private Equity, a Swedish investment firm, which acquired it from MicroFocus in 2018. The announcement offers scant detail about the rationale for the delisting, other than a canned quote from SUSE CEO Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen who said, "I believe in the strategic opportunity of taking the company private -- it gives us the right setting to grow the business and deliver on our strategy with the new leadership team in place." Van Leeuwen took the big chair at SUSE just over three months back, on May 1. The deal values SUSE at 16 euros per share -- well below the 30-euro price of the 2021 float, but above the Thursday closing price of 9.605 euros. Interestingly, Marcel is happy for shareholders not to take the money and run. "There is no obligation for shareholders to accept the Offer," explains the announcement's detail of the transaction's structure. "EQT Private Equity does not intend to pursue a squeeze-out. Therefore, shareholders who wish to stay invested in SUSE in a private setting may do so." Shareholders who stick around will therefore score their portion of a special dividend SUSE will pay out as part of this transaction. Those who sell will get the aforementioned 16-euros per share, less their portion of the interim dividend. The transaction to take SUSE private is expected to conclude in the final quarter of 2023.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Spotify almost removed 'white noise' podcasts to save money

Engadget - Fri, 2023-08-18 02:56

White noise podcast creators on Spotify are making serious money, and the audio streaming service was reportedly not happy about it and tried to cut them off. According to Bloomberg, it has viewed an internal document revealing that podcasts with white noise content, such as the sounds of waves, vacuums and whirring fans, accounted for a total of 3 million consumption hours on the platform every single day. That was made possible by Spotify's algorithm inadvertently pushing these types of content to its listeners as part of its efforts to become the go-to app for podcasts

Previously, Bloombergreported that white noise podcasters were making as $18,000 a month. A lot of creators on the platform, not just those broadcasting white noise, use Spotify's free hosting software Anchor to publish their shows. Spotify purchased Anchor back in 2019, and in addition to helping creators make and distribute their podcasts, it can also monetize their content. 

While white noise podcasts turned out to be a hit with listeners, they apparently don't make Spotify as much money as other types of programming. The company reportedly considered removing them altogether and preventing future uploads in the category. Plus, it thought of altering its algorithm to recommend "comparable programming" that's more economical for Spotify. Doing all those would raise the company's annual gross profit by $38 million. The news organization didn't say if Spotify elaborated on what it meant by "comparable programming" in the internal document, but they could be other types of content meant to induce and improve sleep, as well as to help calm anxiety, which is what white noise is typically used for. 

A thread on the Spotify subreddit posted a couple of months ago show multiple users complaining that the white noise podcasts they listen to had disappeared. Bloomberg also talked to a creator who said their content had vanished for a few weeks before being reinstated. Spotify didn't confirm whether it temporarily pulled white noise podcasts from its service, but it told the news organization that ultimately, "[t]he proposal in question did not come to fruition" and that it continues "to have white noise podcasts on [its] platform."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Amazon is reportedly testing a confusing star rating system

Engadget - Fri, 2023-08-18 00:59

Amazon has started testing a new star rating system in specific regions that makes it harder to gauge how buyers are liking a specific product. Android Police has spotted the the experimental system on the company's mobile app in India, its German website and its global website when accessed from Germany. We couldn't replicate what the publication has seen on the US website, but it looks like the test replaces the website's weighted average rating that's typically shown through an image with five stars. Instead of that illustration, buyers see a single yellow star next to the product image with the percentage of 5-star ratings it had received. 

People wouldn't be able to tell at a glance whether a product's average rating is 5 or 3.5, because it's represented by a single yellow star in both cases. It's also not immediately visible how many reviews a product has received so far, seeing as the new system only shows the percentage of 5-star ratings. As the publication notes, this makes it easier for sellers to dupe potential buyers by unscrupulously looking for ways to get 5-star reviews to counteract the negative ones. 

That said, Amazon hasn't completely removed ratings breakdown and details. Potential buyers who look at the number of reviews a product has gotten and not just its average score can click through to see its ratings breakdown on the product page. It's not ideal and could make picking a product to buy longer than it should take, but at least the option exists. When asked, an Amazon spokesperson didn't confirm the experimental feature and simply told The Verge: "We are always innovating on behalf of customers to provide the best possible shopping experience." Testing a feature doesn't always lead to a wide release, though, and Amazon might make changes to this rating system if it does decide to implement it. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at