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SpaceX reschedules its unmanned Red Dragon mission to Mars

SpaceX is still relentlessly gunning for Mars, but the company has admitted that the current plans for its first unmanned flight might be a tad too ambitious. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell has revealed that its robotic Martian lander called Red Dragon won’t be ready in 2018 like the company wanted. She made the revelation at a press conference announcing the first time the space corporation is launching a rocket from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX originally hoped to send a Red Dragon to our neighboring planet by 2022 until it bumped up its target date to 2018. Shotwell said that she and her team were focused on achieving that goal but ultimately felt that they “needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program.” They’re now “looking more in the 2020 timeframe.”

The company is developing the Red Dragon capsule for low-cost Mars lander missions flown atop a Falcon Heavy rocket. It’ll test all the techniques and technologies we’ve developed thus far and will ferry equipment future spacefarers would need when they visit the red planet.

Source: SpaceNews, NASA (YouTube)


Apple was just granted a patent for a touchscreen that reads fingerprints

Why it matters to you

The future iPhone’s design could affect not only iPhone users, but could also inspire hundreds of Android phones along the way.

The iPhone’s home button could soon disappear — and could be replaced by a fingerprint scanner implemented into the device’s touchscreen. Apple has just been granted a patent for a virtual home button that would be placed within a touchscreen.

The patent itself was first spotted by AppleInsider, and was made public on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of such a move from Apple. In fact, rumors of a Home button replacement have been swirling around for some time, with the latest rumors even suggesting that we’ll see a MacBook Pro-style TouchBar replace the home button.

More: What Spotify and Apple Music should learn from Tidal

The Home button has long been a staple of the iPhone. Ever since the ground-breaking smartphone was first launched in 2007, that user-interface element has remained in the same spot — although its functionality has evolved over time to include a fingerprint sensor.

It’s important to note that just because Apple has been awarded a patent doesn’t mean we’ll see the Home button disappearing anytime soon; it just means Apple has been thinking about it. It would line up with rumors suggesting that the next iPhone’s screen will cover a much larger percentage of the front of the phone, however, leaving the Home button with nowhere to go except in the display itself.

That’s only one of the big hardware changes expected from the 10th-anniversary iPhone, which is to be launched later this year. Other anticipated features include a glass and steel body, a curved edge display, and even the long-awaited wireless charging.

Implementing the fingerprint scanner would likely use tech from LuxVue, a company that Apple acquired back in 2014. That tech comes in the form of micro-LEDs, which can be used as a replacement for capacitive touch arrays through the use of infrared diodes.


Australian court rules that Uber is a taxi service, drivers must pay service tax

Why it matters to you

Now that Uber drivers must pay the goods and services tax, your Uber rides in Australia might become a bit more expensive.

Uber is not your traditional employer, since the firm does not regard its drivers as employees. For that reason, in most jurisdictions, Uber is not considered a taxi service for tax purposes. That latter point was struck down in an Australian court, however, with Uber reclassified as a taxi service in the region, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

The matter stretches back to 2015, when Uber appealed a decision by the Australian Taxation Office that required Uber drivers to pay Australia’s goods and services tax (GST). The decision effectively classified Uber drivers as taxi drivers and, in turn, classified the ridesharing service as a taxi service. Uber appealed that decision and argued that, since its drivers do not use cab stands, do not wear uniforms, and do not pick up passengers from the streets, they should not be classified as taxi drivers.

More: Uber finally lets Android Wear owners hail rides with their smartwatches

Unfortunately for the ridesharing service, the Australian Federal Court did not agree and deemed that Brian Colin Fine, the driver who was named in the initial proceedings, offered taxi travel through Uber.

“I contend that, on 11 September 2015, Mr. Fine was supplying taxi travel as defined in … the GST Act when he was operating as an UberX partner,” said the judge who presided over the case. “That is because I consider that, at the time, he was supplying travel that involved transporting passengers by taxi for fares.”

As a result of the decision, drivers must register for the GST and pay the 10-percent tax, on top of the commission they pay Uber. Because Uber drivers are considered contractors, they were already responsible for their own tax arrangements.

An Uber spokesperson did not say whether or not the company will challenge the decision, though it was confirmed that it will provide information to drivers “as soon as we can.”

“We are reviewing the decision and will provide our driver-partners with more information as soon as we can,” said the spokesperson.


South Korea’s antitrust watchdog concerned Google meddled with Samsung’s Tizen

Why it matters to you

More competition is always a good thing for consumers, but did Google stifle it by interfering with Samsung and Tizen?

Samsung might be all in on Android, but the South Korean firm also toys around with its in-house Tizen operating system for phones, smartwatches, televisions, and everything in between. However, South Korea’s antitrust watchdog is concerned that Samsung business with the former might have negatively affected its business with the latter, with Google to blame, reports The Korea Times.

The matter goes back to 2011, when Samsung signed the Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) and anti-fragmentation agreement (AFA). MADA required Android smartphones to use Google as the default search engine and pre-install specific Google-developed apps, such as YouTube and Gmail, to the home screen. AFA, meanwhile, forbade Samsung from using Google’s algorithms to develop its own operating system.

More: Samsung hopes to entice developers to build apps for Tizen TVs with update

At the time, Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) looked into MADA and whether it violated the country’s Antitrust Law. Google’s Korean arm was cleared of all alleged wrongdoing in 2013. Furthermore, the federal agency launched an investigation into AFA in 2016 and found some issues that might have led to Google’s possible interference of Samsung’s Tizen development.

“We are currently checking if Google thwarted competition in the OS market,” said an FTC official. That official also confirmed the FTC will review whether to reinvestigate the 2013 antitrust case.

“As lawmakers have demanded a reinvestigation of the case, the FTC is checking whether it is possible to do so.”

A spokesperson for Google Korea said the company has done nothing wrong, but did not say what its next step is.

“Android is an open-source platform. Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary — anyone can use Android without Google,” said the spokesperson. “The Android OS can be downloaded for free. It can be modified and used to build a phone. Many companies have used Android’s source code as the starting point for their own operating systems.”


Apple Loses Fourth Place to Xiaomi in Booming China Smartphone Market

Apple has fallen to fifth place in China’s booming smartphone market, where combined sales reached 131.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016, accounting for nearly a third of worldwide shipments. The Q4 figure confirmed the highest ever annual amount of smartphones sold in China, according to market research firm Canalys, with shipments for the year reaching 476.5 million units, rising 11.4 percent from 2015 levels.

Huawei shipments of 76.2 million units took the top spot in China’s smartphone market in 2016, followed by Oppo with 73.2 million units and Vivo with 63.2 million. Apple meanwhile shipped 43.8 million units, down 18.2 percent year on year, influencing the company’s 7 percent decline in global shipments compared to 2015. Apple also lost fourth place to Xiaomi, despite the Chinese maker also experiencing declines in the country.

Xiaomi became number four in the China smartphone market, while Apple fell to fifth place. Xiaomi shipped a total of 51.4 million units of smartphones with a 21 percent year-on-year decline, while its market share decreased from 15.2 percent in 2015 to 10.7 percent in 2016, the lowest since 2013. Apple shipped 43.8 million units of iPhones throughout the year, a year-on-year decrease of 18.2 percent.

Huawei’s success in China continued apace on the strength of its flagship products, said Canalys research analyst Jessie Ding. “While Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi are all in the process of adjusting their strategies in China, Huawei took the opportunity to consolidate its position in the tier-1 and -2 cities.” The lull also allowed Huawei to attack Oppo and Vivo’s backyard, “in tier-three and tier-four cities,” Ding noted.

Last year Apple experienced its first ever year-over-year decline in the Chinese smartphone market, with the company’s phones continuing to be outpaced by cheaper alternatives and the iPhone 7 failing to kick up a frenzy among consumers compared to previous launches, according to analysts.

Apple faced a similar story at the beginning of the current year. Despite recording record results, Apple’s Q1 2017 earnings call revealed revenue was down 8 percent in China, but CEO Tim Cook claimed half of that decline was down to currency devaluation. Cook said that while China was “not without challenges”, he remained “encouraged by improvements” going into the second quarter.

Analysts have previously suggested that Apple’s decline in China has been compounded by loyal users taking a year off upgrading in 2016 in anticipation of 2017’s “iPhone 8”. If so, Apple’s success there depends on whether the upcoming phone can live up to the hype.

“China and Hong Kong are still the hardest-hit areas in Apple’s global top ten market,” according to Ding. “The outlook remains bleak for Apple to get its China performance back to its heyday of 2015. As with consumers in other developed markets, China’s consumers are awaiting the 10th anniversary of the iPhone with very high expectations.”

Tag: China
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Now Amazon Echo can access your calendar

As a part of Amazon’s ongoing quest to make Alexa and its Echo devices deeply embedded within our lives, this week it added support for Microsoft Calendar accounts. If your account ends in, or, then it should be accessible with no problem, however, according to the FAQ, corporate Exchange accounts are probably a no-go. Alexa already supports Google Calendar, but that’s it. There’s no iCloud access either, however, Geekwire points out a Redditor’s project on Github that might help.

Source: Amazon


Snapchat’s new marketing video doubles as a guide to the app for newbies

Why it matters to you

Snapchat has never offered much in the way of tips on how to use its app. But that’s changing now it has to explain its product to investors, meaning its opening up like never before.

Snapchat is popular but still a pain to navigate for new users — and even some of its hardcore fans don’t know it as well as they think they do.

If you’re having trouble discerning stories from geofilters, help is at hand in the form of the official product guide from Snapchat parent company Snap Inc. However, the newly released clip isn’t actually aimed at users, which is odd seeing as it provides a solid step-by-step overview to the app. Instead, the video is for potential investors Snapchat is hoping will help it raise an estimated $3 billion when it goes public next month. You can view the clip, along with its other presentational roadshow items, here.

More: Ping Pong is the new video messaging app from startup

The company also recently provided a handy breakdown of its various functions in its initial public offering filing. But the colourful, close to 9-minute video is even better. It’s not just a marketing gimmick either, the clip is the closest the secretive company has ever come to officially explaining its product. Until now, it kept a cool distance, leaving it up to its (predominantly) young user base to figure out all of its weird and wonderful features.

The clip takes you through seven key sections relating to the app and the features they contain, including “camera,” “making a snap,” “creative tools,” “sending a snap,” “adding friends,” “chat,” “storytelling,” and “Memories.” The video’s minimal style sees an animated hand guide the viewer through each function. Not only does the explainer help you to understand what the most important aspects of the app are, but also shows you what its icons mean, and how its touch gestures work.

Before you know it you’ll have your own Bitmoji, be chatting with friends, and sharing stories on a regular basis. Alongside the product overview, Snap has also released two other videos geared toward investors, among them a 35-minute clip that lays down its history, future goals, and internal workings.


New Pokemon Go berries: Razz Berry, Nanab Berry and Pinap Berry explained

One of the new additions to Pokemon Go that brings the Johto region Pokemon to the game is a change in Berries.

From the start, you’ve always had the option to use a Razz Berry to help when capturing a Pokemon. Now there are other types of Berry available to you, to assist you on your quest. 

Here’s how the new Berries break down and what they’re good for: 

1. Razz Berry

The original Berry is the Razz Berry. This you throw to a Pokemon you’re trying to catch and it makes it easier to catch. It looks like a raspberry. If you’re facing a Pokemon with high CP, then a Razz Berry will help tame it so you can catch it.

2. Nanab Berry

This is one of the new Berries that’s available in Pokemon Go. This looks like a pink banana and again it’s designed to make it easier to catch a Pokemon by calming it down. In the latest version of the game there are a lot more avoidance actions that Pokemon can take – and the Nanab will help reduce this, so you can hit it with a Poke Ball.

3. Pinap Berry

The Pinap Berry is more interesting, because this will boost the number of candies that you get from a Pokemon you catch. It looks like a pineapple. When you’ve hit a Pokemon with a Pinap, it then drops five candies rather than three – meaning that you’ll get closer to the evolution number you need. This is a great Berry for rarer Pokemon.

Other changes…

One of the other changes that came about in the new Pokemon Go is how these Berries are managed. There’s a new capture user interface that puts your Berries and Poke Balls in instant reach, rather than having to open a menu and select what you want as you did before.

Additionally, when you’ve hit a Pokemon with a Berry it is more obvious. You’ll see the Berry listed next to that Pokemon’s CP when you’re trying to capture it, so you’ll know it’s still having an effect.

  • Pokemon Go evolutions: Special items and how to evolve Polytoed, Slowking, Bellossom, Steelix and more
  • How to evolve Eevee into Espeon and Umbreon in Pokemon Go

GM and Lyft could deliver a self-driving fleet next year

GM and Lyft announced their self-driving joint venture over a year ago, and now Reuters is hearing 2018 could be a big year for the effort. While a clear set of nationwide rules on autonomous cars could probably help solidify any plans, the outlet claims their test fleet could include “thousands” of Chevy Bolt EVs, making it the largest group by far. Last May, a WSJ rumor indicated that the test could launch within a year in one city.

In response, GM said officially that “We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think.”

Source: Reuters


Watch a SpaceX Falcon 9 take off from NASA’s historic launch pad

At 10:01 AM EST on February 18th, a SpaceX flight will take off from Launch Complex 39A for the first time since the company signed a 20-year lease for its use. The company will also attempt another first stage landing around 9 minutes after take off. Complex 39A is the same historic site where NASA used to launch space shuttles from the beginning through the end of the program. In 2013, the agency opened up the Kennedy Space Center launch pad to private space companies, which prompted Elon Musk and Blue Origin chief Jeff Bezos to bid against each other. After Musk won the bidding war, SpaceX began modifying the site for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

SpaceX’s February 18th launch is an ISS resupply mission carrying quite a few new instruments and scientific experiments. One of them is Raven, a module that will test technologies designed for autonomous rendezvous in space. It has three different sensors that can image and track the vehicles visiting the ISS. Raven will convert those images into an “accurate relative navigation solution” to help the spacecraft steer toward the right location. Anything it learns during its tenure on the station can be used to make sure future unmanned spacecraft don’t crash into each other.

You can watch the event on NASA TV, which will begin its live broadcast at 8:30AM. SpaceX actually almost canceled the flight after it found a helium leak — a “very small” one, according to Musk — in the rocket’s second-stage booster. The company’s personnel addressed the issue, though, and the FAA approved the flight on Friday afternoon. If the launch doesn’t go as planned, the next possible launch schedule is February 19th at around the same time.

Looks like we are go for launch. Added an abort trigger at T-60 secs for pressure decay of upper stage helium spin start system.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 18, 2017

Source: Space, NASA (1), (2), NASA TV

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