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27
Jun

Volvo and Nvidia have just teamed up to make self-driving cars by 2021


Volvo has been working on driverless cars for a while, but now it has a new strategy to get those cars on the road within four years.

The Swedish carmaker is teaming up Nvidia, which plans to supply computing power to Volvo’s initiative, as well as Autoliv, a firm that makes automotive safety systems and will be working on software. Volvo’s cars will be powered by Nvidia’s Drive PX supercomputer, which we’ve detailed in full in the past. It’s basically a custom hardware array just for self-driving vehicles.

The Drive PX2 processes data from 12 video streams simultaneously and can handle data input from a range of sensors, including lidar, radar, and ultrasonic. With all this hardware, a vehicle can navigate autonomously, and with the right algorithms, it can read information gathered by that hardware – aka computer vision – to determine the difference between, say, a person and a road.

  • Volvo’s new concierge service lets you remotely fuel and move your car
  • Volvo V90 preview: Superior interior
  • Uber and Volvo jointly working on autonomous taxis

Keep in mind that since 2013, Volvo has been conducting a pilot project, which it described as the “world’s first large-scale autonomous driving pilot project”. It began by testing 100 self-driving Volvo cars on public roads in the Swedish city of Gothenburg. These roads were typical commuter arteries with motorway conditions. And it partnered with Nvidia to continue the pilot earlier this year. 

Volvo starting using the PX platform with the purpose of discovering whether self-driving could be developed into a legit business opportunity and sold to customers. Now, the self-driving software made by Autoliv and Volvo – under a new joint company called Zenuity – will be sold to other carmakers. Volvo hopes to have its production vehicles using the self-driving system by 2021.

27
Jun

Nintendo SNES Classic Mini official pre-orders open then sell out in minutes


No sooner had Nintendo officially opened its own pre-orders for the Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES Classic Mini for short, and it sold out.

It listed the retro games machine for £69.99 on Nintendo.co.uk but now has an “out of stock” message on the page.

One only unit was available per customer, but interest was so high that it took just minutes to sell out. Its predecessor, the NES Classic Mini, also sold out in a very short time.

This comes after Amazon, Game and Smyths Toys all listed their own pre-order sites last night, but have also since sold out of their stock.

We advise checking Nintendo regularly, however; the company officially stated that more units of the SNES Classic Mini will be made than last year’s NES Mini. It might put more stock up for pre-order. There is also a rumour going around that some stock is being held for the 29 September 2017 release date.

You can also check for more stock at Amazon and Game here:

  • See Nintendo Classic Mini: SNES on Amazon UK 
  • See it on GAME.co.uk

The SNES Classic Mini is a small version of Nintendo’s 16-bit console from the 80s. It comes pre-loaded with 21 games, including Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country and the never-before-released Star Fox 2.

  • Nintendo SNES Classic Mini: Release date, pre-order details, price, games and more

Two controllers come in the box with the machine, plus a USB power cable. However, you have to supply a USB plug adapter yourself.

Previous rumours, mainly sparked by initial pricing on sites such as Game.co.uk, was that the SNES Classic Mini would set you back £79.99 – it’s $79.99 in the States. But Nintendo has opted to push it out for a tenner less.

It’s still more pricey than last year’s NES Classic Mini, which was £49.99, but still represents great value for such an excellent piece of gaming history.

27
Jun

Monster announces earphones specially tuned for Honor 9 smartphone


Monster isn’t averse to a partnership. Whether sports star, rock star or superstar DJ, its audio products and headphones are well known to have proliferated fashion and lifestyle ambassadors. So for Monster to partner with Chinese smartphone maker Honor might not be a complete surprise but, well, it’s still a surprise.

On Tuesday 27 June, Honor unveiled its latest smartphone, the Honor 9, in Berlin, Germany. After the main event, Monster boss Noel Lee rolled onto stage – literally, on a gold plated Segway – to announce the new Honor X Monster earphones, which will be available via the Honor shop, priced €49.

What’s interesting about these all-blue colour earphones is that they’re entirely void of Honor branding. But rather than just being a marketing exercise the headphones are designed to work specifically with the Honor 9. When paired via the 3.5mm headphone jack, a sound profile is engaged in the phone; a profile created by Monster’s chief engineer, who spent a day with Honor in China to oversee the tuning accordingly.

  • Honor 9 vs Honor 8: What’s the difference?

It’s a bold move by Honor. As a brand that’s perhaps not widely enough known outside of China – and, confusingly, its mother brand Huawei releases very similar consumer products in the same market sectors – the necessity to standout via the extension of other well-known and trendy brands is, indeed, a sound idea.

Especially when the products are decent. And while the Honor X Monster earphones aren’t the best we’ve ever heard, they’re a darn sight better than what you’ll find in a normal phone box. For the sake of the €49 asking price, that’s still a worthwhile investment for sound enhancement to bass that’s well beyond what you’ll hear from a standard set of out-the-box earphones.

So there we have it: Honor teaming up with Monster might not be the most original idea ever, but it’s a savvy partnership – and the resulting product actually makes a lot of sense to the right buyer.

27
Jun

Amazon’s Prime discounted phones scheme adds Nokia 6 and more


Amazon has a smartphone program, and it’s just added five more devices from brands like Nokia and Motorola.

With the Prime Exclusive Phones program, you can get mid-range to low-end smartphones at a discount. However, if you do choose to get a reduced, unlocked, contract-free smartphone through the program, Amazon will serve up adverts and offers on your lock screen. It’s a very similar scheme to the one Amazon has with its e-readers and tablets – the Kindle with Special Offers program.

However, while tablet users have the option to remove adverts for a fee, Prime Exclusive Phones will always have adverts. Anyway, the new smartphones now available include the $179 Nokia 6 and $199 Moto E4. Amazon has also added the $199 Idol 5S, $99 A50, and $79 A30 Plus, all three of which are from Alcatel. Now, if you buy the phones elsewhere, you will be paying a higher premium.

  • See the Nokia 6 on Amazon.com – with Prime exclusive discount
  • Nokia 8/9 flagship Android phone: Release date, rumours and specs
  • Nokia 3310 (2017) review: Beyond the hype, what’s this phone like?

The Nokia 6, for instance, costs $229. In our preview of the device, we said there’s little about the Nokia 6 that makes it stand-out from other Android phones. However, it’s a pure Android experience that follows many of the norms for smartphone design that we’re seeing across the board. There’s also a certain je ne sais quoi about Nokia’s new handset. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, or perhaps HMD got it right.

So, if you’re looking for a budget Android, know that your choices through Prime Exclusive Phones have just doubled.

27
Jun

The rise of electric cars will kill the gas station


Gas stations are a lifeline. They not only fuel our cars but us, too — whether it’s with lukewarm coffee during the morning commute or the salty-sweet buffet during road trips. They’re a glowing oasis when the gas tank is empty and our bladders are full. It’s going to be a long while before the handy service station goes away, but its days are numbered — because electric cars are going to change everything.

One of the biggest complaints you hear about electric vehicles is that you can’t refuel them the same way as a gas car. That’s true now and will be true for a while. DC fast charging and Tesla’s Superchargers reduce the amount of time it takes to recharge, but the experience is nowhere near as quick as filling your car with gasoline.

The fact remains, though, that other than having a place to pee and pick up some Cool Ranch Doritos, once you go electric, you’re not going to need a corner gas station to charge your future car because you’re going to be “refueling” it everywhere.

For many, their home will be the main source of car charging. Even the slow trickle of a 120-volt standard outlet will add 48 miles to the battery of the Chevy Bolt over 12 hours. Obviously using the 240-volt outlet (the one you typically plug a dryer into) will be quicker. For folks who really want to maximize their at-home charging, companies like Charge Point offer Level 2 stations starting at $450 for the home, while Tesla has its own personal wall chargers starting at $500.

That may seem pricey, but if you commute every day and your current car doesn’t get the best gas mileage (say, less than 40 mpg) you might come out ahead during the first year of EV ownership according to a handy gas vs. electric calculator offered by GM.

So, in the future, whether you upgrade to a fancy wall charger or just plug your car into the same outlet that keeps your phone topped up, pretty much whenever your car isn’t dragging you around town, (and like your phone) it’ll be charging. That is, if you have a garage or carport or a very nice apartment manager. The paradox of EVs is that they’re great for driving around the city, but many urban dwellers don’t have a designated parking space. That’s where workplaces come in.

More and more employers are offering charging stations for their staff as perks. “It’s very interesting that for basically the price of providing free coffee to your employee you can also offer them electric vehicle charging,” Simon Lonsdale, Charge Point’s vice president of business development, told Engadget. It’s a trend that could continue, too, if workplaces see benefits for EV owners as outweighing the additional cost to their power bill.

Lonsdale did note that at-work charging is becoming an essential piece of a compensation package and a good way to get the word out on EVs. “We see workplaces as a great way of educating consumers about electric vehicles and the benefits of it.” Lonsdale said. “We’ve seen [EV charging at work] rank in the top three benefits that companies are now seeing, as they survey their employees around what are the benefits they like. It’s really surprising.”

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Like at home, charging a vehicle while it sits in a garage for eight hours makes sense. Plus it could also reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Charge Point, in partnership with northern California utility PG&E, has launched a pilot program to optimize vehicle charging to coincide with when the utility can deploy power from renewable sources like solar and wind.

Charge Point notes that it sees about 80 percent of charging coming from at home or work. But there will be times (i.e., the weekend) when drivers won’t have access to their employer’s sweet sweet free electrons. That’s where retail parking lots come in. Places like Target already offer free charging for customers. For retailers, it’s what’s known in the business as a win-win.

Customers get to top up their vehicles while shopping, and the lure of free charging gets people in the door — and in some cases, gets them to linger because they want to get as much free battery power as possible (thus, ironically end up spending more money in the store).

Tesla has 5,000 Superchargers globally and 9,000 destination chargers at retail locations, restaurants and resorts. Charge Point has 35,000 chargers at 7,000 businesses across the globe. In the near future, it’s not hard to imagine rows and rows of chargers at malls, restaurants and even in national parks. But there is one scenario where the gas station still reigns supreme: road trips.

While Tesla and Charge Point have made huge inroads getting charge stations along major routes, the ability to quickly refuel and get back on the road still isn’t possible. Instead, you’re going to have to wait. That means actually sitting down in that fast-food joint or restaurant to eat your food.

As more EVs hit the road, the landscape of parking lots will change along with the amount of gas stations. But it’s definitely not going to happen overnight or in the next few years. Gas-powered cars will be sold for decades, and the cars already on the road won’t be going away anytime soon.

But there might be a time in the far future where you explain to your grandchildren about how you had to refuel your car — that wasn’t self-driving — at a special place in town. Maybe they’ll giggle thinking about the ridiculousness of putting a liquid in a car. But when you tell them about the selection of beef jerky at this “gas station” their eyes will grow wide, which will be followed by complete disgust as you describe the filthiest bathroom you’ve ever encountered.

27
Jun

Facebook talks about how hard it is to deal with hate speech


Earlier this month, Facebook announced a “Hard Questions” series that would enable the company to talk more openly about difficult issues of personal privacy in the online sphere. The end goal was to be more transparent about the difficult questions it faces because, often, there are no right or easy answers. Today, Facebook debuted its second installment in the series, tackling the issue of hate speech.

Facebook, through Richard Allan, their VP of Public Policy for Europe, the Middle East and Asia, makes very clear that “We are opposed to hate speech in all its forms, and don’t allow it on our platform.” But part of the problem of dealing with the issue of hate speech is defining what it is — something that’s easier said than done. “People who live in the same country — or next door — often have different levels of tolerance for speech about protected characteristics.”

Figuring out what constitutes hate speech and should be removed is the largest challenge Facebook faces with this issue. Sometimes it’s appallingly obvious when hate speech is just that. “But sometimes, there isn’t a clear consensus — because the words themselves are ambiguous, the intent behind them is unknown or the context around them is unclear,” Allan continues. So, in order to figure out what actually is hate speech, the company looks at context and intent before taking action.

However, they also acknowledge that they’ve made mistakes. Last year, Shaun King posted to Facebook hate mail (including racial slurs) that he’d received. The company flagged the post as hate speech and subsequently removed it, sparking outrage.

Allan’s post concludes with the measures they’re using to continue to fight hate speech, from AI and machine learning to building up moderation teams. At the end of the day, though, Facebook relies on its community and users to report hate speech.

While there’s nothing particularly revolutionary about this post from Allan, the fact that Facebook is interested in being more transparent and acknowledges that serious mistakes have been made handling hate speech in the past are noteworthy. The choice of hate speech as a topic, and the selection of the author of the post — a Europe-based official — is telling, considering that Germany is currently debating legislation that would severely fine social media platforms for not adequately dealing with hate speech. What’s clear is that Facebook (along with every other online community) has a serious problem with this type of content; let’s hope that this hard question means that Facebook is getting more serious about confronting it.

Source: Facebook

27
Jun

Climate change could prevent food getting around the world


Climate change is bad news for basically every facet of human existence and now it’s set to literally hit us in the gut by threatening global food supplies. According to a new report by leading think tank Chatham House, global warming is on course to produce more violent storms and increased flooding, affecting both crop yields and global trade routes.

The report, Chokepoints and Vulnerabilities in Global Food Trade, explains that while volatile weather will have a clear and direct impact on crops it will also affect important trade routes, restricting the global free flow of food on which we depend.

According to the report, international trade has allowed certain regions to specialise in particular types of food production, thereby boosting productivity and reducing costs.

But this system is now “coming under increasing strain”, and the report’s authors have called for an “emergency response mechanism” to deal with the growing risk of dwindling global food supplies.

The report identifies 14 chokepoints — areas where food needs to travel to keep the global food chain going. These include the Panama and Suez canals, the US rail network and Brazil’s roads — none of which are known for their reliability.

In fact, over the past 15 years all but one of the 14 critical chokepoints has been closed or restricted, while 10 percent of the world’s cereals, soybeans and fertilisers are transported through a maritime chokepoint which has “no viable alternative”.

As reported in the Independent, report co-author Laura Wellesley says that governments have a tendency to make decisions with “short-term, national interests in mind”, which only serves to exacerbate the problem.

“Past events, including floods in Brazil and the Southern US, and the export bans on wheat from the Black Sea countries that contributed in part to the Arab Spring, give us a flavour of the sort of disruptions that can occur when chokepoints are closed.”

Poor urban consumers and small-scale farmers will be hit the hardest, says Robin Willoughby, Oxfam’s head of food and climate policy and campaigns, who adds that climate change is “the greatest threat to our chances of winning the fight against hunger.”

Via: The Independent, Financial Times

Source: Chatham House

27
Jun

Uber will appeal compulsory English exam for London drivers (updated)


Uber continues to fight against an upcoming rule change that would force London drivers to pass an English language exam. Today, the ride-hailing company has won the right to appeal the requirement, originally proposed by Transport for London in March 2016, that all private hire chauffeurs hold an English GCSE or, if they’re from a predominantly non-English speaking country, B1-level qualification. Uber broadly supports the rule change, but thinks the written exam component is unfair. “Writing an essay has nothing to do with communicating with passengers or getting them safely from A to B,” Tom Elvidge, Uber’s General Manager for London said.

The appeal follows a long legal tussle between the two organisations. The original rule changes announced in 2016 were light in comparison to other European cities (some of which have outright banned Uber), but expansive. Uber took legal action in August, which led to a partial review by the courts. Some of the rules came into effect in October but the English exam requirement — arguably the most critical change — was delayed until March 2017. In February this year, that date was pushed back once more until September to accommodate a High Court ruling in March.

Keeping up? The courts struck down two of Transport for London’s proposals in March which would have required Uber to set up a 24-hour call centre and ensure drivers have permanent private hire insurance. It sided with the transport regulator, however, on the matter of the English language qualification, much to Uber’s displeasure. The company announced immediately that it would be filing an appeal, which has now been approved by the legal system. “We’re pleased to have secured this appeal to defend tens of thousands of drivers who risk losing their livelihoods because they can’t pass an essay writing test,” Elvidge added.

The hearing isn’t until February next year, however. Given the date, Uber is pushing TfL to delay its intended implementation in September. “We urge TfL and the Mayor not to introduce these disproportionate and discriminatory rules before the appeal is heard,” Elvidge said. TfL did not immediately comment when contacted by Engadget.

Update: Transport for London has confirmed it will delay the implementation until next April. A spokesperson said: “As the English language requirement for private hire drivers is subject to legal proceedings, we propose to extend the deadline to meet the requirement to 9 April, 2018. We maintain that all licensed drivers must be able to communicate in English at an appropriate level. This is vital for passenger safety and was supported by the High Court. We will continue to robustly defend this position at the appeal.”

Uber’s goal is to retain, where possible, the relatively open rules that existed when it first launched in London. That legal ambiguity was, in part, what allowed the company to grow at such a tremendous pace, much to the annoyance of the traditional taxi industry. Any additional regulations pose a threat to that growth. Uber’s business, after all, ultimately improves if more trips are handled each day. A difficult English language qualification would, most likely, shrink its pool of drivers, which in turn would cap the number of passengers it can ferry around the city. Fewer cars mean lower revenue — a business trend it would rather avoid.

Via: Reuters

27
Jun

Yahoo gives Mail a makeover and introduces Yahoo Mail Pro


Even though Gmail is currently the king of web email providers, a lot of people still use Yahoo Mail. And for those loyal to the latter despite several security lapses, you’ll have a few things to celebrate today. That’s because Yahoo is bringing a host of new improvements to Mail that includes a cleaner, faster and more intuitive interface and better attachment support. Additionally, Yahoo is replacing its Ad Free Mail service with Yahoo Mail Pro, which is essentially the same thing, but cheaper.

One of the first things you’ll notice with the new Yahoo Mail is that it has a much more minimal design. There’s more spacing in between UI elements, making for a less cluttered look. Also, you can now finally customize the UI with different color themes and layouts, a feature that’s been available on rival Gmail for quite some time. Some themes even have a light and dark mode for different times of day. For those who care about such things, Yahoo Mail also has a new emoji set culled from Twitter’s open source library, as well as new stationery options.

Another cool thing about the updated Yahoo Mail is a new Photos and Documents view. It lets you see all of the attachments you’ve ever sent or received, be it a photo or a document, and it’ll label them appropriately. You can even preview these attachments in a side-by-side view that lets you look at the documents and the attached email simultaneously. Also, you can get a rich preview of photos and documents by hovering over an image icon in any email that has them.

Yahoo also took care to make the whole interface adapt better to different screen sizes and with faster load times, especially for those with slower connections. The settings interface looks better, and the search results are also a lot friendlier than before — if you have your email view set as conversation mode, your search results will return emails in conversation mode as well (versus a flat message list). The preview pane will sit on either the left or right, depending on your preference.

One more big change is that Yahoo is discontinuing its Ad Free Mail product in favor of a whole new plan called Yahoo Mail Pro. Just as with Ad Free Mail, Yahoo Mail Pro will have no ads. It’s also cheaper — while Ad Free Mail was $49.99 a year, Yahoo Mail Pro will cost $34.99 a year. For those who want to go with a monthly option instead, Yahoo Mail Pro is also available for $3.49 a month. There’s a mobile-only option that costs $0.99 per month or $9.99 per year, which would require you to download the Yahoo Mail app. Aside from not having any ads, Yahoo also promises that Yahoo Mail Pro customers will have priority customer support.

Last but not least, Yahoo has made Mail a lot more accessible to those with low-vision and hard-of-hearing, with better light-sensitivity and VoiceOver screen reader compatibility. There are also layouts with high magnification and full keyboard navigation.

Created almost 19 years ago, Yahoo Mail is one of Yahoo’s longest-lasting products. It’s gone through quite a lot of changes since then as it tries to compete against rivals like Outlook and Gmail. Two years ago, it underwent a huge redesign that bolstered its mobile apps, introduced a password-less login system and, importantly, added third-party email support so that you could use any email address you wanted within the Yahoo Mail interface. Yet, all these improvements were overshadowed by a huge security breach that tarnished its reputation — so much so that Verizon (Engadget’s parent company) even threatened to pull out of its $4.83 million acquisition. Still, the purchase went through anyway, and it remains to be seen how Yahoo Mail will survive its tenure under Verizon ownership.

The new Yahoo Mail will be available starting today, and is opt-in, at least to start. If you decide you don’t like it, you can always switch back to “classic” mode in settings.

27
Jun

Large-scale cyberattack is spreading through Russia and Ukraine


A large-scale cyberattack is working its way through a number of Ukrainian and Russian targets today. So far, in Russia, oil producer Rosneft and metal company Evraz have been affected by the attack. In Ukraine, Boryspil airport, the banking system, a state power distributer and even the Ukrainian government have been hit.

While the attacks have affected banking operations in Ukraine and will likely lead to some flight delays out of Boryspil airport, they don’t seem to have impacted services on a grander scale. Rosneft said on Twitter that because it had switched to a reserve control system, its oil production wasn’t stopped. And a spokesperson for the Ukrainian power distributor Ukrenergo told Reuters that the attack hadn’t affected its power supplies or broader operations.

Ukraine was the target of a slew of cyberattacks last year. The country’s power grid and weapon supply were hacked and Boryspil airport was hit with an attack as well. Those instances were all thought by Ukraine to have originated in Russia. But the origins of today’s attacks, which have hit both Ukrainian and Russian infrastructure, aren’t yet known.

There are also reports that a ransomware called “Petya” is ravaging a number of countries throughout Europe, but it’s as of now unclear if the “unknown virus” reported to be affecting the Ukrainian and Russian companies is the same one.

Source: Reuters

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