When most rocket engines fire up, they’re going places. But not the RS-25.
NASA this week anchored its RS-25 booster engine — one of four for its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket — firmly to the ground for a spectacular test that powered it to a 113-percent thrust level for a full 50 seconds. This was its highest level to date following several similar test fires.
Footage captured from cameras placed around the test site at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi show the engine’s awesome power as it fills the surrounding area with a mass of condensing water vapor and enough noise to wake the neighbors.
The RS-25 engines were used in the space shuttle program that ended in 2011, and have been modified to supply the added power needed for the larger, heavier SLS rocket. It’s one of the most heavily tested large rocket engines ever, according to NASA, with more than 3,000 starts and more than a million seconds of total ground test and flight firing time.
Four RS-25 engines will provide a combined two million pounds of thrust for the first SLS launch, expected in 2019, but with a pair of additional solid rocket boosters this increases to a phenomenal 8 million pounds. To give that some context, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy boosters generated around 5 million pounds of thrust when it launched earlier this month.
The SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world when it goes into operation, beating the Saturn V that took astronauts to the moon before the rocket was retired in 1973.
NASA’s SLS Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), planned for next year, will serve as the maiden flight for the new rocket and deploy an uncrewed Orion spacecraft in low-Earth orbit to test out the performance of the integrated system.
“As the SLS evolves, it will provide an unprecedented lift capability … to enable missions even farther into our solar system,” NASA said.
Looking further ahead, the EM-2 flight, scheduled for 2022 if everything goes to plan, will for the first time carry a crew of astronauts aboard Orion. The mission could include a trip around the moon lasting up to three weeks and involve delivery of parts for a new space station to aid deep space exploration.
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Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(in)Secure is a weekly column that dives into the rapidly escalating topic of cybersecurity.
Intel dropped the ball on Meltdown and Spectre. Or it might be more accurate to say Intel saw the ball, caught it, and then buried it under some shrubs hoping you wouldn’t notice. For everyday customers, that’s a problem without an easy solution. Now, it’s poised to profit off of its decision to sell critically flawed products to an unwitting populace.
If you’re unfamiliar, Meltdown and Spectre are exploits which affect your computer’s processor. They’re two different, but related, exploits which take advantage of ‘speculative execution’ an optimization method used on essentially every computer processor manufactured in the last 20 years. Yes, that means almost every processor sold in the last two decades is vulnerable to these exploits — including the one in your smartphone, the one in your desktop, and the one in that old student laptop you used in college.
It’s a big deal. The Meltdown and Spectre exploits were discovered in early 2017, and they were first disclosed to Intel, AMD, and ARM on June 1, 2017 by Google Project Zero researcher Jann Horn. Following the disclosure, each company started reaching out to its corporate customers and notifying them of the vulnerabilities. Everyone was scrambling to both find a fix and to keep it secret, because as long as the vulnerabilities remained private they were less dangerous to the public. That meant more time to find a fix.
The vulnerabilities weren’t disclosed to the public until January 3, 2018, though there were some rumors swirling a bit earlier than that because of all the sneaky security patches flying around.
To sell or not to sell
Why does that mean Intel dropped the ball? Simple. This timeline means Intel — and to be fair, AMD and ARM — spent around seven months of 2017 marketing, advertising, and selling products they knew to be critically flawed. They also knew that the only way to fix these products meant cutting down their performance.
If you bought a processor, desktop, or laptop in the last year it is now slower than it was when you bought it because of these security patches. That means it’s not living up to its promised performance, and Intel, AMD, and ARM know that. They knew it last year with every device they sold.
Every Intel processor currently humming away in a personal computer, enterprise server, or government workstation is slower and less secure than these upcoming Intel processors, these processors designed to overcome a huge security flaw. With one hand Intel sold products it knew were flawed, and with the other started making a product that would mitigate those flaws.
Intel spent around seven months marketing, advertising, and selling products it knew to be critically flawed.
That’s like buying a car, finding out the locks don’t work, and that the only fix is cutting your fuel efficiency by as much as 31 percent. Oh, and then discovering the guy who sold you the car knew and didn’t tell you. But don’t worry, he’s got a brand-new model that fixes all those problems for one low, low price.
These upcoming processors could very likely be Intel’s best-selling products to date, they’ll not only be faster than their predecessors, but they’ll be more secure. Intel stands to make potentially billions of dollars off of a fix to a problem it helped create.
Naturally, not everyone with an affected processor is going to run out and buy a new one, but you know who will? Enterprise customers, government agencies, anyone for whom security is not optional. Upgrades are no longer going to be a matter of speed for these customers, but security.
How many computers are currently in use by the U.S. State Department, or Department of Defense? The U.S. alone has dozens of agencies which will see these upgrading to these new processors as a matter of national security. Add on to that the number of similar agencies which exist in every other country in the world and you can start to get some idea of what kind of windfall Intel stands to gain. And if Intel is the first company to roll out chips with hardware-level fixes to Meltdown and Spectre without any performance loss? This year’s market share losses could very well be reversed, and that’s not good news for AMD or ARM.
Speaking of which
Is it fair to pick on Intel when AMD and ARM also continued to sell products they knew were flawed? That’s a good point, AMD and ARM both continued to sell products they knew were flawed after they were told about the exploits. There are a couple key differences which make Intel a fair target over its smaller competitors.
It’s disappointing that these companies are poised to make a killing off of a problem they helped perpetuate.
Intel’s handling of Meltdown and Spectre has been troubling — as the number of lawsuits currently pending against the microprocessor giant can attest. First, we have the issue we’ve already harped on quite a bit, Intel continued to sell processors it knew were flawed, but there’s more.
Intel didn’t disclose the Meltdown and Spectre exploits to customers in the U.S. government, like the National Security Agency or Department of Homeland Security. Both of these agencies found out about Meltdown and Spectre the same way you and I did, through news reports on or after January 3, 2018. Granted neither AMD nor ARM reached out to government agencies either, so they’re almost as culpable here. Almost. How many of those government desktops, laptops, and servers are running AMD processors? Precious few. Intel’s share of the CPU market is around 80 percent, AMD is closer to 20 percent.
AMD, ARM, and Intel may not have reached out to government agencies but you know who Intel did inform of the exploits though? A handful of private companies, including Lenovo and Alibaba which are based in China. Geopolitical concerns aside, failing to warn government agencies — not just U.S. government agencies — of a potentially catastrophic security exploit is problematic at best, especially when your company represents nearly 80 percent of the CPU market.
Jake-No nuance to my answer. No lawyerly caveats. NSA did not know about these flaws, nor did they exploit them. I don’t put my good name on the line lightly. I understand you are disinclined to believe, 1/2.
— Rob Joyce (@RobJoyce45) January 13, 2018
Another brow-raising facet of Intel’s Meltdown and Spectre response, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich initiated an unusually large stock sale after learning of the exploits in June. He claims the sales were pre-scheduled and unrelated, but Bloomberg’s reporting on the matter suggests that may not be the case. Krzanich changed his automated stock-sale habits in 2017, and sold a much larger share of his Intel stock than he had in past years.
What can we do?
The disclosure that new processors are on their way, insulated against the exploits, should be good news but it feels wrong. AMD and ARM have yet to announce whether or not their upcoming processors will feature hardware-level fixes to the Meltdown and Spectre exploits, but they likely will in the next year or so, if not this year.
It’s disappointing that these companies are poised to make a killing off of a problem they helped perpetuate. You almost want to vote with your wallet right? Well, it’s hard to take your money elsewhere when these companies are the only game in town.
- Intel’s 9th-generation ‘Ice Lake’ CPUs will have fixes for Meltdown, Spectre
- Intel warned Chinese tech firms of security flaws before telling U.S. government
- Qualcomm is working on patches to address Meltdown and Spectre flaws
- Apple protects MacOS Sierra, El Capitan from Meltdown, lists Google bugs
- Intel starts rolling out new Spectre firmware fixes, Skylake goes first
Matt Smith/Digital Trends
The new Dell XPS 13, like the old model, is a fantastic laptop. It’s small, yet quick. Portable, yet versatile. And it still looks fantastic. The 13-inch laptop category remains incredibly competitive — but, once again, the XPS 13 has come out on top.
But wait! Before you open your wallet to buy the best version you can, there’s something you should know. The most expensive XPS 13 isn’t the best.
The problem is the display. The top-tier model has upgraded from the old, awkward 3,200 x 1,800 panel to a new 4K screen that’s more competitive with other laptops in its category. Sounds great, right? Yet in our testing, the 4K version scored behind the 1080p model in color accuracy and contrast. The upgraded screen looks sharper, but colors don’t appear as vibrant, and images have less depth.
Then there’s battery life. The 1080p model endured for 13 and a half hours in our video loop test, while the 4K version lasted three hours less. That’s a big difference. It likely doesn’t help that the 4K model we reviewed had a more powerful, and more power-hungry, Core i7 processor.
Despite those disadvantages, you must pay for the privilege of owning a 4K screen. Adding it to one of the less expensive configurations tacks an incredible $400 on the price. Yet, as we’ve just shown, all you receive for the money is a higher display resolution. The screen is actually inferior in some regards — and will chew through the XPS 13’s battery far quicker.
That’s not $400 well spent, is it?
Dell doesn’t struggle with the problem of 4K alone. Other laptops we’ve tested have had similar issues if upgraded to 4K. We’re sure that some buyers do crave the added resolution, falling into the old trap of assuming more is better. In fact, it would’ve been stupid for Dell not to include it as an option. Many competitors offer it, so Dell would’ve looked behind the times if it were missing. This is the trend.
The fact an option is offered doesn’t mean you have to check the box, however — and in the case, it’s smart to show restraint. We reviewed the $1,199 and $1,899 version of the XPS 13 side-by-side, and our verdict was clear: The less expensive model was better. You can even opt for the Core i7 processor while retaining the 1080p screen if you really need the extra performance.
Shop smart. Save money. Leave the 4K display at the factory.
- Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review
- Dell XPS 13 vs. MacBook Pro 13
- Dell XPS 13 Review
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- Dell XPS 13 vs. Asus ZenBook 13: Two thin and light 13-inch notebooks face off
Although many modern devices support gestures like pinch to zoom, Chromebooks have been one notable exception from that list. Not for much longer though: Following the introduction of pinch to zoom to a select few Chromebooks, there’s now a pretty hard suggestion that all Chromebooks will soon support the feature.
The only Chromebooks that currently support pinch-to-zoom functionality are the Google Pixelbook, Chromebook Pixel, Samsung Chromebook Pro, and Chromebook Plus. They didn’t necessarily have the feature from launch, though; before it was added, hints began appearing on the Chromium Gerrit — Chrome OS’s open source code contribution tracker. That seems to be happening once again with all Chromebooks.
A merged commit has appeared on the Chromium Gerrit with mentions of a test deployment of “Pinch” control to “device which doesn’t explicity [sic] have pinch enabled.” As XDA-Developers points out, this commit comes just a few weeks after Google added support for Direct Manipulation on Chrome, which makes it possible for more nuanced multitouch gestures on Windows laptops with Precision Touchpads. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean such support will be added to Chromebooks, it could suggest that Google is putting greater developmental muscle behind gesture control.
There’s no indication from this Chromium commit about when we can expect the pinch-to-zoom functionality to make its way to wider Chrombooks, but it’s clearly in the works. If previous implementations on specific Chromebook devices are anything to go by, it should be introduced sometime in the next few months.
If you want to see whether your existing Chromebook has the new pinch gesture support in the coming weeks or months, all you need do is head to “chrome://flags” and search for “pinch,” as ChromeUnboxed explains. If it is available, you should see a flag titled “pinch scale.”
Chromebooks and Windows operate very differently from each other. If you’d like to know more about their differences, here’s our handy guide to the biggest pros and cons of each. Don’t forget they’re somewhat interchangeable though. If you’d like to learn how to install Windows on a Chromebook, we have a guide for that, too.
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Cryptocurrencies have revolutionized the finance industry and the way people perceive the concept of money. Digital assets that use cryptography to secure transactions and creation, cryptocurrencies are the first form of decentralized currency — meaning no bank or middleman controls its use.
One of the best-known forms of cryptocurrency is bitcoin. Created in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin is the first (and currently most valuable) cryptocurrency in the world. December 2017 saw the highest recorded value of the currency at more than $19,000. While the price of a single bitcoin has since fallen to around $10,000, even that is incredibly impressive considering bitcoin was only worth $1,000 at the start of the year.
Unlike other forms of currency, bitcoin is not backed by any central organization (like a bank or country) or by a physical item (like gold). It sits atop a public ledger blockchain, where a highly sophisticated mathematical formula creates scarcity and allows users to “mine” portions of the currency.
Creator of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, is also credited with the invention of the first blockchain database, which set the foundation for more forms of cryptocurrency to emerge like Ethereum and Litecoin. However, despite the fact that Nakamoto is such an important figure in the world of modern finance, not much is known about the elusive cryptocurrency creator.
Satoshi Nakamoto is believed to be a Japanese-born man in his 40s, but the thing is, no one really knows for sure. Whether Nakamoto is a man, woman, or group of individuals is unknown as well, because the mysterious creator has somehow remained anonymous — despite the rising popularity of the cryptocurrencies that Nakamoto helped create.
Which begs the questions: Where did the name Satoshi Nakamoto come from if no one actually knows who this person is? Even though the name Satoshi Nakamoto is being used a placeholder until the real creator(s) come forward, the name itself certainly didn’t show up randomly.
An online profile under the name Satoshi Nakamoto was first used on the P2P Foundation website in 2008, a peer-to-peer networking site where the first papers on bitcoin were released. Another account under the same name released Version 0.1 of the bitcoin software on Sourceforge in 2009. It’s clear that whether or not Satoshi Nakamoto is the cryptocurrency creator’s actual name or not, it’s the name they want us to know them by.
Nakamoto also communicated with users via email for a few years after the software’s release, but as not been involved with bitcoin since 2011. Nakamoto’s anonymity hasn’t stopped people from trying to figure out their true identity. A feature in Newsweek, which was released back in 2014, claimed to have discovered the true identity of Nakamoto, and pointed to a retired Japanese-American man living in California named Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto.
Dorian Nakamoto denied any role in the creation of bitcoin and says that he is not Satoshi Nakamoto, but some people weren’t convinced. The day after the Newsweek piece ran, a comment from the original Satoshi Nakamoto on P2P posted simply “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”
Another feature, this time in The New York Times, claimed the creator of bitcoin was an American man of Hungarian descent named Nick Szabo. While Szabo’s career and interest in bitcoin might point to his involvement in the creation of the first cryptocurrency, he has denied that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, so the trail runs cold again.
But the search for Satoshi Nakamoto has posed more questions, like what the unmasking of the bitcoin creator would actually mean for the future of the currency and cryptocurrencies as a whole.
Many people don’t seem to care who Nakamoto is, and unless Nakamoto one day decides to step out from the shadows, there isn’t really much we can do to find out their identity — and probably not much to be gained from it either.
Bitcoin hasn’t and never existed in a vacuum. It wasn’t something that suddenly showed up out of the blue, but was created by building off the ideas of multiple people over several decades. And while Satoshi Nakamoto helped push the industry to new limits, they weren’t the only person/people capable of doing so.
Satoshi Nakamoto has been instrumental in the cryptocurrency market for sure, but they also haven’t really been involved in it in any meaningful way since 2010. Most of the open-source code has been rewritten by a group of programmers whose identities are known, drawing focus away from Nakamoto. So while it might be interested in finally learn who Satoshi Nakamoto really is, it wouldn’t likely have a big impact.
However, despite their anonymity, Satoshi Nakamoto is estimated to be worth upwards of $20 billion (although the exact number varies widely from $6-20 billion, but they’re still a millionaire whichever way you spin it) and could be the 44th richest person in the world, according to Forbes.
Knowing who holds that much money (5% of the entire bitcoin stash) could definitely have lasting implications, but won’t likely affect the future of cryptocurrencies as a whole.
So for now the identity of the “father of cryptocurrency” will remain a mystery. But bitcoin and other currencies like it will continue to have lasting impacts on money for a very long time.
- What is a blockchain? Here’s everything you need to know
- Go ahead, pass laws. They can’t kill bitcoin, even if they try
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- Kasotsuka Shojo is the world’s first cryptocurrency-themed pop group
- Bitcoin miners have extracted 80% of all the bitcoins there will ever be
Phones aren’t going to get any cheaper, but how much is too much?
New phone season gets heated up in a big way next week when Samsung shows us the Galaxy S9. Two things are guaranteed once we start to see whatever it is companies making phones want to show us: there will be something from some company we really want, and it will be expensive. More expensive than last year because that’s how anything that uses money seems to work. That got me to thinking; how much is too much? How much money will you spend on a phone?
We all have our own limit on what we’ll pay. It’s going to be higher for some than it is for others but I think 2017 got close to everyone’s limit with phones like the Galaxy Note 8, Pixel 2 XL, and iPhone 8/X in range of a $1,000 price. I know it reached mine. Even mid-range phones are getting more expensive, as companies like OnePlus have higher prices. I have two thoughts on all this and wanted to share them and see what others think.
Phones got better
One thing positive we saw were phones in the middle of the price spectrum get “better”. The OnePlus 5 and 5T are the company’s best phones yet, and not by just a little bit. The same goes for high-profile companies like Motorola and for names we don’t hear as often like Alcatel.
I’m not saying this made any price increase worth it because that’s something everyone needs to conclude for themselves. Better internal specs (because companies like Qualcomm also made better stuff) and better construction from better materials and even better software don’t come free, though. Add in inflation, higher component costs because of trade policies and preparing for new trade policies and prices had to go up.
People we’re not afraid to spend a lot more
Three phones stand out when talking about the price tag: The Note 8, the Pixel 2 XL, and the iPhone X. All three approached or exceeded $1,000 depending on options included, and all three outsold projections of the companies that made them. But other phones, including the Galaxy S8 which is the driving force of the Android ecosystem, also got more expensive and sold amazingly well, too.
I’ll admit I was a bit concerned that the price hikes would make a difference in sales all around, but I was wrong and phones flew off of shelves the same as they have in previous years.
Following my train of thought (sometimes a dangerous practice but whatever), I have to wonder when we’re going to see a price that’s just too much for most people, if ever.
1,000 is a magic number
From people I’ve spoken to as well as my own thoughts, $1,000 is a limit. No matter how good a phone is or how bad we want it, spending more than a grand just won’t be happening. Of course, it depends on the phone, too. A phone had better be damn good if I’m going to spend $999 on it. Magical, even.
We all have that magic number in our head and just aren’t going to go past it. So let’s hear it: if someone makes a phone that is exactly what you want and need, how much are you willing to spend? Jump in the comments and let your voice be heard, because you never know who is reading.
Google’s AR platform is now available to more than just the Pixels.
You don’t need to own a Pixel from Google to take advantage of ARCore anymore! The platform has now been released to version 1.0, and with that comes a lot of exciting news for developers and users alike.
ARCore apps will start showing up in the Play Store soon, but what phones will be able to enjoy this new tech? Check out the list here, which we’ll be keeping updated as frequently as possible!
Phones with ARCore support
- Pixel and Pixel XL
- Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
- Galaxy S7 and S7 edge
- Galaxy S8 and S8+
- Galaxy Note 8
- Galaxy S9 and S9+
- V30+ (Android O only)
- Zenfone AR
- OnePlus 5
Excited to get started with ARCore? Make sure you have the framework app installed and get ready for some exciting new apps to head your way!
Using AR to promote movies isn’t entirely new. We’ve already seen official movie tie-in augmented reality apps for Spider-Man: Homecoming and the Jon Hamm vehicle, Marjorie. Now, though, Sony Pictures is taking things a bit farther with Ghostbusters World, a mobile AR game based on the popular film, television and comic book franchise. The title is currently in development with 4:33 Creative Lab and should launch sometime this year on iOS and Android.
Sony’s announcement comes just as Google released more information on its own official augmented reality toolkit for Android developers, ARCore 1.0. Similar to Apple’s own ARKit, Google’s version provides a framework to allow app makers bring virtual objects into the real world via compatible phones. Ghostbusters World will apparently get you out and about, battling and capturing hundreds of ghosts, Pokemon Go-style. The ghosts will come from all the different Ghostbusters media, including films, TV shows theme parks and video games.
“The Ghostbusters universe is rich in characters and Ghostbusters World is the perfect medium to get to know these characters in a whole new dimension,” said the original film’s director, Ivan Reitman, in a statement.
Google’s take on a mobile augmented reality framework is no longer limited to a modestly-sized preview. It just released ARCore 1.0, letting anyone publish Android apps that take advantage of the toolkit to meld virtual objects with the real world. To no one’s surprise, Google has already lined up apps from big-name brands to take advantage of the new platform. Snapchat has an AR “portal” that takes you inside FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium, while Porsche lets you explore the Mission E Concept as if it were parked in front of you. A number of games (such as Ghostbusters World and a range of titles from NetEase) and home furnishing apps (Sotheby’s, JD.com, Easyhome and Otto) are also on tap.
There is one catch, and it’s a significant one: you need a compatible phone. The 13 devices that support ARCore right now are common devices like Google’s Pixel phones, Samsung’s Galaxy S7/S8/Note 8 lines, LG’s V30, ASUS’ Zenfone AR and the OnePlus 5, but you’re out of luck if you have anything else. It will get better, though. Google is teaming with these and other brands (including Huawei, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Vivo and ZTE) to bring ARCore support to their upcoming handsets.
On top of this, Google is promising a few upgrades to Lens… most notably, the chance that you can actually use it. The AR-based discovery feature will soon roll out to anyone using Google Photos in English, whether you’re using Android or iOS. At the same time, you’ll see Lens appear in Google Assistant on phones from Huawei, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony. The AI-guided image recognition should receive its own boost, with better recognition for living creatures like dog breeds and flowers.
The ARCore launch is particularly important for Google. It’s widely considered the company’s direct answer to Apple’s ARKit, with a similar ability to convincingly place objects without needing special sensors or custom software. If Android didn’t have a ready-to-go AR platform, there was a chance Apple might dominate the category. We’ve already seen apps where clever AR features were iOS-exclusive simply because ARKit was the only standardized framework available. This levels the playing field, and that’s good news for AR apps as a whole — creators may be more likely to support the technology knowing they can bring it to a wide range of devices without having to write elaborate code.
Opera Max was a great way to keep track of what apps were siphoning data in the background and keeping (some of) your privacy intact. Then Opera announced it was shuttering the app. There’s a sliver of silver lining to that though: Samsung has stepped in and rescued the application from the great smartphone in the sky, renaming it to Samsung Max in the process. The downside? If you were a fan and using the app on something other than a Galaxy handset, you’ll have to say goodbye once Max drops its Opera branding.
As VentureBeat reports, the application has gotten a bit of a UI refresh, but also isn’t a VPN anymore. Instead, the app has a DNS masking feature that keeps your IP address intact. Samsung promises to keep updating Max’s data-saving and privacy protection measures. The app will come pre-installed on certain devices in developing nations including Argentine, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam.
Of all of Samsung’s branded apps, this might be the most helpful and useful. After all, plenty of people already have a platform-agnostic mobile email client they like, or set of productivity apps. At least Max is useful for a broader set of users.
Source: Google Play