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From The Editors Technology

Oculus Quest: The All-In-One VR Headset is Now Available for Order; Ships May 21

Facebook-owned Oculus launched its first ever standalone headset, the Oculus Go, in May last year.

Based on a mobile operating system, pretty much like the Gear VR, and with only three degrees of freedom, the $199 Oculus Go was pretty much limited in scope.

But now, Oculus is ready to ship out its most powerful all-in-one autonomous VR headset, yet – the Oculus Quest, previously referred to as Project Santa Cruz.

Oculus Quest is fundamentally a Rift-compatible headset that doesn’t need to be connected to a PC to be able to play compatible games.

Like the Oculus Rift, the Oculus Quest has two motion touch controllers, capable of being tracked in space, with six degrees of freedom (DoF), all of which translates to a more immersive virtual reality experience.

Since the Quest is a standalone device there are no wires or external sensors to contend with, which means you can play games without the worry of being weighed down by all the extraneous hardware.

And, as mentioned earlier, you don’t really need a PC to run this VR contraption – thanks to the four motion control sensors, as well as a new inside-out tracking technology called Insight.

Insight uses the four ultra-wide-angle sensors on the front of the headset together with computer vision algorithms to help track your position in real-time.

If you are wondering about safety issues like bumping into a wall while you’ve got the headset on, you need not worry because Oculus’ Guardian system allows you to set up virtual boundaries to let you know when you’re nearing the limit you’ve marked for yourself.

“The Oculus Guardian System is designed to display in-application wall and floor markers when users get near boundaries they defined,” says Oculus.

“When the user gets too close to the edge of a boundary, translucent boundary markers are displayed in a layer that is superimposed over the game or experience.”.

First announced back in 2016 under the codename Project Santa Cruz, as mentioned earlier, Quest will ship on May 21 with at least fifty titles, including hits like Robo Recall, Beat Saber, Moss, Superhot VR, and Creed: Rise to Glory, Journey of the Gods, Space Pirate Trainer, Sports Scramble, and even the new Star Wars game Vader Immortal.

During his keynote at the Oculus Connect 5 last year, Mark Zuckerberg said that the Quest platform was going to include three key features to provide that fully-immersive virtual reality experience that gamers are always looking for in a VR headset.

“First, it needs to be standalone that way there are no wires that are going to break your feeling of presence and you’re going to be able to take it with you,” said the Facebook CEO.

“Second, it’s got to support hands because that’s how we’re going to interact with people and objects in virtual reality,” he explained.

“And third, it has to offer six degrees of freedoms so you can move through a virtual space just like you would a physical one,” he added.

Using the local Wi-Fi network, the Oculus Quest can “cast” what’s happening on the VR screen to a TV monitor or a smartphone running the Oculus app; some games will even allow the smartphone user to play along.

Like the Oculus Go, the Quest affords 1600 x 1440 pixels of resolution per eye, with the headset’s graphics driven by a reasonably powerful Snapdragon 835 processor.

However, without the powerful GPU support of a PC, you can expect the graphics to be somewhat below par.

It’s all very good to have an all-in-one standalone but if you have to charge the headset every now and again, then the whole purpose is killed, regardless of how immersive an experience it promises.

But no worries there as the Oculus Quest boasts a lithium-ion battery with 2-3 hours playtime, depending on the title you’re playing.

Key Features, Specifications, Availability, and Price

o    OLED display panel
o 1600 x 1440 pixels of resolution per eye
o Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
o 4GB RAM
o Lithium-ion battery with 2-3 hours playtime
o Does not need to be tethered to a PC | completely wireless
o Improved touch controls
o 6 degrees of freedom head and hand tracking
o Ships with 50+ titles
o Available in two variants: 64 GB of storage ($399) or 128 GB of storage ($499)
o Available for pre-order on the Oculus Store https://www.oculus.com/cart/
o You can also pre-order in the US on Amazon, Best Buy, NewEgg, Microsoft, Micro Center, and Walmart
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From The Editors Technology

Germany Opens ‘eHighway’ – The Country’s First Electric Autobahn for Hybrid Trucks

In a move to fight emission from diesel-guzzling trucks, Germany has introduced an environment-friendly haulage system, starting with a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) ‘eHighway,’ with overhead electric lines to power its fleet of hybrid trucks.

Using special roof-mounted equipment, the trucks will be able to feed on power from the electrified lines and travel at speeds of up to 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph) on the dedicated stretch of the Autobahn.

Developed by Siemens, Volkswagen, and Swedish truck maker Scania, the system is being tested by a group of logistics companies in the real-world traffic scenario of the A5 between Langen/Mörfelden and Weiterstadt, one of Germany’s busiest sections of the Autobahn, south of Frankfurt in the state of Hesse.

The hybrid diesel-electric trucks developed for the multi-million-euro project are designed to run on an electric motor when traveling on the test stretch of the A5 and switch over to their diesel-powered hybrid engine when the situation demands.

A sensor-fitted pantograph on the roof of the trucks detect the presence of overhead cables and automatically extend upwards to make the all-important connection for the electric motor to take over.

Data collected from the test runs, which started on Tuesday (May 5), will be analyzed before the system can be fine-tuned for a country-wide implementation.

If all goes well, about eight percent of Germany’s Autobahn network could end up as eHighways.

Not only will they provide real-time power to the hybrids, but will also serve as charging areas for these trucks, thereby enabling them to carry on in battery mode even on non-electrified roads until there’s no more juice left in the tank; that’s when the hybrid diesel engine will take over.

The test phase alone has set the Environment Ministry back by a whopping €15 million ($16 million), not including the €14.6 million already spent on infrastructures such as masts, cables and electricity.

Powered by energy from renewable sources, the overhead cables run in both directions on the four-lane test stretch.

According to Siemens, the system is as efficient as electric rail and far more flexible, in that it can be integrated with the existing road infrastructure.

During the pilot phase of the project, which is expected to last until 2022, experts at the Technical University of Darmstadt will study the impact of the electrified Autobahn on regular traffic.

As the hybrid vehicles do not need to reduce speed while making or breaking the overhead connection, they will have no effect on the traffic flow, say the project developers.

The university, which is conveniently located near the test Autobahn, will also be able to determine whether the environmental benefits are substantial enough to justify the investment for an all-out expansion, as concerns over the cost to benefit ratio have been raised by certain quarters.

Hessian Motor Trade Association’s vice president Michael Kraft is not convinced about the economic viability of the system, saying that the vehicles are “only suitable for very specific requirements and will play a minor role in the long term,” reported the Hessenschau.

State secretary at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, is of the opinion that “electrified trucks are particularly efficient solution on the road to carbon-neutral transportation

The Hesse state eHighway project is the first of three pilots announced for the country, including the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Baden-Württemberg.

While construction of the test track in Schleswig-Holstein is already underway and expected to be completed within the year, work on the Baden-Württemberg track is yet to begin.

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From The Editors Health

New Breath-Based Test to Detect Multiple Cancer Types – Currently Under Clinical Trial

Doctors at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute have, apparently, made a revolutionary medical breakthrough by devising a ten-minute breath biopsy for the early detection of several types of cancer.

Developed by study sponsor, Owlstone Medical, a British company specializing in breath-based clinical diagnostics and precision medicine, the breathalyzer is currently undergoing a clinical trial called “PAN Cancer Trial for Early Detection of Cancer in Breath.”

“Owlstone Medical will be funding the trial directly, however, none of this would be possible without the support and infrastructure provided by Cancer Research UK,” the company said in a statement.

Led by Prof. Rebecca Fitzgerald – MRC Programme Leader at the MRC Cancer Unit and an Honorary Consultant in Gastroenterology and General Medicine at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge – the trial proposes to involve some 1,500 volunteers by 2021, including healthy controls.

The non-invasive breath-biopsy device is designed to detect volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, present in a person’s exhaled breath.

Cells produce a range of VOCs during the body’s natural metabolic processes, each of which has a distinctive signature.

When cells become cancerous, VOC signatures are likely to undergo changes, which is exactly what the researchers are hoping to detect using the new test.

“The PAN trial is seeing if you can use a breath test device that detects volatile molecules from the breath to identify patients that might have an early cancer that they don’t know about,” Prof. Fitzgerald said.

Writing in a Cancer Research UK blog, Prof. Fitzgerald said that the pilot study would initially attempt to detect signatures for a range of cancers and identify anomalies by comparing them to healthy individuals.

“Intuitively, lung cancer seems the most obvious cancer to be detected in the breath, but because of the way metabolites are recycled in the body, many other volatile molecules from other areas of the body end up in the breath too,” she wrote.

Over the course of the clinical trial, Prof. Fitzgerald and Owlstone researchers will be looking for distinctive biomarkers in the exhaled molecules of, both, healthy participants as well as those with suspected oesophageal, stomach, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreatic, or prostate cancer.

Once the team is able to differentiate between healthy and cancerous VOC signatures, they will next try and identify differences between cancer types – unless all cancer signatures are one and the same.

“There is increasing potential for breath-based tests to aid diagnosis, sitting alongside blood and urine tests in an effort to help doctors detect and treat disease,” Owlstone co-founder and CEO Billy Boyle said in a statement.

“The concept of providing a whole-body snapshot in a completely non-invasive way is very powerful and could reduce harm by sparing patients from more invasive tests that they don’t need,” Boyle added.

Owlstone-developed breathalyzers, part of the company’s Breath Biopsy® platform, uses a “proven microchip chemical sensor technology (FAIMS) to detect biomarkers of disease” so that they can analyze VOCs present in exhaled breath, says the company website.

Not only does the platform have an application in cancer, but a “wide range of other medical conditions,” as well.

“Highly sensitive and selective, these tests allow for early diagnosis when treatments are more effective and more lives can be saved,” the website goes on to claim.

Prof. Fitzgerald herself has been suffering from a condition called Barrett’s esophagus for the last twenty years and undergoes an endoscopy once every two years to make sure things are under control.

Records show that one to five percent of all Barrett’s esophagus patients eventually end up with oesophageal cancer.

“I’m used to endoscopies by now, you just have to get on with them,” said the 54-year-old researcher.

“But they can be painful and invasive, so when I have one I choose to be sedated,” she said, adding that “the procedure means a whole day out and it takes quite a while to recover afterwards.”

With first-hand experience of the painfully invasive procedure, who else can better understand the benefits of an effective non-invasive diagnostic test than Prof. Fitzgerald, and that is the reason why she has volunteered to be among the first to participate in the clinical trial.

“Something like a breath test sounds so much better than what I have to have, so I was very happy to do the trial,” she said.

“After the breath test I felt fine, it was a very easy and there was no discomfort,” she continued.

“The more these conditions can be researched, and kinder detection tests developed, the better,” she added.

“This study will be the first step towards evaluating VOCs analysis as a test to improve early detection rates for cancer with future applicability to primary care,” says the study paper, published on ClinicalTrials.gov.

“Ultimately, such a research program could enable low cost and widespread targeted screening programs for cancer,” it adds.

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From The Editors Top 5

Top Five World Cities’ NYE Celebrations Ushering in 2019

From spectacular fireworks and dazzling light shows to dancing in the streets and all-around revelry, millions around the world assembled in streets, parks and public squares to cheer the advent of yet another year.

Here’s a recap of New Year’s Eve celebrations in five world cities that stood out, although there are tens of others that can easily find a place in this list of five.

Sydney, Australia – Great Fireworks, Wrong Year

Sydney, one of the first cities to usher in 2019, awed spectators around the world with a spectacular twelve-minute pyrotechnics display above its most famous landmark – the Sydney Harbour.

However, the organizers goofed up the $4miilion extravaganza, big time, by getting the year all wrong – a glaring typo that social media users were quick to pounce on.

Can you spot the mistake? Pic: @michvllv

Norbert Schoffa tweeted: “Wow, I will move to Australia ! So I will be one year younger !”

Izzy Erskine: “Oh no it’s 2018 again.”

Neil Clark: “Happy New Year 2018… Wait, have I got that wrong?”

Angus Randall: “Oops.”

Alex Bruce-Smith: “I take no pleasure in other people’s typos considering I make one every second word, but also…. lol.”

Sydney New Year’s Eve executive producer Anna McInerney put up a brave front by trying to see the funny side of the four-million-dollar gaffe.

“We just laughed about it, you know these things happen as we said, it takes 15 months to organise an event of this size and scale,” McInerney told reporters.

“Obviously, we weren’t pleased, but look you move on and you just get back to doing the show,” she said.

Auckland, New Zealand

Like Sydney, Auckland was among the first world cities to celebrate the start of 2019 as fireworks erupted into the night sky from the top of the 328-meter-tall Sky Tower.

Tens of thousands of revelers had gathered around the iconic structure for the spectacular show, which was very much worth their while.

While the fireworks enthralled the crowd for five minutes, the light show continued until 1 a.m.

Apart from one minor firework-related call to the Northern Fire and Emergency Service, the event was, thankfully, incident-free, as was confirmed by a communications spokeswoman for the service who said the callout was “nothing of significance.”

Dubai, U.A.E

Dubai welcomed 2019 with a sensational light and laser show followed by a dazzling fireworks display at the iconic Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

An estimated one million revelers watched the downtown extravaganza, which began with a breathtaking light and laser show lasting ten minutes, followed by an explosion of colorful pyrotechnics just as the countdown to 2019 ended.

Security arrangements were world class, as is expected from a city known for pursuing perfection, with some 4,000 police officers and 2,000 security guards manning the event, making sure everything was orderly.

“We were packed shoulder to shoulder but it was worth it,” one ecstatic reveler told The National.

“It was just such an incredible display and it seemed to last forever,” he said, adding, “It’s already made my year.”

London, U.K.

An estimated hundred thousand ticketholders assembled on the banks of the Thames on New Year’s Eve, counting down the New Year in one resonating voice.

Then the sky above the waters of the iconic river lit up in an eruption of lights and colors to the rhythm of Big Ben’s big bongs, with the London Eye as the centerpiece of the amazing display.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan came under a lot of flak from Brexiters for politicalizing the event with a pro-European Union display that saw the London Eye lit up in the blue and yellow of the EU flag.

Here’s what the Mayor said before the event.

“We, in my opinion, are one of the greatest cities in the world; one of the reasons we are one of the greatest cities in the world is because of the contribution made by Europeans

“I think diversity is a strength and I think what tonight is about is celebrating that diversity.

“I hope that members of parliament, members of the government will see the fireworks tonight, will listen to the soundtrack and will reflect on what sort of country they want to live in post-March.”

The retribution on social media was swift and scathing.

Writer-reporter Anne Crusader called it a “disgraceful fireworks display from Sadiq Khan,” reminding him that “it was the UK not EU.”

New York, USA

While people braved bone-chilling, teeth-chattering cold to ring in 2018, this time around, it was all about standing in a steady downpour as they watched the traditional ball drop at the stroke of midnight, ringing in 2019.

“I can deal with it,” 61-year-old Judy Masson told Reuters as she stood in the pouring rain with an hours-long wait ahead of her, the umbrella ban not making things easy for her.

“You make the best of a bad thing,” said the sexagenarian.

Security was expected to be tight, and tight it was, as NYPD officers in uniform, as well as plain clothes, kept a strict vigil on the ground and on rooftops.

As many as 1,200 security cameras were deployed to help avoid any untoward incident, not to mention the extensive use of radiation detectors throughout the event.

Crowd monitoring with the help of aerial drones was also part of the NYPD agenda and would have been a first in the history of New Year’s Day celebrations at Times Square if only the incessant rain had not played spoilsport.

“We haven’t done that before, but that’s gonna give us a visual aid and flexibility,” John Miller, NYPD’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism had said a day before the event.

“This is going to be one of the most well-policed, best-protected events in one of the safest venues in the entire world,” he said.

As for the revelers, the rain was just a minor irritant that they could in no way allow to come between them and the once-in-a-year experience.

“This is the absolute place to be for New Year’s Eve,” Brandon Cline from Atlanta told New York CBS Global. ”There’s no experience like this,” he said.

“I can’t wait,” said Jill Cline. “What we’ve seen so far is just really spectacular,” she told the news network.

“We got in a pen, it was crazy,” said Megan Guerra of Tampa, Florida.

“We stood out until midnight… 15 hours. No bathrooms, no eating, but it was the time of our lives. It’s magic,” she was quoted as saying.

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From The Editors Technology

Facebook’s Content Moderation Rules are Practically Unenforceable

Facebook has a team of more than 7,500 underpaid moderators across the globe who are supposed to follow a 1,400-page rulebook to help them enforce the company’s so-called “community standards” on the platform.

On face value, it seems like an honest effort to set things right, after all the scandals and accusations the company has been plagued with for months now, including accusations of data theft, election manipulation, allowing misinformation and hate content to go unchecked on the platform, among other breaches and violations.

However, a New York Times investigation has revealed a plethora of inconsistencies in the content moderation manual, which is likely to do more harm than good.

The rulebook provides the moderators with thousands of day-to-day reference material to help them decide what constitutes a hate speech; what type of content could be a possible threat, or intended to incite violence; which posts have racist undertones, and so on.

We’re talking about thousands of Emojis, slides, words and phrases, PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, and what not, that the moderators have to refer to in order to decide whether a post meets the company’s “community standards” criteria.

Emojis, Facebook considers threats or, relating to racial or religious groups, hate speech. (Image: The New York Times)
Emojis, Facebook considers threats or, relating to racial or religious groups, hate speech. (Image: The New York Times)

What’s more is that they have the luxury of ten long seconds in which to allow or reject a post – sarcasm intended.

And, it’s not ten, twenty, or fifty posts we’re talking about here; on an average, they have to judge a thousand posts each day, what with two billion Facebook users around the world, and growing.

“Those moderators, at times relying on Google Translate, have mere seconds to recall countless rules and apply them to the hundreds of posts that dash across their screens each day,” says the NYT report.

It adds: “When is a reference to “jihad,” for example, forbidden? When is a “crying laughter” emoji a warning sign?”

The reference material also includes an internal list of banned groups and organizations for every country that the company has a presence in, according to the Times’ Dec 27 report.

“The closely held rules are extensive, and they make the company a far more powerful arbiter of global speech than has been publicly recognized or acknowledged by the company itself,” the NYT investigation claims to have found.

The content policing guidelines was leaked to the Times by a Facebook employee, who told the paper that the company was wielding excessive power with little discretion and was committing multiple errors.

According to NYT, the documents have revealed embarrassing loopholes – embarrassing for the company, of course – including “numerous gaps, biases and outright errors.”

The paper cites an example where moderators were told to delete a fund-raising post for Indonesian volcano victims just because one of the co-sponsors of the effort was on the company’s internally-generated list of banned groups – choosing to ignore the larger good the post would have done had it been allowed to stay on the platform.

Facebook’s internal list of groups and individuals banned by it as hate figures, although not all of them are fringe elements. Facebook users are prohibited from posting content that is deemed to support or praise them.

(Image: The New York Times)
(Image: The New York Times)

Another example talks about “a prominent extremist group, accused of fomenting genocide” in Myanmar, being erroneously allowed to continue on the platform for months, probably spewing venom all the while.

Dozens of Facebook employees, largely comprising young engineers and lawyers, meet every Tuesday morning to set guidelines for moderators the world over to enforce.

The guidelines are, basically, an attempt to address highly complex issues with simple Yes-No solutions, which are then outsourced to various companies for implementation.

A majority of these companies run call centers that are known to hire lowly paid unskilled workers to cut costs and maximize profits, with scant respect for quality.

More often than not, moderators find the guidelines nonsensical and confusing, not to mention the pressure they are under to get it right all the time.

“You feel like you killed someone by not acting,” a moderator told the Times on condition of anonymity, as he was bound by a non-disclosure clause in the agreement he had signed.

Meanwhile, Facebook executives keep harping about all the work that’s being put into making the platform free of controversial and potentially dangerous content.

“It’s not our place to correct people’s speech, but we do want to enforce our community standards on our platform,” said Sara Su, a senior News Feed engineer at Facebook.

“When you’re in our community, we want to make sure that we’re balancing freedom of expression and safety,” she said.

Trying to justify the company’s shortcomings, Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, said that while every effort was being made to make the platform safe, the scale of operations made it near-impossible to get it one hundred percent right.

“We have billions of posts every day, we’re identifying more and more potential violations using our technical systems,” she said.

“At that scale, even if you’re 99 percent accurate, you’re going to have a lot of mistakes.”

The NYT investigation found that the company tries to simply “context-heavy questions” with “one-size-fits-all rules.”

“One document sets out several rules just to determine when a word like “martyr” or “jihad” indicates pro-terrorism speech,” says the paper.

“Another describes when discussion of a barred group should be forbidden.

Words like “brother” or “comrade” probably cross the line. So do any of a dozen emojis,” the investigation revealed.

Based on this rulebook slide on what constitutes hate speech, moderators are expected to make a series of complex, legalistic judgments per post.

(Image: The New York Times)
(Image: The New York Times)

These are just a few instances in the discrepancy-filled rulebook that NYT investigation revealed.

The report concludes: “Without a full understanding of the platform’s impact, most policies are just ad hoc responses to problems as they emerge.

“Employees make a tweak, wait to see what happens, then tweak again — as if repairing an airplane mid-flight.”

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From The Editors Top 5

Top Five Tech Gifts for Christmas – 2018

Shopping for the holidays can be really taxing, especially if you’re getting something for someone who loves technology.

So, if you’re still not done with your gift shopping, and finding it difficult to decide on the right product for your near and dear ones, our top five gift choices for this season may just come to your rescue.

So, without further ado, let’s just dive straight into it.

Remember you have just about eight more days to go!

All-New Echo Plus (2nd Gen)

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The updated Amazon Echo Plus that the company unveiled in September is a regular Echo with an improved smart hub built into it, allowing the Plus to now discover new devices you add to your smart-home system.

In addition to an improved audio quality, the new Plus also boasts an integrated temperature sensor that allows you to set up temperature-based Alexa routines like, for example, turning on a heater, or an air conditioner, when the room reaches a certain temperature.

Also, the ‘Plus’ can be used offline to control your smarthome devices, should you happen to lose Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Echo Plus makes for an excellent gift if you’re okay to spend $149.99 for that special friend or relative.

Sony PlayStation Classic Console

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Launched about three months ago, the Sony PlayStation Classic – a miniaturized version of the original PlayStation – is the perfect gift to go for if you have a retro games enthusiast in the family or among friends.

The mini console comes bundled with a standard HDMI cable (to hook it up to your HD television), a USB power cable, and two controllers for local multiplayer gaming; of course, that will only be possible with compatible titles.

The console, as Sony claims, is 45 percent smaller than the original PlayStation and will come pre-loaded with 20 games, including Jumping Flash, Rider Racer Type 4, Tekken 2, Wild Arms and Final Fantasy VII, to name a few.

The eject button on the original PlayStation will serve as a virtual swap button on the Classic, allowing you to smoothly switch you over to the next game with a single press.

A cool gift, indeed, but will set you back by a cool $147 unless you manage to land a good deal and save yourself a few bucks on it.

AmazonBasics Microwave (Alexa-Enabled)

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One of the more interesting devices Amazon presented at its September event is the AmazonBasics Microwave that gives you access to “dozens of quick-cook voice presets, so you can cook just by asking Alexa” – thanks to the built-in Alexa Connect Kit.

The kit “includes a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE module that contains software — written and managed by Amazon — that automatically and securely connects to Amazon-managed cloud services.”

You can also use the integrated Ask-Alexa button for simple commands like “Alexa, cook for two minutes and 30 seconds on medium temperature” and Alexa will obey.

The AmazonBasics Microwave also has an integrated Dash button, so you can quickly order stuff that you use regularly right from the Microwave itself.

This counter-top microwave costs $59.99 and can prove to be the ideal gift for a homemaker.

Fitbit Charge 3

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Have a friend who’s a fitness freak? Or, an overly health-conscious family member?

Well, if you do, California-based wearables brand Fitbit has just the right product for you – the Fitbit Charge 3.

Even though the Charge 3 looks pretty much the same as the outgoing Charge 2, it does pack some key hardware and software upgrades that make it, well, different.

Fitbit is selling two variants of the new fitness tracker, including a base model with an included silicon wrist strap for $149.95, as well as a special edition version for $169.95 – the additional $20 getting you two wrist straps instead of one, plus Fitbit Pay for contactless payments.

The third-generation Corning Gorilla Glass protecting the tiny Charge 3 screen makes it by far a better scratch-resistant option than the previous edition; much like the Versa – Fitbit’s crown jewel.

While it still has the same black and white screen we saw on the previous model, it now boasts a bigger brighter OLED touchscreen that makes for easier navigation through the menus.

Amazon Fire TV Recast

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Amazon’s new Fire TV Recast makes a great gift for any entertainment-addict you’re looking to please this Christmas.

It comes with an integrated DVR (digital video recorder) that can record over-the-air television and content broadcasts through an HD antenna.

The company is offering two variants of the Recast; the $229.99 version can record two shows simultaneously, while the $279.99 model is capable of doing four in one go.

This super versatile device allows you to “watch, record, and replay free over-the-air programming to any Fire TV, Echo Show, and on compatible Fire tablet and mobile devices.”

Not only can you watch and record live sports, local news, late night shows, and other unmissable TV from channels through an HD antenna such as ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, and The CW, you can even take them all over the place – thanks to the Alexa app.

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From The Editors Technology

Apple to Build Brand New Texas Campus and Create Thousands of Jobs Across the U.S.

Apple is looking to add at least twenty thousand employees to its existing 90,000-strong workforce across the United States.

In a major announcement on Thursday (Dec 13), the Cupertino tech giant said it plans to spend in excess of $1 billion to build a brand new campus in Austin, Texas, that would eventually employ 15,000 workers.

It is part of the company’s three-year expansion drive to build new facilities in Seattle, San Diego, Culver City, Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado, with a strong likelihood of more such facilities coming up in other US cities in the longer term.

“Apple is proud to bring new investment, jobs and opportunity to cities across the United States and to significantly deepen our quarter-century partnership with the city and people of Austin,” company CEO, Tim Cook said in a Thursday press release.

“Talent, creativity and tomorrow’s breakthrough ideas aren’t limited by region or zip code, and, with this new expansion, we’re redoubling our commitment to cultivating the high-tech sector and workforce nationwide,” Cook said.

The iPhone manufacturer is apparently living up to its January promise of generating employment for at least 20,000 people across the nation by 2023, having already created 6,000 jobs in the U.S. as the year comes to a close.

Apple’s massive investment plans in the US comes on the back of last year’s tax cuts, which led the company to bring back a big chunk of the $252 billion it had stashed away in foreign accounts to defer taxes on its overseas earnings.

Apple will initially employ 5,000 new employees at the Austin campus, which is not even a mile from its existing facilities in the Texan city.

Austin, by the way, is already home to the largest population of Apple employees outside of the company’s home base in Cupertino, California.

Spread over 133 acres of land, the sprawling new space will eventually accommodate 15,000 employees, making Apple the biggest private employer in Austin, when it does happen.

“Apple is among the world’s most innovative companies and an avid creator of jobs in Texas and across the country,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said about the proposed expansion.

“Their decision to expand operations in our state is a testament to the high-quality workforce and unmatched economic environment that Texas offers,” he said.

“I thank Apple for this tremendous investment in Texas, and I look forward to building upon our strong partnership to create an even brighter future for the Lone Star State,” Abbott added.

According to Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Apple has been a significant part of the Austin community for more than two and a half decades and the state was “thrilled” that the company was planning to invest even more in the city.

“Apple and Austin share a creative spark and a commitment to getting big things done.,” Adler said, adding that the state shared its “commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

“We’re excited they are bringing more middle-skilled jobs to the area,” he said.

“And we’re particularly gratified by their commitment to providing a great place to work for a large and growing number of America’s veterans,” the mayor added.

The Steve Jobs-founded company is looking to invest a whopping $10 billion in data centers across the country over the next five years, with plans of spending nearly half of it by the end of 2019.

Work is already underway to expand the company’s existing data centers in North Carolina, Arizona, and Nevada, in addition to a new 400,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art data center being planned for Waukee, Iowa, to boost its iMessage, Siri, the App Store and other services in the country.

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The announcement comes not too long after sources familiar with the project told The New York Times that Amazon was in the process of finalizing plans to add not one but two HQ2 locations, including one in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens and another in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia.

The informed insiders also told the newspaper that the company was planning to hire 50,000 workers in both locations.

According to the paper, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo met with Amazon executives in October in connection with a deal that could potentially translate to hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies for Apple.

“I am doing everything I can,” Governor Cuomo told reporters in November about the ongoing talks with Amazon, adding that the state had “a great incentive package” for the online retail giant.

“I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” Cuomo quipped, “because it would be a great economic boost.”

Until earlier this year, Amazon had been on the hunt for a single location to build its second headquarters, dubbed HQ2.

In January it announced the names of 20 potential cities it had shortlisted from a total of 238 applicants.

With the kind of job creation and monetary incentives on offer, it was a hard-fought competition between the finalists, something that Amazon may have been looking to take advantage of, in terms of bargaining for extra perks like subsidies, tax holidays and the likes.

There were quite a few interesting campaigns by competing cities to win the HQ2 bid.

Stonecrest, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, pledged 345 acres of land to Amazon to establish its very own city around its new headquarter.

Sun Corridor, a Tucson-based economic development company in Arizona, looking to push the city’s bid, tried to gift Amazon a cactus measuring 21 feet, but it was rejected as it went against the retailer’s corporate gifts policy. The giant cactus ended up at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

A Pittsburgh-based sandwich-shop chain said it would provide free sandwiches to Amazon workers if the company selected the city as the location for its HQ2.

In another promotional gimmick, Kansas City mayor Sly James bought 1,000 Amazon products and donated them to charity. Not only that, he wrote 5-star reviews for all of them with positive Kansas City attributes mentioned in each review.

Birmingham, Alabama, sent out pre-generated tweets through Amazon dash buttons it built around public places along with huge Amazon boxes

Apple and Amazon are not the only West Coast companies with expansion plans, as Google is also well on course to expand its high-tech presence in New York City.

If the company manages to seal the deal for its target 1.3 million-square-foot office space at the St. John’s Terminal building on Manhattan’s West Side, it would open the door for 12,000 new workers – nearly twice its existing workforce in the city.

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Entertainment From The Editors

Marvel Finally Releases the Trailer for Avenger: Endgame – Here’s a Breakdown

Marvel Studio has finally dropped the long-awaited trailer for Avengers 4 and we now know that the official title is going to be AVENGERS:

ENDGAME; also, the release date announced is much earlier than expected – so, all good, thus far.

Now, before we jump right into breaking it down for you, we must warn you for spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War because Endgame is after all a sequel to it.

After witnessing the annihilation of half the population of the universe at the hands of Thanos in Infinity War, the trailer shows Tony Stark drifting in space inside the gloomy confines of a spacecraft, with no food or water for four days running and a fast-depleting air supply, barely enough to see him through to the next morning.

You see a debilitated Stark recording a message into his partially damaged Iron Man helmet, meant for the CEO of Stark Industries – Virginia “Pepper” Potts, a.k.a Rescue – who, as you know, also happens to be his fiancée.

“If you find this recording, don’t’ feel bad about this. Part of the journey is the end. Just for the record, being adrift in space with zero promise of rescue is more fun than it sounds,” says Stark, who is. quite visibly, at the end of his tether.

There are speculations that Nebula is with Stark, out of sight somewhere on the seemingly doomed spaceship.

After decimating half of the universe’s inhabitants, Thanos seems to have retired into a rural setting, which we saw a glimpse of in the final scenes of the prequel.

His body armor stands tall in the fields, apparently serving as a scarecrow, as he walks through the space-thistles, his Infinity Glove caressing the flora.

Gone is Steve Roger’s (Captain America) relatively new bearded look in this Avenger installment; he looks as clean-shaven as it gets – probably his way of looking sad at the loss of his best buddy Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier.

After being missed in the previous Avenger installment, master archer and S.H.I.E.L.D agent Clint Barton from Avengers: Age of Ultron is back, with not only a new haircut and outfit but also a new-look weapon.

Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang – also known as Ant-Man – who, like Barton, was not part of Infinity War, is also back in Endgame, at least in the trailer.

Land probably has a key role to play in restoring the natural order, especially with his ability to shrink and grow and become stronger at will – thanks to his suit.

We could likely see him reversing the vaporization sequence and bringing all the lost heroes back – but don’t swear by it.

While the trailer has been masterfully edited to captivate and impress with some really interesting teases, it hardly reveals anything about the plot, leaving a lot to speculation.

But, isn’t that the hallmark of a good trailer? To build up the suspense? Deliberately keep the audience on tenterhooks? Provide them the thrill of not knowing?

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame – Official Trailer

Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Cast and Characters:

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / Hulk
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America:
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange
Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine
Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther
Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia “Pepper” Potts / Rescue
Josh Brolin as Thanos and others.

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From The Editors Science

NASA’s Mars Probe InSight Lands After 7 Minutes of Nerve-Shattering Terror Through the Martian Atmosphere

After traveling for nearly seven months and more than 300 million miles through deep space, NASA’s Mars Probe, InSight, finally entered the Martian atmosphere on Nov 26 at 2:47 pm ET, beginning the entry, descent and landing (EDL) phase of the mission.

The EDL began with the lander plunging into the thin Martian atmosphere at 12,300 miles per hour with just about seven minutes at its disposal to decelerate to a touchdown speed of 5mph.

Two minutes into the decent, InSight’s protective heat shield had reached peak heating of 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit (1,482 Celsius), causing a brief weakening of the lander’s radio signal.

Then began InSight’s decelerating maneuvers, with the parachute deploying first, followed by the heat shield jettisoning – all of this happening within three minutes of entry.

The descent slowed, but not enough, as the probe was still doing around 180 miles per hour.

This is when the lander deployed its tripod legs, got rid of the back shell and fired the retro rockets, coming to rest on the equatorial plane of Elysium Planitia at 2:54 p.m. ET, successfully completing the EDL sequence.

“We hit the Martian atmosphere at 19,800 kilometers per hour, and the whole sequence to touching down on the surface took only six-and-a-half minutes,” said Tom Hoffman – InSight project manager at JPL.

“During that short span of time, InSight had to autonomously perform dozens of operations and do them flawlessly — and by all indications that is exactly what our spacecraft did,” said Hoffman.

No sooner had the landing confirmation “beep” reached NASA, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory erupted into applause and cheers, and high-fives, and hugs – a deeply satisfying conclusion to the seven-minute-agony of anticipation they had to endure during the EDL.

“Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at the post-landing presser.

“InSight will study the interior of Mars and will teach us valuable science as we prepare to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars,” Bridenstine said.

“This accomplishment represents the ingenuity of America and our international partners, and it serves as a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our team,” said the NASA administrator, adding that “the best of NASA is yet to come, and it is coming soon.”

The first picture captured by InSight shows nothing more than a lot of black dirt spots on the camera’s lens-covering, which will be taken off this week.

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The probe’s main mission is still two to three months away from actually starting because that’s how long it will take the robotic arm to deploy all the mission equipment on the surface – the process having already begun with the unfurling of the spacecraft’s 7-feet solar arrays.

Meanwhile, NASA scientists will have to make do with photographs that the lander can capture from its current position before meaningful science data starts coming in sometime in March.

That said, the fact that InSight is sitting pretty on the planet’s surface after its stressful descent is more than half the battle won, as a thousand things could have gone wrong during the six and a half-minute EDL.

For example, the parachute could have failed to deploy; malfunctioning of the landing legs was a possibility; the heat shield could have failed to jettison or it could have grazed the lander as it dropped; a surface obstruction could have botched the landing; and so on.

But no such thing happened and the relief was evident in Hoffman’s statement.

“The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries,” he said.

“It’s been a long day for the team. But tomorrow begins an exciting new chapter for InSight: surface operations and the beginning of the instrument deployment phase,” Hoffman added.

Among the myriad scientific instruments is the InSight’s seismometer called SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) – a round, dome-like instrument that will monitor seismic vibrations on the Red Planet.

Also included is the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, featuring a “self-hammering nail” capable of penetrating 5 meters into the planet’s crust to read the heat flow pattern inside Mars.

“Landing was thrilling, but I’m looking forward to the drilling,” InSight’s principal investigator Bruce said.

“When the first images come down, our engineering and science teams will hit the ground running, beginning to plan where to deploy our science instruments,” said an excited Banerdt.

“Within two or three months, the arm will deploy the mission’s main science instruments, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instruments,” he said.

Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, better known as InSight, was launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on May 5, 2018.

Also on board were two experimental CubeSats, MarCO-A and MarCO-B, which actually beamed back data about InSight as it entered the Martian atmosphere on Monday.

Although launched with the lander, they flew separately to Mars and have proved that CubeSats can hold their own in deep space.

They were not designed to land but do a flyby of the Red Planet, instead, and wait for their short operational lives to end, which is exactly what they are presently doing, now that their mission is over.

“Every Mars landing is daunting, but now with InSight safely on the surface, we get to do a unique kind of science on Mars,” said Michael Watkins, director at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“The experimental MarCO CubeSats have also opened a new door to smaller planetary spacecraft,” Watkins said.

“The success of these two unique missions is a tribute to the hundreds of talented engineers and scientists who put their genius and labor into making this a great day,” he added.

Categories
From The Editors Technology

Apple Releases macOS 10.14 Mojave – BEST NEW FEATURES

Apple on Monday released its latest-gen macOS platform, the macOS 10.14 Mojave, and it packs plenty of great new features to boost the overall user experience.

Apple says macOS Mojave’s new inclusions are “inspired by its most powerful users, but designed for everyone”

Let’s take a look at some of the coolest additions and upgrades you can expect to see on this free software update for mac computers.

Dark Mode

Dark Mode is a great new addition that allows you to focus on your work by putting your content dead center of the screen, while distractions like toolbars and menus and other unnecessary stuff fade into the background.

In addition to being work-friendly, Dark Mode gives your desktop a more contemporary look.

Also, when you’re using your mac in lowlight environments, turning on Dark Mode would be the right thing to do, as it’s a lot easier on the eyes.

Here’s how you turn on/off Dark Mode: Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> General -> Dark Mode

Dynamic Desktop

While the Dynamic Desktop feature does not really have a practical application, it is a very attractive feature all the same.

It offers you a time shifting feature that adjusts your desktop image to match the time of day, regardless of where you may be.

For example, the default picture, which is that of the Mojave Desert on the new macOS, will be at its peak brightness in the afternoon, with well-lit sand dunes and a bright blue sky, gradually changing with the advancing hours.

And, as day turns to night, the sky takes on a darker hue; the shadows get deeper and more pronounced; it looks exactly the way it would if you visited the place at that exact time.

To turn on Dynamic Desktop follow this sequence: Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Desktop & Screen Saver -> Desktop.

Desktops that are dynamic are indicated with an icon in the top left of the thumbnail, and when you select one, the description lets you know if it’s a Dynamic Desktop.

Stacks

Stacks, again, is a fantastic new feature coming to the macOS platform, without which you would, probably, not be able to enjoy your Dynamic Desktop to the fullest, especially if you keep your desktop cluttered with a lot of files and stuff.

This de-cluttering tool, if you will, cleans up your desktop with a single click of the mouse by arranging your files into relevant groups.

All you need to do to activate the feature is right click on your desktop and select the “Use Stacks” option and it will automatically organize your files into the corresponding Stack, including Documents, Images, PDF Docs, Spread Sheets, Screen Shots, and Other.

To view the files contained in a particular Stack, simply click on the Stack to reveal its contents; and, when you do that, a down arrow appears on the Stack to indicate it is being viewed.

Finder

Finder is also getting a huge update in this latest version of macOS, making it more powerful than ever before, what with super-useful features like “Quick Action” and “Gallery View.”

Gallery View provides you an alternative way of scrolling through big previews of your files, allowing you easy identification of whatever it is that you’re looking for.

It’s fast, easy, and works particularly well with images, certain documents, and so forth.

Quick Action in the Preview pane is also a great time saver and boosts productivity by allowing you the flexibility to work on files from within the Finder itself, whether it’s rotating pictures, creating PDFs, or editing video and audio files, and more.

Quick Work

Quick Work also gets some handy new features like, for example, pressing the spacebar will give you a nice big preview of the file, plus it allows you to perform actions specific to the file you are viewing.

Audio and video editing, cropping or rotating an image, making a PDF, etc. have all been made available at your fingertips.

Mac App Store

The revamped App Store for Mac is a huge improvement, with the left side of the store showing the tabs menu that includes tabs like Discover, Create Work, Play, and so on.

Clicking on an app will give you video previews, images, and reviews, all of them centered on this gorgeous new user interface (UI).

The rich editorial content on the new App Store is designed to speed up app search, something that was lacking in the previous version of the macOS.

Screen Capture Interface

Screen Capture Interface is another feature that deserves a mention.

It provides handy options like capturing the entire screen, a selected window, or even a selected portion of a screen, along with screen recording options, such as Record Entire Screen, or Record Selected Portion of the screen.

Screen Capture Interface can be opened with an easy to remember keyboard command, which is: Shift + Command + 5.

Continuity Camera

When you shoot a picture or scan the image of a document using your iPhone, the Continuity Camera feature automatically puts it on your mac.
macOS Mojave is getting iOS apps

Last, but not least, the macOS 10.14 Mojave is getting some of the more popular iOS apps in the form of full-blown mac apps.