How Amazon Became Corporate America's Nightmare ( 241

Zorro shares a report from Bloomberg that details Amazon's rapid growth in the last three years: Amazon makes no sense. It's the most befuddling, illogically sprawling, and -- to a growing sea of competitors -- flat-out terrifying company in the world. It sells soap and produces televised soap operas. It sells complex computing horsepower to the U.S. government and will dispatch a courier to deliver cold medicine on Christmas Eve. It's the third-most-valuable company on Earth, with smaller annual profits than Southwest Airlines Co., which as of this writing ranks 426th. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is the world's richest person, his fortune built on labor conditions that critics say resemble a Dickens novel with robots, yet he has enough mainstream appeal to play himself in a Super Bowl commercial. Amazon was born in cyberspace, but it occupies warehouses, grocery stores, and other physical real estate equivalent to 90 Empire State Buildings, with a little left over. The company has grown so large and difficult to comprehend that it's worth taking stock of why and how it's left corporate America so thoroughly freaked out. Executives at the biggest U.S. companies mentioned Amazon thousands of times during investor calls last year, according to transcripts -- more than President Trump and almost as often as taxes. Other companies become verbs because of their products: to Google or to Xerox. Amazon became a verb because of the damage it can inflict on other companies. To be Amazoned means to have your business crushed because the company got into your industry. And fear of being Amazoned has become such a defining feature of commerce, it's easy to forget the phenomenon has arisen mostly in about three years.

Vulkan Graphics is Coming To macOS and iOS, Will Enable Faster Games and Apps ( 94

The Khronos Group, a consortium of hardware and software companies, has announced that the Vulkan graphics technology is coming to Apple's platforms, allowing games and apps to run at faster performance levels on Macs and iOS devices. From a report: In collaboration with Valve, LunarG, and The Brenwill Workshop, this free open-source collection includes the full 1.0 release of the previously-commercial MoltenVK, a library for translating Vulkan API calls to Apple's Metal 1 and 2 calls, as well LunarG's new Vulkan SDK for macOS. Funding the costs of open-sourcing, Valve has been utilizing these tools on their applications, noting performance gains over native OpenGL drivers with Vulkan DOTA 2 on macOS as a production-load example. Altogether, this forms the next step in Khronos' Vulkan Portability Initiative, which was first announced at GDC 2017 as their "3D Portability Initiative," and later refined as the "Vulkan Portability Initiative" last summer. Spurred by industry demand, Khronos is striving for a cross-platform API portability solution, where an appropriate subset of Vulkan can act as a 'meta-API'-esque layer to map to DirectX 12 and Metal; the holy grail being that developers can craft a single Vulkan portable application or engine that can be seamlessly deployed across Vulkan, DX12, and Metal supporting platforms.

Samsung Announces the Galaxy S9 With a Dual Aperture Camera, AR Emojis ( 137

Samsung has taken the wraps off of its latest flagship, the Galaxy S9, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The S9 features a familiar body with an upgraded camera, relocated fingerprint scanner, and newer processor. As usual, there are two versions: the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+. Ars Technica reports: The S9 is one of the first phones announced with the new 2.8Ghz Snapdragon 845 SoC in the US, while the international version will most likely get an Exynos 9810. Qualcomm is promising a 25-percent faster CPU and 30-percent faster graphics compared to the Snapdragon 835. The rest of the base S9 specs look a lot like last year, with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 3000mah battery, and a 5.8-inch 2960x1440 OLED display. The S9+ gets the usual bigger screen (6.2 inches @ 2960x1440) and bigger battery (3500mAh), but one improvement over last year is a RAM bump to 6GB. Neither RAM option is really outstanding for a phone this expensive, considering the much cheaper OnePlus 5T will give you 6GB and 8GB options for RAM at a much lower price. Both S9 models have headphone jacks, MicroSD slots, a new stereo speaker setup (one bottom firing, one doubles as the earpiece), IP68 dust and water resistance, wireless charging, and ship with Android 8.0 Oreo.

Both the Galaxy S9 versions are getting a main camera with two aperture settings. Just like a real camera, the Galaxy S9 has a set of (very tiny) aperture blades that can move to change the amount of incoming light. On the S9 they're limited to two different positions, resulting in f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures. In low light the aperture can open up to f/1.5 to collect as much light as possible, while in normal or bright light it can switch to f/2.4 for a wider depth of field. Samsung is also answering Apple's Animojis with "AR Emoji." They work just like Apple's Animoji: using the front sensors to perform a primitive version of motion capture, the phone syncs up a character's facial expressions to your facial expressions.
The Galaxy S9 clocks in at $719.99 and the S9+ is going for $839.99. In the U.S., preorders start March 2 at all four major carriers, and the phones ship out on March 16.

Microsoft Finally Documents the Limitations of Windows 10 on ARM ( 121

For over a year we've been treated to the fantasy that Windows 10 on ARM was the same as Windows 10 on x86. But it's a bit more nuanced than that. Paul Thurrott: 64-bit apps will not work. Yes, Windows 10 on ARM can run Windows desktop applications. But it can only run 32-bit (x86) desktop applications, not 64-bit (x64) applications. (The documentation doesn't note this, but support for x64 apps is planned for a future release.)
Certain classes of apps will not run. Utilities that modify the Windows user interface -- like shell extensions, input method editors (IMEs), assistive technologies, and cloud storage apps -- will not work in Windows 10 on ARM.
It cannot use x86 drivers. While Windows 10 on ARM can run x86 Windows applications, it cannot utilize x86 drivers. Instead, it will require native ARM64 drivers instead. This means that hardware support will be much more limited than is the case with mainstream Windows 10 versions. In other words, it will likely work much like Windows 10 S does today.
No Hyper-V.
Older games and graphics apps may not work. Windows 10 on ARM supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11, and DirectX 12, but apps/games that target older versions will not work. Apps that require hardware-accelerated OpenGL will also not work.


Bloomberg Starts Tracking Tesla Model 3 Production ( 55

WindBourne writes: Tesla is producing their Model 3, but is apparently tired of answering critics about production. So, they quit telling. Now, Bloomberg has an active tracker that shows the total production and deliveries, along with the production per week, which is probably more important. In fact, they are now up to 1,025 Model 3s per week, and it is apparent that Tesla is growing by leaps and bounds on this as parts of the manufacturing line are converted to full robotics. Bloomberg reportedly tracks Tesla's production via Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs), which are unique strings of digits displayed on every new car sold in the U.S., along with "data from official U.S. government resources, social media reports, and direct communication with Tesla owners." While the company is now building approximately 1,025 Model 3 vehicles a week, Bloomberg estimates that Tesla has manufactured a total of 7,438 Model 3s so far.

Cryptocurrency Miners Are 'Limiting' the Search For Alien Life Now ( 135

Since the latest graphics processing units (GPUs) are so popular with cryptocurrency miners, the SETI project -- short for "Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" -- can't find the graphics cards it needs to expand its operations. The SETI@home project helps provide some computing power, as it involves thousands of volunteers who turn the power of their computers over to the project, but it's only a portion of the SETI project's total computing power. Motherboard reports: Searching the stars is intense work that "uses radio telescopes to listen for narrow-bandwidth radio signals from space." Analyzing all of the data from these telescopes uses a lot of computing power. "We'd like to use the latest GPUs and we can't get 'em," Dan Werthimer, chief scientist of SETI, told the BBC. "That's limiting our search for extraterrestrials." Manufacturers such as Nvidia are struggling to keep up with demand for graphics cards. It recently told investors it would rise to meet its manufacturing challenge while focusing on its core market -- gamers. It even suggested vendors limit purchases of graphics cards from individual buyers in an effort to stop miners from buying up all the cards. "This is a new problem, it's only happened on orders we've been trying to make in the last couple of months," Werthimer told the BBC. "We've got the money, we've contacted the vendors, and they say, 'we just don't have them.'"

Crypto-currency Craze 'Hinders Search For Alien Life' ( 110

Scientists listening out for broadcasts by extra-terrestrials are struggling to get the computer hardware they need, thanks to the crypto-currency mining craze, a radio-astronomer has said. From a report: Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) researchers want to expand operations at two observatories. However, they have found that key computer chips are in short supply. "We'd like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]... and we can't get 'em," said Dan Werthimer. Demand for GPUs has soared recently thanks to crypto-currency mining. "That's limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, 'Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?'," Dr Werthimer told the BBC. "This is a new problem, it's only happened on orders we've been trying to make in the last couple of months."

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Benchmarks Show An Incredible GPU, Faster CPU ( 52

MojoKid writes: Though the company has been evangelizing its new Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform for a while now, Qualcomm is lifting the veil today on the new chip's benchmark performance profile. At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the new Kyro 385 CPU, which features four high-performance cores operating at 2.8GHz and four efficiency cores that are dialed back to 1.7GHz, all of which should culminate in a claimed 25 percent uplift over the previous generation Snapdragon 835, along with improved power efficiency. In addition, the Snapdragon 845's new Adreno 630 integrated GPU core should deliver a boost in performance over its predecessor as well, with up to a 30 percent increase in graphics throughput, allowing it to become the first mobile platform to enable room-scale VR/AR experiences. Armed with prototype reference devices, members of the press put the Snapdragon 845 through its paces and the chip proved to be anywhere from 15 to 35 percent faster, depending on workloads and benchmarks, with graphics showing especially strong. Next-generation Android smartphones and other devices based on the Snapdragon 845 are expected to be unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of this month.

Nvidia Will Focus on Gaming Because Cryptocurrencies Are 'Volatile' ( 122

Graphics card manufacturer Nvidia made almost $10 billion dollars in the last fiscal year, that's up 41 percent from the previous period. The GPU company broke the news to its investors in a conference call on Thursday, and said that video games such as Star Wars: Battlefront II and Playerunknown's Battlegrounds as well as the unprecedented success of the Nintendo Switch led to the record profits. That and cryptocurrency. From a report: Graphics cards are the preferred engine of today's cryptocurrency miners. It's led to a shortage of the GPUs, a spike in their prices, and record profits for the company that manufactures them. "Strong demand in the cryptocurrency market exceeded our expectations," Nvidia chief financial officer Colette Kress told investors during its earnings call yesterday. "We met some of this demand with a dedicated board in our OEM business and some was met with our gaming GPUs." But Nvidia is having trouble keeping up with the demand and it's recommended retailers put gamers ahead of cryptocurrency miners while supply is limited. Kress acknowledged the shortage on the call and reaffirmed Nvidia's commitment to gamers. "While the overall contribution of cryptocurrency to our business remains hard to quantify, we believe it was a higher percentage of revenue than the prior quarter," she said. "That said, our main focus remains on our core gaming market as cryptocurrency trends will likely remain volatile." When Kress finished her statement and opened up the line to questions, the first question was about cryptocurrency. "Is crypto being modeled more conservatively?" An investor from Evercore asked. "We model crypto approximately flat," said Jensen Huang, Nvidia's chief executive officer.

Microsoft Is Now Selling a Surface Laptop With An Intel Core m3 Processor For $799 ( 108

Microsoft has begun offering a lower specced Surface laptop running Windows 10 S and an Intel Core m3 processor. It's priced at $799, compared to the standard model's $999 price, and is only available in the platinum color configuration. Windows Central reports: The Intel Core m3 spec is paired with 4GB of RAM and 128GB Storage. This is definitely not a high-end model of the Surface Laptop, but it's still a premium one, with the same Alcantara fabric and high-quality display found on other Surface Laptop SKUs. Microsoft offers an Intel Core m3 model of the Surface Pro priced at $799 also, however that SKU doesn't come bundled with a keyboard or pen. At least with the Surface Laptop, you're getting a keyboard and trackpad in the box, so perhaps the Intel Core m3 Laptop is going to be the better choice for many. If you're looking for a straight laptop by Microsoft, that is. Some other specs include a 2256 x 1504 resolution display, Intel HD graphics 615, 720p webcam with Windows Hello face-authentication, Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio Premium, one full-size USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, headphone jack and Surface Connect port. The device measures in a 12.13 inches x 8.79 inches x 0.57 inches and weighs 2.76 pounds.

Big Backing For 'Universal Stylus' Campaign ( 87

Google has backed an effort to standardise touch-screen styluses so they can be used on many devices. From a report: The Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) was launched, in 2015, to encourage companies to produce styluses that work on rivals' products Dell, Intel, Lenovo, LG and graphics tablet-maker Wacom have all backed the project. However, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung have not. One expert suggested the big brands would keep their proprietary pens. Styluses designed to work with modern touch-screen devices and graphics tablets usually contain sensors to detect pressure, movement and orientation of the pen.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Could Use ARM Coprocessors for Three Updated Mac Models ( 119

According to a Bloomberg report, Apple could be working on three new Mac models for this year. From a report: All three of them could feature an ARM coprocessor to improve security. Apple isn't switching to ARM chipsets altogether. There will still be an Intel CPU in every Mac, but with a second ARM processor. Currently, the MacBook Pro features a T1 chip while the iMac Pro features a T2 chip. On the MacBook Pro, the ARM coprocessor handles the Touch ID sensor and the Touch Bar. This way, your fingerprint is never stored on your laptop's SSD drive -- it remains on the T1 secure enclave. The Intel CPU only gets a positive response when a fingerprint is validated. The iMac Pro goes one step further and uses the T2 to replace many discrete controllers. The T2 controls your stereo speakers, your internal microphone, the fans, the camera and internal storage.
Open Source

Linus Finally Releases Linux 4.15 Kernel, Blames Intel For Delay ( 55

An anonymous reader writes: Linus Torvalds has released Linux 4.15 following the lengthy development cycle due to the Spectre v2 and Meltdown CPU vulnerability mitigation work. This update comes with many kernel improvements including RISC-V architecture support, AMDGPU Display Code support, Intel Coffee Lake graphics support, and many other improvements.
"This obviously was not a pleasant release cycle, with the whole meltdown/spectre thing coming in in the middle of the cycle and not really gelling with our normal release cycle," Linus writes. "The extra two weeks were obviously mainly due to that whole timing issue... [T]he news cycle notwithstanding, the bulk of the 4.15 work is all the regular plodding 'boring' stuff. And I mean that in the best possible way. It may not be glamorous and get the headlines, but it's the bread and butter of kernel development, and is in many ways the really important stuff.

"Go forth and play with it, things actually look pretty good despite everything. And obviously this also means that the merge window for 4.16 is open... Hopefully we'll have a _normal_ and entirely boring release cycle for 4.16. Because boring really is good."

Firefox 58 Gets Graphics Speed Boost, Web App Abilities ( 178

Mozilla released on Tuesday a new version of its Firefox Quantum browser, boosting its graphics speed and improving a couple of new technologies designed to make the web more powerful. From a report: The browser, version 58, is the first major update since Mozilla's recovery plan hit full stride in November with the debut of Firefox Quantum. Speed is of the essence in Mozilla's recovery plan, and Firefox 58 does better than its predecessor in some graphics tasks by splitting work better across the multiple processor cores that computer chips have these days. The result should be scrolling that's smooth, uninterrupted by the stuttering that in computing circles goes by the disparaging term "jank." [...] Firefox 58 helps with two new web technologies. One, called WebAssembly, provides for dramatically faster web apps. Firefox 58 can get WebAssembly software running faster so you don't have to twiddle your thumbs waiting as long after clicking a link. Another is progressive web apps (PWAs), an initiative that came out of Google to help make the web a better match for the apps we all drop on our phones.

To Combat Shortage, Nvidia Asks Retailers To Limit Graphics Card Orders ( 212

An anonymous reader writes: If you're a PC builder -- or your aging desktop system is in dire need of some modern upgrades -- you've probably wondered why it's impossible to get a graphics card lately. You can thank the outrageous interest in cryptocurrency for all of this. Since graphics cards mine cryptocurrency much faster than CPUs, an eager community of get-rich-quick enthusiasts are scooping up graphics cards as fast as they can get them. While there isn't much major manufacturers AMD and Nvidia can do about the overwhelming demand for GPUs, Nvidia is at least trying to let retailers know that they should be holding their stock for the company's core audience: gamers, not miners. "For NVIDIA, gamers come first. All activities related to our GeForce product line are targeted at our main audience. To ensure that GeForce gamers continue to have good GeForce graphics card availability in the current situation, we recommend that our trading partners make the appropriate arrangements to meet gamers' needs as usual," reads a translated statement Nvidia's Boris Bohles. Nvidia is suggesting that retailers limit graphics card orders to just two per person, but that's just an idea -- one Nvidia can't actually enforce beyond restricting sales on its website, which it's currently doing. Further reading: It's a terrible time to buy a graphics card.

Can A New Open Photo File Format Replace JPEGs? ( 271

Got lossless compression? An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Google, Mozilla and others in a group called the Alliance for Open Media are working on a rival photo technology. In testing so far, the images are 15 percent smaller than Apple's HEIC photo format, said Tim Terriberry, a Mozilla principal research engineer working on the project. But smaller sizes are just the beginning... it's got a strong list of allies, an affinity for web publishing and modern features that could make it the best contender yet for overcoming JPEG's 1990s-era shortcomings... JPEG isn't just limited by needlessly large file sizes. It's also weak when it comes to supporting a wider range of bright and dark tones, a broader spectrum of colors, and graphic elements like text and logos...

The HEIC's new rival is from the Alliance for Open Media, a group whose top priority is a video compression technology called AV1 that's free of patent licensing requirements. It's got heavy hitters on board, including top browser makers Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and the most recent new member, Apple -- though Apple's plans haven't been made public. And it's got major streaming-video companies, too: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Facebook, videoconferencing powerhouse Intel and Google's YouTube. And with the support of chip designers Intel, Nvidia and Arm, AV1 should get the hardware acceleration that's crucial to making video easy on our laptop and phone batteries.

To use Apple's HEIC, "makers of software, processors and phones must jump through a lot of hoops to license patents," which CNET predicts "means HEIC will have trouble succeeding on the web: patent barriers are antithetical to the web's open nature."

Nintendo's Newest Switch Accessories Are DIY Cardboard Toys ( 75

sqorbit writes: Nintendo has announced a new experience for its popular Switch game console, called Nintendo Labo. Nintendo Labo lets you interact with the Switch and its Joy-Con controllers by building things with cardboard. Launching on April 20th, Labo will allow you to build things such as a piano and a fishing pole out of cardboard pieces that, once attached to the Switch, provide the user new ways to interact with the device. Nintendo of America's President, Reggie Fils-Aime, states that "Labo is unlike anything we've done before." Nintendo has a history of non-traditional ideas in gaming, sometimes working and sometimes not. Cardboard cuts may attract non-traditional gamers back to the Nintendo platform. While Microsoft and Sony appear to be focused on 4K, graphics and computing power, Nintendo appears focused on producing "fun" gaming experiences, regardless of how cheesy or technologically outdated they me be. Would you buy a Nintendo Labo kit for $69.99 or $79.99? "The 'Variety Kit' features five different games and Toy-Con -- including the RC car, fishing, and piano -- for $69.99," The Verge notes. "The 'Robot Kit,' meanwhile, will be sold separately for $79.99."

Wine 3.0 Released ( 153

prisoninmate shares a report from Softpedia: The Wine (Wine Is Not an Emulator) project has been updated today to version 3.0, a major release that ends 2017 in style for the open-source compatibility layer capable of running Windows apps and games on Linux-based and UNIX-like operating systems. Almost a year in the works, Wine 3.0 comes with amazing new features like an Android driver that lets users run Windows apps and games on Android-powered machines, Direct3D 11 support enabled by default for AMD Radeon and Intel GPUs, AES encryption support on macOS, Progman DDE support, and a task scheduler. In addition, Wine 3.0 introduces the ability to export registry entries with the reg.exe tool, adds various enhancements to the relay debugging and OLE data cache, as well as an extra layer of event support in MSHTML, Microsoft's proprietary HTML layout engine for the Windows version of the Internet Explorer web browser. You can read the full list of features and download Wine 3.0 from WineHQ's website.

AMD Is Releasing Spectre Firmware Updates To Fix CPU Vulnerabilities ( 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: AMD's initial response to the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws made it clear "there is a near zero risk to AMD processors." That zero risk doesn't mean zero impact, as we're starting to discover today. "We have defined additional steps through a combination of processor microcode updates and OS patches that we will make available to AMD customers and partners to further mitigate the threat," says Mark Papermaster, AMD's chief technology officer. AMD is making firmware updates available for Ryzen and EPYC owners this week, and the company is planning to update older processors "over the coming weeks." Like Intel, these firmware updates will be provided to PC makers, and it will be up to suppliers to ensure customers receive these. AMD isn't saying whether there will be any performance impacts from applying these firmware updates, nor whether servers using EPYC processors will be greatly impacted or not. AMD is also revealing that its Radeon GPU architecture isn't impacted by Meltdown or Spectre, simply because those GPUs "do not use speculative execution and thus are not susceptible to these threats." AMD says it plans to issue further statements as it continues to develop security updates for its processors.

Intel Launches 8th Gen Core Series CPUs With Integrated AMD Radeon Graphics ( 123

MojoKid writes: At CES 2018, Intel unveiled more details of its 8th generation Intel Core processors with integrated AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics. Like cats and dogs living together, the mashup of an Intel processor with an AMD GPU is made possible by an Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB), which provides a high-speed data interconnect between the processor, GPU and 4GB of second-generation High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM2). Intel is delivering 8th generation H-Series Core processors in 65W TDP (laptops) and 100W TDP (desktops) SKUs that will take up 50 percent less PCB real estate, versus traditional discrete configs. Both the mobile and desktop variants of the processors will be available in Core i5 or Core i7 configurations, with 4 cores and 8 threads, up to 8MB of cache and 4GB of HBM2. The 65W mobile processors can boost up to 4.1GHz, while the Radeon RX Vega M GL GPU has base/boost clocks of 931MHz and 1011MHz, respectively. The AMD GPU has 20 compute units and memory bandwidth checks in at 179GB/s. Desktop processors ratchet the maximum boost slightly to 4.2GHz, while the base/boost clocks of the Radeon RX Vega M GH GPU jump to 1063MHz and 1190MHz, respectively. Desktop GPUs are also upgraded with 24 CUs and 204GB/s of memory bandwidth. Intel says that its 8th generation Core i7 with Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics is up to 1.4x faster than a Core i7-8550U with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU in a notebook system. System announcements from Dell and HP are forthcoming, with availability in the first half of this year. Intel has also launched a new NUC small form factor gaming mini PC based on the technology as well.

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