Day: June 12, 2019

US weather forecast model gets a much-needed upgrade

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Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Meterology revolves as much around good weather models as it does good weather data, and the core US model is about to receive a long-overdue refresh. NOAA has upgraded its Global Forecast System with a long-in-testing dynamical core, the Finite-Volume Cubed-Sphere (aka FV3). It’s the first time the model has been replaced in roughly 40 years, and it promises higher-resolution forecasts, lower computational overhead and more realistic water vapor physics.

The results promise to be tangible. NOAA believes there will be a “significant impact” to one- and two-day forceasts, and improve the overall accuracy for forecasts up to a week ahead. It also hopes for further improvements to both the physics as well as the system that ingests data and invokes the weather model. This is on top of previous upgrades to NOAA supercomputers that should provide more capacity.

The old model will still hang around through September, although not as a backup — it’s strictly there

Google takes you inside Anne Frank's childhood home with Street View

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NurPhoto via Getty Images

June 12th is the 90th birthday of Anne Frank, and to mark the occasion, Google is letting you step inside the childhood home of the diarist. A virtual exhibit in the Arts & Culture app and website takes you inside Merwedeplein 37-2 in Amsterdam. You can also explore the space through an indoor version of Street View. All the 1930s-styled rooms of the home, which is now a temporary home and work space for refugee writers that’s closed to the public, are viewable.

Google worked with the Anne Frank House non-profit on the project, which includes the only video known to exist of Frank (captured by chance as she looked out of her window at newlyweds), along with the only known photo of her parents and sister. It also includes documents and insights from people who knew her, as well as details about her legacy and the publication of her famed diary.

Sega Genesis Mini hands-on: A faithfully clunky controller

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Sega had cocooned its incoming mini console in see-thru boxes at E3 2019. I’m not sure why, because the Genesis Mini (or Mega Drive Mini if you’re nasty) seemed like the finished article, and was very much playable. There were rows of the device setup in a faux ’90s living room, with faux TV frames and faux wood paneling to really complete the vibe. After a handful of delays, the $80 console is finally approaching its September launch date, and if you haven’t preordered one already, should you?

This year’s E3 is the first time journalists and the public have got to play with the Genesis Mini, and there are some great games baked in. There’s a whole list of games right here, but highlights include Sonic 2, Castle of Illusion, Shinobi 3, Kid Chameleon and Streets of Rage 2.

There are some great things to play through, but this Genesis Mini will arrive at a time when we’ve already seen relatively cheap

UK proposal would eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

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AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

The UK is setting firmer environmental targets in the wake of large-scale climate protests. Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May has proposed legislation that would cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 — the “first major economy to do so,” she claimed. The country already has a law requiring an 80 percent emissions cut by that point, but this is clearly more ambitious.

The proposal doesn’t include specifics on achieving that goal, but the Committee on Climate Change recently made recommendations that include staples like clean power and electric vehicles as well as CO2 capture, more efficient buildings and planting more trees.

While this is significant and could spur other countries to follow suit, there are a number of concerns with the implementation. To start, there’s a requirement for a review within five years to ensure that other nations are taking “similarly ambitious action” and that UK industries aren’t facing “unfair competition.” If other countries drag their heels, the UK might

Google will work with LGBTQ+ groups on harassment policies

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Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

In the wake of YouTube’s controversial decision not to pull videos containing homophobic and racist attacks, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote an internal email acknowledging that “the LGBTQ+ community has felt a lot of pain and frustration over recent events.” While a few Google execs have already apologized for YouTube’s decision, Pichai’s email carries more weight given his position. The email, obtained by The Verge, also suggests that Google plans to conduct more internal discussions aimed at addressing its harassment policies.

Earlier this month, YouTube declined to remove videos of right-wing commentator Steven Crowder, even though they contain homophobic and racist speech targeted at Vox host Carlos Maza. YouTube claimed the videos were “clearly hurtful” but didn’t violate any of its policies. Understandably, YouTube was criticized for its decision. In his email, Pichai said he especially regrets “that this happened during Pride month when we should be celebrating the incredible LGBTQ+ community you all have built at Google.”


Netflix is working on a 'Stranger Things' mobile RPG

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Netflix made it clear last month when it announced its E3 panel that its gaming ambitions extend beyond Stranger Things 3: The Game (and the Dark Crystal tie-in that was revealed this week). At the panel, it revealed what’s next: more Stranger Things. Netflix is teaming up with Helsinki developer Next Games (The Walking Dead: Our World) for a mobile RPG/puzzle game based on the series.

The free-to-play game is location-based, said Chris Lee, Netflix’s director of interactive games, and it has Google Maps integration. You’ll battle against the evils of The Upside Down with other players. Lee added that the game adopts an ’80s Saturday morning cartoon art style rather than the 16-bit look of the other Stranger Things games. You can expect to find out more details about the RPG ahead of its arrival on iOS and Android next year.

Catch up on all the latest news from E3 2019 here!

Bird's purchase of Scoot lets it back into San Francisco

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Robert Alexander/Getty Images

You knew it was just a matter of time before there was further consolidation in the e-scooter world. Bird is acquiring Scoot in a move that both describe as a matter of “scale” — that is, it’ll help them take on heavyweight rivals like Lime. Scoot will continue to operate under its own name as a subsidiary of Bird. It’s not certain how much Bird paid for the deal, but TechCrunch noted that Scoot was valued at $71 million.

It’ll take a while before you see the deeper impact of the purchase, but there will be a short-term effect. This effectively gets Bird back into San Francisco after losing its chance at a permit. While it likely won’t operate scooter sharing services in the city under the Bird label (you may have to settle for monthly rentals), it’ll stand to profit from the work of its former competitor.

This could lead to additional shake-ups. Now that Bird is that much larger,

Uber upgrades its Jump scooters and bikes

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Uber has revealed its second-generation Jump electric scooters, which will feature bigger wheels and improved brakes. The rideshare giant showed off its new scooter at its third-annual Elevate conference, along with a new user swappable battery system for its electric bikes. The e-scooter features an entirely new braking system, switching out the old thumb brake for a hand brake that stops both wheels. Meanwhile, Uber’s dockless e-bikes will feature new battery packs that can be swapped out by the user.

“Uber is innovating new mobility hardware to make it safer and easier for people to choose bikes and scooters over cars,” Uber Head of New Mobility Rachel Holt said in a statement shared by TechCrunch. Jump, which Uber acquired back in April, has partnered with a new, unnamed manufacturer to build its second generation of e-scooters.

Uber has much to gain from building a safer e-scooter as it aims to grow its “last-mile” transportation solution. An increasing number of accidents and deaths on

Google just revealed the Pixel 4 on Twitter

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Well, this is a new one. Google has decided to beat smartphone leakers at their own game by showing off the Pixel 4’s back and camera on its own @madebygoogle Twitter account. The image shows a square-ish camera module, presumably one that will hold multiple lenses — that’ll be a first for a Pixel phone. This comes right on the heels of a leak showing a similar design.

Well, since there seems to be some interest, here you go! Wait ’til you see what it can do. #Pixel4

— Made by Google (@madebygoogle) June 12, 2019

If you’ve paid any attention to the smartphone game in the past few years (and we’re guessing the answer is yes, if you’re reading this post), you know that companies like Apple, Samsung and Google have all had their fair share of trouble keeping new hardware under wraps. Google’s Pixel line in particular has been widely revealed before launch — the recent Pixel

Your Android phone can sign you into Google on iOS devices

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Who said that Apple- and Google-powered devices can’t work in harmony? Not Google. It’s taking advantage of its recently added security key functionality to use your Android phone as verification for Google sign-ins on iOS devices. If you have Google’s Smart Lock app installed on your iPad or iPhone and have 2-Step Verification enabled on your account, you can hold the volume down button on your Android hardware (when prompted) to greenlight the login on the other platform.

It’s strange to see in action, and there will only be so many people who have both Android and iOS devices and want to use one to sign in to the other. Google also warns that it would be wise to have a backup physical security key in case you ever lose your phone. This could be particularly useful if you’re in a corporate environment where you need multiple devices, though, as you won’t have to worry so much about hackers compromising vital data. It

Google will stop syncing files between Drive and Photos

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SOPA Images via Getty Images

Google is changing how Drive and Photos share your videos and photos with each other, in a move that might actually cause more problems than it solves. From July 10th, when you upload files to Drive or Photos, they won’t automatically sync to the other service. Likewise, when you delete a photo or video from Drive, it won’t be removed from Photos and vice versa.

You’ll be able to import files from Drive into Photos using the Upload from Drive option. However, there doesn’t seem to be a similar way to move files in the opposite direction. “Since photos and videos will no longer sync across both products, items copied in Original Quality will count towards your storage quota in both Drive and Photos,” Google wrote in a blog post. Files you sync before July 10th won’t take up duplicate storage space. Google spelled out exactly what the changes entail on a support page.

The update follows feedback from

Literacy app taps Marvel comics to teach kids to read

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Kuato Studios

Big Tech companies like Google and Amazon aren’t the only ones invested in app-based literacy programs. Today, Kuato Studios unveiled a new learn-to-read app built around familiar Marvel stories. Marvel Hero Tales is an educational storytelling app meant to boost language and reading skills for kids ages seven to 11. It features Marvel-themed reading-based activities and superheroes like Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel — plus new heroes every month. And it lets kids create their own characters and narratives.

Kuato Studios worked with researchers from the University of Portland Oregon, as well as teachers and schools in the UK to develop the vocabulary content for the app. They mapped levels to US and UK literary grade standards, so the storylines adapt to users’ ages. As kids complete activities, they’ll advance to more difficult content.

The app could go over well with young Marvel fans. “My hope is that Marvel Hero Tales will inspire a new generation of Marvel readers and storytellers,” said Kuato

ASUS calls on tinkerers to make custom ZenFone 6 firmware

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Richard Lai/Engadget

While many Android phone makers are locking their devices down in the name of security, there are a few vendors courting enthusiasts who want to install their own firmware — and ASUS is one of them. The company has teamed up with XDA to help seed ROM development teams with ZenFone 6 units, including LineageOS, CarbonROM, OmniROM and TWRP. They’re also reaching out to individuals developers behind projects like the unofficial Google Camera port.

This isn’t a formal development program, XDA noted. Rather, it’s a “trial” that will gauge the impact of supporting the custom ROM community this way. OnePlus and Xiaomi’s Poco brand have tried similar things in the past.

The effort reflects ASUS’ newfound focus on power users as part of its leadership upheaval. It wants to cater to the kind of people who insist on maximum control over their devices, and that means ensuring a healthy ROM community. There’s no guarantee it will help ASUS’ bottom line. People sometimes

Ford will test new self-driving cars in Detroit

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Argo AI

Ford is testing a new fleet of self-driving vehicles in its homebase of Detroit. Argo AI, Ford’s autonomous vehicle arm, announced it would deploy its third-generation vehicles in Detroit and Corktown. The Ford Fusion Hybrids will be equipped with a “significantly upgraded sensor suite”, as well as new sets of radar and cameras with higher resolution and higher dynamic range, wrote Argo AI president Pete Rander in a blog post.

The new fleet will replace the 100 or so second-generation vehicles that Argo AI has already deployed. The automaker is currently testing its self-driving cars in four other US cities, including Palo Alto, Pittsburgh, Miami and Washington, D.C. The new vehicles will feature redundant braking and steering systems that will help maintain motion control in the event that a unit stops functioning. They’re also equipped with a new computing system with more processing power than the older cars and a new thermal management system that will generate less heat and noise.


Alphabet subsidiary Jigsaw paid a Russian troll to spread disinformation

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Motortion via Getty Images

In the name of research, Alphabet subsidiary Jigsaw and a partner security firm paid a Russian troll $250 for a disinformation campaign. As Wired reports, the experiment was meant to prove how easy it is to purchase social media propaganda campaigns. But the experiment has attracted plenty of critics.

In early 2018, Jigsaw and its partner created a fake website and blog posts on an intentionally inciting issue: whether Stalin should be remembered as a hero or a criminal. Then Jigsaw searched the web’s Russian-language black market for companies offering services like fake followers and paid retweets. Jigsaw suspected they’d offer closed-door deals on disinformation campaigns, too. Sure enough, SEOTweet offered a two-week campaign for just $250. According to Wired, their work included 730 Russian-language tweets attacking the anti-Stalin site from 25 different Twitter accounts. SEOTweet also left 100 posts on forums and blog comment sections of other sites.

While Jigsaw and its partner proved that it is easy to