iFixit MacBook Air Teardown Finds More Repairable Than Predecessor

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iFixit tore apart the updated MacBook Air and found that Apple made a few changes making for a more repairable notebook than the last generation. All in all, the new 2020 MacBook Air got a 4/10 repairability score from iFixit, which is one point higher than the previous-gen model which scored 3/10. 9to5Mac reports: iFixit highlights in its full teardown that the update to the reliable Magic Keyboard only added 0.5mm to the thick end of the new MacBook Air… a more than worth it trade-off: “More than anything, that 0.5 mm illustrates the sheer unnecessary-ness of the five painful years that Mac fans spent smashing on unresponsive butterfly keyboards. Knowing that Apple’s thinnest-and-lightest notebook accommodates a scissor-switch keyboard so gracefully makes us wonder what it was all for. We understand as well as anyone the urge to fix things, but Apple’s insistence on reworking and re-reworking the troubled butterfly design came at such a high cost — financially, environmentally, and to the Mac’s reputation — and for what? We’ll probably never know all the factors that led to the creation and persistence of the butterfly keyboard, but this Magic keyboard is a reminder that sometimes the difference between usable and unusable, or repairable and unrepairable, can be as small as half a millimeter.”

Past the keyboard update, iFixit found a nice improvement to how Apple has implemented the trackpad cable: “Where last year the trackpad cables were trapped under the logic board, they are now free to be disconnected anytime — meaning trackpad removal can happen as soon as the back cover comes off. And since the battery rests under these same cables, this new configuration also greatly speeds up battery removal by leaving the logic board in place. That’s two very tasty birds, one stone, for those of you counting. This is one of those happy (but all too rare) occasions where we can identify a hardware change from Apple that’s squarely aimed at improving serviceability in the existing design. Sometimes they do listen!”

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Today Only, Two ‘Tomb Raider’ Games are Free on Steam

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“If you act quickly, both the gritty Tomb Raider origin story and 2014’s Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris are free for the taking on Steam,” reports CNET:

We’ve already told you about a slew of free stuff you can get while you’re stuck at home. I don’t know if this particular deal has anything to do with the coronavirus, but right now you can not one, but two Tomb Raider games for free. You’ll need to download them right now though, because these return to their regular price tomorrow.
The free games are 2013’s Tomb Raider (“Lara Croft’s intense, gritty origin story…there’s no question it’s worth downloading for zero dollars”) and the follow-up game Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (“the first-ever four-player co-op experience.”)

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What Are the Best Free Streaming Services?

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An anonymous reader shares some free streaming media options:

There’s over 10,000 public domain audiobooks at LibriVox.org, created by volunteers reading public domain works. (If you’ve got time, why not record yourself reading your own favorite public domain poem or novel?) And there’s also a lot of free audiobooks (and ebooks) available through Hoopla, a free “digital media” service that’s partnering with many public libraries across North America. They’re not just offering books; there’s also movies, music, TV shows, and even comic books.

As always, Amazon’s audiobook service Audible offers a free one-month trial. But they’ve now also announced a new free service for “as long as the schools are closed… Kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories…”

You can also stream over 6,500 full-length movies over at archive.org, including Night of the Living Dead and The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz.
They’ve even got a collection of classic cartoons, like Tom and Jerry, Betty Boop, the Pink Panther, and lots of Popeye (including one where Popeye runs for president against Bluto.)

And an archive.org blog post explains that that’s just the beginning:

If gaming is more your speed, then check out the MS-DOS Games in our Software Library. This collection includes dozens of classic favorites such as Pac-Man, Sim City, The Oregon Trail, Doom, Prince of Persia, Donkey Kong, and Tetris, as well as many more lesser-known titles such as Aliens Ate My Baby Sitter! and Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist. Enjoy simulations of popular board and card games such as Monopoly [press F1 to begin], Stratego, Hearts, or Mah Jong, as well as flight simulators, sports games, and this treat for Monty Python fans.
They also have recordings of old-time radio shows — as well as an archive of live music. (“Our most popular collection by far is The Grateful Dead, but you could also explore Smashing Pumpkins, Robert Randolph (and the Family Band), Disco Biscuits, Death Cab for Cutie, John Mayer, or Grace Potter and the Nocturnals…”)
And then there’s this:
Relive the 80’s and 90’s (and learn how to style your scarf) with the Ephemeral VHS collection, or roam the cosmos with the NASA Image of the Day gallery. Learn about the history of advertising with this collection of retro TV ads or enjoy some psychedelic screensavers. No matter how long you’re stuck indoors, the Internet Archive will have something new to offer you — so happy hunting!
Share your reactions — and your own finds and suggestions — in the comments! And in these days of social distancing, what are the best free entertain sites that you’ve found?

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Linus Torvalds Shares His Tips On Working Remotely

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Linus Torvalds tells ZDNet what he’s learned about working remotely:
Torvalds admits that when he started, “I worried about missing human interaction — not just talking to people in the office and hallways, but going out to lunch etc. It turns out I never really missed it.”

Of course, just saying “‘don’t be social’ isn’t much of a great tip, is it?” Nor, as many extroverts are now finding out, is working from home necessarily at all comfortable. So, Torvalds suggests that you take “advantage of the ‘real’ upside of working from home: flexibility… Torvalds says, “if you make your new life a ‘9-5, but from home’ kind of thing, I think you’re just going to hate your home, yourself and your life. All the downsides, none of the upsides….” He believes that instead of using “video conferencing instead to recreate exactly what we used to do before, you should” try to really change how you work. Use asynchronous communication models: messaging, email, shared calendars, whatever.

Torvalds also recommends carefully tracking the things that you need to do, but argues that if you’re spending hours in online meetings from home instead of hours in real-world meetings, “you’ve just taken the worst part of office life, and brought it home, and made it even worse…”

And the article also includes some tips from James Bottomley, an IBM Research Distinguished Engineer and senior Linux kernel developer who works closely with Torvald. For videoconferencing Bottomley uses NextCloud Talk and Zoom, which he calls a “horrible proprietary app” — but notes that it does have binaries for every Linux distro.

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Microsoft Teases Revamped UI For Windows 10

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In celebration of Windows 10 hitting 1 billion users, Microsoft’s chief product officer Panos Panay teased Windows 10’s next UI refresh. Gizmodo reports: In the video posted to Instagram, Microsoft starts by showing the evolution of its OS throughout the years going as far back as Windows 1.01 all the way to Windows 10. However, where things start to get interesting is around 12 seconds in when Microsoft shows off a new set of updated icons followed by a redesigned look for Windows 10’s Start Menu and Live Tiles. Instead of a bunch of brightly color rectangles, Microsoft is implementing a more unified color scheme that can adjust automatically to match your desktop background and potentially other UI elements.

Additionally, Microsoft also showed off a wide variety of accessibility options including a range of pointers in various sizes and colors, what looks like improved support for the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a tease for a new built-in snipping tool, and more. Then Microsoft capped everything off by showing light and dark themes for Windows 10 along with a bunch of windows resizing and snapping options, all designed to making multi-tasking just a bit faster and easier. Microsoft also made a point to mention support for both x86-based systems powered by chips from Intel and AMD and ARM-based systems like the Surface Pro X.

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The Nokia 8.3 Is the First Truly Global 5G Phone

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HMD Global today unveiled its latest Nokia-branded mobile phones. “The Nokia 8.3 5G is the world’s first global 5G phone, which means it supports bands in every country in which 5G is currently deployed,” reports Android Police. “At the same time, the Nokia 5.3, 1.3, and a new roaming data plan from HMD also made their debut.” From the report: Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G mobile platform, the Nokia 8.3 5G promised a future-proofed experience as it supports more 5G bands across the entire range (NSA/SA/DSS) than any handset currently on the market. It features a 6.8-inch FHD+ (2400x1080p) display with a hole-punch cutout for the 24MP selfie camera, but it’s a shame to see the Nokia logo plastered on the chin. On the rear, there are four cameras including a 64MP main sensor with Zeiss optics complemented by a 12MP ultra-wide lens, plus 2MP depth and macro sensors. The fingerprint scanner lies within the power button on the side, while a USB-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and dedicated Google Assistant button are all onboard. Battery capacity is rated at 4,500mAh, and NFC is also included for mobile payments. The Nokia 8.3 5G starts at just 599 euros ($640) for the 6/64GB model, with an 8/128GB variant also available for 649 euros ($649) — it’ll go on sale in the summer. [The U.S. launch hasn’t been announced yet, but the 8.3 is coming to Europe in summer 2020.]

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How Lost Classic Doom 64 Was Revived for Modern Platforms

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As if there weren’t enough doom in the world right now, this week sees the release of not one but two new Doom games. Doom Eternal is the flashy AAA sequel with incredible graphics and accurately modeled viscera, of course, but you shouldn’t sleep on the other: the first rerelease of Doom 64, an underappreciated entry in the series’s history. From a report: Doom 64, as the name suggests, was originally designed for the Nintendo 64. It came out in 1997 and, unlike id Software’s previous two Doom titles, it was developed by Midway Games. It was the first Doom game to offer any sort of significant graphical upgrade on the original, had all-new levels, and — depending on your perspective — could easily have been considered a “Doom 3” had id not released its own game with that name in 2004. Given its original platform, Doom 64 is also a pretty unusual game. Nintendo strongly promoted “real” 3D titles on its 64-bit console, and Doom 64 is only kind of-sort of one of those. The environments are constructed of polygons, and the textures are filtered. But just like the original Doom, you’re still limited to movement on a flat plane without the ability to look around you. Next to something like GoldenEye 007, you could have been forgiven for considering Doom 64 a little archaic at the time.

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The New iPad Pro’s LIDAR Sensor Is An AR Hardware Solution In Search of Software

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One of the biggest new additions to Apple’s new iPad Pro is a new “Light Detection and Ranging” (LIDAR) system on the rear camera, which Apple argued was the missing piece for revolutionary augmented reality applications. “It claims that by combining the depth information from the LIDAR scanner with camera data, motion sensors, and computer vision algorithms, the new iPad Pro will be faster and better at placing AR objects and tracking the location of people,” reports The Verge. “But it doesn’t change the fact that, right now, there still aren’t a lot of compelling reasons to actually use augmented reality apps on a mobile device beyond the cool, tech-demo-y purposes that already exist.” From the report: R apps on iOS today are a thing you try out once, marvel at how novel of an idea it is, and move on — they’re not essential parts of how we use our phones. And nearly three years into Apple’s push for AR, there’s still no killer app that makes the case for why customers — or developers — should care. Maybe the LIDAR sensor really is the missing piece of the puzzle. Apple certainly has a few impressive tech demos showing off applications of the LIDAR sensor, like its Apple Arcade Hot Lava game, which can use the data to more quickly and accurately model a living room to generate the gameplay surface. There’s a CAD app that can scan and make a 3D model of the room to see how additions will look. Another demo promises accurate determinations of the range of motion of your arm.

The fact that Apple is debuting the iPad for AR doesn’t help the case, either. While Apple has been rumored to be working on a proper augmented reality headset or glasses for years — a kind of product that could make augmented digital overlays a seamless part of your day-to-day life — the iPad (in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes) is effectively the opposite of that idea. It’s the same awkwardness of the man who holds up an iPad to film an entire concert; holding a hardcover book-sized display in front of your face for the entire time you’re using it just isn’t a very natural use case.

It’s possible that Apple is just laying the groundwork here, and more portable LIDAR-equipped AR devices (like a new iPhone or even a head-mounted display) are on their way in the future. Maybe the LIDAR sensor is the key to making more immersive, faster, and better augmented apps. Apple might be right, and the next wave of AR apps really will turn the gimmicks into a critical part of day-to-day life. But right now, it’s hard not to look at Apple’s LIDAR-based AR push as another hardware feature looking for the software to justify it.

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On iPad Getting a Trackpad

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Apple on Wednesday announced the Magic Keyboard, featuring a trackpad, that will work with newly unveiled iPad Pro models and some previous generation iPads. Is this the “convergence” everyone had been waiting for? A “2 in 1” or a tablet or a toaster-refrigerator? Did Apple capitulate? Some context on the evolution of devices, from Steven Sinofsky, former President of the Windows Division at Microsoft. He writes: Hardware evolves just like software but we don’t often see it the same way. We’re used to talking about the cycle software bundling and unbundling, but hardware does the same thing. Every new generation of hardware begins this cycle anew. Certainly we’re used to hardware adding ports or absorbing new technologies over time. Where things get really interesting with hardware is when a new “form” is introduced, often the first step is jettisoning many features from the leader. With the introduction of a form, the debate immediately begins over whether the new form can take over or whether it is a substitute for the old one. Tech dialog is rather divisive over these questions (dodged by marketing). “It can never work” or “It will eventually work.” The industry works hard to create these dividing lines. The way it does this is first because usually there are new manufacturers that make the new form.

Second, pundits attach labels to form factors and begin a process of very specific definitions (dimensions, peripherals.) The first one of these transitions I remember is the introduction of portable computers. Out of the gate, these were way less powerful than “PCs.” The debate over whether a portable can “replace” a “PC” was in full force. Quickly the form factor of portable evolved and with that came all sorts of labels: luggable, portable, notebook, desktop, sub-notebook, and so on. This continued all the way until the introduction of “ultra-books.” If you’re a maker these labels are annoying at best. (1987) Quite often these are marketing at work — manufacturers looking to differentiate an otherwise commodity product create a new name for the old thing done slightly differently. Under the hood, however, the forms are evolving. In fact the way they are evolving is often surprising. The evolution of new forms almost always follows the surprising pattern of *adding back* all those things from the old form factor. So all those portables, added more floppies, hard disks, then expansion through ports/docks, and then ultimately CPUs as powerful as desktop.

Then we wake up one day and look at the “new” form and realize it seems to have morphed into the old form, capabilities and all.
All along the way, the new form is editing, innovating, and reimagining how those old things should be expressed in the new one. These innovations can change software or hardware. But this is where hardware devices like USB come from — the needs of the new form dictate new types of hardware even if it solves the same problem again. The evolution of PCs to become Servers offers an interesting arc. PCs were literally created to be smaller and less complex computers. They eliminated all the complexity of mainframes at every level while making computing accessible and cheap. When first PCs began to do server tasks, they did those in an entirely different way than mainframes that were servers of the day. They used commodity desktop PCs — literally the same as a desktop running in an office. That was the big advantage — cheap, ubiquitous, open! Mainframe people balked at this crazy notion. It was an obvious moment of “that is a toy.” Then the age of client server computing was before us, starting in the late 1990s. But what followed was a classic case of convergent evolution. PC Servers started to add attributes of mainframes. At first this seemed totally crazy — redundant power supplies, RAID, multi processors, etc. THAT was crazy stuff for those $1M mainframes. Pretty soon at h/w level telling a PC Server from a MF became a vocabulary exercise. And here we are today where server to stripped the very elements rooted in PC (like monitors and keyboards!) Guess what? That’s a mainframe! On Twitter, this would be: “Mainframe, you’ve invented a mainframe.

Except, the operating system and software platform is entirely different. The evolution was not a copy, but a useful convergence done through an early series of steps copying followed by distinct and innovative approaches that created a new value … a new form factor. So here we are today with an iPad that has a trackpad. Many are chuckling at the capitulation that the iPad was never a real computer and finally Apple admitted it. Laptop, Apple has invented the laptop. This was always going to happen. From the earliest days there were keyboard cases that turned iPads into “laptops” (w/o trackpads) and these could be thought of as experiments copying the past. It took time (too much?) to invent the expression of the old in the new. The PC server everyone uses in the cloud today is no mainframe. It is vastly cheaper, more accessible, more scaleable, runs different software (yes people will fight me on these in some way, but the pedantic argument isn’t the point). Adding a trackpad to iPad was done in a way that reimagined not just the idea of a pointer, but in the entire package — hardware and software. That’s what makes this interesting. To think of it as capitulation would be to do so independent of how computing has evolved over decades.

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The PlayStation 5 vs. the Xbox Series X: Which Is More Powerful?

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Now that Microsoft and Sony have published the technical specifications of their respective next-gen gaming consoles, we can compare them head-to-head to see which one has the edge. While Sony appears to lag behind Microsoft when it comes to specs, the PS5’s speedy custom SSD may be its secret weapon. Engadget reports: Sony’s lead PlayStation architect, Mark Cerny, finally gave us an in-depth look at the PS5 in a livestream event, in lieu of a major GDC keynote. […] Cerny confirms that the PlayStation 5’s graphics processor will feature 36 compute units and up to 10.28 teraflops worth of compute performance. That’s a bit less than the Xbox Series X’s 12-teraflop GPU, but realistically you might not see many differences in performance. There are plenty of other system optimizations, like the company’s focus on a custom 825GB SSD, that’ll be a huge leap over the PlayStation 4. That SSD will push 5.5 gigabytes per second compared to a mere 50 to 100 MB/s, meaning it can fill the system’s 16GB of GDDR6 RAM in two seconds. And on the plus side, Sony will let you plug in a standard NVMe SSD to expand storage while Microsoft will rely on specialized 1TB SSD expansion cards.

Cerny was quick to point out that teraflop numbers are a “dangerous” way to measure absolute levels of performance. A teraflop from the PlayStation 5 translates to much more gaming performance than a teraflop from the PlayStation 4, thanks to the new console’s more-efficient architecture. Still, it’s not exactly unfair to compare the PS5 to the Xbox Series X, since both systems will be based on AMD’s CPUs and GPUs. It’s interesting to see how Sony and Microsoft devices take advantage of AMD’s hardware. The PS5’s eight-core Zen 2 CPU will run up to 3.5GHz with variable frequencies, so it can slow down when necessary. The Xbox Series X, meanwhile, will lock its Zen 2 processor at 3.8GHz, and devs can also choose to run their games at 3.6GHz with hyper threading. Sony also chose to use 36 RDNA 2 compute units running at up to 2.23GHz with a variable frequency while Microsoft stuffed its system with 52 compute units running at 1.825GHz. Cerny argues that running fewer cores at a higher frequency rate is more beneficial than running more cores at a lower rate, since it will lead to a speed bump across many GPU tasks.

Sony definitely has the lead with its custom SSD with 5GB/s of raw bandwidth and 8 to 9GB/s of compressed throughput. The Xbox Series X’s SSD will be limited to 2.4GB/s of raw data and 4.8GB/s compressed. Again, while the numbers are significantly different, it’s unclear how the performance will vary in real-world use. Microsoft also has a slightly higher GDDR6 memory bandwidth — 10GB at 560GB/s and 6GB at 336GB/s — than Sony’s 448GB/s, which could make up for the slower storage. As for backwards compatibility, Sony announced that the PlayStation 5 will support PS4 and PS4 Pro games, but the company made no mention of retro PS1, PS2, and PS3 titles. Microsoft, on the other hand, stated that the Xbox Series X will support all games playable on the Xbox One, including those Xbox 360 and original Xbox console titles currently supported through backwards compatibility on the Xbox One.

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Purism Librem Mini is a Tiny Linux Desktop

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Today, we get another diminutive desktop option, but this one is designed for Linux and privacy. From a report: Yes, Purism is finally launching a tiny desktop, and it will come pre-installed with the Debian-based PureOS. Called “Librem Mini,” the cute bugger has 4 USB-A ports on the front, along with a 3.5mm audio jack, and the power button. On the rear, there are two more USB-A ports, a single USB-C port, Ethernet, HDMI, DisplayPort, and the power port. “Announcing the Purism Librem Mini. Our small form-factor mini-PC that puts freedom, privacy and security first. We’re really excited about the Librem Mini, it’s a device our community have wanted and we’ve wanted to offer for some time. The Librem Mini is accessible, small, light and powerful featuring a new 8th gen quad core i7 processor, up to 64 GB of fast DDR4 memory and 4k 60 fps video playback. It’s a desktop for your home or oïfce, a media center for your entertainment, or an expandable home server for your files and applications,” says Purism.

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Apple Announces a New iPad Pro and Signals the End is Coming For Laptops

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Despite COVID-19 forcing Apple to close down all retail stores outside of China indefinitely, the company just announced a new 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro (starting at $799 and $949, respectively). From a report: Last refreshed in 2018, the new iPad Pros come with a faster A12Z Bionic chip equipped with an 8-core CPU and GPU, a new ultra-wide camera and a “LiDAR scanner” for AR. However, the most surprising (or not surprising) announcement is a new Magic Keyboard accessory with a trackpad (which starts at $249). Simply put: Apple just turned the iPad Pro into a laptop. The gap between an iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro is now narrower than ever before. This could mean the beginning of the end for MacBooks. There’s lots to unpack about the new iPad Pros.

Apple is saying the A12Z Bionic chip has an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, but stopped short of saying how much faster it is compared to the A12 Bionic in the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro. Apple only says the gigabit-class LTE is 60 percent faster and the battery life is still the same 10 hours. The cameras on the back look like the iPhone 11 Pro’s triple-camera setup at first glance. But they’re not. First, the ultra-wide camera is 10 megapixels versus 12 megapixels on the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro. And second, the third lens isn’t a telephoto lens, but a “LiDAR Scanner” which Apple says improves AR applications. The LiDAR Scanner “measures the distance to surrounding objects up to 5 meters away, works both indoors and outdoors, and operates at the photon level at nano-second speeds.”

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ReMarkable’s Redesigned E-Paper Tablet Is More Powerful and More Papery

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An anonymous reader shares a report from TechCrunch, written by Devin Coldewey: It’s no secret I’m a fan of the reMarkable, a tablet with a paper-like display that’s focused on text and sketching rather than rich media and games. The sequel to the original, announced today, looks to make a good thing even better. Designed for the creation and consumption of monochromatic content like long documents, e-books, notes and sketches, the reMarkable set itself apart as a more minimalist alternative (or complement) to the likes of the iPad or Surface. The device was crowdfunded and has sold more than 100,000 units; meanwhile, the company has grown and attracted a $15 million A round. One sees in retrospect that the money helped launch this successor.

The most obvious change is to the design. It has a bold asymmetrical look with a chrome band along the left side, indicating the tablet’s main use as an alternative to a paper notebook: Hold it with your left hand and write with your right. Sorry, lefties. The new tablet is just 4.7 mm (0.19 in) thick, thinner than the iPad Pro and Sony’s competing Digital Paper tablets, both of which are 5.9 mm. Let’s be honest — at these levels of thinness it’s getting hard to tell the difference, but it’s an accomplishment nevertheless. […] The software running on the reMarkable has received several major updates since the product made its debut, adding things like handwriting recognition, a new interface, better performance and so on. But one of the most requested features is finally coming with the new device: saving articles from the web. The company is claiming a 3x boost to battery life, using the same 3,000 mAh battery, based on performance improvements throughout and a more efficient (but more powerful) dual-core ARM processor. That means two weeks of use and 90 days of standby. This is welcome news, because frankly the battery life and power management on the last one were not great. The reMarkable 2 will sell for $399 if you pre-order, and comes with a Marker and a folio case.

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AMD Launches Ryzen 4000 Series Mobile CPUs With Major Performance Lift Claims

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MojoKid writes: Though Ryzen 4000 Series laptop processors aren’t available just yet, some of AMD’s partners are going to begin taking pre-orders for notebooks soon. As such, AMD is lifting the veil on additional details and the architectural enhancements that make Ryzen 4000 Series AMD’s strongest mobile processor line-up to date. AMD Ryzen 4000 series CPUs are based on the Zen 2 architecture, similar to the current Ryzen 3000 series desktop processors. AMD is touting an approximate 25% IPC increase versus Zen 1-based mobile parts, but there are additional benefits that boost performance and efficiency throughout the chips as well. These are monolithic SoCs, with up to 8-cores / 16-threads, that are manufactured on TSMC’s 7nm node. AMD is claiming 20% lower SoC power, 2X the perf-per-watt, 5X faster state switching, and an approximate 3.4X improvement in relative power efficiency, in comparison to its mobile platform from 2015. AMD is claiming superior single-thread CPU performance versus current-generation Intel mobile processors and significantly better multi-threaded and graphics performance versus Intel, thanks to the increased core / thread counts and integrated Vega-based GPU of its Ryzen 4000 series. Battery life performance is claimed be strong as well, due to architectural enhancements for power optimization throughout the Ryzen 4000 design. AMD Ryzen 4000 Series laptops should be shipping in market sometime in the next month or so.

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Leaked iOS 14 Build Hints at Unreleased Apple Hardware and Software Features

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News outlet 9to5Mac, which tracks Apple news, has gotten hold of an iOS 14 build that uncovers a range of hardware details and software features that Apple intends to reveal later this year. The devices are:
1. An upcoming iPad Pro will include three cameras — like the iPhone Pro — plus an additional time-of-flight sensor for help with AR.
2. An iPhone with Touch ID is in the works. This is presumably the lower-end iPhone 9 or iPhone SE 2.
3. A new Apple TV box is in the works along with a new Apple TV remote.
4. AirTags, Apple’s rumored Tile-like item tracker, will have user-replaceable batteries.

Software features: 1. The iOS home screen will get a new list view, letting you more easily find and filter through your apps. It’s not clear exactly where this screen will appear, but it’d offer a major change from the grid.
2. A new AR app will let you point your phone’s camera at objects in the real world and have the phone display more information about what you’re seeing. At an Apple store, for instance, it could display pricing information and product features. Apple is reportedly working with Starbucks to support the feature, too.
3. Third-party apps will be able to integrate wallpapers into the wallpapers section of the Settings app. This should make it easier to switch wallpapers and could finally open dynamic wallpapers up to outside developers.
4. HomeKit will be able to change the color temperature of lights throughout a day to match the sunlight.
5. An accessibility feature will let phones identify sounds like alarms and doorbells for people with hearing loss.

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TCL Unveils Trifold and Rollable Smartphones

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A year ago, we started to see the first wave of foldable devices and they were … disappointing. But companies are not backing down. TCL is already looking ahead with a pair of foldable and rollable prototypes that imagines what the future of phones could look like. From a report: One is a trifold variant with two hinges, while the other is even crazier — it is rollable! Yes, TCL has designed a phone that gets larger by utilizing a flexible display that rolls and unrolls — it looks to be quite genius, actually. “At just 9mm in thickness, this portable concept re-imagines the standard smartphone design, with a rollable AMOLED display that uses internal motors to extend the 6.75-inch screen to a 7.8-inch display size with the press of a button. This allows for an entirely new device user experience that includes split screen and multi-tasking UI enhancements customized by TCL. Thanks to a larger axis and rolled display, the device has no wrinkles or creases which are commonly found with foldable AMOLEDs. When not in use, a motor-driven sliding panel utilizes advanced mechanics to conceal the flexible display,” says TCL.

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LG’s New V60 ThinQ Is a Huge Phone With a Removable Second Screen

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: 5G connectivity. 8K video recording. A design that folds. These are some of the things you’ll get in one of Samsung’s newest phones — but the privilege will cost you at least $1,000 for the most affordable device of the lot. If you want these next-gen features but aren’t feeling the four-figure price tags, you could try LG’s new phone: the V60 ThinQ. It supports the new mobile network, packs a camera sensor with 64 megapixels for 8K recording, and comes bundled (depending on where you buy it) with the Dual Screen attachment — a case that adds a second screen to the phone, exactly like last year’s G8X ThinQ. You get all of this and a headphone jack, something missing from all of Samsung’s flagship phones, for a few hundred dollars less. (LG hasn’t announced pricing yet, but the company says it will be priced in the ballpark of previous devices, so around $700 or $800.) “I only spent a few minutes with the phone, and while it’s a compelling offer on paper, I’m not convinced the company has improved the areas where the V60’s predecessors fell short,” writes Wired’s Julian Chokkattu. “The cameras are usually decent, but not as nice as what you get from Samsung, Google, and Apple; more megapixels doesn’t guarantee better photos. The software still looks dated, and there’s no sign of the phone receiving Android updates faster. There’s no folding screen here, and while the second screen does turn the V60 ThinQ into a foldable phone of sorts, it comes at the cost of being bulky, heavy, and cumbersome — and frankly a little ugly too.”

Chokkattu also mentions the phone is massive, thanks to the “abnormally large 6.8-inch screen.” Paired with the Dual Screen attachment and its 6.8-inch screen, you end up with a phone that’s not very enjoyable to lug around. “It’s great that the accessory is bundled with the phone, and that it gives you more visual real estate, but the experience still feels clunky,” he writes.

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New $300 Kitchen Playset For Children Includes Amazon’s Alexa

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“Kids can play with Alexa in their very own $300 pretend kitchen and grocery store,” CNET reports, “with the Amazon voice assistant dishing out cooking advice, shopping help and plenty of goofy toddler humor.”
The Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market, from toymaker KidKraft, is making its debut at this weekend’s New York Toy Fair… It uses a mix of RFID sensors and Bluetooth to tell Alexa which pretend food items kids are buying and cooking… Alexa speaks only when a sensor on the play set is activated. Put a toy hot dog into the pot on the stove, and Alexa knows you’re cooking hot dogs. Kids hear the splash sound effect, and Alexa alerts when the hot dogs are done cooking and to hurry up and get the buns. “If they get cold, they will be chili dogs,” she says…
The accessories that come with the kitchen and market, which include fake food, cookware and a credit card, are fitted with RFID chips, and sensors can tell which items are at the register, stovetop or cutting board. The play set then relays that info to the smart speaker via Bluetooth. So, if a kid places lettuce on the market scanner, it could prompt Alexa to say, “Lettuce! Are we making a salad?” And if a kid says, “Yes,” Alexa will say, “Great! I love salad. Maybe get some avocado, too.”

Engadget reports that once you install an Echo dot, “it will play games with your children and instruct them on how to make the best fake hot dog ever.” And there’s inevitably a game where Alexa tells your kids what to do:
There’s plenty of freeform play to be had, but to take advantage of Alexa’s real capabilities a kid has to make use of the included “recipe cards.” They’re not real recipes with ingredients and instructions. Instead it’s just a picture of the food the child wants to make, and they insert the card into a special reader on the counter to start the process of preparing it with Alexa’s help. Alexa will instruct the child on whether to grab a pot or a pan, if it needs to be filled with water, and whether any ingredients need to be cut on the tiny chopping board. If the requested food isn’t in the pantry, never fear: There’s a store on the other side…

Unsurprisingly, the KidKraft 2-in-1 Alexa Kitchen and Market will be an Amazon exclusive when it launches some time this year. And the price? A hefty $300.

Tom’s Guide calls the playset “clever –and also really creepy.”

“On one hand, it’s a screen-free, interactive experience… But there are a few concerns that a toy of this budding breed creates. I can’t help but question the social implications of making Alexa a child’s on-demand playmate.”

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Google Stadia Is Coming To Samsung, Asus, and Razer Phones On February 20th

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In a blog post today, Google announced that Stadia will work on some Android phones from Samsung, Asus, and Razer starting on February 20th. Up until this point, Stadia only worked on certain Pixel phones. The Verge reports: Here’s the full list of the 19 newly supported phones, which includes the Samsung Galaxy S20 line that’s releasing on March 6th: [Samsung Galaxy S8 –> Galaxy S20 Ultra, Razer Phone, Razer Phone 2, Asus ROG Phone, and Asus ROG Phone II.] These new additions — combined with the current support for the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3A, Pixel 3A XL, and Pixel 4 — mean that you can now play Stadia games on 26 different Android phones. Stadia’s iOS app doesn’t let you play games, though, so you will have to keep waiting if you want to play Stadia games on your iPhone or iPad.

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Samsung Unveils Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, and Galaxy S20 Ultra

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Samsung today will unveil three new flagship smartphones — the Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, and Galaxy S20 Ultra. Here are the specs of the new phones.

Galaxy S20 specs: Display: 6.2-inch Quad HD+, Dynamic AMOLED 2X (563ppi), and HDR10+ certified.
Camera: Rear: Triple camera setup. (12MP wide, 64MP tele, and 12MP wide. Hybrid optic zoom 3x. Front: 10MP.
Processor: Exynos 990.
Internal storage: 128GB, with support for microSD of up to 1TB.
RAM: 12GB.
Battery: 4,000 mAh.
Network: Supports LTE and 5G.
Galaxy S20+ specs: Display: 6.7-inch Quad HD+, Dynamic AMOLED 2X (525ppi), and HDR10+ certified.
Camera: Rear: Quadruple camera setup. (12MP wide, 64MP tele, and 12MP wide and a depth sensor. Hybrid optic zoom 3x. Front: 10MP.
Processor: Exynos 990.
Internal storage: 128GB / 512GB, with support for microSD of up to 1TB.
RAM: 12GB.
Battery: 4,500 mAh.
Network: Supports LTE and 5G.
Galaxy S20 Ultra specs: Display: 6.9-inch Quad HD+, Dynamic AMOLED 2X (563ppi), and HDR10+ certified.
Camera: Rear: Quadruple camera setup. (108MP wide, 48MP tele, and 12MP wide with a depth sensor. Hybrid optic zoom 3x and “super resolution zoom up to 100x.” Front: 40MP.
Processor: Exynos 990.
Internal storage: 128GB / 512GB, with support for microSD of up to 1TB.
RAM: 12GB.
Battery: 5,000 mAh.
Network: Supports LTE and 5G. The company will share the prices later today.

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