Boeing’s solar-powered climate research drone takes flight in 2019

Boeing’s solar-powered climate research drone takes flight in 2019


Aurora Flight Sciences/YouTube

Aurora Flight Sciences, a subsidiary of Boeing that specializes in unmanned aerial vehicles, is gearing up to launch a solar-powered autonomous aircraft. The vehicle, called Odysseus, is designed for persistent flight at high-altitudes and will be used to perform climate and atmospheric research. Its first voyage is scheduled for the spring of 2019.

According to Aurora, Odysseus operates like a cross between a drone and a satellite. It is intended to fly well above weather and other aircraft and can cover a massive geographic area while maintaining contact with a station on the ground. It can fly continuously for months at a time, giving it a distinct advantage over UAVs that need to land and recharge. Because it’s solar powered, the craft produces zero emissions.

While Odysseus is airborne, it can gather data and quickly communicate the information it has collected. It’ll primarily be used to gather environmental information and perform weather and storm monitoring, though Aurora says it can be used for communication, connectivity and intelligence missions as well. It can also be reprogrammed mid-flight as tasks evolve.

Aurora is pretty short on details and high on promises with Odysseus, but the company has a successful track record. Earlier this year, it made deliveries to Marines using an autonomous helicopter. Another craft built by the company managed to carry 500-pound payload back in January.

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Windows 10 preview adds smarter active hours and a true light theme

Windows 10 preview adds smarter active hours and a true light theme


Microsoft

Microsoft only just resumed rolling out its problematic Windows 10 October update, but it’s already looking toward the future. The company has released a Windows 10 Insider Preview to Fast ring users with some big updates in tow, both conspicuous and otherwise. We’ll address the elephant in the room right away: there’s a true light theme that changes the entire interface, including the taskbar, Start menu and keyboard. If you think Windows is too dour (or just miss the old days of light-colored Microsoft UIs), you just have to make a quick settings change.

There are more substantial improvements under the hood, particularly if you’re tired of Windows forcing updates at inopportune times of the day. There are now intelligent active hours that can automatically adjust your no-reboot time based on your activity. That could be more than a little helpful for freelancers or anyone with not-so-regular usage habits. And if you want to manually force Windows to stop patches, Pause Updates is now easier to find in Settings / Update and Security / Windows Update.

Other improvements include better text narration for accessibility (such as less verbosity and improved phonetic reading), a clearer print dialog and smarter screen selection. As always, you’ll only want to try a preview like this if you’re not worried about the potential for glitches. If you’re willing to live life on the edge, however, it might be worth jumping on this update relatively quickly.

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NYT: Facebook’s crisis response included sneaky redirections

NYT: Facebook’s crisis response included sneaky redirections

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., from left, Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships and platform marketing at Facebook Inc. and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., walk the grounds after the morning session at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Thursday, July 12, 2018.

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It’s no secret that the last couple of years have seen Facebook’s reputation take a series of hits — whether due to data breaches, alleged bias, rumors of intrusive spying or confusing policies — but a New York Times report tonight exposes more about how the company reacted. Arriving on the heels of a Wall Street Journal article describing declining employee morale, it doesn’t reflect well on Facebook’s efforts and raises even more questions about an operation already facing calls for increased regulation.

In addition to peering into previously identified problem areas like Facebook’s slow response to the spread of misinformation or questionable applications of policies meant to be unbiased, it specifically calls out a strategy where the company tried to distract from criticism. Since late last year, it expanded work with a consultant, Definers Public Affairs, that the Times said used political campaign tactics in public relations. This includes everything from Facebook’s public support for FOSTA to articles written on a conservative news site attacking Google and Apple.

While Facebook execs went on an apology tour earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook focused on his company’s reticence to collect and sell data from its customers — a point the report mentions in contrast to Mark Zuckerberg apparently telling his management team to use only Android because of its larger user base. It’s unclear if any actually switched.

Other details range from the bizarre — apparently Facebook needed pollsters to determine that Zuck’s testimony on Capitol Hill came off as robotic — to deeply unsettling. George Soros has been a target of anti-Semitic attacks for many years, and even though Facebook worked with one group to describe some of the criticism it received as anti-Semitic, the Definers agency pushed material suggesting a link between Soros and groups aligned against Facebook. Variety points out a writer for the Daily Caller who confirmed the contact.

As for specific executives like Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, they’re cast as either unaware of threats or, in the case of Sandberg, angry when she found out that then-security chief Alex Stamos had begun looking into Russian misinformation without getting approval first. Arguments against coming out strongly against Russian meddling or determining that a post by Donald Trump violated its TOS are attributed to former George W. Bush administration member, and current Facebook exec, Joel Kaplan.

While we’ve continuously heard from Facebook about its shifting response to issues like Russian-sourced pages and posts of misinformation, it has not yet responded to this report — which the NYT said it based on interviews with more than 50 people — to confirm or deny details.

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Northrop Grumman’s Antares Rocket on the Pad

Northrop Grumman’s Antares Rocket on the Pad

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is seen on Pad-0A, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

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eBay’s toy catalog includes a $100,000 ‘Magic: The Gathering’ card

eBay’s toy catalog includes a $100,000 ‘Magic: The Gathering’ card


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eBay is following in the footsteps of Amazon (despite an ongoing beef between the two) and attempting to revive the old holiday shopping tradition of the toy catalog. The online retailer is putting together a Toy Book containing the hottest items of this year and all the retro playthings that will make your nostalgia kick in. eBay is sending physical copies of the catalog to millions of homes, but the whole thing can be viewed online. If you’re in New York City, eBay is also opening up an interactive storefront called Toytopia where kids can come in and play with the toys.

eBay’s Toy Book encompasses basically the entire spectrum of toys, but where it stands out is on the high-end. While Amazon’s catalog shows the best toys of this year, eBay has the best toys of any year as long as price is no object for you. If you have some fat stacks of cash you’re just waiting to burn through, eBay has a 1967 DC Justice League Games Set — which includes Aquaman, Flash and Wonder Woman games — for $6,000. Jump up to the $100,000 price range and you can get a Magic: The Gathering Alpha Black Lotus card. It’s one of only 1,100 ever printed.

If you’re in New York this holiday season, you can see some of eBay’s most popular and expensive finds on display at its Toytopia storefront. Located at Chelsea Market, the toy store will be open from November 16th to November 20th. Toytopia is free to the public to visit.

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Exclusive: Greg Pak and Dan McDaid on Boom!’s shiny new Firefly series

One of the shiniest new comics dropping this autumn is the long-awaited Firefly series uniting the solid writing talents of New York Times bestselling author Greg Pak (World War Hulk, Mech Cadet Yu) and the dynamic realism of Dan McDaid’s (Judge Dredd) intense artwork. On Nov.

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Facebook starts rolling out Messenger’s ‘unsend’ feature

Facebook starts rolling out Messenger’s ‘unsend’ feature

Facebook didn’t take long to roll out Messenger’s unsend feature, although it may be a while before you have the option of correcting missteps in your part of the world. Unsending is now available in Messenger’s Android and iOS apps in Bolivia, Colombia, Lithuania and Poland, with promises it will be available in other countries as soon as it’s possible. The functionality is the same wherever you go, at least. You’ll have up to 10 minutes to retract a message, with a marker telling others where the ex-message was. Facebook will keep unsent messages for a short amount of time in order to prevent harassers from using the option to cover their tracks.

This isn’t the end to Facebook’s plans, either. The company is planning more unsend features that might include setting expiration dates for unencrypted messages or entire conversation threads. You might not have to keep an outdated party planning chat in your conversation list, and you could automatically purge your backlogs if you’re worried about someone peeking at your old discussions.

There are potential cynical reasons for adding an unsend option. It could help execs keep conversations secret (Mark Zuckerberg learned this when 2004 chats leaked out), and might reduce liability — investigators can’t read messages that don’t exist. Even so, it’s a helpful nod to user control over data from a company that is still learning what its users really want.

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10 of the coolest things in space that you had no idea existed

Water is essential to human life, and there’s no place in the universe with more of it than the APM 08279+5255 quasar. Quasars, by definition, are very compact objects with a star-like appearance and incredible luminosity. They are thought to be powered by supermassive black holes.

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‘Astroneer’ brings space exploration to Xbox and PC on February 6th

‘Astroneer’ brings space exploration to Xbox and PC on February 6th


System Era Softworks

Space exploration game Astroneer has racked up a major following in its Early Access stage. After hinting at it, the game finally has an official release date. The title from System Era Softworks will be available for Xbox One and Windows 10 starting on February 6th, 2019. It will run you $29.99 at launch.

If you aren’t one of the two million players to take a crack at the early stages version of Astroneer, here’s what to expect: The interplanetary survival sandbox game is a sort of mix of Minecraft and fellow space exploration game No Man’s Sky. In Astroneer, you play as a space explorer trying to survive and thrive in the treacherous terrain. As you travel through the solar system’s unique and uncharted planets, you’ll find resources that can be used to craft vehicles, build bases and conduct research. Astroneer will support crossplay between Xbox One and PC adventurers and will offer dedicated servers that will allow players to build and explore asynchronously.

The pre-release version of the game is still available from Steam Early Access and Xbox One Game Preview for $19.99. That price will jump up to $29.99 on November 16th in preparation for the public launch. If you get in before the deadline, you’ll get a “Retro” suit for being an early supporter.

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This big-ass light bulb from Philips kinda makes sense

This big-ass light bulb from Philips kinda makes sense

Got lights dangling overhead in your kitchen? Wish you did? If so, Philips wants to help you go big with the idea.

Specifically, the lighting aisle mainstay has a new fleet of gigantic, decorative light bulbs with fake LED filaments strung inside for a vintage aesthetic. Starting at $25 each and available in your choice of three shapes and two color temperatures, the biggest of these eye-catching bulbs is literally bigger than my head.

And you know what? I get it. Lots of homes have fancy overhead fixtures hanging from the ceiling — installing a couple of these bad boys instead could make for a good-looking and potentially cost-effective alternative.

Of course, that assumes that such a setup is possible in your home, or that you’re willing to wire some dangling screw-in bases to your ceiling in order to give these bulbs a place to hang. If it is, or if you are, then the new Philips Deco LEDs offer distinctive looks, solid dimming performance and a reasonable price point. I say why not?

philips-big-ass-bulb-filament

The “filaments” in these bulbs are actually just thin strips of light-emitting diodes — LEDs to you and me. They offer old-school looks with new-age efficiency.


Chris Monroe/CNET

The big idea

Philips Deco LEDs come in three shapes — a tube, a teardrop and a globe. Of the three, the tube is the niche-iest. Unless I wanted a steampunk sort of vibe, I’d probably stick with the more familiar-looking teardrop or globe (especially the 25W replacement Vintage teardrop bulb, which is the cheapest of the bunch at $25). But hey, to each their own.

Along with your choice of shape, you also get to pick between “Vintage” bulbs with amber-tinted glass, twisty, spiraling filaments and an orange, candle-like glow, and “Modern” bulbs with smoky glass, a vertical, more industrial-looking filament, and a cool white daylight tone. With good-looking tints on the glass and a sturdy, stylish base at the neck, each of them looks sufficiently fancy for something you’ll end up hanging out in the open in your home.

Between the two styles, the Vintage bulbs are the clear winner for me. That’s because the vertical filament in the Modern bulbs casts a harsh vertical shadow. No such issue with the spiral filaments in the Vintage bulbs. That holds to what I’ve seen from other vintage-style bulbs with fake filaments — most notably ones from Feit and GE. The lesson: Arranging those filaments into a spiral clearly seems to be the best way to avoid ugly shadows.

That makes the Vintage globe and Vintage teardrop the two bulbs from the collection I’d recommend, but keep in mind that they’ll each cost you a bit extra. I’ve listed the prices of all six bulbs in the chart below (note that the globe and teardrop Vintage bulbs come in both a 40W replacement version and a cheaper 25W replacement version that’s a little less bright):

Tube Teardrop Globe
Philips Deco Modern (daylight) $34 $37 $40
Philips Deco Vintage (warm white) $35 $25 (25W), $37 (40W) $30 (25W), $40 (40W)

Check the specs

Despite the size, none of the new Deco LEDs offer more than a few hundred lumens’ worth of light, so don’t expect to light up the room with just one. As such, they’re better suited as decorative accent lighting — hence the “Philips Deco” branding.

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Facebook fundraisers have raised over $1 billion

Facebook fundraisers have raised over $1 billion


Facebook

Facebook announced today that it’s expanding its nonprofit fundraising tool to Canada and Australia, and it also shared that it recently reached a major fundraising milestone. Since it launched the tool that allows users to raise money for nonprofits and personal causes, over 20 million users have raised over $1 billion by starting or donating to a fundraiser. The company also said that over 1 million nonprofits across 19 countries are now eligible to receive donations through the tool.

Among those that have raised millions of dollars with Facebook fundraisers are Save the Children, No Kid Hungry and St. Jude, which have raised more than $7.5 million, $5 million and $30 million, respectively.

Facebook’s nonprofit and personal fundraising tools are now available in 20 countries. And in Canada and Australia, where Facebook recently expanded its nonprofit fundraising tools, more than 100,000 charities are eligible for Facebook fundraisers.

In August, Facebook announced that more than $300 million had been raised for over 750,000 nonprofits. The fundraising tool first launched as a way for users to raise money for 501c3 nonprofits, and Facebook later added the ability to raise funds for personal needs. The company has since removed transaction fees for nonprofit fundraisers as well as the platform fee it imposed on personal cause fundraisers.

This year, for Giving Tuesday, Facebook is partnering with PayPal to match up to $7 million in donations given to US nonprofits. Matches will be limited to $250,000 per nonprofit and $20,000 per donor.

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Natural solutions can reduce global warming: US forests, wetlands, and agricultural lands could absorb a fifth of greenhouse gas pollution — equivalent to emissions from all US vehicles

Natural solutions can reduce global warming: US forests, wetlands, and agricultural lands could absorb a fifth of greenhouse gas pollution — equivalent to emissions from all US vehicles

Restoring the United States’ lands and coastal wetlands could have a much bigger role in reducing global warming than previously thought, according to the most comprehensive national assessment to date of how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and stored in forests, farmland, grasslands, and wetlands.

The peer-reviewed study in Science Advances from The Nature Conservancy and 21 institutional partners found that nature’s contribution could equal 21% of the nation’s current net annual emissions, by adjusting 21 natural management practices to increase carbon storage and avoid greenhouse emissions. The study is the first to include the climate benefits of coastal wetlands and grasslands in a comprehensive mix along with forests and agriculture.

In October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report called for global action immediately to limit warming to 1.5?Centigrade (approximately 3? Fahrenheit) to avoid the most damaging climate change impacts. This new study highlights how, and which, natural solutions in the United States offer the most promise to help limit temperatures below that 3? Fahrenheit goal.

Joe Fargione, Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy, was the study’s lead author: “One of America’s greatest assets is its land. Through changes in management, along with protecting and restoring natural lands, we demonstrated we could reduce carbon pollution and filter water, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and have better soil health to grow our food — all at the same time. Nature offers us a simple, cost-effective way to help fight global warming. In combination with transitioning to zero carbon energy production, natural climate solutions can help protect our climate for future generations.”

Lynn Scarlett, Chief External Affairs Officer for The Nature Conservancy and former Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, spoke to practical elements of the study’s findings: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so we should reduce carbon pollution where we can. But we also need to put natural solutions to work as a tool to insulate ourselves from global warming. This study provides good news that making investments in nature will make a big difference, while offering the potential for new revenue to farmers, ranchers, foresters, and coastal communities at the same time.”

Of the 21 natural solutions analyzed, increased reforestation (the planting of trees) emerged as the largest means to achieve greater carbon storage, equivalent to eliminating the emissions of 65 million passenger cars. Other high-performing forest solutions include allowing longer periods between timber harvest to increase carbon storage; increasing controlled burns and strategic thinning in forests to reduce the risk of megafire; and avoided loss of forests from urban sprawl.

The study identified a maximum of 156 million acres that could be reforested, 304 million acres where forest harvest rotations could be extended, and at least 42 million additional acres of forests that would benefit from fire risk reduction treatments. In addition, almost a million acres of forest are being converted to non-forest habitat a year, largely due to suburban and exurban expansion, which could be addressed through better land use planning. The study also finds that urban reforestation can add important carbon storage benefits.

“Planting trees and improving the health of existing forests will be a deciding factor in whether we are able to get ahead of the climate curve,” said Jad Daley, CEO of American Forests. “This breakthrough analysis clarifies the highest impact actions for keeping our forests as a growing and resilient carbon sink and the potential scale of climate benefit.”

Grasslands are underappreciated for their carbon storage opportunity. Grassland is being lost at a rate of over one million acres per year. When grassland is converted to cropland, about 28% of the carbon in the top meter of soil is released to the atmosphere. This trend could be reversed by re-enrolling 13 million acres of marginal cropland in conservation programs and restoring them to provide habitat and storage of carbon in the soil.

Existing croplands have an important role to play. Farmers can optimize their nutrient application, saving money and avoiding emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Farmers can also plant cover crops, which suck carbon out the atmosphere and return it to the soil during times of the year when fields would normally be bare.

“Farmers are some of our best land stewards, and Danone North America is partnering with farms across the country to find climate solutions through our soil health initiative. Improved nutrient management, cover crops, and crop rotations are examples of practices that can help reduce GHG emissions and over time improve a farm’s bottom-line. Farmers and the food industry depend on a predictable climate, so it’s important to work together to reduce the risks of climate change.” said Chris Adamo, Vice President Federal & Industry Affairs at Danone North America.

Natural solutions can be found under water as well. An estimated 27% of tidal wetlands have been disconnected from the ocean, increasing the release of methane. Reconnecting tidal wetlands to the ocean virtually eliminates those methane emissions, and also restores fish habitat important for coastal communities.

“Shellfish growers make a living on the water and have witnessed salt marshes losing productivity due to freshwater inundation. Not only does this damage important waters and increase emissions, but it also harms their ability to make a living growing oysters, clams, mussels and other species that support many coastal communities and other important stakeholders. By restoring salt marshes, we can help shellfish farmers, wholesalers, retailers and restaurants and the climate all at the same time,” said Davis Herron, Director, Retail & Restaurant Division, Lobster Place, spokesman for the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition.

Not only do natural climate solutions have strong benefits for personal enjoyment, healthier water, air, wildlife, and soil, many are quite affordable. As states and the federal government evaluate rules and markets for greenhouse gas emissions, these low-cost reductions from natural solutions offer the United States a powerful tool to address a warming planet.

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Google is working on a fix for Pixel 3’s disappearing texts bug

Google is working on a fix for Pixel 3’s disappearing texts bug


Cherlynn Low/Engadget

The Pixel 3’s early teething troubles aren’t over yet. Users are reporting that some of their text messages are disappearing, It’s not clear whether it’s an Android-level bug or specific to the Messages app, but some owners believe the issue might have begun after installing the November 5th security update. Needless to say, that’s more than a little worrying if you haven’t backed up your texts and you’d really like to remember a conversation with a loved one.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the issue to Engadget, saying a “small number” of Pixel 3s were affected and that the company is “rolling out a fix soon.” You won’t have to deal with this headache for very long. However, it comes hot on the heels of other bugs, including phantom notches and photos refusing to save. The Pixel 3’s software is clearly a bit rough around the edges, so you might want to wait a little while if you haven’t already committed to buying the Android Pie flagship.

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Acer Spin 3 (2018) review: In a sea of $500 convertibles, the Spin 3 comes up short

Acer Spin 3 (2018) review: In a sea of $500 convertibles, the Spin 3 comes up short

In 2018, a thousand bucks will get you an excellent laptop. Cut that budget in half and you’ll need to make some compromises. And yet there are plenty of very solid options in the $500 range (roughly £380 or AU$700) — including several from Acer — that deliver a better overall value than the unexceptional Spin 3.  

05-acer-spin-3

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like every model in Acer’s series of Spin laptops, our $500 test unit has a 360-degree hinge that lets you tuck the keyboard behind the display, making the transformation from laptop to tablet. The Spin family comes in a wide (and confusing) array of size options and configurations that includes Chromebooks, Windows machines and even entry-level gaming models. Earlier this year, we reviewed the higher-end, all-metal 13.3-inch Acer Spin 5, which starts at $700 and found it to be a good value.

The less expensive Acer Spin 3 also looks good — but feels cheap. From a distance, it appears to be made of the same textured, brushed aluminum as the Spin 5, but a closer inspection reveals a plastic design. It’s just under 1 inch thick and weighs about 3.8 pounds — about average for a 14-inch laptop in this price range. The keyboard isn’t great — I found myself making more typos than usual — and the touchpad felt particularly flimsy, responding consistently only when I clicked the lower-right corner.

09-acer-spin-3

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Acer Spin 3’s 14-inch HD display is a highlight. It’s not the brightest screen, but the 1,900×1,080 resolution is crisp and the 16:9 aspect ratio is well-suited to watching videos and reading in portrait mode. And after working primarily on Macs for so many years, I am always impressed by the versatility of convertibles; it’s a joy to poke at the touchscreen in laptop and tablet mode. 

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Microsoft releases its redesigned Cortana app for iOS

Microsoft releases its redesigned Cortana app for iOS

Microsoft has released its updated Cortana app for iOS, which includes a design overhaul and new features, including music and podcasts support, an option to set up Cortana-enabled devices and a so-called conversational experience for the voice assistant. Those might prove especially useful for those who buy Microsoft’s Surface Headphones, which will ship next week.

Cortana 3.0 has deeper integration with other Microsoft services too. It ties into your email, calendar, reminders, meetings and To Dos, while you can use Cortana to join Skype and Teams meetings. The Cortana 3.0 beta landed on both iOS and Android last month, so it’s unlikely Android users will have to wait too much longer to get their hands on the updated app.

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