Magnetic teeth hold promise for materials and energy

Magnetic teeth hold promise for materials and energy

A mollusk with teeth that can grind down rock may hold the key to making next generation abrasion-resistant materials and nanoscale materials for energy.

The mollusk, called a gumboot chiton, scrapes algae off ocean rocks using a specialized set of teeth made from the magnetic mineral magnetite. The teeth have the maximum hardness and stiffness of any known biomineral. Although magnetite is a geologic mineral commonly found in Earth’s crust, only a few animals are known to produce it, and little is known about how they make it.

A better understanding of the biomineralization process, combined with a thorough understanding of chiton tooth architecture and mechanics, could help scientists not only improve wear-resistant coatings and tooling, but also help grow nanoscale materials for energy and water-based applications.

Now, for the first time, a team led by Michiko Nemoto, an assistant professor of agriculture at Okayama University and David Kisailus, a professor of materials science and chemical engineering in UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, has discovered a piece of the genetic puzzle that allows the chiton to produce magnetite nanomaterials.

Chitons have several dozen rows of teeth attached to a ribbon-like structure. Each tooth is composed of a mineralized cusp, or pointed area, and base supporting the mineralized cusp. Magnetite is deposited only in the cusp region. As teeth wear down they are replaced by new teeth, so teeth in varying stages of formation are always present.

Rather than looking for specific genes, the researchers examined the transcriptome, the set of all RNA molecules in the teeth, to see what substances the genes were actually expressing. DNA contains the blueprints, but RNA is what “transcribes” the blueprints and helps carry them out.

They found that the 20 most abundant RNA transcripts in the developing teeth region contain ferritin, a protein that stores iron and releases it in a controlled fashion, while those in the mineralized teeth region include proteins of mitochondria that may provide the energy required to transform the raw materials into magnetite. On the fully mineralized cusp the researchers also identified 22 proteins that included a new protein they called “radular teeth matrix protein1.” The new protein might interact with other substances present on the teeth to produce iron oxide.

The findings could help scientists solve an urgent problem for next generation electronics — nanoscale energy sources to power them. Knowing how to control the growth of biological magnetite, whose magnetic fields have electrical applications, could help scientists create nanoscale energy materials.

The open access paper, “Integrated transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of a molecular mechanism of radular teeth biomineralization in Cryptochiton stelleri,” was published January 29 in Scientific Reports. In addition to Nemoto and Kisailus, authors include Dongni Ren, Steven Herrera, Songqin Pan, Takashi Tamura, Kenji Inagaki.

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CBS launches streaming-only news service for New York City

CBS launches streaming-only news service for New York City


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CBS is acting on its promise to add a local flavor to its streaming news service. The broadcaster has launched CBSN New York, its first major local streaming service. The internet-only channel promises around-the-clock coverage of NYC’s goings on, with CBS 2 and WLNY 10/55 providing both their usual live news broadcasts as well as hour-long live shows just for CBSN. It’ll also provide continuous coverage of any breaking events as well as on-demand streams.

The service will be ad-supported, CBS added.

The media giant is still on track to offer a matching CBSN service in Los Angeles in early 2019, and expects more local services in other large markets where it has a footprint. While there’s no certainty that CBSN will become as ubiquitous as conventional local news networks, there’s certainly some similarity in strategy here. This is mostly local news as you know it, just for people who can’t always watch (or don’t bother with) regular TV.

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Cryptocurrency Exchange Coinbase Lists Four More Ethereum Tokens

Cryptocurrency Exchange Coinbase Lists Four More Ethereum Tokens


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The most popular US cryptocurrency exchange is continuing its promise to support Ethereum-based ERC20 tokens, adding four more of the coins to the Coinbase Pro platform.

Starting today, December 7, Coinbase Pro users can transfer their balances of Civic (CVC), district0x (DNT), Loom Network (LOOM), and Decentraland (MANA) to the exchange, and full trading will commence around 48 hours from today. The Coinbase announcement confirms:

“Once sufficient liquidity is established, trading will begin on each respective USDC order book. Trading will initially be accessible for Coinbase Pro users in the US (excluding NY), UK, European Union, Canada, Singapore and Australia.”

There are four stages of launch for each token. Beginning with the acceptance of transfers into the platform, then “post-only” will allow the posting of limit orders for a short time, before limit orders will start matching. After this point, full trading will become available. The Coinbase Pro Twitter account will be updated at each stage.

The four coins will, for now, only be available on the Coinbase Pro platform for advanced trading and not the standard brokerage platform at Coinbase.com or within the firm’s mobile applications. Both services, Coinbase and Coinbase Pro, are free to register, but trading fees vary.  Availability of the new coins for more countries could also be added later.

Coinbase plans to list even more ERC20 tokens “over time” and reveals:

“We are exploring the addition of many new assets beyond ERC20 tokens on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis.”

ERC20 tokens, says Coinbase, integrate easily with its existing infrastructure “particularly from a security standpoint,” but the exchange acknowledges there are other popular coins it is yet to support.

ERC20 token 0x (ZRX) and the Coinbase stablecoin USDC (USD Coin) were added by the platform in October 2018, followed by Brave Browser’s Basic Attention Token (BAT) in early November. With the addition of four more coins now in December, Coinbase is delivering on its ERC20 support plans announced back in March 2018, and more additions look set to follow.

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Chrome now blocks ads on deceptive websites

Chrome now blocks ads on deceptive websites


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Google is acting on its promise to kick deceptive websites to the curb. The newly released Chrome 71 now blocks ads on “abusive” sites that consistently trick users with fake system warnings, non-functional “close” buttons and other bogus content that steers you to ads and landing pages. The sites themselves won’t lose access the moment Google marks them abusive, but they’ll have 30 days to clean up their acts.

The browser has more safeguards, too. Chrome will warn you when a site appears to be hiding the real costs and terms for a transaction. If a site is trying to rope you into a subscription without telling you that you’ll be charged, you might get an alert that could save you a lot of money. Google will try to get in touch with affected sites to have them modify their sites, but they’ll have to appeal the decision to have a chance at lifting the warning.

Chrome 71 is available now for Linux, Mac and Windows, and it’s rolling out to Android and iOS users over the course of the weeks ahead. Google hasn’t detailed everything that’s new, but the efforts to thwart malicious sites are clearly the highlights. The company has moved from blocking obvious threats like malware to the sneakier tactics that may not compromise your computer, but could prove annoying at best and costly at worst.

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Apple adds faster AMD Vega graphics options for 15-inch MacBook Pro

Apple adds faster AMD Vega graphics options for 15-inch MacBook Pro


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Apple has acted on its promise to give the 2018 MacBook Pro a much-appreciated graphics performance boost. You can now configure the higher-end 15-inch laptop with Radeon Pro Vega 16 or 20 GPUs that, if you ask Apple, deliver up to 60 percent faster processing power for tasks like 3D modeling and GPU-accelerated video edits. Both options come with 4GB of memory, so your choice boils down to the level of computational power you want.

Get ready to pay a premium if you do like either video chip. In addition to having to buy a higher-end MacBook Pro, you’ll pay $250 more for the Vega 16 and $350 more for the Vega 20. That raises the minimum price for a Vega-equipped Pro to $3,049 — this is really for creatives, not enthusiasts hoping to squeeze higher frame rates out of Fortnite. Nonetheless,this is very welcome if you thought the Radeon Pro 500-series didn’t cut the mustard for a portable workstation.

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AMD launches the first 7nm GPUs, but they’re not for you

AMD launches the first 7nm GPUs, but they’re not for you


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AMD is following through on its promise of releasing 7-nanometer GPUs — not that you can use one yet. The company has formally launched Radeon Instinct MI50 and MI60 cards that use the denser, more efficient chip technology to accelerate specialized computing tasks like AI, cloud services and scientific calculations. The MI60 in particular is billed as the fastest double-precision accelerator of its type, pumping out 7.4 teraflops when crunching 64-bit floating point data. Both boards pack very high-bandwidth (up to 1TB/s) HBM2 memory and can work together in “hive rings” of up to four GPUs thanks to 200GB/s peer-to-peer links.

The MI60 will make the promise of 7nm GPUs a reality by shipping to data centers before the end of 2018, while its more accessible MI50 counterpart should arrive no later than the first quarter of 2019.

This isn’t the 7nm gaming card many people are clamoring for, but it’s still a milestone for the computing industry — you can finally find 7nm tech in a GPU outside of a mobile chip. NVIDIA’s RTX graphics hardware remains built on a 12nm process. Look at this as AMD laying the groundwork for 2019, when 7nm could is more likely to find its way inside your gaming rig.

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New insights into the neural risks and benefits of marijuana use: Compounds in cannabis can impair or improve memory depending on age, disease

New insights into the neural risks and benefits of marijuana use: Compounds in cannabis can impair or improve memory depending on age, disease

Research released today underscores both the dangers and the therapeutic promise of marijuana, revealing different effects across the lifespan. Marijuana exposure in the womb or during adolescence may disrupt learning and memory, damage communication between brain regions, and disturb levels of key neurotransmitters and metabolites in the brain. In Alzheimer’s disease, however, compounds found in marijuana, such as the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may improve memory and mitigate some of the disease’s symptoms. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2018, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States and its popularity is expected to rise as it is legalized in more places. It is also the illegal drug most commonly used by pregnant women, despite the potential for long-term harm to the fetus. Many people start using marijuana as teenagers — a particularly vulnerable time as the brain is still developing — when there is evidence for increased risk. At the same time, a growing number of people are turning to marijuana for the relief of symptoms of chronic diseases such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. These use patterns highlight the need to better understand the long-term effects of marijuana, particularly in sensitive populations such as unborn children and adolescents.

Today’s new findings show that:

  • Prenatal exposure to THC in rats has lasting effects on metabolites in the brain, making the animal more vulnerable to stress later in life (Robert Schwarcz, abstract 609.12).
  • Rats exposed to synthetic compounds that are similar to THC during fetal development show impaired formation of the neural circuits involved in learning and memory as adolescents (Priyanka Das Pinky, abstract 424.17).
  • Cannabinoid use by adolescent rats boosts activity in brain pathways responsible for habit formation (José Fuentealba Evans, abstract 602.07).
  • In adolescent rats, cannabinoids may disturb the development of a protein lattice important for balancing excitatory and inhibitory activity in a brain region involved in decision-making, planning, and self-control (Eliza Jacobs-Brichford, abstract 645.09).
  • Long-term cannabinoid use alters metabolism and connectivity of brain regions involved in learning and memory in adult mice (Ana M. Sebastião, abstract 778.08).
  • Treating Alzheimer’s disease mice with the psychoactive compound found in marijuana improves memory and reduces neuronal loss, suggesting a possible therapy for the human disease (Yvonne Bouter, abstract 467.14).

“Today’s findings lend new understanding of the complex effects that cannabis has on the brain,” said press conference moderator Michael Taffe, PhD, of Scripps Research Institute and an expert in substance abuse research. “While it may have therapeutic potential in some situations, it is important to get a better understanding of the negative aspects as well, particularly for pregnant women, teens, and chronic users.”

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Society for Neuroscience. “New insights into the neural risks and benefits of marijuana use: Compounds in cannabis can impair or improve memory depending on age, disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2018. .

Society for Neuroscience. (2018, November 6). New insights into the neural risks and benefits of marijuana use: Compounds in cannabis can impair or improve memory depending on age, disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 6, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181106150418.htm

Society for Neuroscience. “New insights into the neural risks and benefits of marijuana use: Compounds in cannabis can impair or improve memory depending on age, disease.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181106150418.htm (accessed November 6, 2018).

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ZTE’s latest phones promise tall screens for under $200

ZTE’s latest phones promise tall screens for under $200


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You don’t have too many choices in the US when it comes to tall-ratio smartphones on a budget — the Moto E5 series is on the short list. ZTE believes it can expand your options a little further. It’s launching the Blade Max View (above) and Blade Max 2s (below), both of which offer 2,160 x 1,080 LCD screens, decent 1.4GHz Snapdragon 435 processors and 32GB of expandable storage for $200 and $180 respectively. The Max View is definitely the better value of the two, as it touts dual 16MP/2MP rear cameras and stereo speakers where the Max 2s carries a single 13MP rear camera and mono sound.

It might not surprise you to hear that these phones aren’t likely to reach your . Instead, you can buy unlocked versions that support GSM carriers and Verizon, going through either ZTE’s online store or online retailers B&H and Newegg. The Max 2s will be available at “select wireless retailers,” too. If there’s a real drawback, it’s that they’re running Android Nougat — don’t expect a Pie update on either any time soon.

ZTE Blade Max 2s

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CRISPR Gene Editing Shows Promise for Treating a Fatal Muscle Disease

CRISPR Gene Editing Shows Promise for Treating a Fatal Muscle Disease

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a life-threatening muscle-wasting illness. Occurring mostly in males, it is the most common type of muscular dystrophy, striking about one in 3,500 boys and causing their muscles to start breaking down in early childhood. It often confines patients to wheelchairs by the time they are teenagers and usually leads to an early death from heart or respiratory failure. There is no cure—but a genetic fix tested in dogs may offer new hope.

The disease is caused by gene mutations that make patients’ muscle cells unable to produce enough dystrophin, a protein that helps muscles absorb shocks and protects them against degradation over time. In a recent study, scientists used a gene-editing technique called CRISPR/Cas9 to pump up muscle protein levels in four dogs suffering from Duchenne. The advance may hasten clinical trials for similar treatments in humans.

The research team, led by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, worked with young beagles bred to have Duchenne. The scientists edited the dogs’ muscle cells to remove a key barrier to higher protein production—a short, problematic segment of protein-coding DNA that occurs in both canines and humans with the illness. Within about two months the dogs were producing greater amounts of dystrophin; levels in skeletal muscle ranged up to 90 percent of normal, depending on the muscle type and dosage used. (Some dogs produced significantly less.) In cardiac muscle, a crucial target for treatment, levels climbed to as high as 92 percent of normal. The U.T. Southwestern researchers, who published their findings in August in Science, report that they did not detect any unintended changes to other regions of the genome—a common concern with gene-editing technology—and there was no evidence the technique made the dogs ill.

To deliver this technology to the dogs’ muscles, senior author Eric Olson, a molecular biologist at U.T. Southwestern, and his colleagues engineered viruses to act as delivery trucks, stripping out some of the viruses’ own DNA to make room for gene-editing machinery. A number of the viruses were then loaded up with the Cas9 enzyme, which acts like molecular “scissors”; this was used to cut out the DNA sequence that hinders dystrophin production in muscle cells. Other viruses carried a guide molecule to help the Cas9 identify where it should make the needed cuts.

Olson’s team had previously demonstrated that CRISPR could be used to treat Duchenne in rodents and in human cells in the laboratory. The new work marks the first success in a large mammal. For this study, the team focused only on measuring protein-level restoration. It has not explored how the intervention might have changed the dogs’ behavior or day-to-day lives.

Exactly how long one injection with CRISPR gene-editing machinery might last in human Duchenne patients remains unknown. Olson and his colleagues hope the intervention might be durable enough with a single dose, but they need further results to get a clearer idea. If patients require more treatments over time, they might not be able to use the same viral vehicle, says Elizabeth McNally, a geneticist and cardiologist who directs the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University. “The body may develop neutralizing antibodies, so there are a lot of questions about the viral delivery piece of that,” says McNally, who is also on the scientific advisory board of Olson’s spin-off company trying to commercialize this Duchenne technology but was not involved with this study.

The sole Duchenne treatment currently approved for the U.S. market—an injectable drug made by Sarepta Therapeutics that requires continuous delivery—increases dystrophin levels by less than 1 percent. This approach, which has yet to show a clinical benefit, differs from Olson’s in that it works on RNA (the molecule into which DNA is eventually transcribed) but leaves the abnormal DNA sequence unchanged.

Duchenne researcher Amy Wagers, a professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at Harvard University, who is not involved with developing either therapy, says these two approaches could potentially be used in tandem to help boost dystrophin. “I think it’s really exciting to see this new work in mice now translated to a large animal model,” she says, adding that “the authors very appropriately note that this is a preliminary study with a small number of animals and a short follow-up time.”

Both Sarepta’s approved technology and Olson’s experimental one target a subset of the Duchenne population: patients with a particular dystrophin gene mutation that affects about 13 percent of those with the disease. There are at least 1,000 such cases in the U.S. “We need to do long-term safety and efficacy studies in dogs,” Olson says. “It will be a few years before we’re ready to test this in humans if it continues to hold up.”

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HP’s latest Spectre x360 laptops boast up to a 22-hour battery

HP’s latest Spectre x360 laptops boast up to a 22-hour battery

HP is once again tweaking its Spectre x360 convertible laptops, but this time the changes promise to be more tangible. The new Spectre x360 13 and 15 boast common functional upgrades, such as a dual-chamfered design (it’s now easier to lift the lid) and a privacy kill switch that electrically disables the webcam. However, the star of the show is undoubtedly the 13-inch model. It now boasts a whopping 22.5-hour peak battery life — while it’s likely to fall short of that figure in the real world, the 37 percent improvement over the previous generation is still huge. There’s optional “gigabit-class” LTE on the 13-inch system, too.

Not that the 15-inch model is a slouch. You can outfit it with up to a six-core 8th-generation Intel Core chip if you need raw computational power, and a new thermal design should help cool both the CPU and the optional GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q graphics. You’ll find a battery with ‘just’ a peak 17.5 hours of longevity. The larger Spectre x360 also has as many as two Thunderbolt 3 ports as well as your choice of a 650-nit 1080p display or a 4K touchscreen.

Both machines arrive in November, starting at $1,150 for the Spectre x360 13 and scaling to $1,390 for its 15-inch sibling. They’ll reach Best Buy stores in December.

There’s a third system for the corporate crowd. The 14-inch EliteBook x360 1040 G5 (below) is billed as the first pro convertible with gigabit-grade LTE, and offers size-appropriate power including quad-core 8th-gen Intel chips, up to 32GB of RAM and a maximum 2TB of storage. It shows up in late October with a $1,499 starting price.

HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5

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Now you can buy a Model 3 for $45,000 before incentives

Now you can buy a Model 3 for $45,000 before incentives

The Tesla Model 3 was originally announced with a promise that the car could be purchased for as little as $35,000 before federal and state tax incentives were applied, but until now, the cheapest model started at $49,000. Now, Elon Musk announced that his company has added a “mid range battery” option with a price that starts at $45,000 before incentives are applied.

According to the exec, if you apply federal tax credits of $7,500 (hopefully you reserved one already) plus California’s state tax rebate its price drops to $35k. In response to questions, Musk tweeted that “It’s a long range battery with fewer cells.” The still-cheaper-yet “standard” battery option that should cut the price more is still months away from availability, while the company can deliver this version (which is equipped with just rear wheel drive instead of a dual-motor AWD setup) right now.

If you check its revamped ordering page right now, the next-highest priced model jump up to $54,000 before incentives since it includes AWD, but if you’d prefer the combination of a long-range battery with an estimated 310 mile range and RWD, it’s still available for ordering “off menu” for a few days. Opting for this mid-range battery means living with an estimated 260 mile range, which should still be more than enough to cover most commutes and trips several times over.

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Qualcomm’s new 60GHz WiFi chips promise better VR

Qualcomm’s new 60GHz WiFi chips promise better VR

Mobile chip manufacturer Qualcomm has announced a family of 60GHz WiFi chips, the QCA64x8 and QCA64x1, which can deliver speeds of over 10Gbps. The WiFi 802.11ay standard that these chips use bring with it theoretical speeds that can surpass even most types of home Ethernet connections. To put the speed of 802.11ay at 60Ghz into context, an NVMe SSD can read at speeds of up to 3.5Gbps — even the best internet that can be found in most major US cities tops off at around 1Gbps. Given the theoretical speeds of 802.11ay at 60GHz, the bottleneck would likely be your computer’s internal components.

Qualcomm’s latest 60GHz chips aren’t the first to hit the market. There have been routers in the past that used the 802.11ad standard at 60GHz. The problem with 802.11ad at 60GHz was its limited range, meaning users had to essentially be sitting right next to their router with no physical interferences. 802.11ay solves the distance issues (some tests have shown transmission ranges of over 300 meters), but it still has problems penetrating walls. There’s also the 802.11ax standard that’s still in development which won’t travel as far, but it will have better penetration.

There are certain use cases where 802.11ay makes a lot of sense, one being VR. At the moment, a high end headset like the Oculus or Vive, requires a wire to be tethered to the computer. But with these chips, as long as the user is close to their computer, there will be no need for wires.

Qualcomm also claims that this new 60GHz standard can support new WiFi Sensing applications, like presence detecting, gesture recognition, room mapping, precise location, and improved facial feature detection. Now that Qualcomm’s new 802.11ay chips are available, truly immersive and wireless VR might finally be attainable.

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The Kindle Paperwhite is ready for the bath

The Kindle Paperwhite is ready for the bath


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Sometimes you just want to read a book. Or maybe all the books. That’s the promise of the Kindle line. Access to thousands of books in a form factor that’s mobile and won’t distract you with a litany of notifications about the world being on fire or that someone liked your photo of last night’s poke.

The updated Paperwhite from Amazon starting at $129 does all that while its features move closer to the more expensive and robust Kindle Oasis.

The new Paperwhite (available for order now and shipping on November 7th) is waterproof, has a higher resolution screen (300ppi) and supports Audible audiobooks via Bluetooth headphones. So you can now listen to your audiobooks, then when you have time to actually read, Amazon’s Whispersync will drop you in the book right where the audiobook left off on the same device.

The Paperwhite’s six-inch display is now flush with the rest of the front of the device and the company has expanded brightness range up to 10-percent brighter at the top end for those extra sunny days. The new design is 8.18mm thick and weighs 182g.

Kindle Paperwhite

The 8GB version will set you back $129.99 while the insanely large 32GB Paperwhite will cost you $159.99. You probably need all that extra room for the audio files you’ll get from Audible. For the voracious reader that needs instant access to new books even when WiFi is unavailable, the 32GB Paperwhite with a free cellular connection is $249.99.

In addition to new reading hardware, Amazon announced that it is updating the Kindle home screen with more recommendations, data about your reading habits and tips on how to get the most out of your Kindle. The company is also introducing “reading settings.”

The new feature can be used to create reading profiles that have user-specified fonts, boldness levels and orientation settings. Readers will be able to create up to five of these profiles. One scenario Amazon floated is someone that reads while on the treadmill, they could have a profile that has a large font making it easier to read while working out. Then when that person just wants to read on the couch, they can revert to a casual reading profile.

Amazon says the update will arrive over-the-air in the next few weeks to Kindle Paperwhites from 2013 and newer devices. So even if you don’t get a fancy new Paperwhite that can survive a dip in the bathtub or pool (or maybe you like reading in the shower. No judgment here), you can still enjoy some cool new features while reading.

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Android creator wants Essential’s new phone to text and email for you

Android creator wants Essential’s new phone to text and email for you

Essential Products, Inc., had a lot of promise as an electronics startup run by Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, but the company has floundered a bit in practice. Now, according to Bloomberg, Essential is putting aside all of its projects to focus…

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Nintendo Switch Online now includes an easier version of ‘Zelda’

Nintendo Switch Online now includes an easier version of ‘Zelda’

Nintendo had previously said that three new games would arrive on its instant-access NES catalogue today, and it’s delivered on its promise — and then some. In addition to the anticipated Solomon’s Key, NES Open Tournament Golf and Super Dodge Ball,…

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