Moon

China Launches Satellite To Explore Dark Side of Moon (reuters.com) 104

China launched a relay satellite early on Monday designed to establish a communication link between earth and a planned lunar probe that will explore the dark side of the moon, the official Xinhua news agency said. From a report: Citing the China National Space Administration, Xinhua said the satellite was launched at 5:28 a.m. (2128 GMT Sunday) on a Long March-4C rocket from the Xichang launch center in the southwest of the country. "The launch is a key step for China to realize its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the moon," Xinhua quoted Zhang Lihua, manager of the relay satellite project, as saying.
Transportation

Tesla Unveils Dual Motor and Performance Specs For Model 3 268

Rei writes: Yesterday evening, Elon Musk announced the pricing and specs for two of the Model 3's most in-demand options -- dual motor and performance versions. The base dual motor configuration adds an AC induction front motor to the current partial-PM reluctance rear motor for $5,000; in addition to AWD and allowing the car to drive with either motor out, this cuts the 0 to 60 mph acceleration time from 5.1 seconds to 4.5 seconds. The performance package is available as a bundle, including the long-range pack, premium interior, 20" wheels, carbon fiber spoiler, and a new black-and-white interior. The vehicle will cost $78,000; 0 to 60 mph times are further cut to 3.5 seconds and the top speed increases from 140 mph to 155 mph.

While these options have consistently polled as the most in-demand options not yet available, several still remain and are variously due late this year/early next year: cream interior, non-PUP, tow hitch, SR battery, and air suspension. EU-spec and China-spec are also due early next year. Production is currently over 3,500 per week, rumored to be 4,300 per week, and will be undergoing a shutdown from May 26-31 to raise production to the Q2 target of 5000-6000.
Businesses

Chinese 'Accelerators' In Silicon Valley Aim To Bring Startups Home (reuters.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Beijing's unslakeable thirst for the latest technology has spurred a proliferation of "accelerators" in Silicon Valley that aim to identify promising startups and bring them to China. The surge in the number of China-focused accelerators -- which support, mentor and invest in early-stage startups -- is part of a larger wave of Chinese investment in Silicon Valley. At least 11 such programs have been created in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2013, according to the tech-sector data firm Crunchbase. Some work directly with Chinese governments, which provide funding. Reuters interviews with the incubators showed that many were focused on bringing U.S. startups to China. For U.S. government officials wary of China's growing high-tech clout, the accelerator boom reaffirms fears that U.S. technological know-how is being transferred to China through investments, joint ventures or licensing agreements. "Our intellectual property is the future of our economy and our security," Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic vice-chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement to Reuters about Chinese accelerators. "China's government has clearly prioritized acquiring as much of that intellectual property as possible. Their ongoing efforts, legal or illegal, pose a risk that we have to look at very seriously."
Businesses

Satellite Data Strongly Suggests That China, Russia and Other Authoritarian Countries Are Fudging Their GDP Reports (washingtonpost.com) 175

Christopher Ingraham, writing for The Washington Post: China, Russia and other authoritarian countries inflate their official GDP figures by anywhere from 15 to 30 percent in a given year, according to a new analysis of a quarter-century of satellite data. The working paper, by Luis R. Martinez of the University of Chicago, also found that authoritarian regimes are especially likely to artificially boost their gross domestic product numbers in the years before elections, and that the differences in GDP reporting between authoritarian and non-authoritarian countries can't be explained by structural factors, such as urbanization, composition of the economy or access to electricity. Martinez's findings are derived from a novel data source: satellite imagery that tracks changes in the level of nighttime lighting within and between countries over time.
Earth

NASA Says Humans Are Causing Massive Changes In Location of Water Around the World (desertsun.com) 99

Using measurements from Earth-observing satellites, NASA scientists have found that humans have dramatically altered the location of water around the world. "The team of researchers analyzed 14 years of data from NASA's twin GRACE satellites and studied regions that have seen large increases or decreases in the total amount of freshwater, including water in lakes and rivers and water stored in underground aquifers, soil, snow and ice," reports The Desert Sun. From the report: The scientists examined precipitation trends and other data to determine the most likely causes of these huge losses and gains of water around the world. Their findings in a new study reveal that of the 34 "hotspots" of water change in places from California to China, the trends in about two-thirds of those areas may be linked to climate change or human activities, such as excessive groundwater pumping in farming regions. In eight of the 34 regions, the researchers said the trends reflect "possible" or "probable" impacts of climate change, including losses of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, precipitation increases in the high latitudes of Eurasia and North America, the retreat of Alaska's glaciers and melting ice fields in Patagonia.

They ascribed changes in 12 regions to natural variability, including a progression from a dry period to a wet period in the northern Great Plains, a drought in eastern Brazil and wetter periods in the Amazon and tropical West Africa. In 14 of the areas -- more than 40 percent of the hotspots -- the scientists associated the water shifts partially or largely with human activity. That included groundwater depletion combined with drought in Southern California and the southern High Plains from Kansas to the Texas Panhandle, as well as in the northern Middle East, northern Africa, southern Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
The first-of-its-kind study has been published in the journal Nature.
Businesses

Apple CEO Says He Has Urged Trump To Address Legal Status of Immigrants; Also Told Him That Tariffs Are Wrong Approach To China (bloomberg.com) 375

Apple chief executive Tim Cook told Bloomberg Television that he has criticized Donald Trump's approach to trade with China in a recent White House meeting, while also urging the president to address the legal status of immigrants known as Dreamers. From the interview: Cook said his message to Trump focused on the importance of trade and how cooperation between two countries can boost the economy more than nations acting alone. Cook met with Trump in the Oval Office in late April amid a brewing trade war between the U.S. and China. The Trump administration instituted 25 percent tariffs on at least $50 billion worth of products from China, sparking retaliation. In the interview on "The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations," Cook acknowledged that previous trade policies were flawed but said Trump's move is also problematic. "It's true, undoubtedly true, that not everyone has been advantaged from that -- in either country -- and we've got to work on that," Cook said. "But I felt that tariffs were not the right approach there, and I showed him some more analytical kinds of things to demonstrate why."
Cellphones

Lenovo Teases a True All-Screen Smartphone With No Notch (cnet.com) 177

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Notches, it seems, are the new black. Originally seen -- and often criticized -- on the Essential PH-1 and iPhone X in 2017, the trend of adding notches to Android phones has only accelerated this year as phone makers look to maximize the screen size. But the Lenovo Z5 is going the other way: It's truly all-screen, and notch-free. At least, that's according to a sketch shared last Friday by Lenovo VP Chang Cheng on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China. Cheng's teaser post says (according to Google Translate) that the Lenovo Z5 is the company's new flagship phone. Besides that, the post leaves it pretty vague.

All-screen phones look cool, but they challenge the manufacturer to find a place to put front cameras, sensors and other hardware. That's why we see bezels on some phones and notches on others. It's not clear what Lenovo plans to do with the front camera on the Lenovo Z5. Cheng's post claims that "four technological breakthroughs" and "18 patented technologies" were made for the phone, but doesn't go into details.
One of the first smartphones to launch with an edge-to-edge display was the Xiaomi Mi Mix. It launched with next to no bezel or notch, leaving many to wonder where the earpiece would be. What Xiaomi managed to do was use what it calls "cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology." Basically, it's a component that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy to transfer to the phone's internal metal frame, which then vibrates to create sound. It's possible the Z5 relies on a similar technology, or bone conduction technology found in many headphones and some smartphones.

Aside from the front-facing camera and ambient light sensors, the other components that are typically found on the front of smartphones are relatively easy to drag-and-drop to different locations. For example, the speakers in the Z5 are likely bottom facing and the navigation controls are almost certainly software based. The question is whether or not it's worth having a true all-screen smartphone if it means there's no front-facing camera, ambient light sensors, or stereo speakers.
China

Chinese Scientists Develop Photonic Quantum Analog Computing Chip (sciencemag.org) 55

hackingbear writes from a report via Xinhua: Chinese scientists demonstrated the first two-dimensional quantum walks of single photons in real spatial space, which may provide a powerful platform to boost analog quantum computing. Scientists at Shanghai Jiaotong University reported in a paper published in the journal Science Advances a three-dimensional photonic chip with a scale up to 49x49 nodes, by using a technique called femtosecond direct writing. Universal quantum computers, under develop by IBM, Google, Alibaba and other American and Chinese rivals, are far from being feasible before error correction and full connections between the increasing numbers of qubits could be realized. In contrast, analog quantum computers, or quantum simulators, can be built in a straightforward way to solve practical problems directly without error correction, and potentially be able to beat the computational power of classical computers in the near future.
Businesses

President Trump Pledges To Help China's ZTE, After Ban (usatoday.com) 229

President Trump said Sunday that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are working to put the troubled Chinese telecom manufacturer ZTE back in business. From a report: "President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast," Trump said in a message on Twitter. "Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!" ZTE, maker of Android phones popular with budget-minded consumers, said Wednesday that it would cease "major operating activities," raising questions not only about its survival, but the impact on U.S. consumers who have previously bought or were thinking of buying ZTE phones. The announcement followed a decision last month by the U.S. Commerce Department, which banned American companies from exporting products to the Shenzhen, China-based telecom firm for seven years.
Government

North Korea Announces Plans To Dismantle Nuclear Test Site (npr.org) 216

The Associated Press is reporting North Korea has announced plans to dismantle its nuclear test site between May 23 and 25. The dismantling will occur before President Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12. NPR reports: Reuters reports that Punggye-ri nuclear test site has been the location of all of North Korea's six known nuclear tests. At the site, there's a system of tunnels under the mountain Mount Mantap. Journalists from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Britain will be invited to watch a special ceremony in which all of the tunnels at the testing ground will be destroyed and observation and research facilities and guard units will be taken down. The North Korean government will provide journalists with a charter flight from Beijing to Wosnan, North Korea. From there, a train will take them to the test site in the northeast part of the country.

The AP also reports that at a ruling party meeting last month, North Korea announced the plan to close the nuclear testing ground, along with a commitment to suspend all tests of nuclear devices and ICBMs. At that same meeting, however, North Korea said it has been performing a kind of nuclear test classified as "subcritical." The "subcritical" experiments give scientists an opportunity to test weapons without causing an actual nuclear chain reaction and explosion.

AI

Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant Can Be Controlled By Inaudible Commands (venturebeat.com) 100

Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant were meant to be controlled by live human voices, but all three AI assistants are susceptible to hidden commands undetectable to the human ear, researchers in China and the United States have discovered. From a report: The New York Times reports today that the assistants can be controlled using subsonic commands hidden in radio music, YouTube videos, or even white noise played over speakers, a potentially huge security risk for users. According to the report, the assistants can be made to dial phone numbers, launch websites, make purchases, and access smart home accessories -- such as door locks -- at the same time as human listeners are perceiving anything from completely different spoken text to recordings of music.

In some cases, assistants can be instructed to take pictures or send text messages, receiving commands from up to 25 feet away through a building's open windows. Researchers at Berkeley said that they can modestly alter audio files "to cancel out the sound that the speech recognition system was supposed to hear and replace it with a sound that would be transcribed differently by machines while being nearly undetectable to the human ear."

China

Young Chinese Are Sick of Working Long Hours (bbc.com) 190

Young professionals in China are pushing back against employers who expect them to work around the clock, saying no to the decades old "rule of 996" -- working from 9am to 9pm six days a week. From a report: At the forefront are millennials who are often better educated, more aware of their rights and more interested in finding something fulfilling than the previous generation. And as only children (China's one-child policy wasn't eased until 2015), they are also outspoken and pampered. "In my experience young people, especially the post-90s generation, are reluctant to work overtime -- they are more self-centered," says labour rights expert Li Jupeng, one of many who have observed some millennials challenging the 996 concept.

The relative affluence of their parents and grandparents is part of the reason. China's rapid economic transformation has given rise to a sizeable middle class, with almost 70% of the country's urban population making between $9,000 and $34,000 annually in 2012. In 2000, that figure was just 4%. As only children, millennials are receiving a lot of support from their families -- including a financial safety net should their careers not go as planned. Although their options for pushing back are limited, some are no longer willing to put in long hours for a meagre paycheck.

EU

Trump Withdraws US From Iran Nuclear Deal (nytimes.com) 900

President Trump on Tuesday announced he is withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, a historic accord signed in 2015 that aims to limit Tehran's nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against the country. "This was a horrible one-sided deal that should never, ever been made," Mr. Trump said at the White House in announcing his decision. "It didn't bring calm, it didn't bring peace, and it never will." The New York Times reports: Mr. Trump's announcement, while long anticipated and widely telegraphed, plunges America's relations with European allies into deep uncertainty. They have committed to staying in the deal, raising the prospect of a diplomatic and economic clash as the United States reimposes stringent sanctions on Iran. It also raises the prospect of increasing tensions with Russia and China, which also are parties to the agreement.

One person familiar with negotiations to keep the accord in place said the talks collapsed over Mr. Trump's insistence that sharp limits be kept on Iran's nuclear fuel production after 2030. The deal currently lifts those limits. As a result, the United States is now preparing to reinstate all sanctions it had waived as part of the nuclear accord -- and impose additional economic penalties as well, according to another person briefed on Mr. Trump's decision.
Despite Trump's decision, President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would remain committed to a multinational nuclear deal. "If we achieve the deal's goals in cooperation with other members of the deal, it will remain in place. [...] By exiting the deal, America has officially undermined its commitment to an international treaty," Rouhani said in a televised speech. "I have ordered the foreign ministry to negotiate with the European countries, China and Russia in coming weeks. If at the end of this short period we conclude that we can fully benefit from the JCPOA with the cooperation of all countries, the deal would remain," he added.
AI

White House To Host Tech Giants For AI Meeting (axios.com) 88

The White House will hold a meeting Thursday with major tech corporations to discuss artificial intelligence, according to media reports. Axios: America finds itself in a race with other countries, most notably China, to advance AI technologies. What they're saying: "In order to maintain America's leadership on AI, the administration should continue to invest in research and development, and advance programs that equip the workforce with skills of the future," said Dean Garfield, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, in a statement. The guest list includes companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Nvidia, per the Washington Post, which first reported the meeting.
China

China Plans $47 Billion Fund To Boost Its Semiconductor Industry (wsj.com) 120

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: In a move that could further heighten tensions with the U.S., China is poised to announce a new fund of about $47.4 billion (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) to spur development of its semiconductor industry as it seeks to close the technology gap with the U.S. and other rivals, according to people familiar with the matter. The new war chest by the government-backed China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund Co. follows a similar fund launched in 2014 that raised $21.8 billion, largely funded by central and local government-backed enterprises and industry players. Among other efforts, the fund would be used to improve China's ability to design and manufacture advanced microprocessors and graphic-processing units, one of the people said. Specific details including the amount could change, another person said.
Security

Chinese Government Is Behind a Decade of Hacks On Software Companies, Says Report (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Researchers said Chinese intelligence officers are behind almost a decade's worth of network intrusions that use advanced malware to penetrate software and gaming companies in the US, Europe, Russia, and elsewhere. The hackers have struck as recently as March in a campaign that used phishing emails in an attempt to access corporate-sensitive Office 365 and Gmail accounts. In the process, they made serious operational security errors that revealed key information about their targets and possible location. Researchers from various security organizations have used a variety of names to assign responsibility for the hacks, including LEAD, BARIUM, Wicked Panda, GREF, PassCV, Axiom, and Winnti. In many cases, the researchers assumed the groups were distinct and unaffiliated. According to a 49-page report published Thursday, all of the attacks are the work of Chinese government's intelligence apparatus, which the report's authors dub the Winnti Umbrella. Researchers from 401TRG, the threat research and analysis team at security company ProtectWise, based the attribution on common network infrastructure, tactics, techniques, and procedures used in the attacks as well as operational security mistakes that revealed the possible location of individual members.
China

China's Bungled Drone Display Breaks World Record (bbc.com) 67

Chinese company EHang has broken the Guinness World Record for the most drones flown simultaneously, despite them failing to coordinate for a light show. The company programmed a fleet of 1,374 drones to fly in set patterns, "but failed to spell out the date and the record-setting number of drones," reports the BBC. From the report: The South China Morning Post called the event an "epic fail." The record was previously held by U.S. technology company Intel, which flew 1,218 aircraft at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in February. Intel's show was pre-recorded before being aired during the opening ceremony, due to "possible freezing weather and strong winds." According to the South China Morning Post, EHang was paid 10.5 million yuan ($1.65 million) for the Labor Day performance in the north-western city of Xi'an. You can watch a video of the drone display here.
Android

Phone Maker BLU Settles With FTC Over Unauthorized User Data Extraction (threatpost.com) 26

lod123 shares a report from Threatpost: Android phone-maker BLU Products agreed to a proposed settlement on Tuesday with the Federal Trade Commission, over allegations it allowed the third-party firm Adups Technology to collect detailed consumer data from users without their consent. In an administrative complaint filed earlier this week against BLU and the company's co-owner and president Samuel Ohev-Zion, the FTC accused the firm of sharing with China-based Adups the full contents of their users' text messages, real-time cell tower location data, call and text-message logs, contact lists, and applications used and installed on devices.

Ultimately, the FTC is alleging Ohev-Zion and BLU violated the FTC Act's section pertaining to "deceptive representation regarding disclosure of personal information." The proposed settlement will be made final after a 30-day public comment period. In its proposed complaint, the FTC said Florida-based BLU contracted with Adups to issue security and operating system updates to millions of phones sold by the firm through Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart. In addition to allegedly failing to protect consumer privacy, the FTC asserts that BLU failed "to adequately assess the privacy and security risks of third-party software installed on BLU devices" resulting in "common security vulnerabilities that could enable attackers to gain full access to the devices."
Security researchers at Kryptowire first reported in 2016 that several models of BLU phones actively transmitted user and device information to Adups.
The Military

The Pentagon Bans Huawei, ZTE Phones From Retail Stores On Military Bases (theverge.com) 86

The Pentagon is ordering retail outlets on U.S. military bases to stop selling Huawei and ZTE smartphones, citing security risks. "Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to the department's personnel, information and mission," a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. "In light of this information, it was not prudent for the department's exchanges to continue selling them." The Verge reports: U.S. military members can still buy Huawei and ZTE devices for personal use from other stores, as there's no outright ban on that for now. But the spokesperson elaborated that the Pentagon is considering whether it should send out a military-wide advisory about the devices. U.S. government officials have said that China could order its manufacturers to create backdoors for spying in their devices, although both Huawei and ZTE have denied the possibility. An anonymous source told the WSJ that military leaders are wary that Beijing could use ZTE and Huawei devices to locate soldiers' exact coordinates and track their movements. Huawei responded to the news in a statement to The Verge: "Huawei's products are sold in 170 countries worldwide and meet the highest standards of security, privacy and engineering in every country we operate globally including the U.S. We remain committed to openness and transparency in everything we do and want to be clear that no government has ever asked us compromise the security or integrity of any of our networks or devices."
China

Mobile Gaming Cements Its Dominance, Takes Majority of Worldwide Sales (arstechnica.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Newzoo's 2018 Global Games Market Forecast now predicts that mobile games will make up a slim majority (51 percent) of all worldwide gaming revenue this year (including smartphones and tablets, but not dedicated gaming handhelds). That's up from 34 percent in 2015 and just 18 percent in 2012. Console and PC games will split the remainder of the pie relatively evenly in 2018, at 25 percent and 24 percent of worldwide spending, respectively. The growth of the mobile market doesn't show any signs of stopping, either: by 2021, Newzoo estimates that 59 percent of all gaming spending will go to mobile platforms, with console and PC games dividing up the scraps. The report finds that China is responsible for 28 percent of all gaming spending in the world, up from 24 percent in 2015. "Mobile gaming is overrepresented in the world's biggest gaming market, responsible for 61 percent of all Chinese gaming revenue and poised to grow to 70 percent by 2021," reports Ars. Japan's overall spending on mobile games is nearly on par with the United States, despite the country having one-third as many gamers overall.

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