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SpaceX Raising $500 Million To Help Build Its 'Starlink' Satellite Broadband Network

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 20:40
According to the Wall Street Journal, SpaceX is raising a $500 million round of fundraising to help build its massive satellite internet project, called Starlink. "The new funding puts SpaceX's valuation at $30.5 billion," reports CNBC. "The report says the capital comes from existing shareholders as well as new investor Baillie Gifford, a Scottish investment firm." From the report: Starlink -- a name SpaceX filed to trademark last year -- is an ambition unmatched by any current satellite network. The company is attempting to build its own constellation of 4,425 broadband satellites, with another 7,518 satellites to come after. SpaceX will begin launching the constellation in 2019. The system will be operational once at least 800 satellites are deployed. Starlink would offer broadband speeds comparable to fiber optic networks.The satellites would provide direct-to-consumer wireless connections, rather the present system's redistribution of signals, transforming a traditionally high-cost, low reliability service.

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Microsoft's Next-Gen Xbox Consoles Are Codenamed 'Anaconda' and 'Lockhart'

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 20:00
According to Windows Central, there are two upcoming next-generation Xbox consoles in the works -- a cheaper "S"-style console to succeed the Xbox One S, and a more beastly "X"-style console to succeed the Xbox One X. "The codename for the 'S 2' seems to be 'Lockhart,' and the codename for the 'X 2' seems to be 'Anaconda,' which may also be serving as a dev kit," reports Windows Central. From the report: The next-gen Lockhart console will be the affordable SKU, providing the next-gen Xbox experience in a package potentially around as powerful as the current Xbox One X hardware wise, with refinements under the hood. The Anaconda console will be more powerful and more expensive, providing a cutting-edge console gaming experience. We've also heard Microsoft is exploring technology to dramatically reduce loading times, potentially including SSD storage in the package. We've heard from multiple places that the next-gen Xbox consoles will be fully compatible with everything on your current Xbox One consoles, including your OG Xbox and Xbox 360 library via backward compatibility. We've also heard that Microsoft is working on a new platform for games dubbed "GameCore," as part of Windows Core OS, which the Scarlett family will support when it's ready. It extends the work Redmond has been doing on UWP. GameCore should make it easier for developers to build games that function not only on Xbox "Scarlett" consoles but also Windows 10 PCs, further reducing the amount of work studios need to do to get games running across both platforms. The report doesn't mention if the cheaper next-generation Xbox console will be streaming-only, or if it will still support traditional discs and downloads. With a disc-free version of the Xbox One reportedly coming next spring, this seems like a possibility.

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Twitter Is Relaunching the Reverse-Chronological Feed

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 19:20
Twitter is introducing a new toggle in the app to allow users to switch from the ranked timeline to the original, reverse-chronological feed. "The company says the move comes in recognition of the fact that Twitter is often most useful in real time, particularly during live events such as sports games or the Oscars," reports The Verge. From the report: The latest incarnation of the original Twitter feed can be accessed by tapping the cluster of small stars -- the company calls it the "sparkle" and now so shall we all, forever -- and switching to see the latest tweets. Over time, the company will learn your behavior. If you routinely switch to the latest tweets, Twitter will default you to them. This marks a change from the past, when the app would switch you back to the ranked timeline at unpredictable intervals.

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T-Mobile Denies Lying To FCC About Size of Its 4G Network

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 18:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: T-Mobile has denied an allegation that it lied to the Federal Communications Commission about the extent of its 4G LTE coverage. A group that represents small rural carriers says that T-Mobile claimed to have 4G LTE coverage in places where it hadn't yet installed 4G equipment. That would violate FCC rules and potentially prevent small carriers from getting network construction money in unserved areas. T-Mobile said the allegations made by the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) in an FCC filing on Friday "are patently false." "RWA's misrepresentations are part of an ongoing pattern of baseless allegations by the organization against T-Mobile designed to delay or thwart competition in rural America and deprive rural Americans of meaningful choice for broadband services," T-Mobile wrote. "The organization's repeated disregard for fact-based advocacy is a disrespectful waste of Commission time and resources." RWA members have conducted millions of speed tests at their own expense to determine whether the major carriers' coverage claims are correct. The RWA says both Verizon and T-Mobile have exaggerated coverage, and the FCC is taking the allegations seriously. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced last week that the FCC has begun an investigation and that a preliminary review of speed-test data "suggested significant violations of the Commission's rules." The FCC has not said which carrier or carriers violated the rules.

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Ex-Uber Engineer Claims a Self-Driving Car Drove Him Coast-To-Coast

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 18:03
"Anthony Levandowski, the controversial engineer at the heart of a lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, claims to have built an automated car that drove from San Francisco to New York without any human intervention," reports the Guardian. Levandowski told the Guardian that he completed the 3,099-mile journey on October 30th using a modified Toyota Prius, which "used only video cameras, computers and basic digital maps." From the report: Levandowski told the Guardian that, although he was sitting in the driver's seat the entire time, he did not touch the steering wheels or pedals, aside from planned stops to rest and refuel. "If there was nobody in the car, it would have worked," he said. If true, this would be the longest recorded road journey of an autonomous vehicle without a human having to take control. Elon Musk has repeatedly promised, and repeatedly delayed, one of his Tesla cars making a similar journey. A time-lapse video of the drive, released to coincide with the launch of Levandowski's latest startup, Pronto.AI, did not immediately reveal anything to contradict his claim. But Levandowski has little store of trust on which to draw.

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Kroger Begins Autonomous Grocery Deliveries

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 17:33
Kroger is launching its unmanned grocery delivery service in Scottsdale, Arizona. The company first announced the pilot with robotics company Nuro in June, and since August, "they have tested an autonomous fleet of 'a handful of' Priuses with safety drivers just in case someone needed to intervene," reports Adweek. "Together, they have completed nearly 1,000 deliveries in Scottsdale." From the report: Now, Kroger is adding two R1 unmanned vehicles to its fleet, which Nuro designed to transport goods on public roads without passengers and marks the first deployment of its technology for the general public. (The Priuses will continue to have safety drivers.) To start, deliveries are available from a single store in the "Kroger Family," the Fry's Food Store at 7770 East McDowell Road. A Kroger rep said customers who live within the store's zip code -- 85257 -- will have access to the service. Customers place orders online or via the Fry's app. An announcement said same- and next-day delivery is available. All orders have a $5.95 fee, but there is no minimum for order total.

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Researchers Make RAM From a Phase Change We Don't Entirely Understand

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 16:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We seem to be on the cusp of a revolution in storage. Various technologies have been demonstrated that have speed approaching that of current RAM chips but can hold on to the memory when the power shuts off -- all without the long-term degradation that flash experiences. Some of these, like phase-change memory and Intel's Optane, have even made it to market. But, so far at least, issues with price and capacity have kept them from widespread adoption. But that hasn't discouraged researchers from continuing to look for the next greatest thing. In this week's edition, a joint NIST-Purdue University team has used a material that can form atomically thin sheets to make a new form of resistance-based memory. This material can be written in nanoseconds and hold on to that memory without power. The memory appears to work via a fundamentally different mechanism from previous resistance-RAM technologies, but there's a small hitch: we're not actually sure how it works. The two mechanisms used to change the resistance have been reported in the journal Nature Materials.

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