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  • Motorola Resurrects the Razr As a Foldable Android Smartphone
    After teasing it last month, Motorola has officially announced the successor to the Motorola Razr. The "razr," as it is called, "keeps the same general form factor but replaces the T9 keypad and small LCD with a 6.2-inch foldable plastic OLED panel and Android 9 Pie," reports The Verge. "It'll cost $1,499 when it arrives in January 2020." From the report: The new Razr is a fundamentally different take on the foldable phones that we've seen so far: instead of turning a modern-sized phone into a smaller tablet, it turns a conventional-sized smartphone into something much smaller and more pocketable. [...] The core of the phone is, of course, the display. It's a 6.2-inch 21:9 plastic OLED panel that folds in half along the horizontal axis. Unfolded, it's not dramatically bigger than any other modern phone, and the extra height is something that the Android interface and apps adapt to far better than a tablet-size screen. The screen does have a notch on top for a speaker and camera and a curved edge on the bottom, which takes a bit of getting used to, but after a minute or two, you barely notice it. There's also a second, 2.7-inch glass-covered OLED display on the outside that Motorola calls the Quick View display. It can show notifications, music controls, and even a selfie camera mode to take advantage of the better main camera. Motorola is also working with Google to let apps seamlessly transition from the front display to the main one. There are some concerns about durability for the folding display, especially after Samsung's Galaxy Fold issues. But Motorola says that it has "full confidence in the durability of the Flex View display," claiming that its research shows that "it will last for the average lifespan of a smartphone." There's a proprietary coating to make the panel "scuff resistant," and it also has an internal nano-coating for splash resistance. (Don't take it swimming, though.) Motorola says that the entire display is made with a single cut, with the edges entirely enclosed by the stainless steel frame to prevent debris from getting in. Aside from the mid-range specs, like the Snapdragon 710 processor and "lackluster" 16-megapixel camera, seasoned reviewers appear to really like the nostalgic look and feel of the device. Did you own a Razr phone from the mid-2000s? How do you think the new model compares?

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  • Hologram-Like Device Animates Objects Using Ultrasound Waves
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Researchers in Southampton have built a device that displays 3D animated objects that can talk and interact with onlookers. A demonstration of the display showed a butterfly flapping its wings, a countdown spelled out by numbers hanging in the air, and a rotating, multicolored planet Earth. Beyond interactive digital signs and animations, scientists want to use it to visualize and even feel data. While the images are similar, the device is not the sort of holographic projector that allowed a shimmering Princess Leia to enlist Obi-Wan Kenobi's help in Star Wars. Instead, it uses a 3D field of ultrasound waves to levitate a polystyrene bead and whip it around at high speed to trace shapes in the air. The 2mm-wide bead moves so fast, at speeds approaching 20mph, that it traces out the shape of an object in less than one-tenth of a second. At such a speed, the brain doesn't see the moving bead, only the completed shape it creates. The colors are added by LEDs built into the display that shine light on the bead as it zips around. Because the images are created in 3D space, they can be viewed from any angle. And by careful control of the ultrasonic field, the scientists can make objects speak, or add sound effects and musical accompaniments to the animated images. Further manipulation of the sound field enables users to interact with the objects and even feel them in their hands. "The images are created between two horizontal plates that are studded with small ultrasonic transducers," reports The Guardian. "These create an inaudible 3D sound field that contains a tiny pocket of low pressure air that traps the polystyrene bead. Move the pocket around, by tweaking the output of the transducers, and the bead moves with it." In the journal Nature, researchers describe how they've improved the display to produce sounds and tactile responses to people reaching out to the image.

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  • GitHub Faces More Resignations In Light of ICE Contract
    TechCrunch reports that another employee, engineer Alice Goldfuss, has resigned from GitHub over the company's $200,000 contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). From the report: In a tweet, Goldfuss said GitHub has a number of problems to address and that "ICE is only the latest." Meanwhile, Vice reports at least five staffers quit today. These resignations come the same day as GitHub Universe, the company's big product conference. Ahead of the conference, Tech Workers Coalition protested the event, setting up a cage to represent where ICE detains children. Last month, GitHub staff engineer Sophie Haskins resigned, stating she was leaving because the company did not cancel its contract with ICE, The Los Angeles Times reported. Last month, GitHub employees penned an open letter urging the company to stop working with ICE. That came following GitHub's announcement of a $500,000 donation to nonprofit organizations in support of "immigrant communities targeted by the current administration." In that announcement, GitHub CEO Nat Friedman said ICE's purchase was made through one of GitHub's reseller partners and said the deal is not "financially material" for the company. Friedman also pointed out that ICE is responsible for more than immigration and detention facilities.

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  • John Carmack Stepping Down As CTO of Oculus To Work On AI
    Oculus CTO John Carmack announced Wednesday that he is stepping down from the augmented-reality company to focus his time on artificial general intelligence. The Verge reports: Carmack will remain in a "consulting CTO" position at Oculus, where he will "still have a voice" in the development work at the company, he wrote. Recent comments from Carmack suggest he may have soured on VR. Carmack was a champion of phone-based VR for years at Oculus, but in October, he delivered a "eulogy" for Oculus' phone-based Gear VR. And in a video for receiving a lifetime achievement award this week at the VR Awards, he said that "I really haven't been satisfied with the pace of progress that we've been making" in VR.

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  • Apple Is Finally Willing To Make Gadgets Thicker So They Work Better
    Apple has started to make its products thicker in an effort to give people what they want: functionality over form. This is a good thing. There are two recent examples: this year's iPhones and the new 16-inch MacBook Pro. Todd Haselton writes via CNBC: This is a theory, but it seems this may be that there are some design changes being made after the departure of Apple's former chief design officer Jony Ive. Ive was known for creating gorgeous products but, sometimes as we've seen with the older MacBook keyboard, perhaps at the cost of functionality. Form over function, as they say. [...] If you look back at the iPhone 8, for example, the phone measured just 7.3-mm thick, an example of Apple's seeming obsession with creating devices that were as thin as possible but often at the cost of battery life. But this year, Apple put a huge focus on battery life because it knows that's one of top things people want from their phones (along with great cameras). As a result of the larger battery, this year's iPhone 11 is slightly fatter at 8.3-mm thick. It's barely noticeable but shows that Apple knows people are willing to sacrifice on thinness for a phone that lasts all day. Then there's the 16-inch MacBook Pro that was announced on Wednesday. It's less than 1-mm thicker than the 15-inch MacBook Pro that it replaces, and it weighs 4.3 pounds instead of 4 pounds in the prior model. It's 2% larger than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, too. All of this helps Apple include what people want in a similar but slightly bigger form factor: a keyboard with keys that you can actually tap into and that works, instead of one that's practically flat with very little key travel. The flat so-called butterfly keyboard was prone to exposure to dust and debris, which could lead to keys not registering or repeating themselves and, ultimately, lots of typos. Apple also focused on battery life in its new laptop. It lasts an hour longer than last year's model and charges fully in just 2.5 hours. That's partly because Apple was able to increase the battery size, something that likely contributed to the larger and heavier form factor.

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  • The NYPD Kept an Illegal Database of Juvenile Fingerprints For Years
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: For years, the New York Police Department illegally maintained a database containing the fingerprints of thousands of children charged as juvenile delinquents -- in direct violation of state law mandating that police destroy these records after turning them over to the state's Division of Criminal Justice Services. When lawyers representing some of those youths discovered the violation, the police department dragged its feet, at first denying but eventually admitting that it was retaining prints it was supposed to have destroyed. Since 2015, attorneys with the Legal Aid Society, which represents the majority of youths charged in New York City family courts, had been locked in a battle with the police department over retention of the fingerprint records of children under the age of 16. The NYPD did not answer questions from The Intercept about its handling of the records, but according to Legal Aid, the police department confirmed to the organization last week that the database had been destroyed. To date, the department has made no public admission of wrongdoing, nor has it notified the thousands of people it impacted, although it has changed its fingerprint retention practices following Legal Aid's probing. "The NYPD can confirm that the department destroys juvenile delinquent fingerprints after the prints have been transmitted to DCJS," a police spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Intercept. Still, the way the department handled the process -- resisting transparency and stalling even after being threatened with legal action -- raises concerns about how police handle a growing number of databases of personal information, including DNA and data obtained through facial recognition technology. As The Intercept has reported extensively, the NYPD also maintains a secretive and controversial "gang database," which labels thousands of unsuspecting New Yorkers -- almost all black or Latino youth -- as "gang members" based on a set of broad and arbitrary criteria. The fact that police were able to violate the law around juvenile fingerprints for years without consequence underscores the need for greater transparency and accountability, which critics say can only come from independent oversight of the department. It's unclear how long the NYPD was illegally retaining these fingerprints, but the report says the state has been using the Automated Fingerprint Identification System since 1989, "and laws protecting juvenile delinquent records have been in place since at least 1977." Legal Aid lawyers estimate that tens of thousands of juveniles could have had their fingerprints illegally retained by police.

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  • GitHub Places Open-Source Code In Arctic Cave For Safekeeping
    pacopico writes: GitHub's CEO Nat Friedman traveled to Svalbard in October to stash Linux, Android, and 6,000 other open-source projects in a permafrost-filled, abandoned coal mine. It's part of a project to safeguard the world's software from existential threats and also just to archive the code for posterity. As Friedman says, "If you told someone 20 years ago that in 2020, all of human civilization will depend on and run on open-source code written for free by volunteers in countries all around the world who don't know each other, and it'll just be downloaded and put into almost every product, I think people would say, 'That's crazy, that's never going to happen. Software is written by big, professional companies.' It's sort of a magical moment. Having a historical record of this will, I think, be valuable to future generations." GitHub plans to open several more vaults in other places around the world and to store any code that people want included.

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