Tag Archives: InfoWorld tech news

This enormous national lab helped give birth to the nuclear age — here's what's going on inside now

Magnet experiment

LEMONT, Illinois — I thought my first visit to a Department of Energy lab would be reminiscent of the Hawkins National Laboratory, the top-secret facility depicted in “Stranger Things.”

The Argonne National Laboratory, founded in 1946, is roughly 30 miles from downtown Chicago in Lemont, Illinois. It grew out of the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago, which resulted in the development of the atomic bomb. 

I recently toured the facility, and though I didn’t find any demogorgons or teens with telekinetic abilities, I watched scientists work with sponges that can soak up oil and longer-lasting next-generation batteries.

Here’s what it was like inside. 

SEE ALSO: 12 everyday stretches that will help you stay flexible and fit at any age

At Argonne National Laboratory, more than 1,600 scientists and engineers research basic biology and chemistry, and tackle major challenges like finding new sources of energy and protecting the environment. Argonne’s campus takes up 1,500 acres, and houses the Advanced Photon Source, a circular structure that’s 1.1 kilometers in circumference.

The Advanced Photon Source, or APS, is essentially a powerful X-ray machine that can see a lot more than the technology doctors use to diagnose broken bones. Inside the APS’s big ring-shaped facility, metal tubes carry high-energy X-rays that scientists can use to image materials from cancer drugs to butterfly wings.


The X-rays are split up into beams so that a number of researchers can use them at the same time in separate areas around the building.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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AT&T will reportedly face an antitrust lawsuit over its $84.5 billion Time Warner deal

AT&T ceo randall stephenson

  • The US Department of Justice will reportedly file an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T with regards to its proposed acquisition of Time Warner.
  • This follows a period filled with reports that the DOJ demanded AT&T and Time Warner sell Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN.

AT&T‘s rocky quest to complete its acquisition of Time Warner just hit another speed bump.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is reportedly set to sue the company to block its $84.5 billion takeover of Time Warner, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

The news of the antitrust lawsuit follows a contentious period that included reports that the DOJ demanded AT&T and Time Warner sell Turner Broadcasting, the group of channels that includes CNN, in order to receive approval for the deal. AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson countered those reports the next day, saying he’d never been under pressure from the DOJ to sell CNN.

Regulatory concerns around the deal have ramped up since Makan Delrahim took over in September as the nation’s antitrust chief after being nominated by President Donald Trump.

An AT&T spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

AT&T’s stock slid on the news but still traded 0.4% higher on Monday afternoon, while Time Warner shares slipped 1.1% for the day.

Screen Shot 2017 11 20 at 3.45.19 PM

SEE ALSO: AT&T has ‘no intention’ of selling CNN, no matter what Trump’s DOJ says

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NOW WATCH: $6 TRILLION INVESTMENT CHIEF: Bitcoin is a bubble

Microsoft Office 2010
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Satellites reveal 'secret' US military bases around the world

Secret US military bases were all the rage during the Cold War, and many of these bases are still around today. With the help of Google Earth, some of the most secretive bases around the world have been identified. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on June 27, 2016.

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New DirectX 12 features in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

We’ve come a long way since we launched DirectX 12 with Windows 10 on July 29, 2015. Since then, we’ve heard every bit of feedback and improved the API to enhance stability and offer more versatility. Today, developers using DirectX 12 can build games that have better graphics, run faster and that are more stable than ever before. Many games now run on the latest version of our groundbreaking API and we’re confident that even more anticipated, high-end AAA titles will take advantage of DirectX 12.

DirectX 12 is ideal for powering the games that run on PC and Xbox, which is the most powerful console on the market. Simply put, our consoles work best with our software: DirectX 12 is perfectly suited for native 4K games on the Xbox One X.

In the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, we’ve added features that make it easier for developers to debug their code. In this article, we’ll explore how these features work and offer a recap of what we added in Windows 10 Creators Update.

But first, let’s cover how debugging a game or a program utilizing the GPU is different from debugging other programs.

As covered previously, DirectX 12 offers developers unprecedented low-level access to the GPU (check out Matt Sandy’s detailed post for more info). But even though this enables developers to write code that’s substantially faster and more efficient, this comes at a cost: the API is more complicated, which means that there are more opportunities for mistakes.

Many of these mistakes happen GPU-side, which means they are a lot more difficult to fix. When the GPU crashes, it can be difficult to determine exactly what went wrong. After a crash, we’re often left with little information besides a cryptic error message. The reason why these error messages can be vague is because of the inherent differences between CPUs and GPUs. Readers familiar with how GPUs work should feel free to skip the next section.

The CPU-GPU Divide

Most of the processing that happens in your machine happens in the CPU, as it’s a component that’s designed to resolve almost any computation it it’s given. It does many things, and for some operations, foregoes efficiency for versatility. This is the entire reason that GPUs exist: to perform better than the CPU at the kinds of calculations that power the graphically intensive applications of today. Basically, rendering calculations (i.e. the math behind generating images from 2D or 3D objects) are small and many: performing them in parallel makes a lot more sense than doing them consecutively. The GPU excels at these kinds of calculations. This is why game logic, which often involves long, varied and complicated computations, happens on the CPU, while the rendering happens GPU-side.

Even though applications run on the CPU, many modern-day applications require a lot of GPU support. These applications send instructions to the GPU, and then receive processed work back. For example, an application that uses 3D graphics will tell the GPU the positions of every object that needs to be drawn. The GPU will then move each object to its correct position in the 3D world, taking into account things like lighting conditions and the position of the camera, and then does the math to work out what all of this should look like from the perspective of the user. The GPU then sends back the image that should be displayed on system’s monitor.

To the left, we see a camera, three objects and a light source in Unity, a game development engine. To the right, we see how the GPU renders these 3-dimensional objects onto a 2-dimensional screen, given the camera position and light source. 

For high-end games with thousands of objects in every scene, this process of turning complicated 3-dimensional scenes into 2-dimensional images happens at least 60 times a second and would be impossible to do using the CPU alone!

Because of hardware differences, the CPU can’t talk to the GPU directly: when GPU work needs to be done, CPU-side orders need to be translated into native machine instructions that our system’s GPU can understand. This work is done by hardwire drivers, but because each GPU model is different, this means that the instructions delivered by each driver is different! Don’t worry though, here at Microsoft, we devote a substantial amount of time to make sure that GPU manufacturers (AMD, Nvidia and Intel) provide drivers that DirectX can communicate with across devices. This is one of the things that our API does; we can see DirectX as the software layer between the CPU and GPU hardware drivers.

Device Removed Errors

When games run error-free, DirectX simply sends orders (commands) from the CPU via hardware drivers to the GPU. The GPU then sends processed images back. After commands are translated and sent to the GPU, the CPU cannot track them anymore, which means that when the GPU crashes, it’s really difficult to find out what happened. Finding out which command caused it to crash used to be almost impossible, but we’re in the process of changing this, with two awesome new features that will help developers figure out what exactly happened when things go wrong in their programs.

One kind of error happens when the GPU becomes temporarily unavailable to the application, known as device removed or device lost errors. Most of these errors happen when a driver update occurs in the middle of a game. But sometimes, these errors happen because of mistakes in the programming of the game itself. Once the device has been logically removed, communication between the GPU and the application is terminated and access to GPU data is lost.

Improved Debugging: Data

During the rendering process, the GPU writes to and reads from data structures called resources. Because it takes time to do translation work between the CPU and GPU, if we already know that the GPU is going to use the same data repeatedly, we might as well just put that data straight into the GPU. In a racing game, a developer will likely want to do this for all the cars, and the track that they’re going to be racing on. All this data will then be put into resources. To draw just a single frame, the GPU will write to and read from many thousands of resources.

Before the Fall Creators Update, applications had no direct control over the underlying resource memory. However, there are rare but important cases where applications may need to access resource memory contents, such as right after device removed errors.

We’ve implemented a tool that does exactly this. Developers with access to the contents of resource memory now have substantially more useful information to help them determine exactly where an error occurred. Developers can now optimize time spent trying to determine the causes of errors, offering them more time to fix them across systems.

For technical details, see the OpenExistingHeapFromAddress documentation.

Improved Debugging: Commands

We’ve implemented another tool to be used alongside the previous one. Essentially, it can be used to create markers that record which commands sent from the CPU have already been executed and which ones are in the process of executing. Right after a crash, even a device removed crash, this information remains behind, which means we can quickly figure out which commands might have caused it—information that can significantly reduce the time needed for game development and bug fixing.

For technical details, see the WriteBufferImmediate documentation.

What does this mean for gamers? Having these tools offers direct ways to detect and inform around the root causes of what’s going on inside your machine. It’s like the difference between trying to figure out what’s wrong with your pickup truck based on hot smoke coming from the front versus having your Tesla’s internal computer system telling you exactly which part failed and needs to be replaced.

Developers using these tools will have more time to build high-performance, reliable games instead of continuously searching for the root causes of a particular bug.

Recap of Windows 10 Creators Update

In the Creators Update, we introduced two new features: Depth Bounds Testing and Programmable MSAA. Where the features we rolled out for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update were mainly for making it easier for developers to fix crashes, Depth Bounds Testing and Programmable MSAA are focused on making it easier to program games that run faster with better visuals. These features can be seen as additional tools that have been added to a DirectX developer’s already extensive tool belt.

Depth Bounds Testing

Assigning depth values to pixels is a technique with a variety of applications: once we know how far away pixels are from a camera, we can throw away the ones too close or too far away. The same can be done to figure out which pixels fall inside and outside a light’s influence (in a 3D environment), which means that we can darken and lighten parts of the scene accordingly. We can also assign depth values to pixels to help us figure out where shadows are. These are only some of the applications of assigning depth values to pixels; it’s a versatile technique!

We now enable developers to specify a pixel’s minimum and maximum depth value; pixels outside of this range get discarded. Because doing this is now an integral part of the API and because the API is closer to the hardware than any software written on top of it, discarding pixels that don’t meet depth requirements is now something that can happen faster and more efficiently than before.

Simply put, developers will now be able to make better use of depth values in their code and can free GPU resources to perform other tasks on pixels or parts of the image that aren’t going to be thrown away.

Now that developers have another tool at their disposal, for gamers, this means that games will be able to do more for every scene.

For technical details, see the OMSetDepthBounds documentation.

Programmable MSAA

Before we explore this feature, let’s first discuss anti-aliasing.

Aliasing refers to the unwanted distortions that happen during the rendering of a scene in a game. There are two kinds of aliasing that happen in games: spatial and temporal.

Spatial aliasing refers to the visual distortions that happen when an image is represented digitally. Because pixels in a monitor/television screen are not infinitely small, there isn’t a way of representing lines that aren’t perfectly vertical or horizontal on a monitor. This means that most lines, instead of being straight lines on our screen, are not straight but rather approximations of straight lines. Sometimes the illusion of straight lines is broken: this may appear as stair-like rough edges, or ‘jaggies’, and spatial anti-aliasing refers to the techniques that programmers use to make these kinds edges smoother and less noticeable. The solution to these distortions is baked into the API, with hardware-accelerated MSAA (Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing), an efficient anti-aliasing technique that combines quality with speed. Before the Creators Update, developers already had the tools to enable MSAA and specify its granularity (the amount of anti-aliasing done per scene) with DirectX.

Side-by-side comparison of the same scene with spatial aliasing (left) and without (right). Notice in particular the jagged outlines of the building and sides of the road in the aliased image. This still was taken from Forza Motorsport 6: Apex.

But what about temporal aliasing? Temporal aliasing refers to the aliasing that happens over time and is caused by the sampling rate (or number of frames drawn a second) being slower than the movement that happens in scene. To the user, things in the scene jump around instead of moving smoothly. This YouTube video does an excellent job showing what temporal aliasing looks like in a game.

In the Creators Update, we offer developers more control of MSAA, by making it a lot more programmable. At each frame, developers can specify how MSAA works on a sub-pixel level. By alternating MSAA on each frame, the effects of temporal aliasing become significantly less noticeable.

Programmable MSAA means that developers have a useful tool in their belt. Our API not only has native spatial anti-aliasing but now also has a feature that makes temporal anti-aliasing a lot easier. With DirectX 12 on Windows 10, PC gamers can expect upcoming games to look better than before.

For technical details, see the SetSamplePositions documentation.

Other Changes

Besides several bugfixes, we’ve also updated our graphics debugging software, PIX, every month to help developers optimize their games. Check out the PIX blog for more details.

Once again, we appreciate the feedback shared on DirectX 12 to date, and look forward to delivering even more tools, enhancements and support in the future.

Happy developing and gaming!

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Google promises a software fix for the Pixel 2’s buzzing phone call problem in ‘the coming weeks’

 Google’s hardware team can’t catch a break this year. In spite of solid reviews (us included), the company’s new Pixel 2 handsets have been plagued by glitches, including a buzzing sound heard in the ear piece during phone calls. A company rep issued a short response to a lengthy thread about the problem on Google’s Pixel User Community board, noting that the company… Read More

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A sleep expert debunks the biggest myth about turkey at Thanksgiving

The tryptophan in turkey gets a bad rap every Thanksgiving. Here’s the real reason you’re so tired. Following is a transcript of the video.

Dr. Daniel Barone: So the myth is that turkey has a lot of a chemical known as tryptophan, which is actually the precursor to melatonin. So people think that when you, around Thanksgiving time, when you have a lot of turkey, that makes you tired because of all the tryptophan that you’re eating gets produced into melatonin and then it makes us fall asleep.

That’s actually not true, the reason why we tend to be tired after we have a large meal of Thanksgiving is simply because of the amount of food that we’re having we have what’s called postprandial fatigue, which is basically after you’ve had a big meal your body goes into basically shutdown mode and sleep gets promoted.

That’s why that’s why a lot of other countries have siestas for this reason. After lunch, the body goes into postprandial fatigue and then having a little nap can be can be very nice.

After we have a big meal, especially around lunchtime, the body just naturally has its own internal clock which tells us that we should be falling asleep around that time.

Falling asleep or being in a relaxed state after you’ve had a meal helps somebody digest it and use those nutrients to heal the body and repair the damage that’s occurred.

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The Apple Watch might be really cheap on Black Friday — here are the deals that are worth your time

Apple Watch Black Friday Cyber Monday deals

  • The Apple Watch is expensive, and it doesn’t often go on sale.
  • Shoppers aren’t likely to find Apple Watch discounts at the Apple store.
  • But Black Friday deals for older models should be available at some stores.

 

If you’ve been eyeing the Apple Watch, you might be able to save big if you buy it on Black Friday.

With the help of deal-tracking website BestBlackFriday.com and Macrumors.com, which keeps track of the latest Apple news, we gathered a list of the retailers who will be offering deals on Apple Watches this Black Friday.

The deals announced so far are primarily for older Apple Watch models, but they’re still great gets — especially for people who don’t necessarily need the latest model.

Apple Watch Series 1

  • Macy’s — $70 off on 38mm models that retail for $179.99 and 42mm models that retail for $229 on (November 22-November 25)
  • Target — $70 off for prices starting at $179.99
  • Best Buy — $50 off on 38mm aluminum models priced at $199

Apple Watch Series 2

Dick’s Sporting Goods already has some discounts on the Apple Watch Series 2:

Apple Watch Series 3

So far, we haven’t found a pure discount on an Apple Watch Series 3. And since it’s the newest edition, it’s possible there won’t be any major cuts here.

However, we did find an interesting deal at Kohl’s were you can get Kohl’s Cash with the purchase of an Apple Watch Series 3. Available online starting 5 p.m. local time on November 23:

  • $90 in Kohl’s Cash with the purchase of a 38mm GPS gold Apple Watch Series 3 with Pink Sand Sport Band ($329)
  • You can also get $75 in Kohl’s Cash with the purchase of a 38mm Space Gray Apple Watch Series 1 with Black Sport Band ($249)

Accessories

  • Best Buy — Apple watch bands up to 30% off select models
  • HEDocks — An Apple Watch stand for 40% off with promo code “HEDOCKBF17”

We will update this list if/when we stumble upon more deals. Keep checking back!

SEE ALSO: The iPhone might be really cheap on Black Friday — if you can wait for the deals to buy it

SEE ALSO: 14 Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on things millennials actually want to buy

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At least 40% of the world's power will come from renewable sources by 2040 — here are the companies leading the charge

Abengoa Solar Power Farm

The explosive growth of renewable energy has shaken up the energy industry over the last decade.

As the costs of solar and wind continue to fall and bottlenecks like storage capacity are diminished, the International Energy Agency predicts that renewable energy will comprise 40% of global power generation by 2040. In the next five years, the share electricity generated by renewables worldwide is set to grow faster than any other source. 

Last week, Thomson Reuters released its inaugural Energy 100 list, which evaluates companies in the sector (both traditional and renewable) based on eight criteria, including innovation, environmental impact, social responsibility, and risk management. The top companies go “beyond the balance sheet,” according to the report — in addition to their solid financials, they have created advanced sustainability programs, developed groundbreaking technologies, and benefited their surrounding communities.

Thomson Reuters created a sub-list of the top 25 renewable energy companies, which are generally smaller and younger than the energy giants on the main list. Eight of them are based in China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan.

Here are the top 13 renewable energy companies in the world:

SEE ALSO: Investors who ‘couldn’t care less’ about clean energy are giving money to this solar finance firm

1) Canadian Solar Inc is one of the three biggest solar companies in the world by revenue.

Based in Toronto, Canadian Solar has developed a high-efficiency solar panel that the company says is more reliable than competing technology and works in a wider range of temperatures.

Canadian Solar has reduced its amount of carbon dioxide emitted per megawatt of electricity generated by 42% since 2012, according to the company’s most recent Corporate Sustainability Report.

Canadian Solar also has an ongoing initiative to replace kerosene lamps in sub-Saharan Africa with solar-powered lights and has donated solar panels to Virunga National Park in Rwanda — a UNESCO World Heritage site, and home to endangered mountain gorillas — to phase out the use of diesel in the park. 

2) CropEnergies AG is the leading European manufacturer of sustainably-produced biofuels.

CropEnergies, based in Mannheim, Germany, makes fuels out of renewable crops. Such biofuels, like CropEnergies’ bioethanol, emit less carbon dioxide than gasoline or diesel. 

CropEnergies had a knockout 2017, increasing revenue by 31%, according to company documents. 

3) First Solar Inc is an Arizona-based manufacturer of solar panels.

First Solar has installations across the globe. The company’s thin-film panels have approximately half the carbon footprint of traditional solar panel installations.

First Solar says its technology emits 89-98% less greenhouse gas compared to traditional methods of electricity generation. 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Windows 10 Tip: Edit any URL in your Microsoft Edge Favorites 

Did you know, with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, you can now edit the URL of any favorite in the Favorites menu or the Favorites Bar?

Here’s how to get started:

Edit URLs in Favorites

Simply go to Hub, then Favorites; right-click on a favorite and select “Edit a URL.”

Head over here to see how you can now pin your websites in the taskbar in Microsoft Edge, or here to see what else is new in the Fall Creators Update!

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The chip inside the iPhone 7 will reportedly be inside Apple's new iMac Pro as well (AAPL)

iMac Pro

  • New leaks surfaced over the weekend mention that the chip powering the iPhone 7 may live inside Apple’s upcoming iMac Pro as a coprocessor to handle lighter tasks.
  • These tasks may include an always-on “Hey Siri” feature to summon the digital assistant with your voice.

Apple’s A10 Fusion system-on-a-chip (SoC), the one that powers last year’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, will feature as a coprocessor inside the upcoming iMac Pro, according to Apple developers who digged inside a publicly available software package.

In a series of tweets, first written up by 9to5Mac, they mentioned that such a move would allow Apple to “experiment with tighter control” of macOS, in a similar fashion to how the company controls virtually all of the insides of the iPhone (it most recently introduced Apple-designed graphic processing units, or GPUs, for the first time in the new iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X).

Developer Steve Troughton-Smith — who leaked correct information about the iPhone X before its release from examining unreleased HomePod software — said that the A10 Fusion would actually never be fully dormant inside the iMac Pro, and enable things such as an always-listening “Hey Siri” feature, similar to the iPhone.

We had already heard that there could be a secondary chip inside the machine, but early signs pointed towards something more akin to the T1 processor that helps the new MacBook Pros offload the management of the TouchBar and the Touch ID fingerprint reader.

The A10 Fusion, with its much more powerful innards, could theoretically help to do even more (To put things in perspective, the A11 Bionic chip inside the newest iPhones, which is an improvement over the A10 but still roughly in the same league, performed better than the Core i5 SoC inside the latest MacBook Pros).

There is no official date on the iMac Pro’s release yet, but Apple announced that the all-in-one machine should hit retailers’ shelves before the end of the year.

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NOW WATCH: I won’t trade in my iPhone 6s for an iPhone X or iPhone 8 — here’s why

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