Posts with «author_name|mariella moon» label

Porsche sent its Taycan EV cross-country to claim a 'charging time' record

A standard 2021 Porsche Taycan has broken the Guinness World Record for the shortest charging time to cross the United States in an electric vehicle. It only needed a cumulative charge time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 48 seconds to cover a 2,834.5-mile drive from Los Angeles to New York. While the record it broke is highly specific, there was a previous holder: A Kia EV6, which had to be charged for 7 hours, 10 minutes and 1 second to make a similar, but just slightly longer, trip from New York to LA. 

Wayne Gerdes, known for his efficiency driving and for coining the term "hypermiling," was behind the wheel for the record-breaking journey. Hypermiling, as you may know, involves the use of adjustments and driving techniques to maximize the vehicle's fuel use. Porsche told Engadget that Gerdes drove normal speeds and sometimes even went faster, depending on the charge level, for the duration of the trip. 

As for the vehicle itself, it was equipped with the company's Performance Battery Plus, which has a higher gross capacity than the base battery option, and Adaptive Cruise Control. For the attempt to be recognized by the Guinness World Records, every mile of the journey had to be filmed and the vehicle's GPS had to be tracked.

Gerdes said that the first time he charged a Taycan on a 350KW charger, its battery levels went from 6 to 82 percent in just 22 minutes. He relied on Electrify America's CCS DC fast charging network for the trip, since the company is a partner for this attempt. Porsche first revealed the Taycan electric sedan in 2019 and started making deliveries in 2020. The automaker has released several variants since then, including the category-blurring Cross Turismo EV.

Sony shows how 'Horizon Forbidden West' runs on a PS4 Pro

Guerilla Games has shared some short video clips of Horizon Forbidden West gameplay captured on a PS4 Pro. Unfortunately, the developer didn't include lengthy trailers or teaser videos — and gameplay footage captured on a standard PS4 — with its post on the PlayStation blog. But this is at least some form of assurance from Guerilla that the game works on a previous-gen console a couple of weeks before it's released.

Some gamers may have become wary of titles made for the PS5 and released for older consoles after what happened to Cyberpunk 2077. The CD Projekt Red game was plagued with glitches and graphical issues, among other problems, when played on a PS4. Things had gotten so bad, Sony had to pull the PS4 version from its digital store and offer refunds for those who'd purchased it.  

The GIFs Guerilla shared show Aloy in different situations, such as walking across a village and quickly running around while shooting arrows at her enemies. In the latter, the animation looked smooth despite the explosions and the character's quick movements — hopefully, that's true for the entire game when played on a previous-gen console. Sony reportedly had to cut its production forecast for the PS5, after all, and it's still not easy finding one for purchase. Horizon Forbidden West will be available for the PS5 and the PS4 starting on February 18th.

Horizon Forbidden West PS4 Pro gameplay showcases
Guerrilla’s vibrant world.

Aloy’s adventure continues on PS5 & PS4 February 18:

— PlayStation (@PlayStation) January 27, 2022

Amazon allegedly called union organizers 'thugs' to discourage workers from unionizing

The National Labor Relations Board has accused Amazon of threatening, surveilling and interrogating workers at its JFK8 warehouse in New York to discourage them from unionizing. According to the board's complaint as seen by Motherboard, Amazon brought a union avoidance consultant to the facility and told employees that it "would be futile for them to select the Union as their bargaining representative." The consultant reportedly said that union organizing at the warehouse would fail anyway, because the organizers were "thugs."

NLRB's complaint also said that Amazon representatives interrogated workers about union activities and promised to fix their issues if they didn't support the union and didn't distribute union literature. Further, the labor board alleges that security guards confiscated union literature from workers and told them they couldn't distribute the materials without permission. If you'll recall, Amazon's warehouse workers in New York filed a petition to unionize with the board last year, but they had to withdraw it after failing to gather enough signatures to be approved. The JFK8 workers re-filed their application in December and recently reached union vote threshold.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel denied the allegations to Motherboard, telling the publication: "These allegations are false and we look forward to showing that through this process."

These allegations come from a series of unfair labor practice charges filed by workers in May and June last year. The board investigated the incidents and found merit that they occurred. It has given Amazon February 10th to respond to the complaint and has set a hearing for it on April 5th. In addition to detailing workers' allegations in its complaint, the NLRB has also outlined a series of remedies it wants the company to follow. In particular, it wants Amazon to train its managers, supervisors, security guards and union avoidance consultants on workers' rights to organize and form unions. 

California governor details $10 billion plan to boost electric vehicle adoption

Back in 2020, California governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that will ban the sales of new gasoline and diesel vehicles in the state by 2035. While California already represents half the EV market in the US, the state's officials know that they have to offer help and incentives to accelerate EV adoption and reach an all-electric future. They need to take steps so that removing gas vehicles from the market wouldn't hurt consumers. California committed $3.9 billion for its EV-related initiatives last year, and Newsom recently proposed the addition of $6.1 billion to the state's zero-emission vehicle package to bring the total to $10 billion. Now, the governor has detailed what he plans to do with the money.

First off, Newsom is hoping to make EVs more accessible by putting aside $256 million for low-income consumer EV purchases and spending $900 million on deploying affordable charging options to low-income neighborhoods. Another $935 million will also be spent to add 1,000 zero-emission short-haul trucks and 1,700 electric buses to the state's fleet. $1.5 billion will be used to electrify school buses, while $1.1 billion will be used to buy trucks, buses, off-road equipment and fueling infrastructure. California will spend $400 million on the electrification of ports and $419 million to support projects that increase access to zero-emission transportation in low-income communities, as well.

Alvaro Sanchez, Vice President of Policy at The Greenlining Institute non-profit org, said in a statement:

"To achieve California's climate goals we must focus on the needs of the most polluted and underserved neighborhoods. Governor Newsom’s ZEV investment proposal recognizes this reality. We're excited to work with the Governor and the Legislature to prove to the rest of the country that we can not only advance our climate agenda but also advance equity."

You can read more information about the proposal on the governor's website.

Apple will reportedly allow iPhones to accept contactless payments

Small businesses might soon be able to accept payments using their iPhones without the need for extra hardware. According to Bloomberg, Apple could start rolling out the feature through a software update in the next few months, perhaps with the final version of iOS 15.4 that's coming out this spring. Apple has reportedly been working on the service since 2020, when it purchased a Canadian startup called Mobeewave known for developing a technology that turns a phone into a payment portal.

Mobeewave's technology only needs an app and the phone's NFC to work, unlike services like Square that require the use of an external hardware. The user simply has to type in the amount they want to charge, and their customer only needs to tap their credit card onto the back of the device. Apple declined Bloomberg's invitation to comment, so it's unclear if that's how its built-in iPhone feature will work, as well. 

In addition, Bloomberg's sources couldn't say whether the feature will be rolled out as part of Apple Pay. The team developing the feature, however, has reportedly been working with the tech giant's payments division since Apple purchased Mobeewave. Whether Apple is launching the service with an existing payment network is also unknown at this point. 

Before its acquisition, Mobeewave teamed up with Samsung to turn its phones into contactless payment terminals. They piloted the feature in Canada and even gave the company's point-of-sale service, dubbed Samsung POS, a wide release in the country. 

Samsung posts record revenue but reveals profit decline for Q4 2021

Samsung's consolidated revenue for the fourth quarter of 2021 reached 76.57 trillion Korean won (US$63.7 billion), the tech giant has revealed in its latest earnings report. That's a quarterly record high for the company, which says that its revenue growth for the period was driven mainly by the expanded sales of its smartphones, TVs and home appliances. 

Its operating profit of KRW 13.87 trillion (US$11.5 billion) in the quarter ending December 31st, 2021 was lower than the previous quarter's, however, due to the bonuses that it doled out to employees for the season. The company has also reported a new historic revenue high of KRW 279.6 trillion (U$232.5 billion) for all of 2021, along with KRW 51.63 trillion (US$42.9 billion) in operating profits. 

Samsung's memory business, which is typically its biggest moneymaker, has experienced a decline in revenue from the previous quarter due to the global supply chain crisis and a slight drop in prices. Further, while demand for memory products remained strong, the company says it didn't push for sales as aggressively as it usually does after considering its inventory levels and the market outlook. The memory division posted a consolidated revenue of KRW 26.01 trillion (US$21.6 billion) and an operating profit of KRW 8.84 trillion (US$7.35 billion) for the fourth quarter of 2021. In the third quarter, it posted KRW 26.41 trillion (US$21.96 billion) in consolidated revenue and KRW 10.06 trillion (US$8.36 billion) in operating profit. 

Samsung's combined mobile and consumer electronics business, now called Mobile eXperience or MX, has posted KRW 28.95 trillion (US$24 billion) in consolidated revenue and KRW 2.66 trillion (US$2.2 billion) in operating profit. The slight increase in revenue was mainly due to the strong sales of its premium smartphones, namely its foldables and its Galaxy S series devices, as well as its PCs, tablets and wearables during the holiday season. Like in the previous quarter, though, the division's profitability was impacted by Samsung's marketing efforts for its foldables and for the launch of its upcoming models this year. 

Meanwhile, the company's mobile panel business saw an increase in earnings due to solid demand for new smartphones. Losses became larger for Samsung's large panel business, though, due to a decline in pricing for LCDs and the initial costs related to its Quantum Dot displays. Samsung also saw strong sales for its premium and lifestyle TVs, but its visual display business recorded a lower operating profit quarter-on-quarter because of rising material and logistics costs.

For 2022, Samsung expects growth in its memory business from higher server demand and in its display panel business from new smartphone releases. However, the company made it clear in its report that it also expects COVID-related supply issues and other problems to persist and affect its operations. Despite those constraints, it believes its MX business will still deliver revenue and profit growth led by its new flagships and by higher sales of its mass market 5G smartphones. Samsung has an Unpacked event scheduled on February 9th, where it will unveil the next S-series flagship to succeed the Galaxy S21 lineup.

Europe's second highest court scraps Intel’s €1.06 billion antitrust fine

Intel has emerged triumphant (for now) in a long-running antitrust case that once saw the chipmaker slapped with a record-breaking fine by the European Commission. The General Court, Europe's second highest court, has overturned the €1.06 billion fine levied against the company way back in 2009. Back then, the Commission determined that Intel abused its dominant position in the market and harmed its rivals by offering manufacturers such as HP, Dell and Lenovo incentives for using its microprocessors instead of those from rival AMD's. 

The company, of course, appealed the decision, but the General Court upheld the fine in 2014. Intel had a game plan to shut out AMD from the market and "attempted to conceal the anti-competitive nature of (those) practices," the court said. In 2017, however, the highest court in the European Union ordered the fine to be re-examined. It sent the case back down to the General Court on the grounds that the Commission didn't consider conducting an economic assessment on how Intel's activity impacted its rival's ability to compete against it.

Now, the General Court has issued its decision, in which it confirmed that the Commission carried out an incomplete analysis of the company's rebate scheme all those years ago. As such, it's not possible to establish whether the rebates Intel offered the manufacturers were "capable of having, or were likely to have, anticompetitive effects." The General Court has also decided that it's not in a position to identify how much fine Intel has to pay, so it has scrapped both the decision and the fine levied against the chipmaker.

It's a major victory for the company that's currently trying to catch up to AMD while also dealing with the global supply chain shortage. According to The Wall Street Journal, though, the decision could still be appealed, and it would return to the Court of Justice if that happens.

Google Assistant will now cease talking if you simply say 'stop'

You can now get Google Assistant to stop talking with just one word: "Stop." That's it — you don't even have to say "Hey, Google" before that. The official Google Twitter account has announced the small but necessary quality-of-life improvement for the company's speakers and smart displays. It sometimes takes a while (and several repeated attempts) to get Assistant's attention with a "Hey, Google" if it suddenly goes off without you wanting it to or if you absolutely have to cut it off mid-spiel. This new feature solves that problem.

📣 Helpful new Google Assistant feature alert! Want your smart display or speaker to stop talking? Just say “stop” — no #HeyGoogle needed.

— Google (@Google) January 25, 2022

Google has been testing the capability to issue voice commands without wake words on Android since at least last year. The feature, codenamed "Guacamole," includes the ability to cancel alarms simply by saying "Stop." A year before the discovery of that experimental feature, another one codenamed "Blue Steel" was leaked to the public. Blue Steel gives you a way to activate Assistant by proximity alone, with the voice AI's interface automatically popping up when you move close to a smart display without having to say anything. Google didn't say whether this new capability is a result of either experiment, though we're sure all that matters if that you need to stop Assistant from talking is that the feature exists. 

Twitter reports record number of takedown requests from governments

Twitter has received the highest number of content removal demands from governments around the world from January to June 2021, the website has revealed in its latest transparency report. To be precise, it received 43,387 legal demands that involve 196,878 accounts. Twitter says those numbers represent the largest increase in content removal requests and accounts reported within a six-month reporting period from the time it started publishing transparency reports in 2012.

One factor that contributed to the spike in accounts reported is the legal demands submitted by Indonesia's Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The agency flagged 102,363 accounts for posting sexual services and illegal adult content, and Twitter took action on 18,570 of them. Twitter also saw an increase in accounts withheld from the public due to content that allegedly violated Russia's laws against inciting suicide. 

Last year, Russian News Agency Tass reported that the country's internet authorities threatened to block Twitter if it doesn't remove "suicide incitement aimed at minors, child pornography, as well as information about the use of drugs" on its website. The authorities also slowed down Twitter's loading speeds for desktop and mobile.

A total of 95 percent of the total global volume of legal demands came from five countries in particular, with Japan remaining as the top requester. Japan is responsible for 43 percent of the legal demands Twitter received, with most of them being about narcotics and drug-related posts, obscenity and financial-related crimes. The other four countries are Russia, Turkey, India and South Korea, in that order.

Based on Twitter's report, there's an upward trend in the number of legal demands Twitter gets, with a huge spike happening in the first half of 2020. It remains to be seen whether those numbers will keep on rising, but Twitter's VP of global public policy Sinead McSweeney expressed her concerns in a statement: "We're facing unprecedented challenges as governments around the world increasingly attempt to intervene and remove content. This threat to privacy and freedom of expression is a deeply worrying trend that requires our full attention."

Amazon's 'pay-to-quit' program won't cover most US workers this year

Amazon won't be paying most warehouse workers in the US to quit their jobs this year. According to The Information, the e-commerce giant has paused its "pay-to-quit" program for majority of its workers for 2022, and it's unclear if it will be reinstated. The publication has obtained a copy of Amazon's message to its employees, which was then verified by a spokesperson from the company. Typically, Amazon pays its warehouse workers up to $5,000 to quit their jobs after peak seasons like the holidays as a way to pare down its workforce in the slowdown that follows. 

Jeff Bezos also once told shareholders in a newsletter that it's a way to give employees an out if they're no longer happy working for Amazon. The company would usually make "The Offer," as it's also called, towards the end of the first quarter of the year. For 2022, however, it told employees that only workers who graduated from Amazon's Career Choice training program will be eligible for the payout. They're also only eligible within 90 days after graduating. Amazon pays tuition reimbursements for workers part of the Career Choice program, which expands this January to include GEDs, English as a Second Language (ESL) certificates and bachelor's degrees. It only used to cover certificates for technical skills and associate degrees.

Karen Riley Sawyer, the company's representative, has confirmed the changes to the pay-to-quit program, telling The Information that it's currently only available "to graduates of Career Choice to support their transition to a new career should they choose to leverage their new certifications." While Sawyer didn't say why the program's scope has been narrowed down, it could be because vaccine mandates and the rising infection rates caused by the spread of the Omicron variant are making it hard for Amazon to find adequate staffing. Earlier this month, Motherboard reported that over 1,800 workers at a single Amazon facility in New York were out on leave due to COVID. A source also told The Information that the warehouse had been facing severe staffing shortages over the past months.