A “Safe” Smoking Gadget, Vodka Made From Air, and More News PSP Hacks

A “Safe” Smoking Gadget, Vodka Made From Air, and More News PSP Hacks thumbnail

Tobacco is warming and new alcohols are forming, but first, a cartoon about the dangers of self-diagnosis.

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Today’s Headlines

A new smoking gadget says its safe. Should you trust it?

A new product is vying to be your vice: the Iqos. The Iqos warms—instead of burning—the tobacco. By mixing it with other solvents, it creates a more pure form of nicotine that avoids the tar that contributes to lung disease. While the FDA approved the device, it also approved previous devices that have put American lungs in danger, and scientists say the device may present unique challenges that haven’t been studied all that much.

This martini wants to kill climate change one sip at a time

An invention that electrolyzes carbon dioxide and a dose of water into ethanol has a new function: making vodka out of thin air. The topically named Air vodka doesn’t require resources typical vodka would, and the manufacturing process takes CO2 right out of the air. Little by little, Air could get you drunk and kill climate change.

Fast Fact: 550 Million Metric Tons

That’s how much methane is emitted each year on Earth, a little more than half of which is human-caused. Identifying the top offenders helps control the leaks, so California sent planes to the sky to investigate.

WIRED Recommends: Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

Your kid is ready for a device, but you’re not quite ready to unleash the full power of the internet upon them. Take a peek at our favorite kids tablet. (Disclaimer: There was a $40 off deal earlier today, but it’s over now. Strap in for Black Friday, shoppers!)

News You Can Use

Here’s how to opt out of the sites that sell your personal data.

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A Mind-Boggling Uber Oversight, a Firefox Scam, and More News PSP Hacks

A Mind-Boggling Uber Oversight, a Firefox Scam, and More News PSP Hacks thumbnail

Firefox users are gettin’ scammed and Uber is gettin’ slammed—but first, a cartoon about not liking what you see in the mirror.

Here’s the news you need to know, in two minutes or less.

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Today’s Headlines

Uber’s self-driving car didn’t know pedestrians could jaywalk

New documents released as part of a federal investigation reveal that the self-driving car that killed an Arizona woman last year was not designed to detect pedestrians outside of a crosswalk. It is the most damning of a set of details that show Uber’s failures to consider how humans actually do things.

Scammers are exploiting a Firefox bug to freeze your browser

Scammers are taking advantage of a Firefox bug that causes your browser to lock up and display this message:

Please stop and do not close the PC … The registry key of your computer is locked. Why did we block your computer? The Windows registry key is illegal. The Windows desktop is using pirated software. The Window desktop sends viruses over the Internet. This Windows desktop is hacked. We block this computer for your safety.

It then tells you to call a toll-free number—but you know the drill: Don’t call the number, and force-quit the browser. Mozilla says it’s actively working on a fix.

Fast Fact: $60 Million

That’s how much AT&T was fined for throttling “unlimited” plans in 2011. The FTC says the company slowed unlimited plans that went over as little as 2 GB per month down to a crawl, and never told the customers. The money from the fine will be used to give partial refunds to those affected.

WIRED Recommends: The Best Robot Vacuums

If you’re still vacuuming your house yourself, get with the times and let the robots take over. Not sure which to get? Our reviewers have you covered.

News You Can Use

Here’s a book list on how to manage your time.

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Low Cost DIY CNC Router

Low Cost DIY CNC Router thumbnail

Hello and welcome to my first Instructable article. In the first four days it’s garnered over 20K views which really blindsided me. I guess there’s lot’s of CNC enthusiasts out there! If you find this article of interest please consider voting for it in the First Time Authors contest here. Thanks for stopping by!

This is a hobby CNC router I built for myself that I’d thought I’d share with the Instructables community. This is not a detailed build log of the router but more of an exploration of my design choices that went into this somewhat unique tool. There are no plans for this router. Beyond a couple of initial sketches to determine general size, lengths, and spacing, this router pretty much grew out organically as I was building it. Hopefully other CNC enthusiasts may see an idea or two that might help them with their projects.

Design parameters

  • Use as much stuff that I had laying around the shop as possible.
  • Able to use the router as a bench top when not routing.
  • A cutting area of 30″x60″x2″.
  • Make it as rigid as possible (for a plywood design).

As to the design I came up with. This is a classic XYZ 3-axis wood cutting router. By classic I mean it has a gantry that moves along the length of the machine base (Y axis). There is a carriage that the router is mounted to that runs back and forth on the gantry (X axis). And finally, there is a mechanism that raises and lowers the entire gantry that moves the router up and down (Z axis). Yes, I said the entire gantry moves up and down. We’ll be getting into that later. As to motion, I’m using stepper motors and roller chain. For the linear rails, I’m using steel v-bearings running over steel angle iron. The primary construction material is plywood.

Lets get to the picture show.

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Step 1: The Base

Every tool needs a good base. Instead of building from scratch I re-purposed an Ikea cabinet I had available. The cabinet was completely disassembled and then put back together using adhesive at every junction. I reinforced the cabinet by melding in a 2×6 substructure on the bottom. Casters and levelers where added for mobility. Finally, I used a commercial solid core door for a bench top. Not shown, but the door was shimmed so it would lay as flat and true as I could make it. The door will be the actual base for the router.

Why a solid core door for the machine base? For one, I had it available. I use these doors as bench tops in my shop. Secondly, commercial solid core doors are built to be as flat and true as possible. And third, their heavy as hell and I thought all that mass would be advantageous in soaking up vibrations from the router.

Step 2: Linear Rails

Linear rails for CNC seem to be a dime a dozen nowadays on eBay and Alibaba, but in 6′ lengths? Not so cheap. What is cheap is 1-1/2″ angle iron at my local home center. Something else that’s cheap (at least cheaper than they used to be) are 3/8″ ID steel v-bearings. Combine the two, and we get the linear rail system I’m using in this build. Pictured here are my first tests using angle iron and the v-bearings. Seemed to work well so I cut the 45 degree plywood rail beds on the tablesaw and mounted the angles to the underside of the router base. Not well pictured, but tensioning of the v-bearings onto the angle is accomplished by a bolt and dowel-nut setup. Those slits between the v-bearings allow for enough movement for the tensioning.

Something you may have noticed are the plywood strips attached to the edge of the door/router table. There’s nothing significant about these. After I cut the door to size I decided I wanted to increase the X travel to a full 30″ which required widening the table.

Why mount the Y rails under the table? This left the top clear so the entire surface could be used for cutting. It also allows me to use the router as a work/assembly bench when I’m not routing.

Notice how far apart the the pairs of Y axis v-bearings are apart on the bottom of the gantry side plate? I did this to mount the gantry plates as rigidly as possibly. This made the plates longer which required more table length to get me the 60″ of Y travel that I wanted.

Sorry to say but this is about it for historical photos of this build. The pics that follow were all taken after the router was pretty much complete and operational.

Step 3: Gantry and Carriage Details

The gantry is built from two layers of 3/4″ ply glued together. Along the top and bottom, 45 degree recesses were cut and 3/4″ angle irons where bonded into them using Gorilla glue. The entire gantry moves up and down for the Z axis motions. To accomplish this, the gantry has a length of 1-1/2″ angle iron in the vertical orientation that sit in v-bearings attached to the gantry side plates. The up and down power is supplied by a NEMA 23 stepper and screw assembly on each end.

Notice the gantry overhangs? The gantry beam is mounted in front of and extends past the side support plates. This allows the router carriage to slide past the side supports (more on the right than on the left btw). You don’t see this much on DIY routers for some reason. This setup allows the router to cut from edge to edge a full 30″ in the X axis.

The router carriage is glued up from two layers of 1/2″ cabinet grade plywood, much the same way as the gantry side plates. Since I have that overhanging gantry, I was able to make the router carriage longer (spreading the v-bearings further apart) which increases rigidity in the X axis. The Makita router is mounted on the left side of the carriage. This opened up area for the dust collection system to the right of the router. The carriage has four of the v-bearings that run on the top and bottom angles on the gantry. Tensioning is done the same way as on the gantry side plates.

Flying gantry? To provide the Z axis motion the entire gantry moves up and down. On most CNC routers the gantry is fixed and the Z axis motion is all done at the router carriage. I’m moving the entire gantry for a few reasons. First, my thinking is that if I moved the Z axis mechanics out to the ends placing them between the gantry and the gantry side plates, I could spread the loads out and increase rigidity. Secondly, removing all the Z axis mechanics and motor from the router carriage, greatly simplified wiring going to the carriage. Third, I figured why not? It works in 3D printers and as it turns out, is working quite well with this router. Besides, it looks cool when the entire gantry moves up and down.

Z motor mounting. What may not be obvious is how I have the two Z motors attached and mounted to the jack screws. In a typical setup, these motors would be hard mounted to a base. The screws would be mounted in a bearing assembly. To connect the two would be a flexible coupling. I avoided all that complexity by hard mounting the motors to the screw shafts. The only thing holding those motors in place are the 1/4″ shafts stuck into the 1/4″ holes I drilled into the screw shaft ends on my mini-lathe. The motors are kept from spinning by the wood bracket with that rubber bushing on the end (which allows the motor to wobble if it has to). This may seem an odd way of doing this but this method eliminates the flexible coupling and fiddling with alignment. The 1/4″ shafts of the stepper motors are more than strong enough to keep the motors in place.

For X and Y axis motion, the carriage has one NEMA 23 240oz (torque) stepper mounted. The Y axis motion is powered by a single 425oz stepper that is driving a shaft that is attached to both ends of the gantry. Mechanically, it would have been easier to go with two steppers for the Y axis but I only had one motor available at the time and I had the shafting and bearings to fabricate the drive. One nice thing with this setup is that the gantry will never go out of alignment due to a motor skipping.

A chain reduction on the axis drives? I first built this with the stepper’s driving the chains directly. In the initial testing, I was getting a lot of skipping in the (weak) motors I was using at the time. I had the sprockets and bearings available so I added the reductions. Besides adding a ton or torque, they definitely helped in the precision category (more on that later).

Step 4: Roller Chain?

Yep, I used 25P roller chain in this build. I didn’t use timing belts, ballscrews, or rack and pinion. If you don’t know, roller chain has a bad rap in the DIY CNC community. Arguments against are that it stretches, it’s not very accurate, and it caused the fall of the Roman Empire! Anyhow, I didn’t know all that when I started this build and I had a bunch of the chain left over from another project. I’m enough of an engineer to know that roller chain could have issues but I had some ideas on how to mitigate those. Before I started this build I’d studied other chain driven designs and always noticed one thing. These other chain designs always seemed to have the chain hanging out in mid-air, unsupported, with some sort of flimsy looking tensioning system on the ends. Roller chain has some weight to it, even #25 chain. What will happen if 5′ of it suspended horizontally in mid air? It will droop and no matter how tight you tension it, it will still droop to some degree. What that droop on a linear motion system means is that you will not get consistent movement along it’s length. What I did with this design is that the chains are supported along their entire lengths. The X axis chain sits in the bottom of the top angle of the gantry. The Y axis chains lay in a cutout in the Y angle supports. There’s no drooping in these chains! To secure the ends of the chains, I used 3mm hex wrenches which fit quite nicely in the #25 chain. Tensioning is handled by flexible sections of ply on one end of each of the chains. A tensioning screw runs though a t-nut which bends the ply tensionor out and pulling the chain taught.

Note that the chain mounting and tensionors sit right on the angle iron ends. This setup uses the angles in compression to add to the rigidity of the chain mounting.

What’s that coupling looking thing in the first pic? That’s a compression coupling that joins the left and right Y axis sprocket drives. Loosening this up allows me to precisely adjust the gantry perpendicular to the Y axis travel.

Step 5: Router and Dust Collection

The router is the Makita RT0701C 1/4″ trim router (earlier pics show a cheap Harbor Freight router which has since been chucked). The router has turned out to be precise and it has a nice speed adjustment built into it.

Dust collection. I have a small basement shop and I wanted good dust collection on this machine. One wrinkle with this design is that since the router carriage moves up and down with the gantry, I had to come up with a design that keeps the dust shoe on the work piece. This was accomplished by mounting the dust shoe on an arm that allows it to freely move up and down in relation to the gantry. Three plastic v-bearings were used as shown in the pic. The one bearing is attached to the movable arm that allows for a quick and easy removal of the dust shoe from the machine. The dust shoe was machined (first thing I cut on this router) out of two pieces of 1/2″ plywood. The bottom pad was cut out of a painting pad and allows the shoe to float over any screws or bumps in the work piece.

The dust cyclone is mounted on top of a standard 5 gallon bucket and keeps most (if not all) the dust out of the 8 gallon shopvac that I’m using.

This setup has proven very good at sucking the dust and chips up. After a cut, there’s hardly any dust left on the work piece or floating around the shop.

Step 6: Controls and Wiring

Not many pics on this one I’m sorry to say. The control system is Arduino UNO based and I’m running the EstlCAM CNC software (which is awesome IMO). On the wall is a little Windows 10 media PC that is running the Windows side of the EstlCAM system. A wireless keyboard, mouse, and a game-pad finish the controls out.

On the back of the machine inside the black box in the center is an Arduino Uno which is running the Estlcam controller software. In the electrical box is a 10A SSR (solid state relay) which switches the router on and off. To the left on a shock mounted base are the TB6600 stepper drivers. The power supply is a 24V 15A fanless design.

No whirlygigs! I made an effort to use fanless passively cooled equipment for all my electronics. This is so no dust gets sucked into anyplace it shouldn’t be. I also kept an eye on mounting orientation. The stepper drivers are mounted so heated air will naturally flow upward. The Arduino case has holes drilled into the top and bottom for the same reason.

The wiring to the motors is running through the flexible black cable protectors picked up at a computer store. The motor cabling is four conductor trailer wire.

Noticed that articulated cable support going to the router carriage? A couple pieces of plywood and some hinges, and a quick and easy cabling solution to the carriage is the result. Works quite well.

Step 7: Does It Cut?

Of course it does!

There’s been issues of course and It’s a continuing learning curve. I’ve been experimenting with materials, cut depths, and feed rates to see what the router can do.

Currently, for cutting plywood and MDF, I’ve been running around 70IPM (inch per minute) speeds on a .25 bit with a .28 cut depth. The Z axis is currently set to 20IPM.

Free travel speed is set to 140IPM with no issues.

Step 8: Is It Accurate?

How’s .005″ repeat-ability sound? That’s 0.127mm for you metric types. Yeah, I know. That sounds to good to be true with a DIY roller chain driven plywood router but that’s what I’ve seen in some of my testing. I’m not saying .005″ accuracy will come out of this machine with every cut but at even four times worse, it’s a lot more accuracy than I was ever expecting.

So why so accurate? Who knows? Maybe I’m an uber machine designer and fabricator. Maybe that reduction on the motors had something to do with it? Maybe the stars were in alignment? All I know is I’m very happy with it. Not to shabby for a machine that might have $900 of material in it.

Hope you enjoyed this write up. I’ll add content as I think of it and I look forward to any comments or suggestions.

Thanks for reading.

Steve

Step 9: Accesories

First thing you learn when you get your CNC router up and running, is that you immediately want to start improving it. My first project along these lines was a touchplate for automatic zeroing. These are usually made from milled aluminum but I figured some plywood and some aluminum tape and strips would work. It did!

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Playstation 5 Is Coming, Elon’s in Trouble Again, and More News PSP Hacks

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We’ve finally got details on the next PlayStation, Elon Musk is in trouble again, and tiny keyboards are having a moment. Here’s the news you need to know, in two minutes or less.

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Today’s Headlines

A deeper look at the PlayStation 5

Yes, the PlayStation 5 is real, and it’s coming next year. The PS5 is set to come with a lightning-fast solid-state drive (bye-bye, loading screens), a next-gen controller that has “adaptive triggers” offering varying degrees of resistance (so shooting a bow and arrow might actually feel like shooting a bow and arrow), and a much-improved UI. “We’re stepping into the generation of immediacy. In mobile games, we expect a game to download in moments, and to be just a few taps from jumping right in,” says Laura Miele, chief studio officer for EA. “Now we’re able to tackle that in a big way.” The console is expected to be available toward the end of 2020.

Elon Musk’s mouth, and tweets, land him in trouble again

Months after Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted an unfounded claim insinuating a British cave expert was a pedophile to his millions of followers, court filings reveal a behind-the-scenes scramble, and even more drama. One nugget from the files: Musk hired a convicted felon posing as a private investigator to probe said cave expert. But according to emails also in the filing, Musk has regrets. “I’m a fucking idiot,” he wrote to a public relations adviser in September 2018.

Fast Fact: 614 Horsepower

That’s how much power two new dual-engined electric Bollinger vehicles will boast. The rugged vehicles—an SUV and a truck—are specifically designed for off-roading, can carry a 5,000-pound payload, and go 200 miles on a charge.

WIRED Recommends: Tiny Keyboards

All those gizmos and gadgets stacked up on your desk mean you’ll do anything for more space. Enter the tiny keyboard movement, where custom configurations and fewer keys can shrink your keyboard to the size of a king-size candy bar.

News You Can Use

Here’s how to donate or recycle your old Lego bricks.

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5 Apple AirPods Pro alternatives that cost less – CNET

5 Apple AirPods Pro alternatives that cost less - CNET thumbnail

You already know that there are loads of true-wireless earphones that cost less than Apple’s AirPods, but what about the company’s just-announced AirPods Pro? Are we going to have to wait for other companies to play catch-up? In a way, yes: Not many other products offer the Pro’s active noise cancellation capabilities. But, in another way, no: Lots of other products offer noise isolation, which can be nearly as effective.

Indeed, any earbuds that use silicone ear tips (and that’s most of them these days) can greatly reduce outside noise, provided you’re able to get a good seal. (That’s in contrast to Apple’s original, hard-plastic AirPods, which don’t create that seal.) One could make the argument that while ANC is valuable in over-the-ear headphones, which can muffle only so much outside noise, it’s not as important for the in-ear kind.

Airpods Pro

Apple

To be fair, the AirPods Pro offer more than just ANC: They have a Transparency Mode that allows outside sounds to pass through, and they’re sweat- and water-resistant, which the current AirPods are not. They also autopause when you take when one out of your ear (and autoresume when you put it back), a feature I wish other earbud makers would copy.

Still, $249 is awfully steep for a couple featherweight pieces of plastic, sophisticated though they may be. Let’s take a look at some alternatives that cost less — in some cases a lot less — and see what you’re giving up. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Though priced about $20 lower than the AirPods Pro, Sony’s true-wireless earbuds offer the same kind of ANC technology and transparency mode. (In fact, they’re the only earbuds in this roundup to include both those features.) Plus, they have a sensor that autopauses music when you take one out of your ear.

Now for the bad news: The WF-1000XM3 isn’t specifically rated as sweat- or water-resistant. So if you’re planning heavy workouts, these ‘buds aren’t for you.

Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Jaybird’s best effort to date definitely has a premium price, but the Vista still costs quite a bit less than the AirPods Pro. They’re lightweight and comfortable, with a USB-C charging case and an IPX7-rated waterproof design. All that’s missing is a transparency mode.

Read our Jaybird Vista review.

Rick Broida/CNET

It’s a good time to watch for bargains on the CNET-favorite Jabra Elite 65t and slightly enhanced Elite Active 65t, both of which have seen some good discounts lately (probably due to the imminent arrival of the new, smaller Elite 75t). For example, a manufacturer-refurbished Elite 65t recently went on sale for $68.

These earbuds have a quick-charge case (15 minutes nets you 90 minutes of listening) and are fully sweat-resistant. They’re particularly good for making calls, if that’s important to you.

Read our Jabra Elite 65t review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Liberty Air has long been a CNET favorite for offering better-than-AirPods sound for about half the price. (They’re even less now.) Why better? Because of that all-important in-ear seal, which allows for better bass (and noise isolation) than the original AirPods. Ironically, they more closely resemble the newer AirPods Pro. You should also check out the newer Liberty Air 2, which features better battery life and improved voice calling as well as UBC-C charging.

Read our Anker Soundcore Liberty Air review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Almost too good to be true, the EarFun Free manages to deliver Bluetooth 5.0, both USB-C and wireless charging and a fully waterproof (IPX7-rated) design. CNET’s David Carnoy also praised their “surprisingly good sound.” They’re currently priced at $50, but there’s an on-page coupon that knocks 10% off — and I’ve seen them as low as $40 (so watch for sales).

Read our EarFun Free review.

What do you think? Will one of these do the trick for you, or are you going to start saving for AirPods Pro?






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CNET’s Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on tech products and much more. For the latest deals and updates, follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page, and find more great buys on the CNET Deals page.

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Amazon is now offering free Prime 1-day shipping on items that cost as little as $1 as it tries to further eliminate any reason to ever go to a store (AMZN)

  • Amazon has been gradually making it possible for Prime members to shop for low-cost items on its site (under $5) and have these shipped on their own for free, according to a new report from Recode.
  • This means that Prime shoppers can spend as little as $1 on an item, for example, and receive it the next day without incurring any shipping costs.
  • Previously, they would have had to add low-cost items such as toothpaste or deodorant as an “add-on” to another, minimum $25 order to qualify for free shipping.
  • The news should terrify Amazon’s competitors in this space such as Target, CVS, or Walgreens, where shoppers might otherwise go to pick up low-cost items.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amazon is taking a further step toward ensuring its customers never need to go to a store.

According to a new report from Recode’s Jason Del Rey, the retail giant has been gradually making it possible for Prime members to shop for low-cost items on its site (under $5) and have them shipped on their own for free.

This means that Prime shoppers can spend as little as $1 on an item, for example, and receive it the next day without incurring any shipping costs. Previously, the Prime shopper would have had to add low-cost items such as deodorants or toothpaste, for example, via its “add-on” tool, which enables these items to be shipped for free when you spend a minimum of $25.

On its site, Amazon explains that it offers the Add-on service to allow it to “offer thousands of low-priced items that would be cost-prohibitive to ship on their own.”

According to a September report from analysts at Edgewater Research, which was cited by Recode, Amazon has “essentially turned off” this add-on feature in the past few months. Now, many consumer packaged goods — items like deodorant or toothpaste — will be available for free shipping when they purchase them alone.

Amazon did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. In a statement to Recode, a spokesperson said: “We know customers love our vast selection, low prices, and free one-day delivery with Prime and we are always innovating to improve their experience.”

The news should terrify Amazon’s competitors such as Target, CVS, or Walgreens — companies running brick-and-mortar stores where shoppers might otherwise go to pick up low-cost items on short notice. If these are items are now available to buy online and have shipped to your home the next day, they’ll have fewer reasons to visit the store.

But Amazon’s moves into this market should raise red flags from an antitrust perspective, experts say.

“There’s no way that shipping costs are less than 75 cents, and there’s no way any other company that wants to sell a makeup brush could deliver that for free. It’s not possible and it highlights how pricing strategies can be used to drive rivals from the market. But antitrust law currently misses this anticompetitive conduct with its obsession on low prices,” Sally Hubbard, an antitrust expert, told Recode.

Read more: More than 1,500 Amazon employees are expected to walk out on Friday to protest climate change

And as Recode writer Jason Del Rey points out, the free shipping of smaller items is likely to cause issues with environmental activists who already urging the company to commit to zero emissions by 2030.

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CNN is prepping an online news aggregator to counter tech giants PSP Hacks

Other possible stand-out features could include fostering communities for events and issues as as know-how from local affiliates and news outlets. It’s not certain when the service might launch.

Morse wasn’t shy about the reasoning: this is about preventing the tech world from having too much clout in news. He also argued that CNN had an inherent edge as a news organization. This is the company’s focus, not electronics or social networking.

Whether or not this works is another matter. Apple, Facebook and now Amazon have inherent advantages. Apple and Amazon can bundle and promote their apps with their hardware while CNN has to ask people to download an app. And when many people already use Facebook for daily updates even before the News Tab arrives, it may be difficult to tear them away. Moreover, CNN might not be alone when WSJ owner News Corp is developing its own service. The broadcaster is entering an increasingly crowded field with participants from both tech and traditional news, and it’s not guaranteed that CNN’s offering will rise above the rest.

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Let’s Unravel the Time Travel Paradox of Terminator: Dark Fate – WIRED

Let's Unravel the Time Travel Paradox of Terminator: Dark Fate - WIRED thumbnail

Terminator has been retconned within an inch of its own life. The long-lived franchise, which began in 1984 with The Terminator, has been sequelized (twice) and rebooted (three times) and adapted for TV (once). And because all of them involve some element of time travel—generally a sentient AI system sending back a Terminator to kill the human that would eventually overthrow the machines—the canonical timeline looks something like an ouroboros Möbius strip.

Terminator: Dark Fate is the latest loop. This time around, a new hero, Grace (an enhanced human hybrid played with raw energy by Mackenzie Davis), goes back in time to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes) from a Terminator that’s even more advanced than the ones fans are used to. That’s because, thanks to some time-travel tap-dancing, it’s been sent by a different entity—not Skynet!—to ward off a war that happened after the other wars were won by the humans. Or something. Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton, reprising her role) is still around because she never came from the future. But her son, John Connor, who happened to be the guy who stopped the machines before, is dead, killed by a Terminator who, she says, was sent from “a future that never happened.”

Confused yet? Yeah, everyone is. That’s OK. The Terminator franchise never really set out to, like, make sense. The whole point is robots, and guns, and explosions, and computers, and more explosions. There’s no need to complicate things with actual physics. They’re not meant to hold up to actual time-travel paradigms. But if you know the Novikov self-consistency principle, they’re a hell of a lot more fun to watch.

A primer: The Novikov self-consistency principle holds that, well, time paradoxes are not entirely possible. What physicist Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov stipulated in the 1980s was: If you went back in time, the probability that you could change the past in any significant way is zero. Novikov and his contemporaries held that while the theory of general relativity maintained that “closed timelike curves” were possible, and thus so were trips back in time, people could only perform actions that wouldn’t change the past; they had to be consistent with what had already happened (hence the name). Unlike the grandfather paradox, which frets over what happens if you go back and kill your father or mother’s dad and eliminate your own existence, Novikov’s principle states that you simply would not, could not do that. What’s already happened has already happened.

The Terminator movies can adhere to Novikov principle, mostly, if you generally accept the timeline that John Connor sent back Kyle Reese to protect his mother, Sarah Connor, knowing that Reese would then become his father. It falls apart, though, in Dark Fate, where the events of Judgement Day mean Skynet was never created and thus a new AI, called Legion, pops up in its place. These events, theoretically, couldn’t have happened because the time travel would’ve changed the larger outcome. There is also an implication, which we won’t entirely spoil here, where the leader of the new resistance, Dani, implies that she won’t allow something that the audience just saw happen to occur again. This is a huge no-no.

(Also, if you ever try to apply this principle to Donnie Darko—you know, for fun—think of it this way: The movie can hold up if you believe that the plane engine that falls through Donnie’s ceiling was always meant to kill him. When he got out of bed and survived the crash, he created a tangent universe that he then corrects through his actions in the movie. None if this explains Frank, the dude in the freaky bunny costume. If you try to apply it to Avengers: Endgame … actually, don’t.)

What’s more interesting, though, is applying the Novikov principle to the actions of Skynet and/or Legion. For as long as there have been Terminator films there has been this idea that an all-powerful artificial intelligence decided the best way to stop their own demise is to send a Terminator back in time to kill the person who is trying to overthrow them. (It’s never made sense that they could figure out time travel but not better security against human infiltration, but I digress.) If you want proof that AIs aren’t really that smart, look no further than the fact that they learned everything about time travel, but never read Kip Thorne or his contemporaries. If they had, they’d know all these shape-shifting, time-traveling machines are futile.

But again, the actions taken by Skynet, Legion, and the humans seeking to stop them aren’t futile. They’ve generated hours upon hours of entertainment and millions of dollars in box office totals. The point isn’t to be consistent, it’s to be entertaining, big ol’ Timey-Wimey Ball and all. Terminator: Dark Fate erased quite a bit of what came before it, keeping the good parts (Hamilton, Schwarzenegger) and shedding the rest. As retcons go, it’s a mighty good one. Now if only someone could go back in time and undo Terminator: Genisys.


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The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Latest News PSP Hacks

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Politics|The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: What Happened Today

A remarkable news conference seemed to confirm a central premise of the House’s investigation.

Noah Weiland

  • Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told reporters that the Trump administration withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate an unfounded conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. That effectively confirmed a premise of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

  • Asked whether he had just admitted to a quid pro quo, Mr. Mulvaney said, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.” Hours later, he tried to reverse his statement, saying, “There was absolutely no quid pro quo.” (Read his conflicting statements here.)

  • In testimony before impeachment investigators, President Trump’s ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, said the president had essentially delegated American foreign policy on Ukraine to Rudy Giuliani, and had refused the counsel of his top diplomats. Mr. Giuliani’s goal, Mr. Sondland said, may have been “to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president’s 2020 re-election campaign.”


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The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, told reporters that military aid was held back in part to prod Ukraine to investigate Democrats, undercutting President Trump’s denial of a quid pro quo.CreditCredit…Leigh Vogel for The New York Times

Impeachment investigators have been gathering evidence for weeks to prove what Mr. Mulvaney freely admitted to reporters in the White House Briefing Room. I talked to my colleague Maggie Haberman about why he said something so stunning.

Maggie, whoa. That happened in front of reporters at the White House.

The briefing was jaw-dropping by any metric. He admitted to a quid pro quo. But it showed once again something you and I talked about two weeks ago: Mr. Trump tries to shift the window on conduct by revealing stuff publicly to take the sting out of its discovery. Mr. Mulvaney insisted the terminology doesn’t matter, but he bluntly acknowledged that aid was withheld from Ukraine to get a desired outcome on an investigation. That is at the heart of what Democrats have been trying to ascertain.

Was it actually the plan for him to do this?

I do think it was, yes — at least in part. Remember, this happened as Mr. Sondland was on the Hill giving a closed-door deposition. So I think Mr. Mulvaney was trying to rob House Democrats of a headline and frame the events on his own, to take the air out of the sails by saying it out loud. But it’s not clear that he was actually supposed to say there was a quid pro quo. It’s breathtaking that he’s the first person they’ve sent out to expressly discuss these issues and that he said so much.

How might this affect the impeachment investigation?

He came out and admitted to a lot of what House Democrats were hoping to get from him in a deposition! I can’t imagine the White House counsel and others were thrilled. Mr. Mulvaney and the counsel’s office have been at odds lately.

Since we’re talking about Mr. Mulvaney, why is he the guy Mr. Trump has wanted as his air traffic controller with Ukraine and now impeachment?

He’s what Mr. Trump thinks he needs. When he sold himself to Mr. Trump as chief of staff, part of his pitch was that he had run two agencies and that both were drama-free. But the president grinds down guardrails, and Mr. Mulvaney wants job security. He has the same problem the other Trump chiefs of staff have had, which is this concern about self-preservation that can be at odds with the needs of the president. I think he was willing to go out and be the “human hand grenade,” to borrow a turn of phrase from the Fiona Hill testimony.

I’m sensing some irony in the outcome, then.

Mr. Mulvaney’s job has been perceived as being in jeopardy. There isn’t a clear replacement for him right now, but he may not have helped himself today. We don’t yet know how Mr. Trump feels about what Mr. Mulvaney said. But if past is prelude, if it proves problematic, the president will blame Mr. Mulvaney.


On Thursday, the president was in Texas, the vice president and secretary of state in Turkey, and Mr. Mulvaney on his own in the briefing room. One of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers even put out a statement saying the president’s legal team “was not involved.” Here’s how my colleague Katie Rogers, who was in the room, described the scene:

Reporters knew this was big news right away, and I think you saw the incredulity in the questions that were asked of him. We kept asking the same question in different ways, which was essentially: “How is what you’re telling us not an acknowledgment of something the president has outright denied?” The first time he said it, I emailed our White House team saying, “Did he actually just link Ukraine conspiracy theories to withholding aid?” All of us in the room were trying to figure out if what we were watching was actually happening.


  • Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat hailed as a powerful moral voice in American politics, died Thursday at the age of 68. His death left a void in the impeachment investigation: Mr. Cummings was chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, one of the committees leading the inquiry.

  • Rick Perry told the president today that he would resign from his position as energy secretary. His resignation had long been anticipated, even before news emerged of his involvement in efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the energy company Hunter Biden worked for.

  • The Washington Post looked into the taxpayer-funded renovation of Mr. Sondland’s residence in Brussels, which includes more than $400,000 to remodel the kitchen and a $95,000 outdoor “living pod.”


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Remote-controlled scooters are coming, and Tortoise is (slowly) leading the charge

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You may have noticed that scooter companies typically have short names — usually around four or five letters — that are meant to invoke feelings of flying or zooming across an urban landscape unencumbered. Think Bird, Spin, Scoot, Bolt, Jump, Wheels, etc.

Tortoise is not a scooter company. That should be obvious from the startup’s name, which invokes a character who is slow but clever, ultimately defeating a much faster opponent. Tortoise is working with scooter companies to introduce a seemingly radical concept: scooters that can move autonomously across a city and reposition themselves, without a rider. That’s right. Autonomous scooters.

Well, sort of. Remote-operated might be a better description, because Tortoise wants to use autonomous technology combined with teleoperation to reposition and rebalance dockless, shared e-scooters in cities. And while the image of ghostly two-wheelers rolling down sidewalks completely on their own may seem crazy, Tortoise co-founder and CEO Dmitry Shevelenko is convinced that scooter companies and cities will embrace the idea when they hear what’s at stake.

It goes something like this: right now, e-scooters are gathered up every night by teams of independent contractors for charging and rebalancing. These freelance scooter hunters get paid based on how many scooters they can collect each night, which has led to arguments, fights, and the occasional weapon being flashed. Scooter get damaged, diminishing their lifespan. Fraud and hoarding are rampant. It’s a massive logistical challenge and can be dangerous for the freelancers involved.

Meanwhile, riders have a difficult time tracking down available scooters when they want one. They all end up cluttered in a handful of places rather than spread evenly around. And cities have complained about the companies failing to place enough scooters in low-income and minority communities to ensure equal distribution across economic lines.

Enter Tortoise, which is proposing a system of remote-controlled scooters that can be moved around a city on demand, without the hassle of contracting out the work to teams of amateur scooter hunters. And because the idea of fully autonomous scooters is a little absurd — imagine a self-driving scooter losing signal or power in the middle of a busy intersection — Tortoise is relying on a combination of autonomous software and a staff of remote tele-operators to control the scooters.

“Our first deployments are actually going to be 100 percent tele-operated, but over time, we’re going to increase the percentage of autonomy,” Shevelenko said in an interview. “But it’s never going to be fully autonomous.”

Tortoise is giving the reference designs for how to make a scooter drive itself to the manufacturers free of charge. The technology is low-cost and fairly simple to install. And the camera and sensors are cheap thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones. “We’re basically taking the components that are inside smartphones, and putting them on the outside of the scooter,” he said. Meanwhile, Tortoise’s teleoperation center will be based in Mexico City, where remote operators will monitor the scooters and step in when they invariably get tripped up by an obstacle.

To start out, Tortoise is working with a number of scooter manufacturers (Acton, TronX Motors, Veemo, and Yimi) and shared fleet operators (Wind, CityBee, Go X, and Shared) to put its vision of semi-autonomous scooters into operation. It also struck a deal with the city of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, to test out its technology at the Atlanta Tech Park.

Tortoise is particularly focused on the suburbs, where the need for last-mile mobility solutions to connect people to transit is much greater. “If you’re in a suburb and you leave a scooter outside your house, the likelihood that it will be useful to anybody else but you is pretty much nil,” Shevelenko said. “We think automated repositioning is essential [in those communities].”

Shevelenko has served as an adviser to Uber on its partnerships with Getaround and Masabi, as well as the ride-hailing company’s acquisition of bike-share operator Jump. He founded Tortoise with David Graham, who has a background in vision systems, robotics, electrical engineering, and 3D printing.

Of course, Tortoise isn’t the only one working to develop semi-autonomous scooters. Segway-Ninebot recently introduced a three-wheeled self-driving scooter called the KickScooter T60. And Uber is rumored to be interested in developing self-riding bikes and scooters, but it hasn’t confirmed that publicly.

Whether an autonomous scooter would address all of the challenges of a shared micromobility service is unclear. What is clear is that creating a fleet of self-riding scooters could be incredibly costly. Eric Paul Dennis, a Michigan-based transportation systems analyst for the Center for Automotive Research, posted a thread on Twitter recently calling it “the worst new #mobility idea yet.”

Shevelenko identified regulatory hurdles as the prime obstacle to getting autonomous or remote-controlled scooters into service. And he pointed to early tests by delivery robot startups like Starship Technologies as evidence that our society is becoming more comfortable with (and less hostile toward) robots in our midst. And scooters may just be the beginning for the type of service Tortoise envisions spearheading.

“Low speed autonomy comes before high speed autonomy,” Shevelenko said. “And of all the verticals in the low speed automation space, micromobility is by far the best one. In one fell swoop you’re increasing demand because you’re able to get more rentals per day. You’re impacting the cost side on the recharging labor costs. And you’re creating a public policy benefit because you’re solving this clutter and obstruction issue.”

Tortoise’s software stack is “form factor agnostic,” he added. “So we eventually want to be powering the routing autonomy and teleoperations with delivery robots, security robots, cleaning robots. We have this broader vision of being an AWS, moving anything per mile. And we think the most logical place to start is scooters and e-bikes.”

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