Weekly Tech Roundup #9
“Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window” — Steve Wozniak
A 1/48 scale model of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket
The Falcon Heavy model is a technology demonstrator for BPS.space. The intention is to showcase the advancement possible at the model scale.
A Pocket Retro Computer Anyone Can Build
Not satisfied with any of the DIY retro computer kits on the market, [Leonardo Leoni] decided to make his own. Built using only the finest through-hole technology and powered by the ATmega328 microcontroller, his diminutive 8-bit computer is easy to build and even easier to develop for. Whether you’re looking to hone your BASIC skills or play some Zork on the bus, this little computer looks like a great project for anyone who has a soft spot for computing’s simpler days.
Labeling Tesla’s Autopilot system as ‘semi-autonomous' can be dangerous
The language we use is important, even when talking about robocars.
That became apparent last week when the Associated Press updated its style guide to avoid the term "semi-autonomous" for systems like Tesla's Autopilot, General Motor's Super Cruise, and Nissan's ProPilot Assist.
Facebook Is a Better Platform Than Twitter for Discussing Racial Injustice
The world has been watching the daily protests and riots caused by the murder of George Floyd. Those following the protests on social media might also be looking for the language, facts, figures, histories, and stories that explain how we got to this point. Journalists and academics work to fill in those gaps, covering the protests and writing about issues of racial injustice. They make threads giving historical context, publish and share reporting, and give book recommendations — largely on Twitter. But, though Twitter is an important tool for accessing and spreading information during this societal upheaval, Facebook may be the better platform for educating readers.
Harvard shrank its insect-inspired microrobot to the size of a penny
Harvard researchers have made the tiny Harvard Ambulatory Microrobot (HAMR) even tinier. The next-gen, cockroach-inspired robot is about the size of a penny, and it can run at speeds of 13.9 body lengths per second. That makes it one of the smallest and fastest microrobots to date. The team also believes it’s the most dexterous robot of its size.
Dubbed HAMR-JR, the robot is a half-scale version of its predecessor, which researchers taught to swim and walk underwater. The team built HAMR-JR, in part, to test whether the origami-inspired manufacturing process used to build HAMR and other microbots, like RoboBee, could be used to build robots at multiple scales -- from tiny bots like HAMR-JR to large, industrial robots. They found that they were able to keep the design just as complex, even at the micro-scale.
Kids now spend nearly as much time watching TikTok as YouTube in U.S., U.K. and Spain
A new study on kids’ app usage and habits indicates a major threat to YouTube’s dominance, as kids now split their time between Google’s online video platform and other apps, like TikTok, Netflix, and mobile games like Roblox. Kids ages 4 to 15 now spend an average of 85 minutes per day watching YouTube videos, compared with 80 minutes per day spent on TikTok. The latter app also drove growth in kids’ social app use by 100% in 2019 and 200% in 2020, the report found.
Mozilla Firefox to let you export saved passwords in plain text
Mozilla Firefox will soon allow you to export your saved login credentials to a CSV text file that you can then import into a password manager or store as a backup.
Like many other browsers, Mozilla Firefox has a password manager that allows you to save login names and passwords for websites that you have an account. When you visit these sites, Firefox will automatically popular the login forms with the saved credentials.
In the Firefox 79 Nightly build, Mozilla has added the ability to export your saved credentials to a CSV text file.
Uber’s self-driving AI predicts the trajectories of pedestrians, vehicles, and cyclists
In a preprint paper, Uber researchers describe MultiNet, a system that detects and predicts the motions of obstacles from autonomous vehicle lidar data. They say that unlike existing models, MultiNet reasons about the uncertainty of the behavior and movement of cars, pedestrians, and cyclists using a model that infers detections and predictions and then refines those to generate potential trajectories.
Anticipating the future states of obstacles is a challenging task, but it’s key to preventing accidents on the road. Within the context of a self-driving vehicle, a perception system has to capture a range of trajectories other actors might take rather than a single likely trajectory. For example, an opposing vehicle approaching an intersection might continue driving straight or turn in front of an autonomous vehicle; in order to ensure safety, the self-driving vehicle needs to reason about these possibilities and adjust its behavior accordingly.
New patent reveals Xiaomi’s first foldable phone
Last year multiple companies announced their own foldable phones and set a benchmark for others who are in the development process. Now a new patent filing reveals that Xiaomi is planning to jump on the foldable phones bandwagon.
According to a patent filed with CNIPA (China National Intellectual Property Administration), Xiaomi is planning to launch a foldable phone similar to the Huawei Mate Xs. The phone will have the full display on the front which is the opposite of what Samsung has done with the Galaxy Fold series. The patent shows a phone with narrow bezels with four lenses that can be used as both front and back cameras. Xiaomi has also added physical volume and power buttons and the device has a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer.
Lenovo Will Sell Ubuntu on More ThinkPads, ThinkStations This Summer
Lenovo has announced that all of its ThinkStation desktop PCs and ThinkPad P series laptop will be available to buy with Ubuntu preloaded starting this summer.
Lenovo is already well represented within the Linux hardware community having ‘certified’ a swathe of its devices for various different distros over the years.
And the company recently revealed plans to sell laptops preloaded with Fedora and make more firmware updates available through the vendor-neutral Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS).