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The new Apple MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini with the Apple M1 SoC have kickstarted the company’s multi-year transition from Intel CPUs to its own in-house silicon. Apple’s previous pivotal computing shift came about 15 years ago when it announced its transition from the PowerPC architecture to Intel CPUs, and now it’s doing it again. This move was a long time coming, and a necessary one since it allows Apple greater control over the design and performance of its Mac computers. More importantly, it should also allow Apple to better plan future product roadmaps, now that it knows exactly what kind of chips to expect going ahead.

The Apple M1 is the first SoC for Macs that has been announced, and it can currently be found in the new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. The M1 SoC is based on the ARM architecture, much like Apple’s iPhone SoCs, and boasts of vastly better performance and power efficiency than previous Intel CPUs. This also means non-native software not updated to work on M1 will run in an emulated mode. We’ll get into all these details in a bit. First, let’s take a look at what your options are in India if you’re shopping for the new M1 MacBook Air.

 

MacBook Air (M1, 2020) pricing and variants

Apple has removed the Intel-based MacBook Air models from it’s India website, and the M1-powered MacBook Air starts at the same price of Rs. 92,900. This model gets you 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and the 7-core GPU version of the Apple M1 SoC. You can configure it to have 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of SSD storage before you check out.

The second, pre-configured MacBook Air variant gets you the M1 SoC with an 8-core GPU, 512GB of storage, and 8GB of RAM for Rs. 1,17,900, which is the one I’m testing. The RAM and storage are once again configurable but you can’t upgrade anything later.

The MacBook Air is available in three colours: Space Grey, Gold, and Silver. Versions of the MacBook Pro 13-inch and Mac mini with Intel CPUs are still available for now, but those are the top-end configurations and are priced a lot higher than the M1 versions.

MacBook Air (M1, 2020) design

The physical design of the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is exactly the same as that of the MacBook Air Retina model which was refreshed earlier this year. The dimensions and weight of both models are identical, and even when sitting side by side, it’s impossible to tell the two apart. You’ll probably have to wait till next year if you were hoping to get a redesigned MacBook Air. I personally don’t have any issues with this. I think the current design is functional and stylish, and more than serves the purpose.

It’s hard to tell the M1 MacBook Air (left) from the Intel version (right)

 

The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) has two USB Type-C ports on the left and a headphone jack on the right. The Type-C ports support Thunderbolt/USB 4 for high-speed data transfer, fast charging, and external connections for up to a 6K display. The MacBook Air has the same 13.3-inch IPS display with a 2,560×1,600 resolution and 400nits of brightness as the Retina models, however Apple has added support for the DCI-P3 wide colour gamut, which should give creators more flexibility when colour grading projects.

The keyboard layout, trackpad, and palm-rest area are also the same as on the Intel model. You get stereo speaker cutouts on either side of the keyboard, and Dolby Atmos enhancement is supported. The glass-covered Force Touch trackpad works brilliantly as always, and the scissor-mechanism keys are comfortable to type on.

There are a few changes to the keys themselves though. The ‘fn’ button in the bottom left corner has a new globe icon, and now brings up the emoji menu with a single press. The F4, F5, and F6 function keys now double as shortcuts for Spotlight search, Dictation, and Do not Disturb, instead of Launchpad and keyboard backlight brightness adjustment as on previous model. I personally miss the brightness adjustment, but that’s only because I like having its level set just so. Automatic adjustment works fine though, and you can add a shortcut for this to the menu bar if you need it.

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The M1 MacBook Air looks identical to the outgoing Intel model, except for some differences on the keyboard (bottom right)

The new M1 MacBook Air looks and feels very familiar to the Intel models, and that’s a good thing. However, one major difference is that the M1 models don’t have an exhaust fan and are cooled passively. This makes the new Air absolutely silent, even when doing heavy workloads.

MacBook Air (M1, 2020) specifications and software

The M1 is Apple’s first SoC for Macs and is built around a 5nm process, similar to the A14 Bionic in the iPhone 12 series and iPad Air (4th Gen). It consists of an 8-core CPU (four performance and four efficiency cores), a seven or 8-core GPU (depending on the variant you pick), and a 16-core Neural Engine. The M1 SoC also features other components such as the I/O controller, RAM, and Secure Enclave coprocessor, all on a single package. This, according to Apple, allows for much faster and more efficient transfer of data and instructions, which results in more than double the CPU, GPU, and machine learning performance compared to an Intel-based MacBook Air. Apple also claims the SSD in the new M1 MacBook Air is twice as fast as before.

The Apple M1 SoC supports Wi-Fi 6 for higher bandwidth connections to compatible routers. One feature that has been dropped in the new M1-powered Macs is support for external GPUs such as the Blackmagic eGPU, so if your workflow requires the use of such hardware, you should stick with Intel Macs for the time being.

With hardware out of the way, let’s turn our attention to software. The MacBook Air (M1 2020) runs macOS Big Sur, which has been optimised for the M1 SoC. Apps that have been updated to run on M1 as well as Intel CPUs are now known as Universal apps, and all of Apple’s first-party apps as well as many third-party ones have already been migrated. However, there are still many popular apps such as Slack and Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite, which are not yet updated to run natively on M1.

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Rosetta 2 is Apple’s translation tool which helps run x86 apps on ARM

 

These apps still work, more or less, thanks to Apple’s translation tool called Rosetta 2. It’s an emulation program, invisible to the end user, which automatically translates instructions meant for one architecture to another so that an x86 app can run normally. We’ll get into performance in the next section.

Since the M1 is similar to Apple’s iPhone and iPad SoCs, it’s now possible to run many iOS and iPad OS apps on an M1 MacBook Air. When you search for an app in the App Store, you’ll now see two tabs on the top, ‘Mac Apps’ and ‘iPhone & iPad Apps.’ It’s up to app developers to decide if they want their mobile apps to run on Macs. For instance, Netflix isn’t available (yet) but you can play Crossy Road or use the Flipkart app. iOS apps run in windowed mode, and some can be resized. You even get menu bar options, just like a Mac app.

This is still very much a work in progress, and the experience isn’t always as seamless as using the same apps on an iPad or iPhone, since you have to substitute touch input with a trackpad and keys. iPhone apps that are available but not optimised have a clear warning in the title – “Not verified for macOS.”

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Many iOS and iPadOS apps can run on the M1 MacBook Air

 

MacBook Air (M1, 2020) performance

To get a better sense of real-world performance, I migrated all my data (about 300GB) from my existing MacBook Air (Retina 2020) over to the new one. Apple’s Migration Assistant tool makes this very easy, and everything is done over a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection.

The first thing you’ll notice when switching to the new M1 MacBook Air is that it wakes instantly when you open the lid. It’s a lot quicker than any Intel-based MacBook Air I’ve used. If you have an Apple Watch, your Mac can detect your presence so you don’t even have to use the fingerprint sensor, making the process even more seamless.

MacOS Big Sur feels a bit snappier on the M1 MacBook Air than on the previous model. Minor lags in animations when swiping through apps in Launchpad or loading heavy apps for example, aren’t noticeable anymore. When you run a non-native app for the very first time, you get a prompt asking you to download Rosetta 2 in order to run it. This installation only happens once and it doesn’t take very long. After this, non-native apps simply work without any additional intervention.

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Apps created for the Intel platform run surprisingly well on the Apple’s M1 SoC

 

You can check whether an app is running natively or via emulation through the Activity Monitor, or using a simple app such as Silicon Info. Emulated apps take a bit longer to load than universal ones, but compared to an Intel-based MacBook Air, it’s about the same. Once loaded, all the apps that I tried worked just fine, without any lag or crashes. Third-party apps such as Telegram which have been updated to run natively on M1 load way quicker than on an Intel MacBook Air.

The second thing that becomes immediately apparent is how cool the new M1 MacBook Air runs. When I reviewed the Intel Core i3 version of the MacBook Air (Retina 2020) back in July, it got pretty warm when stressed even a little bit. Since then, I’ve been using a Core i5 variant of the same laptop as my primary work computer and this one also runs warm even when idle. With the Menubar Stats app running in the background, I noticed my Intel Core i5 Retina MacBook Air’s CPU idling at around 45 degrees Celsius, whereas the M1 MacBook Air would idle at around 33 degrees Celsius. The moment I began running even simple apps such as Pages or Slack, the palm rest area and the space above the keyboard on the Intel Mac got very warm, and the system temperature shot up quickly.

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The M1 MacBook Air (left) runs consistently cooler than an Intel Core i5-based MacBook Air (right)

 

The M1 sees only a modest increase in temperature when performing the same activities, and the palm rest area, the bottom, and even the area above the keyboard simply don’t get warm enough to be noticeable. The fact that this laptop is able to maintain such low operating temperatures without a fan is pretty incredible.

And it’s not due to lack of performance. In fact it’s the exact opposite. The Geekbench 5 benchmark, which is optimised for M1, shows a huge leap in performance compared to an Intel Core i5 Retina MacBook Air. The M1 SoC scored 1,704 and 7,405 points in the single and multi-core tests respectively, compared to 1,103 and 2,843 points from my Intel MacBook Air. Apple claims that the M1 MacBook Air has twice the SSD performance than before and this shows in benchmarks as well. The M1 MacBook Air averaged 2.8GBps and 2.7GBps read and write speeds respectively in Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, compared to 1.2GBps and 1.3GBps from the Intel version.

Finally, in Cinebench R23, the M1 MacBook Air posted impressive numbers. It scored 1,479 and 6,682 in the single and multi-core tests respectively, compared to 787 and 2,194 from my Intel MacBook Air. During benchmarks, the M1 MacBook Air reached its highest recorded temperature of about 85 degrees Celsius, compared to the 100 degrees Celsius reported by the Intel MacBook Air. The M1’s temperature also ramps down pretty quickly despite it not having a fan.

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The M1 MacBook Air (left) destroys an Intel MacBook Air in benchmarks

 

My typical workflow involved a lot of Safari, Pages, and Photoshop use, and in all these tasks, the M1 MacBook Air performed flawlessly. I used the Photoshop beta designed for the M1 SoC, and it worked very well. Lightroom has also recently been updated to run natively on M1. However, the other apps in the Creative Cloud suite are yet to be optimised, and will only be releasing sometime in 2021. You can still use these apps through Rosetta 2 but there are some known issues.

As powerful as the M1’s CPU cores are, Apple claims that the integrated GPU should also provide a boost in graphics-heavy workloads such as video editing and gaming. The MacBook Air isn’t designed for serious video editing, and while it can handle apps such as iMovie fairly well, editing in Final Cut Pro (FCP) or Adobe Premiere will take it out of its comfort zone. With the latest version of FCP installed on both the M1 and Intel-based MacBook Airs, I loaded up a 4K video using the Apple ProRes 422 Proxy codec. Both laptops were able to handle this just fine, although scrubbing through the sample clips was a bit smoother on the M1 MacBook Air. Exporting this project was also quicker on the M1-based unit, taking 10 seconds versus 17 seconds for the MacBook Air with the Core i5 processor.

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You could actually consider the M1 MacBook Air for serious video editing

I then tried some 5K clips shot with a GoPro Hero 9 Black, and prioritised quality in the preview window. With this setting, the Intel-based MacBook Air showed a slightly jerky preview with a lot of dropped frames. The M1 MacBook Air, on the other hand, had no trouble rendering the preview smoothly without dropping any frames. Exporting a one-minute 5K clip to H.264 took 3 minutes and 54 seconds on the M1 MacBook Air, versus 9 minutes and 29 seconds on the Intel MacBook Air. That’s a massive difference in export time, which shows the raw potential of the M1 SoC.

While performing all of these activities, the M1-based MacBook Air barely got warm and the SoC temperature peaked at about 80-86 degrees at one point, but even this ramped down quickly once the task was done. I also didn’t get a single CPU throttling warning when tracking the thermal log in a Terminal window. The Intel-based MacBook Air on the other hand reported CPU temperatures of 90-100 degrees when rendering and exporting media in FCP. The fan was also running at nearly full tilt all the time trying to cool it down, and the thermal log recorded multiple instances when the laptop throttled the CPU speed quite drastically due to high temperatures.

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The M1 MacBook Air does a decent job with Apple Arcade games

 

When it comes to gaming, Apple Arcade games look good and run fairly well on the M1 MacBook Air. Games optimised for touch input from Apple Arcade are also relatively easy to play with the keyboard and trackpad. The Pathless is a heavier title and had a few framerate hiccups, but was still playable at the default settings. The M1-based MacBook Air also does get warm quickly when gaming. Games that are specifically optimised for M1, such as Shadow of The Tomb Raider, are said to run better than on even the top-end Intel-based MacBook Air.

Steam runs very well through Rosetta 2 and you can install games compatible with the Mac on the M1 MacBook Air. I tried Alien Isolation, but sadly, the performance was very poor with almost unplayable framerates. An Intel MacBook Air performs better in comparison when running Steam games, for now anyway.

One of my biggest gripes with the Retina MacBook Air was the webcam. Image quality was very grainy when I used it in less-than-ideal lighting. Apple claims it has improved the quality of the 720p FaceTime HD camera thanks to the new ISP (Image Signal Processor) in the M1 SoC. With a side-by-side comparison, there is a noticeable improvement especially in dim lighting. The M1-based MacBook Air produces less grain and exposure is better than on the Intel-based MacBook Air. It’s still a 720p webcam, sadly, but at least the quality has improved making it a lot more usable.

MacBook Air (M1, 2020) battery life

The previous MacBook Air delivered more than satisfactory battery life, enough to last a full workday and then some. With M1, Apple is claiming even better numbers with the same battery capacity. The M1-based MacBook Air promises up to 15 hours of Web usage and up to 18 hours of Apple TV movie playback (up from 11 hours and 12 hours respectively). Since no one really browses the Web or watches TV shows for that long at a stretch, it’s hard to test Apple’s specific claims, but with regular mixed usage, I was averaging about 13-14 hours of screen-on time in one full day, which in itself is mighty impressive.

When in standby with the lid closed (say, overnight), I noticed barely any battery drain. Another impressive achievement is the M1 MacBook Air’s ability to keep going once you hit the red line in the battery meter. Despite the OS warning me that my Mac would be forced to go to sleep if I didn’t plug it in, I managed to get about another hour and fifteen minutes of runtime while streaming a movie in Safari.

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The M1 MacBook Air delivers amazing battery life

Verdict

The Apple M1 SoC might be a first-gen product for Apple’s laptops and desktops but it’s very evident that this is the end result of years of perfecting the A-series SoC for its phones and tablets. Intel’s CPUs in recent times haven’t been terribly exciting, with only modest improvements in performance year on year. In a way, this has held the MacBook Air (and the rest of Apple’s portfolio) back.

With the improved performance and efficiency of the M1 SoC in the same chassis, the MacBook Air is no longer just an entry-level laptop but one that can be seriously considered for heavy-duty tasks as well. Apple has even managed to improve battery life and make the design completely fanless. The cherry on top is that all this comes at the same price as the previous Intel-based MacBook Air.

As well as the M1 performs, I wouldn’t recommend ditching your current Intel-based MacBook for this right away, especially if the apps you use haven’t been optimised for M1 yet. While most apps should run just fine through Rosetta 2, I’d suggest making sure that the essential ones that you need on a regular basis don’t have any known issues. Also, remember that this is just the first wave of devices based on Apple’s in-house silicon. We should expect more powerful Apple SoCs for the inevitable refreshes (or replacements) of the 16-inch MacBook Pro, iMac, iMac Pro, and Mac Pro.

If you don’t want to wait and don’t rely on any niche apps, then by all means pick up the new MacBook Air with M1. It’s more powerful, runs cooler, and lasts longer, making it one of the best value offerings in Apple’s MacBook lineup.

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Signal Back Up: Users May See Some Errors, Company Says Will Be Fixed in Next Update

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Signal said it had restored its services a day after the application faced technical difficulties as it dealt with a flood of new users after rival messaging app WhatsApp announced a controversial change in privacy terms.

Signal has seen a rise in downloads following a change in WhatsApp’s privacy terms, that required WhatsApp users to share their data with both Facebook and Instagram.

Signal users might see errors in some chats as a side effect to the outage, but will be resolved in the next update of the app, the company said in a tweet.

The error does not affect the security of the chat, the company added.

The non-profit Signal Foundation based in Silicon Valley, which currently oversees the app, was launched in February 2018 with Brian Acton, who co-founded WhatsApp before selling it to Facebook, providing initial funding of $50 million (roughly Rs. 365 crores).

Signal faced a global outage that began on January 15. Although users could open the app and send messages, nothing was actually delivered.

Signal later sent Gadgets 360 a message with the following statement from its COO Aruna Harder: “We have been adding new servers and extra capacity at a record pace every single day this week, but today exceeded even our most optimistic projections. Millions upon millions of new users are sending a message that privacy matters, and we are working hard to restore service for them as quickly as possible.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021


Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.



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CES 2021 wrap up: How enterprise tech makes all those smart toilets and robots possible

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From smart toilets and disinfecting robots to transparent OLED displays and sleep tech, CES 2021 was a showcase for the latest innovations in consumer and enterprise technology.

CES 2021 is a wrap. And although this year’s all-digital event was a significantly different experience from past shows, there was plenty of innovative tech on display. TechRepublic’s Steve Ranger, Teena Maddox, and Bill Detwiler join Karen Roby to discuss the products and technology trends that stood out. The following is a transcript of their discuss edited for readability.

Smart toilets, disaffecting robots and a flying Cadillac

Karen Roby: Teena, let’s start with you, just general impressions from the show and some things that maybe stood out to you.

Teena Maddox: Sure. As always, it was an interesting CES, full of really cool products. Even though this one was virtual, we still managed to find some really great things to write about for TechRepublic. One of the things that really stood out for me was just the fact that there was so much creativity still going on and people were still really interested. You had your virtual groups of people surrounding products. One of the things that got a lot of attention online was the product from TOTO that… I know you did a video about that, the wellness toilet that, not to get gross here, but it lets you know how you’re doing based on your bodily functions. I thought that was really interesting. That got a lot of attention.

Ever wanted a toilet to analyze your poop and tell you what it means about your health? Well, you’re in luck. Toto unveiled a concept toilet at CES 2021 that does just that. It scans your body and excrement to provide recommendations to improve your health.

 

Image: Toto

And then there was that really top of the line tub from Kohler that tops out around, I think, $16,000 that just gives you like this virtual environment. It has lighting, it has fog, it has music. It has a little bit of everything, and I really want that tub for my bathroom, but there’s no way I’m going to spend as much as a small car on a tub for my bathroom. So that got attention.

We wrote about tons of gaming monitors and laptops from so many fantastic brands, Dell and Acer and Lenovo, HP, everybody just really came out with some really great products. I talked to HyperX and they talked about how, they’re known for making gaming products, headsets and microphones and things like that, that gamers and streamers use, but everybody’s been buying them in this past year of course to work from home because they’re also great products to use as you’re doing things like we’re doing now, doing an online meeting, online videos. So they’ve really been working toward that and people have been using their products for double duty. So they introduced some new products and we wrote about those.

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This one is marvelous and cool. LG’s autonomous disinfecting robot uses UV-C light to disinfect high-touch, high-traffic areas. LG plans to offer the robot to hospitality, retail, corporate and education customers in early 2021. 

Image: LG

There’s just been so much cool stuff. There’s a lot of sleep tech, a lot of fitness tech and to be expected, there were a lot of masks that had really high tech features because tying tech with masks. I think some of them are a little over the top, like Air Pop Active Plus. It’s $150 mask that works with an app on your phone. I’m really not sure who really wants to spend $150 on a mask, but it’s there if somebody who does want to buy it. And then there were a lot of disinfecting robots. LG had a really cool one that uses UVC light to disinfect high touch, high traffic areas. And they’re going to market it to schools, to hospitals, to hotels, places like that. It rolls around and it disinfects on its own. So that is super cool. And Samsung had some disinfecting robots as well.

SEE: CES 2021: The big trends for business (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature)

There was just quite an array of really cool products like that. But one that really stood out and I know this would have been that one, if everybody had been at CES in person, air taxis that always gets attention. And GM introduced the Cadillac E…I’m not sure how they pronounce it…but eVTOL air taxi, E-V-T-O-L. That is just really spectacular. They just did a virtual image of what it would look like and what it would be. They’re trying to get that created. It’s all electric with vertical takeoff and landing and it has speeds up to 56 miles per hour. So I thought that was super cool, but I could talk all day, but that’s just some of the stuff that we saw.

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Flying air taxis are always a huge draw at CES, and this year was no exception, even for a virtual CES. GM announced that it is working on a Cadillac personal aircraft, the eVTOL. it’s all electric with a vertical take-off and landing. It’s powred by a 90-kWh battery to reach speeds up to 56 mph. It’s in the conceptual stage and it’s pretty impressive.

Image: General Motors

Karen Roby: Yeah. And as you mentioned, Teena, when you see so much, whether you’re in person or virtually, it all kind of starts to run together by the end of the week. There’s just so much- 

Teena Maddox: Yes. I was running around virtually. I had 15 tabs open at once, so it was like the equivalent of running place to place in a taxi in Vegas like we usually do. And I still feel like at the end of the week, there’s like another thousand things I didn’t cover that I want to. So you still have that feeling, but it’s still a lot of fun and there’s still some more things that we’re wrapping up and writing about today because there’s a lot of really great things that come out and things that we’ll be writing about in weeks to come that just are things that were conceptual that may or may not be created, but still really inspired great stories out of us and others.

SEE: Best robots at CES 2021: Humanoid hosts, AI pets, UV-C disinfecting bots, and more (TechRepublic)

Tech to help us sleep better and PC innovations

Karen Roby: Yeah, I think so, too. And Steve, we talked several days ago on the front end of CES about what is this going to be like going to a virtual experience? We’re so used to that hands-on opportunity and when people collaborate but I think all in all, it turned out okay.

Steve Ranger: I think absolutely. In fact, I’m really amazed by the amount of energy and kind of enthusiasm and excitement there has been around CES and all the CES products. I mean who knows, maybe being virtual means we get to see more stuff, rather than be hiking from place to place. So then from hall to hall, actually just flipping between tabs like Teena was doing, means you get to see more stuff, which is great. Like her, I thought the robots is really interesting this year. Obviously, that really plays into what’s been happening in the last year or so.

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Some models include special lighting to encourage sleep and the ability to track overall sleep habits. 

One of the things I thought was quite interesting was a lot of the sleep tech, because on first glance, I thought, wow, this is just the tech industry finding something else they can encroach on and put a few chips into and resell us our own sleep again. But actually the more I thought about it was, well with loads of like exercise and things like that, we are present. So we kind of know if we’re out for a run and we have a vague idea of what we’re doing. When you’re asleep, you’re asleep. You have no idea what’s going on. So actually maybe sleep is one of the really good things to be measuring and trying to understand because it’s the whole chunk of the day when you really pretty much aren’t there.

So I think a lot of people are getting more sleep at the moment because they’re going outside less. So actually trying to understand what your sleep patterns are and trying to optimize that I think is a really good thing because actually, a lot of the time we’re not getting enough sleep, we’re not getting good sleep. So I started off rather kind of doubtful about some of these technologies. The more I think about them, the more I think they might actually have some interesting uses there.

The other thing that I saw that was really good, which comes every year, but I kind of like, is all the innovation around laptops and PCs. Certainly when we were speaking a while back, we were saying, there’s a renaissance of interest in the PC because many of us are at home working on PCs and we’re not using smart phones or tablets or whatever. And actually the PC, which had been kind of on a downward trend is actually back up again right now. And so it was nice to see a lot of companies playing with the idea of new screens or different screens.

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Image: ASUS

So there was some laptops with a combined e-ink screen that you could use in different ways or a laptop with a secondary screen on the front that you could use alongside the keyboard. I guess none of these things are likely to take over the world simply because we are so used to the form factor we have with one screen, one keyboard. But I think it’s really nice to see there is still some innovation in what is a really traditional form factor that’s been around 30 years or longer. So I liked to see that as well.

SEE: The weird, the wacky and the marvelous at CES 2021 (TechRepublic)

And as Teena said, the robots is always good fun to look at some robots and for once they might actually have some actual uses this time in terms of healthcare and that kind of thing. So yeah, I think actually, I’m surprised by the levels of interest and innovation we saw and I think that’s a really good sign for the industry.

All-digital CES 2021 had its advantages

Karen Roby: Yeah, definitely, Steve. I agree with you. And especially with the sleep tech, interesting to see what we can learn that otherwise we’d have no idea about. And Bill, one of the things that’s been great about CES being virtual is that more people will have access to the information, otherwise that people can’t get to Vegas or don’t feel like they’re part of the show, but that was a big difference this year.

Bill Detwiler: Yeah, it is. And we’ve seen that with other events that have gone virtual in the wake of the COVID pandemic, is that it has enabled more people to participate, which is a good thing because, for the industry, for just society, for closing that technology gap and the only thing that I hope we see more in the future as we go back to the new normal of in-person events mixed with a digital event. Because let’s remember, most of these events always had a digital component. It’s just that it wasn’t the focus. Going forward now in the new normal, when we go back to in-person events, that there is a greater emphasis on the digital portion of the event and in allowing people to continue to participate, that maybe just can’t be there physically.

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This was an interesting CES. Microsoft partnered with CTA to really sort of bring the virtual side of things to life. Microsoft has been on and off at CES, and this was a chance to showcase what they can do in that realm. Whereas maybe Microsoft competitors, Amazon through its home and consumer electronics brands and Google through its consumer electronics brands have been there in the past and Microsoft sometimes has been there and then has not been there. But this was really interesting to see the technology that they used to pull it off. And I think they did a pretty good job. I’ve been going for many, many years, and I will say that this definitely felt like more of a fire hose of information coming at you. There were a lot of products being released simultaneously. You had competing events happening at the same time or during the same week. So I think there’s a little more work to do around that for future shows, but all in all, I think it was a really solid virtual CES.

CES is a showcase for enterprise, as much as consumer, tech

Karen Roby: Yeah. Most definitely. I think that it will be interesting, like you said, to see how this year influences next year when assuming, we’re back in person.

CES 2021 must-read coverage

Bill Detwiler: Yeah. And one of the things I thought was really interesting. Before we did this call this morning, I went back and I was looking at some old footage of CES from actually 1991. So 30 years ago. It was some footage from a show that I used to watch back here in the US on Public Television. There was show called The Computer Chronicles, which was all about the early days of computer technology in the eighties. And they were interviewing several people at CES. It was still in Vegas. This time they split it up. They actually had a summer and a winter CES. And of course, the big computer show at the time was COMDEX, which isn’t really around anymore like it was back then. And so they were interviewing Nolan Bushnell, who was co-founder of Atari, creator of Pong, and it was interesting to me that he was really talking about the merging of computers or computer circuits and chips at the time, with consumer electronics, because, up until then, consumer electronics were really about car alarms, cell phones.

They weren’t seen as computing devices. And in that transition from the late eighties into the nineties, you started to see people just thinking about electronics and consumer electronics as functional devices, tools that served a purpose. You could embed smarts into them and make them better products that helped people in their lives. And now we’re seeing the same trends, 30 years later, the same discussions. I know we talked about it earlier this week. You’re seeing that, except it’s not silicon that we’re talking about. Although we talk about that a little bit with miniaturization and power, low power chips, things like that, that allow us to put computers into your toaster. But they’re talking about the cloud now. We’re talking about 5G. We’re talking about enabling these technologies, these underlying enterprise technologies that put the smarts in all these smart gadgets that we have around our house that are being shown off at CES.

Karen Roby: Yeah. It’s always interesting and fun to look back on YouTube. It’s crazy when you look back at that old video and the quality of it and things like that. But man, we’ve definitely come a long way. And one thing too guys, before we jump off here, I think one thing that really raised some eyebrows is the president of Microsoft, Brad Smith coming on and talking about tech and how the industry has to remember ethics, improve in ethics, and that tech must be used for good. And in light of everything going on in the world, very poignant time for him to be speaking.

Bill Detwiler: Yeah. I think that is something that people sometimes don’t think about with technology, but tech is a tool like anything else. It’s either a benefit or a hazard.

Karen Roby: Yeah. Most definitely. All right. Well, we have got loads of coverage for you on ZDNet and Tech Republic from everything CES 2021. We hope you’ll check it out there. Thanks for being with us here today.

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Glimpse of a blazar in the early universe

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The supersharp radio “vision” of the U.S. National Science Foundation‘s Very Long Baseline Array has revealed previously unseen details in a jet of material ejected at three-quarters the speed of light from the core of a galaxy some 12.8 billion light-years from Earth.

Glimpse of a blazar in the early universe

A blazar with its jet pointed toward Earth, the brightest radio-emitting blazar yet seen at such a distance. Image credit: Spingola et al.; Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

The galaxy, dubbed PSO J0309+27, is a blazar, with its jet pointed toward Earth. A blazar is a feeding supermassive black hole in the heart of a distant galaxy that produces a high-energy jet viewed face-on from Earth. PSO J0309+27 is the brightest radio-emitting blazar yet seen at such a distance; it’s also the second-brightest X-ray emitting blazar at such a distance.

PSO J0309+27 is viewed as it was when the universe was less than a billion years old, or just over 7% of its current age.

In this image, the brightest radio emission comes from the galaxy’s core, at the bottom right. The jet is propelled by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole at the core and moves outward, toward the upper left. The jet seen here extends some 1,600 light-years and shows structure within it.

An international team of astronomers observed the galaxy in April and May of 2020. The researchers report their results in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

“This research is important for understanding jets launched by feeding supermassive black holes,” says Joseph Pesce, a program director in NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences. “The observation allows for a more detailed assessment of differences between objects that are large distances from Earth (and in the early universe) and those relatively closer to Earth.”

Source: NSF




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