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    Is the software world taking too much from the open source community? / ArsTechnica – Yesterday - 11:30

Stock photos continue to be a gift to the world. Maybe it

Enlarge / Stock photos continue to be a gift to the world. Maybe it's sometimes on par with open-source software. (credit: cnythzl / Getty Images)

Free and open source software enables the world as we know it in 2019. From Web servers to kiosks to the big data algorithms mining your Facebook feed, nearly every computer system you interact with runs, at least in part, on free software. And in the larger tech industry, free software has given rise to a galaxy of startups and enabled the largest software acquisition in the history of the world.

Free software is a gift, a gift that made the world as we know it possible. And from the start, it seemed like an astounding gift to give. So astounding in fact that it initially made businesses unaccustomed to this kind of generosity uncomfortable. These companies weren't unwilling to use free software , it was simply too radical and by extension too political. It had to be renamed: "open source."

Once that happened, open source software took over the world.

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    I watched over 100 Tesla Smart Summon videos—here’s what I learned / ArsTechnica – 3 days ago - 12:00

I watched over 100 Tesla Smart Summon videos—here’s what I learned

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson)

In late September, Tesla released a major software update that included a new feature called Smart Summon. It enables a customer to summon their car from across a parking lot with no one inside—though the owner is expected to continuously monitor the car from outside.

People immediately started testing the feature and documenting their experiences on social media. Over the last few weeks I've watched more than 100 YouTube videos of people testing out Smart Summon. I've also read dozens of comments on Twitter, Reddit, and Tesla forums discussing the new feature.

Smart Summon worked well enough for most owners, but a fair number of them experienced problems. Take well-known YouTuber Judner Aura, for example. He had his cousin walk in front of his Tesla car as it turned out of a parking spot. The car got uncomfortably close to his cousin before Aura halted the test.

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    iPadOS review: The iPad is dead, long live the iPad / ArsTechnica – 6 days ago - 20:30


Enlarge / iPadOS.

When we reviewed the 2018 iPad Pro , we were impressed by the power and potential of the hardware, but iOS 12 wasn’t up to the task of making the iPad a true content creation machine or a daily workhorse. We said it was time for Apple to branch out from iOS 13 with an iPad-specific operating system.

Just one year later, that’s exactly what Apple has done with iPadOS, which launched for modern iPads a few days after iOS 13 hit the iPhone and iPod touch. While iPadOS does not actually signify that big of a change under the hood, its new nomenclature is a statement of intent by Apple. This release takes strides toward making the machine more useful for power users who want to do more than just browse the Web, play games, watch videos, and write an email or two.

So as we've tinkered with iPadOS recently and analyzed the changes Apple made, we revisited the question we answered with a negative last year: is the iPad ready to replace your laptop?

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    As NASA tries to land on the Moon, it has plenty of rockets to choose from / ArsTechnica – 7 days ago - 11:40

If you want to buy a commercial SLS launch, you also need to rent the mobile launcher from NASA.

Enlarge / If you want to buy a commercial SLS launch, you also need to rent the mobile launcher from NASA. (credit: NASA)

Last week, NASA held an "industry day" for companies hoping to win lunar lander contracts from the government as part of its Artemis program. During the teleconference, industry officials could ask questions about NASA's plans for how best to get astronauts from an orbit around the Moon, down to the surface, and safely back.

After Vice President Mike Pence established the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024, NASA officials have been working overtime throughout the last six months to put together mission plans and architectures to meet this deadline. The effort culminated in the release last week of a solicitation that asks industry for designs of a human landing system.

There is a lot to digest in this document, which contains three-dozen attachments and several amendments. And industry officials must respond quickly, with a Nov. 1 deadline to return proposals. After reviewing the submissions, NASA will award two or more contracts that will allow firms to move into the final design and development of Artemis Program lunar landers. The agency would like to have two different designs move forward toward completion, believing that competition will result in faster, better hardware. But this may not be possible due to uncertain funding from Congress.

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    macOS 10.15 Catalina: The Ars Technica review / ArsTechnica – Monday, 7 October - 17:00

No operating system is an island, but macOS Catalina is named after one.

Enlarge / No operating system is an island, but macOS Catalina is named after one. (credit: Apple)

Ever since the iPhone came out in 2007 and almost instantaneously overshadowed the Mac, both in terms of sales and development resources , Apple has been making the Mac a bit more like the iPhone. Sure, a few features have moved the other way—the iPad has gradually gotten a bit more Mac-like as it has become powerful enough to do Mac-like things—but a big piece of every macOS release this decade has been " here's all the stuff Apple brought over from iOS this year."

Catalina moves macOS further and more decisively in the direction of iOS than ever; for the first time, third-party code written for iOS and iPadOS can run on the Mac with relatively few changes. At the same time, Apple remains adamant that the Mac and iOS/iPadOS are separate platforms that differ in ways that go beyond the underlying processor architecture or the primary input mechanism.

Catalina also draws clearer lines between the two platforms than we've gotten before. Apple has both said and done things that only make sense if the Mac will still be able to run whatever code you want for the foreseeable future, even as the default settings and security mechanisms become more locked-down and iOS-y. The overwhelming success of the iPhone indicates that most people are fine with Apple's restrictions most of the time. But the slew of new desktop hardware we've gotten in the last couple of years suggests that Apple understands that a valuable, vocal chunk of the Mac user base (and the developers who drive the iPhone's and iPad's success) still wants powerful hardware that runs more flexible software.

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    How Tesla became one of the Internet’s most polarizing companies / ArsTechnica – Saturday, 5 October - 12:30

How Tesla became one of the Internet’s most polarizing companies

Enlarge (credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images/Aurich Lawson)

Journalist Ed Niedermeyer remembers the exact moment he became a Tesla skeptic: Memorial Day weekend 2015. That's when Niedermeyer traveled to the Tesla Supercharger facility in Harris Ranch, California to see Tesla's first (and, it turned out, only) battery-swap facility.

At a live demo two years earlier, Tesla CEO Elon Musk had shown a Model S getting a replacement battery pack in 90 seconds—compared with four minutes to refuel a conventional car. Now that the technology was available to the public, Niedermeyer wanted to see it in action.

"I was down there three or four days," Niedermeyer told Ars recently. "There was a ton of traffic and a ton of lines for the Superchargers." Some people faced multi-hour waits. Tesla brought in spare Superchargers powered by diesel generators to speed things along. But the battery-swap facility stayed closed.

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    Plate tectonics runs deeper than we thought / ArsTechnica – Thursday, 3 October - 12:00

Þingvellir or Thingvellir, is a national park in southwestern Iceland, about 40 km northeast of Iceland

Enlarge / Þingvellir or Thingvellir, is a national park in southwestern Iceland, about 40 km northeast of Iceland's capital, Reykjavík. It's a site of geological significance, as the visuals may indicate. (credit: Ray Wise/Getty Images)

It’s right there in the name: “plate tectonics.” Geology’s organizing theory hinges on plates—thin, interlocking pieces of Earth’s rocky skin. Plates’ movements explain earthquakes, volcanoes, mountains, the formation of mineral resources, a habitable climate , and much else. They’re part of the engine that drags carbon from the atmosphere down into Earth’s mantle, preventing a runaway greenhouse climate like Venus. Their recycling through the mantle helps to release heat from Earth’s liquid metal core, making it churn and generate a magnetic field to protect our atmosphere from erosion by the solar wind.

The name may not have changed, but today the theory is in the midst of an upgrade to include a deeper level—both in our understanding and in its depth in our planet. “There is a huge transformation,” says Thorsten Becker, the Distinguished Chair in Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin. “Where we say: ‘plate tectonics’ now, we might mean something that’s entirely different than the 1970s.”

Plate Tectonics emerged in the late1960s when geologists realized that plates move on Earth’s surface at fingernail-growth speeds side-swipe each other at some places (like California) and converge at others (like Japan). When they converge, one plate plunges down into Earth’s mantle under the other plate, but what happened to it deeper in the mantle remained a mystery for most of the 20th century. Like an ancient map labeled “ here be dragons ,” knowledge of the mantle remained skin-deep except for its major boundaries.

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    Vivaldi Mobile review: Can everyone’s favorite power browser work on phones? / ArsTechnica – Tuesday, 1 October - 11:30

Vivaldi—makers of the power user's favorite Web browser —has finally released a mobile version. Vivaldi for Android (sorry iOS users, it's Android-only for now) brings most of what's great about Vivaldi to your phone, and thanks to Vivaldi's sync service, you can even have all your desktop data on your mobile device.

Web browsers are perhaps the most important piece of software we use in 2019. Our devices are often little more than small windows onto the Web, and the browser is what we use to see and explore what's in that window. For all its importance though, the modern browser, especially the mobile Web browser, offers precious little in the way of features. It displays the Web and... that's about it. Want to interact with what you see? You're mostly out of luck.

Most people probably like their browser this way. Google, maker of the most widely used mobile browser, rarely does anything without extensive user testing. If Chrome is minimalist, it's safe to assume it's that way because Google has determined that's what its users want. And since most other browsers copy whatever Google Chrome does, most mobile Web browsers end up as minimalistic pieces of software.

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