Oggi e' 13.12.2019
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  • Crows Could Be the Smartest Animal Other Than Primates
    In a piece for the BBC, Chris Baraniuk writes about how the intelligence of New Caledonian crows may be far more advanced than we ever thought possible. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: Intelligence is rooted in the brain. Clever primates -- including humans -- have a particular structure in their brains called the neocortex. It is thought that this helps to make advanced cognition possible. Corvids, notably, do not have this structure. [New Caledonian crows belong to the corvid family of birds -- as do jackdaws, rooks, jays, magpies and ravens.] They have instead evolved densely packed clusters of neurons that afford them similar mental prowess. The specific kind of brain they have doesn't really matter -- corvids and primates share some of the same basic capabilities in terms of problem-solving and plasticity, or being able to adapt and change in the face of new information and experiences. This is an example of convergent evolution, where completely different evolutionary histories have led to the same feature or behavior. It's easy for humans to see why the things corvids can do are useful. From identifying people who have previously posed a threat to them or others in their group to using gestures for communication -- we too rely on abilities like these. [Christian Rutz at the University of St Andrews] is unequivocal. Some birds, like the New Caledonian crows he studies -- can do remarkable things. In a paper published earlier this year, he and his co-authors described how New Caledonians seek out a specific type of plant stem from which to make their hooked tools. Experiments showed that crows found the stems they desired even when they had been disguised with leaves from a different plant species. This suggested that the birds were selecting a kind of material for their tools that they knew was just right for the job. You wouldn't use a spanner to hammer in a nail, would you? Ranking the intelligence of animals seems an increasingly pointless exercise when one considers the really important thing: how well that animal is adapted to its niche. In the wild, New Caledonians use their tools to scoop insects out of holes, for example in tree trunks. Footage of this behavior has been caught on camera. You might think that some animals are smarter than others -- with humans at the top of the proverbial tree. Certainly, humans do rely excessively on intelligence to get by. But that doesn't mean we're the best at every mental task. Chimps, notes Dakota McCoy at Harvard University, have been shown to possess better short-term memories than humans. This might help them to memorize where food is located in the forest canopy, for example. Ranking the intelligence of animals seems an increasingly pointless exercise when one considers the really important thing: how well that animal is adapted to its niche. Intelligence is, first and foremost, a means towards specialization. "New Caledonian crows, like us and other clever animals, have moods and memories. Strategies and expectations. They seem remarkably able to engage with complexity," writes Baraniuk in closing. "Evolution made this possible. But cognition, like life itself, serves more than just a need. Animal intelligence allows all sorts of fascinating phenomena to arise. [...] Nature provided the notes, but animal brains make the music. The mind, as they say, is the only limit."

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  • Microsoft's Next Xbox Is Xbox Series X, Coming Holiday 2020
    At the 2019 Game Awards today, Microsoft revealed the name and console design of its next-generation gaming console: Xbox Series X. The Verge reports: The console itself looks far more like a PC than we've seen from previous Xbox consoles, and Microsoft's trailer provides a brief glimpse at the new design. The console itself is designed to be used in both vertical and horizontal orientations, and Microsoft's Xbox chief, Phil Spencer, promises that it will "deliver four times the processing power of Xbox One X in the most quiet and efficient way." The Xbox Series X will include a custom-designed CPU based on AMD's Zen 2 and Radeon RDNA architecture. Microsoft is also using an SSD on Xbox Series X, which promises to boost load times. Xbox Series X will also support 8K gaming, frame rates of up to 120 fps in games, ray tracing, and variable refresh rate support. Microsoft also revealed a new Xbox Wireless Controller today. "Its size and shape have been refined to accommodate an even wider range of people, and it also features a new Share button to make capturing screenshots and game clips simple," explains Spencer. This updated controller will work with existing Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs, and will ship with every Xbox Series X.

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  • Lawsuit Forces CenturyLink To Stop Charging 'Internet Cost Recovery Fee'
    CenturyLink has agreed to pay a $6.1 million penalty after Washington state regulators found that the company failed to disclose fees that raised actual prices well above the advertised rates. CenturyLink must also stop charging a so-called "Internet Cost Recovery Fee" in the state, although customers may end up paying the fee until their contracts expire unless they take action to switch plans. Ars Technica reports: "CenturyLink deceived consumers by telling them they would pay one price and then charging them more," Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in an announcement yesterday. "Companies must clearly disclose all added fees and charges to Washingtonians." Ferguson encouraged Washington residents "who believe they have received bills that include undisclosed fees to file a complaint" with the state. Ferguson's office said it began investigating CenturyLink in 2016 "after receiving complaints from consumers that their actual bills were more than the advertised price, or the price that they were promised by sales representatives." Here's what Ferguson's office found: "There were three main fees CenturyLink did not disclose: a broadcast fee of $2.49 per month, a sports fee of $2.49 per month, and CenturyLink's 'Internet Cost Recovery Fee,' ranging from $0.99 to $1.99 per month. CenturyLink charged its Internet Cost Recovery Fee to 650,000 Washingtonians. Of those, another 60,000 were also charged the broadcast and sports fees. These fees alone added up to $7 per month to a television subscriber's bill -- $84 per year. The investigation found that CenturyLink did not adequately disclose additional taxes and fees for its cable, Internet and telephone services." CenturyLink admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to a financial settlement and changes in business practices as part of a consent decree filed in King County Superior Court on Monday. The attorney general's office detailed its allegations in a lawsuit filed the same day.

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  • Less Than 10 Percent of Americans Are Buying $1,000 Smartphones, Report Says
    According to a new report from research firm NPD, less than 10% of Americans are actually spending $1,000 or more on a smartphone. 9to5Google reports: The report was produced by research firm NPD and shows that while the media and brand focus is on the flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Galaxy S10, and iPhone 11 Pro, everyday Americans are less likely to spend their hard-earned dollars on these expensive trinkets. NPD does note in their report that this could be due to the rate of 5G adoption. Currently, 5G is in its early rollout stages in the U.S., with many regions simply not covered. 5G-enabled smartphones are thin on the ground and also come with the associated "early adopter" price-tags of well over $1000 in most cases -- although that isn't the case with products like the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren edition. Some buyers may simply be holding out until 5G becomes more affordable or viable before taking the plunge and opting for those $1000+ flagship smartphones. The report also highlights the significant difference in buying habits from region to region. NPD notes that those living in major cities such as Los Angeles and New York City are far more likely to spend over $1000 on a smartphone.

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  • Spin's San Francisco Staff Becomes First E-Scooter Workforce To Unionize
    The San Francisco workforce of Spin, the e-scooter company owned by Ford, have unionized, in a first for the industry. Mashable reports: Having voted to unionize on Dec. 5, the workers were authorized to join the Teamsters Local 665 chapter on Wednesday. As well as office-based staff, scooter rental companies largely rely on a workforce of independent contractors, i.e. gig workers, to charge, maintain, relocate, and check the 85,000 or so vehicles scattered in cities around the U.S. But Spin says its entire San Francisco workforce of 100 people is comprised of W2 employees, and this is "the model" for its 60-plus other markets. A Spin spokesperson told Mashable on Wednesday evening that the company would not be approaching the collective bargaining negotiations with an "adversarial" mindset, as it respects workers' right to unionize, and that the labor peace agreement the San Francisco office signed with the Teamsters earlier this year included a neutrality clause for that reason. "Spin has long differentiated itself with our workforce policies, choosing a W-2 model and local hiring over independent contractors and staffing agencies," the spokesperson said. "We believe investing in everyone from our headquarters to our warehouses leads to a safer, more reliable service." "We don't anticipate any changes to our work force from unionization."

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  • Cisco Outlines Silicon, Software Roadmap For Next Generation Internet
    An anonymous reader writes: Cisco on Wednesday outlined new details behind its strategy to build next-generation internet technology. As a set up for what it dubs its 'Internet for the Future' strategy, the networking giant announced a multi-year plan for building and investing in 5G internet technology, including silicon, optics and software. On the silicon side, Cisco announced Silicon One, a new switching and routing applications specific integrated circuit (ASIC) for the 5G internet era. The programmable networking chip is designed to provide significant improvements to performance, bandwidth, power efficiency, scalability and flexibility, according to Cisco. Cisco said the first first generation of the chip, Q100, surpassed the 10 Tbps routing milestone for network bandwidth. In addition to the silicon, Cisco also outlined its focus on the optics space. As port rates increase from 100G to 400G, optics become a larger portion of the cost to build and operate internet infrastructure. To account for that, Cisco said its qualification program tests its optics and non-Cisco optics to comply with industry standards, and invests organically to make sure that its router and switch ports rates continue to increase. Cisco also announced plans to offer flexible consumption models for Silicon One that were first established with its optics portfolio, followed by the disaggregation of the Cisco IOS XR7 software. The Silicon One architecture will integrate into its new 8000 series carrier class routers, which is powered by Cisco's new IOS XR7 operating system. The OS will provide faster download speeds and security improvements, Cisco said. According to the report, Cisco is currently working with Comcast and NTT Communications on ongoing deployments and trials of the 8000 series.

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  • Microsoft Reveals New Windows Logo, Office Icons
    Ammalgam shares a report from The Redmond Cloud: Microsoft is refreshing its Windows logo and the icons for many of the operating system's apps. While Microsoft already announced new icons for the Office suite, Microsoft is now redesigning more than 100 icons across the company with new colors, materials, and finishes. We can see a softer modernized design based on their Fluent Design set of principles. You can see the new Windows logo in the images here. This is all part of a bigger push to modernize Microsoft's software and services under the Fluent Design set of principles. These aren't huge changes but slight flourishes to existing icons to make them look congruent when viewed in a series or set. This also seems like part of an attempt to clean up inconsistent icons in the Microsoft Windows OS. Microsoft's icon work is gradual and will continue throughout 2020. Jon Friedman, corporate vice president of design and research at Microsoft, announced the changes in a Medium post.

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