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More Than 1 Billion People Expected To Be Using 5G By Year's End

More than 1 billion people will be connected to 5G by the end of 2022, according to the latest mobility report from Ericsson. CNET reports: Between July and September of this year, 5G added 110 million subscribers around the world, upping the total count to 870 million, said the report, released Wednesday. That's almost double the number of 5G subscribers there were by the end of 2021, which the Swedish telecommunications equipment maker estimated to be 580 million. If 5G users hit the 1 billion this year, that means fifth-generation networks will have hit the nine-figure subscriber mark two years faster than 4G did, said Ericsson, confirming that 5G is so far the "fastest-scaling mobile connectivity generation." 4G subscriptions are still growing as well, with 41 million subscribers added between July and September. It's anticipated they will peak at 5.2 billion by the end of the year, and mobile subscriptions overall are forecast to exceed 8.4 billion. By 2028, 5G is expected to reach 5 billion subscriptions globally and make up 55% of all network subscriptions, according to the report. Overall mobile subscriptions in 2028 are expected to be more than 9.2 billion.

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Neuralink Expects Human Trials Within Six Months

Andrew Tarantola writes via Engadget: It's been six years since Tesla, SpaceX (and now Twitter) CEO Elon Musk co-founded brain-control interfaces (BCI) startup, Neuralink. It's been three years since the company first demonstrated its "sewing machine-like" implantation robot, two years since the company stuck its technology into the heads of pigs -- and just over 19 months since they did the same to primates, an effort that allegedly killed 15 out of 23 test subjects. After a month-long delay in October, Neuralink held its third "show and tell" event on Wednesday where CEO Elon Musk announced, "we think probably in about six months, we should be able to have a Neuralink installed in a human." Neuralink has seen tumultuous times in the previous April 2021 status update: The company's co-founder, Max Hodak, quietly quit just after that event, though he said was still a "huge cheerleader" for Neuralink's success. That show of confidence was subsequently shattered this past August after Musk reportedly approached Neuralink's main rival, Synchron, as an investment opportunity. Earlier in February, Neuralink confirmed that monkeys had died during prototype testing of its BCI implants at the University of California, Davis Primate Center but rejected accusations by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine of animal cruelty. Musk responded indirectly to those charges on Wednesday. "Before we would even think of putting a device in an animal, we do everything possible we with rigorous benchtop testing, We're not cavalier about putting these devices into animals," he said. "We're extremely careful and we always want the device, whenever we do the implant -- whether into a sheep, pig or monkey -- to be confirmatory, not exploratory." Neuralink is still working towards gaining FDA approval for its implant, though the company was awarded the agency's Breakthrough Device Designation in July 2020. This program allows patients and caregivers more "timely access" to promising treatments and medical devices by fast tracking their development and regulatory testing. As of September, 2022 the FDA has granted that designation to 728 medical devices. The FDA has also updated its best practices guidance regarding clinical and nonclinical BCI testing in 2021. "The field of implanted BCI devices is progressing rapidly from fundamental neuroscience discoveries to translational applications and market access," the agency asserted in its May guidance. "Implanted BCI devices have the potential to bring benefit to people with severe disabilities by increasing their ability to interact with their environment, and consequently, providing new independence in daily life."

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Scientists Build 'Baby' Wormhole

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Scientists have long pursued a deeper understanding of wormholes and now appear to be making progress. Researchers announced on Wednesday that they forged two miniscule simulated black holes -- those extraordinarily dense celestial objects with gravity so powerful that not even light can escape -- in a quantum computer and transmitted a message between them through what amounted to a tunnel in space-time. It was a "baby wormhole," according to Caltech physicist Maria Spiropulu, a co-author of the research published in the journal Nature. But scientists are a long way from being able to send people or other living beings through such a portal, she said. "Experimentally, for me, I will tell you that it's very, very far away. People come to me and they ask me, 'Can you put your dog in the wormhole?' So, no," Spiropulu told reporters during a video briefing. "...That's a huge leap." [...] Spiropulu said the researchers found a quantum system that exhibits key properties of a gravitational wormhole but was small enough to implement on existing quantum hardware. The researchers said no rupture of space and time was created in physical space in the experiment, though a traversable wormhole appeared to have emerged based on quantum information teleported using quantum codes on the quantum processor. "There's a difference between something being possible in principle and possible in reality," added physicist and study co-author Joseph Lykken of Fermilab, America's particle physics and accelerator laboratory. "So don't hold your breath about sending your dog through the wormhole. But you have to start somewhere. And I think to me it's just exciting that we're able to get our hands on this at all." "It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck. So that's what we can say at this point -- that we have something that in terms of the properties we look at, it looks like a wormhole," Lykken said.

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Cocaine Synthesized In a Tobacco Plant

Longtime Slashdot reader Amiga Trombone shares a report from Phys.Org: A team of researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, working with a colleague from Syngenta Jealott's Hill International Research Centre in the U.K., has developed a way to synthesize cocaine using a tobacco plant. The group describes how they synthesized the notorious drug and possible uses for their process in their paper published in Journal of the American Chemical Society. In studying the coca plant, the researchers discovered that the cocaine that winds up in its leaves is not produced by elements in the plant converting 4-(1-methyl-2-pyrrolidinyl)-3-oxobutanoic acid to hyoscyamine, as has been thought. They found that it is instead produced by the two enzymes, EnMT4 and EnCYP81AN15. To prove their discovery, the group genetically engineered a tobacco plant to produce the two enzymes in its leaves, which resulted in the production of small amounts of cocaine (with assistance from a substance also produced in the plant called ornithine, which is similar to the precursor in the coca plant). [...] Not mentioned in the paper is the possibility of synthesizing the two enzymes produced by both the coca and engineered tobacco plant as a more direct way to synthesize cocaine.

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EU Unveils Plans To Cut Europe's Plastic and Packaging Waste

The EU executive wants to ban mini-shampoo bottles in hotels and the use of throwaway cups in cafes and restaurants, as part of sweeping legal proposals to curb Europe's mountains of waste. The Guardian reports: A draft EU regulation published on Wednesday also proposes mandatory deposit and return schemes for single-use plastic drinks bottles and metal cans, as well as an end to e-commerce firms wrapping small items in huge boxes. The new rules, which will have to be approved by EU member states and the European parliament, are intended to tackle the surge in plastic and other packaging waste. EU officials estimate that 40% of new plastics and 50% of paper are used in packaging, making the sector a vast consumer of virgin materials. The EU passed a law in 2019 to ban the most common single-use plastic items, such as plastic cutlery, stirrers and straws, but officials want to go further to tackle soaring amounts of packaging rubbish. The average European is thought to generate 180kg of packaging waste each year, which could rise by 19% by 2030, without action. Under the latest proposals, EU member states would have to reduce packaging waste per capita by 15% by 2040 compared with 2018. Officials think this could be achieved by more reuse and refilling, as well as tighter controls on packaging. For example, e-commerce retailers would have to ensure that empty space in a box is a maximum 40% in relation to the product. The commission also hopes to end confusion about recycling: it proposes harmonized labels, probably pictograms, to make it clear to consumers which bin to use. In a separate law, the commission seeks to ensure that products claiming to be "biobased," "biodegradable" or "compostable" meet minimum standards. In an attempt to clamp down on greenwashing, consumers would be able to tell how long it takes an item to biodegrade, how much biomass was used in its production and whether it is really suitable for home composting.

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Judge Approves Apple's Massive MacBook Keyboard Lawsuit Payout

A California federal judge has given preliminary approval to Apple's plan to pay $50 million to settle a long-running class-action lawsuit over the faulty MacBook butterfly keyboard. MacTrast reports: Law360 says the payment will include $13.6 million in attorney fees, up to $2 million in litigation costs, and $1.4 million in settlement administration costs, with the rest distributed to class members. The lawsuit covers customers in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, who complained that Apple knew of and concealed the fact that its 2015 and later MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro machines were equipped with "butterfly" keyboards that were prone to failure, and that its repair program for the keyboard was insufficient, as the replacement keyboards could also fail. [...] Apple initially agreed to the settlement in July 2022. Customers in the above-mentioned states are expected to receive maximum payouts of $395 to customers who replaced multiple keyboards, $125 to people who replaced one keyboard, and $50 to people who replaced keycaps. Mac owners who received butterfly keyboard replacements will begin receiving class notices later in December.

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OpenStack Cloud Sees Explosive Growth

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: One bit of accepted wisdom in some cloud circles is that OpenStack, the open-source Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud, is declining. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's alive, well, and growing like crazy. According to the 2022 OpenStack User Survey, OpenStack now has over 40 million production cores. Or, in other words, it's seen 60% growth since 2021 and a 166% jump since 2020. Not bad for a so-called also-run, eh? It's not just telecoms, where OpenStack has become the backbone of major cell companies such as China Mobile and Verizon. Nor is it just other major companies such as the Japanese instant messaging service LINE, the on-demand, cloud-based financial management service company Workday, Walmart Labs, and Yahoo. No, many other, much smaller companies have also staked their cloud future on OpenStack. Why? There are many reasons. As Jonathan Bryce, executive director of the Open Infrastructure Foundation (OpenInfra Foundation), OpenStack's parent organization, said, "OpenStack supports the ever-changing world of infrastructure where now we have GPUs, FPGAs, smart NICs, and smart storage. At the same time, you can still get direct access to the underlying hardware." This, in turn, enables "OpenStack users to create such amazing things as telecom cloud workloads on the cloud that can do edge transcoding video. With this, people can watch 4K videos on their phones using 5G." Another reason for OpenStack's growing popularity is its Kubernetes integration. Thanks to Linux OpenStack Kubernetes Infrastructure (LOKI), Kubernetes is now deployed on over 85% of OpenStack deployments. In addition, Magnum, the OpenStack container orchestration service, is also gaining popularity. 21% of users are now running production workloads with it. [...] Kubernetes is also very useful with hybrid clouds. OpenStack is often used in hybrid clouds. Indeed, 80% of OpenStack users are deploying it in hybrid clouds. To make it easier to build out hybrid clouds, operators are turning to Octavia, an open-source, operator-scale load-balancing program. Today, not quite 50% of OpenStack deployments are using Octavia. OpenInfra Foundation's general manager Thierry Carrez said: "Hype is nice, but substance lasts, and as OpenStack deployments continue to grow in staggering numbers, the OpenStack community is proving that it's not only alive and well, but also delivering indisputable value to organizations."

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Zuckerberg Says Apple's Policies Not 'Sustainable'

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday added to the growing chorus of concerns about Apple, arguing that it's "problematic that one company controls what happens on the device." Axios reports: "I think the problem is that you get into it with the platform control, is that Apple obviously has their own interests," Zuckerberg said at The New York Times' Dealbook conference. "[T]he fact that companies have to deliver their apps exclusively through platforms that are controlled by competitors -- there is a conflict of interest there," he said. That conflict of interest makes Apple "not just a kind of governor that is looking out for the best of people's interests." Zuckerberg also noted that Apple's policies differ from other tech giants, including Microsoft and Google, which allow apps to be sideloaded onto devices if they're inaccessible in app stores. "I do think Apple has sort of singled themselves out as the only company that is trying to control, unilaterally, what apps get on the device and I don't think that's a sustainable or a good place to be." Changes to Apple's app tracking policies last year are expected to cost Meta billions of dollars in lost ad revenue. Zuckerberg's comments come days after Musk publicly attacked Apple, alleging the company's app store policies are an abuse of power. Asked about Musk's content moderation decisions, Zuckerberg didn't go as far as to endorse his strategy, but said, "I kind of think the world in the industry gets more interesting when people take some different approaches." "[Y[ou can agree or disagree with what Elon is doing, or how he's doing it. But I do think it's going to be very interesting to see how this plays out in terms of the approaches he's taking." When asked about TikTok, Zuckerberg said it raises "a very complex set of questions" about the involvement of the Chinese state with TikTok's affairs. "I'm sure it's complicated." Further reading: Mark Zuckerberg Still 'Long-Term Optimistic' on Metaverse, Says Skepticism Doesn't Bother Him Too Much

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Google Stadia Hardware Refunds Will Be Issued Within Two Weeks

Google will be issuing refunds for Stadia hardware purchased from the Google Store within two weeks, according to an email sent to customers on Wednesday. The Verge reports: That means the refunds should arrive well ahead of the cloud gaming service's impending January 18th shutdown. Purchases of the Stadia controller, the Founder's Edition, the Premiere Edition, and Play and Watch with Google TV packages are all eligible for refunds, according to Google's Stadia shutdown FAQ. At the time of the shutdown announcement, Google committed to refunding hardware and software purchases, and it began software refunds earlier this month. Once your hardware refund has been issued, you'll get an email confirmation, Google said in Wednesday's email. Google expects the "majority" of Stadia refunds to be processed by the January 18th shutdown date.

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US Cable TV Companies Quietly Bled Another 785,000 Paying Customers Last Quarter

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: The "cord cutting" phenomenon the cable and broadcast sector long denied or downplayed simply shows no sign of slowing down. According to the latest data by Leichtman Research, the top U.S. pay TV companies lost another 785,000 subscribers last quarter as younger Americans continue to shift to streaming video, over the air antennas, or free services like TikTok and YouTube. While alternative pay TV services (streaming on demand and live streaming) services saw a 701,000 subscriber jump during the third quarter, traditional cable companies lost an estimated 981,674 subscribers depart for greener pastures. Phone companies (AT&T, Verizon) and traditional satellite TV companies (DirecTV, Dish) lost 701,000 paying subscribers during the quarter. Leichtman's analysis never really answers why consumers continue to flee traditional cable (high prices, bloated channel bundles, bullshit fees, comically terrible customer service), instead only focusing on the fact that this was the third best quarter for streaming services in history: "Spurred by a strong quarter from Internet-delivered vMVPD services, pay-TV net losses of about 785,000 in 3Q 2022 were more modest than in the first two quarters of the year," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. "Not including YouTube TV, which does not regularly report subscriber totals, vMVPDs had nearly 900,000 net additions in the quarter. This was the third most quarterly net adds ever for the top publicly reporting vMVPD services."

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OnePlus Beats Google With Four Years of Major OS Updates

Android OEMs still don't provide the six years of updates you get with Apple phones, but some manufacturers are trying to close that gap. From a report: OnePlus is adding an extra year to its smartphone update promise and is now offering four years of major OS updates and five years of security updates. Timeline-wise, this plan matches Samsung's, though Samsung offers monthly security updates and OnePlus doesn't. The company is still only promising security updates every other month, so it can't do too much bragging. Android-maker Google -- who you'd think would have the best update plan -- is in a distant third, with only three years of OS updates and five years of security updates.

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UK Internet Watchdog Increasingly Led by Ex-Big Tech Executives

UK's Ofcom hired former Google executive Gill Whitehead to head up a team regulating search engines and social media firms, the latest in a string of Silicon Valley appointments as the watchdog prepares to impose sweeping new online safety laws. From a report: Whitehead, formerly Google's senior director of client solutions and analytics, will work alongside Ofcom Chief Technology Officer Sachin Jogia and online safety lead Jessica Zucker. Jogia and Zucker were was previously executives at Amazon.com and Meta Platforms respectively. Ofcom's top hires over the past 18 months underscore a pivot in its role from an auditor of the airwaves and postal service to one increasingly concerned with the internet and Big Tech.

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Telegram Shares Users Data in Copyright Violation Lawsuit

Telegram has disclosed names of administrators, their phone numbers and IP addresses of channels accused of copyright infringement in compliance with a court order in India in a remarkable illustration of the data the instant messaging platform stores on its users and can be made to disclose by authorities. From a report: The app operator was forced by a Delhi High Court order to shared the data after a teacher sued the firm for not doing enough to prevent unauthorised distribution of her course material on the platform. Neetu Singh, the plaintiff teacher, said a number of Telegram channels were re-selling her study materials without permission at discounted prices. An Indian court earlier had ordered Telegram to adhere to the Indian law and disclose details about those operating such channels. Telegram unsuccessfully argued that disclosing user information would violate the privacy policy and the laws of Singapore, where it has located its physical servers for storing users data. In response, the Indian court said the copyright owners couldn't be left "completely remediless against the actual infringers" because Telegram has chosen to locate its servers outside the country. In an order last week, Justice Prathiba Singh said Telegram had complied with the earlier order and shared the data.

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Mark Zuckerberg Still 'Long-Term Optimistic' on Metaverse, Says Skepticism Doesn't Bother Him Too Much

Meta founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he was still optimistic about the metaverse on a longer, "five-to-ten-year horizon" at the New York Times Dealbook Summit in New York City on Wednesday. From a report: "The way we communicate gets richer and more immersive," Zuckerberg said via a virtual interview, doubling down on his company's bet on a virtual and augmented reality-dominated future. The company has come under criticism for generating billions of dollars of losses as it builds out its version of the metaverse. However, Zuckerberg admitted that Meta would need to operate with "more efficiency and discipline" in the near term as macroeconomic woes have forced the company to scale back on spending. [...] The billionaire CEO said he's unfazed by critics of his company's bet on the metaverse, saying a lack of pushback typically means an idea is not ambitious enough. "Skepticism doesn't bother me too much," Zuckerberg said. "We've had doubters the whole time."

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Autonomous Trucking Software Upstart Embark Has Quietly Gone From $5B+ To Basically Worthless

Out of all the beaten-down public companies in the autonomous driving space, Embark Technology stands out as a conspicuously terrible stock market performer. From a report: The San Francisco-headquartered company, which develops autonomous driving technology for the trucking industry, has presided over a roughly 98% share price decline since going public a year ago. In the process, it's wiped out close to $5 billion in market capitalization. Today, Embark and a few others that carried out SPAC mergers are in that weird category of companies trading below the value of cash reserves. In Embark's case, the company's recent market capitalization of $110 million is actually quite a bit lower than the $191 million cash it had at the end of Q3. In other words, investors seem to think it's worth less than nothing. What happened? What's noteworthy in Embark's case, as opposed to some other venture-backed companies that crashed so mightily, is there's no high-profile scandal. There was also no giant earnings miss, as it's a pre-revenue company. Rather, a mix of factors seem to have contributed to its fall, including apparent initial overvaluation, a sectorwide downturn and a critical report from a prolific short-seller. Collectively, those factors have contributed to erasing billions in valuation from a company that once secured backing from the most famous names in venture.

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