NASA chooses the Jezero Crater as the landing site for its 2020 Mars rover mission

Forward-looking: While it remains to be seen whether or not humans will ever establish long-term colonies on Mars, that doesn’t mean organizations like NASA aren’t exploring the Red Planet. Today, the space agency published a blog post announcing that it has selected a landing zone for its upcoming 2020 rover mission.

The mission, scheduled to take place in July, will see NASA’s latest rover land in the Jezero Crater, a giant “impact basin” just north of Mars’ equator. The rover’s primary job is to scour the crater for rock and soil samples, which can eventually be sent back to Earth for analysis.

NASA says the purpose of this analysis is to answer “important questions” regarding Mars’ unique planetary evolution and astrobiology. Furthermore, it may give scientists some clues about the planet’s capacity to support life, due to Jezero Crater’s unique history – scientists believe the crater was once home to an “ancient lake-delta system.” With a little luck, NASA’s rover could obtain samples from rocks in the region that still retain “signatures of past life.”

Obviously, there’s no guarantee that any such findings will turn up, but from NASA’s point of view, it’s worth trying. If life ever existed (or still exists) on Mars, the Jezero Crater is simply the best place to start looking for proof of it – for now.

It’s also worth noting that, according to NASA, the Jezero Crater mission has been a long time coming; the location wasn’t picked at random.

“The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive,” NASA’s 2020 mission project scientist Ken Farley said in a statement. “But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies.”

We’ll probably be waiting quite some time for the mission’s results, but for now, cautious optimism might be warranted.

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TSMC to supply IBM with data center chips challenging Intel's dominance

Why it matters: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is set to sign a deal with IBM to produce mainframe server chips. As a big player in the global data center market, a contract to supply IBM could propel TSMC into a position to contend with Intel which currently owns the market.

The business machine giant designs its own server chips, which are presently produced by GlobalFoundries, so the change to a new supplier is a big blow for the rival manufacturer. According to sources with Nikkei, IBM looks to move to a smaller process for its next generation of mainframe servers, and Taiwan-based TSMC has the only 7nm technology available.

Currently, Intel controls 96 percent of the data center server market. It is working on a 10nm process that is expected to compete with TSMC’s slimmer wafers, but those chips have been delayed until some time in late 2019. In the meantime, IBM can start using a 7nm chip right away.

“We think Intel could gradually lose some market share … for its most lucrative data center server chip business,” said Trendforce analyst Liu Chia-hao.

As of its last earnings report, Intel receives about 50 percent of its operating revenue through its data center division. It reported revenues of $17.09 billion just in the first nine months of 2018. This chunk of the sector is made up of mostly Dell and HP servers with IBM in third place. Although it ships far fewer units than competitors, the IBM’s data servers are considered by some to be the “Rolls-Royces” of the market.

“Compared with ordinary enterprise servers that come with Intel’s X-86 chips, They are much more expensive than those products,” said Danny Kuo, an analyst with IDC. “The IBM sever core chips will be much more expensive as well.”

Banks and other companies use IBM setups ranging from $300,000 to $2 million. This higher-end clientele means TSMC will see greater profits producing custom chips for IBM. With recent shifts in the mobile market, including reduced production numbers from its main mobile client Apple, the company looks to other areas to hedge its numbers.

The Taiwan chip maker will not be knocking Intel off of its 96-percentage-point perch any time soon, but penning the deal with IBM could be a good start that is bound to bring immediate growth to the company.

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Confirmed: Season 4 of Telltale's 'The Walking Dead' game will be finished

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It’s official: Skybound Entertainment will release the final episodes in Season 4 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

Skybound, for those who don’t know, is the publishing label co-founded by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. The company’s been a longtime partner on Telltale’s series, and even formally announced an intention to finish the series after Telltale closed down in September.

The early October announcement noted that Skybound would endeavor to “work with members of the original Telltale team to finish the story in a way the fans deserve.” But the company shared no further details at the time, and all’s been quiet ever since.

Until now. Skybound confirmed its plans in a Monday post on the company’s website. There are still lots of questions to be answered — notably including which former members of Telltale are signed on for the gig — but it locks in what fans have wanted to hear: The final two episodes will see the light of day.

Here’s the full announcement:

Thank you for your patience while we worked with Telltale to take control of TELLTALE’S THE WALKING DEAD. It’s been a ton of work logistically and legally to get us to a place where we’re able to roll up our sleeves and get to the actual work. After Telltale shut its doors, the game was, unfortunately, unable to be worked on and hence the release dates of Episodes 3 and 4 have been delayed. But, we’re excited to let you know that many of the talented, passionate team members who originally worked on the game are resuming development efforts today!

Soon, we will be announcing release dates for the two remaining episodes. It’s likely that previous seasons of the game may be unavailable to purchase for a few days as we transition—but don’t panic!—we’ll have everything back online ASAP. If you already purchased Season Four, you will NOT have to pay again; future episodes will be available to download as soon as they are released via your original point of purchase.

Please continue to check back here on our Skybound site for future updates on the game!

A few things to note here.

That first line, about Skybound working with Telltale to “take control” of the series, is important. The now-shuttered company is in the process of liquidating its assets, as discovered on Nov. 14. So it’s probably more apt to call this series “Skybound’s The Walking Dead” now.

Less clear is who’s actually building these final episodes. Skybound’s announcement notes that “many of the talented, passionate team members who originally worked on the game are resuming development efforts.”

That’s great. Telltale’s closure was very sudden and the layoffs left this large group of people out of work and with no safety net. Of course there’s creative value in having that same team — or as much of them as possible, since some have since moved on to other jobs — finish what they started. But it’s also just the right thing to do.

Who is it though? Stories of poor working conditions at industry mainstays like Rockstar Games and Riot Games (Telltale too) blew up in 2018. Fans of video games are more interested than they’ve been before in the wellbeing of the people who make the games we play. So having more specifics on that would be great.

That’s not a knock on Skybound, to be clear. It’s clear the publisher is just getting started on this journey, and there’s a good chance that many of the specifics are still being ironed out. But across two announcements now, Skybound has emphasized its interest in working with the former Telltale team. Hopefully the next one goes further.

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Once popular tech stocks like Facebook and Apple are now getting crushed: Here's what happened

Technology stocks were hit hard on Monday, with some of the biggest U.S. companies leading losses across the sector.

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The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 3 percent as it continued a 6-week slide. The index was led lower by Facebook, Apple, and Nvidia.

Facebook’s stock hit its lowest level since February 2017 on Monday. Facebook is one pace to finish its third straight month in the red, which would be its longest monthly losing streak ever.

The social media giant’s shares fell more than 5 percent after The Wall Street Journal reported that CEO Mark Zuckerberg blamed second-in-command Sheryl Sandberg for the Cambridge Analytica scandal and its subsequent fallout. The WSJ’s report adds more fuel to criticism of Facebook’s handling of the scandal and whether the two top executives have been too slow to change its platform. The New York Times detailed last week how the company ignored and then tried to hide that Russia used the platform to disrupt the U.S. election in 2016.

Apple shares dropped 4 percent as the WSJ reported the Cupertino, California company has cut production for iPhones announced in 2018. Apple has slashed orders for the iPhone XR, XS and XS Max models, according to the report. The company’s stock fell back into a bear market, down 20 percent from its 52-week high.

Nvidia shares fell 11 percent, continuing a slide begun on Thursday. The company reported third-quarter results which missed revenue and guidance expectations. Nvidia “stock will likely not bounce back right away, given the severity of the miss,” Morgan Stanley said after the results. The chipmaker is also nursing a “crypto hangover,” CEO Jensen Huang said after the report, as gaming card demand has fallen off after bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies’ prices nosedived.

Bitcoin has suddenly come under pressure again, down 12 percent on Monday. The cryptocurrency has fallen more than 22 percent in the last seven days, after months of relatively calm trading. Bitcoin was worth nearly $20,000 near the end of last year before selling off, hitting a low of $4,891.24 on Monday.

Each of the five ‘FAANG’ stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet – slipped into a bear market during Monday trading. Wall Street defines a bear market as a fall of 20 percent or more from a stock’s 52-week high.

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Cloud stocks get hammered, with Salesforce suffering worst day since early 2016

The market sell-off is is crushing cloud stocks.

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Salesforce had its worst day since February 2016, plunging 8.7 percent on Monday to $121.01, leading a swoon in shares of companies that sell subscription software. Workday fell 7.6 percent, ServiceNow dropped 8.4 percent and Atlassian fell 8.7 percent.

A number of cloud stocks plummeted more than 10 percent, including Okta, Coupa, Everbridge, Five9, HubSpot, Shopify, Tableau, Twilio and Zendesk. The sector has been hot this year, spurred by big acquisitions, IPOs and a general shift in spending from desktop software to the cloud.

There was no obvious catalyst to Monday’s slide, with earnings season behind us and businesses thinning out ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. But the broader market decline is having an outsized impact on technology. Facebook continues to drop on unfavorable news regarding abuse of its platform and Apple slid after the Wall Street Journal reported the company has cut production orders for new iPhones.

Joe Terranova, chief market strategist with Virtus Investment Partners, told CNBC on Monday that concerns around economic growth are hurting tech companies.

“You’re not seeing what you saw at the beginning of this year,” Terranova said. “Whereas you saw a significant enterprise spend on software, on services — that’s dissipating.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both fell more than 1.5 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 3 percent, and is now 13 percent below its high reached in August.

Even after the cloud slide that began in late September, Salesforce is still up 18 percent for the year, while Twilio is up more than 200 percent.

WATCH: We could be in a bear market, but this expert sees opportunity for investors

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The Amazon-Berkshire-JPM health venture just hired first female exec, from a big insurance company

The joint health care venture by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan has hired a well-known health insurance exec who specializes in analyzing data to improve patient health.

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The group has scooped up Dana Gelb Safran, formerly a chief performance measurement and improvement officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachussetts, CNBC has learned. Safran will start her new gig early next year with the title “head of performance.” A spokesperson for the health initiative confirmed the hire.

The new hire suggests the initiative’s decision-making will be data-driven, with technology at the front and center. Safran’s bio on her speaker bureau page says she’s recognized for her work developing an “empirical basis for our nation’s push to a more patient-centered health care system.” Having an exec who worked at a health plan could also be useful if the group decides to take on traditional insurers.

Safran’s background and personal interests are in line with others on the team. Gawande has taken some bold approaches in his writings on the health industry, where he’s talked about the need for some fundamental changes on everything from end of life care to over-prescribing and over-treatment. Stoddard also has a background in technology through his previous start-up in the employer health space, Accolade.

The group’s charter is vague, but it’s exploring how to improve health care outcomes and lower costs, starting with three companies’ 1.2 million employees. It’s led by Atul Gawande, a physician and author, and its chief operating officer is Jack Stoddard, who formerly worked on digital health initiatives at Comcast. It has also hired Deloitte Monitor, a consulting firm, to offer strategic guidance. With Safran coming on board, the Boston-based group has grown to at least four employees and is actively recruiting senior leaders.

The group has not yet announced a name. It still goes by “health initiative.”

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The best early Black Friday 2018 deals

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commissions. that support its work. Read Wirecutter’s continuously updated list of Black Friday deals here.

Amazon Echo (2nd Generation) – Refurbished

Amazon Echo

Street Price: $80; Deal Price: $60

Only available in Heather Gray, this $60 refurbished sale on our pick in our Alexa guide is the best price we’ve seen on this model to date.

The Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) is our pick of Amazon’s Alexa-controlled speakers. Grant Clauser writes, “If you want music without hooking up any additional speakers, the second-generation Echo offers the complete range of functions, minus the screen features of the Show and Spot. As a speaker, it’s good for kitchens, offices, dens, bedrooms, and other places where convenience and size (it’s about the size of a Foster’s beer can) is more important than audio performance. The speaker is designed for 360-degree dispersion, so placing it in the middle of the room will give you sound in all four corners.”

Audio-Technica LP60-BT Turntable

Audio-Technica turntable

Street Price: $150; Deal Price: $120

Down to $120 in both Black and White, this pricing matches the low we’ve seen for this Bluetooth-enabled turntable. We haven’t seen a deal on this turntable since the the summer.

The Audio-Technica LP60-BT Turntable is the budget pick in our guide to the best turntable for casual listening. Chris Heinonen writes, “If you want something that can just play records easily for as little as possible, the Audio-Technica LP60-BT will do the job. Unlike the other tables we considered, LP60-BT is fully automatic: Press a button and the table spins while the arm moves into position. Once a record is done, the arm goes back into place and the table stops. It has a built-in phono stage and you can even get it with a Bluetooth output for use with wireless speakers.”

Yeti by Blue USB Microphone + Fallout 76 (PC) Bundle

Blue Yeti microphone

Street Price: $150; Deal Price: $100

Back down to $140 from the typical street price of $180, this matches the low we’ve seen for this table-top streamer and includes the bonus of a free 3rd Gen (newest version) Echo Dot, around a $35 value.

The Yeti by Blue USB Microphone is the top pick in our guide to the best USB microphone. Kevin Purdy and Lauren Dragan write, “It provided the most reliably well-rounded, natural sound out of all the mics we tested―whether on Windows or Mac, or whether recording happened in professional studios or in a small square office… It offers live headphone monitoring and gain control, two key features for any recording setup (other mics lacked these or made using them too complicated). It is more stable on its stand than most microphones we tested, and feels far more solidly constructed and durable.”

PlayStation Plus 1 Year Membership

PlayStation Plus

Street Price: $60; Deal Price: $40

Matching Cyber Monday prices we saw last year, a 12 months subscription is back down to $40 from $60, still the best price we’ve seen.

PlayStation Plus is mentioned alongside the PlayStation 4 in our guide for the best game consoles. Thorin Klosowski writes, “The PlayStation Plus subscription service provides online multiplayer and two free games a month, equivalent to what you get from the Xbox Live Gold service. Most people should get the standard PS4 model, not the PS4 Pro, unless you have a 4K TV or plan to buy one very soon.”

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9

Street Price: $700; Deal Price: $520

A big drop from street price and a new low for all colors, this model comes unlocked with a US warranty.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a runner-up pick in our guide to the best android phones. Ryan Whitwam writes, “The Samsung Galaxy S9 and its larger sibling, the Samsung Galaxy S9+, have some features that the Pixel 3 phones don’t, such as a microSD card slot and a headphone jack. Plus, they’re available for purchase through any carrier. These phones have the latest curved OLED screens from Samsung—the best we’ve ever seen on a phone—and the bezel surrounding the screen is tiny. The Galaxy S9’s camera has an adjustable aperture, so it can take brighter low-light shots while also getting sharper photos in brighter light, though we still like the Pixel 3’s camera more overall.”

DJI Tello Mini

DJI Tello Mini

Street Price: $100; Deal Price: $80

The first notable drop we’ve seen since we started tracking this already affordable drone.

The DJI Tello Mini is an also great pick in our guide to the best drones under $100. Signe Brewster writes, “The DJI Tello, which is made in partnership with robotics company Ryze, is our pick if you’re looking for an inexpensive drone that can take pictures and videos. It has surprisingly advanced autonomous features normally found on much more expensive drones. And its 5-megapixel, 720p camera—about the same resolution of an iPhone 4—takes good enough photos to make it fun for basic selfies and landscape pictures. It also has a 13-minute battery life, which is the longest of any drone we tested.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Black Friday, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go here.

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'Avengers: Infinity War' comes to Netflix on Christmas Day


Ever since the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War, there’s been a looming question: when is it coming to Netflix? Right in time for some holiday viewing, it seems. Netflix has revealed that the star-studded superhero flick will be available to stream on December 25th. Yes, you too can pay tribute to Stan Lee while you’re recovering from the family feast. Just be sure to put your blinders on if you haven’t seen the movie yet — this is a Marvel title that can easily be ruined if you’re not careful.

It’s also one of the last chances you’ll have to see a recent Marvel movie on the service. Disney plans to stop offering its superhero flicks to Netflix after Ant-Man and the Wasp. From then onward, it’ll likely save Marvel blockbusters for its Disney+ service launching in 2019. Think of this as the swan song for an era when you could find the latest Marvel TV shows and movies in one place.

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You can now sync Chromecast with Google Home speakers

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Starting today, Google is allowing Chromecast owners to add the streaming device to speaker groups along with Home speakers. The addition of the dongle to the Home ecosystem will allow you to queue up a song, playlist, podcast or audiobook and have it play in sync across all of the speakers and Chromecast-connected devices in your home.

XDA Developers spotted the functionality in Google’s Preview program that gives an early look at upcoming features. Google confirmed to Engadget that the capability is starting to roll out to users today. The feature makes good on Google’s promise to integrate Chromecast into speaker groups, which can be set up through the Google Home app. Now devices that connect with Chromecast, including televisions, can be added to a grouping. When a TV with Chromecast is synced to a speaker group, the display will show song information on screen, atop a rotating selection of background images.

Per XDA Developers, all generations of Chromecast devices should be compatible with the feature. Smart displays including Google’s own Home Hub and the LG Xboom WK9 will be able to be added to speaker groups in the coming weeks, according to VentureBeat. Earlier this year, Google made it possible to pair bluetooth speakers with the Home app to add voice control across your sound system.

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Instagram will soon start cracking down on accounts that use third-party apps to dole out fake likes and followers (FB)

Instagram fighting fake activityInstagram

  • Instagram is cracking down on accounts that use third-party apps to dole out fake likes and follows, the company announced Monday.
  • Using machine learning tools, the photo-sharing platform will remove “inauthentic” likes, which are generated by third-party platforms designed to boost audience growth for users.
  • Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, has also worked to take down accounts and pages that have been linked to “inauthentic behavior.”

Influencers and brands who use bot apps to boost their popularity and increase audience growth may be in trouble, thanks to a new initiative Instagram announced Monday.

In a blog post, Instagram said it would start removing fake likes, follows, and comments using “machine learning tools” it had built. The initiative is targeting “inauthentic activity” from third-party apps designed to boost popularity and audience on the platform, Instagram says.

“This type of behavior is bad for the community, and third-party apps that generate inauthentic likes, follows and comments violate our Community Guidelines and Terms of Use,” the blog post says. “Today’s update is just another step in keeping Instagram a vibrant community where people connect and share in authentic ways.”

Third-party apps are often used by influencers and brands who are trying to get more followers and boost their popularity. Users can pay for these apps to generate an abundance of activity for their accounts and hopefully increase their audience.

Accounts that have been identified as users of such third-party apps will receive messages from Instagram that notify them their fake activity has been removed, Instagram said. Instagram will also require such accounts to change their passwords, since third-party apps are given access to users’ passwords and sensitive account info when they pay for these services.

Instagram has attempted to fight such actions of third-party services in the past. Back in August, Instagram rolled out an “About This Account” feature in an effort to let users themselves evaluate the authenticity of other accounts. Instagram shut down a popular third-party app last year called Instagress, however, numerous audience-boosting providers still exist, including Archie, InstarocketProX, and Boostio.

Read more: Here are some of the posts that Facebook says were part of a coordinated misinformation campaign ahead of American elections

While this initiative targeting “inauthentic activity” is Instagram-specific, the platform’s parent company, Facebook, has led several efforts to target “inauthentic behavior,”  including a misinformation “war room” ahead of midterm elections. This has included taking down accounts and profiles from both Facebook and Instagram stemming from Iran and Russia for disseminating fake political news.

Instagram also said Monday that this wasn’t the only action it was taking to fight inauthenticity on the platform, and that it would reveal “additional measures” in the coming weeks.

The blog post warns that users who continue to use third-party apps “may see their Instagram experience impacted.” 

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