Intel is ending development of its Compute Cards


Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Intel is halting development on its line of Compute Cards, according to a report from Tom’s Hardware. The company will continue to sell its existing line of Compute Cards for the time being and will continue to offer support for the current generation of products through 2019. Beyond that, Intel is essentially leaving behind the modular computing concept.

Compute Cards were first introduced by Intel at Computex in 2017. The concept behind the product was to fit all of the necessary computing power a device may need — CPU, RAM, storage, etc. — onto a single card. Those cards would then be interchangeable, allowing a person to quickly upgrade their desktops, laptops or other devices in a matter of minutes. Rather than swap out the pieces individually or let a machine slowly fall behind modern devices, the Compute Card would make it easy to stay up to date with the latest hardware.

One of Intel’s partners, NexDock, expressed some frustration over the discontinuation of Compute Cards. In a blog post, the company said it took them over a year to develop software that would allow its NexPad computer to work with Intel’s modular devices. With the machine finally ready, Intel is ceasing support for the Compute Cards and taking away the prospect of upgradability that would have been the NexPad’s primary selling point.

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Samsung's US marketing lead quits following department investigation


Taylor Hill/FilmMagic for YouTube

Samsung’s US marketing team is in the midst of turmoil, and that might include some high-profile casualties. Wall Street Journal sources claim that Samsung recently fired “several” workers in its American marketing division after an internal investigation into possible violations of policies through dealings with business partners. Not long after, Samsung’s marketing chief Marc Mathieu (above) and VP of media and partnerships Jay Altschuler both left — it’s not clear that the events are connected, but the timing is at least raising eyebrows.

The investigation reportedly centered around interactions between marketers with outside ad agencies and media companies. It’s not certain just what might have gone wrong, although the WSJ pointed out that marketing staff at many companies will either accompany partners to sponsored events or pay for perks during meetings. It’s possible there was a conflict of interest where marketers were playing favorites with these moves instead of pouring money into the outlets where it will be the most effective.

You might not get answers about whatever the big-name executives were doing, if anything. Samsung spokespeople have only confirmed “organization changes” in the marketing unit, and said that Mathieu left “to pursue other opportunities outside the company.”

Some of those who were forced out accused Samsung of being unfair and using “trivial” justifications to give them the boot, the WSJ said.

This could have a significant impact on how Samsung pitches its devices to you, particularly its smartphones. The Verge observed that Mathieu is best-known for shifting Samsung’s focus away from conventional ad agencies and toward creators like YouTube star Casey Neistat, ensuring that its phones and other gear are constantly in the limelight. That practice won’t necessarily end, but Samsung might alter its approach. The timing isn’t great, at least. Samsung’s profit dipped sharply at the end of 2018, and it now has to improve its fortunes while its American team is in flux.

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The Nissan Leaf Plus adds more EV range but not more fun

While other automakers were debating the merits of the electric car, Nissan was already selling the Leaf (the little EV hit the market in 2010, two years before the Model S). The automaker has sold over 400,000 units since then. That’s impressive. But in the past nine years, the EV market has changed, and when the latest version of the vehicle was unveiled, it had a range of 151 miles. That’s clearly not enough for our new over-200-mile-range vehicle world. So in January of this year, the Leaf Plus (starting at $36,550) with 226 miles of range appeared. Problem solved, right? Well, maybe.

Gallery: 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus | 11 Photos

At its heart, the Nissan Leaf Plus is a great little electric hatchback. During my tests, I found it to be a capable car that delivers on nearly all of its promises. It’s efficient, full of most of the latest tech with a surprisingly spacious trunk. But it’s missing something: fun. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

First, the good. The actually really good. Nissan introduced ProPilot Assist last year, and it immediately impressed me. Mostly because the first car to get the newest driver’s assistant was the Leaf. It’s one of the best semi-autonomous systems for an electric vehicle in this price range. The lane-keep assist does a great job centering the car in its lane and can handle most highway curves. The adaptive cruise control feature is smooth; it responds when a car merges in front of the Leaf. I’m also a fan of the steering wheel button as the main on/off switch for the system.

Another great driving feature is e-Pedal, which allows for one-pedal driving. The system works like this: Once activated, the vehicle’s regenerative braking power is cranked up to slow the car down to a complete stop whenever you’re not accelerating. It’s a smooth transition from accelerating to stopping so you’re not being jarred around in the car.

When using the e-Pedal — especially in the city and after some practice — a driver could get around without ever having to use the foot brake. It takes a bit to master the system so that when the Leaf comes to a halt at an intersection you’re not too far back or in the crosswalk. But, the added efficiency you get while in this mode makes it worth the effort to learn.

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus review

For EVs, efficiency is the name of the game (aka, battery life). The Leaf Plus’ 62kWh cell delivers up to 226 miles. That’s a solid upgrade from the 151 of the regular Leaf, but short of Hyundai’s 258 mile Kona EV and Kia’s 240 mile Niro EV. Nissan made a smart move with the Plus, but it’ll have to do better next refresh or risk being left behind (again).

Inside, the automaker’s NissanConnect infotainment system sits behind an 8-inch touchscreen, and instead of just copying a tablet, each screen mimics a home screen with one main feature surrounded by other options. The system offers up more information in larger easy-to-glance-at squares.

There was some latency between my taps and something launching, but it wasn’t enough to become a nuisance. The only real issue I had was with the voice assistant clearly not understanding me about 70 percent of the time. Fortunately, CarPlay and Android Auto are supported so you can just yell at those instead, after you get tired of Nissan’s hard-of-hearing in-car assist.

While I was unable to satisfactorily talk to the car, I was impressed by the dash cluster that shares a majority of the important information you want from an EV — including charging progress and real-time efficiency numbers. Throw in the ProPilot Assist driving information and the Leaf’s dash cluster is the most important screen in the car.

Nissan has done a great job infusing tech into its latest Leaf. This is likely thanks to it being one of the only EVs on the market with any sort of history. This vehicle is an evolution of the Leaf brand. I just wish Nissan had added some pizazz to the EV.

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus review

Don’t get me wrong. The Nissan Leaf Plus performs exactly as you would expect. Its 214 horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of torque give it a nice initial burst of speed. But it’s short-lived and for the most part, the acceleration and steering are uninspired. The car is a well-written reference book instead of a piece of great fiction. Some people like reference books and cars that perform as advertised. For those folks, the Nissan Leaf delivers. But I like character and the Leaf Plus is lacking.

At least, while you’re sitting in the car, you’re comfortable. The seats, while situated a little high for my taste, are pleasant. A lot of Leafs will end up as commuter vehicles and having a seat you don’t mind sitting on is important. If you’re someone that hauls a lot of stuff, you’ll be happy to know that the Leaf has 23.5 cubic feet of space. The Kona EV, for comparison, only has 19.2 cubic feet. The Nissan gets all that extra room thanks to a deep trunk well. That space is usually taken up by the battery pack in other cars and it’s nice to reclaim it for groceries, sports gear or furniture from Ikea.

After a long day of driving, the Leaf has the requisite level 2 charging port. But its quick-charging port is the CHAdeMO standard. It can be a bit tougher to find compatible charging stations, but the added benefit is that I was able to use fast-charging stations without waiting in line behind a bunch of Chevy Bolts.

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus review

The Leaf Plus supports up to 100kW of fast charging. Most stations right now are 50kW. But hopefully, soon we’ll see these quicker stations. Even if CHAdeMO doesn’t catch on like the DC combo charging port, at least Nissan dealerships will be someplace Leaf owners can top off in a jiffy.

The Nissan Leaf is a smart mid-cycle upgrade to the latest Leaf. The car is the best-selling EV ever and Nissan has taken most of what it’s learned over the years to make it better. That includes a first-class driver’s assistance package. But, the market is getting crowded, and when it comes to range and fun behind the wheel, the Leaf falls short of its competitors.

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Microsoft device stores digital info as DNA


Microsoft

Microsoft is on its way to replacing data centers with DNA. The company and researchers from the University of Washington have successfully automated the process to translate digital information into DNA and back to bits. They now have the first, full end-to-end automated DNA storage device. And while there’s room for improvement, Microsoft hopes this proof-of-concept will advance DNA storage technology.

In its first run, the $10,000 prototype converted “HELLO” into DNA. The device first encoded the bits (1’s and 0’s) into DNA sequences (A’s, C’s, T’s, G’s). It then synthesized the DNA and stored it as a liquid. Next, the stored DNA was read by a DNA sequencer. Finally, the decoding software translated the sequences back into bits. The 5-byte message took 21 hours to convert back and forth, but the researchers have already identified a way to reduce the time required by 10 to 12 hours. They’ve also suggested ways to reduce the cost by several thousand dollars.

In nucleotide form HELLO (01001000 01000101 01001100 01001100 01001111 in bits) yielded approximately 1 mg of DNA, and just 4 micrograms were retained for sequencing. As Technology Review notes, at that rate, all of the information stored in a warehouse-sized data center could fit into a few standard-size dice. Once the technique is perfected, it could store data much longer than we’re currently able to. As Microsoft points out, some DNA has held up for tens of thousands of years in mammoth tusks and the bones of early humans. That’s why Microsoft and other tech companies are eying DNA as a way to solve looming data storage problems. As previously reported, Microsoft’s formal goal is to have an operational DNA-based storage system working inside a data center by the end of this decade.

DNA storage isn’t entirely new, but the novelty here is that this system is fully automated. Before it can succeed commercially, though, the cost to synthesize DNA and extract the information is stores needs to come down. In other words, we need a way to synthesize DNA cost-efficiently. While it may sound a bit sci-fi, we could all be storing data as DNA before we know it.

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GameStop's new CEO is expected to lead a major overhaul


Bloomberg via Getty Images

GameStop announced today that it is naming George Sherman as its new chief executive officer. The former head of Verizon retailer Victra has served as an executive at Advance Auto Parts, Best Buy Services, Home Depot and Target. He’ll be charged with overseeing a changing business model for the brick and mortar game retailer that has been in financial trouble in recent years.

In a statement, Sherman acknowledged GameStop will have to undergo some major changes to stay relevant in a market that has increasingly gone digital. “I bring significant experience working with other retailers that have undergone large, successful transformations,” he said, suggesting that he expects similar changes at GameStop.

According to VentureBeat, sources familiar with the company say Sherman’s hiring is part of the company’s “GameStop 2.0” plan that will shift the company from a retailer to a “cultural experience.” The company reportedly plans to focus on membership programs that encourage trade-ins and purchases of pre-owned games. GamesSop may also explore turning stores into an environment in which gamers can come in, hang out, and try out games before buying them.

GameStop has undergone quite a bit of turmoil in recent years. Digital marketplaces like Steam and the recently launched Epic Games Store have cut into the company’s business. GameStop shut down 150 of its retail stores in 2017 and rumors of a buyout started bubbling up last year.

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