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Best Walmart Black Friday 2018 deals: $99 Chromebook, $89 Windows 2-in-1, and more



Walmart may not be the first place you think of when it comes to buy a new computer, but the retailing giant always manages to have a few deals on systems when Black Friday rolls around — and this year is no exception.

Best Walmart Black Friday 2018 deals:

Walmart 2018 Black Friday ad

2018 Black Friday deals

  • Walmart features $99 Chromebook, $89 Windows 2-in-1 laptop
  • BJs Wholesale ad leaks with laptop, desktop, tablet deals
  • Target ad includes $250 iPad mini 4, $120 Chromebook deals
  • Costco kicks off leaks season with $250 iPad, pair of $200 laptops
  • Amazon: See early deals on Echo, Fire HD, and more
  • Dell features $120 Inspiron laptop, $500 gaming desktop
  • Sam’s Club: TVs, game consoles, and cameras
  • Office Depot: Laptops, printers, and chairs

The company prides itself on having the lowest prices, and when it comes to Black Friday laptop sales, it’s the early leader, with a pair of notebooks selling for under $100. One is the Samsung Chromebook 3, equipped with an Intel Celeron processor, 4 gigs of RAM, 16GB of built-in storage, and an 11.6-inch display, for $99 ($100 off the regular price); the other is an RCA Cambio 2-in-1 Windows device, including Intel Atom CPU, 2GB of memory, 32GB of storage, 10.1-inch touchscreen, and detachable keyboard, for $89. Of course, RCA isn’t exactly a top-tier PC brand, but that price is $30-$40 lower than we’ve seen so far for any laptop running Windows that we’ve previewed as a Black Friday deal.

Also: Best Black Friday 2018 deals: Business Bargain Hunter’s top picks

Walmart has a quartet of additional HP laptops if you don’t want the most bare-bones of specs. The Stream 11 moves up to an Intel Celeron N4000 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32 gigs of built-in storage, and a 1,366×768 11.6-inch screen for $159. For $100 more, the HP 15-inch Touch laptop uses an Intel Pentium chip, 4GB of memory, a terabyte hard drive, and a 15.6-inch touchscreen display.

CNET: Best Black Friday deals 2018 | Best Holiday gifts 2018 | Best TVs to give for the holidays

A more powerful 2-in-1 option is the Pavilion x360, which features an Intel Core i5 chip, 4GB of memory, a terabyte hard drive (with 16GB of Intel Optane memory), 15.6-inch, and a digital pen for $499 ($180 off). Finally, gamers on a budget might want to consider the Pavilion Gaming Laptop, built around a Core i5-8300H processor, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card, and 15.6-inch full HD display for $599, or $230 off the current price.

TechRepublic: A guide to tech and non-tech holiday gifts to buy online | Photos: Cool gifts for bosses to buy for employees | The do’s and don’ts of giving holiday gifts to your coworkers

Like a few other retailers, Walmart will be selling the latest 9.7-inch iPad for $249, but unlike Target, it isn’t advertising any discount on the iPad mini 4. Cheaper tablet options include the 9.6-inch flavor of the Samsung Galaxy Tab E, which includes a $25 Google Play credit, for $129 ($60 off), and the 7-inch RCA Voyager III Android slate for a mere $28.

For more great deals on devices, gadgetry, and technology for your enterprise, business, or home office, see ZDNet’s Business Bargain Hunter blog. Affiliate disclosure: ZDNet earns commission from the products and services featured on this page.


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The ancient origins of glass



Enlarge / This glass fish was found in a fairly modest private house in Amarna, buried under a plaster floor along with a few other objects. It may once have contained ointment.

Trustees of the British Museum

Today, glass is ordinary, on-the-kitchen-shelf stuff. But early in its history, glass was bling for kings.

Thousands of years ago, the pharaohs of ancient Egypt surrounded themselves with the stuff, even in death, leaving stunning specimens for archaeologists to uncover. King Tutankhamen’s tomb housed a decorative writing palette and two blue-hued headrests made of solid glass that may once have supported the head of sleeping royals. His funerary mask sports blue glass inlays that alternate with gold to frame the king’s face.

In a world filled with the buff, brown, and sand hues of more utilitarian Late Bronze Age materials, glass—saturated with blue, purple, turquoise, yellow, red, and white—would have afforded the most striking colors other than gemstones, says Andrew Shortland, an archaeological scientist at Cranfield University in Shrivenham, England. In a hierarchy of materials, glass would have sat slightly beneath silver and gold and would have been valued as much as precious stones were.

But many questions remain about the prized material. Where was glass first fashioned? How was it worked and colored and passed around the ancient world? Though much is still mysterious, in the last few decades materials science techniques and a reanalysis of artifacts excavated in the past have begun to fill in details.

This analysis, in turn, opens a window onto the lives of Bronze Age artisans, traders, and kings as well as the international connections between them.

The Amarna Letters, clay tablets carrying the cuneiform correspondence of ancient kings and excavated at Tell el-Amarna in modern-day Egypt, include references to glass. A number from the Canaanite ruler Yidya of Ashkelon (like these shown) include one that comments on an order of glass for Pharaoh: "As to the king, my lord's, having ordered some glass, I herewith send to the king, my lord, 30 ('pieces') of glass. Moreover, who is the dog that would not obey the orders of the king, my lord, the Sun from the sky, the son of the Sun, whom the Sun loves?"
Enlarge / The Amarna Letters, clay tablets carrying the cuneiform correspondence of ancient kings and excavated at Tell el-Amarna in modern-day Egypt, include references to glass. A number from the Canaanite ruler Yidya of Ashkelon (like these shown) include one that comments on an order of glass for Pharaoh: “As to the king, my lord’s, having ordered some glass, I herewith send to the king, my lord, 30 (‘pieces’) of glass. Moreover, who is the dog that would not obey the orders of the king, my lord, the Sun from the sky, the son of the Sun, whom the Sun loves?”

Trustees of the British Museum

Glass from the past

Glass, both ancient and modern, is a material usually made of silicon dioxide, or silica, that is characterized by its disorderly atoms. In crystalline quartz, atoms are pinned to regularly spaced positions in a repeating pattern. But in glass, the same building blocks—a silicon atom buddied up with oxygens—are arranged topsy-turvy.

Archaeologists have found glass beads dating to as early as the third millennium BCE. Glazes based on the same materials and technology date earlier still. But it was in the Late Bronze Age—1600 to 1200 BCE—that the use of glass seems to have really taken off, in Egypt, Mycenaean Greece, and Mesopotamia, also called the Near East (located in what’s now Syria and Iraq).

Unlike today, glass of those times was often opaque and saturated with color, and the source of the silica was crushed quartz pebbles, not sand. Clever ancients figured out how to lower the melting temperature of the crushed quartz to what could be reached in Bronze Age furnaces: they used the ash of desert plants, which contain high levels of salts such as sodium carbonate or bicarbonates. The plants also contain lime—calcium oxide—that made the glass more stable. Ancient glassmakers also added materials that impart color to glass, such as cobalt for dark blue or lead antimonate for yellow. The ingredients melded in the melt, contributing chemical clues that researchers look for today.

“We can start to parse the raw materials that went into the production of the glass and then suggest where in the world it came from,” says materials scientist Marc Walton of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, co-author of an article about materials science and archaeological artifacts and artwork in the 2021 Annual Review of Materials Research.

But those clues have taken researchers only so far. When Shortland and colleagues were investigating glass’s origins around 20 years ago, glass from Egypt, the Near East, and Greece appeared to be chemical lookalikes, difficult to distinguish based on the techniques available at the time.

The exception was blue glass, thanks to work by Polish-born chemist Alexander Kaczmarczyk who in the 1980s discovered that elements such as aluminum, manganese, nickel, and zinc tag along with the cobalt that gives glass an abyssal blue hue. By examining the relative amounts of these, Kaczmarczyk’s team even tracked the cobalt ore used for blue coloring to its mineral source in specific Egyptian oases.

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This decorated mammoth ivory pendant is 41,500 years old



Talamo et al. 2021

While our species was spreading across Eurasia and briefly sharing a continent with the last of the Neanderthals, someone took the time to carefully shape an oval pendant out of mammoth ivory, then decorated it with a looping dotted line. The pendant, unearthed at Stajnia Cave in Poland, was recently radiocarbon dated to around 41,500 years old. That makes it the oldest known example of a Paleolithic fashion that reached from France to Siberia between 42,000 and 30,000 years ago.

An ancient ivory pendant

Archaeologists excavating the cave found the ivory pendant broken into two pieces. When reassembled, the fragments form most of an oval, with one end still broken and missing. About 50 puncture marks dot its surface, forming a sharply curved, looping shape. The pendant’s edges are smooth and rounded, and although its surface is cracked and weathered after tens of thousands of years in the ground, it’s easy to see that it must once have been an elaborate, lovely piece of jewelry—or, as archaeologists say, “portable art.”

Today, we have no way to know what the dotted curving lines on the mammoth ivory pendant meant to the people who made and wore the object. Those details are lost to us, but University of Bologna paleoanthropologist Sahra Talamo and her colleagues suggest hunting tallies or notations about the passing of lunar phases or cycles.

Under a scanning electron microscope, the little puncture marks have V-shaped cross-sections, and their width and depth varies a bit. The result looks as if the ancient artisan who poked the dotted lines onto the ivory used a sharp flint tool with a slightly irregular edge, according to Talamo and her colleagues. And a drill, probably bone, helped make two round holes all the way through the slice of ivory, one near the center of each the long side of the oval.

Archaeologists found the ivory pendant in the same layer of sediment as a broken awl made of horse bone, which dated to 42,200 years old; mass spectrometry helped identify the species of bone in each artifact. Talamo and her colleagues say the people who made and used these objects lived at the cave only ephemerally. But the pendant suggests they shared at least some cultural connection with people who lived as far away as Siberia.

Paleolithic fashion trends

At a cave in Germany, a similar pattern of curving dotted lines adorns the back side of a human figurine carved between 38,800 and 40,200 years ago. A small handful of French sites have artifacts with similar motifs as old as 40,700 years and as recent as 30,800 years ago. Ivory beads and a baton from a site east of Moscow were decorated with similar patterns of puncture marks between 34,800 and 33,500 years ago. And the same motif adorns ivory headpieces and bone needles at a 32,400 to 30,800-year-old site in Siberia.

The Stajnia pendant is the oldest example so far of ivory decorated with dotted curves, by about 2,000 years. Talamo and her colleagues suggest that its presence could shed a bit more light on cultural innovations—like new decorative motifs, new kinds of tools, and other ideas—spread across vast swaths of Eurasia during the period called the Initial Upper Paleolithic. At the very least, the Stajnia pendant’s age may give archaeologists a reason to rethink the idea that the mountains of southwestern Germany were the hotbed of new Eurasian culture at the time.

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Why Omicron quickly became a variant of concern



Enlarge / That’s a lot of mutations.

On Friday, the World Health Organization officially named a new version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus a variant of concern, and attached the Greek letter omicron to the designation. The Omicron variant is notable for the sheer number of mutations in the spike protein of the virus. While Omicron appears to have started spreading in Africa, it has already appeared in European countries like Belgium and the UK, which are working to limit its spread through surveillance and contact tracing.

As of now, the data on the variant is very limited; we don’t currently know how readily it spreads compared to other variants, nor do we understand the degree of protection against Omicron offered by vaccines or past infections. The new designation, however, will likely help focus resources on studying Omicron’s behavior and tracing its spread.

Many changes

While the Delta variant’s version of spike has nine changes compared to the virus that started the pandemic, Omicron has 30 differences. While many of these haven’t been identified previously, a number of these have been seen in other strains, where they have a variety of effects. These include increasing infectiveness of the virus, as a number of the changes increase the affinity between the spike protein and the protein on human cells that it targets when starting a new infection.

Others changes in the spike occur in areas of the protein that are frequently targeted by antibodies that neutralize the virus. Changes here can mean that an immune response generated to vaccines or earlier versions of the virus are less able to target Omicron.

While these mutations are suggestive, understanding how they and the previously undescribed mutations in Omicron alter its behavior will depend on getting real-world data on its spread. Right now, however, we just don’t have much of that.

We are lucky in the sense that it’s relatively easy to detect Omicron. According to the WHO, some of the large collection of mutations in the gene that encodes the spike protein interfere with the gene’s recognition by common versions of PCR tests. Those tests continue to recognize the presence of the virus by also targeting other areas of the genome. So a PCR test that comes back spike-negative but virus-positive is suggestive of the presence of Omicron, which can then be confirmed by genome sequencing.

These tests have shown Omicron is spreading rapidly within a number of countries in southern Africa, although the total cases in Botswana and South Africa remain relatively low at the moment, so the significance of this spread is unclear. Vaccination rates in these countries also remain low, making it difficult to determine how much of a risk Omicron poses to those who have been immunized.

Some constants

The cases identified outside of southern Africa so far have all been in travelers who spent time in this region. Public health authorities in those countries are currently engaged in contact tracing to try to limit the variant’s spread outside of those already infected. and a number of countries (including the US) have already limited travel from countries in the region.

Testing and contact tracing are part of the now-familiar suite of public health measures that can limit the impact of Omicron while we’re learning more about it. A statement from the CDC provides a reminder of the rest: social distance, mask when indoors, and get a vaccine if you are eligible. While we remain uncertain how much protection vaccines provide against Omicron, it’s quite certain that their effectiveness against it is considerably greater than zero.

Listing image by Aurich Lawson / Getty

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