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NASA’s VIPER lunar rover will hunt water on the Moon in 2022 – TechCrunch

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NASA is looking for liquid gold on the Moon — not oil, but plain-old water. If we’re going to have a permanent presence there, we’ll need it, so learning as much as we can about it is crucial. That’s why the agency is sending a rover called VIPER to the Moon’s south pole — its first long-term surface mission since 1972.

VIPER, or the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, will touch down in December 2022 if all goes according to plan. Its mission: directly observe and quantify the presence of water in the permanently shadowed polar regions.

These perennially dark areas of the Moon have been collecting water ice for millions of years, since there’s no sunlight to melt or vaporize it. NASA already confirmed the presence of water ice by crashing a probe into the general area, but that’s a bit crude, isn’t it? Better to send a robot in to take some precise measurements.

VIPER will be about the size of a golf cart, and will be equipped with what amounts to prospecting gear. Its Neutron Spectrometer System (mentioned yesterday by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine ahead of this announcement) will let the rover detect water beneath the surface.

When it’s over a water deposit, VIPER will deploy… The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain, or TRIDENT. Definitely the best acronym I’ve encountered this week. TRIDENT is a meter-long drill that will bring up samples for analysis by the rover’s two other instruments, a pair of spectrometers that will evaluate the contents of the soil.

By doing this systematically over a large area, the team hopes to create a map of water deposits below the surface that can be analyzed for larger patterns — perhaps leading to a more systematic understanding of our favorite substance’s presence on the Moon.

A visualization of Moon-based water ice under the surface being mapped by the VIPER rover

The rover is currently in development, as you can see from the pictures at the top — the right image is its “mobility testbed,” which as you might guess lets the team test out how it will get around.

VIPER is a limited-time mission; operating at the poles means there’s no sunlight to harvest with solar panels, so the rover will carry all the power it needs to last about a hundred days there. That’s longer than the U.S. has spent on the Moon’s surface in a long time — although China has for the last few years been actively deploying rovers all over the place.

Interestingly, the rover is planned for deployment via a Commercial Lunar Payload Services contract, meaning one of these companies may be building the lander that takes it from orbit to the surface. Expect to hear more as we get closer to launch.



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Qualcomm is jumping back into the server CPU market with Nuvia acquisition

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Enlarge / A splash image for Nuvia from the company’s blog.

Qualcomm is apparently plotting a return to the server chip market. The company is overhauling its CPU offerings after acquiring the upstart chip design company Nuvia in 2021. Nuvia was founded by three high-ranking engineers from Apple’s chip division, with the original goal of designing ARM server chips (though it never launched a product). After Qualcomm bought the company, it seemingly pivoted its new chip division from server chips to laptops and phones. Now, according to a new report from Bloomberg, Nuvia’s original goal of building server chips will be allowed to continue.

The report says Qualcomm is “seeking customers for a product stemming from last year’s purchase of chip startup Nuvia” with Amazon Web Services as one of the first companies that “agreed to take a look at Qualcomm’s offerings.” Apple has proven to the world that ARM chips can scale up, and on laptops, they’ve proven to be more efficient than the x86 chips from Intel and AMD. Companies like Amazon have even started making their in-house server chips based on ARM’s licensable CPU designs.

Doing better than ARM’s off-the-shelf CPU designs will be the real challenge for Qualcomm. Despite having a near-monopoly on high-end Android phone CPUs, Qualcomm isn’t really a CPU company. Qualcomm SoCs feature CPUs straight from ARM, the same as many other vendors like Mediatek, Samsung, and Huawei’s HiSilicon. What keeps Qualcomm on top is all the non-CPU parts—mainly its hyper-aggressive licensing around its modems and cellular patients. Qualcomm owns enough basic cellular patents that you need a license from them to sell a phone no matter what, and by bundling a cheaper patent license with its own chips, Qualcomm can squeeze out the competition. Qualcomm does some good work in GPUs and modem design, but it has never paid much attention to the CPU part of its SoC offering and is currently several generations behind the market leader, Apple.

In the server market, Qualcomm’s business won’t be artificially propped up by cellular licenses. This is a non-CPU company suddenly deciding to sell CPUs, and those products will have to compete on their own merits. With potential customers like Amazon already building ARM chips, it’s 100 percent on Nuvia to deliver a CPU that is better than the standard ARM designs.

Qualcomm last tried to break into the server market in 2017 when it spent a brief year building “Centriq” server chips for Microsoft. That division was shut down in the face of a failed hostile takeover from Broadcom. It was canceled under a previous CEO, though, and Qualcomm’s current boss, Cristiano Amon, wants to diversify Qualcomm’s product line. Nuvia CEO Gerard Williams, who was former Apple’s chief CPU architect for nearly a decade, is now Qualcomm’s SVP of engineering. If the Nuvia chip designs are half as successful as Apple’s industry-leading chips, Qualcomm could become a major server chip competitor.

There’s no timeline for when Qualcomm’s server chips will be available, but Qualcomm’s current schedule has Nuvia technology showing up in laptops in “late 2023.”

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Review: HP’s Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is the cream of the ChromeOS crop

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Enlarge / HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook.

Specs at a glance: HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
Worst Best As reviewed
Screen 13.5-inch 1920 x 1280 IPS touchscreen 13.5-inch 1920 x 1280 IPS touchscreen 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 IPS touchscreen
OS Chrome OS
CPU Intel Core i3-1215U Intel Core i7-1265U vPro Intel Core i5-1245U vPro
RAM 8GB LPDDR4-4266 32GB LPDDR4-4266 8GB LPDDR4-4266
Storage 128GB NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD 512GB NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD 256GB NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD
GPU Intel Iris Xe
Networking WiFi-6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Ports 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-A,1x HDMI 2.0, 1x 3.5 mm jack, 1x MicroSD card reader
Size 11.59 x 8.73 x 0.65 inches
(294.38 x 221.74 x 16.51 mm)
Weight Starts at 2.8 lbs (1.27 kg)
Battery 50 Wh
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $980 $1,800 $1,709 when configured on HP.com
Other N/A 4G optional

Chromebooks are tired of being treated like second-class citizens.

Over the last decade, the developers of ChromeOS have attempted to evolve the operating system with features that could put it more on par with macOS and Windows. Google has been pushing Chromebooks as business machines, touting the purported simplicity and security benefits of their pared down operating system.

HP’s new Elite Dragonfly Chromebook represents a ChromeOS device pushed to the limits, from its appearance to its components.

The laptop comes dressed like some of HP’s most coveted business machines and with up to a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU with Intel vPro support. Performance and style are in a class notably higher than what many think of when they think of Chromebooks.

But while it’s suitable for business users with simple, web-focused needs alone, its performance doesn’t equal Windows machines in the same price range.

$$$

With promises of business-class performance, the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is one of the most expensive Chromebooks available, at well over $1,000 with maxed-out specs. Of course, there are still Chromebooks available for a few hundred dollars, but with a growing interest in pushing Chromebooks as fleet-ready enterprise machines, eventual gaming devices, and ultraportables with versatile form factors, there are already several Chromebooks in the Dragonfly Chromebook’s elite price class.

Here’s what you can get specs-wise from other pricey Chromebooks when configured similarly to our review machine and based on what’s readily available as of this writing. Note that our configuration isn’t a specific SKU but was rather configured on HP.com. You can find a similar SKU to my review unit but with a 1920×1280 resolution for $1,450.

Model CPU RAM Storage Display Price (as of this writing) Mobile  Networking
HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook i5-1245U vPro 8GB 256GB SSD 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 touchscreen $1,709 4G, 5G coming
Dell Latitude 7410 Chromebook Enterprise i5-10310 16GB 256GB SSD 14-inch 1920 x 1080 touchscreen $1,564 4G
Lenovo ThinkPad C14 Chromebook i5-1245U vPro 8GB 256GB SSD 14-inch 1920 x 1280 $1,019 4G
Samsung Galaxy Chromebook Intel Core i5-10210U 8GB 256GB SSD 13.3-inch 3840 x 2160 OLED touchscreen $1,000 N/A

One of the Dragonfly Chromebook’s biggest claims to fame is its optional inclusion of Intel vPro. Among Chromebooks, only the ThinkPad C14 shares this option. vPro support helps sell machines to IT departments, as it enables remote management of the devices.

HP is particularly interested in the stability that the platform promises, a spokesperson told reviewers during a briefing. vPro machines are supposed to use identical silicon across units for as long as the device is sold. HP also pointed to vPro’s performance standards and security perks, particularly vPro’s total memory encryption.

The 2-in-1 also supports 4G for mobile working. 5G is purportedly coming this fall and would help the Dragonfly stand out.

Additional security claims come from Google, which says its read-only OS, verified boot, and blocked executables reduce the need for antivirus protection. IT staff can also approve and block apps and extensions, remotely disable or wipe devices, and perform background updates.

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For the first time ever, more people watched streaming TV than cable

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Enlarge / Nielsen’s breakdown of TV viewing in July 2022.

A new report from market measurement firm Nielsen says that for the first time, TV viewers watched more on streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ than they did on cable TV, making streaming the most popular way to consume content.

The shift has been predicted by analysts and commentators for years, but it has only now come to fruition. Streaming had previously outpaced over-the-air broadcast TV, but cable was still beating it until July.

In July, streaming accounted for 34.8 percent of audiences’ TV viewing. The runner-up was the now-dethroned cable TV, which came up narrowly behind at 34.4 percent. The relatively distant third was broadcast at 21.6 percent.

Streaming was up 22.6 percent compared to July of 2021, and audiences streamed an average of 190.9 billion minutes per week. Nielsen points out that this is substantially more than a previously publicized streaming number: 169.9 billion minutes in April of 2020, one of the most locked-down months of the pandemic.

All that said, the shift could be attributed as much to a lack of new content—especially sports programming—on cable in July as to the growth of streaming. Streaming services have been pumping out new content as fast as ever, while cable channels have slowed down for the summer. There is also much more streaming content than there used to be, thanks to new service launches like Peacock and Paramount+ over the past few years.

Nielsen notes that overall TV viewership hasn’t changed much—just the relative size of each slice of the pie. In other words, people aren’t watching more TV; they’re watching the same amount of TV but in different ways.

The report also outlined the relative performance of different popular streaming platforms. The biggest category was the catch-all “other streaming” at 10.2 percent of the streaming pie, but Netflix was the top single service at 8 percent. It was followed by YouTube at 7.3 percent, Hulu at 3.6 percent, Amazon Prime Video at 3 percent, Disney+ at 1.8 percent, and HBO Max at one percent.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Nielsen is tracking data from viewing on actual TVs. This data does not include mobile or desktop viewing, which would likely boost streaming even further.

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