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Put down your phone if you want to innovate – TechCrunch

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We are living in an interstitial period. In the early 1980s we entered an era of desktop computing that culminated in the dot-com crash — a financial bubble that we bolstered with Y2K consulting fees and hardware expenditures alongside irrational exuberance over Pets.com . That last interstitial era, an era during which computers got smaller, weirder, thinner and more powerful, ushered us, after a long period of boredom, into the mobile era in which we now exist. If you want to help innovate in the next decade, it’s time to admit that phones, like desktop PCs before them, are a dead-end.

We create and then brush up against the edges of our creation every decade. The speed at which we improve — but not innovate — is increasing, and so the difference between a 2007 iPhone and a modern Pixel 3 is incredible. But what can the Pixel do that the original iPhone or Android phones can’t? Not much.

We are limited by the use cases afforded by our current technology. In 1903, a bike was a bike and could not fly. Until the Wright Brothers and others turned forward mechanical motion into lift were we able to lift off. In 2019 a phone is a phone and cannot truly interact with us as long as it remains a separate part of our bodies. Until someone looks beyond these limitations will we be able to take flight.

While I won’t posit on the future of mobile tech, I will note that until we put our phones away and look at the world anew we will do nothing of note. We can take better photos and FaceTime each other, but until we see the limitations of these technologies we will be unable to see a world outside of them.

We’re heading into a new year (and a new CES) and we can expect more of the same. It is safe and comfortable to remain in the screen-hand-eye nexus, creating VR devices that are essentially phones slapped to our faces and big computers that now masquerade as TVs. What, however, is the next step? Where do these devices go? How do they change? How do user interfaces compress and morph? Until we actively think about this we will remain stuck.

Perhaps you are. You’d better hurry. If this period ends as swiftly and decisively as the other ones before it, the opportunity available will be limited at best. Why hasn’t VR taken off? Because it is still on the fringes, being explored by people stuck in mobile thinking. Why is machine learning and AI so slow? Because the use cases are aimed at chatbots and better customer interaction. Until we start looking beyond the black mirror (see what I did?) of our phones, innovation will fail.

Every app launched, every pictured scrolled, every tap, every hunched-over moment davening to some dumb Facebook improvement is a brick in the bulwark against an unexpected and better future. So put your phone down this year and build something. Soon it might be too late.

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Popular software development tool Docker gets Apple M1 support

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Enlarge / Docker running on a Mac.

Docker, a popular multi-platform application used by software developers, has released a version that runs natively on Apple Silicon hardware, including Macs released with Apple’s custom-designed M1 chip.

The M1 chip uses the ARM instruction set and cannot natively run software that was designed to run on the x86 architecture that the Intel processors in previously released Macs used. Though the previous version of Docker did work via Apple’s Rosetta solution, the introduction of an M1-native version of Docker contributes to a closing gap for developers concerned about running their entire suite of tools in an optimal way.

It follows the release of M1 versions of Homebrew, Visual Studio Code, and other developer tools and applications. But some gaps remain—for example, Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2019 IDE (which is distinct from the comparatively lightweight Visual Studio Code) has not been updated.

Docker achieved popularity among developers because it enabled relatively easy use of containers, wherein multiple applications could be developed and tested on a single machine, sharing the operating system’s kernel without interfering with one another.

The public release of the Apple Silicon version of Docker Desktop for Mac was installed 45,000 times in a technical preview, and Docker’s press release says that developers participating in that preview said the application ran “faster and quieter” than it did before the M1 update. The press release included the following statement from Docker Captain Ajeet Singh Raina:

To the many developers eager to know if they can use the latest Macs as a dev machine with Docker, the wait is over… Docker Desktop for Mac [Apple Silicon] will let you do everything you’ve been able to do on a Mac already, and you’ll be able to do it faster and with less noise.

A blog post on the Docker website says that M1 support “quickly became by far our most upvoted roadmap item ever” after it was first requested.

That said, Apple has only released a few Macs that include the M1, and all of them are lower-end machines with limitations like low maximum RAM configurations, support for only one external monitor at a time, and fewer Thunderbolt ports than high-end machines that still have Intel chips—meaning most of the Apple Silicon Macs that would be most suitable for developers have yet to be released.

When they are, they might not have the M1 but may instead feature related chips with performance or feature improvements over the M1. There’s no reason to expect that the changes made to Docker and other M1-native software won’t work just as well on that new chip, should it arrive.

The full release notes for Docker Desktop 3.3.1 with Apple Silicon support can be found at the Docker Docs website.

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Google Earth is now a 3D time machine

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Google has pushed out what it says is Google Earth’s “biggest update since 2017” with a new 3D time-lapse feature. Entering the new “Timelapse” mode of Google Earth will let you fly around the virtual globe with a time slider, showing you satellite imagery from the past 37 years. Google Earth Timelapse has been around for years as part of Google Earth Engine (which is a totally separate interface from Google Earth; it’s a weird Google branding thing), but it was previously only available in 2D. Now, Google has mapped all this data across the 3D Google Earth globe, where you can watch cities being built, forests being cut down, and glaciers receding.

Google Earth Timelapse isn’t just a huge amount of data; properly mapping it across the globe means correcting the images for artifacts and problems. The company had to get clouds out of the way, correct images for perspective, and ensure seamless transitioning through zoom levels. Luckily, Google happens to have some really big computers to handle the load.

The company explains what it took to make Timelapse happen:

Making a planet-sized timelapse video required a significant amount of what we call “pixel crunching” in Earth Engine, Google’s cloud platform for geospatial analysis. To add animated Timelapse imagery to Google Earth, we gathered more than 24 million satellite images from 1984 to 2020, representing quadrillions of pixels. It took more than two million processing hours across thousands of machines in Google Cloud to compile 20 petabytes of satellite imagery into a single 4.4 terapixel-sized video mosaic—that’s the equivalent of 530,000 videos in 4K resolution!

To access the timeline, open up Google Earth on the web, click on the navigation ship’s wheel icon, and press the big “Timelapse in Google Earth” button—or just go to g.co/timelapse. With Timelapse open, you’ll get a big panel on the right side with a timeline from 1984 to today, and a few shortcuts to places Google says are particularly interesting. Google Earth Timelapse doesn’t work well across the entire world just yet. Some places, like New York City, appear hopelessly blurry, even when you set the timer to 2020. Google’s highlighted locations, like Dubai, look a lot better and play out like a game of SimCity.

Besides offering a fun, new feature in Google Earth, Google is pitching Timelapse as a teaching tool for climate change. If you want this information in a more portable format than Google Earth, Google has created a big batch of Earth timelapse videos highlighting “urban expansion, mining impacts, river meandering, the growth of megacities, deforestation, and agricultural expansion.” The videos are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0, so you’re free to use them for whatever you want as long as you credit Google.

Like with New York City, there are a few holes in Google’s data right now. Objects like 3D buildings don’t show up in Timelapse mode, and it doesn’t look like the Earth geometry changes, either. This 3D time-lapse feature is a platform for the future, though, and Google says it will “update Google Earth annually with new Timelapse imagery throughout the next decade.”

Listing image by Google

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Intel, Nvidia, TSMC execs agree: Chip shortage could last into 2023

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Intel

How many years will the ongoing chip shortage affect technology firms across the world? This week, multiple tech executives offered their own dismal estimates as part of their usual public financial disclosures, with the worst one coming in at “a couple of years.”

That nasty estimate comes from Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who offered that vague timeframe to The Washington Post in an interview on Tuesday. He clarified that as an estimate for how long it would take the company to “build capacity” to potentially address supply shortages. The conversation came as Intel offered to step up for two supply chains particularly pinched by the silicon drought: medical supplies and in-car computer systems.

In previous statements, Gelsinger pointed to Intel’s current $20 billion plan to build a pair of factories in Arizona, and this week’s interview added praise for President Joe Biden’s proposed $50 billion chip-production infrastructure plan—though Gelsinger indicated that Biden should be ready to spend more than that.

Born in Arizona…

TSMC CEO C.C. Wei offered a similarly dire estimate to investors on Thursday, saying that the Taiwan-based company hoped to “offer more capacity” for meeting retail and manufacturing demand “in 2023.” TSMC, coincidentally, is moving forward with a manufacturing plant of its own in Arizona, which Bloomberg claims could cost “up to $12 billion,” despite the company clarifying that it intends to prioritize research, development, and production in its home nation.

Graphics card and SoC producer Nvidia joined the grim estimate club this week, though Nvidia has a more optimistic belief that it will emerge with “sufficient supply to support sequential growth beyond [fiscal] Q1 [2022],” according to CFO Colette Kress. Until then, “we expect demand to continue to exceed supply for much of this year,” she added. (Having seen the comment sections of recent GPU reviews at Ars Technica, we sure believe that.)

But as tech companies scramble to navigate natural disasters, exponential consumer demand, and the building of brand-new facilities, some questions remain unanswered. How will so much scaling up of new factories turn out? Will they meet their construction deadlines, and will they be anywhere near as efficient as promised or hoped once their lines open up? Automakers and gamers alike will be watching with keen interest.

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