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Watch Rocket Lab launch its second orbital mission of 2019 late tonight – TechCrunch

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Fast-growing launch provider Rocket Lab is launching its second orbital payload of the year late tonight by our reckoning, early in the evening at the launch site in New Zealand. It will carry three experimental satellites to low Earth orbit, and you can watch it live.

The launch is Rocket Lab’s fifth orbital mission, and while it aims to eventually provide launches at a cadence of weeks, it’ll be some time before that’s possible — for now every couple months is what they can manage. But with $140 million in new funding, that should change pretty quickly.

The payloads going up tonight/tomorrow are:

  • SPARC-1: The Space Plug and Play Architecture Research CubeSat is an Air Force Research Lab they’ve been working on with the Swedish for years now. It’s a new design for a 6U craft with a reconfigurable orbital radio transceiver, intended to “support live experimentation with different waveforms and protocols useful to communications missions.” Plus a camera for checking out the scene up there.
  • Falcon ODE: This Orbital Debris Experiment will release two stainless steel ball bearings on known trajectories in space that will help calibrate ground-based debris-detection systems.
  • Harbinger: A scary-sounding small satellite and the heaviest single micro-sat to be lofted by Rocket Lab’s electron launch vehicle so far. This one, also from the Air Force, uses a synthetic aperture radar to observe Earth regardless of illumination or cloud cover. It’s a demonstrator for rapid production techniques and standardized parts meant to accelerate deployment of new spacecraft.

Fairing of the Falcon-ODE payload.

All told, its contents comprise 180 kilograms, or nearly 400 pounds, the heaviest load Electron has yet taken off with.

Lift-off is set for 6 PM local time in New Zealand, which corresponds to 11 PM Pacific time here in the U.S. If weather impinges on the opportunity, no worries — this launch window stays open for two weeks. You can watch the whole thing starting a few minutes before 11 at Rocket Lab’s website.

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M1 MacBook Pro with 8GB, 16GB RAM show surprising benchmark results

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Apple’s M1 Silicon has definitely been hogging the computing news spotlight these past weeks, most of them comparing its performance with Intel’s chips. Not all M1 Macs are the same, of course, and not just counting the difference between an M1 MacBook Air and an M1 MacBook Pro. Even the MacBook Pro (Late 2020) offers two slightly different models with different RAM capacities. Thankfully, someone took the time to benchmark these two variants, and the results might surprise you a bit.

It’s probably logical to assume that an M1 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM will outperform one with only 8GB of RAM and that may be true in some cases. It is, however, a simplistic view which could end up literally costing you when you decide which model to pick. Even benchmark tests don’t give the full picture and you have to take them into context.

YouTube channel Max Tech puts these two M1-powered MacBook Pros through a series of tests and, depending on what’s being tested, the performance difference between the two isn’t that stark. For activities that require more memory, like exporting an 8K R3D RAW to 4K, it’s only natural that the 16GB RAM configuration would finish faster. For more CPU-intensive tasks, however, the 8GB RAM model isn’t that far behind.

The real loser in these tests, unsurprisingly, is Intel once again. The benchmarks put an Intel Core i9 MacBook Pro with 32GB of RAM and a 2020 iMac with 16GB of RAM to be almost in the same ballpark as the M1 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM. Considering the Intel-powered Macs cost twice or thrice as much, the result is almost embarrassing for Intel.

The benchmarks aren’t exactly a glowing recommendation of the 8GB RAM M1 MacBook Pro, just that, for most use cases, it would be enough. As always, buyers have to keep in mind what they intend to use the MacBook Pros for in the long run but they can rest assured knowing that even the more affordable model is no slouch.

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Intel boasts battery performance superiority over AMD in Intel tests

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Intel has taken quite a beating this year, from AMD’s unwavering onslaught to the damning benchmarks of the Apple Silicon M1. The launch of its 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors for laptops has seemingly been pushed to the sidelines as a consequence and it is looking for ways to get back into the spotlight. What better way to do that than by calling out its eternal rival AMD over the latter’s battery performance and, sure enough, the benchmarks ran by Intel show it having the upper hand in that particular use case.

Intel has traditionally dominated the desktop market where towering computers had less concern about power draw and thermal management. These days, however, laptops dominate the market, and battery life and heat dissipation have become just as or even more important than raw performance. Unfortunately for Intel, these have been areas where its mobile processors have not delivered to users’ satisfaction.

In its latest marketing push, Intel addresses at least one of those concerns, specifically the performance of its new Tiger Lake processors based on its Evo platform when the laptop is running solely on battery power. It pits its 11th-gen processors with laptops running on AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series to see which of the two sets squeezes the most out of battery power. Considering who’s running the tests and presenting the results, the outcome is unsurprising.

Although it concedes that AMD’s chips score better in battery life benchmarks, Intel also points out its own CPUs’ better and more consistent output when it comes to actual data and number crunching. It also takes note of a rather odd behavior from AMD’s processors where the CPUs delay burst and responsiveness for about 10 seconds. It also unsurprisingly calls out the inconsistency of the results from Cinebench, its least favorite suite.

Battery performance is, of course, just a single part of the picture and Intel has reportedly forbidden press from testing and talking about battery life, that other area where its chips have been notoriously weak. Intel has also so far remained silent on benchmark comparisons with Apple’s shiny new ARM-based M1 but it is probably choosing its battles where it has a slight chance of succeeding.

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HomePod mini owners report random Internet connectivity problems

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Apple was terribly late to the smart speaker party and even when the HomePod finally landed, it was initially a disappointment when it came to Siri’s usefulness and control of smart home appliances. It definitely got better over time but its competitors have moved on to bigger and smaller smart speakers. At long last, Apple finally bit back with the HomePod mini but the smart speaker is reportedly giving new owners more headaches than the $99 speaker is worth because of intermittent and inexplicable Internet connection problems.

A smart speaker is smart precisely because of how it connects to the Internet and other Internet-connected devices at home or elsewhere. While it might be possible to do things from a local network only, there are actions that only work if you have an active Internet connection. Without that, a smart speaker is just an overpriced speaker.

Unfortunately, that is exactly the experience that a number of owners are reporting with their new smart balls. They all report getting the same response from Siri when asking it to do something: “I am having trouble connecting to the Internet”. Unfortunately, the large HomePod doesn’t seem to experience the same issue so it’s definitely not the case.

Even worse, no fix seems to be available for the issue. Users have reported trying all possible methods, including those advised by Apple, from resetting the speaker to even resetting their routers. If the HomePod mini started working again, it would only be for a day at most.

The one silver lining is that all HomePod minis are naturally still covered by their warranties but that doesn’t exactly explain why it’s happening in the first place. At this point, it could either be a software problem or, worse, a hardware one, and the latter is definitely harder to fix, especially on your own.

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