Federal authorities have a new plan to protect communities across the western US from increasingly explosive infernos by fighting fire with fire. In a shift from old-school firefighting strategies that attempted to stamp out naturally occurring blazes, the USDA and Forest Service will focus on thinning out forests to minimize “mega fires.” The agencies released a 10-year strategy today that includes removing trees and using “controlled burns” to reduce the amount of vegetation that feeds flames. The plan is to treat up to 20 million more acres of national forest land than is currently managed, plus work with partners to employ the tactics on an additional 30 million acres on other federal, state, tribal, and private lands. All in all, it’ll take an estimated $50 billion to accomplish, the Associated Press reports. The USDA did not immediately respond to a request from The Verge to verify that estimate. The US’s “wildfire crisis” is described as a “national emergency” in the newly released 10-year implementation plan. Supersized blazes are increasingly devouring huge areas. California’s 2020 fire season was record-smashing; more than 4.2 million acres burned that year compared to the previous record of nearly 1.9 million acres set in 2018. “Fire has always been a natural part of forest ecosystems, but the mega fires that we’ve been experiencing are unlike anything we’ve seen before,” Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) said during a press conference for the new wildfire plan in Arizona today. “Today’s fires — they burn hotter, and they burn longer.” They’re also far more destructive. The running five-year average number of homes and buildings destroyed by wildfires in the US has jumped four-fold, according to the USDA, from 2,873 in 2014 to 12,255 in 2020. Wildfires have grown more ferocious, according to the plan, because of climate change, which is warming and drying out landscapes and priming them to burn.
To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here. Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 18, 2022! Today kicked off the working week with a bang, thanks to Microsoft and another public company. But will all deals announced become deals completed? We’ll see. We also have an acre-feet of startup news items for your enjoyment. Let’s go! – Alex The TechCrunch Top 3 Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard: After months of internal turbulence – what TechCrunch described as “sexual harassment controversies and ongoing executive turmoil” – Activision Blizzard is selling itself to Microsoft for a huge premium on its pre-deal share price. Microsoft has purchased other gaming studios in recent years, making the purchase not entirely impossible to parse. But we have to wonder if the transaction won’t catch the eye of regulators, given a generally more active antitrust vibe around the world today. Let’s see. Apple takes smartphone crown back: Smartphone shipments grew by 1% in the final quarter of 2021, with Apple passing Samsung as the leading global manufacturer of the category. The two companies have traded the top spot over time, though — thanks to the chips crisis, global pandemic and larger supply chain snarls — volatility in this sort of metric is hardly a surprise. Still, it’s good news for Apple fans. China’s digital yuan matures: In the wake of China’s ban on cryptocurrencies and related activity – read: mining – the country’s own digital currency is picking up market share. Dubbed the digital yuan in English, the electronic variant of the Chinese currency has been installed by 261 million folks, or about a fifth of the country’s population. Startups/VC Before we dive into the startup news list, our own Anna Heim has a fascinating interview on the site digging into what impact a changing workplace will have on the startup market; it’s not only communications software and HR tech that are going to see a changed world. Give it a read! British startup snags $200M for autonomous delivery: Wayve just landed nine figures of capital to keep working on “robo-deliveries and logistics” through the power of autonomous vehicles. This round caught my eye not simply due to its scale, but also the fact that I was, until I read it, completely unfamiliar with Wayve. The startup market is now so big that even mega-rounds can crop up seemingly from nowhere! Roll bets that private photos are the future of creator-fan relationships: The creator economy continues to attract founder attention in 2022, today’s launch of Roll reminds us. The app wants to “give fans access to their favorite creators’ camera rolls,” per the startup’s CEO. It doesn’t literally give access to camera rolls as that would be, we noted, “a disaster waiting to happen,” but the idea is unpublished photos from creator to fan, for a recurring fee. Let’s see how it performs in-market. Mustard’s sports coaching software raises more capital: After securing $1.7 million back in 2020, Mustard went back to the capital well to raise $3.75 million more, it announced today. The startup is expanding its “sensor-free approach to [sports] data capture” to new domains, TechCrunch reports. The app picked up funds from a number of athletes as part of the round, which could help it secure a larger audience. Hell yeah, vertical farming: The idea behind vertical farming — that we should grow food up, instead of wide in urban environments — rules. Why? The potential for fresher food and lower carbon footprints for our eats. Upward, a startup in the vertical farming space, announced that it is going to build a 250,000-square-foot facility in Pennsylvania next year. We want a tour. Clockwise wants to make your clock, well, more wise: Meeting culture is hell on productivity, and despite everyone claiming that their company doesn’t overly index on meetings, most do regardless. Clockwise landed $45 million in a Series C for its solution to the problem. Per TechCrunch, the startup “uses artificial intelligence to help teams free up their workdays and avoid the challenges associated with remote and hybrid workplaces, such as burnout.” If it works, it sounds pretty neat. Appcues raises $32.1M for no-code user onboarding: Taking the no-code approach and applying it to different pain points in the user journey is big business. Appcues’ focus on onboarding is apparently finding traction, its new funding round hints. It’s worth noting at this juncture that no-code has gone from buzzword to fad to standard business practice for startups. Why? My guess is that it’s a result of a general developer shortage around the world — and folks just got tired of waiting for eng teams to get to their ticket. And that’s just the start. The startup game is at full-boil this January, with news landing like raindrops in a storm. Also on TechCrunch today was news about what Castiron is up to and what the term “food artisans” means, Pinwheel raising $50 million in a huge Series B, and a great column from Owen Williams about the open-source world and how the free workers who help keep the world running are discovering their true power – which, you know, impacts essentially every single startup in the market today. Will quantum computing remain the domain of the specialist VC? Image Credits: Olemedia (opens in a new window) / Getty Images Quantum computing’s potential applications include machine learning and computer-aided drug design, but the industry is still very much in its early days. In 2021, there were approximately 90 quantum investments that totaled $1.4 billion. A significant jump from $700 million the year before, but compared to SaaS, not even a drop in the bucket. Even so, we’re already seeing quantum exits: IonQ reached a $2 billion valuation after its 2021 SPAC, and Rigetti plans to do the same this year as it develops its superconducting quantum computer. In a comprehensive market map of the quantum computing industry, Maria Lepskaya, a senior associate at Runa Capital, sorted the top companies in the space into 12 (TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.) Big Tech Inc. Snap cracks down on drug deals: In the wake of an external investigation into folks dying after buying pills on the social service that were laced with fentanyl, Snap claims that it is making progress in finding and removing sales-related content. GM taps Blink Charging for EV chargers: As traditional car companies push headfirst into the electric car game, they need help at times. GM, the U.S. transit behemoth, for example, is tapping an external company to help equip its dealerships with charging points. TechCrunch notes that Blink has “around 30,000 EV chargers set up across 13 countries,” meaning that it has the experience it likely needs to tackle GM’s physical footprint. And to close out the day’s news roundup, Twitter is expanding its misinformation reporting feature to more international markets, which sounds like a good, if late, idea. TechCrunch Experts Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images TechCrunch wants you to recommend software consultants who have expertise in UI/UX, website development, mobile development and more! If you’re a software consultant, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.
Emirates, Air India, ANA, and Japan Airlines have all announced they’re canceling some flights to the US due to this week’s rollout of C-band 5G over concerns it could potentially interfere with some instruments. This comes as cell carriers, federal agencies, airlines, and airplane manufacturers struggle to reach an agreement on policies regarding how the rollout should be handled. Emirates’ announcement is one of the clearest about what’s being canceled. The airline says that it’s “suspending flights to the following US destinations from 19 January 2022 until further notice,” listing Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco, and Seattle. The airline will continue to fly to New York JFK, Los Angeles (LAX), and Washington, DC (IAD). The airline says it’s “working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns” and that it hopes to start flying to the US again as soon as it’s able. Airline operators in the US also warned that the rollout could cause “catastrophic disruption” to their flight schedules. According to the FAA, the concern is that the C-band 5G signals could interfere with the radar altimeters used in some planes, creating a safety issue. You can read our full explainer on the whole situation here. ANA cites specific guidance from Boeing, saying that “Boeing has announced flight restrictions on all airlines operating the Boeing 777 aircraft.” Japan Airlines also cites a notification from Boeing, saying that it was told that “5G signals for U.S. mobile phones, which will begin operating in the U.S. on January 19, 2022, may interfere with the radio wave altimeter installed on the Boeing 777.” Boeing didn’t respond immediately to The Verge’s request to confirm that it had sent out an advisory. Its competitor, Airbus, said that it will be working “as part of a wider industry coalition” to “study the issue further and work toward solutions.” For information on aircraft limitations, it referred to the FAA’s statements on 5G page, where a statement from January 16th lists the airplane models that have been approved to land at some airports under low-visibility conditions. Earlier today, both AT&T and Verizon announced that they would voluntarily delay 5G antenna upgrades near certain airports. The chairwoman for the Federal Communications Commission issued a statement saying it’s “essential that the FAA now complete” the process of assessing altimeter performance and the effect C-band 5G communication can have on it with “both care and speed.”
Rocket Lab is on a mission to vertically integrate space solutions. On Tuesday the launch and space systems company announced the close of a deal to acquire SolAero Holdings, a supplier of space solar power products and precision aerospace structures, for $80 million in cash. Buying SolAero, a 24-year-old, New Mexico-based company, means Rocket Lab now has another key supplier in-house for its satellite manufacturing. At the same time, having access to Rocket Lab’s resources will give SolAero the manufacturing capability needed to boost high-volume production and scale, meaning it can better supply other customers, too. The deal was originally announced, pending certain closing conditions, in December 2021, just a few months after Rocket Lab announced the acquisition of Colorado-based Advanced Solutions, Inc. (ASI), a space software company, for $40 million. The ASI acquisition aimed to help Rocket Lab build out its Space Systems division and achieve its goal of becoming an “end-to-end” space company, one that spans spacecraft manufacture, satellite subsystems, flight software, ground operations and launch, according to the company. The SolAero merger also follows the acquisitions of Planetary Systems Corporation in December 2021, a spacecraft separation systems company, and Sinclair Interplanetary in April 2020, a satellite components manufacturer. “SolAero is a highly complementary addition to Rocket Lab’s vertically integrated business model, enabling us to deliver complete space mission solutions for our customers,” said Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck in a statement. “With more than 1,000 successful missions under their belt, the team at SolAero have enabled trailblazing missions, providing space solar power solutions for the James Webb Space Telescope, and missions on Mars including InSight and Ingenuity.” The Mars Insight Lander was the largest solar array ever deployed on the surface of Mars, and Ingenuity was the helicopter that successfully flew on Mars in April last year. SolAero’s products have supplied power to NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and several Cygnus Cargo Resupply Missions to the International Space Station. The company has also provided power to OneWeb’s broadband constellation, and it has been selected to supply Solar Power Modules for NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans, which should enable future missions to Mars. SolAero’s team of 425 will be joining Rocket Lab, bringing the company’s total headcount to more than 1,100 employees across its facilities in California, Virginia, Colorado, Maryland, Toronto, New Zealand and now Albuquerque. The team will continue to be led by President and CEO Brad Clevenger.
A gas giant exoplanet that orbits a G-type star, which is similar to TOI-2180 b. NASA Last year, a crew of sharp-eyed citizen scientists found an exoplanet the size of Jupiter hidden in plain sight. It's slightly warmer than room temperature on Earth, floats 379 light-years from us and, every 261 days, completes an orbit around a star with about the same mass as our sun. Until now, the foreign gas giant, dubbed TOI-2180 b, was concealed in data collected by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS. It was entwined so deeply even the agency's best algorithms didn't catch it. Get the CNET Science newsletter Unlock the biggest mysteries of our planet and beyond with the CNET Science newsletter. Delivered Mondays. "This is one area where humans are still beating code," Paul Dalba, an astronomer from the University of California at Riverside and lead author of a study on the find, published Jan. 13 in the Astronomical Journal, said in a statement. Rather than rely on automation, the citizen scientists looked to a more accessible tool: their own eyes, combined with hard work.Tom Jacobs, a member of the citizen team and a former US naval officer, said he and fellow amateur astronomers "devote many hours each day surveying the data out of pure joy and interest in furthering science." So far, they've co-authored over 68 peer-reviewed science papers."We love contributing to science," Jacobs said. "And I love this type of surveying, knowing that one is in new, undiscovered territory not seen by any humans before."An illustration of TOI-2180 b. NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt Humans versus codeTypically, professional exoplanet hunters program computers to sift through TESS' heaps of information and analyze brightness patterns around nearby stars. When a star dims from Earth's point of view, the shift in luminosity indicates a planet in the star's system blocking stellar rays of light headed toward us.Think of it like a sort of cosmic Morse code, through which exoplanets – and, more recently, exomoons – signal their existence to human astronomers. But while over 4,000 exoplanets owe their recognition to such analysis, the tried and tested method faces a slight hurdle. Remember, TESS-scouring code traces brightness patterns, which means it requires several datasets to flag a possible exoplanet detection. The newly uncovered exoplanet, though, exhibited what's called a "single-transit event." It only crossed paths with starlight once, therefore offering a single piece of data.With the help of downloadable software called LcTools, Jacobs and fellow amateur scientists personally look through TESS data to examine star luminosity in the form of light curves, or brightness adjustments over time. This level of scrutiny helped Jacobs first notice TOI-2180 b's signal on Feb. 1, 2020. Fittingly, the group calls themselves the Visual Survey Group. "The manual effort that they put in is really important and really impressive," Dalba said. "Because it's actually hard to write code that can go through a million light curves and identify single-transit events reliably."However, just as expert algorithms hit obstacles, the human eye does as well. TESS codes generally search for multiple occurrences of star dimming for a reason. More signals increase the likelihood of true exoplanet detection. Single-transit events, for instance, could easily be chalked up to random noise in the data.That's why Dalba later stepped in to bolster the breakthrough from Jacobs and team.Using the Automated Planet Finder Telescope at Lick Observatory in Mt. Hamilton, California, Dalba measured the star's "wobble" to determine the exoplanet's size, and spent 500 days and 27 hours observing its orbit. Lick Observatory's Automated Planet Finder, used to help calculate the new planet's mass and orbit. Laurie Hatch/Lick Observatory The entire research team also organized an "observing campaign," inviting both professional and nonprofessional astronomers to set up at 14 sites across three continents, using telescopes to keep watch on TOI-2180 b. Altogether, over 11 days, they captured more than 20,000 separate images of the exoplanet's star with varying degrees of brightness.Dalba even camped for five nights in California's Joshua Tree National Park to examine the massive exoplanet. "Discovering and publishing TOI-2180 b was a great group effort demonstrating that professional astronomers and seasoned citizen scientists can successfully work together," Jacobs said. "It is synergy at its best."Despite the strenuous effort, Dalba, Jacobs and the rest of the astronomers say they still lack confidence to confirm TOI-2180 b's status. Still, they did discern that the planet will be transiting its host star once again in February, providing a new window for further analyses. In the future, NASA says, the James Webb Space Telescope, which launched on Christmas morning, could potentially study the novel exoplanet candidate in unprecedented detail.
It was cute at first. When Xbox head Phil Spencer took the stage at E3 2018 and announced the acquisition of five notable studios – Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, Compulsion Games and The Initiative – the air inside the Microsoft Theater turned electric. It felt like the company was righting a wrong in its business plan and finally building an internal roster of exciting games that it could offer exclusively on Xbox platforms. You know, a few friends to keep Master Chief company. Today’s announcement that Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard, the largest third-party publisher in the video game industry, doesn’t feel as harmless. Four years on and numerous acquisitions later, the Activision Blizzard deal feels like an extreme escalation of Microsoft’s plans, and it could mark a turning point in the video game industry as a whole, with negative consequences for both players and developers. So far, public reaction to the acquisition has been mixed, which makes sense for a few reasons: first, Activision Blizzard's sheer size is daunting, and this purchase represents more money and industry power than Microsoft's previous gaming acquisitions combined. Second, Activision Blizzard is currently the subject of multiple investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at the studio, where CEO Bobby Kotick has been in charge and largely unchecked for the past 30 years. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Kotick is poised to leave the company in a golden parachute once the Microsoft deal goes through. This is the first time Microsoft has received a confused response to acquisition news, rather than outright praise, and that's because this isn't a standard transaction. It's the clearest sign yet that we're in the video game industry's era of consolidation. Back in 2017, Microsoft was badly losing the first-party IP fight to Sony and Nintendo. By the end of that year, Xbox had shut down two of its internal studios, Lionhead and Press Play, it had killed a few hotly anticipated projects, and even with the Xbox Series X right around the corner, there wasn’t much to look forward to in the company’s software reserves. The acquisition announcement at E3 2018 was a sigh of relief for anxious Xbox fans. By February 2019, Microsoft had 13 studios and publishing organizations under the banner of Xbox Game Studios. Microsoft And then in September 2020, Microsoft revealed it was buying ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, id Software, Arkane Studios and Tango Gameworks. The gaming world generally rejoiced, but a few folks also started glancing around, suspicious. These studios were a big deal – the stewards of Fallout, Doom, Dishonored, Wolfenstein, Deathloop, Starfield and Elder Scrolls – and they were being added to Microsoft’s substantial pile of medium-sized companies, more names in a growing list. That alone was cause for pause. For most fans, the main question was, what did the acquisition mean for games like The Elder Scrolls VI, which was part of a series that historically hit PlayStation and Xbox platforms alike? Basically, would Elder Scrolls VI come to PS4 and PS5? Turns out, probably not. One year after Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda, Spencer told GQ that he believed the Xbox ecosystem was the best place for all of the franchises in the studio’s repertoire, including The Elder Scrolls VI. He all but confirmed it would be exclusive to Xbox. “It’s not about punishing any other platform, like I fundamentally believe all of the platforms can continue to grow,” Spencer told GQ. “But in order to be on Xbox, I want us to be able to bring the full complete package of what we have. And that would be true when I think about Elder Scrolls VI. That would be true when I think about any of our franchises.” Starfield, Bethesda’s sci-fi RPG built for the ninth console generation, will definitely be exclusive to Xbox Series X/S and PC, skipping PS5 entirely. Spencer’s comments make it clear that Xbox is eyeing exclusivity for its franchises, and after today’s $69 billion deal goes through, that’s going to include Activision Blizzard games. Microsoft Activision Blizzard is the largest third-party publisher in gaming, and it’s the owner of massive franchises including Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone and Candy Crush. As a third-party studio, Activision Blizzard has been able to negotiate with the main platform holders to get its software on the consoles and devices it wants. This doesn’t always equate to same-day launches or in-game item equity, but generally speaking, this position has helped ensure Activision Blizzard games reach as many players on as many platforms as possible. Exclusivity agreements and distribution deals are the main source of competition in the industry at this point, allowing outside developers to advocate for their games without feeling beholden to any console owner in particular. When a platform holder becomes the largest publisher in gaming, it flips the script completely. It jams the script into a shredder, burns the scraps to ash, condenses the ash into stone, and then throws that to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Let’s take Call of Duty, a series with predictable annual installments, for example. Over the years, Activision has shifted allegiances between Microsoft and Sony, offering early access and exclusive game modes to Xbox platforms, then PlayStation, and mixing it up along the way. Among all the backroom talks, bad blood and better offers, it’s always been up to Activision to cut the best deal for Call of Duty, console holders be damned. After the acquisition, that negotiation looks entirely different, if it even exists at all. As the owner of Call of Duty, Microsoft can tell Sony to screw off, keeping one of the industry’s biggest franchises exclusive to Xbox platforms. This likely won’t happen right away, but it’s certainly a possibility down the line. In his blog post about the acquisition, Xbox’s Spencer didn’t address Sony or Nintendo platforms specifically, but he alluded to the possibility of cross-platform support for Activision Blizzard’s franchises. “Activision Blizzard games are enjoyed on a variety of platforms and we plan to continue to support those communities moving forward,” he said, without detailing what he meant by “platforms” or “support.” Keep in mind, this was the messaging around Elder Scrolls VI at first, too. Microsoft isn’t the only company in the midst of a studio-hoarding spree: Sony picked up its 13th internal studio, Housemarque, in June 2021, while Tencent is chugging along with ownership of Riot Games, financial stakes in a handful of massive studios, and the purchase of LittleBigPlanet 3 developer Sumo Group in July 2021. Even Valve has scooped up a handful of independent creators in recent years, including the team behind Firewatch and some members of Kerbal Space Program. MARK RALSTON via Getty Images Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard simply feels like the final push into a new era for the video game industry: consolidation. While exclusivity deals may be the short-term concern, this trend has a longer and more tragic tail. It’s highly likely that there will be more acquisitions by Microsoft, Sony and other major names in gaming, and these deals and subsequent companies will only get bigger with time. With just a few massive studios controlling a huge chunk of the software pipeline, it could instill a sense of homogeneity among new titles, killing innovation as each developer attempts to conform to the corporate environment around them, actively or subconsciously. Even with “creative freedom” built into their contracts, the acquired studios will all use the same QA process, funding arrangement, marketing plan, management structure and editing cycle; they’ll have the same bosses and face the same oversight. And when all new products are the result of a singular perspective, they’re bound to feel familiar. Stale, even. Boring. Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is an escalation of the exclusivity scheme, and it represents a new way of doing business. Now and for years to come, consolidation is the name of the game. Maybe one day we’ll get Consolidation 2: Blow It All Up And Make Everything Indie Again, but that one might have trouble finding a publisher.All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Lodge says this absolute unit is the world's largest cast iron skillet. Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET Last week, a semi truck pulled a trailer marked "oversize load" down Interstate 59 on its way toward South Pittsburg, Tennessee. On that trailer sat a gargantuan cast iron skillet. A true behemoth. A leviathan of iron. The skillet is the brainchild of Lodge Cast Iron, a company that makes cast-iron cookware. Lodge shared a short video showing the vast vessel rolling down the road, tweeting, "the World's Largest Cast Iron Skillet made its way to our campus to find its home in the Lodge Cast Iron Museum that is currently under construction." If you were driving down I59 yesterday, you might have seen something special headed north! The World's Largest Cast Iron Skillet made its way to our campus to find its home in the Lodge Cast Iron Museum that is currently under construction. Learn more: https://t.co/ccaO9ysccD pic.twitter.com/eYO1VQH06g— Lodge Cast Iron (@LodgeCastIron) January 13, 2022 The museum is expected to open in late summer 2022 in South Pittsburg where Lodge has been in residence since 1896. The skillet -- which spans 18 feet (5.5 meters) from handle to handle and weighs 14,360 pounds (6,500 kilograms) -- will be a big tourist draw. Lodge suggested the pan could handle 27 ostrich eggs. CNET Culture Entertain your brain with the coolest news from streaming to superheroes, memes to video games. Lodge is billing the ponderous pan as the "world's largest cast iron skillet," but that title may draw the attention of some other super-sized attractions. The town of Rose Hill, North Carolina, claims "the world's largest frying pan," a segmented beast that can handle 365 chickens at a time. Lodge's pan greatly outweighs the North Carolina one. Long Beach, Washington, has "the world's largest frying pan…sort of," but it's not a real contender to the throne because the original metal of the pan's main body is long gone and has been replaced with a fiberglass replica.Lodge's pan is truly made from cast iron, so it's likely the company has a good argument for its claim. Lodge is teasing that it will release more details on how the pan was made in the coming weeks. It involved a foundry in Alabama that specializes in large cast iron pieces.As absurd as it is to see a 7-ton cast iron pan on wheels, there's also something heartwarming about humanity's capacity to make giant ridiculous things, not because we need them, but because they bring joy.
Weird Al Yankovic at the 2019 Grammy Awards. Jerod Harris/FilmMagic There's going to a be a movie about the life of Weird Al Yankovic, and Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe will play playing Weird Al. That's it. That's the news.Coming soon to the Roku Channel, Weird: The Weird Al Yankovic Story will tell the tale of the Grammy-winning musician, comedian and general weirdo, in his own words. Co-written by the man himself, the film "holds nothing back," promises Roku, "exploring every facet of Yankovic's life, from his meteoric rise to fame with early hits like Eat It and Like a Surgeon to his torrid celebrity love affairs and famously depraved lifestyle." CNET Culture Entertain your brain with the coolest news from streaming to superheroes, memes to video games. Born in California in 1959, Alfred Matthew Yankovic went from being a DJ to making comedy records parodying hits like the Michael Jackson song Beat It (the aforementioned Eat It, a hit in 1984 partly thanks to a video heavily aired on MTV). The biopic is written by Yankovic and Eric Appel, who also directs. It's being produced by Funny or Die.The Roku Channel is available on Roku devices and other smart TVs and home entertainment equipment. Movies coming in 2022 from Marvel, Netflix, DC and more See all photos
With the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to discuss the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act this week, Apple and Google are stepping up their opposition to both bills. According to CNBC, Apple recently told lawmakers the legislation would make iPhone users less safe. “The bills put consumers in harm’s way because of the real risk of privacy and security breaches,” Apple said in a letter seen by CNBC. The company specifically targets app sideloading as a potential threat. One of the provisions of the Open App Markets Act would force platform holders to allow consumers to sideload software and install third-party app stores. “But, if Apple is forced to enable sideloading, millions of Americans will likely suffer malware attacks on their phones that would otherwise have been stopped,” the company states in the letter. On Tuesday, Google, in a post attributed to Kent Walker, the company’s president of global affairs and chief legal officer, advanced a similar argument. “Google is able to protect billions of people around the world from cyberattacks because we bake security and privacy protections into our services,” he said. Walker warns the bills could hurt the company’s ability to integrate automated security features in its services. He also claims the bills could hurt the company’s ability and that of its US counterparts to compete with foreign firms by forcing them to obtain approval from “government bureaucrats” whenever they plan to release new features or address existing issues. Apple and Google may not like the proposed bills, but they have support from others in the tech ecosystem. Specifically, the Coalition for App Fairness, an organization Epic and Spotify co-founded to pressure the two companies to change their app store policies, has come out in support of the legislation. “Moving this important legislation forward sends a clear and unambiguous message that monopoly control of the app ecosystem is no longer acceptable,” the group said on Monday. The Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss both bills on Thursday, at which point they could advance to the floor of the Senate. At that point, the Senate would need to make time to vote on the legislation. That’s something that could take time with all the other issues it needs to consider in the coming weeks.All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
In the immortal words of George Costanza, a wallet is "an organizer, a secretary and a friend." However, we all know that the traditional wallet is essentially an overstuffed leather clamshell that can easily turn into an evil oppressor. A big, old-school bulky wallet can weigh you down -- both physically and emotionally -- and can become a place where you hide (and forget about) expired credit cards, old receipts, business cards and ticket stubs. That's where the minimalist wallet comes in. It's a diverse breed of lightweight, super svelte containers designed to accommodate only your most critically essential everyday carry items: some money, an ID card and a few credit or debit cards. The best of minimalist slim wallet options combine a stylish appearance, durable construction and -- most importantly -- a minimalist design that forces you to be ruthlessly economical in your choices about what to carry around every day. With that in mind, we've put together this list to help you find the best minimalist wallet. George Costanza's notorious wallet. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment The minimalist wallet category itself has, ironically, become jam-packed with thousands of designs being sold online and in stores by well-known brands, high-end boutiques and Chinese upstarts. Most of these minimal wallet styles cost between $10 and $40. But there are plenty of wallets with a minimalist design that cost $100 or more -- often built from heavy-duty materials, like high-quality leather, or stocked with extra features, like a bottle opener or multitool. So if you're looking for a compact wallet with a slim profile design that does "more," you're not hurting for choices. Though there are plenty of bifold and trifold thin wallet options, we're mostly focused on one-panel design wallets here. These usually hold between four and 10 credit and debit cards, though some do it more artfully than others. Many come in a variety of fabrics and colors, while some are hybrids, which combine wallet and money clip or elastic band. Most offer some type of RFID blocking technology, which is advertised as a protective measure against electronic pickpocketing, like scammers skimming data stored on your contactless credit cards. (That may be an overblown concern, however.) We've put them through their paces, with an eye on quality, durability, style, functionality and price. Take a look at our minimalist wallet recommendations below, which we'll update as we test new products. And if you ditched your bulky, old wallet for one of these (or a similar thin wallet), tell me about your experience with it in the comments. Best minimalist wallets, compared Best overall Best value Best warranty Most extra features Best rugged pick Luxury pick Model Airo Collective Stealth Hammer Anvil Buffway Dango Ridge Titanium Harber London Buying info See it at Airo Collective See it at Amazon See it at Amazon See it at Dango See it at Amazon See it at Harber London Price $55 $13 $10 $89 $85 $98 Weight (oz.) 0.14 1.27 0.88 3.35 2.65 0.49 Dimensions (L x W x H) 3.8 x 3 x 0.25 inches 4.0 x 3.3 x 0.25 inches 4.4 x 3.1 x 0.25 inches 4.38 x 2.5 x 0.38 inches 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.44 inches 2.9 x 4 x 0.40 inches Capacity 8 cards plus cash 6 cards plus cash 8-12 cards 12 cards 12 cards 6 cards plus cash RFID Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Airo Collective After carrying a wide variety of minimalist wallets over the past several years, I have finally found one that I can recommend without reservation. The Airo Collective's Stealth is tasteful, thoughtfully designed and extraordinarily, singularly minimal, weighing a feathery 0.14 ounces. The billfold design features two pocket card slots, each holding up to four credit cards, and a thin elastic band -- Airo calls it a "ballistic bungee loop" -- that securely holds your cash in place. The company says its material is 15 times stronger than steel, and the website features videos of musclebound dudes trying (and failing) to rip it apart. Also appealing: It's made in the US, comes with a two-year warranty and offers RFID protection, for whatever it's worth. After several months of use, I can report that it's broken in -- but still holding up well. Amazon Continuing from above: The Zitahli Slim & Minimalist Front Pocket Bifold Wallet, Buffway Slim Minimalist Front Pocket RFID Blocking Leather Wallet and Chelmon Slim Wallet RFID Front Pocket Wallet are more or less identical, and if you're looking for a cheap, nondescript slim minimalist wallet (with RFID blocking), honestly, any of them will do. But note that the Buffway minimalist leather wallet provides a generous 12-month no-questions-asked replacement policy, making it my top choice for the habitual wallet-loser. Dango There's something odd about a minimalist RFID wallet that includes a paracord tensioner. And yet, we have the T01, which covers the basics and then some. It's extremely durable, handcrafted with "aerospace grade" aluminum -- for those of you looking for a metal wallet -- in the US, and can hold 12 cards (at least) plus a wad of bills in the included silicone band. And the T01 comes with not only a built-in bottle opener, but Dango's stainless steel multitool accessory, which can be stowed in the wallet. (I can't recall even one moment during the past 25 years when I needed any of those tools while on the go.) The multitool pushes the wallet's total weight above 6 ounces, reduces the number of cards it can hold and won't be happily received when boarding an airplane. But still, it's a cool wallet for those who need tools on them at all times.Dango backs the T01 with a limited lifetime warranty on manufacturing defects and one year for defects in materials and workmanship. The Ridge Of all of the rugged minimalist wallets I tested, I found the Ridge to be the most flexible -- ironic for a wallet made of titanium. But the sandwich design of the Ridge wallet securely accommodates one card as easily as it can 12, and the durable but pliable money clip holds one bill as tightly as a bigger wad. The cutout provides quick access to all of your cards, and the tough elastic strap that holds everything together inspires confidence. This wallet is almost comically overdesigned, and you can use the included screwdriver (!) to disassemble the pieces, remove the money clip and bring the money strap to the exterior. That noted, there are numerous copycats selling on Amazon that might do nearly as good a job as the Ridge for about one-fifth of the price. Ridge makes this wallet in China, but backs it with a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects, which seems about right for the price. Harber London Handmade in Spain, this pricey leather card holder exudes sophistication. This cardholder style leather minimalist wallet is available in a variety of attractive solid and two-tone color combinations, it weighs in at about half an ounce and holds six cards and a few bills. Tasteful, well-made with leather material and quite minimalist, this one would make an awesome wallet for a graduation or birthday gift. (And I also like the less expensive and slightly bulkier three-pocket Classic Leather Card Holder.) Flowfold Flowfold's design is supremely minimal: It's extremely thin and weighs a fraction of an ounce. The one pocket design can fit up to 12 cards -- or fewer, with some money -- and that's about it. Unlike most of the other wallets, however, it requires eight cards or a wad of money to work properly; it won't securely hold just one or two cards and still block RFID signals properly. But it's exceptionally durable; the one I bought several years ago has held up exceedingly well. (Full disclosure: Flowfold is headquartered in southern Maine, where I live, and I am acquainted with folks who work there.)Note that the Paperwallet Micro Wallet, profiled below, makes a great alternative to the Flowfold. Amazon Five of the 12 wallets we tested had essentially the same basic design, and there are dozens -- if not hundreds -- of nearly identical models, all made in China, listed on Amazon. Though the price of the Chelmon model is less than $10, the rest of them generally cost between $10 and $15, though some colors, patterns and fabrics are more expensive than others. They're all about the size of a deck of playing cards, though they measure about 0.25 inch thick. The five we tested all have their (odd) brand names embossed on them:Each of these slimmer wallets had the same basic elements: two or three card holder pockets on each side; a transparent window that lets you flash your ID without removing it; an inner space that can be used as a cash pocket or to stow a few more cards; RFID blocking on its card sleeve to block electronic pickpocketing of your credit and debit cards; and, in the case of the slightly pricier Zitahli, a magnetically attached money clip. (Though that company claims this money clip wallet can safely hold up to 25 bills, when I put just 10 folded bills into it, the magnets failed to connect.) But my top choice overall is the shorter, wider Hammer Anvil; I don't mind that it lacks the ID window, which, for all of its practicality, I find tacky and not befitting of the top wallets for men (or women, minimalist wallets are for all!).I also really like the Kinzd, which has a slightly broader design that separates it from the cookie-cutter field. It has a terrific inner pocket -- which is closed on one side only, allowing you to open it up wide -- that comes together firmly with a satisfying magnetic snap. Other minimalist wallet options Ekster If James Bond carried a minimalist wallet, it would be Ekster's distinctive but pricey Parliament. The main compartment securely holds one card to five cards, which fan out of the top when you push the nifty eject button. (It must be noted that there are a fair number of Amazon reviews complaining about problems with the button.) Concealed within the interior is an elastic band that holds money or additional cards. And the genuine leather cover flap -- yes, technically, this could be called a bifold -- has two more slots for additional storage. (There's yet another slot on the back, too.) If you pack too much into a pocket, however, you risk perverting the mission of the minimalist wallet. Note that Ekster also sells a solar-powered, voice-activated tracker card that can help you find a misplaced wallet. Vaultskin Vaultskin's tasteful Notting Hill wallet manages to cram a lot into a small package. The defining feature here is the zipper. For some, it will be a deal breaker -- for its bulk, or whatever it connotes, style-wise -- while others will find the security of a zippered compartment appealing for containing their credit and debit cards and money. If you identify as pro-zipper, there's much to like. The exterior features three slots that can accommodate cards or money. A fourth hidden slot can store two or three more cards, which you can eject out the top using the genuine leather pull tab. The inside has two pouches, one of which snaps down, and a strap that can stow several more cards. There's also a small key hook. Though it says "London" on the packaging, this wallet is made in China. Trayvax Trayvax's Armored Summit Wallet delivers an appealing combination of ruggedness and extra features at a reasonable price point. It can hold up to seven cards and five bills, and like the Dango, it's built from sturdy materials -- steel and melonite, in this case -- in the US. Also like the Dango, it has an integrated bottle opener. Still, Trayvax's buckling strap is a deal killer for me. It's nylon -- not elastic -- and I found it quite difficult to adjust when I needed to remove a few cards or make more room for additional money. Paperwallet Though technically a minimalist bifold wallet and not a sleeve, the Micro Wallet warrants inclusion here for its incredibly light weight. Made out of Tyvek -- the synthetic material used to wrap buildings during construction, which is also water resistant -- this bifold wallet weighs a mere quarter of an ounce. You can park a few cards in each of its side pockets or slots, and the cash compartment will hold as many folded bills as you can cram in. Whether it's one dollar or a stack of 20s, however, this wallet will not stay closed when outside of your pocket. You can get these wallets on Amazon. But the company sells an array of quirky, distinctive designs on its own website. Paperwallet guarantees the Micro Wallet for 30 days -- a shorter period than most other vendors. But I've been using mine for a couple of weeks and, so far, it's held up surprisingly well. I'm curious to see how it does over the long haul, and will update this roundup in the future. Thread Wallets Thread Wallets' Elastic resembles a fancy Ace bandage or compression sleeve. It's made of a stretchy material, and can easily hold 10 cards and some money. It also has a small key ring. Though it's billed as specifically "for women" -- and it was my 10-year-old daughter's favorite of the bunch -- that seems a bit reductive. This would also be an excellent wallet for men. The only drawback to this simple, stylish wallet is that the excess material on the interior bunches up into a lump -- a minor but considerable design blemish. CNET Mobile Discover the latest news and best reviews in smartphones and carriers from CNET's mobile experts.