Tuesday, July 5, 2022

CATEGORY

Technology

NASA's CAPSTONE satellite breaks from Earth's orbit and heads toward the Moon

NASA's grand plan to take humans back to the Moon for the first time in over half a century has taken another step forward. The 55-pound CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) cubesat has broken free of Earth's orbit and is on its way to the Moon. Rocket Lab launched CAPSTONE on an Electron rocket from New Zealand last week. Following six days of orbit-raising burns to build up enough speed, the pathfinding satellite set out toward the Moon. It's a relatively slow trip, though. CAPSTONE won't reach the Moon until November. NASA will try to put CAPSTONE in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the Moon, a feat that's never been attempted before. The agency plans to use the same orbit for the Gateway space station, which will provide support for long-term lunar missions under the Artemis program. The outpost will have living quarters for astronauts and a lab. That mission won't launch until at least 2024. Meanwhile, it emerged last week that NASA has targeted a launch window of between August 23rd and September 6th for the Artemis 1 mission. It will send an uncrewed module around the Moon to assess how the journey might affect the human body. The agency ran a successful wet launch fueling test for Artemis 1 in June.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.

Best Apple AirPods for 2022 – CNET

If you're an Apple user in any way, it's hard to beat the quality, noise cancellation and convenience of the Apple AirPods. The company's headphones and earbuds are always at the top of best headphones lists for the year. But it's become a lot more complicated since Apple has released multiple different versions of its AirPods product. These different versions include standard AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and Beats-branded earbuds. But don't worry! We'll run down the differences and benefits of each.Check out some of the features highlighted below to pick the best AirPods for you or your loved ones. Many times it can come down to balancing function and price, so we've mapped out the most current pricing for you as well. Without further ado, here are the best options as you search out Apple AirPods deals this year.Read more: Best True-Wireless Earbuds for 2022 AirPods pricing 2022 Model Apple Store price Best price right now Best all-time price AirPods 2 $129 $119 $89 AirPods Pro 2021 $249 $197 $169 AirPods 3 $179 $150 $150 Beats Fit Pro $200 $200 $175 AirPods Max $549 $479 $429 We update this story frequently to reflect current pricing.  Sarah Tew/CNET Although they were released in 2019, Apple's AirPods Pro remain top true-wireless earbuds, thanks to their comfortable fit, decent sound, Active Noise Cancellation and compelling feature set, which includes Apple's spatial audio virtual surround feature. Their transparency mode, which allows you to hear the world around you during wear, is also the gold standard. The Apple AirPods Pro are the best true wireless earbuds and excellent for making calls. With the third-gen AirPods getting MagSafe compatibility, Apple updated the AirPods Pro to include MagSafe, so just be careful to get the latest version of the new AirPods Pro (the updated version sells for the same price as the "older" model).While the AirPods Pro's list price is still $249, the new model -- with the MagSafe charging case -- is generally available for around $190 at Amazon (and occasionally dips lower). Read our AirPods Pro review. David Carnoy/CNET Made by Apple, the newest Beats headphones aren't AirPods, but -- except for lacking a case with wireless charging and MagSafe compatibility -- they pretty much pack most of the features found on the AirPods Pro in a sportier design and are available in multiple color options. You should definitely check these out before buying the AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro at nearly the same price. Read our Beats Fit Pro review.  David Carnoy/CNET The newest 2021 AirPods deliver better sound quality than their predecessors while maintaining an open design. Slightly larger and shaped more like the AirPods, they should be a better fit for more people's ears, but at the same time, they may not fit those with very small ears who got a perfect fit with the AirPods 2nd Generation. Read our AirPods 3 review.  David Carnoy/CNET Apple's first full-size headphones are chock-full of high-end features like noise cancellation, spatial audio and easy integration with Apple devices. Yes, paying about the same as you would for a PS5 may sound crazy, but here's the crazier thing: They're actually kinda worth it, so long as you don't feel burned by their lack of support for full lossless audio and lack of included cable for wired listening (which must be purchased separately).We've occasionally seen the Apple AirPods Max prices dip as low as $429 in certain colors. Otherwise, they've hovered around $479. Read our AirPods Max review. Apple's AirPods 2nd Generation remain in the line but no longer includes a wireless-charging option going forward. Apple has dropped the official price of the AirPods 2 to $129, though you can occasionally find them for $100 or less. They're not as feature-packed as the other AirPods on this list, but they remain an appealing option for folks on a tighter budget or those who've worn out their original pair but love their fit and simply want to replace them.  Read our AirPods review. What are the newest AirPods? Technically, the newest AirPods are the 2021 third-generation AirPods with enhanced functionality, which arrived in stores on Oct. 26. They feature an updated design, improved sound and better battery life. That said, the Beats Fit Pro -- which share most of the same features as AirPods Pro -- arrived on Nov. 5. While they're not AirPods by name, we and others have referred to them as "the sports AirPods you always wanted."Note that an updated version of the AirPods Pro with MagSafe compatibility was released at the same time as the AirPods third-generation. The MagSafe compatibility is the only difference between the "old" and "new" AirPods Pro versions. Are the new Beats Fit Pro better than the AirPods Pro? Yes, in some ways the new Beats are better than the AirPods Pro for around the same price. We think they have slightly better sound and their battery life is better -- up to 6 hours with noise canceling on compared twith up to 4.5 hours for the AirPods Pro. The Beats Fit Pro's noise canceling appeared to be on par with the AirPods Pro's and so did their transparency mode. The integrated wingtips also lock the buds in your ears for sporting activities and everyday use. While the Fit Pro should fit most ears comfortably, some people don't like the wingtip design. The Fit Pro are missing wireless charging and the MagSafe compatibility found in the updated version of the AirPods Pro, which was released at the same time as the AirPods third-generation. Should I buy AirPods in the Apple Store? If you can help it, no: The various AirPods models typically sell for less online at other retailers like Amazon and Walmart. Amazon, meanwhile, typically matches the lowest price at other retailers. Generally, we'd only buy AirPods at the Apple Store if we want engraving, which isn't available elsewhere. That said, if you opt to go into an Apple Store for Apple deals, you should ask about price matching. While Apple doesn't seem to have any official policy, it's been reported that it will offer up to 10% price matching. As an example, that would be $25 off the AirPods Pro, which list for $249. That's not much, but it's worth asking to see if you can get 10% off.  Does spatial audio sound different on different AirPods? The short answer is, not really when you're talking about spatial audio with head tracking for movie and TV watching. While the AirPods Max offer the best sound overall, using the spatial audio virtual sound feature is largely the same experience on all the AirPods that support it.

Best Samsung Galaxy S22, S22 Plus and S22 Ultra Cases for 2022 – CNET

Samsung's Galaxy S22 lineup is a barn burner, proving to be one of the company's best sellers this year. The S22 lineup has a range of top-tier smartphones to choose from, too, so you're not short on variety. Of course, different phones with different sizes means not one case will work for all of them. There's the smaller Galaxy S22, the larger S22 Ultra and the midsize S22 Plus. Not only do you need to consider size, you also need to decide how much protection you want and whether you want extra features like a kickstand, the latter of which would be great for the hefty S22 Ultra.The same might be said for the smaller S22 Plus (with a 6.6-inch screen), which we like to refer to as the middle child in the S22 lineup, as well as the standard S22 (6.1 inches), which is the most "compact" of the trio. But everybody has their own opinions about what features make up the best Samsung case -- and the best case for a smartphone in general -- and that comes down to everyone's unique needs. That's why my picks come in a variety of styles, from clear case styles to opaque ones, from slimmer models to more rugged armor cases to folio wallet cases. Note that some of the recommendations for these Galaxy S22 series cases are based on my experience using nearly identical models with preceding Galaxy smartphones, as well as iPhones. The best Samsung case options below are listed at the starting price for the line, where multiple smartphone cases are shown. Make sure that you're buying the case that matches the specific model of your S22. The same goes for tempered glass for extra protection -- match the size to the specific model of your S22, whether that is the Ultra, Plus or standard.I regularly update this best Samsung case roundup with new picks as more candidates arrive.  Speck Leading case maker Speck brings a selection of protective case options to the Galaxy S22, including (from left to right in picture above) the Presidio Perfect-Clear Ombre, Presidio2 Grip and Presidio Perfect-Clear. All the new models have very good drop protection (13 to 16 feet, depending on the model) as well as Speck's Microban antimicrobial coating. The cases start at $40 in various color options. Sometimes Speck offers discounts to first-time buyers on its site. Gear4 British case-maker Gear4, now owned by Zagg, makes cases that are right there with OtterBox and Speck. They're all lined with the company's D3O shock-absorbing material and feature beveled edges to protect your phone. Shown here from left to right are the Copenhagen (13-foot drop protection), Denali (16-foot drop protection), Milan (13-foot drop protection) and Crystal Palace (13-foot drop protection). All use some recycled plastic in their construction, but the Copenhagen, made out of 52% plant-based material, is technically the most eco-friendly.Prices range from $30 to $50 for the top-end Denali, which is the Gear4 case I probably like best. Amazon If you're looking for a cheap clear case for your new Galaxy S22, Spigen's Ultra Hybrid is a good value at around $15-$18, depending on the version you get. I like the Ultra Hybrid S (second from the left in photo), which has an integrated kickstand. The Neo Hybrid, on the far right, is fairly basic case, while the Cryo Armor (second from right) is a $22 triple layer "gaming" case that's designed to "absorb and dissipate heat from your phone during hours of gameplay." No drop rating is listed for these Samsung phone cases, but most Spigen cases, except for the slimmest models, offer reasonable protection. If you want a tough case with decent protection, get one of its Armor models.Note that a lot of these cheaper clear cases have a habit of turning yellow and degrading over time, which makes them less translucent. But they're cheap enough that you probably won't mind shelling out for a replacement if and when that happens. Amazon The company's super protective Defender series case is available for all the Galaxy S22 models, but most people want something less bulky. I like the Symmetry series cases -- they're slim with beveled edges, making them a good mix of sleek and protective. That said, I've come to like the more protective Commuter Series better, thanks to the grips it has on the back and sides, as well as having raised edges on the front that should help protect your screen. The raised bezel acts as a screen protector to keep your screen scratch-free and the camera module gets the same treatment.  David Carnoy/CNET Rokform's been making tough smartphone cases for years and aside from their durability, their key feature is the ability to use them with various mounts -- including bike, car and motorcycle mounts -- that are sold separately.Rokform's cases have removable magnets and they're compatible with wireless charging if you remove the included center magnet. "With the lower magnet still intact, you can still wireless-charge while utilizing magnetic mounting and all of our mounts," Rokform says. Samsung Available in black, burgundy and light gray, Samsung's leather case offers a nice soft-to-the-touch feel with decent edge protection in a slim package. Alas, there's no kickstand, but if you're looking for a clean, elegantly designed case, this Samsung-branded case fits the bill. It also offers decent protection for the camera lenses on the back. I personally like the burgundy color. David Carnoy/CNET For the Galaxy S22, UK-based Mous brings its Limitless 3.0 case ($60) to the Galaxy S22. It comes in a few different eye-catching styles, all of them lined with the AiroShock material that the company says delivers excellent protection in a slim design. They do seem durable and all include a lifetime warranty.Mous' Limitless 3.0 cases are compatible with the company's Limitless 3.0 accessories. That includes a wallet that magnetically adheres to the back of the phone case and a few mounts, one of which is an air-vent mount for your car. It's also worth noting that the Limitless 3.0 cases are the only ones I've seen that have a SIM-card storage slot on the inside of the smartphone case for international travelers in the habit of SIM-swapping. David Carnoy/CNET Cyrill is a sub-brand of Spigen and like Spigen, its cases generally sell for less than $20. Cyrill doesn't have quite the same selection for the Galaxy S22 as it does for the iPhone 13, but it has some protective clear cases with floral designs (pictured on right), as well as the Brick Matte Finish case (the blue and red cases in photo), which has a soft-to-the-touch finish. It has a raised frame on the back that provides some extra protection for the camera lenses. The corners of the case have a raised lip as well. David Carnoy/CNET When you have a phone with a large screen, it can be a good idea to get some added screen protection with a folio case that also has slots for a couple of credit cards. Otterbox's folio case, the Strada, is nicely designed with a magnetic clasp. Its only drawback is that it doesn't convert into a kickstand for watching videos. It's only available in black for now.Otterbox also makes the Strada Via folio, but I prefer this model. Amazon Particularly with the two larger models of the Galaxy S22, I find that having an integrated kickstand is a nice feature and the ESR kickstand case is about as affordable as you get at around $20. It should dip to closer to $15 with time.  Amazon Available in a few color options, Raptic's Shield case costs less than competing premium cases from Speck and OtterBox and is a pretty good value overall. It has 10-foot drop protection, as well as an antimicrobial treatment.  David Carnoy/CNET Lifeproof's Wake case is made out of recycled ocean plastic. It's attractively designed but I wouldn't call it super tough -- it isn't enclosed at the bottom and has 6-foot drop protection. (Note that some cases on this list have higher drop-protection ratings.) Lifeproof offers $15 off your first order on its website.  Samsung Samsung's Clear Standing Cover isn't anything fancy but it's a protective clear case that has an integrated kickstand. You can prop your phone up horizontally or vertically using the kickstand, which seems sturdy (it's larger than Spigen's integrated kickstand). Alas, it's currently out of stock but will hopefully ship soon. More phone advice

Best MacBook for 2022 – CNET

No laptop is as popular as the MacBook. No matter where you go, be it an office or a school, you'll see that Apple logo on its aluminum body. And honestly, that's for good reason as Apple's intuitive MacOS and MacBook design just keeps getting better and better. While new MacBooks are scheduled to arrive later this year, the current line of MacBooks are still worth nabbing if you can. Of course, not everyone needs to buy the absolute best model, so it's a good idea to know which one is right for you. Below you'll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions as well as our picks for the best MacBook for your laptop needs. Now playing: Watch this: MacBook Pro M1 Buying Guide: Everything to Know About... 15:50 Apple is still offering education deals on MacBooks: Normally, the Apple Store is (ironically) not the best place to buy an Apple laptop (really, almost any Apple product) because sales are all but nonexistent. The big exception to the rule is Apple's education sales, which usually include MacBook deals. If you're a student or teacher, that can mean $100 off a MacBook Air and a free pair of AirPods, plus a 20% discount on the AppleCare Plus extended warranty (which I have mixed feelings about). On the other hand, we've also found Apple laptop deals through Best Buy's Student Deals page.All current MacBooks have the improved Magic Keyboard: It started in 2019, but Apple has since added the Magic Keyboard to all of its current MacBook Pro models. The result is a far more comfortable and reliable keyboard than the "butterfly" design that many MacBooks had been burdened with since 2015. Yes, it took Apple half a decade to backtrack, but the good news is that Mac laptop keyboards are finally good again.  14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro, great webcam; 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, meh webcam: The jump to a 1080-resolution camera in the newest MacBooks, and similar to the one found in the 24-inch iMac, is a game-changer for those of us sitting in video meetings all day. Here are some tips on making the 720-resolution cameras in those other Macs look better. If you need something bigger and don't mind it being less than portable: Apple just updated its smaller iMac (formerly 21.5 inches, now 24 inches) that comes in seven color options and runs on the company's M1 processor. If you need a bigger display and high-end components, the 2020 27-inch iMac is also available, making it one of the last Intel-powered Macs available. Almost all Macs have transitioned to Apple's own M1 chips: It was the big news at Apple's WWDC show in 2020. Since then, the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, 24-inch iMac, 16-inch MacBook Pro and a new 14-inch MacBook Pro all run either M1, M1 Pro or M1 Max chips, which include both CPU and GPU cores. Based on our testing so far, the Apple M1 line has, across the board, delivered on Apple's promises of better battery life and faster performance.  Dan Ackerman/CNET The key question is how to make sure you're not buying too little MacBook -- or too much. What is the best MacBook for your needs? For most people, the 13-inch Air remains the default choice and rightly so. The new 14-inch and 16-inch Pro models are more powerful, but in a way that only people who need heavy GPU support will need. Yes, you get a better display, new camera and more ports with those, but if you're buying a new Pro just for that, be aware that you're making what is essentially a vanity purchase. Read more: Best Mac VPN for 2022  MacBook starting configurations 14-inch MacBook Pro 16-inch MacBook Pro MacBook Air (13-inch, M1) 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1) CPU M1 Pro or M1 Max M1 Pro or M1 Max M1 M1 No. of GPU cores 14-16 (M1 Pro), 24-32 (M1 Max) 16 (M1Pro), 24-32 (M1 Max) 7 8 Screen size 14.2 16.2-inch 13.3-inch 13.3-inch Screen resolution 3,024x1,964 pixels 3,456x2,234 pixels 2,560x1,600 pixels 2,560x1,600 pixels Starting storage 512GB 512GB 256GB 256GB Starting RAM 16GB 16GB 8GB 8GB Webcam 1080p 1080p 720p 720p Networking 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 Connections Thunderbolt USB-C x3, HDMI, SDXC card, MagSafe 3 Thunderbolt USB-C x3, HDMI, SDXC card, MagSafe 3 Thunderbolt USB-C x2 Thunderbolt USB-C x2 Weight 3.5 lbs 4.7 lbs 2.8 lbs 3.0 lbs Starting price $1,999 $2,499 $999 $1,299 Dan Ackerman/CNET For many years, this Apple laptop was everyone's favorite laptop. It was reasonably priced, thin, light and built like a tank. It could last for years and take lots of falls and bumps. For any college student or coffee shop creative type, $999 would get you sorted. Then time passed the Air by. Its low-res display and the thick bezel around the screen fell behind average Windows laptops. The components were rarely updated. Fortunately, the Air got a huge refresh and now the MacBook Air looks and feels very much like a MacBook Pro. Most importantly, Apple MacBook Air laptops are back down to that magical $999 starting price (which is currently $899 at some retailers). The M1-powered Air doesn't have any vents, which means there are no fans and no fan noise -- perfect for classrooms and conferences. You only get two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, but for most people that's enough, as long as you can get a whatever-to-USB-C dongle.  The difference this year is that the new MacBook Pro laptops have better displays, faster processors and more ports, including HDMI and an SD card slot. But if you want those, you're looking at double the starting price. If you're a college student, a would-be entrepreneur, a writer or just looking for an all-around laptop on the high end of casual, it's tough to go wrong with the MacBook Air. It'll rightly be Apple's laptop default starting point for a lot of people. Read our Apple MacBook Air M1 review. Andy Hoyle/CNET When Apple updated the Air with its M1 chip in late 2020, it also updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Unlike the Air, though, the Pro has fan vents, which help keep this M1 MacBook Pro cool when processing your raw photo edits or cranking through your video exports. The switch to M1 means software is ideally rewritten to take advantage of the new M1 chip hardware. Fortunately, Apple's Rosetta 2 software allows Intel-native versions of applications to run normally with the M1 chip. In our testing, the performance difference was negligible if at all. This is now the last Pro to have the Apple Touch Bar, which isn't as useful as Apple would have you believe but not as useless as everyone else thinks. I use it all the time for screen brightness, volume control and a few other contextual buttons, like when using the calculator app. But in the latest 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, the Touch Bar is gone, so this 13 inch MacBook Pro is the last holdout. Since the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro model are close in price, you might be tempted to get the less expensive Air over the Pro -- after all, they look and feel similar and share a lot of the same features. And for many people, that's the right call, or if you're a power user, consider stepping up to the new 14-inch Pro. Read our Apple MacBook Pro M1 hands-on. Dan Ackerman/CNET The new-for-2021 16-inch MacBook Pro is the biggest, most-powerful MacBook you can buy. It's a true desktop replacement and a worthy heir to the late, great 17-inch MacBook Pro, last seen in 2012. Both this and the new 14-inch version add the same resurrected ports, new Mini-LED display, MagSafe power connection and improved webcam. Both are available with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max chip, which are precisely what a slice of the creative pro market has been waiting for. These new chips offer up to 36 GPU cores (and up to 10 CPU cores) and replace the need for both an Intel CPU and discrete AMD graphics, a combo previously found in only a few high-end Macs. In other words, after a long wait, professional video editors and 3D modelers have a new MacBook aimed squarely at them.The border around the display here has gotten so thin that there's not even room for a webcam any longer. Here the camera gets slotted into an iPhone-like notch at the top of the display. Yes, just like an iPhone. And like the iPhone, it's annoying and too obvious at first. But it's worth the tradeoff, as the higher-res 1,080 camera will spoil you quickly if you're used to the lower-res 720p cameras in other Macs (and most Windows laptops as well).With a starting price of $2,450, just keep in mind that if you're not specifically going to use these new GPU capabilities and just want the latest, coolest MacBook, this is a pretty expensive way to get an HDMI port and SD card slot. Read our Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review. Dan Ackerman/CNET From a distance, the new 14-inch MacBook Pro looks a lot like the 13-inch MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro you might already be using. Look again and the differences pop out. It has a bigger screen (obviously), slimmer bezels and a new keyboard color scheme. Thinking of this as a successor to the 13-inch Pro, the screen size jumps from 13.3 to 14.2 inches. It's what Apple calls a Liquid Retina XDR display, which is basically a Mini-LED screen, as in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.It also has the same HDMI, SD card and MagSafe ports as the 16-inch, and the same 1080 webcam. Both the M1 Pro and M1 Max available in the 14-inch, and it can be configured with the same 64GB RAM and 8TB storage as the 16-inch Pro. But what you can get on the 14-inch are a couple of lower-end Apple M1 Pro options not available for the 16-inch, with fewer CPU and GPU cores. If you're a college student, coffee-shop writer or other mainstream laptop user, consider that this is a hefty premium to pay for a better screen and webcam and more ports. It might be like buying a sports car just for driving on city streets. Bring in all-day, every day web video meetings, you might be able to make a good case. Read our Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch review. Which MacBook should I buy?My TL;DR advice is as follows. If you need a MacBook for everyday work, schoolwork, web surfing, movies and light creativity, go with the MacBook Air. For most people, this is all the MacBook they'll need.  The 13-inch MacBook Pro remains a tough sell. More expensive than the Air, but essentially the same Apple M1 chip. It's also the last holdout of the Touch Bar. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is the one high-end creative pros have been waiting for. Every video editor and creative pro I've spoken to is either excited to get one or has already preordered one, usually with the highest-end M1 Max chip. The 14-inch MacBook Pro can do almost everything the 16-inch can, but in a smaller package. It's either a premium mainstream laptop splurge or a work tool for creative types who need something a little more portable.

Amazon expands Prime Video’s Watch Party feature to Roku, smart TVs, and more

It just got way easier and more convenient to remotely watch Amazon Prime Video’s TV shows and movies together with your friends. The service’s “Watch Party” feature has received a much needed expansion from the limited use cases where it worked before — on Fire TV devices, desktop web browsers, and the Prime Video mobile app — and it now supports non-Amazon streaming devices, smart TVs, and Xbox / PlayStation gaming consoles. TechCrunch first reported on the expansion. Watch Party allows for up to 100 people with a Prime subscription to view content at the same time. The host is able to play, pause, skip, and fast forward or rewind for the group, and everyone can chat about what they’re watching. For now, Amazon’s Watch Party feature remains available only in the US. “An error message is displayed if you are using a VPN,” Amazon notes in its FAQ. Everyone shares access to content that’s free to stream with a Prime subscription. But if you want to watch a movie that can only be rented, everyone must do so individually. Watch Party isn’t compatible with live events (like Thursday Night Football), Amazon Prime Video Channels, or Freevee (formerly known as IMDBtv). While many of these group viewing experiences popped up amid COVID-19 lockdowns, Amazon began testing Watch Party in 2019 via its Twitch service. Hulu offers a similar feature by the same name, Disney Plus offers GroupWatch, and streaming TV apps like Sling TV have also joined in.

Can Dual-Use Solar Panels Provide Power and Share Space With Crops?

Companies like BlueWave are betting on it. But the technology has its critics.This article is part of Upstart, a series about companies harnessing new science and technology to solve challenges in their industries.In its 150-year history, Paul Knowlton’s farm in Grafton, Mass., has produced vegetables, dairy products and, most recently, hay. The evolution of the farm’s use turned on changing markets and a variable climate. Recently, however, Mr. Knowlton added a new type of cash crop: solar power.For Mr. Knowlton, a fifth-generation farmer and the current owner, it was an easy call. He had already installed solar panels to provide electricity for his home and barn. When a real estate agent came knocking to see if he was interested in leasing a small portion of his land for a solar array, “she planted the seed that I could do more,” Mr. Knowlton said.Mr. Knowlton looked at several companies but was most impressed with BlueWave Solar, a developer in Boston that focuses primarily on solar installations and battery storage, which allows excess electricity to be fed to the power grid. Soon, two small parcels of largely unused land were home to low-to-the-ground panels that produce power. This year, Mr. Knowlton’s farm will go one step further: In a third parcel, solar panels will share space with crops so that both can thrive.This approach is called agrivoltaics — a portmanteau of agriculture and voltaic cells, which transform solar power to electrical power. Also called dual-use solar, the technology involves adjusting the height of solar panels to as much as 14 feet, as well as adjusting the spacing between them, to accommodate equipment, workers, crops and grazing animals. The spacing and the angle of the panels allows light to reach the plants below, and has the added benefit of shielding those crops from extreme heat.Solar panels on Paul Knowlton’s farm in Grafton, Mass. Cattle will graze below the panels, which rise to 14 feet above the ground. Tony Cenicola/The New York TimesMr. Knowlton preparing the soil between the panels before he plants butternut squash and lettuce. Tony Cenicola/The New York TimesThe electricity generated gets uploaded to the grid, typically through nearby substations. While some of the electricity may find its way to the host farm, the projects are devised to provide power for general use. And such solar installations provide an alternative source of revenue in the form of payments to landowners like Mr. Knowlton or a reduction in lease payments for tenant farmers.BlueWave has focused primarily on designing the projects, then selling them to companies that build and oversee them. The Grafton project, on Mr. Knowlton’s farm, for example, is now owned by The AES Corporation, an energy company, who developed, built and is operating the project.“Not only do agrivoltaics advance the clean energy imperative but they are critical to maintaining working farms,” said John DeVillars, one of BlueWave’s three co-founders and the chair of the board of directors.Dual-use solar became of interest more than a decade ago because “big installations in the middle of nowhere aren’t going to solve all of our energy problems — transporting that energy can be very expensive,” said Greg Barron-Gafford, a biogeographer and an assistant professor at the University of Arizona. Farms in many parts of the country are in peri-urban areas, zones of transition from rural to urban land. Their proximity to high-use metropolitan areas makes open farmland particularly suitable for solar arrays, but in the past, without any coexisting agriculture, that sort of placement can set up a conflict over whether food or energy production should prevail.By Tony Cenicola/the New York TimesIn a study by AgriSolar Clearhouse, a new collaboration to connect farmers and other landowners with agrivoltaic technology, the installations were also shown to foster growth by shielding crops from increasing temperatures and aiding with water conservation. While the technology remains in its infancy in the United States compared with countries in Europe, where the technology has been used for over a decade, federal regulators as well as academics and developers are working to remedy that disparity.Early results are promising, said Garrett Nilsen, the acting director of the Solar Energy Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy. “There’s a project in Arizona where they’ve seen a threefold increase in crop yields when they are underneath this kind of system and up to a 50 percent reduction in irrigation requirements” because the panels provide shade, he said. Additionally, the plants under the panels release water into the air, which cools the modules, creating what Mr. Nilsen described as a “symbiotic relationship between the plants and the panels.”BlueWave’s first project to go live is a 10-acre farm in Rockport, Maine — now owned and operated by Navisun, a solar power producer. Wild blueberry cultivars have been planted below solar panels, which will produce 4.2 megawatts of power; the project is estimated to produce 5,468 megawatt-hours annually — equivalent to the amount of power needed for roughly 500 U.S. households.Unlike Massachusetts, Maine does not offer significant incentives for the use of solar power, so there was a 10 to 15 percent premium on costs when compared with similar projects, which BlueWave absorbed, Mr. DeVillars said. (That practice is consistent with the company’s status as a so-called B-Corporation, which requires a commitment to social and environmental goals.)Other players are clearly seeing the potential of agrivoltaics: In May, Axium Infrastructure, an investment management firm, announced its acquisition of BlueWave. Trevor Hardy will remain as chief executive and Eric Graber-Lopez will continue as president, while Mr. DeVillars will become chairman emeritus. Mr. Hardy said that the sale would allow BlueWave to expand so that it will own and operate, not just develop, solar installations and battery storage. Ultimately, he said, the sale “puts us in a stronger place for dual use.”“Farmers work on a long-term basis,” he continued. “It’s more compelling to drive up farm roads and sit with the owners at their kitchen tables and say that we develop, own and operate the installation.” And the technology’s potential goes well beyond blueberries; agricultural uses have included vineyards and shrimp farming.From left, Trevor Hardy, John DeVillars and Eric Graber-Lopez of BlueWave Solar, on Mr. Knowlton’s farm. Tony Cenicola/The New York TimesBlueWave is not the only agrivoltaics developer. According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, based in Germany, five megawatts of power were produced through these systems in 2012; by 2021, 14 gigawatts of power were generated in dual-use systems — roughly equivalent to the electricity necessary for approximately two million U.S. households annually, according to a spokeswoman from the Department of Energy’s technologies office. And the technology is evolving rapidly; in the few years since the installation at Mr. Knowlton’s farm, adjustable panels that can move to maximize the capture of sunlight, for example, have been developed.“It doesn’t always pay to be a pioneer and it’s very challenging at times,” said Mr. Hardy, who grew up in a South African farming family. Finding suitable sites — where there is sufficient sun and proximity to a substation or other electrical infrastructure — can be difficult. Opposition from neighbors, especially where panels are visible from other homes or even the road, is not uncommon.Panels are spaced apart to allow the planting of crops. The background parcel is reserved for only solar panels. Tony Cenicola/The New York TimesIndeed, BlueWave was one of several defendants named in a suit over a proposed plan for agrivoltaics in Northfield, Mass. A state court recently ruled that the neighbor had standing to challenge the proposed development. One of the plaintiffs, Christopher Kalinowski, said that among his concerns were that his views would be obstructed and that “the area will lose farmland.” (Mr. Hardy declined to comment on the litigation.)In addition, some chapters of the Audubon nonprofit environmental organization have been vocal about the technology’s potential effect on wildlife. Michelle Manion, the vice president of policy and advocacy for Mass Audubon (which is not affiliated with the National Audubon Society), said that while her organization supported renewable energy, including solar within farming operations, “we want to maximize the placement of ground-mounted solar on some of our lands that are the least ecologically sensitive first.”And there are general concerns that even with dual-use solar panels, arable land may be lost, though BlueWave says that the land can be reverted to pure agriculture uses once the solar leases — typically 20 to 30 years — expire.But one of the most significant obstacles is cost. The skyrocketing cost of steel has a direct effect on agrivoltaics’ emphasis on raising the panels 10 to 14 feet. “For every foot you go up you need to go two feet into the foundation,” Mr. Hardy explained. “It’s a challenging industry when you think of what we need to do to reach climate goals. But we’re staying the course.”Ultimately, though, everything depends on how the crops taste: If flavor or even appearance strays too far from that of traditional produce, the technology will be a hard sell. But in an early study, researchers at the Biosphere 2 Agrivoltaics Learning Lab at the University of Arizona found that tasters preferred the potatoes, basil and squash grown with agrivoltaics. Beans, however, may take some time: The small sample of tasters preferred the traditionally grown version.

Google Doodle Salutes 4th of July With Red, White and Blue Cheer – CNET

Google Doodle is celebrating the Fourth of July with a particularly upbeat animated gif. The "G" dons a classic chef's hat, flipping a burger high into the air and landing it right back onto the grill. Each "o" wears an Uncle Sam hat and dances with sparklers. The second "g" stands atop a box and sings into a microphone -- perhaps Yankee Doodle Dandy. The "l" is a pole flying the American flag. And the final "e" licks a classic summer treat: a red, white and blue Bomb Pop. You can almost taste the cherry, lime and blue raspberry -- and wish you'd picked up a box. Google With the recent bursts of intense news in the US, including Supreme Court decisions, rising food and gas prices and a barrage of flight cancellations and delays, Monday's Doodle reminds Americans of the simple delights of the holiday.Clicking on the Doodle takes you to a search for the "Fourth of July" and to a surprise: animated fireworks that light up the page in blasts of red, white and blue, including images of the American flag.The Doodle, which appears only in the United States, marks the 226th anniversary of July 4, 1776, when representatives from the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, announcing the decision of the colonies to separate from the British monarchy. The Revolutionary War ended just over six years later when Britain officially accepted American independence.

FTX policy exec says its ‘priorities have not changed’ amid market madness

As the crypto markets continue to trend downward, the world’s second-largest crypto exchange, FTX, remains undeterred. “Our priorities have not changed,” Mark Wetjen, head of policy and regulatory strategy at FTX, told TechCrunch. “Markets will do what they do, but the reality is that the digital asset marketplace and digital asset ecosystem, we believe, is here to stay.” If anything, the exchange, last valued at $32 billion, has the potential to become something of a savior for a number of struggling crypto companies. At the least, it’s been in the news often enough to give that theory some credence. TechCrunch+ is having an Independence Day sale! Save 50% on an annual subscription here. (More on TechCrunch+ here if you need it!) For one, FTX has reportedly gathered over $2 billion for acquisitions and stakes in other companies. The company has also launched a $2 billion venture capital fund earlier this year to back teams building in web3. “One of the challenges of operating in the space is the relative lack of clarity.” Mark Wetjen, head of policy, FTX

'Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith' Sends Rey's Parents on an Unforgettable Journey – CNET

Cast your mind back, if you will, to the joyous era of Star Wars fandom that followed the release of sequel trilogy opener The Force Awakens in 2015. It felt like everyone was dying to know about mysterious new hero Rey's parents and what kinds of adventures Luke Skywalker had been on in the decades since the original trilogy.The sight of Luke Skywalker wielding his green lightsaber on the cover of Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith is ludicrously exciting, and Adam Christopher's novel lives up to its potential.  Penguin Random House Star Wars suddenly mattered again; the excitement was glorious and the storytelling possibilities seemed endless. The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker (the second and third movies in the sequel trilogy) answered some of the mysteries with varying degrees of success, but didn't dive quite as deeply as many fans would've liked.Adam Christopher's novel Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith, which comes out in print, digital and audiobook form on Tuesday, is the deep dive I've wanted since 2015. Taking place 17 years after Return of the Jedi (and 13 years prior to The Force Awakens), we're introduced to Rey's parents as they flee across the galaxy with their young daughter. The couple were seen briefly in a flashback in The Rise of Skywalker, but this is their first major appearance. Their names are revealed almost immediately, but we won't spoil their names in this review since Christopher builds up to them beautifully. Unable to trust anyone with the agents of the resurrected Emperor Palpatine hot on their trail, the trio's situation feels desperate. Given the glimpses we got of Rey's parents in The Rise of Skywalker, this plot thread has a sense of dark inevitability. That doesn't stop Christopher from infusing these characters with emotional depth; you'll find yourself wholly invested in their quest for safe haven despite knowing how it ends. The novel offers answers about Rey's parents, after our brief time with them in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Lucasfilm The family has a glimmer of hope in Luke Skywalker, whose efforts to train the next generation of Jedi Knights are hampered by his visions of a sinister presence at the edge of the galaxy. This novel presents the original trilogy hero in his glorious prime -- exactly how many fans wanted him to appear in the sequels -- but Christopher deftly drops hints of the emotional state he's reached by the time of The Last Jedi.He's joined by fellow classic hero Lando Calrissian, who's in bad shape due to his stalled search for his kidnapped daughter. This vulnerable state allows Christopher to explore the smooth gambler's inner life to an unprecedented degree; it draws from the cocky young man seen in prequel spinoff Solo, the self-assured hustler of the original trilogy and the haunted older warrior we met in The Rise of Skywalker.Lando, seen in The Rise of Skywalker, goes on an epic emotional journey. Lucasfilm Luke and Lando's mission to save Rey's family is complicated by nasty assassin Ochi of Bestoon (another character who made a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in The Rise of Skywalker), who's been tasked by members of a Sith cult with hunting down the parents and child. He's a loathsome but compelling presence and grows increasingly unhinged as the tale progresses.Ochi's story here cleverly picks up plot threads from writer Greg Pak's recent Darth Vader comics, but Christopher includes enough detail that those shouldn't be considered required reading before diving into this book.Rounding out the villainous side is a mysterious warrior empowered by the dark side of the Force. This side of the story leans into creepy arcane Sith lore and proves to be the novel's most fascinating element. It gets surprisingly dark and weird, and hopefully hints at avenues that Star Wars will explore in future.Ochi of Bestoon has a tiny role in The Rise of Skywalker, but we learn all about him in Shadow of the Sith. Lucasfilm Once our heroes and villains cross paths, Christopher's cinematic writing shines in some epic action sequences that will delight those wanting to see the extent of Luke's power. The author sets him up with a worthy adversary, and it's fun to see the threat escalate to a level reminiscent of the old Legends continuity stories.However, at 496 pages, Shadow of the Sith loses steam a few times. An extended sequence on a mining space station comes to an epic conclusion, but there's a little too much jumping between characters and wandering around before getting to it.  Now playing: Watch this: Disney's Galactic Starcruiser: What It's Really Like... 29:28 One extended cameo from a baddy seen in The Rise of Skywalker also feels extraneous to the main narrative thrust even if they're fun to spend time with. Thankfully, the other cameos are better judged, fitting nicely into the story and staying exactly as long as they're needed. Despite these minor issues, Adam Christopher's Shadow of the Sith is the best kind of Star Wars novel and acts as an essential link between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It explores ambiguous aspects of the movies cleverly, tying up loose ends and adding emotional resonance while opening up a bunch of exciting new storytelling possibilities. After more than half a decade, the mystery of Rey's parents is solved in style.

Hacker claims they stole police data on a billion Chinese citizens

A hacker (or group of hackers) claims to have stolen data on a billion Chinese citizens from a Shanghai police database. According to Bloomberg, the hacker is attempting to sell 23 terabytes of data for 10 bitcoin, which is worth just over $198,000 at the time of writing. The data includes names, addresses, birthplaces, national IDs and phone numbers. The Wall Street Journal reports that the hacker provided a sample of the data, which included crime reports dating as far back as 1995. Reporters confirmed the legitimacy of at least some of the data by calling people whose numbers were listed. It's not yet clear how the hacker infiltrated the police database, though there have been suggestions that they gained access via an Alibaba cloud computing company called Aliyun, which was said to host the database. Alibaba said it's investigating the matter. The true scope of the leak is unknown. However, cybersecurity experts have dubbed it the biggest cybersecurity breach in China's history.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.

Latest news