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Author: arstechnica (Page 2 of 2093)

Future Windows updates will take longer to install, but it’ll feel quicker

Enlarge (credit: William Warby / Flickr)

One of the less appealing aspects of the twice-yearly Windows 10 feature updates is that they're slow to install and, for most of the installation process, your PC is out of commission, doing nothing more than displaying a progress indicator.

Thanks to a new upgrade process, the next update—expected to be released in April—should result in substantially less downtime. The install process is split into two portions: the "online" portion, during which your PC is still usable, and the "offline" portion after the reboot, during which your PC is a spinning percentage counter.

Microsoft estimates that the Creators Update, released almost a year ago, would take about 82 minutes on average during the offline phase. Improvements made in the Fall Creators Update cut that to about 51 minutes, and the next update (which still hasn't actually been blessed with an official name) will cut this further still, to just 30 minutes.

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Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is now free on iOS, Android—and dang, it’s solid

The competition for the world's biggest "battle royale" video game got even hotter on Monday with a not-too-surprising announcement: Playerunknown's Battlegrounds now has a free mobile version available across the world. Downloads are now live for all iOS 9.0 and later devices and most Android 5.1.1-and-above devices with at least 2GB RAM.

Based on our preliminary tests of the live American version, this famously unoptimized game is way more playable—even on older, legacy devices—than it has any right to be.

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Tesla virtual power plant may face headwinds under new South Australian premier

The new premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall, is unconvinced about a virtual power plant project that had been proposed by Tesla and accepted by Jay Weatherill, the Australian state's previous premier, in February.

The project aims to put thousands of solar panels and batteries on South Australian homes, starting with public Housing Trust properties, to create a 250MW distributed "power plant," which can respond to grid signals and isolate itself (or "island") during outages. The project would have received a AU$2 million (US$1.54 million) grant from the state, as well as AU$30 million (US$23.16 million) in state-backed loans.

Marshall's objection to the project seems to be rooted in its structure rather than in a blanket opposition to energy storage. On Monday, when a reporter asked Marshall about the plan to outfit Housing Trust homes with solar panels and batteries, he replied, "That's not part of our agenda. Our agenda is 40,000 homes." The 40,000 homes is a reference to Marshall's plan to put up $100 million in subsidies to offer a $2,500 grant on each battery storage unit installed at 40,000 homes.

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The US Galaxy S8 finally gets Android 8.0 Oreo, only 6 months after launch

Enlarge / The Samsung Galaxy S8+. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

While Samsung's newest flagship, the Galaxy S9, is just hitting the market, last year's flagship, the Galaxy S8, is getting some love, too. Samsung and its US carrier partners are finally upgrading the Galaxy S8 to Android 8.0 Oreo, a version of the OS that came out six months ago.

Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint are all pushing out the update now, with no word yet on updates for the AT&T or unlocked US version.

Most of Google's engineering efforts on Android 8.0 came in the form of Project Treble, a massive overhaul of the underlying Android bits to modularize the OS away from the hardware, which should lead to easier updates. Due to the complexity of this change, the update is mostly meant for new devices that were built with Oreo in mind, and it's not coming to most upgrading phones. The rest of the changes are nice-to-have things like a revamped notification hierarchy and a lockdown on background processing.

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Ancient Maya traded dogs for use in religious ceremonies, new study shows

Enlarge (credit: PNAS)

Studies of the bones of dog, large cat, turkey, and other animal bones found in the Maya city of Ceibal show that, as early as 400 BCE, the Mayan elite were importing dogs from distant corners of Guatemala and raising large cats like jaguars in captivity, probably all for use in elaborate rituals at the pyramids in the center of the city.

“Animal trade helped sustain many large civilizations, such as the Romans in Europe, the Inca Empire in South America, the Mesopotamians in the Middle East, and the ancient Chinese dynasties,” said archaeologist Ashley Sharpe of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, who led the study. But at Ceibal, the imported animals seem to have served purely ceremonial or political purposes, which may have played an important role in the growth of the powerful Maya state.

Captive jaguar

The work is based on discoveries at a pyramid near the ceremonial center of Ceibal, an important Maya city in what is now Guatemala (the city is also known as Seibal and El Ceibal). Archaeologists found the jawbone of a large cat—probably a jaguar—mixed in with ancient construction fill. A jawbone doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to let archaeologists reconstruct what the animal ate and where it came from. The ratio of stable carbon isotopes stored in the bone, for example, can tell researchers whether the animal or its prey ate a lot of grain or foraged on more woody plants in the forests around Ceibal, while nitrogen isotope ratios reveal the amount of protein in the animal’s diet.

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