Month in Tech 1 — June 2021 Edition

This is the start of a new monthly series in which we’ll be recapping the main tech stories of that month.

Long live LG, LG is dead.

Earlier this year, LG dropped the prospect of exiting the smartphone sector, leaving both the flagship and budget ends of the range in the Android market with a lesser choice.

LG has reportedly stopped producing Android handsets as of June 1st, ahead of its final exit from the smartphone industry this summer. This comes around two months after LG made their intentions public.

It’s not surprising that LG’s smartphone production has come to an end. LG previously stated that it would complete its final commitments with carriers and other entities, which it has evidently done now that production is winding down.

LG will convert a factory in Vietnam that produced many of its smartphones into a home appliance manufacturing facility.

LG phones will continue to receive Android operating system updates for up to three years after purchase. From the date of manufacture, the company will also provide four years of after-sales service.

Google isn’t going to track you? O_o

Google is tightening its privacy policies, making it more difficult for businesses to follow consumers on Android phones and tablets.

Android users may already opt-out of tailored adverts on Google. This Advertising ID could still be used for a variety of purposes, including allowing app developers to track app usage and advertisers to detect and block invalid traffic.

After the new update, if a user opts out of tailored adverts, the Advertising ID will no longer be available, and requests for it will only return a string of zeros. Google said in early 2020 that it would remove third-party cookie support from its Chrome browser in two years.

However, because advertising accounts for roughly 80% of Google’s revenue, the company must keep advertisers happy by providing different means to position ads in front of the individuals they want to reach and track their effectiveness. They control roughly a 29 percent share of worldwide digital ad spending in 2021, having been the industry leader in internet advertising for well over a decade.

Google’s adjustments will be similar to those made by Apple lately for iOS devices, but they will be less drastic. By presenting a message in front of iPhone and iPad users whenever they start a new app, Apple has made it easier for consumers to opt-out of the kind of tracking that lets advertisers target advertising or measure whether ads worked.

Finally, the Apple gods have blessed us. Facetime for Android is here for everyone, sort of.

Users on Android and Windows will be able to join FaceTime calls for the first time. Apple said during its WWDC keynote that FaceTime will be available on the web, allowing customers to call in from Android and Windows PCs. Previously, the video calling service was only available on Apple’s iOS and Mac platforms.

With this update, Apple is making FaceTime more like Zoom’s video calling service. FaceTime will also let you get a link to a scheduled call so you may share it with others ahead of time and join in at the appropriate time.

There was no immediate word on a release date. The web features appear to be coming with iOS 15 in the fall.

Apple also revealed that iOS 15 will provide a number of other FaceTime enhancements. A new grid view option has been added, as well as a voice isolation function to increase sound quality, spatial audio compatibility, and the ability to blur your background using “portrait mode.”

SharePlay, a key new feature, is also available. Apple appears to be attempting to turn FaceTime into more of a social media platform than just a tool to make quick video calls to relatives.

No one touchin’ my rocket.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, announced on Instagram that he will ride on Blue Origin’s first human spaceflight in July.

Bezos said he invited his younger brother, Mark, who he described as his greatest friend, to accompany him on the trip. On June 12, an open seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship was auctioned off for $28 million, which is millions more than the first paying traveling to the International Space Station apparently spent 20 years ago.

The bidding at RR Auction’s Boston offices took around eight minutes to finish. That’s a few minutes shorter than the New Shepard mission, which is scheduled to launch on July 20 from Blue Origin’s suborbital spaceport in West Texas. It’s also a few minutes longer than the winner, who has yet to be determined, is projected to spend in zero-G during the flight.

The winner, rumored to be Elon Musk, will have three minutes of weightlessness and a panoramic view of the curving Earth beneath the black sky of space. But it will also go down in history, thanks to the presence of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin and Amazon, as one of the crew members.

This means that Bezos will beat Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson into space in the suborbital space race. Later in 2021, Branson hopes to fly on his VSS Unity vehicle.

The proceeds from this auction will go to Blue Origin’s Club for the Future charity.

AMD embraces big-little designs.

A newly published patent outlining a “method of task transition between heterogeneous CPUs” is fueling speculations that AMD is considering a hybrid future for Zen. It delves into some of the finer points, but the bottom line is that hybrid architectures will be used by both AMD and Intel in the future.

Intel is already on that path with Alder Lake, which will be available before the end of the year (a launch event will likely take place in late October around the same time Microsoft releases Windows 11, or perhaps in November).
The goal is to combine high-performance cores with power-efficient cores in the same device and distribute tasks accordingly, similar to what Arm has been doing in the mobile area for a long time. Arm’s own branding for this approach is called big. LITTLE (the “big” refers to the high-performance cores and the “LITTLE” points to the power-efficient cores).

AMD uses the terms “Big processor(s)” and “Little processor(s)” to describe how tasks are moved between the two. They further claim that by using finer-grained tracking and decision-making, the performance per watt may be effectively optimized.

The patent also mentions that this does not have to include two different types of CPU cores and that jobs might be shuffled between the CPU and the GPU instead.

We’ll have to wait a while to see if this patent pays off. Because Zen 4 is not a hybrid architecture, this is the case. AMD is rumored to be saving this for Zen 5, codenamed Strix Point, which will launch in 2024 and support AMD’s Ryzen 8000 series.

A brand new Windows? Not really. Windows 10 with macOS theme? Probably.

Windows 11 will be released soon, with a brand new style and a slew of new features aimed at streamlining your PC and making you more productive. Current Windows 10 users will be able to upgrade to Windows 11 for free.

Here are the best new Windows 11 features announced so far.

Android Apps

Android apps will be seamlessly embedded into Windows 11 via the new Microsoft Store, which has been a long time coming for Windows users. Although you could use Android apps on your Windows 10 PC in some situations (for example, if you have a Samsung Galaxy phone), Windows 11 is the first time you’ll be able to download them directly to your computer.
Android apps will be available in the new Microsoft Store via Amazon’s Appstore. You won’t be able to use every Android app in the Google Play Store, though.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft’s video chat platform Teams will be integrated directly into Windows 11, making it easier to use on a daily basis. Alternatively, click the button at the bottom of the Chat screen to open the full version of Microsoft Teams.

Desktops

Windows 11 will make it easier to create various virtual desktops for different aspects of your life and customize them with different backgrounds, allowing you to build a desktop for personal usage, work, school, gaming, or anything else, and switch between them quickly.
You’ll be able to scroll to the bottom of your screen and see a window pop up with the many desktops you’ve set up, allowing you to move between them with a single click.

Snap Layouts

When you have a lot of open windows, Windows 11 will let you arrange them on the screen in different layouts, and it will save all of the windows in that configuration.

When you open a window, you’ll see a square-shaped button between the X and the minimize button in the top right corner. Click that to see various layout possibilities for that window, and then select the layout and position within the layout where you want that window to appear.

Widgets

Widgets are an AI-powered customized feed that slides out to offer you information such as news, weather, a glance at your calendar and to-do list, and your recent images in Windows 11. Widgets are comparable to the news and interests feature that was introduced in a recent Windows 10 update.

Elon making more big brain computers.

Tesla has introduced its new supercomputer, which is already the world’s fifth most powerful, and will serve as the predecessor to Tesla’s upcoming new Dojo supercomputer.

It’s being used to train the neural networks that power Tesla’s Autopilot as well as the company’s forthcoming self-driving AI.

Tesla has placed a strong emphasis on computer power both inside and outside its vehicles in recent years.

It needs strong processors on the inside to run its self-driving software, and supercomputers on the outside to train its self-driving software, which is driven by neural nets being given an enormous amount of data from the fleet.

CEO Elon Musk has been teasing Tesla’s Dojo project, which apparently consists of a supercomputer capable of an exaFLOP, one quintillion (1018) floating-point operations per second, or 1,000 petaFLOPS.

Tesla has been working on Dojo for the last few years, and Musk has been hinting that it should be ready by the end of this year.

Tesla is claiming some fairly insane specs on this new cluster, which should make it roughly the fifth most-powerful computer in the world:

720 nodes of 8x A100 80GB. (5760 GPUs total)
1.8 EFLOPS (720 nodes * 312 TFLOPS-FP16-A100 * 8 gpu/nodes)
10 PB of “hot tier” NVME storage @ 1.6 TBps
640 Tbps of total switching capacity

Tesla wouldn’t go into detail about project Dojo but did indicate that it will be a better supercomputer than Tesla’s existing cluster for neural net training.

Musk has already stated that Tesla intends to make its supercomputers available to other businesses so that they can train their neural networks on them.

Suck at art? Nvidia’s got you covered.

NVIDIA has released a new app that allows users to paint lifelike landscape scenes — even if you have no creative ability and can’t draw better than a first-grader. Canvas is a new tool that can transform doodles and sketches into beautiful landscape photographs in real-time. It’s now available for download as a free beta, but you’ll only be able to use it if your system has an NVIDIA RTX GPU.

Canvas is driven by NVIDIA Research’s GauGAN AI painting tool, which was created and trained using 5 million photos. Simply draw lines and shapes on the virtual canvas, and the app will convert every brushstroke into the desired substance, such as grass, rocks, and clouds.

The AI in GauGAN will ensure that the end product is as realistic as possible. You’ll be able to swap out entire pieces of materials — say, a field of grass for a field of snow — to transform the entire image or easily make photographs of the same area during different seasons.

Watch it in action at this link.

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