Do CD Projekt Red’s gizmos embrace substance over style?
That hulking mass you see floating in mid-air? It’s the only smartphone available to Night City residents in Cyberpunk 2077’s dystopian vision of the future. Themes of power and glamour permeate through every facet of the game’s poignant locales and everyday tech. If you’re wondering how I got a phone model to spawn by its lonesome, I have a well-timed bug to thank. Either way, it’s an interesting glimpse into how Polish developer CD Projekt Red envisions the future of personal computing. And while some elements do lack, err, polish, there are several clever design and technical decisions that align with how technology is progressing. The ramifications are alarming.
While games like Grand Theft Auto 5 do a brilliant job in terms of smartphone representation (it even has Windows Phones), a glimpse of a future that contains only one smartphone model does raise some questions. Is CD Projekt Red focusing its resources elsewhere or is the move deliberate? The smartphone manufacturer might very well be enforcing a monopoly in Night City. Fits pretty well with the bleak narrative, truth be told. This might also explain how the phones can get away with looking like bricks. With body modification becoming a national pastime, a smartphone sounds like a woefully outdated idea. Cyberpunk 2077’s miniature radios that pass for smartphones further stir the pot of irrelevance in an age where ocular implants do a better job at conveying information.
If a megacorporation managed to monopolize personal computing, they don’t need to innovate to bring customers in. Pricing is no longer a concern either. Conniving business practices would ensure that the vendors in the supply chain remain exclusive partners, killing off rivals before they take their first steps. And don’t even think of anti-trust regulators. Dying government systems in Cyberpunk 2077 are nothing but pawns for corporations, riddled with puppet mayors knee-deep in corruption. The parallels drawn to the real world are hard to ignore.
In 2077, privacy is a commodity that has already found the highest bidder. And while implants harvest information on a subdermal level, phones still serve the purpose fairly well. And even if smartphones were relics from a bygone era, corporations pull the strings in Night City. They define what is essential and what isn’t.
Information is more than skin deep
Right off the bat, it’s clear that none of Night City’s distinct senses of style made their way into smartphones. But the term cyberpunk doesn’t just imply the future, it implies one where the past is juxtaposed with the present. These phones look like they could take a bullet in the middle of an Instagram Live and keep chugging along. As for the triple camera setup, I’m hoping they pack ultra-wide and depth cameras. A LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) would be a sweet bonus for AR enthusiasts.
Unfortunately, we don’t know how the software functions because all you get is a single static screen irrespective of whether the user is gaming or taking a picture. And it displays the year as 2071 which is either a developer oversight or a warped reality, a cause for serious concern. While that might mean that content is visualized via an implant, this effectively renders the screen useless. In fact, this is how the protagonist uses their phone too, with messages and calls showing up on their visual implants and not on their smartphone. With devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens picking up steam, it’s only a matter of time before it shrinks into something that slots into your head.
As for the device’s hardware, it’s a mixed bag. Sure, those large buttons might aid accessibility and what appears to be a 3.5 headphone jack is a cause for celebration. The grippy exterior could take a beating and the deep grooves might help segregate haptic stimuli. And the camera button (might be a volume/zoom wheel) is a welcome addition. But a non-reversible port is unforgivable in 2020, let alone 2077. It looks more like an HDMI port, which makes me wonder whether the device can be hooked up to an external monitor to get more serious things done. Or serve as an authenticator.
Tablets on demand
Yep, 2077 has tablets. Two of them, to be precise. The static screens in question weren’t at an adequate resolution for a bystander (yours truly) to sneak a peek. Either way, the bizarre diagrams and complicated graphs are well beyond my understanding. Placing vents on the left of these devices is a strange hardware decision because some of 2020’s best laptops are already fanless. The ARM chip-toting Macbook Air delivers excellent results without the help of a fan. The port at the bottom isn’t a foreign sight, especially if you consider the tablets of old that weren’t trying to be laptop replacements. But what really got my mind thinking was the little gizmo people were using in tandem with their tablets.
BCIs (Brain-Computer Interface) are currently in infancy but the possibilities they possess are immense. Think of them as devices that can measure minute electrical signals that travel in your brain, letting them gather precise information on the current state of your body and mind. And in the future, CD Projekt Red believes that these devices can alter said signals, letting you experience sensations no longer limited by the physical dimension. Editors can amplify or suppress these signals at will, leaving users at their mercy. In Cyberpunk 2077, you get to tinker with braindances, a saved digital experience of an individual. While it does help detectives look for clues, these devices could be worse than lethal in the wrong hands. I’ve had the good fortune of working with a BCI device in a project designed to detect fatigue levels with the help of the brain’s alpha waves. Ship that to a corp that turns them into “productivity detectors” and you can see where we’re heading.
No matter how you slice it, phones and tablets are still essential in 2077. Cyberpunk 2077’s passersby are often engrossed in their jet-black bricks with gold accents, whipping them out for a short gaming session as they wait for a train or a shooting spree amidst Night City’s neon-dripping sights. While lantern and fish holograms populate the city’s Little China region in the Watson district, AR technology doesn’t seem to factor heavily into how residents interact with technology in 2077. In fact, “jacking in” to a terminal with interface plug implants is common in the game, be it for authentication or something more sinister. Enjoy your stay in Night City but remember. You aren’t sightseeing alone. The walls have ears and your eyes aren’t just yours.
Man third in line of presidential succession has been in five 'Batman' movies – CTV News
For as many foes as the superhero fends off, Batman has a formidable team of supporters starting with his sidekick Robin, Gotham City Commissioner James Gordon and his ever-loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
But one of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent supporters lies not in a comic book, but in the U.S. Senate, and he’s known the Bat for more than 80 years.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and the longest-serving member of the current Senate, is a Batman aficionado who’s turned his fandom into philanthropy. He’s even used the comics to forward his legislative agenda.
Now President pro tempore of the Senate, Leahy is third in the presidential line of succession. Though it’s unlikely he’ll ever have to serve as President, his high-profile position shines a brighter light on his colorful resume — which includes multiple appearances in the “Batman” films.
When he’s not working in the Senate chambers in Washington, Leahy retreats to Gotham, where Batman fights cartoonish villains and mans the Batmobile. It’s a comfort he took up when he was 4 years old.
“If you live in the real world all the time, it can be kind of boring,” the senator told Vermont alt-weekly newspaper Seven Days in 2008.
WHEN LEAHY MET BATMAN
Leahy declined an interview for this story through his spokesman, but his affinity for all things Batman is well-documented. As he wrote in the foreword of “Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman,” he was born just one year after Batman’s first comic published in 1939.
He first discovered Batman at age 4, when he received his first library card. He frequented the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier, where he spent many an afternoon poring over comics. While his school friends raved over Superman, Leahy found a “kindred bond” with the Bat.
“Entering Batman’s world through my imagination opened an early door into a lifelong love of reading,” he wrote in his foreword.
He’d continue spending hours at the library each day until adulthood, and even after he moved to Washington, he’d make time to pop in. He’s a vocal advocate for literacy and the preservation of libraries so children can have similarly formative experiences with books.
“Some of my fondest memories as a child were at the library, where everyone fit in and possibilities were limitless,” he writes on his Senate website.
LEAHY’S APPEARANCES FROM PAGE TO SCREEN
Leahy was elected to the Senate in 1974 and until the mid-1990s, his affinity for Batman didn’t have much to do with his duties on Capitol Hill.
That changed in 1996, when Leahy collaborated with DC Comics to create “Batman: Death of Innocents: The Horror of Landmines,” a graphic novel warning of the dangers of landmines. Leahy has long advocated to end the use of landmines, and he told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that he placed copies of the comic on every senator’s desk that year.
Leahy’s first foray into screen acting — something he does strictly when Batman is involved — came in 1995, when he appeared in the critically reviled “Batman Forever.” The same year, he voiced a character billed as “Territorial Governor” in “Batman: The Animated Series.”
Since then, Leahy has appeared in nearly as many “Batman” films as the Caped Crusader himself. He usually appears as a scowling politician (though in “Batman & Robin,” which his son Mark also had a cameo in, he was allowed to enjoy a raucous party). He even met an explosive end as the curiously named Senator Purrington in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
“I explain to everybody that getting blown up was OK ’cause my wife’s a registered nurse,” he joked to Roll Call in 2016. “She put me back together and I never missed a vote.”
His most notable cameo, though, came in 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” when he confronts Heath Ledger’s Joker and famously tells the villain that he’s “not intimidated by thugs.” The Joker, true to form, responds by grabbing Leahy’s character and menacing him with a knife.
Ledger, who died before the film’s release, is Leahy’s favorite Joker.
“He scared the heck out of me, when he came at me with the knife,” he told Roll Call. “I didn’t have to act.”
“I have too many other things going on with Covid, with appropriation bills,” he told the paper in August.
While his film roles have certainly satisfied his inner fanboy, Leahy does it for the library where his love for reading bloomed. He donates every fee from his appearances and royalty checks from residual showings to his beloved Kellogg-Hubbard Library, where he helped finance a children’s wing named for him. From his roles in “The Dark Knight” trilogy alone, Leahy has donated more than US$150,000 back to his hometown library, said Carolyn Brennan, co-director of the library.
In 2012, the library hung a plaque honoring Leahy, who staff called their “super hero.”
WHY LEAHY LOVES BATMAN
Leahy found Batman when he was a boy, but his love for the fictional hero is foundational to who he is and the lawmaker he became. Batman instilled in Leahy a love of reading and promoting literacy and of delivering justice (though as a government servant, not a caped vigilante).
Leahy preferred Batman to other characters because, unlike the god-like Superman or the super-powered Spider-Man, Batman was just a man, albeit an extremely rich one, with “human strengths and human frailties.” The danger Batman faced was different than that of other heroes — his felt real, Leahy wrote in the DC collection foreword.
“The Batman prevailed through superior intellect and detective skills, through the freedoms afforded by great wealth and through sheer will,” Leahy wrote in his foreword. “Not superpowers, but skill, science and rationality.”
Much like Bruce Wayne, Leahy is just a man, albeit one with more power than most and the chance to make real, tangible changes in his own Gotham. Following Batman’s example, he’s vowed to use that power wisely.
Italy consumer association sues Apple for planned iPhone obsolescence – The Journal Pioneer
MILAN (Reuters) – Italian consumer association Altroconsumo said on Monday it had told Apple it has launched a class action against the U.S. tech giant for the practice of planned obsolescence.
In a statement Altroconsumo said it was asking for damages of 60 million euros ($73 million) on behalf of Italian consumers tricked by the practice which had also been recognised by Italian authorities.
Altroconsumo said the lawsuit covers owners of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, 6S and 6S Plus, sales of which in Italy totalled some 1 million phones between 2014 and 2020.
Apple said in an email that it had never done anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.
Two similar lawsuits against Apple have been filed in Belgium and Spain for the planned obsolescence of iPhones.
European consumer association Euroconsumers, which is coordinating the three lawsuits, said it was also planning to launch a class action in Portugal in the coming weeks.
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes, Elvira Pollina, editing by Louise Heavens)
Huawei Technologies in talks to sell premium smartphone brands P and Mate, sources say – The Globe and Mail
China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is in early-stage talks to sell its premium smartphone brands P and Mate, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said, a move that could see the company eventually exit from the high-end smartphone-making business.
The talks between the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker and a consortium led by Shanghai government-backed investment firms have been going on for months, the people said, declining to be identified as the discussions were confidential.
Huawei started to internally explore the possibility of selling the brands as early as last September, according to one of the sources. The two sources were not privy to the valuation placed on the brands by Huawei.
Shipments of Mate and P Series phones were worth $39.7 billion between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020, according to consultancy IDC.
However, Huawei has yet to make a final decision on the sale and the talks might not conclude successfully, according to the two sources, as the company is still trying to manufacture at home its in-house designed high-end Kirin chips which power its smartphones.
“Huawei has learned there are unsubstantiated rumors circulating regarding the possible sale of our flagship smartphone brands,” a Huawei spokesman said. “There is no merit to these rumors whatsoever. Huawei has no such plan.”
The Shanghai government said it was not aware of the situation and declined to comment further.
The potential sale of Huawei’s premium smartphone lines suggests the company has little hope that the new Biden administration will have a change of heart towards the supply chain restrictions placed on Huawei since May 2019, the two people said.
The Shanghai government-backed investment firms may form a consortium with Huawei’s dealers to take over the P and Mate brands, according to the second person, a similar model to the Honor deal. Huawei is also likely to keep its existing P& Mate management team for the new entity, if the deal goes through, the two people said.
OVERCOMING U.S. CURBS
Huawei, the world’s biggest telecoms equipment vendor and No.2 smartphone maker, last November announced the sale of its budget phone brand Honor to a consortium of 30 dealers led by a company backed by the Shenzhen government.
The second source said the all-cash sale fetched more than 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion). Honor declined to comment.
The Honor sale was aimed at keeping the budget brand alive, as sanctions slapped on Huawei by the United States had hampered the unit’s supply chain and cut off the company’s access to key hardware like chips and software such as Alphabet Inc’s Google Mobile Services.
Huawei may have a similar objective in pursuing the sale of the mobile brands. The two sources said that Huawei’s latest plans for the two high-end brands were motivated by insufficient chip supplies.
Washington says that Huawei is a national security threat, which Huawei has repeatedly denied.
On Friday, Honor indicated that the goal of the spin-off had been reached by announcing it had formed partnerships with chip makers such as Intel and Qualcomm and launched a new phone.
Last year, the company’s Consumer Business Group Chief Executive Richard Yu said U.S. restrictions meant Huawei would soon stop making Kirin chips. Analysts expect its stockpile of the chips to run out this year.
Huawei’s HiSilicon division relies on software from U.S. companies such as Cadence Design Systems Inc or Synopsys Inc to design its chips and it outsources the production to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), which uses equipment from U.S. companies.
The P and Mate phone series are among the top players in the higher-end smartphone market in China and compete with Apple’s iPhone, Xiaomi Corp’s Mi and Mix series and OPPO’s Find series.
The two brands contributed nearly 40% to Huawei’s total sales over the third quarter of 2020, according to market research firm Counterpoint.
Analysts have already noted recent insufficient supplies of the flagship P40 and Mate40 series due to a severe components shortage.
“We expect a continuous decline in sales of P and Mate series smartphones through Q1 2021,” said Flora Tang, an analyst at Counterpoint.
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