Monthly Archives: February 2020

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The 2020 Toyota Camry AWD Is Fine But The V6 Is The One You Want

The 2020 Toyota Camry lives up to the car’s reputation for providing simple satisfaction. Camrys are comfortable, easy to use, and frugal on fuel burn. Now, for the first time since the ’90s, you can get one with all-wheel drive.

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Dell’s top-of-the-line XPS 13 from 2019 is $400 off at Amazon

One of Engadget's favorite laptops, the Dell XPS 13, is currently on sale. Amazon has discounted the top-of-the-line 2019 model by $400, making it $1,400 instead of $1,800. This variant features a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM,…

Driver stranded after connected rental car can’t call home

One of GIG Car Share's Toyota Priuses on a street in Berkley, California.

Enlarge / One of GIG Car Share’s Toyota Priuses on a street in Berkley, California. (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, a trip to the Californian boonies by Guardian journalist Kari Paul turned into a cautionary tale about the perils of the connected car and the Internet of Things. Paul had rented a car through a local car-sharing service called GIG Car Share, which offers a fleet of hybrid Toyota Priuses and electric Chevrolet Bolt EVs in the Bay Area and Sacramento, with plans to spend the weekend in a more rural part of the state about three hours north of Oakland. But on Sunday, she was left stranded on an unpaved road when the car’s telematics system lost its cell signal. Without being able to call home, the rented Prius refused to move.

Adding insult to injury, Paul’s cellphone was not similarly troubled by the remote location, allowing her to express her frustration, but also to talk to GIG’s customer service to try and get the car back in motion. At first, the company’s plan was to send a tow truck to tow the Prius a few miles closer to civilization, but that would be too easy. It appears GIG’s customer service unhelpfully suggested Paul and her companion spend the night sleeping in the car and trying to start the car again the next morning. Instead, after a six-hour wait and not one but two tow trucks—the second of which Paul called herself—plus 20 (!) calls to GIG, the problem was finally solved in the early hours of Monday morning.

In fairness to GIG, on its website the company does explain that users can order an RFID card to use to lock or unlock the car in areas of poor cell service, although that isn’t entirely compatible with the ability to “sign up instantly” and rent a car on the spot. It also appears to be a different approach than that taken by Car2Go (now known as Share Now), the now-defunct car-sharing service from Daimler that filled cities like Seattle and Washington, DC with blue-and-white Smart cars. Those vehicles were geofenced to particular cities and also needed cellular reception to start a trip. But they included the option to turn the car off while still keeping the rental running, therefore only requiring the key to unlock them and turn them back on.

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LG brings a 48-megapixel camera to its budget K-series smartphone

LG has added three new models to its K-series line of budget smartphones, and all of them have a rear quad-camera setup with a high-resolution main lens, a wide angle lens, a depth sensor and a macro lens. In fact the K61 is the first LG smartphone w…

Cadillac will unveil its first all-electric vehicle in April

We'll soon finally see the midsize electric crossover Cadillac previewed way back in January 2019. Cadillac president Steve Carlisle has revealed that the company will unveil the crossover, its first all-electric vehicle, in April at the National Aut…

Ryan Newman Hospitalized After Last Lap Daytona 500 Wreck [UPDATE]

The 62nd running of the Daytona 500 ended late on Monday night after a rain delay Sunday night. The event, however, ended in tragedy after a brutal last lap crash saw No. 6 driver Ryan Newman hospitalized while Denny Hamlin celebrated victory.

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Google pulls alleged UAE spying app ToTok from the Play Store, again

From TikTok to FaceApp, it can be hard to tell when an app has nefarious intentions hidden behind its useful or buzzworthy features. The same goes for ToTok. The New York Times reported in December that the app is being used by the government of the…

Samsung’s 2020 TV lineup forces high-end buyers to go 8K whether they want it or not

Most people in the United States and other markets are still on the precipice of making the jump from high-definition TVs to 4K ones, but Samsung is already de-emphasizing 4K in its 2020 lineup in favor of 8K TVs. Reports on the European product lineup show that Samsung will this year only offer top features and specs on 8K TVs, not their 4K counterparts.

Recently, Samsung’s most attractive high-end TVs have been its 4K QLED models. And those TVs have arguably been some of the highest-quality LCD TVs out there, bested in many tests only by LG’s OLED lineup (and besting the OLEDs in some others).

But we were a little concerned when Samsung failed to announce specific, mainstream 4K models from its 2020 lineup at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, even as it announced a plethora of 8K sets. It turns out there was a reason: the company’s high-end QLED lineup will be 8K only, and 4K TVs will be relegated to the more affordable TU line.

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Coronavirus outbreak on Diamond Princess hits 454; 14 infected Americans return

Passengers use mobile stairs to exit and jet plane at night.

Enlarge / SAN ANTONIO, TX – FEBRUARY 17: American evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on February 17, 2020, in San Antonio, Texas. The Diamond Princess cruise ship where the passengers were evacuated from, docked at the Japanese city of Yokohama, is believed to be the highest concentration of novel coronavirus cases outside of China, where the outbreak began. (credit: Getty | Edward Ornelas)

Fourteen Americans tested positive for carrying the new coronavirus just as they began their return to the United States from Yokohama, Japan, where they had been trapped aboard the luxury cruise ship Diamond Princess in a quarantine that began February 3.

As of today, February 17, Japanese health officials have confirmed 454 cases of COVID-19 on the ship, including 99 cases reported since yesterday. The cluster is, by far, the largest of any COVID-19 flare ups outside of China, where the outbreak began and has caused the vast majority of infections and deaths.

The new cases in the returning Americans will nearly double the current number of COVID-19 cases in the US, bringing the total from the current 15 to 29.

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Bio-electronic device can produce electricity using nothing but humidity

image of long strands of tight spirals in various colors.

Enlarge / The structure of some of the protein wires used by bacteria. (credit: Pacific Northwest National Lab)

There’s a huge variety of ways that we can potentially generate all the power we need for tiny medical sensors or other devices with minimal power needs. But there’s often a big gap between those sorts of use cases and something that could, say, charge your phone as you walk around wearing a sweater. The electricity-producing devices either don’t scale up or start off at such low power levels that you’d need a couple of tents to power a phone.

But today, Nature released a paper that describes a device the authors say should be able to work, providing power for medical sensors on the low end and scaling up to compete with solar panels on the high end. And all the device needs to produce power is ambient humidity. Better yet, the potential for developing the device was accidentally discovered by a grad student who was looking to do something else entirely.

A jolt of low-voltage serendipity

A surprising amount of scientific discovery is driven by annoyance. The Cosmic Microwave Background was famously discovered by people working on a microwave receiver who couldn’t get rid of an irritating source of noise—even after trying to clean out all the pigeon guano from the hardware. In the case of the recent work, a graduate student named Xiaomeng Liu was trying to work with some fiber-like proteins made by bacteria. In many species, these sub-microscopic fibers are good conductors, and a number of labs study their properties and those of the bacteria that produce them.

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