Big Tech &
China’s smartphone giants reportedly unite to challenge Google’s Play Store (2 minute read)
Android users with Chinese-made smartphones have had to download their apps through a variety of different app stores since the Google Play store was banned in China. Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo have joined together to create a platform where developers can upload and distribute their apps to all the different stores simultaneously. The Global Developer Service Alliance appears to be an attempt to challenge the Google Play Store's near-monopoly. Together, these companies control over 40 percent of worldwide smartphone shipments. Huawei is working on its own operating system called Harmony OS as an alternative to Google's services. The Google Play Store generated around $8.8 billion of revenue last year.
SpaceX may spin out internet-from-space business and make it public (2 minute read)
The president of SpaceX's Starlink business has said that the company is considering going public as it is ripe to do so. Starlink has already launched 240 satellites and plans to launch up to another 1,440 satellites this year. These satellites are designed to beam down broadband internet coverage all over the world. Elon Musk is known for hating publicly traded companies and has said in the past that SpaceX won't be going public until its Mars vehicle is complete. SpaceX has recently been valued at around $33.3 billion. The revenue from Starlink will help fund SpaceX's plans to send people to the Moon and Mars. Those in the astronomy community have criticized broadband satellite projects as the resulting constellation could obstruct their observations of the night sky.
Good at StarCraft? DARPA wants to train military robots with your brain waves (4 minute read)
Engineers from the University at Buffalo, New York, have received funding from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to train machines to think like humans when playing a strategy game. Participants in the study will be connected to an electroencephalogram so that their brain activity can be recorded and then processed using machine learning algorithms. The aim of the project is to create an AI that can improve coordination between large teams of autonomous air and ground robots. Swarm intelligence is a branch of computer science that deals with collective, decentralized, and self-organized systems, both virtual and robotic. Many applications can be completed with swarms of cheaper robots rather than using single expensive robots. By using a swarm of robots that are all trained to complete different tasks, the group can coordinate and complete many different tasks. It is difficult to train many different robots in a wide range of tasks. The scientists hope that they will be able to speed up the process by studying brain activity when making decisions.
You Should Know About This Chernobyl Fungus That Eats Radiation (2 minute read)
A fungus that can eat radiation was found in Chernobyl in 2007. The fungus grows towards the hottest and most radioactive places. It contains a lot of dark melanin pigment, which absorbs radiation and processes it in a harmless way to produce energy. Scientists believe that the mechanism can be mimicked to create materials that block radiation and generate renewable energy. This kind of material would be helpful in creating more effective protective suits, as well as coverings for radioactive machinery. NASA plans to send the fungus into space as growing it in space could reveal new information about the species.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Mint (GitHub Repo)
Mint is a programming language for front-end web development. It features reusable components, styling, routing, global and local state handling, and synchronous and asynchronous computations for Single Page Applications. The project is still under development.
Ask HN: Advice for a new and inexperienced tech lead? (Hacker News Thread)
When you become a tech lead, your role becomes all about creating your team, nurturing your team, training them, and teaching them how to think critically. As a tech lead, your aim is for your team to create a good product - which means having to push against the company sometimes in order to maintain quality. Good communication between the team is key to making sure everything is running smoothly. The role involves a lot of social ability, not just tech expertise, as it is more about being a good leader than a good developer.
Coronavirus kills Chinese whistleblower doctor (6 minute read)
Li Wenliang, the doctor who tried to issue the first warning about the coronavirus outbreak, has died after contracting the illness. So far, the coronavirus has killed 636 people and infected 31,161 people in mainland China. The virus causes severe respiratory infection, starting with a fever, followed by a dry cough. Most people are likely to fully recover from the illness. Dr. Li made a post on Weibo after noticing seven cases of a virus that was similar to SARS. He was investigated by local authorities for spreading rumors and was accused of making false statements that had 'severely disturbed the social order'. Chinese social media has responded to Li's death by flooding social media with calls for the government to apologize for its treatment of Li, as well as for the right to freedom of speech. These posts were quickly censored. Many posts still discuss the topic indirectly, indicating the growing amount of anger and distrust towards the Chinese government. China has imposed heavy restrictions on its population in an attempt to control the virus.
Meet the musicians who compose in Mario Paint (5 minute read)
'Mario Paint Composer' is a genre that you can search for on YouTube. Using Mario Paint to create songs involves having to use a very unusual set of in-game tools. Starting in 2013, the trend has now evolved so that most composers aren't even using the original music maker anymore. Instead, they are using a custom program that mimics Mario Paint's compositional capabilities with a few extra features added. Early players had to find creative methods to create specific sounds in the original game. The trend died down soon after it began, and most videos and resources are old. There are still small, active Mario Paint communities on Discord. Members of the community feel that the restrictions that the game imposes on its players force them to be more creative, making composing songs inside the game fun and challenging.