Japan joins US-led effort to restrict China’s access to chipmaking equipment

Japan is officially moving forward with restrictions aimed at limiting China’s access to advanced chipmaking machinery. As CNN reports, the country announced Friday it would tighten export controls on 23 types of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Once the new rules take effect in July, companies like Nikon and Tokyo Electron will need to obtain approval from Japan’s trade ministry if they want to sell their tools in some 160 territories across the world. A Japanese government spokesperson told CNN the restrictions aren’t designed to target a specific nation. However, Japan’s east asian rival is among the nations on the restricted list.

“We will fulfill our responsibilities in the international community as a technology-owning country and contribute to maintaining international peace and security,” Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s minister of economy, trade and industry, told reporters.

The restrictions follow the US and Netherlands enacting similar export controls. At the start of the year, the three countries reportedly reached an agreement to limit China’s access to western-made lithography machines. In March, the Netherlands made good on the deal, announcing it would restrict overseas sales of semiconductor technology in the interest of its national security. Those restrictions will affect ASML. As of last year, the Dutch firm was the only company in the world producing the extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) machines chipmakers need to make the 5nm and 3nm semiconductors that power the latest phones and computers.

China has homegrown firms capable of making up some of the shortfall the country’s tech industry will experience from the lack of access to western-made lithography equipment. However, it may take some time before those companies match the capacity of their American, Japanese and European rivals. According to research from Reuters, Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment (SMEE), China’s only producer of lithography equipment, makes machines capable of printing 90nm node semiconductors. More promising is the work of SMIC, the country’s leading semiconductor manufacturer. Last summer, it began volume production of 14nm chips and began making 7nm chips without access to foreign-made equipment.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/japan-joins-us-led-effort-to-restrict-chinas-access-to-chipmaking-equipment-214602553.html?src=rss

Court rules Elon Musk broke federal labor law with 2018 tweet

Elon Musk broke US labor law in 2018 when he tweeted Tesla factory workers would forgo stock options if they chose to unionize, according to a federal appeals court. On Friday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision spotted by Business Insider, upheld a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that found Musk made unlawful threats around employee compensation.

In May 2018, a Twitter user asked Musk about his stance on unions. “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted,” he tweeted in response. “But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.”

The tweet immediately drew the attention of labor activists, and in 2021, the NLRB, responding to a complaint from the United Auto Workers union, found Musk had threatened employees. Tesla has argued the tweet was Musk’s way of pointing out that workers at other automakers don’t receive stock options. NLRB chair Wilma Liebman saw it differently. "The employee is going to hear it as, 'If I vote to unionize, stock options will no longer be an option,'" she told Bloomberg in 2018.

After reviewing the decision, the Fifth Circuit Court sided with the NLRB. "Because stock options are part of Tesla's employees' compensation, and nothing in the tweet suggested that Tesla would be forced to end stock options or that the UAW would be the cause of giving up stock options, substantial evidence supports the NLRB's conclusion that the tweet is as an implied threat to end stock options as retaliation for unionization," the panel wrote.

The court ordered Musk to delete the tweet. As of the writing of this article, the message is still live. The Fifth Circuit Court also upheld an order from the NLRB that Tesla reinstates Richard Ortiz, a worker the automaker fired for organizing employees at its Fremont factory in California.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/court-rules-elon-musk-broke-federal-labor-law-with-2018-tweet-195420903.html?src=rss

Apple’s MacBook Air M2 is on sale for $1,000 right now

If you’re in the market for a new ultraportable laptop, one of the best you can buy is on sale right now. While supplies last, you can get the base model M2 MacBook Air – in either Silver or Space Grey – for $1,000. That’s $200 off the MacBook Air’s current $1,200 starting price. It’s also an all-time low for the 2022 model. If interested in the new MacBook Air, we recommend acting fast on this deal.

Engadget Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar awarded the M2 MacBook Air a score of 96 last year. Since then, the ultraportable has sat atop our best laptops list, and for good reason. The M2 Air offers a compelling mix of performance, portability and ease of use. It also has a lovely 13.6-inch display and a powerful set of four speakers. What’s more, it’s possible to regularly get more than 16 hours of battery life out of the Air. Many will also appreciate that it only weighs 2.7 pounds and is less than 12 millimeters thick. Outside of a web camera that could be better and a modest 256GB of storage on the base model, there’s very little about the M2 Air that’s not compelling.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apples-macbook-air-m2-is-on-sale-for-1000-right-now-171756338.html?src=rss

Apple wins appeal against UK antitrust probe into mobile browser dominance

Apple has handed the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority a major setback in its effort to regulate the tech giant. On Friday, the company won an appeal against an investigation the antitrust watchdog launched last fall. As a refresher, the CMA opened a full market probe into Apple and Google in November. At the time, the regulator said that many UK businesses felt restricted by the “stranglehold” the two tech giants had on mobile browsing. The probe also sought to determine if Apple was restricting the cloud gaming market through its App Store rules.

Per Reuters, Apple successfully argued the regulator had “no power” to investigate its position in the mobile browser market. The company said the CMA should have opened the probe at the same time it first published its report on mobile ecosystems last June. The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), the court that oversees CMA cases, agreed with Apple, saying the regulator gave notice of its investigation too late.

Apple said it was “pleased” with the CAT’s decision, adding it would “continue working to deliver support for developers and a safe and secure experience for users.” Naturally, the CMA was less thrilled with the case’s outcome.

“We are disappointed with today’s judgment. We made this market investigation reference to make sure that UK consumers get a better choice of mobile internet services and that UK developers can invest in innovative new apps. Our concerns, and the reasons why we launched our market investigation, were not challenged by Apple,” the regulator said in a statement. "Given the importance of today's judgment, we will be considering our options including seeking permission to appeal."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-wins-appeal-against-uk-antitrust-probe-into-mobile-browser-dominance-163706177.html?src=rss

Breville Smart Ovens are down to record-low prices right now

If you’re tight on counter space, multi-purpose kitchen gadgets can come in handy by giving you one device that can do many things. The Instant Pot is a great example of this, as are Breville’s Smart Ovens that combine things like a toaster, broiler, air fryer and others into one machine. As with most Breville gear, the ovens are on the expensive side — but now you can get up to 36 percent off a bunch of Smart Oven models.

The one we like the most is the Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro, which is down to $320 — that's the lowest we’ve seen and a return to its Black Friday price. The tabletop oven has 13 cooking modes, including dedicated air fryer and dehydrate settings. It’s not particularly compact with its one-cubic-foot interior, but that allows it to handle a whole turkey, an entire Dutch oven and most 9x13 sheets on which you could roast vegetables, air fry potatoes and more. If you can do without the proof, cookies and dehydrate settings, though, you could get away with the standard Smart Oven, which is on sale for an all-time low of $280.

Although those have “smart” in the name, they aren’t in the way you might be thinking. Breville’s true “smart” oven is the Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro, which is on sale for $430. It takes the standard Pro model and adds WiFi and app connectivity to it in some pretty useful ways. You can set cooking timers in the app and it’ll alert you when your food needs attention, and you can even set the machine to certain cooking modes using Alexa or Google Assistant voice controls. The app also has “autopilot” recipes, which are guided recipes you can follow while the oven handles some of the process by changing modes and temperatures automatically.

The Joule is best for those who love to spend time in the kitchen and love experimenting with new tech, while the standard Smart Ovens are better for most people. If you have a tight budget, the cheapest option in this sale is Breville’s Mini Smart Toaster Oven, which comes in at $128. It does a lot more than toast bread with its additional bagel, bake, pizza, reheat, roast and cookie settings, and it comes in a more compact design. You’ll be able to fit four slices of bread it in, a six-cup muffin tin or an 11-inch pizza - smaller than either of the full-sized Smart Ovens, but still big enough to make it a versatile machine.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/breville-smart-ovens-are-down-to-record-low-prices-right-now-130045017.html?src=rss

Google launches a beta Nearby Share app for Windows PCs

Back at CES 2022, Google talked about how it‘s improving Android’s integration with the Windows ecosystem in several ways. Nearby Share was one of the features it promised for Microsoft’s desktop OS. Now, the tech giant has rolled out a beta Nearby Share app for Windows, making it much, much easier to transfer files between mobile and PC. You can download it right now from the Android website, as long as your computer is running the 64-bit version of Windows 10 and up and isn’t powered by ARM processors. 

You’ll have to switch on your PC’s WiFi and Bluetooth for the feature to work, but you can choose who can see your device and send you files to fend off any potential spam messages. Under the drop-down menu for the device visibility setting, you can choose to make your PC visible to everyone, to your contacts, to your own devices only, or to nobody at the moment. Unless you choose the last option, an Android device will be able to share files with your computer whether the app is open or only running in the background. 

To send files from your PC to an Android phone, simply drag or drop them into the Nearby Share app or right-click on them and choose the Nearby Share option. If you own both devices and they’re logged into a common Google account, transfers are automatically accepted even if the recipient’s screen is off. Just take note that both devices have to be within 16 feet of each other. 

Google has released Nearby Share for the US and most countries worldwide, with some exceptions. It also said that while the beta app only works with Android phones and tablets right now, it will expand its compatibility across the company’s ecosystem. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-launches-a-beta-nearby-share-app-for-windows-pcs-120201590.html?src=rss

NLRB says Activision Blizzard illegally surveilled employees during a walkout

Activision Blizzard is facing yet another complaint by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The labor agency has “found merit with several elements of the unfair labor practice charges filed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA)” on behalf of the company’s workers, the union has told Engadget. This particular case pertains to the CWA’s accusations that the game developer illegally surveilled workers when they walked out in July last year to protest the lack of gender equality in the company, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as well as Activision Blizzard’s alleged union-busting practices. 

The NLRB found after an investigation that the company broke labor laws by using managers and security staff to monitor workers during the walkout. In addition, the labor board found merit in the CWA’s accusation that the developer threatened to cut off workers’ access to an internal chatroom where they discussed their pay, hours and overall working conditions. According to IGN, though, NLRB has dismissed one charge regarding the company cutting off people’s chat access to an all-hands meeting. The publication says Activision Blizzard‘s chief administrative officer Brian Bulatao has informed workers that chat was shut down for future all-hands because that particular meeting turned toxic. Attendees used it as a chance to “disparage the work of the Diablo Immoral team and others,” he explained.

An NLRB spokesperson told Reuters that it will move forward and prosecute Blizzard if the company doesn’t settle.

The company’s labor practices were thrust into the spotlight after California filed a lawsuit against it in 2021 for fostering a “frat boy” workplace. After a two-year investigation, the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing had determined that the developer discriminated against female employees. It’s one labor issue after another for Activision Blizzard after that, mostly related to workers’ organizing efforts. To note, the company is also facing another NLRB complaint, accusing it of violating labor laws by implementing an overbroad social media policy that prevented workers from talking about their working conditions and threatening employees who were exercising their right to join a union. Activision Blizzard told Engadget that those allegations were “false.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nlrb-says-activision-blizzard-illegally-surveilled-employees-during-a-walkout-094211193.html?src=rss

Apple TV+ app is now available for DirecTV Stream box users

DirecTV users can now watch Ted Lasso without buying extra hardware. The television provider announced today that the Apple TV+ app is now available to install on the company’s DirecTV Stream box.

This is the first time Apple’s streaming network has been available on DirecTV Stream, a multipurpose device for subscribers that supports live TV, streaming apps, on-demand content and DVR recordings. The satellite provider launched the device in 2020; subscribers can rent it for $20 per month, and it’s bundled with some premium plans. In addition, it includes a remote control with access to Google Assistant.

The Apple TV+ app will include the iPhone maker’s original content like Ted Lasso, Severance and CODA, and access to Apple’s broader library of rentals / purchases for television series and movie rentals. Additionally, it includes in-app support for premium add-ons like AMC+, Paramount+ and Starz. The app is widely available on other streaming devices, including PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles, Roku, Fire TV, Google TV and smart TVs from Samsung, LG and others.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-tv-app-is-now-available-for-directv-stream-box-users-214547480.html?src=rss

Senate bill seeks to break up Google and Meta ad businesses

The US government might not lean solely on lawsuits to limit online ad monopolies. A bipartisan group of senators has introduced the AMERICA Act (Advertising Middlemen Endangering Rigorous Internet Competition Accountability — yes, it's overwrought) with the intention of breaking up the ad businesses of tech giants like Google and Meta.

Large digital ad firms (those handling more than $20 billion in transactions) wouldn't be allowed to own both an ad exchange as well as either a demand- or supply-side platform. A supply-side platform owner couldn't own a demand-side system (and vice versa), while those buying and selling ads couldn't own either of the other platforms except to sell their own ad stock.

Companies that are medium-sized or larger (those handling over $5 billion in transactions) would also have to make the "best execution" for ad bids rather than deliberately holding back to serve their own operations. They need to be transparent and provide fair access to technical capabilities and data. If they do run businesses on two sides of the market, they have to establish "firewalls" to minimize abuse and conflicts of interest.

The bill is sponsored by a seemingly unlikely mix of senators that includes Mike Lee, Amy Klobuchar, Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren, among others. They aren't subtle about the ultimate goal: they expect Google and Meta to divest "significant portions" of their ad businesses to comply with the would-be law. Amazon and Apple might also have to take the AMERICA Act into account, the politicians say.

The sponsors single out Google as the bill's main target. As with lawsuits from the Justice Department and multiple states, the measure's creators accuse Google of manipulating the ad market in ways that unfairly disadvantage competitors. Google's control over a wide portion of the advertising system allegedly lets it charge "monopoly rents" across much of the internet.

We've asked Google and Meta for comment. They've previously fought bills and lawsuits meant to restrict their ad operations.

If the AMERICA Act passes, it would deal a significant financial blow. Google and Meta still rely on ad sales as their main sources of revenue, and in some cases use it to prop up other projects. Meta is sinking billions into its metaverse ambitions, as an example. While there's no way of knowing just how much revenue these companies would lose through divestments, they might have to rethink their broader strategies.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/senate-bill-seeks-to-break-up-google-and-meta-ad-businesses-211308768.html?src=rss

Twitter’s recommendation algorithm is now on GitHub

Nearly a year after Elon Musk first floated the idea of making Twitter’s recommendation algorithm public, the company has posted the source code for its recommendation algorithm on GitHub. In a Twitter Space discussing the move, Musk said he hoped users would be able to find potential “issues” in the code and help make it better.

“Our initial release of the so-called algorithm is going to be quite embarrassing and people are gonna find a lot of mistakes but we're going to fix them very quickly,” Musk said.

Notably, the code released Friday only deals with how tweets are shown in Twitter's "For You" feed. The company didn't release the underlying code for its search algorithm or how content is displayed on other parts of Twitter, though Musk said the company would "for sure" open-source the search algorithm as well.

In a blog post outlining how Twitter’s recommendations work, the company explained the various steps of the algorithm, including ranking and filtering. But Twitter users have already been finding interesting details in the code itself. For example, Jane Manchun Wong noted that “Twitter’s algorithm specifically labels whether the Tweet author is Elon Musk.” That may offer yet another explanation for why Musk’s tweets appear so often. Wong also noted that the algorithm has labels indicating whether the tweet author is a “power user” as well as whether they are a Republican or Democrat.

When asked about that aspect of the algorithm in the Twitter Space, Musk said “I agree that shouldn’t be there … it definitely shouldn't be dividing people into Republicans and Democrats, that makes no sense.” A Twitter engineer later followed up to clarify that the categories were only for “stat tracking purposes and it has nothing to do with the algorithm.” He said the labels are meant “to make sure we don't bias towards one group versus another one” though he didn’t address why Musk had his own category.

“But isn’t it weird that you have four categories and one of them is Elon,” the questioner responded. “I think it’s weird,” Musk said. “This was the first time I’m learning this.” The Twitter engineer didn’t directly respond with an explanation. The Twitter Space ended less than a minute later. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/twitters-recommendation-algorithm-is-now-on-github-200511112.html?src=rss