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Apple Vision Pro FAQ: Price, features, hands-on insights, and everything you need to know

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Vision Pro with Apple device cards

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

An Apple AR/VR headset — rumored for more than six years — finally became available this year. Eight months after Apple announced the Vision Pro at WWDC, the headset began shipping to customers. 

The highly anticipated headset was designed to take mixed-reality experiences to the next level. Apple has even claimed the Vision Pro is the “most advanced personal electronic device ever”.

Review: Apple Vision Pro: Fascinating, flawed, and needs to fix 5 things

Preorders for the device began on Jan. 19, and — despite its steep price point (it starts at $3,499) — Apple sold 200,000 units in the first 10 days, according to MacRumors. The devices began shipping to customers in February, and ZDNET secured two units for testing. 

Now there’s been two months of testing the headset, we have the answer to your burning question — is the Vision Pro worth the price? Here is everything you need to know about the company’s newest product, including specs, functionality, and some insights from ZDNET editors’ hands-on experiences.

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Apple Vision Pro in hand

June Wan/ZDNET

The design of the Vision Pro differs from many existing AR/VR headsets. For example, the device has an external battery pack that resembles the size of an iPhone and connects to the headset via a cable. 

When using the Vision Pro, you must be mindful of the battery (you can put it in your pocket) and the dangling cable.

Also: I’ve tried Vision Pro and other top XR headsets and here’s the one most people should buy

By using a tethered battery system, Apple has reduced the headset’s weight. Apple claims this setup solves one of the biggest issues with AR/VR headsets: discomfort after extended use. 

Despite the headset’s reduced weight on the user’s face, ZDNET’s Jason Hiner shared in his review that he found the device uncomfortable after wearing it for over an hour or two. 

The Vision Pro itself resembles ski goggles. Its curved front includes an external screen for EyeSight, a feature that allows your eyes to be seen when others approach you. 

Apple Vision Pro demo at WWDC 2023

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

The device features two OLED displays that together pack a total of 23 million pixels, Apple’s M2 chip, 12 cameras, five sensors, six microphones, and Siri. The headset also features Apple’s new R1 chip, which runs in parallel with the M2 chip to reduce lag.

The headset has two individually amplified drivers inside each audio pad to power its Personalized Spatial Audio, which personalizes sound for a user based on their head and geometry. 

Also: I watched my favorite TV show on Apple Vision Pro and it was glorious, strange, and tiring

To switch between AR and VR, the headset has a crown similar to the one on the Apple Watch. There is also a knob that lets users customize the fit and a button on top of the headset to take photos.

Apple Vision Pro Knob

June Wan/ZDNET

Users can control the headset with eye and hand tracking, a feature that’s slowly being adopted by other headsets on the market, as well as voice commands. For example, users can pinch to select and flick to scroll.

Vision Pro runs on a new Apple operating system, VisionOS, which resembles the iPadOS interface, bringing Apple’s apps and services ecosystem to the headset. VisionOS was created specifically for spatial computing. 

The Apple Vision Pro is a mixed-reality headset that combines augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). This capability means that, when wearing the headset, you can choose to either completely immerse yourself in the virtual reality environment, or use the headset to add an augmented reality layer onto your environment. 

The headset can run popular Apple apps, including Books, Camera, Contacts, FaceTime, Mail, Maps, Messages, Music, Notes, Photos, Safari, and more in mixed reality — a blend of both AR and VR. The headset launched with 600 new apps, including Zoom, Microsoft 365, Slack, Todoist, and more.

Also: I tried Apple Vision Pro for a weekend and here are my 3 biggest takeaways

According to Apple, the apps feel like they are in your natural space and environment. As a result, moving apps is similar to moving actual items around you. In his hands-on write-up, ZDNET’s Jason Hiner shared that moving objects became second nature by the end of his 30-minute demo.

“Within five to 10 minutes, I was rapidly opening and closing apps, scrolling up and down and right to left, selecting things, and moving apps and windows around in the space in front of me,” said Hiner. “By the end of the demo, I was doing all of this without giving it much thought and with a lot of accuracy and confidence.”

Also: 5 businesses proving the Apple Vision Pro is breathing new life into the enterprise

Immersive video is a big selling point of the device, allowing users to feel as if they are physically present in the space where the video takes place. For example, with the headset, you can stream a movie and watch it as if it were playing on a giant screen in another environment, such as the beach, with immersive spatial audio. 

Apple Vision Pro with Energy Yellow ZDNET

June Wan/ZDNET

The Vision Pro is also compatible with existing third-party streaming services to maintain the continuity between your favorite apps and the headset. For example, users can access Disney+, ESPN, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, Peacock, IMAX, and MUBI, to name a few. 

ZDNET Reviews Editor Kerry Wan found the immersive sport-watching experience to be one of the biggest pros of the headset and described the experience as “real, spirited, and stimulating”. 

“Forget the productivity tools, games, and creepy Personas. The Apple Vision Pro’s killer app revolves around our favorite pastime: watching sports,” said Wan.  

Also: Watching Apple’s MLS playoffs Immersive Video on the Vision Pro was my ‘aha’ moment

You can also use spatial video to watch videos shot on your iPhone. This experience is one of the headset’s biggest standout features, according to Hiner. 

“The difference between regular photos and videos and spatial photos and videos is almost like the leap from black-and-white to color in photographs and film — although this may be an even bigger jump,” shared Hiner. 

If you’re interested in using the headset for work purposes, you’re in luck. The headset can double as a 4K external monitor by mirroring what’s on your connected Mac onto the AR interface. (The feature only supports a single Mac display, but Apple might one day expand support to multiple displays.)

Also: I recorded spatial videos to view on Vision Pro and Quest 3 and you can download them

In addition, FaceTime for Vision Pro allows for videoconferencing, which you can use to work with your co-workers on projects simultaneously. The tiles of people on the call are “life-sized” and each person’s audio comes from the individual’s tile position, allowing for more natural conversations. 

People on the call see the Vision Pro wearer’s “digital persona”, which uses machine-learning algorithms to reflect the wearer’s face and hand movements in real-time, according to Apple. You can check out a video of Hiner and Wan FaceTiming each other with their digital personas. 

Also: Apple adds spatial Personas to the Vision Pro. Here’s how to try the feature

The headset can create a persona for you by scanning your face and building a realistic model with depth that moves during FaceTime calls.

Third-party conferencing apps, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, also offer enhanced video-calling experiences on the app. 

VisionPro scans face

Vision Pro scanning a user.

Screenshot by Christina Darby/ZDNET  

The Vision Pro has a hefty price tag of $3,499 for the 256GB base storage model, setting a premium category apart from Meta, HTC, and other manufacturers that play in the sub-$1,000 range. 

Also: 7 hidden costs of the Apple Vision Pro to factor into your XR budget

Apple also offers two additional storage options: the 512GB configuration, which retails at $3,699, and the 1TB, which retails at $3,899. The box itself includes the headset, the battery pack, a Dual Loop Band, a cover, a light seal cushion, a polishing cloth, a USB-C Power Adapter, and a USB‑C Charge Cable. 

Also: Don’t buy an Apple Vision Pro headset without this crucial accessory

In addition to the storage modifications, eyeglass wearers also have to factor in the cost of the Zeiss Optical Inserts, which range between $99 to $149. 

There are other bells and whistles you can opt for, such as Apple Care+ for $499 for two years or $25 per month, or accessories, such as the $199 Travel Case.

Also: Itching to try Vision Pro’s Travel Mode? Here’s what to expect before you go

Included in the $3,499 purchase price is the headset, the battery pack, a Dual Loop Band, a cover, a light seal cushion, a polishing cloth, a USB-C Power Adapter, and a USB‑C Charge Cable. You can watch Hiner unbox the device here.

Also: Installing a VPN on Apple Vision Pro: How to do it and why you should

Apple Vision Pro with cover

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

You should not wear the Apple Vision Pro with glasses on your face. The headset was not made to accommodate glasses. Wearing both simultaneously could result in an uncomfortable experience that could damage your headset. 

Also: How much does it cost Apple to make a Vision Pro headset?

However, Apple knows that people who wear glasses need to be able to see to use the headset, so the company also sells Zeiss Optical Inserts. They retail at $99 to $149, so if you are a glasses wearer considering buying the headset, make sure to factor in this additional cost. 

Apple Vision Pro Lenses

June Wan/ZDNET

One of the standout features of the Apple Vision Pro is its advanced hand-tracking, which allows users to forgo using controllers for a more immersive AR/VR experience. However, unlike the Meta Quest 3, there is no optional controller. Instead, you rely entirely on its hand tracking. 

Also: Vision Pro controller could resemble an Apple Pencil, patent suggests

However, if you want controllers in the future, you may be in luck. Apple recently applied for a patent for Handheld Controllers with Charging and Storage Systems. One perk of controllers is that they offer much more precision, which is especially useful for working professionals such as engineers. Before you get your hopes up, it is worth noting companies file many patents every year, and only some of these ever see the light of day.

The Apple Vision Pro is available for purchase on the Apple website and in stores. Preorders for the device began on Jan. 19, and those units began arriving on Feb. 2. 

Also: These are the Vision Pro apps Apple says will transform healthcare

Meta Quest 3 and Apple Vision Pro

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

Also: Meta opens its Quest OS to third-party headsets including Asus and Lenovo

This is the three-and-a-half-thousand-dollar question. Ultimately, whether the Apple Vision Pro is a good fit for you depends on your use cases, interests, and needs. To help you make that decision, ZDNET’s Editor-in-Chief Jason Hiner wrote two helpful articles:

After spending time with the Apple Vision Pro, Hiner shared his full review, including his overall rating, experience, and whether he would recommend it.  

ZDNET experts have Apple Vision Pro headsets in their hands, so stay tuned for more feature spotlights and buying advice to help you decide. 





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Latest hunger data spotlights extent of famine risk in Gaza, Sudan and beyond

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Dangerous levels of acute hunger affected a staggering 281.6 million people last year – the fifth year in a row that food insecurity has worsened – heightening growing fears of famine and “widespread death” from Gaza to Sudan and beyond, UN agencies warned on Wednesday.



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Lunar landforms indicate geologically recent seismic activity on the moon

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Global random spatial age distribution (0–250 million years) of 34 lunar lobate scarps in this study. Credit: Credit: Earth and Planetary Science Letters (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2024.118636

The moon’s steadfast illumination of our night sky has been a source of wonder and inspiration for millennia. Since the first satellite images of its surface were taken in the 1960s, our understanding of Earth’s companion through time has developed immeasurably. A complex interplay of cosmic interactions and planetary systems, the moon’s surface displays a plethora of landforms evidencing its history.

One such feature is lunar lobate scarps, long (<10 km) curvilinear landforms resulting from thrust fault movement, where older rocks are pushed above younger units leading to crustal shortening. These are thought to be some of the youngest landforms on the moon, forming within the last ~700 million years (the Copernican of the lunar geologic timescale). For context, this is considered geologically “young” as the universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old.

These lunar lobate scarps are the focus of new research, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, that use craters in the surrounding highland landscape as indicators of scarp movement and therefore are ideal candidates for estimating ages.

Explaining the significance of their research, Dr. Jaclyn Clark, of the University of Maryland, said, “Unlike Earth, the moon has no plate tectonics leading many scientists to explore what drives tectonism on the moon and other rocky bodies in our solar system.

“The existence of these small lobate thrust faults suggests that the lunar surface is contracting due to long-term interior cooling of the moon (cooling at a much faster rate than Earth).

“A better understanding of when tectonic activity has occurred and how the seismic energy attenuates through the regolith (unconsolidated rock and dust on top of bedrock) away from the fault by exploring the crater population could help plan safer missions to the moon.”






Using crater size-frequency distribution measurements, Dr. Clark and colleagues determined the ages of 34 lobate scarps on the moon’s surface. They further combined this with previous research to generate a dataset of 60 lobate scarps on both the near side and far side of the moon. Additionally, this data provided information on the magnitude of seismic activity associated with scarp movement and the likelihood of fault reactivation.

To do so, the scientists input high-resolution satellite images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera into geological mapping software ArcGIS to measure the size and frequency of craters within a particular area, permitting calculation of cumulative crater density and an age model.

The research team observed a pattern in age distribution between footwalls (unit of rocks on the underside of a fault) and hanging walls (the unit above the fault thrust upwards) across craters, proximal and distal to the scarp. Proximally, ~38% of footwalls were younger than adjacent hanging walls, 47% the opposite and 15% approximately the same age. For distal scarps, 33% had hanging wall ages over twice that of proximal hanging walls, while distal footwalls were not often considerably older than their proximal counterparts.

Dr. Clark explains, “When we first started doing crater size-frequency distribution measurements at the proximal locations of the hanging wall and footwall, we initially saw that the hanging wall area produced a younger age than the footwall, leading us to think that there may be more seismic shaking in the hanging wall.

“After expanding this method to 34 scarps, we find that this is not the case for all of them. Many scarps have similar ages (i.e., ages that overlap within error) for the hanging walls and footwalls. Most differences in ages are between the proximal and distal locations, which is most likely due to the attenuation of seismic energy away from the fault.”

Lunar landforms indicate geologically recent seismic activity on the Moon
Crater size-frequency distribution measurements on Barrow scarp thrust fault, alongside absolute model ages for the hanging walls (HWP–proximal, HWD–distal) and footwalls (FWP–proximal, FWD–distal). Credit: Credit: Earth and Planetary Science Letters (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2024.118636

Consequently, this is evidence for reduced shaking from lobate scarp movement with distance, typically affecting the upper 1 km of the crust. This means seismic activity is constrained to shallower depths, increasing the intensity of shaking at the surface compared to if deeper in the crust; it is likely to have greater impact too as the moon’s weaker gravity makes it more susceptible to higher shaking intensity with small magnitude moonquakes.

Furthermore, the research team found a random distribution in lobate scarp ages spatially, with no particular area of the planetary body displaying a cluster of similar ages, as well as no clear correlation between age and scarp length. They did however find some correlation between scarp shape and age, with linear scarps forming over 250 million years and arcuate and irregular scarps over the last 50–150 million years.

Therefore, this suggests scarp formation is due to a combination of the cooling of the moon’s interior over millions of years, resulting in global contraction (generating arcuate and irregular scarps) and diurnal tidal stresses (linear scarps).

Most of the thrust fault activity associated with lobate scarp formation was dated to the last 400 million years, the most recent being 24 million years ago. Interestingly, the scientists also noticed a declining trend in the size of craters being impacted by scarp movements within the last 250 million years, therefore suggesting that there has also been a decrease in moonquake activity during this time. Dr. Clark notes that “it could mean the rate of interior cooling is slowing down” but that more research is required to determine if this trend will continue.

Overall, scarp movement encourages the formation of new craters, resurfacing the moon’s landscape and generating younger ages for its landforms. The impact of this resetting of crater chronologies on our understanding of lunar processes is something the scientists are keen to explore further, as Dr. Clark explains, “With no atmosphere on the moon, processes like tectonism and volcanism have been largely changing the lunar surface.

“With the limited number of samples from the moon, crater size-frequency distribution measurements are currently our best option for ascertaining surface ages. In addition to getting a resurface age, exploring the crater size range may provide insights into how craters degrade in certain materials or processes. This work has only just scratched the surface and we’re looking forward to expanding on this research in the future.”

More information:
Jaclyn D Clark et al, How old are lunar lobate scarps? 2. Distribution in space and time, Earth and Planetary Science Letters (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2024.118636

© 2024 Science X Network

Citation:
Lunar landforms indicate geologically recent seismic activity on the moon (2024, April 24)
retrieved 24 April 2024
from https://phys.org/news/2024-04-lunar-landforms-geologically-seismic-moon.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.





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How to Use Comparison Operators with Awk in Linux

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When dealing with numerical or string values in a line of text, filtering text or strings using comparison operators comes in handy for awk command users.

In this part of the Awk series, we shall take a look at how you can filter text or strings using comparison operators.

If you are a programmer then you must already be familiar with comparison operators but for those who are not, let me explain in the section below.

What are Comparison operators in Awk?

Before diving into how to use comparison operators with Awk, let’s first understand what comparison operators are.

Comparison operators consist of symbols or keywords utilized to compare values in programming languages.

In Awk, comparison operators are often used to compare the value of numbers or strings and they include the following:

  • > – greater than
  • < – less than
  • >= – greater than or equal to
  • <= – less than or equal to
  • == – equal to
  • != – not equal to
  • some_value ~ / pattern/ – true if some_value matches the pattern
  • some_value !~ / pattern/ – true if some_value does not match the pattern

Now that we have looked at the various comparison operators in Awk, let us understand them better using an example.

Filtering Data with Awk

In this example, we have a file named food_list.txt which is a shopping list for different food items and I would like to flag food items whose quantity is less than or equal 20 by adding (**) at the end of each line.

File – food_list.txt

No      Item_Name               Quantity        Price
1       Mangoes                    45           $3.45
2       Apples                     25           $2.45
3       Pineapples                 5            $4.45
4       Tomatoes                   25           $3.45
5       Onions                     15           $1.45
6       Bananas                    30           $3.45

The general syntax for using comparison operators in Awk is:

expression { actions; }

To achieve the above goal, I will have to run the command below:

awk '$3 <= 20 {print $0 " (**)" } $3 > 20 {print $0}' food_list.txt
Flagging Food Items with Awk
Flagging Food Items with Awk

Here is the explanation of the command:

  • awk – This command invokes the Awk text processing utility.
  • ‘$3 <= 20 {print $0 ” (**)” } – This part of the command is a condition followed by an action. It checks if the value in the third column (Quantity) of each line is less than or equal to 20. If the condition is true, it prints the entire line ($0) with “(**)” appended to it.
  • $3 > 20 {print $0} – This part of the command is another condition followed by an action. It checks if the value in the third column (Quantity) of each line is greater than 20. If the condition is true, it prints the entire line ($0) without any modifications.
  • food_list.txt – This is the input file that the Awk command will process. It contains the data on which the conditions and actions specified in the command will be applied.

Another example is to mark lines where the quantity is less than or equal to 20 with the word “(TRUE)” at the end.

awk '$3 <= 20 { printf "%s\t%s\n", $0,"TRUE" ; } $3 > 20  { print $0 ;} ' food_list.txt
Print Lines with True
Print Lines with True

Combining Operators in Awk

We can also combine multiple comparison operators to create more complex conditions. For example, if we want to filter out food items whose quantity is between 20 and 50, we can use the logical AND operator (&&) as shown.

awk '$3 >= 20 && $3 <= 50' food_list.txt
Filtering Food Items by Quantity Range
Filtering Food Items by Quantity Range

The above command will print lines where the quantity (third column) falls between 20 and 50.

Summary

This is an introductory tutorial to comparison operators in Awk, therefore you need to try out many other options and discover more.

In case of any problems you face or any additions that you have in mind, then drop a comment in the comment section below. Remember to read the next part of the Awk series where I will take you through compound expressions.



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Google Photos users will soon get the best AI editing tools on Pixel devices for free

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Google Photo Unblur on Pixel 7 Pro

June Wan/ZDNET

Google today announced that its AI photo editing tools, currently exclusive to Pixel phones, are coming to Google Photos on May 15. The features are coming to Pixel tablets as well. 

Anyone with a Google account will thus soon have access to Magic Editor, Magic Eraser, Photo Unblur, and Portrait Light, no subscription required. The only caveat is that, to get more than 10 Magic Erasure saves per month, you’ll need a Premium Google One plan (2TB and above)  .

Also: How to create animated ‘Cinematic’ photos in Google Photos

If you’ve never experienced Google’s AI-powered photo editing features, here’s a brief description of each:

  • Magic Editor makes it easy to do complicated photo edits, such as repositioning a subject or changing the color of backgrounds.
  • Magic Eraser lets you remove items from photos and make it look like they were never there.
  • Photo Unblur is exactly what it sounds like. If you’ve taken a blurry photo, Google’s AI works to clean up the photo.
  • Portrait Light applies less harsh, more appealing lighting to faces.

The update to Google Photos will roll out over a few weeks starting on May 15 to all devices that meet the minimum requirements. According to Google, some of the features will only work on the following:

  • Google One members: the Web or in the Google Photos app for Android or iOS
  • Chromebook Plus users: the Google Photos Android app for Chrome OS
  • Pixel users: the Google Photos Android app

Google’s announcement says that when using Google Photos, “Your device must be a Chromebook Plus with ChromeOS version 118+ or have at least 3 GB RAM and Android 8.0/iOS 15 or higher. Feature availability varies by device.”

The same announcement also notes that Magic Editor will not be available to devices that do not meet the minimum system requirements (Google does not state what those minimums are for these new features, but does point to this Google Photos Help webpage).





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UK’s newly passed ‘Safety in Rwanda’ bill is anything but safe: UN officials

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Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a joint statement calling on the UK Government to reconsider its plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda.

This arrangement seeks to shift responsibility for refugee protection, undermining international cooperation, Mr. Grandi added.

“The new legislation marks a further step away from the UK’s long tradition of providing refuge to those in need, in breach of the Refugee Convention,” he said. “Protecting refugees requires all countries, not just those neighbouring crisis zones, to uphold their obligations.”

Instead, the UK should take practical measures to address irregular flows of refugees and migrants, based on international cooperation and respect for international human rights law, the UN officials said.

A Ukrainian girl comforts her six-year-old brother as they prepare to leave a UNICEF-supported centre in Romania for their next destination. (file)

A Ukrainian girl comforts her six-year-old brother as they prepare to leave a UNICEF-supported centre in Romania for their next destination. (file)

Raises risks for asylum seekers

The asylum and immigration legislation, known commonly as the Safety of Rwanda bill, was tabled before Parliament alongside the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Treaty after the UK’s Supreme Court found last year that the proposed transfer of asylum seekers to the African country would breach international and UK law.

The court’s decision had noted weaknesses in Rwanda’s system for determining individual asylum claims.

But, the bill and the treaty do not in practice overcome the protection gaps identified by the Supreme Court, the UN officials stated, adding that once enacted, the measures will restrict the UK courts from properly scrutinising removal decisions, leaving asylum seekers with limited room to appeal even if they face significant risks.

New bill sets ‘a perilous precedent’

Mr. Türk said the bill infringes on the rule of law.

“By shifting responsibility for refugees, reducing the UK’s courts’ ability to scrutinise removal decisions, restricting access to legal remedies in the UK and limiting the scope of domestic and international human rights protections for a specific group of people, this new legislation seriously hinders the rule of law in the UK and sets a perilous precedent globally,” the UN rights chief said.

He said it is critical to the protection of the human rights and dignity of refugees and migrants seeking protection that all removals from the UK are carried out after assessing their specific individual circumstances in strict compliance with international human rights and refugee law.

A fair, efficient and well-governed migration and asylum system is key to ensuring access to protection for those in need and enabling the return home of those with no lawful basis to remain, the UN officials said.

Acknowledging the challenges presented by the irregular movement of refugees and migrants, often in dangerous circumstances, the UN leaders nonetheless expressed grave concern that the legislation would facilitate transfers under the UK-Rwanda asylum partnership, with only limited consideration of their individual circumstances or any protection risks.

They called on the UK instead to pursue practical cooperation with countries along the routes that refugees and migrants take, to strengthen protection and offer real alternatives. This includes expanding safe and regular pathways to protection, they said.

A plane about to take off from Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom.

© Unsplash/Sebastian Grochowicz

A plane about to take off from Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom.

Progressively restrictive laws

The UN officials pointed out that the new legislation is the third in a series of progressively restrictive laws that have eroded access to refugee protection in the UK since 2022, including through a ban on access to asylum or other forms of permission to stay in the UK for those arriving irregularly via a third country.

If implemented, the new bill would “pave the way for asylum seekers, including families with children, to be summarily sent to Rwanda to present their asylum claims, with no prospect of return to the UK”, they said.

The new bill will also drastically limit the ability for asylum seekers to challenge or appeal removal decisions, with decision makers and judges required to conclusively treat Rwanda as a “safe” country in terms of protecting asylum seekers, regardless of any evidence to the contrary, now or in the future, the UN officials said.

This situation is even more concerning given the legislation expressly authorises the UK Government to disregard any protective interim remedies from the European Court of Human Rights, the UN chiefs warned.



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Easily Install Software Groups in Debian & Ubuntu

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One of the several tasks that a Linux user is bound to handle is software installation. There are possibly two methods, especially on Debian-based distributions such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint that you can use for installing software.

The first is installing individual packages using package management tools such as apt-get, apt, aptitude, and synaptic. The second method is by using Tasksel.

Tasksel is a simple and easy-to-use tool developed for Debian-based distributions that provide users an interface to enable them to install a group of related packages such as LAMP Server, Mail Server, DNS Server, etc. as a single pre-configured task. It works comparably to meta-packages, you will find nearly all tasks in tasksel present in meta-packages.

How to Install and Use Tasksel in Debian and Ubuntu

To install tasksel, simply run the command below:

sudo apt-get install tasksel

After installing tasksel, it enables you to install one or more predefined groups of packages. Users need to run it from the command line with a few arguments, it provides a graphical user interface as well where one can select software to install.

The general syntax of running tasksel from the command line is:

sudo tasksel install task_name
sudo tasksel remove task_name
sudo tasksel command_line_options

To start the tasksel user interface, issue the command below:

sudo tasksel
Tasksel - List of Software Collection
Tasksel – List of Software Collection

Where you see an asterisk (*) without the red highlighter, it means that the software is already installed.

To install one or more software, use the Up and Down arrows to move the red highlighter, press the Space bar to select the software, and use the Tab key to move to <ok>.

Then hit the Enter button to install the selected software as shown in the screencast below.

Tasksel - Install Software Group

Alternatively, you can list all tasks from the command line as well, by using the command below. Note that in the first column of the list, u (uninstalled) means the software is not installed and i (installed) means the software is installed.

sudo tasksel --list-tasks 

Sample Output:

u manual	Manual package selection
u kubuntu-live	Kubuntu live CD
u lubuntu-live	Lubuntu live CD
u ubuntu-gnome-live	Ubuntu GNOME live CD
u ubuntu-live	Ubuntu live CD
u ubuntu-mate-live	Ubuntu MATE Live CD
u ubuntustudio-dvd-live	Ubuntu Studio live DVD
u ubuntustudio-live	Ubuntu Studio live CD
u xubuntu-live	Xubuntu live CD
u cloud-image	Ubuntu Cloud Image (instance)
u dns-server	DNS server
u edubuntu-desktop-gnome	Edubuntu desktop
u kubuntu-desktop	Kubuntu desktop
u kubuntu-full	Kubuntu full
u lamp-server	LAMP server
u lubuntu-core	Lubuntu minimal installation
u lubuntu-desktop	Lubuntu Desktop
u mail-server	Mail server
u mythbuntu-backend-master	Mythbuntu master backend
u mythbuntu-backend-slave	Mythbuntu slave backend
u mythbuntu-desktop	Mythbuntu additional roles
u mythbuntu-frontend	Mythbuntu frontend
u postgresql-server	PostgreSQL database
u samba-server	Samba file server
u tomcat-server	Tomcat Java server
i ubuntu-desktop	Ubuntu desktop
...

You can find a full description of all tasks in /usr/share/tasksel/*.desc and /usr/local/share/tasksel/*.desc files.

Let’s install some group of software packages such as LAMP, Mail Server, DNS Server, etc.

Install LAMP stack Using Tasksel

As an example, we shall cover the installation of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) stack in Ubuntu 22.04.

You can either use the user interface or the command line option, but here, we shall utilize the command line option as follows:

sudo tasksel install lamp-server

Install LAMP Server Using Tasksel in Ubuntu

While the Mysql package is being installed, you will be prompted to configure Mysql by setting a root password. Simply enter a strong and secure password, then hit the Enter key to proceed.

Wait for the installation to complete. After all is done, you can test the LAMP stack installation as follows.

sudo task --list-tasks | grep “lamp-server”

i lamp-server	LAM server

Similarly, you can also install a Mail Server or DNS Server as shown:

sudo tasksel install mail-server
sudo tasksel install dns-server

Look through the tasksel package man page for more usage options.

man tasksel

In conclusion, tasksel is a simple and easy-to-use interface for users to install software on their Debian/Ubuntu Linux systems.

However, which method of software installation do you prefer: using package management tools or tasksel? Let us know via the comment section below, along with any suggestions or other valuable feedback.



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I tested the Asus Zenbook 14, and it’s a solid work laptop with a secret weapon

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asus-zenbook-14-main

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The 2024 ASUS Zenbook 14 is available now for $799, and is a contender to be one of the best work laptops of the year.
  • It’s affordable, sports the latest hardware, and has a long battery life; all packed into a form factor that weighs less than three pounds.
  • As great as it is, this laptop has a tendency to run hot.

Among the plethora of work laptops, the 2024 ASUS Zenbook 14 stands out above the rest. It performs incredibly well, has a comfortable keyboard, long-lasting battery, and bright, smooth display. There isn’t a single category where this device doesn’t excel. This Zenbook model is one of the best laptops I’ve used this year alongside the Dell XPS 16, and is nothing short of fantastic — especially at this price point.

Also: This Asus laptop looks unassuming, but it has a powerful feature creatives will love

Now that I’ve sufficiently sang its praises, let’s get into what makes the Zenbook 14 so good, starting with its battery. No matter which power mode the machine is set to, you can expect it to last the entire workday. I performed my usual test of running an endlessly playing YouTube live stream at 720p and 50 percent brightness. On Best Performance, the battery ran for about 6.5 hours before dying. On Balanced, it surpassed that time by going over 10 hours. Then on Best Power Efficiency, the Zenbook 14 lasted a whopping 12 hours. Keep in mind these times were all achieved without the battery saver turned on. With that setting enabled, I expect run times to be even longer.

View at Best Buy

I was genuinely surprised by how long the device lasted, and haven’t been this impressed with a laptop’s battery performance since the Acer Chromebook Spin 714. It seems the model’s longevity is owed to the hardware.

Asus went with an energy-efficient chipset for this laptop, which greatly contributes to its impressive battery life. The processor on my review unit was an Intel Core Ultra 5 125H bundled with an integrated Intel graphics card and 8GB of RAM. Make no mistake: that is not a particularly high-end configuration. But it doesn’t need it. It performs this efficiently thanks to its secret weapon: a neural processing unit (or NPU).

Also: How I turned a cheap gaming monitor into the ultimate productivity tool

NPUs are a recent addition to laptops, with 2024 seeing their large-scale integration. To oversimplify what they do, NPUs harness AI to boost the performance of CPUs and GPUs by taking some of the load off them. For example, while testing this laptop, I was able to have 50 tabs open across six windows, all without experiencing a drop in performance. Impressive performance indeed, considering the hardware.

In addition, Asus equipped this laptop with a 14-inch, OLED display outputting a Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,200 pixels) image at a refresh rate of 60Hz. Recent laptops have shifted towards supporting 120Hz refresh rates for velvety smooth video, and it would’ve been nice to have the Zenbook join the party, but 60 Hz is fine for most applications. 

Instead, it makes up for the lower speeds by sporting a vibrant display. The screen covers the entire PCI-3 gamut, enabling bright, vivid colors and a FullHD resolution that results in highly-detailed images. Plus, the bezels around the display are very thin, resulting in a display with a 16:10 aspect ratio for wide-angle viewing.

All in all, this laptop has a marvelous design. It weighs less than three pounds yet is quite durable since it has an exterior made primarily from aluminum. Even the screen is tough, as Asus used Corning Gorilla Glass in its construction. However, since it’s so thin, there aren’t a ton of ports on this laptop. All it has is one USB-A input, two USB-Cs, a headphone/earphone jack combo, and an HDMI port. At least the basics are covered.

Personally, I appreciate laptops with great keyboards, and the Zenbook 14 does not disappoint. It comes equipped with the company’s patented ErgoSense technology which, as the name suggests, makes the keyboard ergonomically friendly. Each of the keys has a travel distance of 1.4mm travel distance, letting you type on them without having to press the buttons all the way down. This alleviates some of the stress on your fingers. Also, ErgoSense replicates the key spacing on full-sized keyboards, ensuring accurate typing.

asus-zenbook-14-keyboard

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

Now you may be wondering: what’s the catch? Is the Asus Zenbook 14 as perfect as you say it is? Well, there are a couple of considerations here. One issue is more of a pet peeve of mine: the speakers are at the bottom of the laptop, facing down, resulting in some muffled audio. Fortunately, they’re still powerful enough despite their poor placement. Music and media sound great coming from these speakers, but I did notice some audio distortion occurring at high volume.

Also: Asus’ new laptop is a solid MacBook alternative that’s better in several ways

My biggest issue with the laptop is the fact it can run incredibly warm. You can’t even type on the keyboard or have it on your legs without discomfort. Heat vents are found on the bottom and the side, but they don’t offer much relief. This problem is exacerbated if you try to use the laptop while charging. There’s so much heat that typing on the keyboard becomes uncomfortable. You’re honestly better off not using the laptop during this time.

ZDNET’s buying advice

The Asus Zenbook 14 is a solid work laptop. It boasts great performance, a crisp display, sturdy design, comfortable keyboard, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t even mention the 1080p webcam, the anti-fingerprint coating covering the trackpad, or maybe the best part of all: the affordable price.

You can purchase my review unit’s configuration on Best Buy for $799.99, but there’s always the option to upgrade the hardware if you’re looking for something with more power behind it. A Zenbook 14 sporting an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H processor, Intel Arc GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage will run you $1,049. No matter which one you get, it’ll be well worth the low price.





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From Dominica to Vogue: Big dreams on a small island

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Small island developing States (SIDS) often benefit from good weather, sandy beaches and lush countryside, attracting large numbers of tourists, particularly from the United States and Europe, seeking to escape the gloomy winter months.

But, growing up in these countries can be hard: opportunities are few and far between, and youth unemployment is high, with more than half of young people out of work in some countries, according to recent studies.

Robert Tonge, Digital Economy Coordinator for the Government of Dominica, said that life in the country has been tough in recent years.

“After COVID-19, many people lost their jobs, and they had no way to support their families,” he said. “The pandemic came off the back of Hurricane Maria just a few years before, during which a large proportion of the population lost their livelihoods, but the effects of COVID-19 lasted longer, especially from a business standpoint. A lot of companies closed, and many Dominicans decided to leave the country.”

Josiah Johnson has benefited from Work Online Dominica, a Government programme supported by the UN.

Josiah Johnson has benefited from Work Online Dominica, a Government programme supported by the UN.

The leaders of SIDS have recognised that new and emerging technologies, if used effectively, can be a way to help their youth to look beyond national borders to find work online, earning more money without having to physically leave home.

In Dominica, the government has been working with the UN and other partners to develop Work Online Dominica for jobseekers aged between 18 and 40. Over 12 weeks, trainers teach students business management and how to present themselves online in a way that enables them to compete better in the online marketplace.

“Many young people have a tonne of skills, but they’re not sure how to harness them and, more importantly, sell them outside of the country,” Mr. Tonge explained. “This programme helps people to harness and improve the skills that they already have and offer the services not only in Dominica, but across the Caribbean and throughout the world.”

Mr. Johnson, who was brought up in a very poor, marginalised part of Dominica, took part in the programme, and he told UN News that it has made a big difference to his career prospects while allowing him to stay close to his family and friends.

“The Work Online programme was very informative, and I learned a lot,” he said. “The trainers explained how to find jobs online, how to make our applications as strong as possible and compete with all of the other applicants. They gave us lots of useful tips. For example, to apply for jobs very soon after they are posted and be first in line, even though that might mean getting up in the middle of the night. And, they said that we shouldn’t just apply for one job and wait, but apply for several at one time.”

Fashion shoot by Dominican photographer Josiah Johnson

Fashion shoot by Dominican photographer Josiah Johnson

The programme has led to myriad opportunities, from virtual assistance services to translations, data entry to call centre work in countries including the United States, Australia and Canada. Very soon after graduating, Mr. Johnson found work online, working in customer service for a Canadian company, but he continues to pursue his dream of working as a professional photographer.

“Photography has been my passion since I was young,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of capturing a moment in time. Even in high school, I always had a phone or a camera with me, taking pictures of everyone around me. Since then, I have found my inspiration from photographer friends in Dominica and some of the big names who work for international magazines, particularly Vogue, who mix together art and photography”.

Eventually, Mr. Johnson began to get hired as a photographer thanks to the training, both in Dominica and in other Caribbean countries. He also met a lot of people during that time, building up a good network and finding a lot of opportunities.

Mr. Tonge said the programme’s graduates come out with far more skills.

“They are also a lot more independent and positive in their thinking,” he said. “Many of the individuals involved are able to earn far more now, and they’re really happy that they took part. They have been getting work that they wouldn’t have had otherwise, and some have even been able to employ other Dominicans.”

Mr. Johnson agrees that many of the people he trained with have benefited, realising that they don’t have to leave Dominica in order to further their careers.

“I hardly see some of them anymore because they’re indoors, working online. But, now they can do a lot of the things that many Dominican people aren’t able to do, like going on vacation and having spending money, rather than struggling to pay their bills.”



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Monitor File and Directory Changes in Linux

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fswatch is a cross-platform, file change monitor that gets notification alerts when the contents of the specified files or directories are altered or modified.

It executes four types of monitors on different operating systems such as:

  • A monitor built on the File System Events API of Apple OS X.
  • A monitor based on kqueue, a notification interface present in FreeBSD 4.1 also supported on many *BSD systems, OS X inclusive.
  • A monitor based on File Events Notification API of the Solaris kernel plus its spin-offs.
  • A monitor based on inotify, a kernel subsystem that shows file system modifications to apps.
  • A monitor based on ReadDirectoryChangesW, a Windows API that records alters to a directory.
  • A monitor that regularly checks the status of the file system, keeps file modification times in memory and manually determines file system changes (which works anywhere, where stat can be used).

Features of fswatch

  • Supports several OS-specific APIs
  • Allows recursive directory monitoring
  • Performs path filtering using including and excluding regular expressions
  • Supports customizable record format
  • Additionally, it supports periodic idle events

How To Install fswatch in Linux Systems

To install fswatch on Linux, use the following appropriate command for your specific Linux distribution.

sudo apt install fswatch         [On Debian, Ubuntu and Mint]
sudo yum install fswatch         [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky/AlmaLinux]
sudo emerge -a sys-apps/fswatch  [On Gentoo Linux]
sudo apk add fswatch             [On Alpine Linux]
sudo pacman -S fswatch           [On Arch Linux]
sudo zypper install fswatch      [On OpenSUSE]    
sudo pkg install fswatch         [On FreeBSD]

If fswatch is not available to install from the default system repositories, you can build from the source as shown in the following installation instructions.

First, clone the latest fswatch git repository using the following git command and install it as shown:

git clone https://github.com/emcrisostomo/fswatch.git
cd fswatch
./autogen.sh
./configure
make
sudo make install

Important: Make sure you’ve GNU GCC (C and C++ Compiler) and Development Tools (build-essential on Debian/Ubuntu) installed on the system, before you compile fswatch from source.

If not, install it using the following command on your respective Linux distributions.

sudo dnf group install 'Development Tools'    [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky/AlmaLinux]
sudo apt-get install build-essential          [On Debian, Ubuntu and Mint]

On Debian/Ubuntu distributions, you might get the following error while executing fswatch command.

fswatch: error while loading shared libraries: libfswatch.so.13: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

To fix it, you need to execute the command below, this will help refresh the links and cache to the dynamic libraries before you can start using fswatch.

sudo ldconfig

How to Use fswatch to Monitor File Changes on Linux

The general syntax for running fswatch is:

fswatch [option] [path]

On Linux, it is recommended that you use the default inotify monitor, you can list available monitors by employing the -M or - list-monitors option:

fswatch -M
fswatch --list-monitors
fswatch - List Monitors
fswatch – List Monitors

The command below enables you to watch the changes in the current directory (/home/tecmint), with events being delivered to standard output every 4 seconds.

The -l or –-latency option allows you to set the latency in seconds, the default being 1 second.

fswatch -l 4 . 

fswatch - Monitor Home Directory Changes

The next command monitors changes to the /var/log/auth.log file every 5 seconds:

fswatch -l 5 /var/log/auth.log

Using -t or --timestamp option prints the time stamp for every event, to print the time in UTC format, employ -u or --utf-time option. You can also format time using -f or --format-time format option:

fswatch --timestamp /var/log/auth.log

Next, -x or --event-flags tells fswatch to print the event flags alongside the event path. You can use the –event-field-seperator option to print events using the particular separator.

fswatch --events-flags ~ /var/log/auth.log

To print the numeric value of an event indicating changes in your home directory and /var/log/auth.log file, use -n or --numeric option as below:

fswatch --numeric ~ /var/log/auth.log 

Perhaps you can look through the fswatch man page for detailed usage options and information:

man fswatch

For more information and usage, visit fswatch Github repository: https://github.com/emcrisostomo/fswatch

In this post, we covered a simple command line utility to help Linux users get notified when the contents of specified files or directory hierarchies are modified.

I hope all went well with the installation, if that is not the case for you, make an effort to reach us via the feedback form below. In addition, in case you have used it before, you may want to offer us some thoughts about your experience with fswatch.



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