Facebook exec erroneously cites The Lord of the Rings when comparing the social network to the One Ring

Facebook executive Andrew “Boz” Bosworth published a memo that looks ahead to the 2020 election. In it, he discussed how Facebook’s marketing tools were used by the Trump campaign to win the 2016 election and how Facebook shouldn’t take action to prevent Trump from using the same strategy to win again, via The New York Times.

As part of his argument, Boz makes the comparison by citing none other than J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to explain his decision. Facebook, Boz argues, is akin to Sauron’s One Ring, and wielding its power — even with noble intent — would only lead to ruin.

As a committed liberal I find myself desperately wanting to pull any lever at my disposal to avoid the same result. So what stays my hand?

I find myself thinking of the Lord of the Rings at this moment. Specifically when Frodo offers the ring to Galadrial and she imagines using the power righteously, at first, but knows it will eventually corrupt her. As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear.

As The New York Times points out, Boz misspells the name of the character Galadriel as “Galadrial,” but there are graver errors here. Namely, Boz is citing the wrong part of The Lord of the Rings entirely.

In Tolkien’s books and the film adaptations, Galadriel is concerned about the power of the Ring corrupting her — as it does all, save the Dark Lord himself. But not once does she contemplate using its power for good. “In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night!.. All shall love me and despair!” Tolkien writes.

But in Galadriel’s eyes, the One Ring is a pathway to personal power, and it’s that power that would corrupt her. As Galadriel concludes, turning down the Ring, “I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.”

The analogy Boz was likely looking to make happens earlier in the novel and film when Frodo is first entrusted with the Ring and seeks to give it away to Gandalf who he views as wiser and better-equipped to handle it. Gandalf refuses, arguing that his “pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good” is what would corrupt him eventually and lead him to become “like the Dark Lord himself.”

But to compare Facebook to the power of the One Ring misses the lesson of Tolkien’s tale entirely: that such power, even when wielded by the greatest of people (Galadriel) or with the best intentions (Gandalf), is unfit for anyone to possess at all. If Facebook is the Ring of Power, by Boz’s argument, the best course of action is not to debate how to use it, but to recognize that it possesses too much power entirely and cast it back into the fiery chasm from whence it came. (Or maybe it’s just to crack down more on false political ads so that politicians can’t abuse its power.)

This is nothing new, of course. Silicon Valley has a long history of misusing Lord of the Rings analogies. First, there’s Palantir Technologies, which borrows from the name of Tolkien’s palantíri, which allowed communication around the world. There’s also Anduril Industries, a defense company ostensibly named after Aragorn’s sword (“the Flame of the West”), and its mission would seem to willfully ignore Tolkien’s general themes of “war and power are bad.”

None of this is particularly important when compared to the larger scope of the issues at hand. But if you’re going to publicly consider using the most powerful communication system in the history of mankind to influence an election, at the very least, you’ve got to get the basic lore right.

Samsung plans to launch its Galaxy Home Mini smart speaker early this year

Samsung’s Galaxy Home Mini may finally see the light of day, with Samsung CEO and head of its consumer electronics division Hyun-Suk Kim announcing at CES 2020 that the company would be releasing its smaller Bixby-powered smart speaker early this year, via Bloomberg.

It’s been over a year and a half since Samsung first showed off its Bixby-powered Galaxy Home smart speaker, which was announced back in August 2018. The full-sized smart speaker has since missed numerous delays, most recently at the end of Q3 2019. In that time, though, the company also quietly announced the Galaxy Home Mini through a public beta test in South Korea, and it’s that device that’s reportedly nearing a release date.

Samsung had told The Verge back in August 2019 that it was “continuing to refine and enhance the Galaxy Home prior to launch” — a process that seems to have paid off, given that Samsung is apparently close to releasing at least one of its Galaxy Home products.

Like its oft-delayed larger sibling, the Galaxy Home Mini uses Samsung’s Bixby assistant to control IoT devices through Samsung’s SmartThings platform as well as functioning as a home speaker using sound technology from Samsung’s AKG audio brand. According to Bloomberg, Samsung’s goal with the Galaxy Home Mini is less to mimic the conversational assistant aspects that have become such a key part of products like Siri and Alexa, and to focus on creating an assistant that executes voice commands well.

Samsung still hasn’t announced a release date for the larger, cauldron-shaped Galaxy Home. According to Bloomberg’s report, the company has yet to decide whether it will be selling it at all. Right now, all focus is said to be on the cheaper and smaller Galaxy Home Mini.

But even if Samsung does hit its planned “early 2020” release date for the Galaxy Home Mini (which, given the litany of delays the Galaxy Home lineup has faced so far, isn’t assured), there’s still the fact that the smart home industry is in a very different place in 2020 than it was in 2018. Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant have massively increased their presence in the space, each with new hardware generations of smart speakers and displays that have come and gone since Samsung’s speaker was first announced.

That leaves the biggest question surrounding the Galaxy Home and the Galaxy Home Mini: even if Samsung does release these Bixby speakers, is there room left in the market for another digital assistant?

Dell’s Concept Ori and Concept Duet laptops imagine a foldable and dual-screen future

Dell may have already announced its big laptop news with the upgraded XPS 13 last week, but the company brought two new prototype laptops to CES 2020: the foldable Concept Ori and the dual-screen Concept Duet. Together, Dell’s two prototypes encapsulate what the future of computers might look like, and it’s one where laptops offer a whole lot more screen space than they do now.

Neither of Dell’s devices is entirely new. The foldable Concept Ori looks extremely similar to Lenovo’s foldable PC prototype that the company showed off last year, while the dual-screen Concept Duet is similar to Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Neo (which, unlike the Concept Duet, has actually been announced as a real product).

Of the two, the more obviously futuristic one is the foldable Concept Ori — as in “origami.” Because it folds. You get it. Dell wouldn’t offer many details on any of the specs, save that the screen is approximately 13 inches, and it offers QHD+ resolution. Other specs — like what the processor, graphics, or even which supplier is creating the large folding displays — are being kept under the lid for now. The display looked good, although there was a visible crease on the screen, especially when it was partially folded.

The Concept Duet has more familiar grounding: it looks a lot like an XPS 13 2-in-1, except the lower keyboard and trackpad have been entirely replaced with a second display. Both screens on the Concept Duet are 13.4-inch FHD panels, which looked on par with any of Dell’s other displays.

The two screens can either be used side by side for multitasking or as a single massive display with content stretching across the two panels. In one example, Dell showed off an ebook with each panel displaying a single full page (just like a real book), while another had two documents side by side for planning a trip.

There’s also a keyboard accessory that can be placed down on top of one of the touchscreens with the rest of the screen acting as a trackpad for more “traditional” laptop work, too. Alternatively, the two screens can flip around to form a single-screened tablet device — something that Dell highlights as an advantage of the two separate displays compared to a single flexible folding one. The end result is a bit heavier than a regular laptop, given the extra screen but not so much that it’d be possible to carry around.

Since these are just prototypes, Dell isn’t talking about what software these devices could eventually run should they become real products. But it’s important to note that Microsoft is already pushing dual and foldable screen hardware in a big way with its upcoming Windows 10X software.

These concepts aren’t running Windows 10X (it’s not actually out yet), but the mere fact that there’s software coming from the maker of Windows that’s designed specifically for hardware like this could help elevate Concept Duet and Concept Ori from cool prototypes into actual mainstream products.

Dell obviously isn’t saying when to expect either Concept Ori or Concept Duet to hit stores — or even if they’ll be sold at all — but as it stands now, they’re fascinating looks at what the possible future of computers might be, one that could eschew traditional input methods to add even more screen space to our devices.

The 14-inch dual-screen Asus ZenBook Duo is smaller, lighter, and less powerful

Asus’ ZenBook Pro Duo was one of the most interesting-looking laptops of 2019, and at CES 2020, the company announced the ZenBook Duo (no Pro this time), its smaller cousin that comes in a more manageable 14-inch size.

Like the 15.6-inch ZenBook Pro Duo, the new ZenBook Duo also features a secondary “ScreenPad Plus” display (this time, a 12.6-inch panel, compared to the 14-inch panel on its larger cousin), enabling the dual-screen experiences that made the original a compelling product.

Specs are also diminished on the non-Pro ZenBook Duo in nearly every respect. The 14-inch panel is FHD instead of 4K, and no longer OLED. The processors are Intel’s 10th Gen Comet Lake chipsets, but they come from the less powerful U-series lineup instead of the H-series chips on the bigger model. The optional GPU is a GeForce MX250, instead of an RTX 2060 (assuming you opt for a dedicated GPU at all, over Intel’s integrated graphics). RAM tops out at 16GB instead of 32GB.

Still, the smaller size and weight (3.3 pounds instead of 6.4 pounds) should make the ZenBook Duo a far more portable machine than its massive cousin, and the less powerful specs should help it hit a more affordable price point than the $2,499 that the original ZenBook Pro Duo sold for, although no price has been announced yet. Asus says that the ZenBook Duo will be available in Q1 2020.

Asus also announced updates to its VivoBook S lineup, which come in 13.3-inch, 14-inch, and 15.6-inch sizes. All three now come with Intel’s latest 10th Gen chips (14nm Comet Lake options on the 14-inch and 15.6-inch models, 10nm Ice Lake chips on the 13.3-inch one). They can also be configured with up to 16GB of RAM, and feature optional discrete Nvidia GPUs instead of Intel’s integrated graphics, should you need the extra power. The updated VivoBook S models will arrive sometime in Q1 or Q2 2020, although specifics as to when — as well as starting prices — have yet to be announced.

Samsung announces the Galaxy S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite

After weeks of rumors and leaks, Samsung has officially announced the Galaxy S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite ahead of CES 2020. The phones are budget versions of Samsung’s popular 2019 flagships, and they promise to bring premium features from those high-end phones down to more affordable price points (although Samsung hasn’t said what those prices will be just yet).

Both phones feature 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Infinity-O displays at 2400 × 1080 resolution, with center-mounted hole-punch front-facing cameras, 4,500mAh batteries, and either 6GB or 8GB of RAM with 128GB internal storage. But the rest of the internal hardware differs greatly between the two devices.

The Galaxy S10 Lite features a Snapdragon 855 processor, while the Galaxy Note 10 Lite offers Samsung’s in-house Exynos 8895 chipset. The rear camera systems both offer triple-lens setups, but they are also completely different on the two phones.

Note 10 Lite.
Image: Samsung

The S10 Lite offers a 5-megapixel f/2.4 macro lens; a 48-megapixel F2.0 wide-angle lens featuring “Super Steady OIS,” a feature that the Note 10 Lite doesn’t offer; and a 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide featuring a 123-degree angle lens.

The Note 10 Lite has an entirely different configuration: a 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide; a 12-megapixel f/1.7 wide-angle lens with dual-pixel technology and OIS; and a 12-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto lens (also with OIS).

Rounding out the differences, of course, is the S Pen on the Note 10 Lite, which isn’t included with the S10 Lite. The S Pen features the same Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) support introduced with the Note 9 in 2018, allowing it to be used to control the phone.

There’s no word yet on the prices or release dates for the S10 Lite or Note 10 Lite or the markets where they’ll be sold.

Samsung’s Odyssey G9 curved gaming monitor is a 49-inch QLED monster

CES 2020 hasn’t started yet, but Samsung is already getting started with a pair of new QLED gaming monitors that look to check nearly every spec box, led by the absolutely massive 49-inch Odyssey G9, Samsung’s curviest screen yet.

The Odyssey G9 isn’t the first curved gaming display from Samsung, nor is it the first 49-inch one, or even the first at such a high resolution (that honor goes to last year’s CRG9). But the Odyssey ups the specs in nearly every way: while the 5120×1440 resolution and HDR1000 rating are the same, the new screen offers twice the refresh rate, at up to 240Hz, a even quicker 1ms response time, and support for both AMD’s FreeSync 2 along with newly added Nvidia G-Sync compatibility.

The display is also Samsung’s first consumer display with an 1000R curve, filling roughly the same field of view as the human eye (monitor curvature tends to range from 4000R to 1800R, with a greater curvature the lower the number.) In other words, the 49-inch G9 curves more than most other displays, including the CRG9 (which had a less severe 1800R curve) for a more immersive experience that feels like the screen is wrapped around your head.

Of course, given that it’s a gaming monitor, the back also features a giant glowing blue light that makes the display look like it’s powered by one of Tony Stark’s leftover Iron Man arc reactors.

Samsung Odyssey G9

Alongside the Odyssey G9, Samsung also announced the Odyssey G7, a smaller 16:9 2560×1440 monitor that comes in both 32-inch and 27-inch sizes. Like the larger Odyssey G9 panels, the G7 models also offer a 1000R curvature, rely on Samsung’s QLED technology, feature a 240Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, and FreeSync 2 and G-Sync. The only real difference — aside from size — is the level of HDR supported. The G7 models only are rated for HDR600 (for a minimum peak luminance of 600 cd/m2), compared to the HDR1000 rating on the G9.

Samsung has yet to announce a price or release date for either display, but if the $1,299.99 CRG9 from last year is anything to go by, the new displays likely won’t be cheap.

Samsung sold 6.7 million 5G phones in 2019, beating expectations

Samsung sold 6.7 million 5G phones in 2019 between the Galaxy S10 5G and the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, the company announced today, marking better than expected sales for devices supporting the next-generation mobile standard.

While 6.7 million devices may not sound like a lot in the grand scheme of the phone market, it’s better than expected — at IFA 2019, Samsung had only sold 2 million 5G devices, and only expected to sell 4 million total by the end of 2019. That number also makes up a considerable amount of the fledging 5G market, with Samsung claiming its devices count for 53.9 percent of the global 5G marketplace.

2020 is expected to be an interesting year for 5G growth across the smartphone market. Unlike 2019’s phones, which largely didn’t include 5G (or in the case of Samsung, only supported it on specific, pricier models), Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 865 processor will make support for the next-generation network mandatory across any Android flagships that offers it — albeit through a separate antenna rather than a fully integrated solution. Increased 5G rollouts by carriers means that customers will presumably be more interested in actually buying 5G devices, too.

That means that instead of having to offer a separate 5G model of the S11 or Note 11 (or whatever Samsung calls its 2020 flagship successors), every S11 or Note 11 model will support 5G, which will likely boost sales. Of course, the added ease in supporting 5G will likely mean plenty of new competitors for Samsung in 2020 too — including rumors of a 5G iPhone — which means that the market share breakdown could look very different at this time next year.

Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Note 10 Lite appears in new leaked photos

Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Note 10 Lite has seen plenty of leaks, with renders for the phone making their way across the internet. But today’s batch from TechTalkTV on Twitter takes things a step further, with an early look at the actual, physical device itself, via 9to5Google.

Given that seemingly official renders from Samsung have already leaked, there’s not much new in the pictures here of the Galaxy Note 10 Lite, but it does give a better look at features we already knew were coming, like the triple-lens rectangular camera block on the back.

The leaked photos also give a better glimpse of the flat LCD panel that Samsung will be using on the Note 10 Lite, a marked change from the curved edge-to-edge displays that have been a feature of Samsung’s flagships for years. Presumably, the new display is to help save costs on what’s theoretically meant to be a cheaper alternative to the existing Note 10 flagship.

Despite the phone making its camera debut, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the Note 10 Lite, like what sort of specs it’ll offer or how much it’ll cost. But with a rumored debut planned for CES 2020 next week, we likely won’t have to wait too long to find out more.

Samsung’s Galaxy Book Flex Alpha aims to be a cheaper QLED 2-in-1 laptop

Last year, Samsung announced the Galaxy Book Ion and Galaxy Book Flex, a pair of new laptops that were designed to replace its Notebook 9 Pen and Notebook 9 models. Now, just ahead of CES 2020, the company is unveiling another new laptop: the Galaxy Book Flex α (pronounced “Alpha”), which is designed to bring some of the high-end features of those new Galaxy Book laptops to a cheaper price point.

Like the pricier Galaxy Book Flex, the Galaxy Book Flex α features a 2-in-1 aluminum design with a rotating 13.3-inch 1080p QLED display. It also has a more modern design that features sharper corners and smaller bezels than the company’s older hardware.

Image: Samsung

In exchange for the lower price point, the Galaxy Book Flex α misses out on a few features like the Qi wireless charging pad that’s built into the trackpad or an included S Pen that slots into the laptop. (Samsung will offer an active pen for the Galaxy Book Flex α, but it’ll be sold separately.)

On the hardware side, the Galaxy Book Flex α will be powered by Intel’s 10th Gen Core processors (Samsung isn’t saying which one just yet), 8GB or 12GB of RAM, and 256GB or 512GB of SSD storage. Samsung is also promising that the Galaxy Book Flex α will offer 17.5 hours of battery life off a single charge, with USB-C fast charging support to recharge quickly, too.

While Samsung hasn’t actually given firm prices or release dates for the more premium Galaxy Book Ion and Galaxy Book Flex (both of which are expected to launch in early 2020), the company says that it expects the Galaxy Book Flex α to slot in underneath those two products in its lineup, starting at $829.99 when it releases later in the first half of 2020.

Get the first six Star Wars movies for the lowest price yet ahead of Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is just days away, bringing a promised end to the nine-episode Skywalker saga on December 20th. But if you want to catch up on the earlier movies, you can pick up digital copies of Episodes 1 through 6 for the lowest price they’ve ever been: $42.99 $68.99 over at the Google Play Store for HD copies of all six films.

The deal is also available at iTunes for $49.99 $79.99, should you prefer to buy through Apple, $48.99 $77.99 over at Vudu, or $45.99 $74.99 at the Microsoft Store (if you’ve got a gift card to one of those services lying around). The digital six-film collection usually runs for $89.99, making it a fantastic deal for anyone who wants to marathon some Star Wars films before the last movie comes out.

It doesn’t entirely matter which platform you buy it on, since the Star Wars movies are included as part of the Movies Anywhere service, which lets you sync purchased digital films across all eligible retailers. (Sadly, only the HD copies of the films are available to purchase: while 4K versions of the first six movies do exist, they’re exclusive to the Disney+ streaming service, which costs $6.99 per month.)

Want to round out your collection? Google Play has a sale on both the The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi for $8.99 $12.99 each, down from the usual price of $19.99 (also in HD, although those movies are also available to purchase in 4K should you wish to pay more for $14.99 each at Vudu), which you can sync together with the other six films from the bundle through Movies Anywhere, too.

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