China to ban citizens with bad ‘social credit’ from some forms of travel

Proof that life imitates art — or at least Black Mirror on Netflix — China will soon be imposing strict penalties for those with low “scores” on its so-called “social credit” system. Starting May 1, Chinese citizens with low scores will be unable to travel via plane or train for up to a year, according to a release by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission. China’s social credit system is a controversial one. President Xi Jinping’s plan is to score citizens based both on financial and social behavior, creating a number similar to a credit score in the United States. “Once…

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Bitmain’s new $12K cryptocurrency miner might be useless by the time it ships

Bitcoin mining titan Bitmain has launched a new ultra-powerful cryptocurrency miner specifically designed for the CryptoNight hashing algorithm which powers privacy-oriented coins like Monero (XMR) and Bytecoin (BCN). But there is one massive problem: the device might be virtually obsolete by the time it starts shipping in May and June – especially to those interested in mining XMR. The so-called Antminer X3 ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) mining rig will offer an impressive 220 kH/s at 550W. Bitmain intends to ship the machine in two batches – one in May and one in June. Customers can purchase first-batch X3 for $11,999 or wait for the…

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This app makes your headphones sound like a pro recording studio

Spend some time shopping for headphones, and you’ll quickly grow tired of devices claiming to present music “as the artist intended,” despite sporting vastly different sound. But what if your favorite cans actually could sound like the recording studio where your favorite music was mixed? Enter SonarWorks, a company I’m guessing you’re not familiar with, as it’s best known in audio engineering circles for tuning professional studio speakers. Now SonarWorks is turning its attention to something more mainstream by calibrating headphones to sound like those same studios. The concept is simple. First you tell SonarWorks’ software, called True-Fi, which headphones…

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This startup is building an eBay for digital assets like CryptoKitties

While there are plenty of ecommerce platforms that offer the option to buy and sell standard goods and services, there haven’t been many aimed at creating a marketplace for crypto-assets. Rarebits, an ecommerce startup working with digital assets, is trying to cut ‘in’ this gap by creating a peer-to-peer marketplace for crypto-based assets and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) like Crypto Kitties and CryptoCelebrities. The platform, which is currently in beta testing, allows users to discover and trade new crypto-assets. It also lets them monitor recent market trends and insights in a convenient way. Rarebits also has its own wallet where users…

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Review: Xiaomi’s Mi Robot Builder is 978 pieces of educational fun

Chinese gadget titan Xiaomi recently released its Mi Robot Builder toy set to the US market on Amazon. If you or your kids are the kind of techie that can’t help but take things apart to see how they work: I’ve found the toy for you. Mi Robot Builder is a brick-building toy like Legos or K’NEX, but with more horsepower: once built, your creations can be remotely controlled or programmed to perform movement routines on their own. It features a self-balancing system powered by machine learning, brushless motors, and three different modes of control. It comes with a whopping…

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Portland to Seattle to Vancouver: B.C. kicks in $300,000 for rapid transit study

News Brief: British Columbia will contribute $300,000 toward a study that will look into the business case for an ultra-high-speed transit system connecting Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. B.C. Premier John Horgan made the announcement today in Vancouver alongside Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Washington state lawmakers already have approved up to $1.2 million for the analysis, which follows up on a study estimating the cost of a high-speed rail, maglev or Hyperloop system at $24 billion to $42 billion. Inslee said he’s also gotten a “thumbs up” for the study from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. Get the details from the CBC and the Vancouver Sun.

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Aging icebreaker Polar Star returns to Seattle after challenging Antarctic voyage

Polar Star's return
Videographers document the return of the icebreaker Polar Star to Seattle. (USCG Photo)

The U.S. Coast Guard’s only active heavy-duty icebreaker, the 42-year-old Polar Star, returned to its homeport in Seattle today to cap off a challenging months-long mission to Antarctica.

The 13,000-ton cutter is built to break through ice as thick as 21 feet by backing and ramming, and can steam continuously through 6 feet of ice at a speed of 3 knots.

Every year, the Polar Star voyages to the waters off Antarctica to keep shipping lanes open to McMurdo Station, on the southern tip of Ross Island.

The ship left Seattle last November to take part in Operation Deep Freeze 2018, and faced numerous challenges — including two flooding incidents and the loss of one of the ship’s three main gas turbines. No injuries resulted, but the Coast Guard acknowledged that the problems took a toll on the crew and slowed the cutter’s progress to McMurdo.

“Although we had less ice this year than last year, we had several engineering challenges to overcome to get to the point where we could position ourselves to moor in McMurdo,” the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Michael Davanzo, said in a Coast Guard blog posting.

Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area, said he was impressed by the crew’s perseverance.

“The crew members aboard Polar Star not only accomplished their mission, but they did so despite extreme weather and numerous engineering challenges,” he said. “This is a testament to their dedication and devotion to duty.”

The Polar Star is scheduled to go into drydock in preparation for its next Antarctic tour of duty, in support of Operation Deep Freeze 2019.

Some lawmakers, including Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., have expressed concern about the state of the nation’s aging icebreaker fleet. Last year, the Coast Guard determined that the 40-year-old Polar Sea, America’s only other heavy-duty icebreaker, was good only for spare parts. It’s currently sitting inactive in Seattle.

The Coast Guard is moving ahead with plans to build a next-generation heavy icebreaker. The cost has been estimated at $1 billion, with launch scheduled for 2023 — just about the time the Polar Star is expected to reach the end of its extended service life.

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Video: Relive the GeekWire Bash 2018 with Sounders, startups, and our Impact Partners

If you didn’t have a chance to win a dodgeball championship, battle a Sounders player in FIFA, fly through the air on a cross-venue zipline, or participate in one of the other fun activities at the 2018 GeekWire Bash, we’ve got you covered.

Starla Sampaco, host of GeekWire’s new daily video show TLDR, takes us through the GeekWire Bash experience in the video above, providing a peek into our seventh annual anniversary party that has turned into a full-blown geek carnival.

Check out this post for a full recap of the event. See you at the GeekWire Awards in May.

A big thanks to the 2018 GeekWire Bash title sponsor: First Tech Federal Credit Union.

Also, thanks to Xiamen Air, the zipline sponsor; Avalara, the arcade sponsor; OfferUp, the sumo wrestling sponsor; T-Mobile, the dodgeball tournament sponsor; Sirqul, a bar sponsor; CenturyLink, our VR zone sponsor; and ChefSteps, our Joule cooking sponsor.

And thanks to our silver sponsors MozBellevue CollegeEY, Capital OnePerkins CoieBig FishTechPowerQualtricsRealSelf, and Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.
And to our partners: DomainToolsAIEZipwhipPlayImpossibleMox Boarding HouseSounders FC and Skytap.

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Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 jet aces first flight

Boeing 737 MAX 7
Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 takes its first test flight. (Boeing Photo via Dennis Muilenburg / Twitter)

For its first test flight, the newest and smallest sibling in Boeing’s top-selling 737 family of jets, the 737 MAX 7, took a three-hour trip today from Renton, Wash., to Seattle’s Boeing Field, just eight miles away.

Getting from Point A to Point B wasn’t the point: Instead, the circuitous journey was designed to give test pilots a chance to put the plane through its paces for the first time in the air. The flight path ranged from the tip of Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula to Moses Lake in central Washington, with several photogenic circles around Mount Rainier added for good measure.

The pilots were greeted with applause as they emerged from the cockpit at Boeing Field, at the end of a trouble-free flight.

Like the other single-aisle 737 MAX variants, the MAX 7 has been optimized for low-cost operation. It incorporates fuel-efficient CFM International LEAP-1B engines as well as lift-maximizing wingtips and other innovations. That’s expected to result in an 18 percent reduction in fuel costs per seat, compared to its predecessor, the 737-700.

The MAX 7’s passenger capacity can range from 138 to 172 seats, depending on the configuration. It has the farthest range of the 737 MAX family, amounting to 4,430 statute miles (3,850 nautical miles).

After further flight tests and certification, the MAX 7 is due to get its first delivery to Southwest Airlines and go into service next year.

The plane is the smallest member of a MAX family with capacities ranging as high as 230 seats. The first 737 MAX jet, the MAX 8, made its maiden flight in January 2016, and that was followed by the MAX 9’s aerial debut in April 2017.

A 200-seat version of the MAX 8, designed specifically for low-cost airlines and known as the MAX 200, should be ready for flight next year. The largest variant of the single-aisle jet family, the MAX 10, is scheduled to enter service in 2020.

The MAX line is part of what’s recognized as the world’s most widely sold commercial jet family. Just this week, Boeing rolled out its 10,000th 737 jet, a 737 MAX 8 that’s going to Southwest Airlines. But Boeing’s European rival, Airbus, is hot on the 737’s tail with its own single-aisle A320 family. Boeing has more than 4,600 orders lined up for 737s, while Airbus has a backlog of more than 6,000 A320 orders.

To date, the MAX 7 accounts for roughly 60 of Boeing’s orders.

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