Amazon and Google Announce Official YouTube Apps to Launch on Fire TV; Prime Video App Coming to Chromecast and Android TV

Amazon and Google have worked out their differences. On Thursday, they announced that official YouTube app will soon make a return to Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs. Additionally, Prime Video app will be coming to Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices. “In addition, Prime Video will be broadly available across Android TV device partners, and the YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps will also come to Fire TV later this year,” Amazon said.

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Source: Slashdot – Amazon and Google Announce Official YouTube Apps to Launch on Fire TV; Prime Video App Coming to Chromecast and Android TV

Mozilla To Bring Python To Browsers

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: In a step toward its goal of building out a data science development stack for web browsers, Mozilla today detailed Pyodide, an experimental Python project that’s designed to perform computation without the need for a remote kernel (i.e., a program that runs and inspects code). As staff data engineer Mike Droettboom explained in a blog post, it’s a standard Python interpreter that runs entirely in the browser. And while Pyodide isn’t exactly novel — projects like Transcrypt, Brython, Skulpt, and PyPyJs are among several efforts to bring Python to browsers — it doesn’t require a rewrite of popular scientific computing tools (like NumPy, Pandas, Scipy, and Matplotlib) to achieve adequate performance, and its ability to convert built-in data types enables interactions among browser APIs and other JavaScript libraries.

Pyodide is built on WebAssembly, a low-level programming language that runs with near-native performance, and emscripten (specifically a build of Python for emscripten dubbed “cpython-emscripten”), which comprises a compiler from C and C++ to WebAssembly and a compatibility layer. Emscripten additionally provides a virtual file system (written in JavaScript) that the Python interpreter can use, in which files disappear when the browser tab is closed. To use Pyodide, you’ll need the compiled Python interpreter as WebAssembly, JavaScript from emscripten (which provides the system emulation), and a packaged file system containing the files required by the Python interpreter. Once all three components are downloaded, they’ll be stored in your browser’s cache, obviating the need to download them again. The report notes that “the Python interpreter inside the JavaScript virtual machine runs between one to 12 times slower in Firefox and up to 16 times slower on Chrome.”

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Source: Slashdot – Mozilla To Bring Python To Browsers

Astronomers Have Spotted the Universe's First Molecule

Astronomers have detected the universe’s first molecule. “Helium hydride (HeH), a combination of helium and hydrogen, was spotted some 3000 light-years from Earth by an instrument aboard the airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a telescope built into a converted 747 jet that flies above the opaque parts of Earth’s atmosphere,” reports Science Magazine. The findings have been reported in the journal Nature. From the report: HeH has long been thought to mark the “dawn of chemistry,” as the remnants of the big bang cooled to about 4000 K and ions began to team up with electrons to form neutral atoms. Researchers believe that in that primordial gas, neutral helium reacted with hydrogen ions to form the first chemical bond joining the very first molecule. In 1925, chemists synthesized HeH in the lab. In the 1970s, theorists predicted that the molecule may exist today, most likely formed anew in planetary nebulae, clouds of gas ejected by dying sunlike stars. But decades of observations failed to find any, casting doubts on the theory.

To find the elusive molecule, astrochemists search for characteristic frequencies of light it emits, particularly a spectral line in the far infrared typically blocked by Earth’s atmosphere. But a far-infrared spectrometer aboard SOFIA allowed them to find that signature for the first time, in a planetary nebula called NGC 7027, the researchers report today in Nature. The result shows this unlikely molecule — involving typically unreactive helium — can be created in space. With this cornerstone confirmed, it appears that the evolution of the following 13 billion years of chemistry stands on firmer ground.

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Source: Slashdot – Astronomers Have Spotted the Universe’s First Molecule

Planet's Ocean-Plastics Problem Detailed In 60-Year Data Set

Scientists have uncovered the first strong evidence that the amount of plastic polluting the oceans has risen vastly in recent decades — by analyzing 60 years of log books for plankton-tracking vessels. Nature reports: Data recorded by instruments known as continuous plankton recorders (CPRs) — which ships have collectively towed millions of kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean — show that the trackers have become entangled in large plastic objects, such as bags and fishing lines, roughly three times more often since 2000 than in preceding decades. This is the first time that researchers have demonstrated the rise in ocean plastics using a single, long-term data set, says Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “I’m excited that this has been finally done,” he says. The analysis was published on 16 April in Nature Communications.

Van Sebille says that because the study focused on large plastic items, it doesn’t reveal much about the quantity of microplastics — fragments fewer than 5 millimetres long — in the oceans. These tiny contaminants come from sources such as disposable plastic packaging, rather than from fishing gear. Nevertheless, he adds, the study demonstrates that fisheries play a major part in plastic pollution, and will provide useful baseline data for tracking whether policy changes affect the levels of plastic in the oceans. “As fisheries become more professional, especially in the North Sea, hopefully we might see a decrease,” he says.

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Source: Slashdot – Planet’s Ocean-Plastics Problem Detailed In 60-Year Data Set

Facebook is Working on a Voice Assistant To Rival Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri, Report Says

Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant, CNBC reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter. From the report: The tech company has been working on this new initiative since early 2018. The effort is coming out of the company’s augmented reality and virtual reality group, a division that works on hardware, including the company’s virtual reality Oculus headsets. A team based out of Redmond, Washington, has been spearheading the effort to build the new AI assistant, according to two former Facebook employees who left the company in recent months. The effort is being lead by Ira Snyder, director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant. That team has been contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain, according to two people familiar. It’s unclear how exactly Facebook envisions people using the assistant, but it could potentially be used on the company’s Portal video chat smart speakers, the Oculus headsets or other future projects.

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Source: Slashdot – Facebook is Working on a Voice Assistant To Rival Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri, Report Says

Why the Swiss Still Love Cash

gollum123 shares a report from the BBC: Last month, the Swiss unveiled a smart new banknote to stash in their wallets. The purple 1,000 franc bill was the latest in the Swiss National Bank (SNB) series to undergo a revamp. But this revamp comes as other nations are phasing out their high-value notes and as cash usage declines in European nations, albeit at greatly differing rates. In Switzerland, cash remains the dominant payment method. Here, there’s an assumption everyone carries cash, even in an increasingly digital economy. Most don’t get caught out buying a sandwich or paying for a haircut when the card payment machine is out of order. If you have to pay for a coffee with a 100 franc note, no need to apologize — no one will ask if you have something smaller. And for those big-ticket items, some banks even allow you to withdraw up to 5,000 francs per day (or 10,000 a month) at the cash machine without advance notice. Buying a car that costs tens of thousands with cash is also not that unusual.

Why then do the Swiss prefer cash? Two simple reasons are that cash is widely considered to be part of their culture and people believe that using it allows them to track their spending more easily. In Basel, 53-year-old Chris Troiani confirmed this, saying many people she knows still prefer the reassurance of carrying big bills in their wallet. There’s also the identity factor: the Swiss identify with cash in part because of how they see themselves. This is a nation which values privacy and doesn’t like being told what to do. They see themselves as different to their European neighbors and closely guard those traditions which set them apart, such as languages, political system and currency.

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Source: Slashdot – Why the Swiss Still Love Cash

Facebook 'Unintentionally Uploaded' Email Contacts From 1.5M Users

Facebook “unintentionally” harvested the email contacts of about 1.5 million of its users during the past three years. From a report: The activity came to light when a security researcher noticed that Facebook was asking users to enter their email passwords to verify their identities when signing up for an account, according to Business Insider, which previously reported on the practice. Those who did enter their passwords then saw a pop-up message that said it was “importing” their contacts — without first asking permission, BI reported. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that 1.5 million people’s contacts were collected in this manner since May 2016 to help build Facebook’s web of social connections and recommend other users to add as friends.

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Source: Slashdot – Facebook ‘Unintentionally Uploaded’ Email Contacts From 1.5M Users

Student Used 'USB Killer' Device To Destroy $58,000 Worth of College Computers

A former student of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, has pled guilty to charges that he destroyed tens of thousands of dollars worth of campus computers using a USB device designed to instantly overwhelm and fry their circuitry. The plea was announced today by the Department of Justice, FBI, and Albany Police Department. The Verge reports: Vishwanath Akuthota, the former student, now faces up to 10 years in prison (with up to three years of supervision after release) and a fine totaling up to $250,000. He was arrested and taken into custody in North Carolina on February 22nd, just over a week after he went on a spree of inserting the “USB Killer” device into 66 of Saint Rose’s computers around various locations on campus. Such devices can be easily and freely purchased online and can overload the surge protection in many PCs.

Akuthota, 27, apparently made video recordings of himself inserting the malicious USB device into the computers and said “I’m going to kill this guy” as the PCs were overloaded and permanently ruined. So it’s fair to say the FBI and APD had all the evidence they needed. In total, Akuthota caused $58,471 worth of damage. As part of his guilty plea, he has agreed to pay back that amount to the college, a small private school in New York’s capital city. The Verge reached out to The College of Saint Rose for a statement on today’s news, but a spokesperson said the college had been asked by law enforcement to refrain from commenting.

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Source: Slashdot – Student Used ‘USB Killer’ Device To Destroy ,000 Worth of College Computers

Bad Bots Now Make Up 20 Percent of Web Traffic

So-called “bad bots,” tasked with performing denial-of-service (DoS) attacks or other malicious activities like automatically publishing fake content or reviews, are estimated to make up roughly 37.9 percent of all internet traffic. “In 2018, one in five website requests — 20.4 percent — of traffic was generated by bad bots alone,” reports ZDNet, citing Distil Networks’ latest bot report, “Bad Bot Report 2019: The Bot Arms Race Continues.” From the report: According to Distil Networks’ latest bot report, the financial sector is the main target for such activity, followed by ticketing, the education sector, government websites, and gambling. Based on the analysis of hundreds of billions of bad bot requests over 2018, simple bots, which are easy to detect and defend against, accounted for 26.4 percent of bad bot traffic. Meanwhile, 52.5 percent came from those considered to be “moderately” sophisticated, equipped with the capability to use headless browser software as well as JavaScript to conduct illicit activities.

A total of 73.6 percent of bad bots are classified as Advanced Persistent Bots (APBs), which are able to cycle through random IP addresses, switch their digital identities, and mimic human behavior. Amazon is the leading ISP for bad bot traffic origins. In total, 18 percent of bad bot traffic came from the firm’s services, a jump from 10.62 percent in 2017. Almost 50 percent of bad bots use Google Chrome as their user agent and 73.6 percent of bad bot traffic was recorded as originating from data centers, down from 82.7 percent in 2017. The United States outstrips all other countries as a generator of bad bots. In total, 53.4 percent of bad bot traffic came from the US, followed by the Netherlands and China. The most blocked country by IP is Russia, together with Ukraine and India.

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Source: Slashdot – Bad Bots Now Make Up 20 Percent of Web Traffic

Pepsi Drops Plans To Use Artificial Constellation To Promote An Energy Drink

Just days after Pepsi announced that it would advertise its products in space using a Russian startup, the company now says it will no longer pursue the plans, avoiding what likely would have resulted in significant public criticism. Slashdot reader schwit1 shares a report from SpaceNews: The publication Futurism reported April 13 that PepsiCo’s Russian subsidiary was working with a startup there called StartRocket to advertise an energy drink called “Adrenaline Rush” using satellites. The company has proposed flying a set of small satellites in formation, reflecting sunlight with Mylar sails to create logos or other advertising messages visible from the ground after sunset and before sunrise.

PepsiCo’s headquarters in the United States has shot down the idea. “We can confirm StartRocket performed an exploratory test for stratosphere advertisements using the Adrenaline GameChangers logo,” a company spokesperson told SpaceNews April 15. “This was a one-time event; we have no further plans to test or commercially use this technology at this time.” The company didn’t elaborate on the “exploratory test for stratosphere advertisements,” but it appears to refer to a high-altitude balloon test of the technology that StartRocket says on its website it planned to carry out in April in cooperation with Russia’s Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, or Skoltech. “People have a visceral dislike of space-based advertising,” adds schwit1.

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Source: Slashdot – Pepsi Drops Plans To Use Artificial Constellation To Promote An Energy Drink

Microsoft Turned Down Facial-Recognition Sales On Human Rights Concerns

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Microsoft recently rejected a California law enforcement agency’s request to install facial recognition technology in officers’ cars and body cameras due to human rights concerns, company President Brad Smith said on Tuesday. Microsoft concluded it would lead to innocent women and minorities being disproportionately held for questioning because the artificial intelligence has been trained on mostly white and male pictures. AI has more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, multiple research projects have found.

On the other hand, Microsoft did agree to provide the technology to an American prison, after the company concluded that the environment would be limited and that it would improve safety inside the unnamed institution. Smith explained the decisions as part of a commitment to human rights that he said was increasingly critical as rapid technological advances empower governments to conduct blanket surveillance, deploy autonomous weapons and take other steps that might prove impossible to reverse. Smith also said at a Stanford University conference that Microsoft had declined a deal to install facial recognition on cameras blanketing the capital city of an unnamed country that the nonprofit Freedom House had deemed not free. Smith said it would have suppressed freedom of assembly there.

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Source: Slashdot – Microsoft Turned Down Facial-Recognition Sales On Human Rights Concerns

Sony Cracks Down On Sexually Explicit Content In Games

Slashdot reader xavdeman writes: Hot on the heels of its announcement of the specifications of the next PlayStation, Sony has revealed a new crackdown on explicit content. Citing “the rise of the #MeToo movement” and a concern of “legal and social action” in the USA, Sony has said it wants to address concerns about the depiction of women in video games playable on its platform as well as protect children’s “sound growth and development.” The new rules were reportedly already responsible for puritan cutscene alterations in the Western PS4 release of the multi-platform title Devil May Cry 5, where lens flares were used to cover up partial nudity.

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Source: Slashdot – Sony Cracks Down On Sexually Explicit Content In Games

Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou To Run For President of Taiwan

hackingbear writes: Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of electronics giant Foxconn, is stepping down from his role as chairman to run for president of Taiwan. Taiwan broke off from mainland China in 1949 after a civil war and is officially known as Republic of China; its legal territory still covers all of China. He will stand in the primaries of the opposition party Kuomintang (KMT), promoting a more China-friendly policy during what is currently a period of heightened tension with Beijing. Gou says he wants to improve relations with mainland China — something which is quite feasible given his plentiful resources and experience. Foxconn already operates numerous factories in China, employing hundreds of thousands of workers, plus Gou has an alliance with U.S. President Donald Trump, thanks to Foxconn’s plans to build a $10 billion facility in Wisconsin. This is certainly a relationship that could give Gou a lot of clout if necessary. Unification with China versus going independent is a political issue defining the politics of Taiwan, serving a role similar to that of abortion and immigration issues in U.S. politics.

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Source: Slashdot – Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou To Run For President of Taiwan

HD Emulation Mod Makes 'Mode 7' SNES Games Look Like New

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Gamers of a certain age probably remember being wowed by the quick, smooth scaling and rotation effects of the Super Nintendo’s much-ballyhooed “Mode 7” graphics. Looking back, though, those gamers might also notice how chunky and pixelated those background transformations could end up looking, especially when viewed on today’s high-end screens. Emulation to the rescue. A modder going by the handle DerKoun has released an “HD Mode 7” patch for the accuracy-focused SNES emulator bsnes. In their own words, the patch “performs Mode 7 transformations… at up to 4 times the horizontal and vertical resolution” of the original hardware.

The results, as you can see in the above gallery and the below YouTube video, are practically miraculous. Pieces of Mode 7 maps that used to be boxy smears of color far in the distance are now sharp, straight lines with distinct borders and distinguishable features. It’s like looking at a brand-new game. Perhaps the most impressive thing about these effects is that they take place on original SNES ROM and graphics files; DerKoun has said that “no artwork has been modified” in the games since the project was just a proof of concept a month ago. That makes this project different from upscaling emulation efforts for the N64 and other retro consoles, which often require hand-drawn HD texture packs to make old art look good at higher resolutions.

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Source: Slashdot – HD Emulation Mod Makes ‘Mode 7’ SNES Games Look Like New

Samsung's $2,000 Galaxy Fold Units Are Failing Left and Right With Disastrous Display Issues

Four Samsung Galaxy Fold review units in the hands of major US tech journalists all experienced device-breaking display failures today. AndroidPolice: Steve Kovach of CNBC, Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, and Dieter Bohn of The Verge have reported major failures of their phones’ display panels, just two days after receiving them. To say this is a disaster for Samsung is probably underselling it. Well-known YouTuber MKBHD claims to be having similar problems, but hasn’t posted any images. Bohn and Kovach claim their displays failed without removing the panel’s protective film (Samsung says not to take it off), but both Gurman and Brownlee did. The company has yet to begin shipping the device to consumers. So far it has only handed the phone to select journalists, most of whom reported issue with it today.

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Source: Slashdot – Samsung’s ,000 Galaxy Fold Units Are Failing Left and Right With Disastrous Display Issues

T-Mobile, Comcast Turn on Call Verification Between Networks in Latest Robocall Fight

pgmrdlm shares a report: Calls between T-Mobile users and Comcast’s Xfinity Voice home subscribers will now be “verified,” the latest move in the ongoing fight against robocalls. The two companies announced Wednesday that they have launched cross-network verification, allowing users to know that the calls they are receiving is from an actual person and not a spammer or robocaller.

They use a handoff system recommended by the FCC where the caller’s network verifies that a legitimate call is being made with a “digital signature.” The recipient’s network then confirms the signature on its side. A number of major wireless and traditional home voice providers have pledged support for the verification method, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Charter, Cox and Vonage, with several announcing plans to roll out or test the feature in 2019.

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Source: Slashdot – T-Mobile, Comcast Turn on Call Verification Between Networks in Latest Robocall Fight

'Partly Alive': Scientists Revive Cells in Brains From Dead Pigs

In a study that raises profound questions about the line between life and death, researchers have restored some cellular activity to brains removed from slaughtered pigs. From a report: The brains did not regain anything resembling consciousness: There were no signs indicating coordinated electrical signaling, necessary for higher functions like awareness and intelligence. But in an experimental treatment, blood vessels in the pigs’ brains began functioning, flowing with a blood substitute, and certain brain cells regained metabolic activity, even responding to drugs [Editor’s note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. When the researchers tested slices of treated brain tissue, they discovered electrical activity in some neurons.

The work is very preliminary and has no immediate implications for treatment of brain injuries in humans. But the idea that parts of the brain may be recoverable after death, as conventionally defined, contradicts everything medical science believes about the organ and poses metaphysical riddles. “We had clear lines between ‘this is alive’ and ‘this is dead,'” said Nita A. Farahany, a bioethicist and law professor at Duke University. “How do we now think about this middle category of ‘partly alive’? We didn’t think it could exist.” For decades, doctors and grieving family members have wondered if it might ever be possible to restore function to a person who suffered extensive brain injury because of a severe stroke or heart attack. Were these brains really beyond salvage?

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Source: Slashdot – ‘Partly Alive’: Scientists Revive Cells in Brains From Dead Pigs

Cyberspies Hijacked the Internet Domains of Entire Countries

Trailrunner7 shares a report: The discovery of a new, sophisticated team of hackers spying on dozens of government targets is never good news. But one team of cyberspies has pulled off that scale of espionage with a rare and troubling trick, exploiting a weak link in the internet’s cybersecurity that experts have warned about for years: DNS hijacking, a technique that meddles with the fundamental address book of the internet. Researchers at Cisco’s Talos security division on Wednesday revealed that a hacker group it’s calling Sea Turtle carried out a broad campaign of espionage via DNS hijacking, hitting 40 different organizations.

In the process, they went so far as to compromise multiple country-code top-level domains — the suffixes like .co.uk, or .ru, that end a foreign web address — putting all the traffic of every domain in multiple countries at risk. The hackers’ victims include telecoms, internet service providers, and domain registrars responsible for implementing the domain name system. But the majority of the victims and the ultimate targets, Cisco believes, were a collection of mostly governmental organizations including ministries of foreign affairs, intelligence agencies, military targets, and energy-related groups, all based in the Middle East and North Africa. By corrupting the internet’s directory system, hackers were able to silently use “man-in-the-middle” attacks to intercept all internet data from email to web traffic sent to those victim organizations.

[…] Cisco Talos said it couldn’t determine the nationality of the Sea Turtle hackers, and declined to name the specific targets of their spying operations. But it did provide a list of the countries where victims were located: Albania, Armenia, Cypress, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Cisco’s Craig Williams confirmed that Armenia’s .am top-level domain was one ‘of the “handful” that were compromised, but wouldn’t say which of the other countries’ top-level domains were similarly hijacked.

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Source: Slashdot – Cyberspies Hijacked the Internet Domains of Entire Countries

Microsoft's 85-inch Surface Hub 2S Starts at $8,999, Ships in June

The Surface Hub, Microsoft’s digital whiteboard designed for conferences and meetings, received a hardware refresh today. From a report: At a press event at Steelcase’s swanky New York City hub, the Redmond, Washington company detailed the improved Surface Hub 2S, which boasts a touchscreen that’s higher in resolution than the original, plus a 4K front camera that supports video calling, an enhanced 8-microphone far-field microphone array, and other improvements. Surface 2S will ship in June, starting at $8,999 and going up to nearly $12,000. (That’s the same base price as the original Surface Hub 2.) A larger version — the Surface Hub 2S 85-inch — will also be available at an as-yet-unrevealed price, and stands and wall mounts from Steelcase will be sold separately for $1,449.99 and $249, respectively.

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Source: Slashdot – Microsoft’s 85-inch Surface Hub 2S Starts at ,999, Ships in June

Microsoft's Surface Hub 2S Starts at $8,999, Ships in June

The Surface Hub, Microsoft’s digital whiteboard designed for conferences and meetings, received a hardware refresh today. From a report: At a press event at Steelcase’s swanky New York City hub, the Redmond, Washington company detailed the improved Surface Hub 2S, which boasts a touchscreen that’s higher in resolution than the original, plus a 4K front camera that supports video calling, an enhanced 8-microphone far-field microphone array, and other improvements. Surface 2S will ship in June, starting at $8,999 and going up to nearly $12,000. (That’s the same base price as the original Surface Hub 2.) A larger version — the Surface Hub 2S 85-inch — will also be available at an as-yet-unrevealed price, and stands and wall mounts from Steelcase will be sold separately for $1,449.99 and $249, respectively.

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Source: Slashdot – Microsoft’s Surface Hub 2S Starts at ,999, Ships in June