Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray will reunite for Apple and A24

The director and star of “Lost in Translation” are working together again, with Bill Murray starring alongside Rashida Jones in “On The Rocks,” a new film directed by Sofia Coppola.

The movie will tell the story of a young mother who reconnects with her playboy father in New York City. Production is supposed to begin this spring.

“On the Rocks” is the first film to come out of the partnership between Apple and A24, which will see A24 (the studio behind “Moonlight,” “Lady Bird,” “Hereditary” and other indie hits) producing several titles for Apple . The deal will help Apple’s yet-to-launch streaming service offer high-profile original films alongside shows like its star-studded morning news drama and an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” novels.

It’s been nearly 16 years since the release of “Lost in Translation,” which was a financial and critical hit — it remains the highest-grossing film of Coppola’s directing career, and it cemented Murray’s shift to more serious roles. It also won Coppola the Academy Award for best screenplay, and it nabbed Murray his only Oscar nomination thus far. (How is that possible??)

Since then, Coppola has only directed Murray once, in the idiosyncratic Netflix special “A Very Murray Christmas.”

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How the new VR screen could end the smartphone

A smartphone screen is a wonder of the world. It’s not just that it’s bright and colorful and sharp. In some ways, it’s as good as human biology allows. We’ve packed so many pixels into such a small space that any more would be lost on us. We can’t make the screens themselves bigger, because then they’d become too large to hold. The only way to get more information from a smartphone screen is to bring the pixels closer to our eyes, with the device somehow mounted on our heads rather than holding it in our hands. Instead of a phone as we usually think of it, it would be more like a pair of glasses.

Sound unlikely? In fact, many smart CE companies (Apple, Microsoft, Google, HTC) are already working on this new screen. When it arrives, experiences you’ve only seen in the movies will become the stuff of everyday life.

The “diffraction limit” for the human eye

When you look through a small hole, things on the other side appear blurry. This is because when a ray of light passes through a hole on its way to your retina, it spreads out a little. Think of watching a wave from the ocean hit a sea-wall with a narrow opening: The way the straight wave becomes a ripple spreading out on the other side is the same as what happens to rays of light when they go through a hole.

You can play with this by making your own “pinhole camera” and looking through it at text far away. The smaller the hole, the blurrier. And your iris is, of course, also a hole.

Source: Getty Images: Carmelo Geraci/EyeEm

This means that our eyes, given their size, have only a certain ability to see detail. For the human pupil, at about 5 millimeters across, we can express this limit in pixels-per-degree, and the number is around 60. So, for example, if you hold a quarter at arm’s length away from your eye, it’s going to take up about 2.5 degrees of your view, which means that a little square display of 150 pixels across will look “perfect” to your eye. Any more pixels will be a waste because you wouldn’t be able to see them.

Starting in about 2010, our smartphone displays reached that level of quality, where we could no longer see the pixels, even held as close to our face as comfortable — a change that you may remember Apple aptly branding the “Retina” display. Even big-screen TVs have now reached that same limit . Anything beyond 4K is a waste of money because you can’t see the difference unless you are sitting so close you can feel the heat from the screen!

This means that a 6-by-3-inch phone held in our hands is never going to take up more than a tiny part of our field of view, and will never be able to show us more than the few dozen lines of text we can read on it today.

Insatiable appetite

But both our appetite and capacity for digesting visual information is tremendous. We love screens, and the bigger the better. We would love it, for example, if our laptops could magically unfold to have four screens instead of just the one (like those super-cool folding ones on Westworld).

Ideally, we’d be able to see screens in every direction, with the option to turn them off when we want to pay the closest attention to the real world. And these will be a far cry from early prototypes like Google Glass, which had an even smaller field of view and text/information capacity than your smartphone display.

The biggest possible screen

That is exactly what is being worked on: If you could fix the screen in front of your eyes with lenses that make it comfortable to look at, and which also have the ability to precisely sense the rotation of the head, you could create a magic new “screen” that completely surrounds you with pixels too small to be seen. Wherever you turn your head, the pixels right in front of your eyes would change to display the part of the virtual screen where you are looking.

This new screen will appear really, really big — about the equivalent of 16 4K monitors, with about 200 million pixels. Imagine being able to snap your fingers, any time, and be surrounded by 16 monitors containing any content you’d like — ones for email, text messages, browsing, video and whatever else you’d like to remember to check on. No-one will be able to see the content but you, and they come with you everywhere, just like your smartphone.

Trillion-dollar market

Would you wait in line at the Apple store for a $500 headset that surrounds you with 16 magic floating 4K monitors that don’t weigh anything and no one else could see? Of course you would — and you will. And by the way, you can keep the keyboard and mouse on your old desk, too . You just won’t need the monitor anymore.

Man watching video on monitors

Source: Hoxton/Paul Bradbury

This is exactly why so many great companies —  Apple, Microsoft, HTC, Google and startups like Magic Leap, Avegant and ODG — are working on trying to build this screen. The worldwide market for screens is about a trillion dollars, so whoever gets this new screen right will reap the rewards.

Accessible to all

Because they are self-contained and therefore cannot consume much in the way of computing power, these new devices will be less expensive than their predecessors — about the same price as a smartphone. And this means that, like the smartphone in comparison to the PC, they will be widely accessible  — in the hands of billions of us within the next 10 years.

So it is possible that this change will be empowering for the many people worldwide who currently have access to simple smartphone screens but not the more powerful work and learning opportunities offered by the expensive desktop and wall-mounted screens found in only more affluent homes and offices today. These inexpensive devices could give everyone worldwide the equivalent of a gigantic Bloomberg terminal.

VR and AR are lucky benefactors, not the killer apps

Thus far I haven’t focused on 3D VR worlds or AR objects superimposed on the real world, because these new screens won’t need them to still be wildly successful. Like camera apps were to smartphones, VR and AR applications will be the lucky beneficiaries of the race to a new screen. Once you have a device with such a screen, you can display 3D content or superimpose 3D content on the real world or travel to virtual worlds or communicate across the world as an avatar. Incredible VR applications that enhance human connections and experiences despite great distances are in the works now. But you won’t have to rush out to buy a headset — you’ll already have one for browsing and email.

Multiple companies will release headsets and glasses in the coming couple of years that will replace the smartphone screen as the way we take in visual information from our computers. Our first use of these screens will be to do all the things we struggle to do on our smartphones. Following that, virtual worlds, VR and AR will begin to make use of these screens, allowing us to augment or substitute entirely new worlds for the real one. We’ve been searching for a new “killer app” for VR and AR headsets while you’ve looking at the answer as you read this article.

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What is a Google Chromebook?

You’ve probably seen the term Chromebook mentioned on the internet, and you might be wondering what they are, and how they differ from regular laptops.

In this guide we’ll explain what a Chromebook is, list the pros and cons of the devices, and help you decide whether or not a Chromebook is right for you.

If you’re after in-depth buying advice on specific models, check out our Should I Buy a Chromebook? and Best Chromebook guides.

What is a Chromebook?

Let’s begin with a quick overview of what a Chromebook is. Essentially, Chromebooks are light and cheap laptops that run Google’s ChromeOS operating system.

Most laptops run Windows 10 as their operating system, unless you have a MacBook, which uses macOS. ChromeOS is a lightweight OS, which means it’s not as fully featured as Windows 10 or macOS. In fact, when ChromeOS was first released in 2011 it was extremely barebones, and you needed an internet connection to use apps such as Google Docs.

ChromeOS has evolved since then, so you can now install apps – including Android apps – and use it without an internet connection, but it’s still more limited than Windows 10 and macOS. However, that's one of the reasons why Chromebooks are so appealing to many users.

Because ChromeOS is a lightweight operating system, it doesn’t need powerful components to run, and it can use hardware that Windows 10 or macOS would struggle to run on. This enables Chromebooks to be much more affordable than other laptops.

It also means Chromebooks have impressively long battery lives, easily lasting a whole work day on a single charge.

The first Chromebooks were released by Samsung and Acer in May 2011. While we sometimes refer to the devices as ‘Google Chromebooks’, a number of major laptop manufacturers make Chromebooks, with the likes of Dell, HP and Asus joining Samsung and Acer.

Of course, Google has released its own Chromebooks over the years as well. Interestingly, while most Chromebooks are affordable alternatives to Windows and Mac laptops, Google’s Chromebooks, like the Google Pixelbook, are premium devices that show that a Chromebook can be as powerful, and as beautifully designed, as any MacBook or Windows laptop.

What software can a Google Chromebook run?

Because Chromebooks run ChromeOS, you can’t simply install and run Windows or Mac programs. Instead, you use Chrome apps, or online apps that you can run through the Chrome browser, such as Google Docs.

There’s a decent selection of Chrome apps, and using online apps like Google Docs means you don’t need to mess around installing apps, which means many Chromebooks only need small hard drives – which again helps to keep their price low.

Chromebooks are now also able to run Android apps, giving Chromebook users access to thousands of apps through the Google Play Store. Most modern applications have a version for Android devices, which means Chromebooks can run a huge range of software, from office suites like Microsoft Office to photo editors and even games.

Chromebooks can also run Linux applications, further bolstering the productivity benefits of the devices. Compatible Chromebooks can now use programs that were created for Linux, the open source desktop operating system.

While ChromeOS used to be seen as a limited operating system, the scope of the software you can now run on a Chromebook is truly impressive.

ChromeOS is also a lot less prone to viruses and malware compared to Windows 10; malicious users are more likely to attack Windows 10 devices due to their popularity. Using cloud-based services on a Chromebook also limits the number of files you download and install, and ChromeOS is automatically updated with the latest security patches to keep you safe and secure.

Chromebooks and education

Because of the affordability, long battery life and security of Chromebooks, they've become increasingly popular in the education sector.

They're ideal laptops for students, as they come with pretty much all the software they would need, including word processors and presentation programs. The use of cloud services such as Google Docs also allows for online collaboration between students and teachers, and several manufacturers have made Chromebooks that are specially designed for students, with durable bodies that can survive being tossed into a backpack and carried around all day.

The Chrome Education License also enables schools to provide Chromebooks to students and easily manage the devices centrally, ensuring that only approved apps are installed.

Parental controls can also ensure that students are kept safe from inappropriate online content.

So, to answer to the question 'What is a Google Chromebook?' Essentially, they're affordable laptops with simple designs, that can surprise you with how flexible and adept they are for many day-to-day tasks.

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Snap CFO Tim Stone is resigning

Snap CFO Tim Stone is leaving the company, according to documents Snap filed with the SEC today. This marks Snap’s second CFO departure in the last twelve months.

“Mr. Stone has confirmed that this transition is not related to any disagreement with us on any matter relating to our accounting, strategy, management, operations, policies, regulatory matters, or practices (financial or otherwise),” Snap General Counsel and Secretary Michael O’Sullivan wrote in the fling. “Mr. Stone’s last day has not been determined. Mr. Stone will continue to serve as Chief Financial Officer to assist in the search for a replacement and an effective transition of his duties, including through our scheduled full year 2018 financial results announcement.”

Stone is a long-time Amazon executive, who joined Snap from Amazon back in May to replace outgoing CFO Drew Vollero. Vollero served as Snap’s first CFO.

Snap is currently finalizing its Q4 2018 results and says it expects to report revenue and adjusted EBITDA results “that are slightly favorable to the top end of our previously reported quarterly guidance ranges for each.”

Snap closed the day up 3.65 percent at $6.54 per share. In after-hours trading, Snap is trading down more than seven percent.

TechCrunch has reached out to Snap and will update this story if we hear back.

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Apple’s new battery cases give iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max longer battery lives

Apple has launched a lineup of new battery-packed phone cases for the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max, as spotted by 9to5Mac. For anyone who has  suffering from short battery life on the newest iPhones, these cases are a convenient way to extend device uptime without needing to carry around a battery and cable.

The new Apple Smart Battery Cases cost $129 (around £100,  AU$179) across all three phone models. You can pick one up in either black or white.

Apple claims each case is capable of offering the following extensions on each phone's battery life:

  • iPhone XS – 33 hours talk time, 21 hours internet use, 25 hours video playback
  • iPhone XS Max – 37 hours talk time, 20 hours internet use, 25 hours video playback
  • iPhone XR – 39 hours talk time, 22 hours internet use, 27 hours video playback.

Apart from the convenient addition of power to the iPhones, they also protect the phone by covering up the back glass completely, with a simple cutout for the cameras. The silicone material fits snugly and is easy to slip on the phone, with a microfiber lining on the inside and a soft-touch exterior.

Since the cases are official Apple products, they should seamlessly integrate with your iPhone. Apple notes the phones will display an intelligent battery status while the cases are in use, so you know how much life is left. Each case also supports Qi wireless charging, fast charging with USB-PD chargers, and connectivity with accessories that use the Lightning Connector.

Pre-orders for the Smart Battery Cases are open now, with delivery starting Friday, January 18 on the two iPhone XS models and later in the month for the iPhone XR model.

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