Apple Buys Popular Weather App ‘Dark Sky,’ Discontinues Android Version

You wouldn’t expect people to be passionate about a weather app, but Dark Sky’s user base certainly qualifies. This “hyperlocal” weather client originated on iOS, but launched on Android in 2016. Now, it’s going back to an iOS exclusive following an unexpected Apple acquisition. If you’ve been enjoying the app, it’s probably time to check out alternatives. 

Dark Sky was a popular app on iOS, but it emerged at a time when the business model for weather apps was changing. These services aren’t cheap to run, and many apps that offered on-time pro upgrades were struggling to remain profitable. Dark Sky offered robust live weather data with forecasts tailored to your specific location. iPhone users were happy to pay a few bucks per year for a subscription to the app. The Android launch was rocky because of that model — app subscriptions were still a tough sell for Android users, but the app eventually racked up more than a million installs. 

The acquisition came out of the blue yesterday with a blog post on the Dark Sky website. Now that Apple is calling the shots, Dark Sky’s Android app is going the way of the dodo. The app will shut down on July 1, 2020, but it’s still available for download in the Play Store for those who have already installed it. You can even buy a one-year subscription on Android. Although, that option (and the app listing itself) will probably vanish soon enough. Anyone with a subscription active when the shutdown happens will get a refund. It does have rudimentary free features, but those will stop working in July as well. 

The app is still available in the Play Store for current users. New users won’t be able to download it, though.

This acquisition will have wider-reaching consequences than the loss of one app. Dark Sky also operates an API, allowing other apps to license its weather data. This will go away, too, but not until the end of 2021. That will give apps time to find alternative weather APIs, but most of those services are much more expensive than Dark Sky. 

It’s not even clear if Apple will continue offering Dark Sky on iOS much longer. It may very well build Dark Sky’s forecast technology into a future version of iOS. At that point, the standalone app might not be necessary anymore. Whatever Apple does with Dark Sky, Android folks won’t be invited.

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Researchers Create AI-Powered Blood Test to Detect Cancer

Credit: Pexels

Cancer is one of the most common causes of death, but the huge variation in types of cancer can make early detection a challenge. A team of researchers from the US has developed a blood test that might be able to help identify early-stage tumors using the power of AI. The test can detect over 50 different cancers and narrow down tumor location to specific areas of the body. 

At its most basic, cancer is uncontrolled cell growth. There are many different types of cells in the human body, and almost all of them can become cancerous. Unfortunately, many cancers don’t present with noticeable symptoms until the disease has progressed to the later stages. Once cancer begins spreading to other body systems, it becomes much harder to treat. 

A routine test that could flag potential cancers early on could save untold lives and reduce medical costs. The team, consisting of researchers from the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and other institutions, focused on analyzing signals from so-called “cell-free DNA” (cfDNA). That’s genetic material shed by cells that circulates freely in the blood. All cells leak a little DNA, and that includes the cells in tumors. 

While cancer does involve genetic alterations, those changes are minor and often limited to specific sections of DNA. A better way to spot the evidence of cancer in cfDNA is by assessing methylation patterns. In methylation, a methyl group (CH3) replaces a hydrogen atom on cytosine or adenine — those are two of the four base pair molecules that make up your genetic code. Methylation can affect the way your genes are expressed without actually changing the underlying sequence. Importantly, methylation can be a cause or result of cancer. 

The team started with blood samples from 3,000 patients, half of which had one of the 50+ cancers included in the study. This was “labeled” data, allowing the AI to learn the methylation patterns in cfDNA for various cancers and for no cancer. To test the algorithm, researchers put to work categorizing 1,200 new samples, and the results are encouraging. 

The AI is able to detect 93 percent of stage IV cancers, 81 percent of stage III, 43 percent of stage II, and 18 percent of stage I tumors. The rate of false positives was just 0.7 percent. When it spotted cancer, the AI was able to identify the location of the tumor with 93 percent accuracy. 

The team is hopeful this technique could scale to larger populations. Detection of early cancers is still low, but those tumors are rarely found via other means. Identifying 18 percent of cancers early could still be very helpful, and additional training could make the AI better at detecting cancer in the early stages.

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ET Deals: Save $330 On Dell’s XPS 8930 Today

Need a desktop PC? For a limited time, Dell is selling its XPS 8930 Special Edition gaming desktop with a Core i5 processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU for just $879.99.

Dell XPS 8930 Special Edition Intel Core i5-9400 Desktop w/ Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, 8GB DDR4 RAM, 1TB HDD and 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD ($879.99)

Equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card, this desktop has plenty of power for running games at 1080p resolution. Get one today from Dell marked down from $1,209.98 to $879.99 with promo code 50OFF699.

Dell Ultrasharp U4320Q 43-Inch 4K USB-C Monitor ($829.99)

Dell engineered this model to be a large display with tons of desktop real estate. This makes it easier to multitask on multiple windows at the same time. The display also has a high 4K resolution and a USB-C connection that doubles as both a video connection and a charging port for compatible notebooks. Right now you can get this display from Dell marked down from $1,049.99 to just $829.99.

Dell WM615 Wireless Bluetooth Mouse ($39.99)

The WM615 Bluetooth Mouse from Dell was designed to provide higher performance in a compact and easily portable package. The mouse can be rotated when not in use to make it relatively flat and easy to carry around in your pocket. You should note that this mouse does not have an internal rechargeable battery, however, and it relies on AAA batteries for power instead. You can get one today from Dell marked down from $56.99 to $39.99.

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Nvidia Shows Off New Ray-Traced Minecraft Screenshots, Modding Resources

Feature image shows a Java world converted to RTX. Image / Conversion by @PearlescentMoon

Once upon a time, Microsoft promised a truly impressive 4K overhaul for Minecraft and then canceled it. Shortly thereafter, Nvidia announced that it would create an RTX-powered version of Minecraft, delivering ray-traced visuals to Nvidia owners who own the Windows 10 version of the game and want to play it in this mode. Nvidia has just published some updated visuals for the game, along with asset packs intended to be used by modders and content creators to hit the ground running.

First, let’s look at some maps created by community members, as showcased by Nvidia. All captions by Nvidia.

Of Temples and Totems RTX. By: Razzleberries – An adventure world focusing players on exploring and completing challenges in mysterious temples. Each temple showcases per-pixel emissivity and real-time shadows, and leverages global illumination to create an immersive experience for players. (Caption: Nvidia)

Crystal Palace RTX. By: GeminiTay. A survival map with a whimsical fantasy theme, that features a masterfully built castle. Ray-traced shadows and beautiful atmospherics create realism in this world built on a 1:1 scale. (Caption: Nvidia)

Imagination Island RTX. By: BlockWorks. A fully explorable theme park, filled with easter eggs, that hosts four distinct lands, each dedicated to an element of real-time ray tracing. In this scene we see the visitor center of the park, highlighted by god rays cast in real-time through the windows, shining down onto the floor. (Caption: Nvidia)

The company has also included links to its guide on using PBR (Physically-Based Rendering) textures in Minecraft. PBR textures are textures that can work with path tracing to reflect additional scene detail, or that function as emissive textures and directly emit light themselves. The image below showcases some examples of PBR textures — the multi-colored orange block in the center is an interesting example of how light reflections work in the ray-traced version of Minecraft.


Nvidia has published several guides to both PBR textures and the process of converting a Java world to run in the ray-traced version of Minecraft RTX that will be available from the Windows Store. AMD and Intel GPU owners should know that you can run Minecraft with mods that implement their own path-tracing overhaul to Minecraft’s visuals. I’m not familiar enough with the installation process to walk you through it independently, but there are other incredible mod pack overhauls for the Java edition of Minecraft that may not be formally RTX-powered, but definitely offer a taste of the same upgrades and effects.

Feature image shows a Java world converted to RTX via Nvidia’s article. Image/Conversion by @PearlescentMoon

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Stuck Inside? Now’s The Perfect Time To Finally Master Excel With This 10-Course Training Bundle

With so many people now with so much time on their hands, it’s tempting to think about pleasurable ways to fill those hours. Hobbies like playing guitar or reading or video games are great tension relievers, but many of those fun-seekers may end up looking back on all those hours and wondering why they didn’t do more to help push their professional career forward while in lockdown.

If you don’t know Microsoft Excel, then that little green tile has probably been taunting you from your Windows start menu for years. Everyone knows about the scope of its spreadsheet powers, but few have truly scratched the surface to see the full extent of what the world’s most used data management tool can really do.

And considering the impact it can have on your professional future, The 2020 Ultimate Microsoft Excel Certification Training Bundle ($49.99, over 90 percent off) could be just the jump start your career needs to reach the next level.

From occasional dabblers to absolute first-timers, this collection of 10 courses featuring more than 40 hours of instruction is the guided tour any inquisitive student needs to grasp all Excel has to offer and start using those tools to be more productive.

And, the folks guiding you along the way are top-notch. Among the collection’s featured instructors include Alan Jarvis, who has almost thirty years of teaching experience and has held senior management positions at several blue-chip and Times Top 100 companies. With 80,000 happy students across 194 countries enrolled in his courses, you can trust Jarvis will set you up for success.

The training begins with a three-course sub-package introducing new users to all the basic commands and concepts in Excel, before advancing that learning into broader uses including templates and databases. From there, the training moves on to developing your own macros for automating some of your most-used processes. There’s even training in using VBA programming, the actual language behind Excel so you can actually change and improve its performance at a granular level.

Further coursework delves into other key Excel functions and features, from ways to validate data and better organize your commands to data visualization training for turning all that raw data into graphic representations that can help support your findings.

By the time you’re finished, you’ll have amassed all the knowledge needed to take and pass Microsoft’s own Excel certification exams on your first try, adding a valuable new skill to your resume.

Valued at over $1,700, this package shaves hundreds off that price, bringing your final total down to only $49.99.

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