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What experts think of the new EPA report

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We asked politicians, professors and researchers for their views on the EPA’s report on attitudes to the climate crisis in Ireland.

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that people in Ireland believe the climate crisis is happening and that more must be done to address it.

Nearly all (90pc) of those surveyed in the report said the country has a responsibility to act and reduce emissions in order to deal with the crisis, while 85pc admitted they are somewhat worried about it and 37pc are “very worried”.

The report – Climate Change in the Irish Mind – also showed a large increase in people’s engagement on climate issues, with 91pc of people saying the matter is important to them and 72pc claiming they often discuss it with family and friends.

The EPA surveyed 4,000 people in Ireland engaged in a diverse range of topics related to the climate crisis. The report was conducted with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe said it’s heartening to see greater interest in climate issues along with more knowledge and concern from citizens, but more has to be done by the Government to address the issues.

“The changes that we need to make to tackle climate change won’t all be easy. There’s a really important role for the State to help citizens with information and finance in certain areas,” Cuffe noted. “For example, the Common Agricultural Policy provides a lot of farm supports and consumes over a third of the EU budget, we need to make sure that money goes to climate action instead of just business as usual.”

Cuffe added that there are important areas the State needs to consider “very carefully”, such as what aspects of transport to focus on, so savings aren’t given to those who can afford to make necessary changes anyway.

‘I sincerely hope this provides the needed evidence for the policymakers to take heed and act on the climate action plans’
– PROF FIONA REGAN

A majority of Irish people surveyed by the EPA were shown to support climate action, with 79pc believing it should be a high priority for Government. Most people support spending carbon tax revenues on programmes to reduce carbon emissions and to prepare for impacts of the climate crisis.

Prof Jennifer McElwain, chair of botany at Trinity College Dublin, said the report clearly shows the public is “shouting loudly” for political leadership and climate action.

“We should be very proud as a country of the high level of engagement and understanding demonstrated in the responses to this survey,” McElwain said.

But while a majority of people in the country support climate action, a 2021 review by the Climate Change Advisory Council released last week found a significant time lag between climate policy and action in Ireland.

In science we trust

Scientists were regarded as the most trusted source of information about the climate emergency, with the EPA coming second at 89pc and educators at 88pc.

Prof Patrick Guiry, director of the Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology at University College Dublin, said it’s a good sign for the future that people seem to appreciate the views and knowledge of the scientific community.

“It is reassuring that in contrast to many countries worldwide, the Irish people respect its scientists and the fact that their views are based on evidence,” Guiry noted.

Dr Brian Kelleher of the School of Chemical Sciences at Dublin City University (DCU) echoed this, adding that the report seems like a “big improvement” overall in terms of people’s views on the climate crisis.

He voiced some concern that 33pc of people surveyed said they believe the climate crisis is equally caused by natural changes and human impact, adding that he believes climate education at a younger age is an important step to making people more aware of climate issues.

“Education is important, what I’d like to see is teaching on past climate. It’s trying to understand what we don’t know as well as what we do know. It’s humbling but it gives you an idea of the hugeness of our environment and climate, and what we need to do to understand it.

“I think that’s a great foundation for children and I don’t think it has to be dark. I did this with a school last year, we looked at natural history. The reaction from the students and the questions were brilliant,” Kelleher said.

But he also believes that the Irish Government still has a long way to go if it aims to cut emissions in half by 2030, as laid out in the Climate Action Plan, adding that the change required to make this happen is “huge, more than most of us can fathom”.

Last month the Climate Action Tracker report found that with current pledges, global emissions will still be twice as high as they need to be for the world to meet its 2030 targets.

‘The rubber hasn’t hit the road yet with changes people need to make’
– DAVID ROBBINS

While trust in scientists and the EPA as sources of climate information was very high, people’s trust in mainstream media and journalists was lower at 69pc and 66pc.

David Robbins, director of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society, said he would like to see the media become a trusted source of information and believes that a huge amount of communication work needs to be done.

He added that while he’s “pleasantly surprised” by how prevalent the climate crisis is in people’s thinking, there are still challenges ahead when it comes to implementing policies.

“People have clearly become more informed and more aware of the issues. That’s fine, but then you try and put a cycle lane in Sandymount. When policies impact people in how they want to travel or heat their homes, I think that will be another challenge,” Robbins added.

“While we may talk about it a lot, there’s still a lot to be done in getting the policies in … The rubber hasn’t hit the road yet with changes people need to make.”

Water fears

A strong majority of those surveyed were concerned with the potential impacts of the climate emergency, with 88pc believing it has impacted Irish weather and 75pc fearing that moderate to extreme weather changes will impact their communities over the next 10 years.

People were also concerned with local environmental hazards, with 81pc of people surveyed saying they were concerned about water pollution. Prof Fiona Regan, director of the DCU Water Institute, said there was a “remarkable response” to the survey.

“If we take all of the water-related hazards; water pollution, flooding, rising sea levels, water shortages – over 20pc are very worried or over 30pc somewhat worried about some of these threats.”

Regan said she was “amazed” at the results of this report and curious to understand more about people’s concerns, such as if the fears of pollution are focused on bathing water pollution or drinking water.

“I congratulate the EPA and Yale collaborators on this survey, and I sincerely hope that it provides the needed evidence for the policymakers to take heed and act on the climate action plans.”

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RCSI scientists find potential treatment for secondary breast cancer

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An existing drug called PARP inhibitor can be used to exploit a vulnerability in the way breast cancer cells repair their DNA, preventing spread to the brain.

For a long time, there have been limited treatment options for patients with breast cancer that has spread to the brain, sometimes leaving them with just months to live. But scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) have found a potential treatment using existing drugs.

By tracking the development of tumours from diagnosis to their spread to the brain, a team of researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre found a previously unknown vulnerability in the way the tumours repair their DNA.

An existing kind of drug known as a PARP inhibitor, often used to treat heritable cancers, can prevent cancer cells from repairing their DNA because of this vulnerability, culminating in the cells dying and the patient being rid of the cancer.

Prof Leonie Young, principal investigator of the RCSI study, said that breast cancer research focused on expanding treatment options for patients whose disease has spread to the brain is urgently needed to save the lives of those living with the disease.

“Our study represents an important development in getting one step closer to a potential treatment for patients with this devastating complication of breast cancer,” she said of the study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Deaths caused by breast cancer are often a result of treatment relapses which lead to tumours spreading to other parts of the body, a condition known as secondary or metastatic breast cancer. This kind of cancer is particularly aggressive and lethal when it spreads to the brain.

The study was funded by Breast Cancer Ireland with support from Breast Cancer Now and Science Foundation Ireland.

It was carried out as an international collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Pittsburgh in the US. Apart from Prof Young, the other RCSI researchers were Dr Nicola Cosgrove, Dr Damir Varešlija and Prof Arnold Hill.

“By uncovering these new vulnerabilities in DNA pathways in brain metastasis, our research opens up the possibility of novel treatment strategies for patients who previously had limited targeted therapy options”, said Dr Varešlija.

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Surface Duo 2 review: Microsoft’s dual-screen Android needs work | Microsoft

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Microsoft’s second attempt at its interesting dual-screen Android smartphone corrects some mistakes of the original, but falls short of a revolution due to a series of oddities created by its physical laptop-like form.

Looking more like a tiny convertible computer than a phone, the Surface Duo 2 starts at £1,349 ($1,499/A$2,319), a lot for a regular smartphone but slightly cheaper than folding-screen rivals.

It opens like a book, with each half just 5.5mm thick, and a hinge that allows it to fold all the way over.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
There is no screen on the outside, but the time and some basic alerts for SMS and calls can be shown down the spine of the hinge. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Inside are a pair of 90Hz OLED screens each measuring 5.8in on the diagonal. They can be used on their own or combined as one display measuring 8.3in – a similar size to an iPad mini. Both screens are covered in traditional scratch-resistant smartphone glass and have large, old-fashioned bezels top and bottom.

Having two separate displays rather than one that folds in half creates a major drawback: a gap in the middle of the screen big enough that you can see through it, which is much harder to ignore than the crease in the middle of a flexible display as found on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
The gap between the screens sits right in the middle of the combined display, which makes full-screen reading, scrolling and watching video awkward. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

You can use two different apps at the same time on the two screens. The theory is sound, but I found few pairings were useful beyond simple messaging apps and a browser. More useful was using one screen for a note-taking app and the other for a full keyboard like a mini laptop.

Some apps spanned across both displays, like Outlook, can put different information on each screen, such as your inbox on one side and an open message on the other. Some games, including Asphalt 9 and Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass streaming service, put controls on one screen and the action on the other. But there are very few apps and games optimised for this setup.

microsoft surface duo 2 review
The two screens can be folded into various configurations, including just a single display, both combined into one large display, propped up like a tent or open like a mini laptop. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Specifications

  • Screens: two 5.8in AMOLED 90Hz displays

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

  • RAM: 8GB of RAM

  • Storage: 128, 256 or 512GB

  • Operating system: Android 11

  • Cameras: 12MP wide, 16MP ultra-wide, 12MP 2x telephoto; 12MP selfie

  • Connectivity: 5G, USB-C, wifi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5.1 and location

  • Water resistance: IPX1 (dripping water)

  • Dimensions closed: 145.2 x 92.1 x 11.0mm

  • Dimensions open: 145.2 x 184.5 x 5.5mm

  • Weight: 284g

2021’s top Android chip

microsoft surface duo 2 review
It takes two hours 15 minutes to fully charge the Duo 2 hitting 50% in 45 minutes, using a 45W USB-C charger (not included), which is pretty slow compared to rivals. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Duo 2 has last year’s top Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip with 8GB of RAM, matching the performance of top-flight Android smartphones from 2021 and capable of running two apps running side-by-side without slowdown.

Battery life is more variable than a traditional phone. It lasts about 32 hours between charges, with both screens used for about four hours with a variety of messaging, browsing and work apps. It lasts about a third longer if you mostly use only one screen. That’s a considerably shorter battery life than a regular smartphone and behind the Z Fold 3.

Sustainability

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
The camera sticks quite far out of the glass back stopping it from sitting flat on a desk. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Microsoft does not provide an expected lifespan for the Duo 2’s battery; those in similar devices typically maintain at least 80% of their original capacity for in excess of 500 full charge cycles. Microsoft charges an out-of-warranty service fee of £593.94 to repair devices and £568.44 to replace the battery. The previous generation Surface Duo scored only two out of 10 on iFixit’s repairability scale.

The phone contains no recycled materials, but Microsoft operates recycling schemes for old devices, publishes a company-wide sustainability report and a breakdown of each product’s environmental impact.

Android 11

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
The single screen mode is hard to use one-handed and most Android apps and websites are designed for longer screens, not short and fat ones, so you end up having to do a lot more scrolling than you would on a regular phone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Duo 2 runs Android 11 – not the latest Android 12 – and generally behaves like a standard Android smartphone or tablet with a few small additions that make it easier to use each screen separately. One of the best is the ability to drag the gesture bar at the bottom of an app to move it between screens or to drop it on to the gap between the screens to span it across both displays.

The software can be a bit unpredictable at times, such as opening the keyboard or text box of an app on another screen or hiding a second app from the screen when you try to type. But it is generally a fast and responsive experience given how unusual the device is.

The Duo 2 will receive three years of software updates from release, including monthly security patches, which is disappointingly at least a year short of what rivals, including Samsung and Apple, offer. Microsoft’s last planned update for the Duo 2 will be 21 October 2024.

Camera

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
Because the camera is on the back of the device, it would be blocked if you fold one of the screens over, meaning you have to shoot photos with both screens open – which is unwieldy. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Duo 2 has a triple camera on the back and a 12-megapixel selfie camera above the right-hand screen.

The rear main 12MP camera and 2x telephoto cameras are good, capable of producing detailed shots in a range of lighting conditions. The 16MP ultra-wide camera is reasonable, but a bit soft on detail and struggles with challenging scenes. The camera app has most of the features you’d expect, such as portrait mode, night mode and slow-mo video, and can shoot regular video at up to 4K at 60 frames a second.

The 12MP selfie camera is capable of shooting detailed photos even in middling light, and has access to the dedicated night mode when it gets dark.

Overall, the camera system on the Duo 2 is solid, but it can’t hold a candle to the best in the business.

Observations

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
The camera lump on the back stops the device folding fully flat, creating a wedge shape when using one screen only. The shiny power button is also a fingerprint scanner, which was fairly fast and reliable. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • The Duo 2 supports Microsoft’s Slim Pen stylus, which can be magnetically stored and charged on the back of the device when not in use.

  • The stereo speakers are decently loud but a bit tinny, fine for watching YouTube videos.

  • The width of the device makes it a challenge to fit into smaller pockets.

Price

The Surface Duo 2 costs £1,349 ($1,499/A$2,319) with 128GB, £1,429 ($1,599/A$2,469) with 256GB or £1,589 ($1,799/A$2,769) with 512GB of storage.

For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 costs £1,599 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 costs £949.

Verdict

The Surface Duo 2 is an improvement on its predecessor, but is still a very odd proposition that’s neither a good phone nor a good tablet.

The individual screens are short and stout, forcing lots of scrolling in apps when using it like a phone and making one-handed use very difficult. The gap at the hinge makes combining them into one big tablet screen awkward too.

Using two apps side-by-side works well, but few combinations proved useful or faster than just quick switching between two apps on one screen on a normal phone. There is more potential in apps like Outlook that provide a multi-pane view, but few apps or games are optimised for the dual-screen system.

Microsoft is only offering a disappointing three years of software and security updates from release for the Duo 2, too, losing it a star.

It is good to see Microsoft trying something different. But ultimately the Duo 2’s two screens are just not yet as good or useful as either a single phone screen or a bigger folding screen, making it an expensive halfway house.

Pros: two screens, two apps side-by-side, multiple modes, top performance, hardened glass screens, decent camera, head-turning design.

Cons: gap between screens, few optimised apps, average battery life, bulky camera lump, chunky in pocket, hard to use one-handed, no real water resistance, only three years of software updates from release.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
The outside of the device is smooth glass front and back with quality-feeling plastic edges and a metal hinge. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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VMware fixes buggy vSphere release – and Log4J, too • The Register

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VMware has restored availability of vSphere 7 Update, a release that it withdrew in late 2021 after driver dramas derailed deployments.

Paul Turner, Virtzilla’s veep for vSphere product management, told The Register that the source of the problem was Intel driver updates that arrived out of sync with VMware’s pre-release testing program. When users adopted the new drivers – one of which had been renamed – vSphere produced errors that meant virtual server fleet managers could not sustain high availability operations.

Turner said around 30,000 customers had adopted the release, of which around eight per cent encountered the issue. That collection of around 2,400 impacted users was enough for VMware to pull the release before the other 270,000 vSphere users hit trouble. That level of potential problems, Turner admitted, was considered a sufficient threshold to justify a do-over and the embarrassment of a pulled release.

VMware has since reviewed its testing program and procedures in the hope it will avoid a repeat of this error. Doing so, and repairing the release, meant a busier-than-usual holiday period for VMware developers. Turner said those who put in the extra hours will be compensated with extra time off in the future.

VMware also used the time needed to get the release ready to ensure that vSphere 7 U3 thoroughly addresses the Log4j bug. It took the opportunity to update to the latest version of the tool – which is free of the critical bug that allowed almost any code to execute without authorisation.

But VMware decided not to add anything new to vSphere while it addressed Log4j and sorted out the driver drama. Users will have to wait a few more months for another dose of VMware’s usual concoction of security updates and feature tweaks.

There’s more interesting stuff on the way, too. VMware has promised a full vSphere-as-a-Service offering is in the works, and the Project Capitola software-defined memory tech that will pool RAM across hosts. The company has also dropped hints that its plan to run its ESX hypervisor on SmartNICs is nearing release.

VMware has detailed the new/old release here and made downloads available here

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