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Industry & Technology

Russians send Soviet car model into stratosphere

BBC Technology News - June 12, 2019 - 5:24pm
Russian scientists send a large-scale model of a Soviet-era car into the stratosphere.

Researchers discover “Fishwrap” influence campaign recycling old terror news

Ars Technica - June 12, 2019 - 4:58pm

Enlarge / Old news, new fish. (credit: Rick Barrentine/Getty Images)

Researchers at Recorded Future have uncovered what appears to be a new, growing social media-based influence operation involving more than 215 social media accounts. While relatively small in comparison to influence and disinformation operations run by the Russia-affiliated Internet Research Agency (IRA), the campaign is notable because of its systematic method of recycling images and reports from past terrorist attacks and other events and presenting them as breaking news—an approach that prompted researchers to call the campaign "Fishwrap."

The campaign was identified by researchers applying Recorded Future's "Snowball" algorithm, a machine-learning-based analytics system that groups social media accounts as related if they:

  • Post the same URLs and hashtags, especially within a short period of time
  • Use the same URL shorteners
  • Have similar "temporal behavior," posting during similar times—either over the course of their activity, or over the course of a day or week
  • Start operating shortly after another account posting similar content ceases its activity
  • Have similar account names, "as defined by the editing distance between their names," as Recorded Future's Staffan Truvé explained.

Influence operations typically try to shape the world view of a target audience in order to create social and political divisions; undermine the authority and credibility of political leaders; and generate fear, uncertainty, and doubt about their institutions. They can take the form of actual news stories planted through leaks, faked documents, or cooperative "experts" (as the Soviet Union did in spreading disinformation about the US military creating AIDS). But the low cost and easy targeting provided by social media has made it much easier to spread stories (even faked ones) to create an even larger effect—as demonstrated by the use of Cambridge Analytica's data to target individuals for political campaigns, and the IRA's "Project Lakhta," among others. Since 2016, Twitter has identified multiple apparent state-funded or state-influenced social media influence campaigns out of Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and Bangladesh.

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Google’s Pixel 4 rumored to support air gesture system

Ars Technica - June 12, 2019 - 4:45pm

Enlarge / Project Soli in action.

We're at least four months out from the typical Google Pixel smartphone unveiling, but that isn't stopping the rumor mill from churning. There are already a pair of reports pointing toward a Project Soli-based gesture system being in development for the Pixel 4.

First, a refresher on what the heck Project Soli is. The project has been in development for years inside Google's ATAP group, with the first public showing happening all the way back in 2015. Soli aims to embed a tiny radar system into a chip that can be used to detect hand motion above a device. Google demoed gestures like moving the thumb and index finger together for a virtual button press or rubbing the two fingers together to scroll or turn a dial. It has always seemed like something that would be a good fit for a smartwatch, where the tiny touchscreens and UIs limit how much can be done on with smartphone-style input.

Like many ATAP projects, Soli kept a low profile for years, and you would have been forgiven for assuming it was dead—until the project surprisingly gained FCC approval this January.

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5G sign-ups outpace 4G's launch in South Korea

BBC Technology News - June 12, 2019 - 4:20pm
More than one million people have a 5G subscription, despite the lack of a "killer app".

Scientists found these old photographs contain metallic nanoparticles

Ars Technica - June 12, 2019 - 4:04pm

Enlarge / The earliest reliably dated photograph of people, taken by Louis Daguerre one spring morning in 1838. (credit: Public domain)

Daguerreotypes are one of the earliest forms of photography, producing images on silver plates that look subtly different, depending on viewing angle. For instance they can appear positive or negative, or the colors can shift from bluish to brownish-red tones. Now an interdisciplinary team of scientists has discovered that these unusual optical effects are due to the presence of metallic nanoparticles in the plates. They described their findings in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Alejandro Manjavacas—now at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque—was a postdoc at Rice University, which boasts one of the top nanophotonics research groups in the US. That's where he met his co-author, Andrea Schlather, who ended up in the scientific research department at the Metropolitan Museum of New York. The Met has a valuable collection of daguerreotypes, and her new colleagues were keen to find better methods for preserving these valuable artifacts.

Schlather contacted Manjavacas and suggested this might be a great place to apply their combined expertise in nanoplasmonics—a field dedicated to detailing how nanoparticles interact with light. Think of it this way: light is an optical oscillation made up of photons. Sound is a mechanical oscillation made up of quasiparticles known as phonons. And plasma (ionized gas, the fourth fundamental state of matter) oscillations consist of plasmons. Surface plasmons play a critical role in determining the optical properties of metals in particular.

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Google Stadia in 4K might push you past your home-Internet data cap

Ars Technica - June 12, 2019 - 3:31pm

Enlarge / A Google Stadia controller and a Google Chromecast Ultra. (credit: Google)

Google Stadia will bring 4K game streaming to customers in November, but the new service could be costly for users who face home-Internet data caps and want to play games at the highest possible settings.

Google says you'll need 35Mbps to play at maximum settings—that's 4K resolution, high dynamic range (HDR), and 60 frames per second (fps) with 5.1 surround sound. As PC Gamer noted last week, that adds up to 15.75GB per hour, which would use up an entire 1TB monthly data allotment in 65 hours of game time.

Stadia will work at lower resolutions, with Google recommending 20Mbps for 1080p/60fps with 5.1 surround sound, and 10Mbps for 720p/60fps with stereo sound. That's 9GB and 4.5GB per hour, respectively, potentially using up a 1TB data cap in 114 or 228 hours.

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Huawei cancels laptop launch because of US trade blacklist

BBC Technology News - June 12, 2019 - 2:34pm
The firm said it was unable to manufacture a planned laptop because the US had put it on a blacklist.

Chernobyl selfies lead to warning from show's writer

BBC Technology News - June 12, 2019 - 12:48pm
Craig Mazin, who wrote the hit show Chernobyl, tells fans to be "respectful" when visiting the site.

Ofcom gives 'provisional' approval to BBC iPlayer changes

BBC Technology News - June 12, 2019 - 12:13pm
The media regulator gives "provisional" approval to plans to allow shows to be available for longer.

Konami announces plug-and-play TurboGrafx-16 Mini

Ars Technica - June 12, 2019 - 12:06pm

Konami may well have earned the "most surprising announcement of E3" trophy with Tuesday night's unexpected reveal of the TurboGrafx-16 Mini (known as the PC Engine Mini in Japan and the PC Engine Core Grafx Mini in Europe).

Price and release date were not announced, but Konami did reveal six games for the US and European editions of the plug-and-play HDMI system, with more to be announced in the future:

  • R-Type
  • New Adventure Island
  • Ninja Spirit
  • Ys Book I & II
  • Dungeon Explorer
  • Alien Crush

The Japanese edition has a somewhat distinct list of announced games thus far, including well-remembered classics like Super Star Soldier, PC Kid (a.k.a. Bonk's Adventure), and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (later ported to the SNES as Dracula X). Versions of these games may be coming for other regions, but they have yet to be announced. Japan and Europe also get a different design for the system's case itself, modeled after the squarish PC Engine, while US customers will get the larger, rectangular TurboGrafx design.

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Next-gen games may not need new console

BBC Technology News - June 12, 2019 - 11:46am
How internet-streamed video games could benefit players and disrupt the industry.

Facebook lets deepfake Zuckerberg video stay on Instagram

BBC Technology News - June 12, 2019 - 11:27am
The social network says it will not remove a fake video of its founder created with AI software.

Devolver Digital: 'We think E3 is a special form of torture'

BBC Technology News - June 12, 2019 - 7:42am
Devolver Digital hold an alternative event in the car park to showcase how they think gaming events should be run.

Uber takes its flying taxi ambitions to Australia

BBC Technology News - June 12, 2019 - 4:48am
Melbourne will become a pilot city for Uber's air taxi service, with test flights due to begin in 2020.

Apple’s iCloud has been a poor experience in Windows, but a new update seeks to fix that

Ars Technica - June 12, 2019 - 2:12am

Apple has released a new version of iCloud for Windows 10 in the Microsoft Store, according to a recent blog post by Microsoft and a handful of Apple customer support documents. The new version claims to be a major improvement, with more robust features and more reliable syncing—the latter of those has been a common complaint for users of Apple's previous version.

Features listed by Microsoft include:

  • Access your iCloud Drive files directly from File Explorer without using up space on your PC
  • Choose the files and folders you want to keep on your PC
  • Safely store all your files in iCloud Drive and access them from your iOS device, Mac, and on
  • Share any file right from File Explorer and easily collaborate with others—edits will be synced across your devices

Interestingly, Microsoft says the new iCloud app is "powered by the same Windows technology that also powers OneDrive's Files On-Demand feature"—an unexpected technical and corporate partnership. But it shouldn't be too surprising at this point; despite the storied history and rivalries of the 1980s and '90s (as well as competition in areas like, yes, cloud services), Microsoft and Apple have largely played together nicely in recent years.

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Super Mario Maker 2’s online mode will get a “friends” patch after launch [Updated]

Ars Technica - June 12, 2019 - 2:00am

Update, June 11: Shortly after Nintendo's E3 2019 "Direct" video presentation on Tuesday, the game maker hosted a "Treehouse" panel on YouTube with updates about previously announced Nintendo Switch games. One of those updates confirmed some good news for hopeful Super Mario Maker 2 owners: its online matchmaking service will indeed receive "friends-only" modes after all.

When discussing upcoming support for the June 28 game, producer Takashi Tezuka said through a translator, "A new update will let people play with your friends online." The game will not ship with this feature in June, and no date was attached to this eventual update. But we're glad to see the company publicly reverse course and reach feature parity with other first-party Nintendo Switch Online games.

Original report:

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At Tesla shareholder meeting, Musk assures “there is not a demand problem”

Ars Technica - June 12, 2019 - 1:33am

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Tesla held a shareholder meeting in Mountain View, Calif., on Tuesday afternoon, and CEO Elon Musk addressed the audience on a number of issues facing the company before taking questions from shareholders.

Tesla had a complicated first half of the year. It achieved significant Model 3 delivery, but reportedly sluggish demand for the Model S and X has dragged the company down. Some analysts have turned bearish on Tesla after Musk promised profitable quarters going forward in Q4 2018 but then missed profitability badly in Q1 2019.

But Musk defended his company's health in his initial statement to the audience. He told shareholders, "I want to be clear that there is not a demand problem... Sales have far exceeded production, and production has been pretty good. We have a decent shot at a record quarter... if not, it's going to be very close." Musk added that 90% of orders are coming from non-reservation customers.

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AMD launches Navi as the $449 Radeon RX 5700 XT

Ars Technica - June 12, 2019 - 12:18am

AMD took the stage at E3 to announce its "Navi" family of GPUs. The company's new graphics cards are officially the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and Radeon RX 5700. The 5700 series is launching July 7, making the GPUs a one-two punch alongside AMD's Ryzen 3000 series CPUs.

AMD isn't tackling the flagship GPU market with the 5700 series. Instead, the company is aiming for more mainstream pricing with mainstream performance: the 5700XT is $449, while the 5700 is $379. AMD is positioning the cards against Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2070 ($499) and 2060 ($349), respectively, and claims performance wins in each comparison.

The cards introduce AMD's new "RDNA" architecture, which AMD says has 1.25x performance-per-clock and 1.5x performance-per-watt over the previous generation. The chips are built on TSMC's 7nm manufacturing process, a significant shrink from the 12nm process used on the Radeon RX 590, and on Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2080. The Navi die is significantly smaller than the previous-generation Vega design, with a die area of only 251mm2 compared to the 495 mm2 die area for Vega. The smaller die should make the Navi significantly cheaper to produce than Vega.

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Why is building so slow and expensive?

BBC Technology News - June 12, 2019 - 12:15am
Forward-thinking builders are looking at the ways technology can help the construction industry.

Stardock and Star Control creators settle lawsuits—with mead and honey

Ars Technica - June 11, 2019 - 11:50pm

Enlarge / "HELLO HUMAN, Umgah Court sentences you to TEN MILLION YEARS OF HARD LABOR!... Oh, you settled? But... what Umgah supposed to do with three gavels if Umgah can't sentence anyone?!" (credit: Star Control / Aurich)

Stardock's Brad Wardell and original Star Control creators Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III announced over the weekend that all parties have reached an amicable settlement in the tangled web of lawsuits between them and Stardock, which stretch back almost two years.

(To very briefly recap, Stardock and Ford & Reiche were at legal odds over who owns the copyrights and trademarks for the Star Control series of games from the 1990s. To give any more details would require a massive amount of explanation and discussion—which we already wrote a couple of years ago with this story right here. If you aren't familiar with the disagreement—or if you want to refresh your memory—that piece will give you a good, solid grounding on the mess that got us to now.)

The settlement's details are public, and Ford & Reiche have a blog post on their site explaining things. In summary, though, the terms are simple and straightforward:

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