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  • openSUSE: 2017:1412-1: important: rpcbind
    LinuxSecurity.com: An update that fixes one vulnerability is now available. An update that fixes one vulnerability is now available. An update that fixes one vulnerability is now available.







  • Fedora 25: wordpress Security Update
    LinuxSecurity.com: **WordPress 4.7.5** is now available. This is a security release for all previous versions and we strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately. WordPress versions 4.7.4 and earlier are affected by six security issues: * Insufficient redirect validation in the HTTP class. Reported by Ronni Skansing. * Improper handling of post meta data values in the XML-RPC




  • Fedora 24: wordpress Security Update
    LinuxSecurity.com: **WordPress 4.7.5** is now available. This is a security release for all previous versions and we strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately. WordPress versions 4.7.4 and earlier are affected by six security issues: * Insufficient redirect validation in the HTTP class. Reported by Ronni Skansing. * Improper handling of post meta data values in the XML-RPC




  • The Licensing and Compliance Lab interviews AJ Jordon of gplenforced.org (FSF Blog)
    The Free Software Foundation's blog is carrying an interview with AJ Jordon, who runs the gplenforced.org site to support GPL enforcement efforts and to help other projects indicate their support. "gplenforced.org is a small site I made that has exactly two purposes: host a badge suitable for embedding into a README file on GitLab or something, and provide some text with an easy and friendly explanation of GPL enforcement for that badge to link to.Putting badges in READMEs has been pretty trendy for a while now — people add badges to indicate whether their test suite is passing, their dependencies are up-to-date, and what version is published in language package managers. gplenforced.org capitalizes on that trend to add the maintainer's beliefs about license enforcement, too."


  • Alpine Linux 3.6.0 Released
    Alpine Linux 3.6.0 has been released.Alpine is an independent, minimalist distribution that is built around musllibc and busybox to keep it small and resource efficient.This version adds support for 64-bit little-endian POWER machines (ppc64le)and 64-bit IBM z Systems (s390x).


  • Devuan Jessie 1.0.0 stable LTS
    The Devuan project set out to create a systemd-less Debian, and now DevuanJessie 1.0.0 Stable has been released."There have been no significant bug reports since Devuan Jessie RC2 was announced only three weeks ago and the list of releasecritical bugs is now empty. So finally Devuan Jessie Stable isready for release! As promised, this will also be aLong-Term-Support (LTS) release. Our team will participate inproviding patches, security updates, and release upgrades beyondthe planned lifespan of Debian Jessie."


  • Stable kernel updates
    Greg Kroah-Hartman has announced the release of the 4.11.3, 4.9.30, 4.4.70, and 3.18.55 stable kernels. They contain a ratherlarge set of patches all over the tree and users should upgrade.


  • Security updates for Thursday
    Security updates have been issued by CentOS (samba and samba4), Mageia (samba), openSUSE (bash and samba), Oracle (samba and samba4), Slackware (samba), SUSE (ghostscript and java-1_7_0-openjdk), and Ubuntu (firefox and samba).



  • [$] Progress on the Gilectomy
    At the 2016 Python Language Summit, Larry Hastings introduced Gilectomy, his project to removethe global interpreter lock (GIL) from CPython. The GIL serializes accessto the Python interpreter, so it severely limits the performance ofmulti-threaded Python programs. At the 2017 summit, Hastings was back toupdate attendees on the progress he has made and where Gilectomy is headed.


  • [$] The state of bugs.python.org
    In a brief session at the 2017 Python Language Summit, Maciej Szulik gavean update on the state and plans for bugs.python.org (bpo). It is the Roundup-based bug tracker forPython; moving to GitHub has not changed that. He described the work thattwo Google Summer of Code (GSoC) students have done to improve the bugtracker.


  • [$] New CPython workflow issues
    As part of a discussion in 2014 about where to host some ofthe Python repositories, Brett Cannon was delegated the task of determining where they should endup. In early 2016, he decided that Python'scode and other repositories (e.g. PEPs) should land at GitHub;at last year's language summit, he gave an overview of where thingsstood with a few repositories that had made the conversion. Since thattime, the CPython repository has made the switch and he wanted to discuss some of theworkflow issues surrounding that move at this year's summit.


  • A Samba remote code execution vulnerability
    The Samba Team has issued anadvisory regarding CVE-2017-7494: "All versions of Samba from3.5.0 onwards are vulnerable to a remote code execution vulnerability,allowing a malicious client to upload a shared library to a writable share,and then cause the server to load and execute it." Distributors arealready shipping the fix; there's also a workaround in the advisory forthose who cannot update immediately.


  • [$] System monitoring with osquery
    Your operating system generates a lot of run-time data and statistics thatare useful for monitoring system security and performance. How you get thisinformation depends on the operating system you're running. It could be afrom report in a fancy GUI, or obtained via a specialized API, or simply textvalues read from the filesystem in the case of Linux and/proc. However, imagine if you could get this data viaan SQL query, and obtain the output as a database table or JSONobject. This is exactly what osquery letsyou do on Linux, macOS, and Windows.


  • Check Point: Hacked in Translation
    Check Point has issued anadvisory that a number of video-player applications can be compromisedvia specially crafted subtitles. "By crafting malicious subtitlefiles, which are then downloaded by a victim’s media player, attackers cantake complete control over any type of device via vulnerabilities found inmany popular streaming platforms, including VLC, Kodi (XBMC), Popcorn-Timeand strem.io. We estimate there are approximately 200 million video playersand streamers that currently run the vulnerable software, making this oneof the most widespread, easily accessed and zero-resistance vulnerabilityreported in recent years."


  • [$] Python 3.6.x, 3.7.0, and beyond
    Ned Deily, release manager for the Python 3.6 and 3.7 series, openedup the 2017edition of the Python Language Summit with a look at the releaseprocess and where things stand. It was an "abbreviated update" to his talk at last year's summit, he said. He looked to the future for 3.6 and 3.7, but also looked a bit beyond those two.

    This is the start of LWN's coverage of the language summit; look for more articles over the next week or so.


  • Security updates for Wednesday
    Security updates have been issued by CentOS (libtirpc and rpcbind), Debian (libtasn1-3, libtasn1-6, and samba), Fedora (FlightGear, openvpn, and python-fedora), openSUSE (libtirpc and libxslt), Oracle (libtirpc and rpcbind), Red Hat (samba, samba3x, and samba4), Scientific Linux (samba and samba4), SUSE (java-1_7_0-ibm, java-1_7_1-ibm, java-1_8_0-ibm, samba, and tomcat), and Ubuntu (jbig2dec, miniupnpc, rtmpdump, and samba).


  • [$] Containers as kernel objects
    The kernel has, over the years, gained comprehensive support forcontainers; that, in turn, has helped to drive the rapid growth of a numberof containerization systems. Interestingly, though, the kernel itself hasno concept of what a container is; it just provides a number of facilitiesthat can be used in the creation of containers in user space. DavidHowells is trying to change that state of affairs with a patch set adding containers as a first-classkernel object, but the idea is proving to be a hard sell in the kernelcommunity.



  • Secure your webserver with improved Certbot
    A year and a half ago the Let’s Encrypt project entered public beta. Just over a year ago, as the project left beta, the letsencrypt client was spun out of ISRG, which continues to maintain the Let’s Encrypt servers, into... Continue Reading →


  • APTIK- Have Settings Will Travel!
    This How To article was prompted by participating in a Topic elsewhere where the Member was hoping to move his existing install of Linux Mint from a unit it shared with Windows 10 to a new SSD he had purchased which would be totally Linux driven.



  • Linux-based gizmo offers remote monitoring and control of 3D printers
    The $70 “Waggle” remote controller device for 3D printers offers a mobile app with a video feed and temp controls, plus a cloud-based slicing service. A Seoul-based startup called Ateam Ventures is closing in on its $10,000 Kickstarter goal for a Waggle 3D printer controller equipped with WiFi and a 720p video camera.



  • Why Is Linux More Secure Than Windows?
    When choosing an operating system, there are many different factors that are taken into consideration. However, security is becoming increasingly important. You only need to look at the news to see the increasing number of data breaches that are occurring around the world at present. Choosing an operating system with care is your first step when defending your personal data. With that in mind, read on to discover the reasons why Linux is more secure than Windows.


  • How to save keystrokes at the command line with alias
    The alias command-line tool is both useful and relatively simple. Its purpose is to simplify a single-line command by creating a custom name for it. There is a good chance that you already have some aliases even if you've never used the tool. In Bash, aliases can be created with a simple text editor and are stored in your $HOME/.bashrc file. If you want to see what aliases have been set up, take look at that file, or simply type alias on a command line and press Enter/Return.read more



  • The Current Phase of the Moon
    Ladies and gentlemen, we've left Mars. Well, at least I'm done with theMartian lander from my past few articles. I hope you had chance to experiment withit and find out that it's not too easy to land a craft on any planet!



  • 5 laws every aspiring DevOps engineer should know
    "A good engineer is a lazy engineer," some will say. And to a certain extent, it's true: Laziness is a great quality if you're automating repetitive tasks. But laziness flies in the face of learning new technologies and getting new work done. Somewhere between Junior Systems Administrator and Senior DevOps Engineer, laziness no longer becomes an advantage.Let's discuss the five laws aspiring DevOps engineers should follow if they want to become great DevOps engineers.read more


  • Skylake industrial PC offers DDR4 and front facing I/O
    Adlink launched a rugged, Linux-ready “MVP-5000” industrial PV with 6th Gen Core processors, up to 32GB DDR4 RAM, and mini-PCIe based wireless options. The MVP-5000 is a close cousin to last year’s MVP-6000, the first in Adlink’s “value line” series of rugged, fanless MVP computers, which offer much of the functionality of its MXE line […]


  • FreeFileSync The Best Backup And File Synchronization Tool For All Platforms
    ?We all have our precious data stored on our PC that we love very much, such as pics, office documents, important files and other stuff. We all try to make a backup of this in mostly one of our external hard disks as the Internet isn’t that fast all the time. But haven’t you felt tired to create exact same folders with same permissions, icons, date and time and many other things to maintain while copying files from one disk to another? Especially copying permissions is not an easy task for us. ??This is why today we are going to discuss an awesome file syncing software called FreeFileSync.


  • Which tools do you depend on for your DevOps workflow?
    DevOps is mostly about culture change. Being successful is all about finding ways to bridge the gap between the builders and the maintainers, bringing projects to fruition and updating them in shorter cycles to maintain a competitive advantage. But at the end of the day, you need the right tooling to make it all work.read more



  • How to Install Spotify On Fedora Linux
    Spotify is probably the most popular streaming music service in the world right now, and it does have a native Linux client. Unfortunately, that client isn't available in the official Fedora repositories or the Spotify Linux repositories. The community has come to the rescue, though, and it is available from a popular third party Fedora repository that is even recommended by the Fedora Project.


  • How to Build a Custom Kernel on Ubuntu
    Building a custom Linux kernel sounds terrifyingly difficult, but it’s really not that hard. Learn how to build and package your own kernels on Ubuntu.




  • Quad-core x86 MinnowBoard and UP Squared SBCs begin shipping
    MinnowBoard.org’s “MinnowBoard Turbot Quad” and Aaeon’s UP Squared SBCs began shipping, featuring community sites and Intel SoCs running Linux and Android. On May 23, Intel-backed MinnowBoard.org and ADI Engineering began shipping the first quad-core MinnowBoard, selling for $190.


Linux Insider

  • New GitHub Marketplace Showcases Integrators, Speeds Development
    GitHub has launched GitHub Marketplace, featuring apps from more than a dozen integrators. The platform allows developers to review and purchase new tools that do everything from helping to manage projects, to automating code building, testing code quality, or monitoring the impact of code changes. It allows devs to start using tools without setting up multiple accounts or payment methods.


  • Red Hat Linux Upgrade Pushes New Security, Automation Tools
    Red Hat on Tuesday announced the availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4 beta. RHEL 7.4 includes new security and compliance features and streamlined automation, along with tools for improved systems administration. This latest upgrade comes nearly three years into the series 7 lifecycle. It continues to provide enterprises with a rich and stable foundation.


  • Android at the Wheel: Google Aims for One Vehicle Ecosystem
    Google showcased the next phase of its automotive strategy at its I/O conference earlier this week, and announced partnerships with Volvo and Audi, which unveiled concept vehicles running its new automotive system. Embedded Android for Automotive is an entirely new OS rather than an update to Android Auto. It will allow drivers to utilize Google services without an Android mobile device.


  • Feren OS: A Linux Desktop Game-Changer
    Feren OS is a polished and well-stocked Linux distro that comes close to being an ideal replacement for Microsoft Windows and macOS. In fact, this impressive Linux OS is a very attractive replacement for any Linux distro. The only impediment to this assessment is dislike of the Cinnamon desktop. Feren OS does not give you any other desktop options, but it comes with many configuration choices.


  • Intertwining Artificial Intelligence With Blockchain
    Except for those folks living under rocks, everyone knows about or at least has heard of bitcoin. However, not everyone understands the technology of bitcoin, which extends well beyond Internet-based currency. For the rock people, bitcoin is an Internet-based currency that allows for transparency with respect to each transfer of the currency through the use of a distributed database.


  • Crate.io Packs New Features, Services Into DB Upgrade
    Crate.io on Tuesday announced an upgrade to its open source CrateDB, and introduced a commercial version. The database now is available as a managed service as well. CrateDB 2.0 features clustering enhancements and SQL improvements. The enterprise edition adds authentication and authorization features for enhanced security, which are not provided in the open source version.


  • Google's New Mobile OS Will Have a Distinctly Non-Linux Hue
    Google has been developing a new open source OS called "Fuchsia" for smartphones, tablets and other devices, which could be unveiled as early as this summer. Little has been revealed about the new OS since it first came to light last year. However, new details that surfaced last week have been making the rounds. Fuchsia apparently will move Google away from its long association with Linux.


  • The IoT's Scramble to Combat Botnets
    With shadowy botnet armies lurking around the globe and vigilante gray-hat actors inoculating susceptible devices, the appetite for Internet of Things security is stronger than ever. "If you throw IoT on a con talk, you've got a pretty good chance to get in," remarked information security professional Jason Kent, as he began his presentation at Chicago's Thotcon conference last week.


  • What Internet-Connected War Might Look Like
    A technician hurriedly slings his backpack over his shoulders, straps on his M9 pistol, and bolts out of the transport with his squad of commandos in a hail of gunfire. As soon as his team reaches the compound, he whips out a laptop and starts deploying a rootkit to the target server, bullets whizzing overhead all the while. Army Cyber Institute's recruits are training to do just that.


  • Raspberry Pi Fans Can Build Their Own AI Voice Assistant
    Google and AIY Projects have launched an open source DIY artificial intelligence Voice Kit for Raspberry Pi hobbyists. The AIY Voice Kit includes hardware for audio capture and playback, connectors for the dual mike daughterboard and speaker, GPIO pins to connect low-voltage components such as micro servos and sensors, and an optional barrel connector for a dedicated power supply.


  • A Taste of Linux From a Sample Disk Platter
    Since Linus Torvalds developed the Linux kernel, there has been an explosion of distributions that can be categorized into several broad classes. There are hundreds of distributions out there, but each category has some that have become emblematic. Ubuntu is one of the most iconic distributions of Linux, period. It earned this distinction by crafting a beautiful, user-friendly desktop OS.


  • Ultimate Edition Linux: Rough Road to a Nice Destination
    Ultimate Edition has a lot going for it. However, the latest release, version 5.4, also reflects numerous missteps that developers of a seasoned Linux distro should avoid. Ultimate Edition is a fork of two popular Debian-based Linux families -- Ubuntu and Linux Mint -- that aimed to take the best of both Linux entities and blend in a fresh mix of visually stimulating features.


  • Study Finds Gender Bias in Open Source Community
    Gender bias affects contributions to the open source community, according to a paper published Monday. Female programmers' suggestions for code changes in open source projects -- called "pull requests" -- were accepted more often than those of their male counterparts when gender was unspecified. However, that changed when the gender of a pull request's author could be identified.


  • Red Hat Gives JBoss AMQ a Makeover
    Red Hat on Thursday announced JBoss AMQ 7, a messaging platform upgrade that enhances its overall performance and improves client availability for developers. JBoss AMQ is a lightweight, standards-based open source platform designed to enable real-time communication between applications, services, devices and the Internet of Things, based on the Apache ActiveMQ and Apache Qpid community projects.


  • Linux's Big Bang: One Kernel, Countless Distros
    Even if you're a newcomer to Linux, you've probably figured out that it is not a single, monolithic operating system, but a constellation of projects. The different "stars" in this constellation take the form of "distributions," or "distros." Each offers its own take on the Linux model. To gain an appreciation of the plethora of Linux options, it helps to understand how it started out.


  • Mobile Ubuntu Gamble to Fizzle Out in June
    Canonical will end its support for Ubuntu Touch phones and Ubuntu-powered tablets in June, and that it will shut down its app store at the end of this year. The company previously had signaled the system's demise, but it had not fixed a date. With Ubuntu Touch, a unified mobile OS based on Ubuntu Linux, Canonical hoped to establish a marketable alternative to Android and iOS.


  • New Strain of Linux Malware Could Get Serious
    A new strain of malware targeting Linux systems, dubbed "Linux/Shishiga," could morph into a dangerous security threat. Eset disclosed the threat, which represents a new Lua family unrelated to previously seen LuaBot malware. Linux/Shishiga uses four protocols -- SSH, Telnet, HTTP and BitTorrent -- and Lua scripts for modularity, wrote Detection Engineer Michal Malik and Eset researchers.


  • A Window Into the Linux Desktop
    "What can it do that Windows can't?" That is the first question many people ask when considering Linux for their desktop. While the open source philosophy that underpins Linux is a good enough draw for some, others want to know just how different its look, feel and functionality can get. To a degree, that depends on whether you choose a desktop environment or a window manager.


  • Moby, LinuxKit Kick Off New Docker Collaboration Phase
    Docker this week introduced two new projects at DockerCon with an eye to helping operating system vendors, software creators and in-house tinkerers create container-native OSes and container-based systems. The projects are based on a new model for cross-ecosystem collaboration and the advancement of containerized software. Both projects aim to help users adopt container technology.


  • Report: Commercial Software Riddled With Open Source Code Flaws
    Black Duck Software has released its 2017 Open Source Security and Risk Analysis, detailing significant cross-industry risks related to open source vulnerabilities and license compliance challenges. Black Duck conducted audits of more than 1,071 open source applications for the study. There are widespread weaknesses in addressing open source security vulnerability risks across key industries.


  • Tiny Core: Small Footprint, Big Potential
    Tiny Core Linux 8.0, released last week, is a minimalist Linux OS built from scratch with a focus on being as small as possible. That means you should be able to run this Linux distro on a wide range of legacy machines. The tradeoff for ultra smallness, however, often is a not-so-powerful OS that can leave you longing for better options. The Core Project is based on a highly modular system.



  • Opera Abandons iOS Platform
    Reader BrianFagioli writes: After searching for Opera in the Apple App Store, I noticed something odd -- none of the company's iOS browsers (Opera Mini and Opera Coast) had been updated in 2017. Since we are almost halfway through the year, I decided to ask Opera what was up. Shockingly, the company told me that it no longer has a team working on iOS. An Opera employee by the name of 'Rosi' sent me a tweet this morning, making the revelation. While the desktop version of the browser is still in development, the company has chosen to abandon its efforts on iOS. To show just how bad it is, the Opera Mini browser hasn't been updated in almost a year. Opera Coast was updated in December of 2016, however -- almost six months ago.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • Mark Zuckerberg Calls for Universal Basic Income in His Harvard Commencement Speech
    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become the latest major tech figure to call for universal basic income as a solution for inequality, joining a growing chorus from Silicon Valley. From a report: "Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it's time for our generation to define a new social contract," Zuckerberg said during his commencement speech at Harvard University. "We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things," he said. Zuckerberg told the class of 2017 that he was able to pursue his passion in Facebook because he knew he had a safety net to fall back on.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • Messenger App Kik Debuts Its Own Digital Currency
    The messaging app Kik Interactive has decided to create its own digital currency. Kik's plans are for an "initial coin offering," a process by which it sells tokens that can be used to buy services on its platform. "The idea is that as more and more people use Kik, the value of those tokens, called 'Kin,' will rise in value," reports TechCrunch. From the report: Kik, which has raised about $120 million (in real money) from investors including Tencent Holdings Ltd., could serve to add a new layer of legitimacy to the process. "Kik will be the largest install base of cryptocurrency users in the world," Chief Executive Officer Ted Livingston said. "Kin, on day one will be the most-used cryptocurrency in the world." The move comes as Kik finally reveals how many people actually use its app regularly each month: 15 million. That's a far-cry from the 300 million total registered users number it was sharing around this time last year. Kik plans to gift a certain amount of Kin to each user. They'll be able use the new currency to buy games, live video streams and other digital products. The company's goal is to attract new merchants to sell on the platform, creating a snowball effect where Kin becomes more valuable and more sellers pile onto Kik, increasing its popularity.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • Scientists Develop Technology That Burns Natural Gas With No CO2 Emissions
    New submitter Ben Sullivan writes: Researchers and engineers in Vienna have developed a way to burn natural gas without releasing CO2 into the air through a combustion method called chemical looping combustion (CLC). In this process, CO2 can be isolated during combustion without having to use any additional energy, which means it can then go on to be stored. The method had already been applied successfully in a test environment, and has now been upscaled to allow use in up to a 10 MW facility. ScienceBlog.com reports: "A granulate made of metal oxide circulates between the two chambers and is responsible for transporting oxygen from air to fuel: 'We pump air through one chamber, where the particles take up oxygen. They then move on to the second chamber, which has natural gas flowing through it. Here is where the oxygen is released, and then where flameless combustion takes place, producing CO2 and water vapor,' explains Stefan Penthor from the Institute of Chemical Engineering at TU Wien. The separation into two chambers means there are two separate flue gas streams to deal with too: air with a reduced concentration of oxygen is discharged from one chamber, water vapor and CO2 from the other. The water vapor can be separated quite easily, leaving almost pure CO2, which can be stored or used in other technical applications."
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • Juno Spacecraft Reveals Spectacular Cyclones At Jupiter's Poles
    Joe Palca reports via NPR: NASA's Juno spacecraft has spotted giant cyclones swirling at Jupiter's north and south poles. That's just one of the unexpected and puzzling findings being reported by the Juno science team. Juno arrived at Jupiter last summer. It's the first spacecraft to get a close-up look at the planet's poles. It's in an orbit that takes it skimming close to the cloud tops of the gas giant once every 53 days. After each close pass, the spacecraft sends a trove of data back to Earth. Ultimately, scientists will want to understand how these cyclones change over time and whether they form differently in the north and south poles. Another puzzle that Juno is supposed to help solve is whether Jupiter, a gas giant, has a solid core. Another surprise from Juno is the concentration of ammonia in Jupiter's atmosphere. Scientists thought ammonia was most likely distributed evenly throughout the atmosphere. The data show there's more ammonia near the equator than there is at other latitudes.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • Chinese Company Offers Free Training For US Coal Miners To Become Wind Farmers
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: If you want to truly understand what's happening in the energy industry, the best thing to do is to travel deep into the heart of American coal country, to Carbon County, Wyoming (yes, that's a real place). The state produces most coal in the US, and Carbon County has long been known (and was named) for its extensive coal deposits. But the state's mines have been shuttering over the past few years, causing hundreds of people to lose their jobs in 2016 alone. Now, these coal miners are finding hope, offered from an unlikely place: a Chinese wind-turbine maker wants to retrain these American workers to become wind-farm technicians. It's the perfect metaphor for the massive shift happening in the global energy markets. The news comes from an energy conference in Wyoming, where the American arm of Goldwind, a Chinese wind-turbine manufacturer, announced the free training program. More than a century ago, Carbon County was home to the first coal mine in Wyoming. Soon, it will be the site of a new wind farm with hundreds of Goldwind-supplied turbines.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • US Senator Introduces the First Bill To Give Gig Workers Benefits
    Virginia Senator Mark Warner has introduced a bill that will give basic benefits to gig workers. "Warner has just proposed the first-ever piece of national legislation aimed at helping on-demand and other non-traditional workers without traditional benefits, like paid sick days or a retirement plan, have some sort of a safety net," reports TechCrunch. "The bill asks the federal government to set aside $20 million in funding for organizations to use to look at the types of benefits programs individual workers could take with them from job to job." From the report: "[Portable benefits is] that emergency fund," Warner told BuzzFeed, which first reported news of the bill. "It might be a fund to take care of a disability if you get hurt. It might work with some existing retirement programs. Part of it would be, depending on what happens with Obamacare, an ability to help deal with health care expenses. I think there will be a variety of models." The funding wouldn't be enough to cover everyone, of course, but if it gets the green light a draft of the bill indicates it would earmark $5 million toward grants doled out by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta for organizations already looking into portable benefits and $15 million for new programs.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • Amazon's Drive-Up Grocery Stores Are Now Open To the Public In Seattle
    Amazon has opened two drive-up grocery stores to the public that will allow Amazon Prime subscribers to place an online order and choose a two-hour pickup window for when they'd like to drive over and retrieve it. The Verge reports: Despite the stores being called "AmazonFresh Pickup," a membership to the company's home delivery grocery service isn't required. But if you do pay for AmazonFresh (an extra $14.99 per month on top of Prime's usual cost), your groceries will be ready within 15 minutes. Regular Prime customers have to wait at least two hours before the earliest pickup window becomes available. According to The Seattle Times, the first time you visit one of the two AmazonFresh Pickup locations, a concierge will enter your name and vehicle's license plate number into Amazon's systems. That way, during subsequent visits a license plate reader will automatically identify you and signal to employees that they should bring your order out to your car. The Times notes that this license plate scanning can be disabled from Amazon's website.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • More Than Half of Streaming Users In US Are Sharing Their Passwords, Says Report
    A new study conducted by Fluent shows a majority of Americans are sharing passwords to their streaming video services. While millennials lead the pack, non-millennials are doing the same. Streaming Observer reports: Nearly 3 out of every 4 (72% exactly) Americans who have cable also have access to at least one streaming service and 8% of cable subscribers plan to eliminate their service in the next year. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're paying for their streaming service. New numbers from a study conducted by Fluent show that the majority of Americans are sharing passwords to their streaming video services. Well over half of millennials (aged 18-34) -- 60% -- are either using someone someone else's password or giving their password to someone else. And just under half -- 48% -- of non-millennials are doing the same. The study also revealed that the main factor in what drives consumers to sign up for streaming video services is price, with 34% of Americans saying that low cost was the primary factor. That number jumps to 38% among millennials. When you take in to account that some streaming TV services start with prices as low as $20, it makes sense that price is the biggest issue. Convenience was the next biggest factor, coming in at just below 25%.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • Facebook's Instant Articles Platform To Support Google AMP, Apple News
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: One of the problems publishers face today in making their content more readable on mobile devices is that there are multiple, competing formats available for this purpose. Facebook has Instant Articles, Google is spearheading the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, and the Apple News Format optimizes content for iOS devices. Facebook is today taking a crack at a solution to this problem by rolling out support for both AMP and soon Apple News as a part of its open source Instant Articles software development kit. The updated SDK will now include an extension that lets publishers build content that's publishable in all three formats, beginning with support for Google's AMP in addition to Facebook's own Instant Articles. In the weeks ahead it will also include support for publishing to Apple News, though the company didn't provide an exact launch date for when that feature would be added.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • Devuan Jessie 1.0 Officially Released
    prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: Announced for the first time back in November 2014, Devuan is a Debian fork that doesn't use systemd as init system. It took more than two and a half years for it to reach 1.0 milestone, but the wait is now over and Devuan 1.0.0 stable release is here. Based on the packages and software repositories of the Debian GNU/Linux 8 "Jessie" operating system, Devuan 1.0.0 "Jessie" is now considered the first stable version of the GNU/Linux distribution, which stays true to its vision of developing a free Debian OS without systemd. This release is recommended for production use. As Devuan 1.0.0 doesn't ship with systemd, several adjustments needed to be made. For example, the distro uses a systemd-free version of the NetworkManager network connection manager and includes several extra libsystemd0-free packages in its repository.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • Proposed Active-Defense Bill Would Allow Destruction of Data, Use of Beacon Tech
    Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A bill that would allow victims of cybercrime to use active defense techniques to stop attacks and identify attackers has been amended to require victims to notify the FBI of their actions and also add an exemption to allow victims to destroy their data once they locate it on an attacker's machine. The Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act, drafted by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) in March, is designed to enable people who have been targets of cybercrime to employ certain specific techniques to trace the attack and identify the attacker. The bill defines active cyber defense as "any measure -- (I) undertaken by, or at the direction of, a victim"; and "(II) consisting of accessing without authorization the computer of the attacker to the victim" own network to gather information in order to establish attribution of criminal activity to share with law enforcement or to disrupt continued unauthorized activity against the victim's own network." After releasing an initial draft of the bill in March, Rep. Tom Graves held a public event in Georgia to collect feedback on the legislation. Based on that event and other feedback, Graves made several changes to the bill, including the addition of the notification of law enforcement and an exception in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for victims who use so-called beaconing technology to identify an attacker. "The provisions of this section shall not apply with respect to the use of attributional technology in regard to a defender who uses a program, code, or command for attributional purposes that beacons or returns locational or attributional data in response to a cyber intrusion in order to identify the source of the intrusion," the bill says.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • T-Mobile's 'Digits' Program Revamps the Phone Number
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: T-Mobile has announced the launch of its "Digits" program, coming May 31. Digits is a revamp of how T-Mobile phone numbers work, virtualizing customer numbers so they can work across multiple devices. It sounds a lot like Google Voice -- rather than having a phone number tied to a single SIM card or a device, numbers are now account-based, and you can "log in" to your phone number on several devices. T-Mobile says the new phone number system will work "across virtually all connected devices," allowing multiple phones, tablets, and PCs to get texts and calls. This means T-Mobile needs apps across all those platforms, with the press release citing "native seamless integration" in Samsung Android phones, Android and iOS apps, and a browser interface for PCs. The new phone number system is free to all T-Mobile customers. Customers can also buy an extra phone number for $10 or by signing up to the $5-per-month "T-Mobile One Plus" package, which is a bundle of extra features like a mobile hotspot and in-flight Wi-Fi.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • 83 Percent Of Security Staff Waste Time Fixing Other IT Problems
    An anonymous reader shares a report: A new survey of security professionals reveals that 83 percent say colleagues in other departments turn to them to fix personal computer problems. The study by security management company FireMon shows a further 80 percent say this is taking up more than an hour of their working week, which in a year could equate to more than $88,000. For organizations, eight percent of professionals surveyed helping colleagues out five hours a week or more could be costing over $400,000. Organizations are potentially paying qualified security professionals salaries upwards of $100,000 a year and seeing up to 12.5 percent of that investment being spent on non-security related activities.
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.


  • Firefox Marketing Head Expresses Concerns Over Google's Apparent 'Only Be On Chrome' Push
    Eric Petitt, head up Firefox marketing, writing in a blog: I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I'm OK with Chrome. I just don't like only being on Chrome. And that's what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it's just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance. Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every... single... click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance. Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We're the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order. (Footnote: Petitt has made it clear that the aforementioned views are his own, and not those of Mozilla.)
             

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



  • Sainsbury's IT glitch spoils bank holiday food orders
    Hoping to stock up for a barbecue? Tough
    The sun is shining and the prospect of barbecue and beer over the bank holiday is almost in grabbing distance. But customers who ordered their groceries online with Sainsbury's today may be in for a disappointment.…











  • What happened when 300 DevOps experts took over the QE II?
    Continuous Lifecycle: Fill-up with speaker videos, slides
    Events If you couldn’t join us last week for Continuous Lifecycle London 2017, you can still get a flavour of the event with our speakers’ presentations and selected video highlights.…


  • The revolution will not be televised: How Lucas modernised audio in film
    Thank God for Jedi (and other words I thought I'd never use)
    Star Wars New Hope @ 40 The opening sequence of Star Wars is designed to give you a jolt. It's heightened by those moments after the legend "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." has faded, leaving you sitting in a silent, pitch-black cinema auditorium.…


  • El Reg straps on the Huawei Watch 2
    Sports ready, LTE ready, but still a solution looking for a problem?
    Real World Test Back when Captain Scarlet was still fresh, in the 1970s, I wanted a watch that made phone calls. I think I might have drawn one on my arm with a Biro. This has been a sci-fi staple since Dick Tracy in the 1950s. Now I’ve got one, I wonder why I ever wanted it.…






  • Battery-hungry cars roll over Lenovo's FY 16/17 bottom line
    Data centre unit 'still under transformation' and losing money, as is mobile business
    Lenovo has returned to growth, posting a pleasing set of fourth quarter numbers, but apparently has plenty of work to do in the mobile and data centre markets.…







  • Congresscritters float benefits for gig workers
    Bill would let contractors get unemployment and paid leave
    Two US legislators are drafting bills to provide "gig" contract workers many of the same benefits afforded to those who work full time.…


  • Apple has finally found someone to support HomeKit
    But Belkin's new bridge only reinforces the problem of a locked-down ecosystem
    It's been a year since Apple officially launched its internet-of-things smart-home service – an event that we noted at the time was somewhat undermined by the fact that there were virtually no products that worked with it.…



  • US citizens complain their names were used for FCC robo-comments
    Allegedly astroturfed Americans speak out over net neutrality filings
    Fourteen Americans (with the help of an advocacy group) are complaining to the FCC that their names were used without permission to file fake comments on the proposed net neutrality overhaul.…



  • Astroboffins spot a new type of galaxy bursting with stars
    Star formation rate is a hundred times faster than our Milky Way
    A team of astronomers has stumbled across a new kind of galaxy that may be the missing piece of the puzzle regarding how ancient galaxies grew to such massive sizes.…




  • Capita payments service Pay360 goes TITSUP
    'Major incident' in data centre
    Capita Pay360 service, which allows small businesses and councils to accept online transactions such as paying parking fines, has gone down in the UK and Ireland due to a "major incident" in its data centre.…







  • Auntie sh!tcans BBC Store after 18 months
    Customers offered Amazon vouchers or a full refund
    The Beeb is to shut its online paid-for streaming service BBC Store from November, just 18 months after it launched.…



  • EU pegs quota for 'homegrown' content on Netflix at 30 per cent
    Streaming service argues it'll result in lower quality work
    The European Parliament has set content quotas for OTT video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime even higher than the Commission originally wanted. 30 per cent of the services' catalog must be European works, Parliament has decreed.…




  • Info commish: One year to go and businesses still not ready for GDPR
    Thought 400k TalkTalk fine was big? Try €20m
    Companies are unprepared for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force a year today, and some small businesses "might not even know" a new regime is looming, the UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has warned.…




  • The joy and the pain of buying IT
    Those bloody procurement guys did what?
    Study You, dear readers, continually tell us in surveys how hard it is to get the investment needed to help you do your jobs effectively. Regardless of the topic – core infrastructure, middleware, management tools, etc – it’s common to hear stories of execs not "getting it", while expecting IT to muddle through as more pressure is piled onto already stretched teams.…




  • Your roadmap to the Google vs Oracle Java wars
    It is happening again
    Analysis The final lap nears in Oracle's epic seven year battle with Google over Java. It's reached the Federal Appeals Circuit, where Oracle is confident that three appeals judges with a strong track record of upholding IP will decide in its favour.…



Linux.com offline for now

  • NVIDIA vs. Radeon VDPAU Mesa 17.2 Video Decode Performance
    In yesterday's GeForce GT 1030 Linux review, a $70 USD graphics card that's low-profile and passively-cooled, I featured a number of NVIDIA VDPAU video acceleration benchmarks. But a question came up about Radeon VDPAU performance, so here are some benchmarks on that front, but they are far from ideal.






  • MSI GeForce GT 1030: A $70 Passively-Cooled Graphics Card, Decent With OpenGL/Vulkan/OpenCL/VDPAU
    If you are looking for a low-profile, passively-cooled graphics card, the GeForce GT 1030 launched last week and MSI is out the door with such a capable graphics card while only costing around $70~80 USD. Here are some Linux OpenGL, Vulkan, OpenCL, and VDPAU video acceleration benchmarks of the MSI GeForce GT 1030 compared to various other Radeon and GeForce graphics cards under Ubuntu.





  • Radeon VCN Video Decode Support Lands In Mesa
    AMD developers have landed their work on supporting VCN video decoding in Mesa. VCN is the new video decode engine with the upcoming Raven Ridge APUs (Zen CPU + Vega Graphics) that apparently succeeds the UVD video decoding block...




  • Mesa 17.1.1 Released
    Emil Velikov has announced the availability of Mesa 17.1.1 as the first point release to this quarter's big Mesa 17.1 package...















  • GCC Developers Potentially Deprecating Intel MPX
    It was just with GCC 6 that MPX support was flipped on with Intel's Memory Protection Extensions (MPX) just premiering with Skylake CPUs. But now GCC developers are thinking about potentially deprecating this feature...






  • Trying Out MESA_NO_ERROR / KHR_no_error Support On Mesa 17.2-dev
    Merged last month into Mesa Git and improved since then with follow-up commits has been KHR_no_error support for reducing the overhead of the OpenGL drivers by disabling certain error handling for OpenGL games/applications. This in turn can free up some CPU utilization and possibly lead to power-savings too...







Engadget

  • Truly intelligent enemies could change the face of gaming

    Live, die, repeat -- the tagline for the 2014 science-fiction film Edge of Tomorrow -- describes its protagonist, who "respawned" every time he died in the real world. Critics noted that the conceit resembled the cyclical experience of playing a video game, in which dying resets a staged arrangement of obstacles. Often these are enemies, and the most common way they're surpassed is by the player violently dispatching them. Some games have kept this as cartoonish as Mario jumping on a Goomba's head, but others strive for vivid action and more-lifelike foes to pit the player against. But we know what enemies look like today -- how will we treat them in the games to come?

    Put another way: How will violence in gaming change in the future?

    The question is broad, and a little loaded. Gaming's evolution was stricken by moral panic about the effect of violent video games on kids. In those days, Mortal Kombat and Doom convinced the fearful that engaging in bloody digital combat -- as real as it looked in glorious 16-bit -- would warp players' minds. This cultural anxiety still spikes from time to time, but as those youths grew into adults no more prone to carnage than anyone else, the argument's long lost its teeth.

    Freed from cultural pillories, gaming started looking inward. As the industry yearns for artistic respect, critics are asking more of violent games. In the mainstream big-studio titles, we still shoot, stab and detonate digital enemies, but some see the relationship between players and foes as ripe for exploring. One of the most popular games that ventured into this territory was Shadow of Mordor.

    Released by studio Monolith Productions in September 2014, Mordor placed the player in the boots of Talion, a Ranger of Gondor who is unjustly killed. His body possessed by a wraith, Talion becomes a revenant obsessed with avenging the murder of his family, while the elven ghost inside him remembers a forgotten past. His wraithlike powers enable him to mentally dominate Orcs and set them on their former comrades. The murky moralism -- you essentially enslave Orcs but use them for "good" -- and brutal violence disturbed some reviewers, but it didn't stunt the game's success.

    Monolith is gearing up to release a sequel, Shadow of War, this August. This time around, Orcs follow Talion willingly as he challenges Sauron for rule of Middle-Earth, fighting his enemies (Orcs still faithful to Mordor) and even forming a bodyguard cadre to protect their leader. Ditching mind control in favor of a strongman cult creates a more fertile arena for dynamic relationships to develop between players and their erstwhile allies and enemies, according to Michael de Plater, creative director for Shadow of War at Monolith.

    "Unlike in Shadow of Mordor, where basically their whole minds got wiped by that experience, we wanted [the Orcs] to keep their personalities, and also still have some possibilities where they can still break free and even betray you or go back to Sauron. So it is more of an allegiance of a relationship rather than just straight enslaving them," de Plater told Engadget.

    "There's a definite tension between those two things -- are you enslaving them, or are you recruiting them?"

    "But at the same time, it is still definitely under the influence of the Ring of Power. There's a definite tension between those two things -- are you enslaving them, or are you recruiting them? And how free are they, and what sort of stories can get created with that? ... We certainly explore through the course of the story ... some of the Orcs react to, and explore, and talk about, and create different events as well," de Plater said.

    Like the first game, Shadow of War will use the "Nemesis" system to generate unique Orc captains and pit them against each other in a bloody hierarchy. The system ended up creating memorable enemies that players would recall years later on Reddit forums, de Plater said: They'd kill named Orc lieutenants the system assigned a random personality and set of attributes, who would return with a grudge and sometimes kill the player, creating a brutal cycle with both parties knowing the score.

    Most but not all of these named Orcs will be randomly created. Some will still be scripted by Monolith to fulfill a specific purpose in the game's story. In future games in the series -- and across the industry, in general -- de Plater hopes that procedurally-generated enemies will have such advanced AI and reaction protocols that players will develop relationships with them without realizing the NPC's lines and behaviors weren't written out beforehand.

    "The ultimate goal would be that you have something that looks and feels at the level of detail of something that was entirely scripted, but it is taking place entirely procedurally," de Plater said. "I think everyone's still a fair way away from that."

    The Monolith Productions team isn't alone in believing that one of gaming's frontiers lies with the unpredictability of AI-controlled enemies and allies. Mitu Khandaker teaches on the topic as assistant arts professor at NYU Game Center -- but as chief creative officer at artificial-intelligence company Spirit AI, she's also working with a team to develop technology for companies to use in their own games.

    "What we do is build tools to help developers creatively author story scenarios and author personalities for characters and the kinds of things that characters might say, but then those characters might improvise based on the space that you've authored for them," Khandaker told Engadget. "There's a lot of potential there for players to really have deeper, more meaningful conversations with characters."
    "There's a lot of potential there for players to really have deeper, more meaningful conversations with characters."
    Spirit AI's efforts could be summarized as "building technology which will let us make the walking simulator a conversation," according to Khandaker. Think of the squad's idle chatter in Mass Effect, or the casual smalltalk during long car rides in Final Fantasy XV: Pre-written, nonessential dialogue tumbling out of an algorithmic generator that organically delivers exposition and character detail. But what if those AI characters talking to the player and making up responses on the fly — even if they're enemy grunts with their guns drawn?

    Khandaker can imagine creating games where the enemies aren't just tokens or pawns but more fully formed virtual characters. "Instead of just committing violence upon some kind of enemy, maybe [players will be] trying to understand their motives, she said. "Now, in this cultural context, more than ever, a human understanding of the reasons why people make decisions they do is super-important. Even if, on some level, we think decisions people make might be evil, we still need to have the level of understanding because that's how we learn and grow and how we combat evil."

    What Shadow of War won't have are human enemies that players can mind control or kill in gruesome ways: Your foes will be Mordor-born Orcs who span the gray-brown gamut and exhibit the violent, traitorous ways of their race. This is intentional.

    "One of the challenging things is striking the balance of having a game that's fundamentally pretty gritty and violent, but also making sure that we have this humor in there and this levity to it," de Plater said. "Ultimately, even though it is dealing with some dark themes, there is a cartoony level of violence as well. Orcs represent these caricatures. Everything's turned up to 11 in terms of their personality and their characters and their faults, and the violence of their society and how power-crazed they all are; how backstabbing and cutthroat they are against anyone."

    In short, you'll be dispatching and commanding a class of enemy designed to be dynamically interesting yet disposable in a way that shouldn't trigger a player's ethical qualms. Game critic Austin Walker believed that the first game, Shadow of Mordor, failed to justify Talion's anti-Orc kill-and-enslave crusade: "But we're told again and again that these Orcs want to destroy beautiful things. It just doesn't hold up, and this tension extends to every element of their narrative and systemic characterizations. These Orcs have fears, interests, values, rivalry and friendships. Some Orcs are lovingly protective of their bosses or underlings. But they are 'savage creatures' that 'hate beauty,' so go ahead and enslave them," Walker wrote.

    At least Shadow of War will strive to explore new and uncomfortable relationships between player and enemy. Even if it never lets players forget Orcs are villains at their core, some will attempt to liberate themselves from any overlord, dark or bright, de Plater said. He didn't specify whether these autonomy-seeking enemies will be a scripted faction in the game. But imagine wandering down the sludgy Mordor foothills only to find a procedurally-generated band of Orcs that avoid conflict and try to run away from you, the bogeyman who's murdered (or recruited) all their friends, as they search for a better life.



    Imbuing enemies with relatable traits -- human traits -- is as fascinating as it is discomforting. Since their inception, single-player games have driven a hard wedge between players and enemies by making the latter alien and threatening. Space Invaders and Galaga literally used aliens, while Missile Defense tossed unthinking explosives at the vulnerable people populating the player's cities. The dawn of the first-person-shooter genre featured demonic monsters in Doom and Nazis in Wolfenstein 3D, enemies so unrelatable that players don't think when gunning them down.

    Spirit AI's clients are using its AI-conversation tech to augment NPC allies, though Khandaker's team is starting to graft it onto enemies. But it's really up to whoever uses Spirit's tools, and whichever studio decides to challenge players with ordinary foes that do more than shoot in their direction.

    "I would love to see that as a moral choice that you make. It should be sometimes deeply troubling, depending on your particular game, that somebody is so human and so full of their own motive, doing the things that they're doing, that it's not so easy to dehumanize them," Khandaker said.
    "I think that through good, well-considered design, we'll get to a point where actually these interactions with characters help us to better understand the motivations that real people have."
    "This is why I think it comes down to designing photo-realistic, naturalistic AI really well. If [designers] let you push them around, you're going to maybe transfer that to real people. If, however, they don't — if they push back and they try and do the emotional labor of helping you to understand what it is to interact with someone in a nice, well-considered way — then you can maybe transfer that to your interactions with people," Khandaker said. "I think that through good, well-considered design, we'll get to a point where actually these interactions with characters help us to better understand the motivations that real people have."

    Whether AI tech will develop substantially in the next few years and, ultimately, whether improving enemy and ally AI will positively affect the player's experience, is another question. As Compulsion Games' Creative Director Guillaume Provost points out, making smarter enemies doesn't matter much if the player doesn't know what's going on.

    "Making AIs that are believable often involve stuff that's not that technical and has a lot more to do with the acting parts that are involved in the AI," Provost said. "So it's not so much the sophistication of the technology behind it as it is the sophistication of expressing what's going on in their heads to the player."
    "It's not so much the sophistication of the technology behind it as it is the sophistication of expressing what's going on in their heads to the player."
    For Provost, that meant tweaking some gameplay in Compulsion Games' latest title, We Happy Few, which was released in Early Access last year. In it, players try to escape an English city whose denizens imbibe drugs en masse to forget their communal crimes -- and punish those who won't do the same. In playtesting, this meant making the hostile NPCs warn the player several times before violently reacting. They couldn't assume players would pick up on cues because in gaming, players' attention is focused on what they're interacting with at the time.

    "The truth is, it's not a movie where you sit down and watch people the whole time. You're actively doing stuff. You're running around, you're stealing stuff. The player has a smaller portion of their brain left to understand what the people around them are doing," Provost said.

    Which is why developers have to treat player attention as a resource and be smart about what they make intelligent. Provost recalled a story about the grunts in the first Halo who were programmed to yell out "I surrender" and wave their arms around -- but players would gun them down before the little enemies could bark out their lines. Similarly, Provost doesn't see nearly as much use for plugging more AI into enemies to make them smarter in future games.

    "The biggest advances that I found in my actual experience don't have that much to do with technology. They have to do with the sophistication that we can actually window-dress AIs as human characters. And there's nowhere we've moved for faster in that area, I think, than in companion AIs that are going to accompany you, and for the simple reason that you have much more opportunities to actually build an emotional response to those people," Provost said. "If you walk down the street and shoot a guy, you've literally spent 10 seconds with him."

    Which explains the success of companions like Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite or Ellie in The Last of Us. Specifically, their AI was deliberately programmed to recognize downtime and start chit-chatting -- the smalltalk between action set pieces that draws the player closer to companions. But players don't spend nearly as much time around enemies, so there's much less opportunity for their programming to shine. And if you plug AI into their performance, well, it's really easy to make an AI that never misses -- that's why cheaters in shooter games use aimbots.

    "The biggest fun there is in AI is being able to predict successfully what they're doing, which is completely counterintuitive to the idea of having this really deep AI. If you're playing a game and the AI's always completely unpredictable, it just turns into a frustrating experience for the player because they can't learn a good strategy to actually succeed at the game," Provost said. "[The key is] having a good balance where, over time, the player gets to master a game by understanding, whether at a conscious or subconscious level, what is likely going to result from their action and being able to strategize which actions to take. It's a cornerstone of making AI interesting when you're playing them as foes."
    "If you're playing a game and the AI's always completely unpredictable, it just turns into a frustrating experience for the player because they can't learn a good strategy to actually succeed at the game."
    There's an obvious question here: Why make enemies more complex if you're just going to shoot them? Players have been dispatching foes since video games moved past Pong 45 years ago. They are obstacles. But big-budget studios are spending lots of money making them look like really pretty obstacles to shoot at. A time might come where the disparity between human-looking-but-robotic-acting enemies becomes too jarring.

    "It's a problem when you're making games increasingly photo-realistic and though the enemies are representative of real people, they don't really act like real people. If enemies are just cartoonish representations, then perhaps it's not a problem if they're not fully-formed individuals," Khandaker said. When enemies are photo-realistic and representative of gender or race or a demographic, it's more problematic to blur identities. "You see this a lot with games representing terrorists. It's often this idea of 'generic brown person.' I think that is a problem. We need to start understanding that people who look like humans should also behave like humans."

    In 2017, imposing greater sensitivity in games to stay away from stereotypes seems like a no-brainer. Not that games aren't still committing the sins of racial omission, but the cure is obvious: diversity and research. Striving toward accurate representation.

    Whether to make enemies smarter is another question. Especially when big-budget games are crafted to be enjoyable experiences that don't tax your brain. They spur a pleasurable feedback loop, said Miguel Sicart, associate professor at the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen.

    "By the end of the day, what players want is to have enemies that have patterns that are ultimately recognizable so we can beat them. That's the goal of every player: to get so good at something that they can beat the enemy," Sicart told Engadget. At their core, a lot of big-budget games aren't really designed to think deeper than providing satisfying player-vs.-computer combat. "We are never going to see Call of Duty be morally nuanced, the same as we are never going to see The Fast And Furious be morally nuanced; but they also don't need to be. They're just empty popcorn that feels really good."

    The violence in many games -- especially ones putting the character in military boots gunning for enemies of freedom -- doesn't bother Sicart. It's the lack of context that worries him. Why are players where they are, mowing down digital interchangeable mooks? Are there consequences to going to war?

    "There's currently a rhetoric [in gaming] about war that's not glorifying it, but not necessarily not glorifying it," Sicart said. "You can see this in the US media when Trump ordered strikes on Syria and the media went crazy about the beauty of these missiles. We've lost a little bit in the media landscape -- this capacity of saying, 'Holy shit, we are throwing missiles at people.'"

    That disconnect troubles Sicart. People uploading videos to YouTube of gruesome kills and testicle-shattering sniper montages is a glorification of sorts, which is "one step toward this trivialization of war and conflict and death and violence," he said. We've always had violence, stretching back to the Iliad and Odyssey graphically describing dismemberment-by-cyclops, Sicart points out, and violence is a part of how we express ourselves as humans. But a lot of war games make violence the unique selling point: They are about the carnage. They are about the death.
    "... Some of these games are propaganda. To me, they are the worst type of propaganda because it's propaganda that you not only consume by reading and listening, but you have to participate."
    "We have to be careful with how we sell what, by the end of the day, is just coppers and robbers on a computer. Careful how we sell these things and careful with how we try to tie it to real military discourse. Careful how we try to tie it to conflicts in the real world. We have to be careful with these things, because we are feeding a general media discourse that maybe we don't want to feed," Sicart said. "I mean, to be perfectly honest, some of these games are propaganda. To me, they are the worst type of propaganda because it's propaganda that you not only consume by reading and listening, but you have to participate."

    The point isn't just to be careful about what studios are making for their audiences, but how aware they are of their medium's failings. The 2012 cult classic Spec Ops: The Line has been duly lauded for its self-awareness amid a sea of identical military shooters (what Sicart calls "these brown-looking video games where you are a disembodied gun shooting other people") for pushing players to seriously evaluate why they thoughtlessly careen through other titles gunning down whomever is tossed in their way. But that was five years ago. Since then, which games have come along to seriously challenge the player's relationship with violence?

    "It may take five years, or maybe 10, but I think we are slowly getting to the position when video games are wanting to actively participate in the cultural debate, and therefore we will have a much more nuanced take on violence," Sicart said. "We will be able to call bullshit on violence for violence's sake. We will be able to call bullshit on video games that just want to glorify discourses that we don't want in culture."

    That's the same argument we've been hearing for years. But video games are slowly opening up to the increasingly widespread format of virtual reality. With top-line headsets getting bundles and smartphone-powering headsets like Google Daydream and Samsung VR getting more support, the medium is growing day by day. Its tech immerses players deeper into the worlds and experiences developers create for them.

    Khandaker's doctoral research involved putting test subjects through the paces of a game she made. Players went on a climb with a friend, simulating the tactile hand-over-hand action of ascending a rock face grip by grip. You reach the top ahead of your partner, when she suddenly drops, dangling far below on a rope rapidly fraying under the weight of both of you.

    "This NPC starts screaming at you to just cut the rope and just let her die, and all of these things. As the player, you have to make the decision about whether you do that, and it's very time-sensitive, so you have to make the decision about whether you're going to cut this friend of yours loose and ultimately murder her, or are you going to not make a decision and let the rope break and kill the both of you," Khandaker said. "It was really fascinating because the decisions that people made were very different in VR versus as a classic interface. People took longer to make the decision about what to do, people felt worse about it, in VR. People felt closer to the character in VR."
    "It was really fascinating because the decisions that people made were very different in VR versus as a classic interface. People took longer to make the decision about what to do, people felt worse about it, in VR. People felt closer to the character in VR."
    But after a follow-up questionnaire, Khandaker sat down to interview every player, and most of them -- even the ones who were visibly upset -- settled down and told her it was fun, that it was just a game. Even in the immersion of VR, players retain the double consciousness of emotional involvement in the experience with awareness that it's still a simulation.

    "That's always been there, even if you are doing the worst kind of dehumanizing-- sort of mowing through enemies in a photo-realistic game. You can slightly feel bad about it, but you also know it's a game," Khandaker said. "In VR, that effect is even more pronounced. We feel worse about the things we do but we also know what we're doing is just a game. There's a lot of potential to play with those feelings. Especially ... if characters seem even more like real characters, if they're able to respond to you."

    In other words, VR immersion augments gaming, but it's the connections that dramatically affect the player experience. Part of that means simulating human conventions -- move this way, react that way, emote like we would -- softening their perfect reflexes and senses to let players compete on more even ground.

    "Making an AI really good or really skilled, that's a problem we solved day one. We spend an inordinate amount of time making them suck. Making an AI look really smart, because they're either flanking you or they're appearing to work as a group together, that is immersion," Provost said. "It's not intelligence, and the immersion is done by us collectively understanding what are the best ways to communicate to the player, 'Hey, I'm doing something intelligent,' whether they're really doing something intelligent or not."
    "Making an AI really good or really skilled, that's a problem we solved day one. We spend an inordinate amount of time making them suck."
    For Eric Zimmerman of the NYU Game Center, however, humans are still the apex of depth and complexity. We'll probably get complex character moments from AI partners in the future, but the best examples are in human-to-human interaction, Zimmerman maintained. Skirmishes, deceptions, alliances built up over time only to get dashed by a mole intent on starting a war -- you can find that, and more, in EVE Online thanks to its dedicated player community.

    "The stories coming out of EVE Online are the stories people want to come out of other games," Zimmerman said. Most recently, the space-age MMO saw the leader of one of its most elite pirate gangs get conned out of a one-of-a-kind ship worth 300 billion in-game Isk (or about $2,600 in real currency, according to this exchange). But the game is infamous for its betrayals, faction infiltration, frontier piracy and colossal space battles, all happening at a scale that would seem impossible for a single game filled with AI NPCs to mimic.

    Human interaction or intention in design will bring depth, Zimmerman concludes -- not purely new technology. He recalls a moment during a presentation at a Game Developers Conference in the early 2000s when a Sony executive was crowing about the latest cutting-edge development in the then-latest PlayStation console. "'Finally, we'll have high-resolution tears running down high-resolution cheeks as they're crying, and we'll finally have deep emotions in characters,'" Zimmerman recalls him saying.

    "The idea that technology guarantees a meaningful experience is false. All of this tech is still just an expressive tool for people to use to express themselves, to score ideas, to make statements about the world," Zimmerman said. "The human decisions that go into a game are far, far more important than the technology that's driving the experience."

    But it's the awkward attempts, the false starts and grand aspirations dashed by bizarre results that mark the progress of video games. Ambitious games that failed to live up to their hyped AI complexity, like Peter Molyneux's Black and White or Stephen Spielberg and EA's scrapped LMNO project, nonetheless leave conceptual scraps for later titles to pick up.

    Among the disappointments are successes like Left For Dead, which debuted in 2008 with its "AI Director" that shuffled enemies and items around for dynamic and dramatically different playthroughs. Half-Life 2 debuted in 2004 with its AI companion Alex, and almost a decade later in 2013, gaming got her successors Elizabeth in Bioshock Infinite and Ellie in The Last Of Us. Imagine what kind of AI-filled worlds we'll get to play in a decade from this August's Shadow of War.
    Image credits: Matthew Lyons (lead illustration); Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment ('Shadow of War'); 2K Games ('Bioshock'); 2K Games/NeoGAF ('Spec-Ops: The Line' screenshot).Welcome to Tomorrow, Engadget's new home for stuff that hasn't happened yet. You can read more about the future of, well, everything, at Tomorrow's permanent home and check out all of our launch week stories here.



  • Everything you need to know about mobile Amber Alerts

    At 2:38 PM on May 19th, 2017, my phone buzzed, emitting a high-pitched tone. So did the phone of my colleague Roberto Baldwin, who was standing with me in a Starbucks near our office. Actually, all of the phones in that Starbucks buzzed at the same time, setting off a cacophony of synchronized alarms. An Amber Alert had just gone out for a missing 1-year-old child, last seen in a 2000 tan Toyota Corolla. And everyone in that Starbucks, and possibly the whole of San Francisco Bay Area, saw the same message at the same time.

    Up until about five years ago, this wouldn't have been possible. That's because it was only in December 2012 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) started to implement the Wireless Emergency Alert program, which is the one responsible for that aforementioned high-pitched tone.

    The Wireless Emergency Alert program (also known as the Commercial Mobile Alert system) is used not just for Amber Alerts, but also to warn the public about natural disasters and imminent threats. Alerts can be issued by the National Weather Service, the office of the president of the United States and emergency operation centers. Think of it as the Emergency Broadcast System, but instead of appearing on radio and TV, it's on your phone.

    Still, when most people think of these emergency notifications, they think of Amber Alerts, simply because they occur more often. The US Department of Justice started the Amber Alert program in 1996 in honor of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas. The word "Amber" also stands for "America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response Plan." According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Amber Alert program is "a voluntary partnership between law enforcement, broadcasters and transportation agencies to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases."



    Before this, if you wanted to receive Amber Alerts on your phone, you had to opt-in with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The program was simply called the Wireless Amber Alert program, and you'd have to not only sign up online but also specify which locations you wanted to get alerts from. Only around 700,000 or so people did this, so its reach was limited. Now, anyone with a cellphone receives the alerts by default.

    While the previous Wireless Amber Alert program was SMS text-based, the current Emergency Alert program uses a technology called Cell Broadcast, which delivers messages to all phones within range of designated cell towers. It doesn't send the message to individual recipients, so it doesn't need to know your phone number and it doesn't need to know who you are. This way, the alert also won't be affected by voice and SMS text channels, which are typically more congested. Wireless Emergency Alert notifications are always free.

    Each alert will contain up to 90 characters and is designed to be loud and unusual enough to capture your attention. The alert also typically only goes out to a certain geographic area where it would be of most use. So if a child was last seen in San Francisco, the Amber Alert would be sent to everyone in San Francisco, or at least in California. Sometimes the Alert is expanded to several states simultaneously, as was the case with missing 16-year-old Hannah Anderson from San Diego in 2013; authorities followed her abductor through California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington state and Idaho, sending out Amber Alerts in each state.

    It's worth noting that not every missing-child report results in an Amber Alert. Not only is it reserved for "serious child-abduction cases," it's also provided only when authorities have enough information to put in the alert, such as the description of the child, the abductor or at least the type of vehicle they were last seen in. The goal of an Amber Alert is to "instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child."



    And, apparently, it works. Hannah, for example, was found in Idaho thanks to an Amber Alert warning on television. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 857 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the Amber Alert program. However, only 38 were thanks to wireless emergency alerts, which is less than 5 percent of all recoveries (the rest were found through Amber Alerts on TV or the radio).

    Still, that's 38 kids who otherwise would not have been found. Of those children, one is an 8-month-old boy in Minnesota, who was found because a neighbor saw the alert on his phone and recognized a Kia that matched the description. Another was a 7-month-old in New York City, who was recovered after the alert led to a tip sent to the police hot line.

    You can disable these notifications if you wish. In Android, the settings will be under Cell Broadcast, while on iOS, you'll find the Government Alerts toggle under Notifications. But, seeing as these alerts could save lives, we suggest leaving them on.

    Oh, and about that Amber Alert that I received last Friday? The child's name is Makai Bangoura, and he was found safe in Culver City, which is 400 miles from San Francisco. Alex Bastian of the San Francisco district attorney's office tells ABC 7 News that "the Amber Alert played a pivotal role" in his recovery.


  • Oculus Rift officially supports the HTC Vive’s best feature

    The Oculus Rift has technically supported room-scale VR since the system's Touch motion controllers first went on sale last December. But purchasing an additional sensor didn't guarantee foolproof 3D tracking for greater immersion right off the bat. Oculus labelled the feature "experimental," alerting early adopters to the likelihood of bugs and other gremlins you might expect from in-development functionality. Six months and several updates later, however, Oculus has decided room-scale support is robust enough in its latest software release that it can ditch the beta tag and be called a bona fide Rift feature.

    HTC's Vive headset supported room-scale VR from the get-go, and Oculus has been playing catch-up for some time now. In its experimental phase, the Rift's implementation wasn't exactly user-friendly, leading Oculus to craft a four-part blog series conveying setup advice and educating owners about compatibility issues with older USB standards, among other things. While this may still serve as useful reference material, the notes accompanying the version 1.15 software release state "tracking with three sensors is now fully supported," meaning there shouldn't be any major issues getting it up and running.

    Via: TechCrunch

    Source: Oculus


  • Time-bending shooter 'Superhot VR' arrives on HTC Vive

    Superhot VR didn't start life as an Oculus Rift game, but it eventually made it to the VR headset. With dual-wielding guns and further tweaks to improve the title for a new interface, it turned into a short-but-sweet slice of virtual reality gaming. Now it's HTC Vive owners' turn to slow time, evade bullets, and return them in kind.

    At least, officially. More enthusiastic Vive gamers have been able to tap into ReVive, a software workaround that let Steam VR users access to Oculus exclusives like Superhot VR since last year. That said, Github files and a little bit of hard work aren't for all of us, and the official release on Steam is a good sign for the remaining Vive owners looking for a VR title to tide them over until E3 next month.

    The game's posit is cleverly simple: Time moves forward as you do. It's arguably more of a puzzle game than shooter, as you plan your movement through levels to avoid getting trapped -- and then filled with bullets. Available on Steam now, Superhot VR is launching with an early-bird 20 percent discount (down to $20) through til the start of June.

    Via: Techradar

    Source: Steam


  • 'Pokémon Go' update gives cheaters lousy monsters

    With a new update, Silph Road, Niantic is now "shadowbanning" cheaters by only letting them find humdrum monsters like Pidgey. In a statement, Niantic support said "people who violate the Pokmon Go Terms of Service may have their gameplay affected and may not be able to see all the Pokmon around them."





    For instance, cheaters often use bots that falsify their locations or power scanners to show the locations of the sweetest Pokmon. That way, you can find a Pikachu and catch it from your couch rather than hiking several miles to the local power plant. If Niantic has flagged you as an "illicit" player, however, the best you can probably hope for is a Magikarp.

    Silph Road's mods wrote that "huge numbers of bot accounts were being flagged, though many were still operating normally." Users have debated why specific accounts were getting the hammer, with one theory being that Niantic is cracking down on accounts trying to access its private servers.

    That doesn't appear to be the only reason, though, and Niantic itself is obviously not saying. "While we cannot discuss the systems implemented, we can confirm that we are constantly refining new ways to ensure the integrity of the game in order to keep it fun and fair for all Trainers," its statement reads.

    Via: TNW

    Source: The Silph Road (Reddit), NianticGeorge (Reddit)


  • Kodak's chunky, retro cameraphone is coming to the US

    You might not hear much about Kodak these days, but the brand still exists -- it even released a new smartphone with a humongous camera in Europe last year. Now, that same phone named after its Ektra camera from the '40s has made its way to the US. As a phone, the new Ektra doesn't really have impressive features with its 5-inch 1080p display, 32GB internal storage, deca-core MediaTek Helio X20 processor and 3GB of RAM. It also ships with Android Marshmallow instead of Nougat. Ektra's main draw is none other than its 21MP camera (with six-axis image stabilization, no less) that takes up a huge chunk of its leatherette-wrapped back.

    The company says the camera, which has optical image stabilization features, has a fully-integrated DSLR dial experience and can shoot 4K videos. Its counterpart front-facing camera is 13 megapixels, and both of them use Snapseed as the default photo-editing app. Seeing as loads of better smartphones have decent camera these days, we're guessing Ektra will appeal to those who want that old-timey Kodak aesthetic the most. If this is something you'd buy, head over to the company's website, where's it's selling the phone for $400 as an unlocked GSM device.

    Via: The Verge

    Source: Kodak


  • The Morning After: Friday, May 26th 2017

    Welcome to Friday morning. In the last 24 hours, we gazed at SpaceX's latest rocket tests and heard about major financial companies involving themselves in bitcoin. Meanwhile, Microsoft's Twitch competitor has (sort of) relaunched with a new name and the ability to broadcast all your buddies playing at once.





    We'll wait.Android co-founder Andy Rubin will reveal 'something big' May 30th



    With a resume that includes the Android platform and the Sidekick, you can bet we'll be paying attention to Andy Rubin's company Essential Products, when it reveals "something big" in a few days. Pics have teased a mobile device, and another image yesterday hinted at a 360-degree camera add-on. Stay tuned.



    As Elon Musk says, the launch is 'guaranteed to be exciting.'
    SpaceX begins test-firing parts of its biggest rocket



    SpaceX is trying out some of its boosters -- and they're big. After releasing a clip of last week's test-fire, Elon Musk tweeted that, when the Falcon Heavy eventually launches this summer, it'll be this powerful, but "times three."



    You can even use it in the cafeteria
    Fidelity Investments dives into bitcoin

    Starting later this year, Fidelity clients will be able to check their bitcoin balance through the company's website, as long it's stored on Coinbase. A vote of confidence from Fidelity's CEO arrives while the cryptocurrency is trading at an all-time high, and suggests that eight years in, it could be here to stay.



    It's all up to you.T-Mobile's flexible Digits plans come out of beta on May 31st



    The latest UnCarrier wrinkle out of Big Magenta is "Digits," a service that lets users mix and match numbers and devices as they wish. Similar to Google Voice, it can sync messages and calls across devices, or support multiple numbers that all point to the same handset. All current customers will be upgraded to Digits at the end of this month, and purchasing an additional line will cost $10 per month for most.





    Physical shops will borrow tricks from the web to deliver ultimate convenience.

    Your mall will basically have to be psychic to survive





    For some of us, the rush we get from buying a new dress or gadget can be cathartic. And in the not-too-distant future, real-world shopping will get so seamless that it could feel like the store is actually psychic. But it's not just about flashy displays of bleeding-edge tech. Instead, expect a subtler approach that focuses on understanding your tastes to find you your next outfit while you're in the fitting room, all in the right size. Stores will learn to recognize you as you browse and change dynamically to show things that matter more to you. We take a closer look at both the convenience of online shopping, and what happens next.



    MixerMicrosoft's Twitch competitor gets a new name and co-op streaming



    Last year Microsoft bought Beam, a Twitch competitor that focused on low-latency streaming. Now it's announced the company will rebrand under the name Mixer, at the same time it rolls out some new features. Already built into the Xbox platform on consoles and PCs, Mixer will allow up to four players to broadcast on one livestream channel -- perfect for co-op streaming. Also, during E3 next month, Mixer will stream Microsoft's Xbox press conference in 4K -- provided you have the right hardware.



    Its most expensive original series won't be extended.
    Netflix cans Baz Luhrmann's 'The Get Down'



    Not even millions of dollars can save a series not enough people are watching.
    But wait, there's more... Soon, binge-watching will be as easy as breathing Listening to starlight: Our ongoing search for alien intelligence Rocket Lab nails the world's first orbital rocket launch from a private pad Class-action suit alleges GM cheated emissions test


  • The ‘Monster Hunter’ series is coming to Nintendo's Switch

    We knew it was going to happen. Capcom will be bringing its hugely popular (at least in Japan) action RPG to Nintendo's hybrid console, although the first title won't be a completely new iteration. Monster Hunter XX is pitched as an expanded edition of analog sticks, rejoice! Capcom's holding off from offering any insight into what will be added to the Switch upgrade, but expect to hear more in a few days at the Monster Hunter Championships this weekend. It's being held, naturally, in Japan.

    Source: Capcom (Japanese)


  • Raspberry Pi is merging with a coding foundation

    Raspberry Pi's credit card-sized computers have helped kickstart a coding revolution. Thanks to their low cost, major companies like Google and VMWare have distributed thousands of the DIY boards to children all over the world in the hope that it'll inspire the next generation of computer scientists.

    The Raspberry Pi Foundation routinely works with educational partners to get its computers in the right hands, and its latest announcement is set to boost that outreach even more. Today, the foundation confirmed that it is to merge with CoderDojo to form what it believes will be the biggest code-promoting organization on the planet.

    CoderDojo, if you're not aware, is a Dublin-based organization that focuses on getting young people coding. It facilitates the creation of volunteer-run programming clubs for youngsters aged between 7 to 17. The organization says that there are more than 1,250 CoderDojos in 69 countries, which serve more than 35,000 children and teenagers.

    While the Raspberry Pi Foundation is best known for its cheap computing boards, it also has a vocal and passionate community. It offers resources to help support educators who want to teach coding and also runs its Code Club network of programming clubs for children aged between 9 and 13 (which are attended by over 150,000 kids a week). Code Club wasn't its own creation, though -- the Foundation merged with the eponymous organization back in 2015.

    Looking at numbers alone, it's easy to see why Raspberry Pi and CoderDojo are a good fit. Plus, it's something the hardware maker has done successfully in the past. While their programming clubs may slightly differ, both organizations agree there is "a need and room for both."

    Raspberry Pi Foundation CEO Eben Upton recently said that the organization would move away from major product launches and focus more on software, as well as "doubling down" on its charitable work. Today's announcement suggests that dream is becoming a reality.

    "Raspberry Pi will work closely with CoderDojo to advance our shared goals, pooling our resources and expertise to get more adult volunteers and young people involved in the movement," said the Raspberry Pi Foundation a statement. "Our combined scale will allow us to invest more in the infrastructure and systems that underpin our work, and to offer a wider range of products and services to our communities."


  • Second-gen Moto 360 smartwatches will get Android Wear 2.0 soon

    A bunch of smartwatches got Android Wear 2.0 when it finally came out in April, but sadly, Moto 360 wasn't one of them. The company promised a late-May availability, and it sounds like it's staying true to its word. Motorola Support's Twitter account has revealed that the updated OS will soon start rolling out to second-gen Moto 360s in phases -- it might have even begun yesterday, which means some people could already have updated devices.

    The long-delayed Wear 2.0 comes with a new user interface that was especially designed for computing on a tiny screen. It reduces the number of clicks and swipes needed to navigate the OS, and it puts the Play Store right on your smartwatch so you can download apps directly. The platform also adds Google Assistant to your device, giving you an easy way to make a query or to control your apps with voice commands.

    Before you celebrate, though, make sure that what you have is the base second-gen version. The Moto 360 Sport will eventually get an update, but it won't be anytime soon. As for the first-gen Moto 360, the company is unfortunately leaving it out of the update altogether.
    @NamelessWing @Moto Happy to report that AndroidWear 2.0 will start rolling out in phases on Moto 360 2nd Gen, possibly as early as today.
    — Motorola Support (@Moto_Support) May 25, 2017
    Via: 9to5google

    Source: Motorola Support



  • The educational games of your youth have their own museum exhibit

    The Minnesota Education Computing Corporation might not be the most recognizable game developer today, but if you went to elementary school in the US anytime in the eighties or nineties, then you've almost certainly played -- and probably learned something from -- one of its educational games. The company started in 1973 as an initiative to put more computers into classrooms across Minnesota and eventually created over 300 different software titles, including the version of The Oregon Trail that became the cultural touchstone it is today. Now MECC and The Oregon Trail are finally getting the recognition they deserve in a retrospective exhibit from the Strong, the National Museum of Play.

    The museum actually inducted The Oregon Trail into the Video Game Hall of Fame back in 2016, and the new exhibit will include playable original versions of the game so younger generations can experience the excitement of hunting for buffalo in all it's 8-bit glory. Aside from teaching countless schoolkids grammar with officially opens on June 17th. But if you can't make it to Rochester, New York, you can also explore and play the original on Archive.org or take a trip down memory lane on MECC's own site.

    Source: The Museum of Play


  • Android exploit adds secret, thieving layers to your phone

    Researchers from UC Santa Barbara and Georgia Tech have discovered a fresh class of Android attacks, called Cloak and Dagger, that can operate secretly on a phone, allowing hackers to log keystrokes, install software and otherwise control a device without alerting its owner. Cloak and Dagger exploits take advantage of the Android UI, and they require just two permissions to get rolling: SYSTEM ALERT WINDOW ("draw on top") and BIND ACCESSIBILITY SERVICE ("a11y").

    This concerns researchers because Android automatically grants the draw-on-top permission for any app downloaded from the Play Store, and once a hacker is in, it's possible to trick someone into granting the a11y permission. A Cloak and Dagger-enabled app hides a layer of malicious activity under seemingly harmless visuals, luring users to click on unseen buttons and keystroke loggers.

    "To make things worse, we noticed that the accessibility app can inject the events, unlock the phone, and interact with any other app while the phone screen remains off," the researchers write. "That is, an attacker can perform a series of malicious operations with the screen completely off and, at the end, it can lock the phone back, leaving the user completely in the dark."


    Google is aware of the exploit.

    "We've been in close touch with the researchers and, as always, we appreciate their efforts to help keep our users safer," a spokesperson says. "We have updated Google Play Protect -- our security services on all Android devices with Google Play -- to detect and prevent the installation of these apps. Prior to this report, we had already built new security protections into Android O that will further strengthen our protection from these issues, moving forward."

    One of the researchers, Yanick Fratantonio, tells website accordingly. For now, he says, don't download random apps and keep an eye on those permissions.

    Source: Cloak and Dagger


  • Keybase brings seamless encrypted chats to anyone on the web

    Keybase is on a mission to make end-to-end encryption as easy as possible, everywhere you go online. After launching frictionless encrypted file sharing last year, the open-source security company rolled out Keybase Chat, a desktop and mobile chat app that allows users to send encrypted messages to anyone on the internet using just their Twitter, Facebook or Reddit username. Today, Keybase announced a few new launches that will make it even easier to send encrypted messages to anyone -- even if your recipient isn't set up to receive them yet.

    First, up a new Chrome extension adds an encrypted message button to user profiles on any of the social networks Keybase supports. (Aside from Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, the service also works with Hacker News and GitHub accounts.) If the user you're trying to message isn't already signed up for Keybase, they'll be notified via the social network they're on that they have an encrypted message waiting for them. The extension works alongside the Keybase desktop app, so your messages are encrypted end-to-end and they will be stored and unreadable until the recipient unlocks it. If you don't use Chrome, you can also use the main app to search for social media profiles and send a message from there.

    Speaking of the the app, Keybase Chat has also quietly made its way to Linux and Windows 10 machines, as well as mobile devices on Android and iOS. Since the project is open source, the company is still refining and adding features as more users come on board. Most importantly though, founder Chris Coyne has committed to implementing advanced blocking and abuse reporting features, which is important when you consider everyone on the web now has an encrypted inbox waiting for them.

    Source: Keybase


  • Amazon opens its first drive-through grocery store

    Need to pick up some supplies but can't be bothered to walk across a parking lot for them? Amazon's got you covered. In Seattle on Thursday, the company opened a grocery store that doesn't require you leave your vehicle, promising customers will only have to "drive in... and drive out."



    The service, dubbed AmazonFresh Pickup, is now live at two locations: in the SODO and Ballard neighborhoods. It's free for Prime members and there is no minimum order amount. Customers simply place their order online, drive to the store and wait. Once the order is ready, an employee wheels it out to the car and puts it in the trunk. That's it.

    The stores carry everything you'd expect to find at your local supermarket, albeit at a significantly higher price. Expect to pay $1 per lemon, $6.60 for a gallon of milk and $1.29 per apple. Or you can just do your shopping like you always have and save some cash.



  • Popular iOS notes app Bear adds sketching (and stickers)

    Bear, a fast, lightweight and lovely note-taking app for iOS and the Mac, has been building a following over the past year or so. The app's excellent design, small but essential feature set and steady stream of updates have made it worth its subscription cost ($14.99 per year or $1.49 per month, though you can get most of its features for free). Today, a pretty major update is rolling out to the iOS app: Bear now supports sketching. In keeping with Bear's focus on essentials, the sketching feature includes two different brushes, each with three different widths and a variety of colors.



    You can use your finger or a stylus, including the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro, and drawings sync across your iPhone, iPad and Mac provided you're a subscriber. But you can only create and edit drawings on the iPhone or iPad; on the Mac you can just view your scribbles. Those images live as attachments to text notes just like any other picture you bring into Bear.

    Another iOS-only feature is stickers for iMessage, because why not? As you might expect, they encompass a cute bear doing a variety of cute things. The last little update pertains to the app's visual themes -- now, when you change the app's theme, it'll also change the home screen icon on your phone or the dock icon on your Mac. But the main attraction is obviously sketching. While I don't want Bear's developers to add too many features and make the app into a bloated monster, pretty much every notes app out there (including Apple's Notes app) supports drawing to some extent. Having it in Bear just makes good sense.

    Source: Bear Writer


  • Tesla’s Model 3 budget EV can do 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds

    Some of the performance details of Tesla's Model 3, which is set to begin production in July, were leaked today by insiders at the Tesla Model 3 Owners Club. An infographic comparing the new, $35,000 model with the fancier and more powerful Model S reports a 0-60 time of a zippy 5.6 seconds.

    While that's slower than the Model S, the cheapest version of which is $69,500, it's a bit quicker than the comparably priced Chevy Bolt, which takes 6.5 seconds to hit 60MPH. The leaked specs, which were confirmed to Road & Track by a Tesla spokesperson, also note a range of 215-plus miles. And while that number isn't confirmed yet by the EPA, it's just short of the Bolt's 238-mile rating.

    The highly anticipated Model 3 pulled in a whopping 252,000 pre-orders in the first two days of its availability alone and reached around 400,000 in total. But while the car is fast, the production is slow. And unfortunately for those waiting, the infographic also appears to confirm the expected mid-2018 delivery date. Your electric car road races will just have to wait.

    Via: Road & Track

    Source: Tesla Model 3 Owners Club


  • The Wirecutter's best deals: Save $60 on a PlayStation VR

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer's guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

    You may have already seen Engadget posting reviews from our friends at The Wirecutter. Now, from time to time, we'll also be publishing their recommended deals on some of their top picks. Read on, and strike while the iron is hot -- some of these sales could expire mighty soon.
    our guide to the best VR headsets for PC and PS4. Signe Brewster writes, "Sony's PlayStation VR headset can't track you quite as well as the competition can, but it's good enough to provide a fun, solid virtual reality gaming experience. If you own a PlayStation 4 or 4 Pro (or would rather buy one than an expensive gaming PC), the PSVR's $500 price tag makes it an easy pick. There are plenty of games to choose from—including PSVR exclusives like Rez Infinite as well as games like EVE: Valkyrie that are available on Vive and Rift—its camera and controllers are PlayStation accessories you may already own, and it's easy to get into if you're already familiar with the PlayStation's user interface. Two of my testers also chose it as the most comfortable headset (the other two picked the Rift)."
    our best drones guide. Mike Perlman wrote, "If you need advanced photo and video capabilities, and you want to fly for a longer duration, and you really want to make sure you don't crash your $1,400 flying machine into the side of a barn, the Phantom 4 is for you. The Phantom 4 has a forward-collision sensing system that will stop the drone in its tracks before it gets too friendly with a tree. It also benefits from a longer battery life and rugged, redesigned body, including a totally new recessed gimbal that should better protect the camera assembly. Propellers can now be changed in the blink of an eye with a new press-and-lock system, and in addition to 4K recording, the Phantom 4 offers 120 frames per second at 1080p. Its newly designed lens cuts distortion significantly (compared to the Phantom 3) and it offers new modes including ActiveTrack (which automatically follows a moving subject), TapFly (which flies wherever the pilot taps on the FPV screen), and Sport Mode (in which the Phantom 4 can reach 45 mph for racing). Battery life has also been increased to a stated 28 minutes (about 22 minutes in our real-world testing). The Phantom 4 is the ultimate pick for seasoned photographers and videographers."
    the best school backpack for high school and college. Mathew Olsen writes, "Offering versatility at an appealing price, the L.L.Bean Quad Pack is a great backpack for taking to class, bringing on a walk through the park, or carrying on a day trip on the trails. First and foremost, the Quad is exceptionally comfortable even when loaded up in warm weather. It's spacious, capable of carrying a lot in its sensibly organized pockets. The Quad also boasts a unique outer pouch that can be the only storage you need for a short outing. On L.L.Bean's site the Quad has great reviews from high schoolers, hikers, law-school students, and archaeologists alike. It isn't a revolutionary bag, but for this price, you'll be hard-pressed to find a backpack as thoughtfully designed."


    our guide to the best camping stove. Kit Dillon writes, "Though it didn't boil water the fastest or slow-cook the longest, we decided it just didn't matter. Who cares if your water boils a minute faster or slower? The most important feature of the Coleman is that after getting tossed in and out of your car over and over again, it has the best chance of not breaking. With that in mind, it still boiled water faster—6 cups in 5 minutes on high—than anything except our upgrade pick. It is gentle enough to griddle golden-brown pancakes when turned down low, can cook with both burners on high on a single 16.4-ounce tank of propane for roughly an hour, and has the barest minimum of parts for easy maintenance. This model does not have a Piezo ignitor—that little red button you see on a lot of stoves that lights the gas—so you'll have to bring a lighter. To us, that's just one less thing to break (and they always break)."

    Because great deals don't just happen on Thursdays, sign up for our daily deals email and we'll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to The Wirecutter.com.



  • ‘Titanfall 2’ gets its first new mech

    Titanfall 2 was one of last year's most hotly-anticipated --and well-received -- titles and the team behind it has kept its multiplayer scene alive with several free DLC releases. While the playerbase has dwindled, the next gratis content addition, Monarch Reigns, might lure enough back to revive the game when it drops on May 30th. At long last players will get a seventh titan, the first new battle mech added to the game since its launch.



    The Monarch is a rework of the Vanguard titan -- aka, the original model that housed your robot bestie from the campaign mode, BT -- but tweaked for PVP. As the video's description states, the new robosuit "features a unique Upgrade Core, which allows her to improve her combat abilities during a battle based on options set by her Pilot. Monarch also has an impressive ability to draw power from enemy Titans to recharge her own shields, or the shields of her friendly Titans."

    The Monarch Reigns DLC will also add a new map, Relic, which returns from the first Titanfall. Expect many vertical faces to wallrun and big open space to snipe. Players can also buy a pair of prime skins for the Tone and Ronin titans, plus other in-game items, to support the team. Y'know, since they keep giving content away for free.

    Source: YouTube


  • Android co-founder teases smartphone reveal date on Twitter (updated)

    Android co-founder Andy Rubin teased us with a photo of his new smartphone this past March. The glimpse was small, showing only a corner of the new phone made by Rubin's company, Essential Products, Inc. The company jumped on Twitter today to announce that "something big" was coming May 30. Assuming the hype machine is in full force, this likely means that we will get a glimpse of the Essential smart phone in five days.
    Hi, welcome to our Twitter page. We're here to let you know something big is coming May 30th! Stay tuned...
    — Essential (@essential) May 25, 2017
    Essential will focus on a line up of connected tablets, smartphones and mobile software, according to early reports. The smartphone prototypes are reportedly larger than Apple's iPhone 7 Plus and feature bezel-free sreens and ceramic backings. The reports also say that the Essential team is working on a feature similar to Apple's 3D Touch and magnetic charging capabilities, which seems to position Rubin's new company as iPhone competition rather than other Android-powered hardware. We hope to find out more next week.


    Update: A followup tweet reveals a shadowy outline, but with a little editing appears to show a 360-degree camera add-on that's similar to the old Sidekick camera (a previous Rubin project). Looking at a recent tweet of Rubin's appears to confirm the camera, showing a colleague working on some sort of surround camera setup.
    We heard you @renan_batista - here's something to hold you over until next week: pic.twitter.com/QSIeXyjKNq
    — Essential (@essential) May 25, 2017Can anyone guess what my colleague Wei is working on? First correct guess wins a signed version of the product when it's ready! pic.twitter.com/RjGLczdCgV
    — Andy Rubin (@Arubin) April 12, 2017
    Via: The Verge

    Source: Essential (Twitter)


  • Baidu’s text-to-speech system mimics a variety of accents ‘perfectly'

    Chinese tech giant Baidu's text-to-speech system, Deep Voice, is making a lot of progress toward sounding more human. The latest news about the tech are audio samples showcasing its ability to accurately portray differences in regional accents. The company says that the new version, aptly named Deep Voice 2, has been able to "learn from hundreds of unique voices from less than a half an hour of data per speaker, while achieving high audio quality." That's compared to the 20 hours hours of training it took to get similar results from the previous iteration, for a single voice, further pushing its efficiency past Google's WaveNet in a few months time.

    Baidu says that unlike previous text-to-speech systems, Deep Voice 2 finds shared qualities between the training voices entirely on its own, and without any previous guidance. "Deep voice 2 can learn from hundreds of voices and imitate them perfectly," a blog post says.

    In a research paper (PDF), Baidu concludes that its neural network can create voice pretty effectively even from small voice samples from hundreds of different speakers. All of which to say, it might not be long before we start hearing digital assistants that are more representative of the voices users encounter in their day-to-day lives.

    To hear how far the tech has come and for more information of how the team got to this point, hit the source links below.

    Via: The Verge

    Source: Baidu (1), (2) (PDF)


  • Robot uses machine-learning to grab objects on the first try

    Training robots how to grasp various objects without dropping them usually requires a lot of practice. But a new robot, designed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Siemens and described in an upcoming paper, can learn how to grip new objects just by studying a database of 3D shapes.

    The robot is connected to a 3D sensor and a deep-learning neural network to which researchers fed images of objects. They included information about the objects' shapes, visual appearances and the physics of how to go about grabbing them. So, when a new object is placed in front of the robot, it just has to match it to a similar object in the database.

    In practice, when the robot was more than 50 percent confident that it could grab a new object, the robot was able to grip and not drop it 98 percent of the time. If it was less than 50 percent confident, the robot would give the object a poke and then decide on a gripping strategy. In those cases, the robot was successful 99 percent of the time. A quick little inspection is all it needs to overcome a lack of confidence.
    This method of robot training can shave a lot of time off from machine-learning processes and can produce robots with greater dexterity. "We can generate sufficient training data for deep neural networks in a day or so instead of running months of physical trials on a real robot," Jeff Mahler, a postdoctoral researcher working on the project, told MIT Technology Review. The robots currently used in factories are very precise and accurate with known objects but can't adjust well when faced with new ones. The efficiency of this training strategy and the reliability of the robot's grip sets this method up nicely for commercial use in the future.

    Via: MIT Technology Review

    Source: Arxiv


  • Instagram Direct doesn't care about your photo orientation

    Instagram Direct debuted in 2013 as a way to send photos and videos, well, directly to your friends on the photo sharing service. The Facebook-owned company has added more features to the system over the intervening years, like threaded messaging, disappearing messages and live video. Instagram Direct's latest update adds two more features aimed at creating a more robust messaging service: non-square images and links.

    When you send a permanent, non-disappearing photo to a buddy with Instagram Direct, you don't have find the perfect square crop anymore. Simply grab a portrait or landscape oriented photo from your camera roll and let fly. Sounds a lot easier than uploading non-square photos in the regular Instagram feed. Also, when you send a link, phone number or address in Direct, your friend can tap through to launch the appropriate app to handle it, like Safari, the phone app or your contacts.

    Instagram added more Snapchat-like features — disappearing photos and live video — to its Direct service in November 2016. It also bundled permanent and disappearing photos together this past April. These new additions might further encourage users to stay within the walled Instagram garden when chatting, instead of hopping over to apps like Snapchat. Landscape and portrait uploads are available on iOS now with Android to come later. Links, however, are available with the update on both platforms.

    Source: Instagram


  • Google starts tracking offline shopping
    Google already monitors online shopping - but now it's also keeping an eye on what people buy in physical stores as it tries to sell more digital advertising.  The Internet giant said Tuesday that a new tool will track how much money people spend in merchants' bricks-and-mortar stores after clicking on their digital ads.  The analysis will be done by matching the combined ad clicks of people who are logged into Google services with their collective purchases on credit and debit cards. Google says it won't be able to examine the specific items bought or how much a specific individual spent.  Well, this seems like something our politicians should prevent. This is such a terrible idea.


  • Amiga X5000: an alternate universe where the Amiga never died
    Ars reviews the Amiga X5000, and concludes:  The X5000 is different. It feels like an exotic car: expensive, beautifully engineered, and unique. If you bought one, you'd be one of a proud few, a collector and enthusiast. It practically begs for you to dig in and tinker with the internals - the system comes with an SDK, a C compiler, Python, and a huge amount of documentation for things like MUI, the innovative GUI library. On top of that, there is the mysterious XMOS chip, crying out for someone to create software that leverages its strengths. It feels like a developer€™s machine.  Should you buy one? That depends very much on what your needs are. If you are simply after the best price-to-performance ratio for a desktop computer, this is not the machine for you. But if you are interested in something very different, something that is pleasant and fun to use, and yet can still be used for modern desktop workloads, then the X5000 is worth a look. I have had this review unit on my desktop for over a month now, and frankly I don€™t want to give it back.  I reviewed the sam440ep with AmigaOS 4 way back in 2009, and came to a relatively similar conclusion - these machines are a ton of fun, but they're just prohibitively expensive, meaning only existing AmigaOS users will really get their hands on these. They really, really need a more accessible machine or board - a few hundred Euros, tops.


  • The largest Git repo on the planet
    Over the past 3 months, we have largely completed the rollout of Git/GVFS to the Windows team at Microsoft.  As a refresher, the Windows code base is approximately 3.5M files and, when checked in to a Git repo, results in a repo of about 300GB. Further, the Windows team is about 4,000 engineers and the engineering system produces 1,760 daily "lab builds" across 440 branches in addition to thousands of pull request validation builds. All 3 of the dimensions (file count, repo size and activity), independently, provide daunting scaling challenges and taken together they make it unbelievably challenging to create a great experience. Before the move to Git, in Source Depot, it was spread across 40+ depots and we had a tool to manage operations that spanned them.  As of my writing 3 months ago, we had all the code in one Git repo, a few hundred engineers using it and a small fraction (


  • Microsoft is placing a big bet on its new Surface family
    A week after introducing the Surface Laptop to the world, he's sitting in a room in Microsoft's Building 88 ready to show off his team's latest creation: the new Surface Pro. At first glance, it looks a lot like 2015's Surface Pro 4, but it's part of a bigger lineup of the entire Surface family that Microsoft is now ready to take worldwide.  For the first time in Surface history, Microsoft will start shipping two new products (Surface Pro and Surface Laptop) worldwide at launch. June 15th will see these new products launch, and a big expansion for the Surface Studio all-in-one PC, too. It's clearly a date that Microsoft has been working toward for quite some time, and as I walked around Microsoft's secretive Surface building located at its Redmond, Washington, campus, it's easy to see that the Surface family of devices is now coming to life.  Be honest with yourself: which line of devices feels more innovative and exciting: Surface or Mac?  Easy answer.


  • The MOnSter 6502
    A dis-integrated circuit project to make a complete, working transistor-scale replica of the classic MOS 6502 microprocessor.  This is sorcery - and art.


  • At Google, an employee-run mail list tracks harassment complaints
    At most companies, if you think you've witnessed sexual harassment, sexism, bigotry or racism, there s one way to get it addressed: going to human resources. At Google, there's another way to air your grievance: submitting your complaint to an employee-run message board that's curated into a weekly email.  The list, called "Yes, at Google," is a grassroots effort to collect anonymous submissions at Google and parent Alphabet Inc. and communicate them across the company, according to five current employees who receive the emails. "Yes, at Google" tracks allegations of unwelcome behavior at work in an attempt to make the company more inclusive, said the employees, who did not want to be named because they were not authorized to speak about internal company matters. Since starting in October, more than 15,000 employees - 20 percent of the company's workforce - have subscribed, according to two of those people.  Google management is aware of the list. "We work really hard to promote and preserve a culture of respect and inclusion," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "Our employees have numerous ways to raise issues - both negative and positive - with us, including through grassroots transparency efforts like this one. We take concerns seriously and take appropriate measures to address them."  This is a great initiative, and adds a ton of accountability into the reporting process for these matters. I wonder if you could complain if your brand new headquarters has every amenity from a huge gym to a massive wellness centre (...what even?), but no daycare.


  • US top court tightens patent suit rules in blow to patent trolls
    The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tightened rules for where patent lawsuits can be filed in a decision that may make it harder for so-called patent "trolls" to launch sometimes dodgy patent cases in friendly courts, a major irritant for high-tech giants like Apple and Alphabet Inc's Google.  In a decision that upends 27 years of law governing patent infringement cases, the justices sided with beverage flavoring company TC Heartland LLC in its legal battle with food and beverage company Kraft Heinz Co. The justices ruled 8-0 that patent suits can be filed only in courts located in the jurisdiction where the targeted company is incorporated.  Good. That district in Texas is screwed.


  • * The threat of increasing reliance on closed, foreign code *
    Like many other countries, The Netherlands uses a chip card for paying and using public transport, and while there's been a number of issues regarding its security, privacy, and stability, it won't be going anywhere any time soon. Just today, the various companies announced a new initiative where Android users can use their smartphones instead of their chip cards to pay for and use public transport.  The new initiative, jointly developed by the various companies operating our public transport system and our carriers, is Android-only, because Apple "does not allow it to work, on a technical level", and even then, it's only available on two of our three major carriers for now.  This got me thinking about something we rarely talk about: the increasing reliance on external platforms for vital societal infrastructure. While this is a test for now, it's easy to see how the eventual phasing out of the chip cards - already labelled as "outdated" by the companies involved - will mean we have to rely on platforms beyond society's control for vital societal infrastructure. Chip cards for public transport or banks or whatever are a major expense, and there's a clear economic incentive to eliminate them and rely on e.g. smartphones instead.  As we increasingly outsource access to vital societal infrastructure to foreign, external corporations, we have to start asking ourselves what this actually means. Things like public transport, payments, taxes, and so on, are absolutely critical to the functioning of our society, and to me, it seems like a terrible idea to restrict access to them to platforms beyond our own control.  Can you imagine what happens if an update to an application required to access public transport gets denied by Apple? What if the tool for paying your taxes gets banned from the Play Store days before the tax deadline? What if a crucial payment application is removed from the App Store? Imagine the immense, irreparable damage this could do to a society in mere hours.  If these systems - for whatever reason - break down today, we can hold our politicians accountable, because they bear the responsibility for these systems. During the introduction of our current public transport chip card and its early growing pains, our parliament demanded swift action from the responsible minister (secretary in American parlance). Since the private companies responsible for the chip card system took part in a tender process with strict demands, guidelines, rules, and possible consequences for failure to deliver, said companies could and can be held accountable by the government. This covers the entire technological stack, from the cards themselves up to the control systems that run everything.  If we move to a world where applications for iOS and Android are the only way to access crucial government-provided services, this system of accountability breaks down, because while the application itself would be part of the tender process, meaning its creator would be accountable, the platforms it runs on would not - i.e., only a part of the stack is covered. In other words, if Google or Apple decides to reject an update or remove an application - they are not accountable for the consequences in the same way a party to a government tender would be. The system of accountability breaks down.  Of course, even today this system of accountability isn't perfect, but it is a vital path for recourse in case private companies fail to deliver. I'm sure not every one of you even agrees the above is a problem at all - especially Americans have a more positive view of corporate services compared to government services (not entirely unreasonable if you look at the state of US government services today). In countries like The Netherlands, though, despite our constant whining about every one of these services, they actually rank among the very best in the world.  I am genuinely worried about the increasing reliance on - especially - technology companies without them actually being part of the system of accountability. The fact that we might, one day, be required to rely on black boxes like iOS devices, Microsoft computers, or Google Play Services-enabled Android phones to access vital government services is a threat to our society and the functioning of our democracy. With access to things like public transport, money, and all that come with those, locked to closed-source platforms, we, the people, will have zero control over the pillars of our own societies.  What can we do to address this? I believe we need to take aggressive steps - at the EU-level - to demand full public access to the source code that underpins the platforms that are vital to the functioning of our society. We, the people, have the right to know how these systems work, what they do, and how secure they really are. As computers and phones become the only way to access and use crucial government services, they must be fully 100% open source.  We as The Netherlands are irrelevant and would never be able to make such demands stick, but the EU is one of the most powerful economic blocks in the world. If you want access to the wealthy 450 million customers in the European Union (figure excludes the UK), your software must be open source so that we can ensure the security and stability of our infrastructure. If you do not comply, you will be denied access to this huge economic block. Most of you will probably balk at this suggestion, but I truly believe it is the only way to guarantee the security and stability of vital government services we rely on every single day.  We should not rely on closed-source, foreign code for our government services. It's time the European Union starts thinking about how to address this threat. Read more on this exclusive OSNews article...


  • "Kill Google AMP before it kills the web"
    These, in my view, don't go far enough in stating the problem and I feel this needs to be said very clearly: Google's AMP is bad - bad in a potentially web-destroying way. Google AMP is bad news for how the web is built, it's bad news for publishers of credible online content, and it's bad news for consumers of that content. Google AMP is only good for one party: Google. Google, and possibly, purveyors of fake news.  I haven't encountered enough AMP pages in my browsing time to really form an informed opinion on it, but as a matter of principle, I'm against it. At the same time, however, all of us know that modern websites are really, really terrible. It's why so many of us use ad blockers (on top of privacy concerns, of course) - to make the modern web browsing experience bearable. In that sense, AMP serves a similar role.  Simply put: if everyone created news websites and blogs as fast and light as, say, OSNews, we wouldn't need AMP or ad blockers for speed purposes (you might still want an ad blocker for privacy reasons, of course).  On a related note, something funny happened regarding this specific article. Yesterday, John Gruber wrote:  But other than loading fast, AMP sucks. It implements its own scrolling behavior on iOS, which feels unnatural, and even worse, it breaks the decade-old system-wide iOS behavior of being able to tap the status bar to scroll to the top of any scrollable view.  Setting aside the sulphuric irony of a fervent Apple fan crusading for openness, it turns out that AMP is not implementing its own scrolling at all - the AMP team actually found a bug in Safari, reported it to Apple, and then Apple replied with stating they are switching the whole of Safari over to what Gruber perceived as AMP's own scrolling behaviour:  With respect to scrolling: We (AMP team) filed a bug with Apple about that (we didn't implement scrolling ourselves, just use a div with overflow). We asked to make the scroll inertia for that case the same as the normal scrolling.  Apple's response was (surprisingly) to make the default scrolling like the overflow scrolling. So, with the next Safari release all pages will scroll like AMP pages. Hope Gruber is happy then :)  Well, I thought this was entertaining.


  • ReactOS 0.4.5 released
    ReactOS 0.4.5 has been released.  Thanks to the work of Katayama Hirofumi and Mark Jansen, ReactOS now better serves requests for fonts and font metrics, leading to an improved rendering of applications and a more pleasant user experience. Your continued donations have also funded a contract for Giannis Adamopoulos to fix every last quirk in our theming components. The merits of this work can be seen in ReactOS 0.4.5, which comes with a smoother themed user interface and the future promises to bring even more improvements. In another funded effort, Hermès Bélusca-Maïto has got MS Office 2010 to run under ReactOS, another application from the list of most voted apps. Don€™t forget to install our custom Samba package from the Application Manager if you want to try it out for yourself.


  • Android developers can now block rooted devices, Netflix bites
    Over the weekend, it was discovered that the Android Netflix application could no longer be installed on rooted Android devices - in fact, it vanished from the Play Store on rooted devices completely. Netflix then confirmed it started blocking rooted devices from installing the Netflix application.  Well, it turns out we'll only be going downhill from here, as Google explained at I/O that from now on, developers will be able to block their applications from being installed on rooted Android devices.  Developers will be able to choose from 3 states shown in the top image: not excluding devices based on SafetyNet, excluding those that don't pass integrity, or excluding the latter plus those that aren't certified by Google. That means any dev could potentially block their apps from showing and being directly installable in the Play Store on devices that are rooted and/or running a custom ROM, as well as on emulators and uncertified devices (think Meizu and its not-so-legal way of getting Play Services and the Play Store on its phones). This is exactly what many of you were afraid would happen after the Play Store app started surfacing a Device certification status.  This is bad news for the custom ROM community. If I can no longer install Netflix (and possibly more applications) on custom ROMs, there's no way I'll be using custom ROMs on my devices. For now, this is a Play function and we can still sideload the applications in question, but with Google Play Services installed on virtually every Android device, one has to wonder - and worry - how long it'll be before such checks happen on-device instead of in-Play.


  • Google introduces Android Go
    During I/O, Google also announced Android Go, a version of the mobile operating system optimised for lower-end devices. From Google's announcement:  OS: We're optimizing Android O to run smoothly and efficiently on entry-level devices. Apps: We're also designing Google apps to use less memory, storage space, and mobile data, including apps such as YouTube Go, Chrome, and Gboard. Play: On entry-level devices, Play store will promote a better user experience by highlighting apps that are specifically designed for these devices -- such as apps that use less memory, storage space, and mobile data -- while still giving users access to the entire app catalog.  If a device has less than 1 GB of RAM, it will automatically use the Android Go version of Android. In addition, Google has set up a set of guidelines applications must adhere to in order to qualify for the special highlighting mentioned above.  The first question that popped into my mind was - why isn't every device getting this supposedly faster, and more lightweight version of Android? Will we be able to 'force' our devices to use Android Go, even if they don't officially qualify? The second question is - why would a developer go the lengths of creating additional versions of their application, instead of what they ought to do, which is slim down their existing application?


  • Google adds Kotlin as official Android programming language
    I'm a little late with all the stuff from Google I/O last night due to personal issues keeping me from my PC, so let's catch up. There's a ton of interesting stuff, but I think what OSNews readers will be interested in the most is the Android project officially adding support for Kotlin.  Today the Android team is excited to announce that we are officially adding support for the Kotlin programming language. Kotlin is a brilliantly designed, mature language that we believe will make Android development faster and more fun. It has already been adopted by several major developers - Expedia, Flipboard, Pinterest, Square, and others - for their production apps. Kotlin also plays well with the Java programming language; the effortless interoperation between the two languages has been a large part of Kotlin's appeal.  The Kotlin plug-in is now bundled with Android Studio 3.0 and is available for immediate download. Kotlin was developed by JetBrains, the same people who created IntelliJ, so it is not surprising that the IDE support for Kotlin is outstanding.  And the announcement from the Kotlin project itself:  For Android developers, Kotlin support is a chance to use a modern and powerful language, helping solve common headaches such as runtime exceptions and source code verbosity. Kotlin is easy to get started with and can be gradually introduced into existing projects, which means that your existing skills and technology investments are preserved.  As for user-facing features in Android O, it's definitely a more low-key affair than earlier releases, with most new features fitting neatly in the "huh, neat" category. With a massive low-level project like Treble underway, it makes sense for Android to not rock the boat too much with this year's release. There's Notification Dots, smarter text selection, completely redesigned emoji, and more. There's also Android Go,  but I'm saving that for a later item.


  • AMD unveils the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition
    So for today's AMD Financial Analyst Day, AMD has released a little bit more information as part of the next step of their campaign. The first Vega product to be released has a name, it has a design, and it has performance figures. Critically, it even has a release date. I hesitate to call this a full announcement in the typical sense - AMD is still holding some information back until closer to the launch - but we now finally have a clear picture of where the Vega generation kicks off for AMD.


  • ArcaOS 5.0 released
    ArcaOS 5.0 has been released and it is available to be bought at the Arca Noae shop page. It is based on OS/2 Warp 4.52 binaries, and contains newer drivers for ACPI, USB, and networking, a new installer and several open source software projects such as Firefox, Qt, Libc, and OpenOffice.   The OS2World Community also posted a statement with important OS/2 community links and some remarks on the important role open source software has in the OS/2 community.



  • The Current Phase of the Moon
        
    Ladies and gentlemen, we've left Mars. Well, at least I'm done with the Martian lander from my past few articles. I hope you had chance to experiment with it and find out that it's not too easy to land a craft on any planet! 
       


  • Mastering ATA over Ethernet
        
    At one point in time, when you wanted to attach an external block storage device to a server, you mapped it as a Logical Unit (LU) across a Storage Area Network (SAN). In the early days, you would do this over the Fibre Channel (FC) protocol. More recently, iSCSI (SCSI over IP) has usurped FC in most data centers.
       


  • The Family Dashboard
        
    I've written a little about PHP before, because I think it's a great utility language for writing quick things you need to do. Plus, it allows you to use a web browser as your interface, and everyone has a web browser. That makes it very convenient for my family, because I can make simple web interfaces for the various things I normally have to do from the command line.
       


  • Retro United Ltd.'s Write!
        
    Even when you're sequestered in a monastery with nothing to do but write, you still need a tool to record your thoughts.
       


  • Wibu-Systems CmASIC
        
    Wibu-Systems describes the new generation of its CmASIC module as "the answer to the security-by-design needs of modern embedded computing technology leaders:. CmASIC is a module that Intelligent Device Manufacturers (IDMs) can directly embed into their boards to provide out-of-the box security and entitlement management.  
       


  • Adding IoT Flare to a Hot Springs and Spa Business
        
    As the folks at Bozeman Hot Springs usher their hot springs and spa into the 21st century with new technology and pools, they are thinking about new ways to delight their customers and stay top of mind. One recurring request, no doubt from the avid skiing community, is the ability to read current pool temperatures online, in the same way ski resorts publish current snow conditions.
       


  • OpenStack Gets...Easier
        
    Although the promise of OpenStack and private cloud is huge, and still largely in front of us, the one challenge we've heard from people wanting to try it is "It's a bear!" Its reputation, whether or not well-deserved, is one of being a real challenge for even skilled IT people to install and deploy.
       



  • Make Your Containers Transparent with Puppet's Lumogon
        
    As development and IT shops look for ways to more quickly test and deploy software or scale out their environments, containers have become a go-to solution. With Docker and similar tools, you can spin up dev and production containerized platforms that are fast, lightweight and consistent. 
       


  • Automatic Slack Notifications
        
    Slack is an incredible communication tool for groups of any size (see my  recent piece on it). At the company I work for during the day, Slack has become more widely used than email or instant messaging. It truly has become the hub of company communication.
       


  • ioSafe Server 5
        
    Until now, says ioSafe, true zero-recovery-point server solutions have been available only to the biggest of companies. However, with the arrival of ioSafe's Server 5, SMEs have access to "the industry's first fire and waterproof server" designed to eliminate data loss and minimize downtime.  
       


  • Orchestration with MCollective
        
    I originally got into systems administration because I loved learning about computers, and I figured that was a career that always would offer me something new to learn. Now many years later that prediction has turned out to be true, and it seems like there are new things to learn all the time.
       


  • Android Candy: Landing on the Moon, with your Thumbs
        
    I do a lot of system administration with my thumbs. Yes, if I'm home, I grab a laptop or go to my office and type in a real terminal window. Usually, when things go wrong though, I'm at my daughters' volleyball match or shopping with my wife. Thankfully, most tasks can be done remotely via SSH. There are lots of SSH clients for Android, but my favorite is JuiceSSH. 
       


  • Will Anything Make Linux Obsolete?
        
    Remember blogging? Hell, remember magazine publishing? Shouldn't be hard. You're reading some now.

    Both are still around, but they're obsolete—at least relatively. Two cases in point: my blog and Linux Journal. 
       


  • iguazio's Continuous Analytics Solution
        
    In industries like financial services, healthcare and IoT, organizations are faced with the challenge of complexity across the entire data lifecycle. To help enterprises solve big data operational challenges and generate real-time insights, iguazio has developed a new Continuous Analytics Solution.  
       




  • Extended File Attributes Rock!
    Worldwide, data is growing at a tremendous rate. However, one recent study has pointed out that the size of files is not necessarily growing at the same rate; meaning the number of files is growing rapidly. How do we manage all of this data and files? While the answer to that question is complex, one place we can start is with Extended File Attributes. Continue reading


  • Checksumming Files to Find Bit-Rot
    In a previous article extended file attributes were presented. These are additional bits of metadata that are tied to the file and can be used in a variety of ways. One of these ways is to add checksums to the file so that corrupted data can be detected. Let's take a look at how we can do this including some simple Python examples. Continue reading



  • What’s an inode?
    As you might have noticed, we love talking about file systems. In these discussions the term "inode" is often thrown about. But what is an inode and how does it relate to a file system? Glad you asked. Continue reading




  • Emailing HPC
    Email is not unlike MPI. The similarities may help non-geeks understand parallel computers a little better. Continue reading



  • iotop: Per Process I/O Usage
    Based on a reader comment, we take iotop for a spin to see if it can be used for monitoring the IO usage of individual processes on a system. The result? It has some interesting capability that we haven't found in other tools. Continue reading





  • SandForce 1222 SSD Testing, Part 3: Detailed Throughput Analysis
    Our last two articles have presented an initial performance examination of a consumer SandForce based SSD from a throughput and IOPS perspective. In this article we dive deeper into the throughput performance of the drive, along with a comparison to an Intel X-25E SSD. I think you will be surprised at what is discovered. Continue reading


  • Putting Drupal to Work
    Drupal is a simple but powerful CMS. However, you'll probably want to configure it. Learn how to tweak Drupal's settings to your liking. Continue reading


  • SandForce 1222 SSD Testing – Part 2: Initial IOPS Results
    SandForce has developed a very interesting and unique SSD controller that uses real-time data compression. This affects data throughput and SSD longevity. In this article, we perform an initial examination of the IOPS performance of a SandForce 1222-based SSD. The results can be pretty amazing. Continue reading


  • Drupal at Warp Speed
    Need to setup Drupal CMS but don't have the time to learn how? Try this 30 minute quick start guide. Continue reading


  • Chasing The Number
    The Top500 list is a valuable measure of HPC progress, but the race it has spawned maybe over for many organizations Continue reading


  • Stick a Fork in Flock: Why it Failed
    This probably won't come as a surprise to many, but the "social Web browser" has thrown in the towel. Don't cry for the Flock team - they're flying the coop for Zynga to go make Facebook games or something. But Flock's loyal fans are out in the cold. Why'd Flock fail? There's a few lessons to be learned. Continue reading


Page last modified on October 08, 2013, at 02:08 PM