Gamer Geek News


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Astronaut Watches Russian Space Station Module Fall From Space In Fiery Demise

On Monday, astronauts said goodbye to a cornerstone of the International Space Station and captured stunning images of the compartment burning up in Earth's atmosphere. reports: A Russian Progress cargo vehicle towed the module, called Pirs, away from the space station and down through Earth's atmosphere to ensure the module burned up completely and reduce the odds of any large chunks making it to Earth's surface. Russia had launched its Pirs module in 2001; since then, the module, which served as a port to the space station, hosted more than 70 different capsules and supported Russian cosmonauts conducting extravehicular activities, or spacewalks. To make room for Russia's new science module, dubbed Nauka, which launched on July 21 and will arrive at the station on Thursday (July 29), Pirs had to go. Yesterday's fiery retirement ceremony marks the first time a major component of the International Space Station has been discarded. The attached Progress vehicle, which had arrived at the space station in February, controlled Pirs' re-entry to ensure that the module was destroyed as thoroughly as possible. European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet shared the photographs on Flickr.

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Posted on 28 July 2021 | 7:00 am

UK Government Backs Scheme For Motorway Cables To Power Lorries

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The government will fund the design of a scheme to install overhead electric cables to power electric lorries on a motorway near Scunthorpe, as part of a series of studies on how to decarbonize road freight. The electric road system -- or e-highway -- study, will draw up plans to install overhead cables on a 20km (12.4 miles) stretch of the M180 near Scunthorpe, in Lincolnshire. If the designs are accepted and building work is funded the trucks could be on the road by 2024. The e-highway study is one of several options that will be funded, along with a study of hydrogen fuel cell trucks and battery electric lorries, the Department for Transport said on Tuesday. On the e-highway, lorries fitted with rigs called pantographs -- similar to those used by trains and trams -- would be able to tap into the electricity supply to power electric motors. Lorries would also have a smaller battery to power them over the first and last legs of the journey off the motorway. The project is led by Costain, an infrastructure construction company that also operates some UK motorways, using trucks built by Sweden's Scania and electric technology from Germany's Siemens that is already in use in smaller-scale trials there, Sweden and the US.

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Posted on 28 July 2021 | 3:30 am

EFF Sues US Postal Office For Records About Covert Social Media Spying Program

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service and its inspection agency seeking records about a covert program to secretly comb through online posts of social media users before street protests, raising concerns about chilling the privacy and expressive activity of internet users. From the press release: Under an initiative called Internet Covert Operations Program, analysts at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Postal Service's law enforcement arm, sorted through massive amounts of data created by social media users to surveil what they were saying and sharing, according to media reports. Internet users' posts on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, and Telegraph were likely swept up in the surveillance program. USPIS has not disclosed details about the program or any records responding to EFF's FOIA request asking for information about the creation and operation of the surveillance initiative. In addition to those records, EFF is also seeking records on the program's policies and analysis of the information collected, and communications with other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), about the use of social media content gathered under the program. Media reports revealed that a government bulletin dated March 16 was distributed across DHS's state-run security threat centers, alerting law enforcement agencies that USPIS analysts monitored "significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021." Protests around the country were planned for that day, and locations and times were being shared on Parler, Telegram, Twitter, and Facebook, the bulletin said. "We're filing this FOIA lawsuit to shine a light on why and how the Postal Service is monitoring online speech. This lawsuit aims to protect the right to protest," said Houston Davidson, EFF public interest legal fellow. "The government has never explained the legal justifications for this surveillance. We're asking a court to order the USPIS to disclose details about this speech-monitoring program, which threatens constitutional guarantees of free expression and privacy."

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Posted on 28 July 2021 | 2:02 am

YouTube Punishes Brazil's President For Spreading Lies About COVID

YouTube has removed videos posted by Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro for violating its content policies, in the strongest measure yet that tech giants in the social media-loving country have taken toward censoring the president. VICE News reports: YouTube has said that if Bolsonaro breaks the video-sharing service's rules again, his channel may be suspended for a week and, in case of recurrence, he should be permanently banned. The video platform told the far-right leader last week that 15 of his videos had been removed from his channel for spreading COVID-19 misinformation -- some of which promoted quack coronavirus cures that critics say can sometimes cause collateral health damages like kidney failure. The news came days after the president was discharged from hospital after undergoing treatment for an intestinal blockage that provoked a 10-day hiccup attack that hindered his ability to speak. President Bolsonaro has so far remained silent on YouTube's decision, but he's been increasingly vocal in railing against lockdowns, stirring vaccine suspicions and COVID-related hoaxes, ridiculing people for wearing masks and downplaying the dangers of the virus as "a little flu." Last year, the former army captain accused the press of "tricking" citizens about the severity of the virus. Over 550,502 Brazilians have died from COVID-19, making the country's outbreak the world's second-deadliest after the U.S.

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Posted on 28 July 2021 | 1:25 am

Instagram Makes Under-16s' Accounts Private By Default

Instagram has made new under-16s' accounts private by default so only approved followers can see posts and "like" or comment. The BBC reports: Tests showed only one in five opted for a public account when the private setting was the default, it said. And existing account holders would be sent a notification "highlighting the benefits" of switching to private. But Instagram also said it was pushing ahead with new apps for under-13s, despite a backlash from some groups. "The reality is that they are already online and, with no foolproof way to stop people from misrepresenting their age, we want to build experiences designed specifically for them, managed by parents and guardians," parent company Facebook said. Although it was also developing artificial-intelligence systems to find and remove under-age accounts. "Historically, we asked young people to choose between a public account or a private account when they signed up for Instagram but our recent research showed that they appreciate a more private experience," the company said. Another of its changes -- preventing accounts showing "potentially suspicious behavior" such as recently having been blocked from messaging or following children's accounts -- would make them "difficult to find for certain adults," Instagram said. Meanwhile, "a more precautionary approach" will see advertisers able to target children based on only age, gender, and location, rather than interests and web-browsing habits. And while defending targeted ads in general and the optout features it has for some types, Instagram said: "We have heard from youth advocates that young people may not be well equipped to make these decisions."

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Posted on 28 July 2021 | 12:45 am

Activision Blizzard Employees To Walk Out Following Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Activison Blizzard employees are staging a walkout on Wednesday, July 28th in response to the company's handling of sexual harassment allegations brought by the state of California. Employees will meet outside Blizzard's main campus in Irvine at 10AM PST. "We believe that our values as employees are not being accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership," the organizers said in a statement. The news comes after California sued the renowned gaming studio and its publisher, saying women were subjected to constant sexual harassment and discrimination at work. One female employee allegedly died by suicide after having nude photos of her passed around the office. Following the suit, numerous employees took to Twitter to detail additional examples of harassment and discrimination. Former Blizzard president Mike Morhaime also issued a statement saying "I am extremely sorry that I failed you." The company denied the allegations, saying the lawsuit was merely "irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State's best businesses out of California." Employees are putting forward four demands as part of the walkout: end forced arbitration clauses in all employee contracts; implement new hiring and promotion processes to increase representation across the company; publish salary and promotion data "for all employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company"; and allow a diversity, equity, and inclusion task force to hire a third-party organization to audit the executive staff.

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Posted on 28 July 2021 | 12:02 am

'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli's One-of-a-Kind Wu-Tang Clan Album Sold By US Government

H_Fisher writes: Only one copy exists of the Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, and it was owned by "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli. Now, NPR reports that this album has been sold by the U.S. government to an unnamed buyer in order to pay Shkreli's civil forfeiture judgment following his conviction for securities fraud. The album, which was originally sold for $2 million, exists only as one physical CD copy. It was seized along with other assets in 2018, and while the sale price and buyer weren't identified, Shkreli's attorney says that his client has now repaid the $7.4 million forfeiture judgement.

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Posted on 27 July 2021 | 11:20 pm

Lucasfilm Hires Deepfake YouTuber Who Fixed The Mandalorian

Lucasfilm has hired the YouTuber known as Shamook, whose The Mandalorian deepfake, published in December, has earned nearly 2 million views for improving the VFX used to de-age Mark Hamill. CNET reports: "As some of you may already know, I joined ILM/Lucasfilms a few months ago and haven't had the time to work on any new YouTube content," Shamook wrote in the comment section of a recent video. "Now I've settled into my job, uploads should start increasing again. They'll still be slow, but hopefully not months apart." Shamook said in the comments that his job title is, "Senior Facial Capture Artist." Lucasfilm confirmed the new hire (via IndieWire). "[Industrial Light and Magic is] always on the lookout for talented artists and have in fact hired the artist that goes by the online persona 'Shamook,'" a Lucasfilm representative said in a statement. "Over the past several years ILM has been investing in both machine learning and A.I. as a means to produce compelling visual effects work and it's been terrific to see momentum building in this space as the technology advances." Shamook also "fixed" The Irishman too.

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Posted on 27 July 2021 | 10:40 pm

Google Cloud Offers a Model For Fixing Google's Product-Killing Reputation

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google's reputation for aggressively killing products and services is hurting the company's brand. Any new product launch from Google is no longer a reason for optimism; instead, the company is met with questions about when the product will be shut down. It's a problem entirely of Google's own making, and it's yet another barrier that discourages customers from investing (either time, money, or data) in the latest Google thing. The wide public skepticism of Google Stadia is a great example of the problem. A Google division with similar issues is Google Cloud Platform, which asks companies and developers to build a product or service powered by Google's cloud infrastructure. Like the rest of Google, Cloud Platform has a reputation for instability, thanks to quickly deprecating APIs, which require any project hosted on Google's platform to be continuously updated to keep up with the latest changes. Google Cloud wants to address this issue, though, with a new "Enterprise API" designation. Enterprise APIs basically get a roadmap that promises stability for certain APIs. Google says, "The burden is on us: Our working principle is that no feature may be removed (or changed in a way that is not backwards compatible) for as long as customers are actively using it. If a deprecation or breaking change is inevitable, then the burden is on us to make the migration as effortless as possible." If Google needs to change an API, customers will now get a minimum of one year's notice, along with tools, documentation, and other materials. Google goes on to say, "To make sure we follow these tenets, any change we introduce to an API is reviewed by a centralized board of product and engineering leads and follows a rigorous product lifecycle evaluation." Despite being one of the world's largest Internet companies and basically defining what modern cloud infrastructure looks like, Google isn't doing very well in the cloud infrastructure market. Analyst firm Canalys puts Google in a distant third, with 7 percent market share, behind Microsoft Azure (19 percent) and market leader Amazon Web Services (32 percent). Rumor has it (according to a report from The Information) that Google Cloud Platform is facing a 2023 deadline to beat AWS and Microsoft, or it will risk losing funding. Ex-Googler Steve Yegge laid out the problems with Google Cloud Platform last year in a post titled "Dear Google Cloud: Your Deprecation Policy is Killing You." Google's announcement seems to hit most of what that post highlights, like a lack of documentation and support, an endless treadmill of API upgrades, and Google Cloud's general disregard for backward compatibility. Yegge argues that successful platforms like Windows, Java, and Android (a group Yegge says is isolated from the larger Google culture) owe much of their success to their commitment to platform stability. AWS is the market leader partly because it's considered a lot more stable than Google Cloud Platform.

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Posted on 27 July 2021 | 10:02 pm

Elon Musk Sniped at Apple Twice on Earnings Call

Tesla CEO Elon Musk sniped at Silicon Valley neighbor Apple twice during a conference call to discuss Tesla earnings on Monday. From a report: Although the companies don't compete directly today, Apple is reportedly building an electric self-driving vehicle under a project code-named Titan, and has attracted a number of engineers and executives away from Tesla. When asked about Tesla's supply chain, Musk said that there's a misperception that Tesla uses a lot of cobalt, a key material in the production of lithium-ion cells used in both smartphones and electric cars. "Apple uses I think almost 100% cobalt in their batteries and cell phones and laptops, but Tesla uses no cobalt in the iron-phosphate packs, and almost none in the nickel-based chemistries," Musk said. "On a weighted-average basis we might use 2% cobalt compared to say, Apple's 100% cobalt. Anyway, so it's just really not a factor." [...] Later in the call, Musk made a crack about Apple's so-called "walled garden," which is named because Apple strictly controls what software can be installed on the iPhone through its App Store. Apple's walled garden is facing scrutiny from lawmakers and other companies, including in an antitrust trial that took place earlier this year after it was sued by Epic Games over App Store fees and policies. "I think we do want to emphasize that our goal is to support the advent of sustainable energy," Musk said in response to a question about letting competitors use its charger network. "It is not to create a walled garden and use that to bludgeon our competitors which is used by some companies." Musk then faked a cough and said, "Apple."

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Posted on 27 July 2021 | 9:24 pm

Former eBay Supervisor Sentenced To 18 Months in Prison For Cyberstalking Case Targeting Natick Couple

A former security supervisor at eBay received an 18-month federal prison sentence Tuesday for his role in a bizarre campaign of cyberstalking aimed at a Natick couple that ran an online newsletter often critical of the e-commerce giant, authorities said. The Boston Globe: The ex-supervisor, Philip Cooke, 56, of San Jose, Cali., had pleaded guilty in US District Court in Boston in October 2020 to conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with a witness, legal filings show. On Tuesday, prosecutors said, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison, as well as three years of supervised release including a 12-month period of home detention. He was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service, according to the US attorney's office. Cooke was one of seven former eBay employees charged in connection with the stalking, which authorities said targeted Ina and David Steiner, a Natick couple who recently filed a federal lawsuit against the company and other parties linked to the harrassment. Rosemary Scapicchio, a prominent Boston attorney representing the couple in their civil suit, said via phone after Monday's hearing that her clients "were relieved" that Cooke received time behind bars, calling it "the first step in their pursuit of accountability" for all those involved. "There needs to be corporate accountability" as well, Scapicchio said.

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Posted on 27 July 2021 | 8:42 pm

CDC: Vaccinated People in COVID Hotspots Should Resume Wearing Masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance on Tuesday recommending that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor, public settings if they are in parts of the U.S. with substantial to high transmission, among other circumstances. From a report: The guidance, a reversal from recommendations made two months ago, comes as the Delta variant continues to drive up case rates across the country. Millions of people in the U.S. -- either by choice or who are ineligible -- remain unvaccinated and at risk of serious infection. Community leaders in areas with high transmission rates should encourage vaccination and masking, the agency says. In another reversal, the CDC also recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools this incoming school year, regardless of vaccination status. Los Angeles County, New Orleans, Savannah and Chicago are among the major metropolitan areas that reinstated mask mandates amid a rise in cases.

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Posted on 27 July 2021 | 8:01 pm

Harvard Professor Begins New Search For Alien Spaceships in Our Skies

Harvard's controversial astronomer Avi Loeb is leading a new initiative, dubbed the Galileo Project, to check Earth's skies and the rest of the solar system for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. From a report: The longtime astronomy professor, who became well-known for his belief that interstellar object Oumuamua was likely an alien probe, announced the details of his plan via a virtual press conference Monday. Officially, the initiative is described as "a transparent scientific project to advance a systematic experimental search for cross-validated evidence of potential astro-archaeological artifacts or active technical equipment made by putative existing or extinct extraterrestrial technological civilizations (ETCs)." Translation: The plan is to use a variety of telescopes to look for alien spaceships, probes or other debris left behind by intelligent beings who weren't born on Earth. "What we see in our sky is not something that politicians or military personnel should interpret because they were not trained as scientists," Loeb told reporters. "It's for the science community to figure out... based on non-governmental data that we will assemble as scientists." The first phase of the project involves setting up a network of dozens of relatively small telescopes around the globe that will attempt to capture new images of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP, the newly favored and more inclusive acronym designed to replace "UFOs").

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Posted on 27 July 2021 | 7:21 pm

50 Years Ago, NASA Put a Car on the Moon

The lunar rovers of Apollo 15, 16 and 17 parked American automotive culture on the lunar surface, and expanded the scientific range of the missions' astronaut explorers. From a report: Dave Scott was not about to pass by an interesting rock without stopping. It was July 31, 1971, and he and Jim Irwin, his fellow Apollo 15 astronaut, were the first people to drive on the moon. After a 6-hour inaugural jaunt in the new lunar rover, the two were heading back to their lander, the Falcon, when Mr. Scott made an unscheduled pit stop. West of a crater called Rhysling, Mr. Scott scrambled out of the rover and quickly picked up a black lava rock, full of holes formed by escaping gas. Mr. Scott and Mr. Irwin had been trained in geology and knew the specimen, a vesicular rock, would be valuable to scientists on Earth. They also knew that if they asked for permission to stop and get it, clock-watching mission managers would say no. So Mr. Scott made up a story that they stopped the rover because he was fidgeting with his seatbelt. The sample was discovered when the astronauts returned to Earth, Mr. Scott described what he'd done, and "Seatbelt Rock" became one of the most prized geologic finds from Apollo 15. Like many lunar samples returned to Earth by the final Apollo missions, Seatbelt Rock never would have been collected if the astronauts had not brought a car with them. Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 are the NASA lunar missions that tend to be remembered most vividly. But at the 50th anniversary of Apollo 15, which launched on July 26, 1971, some space enthusiasts, historians and authors are giving the lunar rover its due as one of the most enduring symbols of the American moon exploration program. Foldable, durable, battery-powered and built by Boeing and General Motors, the vehicle is seen by some as making the last three missions into the crowning achievement of the Apollo era. "Every mission in the crewed space program, dating back to Alan Shepard's first flight, had been laying the groundwork for the last three Apollo missions," said Earl Swift, author of a new book about the lunar rover, "Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings. You see NASA take all of that collected wisdom, gleaned over the previous decade in space, and apply it," Mr. Swift said. "It's a much more swashbuckling kind of science."

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Posted on 27 July 2021 | 6:41 pm

Facebook Creates New Unit To Build a 'Metaverse'

Facebook has announced it is forming a new Metaverse product group to advance its efforts to build a 3D social space using virtual and augmented reality tech. From a report: In an interview with journalist Casey Newton, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he sees the metaverse -- a term widely used in both tech and science fiction to describe broadly shared, open virtual environments -- as "the successor to the mobile internet." Zuckerberg also said it was "not something that any one company is going to build." Facebook's new Metaverse product group will report to Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's vice president of virtual and augmented reality, who announced the new organization in a Facebook post. Facebook's Oculus and Portal products have been first steps toward the new vision, Bosworth wrote, "but to achieve our full vision of the Metaverse, we also need to build the connective tissue between these spaces -- so you can remove the limitations of physics and move between them with the same ease as moving from one room in your home to the next."

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Posted on 27 July 2021 | 6:08 pm