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Microsoft Offers Sony a 10-Year Deal On New CoD Games, Plans To Raise Game Prices Next Year

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, Microsoft president Brad Smith said the company has offered Sony a 10-year contract to make future Call of Duty games available on PlayStation if its proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition gets approved. Microsoft initially offered to keep the popular game series on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement expires, but that deal was deemed inadequate by Sony's gaming chief Jim Ryan. "The main supposed potential anticompetitive risk Sony raises is that Microsoft would stop making 'Call of Duty' available on the PlayStation. But that would be economically irrational," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in the WSJ opinion piece. Microsoft also plans to increase the prices of its upcoming first-party Xbox games next year. The Verge's Tom Warren writes: From 2023 onward, new full-priced games from Xbox Game Studios like Redfall, Starfield, and Forza Motorsport will be priced at $69.99 instead of the usual $59.99. It's a price increase that matches the pricing that competitors like Sony, Ubisoft, and Take-Two all offer their own games at. Microsoft issued the following statement about the price increases: "We've held on price increases until after the holidays so families can enjoy the gift of gaming. Starting in 2023 our new, built for next-gen, full-priced games, including Forza Motorsport, Redfall, and Starfield, will launch at $69.99 USD on all platforms. This price reflects the content, scale, and technical complexity of these titles. As with all games developed by our teams at Xbox, they will also be available with Game Pass the same day they launch."

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Posted on 6 December 2022 | 2:02 am

Crypto Exchange Gemini Trying To Recover $900 Million From Crypto Lender Genesis

Crypto broker Genesis and its parent company Digital Currency Group (DCG) owe customers of the Winklevoss twins' crypto exchange Gemini $900 million, the Financial Times reported on Saturday. Reuters reports: Crypto exchange Gemini is trying to recover the funds after Genesis was wrongfooted by last month's failure of Sam Bankman-Fried's FTX crypto group, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the matter. Venture capital company Digital Currency Group, which owns Genesis Trading and cryptocurrency asset manager Grayscale, owes $575 million to Genesis' crypto lending arm, Digital Currency Chief Executive Barry Silbert told shareholders last month. Gemini, which runs a crypto lending product in partnership with Genesis, has now formed a creditors' committee to recoup the funds from Genesis and its parent DCG, the report added. Separately, Coindesk on Sunday reported that creditor groups in negotiation with Genesis currently account for $1.8 billion of loans, with that number likely to continue to grow. A second group of Genesis creditors, with loans also amounting to $900 million, is being represented by law firm Proskauer Rose, CoinDesk said citing a source. Further reading: Sam Bankman-Fried Says He Will Testify Before Congress On FTX Collapse

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Posted on 6 December 2022 | 1:25 am

How 'Goblin Mode' Became Oxford's Word of the Year

This year, Oxford Languages, the creator of the Oxford English Dictionary, titled "goblin mode" as the 2022 Word of the Year, meaning it best reflected the ethos and mood of the past 12 months. The slang term is defined as a "type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations." NPR reports: The term first appeared on Twitter in 2009 but didn't go viral until 2022, according to Oxford Languages. "It captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to 'normal life', or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media," the group wrote in a press release. "People are embracing their inner goblin," said Casper Grathwohl, the president of Oxford Languages. The Word of the Year is typically based on analyzing language data on emerging words and their popularity. But this year, Oxford Languages incorporated a public vote into the process and asked people to cast their ballot between the top three expressions of the year: "goblin mode," "metaverse" and "#IStandWith." More than 300,000 people voted with an overwhelming majority -- about 93% -- favoring "goblin mode."

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Posted on 6 December 2022 | 12:45 am

Company 'Hijacks' Blender's CC BY-Licensed Film, YouTube Strikes User

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: The Blender Institute develops Blender, a free and open source 3D graphics tool used to create animated films. Sintel and Big Buck Bunny are among Blender's most recognizable titles and due to Creative Commons licensing (CC BY), they are widely shared, used, remixed and reshared. According to original Blender creator Ton Roosendaal, "Open licenses are essential for sharing our films and their source material." Right now, a company is claiming that Blender's free content is actually their content and as a result, must be immediately removed from the internet. We're talking about content that was created with Blender's explicit blessing but even after multiple appeals, not even YouTube will see reason. Bruno Fernandez-Ruiz is the co-founder and CTO at AI-focused driver safety company, Nexar. On Sunday he informed TorrentFreak that he's also an independent film composer and producer, working with music production libraries, and distributing to the main music platforms. TorrentFreak contacted Bruno after noticing a post he made on a music production forum. He wrote that after uploading a video containing a clip from the Blender movie Caminandes 3 -- Llamigos, YouTube notified him that a rightsholder had filed a copyright complaint, his video had been taken down, and a copyright strike had been issued to his account. The complaint, sent by Uzbekistan-based media/news company ZO'R TV, was not the result of automatic matching under Content ID. It was filed as a formal DMCA notice, meaning that someone probably reviewed the details before sending the complaint. The notice claimed that Bruno had infringed ZO'R TV's copyrights by reproducing content (6:21 to 8:26) from this YouTube video published in 2018. Since the content in question is obviously from Blender's film Caminandes 3, ZO'R TV was in no position to issue a DMCA notice. On that basis, Bruno followed the recognized procedure by sending a DMCA counternotice to YouTube. It didn't go well. After filing his counternotice with YouTube, Bruno was informed that since he'd provided insufficient information, YouTube could not process it. However, YouTube did inform Bruno of the risks of filing a counternotice, including that his name could be sent to the claimant, ZO'R TV in this case. Determined to have his video restored, Bruno accepted the risks and sent another counternotice to YouTube. This time there was no indication that the counternotice was deficient. YouTube thanked him for filing it -- but still declined to process it. YouTube's email advised Bruno that counternotices should only be filed in case of a mistake or misidentification. Consulting with a lawyer first might be helpful, YouTube added. After three attempts to restore the video and have the copyright strike removed, YouTube responded once again. The message contained yet more disappointment for Bruno. "Based on the information that you have provided, it appears that you do not have the necessary rights to post the content on YouTube. Therefore, we regretfully cannot honor your request," it advised. This signaled the end of the debate as far as YouTube was concerned and by rejecting Bruno's right to send a counternotice, the platform denied him an opportunity to have the video restored, stand up for Blender's rights, and get the strike removed. After notifying Blender of the situation, Blender developed Ton Roosendaal replied, saying the company has "no staff here available to go after situations like this" but suggested they could "escalate it to the Creative Commons organization." "After all, it's their mission," he added.

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Posted on 6 December 2022 | 12:02 am

Sam Bankman-Fried Says He Will Testify Before Congress On FTX Collapse

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried promised to testify before Congress after he finished "learning and reviewing" the events that caused the popular cryptocurrency exchange to file for bankruptcy last month. The Verge reports: Bankman-Fried's promise was made in response to a tweet from House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA) last week calling on him to join the committee's hearing on FTX's collapse on December 13th. But Bankman-Fried didn't commit to testifying at the hearing scheduled for next week. "Once I have finished learning and reviewing what happened, I would feel like it was my duty to appear before the committee and explain," Bankman-Fried said in a tweet on Sunday. "I'm not sure that will happen by the 13th. But when it does, I will testify." Bankman-Fried resigned as FTX's chief executive last month, a move that could hinder his ability to fully review internal company materials before agreeing to testify.

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 11:20 pm

Bret Taylor Steps Down As Co-Chair and CEO of Salesforce

Ron Miller reports via TechCrunch: It's been quite a roller coaster ride for Bret Taylor over the last year. In one week last December, he was named board chair at Twitter and co-CEO at Salesforce. One year later, he doesn't have either job. Taylor lost the job as Twitter board chair when Elon Musk took over last month and dissolved the Twitter board immediately. Today, he stepped down as co-CEO at Salesforce in a stunning announcement that appeared to come out of the blue. "After a lot of reflection, I've decided to return to my entrepreneurial roots. Salesforce has never been more relevant to customers, and with its best-in-class management team and the company executing on all cylinders, now is the right time for me to step away," Taylor said in a statement announcing his resignation. Taylor, who helped guide the $27 billion Slack acquisition in 2020, appeared to be in line to take over whenever company founder and CEO Marc Benioff decided to step down. Now he has stepped away, and it's not clear what has changed. Benioff called his co-CEO's resignation "a bittersweet moment" in a statement, and said he would always be his biggest champion. He repeated Taylor's words about him returning to his entrepreneurial roots. Perhaps Taylor really had enough of running a big company, but it does seem strange timing, right after he appeared onstage with Benioff at Dreamforce in September.

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 10:40 pm

Judge Orders US Lawyer In Russian Botnet Case To Pay Google

An anonymous reader quotes a report from KrebsOnSecurity: In December 2021, Google filed a civil lawsuit against two Russian men thought to be responsible for operating Glupteba, one of the Internet's largest and oldest botnets. The defendants, who initially pursued a strategy of counter suing Google for tortious interference in their sprawling cybercrime business, later brazenly offered to dismantle the botnet in exchange for payment from Google. The judge in the case was not amused, found for the plaintiff, and ordered the defendants and their U.S. attorney to pay Google's legal fees. The lawyer for the defendants, New York-based cybercrime defense attorney Igor Litvak, filed a motion to reconsider (PDF), asking the court to vacate the sanctions against him. He said his goal is to get the case back into court. "The judge was completely wrong to issue sanctions," Litvak told KrebsOnSecurity. "From the beginning of the case, she acted as if she needed to protect Google from something. If the court does not decide to vacate the sanctions, we will have to go to the Second Circuit (Court of Appeals) and get justice there." Meanwhile, Google said the court's decision will have significant ramifications for online crime, adding that it's observed a 78 percent reduction in the number of hosts infected by Glupteba since its technical and legal attacks on the botnet last year. "While Glupteba operators have resumed activity on some non-Google platforms and IoT devices, shining a legal spotlight on the group makes it less appealing for other criminal operations to work with them," reads a blog post from Google's General Counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado and vice president of engineering Royal Hansen. "And the steps [Google] took last year to disrupt their operations have already had significant impact."

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 10:02 pm

Risky Online Behaviour Such as Piracy 'Almost Normalized' Among Young People, Says Study

Risky and criminal online behaviour is in danger of becoming normalized among a generation of young people across Europe, according to EU-funded research that found one in four 16- to 19-year-olds have trolled someone online and one in three have engaged in digital piracy. From a report: An EU-funded study found evidence of widespread criminal, risky and delinquent behaviour among the 16-19 age group in nine European countries including the UK. A survey of 8,000 young people found that one in four have tracked or trolled someone online, one in eight have engaged in online harassment, one in 10 have engaged in hate speech or hacking, one in five have engaged in sexting and one in three have engaged in digital piracy. It also found that four out of 10 have watched pornography. Julia Davidson, a co-author of the research and professor of criminology at the University of East London (UEL), said risky and criminal online behaviour was becoming almost normalised among a generation of European young people. "The research indicates that a large proportion of young people in the EU are engaging in some form of cybercrime, to such an extent that the conduct of low-level crimes online and online risk-taking has become almost normalised," she said.

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 9:21 pm

Chinese Hackers Stole Millions Worth of US COVID Relief Money, Secret Service Says

New submitter CrankyOldGuy writes: Chinese hackers have stolen tens of millions of dollars worth of U.S. COVID relief benefits since 2020, the Secret Service said on Monday. The Secret Service declined to provide any additional details but confirmed a report by NBC News that said the Chinese hacking team that is reportedly responsible is known within the security research community as APT41 or Winnti. APT41 is a prolific cybercriminal group that had conducted a mix of government-backed cyber intrusions and financially motivated data breaches, according to experts. Several members of the hacking group were indicted in 2019 and 2020 by the U.S. Justice Department for spying on over 100 companies, including software development companies, telecommunications providers, social media firms, and video game developers. "Regrettably, the Chinese Communist Party has chosen a different path of making China safe for cybercriminals so long as they attack computers outside China and steal intellectual property helpful to China," former Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said at the time.

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 8:41 pm

FBI Joins Investigation Into North Carolina Power Outage Caused By 'Intentional' Attacks on Substations

Joe_Dragon writes: With no suspects or motive announced, the FBI is joining the investigation into power outages in a North Carolina county believed to have been caused by "intentional" and "targeted" attacks on substations that left around 40,000 customers in the dark Saturday night, prompting a curfew and emergency declaration. The mass outage in Moore County turned into a criminal investigation when responding utility crews found signs of potential vandalism of equipment at different sites -- including two substations that had been damaged by gunfire, according to the Moore County Sheriff's Office. "The person, or persons, who did this knew exactly what they were doing," Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said during a Sunday news conference. "We don't have a clue why Moore County." Fields said multiple rounds were fired at the two substations. "It was targeted, it wasn't random," he said. The sheriff would not say whether the criminal activity was domestic terrorism but noted "no group has stepped up to acknowledge or accept they're the ones who [did] it." In addition to the FBI, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has joined the investigation, officials said. More than 33,000 customers were still in the dark across the county Sunday evening, the Duke Energy outage map showed. For some, the outage may stretch into Thursday, officials said, upending life for tens of thousands. All schools in the county will be closed Monday and authorities have opened a shelter running on a generator. Traffic lights are also out, and while a few stores with generators were able to open their doors, several businesses and churches in Moore County were closed Sunday, CNN affiliate WRAL reported.

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 8:01 pm

Work Begins in Western Australia on World's Most Powerful Radio Telescopes

Construction of the world's largest radio astronomy observatory, the Square Kilometre Array, has officially begun in Australia after three decades in development. From a report: A huge intergovernmental effort, the SKA has been hailed as one of the biggest scientific projects of this century. It will enable scientists to look back to early in the history of the universe when the first stars and galaxies were formed. It will also be used to investigate dark energy and why the universe is expanding, and to potentially search for extraterrestrial life. The SKA will initially involve two telescope arrays -- one on Wajarri country in remote Western Australia, called SKA-Low, comprising 131,072 tree-like antennas. SKA-Low is so named for its sensitivity to low-frequency radio signals. It will be eight times as sensitive than existing comparable telescopes and will map the sky 135 times faster. A second array of 197 traditional dishes, SKA-Mid, will be built in South Africa's Karoo region.

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 7:24 pm

Windows 11 Still Not Winning the OS Popularity Contest

Microsoft has released an out-of-band update to nudge laggards toward Windows 11 amid a migration pace that company executives would undoubtedly prefer is rather faster. From a report: The software giant is offering an option of upgrading to Windows 11 as an out of box experience to its Windows 10 22H2 installed base, the main aim being to smooth their path forward to the latest operating system. "On November 30, 2022, an out-of-band update was released to improve the Windows 10, version 2004, 20H2, 21H1, 21H2, and 22H2 out-of-box experience (OOBE). It provides eligible devices with the option to upgrade to Windows 11 as part of the OOBE process. This update will be available only when an OOBE update is installed." The update, KB5020683, applies only to Windows 10 Home and Professional versions 2004, 20H2, 21H1, 22H2. There are some pre-requisites that Microsoft has listed here before users can make the move to Windows 11. The operating system was released on October 5 last year but shifting stubborn consumers onto this software has proved challenging for top brass at Microsoft HQ in Redmond. According to Statcounter, a web analytics service that has tracking code installed on 1.5 million websites and records a page view for each, some 16.12 percent of Windows users had installed Windows 11 in November, higher than the 15.44 percent in the prior month, but likely still not close to the figures that Microsoft was hoping for.

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 6:40 pm

DeepMind AI Topples Experts at Complex Game Stratego

Game-playing AIs that interact with humans are laying important groundwork for real-world applications. From a report: Another game long considered extremely difficult for artificial intelligence (AI) to master has fallen to machines. An AI called DeepNash, made by London-based company DeepMind, has matched expert humans at Stratego, a board game that requires long-term strategic thinking in the face of imperfect information. The achievement, described in Science on 1 December, comes hot on the heels of a study reporting an AI that can play Diplomacy, in which players must negotiate as they cooperate and compete. "The rate at which qualitatively different game features have been conquered -- or mastered to new levels -- by AI in recent years is quite remarkable," says Michael Wellman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a computer scientist who studies strategic reasoning and game theory. "Stratego and Diplomacy are quite different from each other, and also possess challenging features notably different from games for which analogous milestones have been reached." Stratego has characteristics that make it much more complicated than chess, Go or poker, all of which have been mastered by AIs (the latter two games in 2015 and 2019). In Stratego, two players place 40 pieces each on a board, but cannot see what their opponent's pieces are. The goal is to take turns moving pieces to eliminate those of the opponent and capture a flag. Stratego's game tree -- the graph of all possible ways in which the game could go -- has 10^535 states, compared with Go's 10^360. In terms of imperfect information at the start of a game, Stratego has 10^66 possible private positions, which dwarfs the 106 such starting situations in two-player Texas hold'em poker. "The sheer complexity of the number of possible outcomes in Stratego means algorithms that perform well on perfect-information games, and even those that work for poker, don't work," says Julien Perolat, a DeepMind researcher based in Paris. [...] For two weeks in April, DeepNash competed with human Stratego players on online game platform Gravon. After 50 matches, DeepNash was ranked third among all Gravon Stratego players since 2002. "Our work shows that such a complex game as Stratego, involving imperfect information, does not require search techniques to solve it," says team member Karl Tuyls, a DeepMind researcher based in Paris. "This is a really big step forward in AI." "The results are impressive," agrees Noam Brown, a researcher at Meta AI, headquartered in New York City, and a member of the team that in 2019 reported the poker-playing AI Pluribus.

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 6:01 pm

AMD Says Transistor Tech Will Keep Moore's Law Alive For 6 To 8 Years

Chipmaker AMD has hinted that new transistor technology will keep Moore's Law alive for the next six to eight years, but as one might guess, it will cost more. From a report: Meanwhile, the company still plans to market new chips based on its Zen 4 architecture next year, including Bergamo, which is intended to compete against Arm-based chips for cloud-native computing. In an interview with Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers at the financial outfit's TMT Summit, AMD CTO Mark Papermaster talked about future directions and the company's near-term roadmap. Rakers asked about the Zen family and its chiplet-based architecture versus the monolithic architecture seen with Intel's CPUs, and whether this would continue to serve AMD for the next four to five years, or whether another novel approach might be needed. "Innovation always finds its way around barriers," Papermaster said. "I can see exciting new transistor technology for the next -- as far as you can really plot these things out -- about six to eight years, and it's very, very clear to me the advances that we're going to make to keep improving the transistor technology, but they're more expensive," he said. In the past, chipmakers like AMD and Intel could double the transistor density every 18 to 24 months and stay within the same cost envelope, but that is not the case anymore, Papermaster claimed. "So, we're going to have innovations in transistor technology. We're going to have more density. We're going to have lower power, but it's going to cost more. So how you put solutions together has to change," he said.

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 5:21 pm

Business-Software Companies Say Customers Are Pulling Back Amid Economic Concerns

Business-software companies say customers are being more cautious with their spending in response to a challenging economy, adding to the tech industry's list of concerns. From a report: Customers for companies such as Salesforce, Okta and CrowdStrike are taking longer to sign deals, and in some cases slowing their hiring plans as they try to protect their bottom lines, the software providers reported this past week. That trend has created a cloudy outlook for many in the once-booming business-software sector, which benefited from years of demand as customers looked to use the products to trim costs and maintain their businesses during the pandemic. "Certainly, the buyer environment has changed out there in the market. It's become more measured," Brian Millham, chief operating officer at Salesforce, said on an analyst call. Salesforce didn't provide a revenue forecast for the next fiscal year, as it often does around this time, with Chief Financial Officer Amy Weaver pointing to the "very unpredictable macro environment." Salesforce said its business customers are adopting behaviors typically seen in an economic downturn, such as laying off workers, delaying hiring and slashing expenses in areas such as marketing. The San Francisco-based company, one of the largest vendors of customer-relationship-management software, said Wednesday that its clients in the tech, consumer-goods and retail sectors were pressured in the recent quarter, while the travel, hospitality and manufacturing sectors were among those showing more resiliency.

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Posted on 5 December 2022 | 4:42 pm