Gamer Geek News


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China Begins Drilling a 10-Kilometer-Deep Hole In Earth's Crust

China has begun digging a 10-kilometer-deep hole in the Earth's crust in the Tarim Basin, Xinjiang province, as part of its exploration of the planet's interior. From a report: The team will dig deep into the Earth, penetrating more than 10 continental strata, which can be used to reconstruct the history of the Earth's continents, including the evolution of landscapes, climate change, and the distribution of life. Continental strata are layers of rock, which are an important resource for understanding the history of the Earth. They can be used to identify and date past events, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and climate change. They can also be used to identify and study ancient life forms. "Drilling a borehole over 10,000 meters deep is a bold attempt to explore the unknown territory of the Earth and expand the boundaries of human understanding," Wang Chunsheng, a technical expert who joined the operation, told China's Xinhua news agency. The borehole will penetrate a depth of 11,100 meters and is located in the hinterland of the Taklimakan Desert, the largest desert in China, which in itself is a challenging environment to work in. While the digging has begun, China has not yet given a full explanation or the reason behind the dig. The deepest man-made hole on Earth is the Kola Superdeep Borehole in the Kola Peninsula of Russia, which was drilled between 1970 and 1992. The hole touched a depth of 12,262 meters and was aimed at studying the Earth's crust and mantle. However, the team experience several challenges during the project including high temperatures of up to 180 degrees Celsius at the bottoms of the hole, the constant breaking and changing of the drill bit and the strength of the rocks at the depth.

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Posted on 1 June 2023 | 10:00 am

Hubble Network Wants To Connect a Billion Devices With Space-Based Bluetooth Network

Seattle-based startup Hubble Network plans to launch a constellation of 300 satellites to create a global satellite network that any Bluetooth-enabled device can connect to, anywhere in the world. The network aims to provide real-time updates for devices equipped with Bluetooth low energy (BLE) chips, offering connectivity to over a billion devices. TechCrunch reports: Hubble Network CEO Alex Haro says the company has engineered "technical tricks" to make this scale of connectivity possible for the first time, like lowering the bitrate, or the amount of data transferred per second. Hubble has also rethought the design of the satellite antenna. Instead of sticking a single antenna on the side of a satellite bus, the company is using hundreds of antennae per satellite. This means that each satellite can support millions of connected devices. The result is a radio signal that can be detected around 1,000 kilometers away -- or almost 10 orders of magnitude longer than what can be detected from a Bluetooth chip over terrestrial networks. Hubble Network plans to launch an initial batch of four satellites on SpaceX's Transporter-10 rideshare mission in January 2024, and onboard early pilot customers after. The startup is fully funded through this mission, Haro said, thanks to a $20 million Series A round that closed in March. That round was led by Transpose Platform, with additional participation from 11.2 Capital, Y Combinator, Yes.VC, Convective Capital, Seraphim Space, Type One Ventures, Soma, AVCF5, Space.VC, Jett McCandless, John Kim, Chris Nguyen, Alan Keating and Don Dodge. After launching four satellites next January, Hubble plans to build out its constellation to 68 satellites total over the next two-and-a-half years. While the first four satellites will provide global coverage on their own, Haro said that it will be about a six-hour gap until devices can update on the ground. Increasing the constellation to 68 birds means that a satellite will be overhead every 15 minutes or so -- an update rate that is sufficient for "the vast majority" of customer use cases, Haro said. While Hubble is clearly targeting existing Bluetooth devices -- of which billions exist all over the world already -- Haro is confident that the company's network will solicit developers to build applications that don't even exist yet.

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Posted on 1 June 2023 | 7:00 am

The First X-Ray Taken of a Single Atom

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Atomic-scale imaging emerged in the mid-1950s and has been advancing rapidly ever since -- so much so, that back in 2008, physicists successfully used an electron microscope to image a single hydrogen atom. Five years later, scientists were able to peer inside a hydrogen atom using a "quantum microscope," resulting in the first direct observation of electron orbitals. And now we have the first X-ray taken of a single atom, courtesy of scientists from Ohio University, Argonne National Laboratory, and the University of Illinois-Chicago, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature. "Atoms can be routinely imaged with scanning probe microscopes, but without X-rays one cannot tell what they are made of," said co-author Saw-Wai Hla, a physicist at Ohio University and Argonne National Laboratory. "We can now detect exactly the type of a particular atom, one atom at a time, and can simultaneously measure its chemical state. Once we are able to do that, we can trace the materials down to [the] ultimate limit of just one atom. This will have a great impact on environmental and medical sciences." [...] Hla has been working for the last 12 years to develop an X-ray version of STM: synchrotron X-ray-scanning tunneling microscopy, or SX-STM, which would enable scientists to identify the type of atom and its chemical state. X-ray imaging methods like synchrotron radiation are widely used across myriad disciplines, including art and archaeology. But the smallest amount to date that can be X-rayed is an attogram, or roughly 10,000 atoms. That's because the X-ray emission of a single atom is just too weak to be detected -- until now. SX-STM combines conventional synchrotron radiation with quantum tunneling. It replaces the conventional X-ray detector used in most synchrotron radiation experiments with a different kind of detector: a sharp metal tip placed extremely close to the sample, the better to collect electrons pushed into an excited state by the X-rays. With Hla et al.'s method, X-rays hit the sample and excite the core electrons, which then tunnel to the detector tip. The photoabsorption of the core electrons serves as a kind of elemental fingerprint for identifying the type of atoms in a material. The team tested their method at the XTIP beam line at Argonne's Advanced Photon Source, using an iron atom and a terbium atom (inserted into supramolecules, which served as hosts). And that's not all. "We have detected the chemical states of individual atoms as well," said Hla. "By comparing the chemical states of an iron atom and a terbium atom inside respective molecular hosts, we find that the terbium atom, a rare-earth metal, is rather isolated and does not change its chemical state, while the iron atom strongly interacts with its surrounding." Also, Hla's team has developed another technique called X-ray-excited resonance tunneling (X-ERT), which will allow them to detect the orientation of the orbital of a single molecule on a material surface.

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Posted on 1 June 2023 | 3:30 am

US Announces $46 Million In Funds To Eight Nuclear Fusion Companies

The US Department of Energy has announced that eight American companies working on nuclear fusion energy will receive $46 million in government funding to pursue pilot plants aimed at generating power from fusion reactions. Reuters reports: The Energy Department's Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program hopes to help develop pilot-scale demonstration of fusion within a decade. "The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to partnering with innovative researchers and companies across the country to take fusion energy past the lab and toward the grid," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a release. The awardees are: Commonwealth Fusion Systems, Focused Energy Inc, Princeton Stellarators Inc, Realta Fusion Inc, Tokamak Energy Inc, Type One Energy Group, Xcimer Energy Inc, and Zap Energy Inc The funding, which comes from the Energy Act of 2020, is for the first 18 months. Projects may last up to five years, with future funding contingent on congressional appropriations and progress from the companies in meeting milestones. Looking to launch fusion plants that use lasers or magnets, private companies and government labs spent $500 million on their supply chains last year, according to a Fusion Industry Association (FIA) survey. They plan to spend about $7 billion by the time their first plants come online, and potentially trillions of dollars mainly on high-grade steel, concrete and superconducting wire in a mature industry, estimated to be sometime between 2035 and 2050, the survey said.

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Posted on 1 June 2023 | 1:25 am

New Report Says American Government Agencies Are Using Malware Similar To Banned Pegasus Spyware

A new report has revealed that a government agency in the US, namely the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), is allegedly using a spyware called Paragon Graphite that shares similarities with the notorious Pegasus spyware. From a report: Pegasus was sold off to the government and other law firms. Moreover, we saw the firm making plenty of purchases through the likes of hackers. The software tends to give in to exploitation that can be achieved through zero clicks, all thanks to the great skill of hackers. Moreover, such software can produce its target without any interaction. [...] New reports by the Financial Times stated how the American Government makes use of this technology as it can pierce all sorts of protections linked to modern-day smart devices. Similarly, it can evade various forms of encryption for messaging applications such as WhatsApp and harvest data thanks to the likes of cloud backups. And yes, it's very similar to its counterpart Pegasus in this ordeal. For now, the DEA is awfully hushed on the matter and not releasing any more comments on this situation. But it did reveal how its agency ended up purchasing Graphite to be used by agencies in Mexico so they could curb the drug cartel situation. "According to four [industry figures], the US Drug Enforcement and Administration Agency is among the top customers for Paragon's signature product nicknamed Graphite," reports the Financial Times. "The malware surreptitiously pierces the protections of modern smartphones and evades the encryption of messaging apps like Signal or WhatsApp, sometimes harvesting the data from cloud backups -- much like Pegasus does." The report adds: "Congressman Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote to the DEA in December asking for more details on the purchase. Mexico is among the worst abusers of NO's Pegasus which it bought nearly a decade ago. Schiff wrote: "such use [of spyware] could have potential implications for US national security, as well as run contrary to efforts to deter the broad proliferation of powerful surveillance capabilities to autocratic regimes and others who may misuse them."

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Posted on 1 June 2023 | 12:45 am

Meta Threatens To Yank News Content From California Over Payments Bill

Meta announced that it would remove news content from its platform in California if the state government passes legislation requiring tech companies to pay publishers. Reuters reports: The proposed California Journalism Preservation Act would require "online platforms" to pay a "journalism usage fee" to news providers whose work appears on their services, aimed at reversing a decline in the local news sector. In a tweeted statement, Meta spokesman Andy Stone called the payment structure a "slush fund" and said the bill would primarily benefit "big, out-of-state media companies under the guise of aiding California publishers." The statement was Meta's first on the California bill specifically, although the company has been waging similar battles over compensation for news publishers at the federal level and in countries outside the United States.

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Posted on 1 June 2023 | 12:02 am

Wall Street Firms To Take On Binance, Coinbase, Other Crypto-Native Exchanges

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CryptoSlate: Traditional financial firms, including Standard Chartered, Nomura, and Charles Schwab, are busy building or funding new crypto exchange and custody platforms, FT reported on May 31. These well-known Wall Street firms are betting that fund managers are still interested in trading crypto even after last year's market downturn and the string of crypto scandals. The FTX bankruptcy and Terra ecosystem implosion, among others, highlighted the risk of investing through largely unregulated exchanges. But legacy firms believe asset managers prefer dealing with established players over crypto-native exchanges like Binance. Gautam Chhugani, Senior Analyst of Global Digital Assets at Bernstein, told FT: "The large, pedigreed, traditional institutional investors definitely prefer dealing with counterparties who they know have been in existence for years and have been regulated in the traditional sense." In a survey of 250 asset managers published by EY-Parthenon earlier this month, half of the respondents said they would consider switching from a crypto-native group to a traditional-backed company if they offered the same services. Additionally, 90% of respondents trusted traditional financial groups to act as custodians for their crypto assets. The collapse of crypto firms last year and the disclosures on alleged malpractices eroded the trust of crypto investors. Traditional financial firms are banking on their finance industry expertise, long-standing reputations, and lack of regulatory scrutiny to attract clients. The new wave of legacy-backed crypto platforms will compete with Coinbase and Binance, which also host institutional clients. But traditional finance firms will compete by building more transparent operations -- particularly in separating exchanges from asset custody to avoid conflict of interest and reduce risk. The report notes that BNY Mellon and Fidelity already operate separate crypto custody divisions. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq is waiting for regulators to greenlight its service.

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Posted on 31 May 2023 | 11:20 pm

Amazon To Pay $30 Million For Alexa, Ring Privacy Violations

Amazon and its subsidiary, Ring, have agreed to separate multi-million dollar settlements with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over privacy violations involving children's use of Alexa and homeowners' use of Ring doorbell cameras. Amazon will pay $25 million for failing to delete Alexa recordings as requested by parents and for keeping them longer than necessary, while Ring will pay $5.8 million for mishandling customers' videos. Reuters reports: "While we disagree with the FTC's claims regarding both Alexa and Ring, and deny violating the law, these settlements put these matters behind us," said in a statement. It also pledged to make some changes to its practices. In its complaint against filed in Washington state, the FTC said that it violated rules protecting children's privacy and rules against deceiving consumers who used Alexa. For example, the FTC complaint says that Amazon told users it would delete voice transcripts and location information upon request, but then failed to do so. The FTC also said Ring gave employees unrestricted access to customers' sensitive video data said "as a result of this dangerously overbroad access and lax attitude toward privacy and security, employees and third-party contractors were able to view, download, and transfer customers' sensitive video data for their own purposes." As part of the FTC agreement with Ring, which spans 20 years, Ring is required to disclose to customers how much access to their data the company and its contractors have.

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Posted on 31 May 2023 | 10:40 pm

Brave Releases Its Search API

Brave has launched its Brave Search API, allowing third parties to integrate its privacy-preserving and ad-free search results into their applications through a simple API call. Thurrott reports: Brave notes that its Search API is inexpensive and that it's a great fit for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Large Language Models developers in particular because it provides access to a collection of high-quality, Web-scale data including recent events. Brave claims that its standalone Brave Search offering now delivers over 8 billion annualized queries, which makes it the fastest-growing search engine since Microsoft Bing. And in sharp contrast to the market leaders, Brave Search is private and transparent. Plus, it's fueled by opt-in users of the Brave browser's Web Discovery Project, which adds millions of new web pages to the index every single day and keeps it current and fresh. The Brave web browser has over 60 million active users now, the company adds. A free version of the Brave Search API provides one search query per second and up to 2,000 queries per month. Paid tiers start at $3 CPM (cost per one thousand) for 20 queries per second and up to 20 million queries per month, with access to web search, Goggles, news cluster, and videos cluster, plus added cost access to autosuggest and spellcheck at $5 per 10,000 requests. Higher-price tiers add more queries per second and per month, plus additional capabilities like schema-enriched web results, infobox, FAQ, discussions, locations, and more.

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Posted on 31 May 2023 | 10:00 pm

Ransomware Attack On US Dental Insurance Giant Exposes Data of 9 Million Patients

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: An apparent ransomware attack on one of America's largest dental health insurers has compromised the personal information of almost nine million individuals in the United States. The Atlanta-based Managed Care of North America (MCNA) Dental claims to be the largest dental insurer in the nation for government-sponsored plans covering children and seniors. In a notice posted on Friday, the company said it became aware of "certain activity in our computer system that happened without our permission" on March 6 and later learned that a hacker "was able to see and take copies of some information in our computer system" between February 26 and March 7, 2023. The information stolen includes a trove of patients' personal data, including names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, Social Security numbers, and driver's licenses or other government-issued ID numbers. Hackers also accessed patients' health insurance data, including plan information and Medicaid ID numbers, along with bill and insurance claim information. In some cases, some of this data pertained to a patient's "parent, guardian, or guarantor," according to MCNA Dental, suggesting that children's personal data was accessed during the breach. According to a data breach notification filed with Maine's attorney general, the hack affected more than 8.9 million clients of MCNA Dental. That makes this incident the largest breach of health information of 2023 so far, after the PharMerica breach that saw hackers access the personal data of almost 6 million patients. The LockBit ransomware group took responsibility for the cyberattack and published 700GB of files after the company refused to pay a $10 million ransom demand.

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Posted on 31 May 2023 | 9:20 pm

Ubuntu Core as an immutable Linux Desktop base

motang writes: Canonical, the sponsor of widely popular Ubuntu Linux, plans on shipping the next LTS in two versions. In addition to the traditional version, there will be one immutable desktop OS flavor. From Canonical blog: The technology behind snaps extends beyond the distribution of desktop applications however. With Ubuntu Core this philosophy of security and stability applies equally to the components that make up the entire Ubuntu operating system. Rather than treating the OS as a single immutable 'blob,' Ubuntu Core breaks it up into discrete components. The base of Ubuntu Core, for example, is built on four primary snaps: Gadget: Defines the system's bootloader, partition layout and default configurations for snaps. Kernel: Containing the Linux kernel and hardware drivers. Base: A minimal Ubuntu OS image containing only the necessary services and utilities to support the applications running on top. Snapd: Manages the lifecycle of all snaps in an Ubuntu Core system. Additional OS snaps can then be layered onto this image to enable other elements of the operating system such as a desktop environment.

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Posted on 31 May 2023 | 8:41 pm

Firefox Users on Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 Moving To Extended Support Release

Mozilla: Firefox version 115 will be the last supported Firefox version for users of Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. If you are using these versions of Windows you will be moved to the Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) channel by an application update. Mozilla will provide security updates for these users until September 2024. No security updates will be provided after that date.

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Posted on 31 May 2023 | 8:02 pm

Popular Reddit App Apollo Would Need To Pay $20 Million Per Year Under New API Pricing

Popular Reddit app Apollo might not be able to operate as is in the future due to planned API pricing that Reddit is implementing. From a report: Apollo developer Christian Selig was today told that Reddit plans to charge $12,000 for 50 million API requests. Last month, Apollo made seven billion requests, which would mean Selig would need to pay $1.7 million per month or $20 million per year to Reddit to keep the app running. The average Apollo user uses 344 requests per day, which would be priced at $2.50 per month, more than double the current subscription cost, or a sum that Selig is not able to afford. Right now, Apollo Pro is a one-time $4.99 fee that unlocks additional features, and Apollo Ultra is an even more premium tier that costs $12.99 per year.

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Posted on 31 May 2023 | 7:36 pm

Millions of PC Motherboards Were Sold With a Firmware Backdoor

Hidden code in hundreds of models of Gigabyte motherboards invisibly and insecurely downloads programs -- a feature ripe for abuse, researchers say. From a report: Hiding malicious programs in a computer's UEFI firmware, the deep-seated code that tells a PC how to load its operating system, has become an insidious trick in the toolkit of stealthy hackers. But when a motherboard manufacturer installs its own hidden backdoor in the firmware of millions of computers -- and doesn't even put a proper lock on that hidden back entrance -- they're practically doing hackers' work for them. Researchers at firmware-focused cybersecurity company Eclypsium revealed today that they've discovered a hidden mechanism in the firmware of motherboards sold by the Taiwanese manufacturer Gigabyte, whose components are commonly used in gaming PCs and other high-performance computers. Whenever a computer with the affected Gigabyte motherboard restarts, Eclypsium found, code within the motherboard's firmware invisibly initiates an updater program that runs on the computer and in turn downloads and executes another piece of software. While Eclypsium says the hidden code is meant to be an innocuous tool to keep the motherboard's firmware updated, researchers found that it's implemented insecurely, potentially allowing the mechanism to be hijacked and used to install malware instead of Gigabyte's intended program. And because the updater program is triggered from the computer's firmware, outside its operating system, it's tough for users to remove or even discover. "If you have one of these machines, you have to worry about the fact that it's basically grabbing something from the internet and running it without you being involved, and hasn't done any of this securely," says John Loucaides, who leads strategy and research at Eclypsium. "The concept of going underneath the end user and taking over their machine doesn't sit well with most people."

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Posted on 31 May 2023 | 6:41 pm

Apple Touts $1.1 Trillion in App Store Commerce in 2022

Ahead of Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference next week, the company is offering an update on its app ecosystem with the release of a new report detailing app earnings over the course of last year. From a report: In the analysis, released today, Apple says its App Store ecosystem generated $1.1 trillion in developer billings and sales in 2022, 90% of which was commission-free -- a metric it likes to tout to downplay the growing complaints about the high cost of doing business on a marketplace that generally takes a 15% to 30% commission on in-app purchases and paid downloads, with some exceptions. This $1.1 trillion breaks down as $910 billion in total billings and sales from the sale of physical goods and services, $109 billion from in-app advertising, and $104 billion for digital goods and services. The figures are a sizable increase from 2019 data, when Apple said the App Store had facilitated $519 billion in commerce, with then "just" $61 billion coming from digital goods and services.

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Posted on 31 May 2023 | 6:00 pm