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Perspective-shifting puzzler Monument Valley 2 is currently free on iOS and Android

Eurogamer - Sat, 28/03/2020 - 00:04

Developer Ustwo's delightful perspective-based puzzle adventure Monument Valley 2 and turn-based Tomb Raider spin-off Lara Croft Go are currently free on iOS and Android, should you be searching for some additional indoor entertainment this weekends.

Monument Valley 2, described as an "illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness" by its creator, released back in 2017, offering up an enhanced slice of its predecessor's wonderfully chilled, perspective-shifting challenges. As before, the goal is to rotate each perfectly formed stage, sometimes manipulating specific contraptions, in order to create impossible, Escher-like pathways and guide your tiny charge, Ro, to the exit.

The sequel's big twist, however, is that Ro is now joined by her daughter, with some stages requiring players to shift both characters in tandem, each performing one half of an action needed to proceed. Eurogamer's Christian Donlan shared his thoughts on the cleverness at the heart of the Monumental Valley series earlier this year, if you're keen to know more.

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Categories: Video Games

Help Needed To Rescue UK's Old Rainfall Records

Slashdot - Sat, 28/03/2020 - 00:01
At a loss to know what to do with your self-isolation time? Well, why not get on the computer and help with a giant weather digitisation effort? From a report: The UK has rainfall records dating back 200 years or so, but the vast majority of these are in handwritten form and can't easily be used to analyse past periods of flooding and drought. The Rainfall Rescue Project is seeking volunteers to transfer all the data into online spreadsheets. You're not required to rummage through old bound volumes; the Met Office has already scanned the necessary documents -- all 65,000 sheets. You simply have to visit a website, read the scribbled rainfall amounts and enter the numbers into a series of boxes. "If you do just a couple of minutes every now and then -- that's great," said Prof Ed Hawkins. "If you want to spend an hour doing 30 or 40 columns - then that'll be amazing. But any amount of time, it will all add up and be a tremendous help." If you want to take part, click here.

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Trump Signs $2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 23:20
President Trump on Friday signed into law the largest economic stimulus package in modern American history, backing a $2 trillion measure that expands on a Republican proposal issue last week called the CARES Act -- the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The New York Times reports: Under the law, the government will deliver direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses battered by the crisis. Mr. Trump signed the measure in the Oval Office hours after the House approved it by voice vote and less than two days after the Senate unanimously passed it. The legislation will send direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, and an additional $500 per child. It will substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, and for the first time will extend the payments to freelancers and gig workers. The measure will also offer $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and establish a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the crisis, including allowing the administration the ability to take equity stakes in airlines that received aid to help compensate taxpayers. It will also send $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic. You can read the bill yourself here.

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Phone Calls Are Back in Fashion

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 22:45
Data shows that people all over the U.S. are doing the same thing. Verizon says it has seen an average of 800 million wireless calls daily on recent weekdays, nearly twice the volume of Mother's Day. From a report: And we're not just calling people more often, we're talking on the phone for longer: AT&T says that wireless voice minutes on Monday were up 39% from the average Monday, and Wi-Fi calling minutes were 78% higher. Thanks to coronavirus, we're no longer in transit, unable to answer a call. We're not physically in the office so, sure, why not jump on the phone to catch up with a friend or colleague between work tasks? There's no stepping out for lunch, no "Let's just cover this in person next time we see one another," because we don't actually know when that will be. Pretty much the only reason you can't reach someone these days is because they're on another call. We're also feeling more isolated and increasingly concerned about the people we love. We want to check in with them more regularly. Texts can be cold and quick; a call is really one of the few ways others can hear the concern in your voice -- and you can hear the concern in theirs. And if you haven't yet changed out of your pajamas or washed your hair in a few days, phone calls beat video chats hands down.

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Summer Games Done Quick postponed, online Corona Relief event announced for April

Eurogamer - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 22:25

This year's Summer Games Done Quick charity speed-running event has, inevitably given current global events, been postponed, but its organisers have unveiled a new online-only money-raising event, Corona Relief Done Quick, due to take place in April.

Summer Games Done Quick was originally set to run from 21st June to 28th June in Bloomington, Minnesota, but organisers have rescheduled the charity event in response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. It's now expected to take place from 16th-23rd August this year, and all game submissions and volunteer applications will need to be submitted afresh.

Although the main event is now some way off as a result, GDQ has announced it'll be holding a special online-only streamed marathon, Corona Relief Done Quick, from 17th-19th April. All donations received will go directly to Direct Relief, a "humanitarian aid organisation with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies."

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How the Pandemic Will End?

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 22:04
Ed Yong, writing for The Atlantic: The world is experienced at making flu vaccines and does so every year. But there are no existing vaccines for coronaviruses -- until now, these viruses seemed to cause diseases that were mild or rare -- so researchers must start from scratch. The first steps have been impressively quick. Last Monday, a possible vaccine created by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health went into early clinical testing. That marks a 63-day gap between scientists sequencing the virus's genes for the first time and doctors injecting a vaccine candidate into a person's arm. "It's overwhelmingly the world record," Fauci said. But it's also the fastest step among many subsequent slow ones. The initial trial will simply tell researchers if the vaccine seems safe, and if it can actually mobilize the immune system. Researchers will then need to check that it actually prevents infection from SARS-CoV-2. They'll need to do animal tests and large-scale trials to ensure that the vaccine doesn't cause severe side effects. They'll need to work out what dose is required, how many shots people need, if the vaccine works in elderly people, and if it requires other chemicals to boost its effectiveness. "Even if it works, they don't have an easy way to manufacture it at a massive scale," said Seth Berkley of Gavi. That's because Moderna is using a new approach to vaccination. Existing vaccines work by providing the body with inactivated or fragmented viruses, allowing the immune system to prep its defenses ahead of time. By contrast, Moderna's vaccine comprises a sliver of SARS-CoV-2's genetic material -- its RNA. The idea is that the body can use this sliver to build its own viral fragments, which would then form the basis of the immune system's preparations. This approach works in animals, but is unproven in humans. By contrast, French scientists are trying to modify the existing measles vaccine using fragments of the new coronavirus. "The advantage of that is that if we needed hundreds of doses tomorrow, a lot of plants in the world know how to do it," Berkley said. No matter which strategy is faster, Berkley and others estimate that it will take 12 to 18 months to develop a proven vaccine, and then longer still to make it, ship it, and inject it into people's arms.

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Here's a look at Half-Life: Alyx being played without VR

Eurogamer - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 21:28

It's been less than a week since Valve's seminal Half-Life series made its long overdue return in the form of the VR-exclusive Half-Life: Alyx, and, already, the race is on to get it running on a standard screen using mouse and keyboard. A fully playable version might still be a long way off, but footage has emerged offering a first taste of Alyx running outside of VR.

Valve News Network creator Tyler McVicker initially demoed the rudimentary VR-free version of Alyx, restricted to the most basic of interactions, during a data-mining livestream earlier this week. As McVicker explains in a new video, he was making use of a pre-release build of the game, mistakenly made accessible through Steam, that still included tools enabling Valve's developers to test Alyx without strapping on a headset.

However, even with these tools, says McVicker, Alyx without VR is still an incredibly limited affair. The traditional "use" key simply doesn't work as you might expect, and with no way to gain direct control of Alyx's hands, even some of the most basic interactions aren't possible.

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Categories: Video Games

Not Everyone is Laying Off Workers Because of Coronavirus. These Are the Most in-demand Jobs Right Now.

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 21:22
A record 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, according to Thursday's Labor Department report, compared with around 280,000 a week earlier. That said, it hasn't all been bad news for those in search of work, as the pandemic places increased demand on industries like health care and delivery services. 10 most in-demand jobs in the US: Store associate System operator Certified public accountant Health care specialist Construction worker Warehouse manager Psychologist Vehicle mechanic Academic adviser Delivery driver Companies with the most open jobs in the US: 7-Eleven Army National Guard KPMG Amazon Genentech Lowe's HCA Healthcare Intuit Nepris Whole Foods

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How Elon Musk Wants To Transform Homes With 'No Wasted Energy'

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 20:42
During a Twitter discussion this week about the company's new vehicle, the all-electric Model Y SUV, CEO Elon Musk suggested the company could take its experience building the car to develop an HVAC system. From a report The acronym stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Musk suggested that the idea could build on the work done to develop a heat pump for the Model Y. "Sure would love to do home hvac that's quiet and efficient, with humidity control & HEPA filter," Musk wrote on his Twitter page. When asked whether it would do cooling or heating, Musk replied "both." The idea could expand on some of Tesla's existing wins, taking its existing product portfolio and expanding it in a logical way. While Tesla is known to most as a car company, Musk's "house of the future" presentation in October 2016 painted a more holistic picture: a Model 3 sedan charging in a garage, powered by a Tesla Powerwall battery. That battery is topped up with power from a Tesla Solar Roof, creating a zero-emissions energy system for both home and travel. It's easy to see how an HVAC, a high-energy product that draws on systems built into Tesla vehicles, could fit into this strategy. Musk suggested a number of ideas for this new product. He suggested the system could work with the vehicle to reach the perfect temperatures: "House could talk to car & know when you're expected home, so temp and humidity would be perfect just as you arrive. No wasted energy."

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Google Donates $800 Million in Cash and Ads To Fight Coronavirus

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 19:59
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, announcing in a blog post: As the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen around the world, it's taking a devastating toll on lives and communities. To help address some of these challenges, today we're announcing a new $800+ million commitment to support small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), health organizations and governments, and health workers on the frontline of this global pandemic. Our commitment includes: $250 million in ad grants to help the World Health Organization (WHO) and more than 100 government agencies globally provide critical information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other measures to help local communities. This is an increase from our initial $25 million announced last month. In addition, we're providing $20 million in ad grants to community financial institutions and NGOs specifically to run public service announcements on relief funds and other resources for SMBs. A $200 million investment fund that will support NGOs and financial institutions around the world to help provide small businesses with access to capital. As one example, we're working with the Opportunity Finance Network in the U.S. to help fill gaps in financing for people and communities underserved by mainstream financial institutions. This is in addition to the $15 million in cash grants Google.org is already providing to nonprofits to help bridge these gaps for SMBs. $340 million in Google Ads credits available to all SMBs with active accounts over the past year. Credit notifications will appear in their Google Ads accounts and can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across our advertising platforms. We hope it will help to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers. A pool of $20 million in Google Cloud credits for academic institutions and researchers to leverage our computing capabilities and infrastructure as they study potential therapies and vaccines, track critical data, and identify new ways to combat COVID-19. Learn how to apply for credits on the Google for Education site. Direct financial support and expertise to help increase the production capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE) and lifesaving medical devices. We're working with our longtime supplier and partner Magid Glove & Safety, with the goal of ramping up production of 2-3 million face masks in the coming weeks that will be provided to the CDC Foundation. Additionally, employees from across Alphabet, including Google, Verily and X, are bringing engineering, supply chain and healthcare expertise to facilitate increased production of ventilators, working with equipment manufacturers, distributors and the government in this effort.

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Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister, Has the Coronavirus

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 19:20
For weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was a defiant holdout among Western leaders in refusing to lock down his country against the spread of the coronavirus. On Friday, he became the first of those leaders known to have contracted the disease. From a report: Mr. Johnson's diagnosis, confirmed in a test on Thursday, threatened to throw an already rattled British government into turmoil. Fears of a wider contagion grew, as another senior official disclosed he was also infected. Britain faced the alarming prospect of having to confront its greatest crisis since World War II with much of its leadership in quarantine. Mr. Johnson, 55, insisted he would not relinquish his duties. In a remarkable two-minute video posted on Twitter, he used his own case as a sort of teachable moment for the country, appealing to people to work from home and comply with the more drastic social distancing measures he put in place last Monday.

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Shantae and the Seven Sirens is coming to PC and consoles in May

Eurogamer - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 18:42

Shantae and the Seven Sirens, the newest entry in developer WayForward's much-loved sometimes-Metroidvania-esque platform series, will be making its way to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC on 28th May.

Shantae started life on the Game Boy Colour all the way back in 2002, and Seven Sirens marks the fifth outing for the series, following on from Shantae: Risky's Revenge, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero.

Seven Sirens, which initially debuted as an Apple Arcade exclusive last September, follows Shantae's adventures across a tropical island after her friends go missing, and sees the series' return to the Metroidvania formula of the first three games.

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Categories: Video Games

How Much More Power Does 5G Consume Over 4G? Redmi Has Answer

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 18:40
Most 5G phones offer big batteries owing to the increased power consumption of early 5G modems and connectivity. But just how much more power does a 5G phone need over a 4G device? From a report: Redmi general manager Lu Weibing has taken to Weibo to answer this question, claiming that 5G phones consume ~20% more power than a 4G phone. This suggests that a 20% increase in battery size is needed for a 5G phone to achieve the same endurance as a 4G variant (assuming everything else is equal). The Redmi executive adds that Qualcomm's flagship 800-series processors consume 20% more juice than an upper mid-range Snapdragon 700-series chipset. So when taken together, this means a 5G flagship will consume significantly more power compared to a mid-range 4G phone, which means battery capacity and optimizations are key for high-end 5G phones.

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Someone's built the entire Earth in Minecraft - to scale

Eurogamer - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 18:08

Seeing as nobody's going outside at the moment, it would be pretty great to have an entire version of Earth to explore in a video game, right?

Enter PippenFTS, a YouTuber who claims to have made a 1:1 scale version of the Earth in Minecraft for the very first time. It's been made possible through the use of two mods, Terra 1-to-1 and Cubic Chunks. As explained by PippenFTS, Minecraft normally has a height limit of 255m, which would have made full-scale Earth terrain impossible. Using Cubic Chunks "changes the shape of Minecraft chunks to 16x16x16 cube, giving you infinite build depth in both vertical directions".

"With the Cubic Chunks mod breaking Minecraft's vertical limitations, we can now experience the Earth in Minecraft, just as it is, with no downscaling of any kind."

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Categories: Video Games

China Shuts Down All Cinemas, Again

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 18:01
China's film regulators have slammed the breaks on their plans to gradually reopen the country's cinemas. From a report: Over 600 movie theaters across China were given the green light to reopen their doors over the past week, but Beijing's Film Bureau put out a notice late Friday ordering all theaters to go back into shutdown. No official explanation for the sudden reversal was provided. Industry insiders instantly began speculating that the government was worried about a potential second wave of coronavirus infections. The decision comes as a shock given the signals authorities had been sending as recently as a day ago. On Thursday, Shanghai's municipal government announced that 205 of the city's movie theaters had received permission to resume business on Saturday.

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Animal Crossing's big moment is magical and well-deserved

Eurogamer - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 18:00

What a wild week it's been. I'm not talking about the obvious - I'm fairly certain you didn't come here to read about that - but more about the sweet phenomenon that's gripped players around the world. All day and all night my WhatsApp has been buzzing with friends and family members asking so many questions. What fruit do you have? Can you throw a few iron nuggets my way? Can I pop over to your island to grab a few things? And who the hell is that creepy sheep dressed up as a clown wandering around your town square?

To call Animal Crossing: New Horizons a success would be something of an understatement. In Japan it's established itself as the biggest Switch release yet, a mantle I'm sure it'll soon take elsewhere too. Screw the sales, though - in terms of buzz, I can't remember anything quite like it since Breath of the Wild. Current circumstances certainly play into that - this is escapism, pure and true - though Animal Crossing has been on an upwards ascent ever since its inception. That its moment has come now, when that escapism feels so vital, just makes it all the sweeter.

It's a far cry from the early days when Animal Crossing was a strange secret here in the west. It took just under a year for the GameCube original - itself an expanded port of an N64 game - to come to America, but more painful was the two years it took after that for it to make its way to Europe. I remember first reading about it in Edge around the time of the US launch and the concept - a game that moves in step with every minute and month of the real world - lodged in my brain until it became an obsession. It wasn't too much longer before a Freeloader turned up in the post along with a freshly-imported version of Animal Crossing and a brand new memory card that could play host to my village.

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The New York Times Releases Its Dataset of US Confirmed Coronavirus Cases

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 17:21
The New York Times has made one of the most comprehensive datasets of coronavirus cases in the United States publicly available in response to requests from researchers, scientists, government officials and businesses who would like access to the data to better understand the virus and model what may come next. From a report: The Times initially began tracking cases in late January after it became clear that no federal government agency was providing the public with an accurate, up-to-date record of cases, tracked to the county level, of people in the U.S. who had tested positive for the virus. The Times led effort has grown from a handful of correspondents to a team of several dozen journalists, including data scientists and student journalists from Northwestern University, the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, working around the clock to record details about every case. The Times is committed to collecting as much data as possible in connection with the outbreak and is collaborating with the University of California, Berkeley, on an effort in California. By Friday, March 27, The Times had tracked more than 85,000 cases in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories, over the past eight weeks. More than 1,200 people in the U.S. have died so far.

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Xbox and PlayStation eye impact of coronavirus on game development

Eurogamer - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 17:00

Microsoft and Sony have both issued statements on the possible impact coronavirus may have on their first-party Xbox and PlayStation games in development.

Neither platform holder has announced game delays as yet while the crisis ramps up in Europe and North America - where each has many major development studios. However, each company has warned delays remain a possibility.

Microsoft's statement, issued by Xbox game studio chief Matt Booty, focuses on the need to ensure the health of its staff first, while remaining committed to high quality games.

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Sony Spins Off Camera Business Into Separate Company

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 16:41
Sony has announced that it would be spinning off its entire "Electronics Products & Solutions" (EP&S) segment -- including its imaging and mobile businesses -- into an intermediate holding company called "Sony Electronics Corporation." From a report: The change will take place effective April 1st, and no, it doesn't seem to be an early April Fools joke. In a press release announcing the change, the Sony parent company outlined the plan in broad strokes, explaining that its Imaging Products & Solutions, Home Entertainment & Sound, and Mobile Communications businesses would all now be run under a new name. "Through the establishment of Sony Electronics Corporation, Sony will not only accelerate the integrated operation of the EP&S businesses," reads the release, "but also aim to optimize its organizational structure, talent and business portfolio, while further enhancing competitiveness and creating new business."

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'These People Are Evil': Drivers Speak Out Against Uber's New Coronavirus Sick Leave Fund

Slashdot - Fri, 27/03/2020 - 16:01
Countless Uber drivers are now being pushed to the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, transporting humans, food, supplies, and maybe soon Covid-19 testing kits as shelter-in-place rules cause demand for delivery services to spike. Yet despite their exposure to infection, gig workers lack paid sick leave, health benefits, or unemployment insurance because of their status as independent contractors. From a report: Earlier this month, Uber, Lyft, and Amazon drivers protested the exclusion of gig workers from Silicon Valley's monumental heave to protect itself from the coronavirus. As technology employees go remote, contractors are burdened with extra demands and no additional support. Uber, Lyft, and Amazon eventually agreed to compensate gig workers through ad hoc funds, but OneZero spoke to Uber drivers who say this is hardly a safety net. "I think I'm going to fall through the cracks," said Kimberly James, a 46-year-old driver for Uber Eats in Atlanta, Georgia. After a series of devastating hardships, including losing her house in a fire, James has come to rely on food delivery platforms like Uber Eats and DoorDash to survive. In 2012, James was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, and her weekly income of $400 means she cannot afford to get sick. Health officials have warned that the coronavirus is especially dangerous for immunocompromised people, so today James has no choice but to isolate indoors. One-time payouts are based on a person's average daily earnings for the past six months. Someone making $28.57 per day is eligible for a payment of $400, the equivalent of 14 days of average pay, while someone earning $121.42 per day can receive $1,700, Uber says on its website. To qualify, drivers must have completed one trip in the 30 days before March 6, 2020, when the global program was first announced.

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