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Israel Accused of Planting Mysterious Spy Devices Near the White House

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 23:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Politico: The U.S. government concluded within the past two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of cellphone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington, according to three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. But unlike most other occasions when flagrant incidents of foreign spying have been discovered on American soil, the Trump administration did not rebuke the Israeli government, and there were no consequences for Israel's behavior, one of the former officials said. The miniature surveillance devices, colloquially known as "StingRays," mimic regular cell towers to fool cellphones into giving them their locations and identity information. Formally called international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use. The devices were likely intended to spy on President Donald Trump, one of the former officials said, as well as his top aides and closest associates -- though it's not clear whether the Israeli efforts were successful. An Israeli Embassy spokesperson denied that Israel placed the devices and said: "These allegations are absolute nonsense. Israel doesn't conduct espionage operations in the United States, period." Furthermore, after this story was published, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that Israel was behind the devices. "We have a directive, I have a directive: No intelligence work in the United States, no spies," he said in a gaggle with reporters. "And it's vigorously implemented, without any exception. It [the report] is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Universal Studios' long-awaited Nintendo theme park set to open in Japan next spring

Eurogamer - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 23:25

Way back in 2014, Universal Studios announced that it had signed a deal to create a number of new theme parks based on Nintendo properties, and it looks like the first of these, in Osaka, Japan, will finally be opening in "spring" next year.

The news (as spotted by Attractions Magazine) comes via chairman and CEO of Universal Parks & Resorts, Tom Williams. Speaking during Comcast's 2019 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, Williams revealed that the company was aiming to open Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan next spring, and that two rides - based on Super Mario Kart and Yoshi - would be included as part of the park's Phase One on opening day.

Although Williams offered no details on the Mario Kart ride, Yoshi's Adventures was recently reported to be an omnimover-style experience, with cars designed to resemble Yoshi. The track will seemingly circle one of Super Nintendo World's upper levels, offering a view of the park below, and will consist of both indoor and outdoor scenes, utilising over 40 animatronics.

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Categories: Video Games

Arch Linux-based Manjaro 18.1.0 'Juhraya' Now Available With GNOME, KDE, or Xfce

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 22:50
An anonymous reader shares a report: Manjaro may have lofty goals of becoming a successful company, but let's be honest -- users of the Linux-based operating system don't really care about that. Don't get me wrong, I am sure most members of the Linux community are rooting for the newly-formed company's success, but they are probably more interested in the excellent operating system itself. Today, Manjaro Linux 18.1.0 "Juhraya" finally becomes available for download, and it isn't without some controversy. You see, rather than just offer up LibreOffice like most distributions, Juhraya offers an alternative choice at installation -- FreeOffice. "After six months of development, version 18.1 of Manjaro Linux is now available. Juhraya offers numerous improvements, especially with regard to Office productivity applications and package management. Another significant innovation in Manjaro 18.1 is the integrated support for FlatPak and Snap packages. For this purpose, the graphical package management tool 'bauh' (formerly known as 'fpakman' ) is now available to users," says Philip Muller, Manjaro developer.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

A $30 Device Turns the Cold of Outer Space Into Renewable Energy

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 22:10
ted_pikul writes: A team of scientists have created a device that turns the cold of space into enough electricity to power an LED light. As described in a paper published on Thursday in the journal Joule, the device is based off of a thermoelectric generator that creates electricity from the difference in temperature between a "hot side" and a "cold side." The researchers -- UCLA scientist Aaswath Raman, and Stanford scientists Wei Li and Shanhui Fan -- decided to take this idea one step further and use the ambient environment of Earth as a heat source and the cold of outer space as one gigantic cold sink. The prototype consists of four stilts supporting two plates sandwiched between a thermoelectric generator. One plate is aimed at the ground, the other at the sky. The downward-facing plate draws heat from the air around it, while the upward-facing plate is paired with an aluminum disk painted black. The disk acts as an emitter that radiates heat into space through Earth's atmosphere, cooling the plate to below ambient temperature. This effect is known as radiative cooling, Raman said, and scientists have known about the phenomenon for years. It's the reason why a window can be frosty in the morning even when last night's temperature wasn't below freezing, and, as Raman explained in a 2018 TED Talk, it's the reason ancient Persians were able to make and store ice in the desert.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Climate Change is Real and Things Will Get Worse -- But Because We Understand the Driver of Potential Doom, It's a Choice, Not a Foregone Conclusion

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 21:30
Kate Marvel, writing for Scientific American: We are, I promise you, not doomed, no matter what Jonathan Franzen says. We could be, of course, if we decided we really wanted to. We have had the potential for total annihilation since 1945, and the capacity for localized mayhem for as long as societies have existed. Climate change offers the easy choice of a slow destruction through inaction like the proverbial frog in the slowly boiling pot. And there are times when the certainty of inevitability seems comforting. Fighting is exhausting; fighting when victory seems uncertain or unlikely even more so. It's tempting to retreat to a special place -- a cozy nook, a mountaintop, a summer garden -- wait for the apocalypse to run its course, and hope it will be gentle. [...] It is precisely the fact that we understand the potential driver of doom that changes it from a foregone conclusion to a choice, a terrible outcome in the universe of all possible futures. I run models through my brain; I check them with the calculations I do on a computer. This is not optimism, or even hope. Even in the best of all possible worlds, I cannot offer the certainty of safety. Doom is a possibility; it may that we have already awakened a sleeping monster that will in the end devour the world. It may be that the very fact of human nature, whatever that is, forecloses any possibility of concerted action. But I am a scientist, which means I believe in miracles. I live on one. We are improbable life on a perfect planet. No other place in the universe has nooks or perfect mountaintops or small and beautiful gardens. A flower in a garden is an exquisite thing, rooted in soil formed from old rocks broken by weather. It breathes in sunlight and carbon dioxide and conjures its food as if by magic. For the flower to exist, a confluence of extraordinary things must happen. It needs land and air and light and water, all in the right proportion, and all at the right time. Pick it, isolate it, and watch it wither. Flowers, like people, cannot grow alone.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Cult team-based strategy platformer Killer Queen Black out on Switch and PC in October

Eurogamer - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 21:20

Liquid Bit and BumbleBear's team-based strategy platformer - and update of cult arcade hit - Killer Queen Black is making its way to Switch and PC on 11th October.

Killer Queen Black started life as an indie arcade game, simply called Killer Queen, debuting at New York University's fourth annual "No Quarter" exhibition in 2013. From that point on, the limited-release arcade cabinet began to develop something of a cult following, and Jeffrey Matulef took a look at the game and its enthusiastic community for Eurogamer in 2015.

Here's how Jeffrey explained the fascinating, somewhat inscrutable experience at the time: "Up to five players square off against an opposing team on a 2D terrain. Like Quidditch before it, there are multiple ways to win Killer Queen. The simplest is to collect a slew of berries and bring them back to your base. The second is to ride a slowly moving snail towards your goal. The entire point of this is to subtly creep to winning status while your opponents are lost in the commotion. And the third win condition is to slay your enemy's queen three times.

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Categories: Video Games

Loot Boxes in Games Are Gambling and Should Be Banned For Kids, Say UK MPs

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 20:53
UK MPs have called for the government to regulate the games industry's use of loot boxes under current gambling legislation -- urging a blanket ban on the sale of loot boxes to players who are children. From a report: Kids should instead be able to earn in-game credits to unlock look boxes, MPs have suggested in a recommendation that won't be music to the games industry's ears. Loot boxes refer to virtual items in games that can be bought with real-world money and do not reveal their contents in advance. The MPs argue the mechanic should be considered games of chance played for money's worth and regulated by the UK Gambling Act. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) parliamentary committee makes the recommendations in a report published today following an enquiry into immersive and addictive technologies that saw it take evidence from a number of tech companies including Fortnite maker Epic Games; Facebook-owned Instagram; and Snapchap. The committee said it found representatives from the games industry to be "wilfully obtuse" in answering questions about typical patterns of play -- data the report emphasizes is necessary for proper understanding of how players are engaging with games -- as well as calling out some games and social media company representatives for demonstrating "a lack of honesty and transparency," leading it to question what the companies have to hide.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Spotify Wants To Know Where You Live and Will Be Checking In

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 20:13
Spotify knows a lot about its users -- their musical tastes, their most listened-to artists and their summer anthems. Now it will also want to know where you live or to obtain your location data. It's part of an effort to detect fraud and abuse of its Premium Family program. From a report: Premium Family is a $15-a-month plan for up to six people. The only condition is that they all live at the same address. But the streaming music giant is concerned about people abusing that plan to pay as little as $2.50 for its services. So in August, the company updated its terms and conditions for Premium Family subscribers, requiring that they provide location data "from time to time" to ensure that customers are actually all in the same family. You have 30 days to cancel after the new terms went into effect, which depends on where you are. The family plan terms rolled out first on Aug. 19 in Ireland and on Sept. 5 in the US. The company tested this last year and asked for exact GPS coordinates but ended the pilot program after customers balked. Now it intends on rolling the location data requests out fully, reigniting privacy concerns and raising the question of how much is too much when it comes to your personal information.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

PC Shipments On The Decline

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 19:30
Mobile seems to be taking its toll on the old PC. From a report: For the first time since 2010, personal computing device shipments will drop below 400 million in 2020, according to a new forecast. Shipments of the devices, including PCs and tablets, is projected to decline 2% a year until 2023, according to the forecast by the International Data Corporation (IDC). The reality is that consumers have become more used to computing on-the-fly, thanks to portable and mobile devices. The forecast reflects some of this, with convertible PCs and detachable tablets expected to grow slightly.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Frictional Games' Amnesia Collection brings three horror greats to Switch from today

Eurogamer - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 19:26

Frictional Games' trio of classic psychological frighten-'em-ups, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Justine, and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, will be terrorising Switch owners from today, all arriving on Nintendo's platform as part of the Amnesia Collection.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent, if you've yet to seek out its form in the shadows, is a stone-cold genre classic. Its creeping horror unfurls within a vast, Prussian castle, with players taking on the role of a young British man suffering from, would you believe it, memory problems.


Rather than resorting to endless jump-scares, most of The Dark Descent's horror is borne of its rich, suffocating atmosphere, and from Frictional's ceaselessly effective psychological manipulations. For instance, an insanity system actively discourages participants from looking at the castle's monstrous inhabitants as they snuffle about, unnervingly close, in the darkness, inevitably causing players to imagine even worse terrors.

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Categories: Video Games

New Simjacker Attack Exploited In the Wild To Track Users For At Least Two Years

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 18:50
Security researchers have disclosed today a major SMS-based attack method being abused in the real world by a surveillance vendor to track and monitor individuals. An anonymous reader shares a report: "We are quite confident that this exploit has been developed by a specific private company that works with governments to monitor individuals," security researchers from AdaptiveMobile Security said in a report. "We believe this vulnerability has been exploited for at least the last 2 years by a highly sophisticated threat actor in multiple countries, primarily for the purposes of surveillance." The attack, named Simjacker, works by attackers sending SMS messages to victims' phones. The SMS messages contain STK instructions that are run by a victim's SIM card to gather location data and the IMEI code, which is then sent through an SMS message to a logging system. Researchers said they've seen Simjacker being abused to track hundreds of victims for two years, yet it is unclear if the victims are criminals tracked by law enforcement, or dissidents tracked by oppressive regimes. Over one billion smartphone users use SIM cards deemed vulnerable to this attack.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

The Witcher card game Gwent is coming to iOS

Eurogamer - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 18:40

The Witcher card game Gwent is going mobile and heading to iOS devices on 29th October. It's a free-to-play game with the option of buying card kegs (packs), and all progress and purchases will share between iOS and PC (note: not console, by the sound of it).

You'll need an iPhone 6S or newer to run it, an iPad Mini 4 or newer, iPad 5th generation or newer, iPad Air 2 or newer, or any iPad Pro.

Gwent is the card game which began life inside The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt but was then fleshed out into a full game. It's almost unrecognisable now. The nuts and bolts are the same but it has so much more tactical nuance and depth. And it's gorgeous, with little animated avatars standing on the board and little moving pictures - I love things like that.

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Categories: Video Games

145 Executives Demand Senate Action on Gun Violence

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 18:12
In a direct and urgent call to address gun violence in America, the chief executives of some of the nation's best-known companies sent a letter to Senate leaders on Thursday, urging an expansion of background checks to all firearms sales and stronger "red flag" laws. From a report: "Doing nothing about America's gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety," the heads of 145 companies, including Levi Strauss, Twitter and Uber, say in the letter [PDF], which was shared with The New York Times. The letter -- which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives -- is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits. The debate and the decision to sign -- or not sign -- are a case study in how chief executives must weigh their own views and the political risks to their businesses. Missing from the list, however, are some of America's biggest financial and technology companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Government Orders Google: Let Employees Speak Out

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 17:30
Federal regulators have ordered Google to assure employees they are allowed to speak out on political and workplace issues [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], WSJ reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter, as part of a settlement of formal complaints that the search giant punishes those who do just that. From a report: The move from the National Labor Relations Board offers Google an escape hatch from a thorny issue that has roiled the business in recent years. Though Google executives have long bragged about having a workplace culture designed to encourage open debate, current and former employees across the political spectrum have complained that they were retaliated against for raising concerns about equality and freedom of speech. The NLRB's settlement comes in response to a pair of complaints about Google's reaction to workplace dissent. The settlement orders Google to inform current employees that they are free to speak to the media -- without having to ask Google higher-ups for permission -- on topics such as workplace diversity and compensation, regardless of whether Google views such topics as inappropriate for the workplace.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Amazon Will Let Anyone Answer Your Alexa Questions Now

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 16:52
The next time you ask a question to Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, the answer might come from another Alexa user. From a report: Starting today, Amazon is publicly launching a program called Alexa Answers, which lets anyone field questions asked by users for which Alexa doesn't already have a response -- ones such as: What states surround Illinois? What's the proper amount of sleep? How many instruments does Stevie Wonder play? How much is in a handle of alcohol? From then on, when people ask a question, Alexa will speak an answer generated through Alexa Answers, noting that the information is "according to an Amazon customer." The program launched in a private, invite-only beta for thousands of customers last year after a period of internal testing. Even with that limited group, Amazon says it's already logged hundreds of thousands of responses, which Alexa has served millions of times. Those numbers will likely shoot upwards now that anyone in the United States can participate. "Our North Star, our overall vision, is we'd love it if Alexa can answer any question people ask her, no matter what the language, where they are, what the device," says Bill Barton, Amazon's vice president of Alexa Information. "We're focused on Alexa as an objective, factual information source with this particular effort."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

R-Type Final 2 seen in action for the first time at TGS

Eurogamer - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 16:31

R-Type Final 2 got an airing at Tokyo Game Show today, and it's undoubtedly a very real, very playable prospect. What a time to be alive!

A crowdfunding campaign was kicked off earlier this year by Granzella - a team of veterans of the series and from original developer Irem - and met its targets soon after. And now, mere months later, a playable demo has been captured offscreen by Famitsu (and subsequently picked up by Gematsu) and kindly uploaded so the rest of us can no longer have any doubts that R-Type Final 2 is actually happening.

And it looks great, keeping to the more sedate pace of classic R-Type while adding in a level of visual splendour and technical clout that's new to the series. I'm somehow even more excited than before, and lord knows was I excited then.

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Categories: Video Games

Drivers? Never Heard of Them, Says Uber

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 16:11
California lawmakers passed a landmark bill on Wednesday that threatens to reshape how companies like Uber and Lyft do business. The legislation, known as Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), was passed in the state Assembly and now heads to Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk. From a report: Uber and Lyft maintain that AB5 won't immediately change independent contractors into employees. Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, said on a call with reporters that the bill builds on legal tests already established in California around how drivers should be classified. West said drivers may not necessarily fall under the new rules laid out in AB5. "Under that three-part test, arguably the highest bar is that a company must prove that contractors are doing work 'outside the usual course' of its business," West said. "Several previous rulings have found that drivers' work is outside the usual course of Uber's business, which is serving as a technology platform for several different types of digital marketplaces." West said Uber intends to follow AB5 should it be put into law next year, but that it will continue to try to prove that it doesn't fall under its legal framework. "Uber is no stranger to legal battles, that's for sure," West said. "We operate in a very regulated environment, and we recognize that there will be legal challenges on all fronts much of the time."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

RIP Man Blue, London FC and WM Gold

Eurogamer - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 15:42

If you've been playing PES 2020 you might have noticed some of the old fake team names have been replaced by new fake team names that are a little more realistic.

For years, Konami's football franchise has included fake names for teams it didn't have an official licence for. And some of the fake names seemed determined not to include the city or town name on which the real-life club is based.

Who can forget Man Blue for Manchester City, or Man Red for Manchester United? Or London FC for Chelsea (PES had this right - we are the biggest team in the capital).

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Categories: Video Games

McDonald's Is To Replace Human Workers With Voice-Based Tech In US Drive-Throughs

Slashdot - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: McDonald's is to replace human servers with voice-based technology in its U.S. drive-throughs. The fast-food chain hopes the AI technology will make the ordering process more efficient. McDonald's is implementing the technology with the help of start-up Apprente, which it acquired this week. The move comes amid concern about workers whose jobs may become obsolete as a result of automation and new technologies. McDonald's plans to expand its newly formed McD Tech team by hiring more engineers and data scientists. The report notes that the company recently "invested in technology that could automatically alter individual drive-through menu panels, depending on factors such as the weather, for example automatically suggesting McFlurry ice cream on hot days or telling customers which items were already proving popular at that particular restaurant that day."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Nintendo's new Ring-Con is a welcome return to Wii weirdness

Eurogamer - Thu, 12/09/2019 - 14:15

Weird Nintendo, I've always felt, is the best Nintendo. From well-known oddities such as the Ultra Hand or Love Tester through to deeper cuts like the Chiritori, a remote control vacuum cleaner that was an early precursor to the Roomba, or the Unirack, a shelving unit that came with its own set of handkerchiefs and a secret compartment to squirrel them away in, all so that children could conjure them out of thin air in a performative trick for the whole family, it's where the heart of the company lies. Storage units and disappearing acts? Now that's the Nintendo I love - the toymaker extraordinaire, taking everyday items and imbuing them with a little magic.

All of which was very much present and correct in the enigmatic reveal of a new piece of kit coming to the Nintendo Switch, a brief trailer smartly positioned well away from last week's Direct - a move that tells you a fair amount about where this particular device is being marketed. And that trailer will also have given you a fair idea of what to expect from what's officially dubbed the 'Ring-Con'. It's a rubberised ring that's just about shoulder width, and in which you can place a Joy-Con to track your movements alongside various other magical uses.

I'd say there's been nothing like it before, but that'd be a lie. The Ring-Con is, to put it bluntly, a pilates ring, and it's not as if introducing fitness devices like this is entirely unprecedented in the world of video games. There's Nintendo's own Wii Fit, of course, while the accompanying leg strap you place another Joy-Con in and attach to your thigh reminds me of 2009's EA Sports Active, one of the better games to have come out of the fitness fad around a decade ago.

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Categories: Video Games
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