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Facebook's Libra Cryptocurrency Could Be Misused By Terrorists, Says Treasury Chief Mnuchin

Slashdot - Tue, 16/07/2019 - 01:20
In a press conference Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Facebook's proposed digital currency, Libra, "could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers" and that it was a "national security issue." CNBC reports: "Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have been exploited to support billions of dollars of illicit activity like cyber crime, tax evasion, extortion, ransomware, illicit drugs and human trafficking," Mnuchin said, adding that he is "not comfortable today" with Facebook's launch. "They have a lot of work to do," he said. The press conference comes days after President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he was "not a fan" of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. He also suggested Facebook, which plans on launching the global cryptocurrency next year, would need a bank charter to do so. Bitcoin dropped sharply on Monday following the president's criticism on Twitter. The world's first and most valuable digital currency fell roughly 10% to a low of $9,872 to start the week. "The president does have concerns as it relates to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies -- those are legitimate concerns that we have been working on for a long period of time," Mnuchin said. In response to the Treasury secretary's comments, Facebook told CNBC that "they anticipated critical feedback from regulators, central banks, lawmakers around the world." The tech giant also said they announced Libra a year before its anticipated launch date, "so that we could have those conversations."

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Amazon Warehouse Workers Around the World Are Striking For Prime Day

Slashdot - Tue, 16/07/2019 - 00:40
Amazon workers around the world are going on strike today to bring attention to the working conditions they endure. "Some are arguing that buying from Amazon during Prime Day is akin to crossing a picket line," reports Quartz. From the report: As the two-day bacchanal of discounted Amazon offerings begins, workers at its fulfillment centers around the U.S. continue to complain of extremely odious quotas, limited bathroom breaks, mandatory holiday shifts, and the need for pain medication just to get through their 10-hour work days. The U.S.: Workers at a Shakopee, Minnesota fulfillment center will be walking out during a six-hour period that overlaps with the end of the facility's morning shift and the start of its evening shift. There are about 1,500 full-time employees at the facility, according to the Daily Beast. Germany: Hundreds of employees at seven facilities will be striking today and tomorrow, over longstanding issues with employee pay. âoeWhile Amazon holds a giant Prime-Day bargain hunt, employees are deprived of a living wage,â Orhan Akman, a representative from the German labor union Ver.di, said in a statement shared with Quartz. The UK: The GMB trade union will be staging protests at Amazon facilities across the country. Some of the most shocking accounts issues of issues faced by Amazon warehouse workers have come out of the UK. One undercover writer said they witnessed co-workers urinating in bottles to avoid missing quotas by taking bathroom breaks. Elsewhere in Europe: Workers in Spain and Poland will also be organizing demonstrations at Amazon facilities across their countries throughout the week. Here's what Amazon had to say about the demonstrations and walkouts: "Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues. These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause -- industry leading pay (full-time employees at our Shakopee facility make $16.25 - $20.80), benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees. We can only conclude that the people who plan to attend the event on Monday are simply not informed. If these groups -- unions and the politicians they rally to their cause -- really want to help the American worker, we encourage them to focus their energy on passing legislation for an increase in the federal minimum wage, because $7.25 is too low."

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Randy Pitchford confirms no Borderlands 3 cross-play at launch

Eurogamer - Tue, 16/07/2019 - 00:30

Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford has confirmed that Borderlands 3 will not support cross-platform play when it launches on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on 13th September, despite previously calling the feature "a pre-requisite".

Cross-play chatter has surrounded Borderlands 3 pretty much since its initial unveiling, with Pitchford tweeting back in April that "Gearbox have a very keen interest" in the feature.

This, he suggested, was one of the reason why the decision had been made to restrict sales of Borderlands 3 to the Epic Games Store on PC. "We believe multi-platform support is a pre-requisite," he wrote, "and Epic's leadership with cross platform support is helpful to our interests there."

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Categories: Video Games

To Break Google's Monopoly On Search, Make Its Index Public

Slashdot - Tue, 16/07/2019 - 00:03
Robert Epstein, an American psychologist, professor, author and journalist critical of Google, argues that Google's monopoly on search can be broken by making its index public. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report via Bloomberg: Different tech companies pose different kinds of threats. I'm focused here on Google, which I've been studying for more than six years through both experimental research and monitoring projects. (Google is well aware of my work and not entirely happy with me. The company did not respond to requests for comment.) Google is especially worrisome because it has maintained an unopposed monopoly on search worldwide for nearly a decade. It controls 92 percent of search, with the next largest competitor, Microsoft's Bing, drawing only 2.5%. Fortunately, there is a simple way to end the company's monopoly without breaking up its search engine, and that is to turn its "index" -- the mammoth and ever-growing database it maintains of internet content -- into a kind of public commons. Doesn't Google already share its index with everyone in the world? Yes, but only for single searches. I'm talking about requiring Google to share its entire index with outside entities -- businesses, nonprofit organizations, even individuals -- through what programmers call an application programming interface, or API. Google already allows this kind of sharing with a chosen few, most notably a small but ingenious company called Startpage, which is based in the Netherlands. In 2009, Google granted Startpage access to its index in return for fees generated by ads placed near Startpage search results. With access to Google's index -- the most extensive in the world, by far -- Startpage gives you great search results, but with a difference. Google tracks your searches and also monitors you in other ways, so it gives you personalized results. Startpage doesn't track you -- it respects and guarantees your privacy -- so it gives you generic results. Some people like customized results; others treasure their privacy. In closing, Epstein writes that dozens of Startpage variants would turn up within months of opening up access to Google's index. "Many would target niche audiences -- some small, perhaps, like high-end shoppers, and some huge, like all the world's women, and most of these platforms would do a better job of serving their constituencies than Google ever could," he writes. "These aren't just alternatives to Google, they are competitors -- thousands of search platforms, each with its special focus and emphasis, each drawing on different subsets of information from Google's ever-expanding index, and each using different rules to decide how to organize the search results they display. Different platforms would likely have different business models, too, and business models that have never been tried before would quickly be tested."

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AI Has a Compute Dependency Problem, Facebook VP Says

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 23:25
In one of his first public speaking appearances since joining Facebook to lead its AI initiatives, VP Jerome Pesenti expressed concern about the growing amount of compute power needed to create powerful AI systems. From a report: "I can tell you this is keeping me up at night," Pesenti said. "The peak compute companies like Facebook and Google can afford for an experiment, we are reaching that already." More software innovation will be required if artificial intelligence is to grow unhindered, he said, and optimization of hardware and software -- rather than brute force compute -- may be critical to AI in years ahead. [...] "We still see gains with increase of compute, but the pressure from the problem is just going to become bigger," Pesenti said. "I think we will still continue to use more compute, you will still net, but it will go slower, because you cannot keep pace with 10 times a year. That's just not possible."

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Intel's Pohoiki Beach is a Neuromorphic Computer Capable of Simulating 8 Million Neurons

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 22:45
During the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Electronics Resurgence Initiative 2019 summit in Detroit, Michigan, Intel unveiled a system codenamed "Pohoiki Beach," a 64-chip computer capable of simulating 8 million neurons in total. From a report: Intel Labs managing director Rich Uhlig said Pohoiki Beach will be made available to 60 research partners to "advance the field" and scale up AI algorithms like spare coding and path planning. [...] Pohoiki Beach packs 64 128-core, 14-nanometer Loihi neuromorphic chips, which were first detailed in October 2017 at the 2018 Neuro Inspired Computational Elements (NICE) workshop in Oregon. They have a 60-millimeter die size and contain over 2 billion transistors, 130,000 artificial neurons, and 130 million synapses, in addition to three managing Lakemont cores for task orchestration. Uniquely, Loihi features a programmable microcode learning engine for on-chip training of asynchronous spiking neural networks (SNNs) -- AI models that incorporate time into their operating model, such that components of the model don't process input data simultaneously. This will be used for the implementation of adaptive self-modifying, event-driven, and fine-grained parallel computations with high efficiency.

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Twitter Rebuilds Website For 'Write Once, Run Everywhere' Philosophy

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 22:05
An anonymous reader writes: Twitter today began rolling out a new version of Twitter.com, rebuilt "from the ground up." The company says the project, which impacts the front end and the back end, has been years in the making. Twitter's biggest redesign in nearly seven years is meant to be a clean slate that will help the team more quickly bring new features and functionality to the site. On the front end, that means a faster and more personalized experience. On the back end, that means serving the right experience based on the user and device. The front end redesign brings Twitter's Explore feature from its apps to the website. That translates to more content like live video and local moments personalized to your location, context with profile information within conversations, and Top Trends in any view. Bookmarks, Lists, and Profile now have their own spots on the side navigation. Whether you have one profile or multiple, the site handles switching between accounts faster, also from the side navigation. You no longer have to login and logout. [...] Twitter has rebuilt the back end to support a site that is "personalized, efficient, faster, and more conversational." The Twitter web team says it needed to rebuild the back end from scratch because many of the problems stemmed from old architectural decisions.

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The New 2019 MacBook Air Features a Slower SSD Than 2018 Model

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 21:25
The new 2019 MacBook Air with a True Tone display, upgraded keyboard and a price cut has been out for a week already, but we're finding out more about. The latest bit of information from Consomac confirms an unfortunate drawback: the SSD is slower than the previous 2018 model. From a report: The French site conducted some tests on the new 2019 MacBook Air using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test and it achieved speeds of 1.3 GB/s read and 1 GB/s write. Compare it to the 2018 MacBook Air, which achieved 2 GB/s read and 0.9 GB/s write. Apple's newer laptop improved slightly on the writing side, but its performance downgraded by 35% on the reading side. That can be attributed to a slower SSD Apple included in the new MacBook Air.

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Storytelling adventure Where the Water Tastes Like Wine adds new Chinese-American tales in free update

Eurogamer - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 21:22

Developer Dim Bulb's positively received Depression-era storytelling adventure, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, is ready to spin a few more yarns, courtesy of its newly released, and free, Gold Mountain update.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, the brainchild of Johnnemann Nordhagen (co-founder of Gone Home developer Fullbright), sends players, in the guise of a roving skeleton, on a cross-country adventure around the United States. It's a game of tales, with the goal being to tease out new stories from the strangers you meet on your travels, trading yarns you've heard elsewhere to gain their trust and learn the end of their particular narratives.

The new Gold Mountain update introduces a fan-made Chinese translation, lead by Ryan Zhang, and a number of new stories focussing on the experiences of Chinese-Americans and their impact on American history and culture. As Dim Bulb puts it, the additions are intended "to honour the millions of Chinese-Americans generally overlooked in American history".

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Categories: Video Games

Gartner, IDC Agree that PC Sales Are Up -- But They Don't Agree What a PC Is

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 20:45
We've been hearing for quite some time that the traditional PC is dying, but it's not quite dead yet. Business analyst firms Gartner and IDC tackle the numbers differently, but both agree that sales of traditional PCs were up -- in some regions, way up -- in Q2 2019. From a report: While both firms reported market growth in year-on-year PC sales, their actual figures differed. IDC reported a 4.7% growth in Q2 sales, where Gartner only reported 1.5%. The two firms' numbers for US regional sales differed even more sharply, with Gartner claiming a 0.4% loss and IDC claiming a "high single digit gain." We spoke to IDC's Jitesh Ubrani about the difference, and it turns out the two companies don't quite agree on what is or is not a traditional PC. IDC counts Chromebooks as traditional PCs but doesn't count Microsoft Surface tablets; Gartner does count Surface but doesn't count Chromebooks. The higher numbers from IDC indicate a stronger market for Chromebooks than Surface, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone with children in North American schools, where the inexpensive and easily locked-down Chromebooks are ubiquitous.

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TurboGrafx-16 Mini Launches In March With 50-ish Games

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 20:06
You'll be able to complete the trifecta of tiny 16-bit throwback systems on March 19, 2020, when Konami releases the TurboGrafx-16 Mini. From a report: It'll include Dracula X, Bonk's Revenge, Gradius and many more games, including many Japanese exclusives. Konami said last week that it will sell the device exclusively through Amazon, with preorders opening up on Monday, July 15 during the online retailer's "Prime Day" promotion. The U.S. will get the TurboGrafx-shaped device shown above, while Japan will get a version modeled after the PC Engine and Europe's model will be styled after the CoreGrafx revision. No price has been announced for the U.S. model, but the Japanese one will cost 10,500 yen or around $100. The game library will be almost identical across all three systems, including 24 American versions of games and 26 Japanese versions. There is a little bit of overlap between the two -- for example, both the U.S. and Japanese versions of the action RPG Neutopia are included. That means it's not quite 50 games total, but it's still a rich lineup, which even includes CD-ROM games and some games from the Japanese SuperGrafx system.

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Facebook-Driven Area 51 Storming May Be Countered With Force, Says US Air Force

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 19:25
Fun and games on Facebook may have serious consequences for the foolish. That was the message delivered by the US Air Force, who have responded to a Facebook's group's efforts to have 450,000 people storm a top secret military base. From a report: Conspiracy theorists have always believed that Area 51 in Nevada holds information about extra-terrestrial activities on our planet, possibly including actual alien remains and aircraft. That belief spawned a Facebook group suggesting that a wave of humanity could overwhelm the defenses at the base and discover the truth. More than 400,000 people have joined a Facebook event page calling for storming Area 51, with many more indicating interest. The proposed event is scheduled for Sept. 20. "We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry," the event description reads. "If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets see them aliens."

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Computer Pioneer and Codebreaker Alan Turing To Appear On UK Money

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 18:45
sandbagger writes: Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing will feature on the new design of the Bank of England's 50 pound note. He is celebrated for his code-cracking work that proved vital to the Allies in World War Two. The 50 pound note will be the last of the Bank of England collection to switch from paper to polymer when it enters circulation by the end of 2021. The note was once described as the "currency of corrupt elites" and is the least used in daily transactions. However, there are still 344 million 50 pound notes in circulation, with a combined value of 17.2bn pound, according to the Bank of England's banknote circulation figures. "Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today," said Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

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Assassin's Creed Odyssey's Fate of Atlantis expansion provides an appropriately epic finale

Eurogamer - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 18:28

If I had one criticism of Assassin's Creed Odyssey - a game which, eight months on, I still play most evenings - it's that Ubisoft's incredible efforts to make it an RPG worth returning to can sometimes get in the way of providing a final, definitive ending. Odyssey had a set of three finales - one for each of its three intertwining storylines - but each refused to close the book fully.

But why would they? Here I am, still playing now, sometimes just for a daily mission, other times to chip away at the latest side-quest Kassandra has stumbled into. Odyssey is so vast, I'm still finding things to do from the base game alongside the wealth of stuff Ubisoft has been busy building in since launch: weekly quests to win and cosmetics to unlock, new bosses, entire questlines. And that's before you get into the stuff you actually need to cough up for - Odyssey's season pass content.

Legacy of the First Blade, Odyssey's first season pass story arc, ended up a mostly-enjoyable diversion aimed at fans who didn't mind it meandering away from what was stated on the tin (its promised storyline centring on the origins of the series' iconic Hidden Blade weapon was left largely in the background in favour of a somewhat clumsily-handled link to the hero bloodline featured in other games).

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Categories: Video Games

Upgrade your Switch storage with up to 60% off SD cards during Prime Day 2019

Eurogamer - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 18:23

If you're looking for a new Switch SD card then you'll be happy to hear a handful of SanDisk cards have been reduced by up to 60 per cent as part of the two-day sale bonanza that is Amazon Prime Day 2019.

Many of these will be the perfect choice to expand the storage space available on your Nintendo Switch. After getting a few games in your library - especially bigguns such as Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey - you might find the internal memory running low.

The most straightforward and cheapest thing to do would be to grab yourself this SanDisk Ultra 64 GB Memory Card for a paltry £8.29. That'll give you three times as much room as you started with and should ensure your safety for a while yet.

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Facebook's $5 Billion FTC Fine is an Embarrassing Joke

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 18:07
Facebook's stock went up after news of a record-breaking $5 billion FTC fine for various privacy violations broke last week. From a report: That, as The New York Times' Mike Isaac points out, is the real story here: the United States government spent months coming up with a punishment for Facebook's long list of privacy-related bad behavior, and the best it could do was so weak that Facebook's stock price went up. From some other perspectives, that $5 billion fine is a big deal, of course: it's the biggest fine in FTC history, far bigger than the $22 million fine levied against Google in 2012. And $5 billion is a lot of money, to be sure. It's just that like everything else that comes into contact with Facebook's scale, it's still entirely too small: Facebook had $15 billion in revenue last quarter alone, and $22 billion in profit last year. The largest FTC fine in the history of the country represents basically a month of Facebook's revenue, and the company did such a good job of telegraphing it to investors that the stock price went up.

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Europe Relies on American GPS as Its Own Galileo System Suffers Massive Outage

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 17:38
An anonymous reader shares a report: Europe's Galileo satellite network -- used by satnavs, financial institutions and more -- is in the throes of a huge outage. The system has been down since Friday meaning that travelers (and others) in Europe have instead had to fall back on the American Global Positioning System (GPS) -- or even Russia or Chinese systems. Galileo has been struck by what is being described as a "technical incident related to its ground infrastructure", and it's not clear when the situation will be remedied. The European GNSS Agency (Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency, or GSA) says that the incident affects only the Galileo initial navigation and timing services. It stresses that "the SAR service -- used for locating and helping people in distress situations for example at sea or mountains -- is unaffected and remains operational".

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Huawei Reportedly Plans Massive US Layoffs

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 16:41
Huawei is planning major layoffs at its US research labs as it struggles under the weight of the Commerce Department blacklisting, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. From a report: The embattled Chinese telecom's Futurewei R&D subsidiary employs about 850 people in Texas, California and Washington state. The layoffs may number in the hundreds, according to the Journal, which cited anonymous sources. A few people apparently already know that they'll be dismissed, but further cuts are expected and some Chinese workers are being allowed to continue with Huawei if they return home.

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Apex Legends is dealing with cheaters by matching them together

Eurogamer - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 16:39

Fancy using an aimbot on unsuspecting victims to climb your way up Apex Legends' Ranked mode? Too bad, as now you'll be thrown into the seventh circle of hacker hell by Respawn's matchmaking system.

In a developer update post on Reddit, Respawn's detailed how it's been dealing with its cheater problem. Alongside developing auto ban technology to boot out cheaters (similar to the measures PUBG Corp recently discussed), Respawn has been increasing its resources and undertaking "ongoing work to adapt to new cheats". Most amusingly, this includes developing a matchmaking system "that matches detected cheaters and spammers together". How delicious.

Another area of concern seems to be preventing cheaters from creating new accounts to get around bans, with some players in certain regions on "high risk accounts" now requiring two-factor authentication to log in. Respawn also says it's been working on "improving detection that identifies and bans new spam accounts before they are used".

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Qualcomm's New Snapdragon 855 Plus is a Natural Fit For Tomorrow's Gaming Phones

Slashdot - Mon, 15/07/2019 - 16:01
Qualcomm has announced a mid-year refresh of its flagship Snapdragon 855 chipset. The new Snapdragon 855 Plus is further optimized for gaming, VR, AI, and 5G connectivity. From a report: It sticks to the same overall design and chip layout as the 855, but Qualcomm says the Plus's eight-core Kryo CPU runs at higher peak clock speeds of up to 2.96GHz. But more important to gamers is a 15 percent performance improvement from the Adreno 640 GPU. That will likely result in the 855 Plus making its way into the next wave of gaming-focused smartphones like those we've seen from Asus, Razer, and other companies. As for AI and VR improvements, Qualcomm is continuing to talk up its fourth-generation AI Engine that's capable of "more than 7 trillion operations per second." The Snapdragon 855 Plus will deliver "best-in-class cellular performance, superior coverage and all-day battery life in premium 5G devices," according to the company. It's still using two separate modems to get there, however, with both a Snapdragon X24 LTE 4G modem and Qualcomm's X50 5G modem on board. I guess we won't see a more efficient approach until the inevitable Snapdragon 865.

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