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Ghost Recon Breakpoint is free to play this weekend on PC and consoles

Eurogamer - Thu, 26/03/2020 - 01:27

Ubisoft's much-maligned online tactical shooter Ghost Recon Breakpoint is free to try this weekend on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, giving curious players the chance to put the game's significant "Immersive Mode" overhaul through its paces.

Breakpoint wasn't, of course, particularly well-received at launch, with Eurogamer contributor Vikki Blake calling it a "half-baked hotchpotch of magpie'd ideas that neither function properly nor mesh" in her review, and "a broken, swirling vortex of recycled Ubisoft mechanics stamped across a dismal, forgettable world."

Despite the poor critical reception and lower-than-expected sales, Ubisoft has stuck with Breakpoint since its release, issuing fixes and improvements that culminated yesterday, with the arrival of the game's long-awaited Ghost Experience update.

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Categories: Video Games

iFixit MacBook Air Teardown Finds More Repairable Than Predecessor

Slashdot - Thu, 26/03/2020 - 01:20
iFixit tore apart the updated MacBook Air and found that Apple made a few changes making for a more repairable notebook than the last generation. All in all, the new 2020 MacBook Air got a 4/10 repairability score from iFixit, which is one point higher than the previous-gen model which scored 3/10. 9to5Mac reports: iFixit highlights in its full teardown that the update to the reliable Magic Keyboard only added 0.5mm to the thick end of the new MacBook Air... a more than worth it trade-off: "More than anything, that 0.5 mm illustrates the sheer unnecessary-ness of the five painful years that Mac fans spent smashing on unresponsive butterfly keyboards. Knowing that Apple's thinnest-and-lightest notebook accommodates a scissor-switch keyboard so gracefully makes us wonder what it was all for. We understand as well as anyone the urge to fix things, but Apple's insistence on reworking and re-reworking the troubled butterfly design came at such a high cost -- financially, environmentally, and to the Mac's reputation -- and for what? We'll probably never know all the factors that led to the creation and persistence of the butterfly keyboard, but this Magic keyboard is a reminder that sometimes the difference between usable and unusable, or repairable and unrepairable, can be as small as half a millimeter." Past the keyboard update, iFixit found a nice improvement to how Apple has implemented the trackpad cable: "Where last year the trackpad cables were trapped under the logic board, they are now free to be disconnected anytime -- meaning trackpad removal can happen as soon as the back cover comes off. And since the battery rests under these same cables, this new configuration also greatly speeds up battery removal by leaving the logic board in place. That's two very tasty birds, one stone, for those of you counting. This is one of those happy (but all too rare) occasions where we can identify a hardware change from Apple that's squarely aimed at improving serviceability in the existing design. Sometimes they do listen!"

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

The exFAT Filesystem Is Coming To Linux -- Paragon Software's Not Happy About It

Slashdot - Thu, 26/03/2020 - 00:40
couchslug shares an excerpt from Ars Technica: When software and operating system giant Microsoft announced its support for inclusion of the exFAT filesystem directly into the Linux kernel back in August, it didn't get a ton of press coverage. But filesystem vendor Paragon Software clearly noticed this month's merge of the Microsoft-approved, largely Samsung-authored version of exFAT into the VFS for-next repository, which will in turn merge into Linux 5.7 -- and Paragon doesn't seem happy about it. Yesterday, Paragon issued a press release about European gateway-modem vendor Sagemcom adopting its version of exFAT into an upcoming series of Linux-based routers. Unfortunately, it chose to preface the announcement with a stream of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) that wouldn't have looked out of place on Steve Ballmer's letterhead in the 1990s.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

COVID-19 Pushes Up Internet Use 70 Percent, Streaming More Than 12 Percent, First Figures Reveal

Slashdot - Thu, 26/03/2020 - 00:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Forbes: The first internet streaming and usage figures are coming in as the coronavirus pandemic places a quarter of the world's population under lockdown. As millions of people go online for entertainment and more, total internet hits have surged by between 50% and 70%, according to preliminary statistics. Streaming has also jumped by at least 12%, estimates show. [Maria Rua Aguete of Omdia, the tech research arm of Informa Tech] said the annual figures are revealing: "Ecommerce will be the other sector that will see a revenue boost as a result of the pandemic, adding $175 billion in revenue in 2020, which represents a 5% increase." Omdia predicts $11 billion losses for the movie industry with a 25% decline and a 15% drop in TV advertising, especially for ads promoting events such as concerts that can no longer take place. The surge in demand comes coupled with a warning from the company that paid TV advertising may decline by 15%. Omdia also predicted that industry recovery will start in 18 to 24 months. While official figures from Google's YouTube and other internet giants are awaited, Omdia's figures accord with other analysts. "Broadband providers are thus far experiencing a traffic surge between 30% and 50% across their mobile and fixed networks," said Alfonso Marone, who is head of media at KPMG U.K.: "Where self-isolation policies are at their peak in Europe, the spike in internet traffic has reached as high as 70%, which is indicative of what the traffic surge could look like in other regions in just two to three weeks' time. The most bandwidth-hungry are the online entertainment applications, especially those in high-definition like 4K movies and TV. For broadband providers, this spike may be seen as more a source of headache."

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UK Cash Usage Halves Within Days as Shops Close Due To Coronavirus

Slashdot - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 23:24
Cash usage in Britain has halved in the past few days, according to Link, which operates the UK's biggest network of ATMs. From a report: The closure of shops, a shift to contactless payments, plus concerns that notes may harbour the virus has contributed to the dramatic decline. Link said the ATM system was operating at its normal standard and that it was working closely with banks and regulators to ensure cash continued to be available. "Consumers' ATM and cash use has fallen significantly, by around 50%, over the past few days and this is likely to continue as people move to follow the prime minister's instructions to stay at home," it said. Some shops are refusing to accept cash during the crisis, demanding that customers pay by card only. Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: "We are concerned this will leave many vulnerable people unable to pay for the basics they need. Both the government and retailers need to find a way to ensure that the millions of people who rely on cash, and may not have a bank card, can still pay for essentials during this difficult time."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

'Don't Bail Out the Cruise Industry'

Slashdot - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 22:45
An anonymous reader shares a column: The United States economy is grinding to a halt as the country grapples with the novel coronavirus pandemic, and one of the first major actions President Trump has floated is having the government bail out the cruise line industry, which he says is a "prime candidate." He shouldn't do it. There are myriad reasons not to bail out the cruise industry's biggest players. Here are just a few: 1. They're not really US companies. [...] 2. They pay basically zero federal income tax. [...] 3. They're bad corporate actors: These companies use the protections offered by the countries they are incorporated in as a shield. They make passengers sign over a ton of rights before they even come aboard. Many employees often face long hours and brutal working conditions. 4. They pollute the air and oceans. Every fossil fuel-powered mode of transportation pollutes the air, but cruise ships are among the worst. They emit more sulfur dioxide than all of the passenger vehicles in Europe combined. Cruise ships also pollute the oceans by dumping waste. Not just illegally, for which these companies have been repeatedly fined, but also in some cases with impunity, again thanks to protections afforded by the laws of the countries where they're incorporated. And where they've been caught, there have been coverups. 5. They are not necessary. [...]

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Microsoft Announces New 'Hardware-Enforced Stack Protection' Feature

Slashdot - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 22:01
Microsoft announced today a new security feature for the Windows operating system. From a report: Named "Hardware-enforced Stack Protection," this feature allows applications to use the local CPU hardware to protect their code while running inside the CPU's memory. As the feature's name suggests, its primary role is to protect the (memory) stack -- where an app's code is stored during execution. "Hardware-enforced Stack Protection" works by enforcing strict management of the memory stack through the use of a combination between (1) modern CPU hardware and (2) shadow stacks. The term shadow stacks is a new one and refers to a copies of a program's intended execution flow (also referred to as the code's execution order). The new "Hardware-enforced Stack Protection" feature plans to use the hardware-based security features in modern CPUs to keep a copy of the app's shadow stack (intended code execution flow) in a hardware-secured environment.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Avalanche's Generation Zero team teases mysterious new game

Eurogamer - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 21:37

Avalanche Studios, the developer behind Just Cause and moody robo-shooter Generation Zero, has teased its mysterious new project by way of an atmospheric, if brisk, new video.

The currently untitled game is more specifically the work of Systemic Reaction, the newly renamed portion of Avalanche that created last year's Generation Zero. It's one of three divisions within the company (which is now going by the umbrella banner Avalanche Studios Group), existing alongside Avalanche Studios, focussed on the development of big-budget titles, and Expansive Worlds, developer of theHunter.

As to the exact nature of Systemic Reaction's new project, it's difficult to say right now,. The developer only teases that it's "both ominous and dangerous", and the accompanying trailer doesn't give much more away. Opening on bleak, snowy climes, the camera slowly enters the dark interior of a nearby cave, where a gun cocks, an unseen creature roars, and proceedings come to an abrupt close in a flash of blood and bullets.

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Categories: Video Games

Nuclear Scientists Developing Faster, Cheaper Covid-19 Test

Slashdot - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 21:23
Nuclear scientists in Austria are closing in on new coronavirus testing kits that could dramatically lower the cost and time it takes to diagnose people for the disease. From a report: With Covid-19 tests in short supply in many places, some individuals have turned to private laboratories that can genetically detect the pathogen. That process, called reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR, can cost as much as $400 in some private facilities. But the International Atomic Energy Agency expects it can produce Covid-19 tests costing as little as 10 euros ($10.83) that yield a diagnosis within hours, according to an spokesperson, who said the IAEA kits are close to being shipped. While the IAEA's individual tests may top out at 15 euros a person, countries will still need laboratories to process the results. Setting up a new facility from scratch can cost as much as 100,000 euros, according to the agency. The IAEA's lab outside Vienna has previously developed kits testing for Ebola, Zika and African Swine Fever. Fourteen countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America asked the agency's scientists earlier this month to help them ramp up testing. The effort drew an extra $5 million of funding on Tuesday from the U.S. State Department.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Singapore Government To Make Its Contact-Tracing App Freely Available To Developers Worldwide

Slashdot - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 20:42
In a move to help the international community combat the coronavirus pandemic, the Singapore government will be making the software for its contact-tracing application TraceTogether, which has already been installed by more than 620,000 people, freely available to developers around the world. From a report: In a post on Monday, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said that the app, developed by the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) and the Ministry of Health, will be open-sourced. This means that the software's source code will be made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. "We believe that making our code available to the world will enhance trust and collaboration in dealing with a global threat that does not respect boundaries, political systems or economies," said Dr Balakrishnan, who is also Foreign Minister. "Together, we can make our world safer for everyone."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Amazon, Owned by World's Richest Man, Soliciting Public Donations To Pay Workers' Sick Leave

Slashdot - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 20:02
While much of the economy grinds to a halt, Amazon is doing more business than ever. The company has announced it is hiring 100,000 workers to try to meet surging demand. In 2019, Amazon had over $280 billion in revenue and $11.9 billion in profits. As more Americans shift their shopping online, it will likely do better this year. But, as the pandemic continues, Amazon maintains one of the stingiest paid sick leave policies among major corporations. Judd Legum, writing for Popular Information: As Popular Information reported last week, a significant number of Amazon's workforce -- particularly part-time employees and contract workers -- are not receiving paid sick time. In response to the pandemic, Amazon said it would provide two weeks of sick leave to "all Amazon employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine." Kroger had a similar policy until Saturday when Kroger expanded its policy to cover workers with COVID-19 symptoms or who need to care for sick family members. Amazon, however, has held firm. Amazon's large contract workforce, which delivers packages and performs other critical tasks, is in even worse shape. Amazon is not providing any sick leave at all for these workers, even if they test positive for COVID-19. Instead, these workers must apply to the "Amazon Relief Fund" and apply for a grant to cover their sick leave. The fund is "focused on supporting our U.S.-based Delivery Associates employed by Delivery Service Providers, our Amazon Flex Delivery Partners, and Associates working for Integrity Staffing, Adecco Staffing, and RES Staffing, and drivers and support team members of line haul partners under financial distress due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine." Amazon donated $25 million to the fund and is soliciting individual donations to add to the pot. It initially included an option to donate by text.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Britons Saying Final Goodbyes To Dying Relatives By Videolink

Slashdot - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 19:21
People are having to use videolinks to say their last goodbyes to dying relatives with Covid-19 because hospitals are curtailing visits to prevent spread of the virus. From a report: In a sad scene that is increasingly being played out out across the country, in the early hours of Tuesday morning a patient with coronavirus was taken off a ventilator at a hospital in south-east London. His wife and two children were unable to be with him but watched at home via videolink, after agreement from staff in the intensive treatment unit.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

I set up an Animal Crossing swap shop and now we're helping defeat Tom Nook

Eurogamer - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 19:02

Drat. Yet another ugly carpet from that smug-looking camel. Within only a few days of playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I'd noticed I was already accumulating vast amounts of unwanted stuff, be it from balloons or suspicious travelling merchants. And as that unwanted stuff gathered dust while stored away in my house, I was also having problems finding items I actually wanted. In the early game, at least, New Horizons puts limits on what you can buy on your island on any one day, with most permanent stores run by the Nook family racket. The only way around this is to negotiate trades with friends, a painstakingly slow process I attempted on our Animal Crossing Whatsapp group.

There had to be a better way to do things.

At this point, I remembered an activity I'd done back in my Girl Guides days: Geocaching, which is basically orienteering using GPS to find hidden boxes. Geocachers often bring small items to exchange with something someone else has left, such as pens, toys and various other trinkets. So what if that concept were to be applied to this situation?

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Categories: Video Games

Doom Eternal had the series' best opening sales weekend

Eurogamer - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 18:59

Bethesda has trumpeted the launch of Doom Eternal by announcing it earned the series' best ever opening week sales.

Here in the UK, shops began selling boxed copies of Doom Eternal early in a bid to shift stock before stores were shut down.

As we reported on Monday, physical sales of Doom Eternal's boxed version were down around a third on those for Doom's 2016 reboot, though it's likely the rise in digital console sales made up much of this.

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Categories: Video Games

CDC Says Coronavirus RNA Found in Princess Cruise Ship Cabins Up To 17 Days After Passengers Left

Slashdot - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 18:41
Coronavirus RNA survived for up to 17 days aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, lasting far longer on surfaces than previous research has shown, according to new data published this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From a report: The study examined the Japanese and U.S. government efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreaks on the Carnival-owned Diamond Princess ship in Japan and the Grand Princess ship in California. Passengers and crew on both ships were quarantined on board after previous guests, who didn't have any symptoms while aboard each of the ships, tested positive for COVID-19 after landing ashore. The RNA, the genetic material of the virus that causes COVID-19, "was identified on a variety of surfaces in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated on the Diamond Princess but before disinfection procedures had been conducted," the researchers wrote, adding that the finding doesn't necessarily mean the virus spread by surface. The CDC said researchers couldn't "determine whether transmission occurred from contaminated surfaces," and that further study of COVID-19's spread through touching surfaces on cruise ships was warranted.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Ubisoft's beautiful fairy tale adventure Child of Light currently free on PC

Eurogamer - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 18:29

Ubisoft's wonderfully presented platform-RPG effort, Child of Light, is currently free to download and keep on the publisher's digital PC store.

Released in 2014 during one of Ubisoft's more experimental periods (its beautifully moving, and equally compact, WW1 adventure Valiant Hearts arrived shortly after), Child of Heart mixes side-scrolling acrobatics with unusual RPG-esque turn-based battling, forming a frequently delightful, if somewhat insubstantial, fairy-tale-inspired diversion.

It charts the tribulations of Aurora, a young girl from 1895 Austria who wakes in the fantastical kingdom of Lemuria. The ensuing adventure is frequently gorgeous, the world rendered in delicate watercolour art and accompanied by a serene soundtrack, perfectly suited to the whole storybook ambience. About the only misstep, I'd say, are the awkward rhyming couplets used to convey the narrative, which start to grate very quickly.

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Categories: Video Games

HPE Says Firmware Bug Will Brick Some SSDs Starting in October this Year

Slashdot - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 18:04
An anonymous reader writes: Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) issued a security advisory last week warning customers about a bug in the firmware of some SAS SSDs (Serial-Attached SCSI solid-state drives) that will fail after reaching 40,000 hours of operation -- which is 4 years, 206 days, and 16 hours after the SSD has been put into operation. HPE says that based on when affected SSDs have been manufactured and sold, the earliest failures are expected to occur starting with October this year. The company has released firmware updates last week to address the issue. HPE warns that if companies fail to install the update, they risk losing both the SSD and the data. "After the SSD failure occurs, neither the SSD nor the data can be recovered," the company explained.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

In place of EGX Rezzed, we'll be taking part in Rezzed Digital over the next three days

Eurogamer - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 17:26

It's a little sad to think we could all have been setting off for EGX Rezzed tomorrow. It's the chillest gaming show in the calendar, and wouldn't the airy venue at Tobacco Dock be perfect in this weather?

But EGX Rezzed has, of course, been postponed due to the coronavirus. (The current dates for the show are 2nd to 4th July, still at Tobacco Dock in London, and of course depending on the situation at the time.) In its place, we thought we would get together with some of the other sites and channels in our network, plus a few friends, to host an online celebration of gaming we can all take part in from home.

Rezzed Digital will take over www.rezzed.com from 10am tomorrow, Thursday 26th March, gathering together content from Eurogamer and all the other sites and channels. You'll also find a prominent link to it at the top of the Eurogamer homepage.

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Categories: Video Games

The National Videogame Museum needs your help

Eurogamer - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 17:24

The National Videogame Museum hasn't been around too long, but if you're lucky enough to have paid it a visit you'll know it's a fairly special place, containing thoughtfully curated collections of games and ephemera - and of course with an incredible selection of games to play from throughout the medium's rich history.

It's also host to some incredible events, such as when Nintendo legend Masayuki Uemura popped by last month to discuss his work on the Famicom. It is, in short, the kind of space that's deeply valuable to the world of video games, and unfortunately recent events mean it's had to close its doors and its existence is threatened.

To that end a JustGiving campaign has just been launched that's looking to raise £80,000 to secure the museum's future. If you're able to help in any way head over to the JustGiving page and give what you can, because this is a museum that's well worth saving.

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Categories: Video Games

EPA Plans To Waive Some Compliance Requirements Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Slashdot - Wed, 25/03/2020 - 17:22
The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to waive compliance requirements and deadlines for a range of industries, including oil refiners, water utilities and sewage plants, as it seeks to help businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Trump administration officials. From a report: The biggest change likely will be to waive or postpone coming deadlines to switch to cleaner-burning summer-grade gasoline, according to administration officials and a business lobbyist. Several states have already issued waivers or said they won't enforce them, an analyst said. And many have asked EPA to step in to clarify nationally, according to one administration official. The EPA is preparing to act following an onslaught of requests from businesses and state regulators seeking help, according to the administration officials, who expect the decision to be announced this week. Any action is expected to be scrutinized by environmental groups concerned that the EPA and business groups will take advantage of the situation to skirt environmental regulations. Under President Trump, the EPA has moved to amend environmental policies that the White House views as overly harmful to business.

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