Are Android-based game-streaming handhelds a fad, or are they the future?

ARS Technica - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 13:40
Let's see: Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia Geforce Now, Xbox again, and Steam Link. That's all the cloud streaming services, right? Nothing's missing.

Enlarge / Let's see: Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia Geforce Now, Xbox again, and Steam Link. That's all the cloud streaming services, right? Nothing's missing. (credit: Logitech)

It's not every day that you see the attempted birth of an entirely new category of video game hardware. But it feels like that's what we're seeing this month with the announcement of the Logitech G Cloud and the Razer Edge 5G handheld gaming systems.

While these devices (and somewhat similar emulation-focused handhelds like the AYN Odin) have their differences, they share Qualcomm SnapDragon internals, an Android-based OS, and vaguely Switch-like hardware designs. And while these devices can natively run games designed for Android phones (for whatever that's worth), the main focus seems to be streaming portable versions of high-end console and PC games through various cloud-gaming providers or in-home streaming options.

It's too early to know how well these handhelds will serve their stated purpose, or how much actual market demand there is for dedicated portable devices that primarily play games hosted on remote servers or platforms. Still, we can't help but compare and contrast this new hardware design trend with the last major (failed) attempt to create a new category of gaming hardware: the microconsole.

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Categories: Tech News

Scientists, why not simply invent a working fusion plant using $50m from Uncle Sam

The Register - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 13:26
You even have until the end of the 2030s to get it done

The US Department of Energy has announced plans to award up to $50 million in funds to private businesses to develop a working fusion pilot plant (FPP) by the 2030s. …

Categories: Tech News

The Best Deals This Week, From Hoka Bondi 7s to MysteryVibe Sex Toys

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 13:23

What’s that smell? Is that pheromone perfume? It must be, because we’ve suddenly become sexually attracted to all the fall deals that have blown our way. Fall is great for so much more than apple cider doughnuts from the “rustic” farm stand and the bulk candy that starts populating CVS shelves by August. We’re here for the roarin’ fall deals and steals that we can fill our carts with after scarfing a half dozen Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Spice CBD Gummies.

Last week, we scoured West Elm’s warehouse sale, stocked up on Foria’s CBD lube bundles, upgraded our beds thanks to Purple’s mattress savings, and even picked up a DIY ice cream maker—because enjoying a frosty treat is always in season. This week, Buffy is making us never want to leave our beds with its cozy pillows, and MysteryVibe makes us want to get shoppin’ to get off. Stop, shop, and flick le bean.

The best Amazon deals right now

Kick your nightly screening sessions of Euphoria, Love Island, erotic foreign films, or whatever else tickles your fancy up a notch with this mini movie projector for 33% off. It’s LED-powerede, portable, includes a 100” projection screen, has built-in stereo speakers, and can easily hook up to smart devices via a HDMI adapter.

Your tresses and skin deserve all the spa treatments in the world. How to get that feeling of luxury without going to the Ritz-Carlton? This Natural Mulberry Silk Pillowcase for 24% off. It’s cooling, easy to clean, reduces friction on hair, and is gentle on skin. With a 4.6-star rating and more than 3,200 reviews, it’s a trusty steed in the world of silk bedding. “I bought this to help reduce hair loss while sleeping—WOW what a difference!!” a reviewer on Amazon wrote. “Smoother hair, less loss, and less breakage.”

Rise ‘n’ grind with this sunrise-simulating alarm clock—way better than Apple’s collection of ringtones, and better yet, for 40% off. It uses seven natural sounds to get you to rise from the dead the middle of your REM cycle, and gradually brightens your room from 10% to 100% over the course of 10 to 30 minutes before your alarm setting time. Wake up by the powers of nature for 40% off.

Buffy’s cozy fall sale

When it comes to bedding brand Buffy, the thought of its cozy but cooling sheets, duvets, pillows, and more gives us both goosebumps and hard nips. It’s safe to say summer is over and the cold is here to stay. Stay cuddled during cuffing season no matter your single/taken status with Buffy’s Wiggle Pillow that wraps around you in all the right places. You also can’t go wrong with the brand’s puffy blanket that twins with your puffer coat—both are marked down for the “Comfy Cozy Sale.”

Rollink’s sitewide sale

We hope fall travels are on your agenda, and if not, what the hell are ya doing with your life? Book that trip to the Bahamas already—and, pack with Rollink’s collapsible luggage for 25% off until September 30. All models fold flat to 2” thickness, are scratch-resistant, and have an ultra-durable hard shell, including the Flex Vega Cabin Suitcase for $46 off.

Nordstrom’s secret Hoka Bondi 7 sale

Nordy is always a dime when it comes to its markdowns on designer duds, but the big-box retailer must’ve known we were browsing, because we spotted hidden deals on our staff fave Hoka Bondi 7. Our go-to running shoe has been a tad tedious to find since it’s now out of stock on Hoka’s website, so it’s in your best interest to snag it now from Nordstrom for 20% off. Some of its standout features include lightweight cushioning to absorb impact and distribute weight, and Meta-Rocker technology for a smooth, comfy ride.

MysteryVibe’s sexy fall sale

We don’t condone having a bone session while apple-picking, but we’re not gonna tell you what to do. Fall just makes us feel some type of way, you know? And that’s why we’ll be snagging a MysteryVibe sex toy this week for up to 25% off. One of our favorite workhorses down there is the bendy, Gumby-like Crescendo 2 for $34 off. It has six specially placed motors that target sensations in your erotic crevices, is water-resistant, and has 16 different intensities.

Sur La Table’s warehouse sale

Autumn dishes with caramelized butternut squash and toasted pecans have us hooked, but that kind of magic can’t happen without the proper kitchen essentials. Score up to 50% off cookware, tools, bakeware, and small appliances at Sur La Table through October 2. This Le Creuset Round Deep Dutch Oven is giving us bedroom eyes with its $130 savings. Roast anything and everything, braise meats, and stew big batches of steamy tomato bisque.

Catch ya next week.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.

Categories: Tech News

Room-temperature superconducting claim is retracted

ARS Technica - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 13:22
Illustration of magnetic levitation using a high-temperature ceramic superconductor.

Enlarge / Illustration of magnetic levitation using a high-temperature ceramic superconductor.

A paper that claimed to provide the first evidence of superconductivity at room temperatures has been retracted by the journal Nature, even as the paper's authors say they still have confidence in the results. The decision appears to come down to an issue of the experiment's questionable controls.

High-temperature superconductivity has made a lot of progress due to the use of hydrogen-rich chemicals at extreme pressures, which can force the hydrogen into chemical structures that would otherwise have empty space. Several papers have gotten hydrogen-rich chemicals to superconduct at temperatures that could be reached using dry ice.

The room-temperature report followed a similar path, using intense pressure to force hydrogen to combine with a new mix of chemicals and reach record temperatures—in this case, above the freezing point of water, a major milestone. The pressures involved mean the material wouldn't be useful for real-world applications but could potentially point the way toward other chemicals that could.

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NASA Just Dropped the First Close-Up Images of Europa in Decades and They're Stunning

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 13:22

Behold: the closest images of Jupiter’s moon Europa, considered one of the promising targets in the search for extraterrestrial life, in decades.

NASA’s Juno orbiter captured stunning new images of the moon during a flyby on Thursday that took the probe within 219 miles of its icy surface, revealing an intimate new view of a tantalizing world.

This altitude is only one mile higher than the closest shots ever taken of Europa, which were captured in the year 2000 at a distance of 218 miles from the surface by NASA’s Galileo probe. Juno snapped the shots during a brief two-hour window while traveling at a breakneck pace of 53,000 miles per hour. 

NASA released a shot of an equatorial region called Annwn Regio mere hours after it was taken on Thursday, and you can watch raw images of Juno’s flyby as they become available at this link.

“It’s very early in the process, but by all indications Juno’s flyby of Europa was a great success,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator and a physicist at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, in a NASA statement. “This first picture is just a glimpse of the remarkable new science to come from Juno’s entire suite of instruments and sensors that acquired data as we skimmed over the moon’s icy crust.”

Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s Moon, but there is abundant evidence that a vast liquid ocean exists under its icy shell, which could have the right conditions for life. Jupiter’s immense gravitational forces tug and pull at the moon, a process that scientists think could heat the interior and possibly nurture marine ecosystems that might be similar to lifeforms that thrive around deep ocean hydrothermal vents here on Earth. 

Europa might also host aliens that are unrecognizable to us, or it could be inhospitable to life, but we won’t know until we can learn more about its surface and interior dynamics. To that end, Juno’s observations are expected to provide new insights about its surface, its icy shell, and its complex interactions with Jupiter. These details will be useful in the development of NASA’s dedicated mission to the moon, called the Europa Clipper, which is due for launch in 2024.

“The science team will be comparing the full set of images obtained by Juno with images from previous missions, looking to see if Europa’s surface features have changed over the past two decades,” said Candy Hansen, a Juno co-investigator at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, in the statement. “The JunoCam images will fill in the current geologic map, replacing existing low-resolution coverage of the area.”

Categories: Tech News

FBI Arrests Former NSA Employee For Trying to Sell Top Secret Documents

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 13:12

A former NSA employee who worked at the agency for less than a month is accused of attempting to sell top secret documents to a foreign agent, who was actually an undercover FBI agent, according to the Department of Justice.

On Thursday, the DOJ announced that the FBI had arrested Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 30, who worked at the NSA as an Information Systems Security Designer from June 6, 2022, to July 1, 2022.

Dalke allegedly used encrypted email to communicate with someone he believed was a foreign spy, offering to sell classified NSA documents in exchange for cryptocurrency. After Dalke sent excerpts of the documents to the FBI agent, he agreed to meet him to transfer more documents, according to the press release.

“Dalke told that individual that he had taken highly sensitive information relating to foreign targeting of U.S. systems, and information on U.S. cyber operations, among other topics,” the press release read. “Dalke requested compensation via a specific type of cryptocurrency in exchange for the information he possessed and stated that he was in financial need.”

Dalke asked for $85,000 for the documents, and told the FBI agent that he would be able to get more information and documents in the future. When all this happened Dalke wasn’t working at the NSA anymore, but he re-applied to work at the agency in August of 2022, according to the feds. 

The FBI arrested Dalke on Sept. 28, when he went to a location in Denver, thinking he was going to meet the foreign agent, according to the press release.

The NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Categories: Tech News

Atlassian smartens up security, licensing admin tools

The Register - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 13:01
And bundles its best bits at bargain price in case someone wants you to work their way for a while

Atlassian is plugging away at its version of the future of work with an eye on the needs of the admins who tend its software.…

Categories: Tech News

FCC OKs satellite de-orbit rule despite possible conflict with NASA guidelines

ARS Technica - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 12:55
Illustration of a garbage can floating in orbit around Earth.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | PM Images)

The Federal Communications Commission today unanimously approved a rule that aims to minimize space debris by requiring low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to be disposed no more than five years after being taken out of service. "The new rules shorten the decades-old 25-year guideline for deorbiting satellites post-mission, taking an important step in a new era for space safety and orbital debris policy," the FCC said in a press release.

As previously reported, the new five-year rule will be legally binding, unlike the current 25-year standard that's based on a NASA recommendation proposed in the 1990s. The FCC has said it will apply to "space stations ending their missions in or passing through the low-Earth orbit region below 2,000 kilometers."

Satellites already in orbit will be exempt from the new requirement. There's also a grandfathering period of two years for satellites that are already authorized by the FCC but not yet launched.

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Categories: Tech News

Reverse DNS queries may reveal too much, computer scientists argue

The Register - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 12:30
When you combine it with DHCP, that spells TRACK ME

Computer scientists at the University of Twente in the Netherlands have found the interplay between the internet and local networks can be analyzed to reveal private data and facilitate tracking.…

Categories: Tech News

Google kills off Stadia

The Register - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 12:06
We gave the cloud gaming service two years to live. It managed three

Google on Thursday said it will shut down Stadia, its cloud-based game streaming service, because few people use it.…

Categories: Tech News

Intel accidentally leaked its 34-core Raptor Lake chip. What does the die tell us?

The Register - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 11:30
Where we're going, we don't need efficiency cores. But we may need 1.21 jiggawatts

Analysis  At this week's launch of Intel's 13th-gen Core series, it appears staff accidentally left out on display a wafer of previously undisclosed 34-core Raptor Lake processor dies.…

Categories: Tech News

Amazon’s self-branded TVs get fancier, with quantum dots, local dimming

ARS Technica - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 11:27
Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED with Alexa widgets

Enlarge / Amazon's Fire TV Omni QLED Series with Alexa widgets displayed. (credit: Amazon)

A year after it started pushing its own TVs, Amazon is expanding its lineup with pricier, more advanced options. The Fire TV Omni QLED Series announced yesterday at the invite-only Amazon hardware event shows the tech giant upping the ante with quantum dot displays and more evolved features for smart homes.

Amazon's first self-branded TVs came last September, ranging from the more budget-friendly 4-Series, which originally started at $370 for 43 inches, and the Omni Series, which originally cost $1,100 for the largest model, at 75 inches. The 4K TVs aren't particularly unique. They're HDR TVs and include HDMI 2.1, with eARC for soundbars, and feature variable refresh rates from a mere 48–60 Hz at 4K. Amazon Alexa is also present, of course. Alexa can work when the TVs are off, enable voice control, and work with Alexa Routines but is not an Amazon-exclusive among modern TVs.

Amazon is paying a little more attention to image quality with the Omni QLED Series; it still avoids specific claims, though, like brightness or color coverage specs. The new 65- and 75-inch TVs use Samsung Display's QLED technology with quantum dots for a claimed boost in color, plus full-array local dimming to boost contrast.

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Open Source 'Consent-O-Matic' Tool Lets Anyone Automatically Stop Websites From Tracking Them

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 11:21

Nobody really likes being tracked around the web, but rejecting cookies in a pop-up window every time you're presented with the option can be exhausting. Now, there's a tool that will do it for you automatically, and it's called Consent-O-Matic. 

Despite it being four years since Europe's GDPR data protection and privacy law was passed, along with the creation of consent management platforms (CMPs) meant to ensure compliance with GDPR, many sites still outright violate regulations and deceptively track internet activity. In April, researchers at Aarhus University released Consent-O-Matic to automatically reject permission requests to track you.

“Cookie pop-ups are designed to be confusing and make you 'agree' to be tracked,” the team’s Chrome extension summary reads. “This add-on automatically answers consent pop-ups for you, so you can't be manipulated. Set your preferences once, and let the technology do the rest!” 

In response to the GDPR’s guidelines on how data must be processed, and that consent obtained to do so should be explicit and informed. Companies have settled on obfuscating as much of this as possible, falling back on cookie banners, omissions, and other deceptive practices to skirt the law as much as possible.

“The reason I created this Consent-O-Matic extension was because I'd done the research and I'd demonstrated there was a lack of compliance when it came to 'consent' pop-ups on the web,” Midas Nouwens, one of the researchers behind the program and first author of the academic paper introducing it, told Motherboard. “I knew from how it'd been in past years that it was going to be a slow process for regulators to pick up on this. Nor was I confident that they even would."

“So I figured I'd do something bottom-up, not just relying on authorities to try and enforce but build something users can use now while we wait for this slower, democratic process to happen," he said. 

To be sure, GDPR is being enforced—fines have pulled in close to $1.7 billion to date, with the lion’s share from targeting companies like Amazon (nearly $900 million), WhatsApp (over $200 million), Google ($100 million) and Facebook ($68 million). Still, there is much to work on thanks to a backlog of complex complaints, widespread deceptive practices to continue tracking internet activity, and a one-stop-shop process that is complicated by different procedures and privacy standards in each country party to the GDPR.

"The fact that we have these pop-ups is not a failure of the GDPR. It's not a failure of the regulation that an industry decides to flaunt the regulation," Nouwens told Motherboard. "The one critique I’ll take is that we could enforce it better. But the fact that we have these pop-ups is because an industry willfully decided to interpret it in a way that is super-annoying and not even complaint. And because of that, it's giving the regulation a bad name—this industry wants to continue business as usual."

There are already attempts brewing to bypass the Consent-O-Matic browser extension, however. Nouwens shared a patent application filed in September by CMP OneTrust that is aimed at detecting automated cookie rejection. If detected, the software would reject the automated request to block cookies and present the user with another request for consent, even adding a captcha. 

OneTrust’s patent warns that "by automatically rejecting such consent, the user may not be making an informed decision and the website operator may not be able to ensure the website is in full compliance with applicable privacy laws and regulations."

“The patent is pretty hilarious. The idea it is premised on seems to be that a refusal of consent has to have the same high standards as a granting of consent—that is to be specific, informed, freely given, and unambiguous,” said Michael Veale, a professor of digital rights and privacy at UCL Laws. “But that's simply incorrect. Refusing consent is a different act from giving it, and is not subject to those standards. Furthermore, data protection law specifically recognises that an individual 'may exercise his or her right to object by automated means using technical specifications.'”

In a 2020 study on dark patterns and GDPR compliance, a team of researchers including Nouwens and Zeale scraped a sample of the UK’s top websites and found the majority were serviced by a handful of CMPs including OneTrust and were, at best, minimally compliant with privacy laws and regulations. In a survey of 680 of the UK's top sites, 24 percent of them used OneTrust and only 1.8 percent of those sites were minimally compliant with GDPR, according to the study authors. Researchers defined minimal compliance as "if it has no optional boxes pre-ticked, if rejection is as easy as acceptance, and if consent is explicit."

“The results of our empirical survey of CMPs today illustrates the extent to which illegal practices prevail, with vendors of CMPs turning a blind eye to—or worse, incentivizing—clearly illegal configurations of their systems. Enforcement in this area is sorely lacking,” the researchers concluded. In August, privacy group noyb filed 226 GDPR complaints against websites using OneTrust because they failed to meet minimal GDPR requirements.

OneTrust did not respond to a request for comment.

"The entire adtech industry's strategy over recent years has been to attempt to misinterpret regulation to make consent seem like a joke,” said Veale. “The legal reality is that this is not consent, and that such practices are themselves illegal. Data protection authorities are finally waking up to that.”

This is all to say that the effectiveness and limitations of Europe’s GDPR and other data privacy regulations, as well as the impacts on various business models and industries built on surveillance technologies (e.g. digital advertising), are pretty complex, but Consent-O-Matic offers a little respite from the reign of terror from cookie banners.

"I want to get rid of these pop-up banners, that's really my end goal. I'm not trying to fix them,” Nouwens told Motherboard. “We're trying to improve the wrong thing. We shouldn't be having nicer pop-ups, we should just not have any pop-ups whatsoever."

Categories: Tech News

A glaring error in methane flaring

ARS Technica - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 11:00
Gas flaring at an oil refinery

Enlarge (credit: HHakim)

A common practice in the oil industry called flaring is believed to cut down on methane emissions by burning waste or excess gas in the process of extracting or processing oil. But flaring may not be as effective as once thought, according to new research published in the journal Science.

It’s a widely held belief that flaring is 98 percent effective at destroying methane emissions caused by oil and gas operations. However, according to Eric Kort, associate professor in the University of Michigan’s department of climate and space and one of the paper’s authors, this assumption has only rarely been tested.

Why burn a potentially useful fuel? “You might have a volume of natural gas, which is primarily methane, that you don’t have anything to do with. You don’t have the capacity to capture it and put it into a pipeline—it’s not economic, the pressure would exceed safety tolerances,” Kort told Ars.

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Scientists Discover Arctic Waters Are Rapidly Becoming Acidic in Dire Climate Warning

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 11:00

The acidification of the world's oceans—literally, becoming more acidic—is a concerning trend that's closely watched by scientists. Indeed, acidification kills wildlife and has been implicated in past mass extinctions on Earth. In a new study, scientists have found that acidification in the western Arctic Ocean is occurring at a rate three to four times higher than in other oceans due to climate change—a finding that could spell trouble for global oceans as well.

This study found that the Arctic Ocean’s acidification rate is correlated to the speed of sea-ice loss, which is driven by climate change. The Arctic Ocean’s rapidly melting sea ice results in waters that are more exposed to the atmosphere and thus more easily absorb the air’s increased levels of carbon dioxide, which causes acidification. Scientists say that if sea ice continues to melt at its current rate, the rapid acidification of the ocean will intensify in the next few decades until there is no sea ice left in the Arctic Ocean.

When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it becomes carbonic acid, which dissociates into hydrogen and bicarbonate ions. The addition of excess hydrogen ions lowers the ocean’s pH level, which means it becomes more acidic and harms organisms sensitive to acidity. The increase in bicarbonate ions reduces the amount of carbonate in water, which affects marine organisms such as coral whose exoskeletons are made of carbonate combined with calcium.

In addition to weakening coral reefs, acidification is killing sea snails in the Pacific and the biggest extinction event in planetary history, known as The Great Extinction, was potentially caused by ocean acidification.

The new study, written by scientists Wei-Jun Cai—the Chair of Earth, Ocean, and Environment Studies at the University of Delaware—and Liqi Chen, a professor at China's Third Institute of Oceanography, focuses on acidification’s impact specifically on the Arctic’s ecosystem using rates measured between 1994 and 2020.

“Ocean acidification is really more than just how that affects the carbonate-building organisms,” Cai told Motherboard. “There are a bunch of chemical processes in the ecosystem that will all be affected." For example, he said, some toxic trace metals could be more widespread with a lower pH level.

"Our study will bring some attention [to the fact] that people need to really look at Arctic acidification as a consequence on the biological system," Cai said.

The consequences of the rapid acidification of the Arctic Ocean will be felt globally because it flows into both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. The Arctic’s disproportionately high acidification also helps magnify the impact of carbon dioxide on all of our oceans, which will likely face a similar fate.

According to Cai, the rapid rate of acidification in the Arctic could "showcase what the lower latitude oceans may be for the future."

The study's co-authors discovered the role of sea ice loss in acidification because they found that when the ocean’s ice begins to melt in the spring, the carbon dioxide under the ice is lower than the amount in the atmosphere. But by the time the ice melts completely in the summer, the amount of carbon dioxide in the surface waters nearly matches the amount in the atmosphere. This shows that the carbon dioxide increase in the water occurs when ice is unable to create a barrier between the water and the atmosphere. The freshwater from ice that mixes with ocean water also decreases the seawater’s alkalinity, which is the ability for water to resist acidification.

Cai pointed to the human impact that is driving ice-melt and acidification rates, specifically citing the “human use of fossil fuels and deforestation and cement production” to Motherboard.

“The ultimate solution would be to remove fossil fuels from the atmosphere, to reduce the emissions, and also try to remove CO2 activity from the atmosphere,” Cai said. One way to do this, he says, is through Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), which includes reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, and ocean-based CDR like seaweed farming. CDR, however, does not directly address fossil fuels or industrial emissions.

“The rate of warming in the Arctic is twice the global average, so the melting is very dramatic and we see [that] the rate of acidification is very much regulated by the ice-melt rate. So reducing global warming, reducing CO2 emissions looks the way to go,” Cai said.

Categories: Tech News

Google Officially Announces the Demise of Stadia, Surprising Nobody

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 10:51

Google's cloud gaming service Stadia began to release its final death rattles on Thursday as the company announced that it will end support for the platform in January of 2023, including a full refund of all Stadia hardware, games, and DLC purchased through the Stadia and Google stores.

This announcement comes after three years of limited support from developers and publishers, low user counts, and the rise of more valuable subscription services like Xbox Game Pass and the Playstation Plus Premium catalog. Google did not have the users, nor the extant relationships with developers, to compete with these services. Stadia—which let players stream games over the internet without a dedicated gaming machine—was predicated on the idea that the thing stopping people from playing video games was the hardware itself, and that idea has, seemingly, been proven wrong enough to be unprofitable. 

Cloud gaming as a concept, on the other hand, has been a relative success. I can open up my PC and load up one of several dozen PS3 games right now, thanks to the Playstation Plus Premium classics catalog. My Microsoft Surface can stream Steam games running on my desktop at home, or Xbox games I have access to through Game Pass. Each of Stadia’s promises has been better fulfilled by companies who already held market share in the videogames industry, and whom audiences already trusted.

The reaction to Stadia's end was one of groaning acceptance. Google is notorious for starting up promising new services, and then abandoning them to the chagrin of any users who actually liked them (Google+ and Reader, for example). We can't say we weren't warned; although the message was probably meant to be the opposite of what many read into it, Google initially revealed Stadia alongside other arguably visionary but ultimately failed gaming products such as the SEGA Dreamcast and Nintendo Power Glove. 

The end of Stadia has been a long time coming, and its legacy will be as a first draft upon which its competitors iterated.

Categories: Tech News

Wind, solar fulfil 10% of global energy demand for first time

The Register - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 10:30
Curb your enthusiasm – coal-fired power went up too

In a global first, wind and solar energy combined to generate more than 10 percent of the world's electricity in 2021 yet coal-fired power plant emissions jumped to new highs in the same period too.…

Categories: Tech News

Microsoft’s web-flavored update for Outlook begins rolling out to more testers

ARS Technica - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 10:29
The new Outlook client for Windows is creeping nearer to release, though it still doesn't support some important features.

Enlarge / The new Outlook client for Windows is creeping nearer to release, though it still doesn't support some important features. (credit: Microsoft)

Earlier this year, Microsoft released a preview of a totally redesigned Outlook for Windows client. It was a step closer to something Microsoft has been working toward for a while—a unified Outlook client across all of its platforms, based on the design of the web version. Today, Microsoft is taking another step toward that goal, with an updated preview for the new Outlook client that will be available to all Office Insiders in the Beta and Current channels.

Outlook for Windows users signed up for the Office Insider program will be able to try the new app by hitting a "try the new Outlook" toggle in the upper-right corner of the app window; hit the toggle again to return to the old Outlook app. Microsoft says toggling between the two will result in "no data or email loss."

The Outlook app will also eventually be replacing the free built-in Mail and Calendar apps preinstalled in Windows. Microsoft will make a similar toggle available to Windows Insiders "in the coming weeks."

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AI Can Now Generate Videos From Text, Courtesy of Facebook

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 10:19

On Thursday, Facebook’s parent company Meta announced Make-A-Video, a tool that generates short video clips from text descriptions—an unsettling, albeit inevitable, next step for the world of AI image generation. 

The tool follows the company’s Make-A-Scene tool that was launched in July, which generates still images from text descriptions. While there are many comparable tools like DALL-E and Midjourney that have taken over the internet, Make-A-Video is the first time we are seeing a text-to-video tool that will soon be available to the public. 

“Generative AI research is pushing creative expression forward by giving people tools to quickly and easily create new content,” Meta’s press release said. “With just a few words or lines of text, Make-A-Video can bring imagination to life and create one-of-a-kind videos full of vivid colors, characters, and landscapes. The system can also create videos from images or take existing videos and create new ones that are similar.”

“It's much harder to generate video than photos because beyond correctly generating each pixel, the system also has to predict how they'll change over time,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “Make-A-Video solves this by adding a layer of unsupervised learning that enables the system to understand motion in the physical world and apply it to traditional text-to-image generation.” 

The example videos on the Make-A-Video site show videos of “a dog wearing a Superhero outfit with red cape flying through the sky” and “a teddy bear painting a portrait.” The videos are clearly AI-generated, with a blurry, painterly quality native to AI-generated images. Yet, they nonetheless show the fast-moving progress of AI art systems, which only a few years ago were the stuff of memes and science fiction. 

Screenshot from an AI-generated video of Screenshot of a video of a superhero dog created by Make-A-Video from Meta.

Meta seems to be aware of the dangers behind AI art-generating systems, and claims it is “openly sharing this generative AI research and results with the community for their feedback, and will continue to use our responsible AI framework to refine and evolve our approach to this emerging technology.” 

But according to the Make-A-Video research paper, the image models were trained using a subset of the LAOIN dataset, which is known for scraping unfiltered web data that produces biased results. Motherboard recently reported that within this dataset were images of ISIS executions, nonconsensual nudes, and photoshopped nudes of celebrities. Meta seems to address this issue by parsing down the original data set of over 5.8 billion images down to 2.3 billion, with the paper’s authors claiming, “We filter out sample pairs with NSFW images, toxic words in the text, images with a watermark probability larger than 0.5.” 

Meanwhile, AI ethics researchers have pushed back against the use of these large language models, warning that their sheer size creates fundamental problems of harmful bias that can not be easily solved. Even Facebook’s own researchers have admitted that their language models have a “high propensity” for producing racist and harmful results.

The introduction of text-to-video as a tool for artists and creators also complicates the ongoing issue of whether or not the use of AI-generated art should be considered legitimate. In August, a man named Jason Allen won an art competition using an AI-generated image, which caused intense backlash online with artists accusing Allen of expediting the death of creative jobs. 

AI-generated images are also being removed from Shutterstock and Getty Images. Getty Images CEO Craig Peters said this was because of copyright concerns. Copyright and privacy policy have not yet been able to match the quick developments of AI-image systems, leaving many questions unanswered about who owns the images being used in AI algorithms—and if transforming those images into new images is a violation of copyright. 

Meta’s announcement follows OpenAI’s release of DALLE-2 to the public on Wednesday. OpenAI, the company that developed DALLE-2, recently removed the system’s waitlist, allowing anyone to generate images from text prompts. But even as the public gets access to more and more AI-art generating tools, some of the most fundamental ethical questions about their use remain unanswered.

Categories: Tech News

Google Stadia officially shuts down January 2023, will refund game purchases

ARS Technica - Thu, 09/29/2022 - 10:17
Stadia is circling the drain.

Enlarge / Stadia is circling the drain. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

The moment everyone saw coming is finally happening. Google has officially confirmed that it's killing Stadia, the company's troubled game-streaming service. Phil Harrison announced today in a blog post that Stadia "hasn't gained the traction with users that we expected so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service." Stadia will be laid to rest on January 18, 2023.

The good news is that the true Armageddon situation for Stadia customers is not happening. Google is issuing refunds, which will save dedicated Stadia players from losing potentially hundreds of dollars in lost games. The post says: "We will be refunding all Stadia hardware purchases made through the Google Store, and all game and add-on content purchases made through the Stadia store." That notably excludes payments to the "Stadia Pro" subscription service, and you won't get hardware refunds from non-Google Store purchases, but that's a pretty good deal. The controllers are still useful on other platforms, too.

Stadia's technology will live on as a Google Cloud product called "Immersive Stream for Games." Google has made some headway pitching the feature as a way to run games on underpowered devices, like Peloton fitness equipment.

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