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Microsoft is Building a New Midrange Surface Clamshell PC With a 12.5-inch Display

Tue, 2020-09-08 17:45
An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft has seen success with its budget friendly Surface Go tablet thanks to its $399 starting price, and it appears the company is hoping to further capitalize on that success with another price conscious Surface PC, this time in the form of a laptop. Codenamed Sparti, I'm told that Microsoft is working on a lightweight midrange clamshell PC designed with students in mind. According to my sources, Sparti has a 12.5-inch display with a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage in the entry-level model. It'll ship with Windows 10 in S mode and be priced somewhere between $500 and $600. I'm told that Sparti is being positioned as a more affordable Surface Laptop, similar to how Microsoft positions the Surface Go alongside the Surface Pro today.

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Apple Announces Sept. 15 Event Where It's Expected To Reveal New iPhones

Tue, 2020-09-08 17:05
Apple just announced a digital-only event on Sept. 15 where it's expected to reveal its newest iPhones. Apple typically unveils its new iPhones during an event at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. in September, but this year it will host it online-only due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus. From a report: It's possible Apple also announces the Apple Watch Series 6, a refresh to its iPad Air and other products at the event. The event starts at 10 a.m. PT. Apple didn't provide any additional details but will likely stream it online, as it usually does. Apple is expected to announce four new iPhones this year, including two "regular" iPhone 12 models and two iPhone 12 Pro models with new designs that include sharper edges around the corners. For reference, the new design will be similar to 2010's iPhone 4, according to TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Screen sizes include a 5.4-inch model, two with 6.1-inch screens and a big model with a 6.7-inch display, according to Kuo, who also said that Apple won't include headphones or a charger in the box.

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Chess Is Now a Streaming Obsession

Tue, 2020-09-08 16:25
Viewers are flocking to games during the pandemic, entranced by a charismatic grandmaster and his lightning-fast play. From a report: On a recent afternoon, thousands of noncombatants watched from the sidelines as their general ordered his troops across the battlefield and became locked in a fierce duel with the enemy. At one point, he berated himself for a tactical misstep that could have cost his side the high-stakes conflict. Then he smiled and began outmaneuvering his foe. "I can't lose," Hikaru Nakamura, 32, said to the exultant onlookers. Victory seemed close as members of the opposing army were vanquished one by one. "I win again -- there you go, guys. Wow." Mr. Nakamura gave himself just a moment's respite, then plunged into another fray. Pawns, knights, bishops and even kings fell before him as the chess grandmaster demolished a slate of online challengers, all while narrating the tide of the battle to tens of thousands of fans watching him stream live on Twitch, the Amazon-owned site where people usually broadcast themselves playing video games like Fortnite and Call of Duty. The coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders have crowned a host of unlikely winners catering to bored audiences. But watching livestreams of chess games? Could one of the world's oldest and most cerebral games really rebrand itself as a lively enough pastime to capture the interest of the masses on Twitch? Turns out, it already has. Since the pandemic began, viewership of live chess games has soared. From March through August, people watched 41.2 million hours of chess on Twitch, four times as many hours as in the previous six months, according to the analytics website SullyGnome. In June, an amateur chess tournament called PogChamps was briefly the top-viewed stream on Twitch, with 63,000 people watching at once, SullyGnome said. And popular Twitch gamers like Felix Lengyel (better known to his 3.3 million followers as "xQcOW") have also recently started streaming chess.

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A $5 Million Prize Spurs Competition for New Covid-19 Rapid Test

Tue, 2020-09-08 15:47
As countries race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, just determining who's infected remains a major challenge. From a report: Large-scale testing is a crucial element in containing the virus, experts say, because many who contract it exhibit little to no symptoms. Without widespread testing, it's a daunting task to identify contagious individuals and isolate them. To help meet that challenge, the XPRIZE Foundation, which aims to spur technological and industry advancements, is offering a $5 million prize to develop a new Covid-19 rapid test. Competitors can enter until midnight Tuesday. Since July, 659 teams from 68 countries have registered. Currently, test results for the novel coronavirus can take up to two weeks, creating headaches for medical professionals, public-health experts and elected officials. Without the ability to test people often and with speedy results, many cases may go undetected, which can lead to new clusters of infections. "We have, like everyone else around the globe, seen the impact this has had on mental health, physical health, bringing the wheels off of the economy," said Anousheh Ansari, chief executive officer of the XPRIZE Foundation. "We always look at innovation to solve grand challenges." Ansari and her family poured millions into funding the first XPRIZE in 2004 that launched the commercial space race. That $10 million prize brought in about $100 million of investment to the teams that competed, helping fuel what is now a more than $100 billion industry. Ansari's hope is that the Covid prize will seed a similar investment boom to fight a virus that has infected more than 27.3 million people and killed more than 892,000 worldwide.

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Microsoft Confirms Compact, $299 Xbox Series S Next-Gen Game Console

Tue, 2020-09-08 15:00
Microsoft has confirmed via its official Xbox Twitter account that a discless, tiny Xbox called the Series S will be released alongside its forthcoming Xbox Series X. From a report: The Series S was initially leaked late Monday, first by Brad Sams on Twitter, and also by Walking Cat. The Xbox account tweeted an image fo the same small design dominated by a large, round vent grill, and said that the estimated retail price at launch for the new version of the console will be $299. The original leak from Sams also includes the $299 price, and Walking Cat's leaked trailer video inlaid more details -- including noting that the console is 60% smaller than the forthcoming Series X, but that it includes a high-speed 512GB NVMe SSD, with performance offering up to 1440p resolution at 120FPS, along with 4K upscaling. It'll also support DirectX ray tracing.

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Ten Years Ago, Epic Helped To Legitimize iOS as a Gaming Platform With a Small Demo

Tue, 2020-09-08 13:01
An anonymous reader shares a report: On September 1st, 2010, Epic Games released its Citadel tech demo in the Apple App Store. It was a boring thing to actually play -- you simply walked around a medieval town in first-person perspective, taking in the sights with no objectives -- but this calm debut marked a big moment for iOS, the App Store, and Epic Games. It proved that developers could fit gigantic, richly detailed set pieces running on a smartphone and do it while utilizing Unreal Engine 3, the same engine that powered some of the most popular games in the Xbox 360 and PS3 era of consoles. The devices of choice, if you wanted to get access to mobile games with impressive graphics, were suddenly just the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The Citadel demo didn't come to Android until almost two and a half years later in 2013. The Citadel demo was groundbreaking at the time, and it possibly helped to kickstart the trend of bringing console-like experiences to the nascent mobile gaming platform. When I first saw it, I remember feeling like I immediately needed to throw my HTC Droid Eris out the window and buy an iPhone instead. I eventually got to try it out on an iPad at the gadget store where I was employed at the time, and it was stunning to see high-fidelity textures that had dimension and lighting that dynamically shifted when you walked into a building. There were even reflections at a certain point. I had played better-looking games on PC at that point, but something about the experience of being packed into a tiny device made for a magical proof of concept that left an impact on me, even as the fun of walking around Citadel lost its appeal. Ten years later, things are very different. Right now, Epic Games and Apple are in the midst of a high-profile legal battle that will likely have a serious impact on their relationship moving forward.

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Chilean Bank Shuts Down All Branches Following Ransomware Attack

Tue, 2020-09-08 10:32
BancoEstado, one of Chile's three biggest banks, was forced to shut down all branches on Monday following a ransomware attack that took place over the weekend. From a report: "Our branches will not be operational and will remain closed today," the bank said in a statement published on its Twitter account on Monday. Details about the attack have not been made public, but a source close to the investigation told ZDNet that the bank's internal network was infected with the REvil (Sodinokibi) ransomware. The incident is currently being investigated as having originated from a malicious Office document received and opened by an employee. The malicious Office file is believed to have installed a backdoor on the bank's network.

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Epic Tries New Gambit To Restore Fortnite in Apple App Store

Tue, 2020-09-08 08:11
Epic Games made another pitch to a judge to block Apple from removing Fortnite from its App Store in what the game maker calls "retaliation" for offering in-app purchases through its own marketplace. From a report: Friday's request for a court action comes after Epic was denied an order last month that would have temporarily stopped Apple from delisting Fortnite. The case is shaping into a major antitrust showdown over tolls of as much as 30% that Apple charges developers when users make in-app purchases. Epic has filed a separate suit with similar claims against Google. Apple's App Store business also faces antitrust scrutiny by lawmakers and regulators in U.S. and Europe looking to rein in power of big technology companies. Some app developers complain that Apple's standard App Store fees and others policies are unfair and designed to benefit the iPhone maker's own services. "To be clear, Epic does not seek to force Apple to provide distribution and processing services for free, nor does Epic seek to enjoy Apple's services without paying for them," Epic said in a filing in federal court in Oakland, California. "What Epic wants is the freedom not to use Apple's App Store or in-app purchase, and instead to use and offer competing services." Apple released a statement maintaining it isn't backing down, adding that there's no chance of the companies working together as things stand.

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Apple iCloud, Google Drive and Dropbox Probed Over 'Unfair' Terms and Conditions in Italy

Tue, 2020-09-08 05:03
Italy's competition authority has opened an investigation into cloud storage services operated by Apple, Dropbox and Google, in response to a number of complaints alleging unfair commercial practices. From a report: In a press release announcing the probe, the AGCM says it's opened six investigations in all. The services of concern are Google's Drive, Apple iCloud and the eponymous Dropbox cloud storage service. As well as allegations of unfair commercial practices, the regulator said it's looking into complaints of violations of Italy's Consumer Rights Directive. A further complaint alleges the presence of vexatious clauses in the contract. All three cloud storage services are being investigated over complaints of unfair practices related to the collection of user data for commercial purposes -- such as a lack of proper information or valid consent for such commercial data collection -- per the press release.

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The 'Brushing' Scam That's Behind Mystery Parcels

Tue, 2020-09-08 02:00
If you've ever received a parcel from a shopping platform that you didn't order, and nobody you know seems to have bought it for you, you might have been caught up in a "brushing" scam. From a report: It has hit the headlines after thousands of Americans received unsolicited packets of seeds in the mail, but it is not new. It's an illicit way for sellers to get reviews for their products. And it doesn't mean your account has been hacked. Here's an example of how it works: let's say I set myself up as a seller on Amazon, for my product, Kleinman Candles, which cost $3 each. I then set up a load of fake accounts, and I find random names and addresses either from publicly available information or from a leaked database that's doing the rounds from a previous data breach. I order Kleinman Candles from my fake accounts and have them delivered to the addresses I have found, with no information about where they have been sent from. I then leave positive reviews for Kleinman Candles from each fake account -- which has genuinely made a purchase. This way my candle shop page gets filled with glowing reviews (sorry), my sales figures give me an algorithmic popularity boost as a credible merchant -- and nobody knows that the only person buying and reviewing my candles is myself. It tends to happen with low-cost products, including cheap electronics. It's more a case of fake marketing than cyber-crime, but "brushing" and fake reviews are against Amazon's policies. Campaign group Which? advises that you inform the platform they are sent by of any unsolicited goods.

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Most Cyber-Security Reports Only Focus On the Cool Threats

Tue, 2020-09-08 00:01
The vast majority of reports published by the cyber-security industry focus on high-end economic espionage and state-sponsored hacking topics, ignoring threats to civil society and creating a distorted view of the actual cyber threat landscape that later influences policy-makers and academic work. From a report: In an article published in the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, a team of academics made up of some of today's biggest names in cyber-security and internet research fields analyzed 700 cyber-security reports published over the last decade, between 2009 and 2019. "The reports we collected were derived from two types of sources: first, commercial threat intelligence vendors (629 reports), and second, independent research centers (71 reports)," academics said. In addition, the team also examined helpline data from AccessNow, a digital rights advocacy group, in order to understand the true digital threats, as reported by the end-users themselves.

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One of Quantum Physics' Greatest Paradoxes May Have Lost Its Leading Explanation

Mon, 2020-09-07 23:01
fahrbot-bot writes: It's one of the oddest tenets of quantum theory: a particle can be in two places at once -- yet we only ever see it here or there. Textbooks state that the act of observing the particle "collapses" it, such that it appears at random in only one of its two locations. But physicists quarrel over why that would happen, if indeed it does. Now, one of the most plausible mechanisms for quantum collapse -- gravity -- has suffered a setback. The gravity hypothesis traces its origins to Hungarian physicists Karolyhazy Frigyes in the 1960s and Lajos Diosi in the 1980s. The basic idea is that the gravitational field of any object stands outside quantum theory. It resists being placed into awkward combinations, or "superpositions," of different states. So if a particle is made to be both here and there, its gravitational field tries to do the same -- but the field cannot endure the tension for long; it collapses and takes the particle with it. Still, the hypothesis seemed impossible to probe with any realistic technology, notes Diosi, now at the Wigner Research Center, and a co-author on the new paper. "For 30 years, I had been always criticized in my country that I speculated on something which was totally untestable." New methods now make this doable. In the new study, Diosi and other scientists looked for one of the many ways, whether by gravity or some other mechanism, that a quantum collapse would reveal itself: A particle that collapses would swerve randomly, heating up the system of which it is part. "It is as if you gave a kick to a particle," says co-author Sandro Donadi of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies. If the particle is charged, it will emit a photon of radiation as it swerves. And multiple particles subject to the same gravitational lurch will emit in unison. "You have an amplified effect," says co-author Catalina Curceanu of National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Rome.

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China To Launch Initiative To Set Global Data-Security Rules

Mon, 2020-09-07 22:01
China is launching an initiative to set global standards on data security, countering U.S. efforts to persuade countries to ringfence their networks from Chinese technology, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. Reuters: Under its "Global Initiative on Data Security," China would call on all countries to handle data security in a "comprehensive, objective and evidence-based manner," the Journal said, citing a draft that it had reviewed. The initiative would urge countries to oppose "mass surveillance against other states" and call on tech companies not to install "backdoors in their products and services to illegally obtain users' data, control or manipulate users' systems and devices."

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On Twitter Usernames With Lots of Numbers

Mon, 2020-09-07 21:01
Darius Kazemi: There's a common belief that Twitter accounts with usernames like @jsmith12345678 must be bots, or trolls, or otherwise nefarious actors. The thing is, since at least as far back as December 2017, the Twitter signup process has not allowed you to choose your own username! It instead gives you a name based on your first and last name, plus eight numbers on the end. You aren't prompted to pick a more distinctive username after that, and you can change it but you need to figure out how to do it yourself. (The December 2017 date was confirmed to me privately by someone who works at Twitter Design.) This means that when you see a reply from someone with a username with a bunch of numbers in it, it's actually pretty likely that the user is simply someone who joined Twitter after December 2017 and either doesn't care to change their username, or doesn't know that they can change it, or doesn't know how to change it. In other words, it's probably a user who isn't very technically savvy.

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Apple Opens Up -- Slightly -- on Hong Kong's National Security Law

Mon, 2020-09-07 20:05
An anonymous reader shares a report: After Beijing unilaterally imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong on July 1, many saw the move as an effort by Beijing to crack down on dissent and protests in the semi-autonomous region. Soon after, a number of tech giants -- including Microsoft, Twitter and Google -- said they would stop processing requests for user data from Hong Kong authorities, fearing that the requested data could end up in the hands of Beijing. But Apple was noticeably absent from the list. Instead, Apple said it was "assessing" the new law. When reached by TechCrunch, Apple did not say how many requests for user data it had received from Hong Kong authorities since the new national security law went into effect. But the company reiterated that it doesn't receive requests for user content directly from Hong Kong. Instead, it relies on a long-established so-called mutual legal assistance treaty, allowing U.S. authorities to first review requests from foreign governments. Apple said it stores iCloud data for Hong Kong users in the United States, so any requests by Hong Kong authorities for user content has to be first approved by the Justice Department, and a warrant has to be issued by a U.S. federal judge before the data can be handed over to Hong Kong.

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EA Pulls Ads from 'UFC 4' Replays After Widespread Complaints

Mon, 2020-09-07 19:00
EA's UFC 4 is off to a rough start. From a report: The developer told Eurogamer it had removed commercials from the MMA game's replays and overlays after many fans complained about the experience. These weren't small, unintrusive promos -- one commonly-cited example was a full-screen video ad for Amazon's second season of The Boys. UFC 3 players have reported similar ads. The company said it turned the ads on in early September, but that it was "abundantly clear" from the backlash that ads in replays and overlays were "not welcome." These commercials "will not be reappearing in the future," EA said. It added that ads weren't new to the UFC series, but were typically reserved for main menu titles or Octagon logo placements. Critics complained not just that they were seeing ads in a paid game, but that the timing was dishonest. The ads appeared roughly two weeks after UFC 4's launch, or well after initial reviews. If you were an early adopter, you wouldn't have realized you were in store for a marketing blitz.

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Qualcomm's Founder On Why the US Doesn't Have Its Own Huawei

Mon, 2020-09-07 18:00
Wired has interviewed Irwin Jacobs, a founder of Qualcomm. They talk about a wide-range of topics. Here's an excerpt that addresses Chinese tech giant Huawei's growth globally: At first, Qualcomm manufactured its own phone headsets, selling them in Asia. That was around the time it went public in 1991. Eventually, though, it sold off those parts of the business and became strictly an under-the-hood company. This decision wound up having implications in the current competition between the US and China, particularly with the telecom giant Huawei. Because of security concerns, the US is currently doing all it can to stifle adoption of Huawei's products. All of this might be easier if there were an American equivalent to Huawei -- a company working to pioneer the infrastructure of the next generation of wireless that also sold products directly to people. (In this case, that next generation is the much anticipated 5G standard.) Why didn't Qualcomm pursue that? "We did think about that, but we wanted CDMA to go worldwide," says Jacobs. He says that Qualcomm was still fighting its Holy War, trying to get CDMA accepted everywhere. Being a competitor to carriers would impede that. In 1993, the strategy paid off, when CDMA became the wireless standard. Jacobs says he thought that other US companies, like Motorola, would stay in the business. But one by one, they either shut down or sold out to foreign companies. Qualcomm, by selling companies a comprehensive chipset that could power a cellphone, actually made it easier for new Chinese competitors to hit the market, because they had the tools to create a product instantly. "Unfortunately," he says, "nobody in the US has really run with it" and done the same thing. Another complicating factor is that governments in China and Europe have had industrial aid policies that helped their telecom firms in a way that the US has not. "Our government has not provided R&D support or other support that Huawei and ZTE (another successful Chinese firm) managed to get from their own government," Jacobs says.

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How App Developers Manipulate Your Mood To Boost Ranking?

Mon, 2020-09-07 17:00
Higher ratings are the 'lifeblood' of the smartphone app world but what if they are inflated? From a report: Rating an iPhone app takes just a second, maybe two. "Enjoying Skype?" a prompt will ask, and you click on a 1-5 star rating. Millions of people respond to these requests, giving little thought to their fleeting whim. Behind the scenes, though, an entire industry has spent countless hours and lines of code to craft this moment. The prompt, seemingly random, can be orchestrated to hit your glowing screen only at times when you are most likely to leave a five star review. Gaming apps will solicit a rating just after you reach a high score. Banking apps will ask when they know it's payday. Gambling apps will prompt users after they are dealt the perfect Blackjack hand. A sporting app will give the nudge only when a user's team is winning. Apple has for a decade clamped down on "ratings farms" and "download bots" that companies use to fraudulently garner five-star scores and manipulate App Store rankings. And it has had some success. But these are blunt instruments trying to cheat the system in clear violation of Apple's rules. The more sophisticated techniques stay within the rules but draw on behavioural psychology to understand your mood, emotions and behaviour -- they are not hacking the system; they are hacking your brain. "The algorithms that are used are very hush-hush," says Saoud Khalifah, chief executive of Fakespot, a service that analyses the authenticity of reviews on the web. "They can target you when you are euphoric, when you have a lot of dopamine. They can use machine learning to determine [when] a user will be more inclined to leave positive reviews."

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Netflix's Reed Hastings Deems Remote Work 'a Pure Negative'

Mon, 2020-09-07 16:05
From an interview: WSJ: What elements of the Netflix culture are tougher to maintain now that so many employees are working from home? Mr. Hastings: Debating ideas is harder now. WSJ: Have you seen benefits from people working at home? Mr. Hastings: No. I don't see any positives. Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative. I've been super impressed at people's sacrifices. WSJ: It's been anticipated that many companies will shift to a work-from-home approach for many employees even after the Covid-19 crisis. What do you think? Mr. Hastings: If I had to guess, the five-day workweek will become four days in the office while one day is virtual from home. I'd bet that's where a lot of companies end up.

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China Bans Scratch, MIT's Programming Language for Kids

Mon, 2020-09-07 15:00
China's enthusiasm for teaching children to code is facing a new roadblock as organizations and students lose an essential tool: the Scratch programming language developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. From a report: China-based internet users can no longer access Scratch's website. Greatfire.org, an organization that monitors internet censorship in China, shows that the website was 100% blocked as early as August 20, while a Scratch user flagged the ban on August 14. Nearly 60 million children around the world have used Scratch's visual programming language to make games, animations, stories and the likes. That includes students in China, which is seeing a gold rush to early coding as the country tries to turn its 200 million kids into world-class tech talents. At last count, 5.65% or 3 million of Scratch's registered users are based in China, though its reach is greater than the figure suggests as many Chinese developers have built derivatives based on Scratch, an open-source software.

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