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Two Months Later: NASA's Opportunity Rover Is Still Lost On Mars After Huge Dust Storm

Slashdot - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 12:00
Two months have passed since NASA's Opportunity Mars rover last phoned home. The last time we reported on the rover was on June 12th, when it was trying to survive an intensifying dust storm that was deemed "much worse than a 2007 storm that Opportunity weathered," according to NASA. "The previous storm had an opacity level, or tau, somewhere above 5.5; this new storm had an estimated tau of 10.8." Space.com reports on Opportunity's current status: Opportunity hasn't made a peep since June 10, when dust in the Red Planet's air got so thick that the solar-powered rover couldn't recharge its batteries. Opportunity's handlers think the six-wheeled robot has put itself into a sort of hibernation, and they still hope to get a ping once the dust storm has petered out. And there are good reasons for this optimism, NASA officials said. "Because the batteries were in relatively good health before the storm, there's not likely to be too much degradation," NASA officials wrote in an Opportunity update Thursday (Aug. 16). "And because dust storms tend to warm the environment -- and the 2018 storm happened as Opportunity's location on Mars entered summer -- the rover should have stayed warm enough to survive." Engineers are trying to communicate with Opportunity several times a week using NASA's Deep Space Network, a system of big radio dishes around the globe. They hail the robot during scheduled "wake-up times" and then listen for a response. And team members are casting a wider net, too: Every day, they sift through all radio signals received from Mars, listening for any chirp from Opportunity, NASA officials said. Even if Opportunity does eventually wake up and re-establish contact, its long ordeal may end up taking a toll on the rover. "The rover's batteries could have discharged so much power -- and stayed inactive so long -- that their capacity is reduced," NASA officials wrote in the update. "If those batteries can't hold as much charge, it could affect the rover's continued operations. It could also mean that energy-draining behavior, like running its heaters during winter, could cause the batteries to brown out."

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Bungie makes a new, more accessible version of the hardest weapon to get in Destiny 2

Eurogamer - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 11:48

Bungie has announced a plan to make a new, more accessible version of the hardest weapon to get in Destiny 2 - and now the community is questioning the very nature of the grind itself.

Redrix's Claymore is a legendary quality pulse rifle with a unique perk combo: Outlaw and Desperado. In combination, these two perks are devastating for competitive multiplayer in particular. Outlaw sees precision kills greatly decrease reload time, while Desperado sees reloading while Outlaw is active increase your rate of fire. In short, Redrix's Claymore is a pretty relentless death dealer.

But, it's pretty rare, because it's so hard to obtain. To get it, you need to reach the "Fabled" Glory rank in competitive Crucible. If you have a 50 per cent win / loss rate in competitive Crucible, you need to play around 440 games to get the necessary 2200 points to reach the Fabled Glory Rank. That's a lot of matches in Destiny 2's most hardcore competitive multiplayer mode.

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Categories: Video Games

Valve accidentally launches Steam.tv early

Eurogamer - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 10:29

Overnight, Valve accidentally launched Steam.tv - what looks like a take on Twitch - early. The company pulled the website offline shortly after, but not before people got a chance to play around with it.

Cnet went hands-on with Steam.tv in the hour or so that it was online, and said it was showing The International - the big Dota 2 tournament that's going on right now.

Accessible via Steam.tv is the new Steam Chat friends list and group chats, Cnet reports, and you're able to watch videos with friends. There's voice chat, too.

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Categories: Video Games

Video games magazines and me

Eurogamer - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 09:00

It's fun to read angry reviews of rubbish things. But enthusiasm reads great, too. 'Valve just hit the high note no other developer could reach,' from Edge's Half-Life 2 review has stuck with me since I first read it (thank you nameless Edge contributor!).

It's why all those annual Best-Ofs or All-Time Top Tens are so satisfying. Yes, it's often the usual suspects of Halos and Dark Souls, the sequence lightly tossed. But it's a thrill to see someone take things so brilliant and familiar, and coil them into two or three sentences that spring on reading. Here's another from Edge (thanks again anonymous wordsmith!), from their Metroid Prime entry in their 2003 round-up: 'Even if you gouged the game out of the middle, the game would still recommend itself. The gorgeous mapping system, the glory of the visors, the convincing decay of a civilisation.'

Which I suppose is a bit like my love for video game magazines in general. Because even if you gouge the video and the game out of video games, reading about them is still a pleasure. Not just a proxy fun of games relayed and recounted, but games refracted - through an old-school static of fixed words and printed pictures - into something different and awesome and new.

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Categories: Video Games

Netflix Will Now Interrupt Series Binges With Video Ads For Its Other Series

Slashdot - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 09:00
Netflix has confirmed that it will start airing video ads for other Netflix series between episodes. These ads will reportedly only be for Netflix content, not outside products or content, and will, at least for now, only appear for a "segment" of Netflix's user base. Ars Technica reports: The news emerged via user reports, particularly on the primary Netflix Reddit community, in which users claimed that ads for entirely different series would play between episodes of a given show's binging. One initial claim said that "unskippable" ads for the AMC series Better Call Saul appeared between episodes of Rick & Morty, and that this ad appeared while using Netflix's smart TV app on an LG set in the UK. Replies to that thread included an allegation that a video ad for I Am A Killer (a Netflix-produced true-crime series) appeared between episodes of the animated comedy Bob's Burgers. In a statement given to Ars Technica, Netflix described the change as follows: "We are testing whether surfacing recommendations between episodes helps members discover stories they will enjoy faster." The reasoning, Netflix's statement says, comes from its last controversial decision: to add auto-playing videos, complete with unmuteable audio, while browsing through Netflix content. Netflix offered one major rebuttal to at least one Reddit claim, pointing out that the ads for Netflix content are entirely skippable.

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Low-Carb Diets Could Shorten Life, Study Suggests

Slashdot - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: In the study, published in The Lancet Public Health, 15,400 people from the U.S. filled out questionnaires on the food and drink they consumed, along with portion sizes. From this, scientists estimated the proportion of calories they got from carbohydrates, fats, and protein. After following the group for an average of 25 years, researchers found that those who got 50-55% of their energy from carbohydrates (the moderate carb group) had a slightly lower risk of death compared with the low and high-carb groups. Researchers estimated that, from the age of 50, people in the moderate carb group were on average expected to live for another 33 years. This was: four years more than people who got 30% or less of their energy from carbs (extra-low-carb group); 2.3 years more than the 30%-40% (low-carb) group; and 1.1 years more than the 65% or more (high-carb) group. The scientists then compared low-carb diets rich in animal proteins and fats with those that contained lots of plant-based protein and fat. They found that eating more beef, lamb, pork, chicken and cheese in place of carbs was linked with a slightly increased risk of death. But replacing carbohydrates with more plant-based proteins and fats, such as legumes and nuts, was actually found to slightly reduce the risk of mortality.

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Science Confirms That Women's Pockets Suck For Smartphones

Slashdot - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 03:50
It's a well-documented, often criticized phenomenon that women's pockets are too small to fit a smartphone, but "there's been very little data to back up a wealth of anecdotal evidence," writes Megan Farokhmanesh via The Verge. Now, The Pudding has used scientific findings to fill this absence. From the report: According to The Pudding's findings, pockets in women's jeans are, on average, 48 percent shorter and 6.5 percent narrower than those of men's. To put this into a perspective we all care about, the site says that only 40 percent of women's front pockets can completely fit a iPhone X. The number only goes down for the Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel (20 percent and 5 percent, respectively, though the report doesn't specify which model) of the flagships). As for men's pockets? The Pudding marks a 100 percent success rate for the iPhone X, 95 percent for the Samsung Galaxy, and 85 percent for the Google Pixel. "If you're thinking 'But men are bigger than women,' then sure, on average that's true," the site adds. "But here we measured 80 pairs of jeans that all boasted a 32 inch waistband, meaning that these jeans were all made to fit the same size person."

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Facebook Flat-Out 'Lies' About How Many People Can See Its Ads, Lawsuit Alleges

Slashdot - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 03:10
A new lawsuit claims that Facebook exaggerates how many people can see its ads, thereby defrauding advertisers. "In other words, it is alleged not quite as many eyeballs are seeing Facebook's ads as its salespeople charge for," writes Thomas Claburn via The Register. From the report: In a complaint filed on Wednesday in a US district court in Oakland, California, plaintiffs Danielle Singer and her company Project Therapy, LLC claim the Potential Reach and Estimated Daily Reach figures that Facebook provides to advertisers are wildly inflated. As an example, the complaint claims that Facebook's purported Potential Reach among 18-to-34-year-olds in each U.S. state is greater the actual population of 18-to-34-year-olds in each of those states. "Based on a combination of publicly available research and Plaintiffs' own analysis, among 18-34 years-olds in Chicago, for example, Facebook asserted its Potential Reach was approximately 4 times (400 per cent) higher than the number of real 18-34 year-olds with Facebook accounts in Chicago," the complaint states. And in Kansas City, the complaint asserts, the number provided by Facebook was 200 per cent higher than the actual number of 18-to-54-year-olds with Facebook accounts in the area. What's more, the court filing contends that former Facebook employees, described as confidential witnesses, have acknowledged that Facebook is fine with inflated numbers. The attorneys representing Singer and her biz, which supposedly spent over $14,000 on Facebook ads, are seeking class-action certification in order to represent other affected Facebook advertisers. According to the complaint, "a former Facebook employee who worked in the infrastructure/mapping team stated that those who were responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the Potential Reach at Facebook were indifferent to the actual numbers and in fact 'did not give a sh--.'" They also said the "Potential Reach" statistic is "like a made-up PR number."

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OpenAI Is Beating Humans At 'Dota 2' Because It's Basically Cheating

Slashdot - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 02:30
Motherboard's Matthew Gault provides another possibility for how OpenAI's bots managed to beat professional human players in two consecutive games of Data 2. Gault argues that "it was only possible thanks to significant guardrails and an inhuman advantage" -- not necessarily because the AI was more clever than the humans. From the report: The OpenAI Five bots consisted of algorithms known as neural networks, which loosely mimic the brain and "learn" to complete tasks after a process of training and feedback. The research company put its Dota 2-playing AI through 180 days worth of virtual training to prepare it for the match, and it showed. However, the bots had to play within some highly specific limitations. Dota 2 is a complicated game with more than 100 heroes. Some of them use quirky and game-changing abilities. For this exhibition, the hero pool was limited to just 18. That's an incredible handicap because so much of Dota 2 involves a team picking the proper group composition and reacting to what its opponents pick. Reducing the number of champions from more than 100 to 18 made things much simpler for the AI. The OpenAI Five bots also played Dota 2 by reading the game's information directly from its application programming interface (API), which allows other programs to easily interface with Dota 2. This gives the AI instant knowledge about the game, whereas human players have to visually interpret a screen. If a human was able to do this in a competitive match against other humans, we'd probably call it cheating. Even with this AI advantage, Walsh and his team beat the bots in the third game, when the match organizers turned hero selection over to the crowd, which gave the AI a weak hero composition. Walsh thinks he and his team could eventually beat the AI in a fair right, even given the limited hero pool and other restrictions.

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US Government Seeks Facebook Help To Wiretap Messenger, Report Says

Slashdot - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 01:50
The U.S. government is trying to force Facebook to break the encryption in its popular Messenger app so law enforcement may listen to a suspect's voice conversations in a criminal probe, Reuters reported Friday, citing three people briefed on the case said, resurrecting the issue of whether companies can be compelled to alter their products to enable surveillance. From the report: The previously unreported case in a federal court in California is proceeding under seal, so no filings are publicly available, but the three people told Reuters that Facebook is contesting the U.S. Department of Justice's demand. The judge in the Messenger case heard arguments on Tuesday on a government motion to hold Facebook in contempt of court for refusing to carry out the surveillance request, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Amazon Is Reportedly Working On a TiVo-Like DVR For Live TV

Slashdot - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 01:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Amazon is developing a new device that records live TV, working around cable providers and encroaching on TiVo's market, according to a person familiar with the plans. The device, dubbed "Frank" inside Amazon, is a new type of digital video recorder for the streaming era. It would include physical storage and connect to Amazon's existing Fire TV boxes, the living room hub for the company's online video efforts. The Frank DVR has the same wireless technology that Amazon's Echo speakers use to connect to Fire TV boxes. Users will be able to record live TV and stream the video to a smartphone so it can be watched later. That functionality is similar to offerings from TiVo and Dish's Slingbox. Amazon hasn't made a final decision on rolling out the streaming feature, the person said, noting that the plans could either be canceled or delayed.

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Analysts Say We Are Headed For a Flash Memory Price Crash

Slashdot - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 00:30
With the industry currently facing a very large surplus of NAND flash memory, analysts suggest we could see very significant price drops in SSD and even DRAM in 2019. They say to expect a price correction over the next several quarters. Techspot reports: Jim Handy, a market analyst with Objective Analysis, predicts that the flash memory industry is headed for a "downward pricing correction" in 2019, if not a full-on collapse. If prices crash, we could be looking at NAND prices as low as eight cents per gigabyte. At last week's Flash Memory Summit, Handy said that even without a full collapse, the downturn will be the biggest "price correction in the history of semiconductor products." The Register reports that currently, NAND flash prices are hovering around $0.30/GB. A 66-percent dip would bring SSDs into a more competitive range to HDDs causing cannibalization leading to a downturn for some manufacturers like Seagate and Western Digital. Manufacturers could allocate more NAND to producing DRAM, but this, in turn, would result in an oversupply in that sector. If Handy's predictions pan out, the industry could be in for a 25-percent price reduction in NAND and a 75-percent drop for nearline/high-cap SSD's. This could result in significant stock valuation shifts for some manufacturers.

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OnePlus 6T Will Launch With T-Mobile, the First US Carrier Partner

Slashdot - Fri, 17/08/2018 - 23:50
OnePlus' next flagship smartphone will be backed by T-Mobile, marking the first time the Chinese-company has partnered with a carrier in the U.S. "T-Mobile will be the exclusive U.S. carrier partner for the OnePlus 6T when it launches in October," reports CNET. "That includes a specific version of the OnePlus 6T optimized for T-Mobile's network." From the report: The company, however, will still sell its standard global version that's unlocked and able to run on either AT&T or T-Mobile. The price of the OnePlus 6T is tentatively set at $550, although that hasn't been finalized. The partnership underscores the progress that OnePlus has made in the U.S. The Chinese phone maker isn't a household name, but has long attracted diehard Android fans for its mix of high-end specs and affordable prices. Having a place at T-Mobile stores means it'll attract more mainstream awareness. T-Mobile's version of the OnePlus 6T will be optimized for the carrier's network, including the new 600 megahertz band of spectrum being rolled out that promises better and faster coverage. T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray has often boasted about the improvement to the quality of the network thanks to the new swath of spectrum. The only hiccup with the U.S. launch could come from the testing required by T-Mobile to get certification on the network. OnePlus is still in the process of getting what's known as "technical approval" at the carrier, according to one person. Failure to get the approval could cause a delay with the carrier launch.

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Did Russians Really Penetrate Florida's Election Systems? Maybe

Slashdot - Fri, 17/08/2018 - 23:10
Anonymous readers share a report: Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, has reaped the political whirlwind in the 10 days since he proclaimed that Russian hackers had "penetrated" some of his state's county voting systems. The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, a Republican who is running against Nelson for his U.S. Senate seat this fall, has blasted his claim as irresponsible. The top Florida elections official, also a Republican, said he had seen no indication it's true. And The Washington Post weighed in Friday with a 2,717-word fact check that all but accused Nelson -- without evidence -- of making it up. However, three people familiar with the intelligence tell NBC News that there is a classified basis for Nelson's assertion, which he made at a public event after being given information from the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The extent and seriousness of the threat remains unclear, shrouded for reasons of national security. [...] Through a spokesman, Nelson declined to comment. At a, Aug. 7 campaign event in Florida's capital, Nelson said Intelligence Committee leaders asked that he "let supervisors of elections in Florida know that Russians are inside our records." He added that Russian hackers "have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about." "Either Bill Nelson knows of crucial information the federal government is withholding from Florida election officials, or he is simply making things up," said Scott, who is seeking to take Nelson's Senate seat, which the senator has held since 2001. But Scott, who as governor has a security clearance, has not actually disputed Nelson's assertion. His spokesman said the governor had not personally called anyone at the Department of Homeland Security to seek a classified briefing to get to the bottom of the matter.

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NSA Cracked Open Encrypted Networks of Russian Airlines, Al Jazeera, and Other 'High Potential' Targets

Slashdot - Fri, 17/08/2018 - 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: The National Security Agency successfully broke the encryption on a number of "high potential" virtual private networks, including those of media organization Al Jazeera, the Iraqi military and internet service organizations, and a number of airline reservation systems, according to a March 2006 NSA document. The fact that the NSA spied on Al Jazeera's communications was reported by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel in 2013, but that reporting did not mention that the spying was accomplished through the NSA's compromise of Al Jazeera's VPN. During the Bush administration, high-ranking U.S. officials criticized Al Jazeera, accusing the Qatar-based news organization of having an anti-American bias, including because it broadcasted taped messages from Osama bin Laden. According to the document, contained in the cache of materials provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA also compromised VPNs used by airline reservation systems Iran Air, "Paraguayan SABRE," Russian airline Aeroflot, and "Russian Galileo." Sabre and Galileo are both privately operated, centralized computer systems that facilitate travel transactions like booking airline tickets. Collectively, they are used by hundreds of airlines around the world. In Iraq, the NSA compromised VPNs at the Ministries of Defense and the Interior; the Ministry of Defense had been established by the U.S. in 2004 after the prior iteration was dissolved. Exploitation against the ministries' VPNs appears to have occurred at roughly the same time as a broader "all-out campaign to penetrate Iraqi networks," described by an NSA staffer in 2005.

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Baseball Players Want Robots To Be Their Umps

Slashdot - Fri, 17/08/2018 - 21:20
The sports world has been dealing with the human error of referees and umpires for decades -- it's pretty much tradition at this point. But with technology that can assess the game more accurately, some athletes are ready to push the people calling balls and strikes off the field in favor of technology. From a report: On Tuesday, Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist, one of the most vocal supporters of turning over baseball rulings to software, used an argument with the umpire as a chance to advocate for a change in the league. The comment reinvigorated a long-standing debate over automation in sports. You're out! As you watch baseball on television, a graphic is often overlaid on the action that shows in real time whether a pitch is a ball or a strike. But human umps are still making the calls on the field based on nothing but their own eyes. Increasingly, viewers and players would rather have the technology take over.

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US Judge Blocks Programs Letting 'Grand Theft Auto' Players 'Cheat'

Slashdot - Fri, 17/08/2018 - 20:41
A federal judge has awarded Take-Two Interactive Software, the maker of the "Grand Theft Auto" series, a preliminary injunction to stop a Georgia man from selling programs that it said helps players cheat at the best-selling video game. From a report: Take-Two had accused David Zipperer of selling computer programs called Menyoo and Absolute that let users of the "Grand Theft Auto V" multiplayer feature Grand Theft Auto Online cheat by altering the game for their own benefit, or "griefing" other players by altering their game play without permission. U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan said Take-Two was likely to show that Zipperer infringed its "Grand Theft Auto V" copyright, and that his programs would cause irreparable harm to its sales and reputation by discouraging users from buying its video games.

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Amazon Is Ready To Take on Apple and Spotify in Streaming Music

Slashdot - Fri, 17/08/2018 - 20:02
Amazon is turning up the volume in the music business. From a report: The world's largest online retailer will mount the first national TV campaign for its music-streaming service, featuring ads with songs from Ariana Grande, Kendrick Lamar and Queen. They're part of a larger effort that will extend to billboards, online video and radio, and to three countries -- the U.S., U.K. and Germany. Music has ascended the priority list at Amazon.com because of the popularity of the company's Echo speakers and the virtual assistant Alexa. Music is one of the most common requests of Alexa, and listening hours have doubled over the past year, the company said. "We're pouring fuel on the fire," Steve Boom, the head of Amazon Music said in an interview. "We have established ourselves as the leader in music services where voice is all you need to control it."

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SuperProf Private Tutor Site Fails Password Test, Makes Accounts Super Easy To Hack

Slashdot - Fri, 17/08/2018 - 19:24
Superprof, which claims to be "the world's largest tutoring network," has made its newest members' passwords utterly predictable... leaving them wide open to hackers. From a report: SuperProf is a website that helps you find a private tutor -- either online via webcam, or face-to-face. The site claims to have over three million tutors on its books, helping people learn languages, how to play musical instruments, or giving kids extra lessons in tricky subjects. It's not the only site which offers these kind of services. For instance, SuperProf has just taken over UK-based The Tutor Pages, and -- to the surprise of many Tutor Pages teachers -- migrated them to SuperProf. And, sadly, that account migration has been utterly incompetent from the security point of view. In an email that SuperProf sent Tutor Pages teachers last night, it shared details of how they can login to their new SuperProf account. If a tutor's name is Barbara, her new SuperProf-provided password is "superbarbara". Clarinetist Lisa's new SuperProf-supplied password is "superlisa."

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This Company Embeds Microchips in Its Employees, and They Love It

Slashdot - Fri, 17/08/2018 - 18:40
Last August, 50 employees at Three Square Market got RFID chips in their hands. Now 80 have them. From a report: The idea came about in early 2017, president of Three Square Market Patrick McMullan says, when he was on a business trip to Sweden -- a country where some people are getting subcutaneous microchips to do things like enter secure buildings or book train tickets. It's one of very few places where chip implants, which have been around for quite a while, have taken off in some fashion. The chips he and his employees got are about the size of a very large grain of rice. They're intended to make it a little easier to do things like get into the office, log on to computers, and buy food and drinks in the company cafeteria. Like many RFID chips, they are passive -- they don't have batteries, and instead get their power from an RFID reader when it requests data from the chip. A year into their experiment, McMullan and a few employees say they are still using the chips regularly at work for all the activities they started out with last summer. Since then, an additional 30 employees have gotten the chips, which means that roughly 80 of the company's now 250 employees, or nearly a third, are walking, talking cyborgs. "You get used to it; it's easy," McMullan says. As far as he knows, just two Three Square Market employees have had their chips removed -- and that was when they left the company.

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