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Global Carbon Emissions Jump To All-Time High in 2018

Slashdot - Mon, 10/12/2018 - 13:30
Global carbon emissions will jump to a record high in 2018, according to a report, dashing hopes a plateau of recent years would be maintained. It means emissions are heading in the opposite direction to the deep cuts urgently needed, say scientists, to fight climate change. From a report: The rise is due to the growing number of cars on the roads and a renaissance of coal use and means the world remains on the track to catastrophic global warming. However, the report's authors said the emissions trend can still be turned around by 2020, if cuts are made in transport, industry and farming emissions. The research by the Global Carbon Project was launched at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where almost 200 nations are working to turn the vision of tackling climate change agreed in Paris in 2015 into action. The report estimates CO2 emissions will rise by 2.7% in 2018, sharply up on the plateau from 2014-16 and 1.6% rise in 2017. Almost all countries are contributing to the rise, with emissions in China up 4.7%, in the US by 2.5% and in India by 6.3% in 2018. The EU's emissions are near flat, but this follows a decade of strong falls. "The global rise in carbon emissions is worrying, because to deal with climate change they have to turn around and go to zero eventually," said Prof Corinne Le Quere, at the University of East Anglia,who led the research published in the journal Nature. "We are not seeing action in the way we really need to. This needs to change quickly."

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Turns out the CS:GO Portal message is an Easter egg, not an ARG

Eurogamer - Mon, 10/12/2018 - 11:52

CS:GO went three to play and got a battle royale mode last week - but the surprises didn't end there, as players discovered a cryptic message which some speculated was an ARG to tease Portal 3. Despite the best efforts of CS:GO sleuths, however, Valve has since confirmed this is actually just an Easter egg - although it's still a pretty neat discovery.

The fun and games began when YouTube user snaileny posted a video of a "strange broadcast" they'd found on the new battle royale map dz_blacksite. According to snaileny, to hear this you have to stand in Room 3 for over two minutes before the (slightly creepy) message begins to play.

Players figured out the beginning of the list is in the NATO phonetic alphabet, and translates to PGPW50 SMS757 - the first half of which refers to the PGP word list (an extended biometric word list designed to prevent wiretapping). The transmission, when converted into the PGP word list, gives you 50 pairs of numbers and letters. Reddit user GetSomeGyros then figured out that the "SMS7" part of the message, meanwhile, refers to GSM 7-bit encoding: and when you put PGP pairings into this, you get the following message:

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Categories: Video Games

DF Retro: we play every single Doom console conversion

Eurogamer - Mon, 10/12/2018 - 11:30

December 10th 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of Doom, the first-person shooter that changed everything, not only for PC gaming but for consoles too, as the hardware of the time attempted - with varying levels of success - to bring that classic PC experience to the living room. Last year, DF Retro revisited Doom on every console platform, using today's Digital Foundry tools and methods to assess the quality of each port. It's a piece we're happy to republish today!

One of the most popular and influential titles of all-time, id software's Doom played a key part in gaming's challenging 90s transition from two to three dimensions, and its legacy of technical innovation continues to this day. Last week, Nintendo and Bethesda announced a handheld version of the Doom 2016 reboot, seemingly a technological miracle in handheld form. However, back in 1993, full-fat Doom required a medium to high-end PC - and the race was on to accurately translate this incredible new experience to more affordable console hardware.

The irony is that back in 1993, PCs weren't exactly designed to support fast 3D graphics - or indeed 2D graphics, for that matter. The arrival of Doom left many wondering how John Carmack managed to pull off one of game's most impressive generational leaps in graphics technology. Ingenious coding is, of course, the answer. Doom doesn't actually deliver a full 3D engine: instead, it interprets and extrapolates out 2D level data while using clever tricks to give the illusion of 3D.

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Categories: Video Games

Alexa is Implementing Self-Learning Techniques To Better Understand Users

Slashdot - Mon, 10/12/2018 - 11:30
In a developer blog post published this week, Alexa AI director of applied science Ruhi Sarikaya detailed the advances in machine learning technologies that have allowed Alexa to better understand users through contextual clues. From a report: According to Sarikaya, these improvements have played a role in reducing user friction and making Alexa more conversational. Since this fall, Amazon has been working on self-learning techniques that teach Alexa to automatically recover from its own errors. The system has been in beta until now, and it launched in the US this week. It doesn't require any human annotation, and, according to Sarikaya, it uses customers' "implicit or explicit contextual signals to detect unsatisfactory interactions or failures of understanding." The contextual signals range from customers' historical activity, preferences, and what Alexa skills they use to where the Alexa device is located in the home and what kind of Alexa device it is. For example, during the beta phase, Alexa learned to understand a customer's mistaken command of "Play 'Good for What'" and correct them by playing Drake's song "Nice for What."

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Switch's biggest UK launch yet

Eurogamer - Mon, 10/12/2018 - 10:37

Smash Bros. Ultimate has punched its way to the top of the UK charts, with the best ever launch for the series and the best ever launch for any Nintendo Switch game.

In its first weekend of release, Smash Bros. Ultimate sold more physical copies than Zelda, Mario, and even the combined sales of Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee.

It's also the best UK launch for any game in the Smash series - more than 300 per cent higher than the game's Wii U version, and more than 60 per cent higher than Smash Bros. Brawl on Wii.

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Categories: Video Games

The Electric Airplane Revolution May Come Sooner Than You Think

Slashdot - Mon, 10/12/2018 - 09:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: An all-electric mini-airliner that can go 621 miles on one charge and replace many of the turboprops and light jets in use now -- flying almost as far and almost as fast but for a fraction of the running costs -- could be in service within three years. But this isn't another claim by another overoptimistic purveyor of electric dreams. It's using current technology, and the first planes are being built right now. In fact, the process of gaining certification from aviation regulators for what would be the world's first electric commuter plane has already started. The pressurised Alice from Israeli company Eviation is a graceful-looking composite aircraft with one propeller at the rear and another at the end of each wing, placed to cut drag from wingtip vortices. Each is driven by a 260 kW electric motor, and they receive power from a 900 kWh lithium ion battery pack. Alongside its 650 mile range, the pressurised $3 million-plus Alice can carry nine passengers and two crew, and cruise at 276 mph -- up there with the speed of the turboprops that are widely used in the commuter role, if not anywhere near that of jets. But crucially, says Eviation chief executive Omer Bar-Yohay, "operating costs will be just 7 to 9 cents per seat per mile," or about $200 an hour for the whole aircraft, against about $1,000 for turboprop rivals.

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Japan is Giving Away Free Houses

Slashdot - Mon, 10/12/2018 - 06:00
There are some 8 million abandoned homes -- or akiya -- in Japanese suburbia, according to The Japan Times . And if you've got a visa allowing you to live in Japan, some of them can be yours for free or very low prices, and the government may give you a subsidy to renovate one. From a report: There are even databases devoted to helping people find these homes, known as "akiya banks." What's driving the government to give away homes? In part, it has to do with Japan's aging population: According to the World Bank, the country's population decreased by -0.2% in 2017 alone, while China and the U.S. slowly grew 0.6% and 0.7% respectively. There are simply fewer people in Japan than there once were -- roughly 1.3 million fewer people than in 2010 by one count [paywall].

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China Forms New Body To Review Ethics Risks of Video Games

Slashdot - Mon, 10/12/2018 - 04:00
China has established a new body that reviews ethical issues in video gaming, marking the country's latest attempt to tighten control over the world's biggest games market. From a report: The recently formed Online Games Ethics Committee has so far evaluated an initial batch of 20 video game titles, according to a report on Friday from state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). This was the first time the committee's existence was made public. Without elaborating, the CCTV report said the ethics committee rejected nine games for publication in the domestic market, while ruling that certain content be modified in the 11 other games that were reviewed. The report neither revealed which government department the ethics committee was directly under nor identified the 20 games that the body processed. The creation of the Online Games Ethics Committee has come amid concerns over internet addiction, childhood myopia and unsuitable content in China's US$38 billion video games market, which has led Beijing to tighten its control over the industry and freeze the approval of new titles this year.

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Scientists Say Most Diverse Coral Site Ever Seen on Great Barrier Reef Discovered

Slashdot - Mon, 10/12/2018 - 02:40
In a space no longer than 500 metres, researchers say they recorded at least 195 different species of corals. From a report: A team of researchers says it has discovered the most diverse coral site ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef. Great Barrier Reef Legacy, a non-profit organisation that conducts research trips on the reef, and scientist Charlie Veron, known as the godfather of coral, have identified the site on the outer reef. In a space no longer than 500 metres, the researchers say they recorded at least 195 different species of corals on a research expedition last month. The group first stumbled upon the site on a voyage last year, and returned in November to conduct studies. "I've spent eight years working on the Great Barrier Reef in just about every nook and cranny," Veron said. "I thought there would be nothing new for me on the Great Barrier Reef." Veron returned with the group to record the corals and will write a paper on the site. He said it was located in a general area that had been affected by widespread coral bleaching and coral mortality and it would take further work to assess why this particular spot had survived so far. It also appeared to have been unaffected by cyclones and other factors such as crown of thorns that threaten coral health.

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'What Straight-A Students Get Wrong'

Slashdot - Mon, 10/12/2018 - 00:45
From a story: Year after year, I watch in dismay as students obsess over getting straight A's. Some sacrifice their health; a few have even tried to sue their school after falling short. All have joined the cult of perfectionism out of a conviction that top marks are a ticket to elite graduate schools and lucrative job offers. I was one of them. I started college with the goal of graduating with a 4.0. It would be a reflection of my brainpower and willpower, revealing that I had the right stuff to succeed. But I was wrong. The evidence is clear: Academic excellence is not a strong predictor of career excellence. Across industries, research shows that the correlation between grades and job performance is modest in the first year after college and trivial within a handful of years. For example, at Google, once employees are two or three years out of college, their grades have no bearing on their performance. Academic grades rarely assess qualities like creativity, leadership and teamwork skills, or social, emotional and political intelligence. Yes, straight-A students master cramming information and regurgitating it on exams. But career success is rarely about finding the right solution to a problem -- it's more about finding the right problem to solve.

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Alibaba Already Has a Voice Assistant Way Better Than Google's

Slashdot - Sun, 09/12/2018 - 23:00
Like Google's Duplex, Chinese internet giant Alibaba has its own humanlike voice assistant capable of making restaurant reservations and salon appointments. But unlike Google, which has rolled out the feature to select audience, Alibaba's offering already has a wider reach. And it's smart, too. From a report: On December 2 at the 2018 Neural Information Processing Systems conference, one of the largest annual gatherings for AI research, Alibaba demoed the AI customer service agent for its logistics company Cainiao. Jin Rong, the dean of Alibaba's Machine Intelligence and Technology Lab, said the agent is already servicing millions of customer requests a day. The pre-recorded demo call involved the agent asking a customer where he wanted his package delivered. In the back-and-forth exchange, the agent successfully navigated several conversational elements that demonstrated the breadth of its natural-language capabilities. Take this exchange at the beginning of the call, translated from Mandarin: Agent: Hello, I am Cainiao's voice assistant. I am -- Customer: Hello. A: Yes, hi, you have package scheduled for morning delivery to 588 Culture West Road. Is it convenient for you to receive? C: Who are you? A: I am Cainiao's voice assistant. I'd like to confirm your morning delivery to 588 Culture West Road. Does that work for you? C: I'm not home in the morning. A: Then do you have another address that you'd like to use? Within 30 seconds, the agent has smoothly handled three common, and tricky, conversational ingredients: interruption, nonlinear conversation, and implicit intent. Interruption is self-explanatory: the agent can respond to the customer's interruption and continue relaying relevant information without starting over or skipping a beat.

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Can the US Stop China From Controlling the Next Internet Age?

Slashdot - Sun, 09/12/2018 - 22:00
Tech executives worry China will turn to tit-for-tat arrests of Americans in response to the detention of Meng Wanzhou. And the worries don't stop there. Kara Swisher, writing at The New York Times: Imagine, if you will (and you should), a big American tech executive being detained over unspecified charges while on a trip to Beijing. That is exactly what a number of Silicon Valley executives told me they are concerned about after the arrest this week of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the Chinese telecom company Huawei, in Canada at the behest of United States officials. "It's worrisome, because it's an escalation we did not need," one executive said, referring to the already tense trade talks between the two countries. "What China will do, given all the existing tensions, is anyone's guess." No one I spoke to would talk on the record, out of fear of antagonizing either side and also because no one knows exactly what is happening. But many expressed worry about the possibility of tit-for-tat arrests. While everyone focuses on the drama of the arrest -- Ms. Meng was grabbed while changing planes at the airport -- and its effect on the trade talks and stock prices, to my mind there is a much more important fight brewing, and it is about tech hegemony. Specifically, who will control the next internet age, and by whose rules will it be run? Until recently, that answer was clearly the United States, from which the Internet sprang, wiring the world together and, in the process, resulting in the greatest creation of power and wealth in history. While China has always had a strong technology sector, in recent years it has significantly escalated its investment, expertise and innovation, with major support from the government. That hand-in-glove relationship creates obvious issues, and the Trump administration is right to stop pretending that China does not present a threat both from security and innovation perspectives. Further reading: China summons U.S. ambassador, warns Canada of 'grave consequences' if Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is not released.

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Google Just Can't Get the Message

Slashdot - Sun, 09/12/2018 - 21:00
It's been a rough week or so to be invested in a Google messaging service, hell it's been a rough decade to be invested in a Google messaging service. Phandroid: The latest victims are Allo, which will be going away in March of 2019, and "Hangouts Classic" which has a more nebulous end of life forecast. These products join the host of other Google messaging casualties over the years, Google Wave, Google+ Huddles, Google+ Hangouts, Google Spaces, to name a few. Now if this left us with an entirely clear picture of Google's messaging strategy going forward that would be something, but the reality is that the company still has 5 such apps with at least some overlapping functionality. The 5 survivors are Duo (Video), Messages (Text), Hangouts Chat (Enterprise Text), Hangouts Meet (Enterprise Video), and Google Voice (Voice and Text). Why am I including two enterprise-focused products in a discussion about consumer messaging? Because the head of those products, Scott Johnston, indicated that "Hangouts (Classic) users will be migrated to Chat and Meet." This was corroborated by an official blog post from Google's VP of Consumer Communications Products, Matt Klainer, who similarly put no definite timeline on this migration. This is a problem that Google themselves seemed ready to settle once and for all almost exactly 2 and a half years ago when they announced Allo and Duo at Google I/O 2016, this was going to be the two-pronged answer to messaging on Android. But it became clear reasonably quickly that Allo wasn't going to hold up its end of the bargain, it saw limited adoption and within two years of launch, Google has now admitted that it shifted resources away from Allo and instead was focused on bringing the relevant features into Messages.

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Doom designer John Romero's next big project will be revealed tomorrow

Eurogamer - Sun, 09/12/2018 - 20:11

Doom designer John Romero is announcing his next game tomorrow, which also just so happens to be Doom's 25th anniversary.

In a brief email to fans - a copy of which as been uploaded to Imgur (thanks, PC Gamer) - Romero, who was one of id Software's co-founders, is giving nothing away other than an invitation to pre-order and the Doom logo. But it's the teaser text - "prepare to 5" - and the correlation to Doom's 25th anniversary that's got fans hoping it just might be Doom 5.

"25 years ago Doom was released on December 10th," the image says.

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Categories: Video Games

As We Forge the Web of Tomorrow, We Need a Set of Guiding Principles That Can Define the Kind of Web We Want, Says Tim Berners-Lee

Slashdot - Sun, 09/12/2018 - 20:00
Tim Berners-Lee, writing for The New York Times: All technologies come with risks. We drive cars despite the possibility of serious accidents. We take prescription drugs despite the danger of abuse and addiction. We build safeguards into new innovations so we can manage the risks while benefiting from the opportunities. The web is a global platform -- its challenges stretch across borders and cultures. Just as the web was built by millions of people collaborating around the world, its future relies on our collective ability to make it a better tool for everyone. As we forge the web of tomorrow, we need a set of guiding principles that can define the kind of web we want. Identifying these will not be easy -- any agreement that covers a diverse group of countries, cultures and interests will never be. But I believe it's possible to develop a set of basic ideals that we can all agree on, and that will make the web work better for everyone, including the 50 percent of the world's population that has yet to come online. Governments, companies and individuals all have unique roles to play. The World Wide Web Foundation, an organization I founded in 2009 to protect the web as a public good, has drawn up a set of core principles outlining the responsibilities that each party has to protect a web that serves all of humanity. We're asking everyone to sign on to these principles and join us as we create a formal Contract for the Web in 2019. The principles specify that governments are responsible for connecting their citizens to an open web that respects their rights.

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This Just Cause 4 Easter egg is the greatest Easter egg of them all

Eurogamer - Sun, 09/12/2018 - 19:42

Few riffs encapsulate the 80s quite like A-ha's oft-imitated but never bettered Take on Me, so imagine my surprise when that very same riff cropped up in a Just Cause 4 clip on Twitter.

Twitterer Nitomatta shared what they found on a tweet that's now had 300,000 views and is still rising. Whilst taking a gentle jog to the top of a not-quite-finished construction site, they fall down what appears to be an unfinished stairway and right into a homage of A-ha's award-winning Take On Me's music video.

No, they haven't added the music in post-edit. That's live, unaltered footage, complete with a woman from a different dimension wanting to dance with Rico.

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Categories: Video Games

The Friendship That Made Google Huge

Slashdot - Sun, 09/12/2018 - 19:00
Coding together at the same computer, Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat changed the course of the company -- and the Internet. An anonymous reader writes: The New Yorker has profiled Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat, two of Google's most storied developers and to date, the company's only Senior Fellows, the highest level Google awards to engineers. The article dives into some of Dean and Ghemawat's successes at Google but focuses on their deep and collaborative friendship -- particularly exploring the power of programming with a partner. "I don't know why more people don't do it," Ghemawat explains. As Dean points out, all you need to do is "find someone that you're gonna pair-program with who's compatible with your way of thinking, so that the two of you together are a complementary force."

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Art director shares concept art from a cancelled 2013 Silent Hill project

Eurogamer - Sun, 09/12/2018 - 18:58

Yes, it's been almost twenty years, and yes, we're still banging on about Silent Hill 2, but we're still learning new things about the seminal psychological horror game. This time, art director and creature designer, Masahiro Ito, has made a startling revelation about one of gaming's most terrifying antagonists: Pyramid Head's head is not the helmet itself.

In a recent Twitter exchange, the artist said that telling us what's beneath the helmet is akin to a magician giving away how magic tricks work, but he did confirm that in "no way" was PH's helmet an actual part of the creature.

"I'm often asked, 'What is the under the helmet of Pyramid Head?' But I'm not gonna answer that question. Example, as soon as you are given the trick of a magic, the magic will be nothing to you," he tweeted.

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Categories: Video Games

Freshwater is Getting Saltier, Threatening People and Wildlife

Slashdot - Sun, 09/12/2018 - 18:00
Salts that de-ice roads, parking lots and sidewalks keep people safe in winter. But new research shows they are contributing to a sharp and widely rising problem across the U.S. From a report: At least a third of the rivers and streams in the country have gotten saltier in the past 25 years. And by 2100, more than half of them may contain at least 50 percent more salt than they used to. Increasing salinity will not just affect freshwater plants and animals but human lives as well -- notably, by affecting drinking water. Sujay Kaushal, a biogeochemist at the University of Maryland, College Park, recounts an experience he had when visiting relatives in New Jersey. When getting a drink from the tap, "I saw a white film on the glass." After trying to scrub it off, he found, "it turned out to be a thin layer of salt crusting the glass." When Kaushal, who studies how salt invades freshwater sources, sampled the local water supply he found not just an elevated level of the sodium chloride, widely used in winter to de-ice outdoor surfaces, but plenty of other salts such as sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride. He also found similar concentrations of these chemicals in most rivers along the east coast, including the Potomac, which provides drinking water for Washington, D.C. Where did all of it come from? De-icing salts, Kaushal determined, are part of the problem, slowly corroding our infrastructure.

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The Future of Television? Binge-Watching is Only the Beginning

Slashdot - Sun, 09/12/2018 - 17:00
With providers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, and more creative risks, network leaders are placing bets on how audience experience will evolve [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. From a report: "What might we see coming down the road?" says Beau Willimon, creator of The First, Hulu's sci-fi drama starring Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone. "Perhaps like [the characters] in my new show, we're all wearing augmented reality glasses, and we're experiencing television shows in a more intimate way -- a way that feels much more experiential than simply watching it on a rectangle." [...] Television, as most people have known it for most of their lives, is no more. "At some point you'll get to a place where thinking about television from a linear standpoint will be like dial-up internet," says Hulu CEO Randy Freer. "It's a great time for content; not a great time for cable networks. I think what will happen is: Cable networks that have been able to create brands for themselves will have an opportunity to expand and figure out how they present to consumers." Cable networks with a clear identity have a critical advantage in a subscription-based world, while networks with less-defined name recognition -- those that have been just another channel in the cable lineup -- will likely find it hard to entice the growing ranks of broadband-only consumers to buy an a la carte monthly subscription service. HBO is moving into the new era. "In the domestic market of the United States, where there is a surfeit of content more than ever, I personally think that brands matter more than ever," says HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler.

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