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Fallout 76 and West Virginia Tourist Office partner to promote state's natural beauty

Eurogamer - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 13:16

How do you promote the natural beauty and wonder of your state? Why, by comparing it to a post-apocalyptic wasteland, of course!

In one of the strangest collabs I've ever heard of, the West Virginia Tourist Office and Bethesda are partnering up to promote the upcoming game Fallout 76, along with the state of West Virginia.

A post on the West Virginia Tourist Office's website explains some of the thinking behind the move. Players will "explore wild and varied terrain, from Appalachia's lush forests and rolling mountains to oppressive swamps and post-nuclear ash heaps," while "discovering hints and subtle nods to West Virginia's unique landscape, history and culture". I wonder if the tourist board does a radiation bus tour down those famous country roads? I'll have to pack some RadAway.

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Categories: Video Games

Xbox's new avatars now available to all

Eurogamer - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 13:08

Xbox One's long-in-development new avatar system is now available to everyone, as part of the console's October update.

This avatar system is a fresh start for your digital companion - who'll pop up around the dashboard, and the dashboards of your friends - with a new range of clothing, props and accessories.

You'll be saying farewell to your Xbox 360 avatar awards and anything collected to date, then - although you can still choose to use the old avatar system if you like (or, indeed, no avatar at all).

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Categories: Video Games

Oh no, Lucasfilm has shut the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Unreal Engine 4 remake down

Eurogamer - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 12:04

Lucasfilm has shut down Apeiron, the ambitious Unreal Engine 4 remake of BioWare's classic role-playing game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

"It's with a great sadness that I'm posting today," project leader Taylor Trotter wrote on Twitter. "I recently received a letter from Lucasfilm instructing Poem [Studios, the team behind the remake] to end production on Apeiron. After a few days, I've exhausted my options to keep it afloat; we knew this day was a possibility. I'm sorry and may the Force be with you."

Trotter posted a picture of the Lucasfilm letter.

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Categories: Video Games

Bees Stop Flying During Total Solar Eclipses

Slashdot - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 12:00
A new study published by the Entomological Society of America found that bees stop flying when the moon obstructs the sun during a total solar eclipse. "Using tiny microphones suspended among flowers, the team recorded the buzzing of the bees through all stages of the eclipse," reports Smithsonian Magazine. "The bees were active and noisy right up to the last moments before totality, the part of a total solar eclipse when the moon blocks all direct sunlight, and a night-like darkness settles over the land. As totality hit, the bees went totally silent in unison." From the report: The clear drop from buzzing to silence was the most striking change during the eclipse, but additional, smaller changes in the bees' buzzing could give the researchers clues about how the insects responded. As ecologist Candace Galen of the University of Missouri notes, the bees' buzzes lasted longer as it gradually got darker approaching totality. Increased buzz length suggests the bees started flying more slowly, they were taking longer flights, or some combination of both. "The way I think about it is, if you're driving on a road and it gets foggy, you slow down," explains Galen. When there is less visibility, slowing down helps you process information and maintain situational awareness -- and like the bees did during totality, if there's absolutely zero visibility, you should probably pull over. Adjusting speed to acclimate one's senses to an environment that suddenly shifts is a common behavior in many animals, and it's been observed in bees when they fly before sunrise or sunset.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Bungie changes plans, will bundle Destiny 2 DLC with Forsaken from next week

Eurogamer - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 11:04

Starting next week on 16th October, Bungie will bundle both of Destiny 2's previous DLC packs with the game's new Forsaken expansion.

In other words, Forsaken will soon include Curse of Osiris and Warmind, the two DLC packs previously offered in last year's expansion pass.

It's a neat offer for those yet to nab Forsaken, although it comes just after the game has left September's PlayStation Plus offering - so if you upgraded when that ended, there's a chance you may still have bought the DLC separately - and around six weeks after Forsaken's original launch.

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Categories: Video Games

Ninja Theory announces Hellblade-inspired scholarship to fund mental health training

Eurogamer - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 11:04

Those who played Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice will know the game delivers a powerful depiction of psychosis. The main protagonist, Senua, deals with horrific visions and voices as she embarks on a quest into hell to recover the soul of her dead lover.

In order to achieve an accurate portrayal of psychosis, Ninja Theory spent three years working with neuroscientists and mental health experts to inform their research for Senua's Sacrifice. Many of these were from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, and to mark this year's World Mental Health day, the developer is working with the organisation to create a scholarship programme for mental health training.

Senua's scholarship will help fund a student to train at Cambridge Recovery College East to become a mental health tutor and achieve a professional training qualification. Mental health tutors carry out important work "show[ing] people the possibility of life beyond diagnosis."

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Categories: Video Games

The best places to live in video games

Eurogamer - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 11:00

Looking at places to live in games, it would be easy for the most magnificent, pompous and elegant palaces and castles to dominate any appreciation. But there is plenty of room to appreciate those residences that are tucked away, perhaps underrated, that are not major hubs or destinations and that are only subtle intrusions. Some draw a curious sense of attachment from players, eliciting a sense of pseudo-topophilia - a close relationship with a virtual land or place. The resulting effect is sometimes enough to cause the sentiment: if this place were real, I would live there.

Right in the corner of the Hinterlands in Dragon Age: Inquisition is the Grand Forest Villa. Its position in the landscape is not obtrusive or jarring, and in turn makes use of the surrounding Hinterlands as its grounds and gardens. Not only does it look fantastic in its geographical context, the residence fits the medieval-fantasy context, oozing grandeur and splendour. But it also serves a purpose: in the Dragon Age lore, it was built for a special friend of the Arl of Redcliffe to allow him to stay near Redcliffe Castle, but far enough away to not raise eyebrows or induce scandal. Designed to be elegant and bold, the Villa - which is a generous term - would have been a beautiful place to live. Even though there are no obvious living spaces on show to relate to they are there - probably within the thick stone walls that add a strange, yet weirdly complete juxtaposition of woodland villa aesthetic next to defensive fortress.

Its semi-open nature permeates its design. Opening up sides and boundaries has the effect of bringing the outside, inside - nowadays, think about homes that have entire walls made of glass to bring their garden 'inside' - blurring the boundary between indoor luxury and the pleasantness of nature, landscapes and plants. It also opens up expansive and brilliant vistas from the Grand Forest Villa, the importance of which is demonstrated by the design of designated viewing decks or points offering fabulous views over the lush and rolling Hinterlands landscape.

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Categories: Video Games

Self-Healing Material Can Build Itself From Carbon In the Air

Slashdot - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 09:00
MIT chemical engineers have reportedly designed a material that can react with carbon dioxide from the air, "to grow, strengthen, and even repair itself." According to MIT News, "The polymer, which might someday be used as construction or repair material or for protective coatings, continuously converts the greenhouse gas into a carbon-based material that reinforces itself." From the report: The current version of the new material is a synthetic gel-like substance that performs a chemical process similar to the way plants incorporate carbon dioxide from the air into their growing tissues. The material might, for example, be made into panels of a lightweight matrix that could be shipped to a construction site, where they would harden and solidify just from exposure to air and sunlight, thereby saving on the energy and cost of transportation. The material the team used in these initial proof-of-concept experiments did make use of one biological component -- chloroplasts, the light-harnessing components within plant cells, which the researchers obtained from spinach leaves. The chloroplasts are not alive but catalyze the reaction of carbon dioxide to glucose. Isolated chloroplasts are quite unstable, meaning that they tend to stop functioning after a few hours when removed from the plant. In their paper, [the researchers] demonstrate methods to significantly increase the catalytic lifetime of extracted chloroplasts. In ongoing and future work, the chloroplast is being replaced by catalysts that are nonbiological in origin. The material the researchers used, a gel matrix composed of a polymer made from aminopropyl methacrylamide (APMA) and glucose, an enzyme called glucose oxidase, and the chloroplasts, becomes stronger as it incorporates the carbon. It is not yet strong enough to be used as a building material, though it might function as a crack filling or coating material, the researchers say. The team has worked out methods to produce materials of this type by the ton, and is now focusing on optimizing the material's properties. Commercial applications such as self-healing coatings and crack filling are realizable in the near term, they say, whereas additional advances in backbone chemistry and materials science are needed before construction materials and composites can be developed.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Geeky Stuff

Scientists Create Healthy Mice With Same-Sex Parents

Slashdot - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 05:30
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences were able to make baby mice with two moms and no dad. "The aim of the Chinese researchers was to work out which rules of reproduction they needed to break to make baby mice from same-sex parents," reports the BBC. "That in turn helps understand why the rules are so important." From the report: It was easier with double mums. The researchers took an egg from one mouse and a special type of cell -- a haploid embryonic stem cell -- from another. Both contained only half the required genetic instructions or DNA, but just bringing them together wasn't enough. The researchers had to use a technology called gene editing to delete three sets of genetic instructions to make them compatible (more on that later). The double-dad approach was slightly more complicated. It took a sperm, a male haploid embryonic stem cell, an egg that had all of its own genetic information removed and the deletion of seven genes to make it all work. The reason we need to have sex is because our DNA -- our genetic code -- behaves differently depending on whether it comes from mum or dad, the study in Cell Stem Cell suggests. And without a female copy and a male copy our whole development gets thrown out of whack. It's called genomic imprinting with parts of the DNA in sperm and parts of the DNA in eggs getting different "stamps" that alter how they work. The bits of DNA carrying these stamps were the ones the researchers had to delete in order to make the baby mice viable.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Geeky Stuff

Does Amazon Owe Wikipedia For Taking Advantage of The Free Labor of Their Volunteers?

Slashdot - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 03:25
Slate's Rachel Withers argues that "tech companies that profit from Wikipedia's extensive database owe Wikimedia a much greater debt." Amazon's Alexa, for example, uses Wikipedia "without credit, contribution, or compensation." The Google Assistant also sources Wikipedia, but they credit the encyclopedia -- and other sites -- when it uses it as a resource. From the report: Amazon recently donated $1 million to the Wikimedia Endowment, a fund that keeps Wikipedia running, as "part of Amazon's and CEO Jeff Bezos' growing work in philanthropy," according to CNET. It's being framed as a "gift," one that -- as Amazon puts it -- recognizes their shared vision to "make it easier to share knowledge globally." Obviously, and as alluded to by CNET, $1 million is hardly a magnanimous donation from Amazon and Bezos, the former a trillion-dollar company and the latter a man with a net worth of more than $160 billion. But it's not just the fact that this donation is, in the scheme of things, paltry. It's that this "endowment" is dwarfed by what Amazon and its ilk get out of Wikipedia -- figuratively and literally. Wikipedia provides the intelligence behind many of Alexa's most useful skills, its answers to everything from "What is Wikipedia?" to "What is Slate?" (meta). Amazon's know-it-all Alexa is renowned for its ability to answer questions, but Amazon didn't compile all that data itself; according to the Amazon developer forum, "Alexa gets her information from a variety of trusted sources such as IMDb, Accuweather, Yelp, Answers.com, Wikipedia and many others." Nor did it pay those who did: While Amazon customers pay at least $39.99 for an Echo device (and the pleasure of asking Alexa questions), Alexa freely pulls this information from the internet, leeching off the hard work performed by Wikipedia's devoted volunteers (and unlike high school students, it doesn't even bother to change a few words around). It's hardly noble for Amazon to support Wikipedia, considering how much Alexa uses its services, nor is it particularly selfless to fund the encyclopedia when it relies upon its peer-reviewed accuracy; ultimately, helping Wikipedia helps Amazon, too. [...] We all benefit from Wikipedia, but arguably no one more than the smart speakers, for which the internet's encyclopedia is a valuable and value-adding resource. It's frankly a little exploitative how little they give back. Withers goes on to note that Wikipedia seeks donations from its users -- it's a non-profit that runs entirely on donations from the general public. While one can argue that "Amazon is only packing up information that we ourselves leech for free all the time, [...] Alexa is also diverting people away from visitng Wikipedia pages, where they might noticed a little request for a donation, or from realizing they are using Wikipedia's resources at all," Withers writes. A report from TechCrunch earlier this year pointed out that Amazon is the only one of the big tech players not found on Wikimedia's 2017-2018 corporate donor list -- one that includes Apple, Google, and even Amazon's Seattle-based sibling Microsoft, all of which matched employee donations to the tune of $50,000.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

45 Out of 50 Electronics Companies Illegally Void Warranties After Independent Repair, Sting Operation Finds

Slashdot - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 02:45
U.S. PIRG -- a non-profit that uses grassroots methods to advocate for political change -- found that 90 percent of manufacturers it contacted claimed that a third party repair would void its warranty. "PIRG researched the warranty information of 50 companies in the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) -- an industry group of notorious for lobbying to protect is repair monopolies -- and found that 45 of them claimed independent repair would void their warranty," Motherboard reports. From the report: PIRG poured over the documentation for 50 companies such as Bissell, Whirlpool, and Panasonic to document their warranty policies. When it couldn't find clear language about warranty and repair, it reached out to the companies via their customer service lines. The overwhelming majority of the companies told PIRG that independent repair would void the warranty. The 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act states that no manufacturer who charges more than $5 for a product can put repair restrictions on a product they're offering a warranty on. In May, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, HTC, Hyundai, and ASUS for violating the act by threatening to void the warranties of customers who repaired their own devices. Within 30 days, many of the companies had complied and changed the language on their websites around independent repair. It was a step in the right direction, but the PIRGs survey of the AHAM members shows that there's still a lot of work to do.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Geeky Stuff

Facebook Removes Hundreds of Accounts Spamming Political Info

Slashdot - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 02:03
Facebook is purging hundreds of accounts and pages in the U.S., many of which spread political misinformation, for breaking the company's terms against "inauthentic" content and spam. The Verge reports: The company said in a blog post that 559 pages and 251 accounts would be removed. While the accounts used "sensational political content," Facebook did not say that was the reason for the purge. Instead, the accounts and pages will be taken down after they had "consistently broken" the company's rules against gaming its platform. Facebook noted that many used strategies like posting on fake or multiple accounts to generate traffic, or to inflate their popularity. Still, Facebook noted the proximity to the U.S. midterm elections, and said that networks like the ones it removed today are "increasingly" promoting political content that is "often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate." The company said this was the reason it has turned to "behavior" instead of "content" when searching for bad actors.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

How Genealogy Websites Make It Easier To Catch Killers

Slashdot - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 01:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Over the past six months a small, publicly available genealogy database has become the go-to source for solving cold case crimes. The free online tool, called GEDmatch, is an ancestry service that allows people to submit their DNA data and search for relatives -- an open access version of AncestryDNA or 23andMe. Since April, investigators have used GEDmatch to identify victims, killers, and missing persons all over the U.S. in at least 19 cases, many of them decades old, according to authors of a report published today in Science. The authors predict that in the near future, as genetic genealogy reports gain in popularity, such tools could be used to find nearly any individual in the U.S. of European descent. GEDmatch holds the genetic data of only about a million people. But cold case investigators have been exploiting the database using a genomic analysis technique called long-range familial search. The technique allows researchers to match an individual's DNA to distant relatives, such as third cousins. Chances are, one of those relatives will have used a genetic genealogy service. More than 17 million people have participated in these services -- a number that has grown rapidly over the last two years. AncestryDNA and 23andMe hold most of those customers. A genetic match to a distant relative can fairly quickly lead investigators to the person of interest. In a highly publicized case, GEDmatch was used earlier this year to identify the "Golden State Killer," a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s, but was never caught. In April, investigators were able to use a genealogy database to narrow down DNA data from crime scenes and identify the "Golden State Killer," a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Researchers Develop 3D Printed Objects That Can Track and Store How They Are Used

Slashdot - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 01:20
Researchers at the University of Washington have developed 3D printed assistive technology that can track and store their use -- without using batteries or electronics. From a blog post on University of Washington: Cheap and easily customizable, 3D printed devices are perfect for assistive technology, like prosthetics or "smart" pill bottles that can help patients remember to take their daily medications. But these plastic parts don't have electronics, which means they can't monitor how patients are using them. Now engineers at the University of Washington have developed 3D printed devices that can track and store their own use -- without using batteries or electronics. Instead, this system uses a method called backscatter, through which a device can share information by reflecting signals that have been transmitted to it with an antenna. "We're interested in making accessible assistive technology with 3D printing, but we have no easy way to know how people are using it," said co-author Jennifer Mankoff, a professor in the UW's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. "Could we come up with a circuitless solution that could be printed on consumer-grade, off-the-shelf printers and allow the device itself to collect information? That's what we showed was possible in this paper." The UW team will present its findings next week at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in Berlin.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

EA is "exploring" Command & Conquer remasters for the series' 25th anniversary

Eurogamer - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 00:48

Classic real-time strategy series Command & Conquer will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in two years - and in preparation for the event, EA is "exploring some exciting ideas" regarding remastering the original PC games.

The news comes via a post to the Command & Conquer subreddit by EA producer Jim Vessella, who previously worked on the likes of Command & Conquer 3 and Red Alert 3. "As most of you may know," Vessella explained, "we recently announced Command & Conquer: Rivals, a mobile game set in the Command & Conquer universe. Following the reveal of Rivals, we heard you loud and clear: the... community also wants to see the franchise return to PC."

Command & Conquer: Rivals' reveal was not, it's fair to say, especially popular. The official announcement trailer, for instance, has 2.7K likes versus 59K dislikes at present.

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Categories: Video Games

EU Ruling: Self-Driving Car Data Will Be Copyrighted By the Manufacturer

Slashdot - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 00:40
Yesterday, at a routine vote on regulations for self-driving cars, members of the European Peoples' Party voted down a clause that would protect a vehicle's telemetry so that it couldn't become someone's property. The clause affirmed that "data generated by autonomous transport are automatically generated and are by nature not creative, thus making copyright protection or the right on data-bases inapplicable." Boing Boing reports: This is data that we will need to evaluate the safety of autonomous vehicles, to fine-tune their performance, to ensure that they are working as the manufacturer claims -- data that will not be public domain (as copyright law dictates), but will instead be someone's exclusive purview, to release or withhold as they see fit. Who will own this data? It's unlikely that it will be the owners of the vehicles. It's already the case that most auto manufacturers use license agreements and DRM to lock up your car so that you can't fix it yourself or take it to an independent service center. The aggregated data from millions of self-driving cars across the EU aren't just useful to public safety analysts, consumer rights advocates, security researchers and reviewers (who would benefit from this data living in the public domain) -- it is also a potential gold-mine for car manufacturers who could sell it to insurers, market researchers and other deep-pocketed corporate interests who can profit by hiding that data from the public who generate it and who must share their cities and streets with high-speed killer robots.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Moons Can Have Their Own Moons and They Could Be Called Moonmoons

Slashdot - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 00:05
Two astronomers have asked a question for the ages: Can moons have moons? The delightful, if theoretical, answer is: Yes -- yes, they can. Sarah Laskow, writing for Atlas Obscura: As Gizmodo reports, this particular scientific inquiry began with a question from Juna Kollmeier's son. Kollemeier, who works at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, recruited Sean Raymond, of the University of Bordeaux, to help her answer the question. In a paper posted on arXiv [PDF], they lay out their case that moons can have moons. The conditions have to be right -- the primary moon has to be big enough and far away enough from the planet it's orbiting for the smaller, secondary moon to survive. But, even given these caveats, they found that moons in our very own solar system could theoretically have their own smaller moons. Two of Saturn's moons and one of Jupiter's are candidates. So is our favorite moon -- the Earth's moon. [...] One of the great challenges of talking about recursive places is deciding what call them. The prefix "sub-" can do a lot of work here: We can islands within islands "subislands," and in the arXiv paper, Kollmeier and Raymond call a moon's moon a "submoon." But there are other options. New Scientist notes that "moonmoon" has been put forth as a name for a moon's moon. For those of us who are less than fluent in meme culture: This is a reference to Moon Moon, sometimes described as the internet's derpiest wolf. Moon Moon was born in 2013, from a werewolf name generator, and soon started frolicking across Tumblr and all other places memes can be found.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

The US Military Wants To Teach AI Some Basic Common Sense

Slashdot - Thu, 11/10/2018 - 23:25
DARPA, the research arm of the U.S. military, has a new Machine Common Sense (MCS) program that will run a competition that asks AI algorithms to make sense of questions with common sense answers. For example, here's one of the questions: "A student puts two identical plants in the same type and amount of soil. She gives them the same amount of water. She puts one of these plants near a window and the other in a dark room. The plant near the window will produce more (A) oxygen (B) carbon dioxide (C) water." MIT Technology Review reports: A computer program needs some understanding of the way photosynthesis works in order to tackle the question. Simply feeding a machine lots of previous questions won't solve the problem reliably. These benchmarks will focus on language because it can so easily trip machines up, and because it makes testing relatively straightforward. Etzioni says the questions offer a way to measure progress toward common-sense understanding, which will be crucial. [...] Previous attempts to help machines understand the world have focused on building large knowledge databases by hand. This is an unwieldy and essentially never-ending task. The most famous such effort is Cyc, a project that has been in the works for decades. "The absence of common sense prevents an intelligent system from understanding its world, communicating naturally with people, behaving reasonably in unforeseen situations, and learning from new experiences,"https://www.darpa.mil/ Dave Gunning, a program manager at DARPA, said in a statement issued this morning. "This absence is perhaps the most significant barrier between the narrowly focused AI applications we have today and the more general AI applications we would like to create in the future."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Fortnite is getting a quad bike that can smash through walls

Eurogamer - Thu, 11/10/2018 - 23:01

First it was shopping trolleys, then it was golf buggies (or ATKs, if we're going to be proper about things), and now Fortnite is getting a third four-wheeled transportation device: the quad-bike-like QuadCrasher.

That's according to the game's ever-reliable "News" screen - your one-stop-shop for official Epic teases - which also reveals that the QuadCrasher can be charged up to smash through structures or "get some air". Whether it'll employ the ATK's charging system - which utilises a Mario-Kart-style drift boost - or a new variant, remains to be seen.

Still, that snowplough frontage looks the business, and it'll be certainly add some spice to battles knowing that the world is slightly less safe for players that love to retreat into their own little boxes at the first sign of conflict, like a rubbish turtle. They certainly won't be feeling so smug with a steel-fronted death machine bearing down on their makeshift safehouses.

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Categories: Video Games

CoinMiners Use New Tricks To Impersonate Adobe Flash Installers

Slashdot - Thu, 11/10/2018 - 22:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Cryptocurrency miners are now being distributed by a new campaign pretending to be Adobe Flash Player installers. While this is not new, this particular campaign is going the extra mile to appear legitimate by not only installing a miner, but also updating Flash Player as well. In a new malware campaign discovered by Palo Alto Unit 42 researcher Brad Duncan, it was found that a fake Flash Player Trojan not only installed a XMRig miner, but it also automatically updated his installed Flash Player. This real Flash installer was downloaded by the Trojan from Adobe's site. By actually performing an upgrade of the desired program, it makes the user less suspicious and adds further legitimacy that the Trojan was a real Adobe installer for Adobe Flash Player. While Flash Player is now updated, what the victim does not know is that a coinminer was silently installed on the computer and started. Once started, this sample would connect to a mining pool at xmr-eu1.nanopool.org and begin to use almost 100% of the computer's CPU in order mine the Monero digital cryptocurrency.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff
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