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PlayStation Introduces State of Play Broadcast

Last year, Sony dropped out of E3 for fairly nebulous reasons, and canceled their annual Playstation Experience event. The announcement left many wondering what Sony would replace the events with, and today, it seems that the company took some notes from their competition. Mirroring the periodic Nintendo Direct streams and Microsoft's Inside Xbox broadcasts, Sony will debut their "State of Play" broadcast on Monday, March 25, at 4:00 PM Central Time. Thanks to cageymaru for the tip.

State of Play will give you updates and announcements from the world of PlayStation. Our first episode will showcase upcoming PS4 and PS VR software, including new trailers, new game announcements and new gameplay footage. You can watch live on Twitch, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook worldwide, and we'll be offering up the VOD edition shortly after the episode airs. And this is just the beginning! State of Play will return throughout the year with more updates and announcements. See you Monday!

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 10:38 AM (CDT)

Facebook Employees Had Access to Millions of User Passwords Stored in Plain Text

In a new blog post entitled "Keeping Passwords Secure" Facebook VP Engineering, Security and Privacy Pedro Canahuati explains how the social media giant accidentally stored Facebook user's passwords on internal data storage systems in plain text. Pedro explains how "these passwords were never visible to anyone outside of Facebook and we have found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed them. We estimate that we will notify hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, tens of millions of other Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users." To keep your account safe, Facebook suggests changing your Facebook and Instagram passwords, pick strong passwords, use a password manager, and enable a security key or two-factor authentication. In recent months, Facebook has vowed to clean up its act as it has been accused of sharing user data, one click account takeover bugs, paying minors to harvest their data without parental consent, had its enterprise certificate revoked by Apple, access token hack, Cambridge Analytica, and many more fines and hacks. I would suggest picking a password so long and complex that Facebook employees would get tired from writing it down.

As part of a routine security review in January, we found that some user passwords were being stored in a readable format within our internal data storage systems. This caught our attention because our login systems are designed to mask passwords using techniques that make them unreadable. We have fixed these issues and as a precaution we will be notifying everyone whose passwords we have found were stored in this way.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 21, 2019 1:17 PM (CDT)

Facebook Unveils the Oculus Rift S

At GDC, Facebook unveiled their next PC virtual reality headset. Among other things, the Oculus Rift S features a "higher pixel density" and "improved optics," but doesn't divulge many technical details. According to UploadVR, the new headset now uses a single 2560x1440 LCD instead of dual PenTile 2160x1200 OLED displays. And instead of requiring external sensors, the new Rift uses built-in cameras for tracking. It also features "enhanced" comfort, integrated audio, a better passthrough feature to keep you from bumping into walls, as well as compatibility with the same game library as the previous Rift, along with the same hardware requirements. Facebook says that the Rift S is launching in Spring 2019 for $399 USD.

Oculus Rift S is our most advanced PC-powered headset. Take on VR's best games with improved resolution and comfortable new design. No external sensors. No complicated set up. Just hands-on action and interaction. Step into the game and the future of PC VR. Coming Spring 2019.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 20, 2019 10:47 AM (CDT)

Samsung Introduces Next Generation HBM2E

At NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference, Samsung unveiled an even faster version of their HBM2 memory. A stack of "Flashbolt," as they call it, can deliver up to 410 GBps of bandwidth, which they claim is 33% faster than previous offerings, and a single package can hold up to 16GB of memory. Samsung says the new memory is aimed at "supercomputers, graphics systems, and artificial intelligence (AI)" applications, though they didn't mention just what GPUs or accelerators will make use of it in the near future.

"Flashbolt's industry-leading performance will enable enhanced solutions for next-generation data centers, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and graphics applications," said Jinman Han, senior vice president of Memory Product Planning and Application Engineering Team at Samsung Electronics. "We will continue to expand our premium DRAM offering, and improve our 'high-performance, high capacity, and low power' memory segment to meet market demand."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 20, 2019 9:35 AM (CDT)

Florida Introduces "Stop Social Media Censorship Act"

A senator in Florida is brewing potential legislation making censorship illegal on the biggest social media platforms: Senate Bill 1722, otherwise known as the "Stop Social Media Censorship Act," would fine Facebook, Twitter, and other such services with a userbase of more than 75 million $75,000 for deleting content under the guise of hate speech or other "nebulous" reasons.

"Citing this act as the "Stop Social Media Censorship Act"; providing that the owner or operator of a social media website is subject to a private right of action by a social media website user in this state under certain conditions; prohibiting a social media website from using hate speech as a defense; authorizing the Attorney General to bring an action on behalf of a social media website user, etc."

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 17, 2019 3:05 PM (CDT)

A "Server Misconfiguration" Was Behind the Facebook Outage

Facebook and Instagram were down for about 14 hours earlier this week, and earlier reports suggested that the underlying cause was a BGP routing issue. As time went on without an official explanation, many started to suspect that the outage was related to an attack on the platform. But yesterday, Facebook tweeted that the trouble was a "result of a server configuration change." There's still no mention of the incident in Facebook's official newsroom, and some news outlets are starting to criticize the timeliness of Facebook's response and explanation. One security analyst told the BBC that "Facebook's motto always used to be 'move fast and break things'. That's fine when you're an innovative start-up, but when billions of people are using your site every month it's not a good way to run the business."

Yesterday, as a result of a server configuration change, many people had trouble accessing our apps and services. We've now resolved the issues and our systems are recovering. We're very sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate everyone's patience.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 15, 2019 9:00 AM (CDT)

Facebook is Under Criminal Investigation for Data Sharing Practices

Facebook's news coverage hasn't been particularly positive over the past few months, but they had a particularly bad day yesterday. Following a widespread outage that lasted over 14 hours, and likely cost the company millions in advertising revenue, the New York Times released a report claiming that the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into Facebook over their data sharing practices. According to their sources, two major handset manufacturers have already been subpoenaed. At this point, Facebook's public image seems to be in "it couldn't possibly get any worse" territory, hence their stock price barely budged in response to the incident and the story, and is still significantly up since to the beginning of March.

"It's already been reported that there are ongoing federal investigations, including by the Dept of Justice. As we've said, we're cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously. We've provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we'll continue to do so."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 14, 2019 10:00 AM (CDT)

Facebook Outage Caused by BGP Routing Error

NETSCOUT has released a statement to BleepingComputer that the Facebook and Instagram outages were caused by a BGP routing error.

"'At approximately 12:52PM EST on March 13th, 2019, it appears that an accidental BGP routing leak from a European ISP to a major transit ISP, which was then propagated onwards to some peers and/or downstreams of the transit ISP in question, resulted in perceptible disruption of access to some well-known Internet properties for a short interval. While not malicious in nature, such events can prove disruptive on a widespread basis. It is very important that all network operators implement BGP peering best current practices (BCPs), including prefix-lists, max-prefixes, 'peer-locking' via AS-PATH filters, RPKI Origin Validation (RFC6811), and other techniques incorporated into the industry Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) detailed at .' -Roland Dobbins, NETSCOUT Principal Engineer"

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 13, 2019 5:30 PM (CDT)

Facebook and Instagram Are down

Facebook and Instagram are reportedly down. This probably means that your personal information will have to wait until both services are back up before it is harvested (sarcasm.) Facebook acknowledged the connection troubles on Twitter since it couldn't announce it on its own social media platform. Maybe this is part of Mark Zuckerberg's plan to shift Facebook to a "privacy-focused" platform?

We're aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps. We're working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 13, 2019 2:31 PM (CDT)

Facebook Acquires Interconnect IP Provider Sonics

Hot on the heels of Nvidia's Mellanox acquisition, EE Times reports that Facebook has acquired Sonics, a Silicon Valley-based IP provider that specializes in on-chip networking and power management. The report initially came from sources claiming "key Sonics executive members are now working for Facebook," but Facebook contacted EE Times shortly after the article went live and confirmed the acquisition. They said "we're rapidly developing new VR and AR products and deepening our technology expertise in silicon is an important step for our 10-year roadmap. We're excited to welcome the remarkable Sonics team and technology to AR/VR at Facebook." However, what's particularly interesting is what Facebook could do with the newly acquired company outside of standalone AR/VR headsets. The publication asked the social media giant if they intended to use Sonic's IP for datacenter chips, and Facebook said "It's too early to rule out anything. But our initial focus will be VR and AR." While that's certainly far from a confirmation, it's not a denial either, and the technology I see on an archived version of Sonic's website and their YouTube Channel seemingly lends itself to high performance datacenter chips. In other words, this could be evidence that Facebook is following in the footsteps of Amazon, and working on their own datacenter hardware to reduce their reliance on 3rd parties.

"It would indicate to me that Facebook is indeed working on its own multicore, and probably heterogeneous, processor," Krewell said. Of course, that's what all the cool cloud players are apparently doing these days, he added. Mike Demler, senior analyst at the Linley Group, however, is the only one who suggested, "Yes, Facebook designs ASICs for its data centers, but they also may develop chips for Oculus VR headsets." Surprising to Krewell, though, is that Facebook bought the company rather than just licensing the technology. Linley has another theory. "If the Facebook team decided to use Sonics IP, and Sonics was running out of money, Facebook could have stepped in to ensure the continuity of its design project." He said this would be similar to what happened in the case of Intel's NetSpeed acquisition deal last year.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 13, 2019 12:51 PM (CDT)

Whole Foods Cuts Workers' Hours after Amazon Introduces Minimum Wage

Amazon’s $15 minimum-wage increase didn’t turn out so well for Whole Foods workers: one employee claims the retailer has negated wage gains by reducing schedule shifts across many stores, cutting a lot of work. "My hours went from 30 to 20 a week. We just have to work faster to meet the same goals in less time."

The Illinois-based worker explained that once the $15 minimum wage was enacted, part-time employee hours at their store were cut from an average of 30 to 21 hours a week, and full-time employees saw average hours reduced from 37.5 hours to 34.5 hours. The worker provided schedules from 1 November to the end of January 2019, showing hours for workers in their department significantly decreased as the department’s percentage of the entire store labor budget stayed relatively the same.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 10, 2019 12:20 PM (CDT)

The Verge Investigates the Life of a Facebook Moderator

Here at HardOCP, I think the sheer volume of garbage that makes its way into Facebook posts before moderators take it down is common knowledge. Facebook itself has the daunting task of trying moderate all that content, and according to a recent writeup from The Verge, they subcontract some of those moderation duties out to a company called Cognizant. While Cognizant employees allegedly have to sign a strict NDA, The Verge managed to interview a few of them, and what they found isn't pretty. The moderation work itself takes a serious mental toll on Cognizant's employees, who don't enjoy the same generous benefits Facebook employees tend to get, but their descriptions also open a window into Facebook's internal moderation policies. For example, some posts that would seemingly violate Facebook's internal guidelines aren't arbitrarily categorized as a "protected characteristic" by Facebook, and therefore have to stay up, while other similar posts get taken down. Facebook reportedly updates their guidelines every day, and conflicting sources of information make it difficult for moderators to do their job consistently while trying to hit Facebook's target "accuracy" score. While a tour of the moderation facility didn't paint it in a particularly bad light, assuming any of these interviews are true, the work Facebook's moderators do is even harder than it appears to be. Thanks to cageymaru for the tip.

The fourth source is perhaps the most problematic: Facebook’s own internal tools for distributing information. While official policy changes typically arrive every other Wednesday, incremental guidance about developing issues is distributed on a near-daily basis. Often, this guidance is posted to Workplace, the enterprise version of Facebook that the company introduced in 2016. Like Facebook itself, Workplace has an algorithmic News Feed that displays posts based on engagement. During a breaking news event, such as a mass shooting, managers will often post conflicting information about how to moderate individual pieces of content, which then appear out of chronological order on Workplace. Six current and former employees told me that they had made moderation mistakes based on seeing an outdated post at the top of their feed. At times, it feels as if Facebook’s own product is working against them. The irony is not lost on the moderators. "It happened all the time," says Diana, a former moderator. "It was horrible - one of the worst things I had to personally deal with, to do my job properly." During times of national tragedy, such as the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, managers would tell moderators to remove a video - and then, in a separate post a few hours later, to leave it up. The moderators would make a decision based on whichever post Workplace served up. "It was such a big mess," Diana says. "We're supposed to be up to par with our decision making, and it was messing up our numbers."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 26, 2019 11:38 AM (CST)