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Anthem Was Bioware's Second Best Launch

Following their trouble with Mass Effect: Andromeda, Bioware has a lot riding on their last big release: Anthem. Recent reports of low physical sales, as well as mixed feedback from the players in the game, suggested that the title might not be doing particularly well. However, a recent report from NPD claims that Anthem was the best selling game of February 2019, and that it was Bioware's 2nd best launch to date, behind only Mass Effect 3. Interestingly, the report also claims that monthly "video games hardware" sales are down about 12% year to year, while software sales are up 15%.

And that doesn't even include Anthem's PC digital sales. More importantly, it doesn't count the people who signed up for EA's Access Origin Premier service for $15 per month. That figure is likely significant since that membership now gets players access to a library of older games as well as Battlefield V and Madden NFL 19.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 20, 2019 8:41 AM (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.

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

Twitch Streamer Ninja Was Paid $1 Million by EA to Stream 'Apex Legends'

According to Reuters, Twitch streamer Ninja was paid $1 million to stream the battle royale game 'Apex Legends' to his 13 million followers on February 5, 2019. He also tweeted about the event to his fans. $1 million "is more than twice media reports of Ninja's monthly earnings from streaming his regular appearances on Fortnite." EA greatly benefited from the promotion as its "stock price and market value rose 16 percent, or $4 billion, in the three days after Apex Legends launched and a month later the game has 50 million users, a quarter of Fortnite's 200 million." Other popular Twitch and YouTube stars such as Shroud were compensated to play the game. Shroud recently fell off his scooter at 55 mph and severely injured his "keyboard" arm. He wasn't wearing safety equipment. His friend Just9n explains what happened in this NSFW video due to language. Shroud documented his injuries on his Twitter account.

"They did a fairly comprehensive job at pulling together all of the relevant game influencers in this genre," said Kevin Knocke, a vice president at esports infrastructure firm ReKTGlobal. "This was a really well coordinated poaching of the top influencers the likes of which has not been seen so far in esports," he said, suggesting that EA had also roped in streamers better-known for playing other blockbusters like "Call of Duty" or "PUBG". "We really wanted to create a day where you couldn't escape Apex if you cared about games and we wanted it to feel like an event was happening everywhere around the globe on that day," Drew McCoy, lead producer at the EA studio that created Apex Legends, said in an interview. "We had streamers from all over Europe, LatAm, North America, Korea, Japan so that we could get our message out there and people would see the game," he said.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 13, 2019 11:20 PM (CDT)

Microsoft HoloLens Was the Star of MWC

Mobile device manufacturers released a slew of new handsets and MWC this year, but Forbes' Patrick Moorhead thinks that Microsoft's HoloLens 2 was one of the most impressive devices at the show. The new headset doubles the field of view of the original Hololens without sacrificing pixel density, and features eye-tracking hardware that makes AR feel "more natural." Microsoft also worked on some of the original Hololens' smaller but glaring flaws. The new headset, for example, uses carbon-fiber to keep weight down, is far more comfortable than its predecessor, and works with glasses. Microsoft also introduced some cloud services that supposedly help compensate for Hololens' relatively low-power processors, though how well a cloud rendering service will work for such a latency sensitive device remains to be seen.

Microsoft says it will enable developers to design MR apps capable of mapping, designating, and remembering precise "points of interest" that are accessible not only in HoloLens but in Android and iOS devices. In my controlled demo, I used iOS and Android devices to work on the same object at the same time as HoloLens 2. The second, Remote Rendering, is designed to render high-quality 3D models on MR and mobile devices, without the need to simplify the models for the hardware. It functions by rendering the content in the cloud and streaming it to edge devices in real-time. Think about rendering 100M polygons versus a million. I'm not too sure what WiFi wireless capabilities are built in, but they will need to be high quality to ensure low latency streaming of Remote Rendering content. It's all about the ecosystem, Microsoft totally gets it, and currently leads the pack in AR. HoloLens is getting more and more real. The second iteration takes what was good about the first headset, and makes it even better - bigger, more vibrant display, more comfortable, and more immersive. It's not perfect, but it doesn't have to be. The PC wasn't perfect when it was invented; it only needed to be better than the typewriter and calculator. HoloLens 2 represents another leap forward for mixed reality, and then potential use cases are mind-boggling. Congratulations Microsoft.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 08, 2019 11:32 AM (CST)

The Tech World Remembers Jerry Merryman Who Was an Inventor of the Calculator

Born June 17, 1932; Jerry Merryman was a brilliant inventor whom others could call upon for information on any subject. By age 11, Mr. Merryman was the Hearne, TX radio repairman. "'He'd scrap together a few cents to go to the movies in the afternoons and evenings and the police would come get him out ... because their radios would break and he had to fix them,' said Merryman's wife, Phyllis Merryman." He wasn't a braggart or boastful; even though he would work on projects at his home like a motorized telescope that automatically tracked the planets. Texas Instruments hired him and in 1965 his Nobel Prize winning boss, Jack Kilby, presented him with the idea for a calculator. In three days, Jerry Merryman did the entire circuit design for the device that his boss desired to be "as small as this little book that I have in my hand." The three man team had enough work completed to file for a patent in 1967, and revised the final patent in 1974. Merryman said in a 2013 NPR interview, "Silly me, I thought we were just making a calculator, but we were creating an electronic revolution." Mr. Merryman died Feb. 27 at a Dallas hospital from heart and kidney failure after experiencing complications during surgery to install a pacemaker. He was 86. The team's prototype is enshrined at the Smithsonian Institution. This 1997 photo shows Jack Kilby and Jerry Merryman, right, at the American Computer Museum in Bozeman, Montana.

"I have a Ph.D. in material science and I've known hundreds of scientists, professors, Nobel prize-winners and so on. Jerry Merryman was the most brilliant man that I've ever met. Period. Absolutely, outstandingly brilliant," said Vernon Porter, a former TI colleague and friend. "He had an incredible memory and he had an ability to pull up formulas, information, on almost any subject."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 06, 2019 8:55 PM (CST)

Overwatch Team Discovers Female Player Was a Male Imposter

There was a round of articles last week regarding North America’s first female Overwatch Contenders player, "Ellie," who supposedly quit due to toxic harassment. Having been quickly courted by a professional esports team, Second Wind, many claimed she was a male player’s "smurf" (a high-level player posing as an inexperienced one) account. While the media initially framed this as an incident proving rampant sexism in esports and gaming, it turns out that "Ellie" was, in fact, a man: a male player called "Punisher" may have run the "social experiment" as a hasty means of going pro.

It looks like this "social experiment", if it was actually intended as such, was an attempt to make some kind of point about women in esports, but it was heavily criticised. Liz Richardson, boss of Overwatch website Overwatchscore, said it will have "lasting ramifications" for women who already face an uphill challenge in esports. "Now, more than ever, any girl that tries to go pro will get this gigantic amount of scrutiny and will be practically forced to reveal aspects of their personal lives just to prove they're a woman."

Discussion
Posted by Megalith January 06, 2019 12:40 PM (CST)

Scott Wasson Discusses Flawed Benchmarking and New AMD Adrenalin Features

AMD Senior Manager of Product Management, Scott Wasson was interviewed by Gamer's Nexus where he explains why fps metrics and benchmarks are flawed. In the second video, he demonstrates some of the exciting new features in the AMD Adrenalin 2019 Edition 18.12.2 drivers like setting custom memory timings for GPUs .

AMD's Scott Wasson walked us through the new Adrenalin driver update while the team visited GN HQ.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru December 13, 2018 11:11 AM (CST)

Alternative Memory Like MRAM Was a Focus at VLSI 2018

Spinning platters aside, there are three major types of writable memory used inside modern computers: SRAM, DRAM, and NAND. A considerable amount of money has been spent optimizing all three over the years, which means most companies are hesitant to invest in new memory technologies. However, Intel's debut of 3D XPoint and the increasing divergence from Moore's Law is renewing interest in new memory technology. David Kanter noticed that significantly more emphasis was placed on alternative memory at VLSI this year, and highlighted 2 papers in particular. TDK is working on shrinking MRAM cells and reducing their power usage with new materials, while TSMC is working on clever sensing circuits that should enable better MRAM read access. While these advances in MRAM technology are noteworthy, the bigger implication seems to be that major manufacturers are dumping significantly more R&D money into alternative memory technologies.

Neither paper describes a technology that is ready for high-volume manufacturing. But both teams highlight the low-hanging research opportunities that are available for an emerging memory such as MRAM. The two papers also illustrate the great commercial interest in developing MRAM. As Moore’s Law slows, semiconductor manufacturers must turn to new techniques to boost performance, and new memories, such as MRAM, could fill that void. Each emerging memory will require considerable research to pick the low-hanging fruit and find a commercially viable niche that will support high-volume manufacturing.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas November 21, 2018 9:09 AM (CST)

Make-A-Wish Website Was Infected with Cryptocurrency Mining Malware

The Make-A-Wish website was recently infected with a cryptocurrency mining malware called CoinImp which was hosted by "drupalupdates.tk." Cybercriminals obfuscate malware with various methods that make blacklist solutions obsolete. Trustwave says the injected script was removed. Trustwave SWG recommends using dynamic web analysis to detect threats as these techniques are futile against it and for website owners to keep their Drupal version updated. The article list other methods of mitigation.

A quick investigation showed that the domain "drupalupdates.tk" that was used to host the mining script is part of a known campaign which has been exploiting Drupalgeddon 2 in the wild since May 2018. What's interesting about this particular campaign is that it uses different techniques to avoid static detections: It starts with changing the domain name that hosts the JavaScript miner, which is itself obfuscated (Fig 4). The WebSocket proxy also uses different domains and IPs which make blacklist solutions obsolete. We made attempts to contact the Make-A-Wish organization, and while they didn't respond to us, we're happy to note that the injected script was removed from their site shortly after our outreach attempt.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru November 19, 2018 5:44 PM (CST)

Amazon Launches E-Waste Recycling Program

In celebration of America Recycles Day, Amazon has launched a new e-waste recycling program. Amazon's website will show you the nearest recycling truck, and all you have to do is drive up to the truck, and let the staff unload and disassemble the old electronics for you. Amazon specifically mentions that they will respect your data security and privacy during the process.

Okay, so you want to know what you can bring. Here's the list: adapters, blender, cable boxes, cables/power cords, calculators, can openers, cell phones, copiers, desktops, digital cameras, digital cards, digital clocks, DVD/CD/VCR players, DVRs, expansion cards, electronic hubs, fax machines, gaming, systems, GPS devices, griddles, hard drives, hair dryers, home phones, irons, keyboards, laptops/notebooks, memory/RAM devices, mice (the computer ones!), microwaves, modems, monitors (LCD/CRT), multi-function devices, navigational devices, networking/telecom equipment, office phones, phone systems, printers, power supplies, processors, remote controllers, routers, scanners, servers, shredders, smart phones, smart watches, solid state drives, speakers, stereos, switches, tablets, televisions (LCD, CRT, etc.), toaster ovens, and unused vacuums. Again, if you have any of these things, we'll take 'em! Sadly, we can't take these e-waste items: batteries, CDs/DVDs, dental x-ray machines, dryers, e-cigarettes, electronic toys (talking/animated toys, RC cars, toy guns, toys with batteries, etc.), hazardous materials, heaters, lava lamps, light bulbs, medical waste, mercury-containing mini fridges, non-electronic materials, refrigerators, smoke detectors, solar panels, stand mixers, trash, treadmills, used vacuums, vending machine, VHS tapes, washers.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas November 15, 2018 10:18 AM (CST)

Damaged Sensor Pin was the Cause of Failed ISS Crew Launch

Russia's Space Agency, Roscosmos, has been thoroughly investigating the botched launch of a mission to the ISS. According to the press release, a damaged sensor pin led to an "abnormal" separation of one of the boosters. Up until recently, the ancient Soyuz launch system was notoriously reliable, which is why it's the only system capable of lobbing astronauts up to the ISS now. Fortunately, Roscosmos seem to have a lid on the issue, and have another manned launch scheduled for December 3, 2018, with a return trip on December 20. Check out more footage of the launch below:

As follows from the findings of the Investigation Committee told to reporters by Oleg Skorobogatov,"The launch ended up with a launcher failure caused by abnormal separation of one of the strap-on boosters (Block D) that hit with its nose the core stage (Block A) in the fuel tank area. It resulted in its decompression and, as consequence, the space rocket lost its attitude control." The abnormal separation was caused by the non-opening of the lid of the nozzle intended to separate aside Block D oxidizer tank due to the deformation of the separation sensor pin (bended by 6 degrees 45'). It was damaged during the assembling of the strap-on boosters with the core stage (the Packet) at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The LV failure cause is of the operational nature and spreads to the stock of already assembled packets of the Soyuz rocket.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas November 02, 2018 11:55 AM (CDT)

Company Plans Quantum Network Between Boston and Washington D.C.

TechCrunch reports that Quantum Xchange made a deal with Zayo to use 800km of existing fiber optic cable for the U.S's first quantum network. The fiber stretches between Boston and Washington D.C, and will use quantum key distribution for secure end-to-end encryption. High profile investors seem to be the initial target market, but Quantum Xchange hopes to expand to other industries.

Organizations with offices in Boston will be able to send secure communications to a partner in D.C., and eventually even further - as the goal is to keep buying up optical fiber that is already in the ground all over the country so that we can provide a secure quantum network that will serve the entire nation," he said. Prisco said it's "critical" to establish a quantum key distribution network as a defensive measure "before the unprecedented power of quantum computers become an offensive weapon."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas October 25, 2018 12:09 PM (CDT)