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Valve's Latest Game, Artifact, Has Lost 60% of Players in Its First Week

Valve’s latest game appears to be somewhat of a flop. Artifact, a digital collectible card title, has managed to lose 60% of its players in just one week: "...the game peaked at 60,740 players on launch day; however, that number is now sat at around 25,000 at the time of writing." Some blame the payment model, which requires players pay for both the base game and card packs.

Understandably, many players believe it’s almost impossible to play Artifact and remain competitive in the game’s constructed modes without spending real money on the game’s marketplace or by buying card packs directly (each card pack costs $2). It’s a model that severely punishes casual players of your game and serves only to really work for hardcore fans.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith December 08, 2018 11:25 AM (CST)

California Officially Becomes First in Nation Mandating Solar Power for New Homes

The Golden State’s Building Standards Commission has approved legislation that requires any California home built in 2020 or later be solar powered. "Energy officials estimated the provisions will add $10,000 to the cost of building a single-family home, about $8,400 from adding solar and about $1,500 for making homes more energy-efficient. But those costs would be offset by lower utility bills over the 30-year lifespan of the solar panels."

"These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country," said Kent Sasaki, a structural engineer and one of six commissioners voting for the new energy code. "(It’s) the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels." The new provisions are expected to dramatically boost the number of rooftop solar panels in the Golden State. Last year, builders took out permits for more than 115,000 new homes -- almost half of them for single-family homes.

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Posted by Megalith December 08, 2018 11:10 AM (CST)

Australia Passes World's First Anti Encryption Law

New Atlas reports that the Australian government recently passed the world's first anti-encryption bill. The Assistance and Access Bill 2018 can allegedly "compel a private company to create new interception capabilities so no communications data is completely inaccessible to the government." While the lawmakers claim they aren't requiring the creation of software "backdoors," security experts point out that there may be no other way to comply with the law, as end to end encryption is "fundamentally unassailable." Apple pointed out this ambiguity in October, and now several Australian companies seem to be very unhappy with the bill.

Ted Hardie, chair of the Internet Architecture Board, suggested the legislation may even break laws in other countries if the Australian government tries to force companies to hand over sensitive data. The massive GDPR law rolled out across Europe earlier this year is a prime example raised by Hardie. "We are concerned that the proposed legislation may cause these service providers to violate contracts or laws in other jurisdictions, depending upon the exact nature of the requests made," Hardie writes. "For example, companies with European presence are required to handle sensitive data according to the GDPR, and by complying with an Australian order for data that might be located in Europe, that provider could be required to violate the GDPR to satisfy Australian law."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas December 07, 2018 11:00 AM (CST)

IBM Unveils Analog Chip with Phase Change Memory

At the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting, IBM unveiled a 8-bit analog chip with phase change memory. Abu Sebastian, the lead researcher for the project, says that in-memory calculations are a key to the efficiency of the chip. Instead of storing a single bit of information like a traditional memory cell, the variable resistance of a phase change memory cell can be used to store and access data right on the chip. A recent breakthrough allows the phase-change cells to reliably retain data when they are being read, which the researchers call a "key innovation".

The researchers tested a single-layer neural net on an 8-bit chip composed of 30 phase-change memory devices to identify pictures of the digits 1, 0, and 4, and achieved 100 percent classification accuracy. While premature, Sebastian estimates the advance could potentially bring some 100 to 1,000-fold gains in power savings to future devices, compared to traditional computing. Precision was sought in traditional computing, but with artificial intelligence, there is now an opposite trend. IBM is also reporting a digital chip today that operates at 8-bits while maintaining accuracy in neural net training. That models more closely to the human brain, which often can draw correct conclusions from little information. IBM's vice-president for research Jeff Welser likens this to looking out a foggy window and seeing a blurry person walking toward your house. "As soon as you recognize your mom, it doesn't matter how low-precision the image is," says Welser. "You've got the right information you need."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas December 03, 2018 10:50 AM (CST)

Seagate Debuts First 16TB Hard Drive

Seagate claims its has produced and tested "the world's first formatted and fully functioning 16TB enterprise hard drive platform in a standard 3.5-inch form factor." The new drive uses Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording technology to achieve that density, but the company says it operates just like a conventional drive. Unlike recent 14TB offerings, this technology is aimed squarely at the enterprise market, and there's no telling when it will trickle down to consumer drives. Check out Seagate's video on HAMR technology below:

HAMR uses a new kind of media magnetic technology on each disk that allows data bits, or grains, to become smaller and more densely packed than ever, while remaining magnetically stable. A small laser diode attached to each recording head heats a tiny spot on the disk, which enables the recording head to flip the magnetic polarity of each very stable bit, enabling data to be written. Seagate’s proprietary execution of HAMR technology will be delivered in the industry’s standard form factor, thus reducing total cost of ownership by getting a lot more terabytes (TB) into the same space as a conventional hard drive.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas December 03, 2018 8:51 AM (CST)

Ohio to Become the First U.S. State to Allow Taxes to Be Paid in Bitcoin

Ohio has become the first state to accept Bitcoin as a valid payment method for paying taxes. Starting this week, companies can register to make various types of tax payments in Bitcoin. Individuals will be allowed to make tax payments in Bitcoin at a later date.

Ohio has also been working to bring other aspects of blockchain technology into law. Over the summer, the state legally recognized data stored and transacted on a blockchain, meaning electronic signatures secured through blockchain technology have the same legal standing as any other electronic signatures. In the same month, Ohio lawmakers also pitched their state as a future hub for blockchain, hoping to both attract companies in the space and blockchain talent to the jurisdiction.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru November 26, 2018 3:41 PM (CST)

Chinese Researchers Claim to Have the World's First Genetically Edited Babies

According to AP, researchers have made the world's first gene-edited babies in China. The twin girls, who's names remain anonymous, had their genomes edited by CRISPR to give them natural resistance to the HIV virus. Naturally, this has sparked a lot of controversy around the world, as the practice is banned in the U.S. and other countries. But, while cloning is illegal in China, they have no laws against genetically edited babies at this time. Interestingly, TechCrunch reports that a hospital involved in the claims has denied any involvement, and other media publications are reporting similar discrepancies. Check out the video report below:

He Jiankui (HEH JEE'-an-qway), who goes by "JK," studied at Rice and Stanford universities in the U.S. before returning to his homeland to open a lab at Southern University of Science and Technology of China in Shenzhen, where he also has two genetics companies. The university said He's work "seriously violated academic ethics and standards" and planned to investigate. A spokesman for He confirmed that he has been on leave from teaching since early this year, but he remains on the faculty and has a lab at the school. The U.S. scientist who worked with him on this project after He returned to China was physics and bioengineering professor Michael Deem, who was his adviser at Rice in Houston. Deem also holds what he called "a small stake" in - and is on the scientific advisory boards of - He's two companies. The Chinese researcher said he practiced editing mice, monkey and human embryos in the lab for several years and has applied for patents on his methods. He said he chose embryo gene editing for HIV because these infections are a big problem in China.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas November 26, 2018 9:53 AM (CST)

Ohio Becomes the First State to Accept Bitcoin for Tax Payments

Ohio has become the first state to allow people to pay taxes with a cryptocurrency: businesses in the area who want to pay their taxes using Bitcoin can do just that starting Monday by registering at OhioCrypto.com. The idea was championed by Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel as a means of giving the state a "tech-friendly image."

Other states around the country in the southeast, southwest and midwest also considered accepting bitcoin for taxes, but those initiatives in places like Arizona, Georgia, and Illinois never got past state legislatures. The state is working with the cryptocurrency payment startup BitPay to handle its payments, which will convert the bitcoin to dollars.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith November 25, 2018 1:50 PM (CST)

First Look at Razer's Xbox Mouse and Keyboard

Razer has published a teaser image and video of its upcoming Xbox One mouse and keyboard, which will be officially unveiled during CES 2019 in January. K+M support went live this month, and while over 50 models are already compatible, this is the only version that was specifically designed for the Xbox One, featuring a dedicated Xbox button and "Xbox Dynamic Lighting."

You can clearly see the Xbox Button on the bottom right where the "Control" key should be. The Xbox Dynamic Lighting is also on display and appears to be based on Razer's "Chroma" technology which provides similar functions on the company's keyboards. All in all, it's a gorgeous device, bolstered by its mechanical keys. Hopefully it'll won't be too hefty and tout strong battery life.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith November 25, 2018 10:25 AM (CST)

First Ever Plane with No Moving Parts Takes Flight

Skeptics are calling it a glorified glider, but an MIT team has managed to build an airplane that uses "ionic wind" to fly, utilizing "a propulsion system that is entirely electrically powered, almost silent, and with a thrust-to-power ratio comparable to that achieved by conventional systems such as jet engines." This breakthrough technology could lead to carbon-neutral flight and innovations such as silent, unmanned drones and high-altitude, solar-powered craft that could fly "for years on end."

In the prototype plane, wires at the leading edge of the wing have 600 watts of electrical power pumped through them at 40,000 volts. This is enough to induce "electron cascades", ultimately charging air molecules near the wire. Those charged molecules then flow along the electrical field towards a second wire at the back of the wing, bumping into neutral air molecules on the way, and imparting energy to them. Those neutral air molecules then stream out of the back of the plane, providing thrust.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith November 24, 2018 1:50 PM (CST)

Top Three Memory IC Vendors Are Generating Record Profits in 3Q18

Digitimes Research has compared the revenue from last year to 2018 from the top 3 memory chipmakers; Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and Micron Technology. They have concluded that the combined revenue from those corporations in the 3Q18 saw increases of 8% sequentially and 36% on year. This is most likely due to demand for servers and smartphones.

DRAM chip sales accounted for as high as 71% of the combined memory chip revenues generated by the top-3 vendors in the third quarter of 2018, Digitimes Research indicated. The top-3 memory chip vendors saw their combined DRAM memory sales reach US$26.4 billion in the third quarter, up 10% sequentially.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru November 23, 2018 4:59 PM (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)