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Yandex Maps Blurs Military Installations Which Brings Attention to Secret Facilities

Russia's premier mapping service, Yandex Maps, has started blurring images of all military installations in Israel and Turkey. This includes small military installations in the middle of cities that weren't previously known to be a military property. Now anyone can just look on the Yandex maps and find all the secret military installations in Israel and Turkey. Of course Russia doesn't have its secret military installations blurred out as this would immediately bring attention to them.

Fortunately (from an OSINT perspective), this has had the unintended effect of revealing the location and exact perimeter of every significant military facility within both countries, if one is obsessive curious enough to sift through the entire map looking for blurry patches. Matching the blurred sites to un-blurred (albeit downgraded) imagery available through Google Earth is a method of "tipping and cueing," in which one dataset is used to inform a more detailed analysis of a second dataset. My complete list of blurred sites in both Israel and Turkey totals over 300 distinct buildings, airfields, ports, bunkers, storage sites, bases, barracks, nuclear facilities, and random buildings.

Posted by cageymaru December 11, 2018 6:25 PM (CST)

Verizon to Absorb a $4.6 Billion Charge for Yahoo and AOL

New Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg is taking an aggressive approach to reviewing business units and cost-saving measures. After reporting that Verizon was laying off over 10,000 workers yesterday, today CNBC is reporting that the company is taking a goodwill impairment charge of $4.6 billion in value for its Oath media business which include AOL and Yahoo. A 5-year strategic planning review of Oath's business prospects resulted in unfavorable adjustments to Oath's financial projections.

Verizon's Media business, branded Oath, has experienced increased competitive and market pressures throughout 2018 that have resulted in lower than expected revenues and earnings. These pressures are expected to continue and have resulted in a loss of market positioning to our competitors in the digital advertising business. Oath has also achieved lower than expected benefits from the integration of the Yahoo Inc. and AOL Inc. businesses. As a result, the Company expects to record a non-cash goodwill impairment charge of approximately $4.6 billion ($4.5 billion after-tax) in the fourth quarter of 2018. The goodwill balance of the Oath reporting unit was approximately $4.8 billion prior to the incurrence of this impairment charge.

Posted by cageymaru December 11, 2018 5:29 PM (CST)

Town Rejects Comcast and Chooses to Build Its Own Broadband Network

At a recent special town meeting, voters in Charlemont, Massachusetts rejected a proposal from the Comcast Cable Co. for cable internet. Instead the town decided to build their own municipal fiber network. The cost of the Comcast proposal would have been $462,123 and would have only covered 96% of the households in the area. Choosing to build their own network will cost the town an extra $1 million over 20 years, but the cost to taxpayers could be the same, as the town would not seek to make a profit on its citizens. Plus the town will be able to sell its internet service to other areas for a profit. Proponents of the town building their own network noted that since the town would own the network, everyone would be treated the same. They were very wary of Comcast's data caps, extra fees, older HFC [hybrid fiber-coaxial] technology, future pricing, limited control over future network build-outs, slowdowns for competing streaming services and customer service horror stories. Westfield Gas & Electric has already completed the design of the fiber distribution network, utility poles, preliminary designs and cost estimates. If the town gets 72% of the residents to sign up for the service, no extra property tax will be needed.

The town plans to charge $79 a month for standalone Internet service with gigabit download and upload speeds and no data caps, though the price could rise to $99 a month if fewer than 40 percent of households buy the service. The town also plans to offer phone and TV service at rates cheaper than Comcast's. If only 40 percent of households subscribe to the town broadband service, the effect on the tax rate would be about 66 cents per $1,000 valuation. With 59 percent of households taking broadband service, the tax hike would be 29 cents, similar to that for Comcast. But if 72 percent or more of households subscribe to the municipal-owned network, there is no tax impact, because subscriber fees would pay for it.

Posted by cageymaru December 11, 2018 4:05 PM (CST)

Google CEO Tells Lawmakers That It Has No Plans to Launch Chinese Search Engine

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has told a U.S. congressional panel Tuesday that it has no plans to relaunch its search engine in China. "But he added that internally Google has 'developed and looked at what search could look like. We've had the project underway for a while. At one point, we've had over 100 people working on it is my understanding.'" Google employees have been vocal in their disapproval of project Dragonfly, the internal name for the censored Chinese search engine.

"Right now, there are no plans to launch search in China," Pichai told the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. Pichai said there are no current discussions with the Chinese government. He vowed that he would be "fully transparent" with policymakers if the company brings search products to China.

Posted by cageymaru December 11, 2018 2:14 PM (CST)

Intel is Allegedly Shipping 14nm Products With MRAM

Alternative non-volatile memory technologies like MRAM are a hot area of research, and some companies like Everspin are already producing MRAM products for niche use cases. However, a recent report by EE Times claims that Intel is shipping products made on a "22FFL" process with "the first FinFET-based MRAM technology." Intel itself didn't mention anything about their customers, and only describe the process as "production ready." Meanwhile, Samsung and Global Foundries say they introduced MRAM into manufacturing processes of their own. MRAM probably won't show up in consumer desktop products anytime soon, but the fact that it's (allegedly) shipping in some commercial 14nm product, and that competitors are taking an interest in it, is huge step forward.

In addition to being seen as a promising candidate for standalone devices to replace memory chip stalwarts DRAM and NAND flash - which are facing serious scaling challenges as the industry moves to smaller nodes - MRAM, which is a non-volatile memory, is appealing as an embedded technology replacement for flash and embedded SRAM because of its fast read/write times, high endurance, and strong retention... In its paper, Intel said that its embedded MRAM technology achieves 10-year retention at 200 Celsius and endurance of more than 10^6 switching cycles. The technology uses a 216 x 225 mm 1T-1R memory cell. Samsung, meanwhile, described its 8-Mb MRAM with endurance of 10^6 cycles and retention of 10 years.

Update 12/11/2018: Wikichip reports that Intel's 22FFL process is actually a "relaxed" version of their regular 14nm processes. The article was updated accordingly. Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas December 11, 2018 12:48 PM (CST)

Lift's Octadecarotor Aircraft is Almost Ready to Fly

While Uber, Google, and others are working on flying taxis, a small company from Austin, Texas intends to beat them to the punch. Lift Aircraft has developed a manned, 18-rotor VTOL aircraft called "Hexa," and they say it'll be ready soon. The company will start selling flight time in 2019, and claim the craft is significantly easier to fly that a helicopter. The controls are based on a "joystick and an iPad Pro," and ground control can take over if something happens to the pilot. Small batteries are mounted under each rotor for reliability, and they're supposedly good for about 10-15 minutes of flight. Check out the aircraft in action below:

Pilots will undertake a brief VR training session before they head out to the launch pad, to familiarize themselves with the control scheme. On the joystick, it's as simple as push to go in any direction, with a thumb control for altitude and an index finger control for yaw (the company initially thought a twist-to-turn yaw control would be more intuitive, but found it harder to use in flight tests than a separate control). The iPad touchscreen console will make things even simpler for beginner pilots, enabling one-touch takeoff and landing, and walking you through simple beginner tutorials much like you'd do as a first timer on a DJI drone. "There's not a lot of training required," Chasen tells us. "It's sort of like a video game, a game that you get to fly in." From there, you're off. As the Hexa will be flying under the ultralight classification (meaning it requires no certification or pilot's license), you'll be limited to flying under 700 feet, or 1200 feet in some locations, and not over any populated areas. Maximum speed for ultralights is 55 knots, or about 63 mph/101 km/h in terms of ground speed, and Chasen says if the Hexa turns out to be capable of going faster than that, it'll be electronically restricted from doing so.

Posted by alphaatlas December 11, 2018 12:16 PM (CST)

Watch Google's CEO Sundar Pichai Testify Before Congress

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Alphabet Inc. unit's social media practices.

After a year of avoiding the spotlight -- and the political scrutiny that's befallen his peers at Facebook and Twitter -- Pichai is set to deliver his first-ever testimony to Congress on Tuesday. The appearance is shaping up to be a major test of Pichai's skills in managing the company's reputation at a time when several of Silicon Valley's biggest names are in crisis -- and when many of Google's employees are in revolt.

Posted by cageymaru December 11, 2018 12:10 PM (CST)

Astronauts are Inspecting the ISS's Air Leak Right Now

The ISS suffered from an air leak earlier this year, and authorities later discovered that the leak was likely "man made." Fortunately, astronauts managed to patch the leak from the inside fairly quickly, but the actual inspection of the leak was delayed by the failure of a manned launch to the ISS. The crew are just now getting around to looking at the leak, and NASA is streaming the whole spacewalk live on their channel right now. Thanks to SpaceFlightNow for spotting the stream. Check it out below:

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev headed outside the International Space Station on Tuesday to cut away thermal and orbital debris shielding from a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and inspect the ship's hull, where the station crew repaired a minor air leak in August... The inspection planned on Tuesday's spacewalk will include photo documentation of the site, and the collection of samples from any epoxy sealant that may be seeped through the hole to the outside of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, before the capsule undocks Dec. 19 with Prokopyev, outgoing station commander Alexander Gerst, and NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor.

Posted by alphaatlas December 11, 2018 12:01 PM (CST)

Intel Is Feeling the Heat from Amazon's Homegrown Chips

Intel has dominated the server market with a 96.6% market share even after AMD reentered the competition. Intel seems secure, but the landscape of the server market is different from conventional tech markets as 10 corporations have the purchasing power to command 35% of the total sales in the server market. In the NY Times article, Shane Rau at research firm IDC said, "Each one of these companies is so large, they represent a market unto themselves." For a large corporation like Amazon, which generates 56% of its revenue from its Amazon Web Services subsidiary, to start making its own chips will surely affect Intel's profits in the future. Google has already designed three generations of A.I. chips and eventually wants to design its own CPUs. Amazon has the volume to get their chip designs manufactured through cutting edge foundries such as TSMC and others. Dozens of small chip design houses exist today and waiting in the wings to take their part of the server market pie.

Intel acknowledges that companies like Amazon want to reduce their dependency on one big chip supplier. "I am not unaware of the dynamic," Lisa Spelman, an Intel vice president, said. "Our goal is to understand and respectfully acknowledge that desire." Intel's data center group, which sells both server and A.I. chips, pulled in $6.1 billion, a 26 percent increase over the previous year. The group now accounts for more than 30 percent of Intel's revenue.

Posted by cageymaru December 11, 2018 11:47 AM (CST)

Fortnite, PUBG and Other Games Allegedly Banned in China

Citing a Reddit thread, PCGamesN reports that popular games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Paladins, Fortnite, and H1Z1 have been been banned in China, while others like World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo and League of Legends require "corrective action." According to the Reddit post, the 20 new games that were reportedly being "reviewed" by the government were actually existing titles. Reddit can be a sketchy source, but an independent report from seems to corroborate the claims. Experts note that this is bad news for publishers inside and outside of China. Ironically, the government crackdown could also encourage Chinese publishers to start pushing their games overseas.

The analysts warns that this does not bode well for anyone wanting to release in China. "Indications are that existing games with commercial licenses are not exempt from review, meaning more disruption for the market running into 2019," the firm wrote. "This will mean additional costs for publishers and developers looking to operate their games in China, even those with existing popular and commercially successful titles many of which appear to need changes to satisfy the regulators that they are suitable for younger players." The firm also notes that if the Ethics Committee is re-reviewing previously released titles, the waiting list for new games hoping to release in China "likely to be longer than expected", predicting the impact could be felt "deep into 2019."

Posted by alphaatlas December 11, 2018 11:41 AM (CST)

Techspot Tests a Multi GPU Setup in 2018

Multi GPU setups have fallen out of favor in the past few years. Games rarely advertise support for it anymore, and AMD has even deprecated the "Crossfire" brand. TechSpot noted that the last multi-GPU test they ran was in 2016, so they decided to grab a pair of RX 590s and see what the experience is like today, and the results were mixed. Battlefield V, for example, doesn't seem to support the 2nd 590 at all, while second card boosted Battlefield 1 performance by 46%. Scaling was about as perfect as it can be in Strange Brigade's DX12 mode, while Battlefront II performance was significantly worse with 2 GPUs.

As for the RX 590s in Crossfire, we'd much rather have a single Vega 64 graphics card. It's extremely rare that two 590s will provide higher frame rates than a single Vega 64, while also offering stutter-free gaming. If you're only ever going to play a game like F1 2018 that supports Crossfire really well, then getting two RX 570s for $300 will be a hard combo to beat. But who buys a graphics card to only ever play one or two games? Other drawbacks that are also part of this conversation include heat and power consumption. Those two RX 590s were dumping so much heat into the Corsair Crystal 570X case that you could justify spending more money in case fans and even then you'll still be running hotter due to the way the cards are stacked. You'll also lose out on the power supply. The RTX 2070 works without an issue with a 500w unit, and 600w would be more than enough. The Crossfire 590s though will need an 800 watt unit, 750w would be the minimum.

Posted by alphaatlas December 11, 2018 11:01 AM (CST)

Blockchain Storefront RobotCache Signs on 700 Games from 22 Publishers

According to a report by VentureBeat, RobotCache's ambitious blockchain-based gaming storefront is making significant progress. Despite being in early access, the company claims to have signed on 700 games from 22 publishers. Interestingly, publishers are supposed to get a 95% sales cut from the platform, as opposed to 70% from Steam or 88% on the Epic Games Store. The store will also allow users to resell games, but they'll only get 25% of the game's price back in return. THQ Nordic, Paradox Interactive, and inXile are among the publishers that have already joined the platform, but the CEO says "We are talking to everybody in the industry now."

"We welcome other stores coming to market because for too long, it has been a monopoly," Jacobson said. And, as mentioned, the Iron currency can still be used as a reward for mining and to purchase games. But it's more like an airline mileage plan now, rather than a cryptocurrency. "We are solving the hardest blockchain problems," Jacobson said. "We hope to be one of the largest mining pools in the world with a big user base."

Posted by alphaatlas December 11, 2018 10:30 AM (CST)