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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)

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)

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)

Infinity Blade Removed from iOS App Store

In a surprise move, Epic Games announced that they are removing all three Infinity Blade games from the iOS App Store. The games have long been a staple of the App Store's gaming section, and both Apple and Epic frequently used the series to show off advances in mobile hardware and Unreal Engine. Epic Games claims that "it has become increasingly difficult for our team to support the Infinity Blade series at a level that meets our standards," while noting that existing owners will still be able to play, and that a big update is still coming to Infinity Blade III. While the loss of Infinity Blade isn't exactly Earth shattering, Touch Arcade notes that this says a lot about the state of Apple's App Store as a gaming platform.

Epic is on top of the world right now, and it being "increasingly difficult" to support likely has everything to do with the dismal state of premium games on the App Store in 2018 and it just not being worth Epic's while to continue supporting the Infinity Blade trilogy. Just let that sink in for a minute. The game company that has the biggest hit in the world, and is raking in so much cash that they're even opening their own online game distribution platform for developers with absurdly generous terms can't make sense out of continuing to maintain their mobile games. Their mobile games which have been extensively featured by Apple at every possible opportunity and were effectively platform-defining when they were released are now ... increasingly difficult to support. What in the hell.

Posted by alphaatlas December 11, 2018 9:55 AM (CST)

New Google+ API Bug Affects 52 Million Consumers and Enterprise Customers

A new Google+ API bug has been discovered and it affects 52 million consumers and enterprise customers. Google discovered the bug and believes that no app developers knew of or exploited the system in the 6 days that the bug was present. This discovery has made Google rethink the August 2019 shutdown date for Google+. A decision has been made to expedite the shutdown of the social media service to April 2019. The consumer version of Google+ will be sunsetting in 90 days. Although the bug shared information that may have been set to not-public, it didn't share information such as financial data, national identification numbers, passwords, or similar data typically used for fraud or identity theft. We reported on the first security breach and closing of Google+ earlier this year.

With respect to this API, apps that requested permission to view profile information that a user had added to their Google+ profile--like their name, email address, occupation, age (full list here)--were granted permission to view profile information about that user even when set to not-public. In addition, apps with access to a user's Google+ profile data also had access to the profile data that had been shared with the consenting user by another Google+ user but that was not shared publicly.

Posted by cageymaru December 10, 2018 7:25 PM (CST)

Researchers Fabricate 2.5 Nanometer Transistors

Researchers from the University of Colorado and MIT claim to have fabricated the smallest 3D transistors ever. The engineers used a relatively new process called thermal atomic layer etching to create FinFET transistors on an indium gallium arsenide base. The researchers claim their transistors performed about 60 percent better that traditional FinFETs in a "transconductance" test, which measures how much energy it takes for a transistor to switch on and off, and that the transistors are "as narrow as 2.5 nanometers."

In experiments, the researchers removed just .02 nanometers from the material's surface at a time. "You're kind of peeling an onion, layer by layer," Lu says. "In each cycle, we can etch away just 2 percent of a nanometer of a material. That gives us super high accuracy and careful control of the process." Because the technique is so similar to ALD, "you can integrate this thermal ALE into the same reactor where you work on deposition," del Alamo says. It just requires a "small redesign of the deposition tool to handle new gases to do deposition immediately after etching... That's very attractive to industry."

Posted by alphaatlas December 10, 2018 8:34 AM (CST)

Some Epic Store Games Are Pushing Back or Scrapping Steam Releases

When Epic Games launched its digital storefront last week, many called it the first real threat to Steam due to the studio’s standing and larger revenue of 88% versus Valve’s 70%. That sentiment has only managed to grow, as a handful of developers have already declared their support for Epic: factory builder Satisfactory will no longer be available on Steam, while Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, Genesis Alpha One, and Super Meat Boy Forever are timed exclusives. Gamers may be fed up with the increasing amount of stores and launchers, but competition is a pretty good thing.

"Before Valve and the 70/30 split it was pretty darn rough to be an indie, both in terms of royalty share and in terms of the ability to sell things without a publisher. We can all thank Valve for using their leverage to make that happen, and usher in the era we have now. We think it’s safe to say that a large percentage of the games made today wouldn’t exist without it. Epic is using their leverage to push that even farther, to 88/12. That’s another whole strata of developers who can survive."

Posted by Megalith December 09, 2018 5:35 PM (CST)

Soulja Boy Is Selling a Console That's Basically an Overpriced Emulator

American rapper Soulja Boy, who has "played games all his life," has decided to expand his brand and capitalize on the gaming industry with two new products, the "SouljaGame Handheld" and "SouljaGame Console." Polygon and Waypoint have concluded that they are just clever scams, however: the rapper appears to be selling potentially illegal emulation consoles identical to those produced by Anbernic, but at a significant markup.

As far as we can tell, Soulja Boy is selling these products on his site, just with his name attached. He’s also selling them at a markup; both the console and handheld cost $199.99, although they’re on sale for $149.99 and $99.99 respectively. Meanwhile, AliExpress has the direct-from-Anbernic versions for $105.99 and $72.99. We’ve contacted Soulja Boy’s press team for further information about the SouljaGame products, and we’ll update once Soulja Boy tells ’em, and then tells us in return.

Posted by Megalith December 09, 2018 4:20 PM (CST)

China Forms New Body to Review Ethics Risks of Video Games

The Chinese are doubling down on their efforts to control the supposed influx of problematic video games with the help of a new body that will review titles for "ethical issues" ranging from unsuitable content to addiction and childhood myopia. The Online Games Ethics Committee has already "rejected nine games for publication in the domestic market, while ruling that certain content be modified in the 11 other games that were reviewed."

Publishers in China are required to submit games for review to authorities so these can be sold in the domestic market. This process typically takes months to complete, and games with the slightest violent or sexual content are likely to get rejected. The State Administration of Press and Publications (SAPP), the country’s video games regulator, could not be reached for comment regarding the new ethics committee.

Posted by Megalith December 09, 2018 2:10 PM (CST)