These women are changing the landscape of Antarctic research
These women are changing the landscape of Antarctic research
These women are changing the landscape of Antarctic research
Hexbyte – Science and Tech
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Foldable phones are all the rage these days and this year, we will be seeing the likes of Samsung, Huawei, and even Motorola debut foldable devices. Motorola recently confirmed rumors that it is indeed working on a foldable device, which in all likelihood will be a resurrection of the iconic RAZR brand. Now, XDA Developers has managed to source more information about some of the software aspects of the device, particularly about how the closed screen functions, and it looks like there will be some limitations.
According to XDA Developers, the closed display of the RAZR phone codenamed ‘Voyager’ offers the following functionality:
So far, it appears as though there are some limitations in how Motorola uses the closed display. The only apps currently allowed on the closed display are first-party apps such as Moto Display, Moto Actions, and Moto Camera. The Samsung Galaxy Fold on the other hand allows for seamless app transitions between the primary and the closed display and also allows for features such as Multi-Active Window.
The foldable Motorola RAZR is speculated to cost around US$1,500. Motorola couldn’t get to demonstrate the phone at MWC 2019 so we expect Lenovo to showcase it during their annual conference in August.
Hexbyte – Science and Tech
One of the best things about From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is it’s at once familiar and yet also unique. Lightning strikes twice here as four years ago, the same developer achieved a similar feat with Bloodborne, taking the skeleton of the Dark Souls series and combining a bleak gothic setting with a revised combat system. Sekiro takes just as ambitious a leap of its own – and from what I’ve seen, it deserves to be celebrated on its own terms. The developer taps into a rich vein of mythology much closer to home here. A gorgeous Japanese-inspired world is sculpted from scratch – of shinobi, burning temples, and feuding clans – with a huge level care and attention. In terms of the sheer quality of art direction, the results are unlike anything we’ve seen from the studio.
Cutscenes are used to tell parts of its story, but as ever, the world design steals the show. From the snowy paths lined with samurai, to a mountain-side temple set ablaze, every spot is distinct. Certainly, from a technical standpoint, it’s obvious that the engine has overlap with Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne. Parts of its setup – even the habits of PS4 Pro performance – are highly familiar in Sekiro. The mechanics also have common ground: the Estus Flask, the Maiden in Black, and many other touchstones of the Souls series find an equivalent here. Even so, developer From Software’s push into new territory still makes it compelling. There’s a commitment to its world-building, which even with a similar technical backbone, takes Sekiro down a path all of its own.
From the opening two hours I played on PS4 Pro, I loved it, though Souls veterans expecting to jump right in will have to accommodate the many changes From has introduced. The biggest difference? In Sekiro, a single, striking blow from a katana is significant moment – a crunching, pinpoint strike that rewards a bout of cautious side-steps and parries, where you have to work to find that opening. The environments are sparser than From’s other works too. Every area’s verticality comes into play thanks to a jump button and a grappling hook, while stealth is encouraged by crouching through tall grass – if you’d prefer taking that route.
What does this mean technically? Well, it puts From Software’s engine to task with rendering wider, more navigable environments. They stretch out in all directions – from the arching tree branches flanking a mountainside, to the rows of slatted rooftops, it’s a playground waiting to be explored. The grappling hook ups the pace of movement too. It forces the game to stream in world detail far ahead of time, much faster than any Souls game. Latch on to several points in a sequence, and you zip across string of trees quickly, and with barely any sight of pop-in. The options are there. The hardware’s up to the task, and it combines to give an incredible level of freedom.
Regardless, we’re in familiar territory engine-wise, which does help. The technical deign, from the way each environment streams in, to the physics interplay on clothing, or tumbling stacks of books or smashable urns – have a clear likeness to earlier From titles. Specifically, the ragdoll physics on enemies cut off just after landing a fatal blow, much like Bloodborne. Even the snappy input to your character, with a similar stepping animation, puts you in a similar headspace. Many of the engine’s strengths carry straight over to Sekiro in this respect. Again, it’s only a comforting baseline to work from, and the actual innovation springs from that.
Sekiro strikes out with its own visual identity, with some excellent effects work. A satisfying explosion of alpha spews from enemies on landing a final strike, a burst that’s punctuated in close-up. The fire of the later Hirata Estate area also use sharp, high resolution transparency effects at great scale. While it’s duplicated many times over, the alpha blends convincingly with the scene thanks to bloom, light bounce across characters, and reflections across water. Easily, this is one of the standout events of the game’s early hours. For quieter moments, there’s a crepuscular ray effect that flickers, subtly, through trees at night too. All these are known features of From Software’s engine. They’re tools in the box, but used in a fresh new way to help realise Sekiro’s world.
The gothic vision of Bloodborne is axed for a different aesthetic, and so this time chromatic aberration is disabled. As a post-process effect, the distortion it added to the screen edge was heavy-handed – deliberately so – and it still divides opinion. This time? Sekiro’s image is clean and clear. What you get from its post pipeline is instead a pure focus on decent anti-aliasing, and quality motion blur. High-grade sampling is used to blend frames, not just for camera movement, but also individual objects. The result is artefact free, on PS4 Pro at least. We’ll see how it scales to other consoles in due course, but I see very little in the way of dithering or banding on edges. It looks great – and helps to disguise the variability of its frame-rate. We played the game in a 1080p mode very similar to Dark Souls 3’s PS4 Pro patch, where the action runs unlocked, typically from 40fps to 60fps, with alpha-heavy scenes taking us down into the 30s.
Speaking on image quality? Here’s the curious thing. You think of PS4 Pro and you assume 4K output is on the cards. We played Sekiro at a press event where only 1080p capture was available, and so you’re looking at a native 1920×1080 image in our assets here. To what extent From Software embraces higher resolution output remains to be seen, but the extent of the firm’s work on the enhanced console essentially comes down to a Dark Souls 3 patch that unlocked the frame-rate, much like Sekiro’s presentation here. Our fingers are crossed for something more ambitious for the game’s launch, especially as this will be the first game from director Miyazaki and his team to launch with Pro and X hardware in the wild.
Based on a couple of hours from the beginning of the game, we’re quietly excited and optimistic about what’s to come. From Software knows how to build a world, lore, and characters from the ground up, and based on what I’ve played so far, the team’s managed it all over again. There’s a bigger emphasis on more linear, conventional storytelling this time, but as a counterweight, the environments are more sprawling than ever before, making it more of a pure-blooded stealth-action game – with new demands on its tech. If Bloodborne showed From Software’s ambition at this generation’s start, Sekiro stands to be in to an amazing counterpart bookend it. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice launches on PlayStation, Xbox and PC platforms on March 22nd.
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Hexbyte Tech News Wired
It’s International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate the achievements of women around the world and throughout history. But the day is also about recognizing the hardships women face and the continued urgency of the fight for gender equality.
That is true of WIRED’s world too—the world of technology and science, of media and innovation. Though this magazine was cofounded by a woman, and women have been key figures in every part of scientific and technological progress, men’s narratives still dominate. Men still hold more STEM jobs. Men make more of the money. Men’s issues are treated with more respect and funded at higher rates. Men have more power. To be a woman in science and tech and even media is often to be outnumbered, overlooked, undervalued, or harassed.
Even International Women’s Day itself is evidence of a lack of equality. If women were equal members of society, would they need their own special day, or month? This day, even in its celebration, is proof of a problem. And yet, women rise.
Today, in honor of International Women’s Day, we want to highlight just a few of the incredible women WIRED has written about over the years, whose work breaks boundaries, makes new worlds possible, and sets the stage for the future. These women are fighters, they are visionaries, they are tireless advocates for change, for progress, for hope. And you should know their names.
“It might surprise today’s software makers that one of the founding fathers of their boys’ club was, in fact, a mother,” WIRED wrote in a 2015 profile of Margaret Hamilton. Hamilton was working as a coder at MIT in 1960, planning to apply to graduate schools to get a PhD in math. But before she could pursue that dream, she wound up changing the world. The Apollo space program began, and Hamilton would lead the team at MIT in charge of onboard flight software on the Apollo computers. She did all this with only an undergraduate degree and while raising a toddler. Her work at the time was not only groundbreaking but radical in that it was coming from a woman. Hamilton was the ultimate outlier. Without her, the modern computing era would not be what it is today.
Stanford computer science professor Fei-Fei Li works at the forefront of artificial intelligence. As codirector of the Stanford Human Centered AI Institute, she and her team are trying to imbue artificially intelligent algorithms with human sensitivity. This is the kind of technical work that has an invisible impact on almost all walks of life. Algorithms and other forms of AI are increasingly determining our world; they decide everything from who gets out of prison to what medication patients should take to who gets hired for which job to where your child goes to school. As such, algorithmic bias—that is, human bias that gets transferred, often unintentionally, into algorithmic systems—can undermine social progress and further stratify society. In a field with a documented lack of gender balance, Li is working to obliterate such bias, to ensure that when the computers are making decisions, they are being fair.
Jewel Burks works every day to try to make the tech industry more diverse and accessible to all people, of every gender, race, nationality, age, and socio-economic level. But Burks is a maker, first and foremost. WIRED featured her in our 25th anniversary issue as someone who will “shake up the next 25 years” of tech. She was nominated by Reddit and Initialized Capital cofounder Alexis Ohanian, who first met Burks when she launched a cutting-edge computer vision app called Partpic. Partpic lets you use a smartphone to snap a picture of a mechanical part you need to replace, and then it helps you order those parts. Though Burks had no background in computer vision, she recognized there was a need for such an app and taught herself how to build it. Partpic went on to raise more than $2 million in venture capital—especially notable given that women, and especially women of color, often face difficulty getting funded. Burks then sold the company to Amazon, where its technology is used to power replacement-part searches in Amazon’s shopping app. Burks now leads a team inside Amazon and advocates for racial and gender inclusion in her industry.
Donna Strickland might just have the coolest job in the world. She plays with lasers for a living. Her specialty is getting lasers to pulse so brightly for a fraction of a second that they “contain more power than the entire US electricity grid,” according to WIRED’s profile of her work last year. Why were we profiling her in 2018? Oh yeah, because she won the Nobel Prize in Physics for her contributions to the field. She was the first woman to win the prize in physics in 55 years. “Obviously, we need to celebrate women physicists, because we’re out there,” Strickland said when she won.
Elizebeth Friedman was one of the founders of modern cryptography, the information-security methodology that underpins everything from cybersecurity to digital surveillance. During World War II, she and her husband worked as code breakers, spying on the Nazis and helping the Allied forces win the war. Daily they intercepted and decoded messages about what the enemy was up to, arduous and technical work that resulted in the arrest of Nazi spies. For years, her husband was hailed as the sole creator of cryptanalysis, the field they pioneered together. Now she is finally getting her due, thanks in part to a 2017 biography by former WIRED writer Jason Fagone titled The Woman Who Smashed Codes. You can read an excerpt of that book here.
Cohl Furey’s work is so complex it’s difficult to describe, but her research has implications for the very building blocks of reality. Furey is obsessed with figuring out the mathematical laws of nature. Her discoveries challenge the standard model of particle physics, revealing how octonions—eight-dimensional numbers with special properties—could be at the heart of how atoms hold together. Furey’s work builds on decades of research and seems to confirm widely held suspicions in the field about the relationship between pure math and physics. Now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge, Furey could change our understanding of how the world works.
You’ve heard about gene editing and the magic “Swiss Army knife for genes” that is Crispr technology. Crispr ushered in a new era for biological sciences, driving a renewed interest in gene therapies for disease, raising the risk of “designer babies,” creating new ways to store information in DNA, and even making crazy-sounding notions like resurrecting the woolly mammoth to fight climate change maybe sort of possible. And it was cocreated by two women: UC Berkeley professor Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, director of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, who published their work on bacteria in 2012. (The question of who owns the patents to Crispr technology has been the subject of an intense legal battle with scientists at the Broad Institute, who six months later published work using the technique in human cells for the first time. Last fall, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in favor of the Broad Institute.) Doudna, a WIRED 25 icon, has gone on to be a leading voice for caution in the field, urging scientists to think through the ethics of what Crispr enables before following the science wherever it could lead.
Bonus: Jiwoo Lee, a Stanford sophomore who’s studying not just the science of Crispr but also the social and ethical quandaries it raises. For WIRED’s 25th anniversary issue, Doudna highlighted Lee’s work, calling her a “Crispr wunderkind.”
Susan Fowler’s most famous contribution to technology happened when she left the industry. She’d been working as a programmer at Uber, but after facing discrimination and sexual harassment, which the company dismissed, she quit her job and in 2017 published a blog post detailing her experience. That post sparked a national conversation about how women are treated in the tech industry. And it took guts. In the wake of her post, more women came forward with stories of harassment in the tech world. Uber hired former US attorney general Eric Holder to review its policies and culture; shortly after Holder’s recommendations were released, Uber’s CEO resigned. While many tech companies, including Uber, have updated their harassment policies, the changes come too late for some women. Fowler now works as a writer at The New York Times.
The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer didn’t look anything like computers of today. It weighed 27 tons and comprised 1,800 vacuum tubes and diodes. But ENIAC was the world’s first computer, and it was conceived as a way to help the war effort during World War II. Since most men were overseas fighting, a team of six women ran ENIAC: Betty Holberton, Kay Mauchley Antonelli, Marlyn Meltzer, Ruth Teitelbaum, Jean Bartik, and Frances Spence. They continued to work on it as the Cold War raged, using its computing power to help design a thermonuclear warhead. Holberton went on to codevelop one of the earliest programming languages, without which the internet and modern digital computing would not be possible. But the contributions of these six programmers went largely unrecognized for decades, until a Harvard student researching women in computing rediscovered them in 1986.
Holberton’s work, ENIAC, and other women whose contributions shaped the internet age are highlighted in the book Broad Band, whose author, Claire L. Evans, WIRED interviewed last year.
Hexbyte News Computers
Altman is transitioning into a chairman role with other YC partners stepping up to take on his day-to-day responsibilities, as first reported by Axios. Sources tell TechCrunch YC has no succession plans. YC’s core program is currently led by chief executive officer Michael Seibel, who joined the firm as a part-time partner in 2013 and assumed the top role in 2016.
The news comes amid a series of shake-ups at the accelerator, which is expected to demo its latest batch of 200-plus companies in San Francisco March 18 and 19. In Friday’s blog post, YC expands on some of those changes, including the firm’s decision to move its HQ to San Francisco, which TechCrunch reported earlier this week.
“We are considering moving YC to the city and are currently looking for space,” YC writes. “The center of gravity for new startups has clearly shifted over the past five years, and although we love our space in Mountain View, we are rethinking whether the logistical tradeoff is worth it, especially given how difficult the commute has become. We also want to be closer to our Bay Area alumni, who disproportionately live and work in San Francisco.”
In addition to moving its HQ up north, YC has greatly expanded the size of its cohorts — so much so that its next demo day will have two stages — and it’s writing larger checks to portfolio companies.
Altman, who joined YC as a partner in 2011 and was named president in 2014, will focus on other efforts, including OpenAI, a research organization in which he co-chairs. Altman was the second-ever YC president, succeeding YC co-founder Paul Graham in 2014. Graham is currently an advisor to YC.
Hexbyte News Computers
It’s Thursday afternoon, and I’m on the eighth floor of a nondescript building in the Flatiron District, sitting across from Foursquare cofounder Dennis Crowley. He pulls out his phone to show me an unreleased, nameless game that he and his skunkworks-style team Foursquare Labs have been working on. Think Candyland, but instead of fantasy locations like Lollipop Woods, the game’s virtual board includes place categories associated with New York City neighborhoods. There’s a Midtown Bar, a Downtown Movie Theatre, Brooklyn Coffeeshop, Uptown Park, and so on.
As in Candyland, you move your game piece forward by drawing cards. But in Crowley’s version, the cards are the habits and locations of real people whose data has been turned into literal pawns in the game. Foursquare knows where they are in real time, because it powers many widely used apps, from Twitter and Uber to TripAdvisor and AccuWeather. These people aren’t playing Crowley’s game, but their real-world movements animate it: If one of them goes into a bar in midtown, for example, the person playing the game would get a Midtown Bar card.
Crowley tabs to a different part of the game, and dozens of first names and generic cartoon avatars pop up on the screen beneath the header “Brooklyn Roasting Company,” a real cafe on the first floor of the building we’re in. “Downstairs in the cafeteria there are 40 people,” Crowley says, thumbing through the list. “These are the people that are there. These are not their names. And this is not what they look like. These are [their unique advertising] IDs that we turned into a fake name and a fake avatar.”
He taps on one profile, called “Harry,” and a pie chart pops up that details the habits of the real person associated with that advertising ID. “Harry spends a lot of time in Midtown, sometimes goes to parks, and rides the subway,” Crowley says, looking over the data Foursquare has assembled from the person’s use of popular apps and geotagging services. “I can say I want Harry to be on my team. And now that Harry is on my team, everywhere that ‘Harry’ goes generates a card for me.”
This nameless game wasn’t the reason I was talking to Crowley—it’s still at least a year away from being anything other than an internal prototype, he says. But it speaks to the almost incomprehensible vastness of Foursquare’s data empire.
Ask someone about Foursquare and they’ll probably think of the once-hyped social media company, known for gamifying mobile check-ins and giving recommendations. But the Foursquare of today is a location-data giant. During an interview with NBC in November, the company’s CEO, Jeff Glueck, said that only Facebook and Google rival Foursquare in terms of location-data precision.
You might think you don’t use Foursquare, but chances are you do. Foursquare’s technology powers the geofilters in Snapchat, tagged tweets on Twitter; it’s in Uber, Apple Maps, Airbnb, WeChat, and Samsung phones, to name a few. (Condé Nast Traveler, owned by the same parent company as WIRED, relies on Foursquare data.)
In 2014, Foursquare launched Pilgrim, a piece of code that passively tracks where your phone goes using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and GSM to identify the coffee shop or park or Thai restaurant you’re visiting, then feeds that data to its partner apps to send you, say, an offer for a 10 percent off coupon if you leave a review for the restaurant. Today, Pilgrim and the company’s Places API are an integral part of tens of thousands of apps, sites, and interfaces. As Foursquare’s website says, “If it tells you where, it’s probably built on Foursquare.”
Ostensibly, the reason I met with Crowley was to talk about Hypertrending, a temporary feature Foursquare is rolling out for this year’s South by Southwest conference that the company announced Friday afternoon. It’s a map of the Austin area that shows the location of all the people with smartphones Foursquare can track, in real-time. The app anonymizes and aggregates the data so that people’s locations aren’t shown individually, but in clusters. Crowley says that’s to protect user privacy.
“We’re not sure if it’s the responsible thing or not to have a view like this in the phone yet,” Crowley says. “I don’t know how people will react to seeing a heat map in real time of where all the phones are. I can imagine some people would be like, ‘That’s the coolest thing!’ And I can imagine some people would be like, ‘That’s the creepiest thing!’”
He says this tension between creepy and cool is part of the reason Foursquare is only testing the feature at SXSW. It is only available to users in Austin and will “self-destruct” in two weeks once the festival has ended. “Part of the exercise is showing this to the innovators and creative types that are down there and [having them] help us think through and talk through what are we doing here, what should we do next,” Crowley says. If the reception is positive, Foursquare could turn the tech into a service that developers could query to build something similar.
Priya Kumar, a privacy researcher and tech ethicist, says Foursquare should have been more respectful of users before rolling out a potentially controversial feature like Hypertrending. “Foursquare and the team that created this feature didn’t think about [whether] their use of this data fits the context in which the users provided it,” she says. “They should have gone back to users and let them opt in, or talked to civil society researchers who could give [Foursquare] insight on that before they even created the feature.”
Most companies that collect user data on Foursquare’s scale aren’t too keen on letting people know how much information they’re sharing. It’s understandable; people generally don’t react well to the realities of the big-data-powered world they’ve unwittingly opted into. But with Hypertrending, Foursquare takes a step in that direction anyway.
“This is the real-time movement of people that we know about, phones that we know about,” Crowley says. “And so I want to get a read on how people feel about that in general. Are they into this? Are they curious? Do they want to see what’s next? Or are they like, ‘Hell no. They need to step away from this’?”
There’s an easier way, Kumar says. “If you do your due diligence before you design a feature, then maybe there’s a way to envision [it] without feeling like you may have already crossed the ‘creepy’ line.”
Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |
Virtualization and software provider Citrix said its internal network was breached by international criminals who most likely exploited weak passwords to gain limited access before working to gain more privileged control.
The notice published Friday morning sent shockwaves through security circles because Citrix’s products and services are used by more than 400,000 organizations around the world, including 98 percent of the Fortune 500. Citrix is also widely used by governments and militaries. An intrusion by overseas hackers carries the risk of exposing technical information that could compromise the networks of customers.
Citrix said it still doesn’t know what specific data was stolen, but an initial investigation appears to show the attackers may have obtained business documents. For now, company officials said, there’s no indication that the security of any Citrix product or service was compromised. The company has commenced a forensic investigation and engaged a security firm to assist. Citrix has also taken unspecified actions to better secure it inter
Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |
The young son of anti-vaccine parents endured excruciating pain and spent 47 days in pediatric intensive care after contracting tetanus, a devastating bacterial infection easily prevented by vaccines.
Despite the nightmarish ordeal, his parents still refused to have him vaccinated, according to health officials in Oregon who helped treat the boy. They reported the boy’s harrowing case Friday, March 8, in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, an online publication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The six-year-old Oregon boy contracted tetanus—also called lockjaw—innocently enough. He got a cut on his forehead while playing on his family’s farm in 2017. The boy’s wound was treated and sutured at home. Six days later, he showed signs of tetanus.
Tetanus is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which is found in soil and produces a toxin that causes painful muscle contractions. The boy’s symptoms started as crying fits, jaw clenching, muscle spasms, and neck and back arching. The same day, he started having trouble breathing, at which point his parents contacted emergency medical services, who quickly air-lifted him to a pediatric medical center.
When he arrived at the hospital he was suffering jaw muscle spasms. He indicated he wanted some water but couldn’t open his mouth enough to drink it. Some of his muscles necessary for breathing also started spasming, throwing the boy into respiratory distress. He had to be sedated, intubated, and placed on mechanical ventilation.
At this point, doctors admitted him to the intensive care unit, where they kep