Valve is ‘still working hard’ on Steam OS, Linux gaming

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A few days ago Valve reworked the main navigation bar in its Steam Store and removed a direct link to buy Steam Machines, the Linux-based boxes it hailed as an open alternative to macOS or Windows PC gaming. Combined with a lack of recent announcemen…
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This hard drive offers 1TB of storage for photos and an app that lets you edit on the go

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For anyone who suffers from a long wait while attempting to upload large video and photo files onto their computer, there’s a new Kickstarter for a portable hard drive that says it can back up your files and offer faster on-the-go file uploading services you can use right after taking photos. The company suggests you can do away with bringing your laptop to outdoor photo shoots and instead use its mobile app for editing files and uploading to Dropbox.

The Kickstarter is for a device called the Gnarbox 2.0, which lets you insert your SD card into the hard drive and use it as an additional backup tool. It’s an upgrade to its predecessor, the Gnarbox 1.0, which already offered a mobile large file storage and uploading solution also through…

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From rotting crops to migrant worker shortages, times are hard down on the farm that Brexit built

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The Chinese Space Station Has Crashed in the Pacific. Why Was It So Hard to Track?

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If a massive space station falls out of the atmosphere into the Pacific Ocean, with no one there to witness it, does it make a sound?

That’s no hypothetical question. We’re asking about Tiangong-1, the Chinese space station that finally “de-orbited” from space and into the Pacific around 8 PM Eastern time on April 1.

Let’s be honest — “de-orbited” is a polite way of saying “free-fall.” Scientists could neither alter nor even really track Tiangong-1’s descent. That could be a problem in a future — an atmosphere more packed with spacecraft presents a (slightly) higher risk for humans on the ground.

We’ve anticipated Tiangong-1’s homecoming since 2016, when abnormalities in the space station’s orbit suggested that the Chinese space agency had lost control of it. It took a few months for authorities to admit that the craft was out of their reach. Normally, a space agency will retire a satellite by purposely guiding it into the atmosphere, at an angle and speed such that it burns up completely or re-enters Earth’s atmosphere far from human populations.

That makes Tiangong-1’s spinning, erratic descent less than ideal.

Scientists weren’t exactly sure when and where the craft would land until the moment it did so. Indeed, the space station’s case highlights the fact that scientists still don’t have the capacity to wrangle the significant number of variables that factor into tracking and modeling such situations.

Around noon Eastern time on April 1, seven hours before the craft actually fell, the European Space Agency (ESA) had reached the limit of what it could forecast. And there still a pretty big window for when and where the station would re-enter.

“With our current understanding of the dynamics of the upper atmosphere and Europe’s limited sensors, we are not able to make very precise predictions,” said Holger Krag, head of ESA’s Space Debris Office, in an agency blog about Tiangong-1.

Note: we do not want to overstate the odds of being hit by falling spacecraft. Space junk falls out of the atmosphere all the time, and only one person has ever been hit by it. For the Tiangong-1, the odds that the falling space station would have hit any single human on Earth were still 1 in 1 trillion, lower than your yearly odds of being struck by lightning.

But that may change in the coming years. The growing space industry has promised to put a number of new spacecraft into orbit around Earth in the next decade, including thousands of new satellites. As we increase the number of objects in space, the overall probability of something falling out of the sky into a populated area will increase. At the moment, nobody has a way to zap space junk (or incoming meteors, for that matter) that might pose a threat, and it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll get one anytime soon.

Instead, as ESA’s Krag implies, research could help a lot. If we could better understand how the upper atmosphere behaves, we could better model where a falling object would land, and potentially warn people in the area if needed.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely. The sort of basic research that would improve scientists’ understanding of the atmosphere is chronically under-funded, and in the U.S., happens in agencies to which the White House doesn’t allocate many resources.

Basic research into the upper atmosphere isn’t nearly as sexy as as falling space junk, but it could one day save a lot of people some logistical — and potentially physical — headaches.

The post The Chinese Space Station Has Crashed in the Pacific. Why Was It So Hard to Track? appeared first on Futurism.

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Apple takes hard line on privacy in India

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Perhaps attempting to avoid its own Facebook-style privacy scandal, Apple has supposedly hit a road block in collaborating with the Indian government. The clash regards a government-approved anti-spam mobile app, which Apple was concerned violated user privacy. And Indian regulators aren’t too happy about it! The “Do Not Disturb” app allows individuals to report unsolicited marketing […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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Today only, get huge discounts on monitors, keyboards, hard drives, and more on Amazon

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Some seriously good options today.

If you’re looking for new hardware, today’s Amazon Gold Box sale is one you don’t want to miss. This selection includes everything from Acer 4K monitors for less than $ 300 to new gaming laptops, portable hard drives, and more. Most of these items are compatible with Mac and PC.

The brands in this sale are some of the top names in computer accessories, including Acer, Razer, Logitech, and HyperX. There are pre-built desktops, headsets, routers, and tons of other gear on sale. This is one day only, so get it while you can. Here’s a few of the better deals we found:

Check out the full sale on Amazon.

See on Amazon

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Samsung Galaxy S9+ gets torn down by iFixit, found hard to repair

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It’s the Samsung Galaxy S9+’s time to get the iFixit disassembly treatment and for us to have a good look inside its beautiful glass and metal hull. The teardown starts off like you’d expect for a waterproof glass and metal phone – with a heatgun, opening pick and a lot of nervous prying. The battery is glued in place and required Adhesive Remover and a lot of know-how to remove. The camera is the more interesting component. Being the Galaxy S9+ it’s the dual camera with the main variable aperture sensor and the second, tele sensor. The main camera’s aperture is made up of two…

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It’s Really Hard to Give AI “Common Sense”

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In humans, common sense is relatively easy to identify, albeit a bit difficult to define. Get in line at the end of it? That’s common sense. Grab the red-hot end of a metal poker that was in the fire moments before? Not so much.

How do we teach something as nebulous as common sense to artificial intelligence (AI)? Many researchers have tried to do so and failed.

But that might soon change. Now, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is joining their ranks.

Allen is investing an additional $ 125 million into his nonprofit computer lab, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), doubling its budget for the next three years, according to The New York Times. This influx of money will go toward existing projects as well as Project Alexandria, a new initiative focused on teaching “common sense” to robots.

“When I founded AI2, I wanted to expand the capabilities of artificial intelligence through high-impact research,” said Allen in a press release. “Early in AI research, there was a great deal of focus on common sense, but that work stalled. AI still lacks what most 10-year-olds possess: ordinary common sense. We want to jump-start that research to achieve major breakthroughs in the field.”

Machines can mimic human tasks if they’re specific enough. They can locate and identify objects, climb, sell housesprovide disaster relief, and so much more.

However, even these advanced machines can’t handle more than simple questions and commands. How might one them approach an unfamiliar situation and use “common sense” to calibrate the appropriate action and response? Right now, it can’t.

“Despite the recent AI successes, common sense — which is trivially easy for people  is remarkably difficult for AI,” Oren Etzioni, the CEO of AI2, said in the press release. “No AI system currently deployed can reliably answer a broad range of simple questions, such as, ‘If I put my socks in a drawer, will they still be in there tomorrow?’ or ‘How can you tell if a milk carton is full?’”

“For example, when AlphaGo beat the number one Go player in the world in 2016, the program did not know that Go is a board game,” Etzioni added.

There’s a simple reason we’ve failed to teach AI common sense up to this point: it’s really, really hard.

Gary Marcus, the founder of the Geometric Intelligence Company, drew inspiration from the ways in which children develop common sense and a sense of abstract thinking. Imperial College London researchers focused on symbolic AI, a technique in which a human labels everything for an AI.

Neither strategy has so far resulted in what we could define as “common sense” for robots.

Project Alexandria will take a far more robust approach to the problem. According to the press release, it will integrate research machine reasoning and computer vision, and figure out a way to measure common sense. The researchers also plan to crowdsource common sense from humans.

“I am hugely excited about Project Alexandria,” Gary Marcus, founder of AI lab Geometric Intelligence, said in the press release. “The time is right for a fresh approach to the problem.”

The task is daunting. But if AI is going to reach the next level of utility and integration into even more facets of human lives, we’ll have to overcome it. Project Alexandria might be the best shot at doing so.

The post It’s Really Hard to Give AI “Common Sense” appeared first on Futurism.

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‘Part Time UFO’ Review – It Works Hard for Its Money

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For many years, mobile gamers dreamed the impossible dream of having Nintendo games on their platform of choice. When that dream finally, improbably, came true, it didn’t come in the form that many of those players had hoped for. There are a lot of factors to consider when thinking about why Nintendo’s mobile efforts are what they are, but regardless of the why, the fact remains that they’re not quite the same as what the company puts out on its own hardware. Well, HAL Laboratory isn’t Nintendo, but they’re quite close in a lot of ways. If you were one of those people looking for a Nintendo-like experience on your mobile device, you may find that HAL’s latest release, Part Time UFO [$ 3.99], scratches the itch nicely.

HAL Laboratory did have a life before Nintendo, primarily making games for computers such as the Commodore VIC-20 and the MSX. But it’s best known for its work that came out of its partnership with the console giant. Games like Kirby’s Dream Land, EarthBound, Super Smash Bros., and Pokemon Snap were all developed hand-in-hand with Nintendo, and wunderkind programmer and once-head of HAL Laboratory, Satoru Iwata, eventually became Nintendo’s president. It’s a little strange to see HAL doing work on non-Nintendo platforms again, but I suppose if even Nintendo itself is doing it, it’s not that strange.

Most of HAL’s games since Kirby have involved the little pink puffball, but the developer has made the occasional original title here and there. On the Nintendo 3DS, they created a trilogy of great puzzle-platformers called BoxBoy!. It’s those games that come to mind when playing Part Time UFO, and not just because their star Qbby makes a little cameo. Both BoxBoy! and Part Time UFO involve taking a relatively simple, familiar gameplay mechanic and exploring it fully. In BoxBoy!, that was the old video game staple of box puzzles. In Part Time UFO, it’s about taking the idea of a crane catcher in as many interesting directions as possible. You play as a little UFO who has come to Earth and already fallen to the scourge of accumulating wealth.

In order to make ends meet, our little UFO has to take on a variety of part-time jobs. Like any of us, the UFO has to try to make do with his current skill set. Fortunately for our hero, it has something a little more useful than an undergraduate degree in the arts. Not only can it fly up, down, and all around, it also has a pretty handy claw that it can use to pick things up and drop them. But how many different kinds of jobs can you do with that? Well, as it turns out, there’s fishing, loading trucks, helping cheerleaders with their pyramids, assisting with circus performances, being a sous-chef, and many others. What can’t this UFO do? Besides picking its nose, anyway.

Each stage presents a certain scenario similar to the ones I’ve outlined above. The game will give you a primary goal, which typically (but not always) involves picking up a few things and putting them in a designated place. There are also three hidden goals, and you don’t get much more than a simple picture to clue you into their requirements. But clue in you must, because the only way to unlock new stages is to check off these hidden goals. Some of them are practically gimmes, like finishing the stage in a set amount of time. Others involve careful observation of the stage elements or a genuine show of skill. Between the varying main goals and the numerous hidden goals, Part Time UFO stays fresh a lot longer than you might expect.

Whether you find the hidden goals or not, you’ll still get paid for your work at the end of each stage. Your hard-earned wages can be used to buy new costumes for the UFO, and they’re more than mere cosmetics. Well, some of them are, anyway. New costumes will often grant some sort of advantage to the UFO, allowing it to move faster, pick up heavy objects more easily, and so on. There are quite a few costumes available, so you’ll probably be unlocking them for a while. The nice thing is that you never really need any of these costumes to succeed. They’re useful, but not required. Oh, and if you should see a certain little fellow from one of HAL’s 3DS games show up in the UFO’s apartment, make sure you tap on him.

All of this would be for naught if the core gameplay didn’t work, mind you. Luckily, HAL has done a great job of making these crane controls feel good. There are two different control layouts available. The default set uses a virtual stick to move the UFO and a button to engage or disengage the claw. The other, designed for one-handed play, has you swiping to move the UFO and tapping to drop and raise its claw. Both work well, though I’ve tended to stick to the first set-up for its more precise nature. This UFO catcher is thankfully kinder than the real things. The weight and balance of the objects you pick up is of course taken into account, but the grip of your claw is better than you would expect rather than worse. Most of the nuance comes from how you pick things up, in what order you grab them, and how you drop them. If you aren’t careful stacking monkeys, for example, the whole lot may come tumbling down.

Surprisingly, Part Time UFO is a paid up-front app with no IAPs at all. The irony of HAL taking inspiration from an exploitative style of game to make a satisfying game with no extra money required on a platform where the reverse is all to often true is not lost on me. You don’t have to side-eye any of the shop prices or goal requirements because you know that there is no other way to proceed than simply playing and improving. I doubt HAL is going to be rewarded for this somewhat bold move, but it’s still nice to see in a time where original mobile experiences without a coin slot attached are getting rarer and rarer.

Naturally, the presentation is dynamite. It’s adorable, packed with little details and animations, and maintains a consistent look across all of its elements. There are quite a few different areas spread across the game’s 25+ stages, and even when those broad themes get re-used, there will always be a few new details to show that the stage had some loving care put into it. The game’s main musical theme is catchy and is remixed in various ways to suit the different levels, too. The developers have also included Game Center support for achievements and included a nice little list of things to shoot for, some of which involve wearing appropriate costumes to certain stages. From top to bottom, this feels like the same kind of effort HAL would put into one of their games for Nintendo’s platforms.

The only remotely negative thing I can say about Part Time UFO is that it does end eventually. You’ll probably need to replay many of the stages to finish all of the hidden goals, but sooner or later those 25+ stages will be exhausted and all of the costumes will be unlocked. I think the enjoyable mechanics make it fun to go back to levels and see what kind of different results you can get, but some might be turned off by a paid game that you can play through in just a few hours of dedicated play. If that’s you, well, with all due respect, you can go kick rocks. Part Time UFO is great, and I hope this isn’t just a one-shot effort from HAL.

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