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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Teach Inventing To Kids?

Slashdot - November 21, 2019 - 7:15pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Half Life Alyx hits PC VR headsets in March 2020 [Updated]

Ars Technica - November 21, 2019 - 7:03pm

After a tease earlier this week, Valve has revealed more details and a new trailer for the first new Half-Life content in over a decade. The "full-length" Half Life: Alyx will hit Steam in March 2020, Valve says, with support for "all PC-based VR headsets." Pre-orders are already available for $59.99, though the game will be free if you own a Valve Index headset.

The game, which Valve says is "set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2," has been "designed from the ground up for Virtual Reality" (i.e. you can stop hoping for a 2D monitor release). "Everyone at Valve is excited to be returning to the world of Half-Life," Valve founder Gabe Newell said in a statement. “VR has energized us."

"We’ve invested a lot of ourselves in the technology," Newell's statement continues. "But we're also game developers at heart, and to be devoting ourselves to a VR game this ambitious is just as exciting. For that to come in the form of Half-Life feels like the culmination of a lot of things we care a lot about: truly great games, cutting edge technology, and open platforms. We can’t wait for people to experience this."

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Apple cancels theatrical premiere of its Oscar hopeful, The Banker

Ars Technica - November 21, 2019 - 6:14pm

The trailer for The Banker

Most of the hype around this month's Apple TV+ launch centered on the TV portion—the Jennifer Anniston-led Morning Show, the Thrones-y future dystopian series Seethe alternative history of the space race in For All MankindLike its streaming competitors in the tech sector, however, Apple also plans to release and produce original movies for the new service. But now, one of the service's first high-profile film projects is abruptly being held ahead of its previously scheduled December 6 theatrical release.

The Banker, a period piece starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson, will no longer hit theaters next month ahead of a planned January streaming release. As reported in The Hollywood Reporter, that's because sisters Cynthia and Sheila Garrett allege they were sexually assaulted in the 1970s for nearly a decade by one of the film's co-producers—Bernard Garrett Jr., their half-brother and son of one of the men portrayed in the film.

"Last week some concerns surrounding the film were brought to our attention. We, along with the filmmakers, need some time to look into these matters and determine the best next steps," Apple said in a statement.

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Google will pay $1.5 million for the most severe Android exploits

Ars Technica - November 21, 2019 - 6:00pm

Enlarge (credit: New Line Cinema)

Google will pay up to $1.5 million for the most severe hacks of its Pixel line of Android phones, a more than seven-fold increase over the previous top Android reward, the company said.

Effective immediately, Google will pay $1 million for a “full chain remote code execution exploit with persistence which compromises the Titan M secure element on Pixel devices,” the company said in a post published on Thursday. The company will also pay $500,000 for exploits that exfiltrate data out of a Pixel or bypass its lock screen.

Google will offer a 50 percent bonus to any of its rewards if the exploit works on specific developer preview versions of Android. That means a critical Titan M hack on a developer preview could fetch $1.5 million, and a data exfiltration or lockcscreen bypass on a developer preview could earn $750,000, and so on. Previously, rewards for the most severe Android exploits topped out at $200,000 if they involved the trusted execution environment—an independent OS within Android for handling payments, multi-factor authentication, and other sensitive functions—and $150,000 if they involved compromise only on the Android kernel.

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Russia bans sale of gadgets without Russian-made software

BBC Technology News - November 21, 2019 - 5:56pm
Supporters say the law on new sales promotes Russian technology but there are concerns about surveillance.

Google Assistant can now navigate websites, book movie tickets

Ars Technica - November 21, 2019 - 5:37pm

Enlarge / After you press the "buy tickets" button, the Google Assistant takes over. (credit: Google)

Google is constantly teaching the Google Assistant new tricks, and this week, the assistant is learning how to navigate websites and book movie tickets. Soon, after asking your phone-based Google Assistant for movie showtimes, a new "Buy tickets" button will pop up, and tapping it will whisk you through the ticket-buying process—no extra apps required.

Google says the feature works with "more than 70 cinemas and ticketing services, such as Fandango,, AMC, or MJR Theaters in the US, or ODEON in the UK." While all of those services could have coded up special hooks for the Google Assistant, that's not what's going on here—instead this feature is powered by a feature Google calls "Duplex on the web." You might remember "Duplex" as Google's futuristic phone-call bot that can book restaurants over the phone while sounding like a real human. This "Duplex on the web" doesn't make phone calls, though, and instead navigates websites for you and completes the movie ticket purchase. Google announced this feature earlier in the year during the Google I/O keynote, where CEO Sundar Pichai defined Duplex as "the approach by which we train AI on simple but familiar tasks to accomplish them and save you time."

Buying movie tickets on your behalf through a website means Google Duplex navigates to the site, searches for a movie, fills in your personal info and your credit card details, and, after a confirmation step, completes the purchase, mashing all the necessary "next" and "buy" buttons along the way. You can watch it do all this yourself on your phone screen, and if there's anything that Duplex doesn't know how to deal with, like making a reservation for a specific seat, it will stop and ask you. We've had autofill for some time, and this is like autofill plus auto-navigation.

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Apple 'loses money on phone repairs'

BBC Technology News - November 21, 2019 - 5:01pm
Apple says it loses money when it repairs devices such as iPhones and Macbooks.

New map shows the strange terrain of Titan

Ars Technica - November 21, 2019 - 3:41pm

Enlarge / The map, as viewed from the poles. (Color key shown below.) (credit: Lopes et al/Nature Astronomy)

Saturn’s moon Titan is one of the most wonderfully weird worlds in our Solar System. In the way that Earth has a water cycle of rain and evaporation, frigid Titan has a methane cycle and lakes of the liquid stuff. Unfortunately, its atmosphere is thick with smudgy clouds and organic haze, limiting our view.

But while visible light can’t penetrate the atmosphere, other wavelengths have better luck. When the Cassini probe was still hanging out in the Saturnian neighborhood, radar and infrared instruments were used to scan the surface. In a new study published this week, a team led by Rosaly Lopes compiled that data to make a geologic map spanning Titan’s surface.

After analyzing the data, the team decided to group the terrain into six types of landscapes: craters, lakes, plains, dunes, hummocky (or mountainous) areas, and something they termed "labyrinth terrains."

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SpaceX has lost its first Starship prototype—is this a big deal?

Ars Technica - November 21, 2019 - 3:39pm

Enlarge / Here is Starship Mk 1 as revealed on September 28, 2019. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann for Ars)

On Wednesday afternoon, SpaceX loaded nitrogen into a prototype version of its Starship vehicle. The exercise, at the company's facilities near Boca Chica Beach in South Texas, represented the first significant pressurization test of the vehicle fuel tanks.

About halfway during the process, however, some sort of failure occurred as the top bulkhead of the vehicle broke apart and went flying away. This was followed by a large, white cloud of smoke and vapor emanating from the interior of the vehicle, which eventually cleared to reveal a dented, but still shiny Starship. This was the same vehicle the company revealed in late September.

SpaceX sought to play down the accident, noting this was a "max" pressurization test to stress the system. No one was hurt, the company said, and it was not a serious setback in the development of the ambitious vehicle. The company's founder and lead technical designer, Elon Musk, later said on Twitter that this prototype had "some value as a manufacturing pathfinder," but that the flight design of the vehicle would be "quite different."

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Rouen hospital turns to pen and paper after cyber-attack

BBC Technology News - November 21, 2019 - 2:18pm
The University Hospital Centre in Rouen says it will not pay the ransom and has taken steps to contain the attack.

Facebook ads: Who is spending money to get you to vote?

BBC Technology News - November 21, 2019 - 1:21pm
Different groups on Facebook are spending money to encourage young people to register to vote.

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