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Apollo astronaut Al Worden – once named world’s most isolated human being – dies aged 88

TheRegister - Sun, 2020-03-22 23:30
Flew Apollo 15 Command Module to an inhuman apogee, made first deep space spacewalk

Al Worden, an Apollo astronaut who earned the title of the most isolated human, has died aged 88, of a stroke.…

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Amazon's New 'Prime Video Cinema' Offers Movies Now Playing in Theaters

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 22:38
Amazon just launched "Prime Video Cinema," which lets you buy and watch movies that are just now playing in theaters, reports CNET: Movies currently offered through the hub include Onward, The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma, although Onward is only available at the $18.49 purchase price, while the others are only available for rental at that same reduced price. They'll be available to rent for 48 hours. NBCUniversal said Tuesday it would make movies available to rent online in the home the same day as their global theatrical releases due to the coronavirus outbreak. iTunes will also offer the titles for streaming purchase and rental... Movies usually spend upward of six months in theaters before they move on to predetermined dates for release on other formats, such digital downloads and rentals, DVDs and, later, TV and streaming.

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Microsoft names priority users for new Azure capacity - emergency services, government, remote workers top the list

TheRegister - Sun, 2020-03-22 21:33
Totally not running out of cloud. But may ditch free offers to serve current customers during the Pandemic

Microsoft prioritise health care and government users are it adds Azure capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.…

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Videogames Are Setting New Records For Simultaneous Users

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 21:19
Forbes reports that in a world filled with school closings and social isolation, gaming has surged: - Steam, the most popular digital PC gaming marketplace, reached new heights Sunday, drawing a record 20,313,451 concurrent users to the 16-year-old service, according to third-party database SteamDB - Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, released by Steam-owner Valve in 2012, seems to be the top beneficiary of the increased engagement, breaking it's all-time peak on Sunday with 1,023,2290 concurrent players, topping its previous peak last month by a million, which itself beat the record set in April 2016... - Activision Blizzard's new free-to-play battle royale spinoff Call of Duty: Warzone, launched March 10 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is also likely benefiting, drawing in a staggering 15 million in three days, besting the record 10 million in three days by last year's battle royale sensation Apex Legends. Polygon adds: Gaming saw a 75% increase, week over week, in data usage this March, Verizon said. Video games are proving to be a popular way to pass the time during lockdown -- though we're also starting to see the strain this is placing on various networks and services... Recently, Nintendo experienced a nine-hour network outage. Over the weekend, Xbox Live also went down, preventing users from online play. Gaming adjacent tools and services are also seeing a surge. As our sibling site The Verge reports, live streaming platform Twitch had a 10% jump in viewership. The popular communication app Discord, meanwhile, recently saw server outages that coincided days after it expanded its screen sharing limit for users. The games that people are playing themselves are changing in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, too. Pokemon Go, for instance, has tweaked its mechanics to make it easier for people to play from home, while also changing its events to make it easier for people to play solo. And in an effort to entice its players to stay home, Rockstar vowed to add fun bonuses to the MMO for players who are "spending a little extra time at home." Elsewhere, game developers are starting to give out their games for free in an effort to help people stay indoors. It's no wonder we're seeing changes in usage, playtime, and outages across the board.

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Today Only, Two 'Tomb Raider' Games are Free on Steam

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 20:44
"If you act quickly, both the gritty Tomb Raider origin story and 2014's Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris are free for the taking on Steam," reports CNET: We've already told you about a slew of free stuff you can get while you're stuck at home. I don't know if this particular deal has anything to do with the coronavirus, but right now you can not one, but two Tomb Raider games for free. You'll need to download them right now though, because these return to their regular price tomorrow. The free games are 2013's Tomb Raider ("Lara Croft's intense, gritty origin story...there's no question it's worth downloading for zero dollars") and the follow-up game Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris ("the first-ever four-player co-op experience.")

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Predicting a Post-Pandemic Future: Remote Working and Distance Learning?

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 19:34
This week Politico published predictions from 34 "big thinkers" about what the future will be like after the coronavirus pandemic. (An associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland argues that "The Reagan era is over. The widely accepted idea that government is inherently bad won't persist after coronavirus.") Others predict a future with voting from mobile devices (and possibly higher voter turnout), and one author even predicts a society that accepts "restraints on mass consumer culture as a reasonable price to pay to defend ourselves against future contagions and climate disasters alike." But several also predict the rise of telemedicine, including the editor-in-chief of Reason, who also argues that the epidemic "will sweep away many of the artificial barriers to moving more of our lives online." The resistance -- led by teachers' unions and the politicians beholden to them -- to allowing partial homeschooling or online learning for K-12 kids has been swept away by necessity. It will be near-impossible to put that genie back in the bottle in the fall, with many families finding that they prefer full or partial homeschooling or online homework. For many college students, returning to an expensive dorm room on a depopulated campus will not be appealing, forcing massive changes in a sector that has been ripe for innovation for a long time. And while not every job can be done remotely, many people are learning that the difference between having to put on a tie and commute for an hour or working efficiently at home was always just the ability to download one or two apps plus permission from their boss. Once companies sort out their remote work dance steps, it will be harder -- and more expensive -- to deny employees those options. In other words, it turns out, an awful lot of meetings (and doctors' appointments and classes) really could have been an email. And now they will be. Not everyone agrees. Author Sonia Shah argues that "The hype around online education will be abandoned, as a generation of young people forced into seclusion will reshape the culture around a contrarian appreciation for communal life." But the president of Vassar College even wonders if the pandemic will be a boon to virtual reality, hoping for a program that helps self-isolated people socialize. "Imagine putting on glasses, and suddenly you are in a classroom or another communal setting, or even a positive psychology intervention."

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German Leader Angela Merkel in Quarantine after Her Doctor Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 19:11
An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has gone into quarantine after being informed that a doctor who administered a vaccine to her has tested positive for the new coronavirus. Merkel's spokesman said the German chancellor was informed about the doctor's test shortly after holding a news conference Sunday announcing new measures to curb the spread of the virus. The 65-year-old Chancellor will continue her work from home.

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US Senator Rand Paul Has Tested Positive for Coronavirus

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 18:43
An anonymous reader writes: 57-year-old U.S. Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for the coronavirus, reports CNN, citing a tweet from the senator's Twitter account. "He is feeling fine and is in quarantine," the tweet reports. "He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person." Another tweet adds that "Ten days ago, our D.C. office began operating remotely, hence virtually no staff has had contact with Senator Rand Paul." Paul plans to continue working while in quarantine, and hopes to return to the Senate after his quarantine period ends.

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How Uber and Lyft Drivers Handle the Risk of Coronavirus Infections

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 17:34
"Thousands of full-time rideshare drivers are still out on the streets trying to carve out a living," notes The Hustle, interviewing more than 50 full-time rideshare drivers facing a difficult choice: "Stay home and sacrifice a livelihood, or keep driving in a depressed market and risk contracting the virus." As independent contractors, rideshare drivers don't receive sick leave, unemployment insurance, or the many other benefits enjoyed by W-2 employees. During a pandemic, this has proven to be especially problematic... [Uber and Lyft are now offering 14 days of paid sick leave, but only to drivers who have contracted COVID-19 or are quarantined by a public health authority] Deemed "essential" workers, Uber and Lyft drivers have been encouraged to continue business as usual. But the current state of affairs has polarized drivers: In a survey of nearly 400 full-time Uber and Lyft drivers The Hustle conducted last week, 57% said they will continue to work at the peril of their health, while 43% have decided to stay home and sacrifice their sole source of income. Many drivers told us that, while aware of the inherent exposure risks in carting strangers around in an enclosed metal box all day, they have no choice but to work... "I have a 6-month-old daughter, a family, and apartment rent on my head. I have bills to pay. I've been making about $40 a day since last Monday..." "They are vectors for this disease," Veena Dubal, a professor of law at U.C. Hastings, says of the drivers. "And they have no training in health and safety." In early March, Uber and Lyft pledged to do their best to provide drivers with basic sanitation products like hand sanitizer and wipes. But the companies have struggled to find supplies during a global shortage and have since closed down the driver hubs where they were meant to be dispensed. (Uber and Lyft told us they are actively working to change this.) Many drivers we spoke with have turned to fellow drivers for help, using WhatsApp groups to swap Lysol cans, gloves, and masks. With more potential passengers staying home, the drivers' real earnings are now averaging around $5.50 an hour. (One Uber driver, who rents his car, tells the site that "I'm not even breaking even.") Yet they're still braving the risks. One New York City driver admits "I've literally been driving people to the hospital. I had one guy get into my car who was hacking for 10 minutes straight. I pulled over and cleaned my car for 20 minutes after."

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How 3D Printing Is Revolutionizing the ESA's Rocket Development

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 16:34
"A successful firing test shows that Europe's lightweight Vega launcher is well on its way to cheaper and more efficient launches in 2025," reports Space.com, citing officials at the European Space Agency (ESA). "3D printing has changed rocket development by greatly reducing upfront manufacturing time," argues Popular Mechanics: The new part belongs to Vega's M10 engine, which the ESA hopes to put into space beginning in 2025. As part of a "hot fire" test, the engine was fired 19 times for a combined 450 seconds. This kind of test mimics the most challenging conditions a system might face during launch so scientists can identify any weaknesses and help shore them up as development continues. Watch it here... The engine runs on liquid oxygen and liquid methane, which is an environmental improvement over the solid aluminum and ammonia the current launch assembly uses.... Not only is this piece 3D-printed, but it's also been scaled up over time beginning with the smallest initial model in 2018. After each model is printed, it's tested using technologies like ultrasound to make sure it's structurally sound, and then it's subjected to the normal battery of tests.... The ESA says the engine performed well in the tests, and it hopes to test the fully assembled development model of the engine later in 2020... The ESA says it can build more complicated designs in an overall more agile process by using 3D printing, which removes the need for special manufacturing of machine parts, die casts, and more. The article also notes Vega is "a semi-privatized project, because a commercial service actually launches the rockets. "Indeed, like NASA, the boundaries between private and public development have blurred in recent decades."

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WSJ: Narrow Testing Guidelines By America's CDC 'Hid' the Growing US Epidemic

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 15:34
The Wall Street Journal reports that as the coronavirus pandemic began, America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "provided restrictive guidance on who should be tested." They're basing that on archived pages on the CDC's own web site. "While agencies in other countries were advising and conducting widespread testing, the CDC, charged with setting the U.S. standard for who should be tested for the virus, kept its criteria limited." Once the CDC deferred testing evaluations to individual physicians and rolled out testing widely, early data show a surge in positive cases, so public-health officials expect a clearer picture of the epidemic's scale to emerge... Containing a virus requires identifying and isolating those who are infected, infectious-disease and public-health experts say. "If we would have had a true understanding of the extent of the disease several weeks ago, implementation of social-distancing measures could have prevented the escalation of the disease," said Neil Fishman, chief medical officer at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and an infectious-disease specialist... Initially, the CDC recommended only investigating those who had symptoms and had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, or made contact with someone who may have the virus. As the outbreak worsened, it expanded the criteria for travel history slowly, but maintained its recommendation that symptoms be present, despite some cases having mild or no symptoms. Now, the CDC has turned over authority to physicians to determine who gets tested, but the testing rates vary widely by state. America's response was also hampered by "a botched initial test batch," according to the article, which meant there were fewer tests available until the agency allowed private laboratories to develop tests.

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Devices Left For Repair at Apple Stores Can't Be Picked Up

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 14:34
Remember how Apple closed all of its stores outside China? It's preventing some customers from picking up their repaired devices, according to 9to5Mac: As we noted last week, Apple Stores remained partially open for two days following the shutdown announcement. During this time, Apple contacted customers with pending device repairs and asked them to come pick up their products. Inevitably, some customers missed this opportunity. An Apple spokesperson told Business Insider that there's no way for customers who missed the two-day pickup period to get their devices: Some customers did not pick up their devices within the two-day pickup period, and those devices are still in Apple Stores, the spokesperson said. Unfortunately for those who missed the pickup window, there's no way for them to get their devices until Apple Stores re-open, the spokesperson said.... It's also important to note that devices sent offsite for repair, whether it be iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch, are still being returned to customers via shipment. In a normal scenario, Apple would ship the repaired devices back to retail stores, then customers would come pick them up. During the Apple Store shutdown, however, devices are being shipped directly from repair centers to customers instead.

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Google Maps Now Warns Users to Call Their Doctors Before Visiting Them

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 14:04
An anonymous reader quotes 9to5Google: A new warning message is appearing on medical-related searches and search listings on Google Maps. This message is brief, but encourages users who are searching for any sort of medical help to call their doctor before visiting the office if they suspect they are infected with COVID-19. Clicking on that warning message brings users to the official CDC direction on the matter... Notably, Google Maps is showing this COVID-19 warning on all platforms.

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Twitter Seeks More Verified Coronavirus Experts, Automates Machine Learning-Enhanced Content Screening

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 13:34
Twitter announced it's working with global public health authorities to identify experts on the new coronavirus, and its prioritizing those accounts for official verification, reports Gizmodo: It's the latest step in Twitter's larger initiative to crack down on the kinds of viral hoaxes and potentially dangerous misinformation that have circulated on several social media platforms as the novel coronavirus outbreak's intensified. Earlier this week, the company announced that it had broadened its definition of harmful content to cover anything "that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information." Twitter also promised they'd be "Increasing our use of machine learning and automation to take a wide range of actions on potentially abusive and manipulative content..." [T]his may result in us making mistakes. As a result, we will not permanently suspend any accounts based solely on our automated enforcement systems. Instead, we will continue to look for opportunities to build in human review checks where they will be most impactful. We appreciate your patience as we work to get it right -- this is a necessary step to scale our work to protect the conversation on Twitter. "[W]e want to be open about the challenges we are facing and the contingency measures we're putting in place to serve the public conversation at this critical time."

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Tinder Offers Free Chatting with Users In Other Countries

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 11:34
"[W]e're missing out on the everyday exchanges that make us human..." argues a press release from Tinder. "And while we all know we need to stay home, the Tinder community has shown us that this doesn't mean we have to be alone with our thoughts and a tower of Top Ramen..." "Many of our current subscribers are even reaching out across the world, using the Passport feature, to find solidarity with matches 1000s of miles away. And that's why starting next week we will make our Passport feature, which allows you to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world, available for free to all members through April 30th." Newsweek reports: While traditionally the feature is reserved Tinder Plus and Gold members, the app acknowledges that having someone to chat with can make self-quarantining all the more bareable [sic]... In another press release, the app divulged that as areas become more isolated, new conversations spring up and tend to last longer. Tinder users are also swapping empathy for coolness, updating their bios to check ins like "how is everyone" instead of a silly catchphrase or their height. "Our hope is that our members can use the Passport feature to transport themselves out of self-quarantine to anywhere in the world," Tinder writes in its press release. In other news, Tinder has also cancelled the release of its apocalyptic-themed, in-app video series, "Swipe Night."

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Peak greenwashing: SAP backs oil and gas giants with Accenture partnership, eco-credentials go up in smoke

TheRegister - Sun, 2020-03-22 11:03
It will be carbon-neutral by 2025, whatever that eventually means

To coincide with *checks press release* the 11th anniversary of SAP's decision to make sustainability a "long-term strategic goal," the German ERP juggernaut has announced a partnership with consulting and accountancy titan Accenture to develop solutions for upstream oil and gas companies based on the SAP S/4HANA Cloud.…

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Russia Accused of Deploying Coronavirus Disinformation to Sow Distrust

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 09:34
AmiMoJo quotes Reuters: Russian media have deployed a "significant disinformation campaign" against the West to worsen the impact of the coronavirus, generate panic and sow distrust, according to a European Union document seen by Reuters... The EU document said the Russian campaign, pushing fake news online in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French, uses contradictory, confusing and malicious reports to make it harder for the EU to communicate its response to the pandemic. "A significant disinformation campaign by Russian state media and pro-Kremlin outlets regarding COVID-19 is ongoing," said the nine-page internal document, dated March 16, using the name of the disease that can be caused by the coronavirus. "The overarching aim of Kremlin disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in Western countries...in line with the Kremlin's broader strategy of attempting to subvert European societies," the document produced by the EU's foreign policy arm, the European External Action Service, said. The article notes that while Russia calls the accusations "unfounded," the EU has recorded nearly 80 cases of coronavirus disinformation since January 22nd. Responding to the report, America's Secretary of State also criticized disinformation efforts coming from China and Iran, according to U.S. News and World Report. He adds that the U.S. government has since contacted all three of the disinformation-spreading countries. "They need to knock it off. We don't approve of it. The idea of transparency and accuracy in information is very important."

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Forbes: Hack on Putin's Intelligence Agency Finds Weapon to Exploit IoT Vulnerabilities

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 07:34
"Red faces in Red Square, again," writes a Forbes cybersecurity correspondent: Last July, I reported on the hacking of SyTech, an FSB contractor working on internet surveillance tech. Now, reports have emerged from Russia of another shocking security breach within the FSB ecosystem. This one has exposed "a new weapon ordered by the security service," one that can be used to execute cyber attacks on IoT devices. The goal of the so-called "Fronton Program" is to exploit IoT security vulnerabilities en masse — remember, these technologies are fundamentally less secure than other connected devices in homes and offices... The security contractors highlight retained default "factory" passwords as the obvious weakness, one that is easy to exploit... The intent of the program is not to access the owners of those devices, but rather to herd them together into a botnet that can be used to attack much larger targets — think major U.S. and European internet platforms, or the infrastructure within entire countries, such as those bordering Russia. But the article also notes that targetted devices for the exploits include cameras, adding that compromising such devices in foreign countries by a nation-state agency "carries other surveillance risks as well." It also points out that the FSB "is the successor to the KGB and reports directly to Russia's President Vladimir Putin," and its responsibilities include electronic intelligence gathering overseas. "The fact that these kind of tools are being contracted out for development given the current geopolitical climate should give us all serious pause for thought."

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Apple Donates Millions of Masks to Healthcare Pros in America and Europe

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 03:44
An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: Hospitals in numerous countries are struggling to provide basic supplies to healthcare workers, and tech companies are pitching in to address the shortfall. Tim Cook has revealed that Apple is donating "millions" of masks to healthcare professionals in Europe and the U.S. Their article notes that Alibaba has also been donating masks, test kits, protective suits and face shields, while Elon Musk's companies are exploring the production of ventilators. "It's part of a positive trend and suggests that tech companies may play a significant role in fighting the pandemic whether or not they have directly relevant expertise."

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'Netflix Party': a New Chrome Extension Adds Chat Panes to Movies

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-03-22 01:34
GameSpot calls it "like an AOL chat room" combined with Netflix. The Guardian reports: You log in, share a viewing link with friends, choose one person to be in charge of picking what you watch and, as your chosen show plays out in the bulk of the screen, a chatroom pops up on the right-hand side. You can discuss the show with the people in your room, or argue, or flirt, or veer wildly off-tangent because you've realised that you've picked an absolute dud to watch. Right now, Netflix Party feels absolutely necessary. Self-quarantine has atomised us, and if this is the closest we can get to watching films and TV shows with our friends, then we'll grab it with both hands. But then again, even if this wasn't a time of enormous struggle, Netflix Party would be a terrific idea. Because the biggest downside to this vast glut of non-linear content is that nobody watches the same thing at the same time any more. There are no more water cooler series, because everyone at the water cooler has to tiptoe around the fact that they might be a few episodes ahead of everyone else, and one stray spoiler slip might ruin it for everyone else. Television has always been a social pursuit, but this element has been lost in recent years. "Twenty servers were added today to help more people spend time together without leaving home," notes Forbes.

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