__
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       /_/(_)
       Unofficial.
       
       
   URI # Nikola Stops Work on Electric Watercraft and ATV Projects
       
       Zero-emission trucking company Nikola has shuttered its so-called Powersports
       division and is pausing work on an electric personal watercraft and off-road
       vehicle first announced in April 2019. From a report: Nikola stopped work on the
       projects as part of a larger push to focus on getting its first hydrogen-powered
       ruck out the door, following a number of stumbles in 2020. "We still own the
       NZT and WAV rights and have put the projects on pause. We may consider moving
       forward with them at a later time," a spokesperson tells The Verge. "Right now
       we are focusing on commercial trucking and hydrogen infrastructure." Nikola
       started pursuing an electric watercraft back in 2017 after it bought up one of
       he more promising startups working on the idea. The off-road vehicle was a
       hybrid of sorts, mixing dune buggy styling with the kinds of comforts found in
       passenger cars, like air conditioning. Nikola was promising the so-called NZT
       vehicle would get 590 horsepower and 150 miles of range. It was supposed to come
       o market this year at a starting price of $80,000.
       
       
   URI # Smart TVs Running Google TV Will Have a 'Basic' Option
       
       An anonymous reader shares a report: If you go out and purchase a new TV today,
       it's going to have smart TV features allowing access to streaming services and
       he internet. However, if that new TV is running on the Google TV platform,
       it's possible to easily disable all the smart features during setup. The
       option to make your TV dumb was spotted by 9To5Google. During the setup of a
       TV running Google's smart TV platform, multiple features are offered including
       he ability to run apps, receive content recommendations, and enable Google
       Assistant. That's alongside the core options you'd expect from a TV: the ability
       o watch live broadcasts through an aerial and having access to attached devices
       via its HDMI ports. [...] However, Google decided to offer a more user-friendly
       way of doing this. As part of the setup process you can select "Set up basic
       TV." What this does is allow your TV to receive live broadcasts and access the
       HDMI ports, but nothing else. There's no apps, no Google Assistant, and no
       content recommendations. You also have the option to go back into the setup
       process and enable these smart features whenever you like.
       
       
   URI # Valve Has To Provide Some Steam Sales Data To Apple, Judge Says
       
       A US magistrate judge has ordered Valve to provide sales data to Apple in
       response to a subpoena issued amid Apple's continuing legal fight with Epic
       Games. From a report: In addition to some aggregate sales data for the entirety
       of Steam, Valve will only have to provide specific, per-title pricing and sales
       data for "436 specific apps that are available on both Steam and the Epic
       Games Store," according to the order. That's a significant decrease from the
       30,000+ titles Apple for which Apple originally requested data. In resisting the
       subpoena, Valve argued that its Steam sales data was irrelevant to questions
       about the purely mobile app marketplaces at issue in the case. Refocusing the
       request only on games available on both Steam and the Epic Games Store makes it
       more directly relevant to the questions of mobile competition in the case, Judge
       Thomas Hixson writes in his order.
       
       "Recall that in these related cases, [Epic] allege that Apple's 30% commission
       on sales through its App Store is anti-competitive and that allowing iOS apps
       o be sold through other stores would force Apple to reduce its commission to
       a more competitive level," Hixson writes in the order. "By focusing... on 436
       specific games that are sold in both Steam and Epic's store, Apple seeks to take
       discovery into whether the availability of other stores does in fact affect
       commissions in the way [Epic] allege." The California judge overseeing Apple's
       attempts to drag Valve into an ongoing beef with Epic Games admitted that Apple
       "salted the Earth with subpoenas, so don't worry, it's not just you."
       
       
   URI # Google Pledges Changes To Research Oversight After Internal Revolt
       
       Alphabet's Google will change procedures before July for reviewing its
       scientists' work, according to a town hall recording heard by Reuters, part
       of an effort to quell internal tumult over the integrity of its artificial
       intelligence (AI) research. From a report: In remarks at a staff meeting last
       Friday, Google Research executives said they were working to regain trust after
       he company ousted two prominent women and rejected their work, according to an
       hour-long recording, the content of which was confirmed by two sources. Teams
       are already trialing a questionnaire that will assess projects for risk and
       help scientists navigate reviews, research unit Chief Operating Officer Maggie
       Johnson said in the meeting. This initial change will roll out by the end of the
       second quarter, and the majority of papers will not require extra vetting, she
       said.
       
       Reuters reported in December that Google had introduced a "sensitive topics"
       review for studies involving dozens of issues, such as China or bias in its
       services. Internal reviewers had demanded that at least three papers on AI be
       modified to refrain from casting Google technology in a negative light, Reuters
       reported. Jeff Dean, Google's senior vice president overseeing the division,
       said Friday that the "sensitive topics" review "is and was confusing" and that
       he had tasked a senior research director, Zoubin Ghahramani, with clarifying the
       rules, according to the recording.
       
       
   URI # Facebook Is Considering Facial Recognition For Its Upcoming Smart Glasses
       
       Facebook is discussing building facial recognition into its upcoming
       smart glasses product and has been weighing the legal implications of the
       controversial technology, Buzzfeed News reported citing remarks from executives
       at an internal meeting Thursday. From a report: During a scheduled companywide
       meeting, Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's vice president of augmented and virtual
       reality, told employees that the company is currently assessing whether or
       not it has the legal capacity to offer facial recognition on devices that are
       reportedly set to launch later this year. Nothing had been decided, he said, and
       he noted that current state laws may make it impossible for Facebook to offer
       people the ability to search for others based on pictures of their face.
       
       "Face recognition ... might be the thorniest issue, where the benefits are so
       clear, and the risks are so clear, and we don't know where to balance those
       hings," Bosworth said in response to an employee question about whether people
       would be able to "mark their faces as unsearchable" when smart glasses become a
       prevalent technology. The unnamed worker specifically highlighted fears about
       he potential for "real-world harm," including "stalkers."
       
       
   URI # Electronic Arts Cancels 'Gaia' Game After Years in Development
       
       Video game publisher Electronic Arts has canceled a game that was in development
       at its Montreal office for nearly six years, Bloomberg reported Thursday,
       citing people familiar with the matter. From a report: The game, code named
       Gaia, was first hinted at in 2015, but was never officially announced or
       given a title. Since then, EA executives have released a drip feed of
       information, sharing tidbits every few years on what it described as a brand new
       franchise. Last summer in a video showcasing future games, EA provided a few
       seconds of footage from Gaia, describing it as "a highly ambitious, innovative
       new game that puts the power and creativity in your hands." The cancellation
       is part of a recent resource shift by the company as it evaluates projects and
       decides which ones will move forward. Earlier this month, the publisher reviewed
       in-progress games including Gaia and a new iteration of the poorly received
       online game Anthem, which was also canceled. Gaia's development was turbulent
       and the game went through at least one major reboot, which may have been a
       factor behind its demise, according to the people, who requested anonymity
       because they weren't authorized to talk to the press.
       
       
   URI # Amazon Gives Code.org $15 Million To 'Reimagine' Advanced Placement CSA
       
       heodp writes: Amazon on Wednesday announced it has lined up the support of
       Governors and State School Superintendents from five 'key states' for a pilot
       hat aims to reimagine the Java-based Advanced Placement Computer Science A (AP
       CS A) course taken by high school students for college credit. By doing so,
       Amazon indicated it hopes to address "the diversity gaps in today's technology
       workforce." From the press release: "Amazon's signature computer science
       education program, Amazon Future Engineer, is trying to help close those gaps
       by donating $15 million to Code.org over three years. The money will support
       he creation of the new equity-minded curriculum and other initiatives designed
       o reach more students from underrepresented groups. The initiatives aim to
       increase student awareness of academic and career pathways in computer science
       as well as equip them to be successful in college-level computer science and
       beyond. Working together, we have our eyes set on an ambitious goal of doubling
       he participation of students from underrepresented groups in AP CSA within five
       years of the course's launch." After CEO Jeff Bezos came under fire [PDF] last
       summer for the company's continued resistance to making its EEO-1 diversity
       regulatory filing public, Amazon finally agreed to publicly disclose its race,
       gender and ethnicity workforce data sometime in 2021.
       
       
   URI # PlayStation is Winding Down Sony Japan Studio
       
       Sony is winding down original game development at its oldest first-party
       developer, Japan Studio, game news outlet VGC reported, citing sources. From the
       report: The iconic developer behind Ape Escape, Gravity Rush and Knack has seen
       he vast majority of its development staff let go, the sources said, after their
       annual contracts were not renewed ahead of the company's next business year,
       which begins April 1. Localisation and business staff will remain in place and
       ASOBI Team -- the group responsible for the Astro Bot games -- will continue as
       a standalone studio within Sony Japan, it's claimed. Some Japan Studio staff
       will join ASOBI, we were told, while others have followed Silent Hill and
       Gravity Rush director Keiichiro Toyama -- who left Japan Studio last year -- to
       his new studio Bokeh. It's not entirely clear if the restructure has affected
       he studio's External Development Department, which collaborated on games such
       as last year's Demon's Souls, but one person VGC spoke to suggested it would
       continue.
       
       
   URI # Twitter Announces Paid Super Follows To Let You Charge For Tweets
       
       Twitter announced a pair of big upcoming features today: the ability for users
       o charge their followers for access to additional content, and the ability to
       create and join groups based around specific interests. From a report: They're
       wo of the more substantial changes to Twitter in a while, but they also fit
       snugly into models that have been popular and successful on other social
       platforms. The payment feature, called Super Follows, will allow Twitter users
       o charge followers and give them access to extra content. That could be bonus
       weets, access to a community group, subscription to a newsletter, or a badge
       indicating your support. In a mockup screenshot, Twitter showed an example where
       a user charges $4.99 per month to receive a series of perks. Twitter sees it as
       a way to let creators and publishers get paid directly by their fans.
       
       [...] Twitter also announced a new feature called Communities, which appear to be its take on something like Facebook Groups. People can create and join groups around specific interests -- like cats or plants, Twitter suggests -- allowing them to see more tweets focused on those topics. Groups have been a huge success for Facebook (and a huge moderation problem, too), and they could be a particularly helpful tool on Twitter, since the service's open-ended nature can make it difficult for new users to get started on the platform.
       
       
   URI # Lawmaker Proposing 'Grand Theft Auto' Ban Says Video Game Contributes To Carjackings
       
       Koreantoast writes: With the number of carjackings more than doubling in
       he city of Chicago during 2020, one lawmaker knows who to blame: the video
       game "Grand Theft Auto." According to Chicago ABC 7, Democratic State
       Representative Marcus Williams believes the video game is causing the rise in
       carjackings, stating that "Grand Theft Auto' and other violent video games
       are getting in the minds of our young people and perpetuating the normalcy of
       carjacking. Carjacking is not normal and carjacking must stop." He plans on
       introducing a bill to ban sales of the game in the state of Illinois.
       
       Some are skeptical of Rep. Williams claims however. Columnist Joe Jurado of
       he Root points out that the franchise is hardly new and widely distributed,
       with the latest iteration, GTA V, released eight years ago and having sold 130
       million copies. He adds that attempting to ban the game would be incredibly
       difficult writing, "Let me entertain this stupid-a** notion for a second. Say
       hey're successful and get the game off store shelves in Illinois. What are you
       going to do about digital sales? You're telling me that the state of Illinois is
       willing to expend the time, money, and technical know-how to block the game off
       of PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, Epic Games, and the Rockstar storefront? I've
       worked for the state government, and I know damn well those Windows XP-using
       a**es ain't built for this life."
       
       
   URI # Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter Face New Rules in India
       
       India is establishing new rules to govern internet firms like Facebook, WhatsApp
       and Twitter, [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source] a
       fresh challenge for the American giants in a huge market that is key to their
       global expansion. From a report: The new guidelines, unveiled Thursday, say that
       in order to counter the rise of problematic content online like false news and
       violent material, intermediaries must establish "grievance redressal mechanisms"
       o resolve user complaints about postings and share with the government the
       names and contact details for "grievance officers" at the firms. These officers
       must acknowledge complaints within a day and resolve them within 15. Social
       media firms must take down material involving explicit sexual content within 24
       hours of being flagged. Firms must also appoint officers and contact people --
       who live in India -- to coordinate with law enforcement agencies and address
       complaints. Some firms must also help identify the "first originator" of some
       messages, the rules say. "We appreciate the proliferation of social media in
       India," Ravi Shankar Prasad, India's minister of electronics and information
       echnology, said Thursday. "We want them to be more responsible and more
       accountable," he said.
       
       The rules are New Delhi's latest move to assert control over global tech
       firms that have experienced breakneck growth in a country of more than 1.3
       billion. The regulations also come during monthslong farmers' protests against
       Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, which have sparked fierce debate on
       social media. They have emerged as Mr. Modi's stiffest political challenge since
       he assumed power in 2014. The rules say the government can implement a code of
       ethics for digital media and so-called over-the-top platforms, a term applied to
       video streaming services like Netflix.
       
       
   URI # Australia Passes Law To Make Google, Facebook Pay for News
       
       Australia's law forcing Google and Facebook to pay for news is ready to take
       effect, though the laws' architect said it will take time for the digital giants
       o strike media deals. From a report: The Parliament on Thursday passed the
       final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code agreed between
       Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on
       Tuesday. In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a ban on Australians
       accessing and sharing news. Rod Sims, the competition regulator who drafted
       he code, said he was happy that the amended legislation would address the
       market imbalance between Australian news publishers and the two gateways to
       he internet. "All signs are good," Sims said. "The purpose of the code is
       o address the market power that clearly Google and Facebook have. Google
       and Facebook need media, but they don't need any particular media company,
       and that meant media companies couldn't do commercial deals," the Australian
       Competition and Consumer Commission chair added. The rest of the law had passed
       in Parliament earlier, so it can now be implemented. Google has already struck
       deals with major Australian news businesses in recent weeks including News Corp.
       and Seven West Media.
       
       
   URI # Nvidia Made $5 Billion During a GPU Shortage and Expects To Do It Again in Q1
       
       Nvidia has shared its Q4 2021 earnings, and despite the company's GPUs being
       in extremely low supply, it didn't seem to hurt how much money the company
       made. From a report: In fact, it reported a record $5 billion in revenue, which
       is up 61 percent year-over-year. What's more impressive is that Nvidia expects
       o make another $5 billion in revenue during Q1 2022. This positive outlook is
       surprising given that Q1 is generally slower than other quarters, even for the
       biggest tech companies, as it follows the rush of people buying lots of products
       during the holiday period. It's generally a slower period in general for product
       releases across tech and gaming. Also, let's not forget the GPU shortage is
       still happening. Nvidia reiterated that sparse supply will continue through the
       next quarter, but that's likely factored into its rosy revenue prediction.
       
       Nvidia says it expects most of that $5 billion revenue estimate in Q1 2022 to
       come from the gaming market, despite being the segment it's currently having the
       oughest time serving. Since the launch of the RTX 30-series desktop graphics
       cards, leading with the RTX 3080, 3090, 3070, and followed by other products,
       Nvidia hasn't been able to meet the demand -- though it's not the only company
       affected. AMD has also struggled, perhaps more than Nvidia, to keep a steady
       stock of graphics cards heading to retailers.
       
       
   URI # iRobot Says It'll Be a Few Weeks Until It Can Clean Up Its Latest Roomba Software Update Mess
       
       iRobot, maker of the robotic Roomba vacuums, has confirmed that a software
       update has been causing issues for some users of its i7 and s9 robots and that
       it's working on another one to prevent future issues. The catch? It might be
       a bit before things get sorted out, with iRobot expecting the update to roll
       out "over the next several weeks." From a report: According to users on Reddit
       and Twitter, the recent 3.12.8 firmware update has been causing navigation
       issues. One user described their robot cleaner as acting "drunk" after the
       update: spinning itself around and bumping into furniture, cleaning in strange
       patterns, getting stuck in an empty area, and not being able to make it home to
       he dock. What's more, some other users are reporting that the environment maps
       heir Roombas made were wiped out by the update.
       
       
   URI # Toshiba Unveils World's First FC-MAMR HDD: 18 TB, Helium Filled
       
       Toshiba this week announced the industry's first hard drive featuring
       flux-control microwave-assisted magnetic recording (FC-MAMR) technology. The
       new MG09-series HDDs are designed primarily for nearline and enterprise
       applications, they offer an 18 TB capacity along with an ultra-low idle power
       consumption. From a report: The Toshiba MG09-series 3.5-inch 18 TB HDD are
       based on the company's 3rd generation nine-platter helium sealed platform that
       features 18 heads with a microwave-emitting component which changes magnetic
       coercivity of the platters before writing data. The HD disks are made by Showa
       Denko K.K. (SDK), a long-time partner of Toshiba. Each aluminum platter is
       about 0.635 mm thick, it features an areal density of around 1.5 Tb/inch2 and
       can store up to 2 TB of data. The MG09 family also includes a 16 TB model which
       presumably features a lower number of platters (based on the same performance
       rating).
       
       For modern enterprise and nearline 3.5-inch HDDs, Toshiba's MG09-series drives
       uses a motor with a 7200-RPM spindle speed. The HDDs are also equipped with
       a 512 MB buffer and are rated for a 281 MB/s maximum sustained data transfer
       rate. Unfortunately, Toshiba has not updated the random access performance
       of the new products, though it is likely that their per-TB IOPS performance
       is lower when compared to predecessors. The manufacturer will offer its new
       drives both with SATA 3.3 (6 Gbps) and SAS 3.0 (12 Gbps) interfaces as well as a
       selection of logical data block length.
       
       One of the noteworthy things about Toshiba's MG09-series FC-MAMR HDDs is their
       power consumption. In active idle mode, they typically consume 4.16/4.54 Watts
       (SATA/SAS models), which is considerably lower when compared with Seagate's Exos
       X18 as well as Western Digital's Ultrastar DC HC550. As far as power consumption
       efficiency at idle (large hard drives could spend plenty of time idling) is
       concerned, the 18 TB MG09 is an undeniable champion consuming just 0.23 Watts
       per TB (in case of the SATA version). Meanwhile, the new drives are rated for
       8.35/8.74 Watts (SATA/SAS SKUs) during read/write operations, which is higher
       when compared to the DC HC550 as well as predecessors from the MG07 and the
       MG08-series.