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Tuesday 2021/01/19

Facebook Has No Plans To Lift Trump Ban, Report Says
2021-01-19 20:36:00+00:00
Facebook has no plan in place to lift the indefinite suspension on President Donald Trump's Facebook account following his departure from the White House on Wednesday, NBC News reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the company's plans said. From the report: The ban on Trump's account remains indefinite, the sources said, and there is no current plan in place to lift it. The social media giant said on Jan. 7 that it would "indefinitely" ban the president's account due to his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol a day earlier. The company said the ban would last at least through the end of his term. Facebook's suspension stopped short of the permanent ban that other social media companies like Twitter and Snapchat lated placed on Trump's accounts.

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India Asks WhatsApp To Withdraw New Privacy Policy Over 'Grave Concerns'
2021-01-19 19:59:00+00:00
India has asked WhatsApp to withdraw the planned change to its privacy policy, posing a new headache to the Facebook-owned service that identifies the South Asian nation as its biggest market by users. From a report: In an email to WhatsApp head Will Cathcart, the nation's IT ministry said the upcoming update to the app's data-sharing policy has raised "grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens... Therefore, you are called upon to withdraw the proposed changes." The ministry is additionally seeking clarification from WhatsApp on its data-sharing agreement with Facebook and other commercial firms and has asked why users in the EU are exempt from the new privacy policy but their counterpoint in India have no choice but to comply. "Such a differential treatment is prejudicial to the interests of Indian users and is viewed with serious concern by the government," the ministry wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by TechCrunch. "The government of India owes a sovereign responsibility to its citizens to ensure that their interests are not compromised and therefore it calls upon WhatsApp to respond to concerns raised in this letter."

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CDPR CEO Blames 'In-Game Streaming' For Cyberpunk's Console Problems
2021-01-19 16:54:00+00:00
CD Projekt Red is still trying to contain the damage from widespread reports of major technical problems in the versions of Cyberpunk 2077 released for the PS4 and Xbox One last month. From a report: To that end, studio co-founder and CEO Marcin Iwinski today tweeted a video message seeking to explain the internal situation leading up to the problematic launch. "Despite good reviews on PC, the console version of Cyberpunk 2077 did not meet the quality standard we wanted it to meet," Iwinski said in the message. "I, and the entire leadership team, are deeply sorry for this, and this video is me publicly owning up to that." The core of the problem, Iwinski said, was the "in-game streaming system" that Cyberpunk 2077 used to "feed" content and game mechanics to the engine without frequent breaks for loading. That system had to be "constantly improved" for last-gen consoles during development, Iwinski said, in order to keep up with the "epic" look of the PC version (which saw its graphics and other assets scaled down to work on more limited, older console hardware). "Things did not look super difficult at first, [but] I think that time has proven we underestimated the task," Iwinski said. "Because the city is so packed and the disk bandwidth of old-gen consoles is what it is, it constantly challenged us." winski was less direct about why these problems with the console versions weren't discovered and either fixed or delayed before launch. "Every change and improvement needed to be tested, and as it turned out, our testing did not show a big part of the issues you experienced while playing the game," Iwinski said. He added that communication problems caused by the team working from home amid COVID-related restrictions meant some issues got lost over video calls or emails. "We saw significant improvements each and every day leading up to release [and] really thought we'd deliver in the day zero [version on consoles]," he said.

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GDPR: German Laptop Retailer Fined $12.6M For Video-Monitoring Employees
2021-01-19 16:32:00+00:00
The data regulator for the German state of Lower Saxony has fined a local laptop retailer a whopping $12.6 million for keeping its employees under constant video surveillance at all times for the past two years without a legal basis. From a report: The penalty represents one of the largest fines imposed under the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) not only in Germany but across Europe as well. The recipient is notebooksbilliger.de AG (doing business as NBB), an online e-commerce portal and retail chain dedicated to selling laptops and other IT supplies. The State Commissioner for Data Protection (LfD) for the state of Lower Saxony said that the company installed two years ago a video monitoring system inside its warehouses, salesrooms, and common workspaces for the purpose of preventing and investigating thefts and tracking product movements. Officials said the video surveillance system was active at all times, and recordings were saved for as much as 60 days in the company's database.

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Qualcomm's New Snapdragon 870 Reheats the Snapdragon 865 for 2021 Phones
2021-01-19 15:33:00+00:00
Qualcomm has announced a new mobile phone processor: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870, a successor to last year's Snapdragon 865 and 865 Plus models. To be clear, the 870 isn't a new next-gen design -- that title goes to the Snapdragon 888, which makes far more substantial improvements in performance and new features. From a report: The 870, on the other hand, is virtually identical to the 865 and 865 Plus, with the same design right down to the Kryo 585 CPU and Adreno 650 GPU cores. The 870 is clocked at 3.2GHz, however, making it about 10 percent faster than the original 865's 2.84GHz and about 3 percent faster than the 865 Plus (which offered 3.1GHz speeds). Think of it almost like a Snapdragon 865 Plus-plus. Qualcomm says that the reason for the new chip is in response to manufacturer and market demands. The 870 is designed for companies that want to offer a top-tier processor but don't need the absolute best features that the flagship Snapdragon 888 offers and the higher price tag that it demands. Instead, the company says that it expects that Snapdragon 870 phones should hit a sub-$800 price tag (although, confusingly, we've already seen Snapdragon 888 phones like the $799 Galaxy S21 start to bleed into that range).

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Microsoft Joins $2 Billion Deal With GM To Roll Out Self-Driving Cars
2021-01-19 14:43:00+00:00
Microsoft is joining GM, Honda and others in a $2 billion investment round in Cruise to help commercialize its self-driving cars. The deal bumps Cruise's valuation to $30 billion, from $19 billion last year. From a report: The investment is part of a broader commitment by GM and Cruise to use Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing platform across their companies, especially as they roll out increasingly complex vehicles that rely on digital technologies. Self-driving vehicles devour massive amounts of data to operate safely. They collect and process data from cameras, radar and lidar sensors for perception, location mapping and decision-making. Commercialization requires even more data to optimize routes and to create consumer-facing apps and websites. "Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles," said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann.

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Turkey Slaps Ad Ban on Twitter Under New Social Media Law
2021-01-19 14:00:00+00:00
Ankara has imposed advertising bans on Twitter, Periscope and Pinterest after they failed to appoint local representatives in Turkey under a new social media law, according to decisions published on Tuesday. From a report: Under the law, which critics say stifles dissent, social media companies that do not appoint such representatives are liable for a series of penalties, including the latest move by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK). The law allows authorities to remove content from platforms, rather than blocking access as they did in the past. It has caused concern as people turn more to online platforms after Ankara tightened its grip on mainstream media. The latest decisions in the country's Official Gazette said the advertising bans went into effect from Tuesday. Twitter, its live-streaming app Periscope, and image sharing app Pinterest were not immediately available to comment.

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What You Should Know Before Leaking a Zoom Meeting
2021-01-19 13:00:00+00:00
The Intercept's Nikita Mazurov warns that Zoom has digital watermarks that could expose sources working with journalists or government officials. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: Many users may not realize it, but Zoom has the capability to insert both video and audio watermarks into a meeting. The video watermarks are readily perceptible to meeting participants. When enabled, the video watermarking feature superimposes the username portion of each participant's email address over the content they are viewing when another participant shares their screen and places the same watermark over the current active speaker. Because the video watermark appears across the entirety of the video frame, blurring may adversely impact the visibility of the underlying material. In contrast, the audio watermarks are not readily perceptible to casual listeners, though they are what in watermarking parlance is known as "overt." That means the fact that they are embedded is easily discerned by meeting participants: When a Zoom meeting has the audio watermark, or what Zoom also calls the "audio signature," feature enabled, the meeting will have a green circular icon with a sound wave and a padlock at the top left of the frame next to the encryption icon. It is not immediately apparent at what point Zoom injects its "ultrasonic" audio watermark into the audio stream -- whether this happens only if a meeting attendee presses the Record button in Zoom or if the audio stream is watermarked prior to that point. Nonetheless, when recording a Zoom meeting, it is best to avoid using Zoom's built-in recording option and to capture the meeting using a third-party audio/video recorder. Zoom mentions that in order to identify the participant who recorded the meeting, they need at least two minutes of audio from the meeting, though it stands to reason that shorter snippets may also be identifiable if they happen to contain the audio watermark. Journalists should also be wary of publishing raw audio leaked from Zoom meetings, particularly if the source is not sure whether audio watermarking was enabled or not. Aside from Zoom's own watermarks, a number of elements appearing on an individual's own device may inadvertently give away the identity of the person who is recording. If the meeting video is being recorded either via screen recording software or a camera, there are a number of elements to watch out for...

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Wine 6.0 Released
2021-01-19 10:00:00+00:00
Wine 6.0 has been released today and contains over 8,300 changes, according to its full release notes. Windows Central reports: The new release of version 6.0 has thousands of changes, but Wine's website highlights some of the biggest improvements: Core modules in PE format; Vulkan backend for WineD3D; DirectShow and Media Foundation support; and Text console redesign. The full release notes for Wine 6.0 explain that the core DLLs, which include NTDLL, KERNEL32, GDI32, and USER32 are now built in the Portable Executable (PE) format. As a result, people should see improvements for certain copy protection schemes. The update also includes a new mechanism to associate a Unix library with the PE module. This change makes it so systems can call Unix libraries from PE when trying to perform a function that can't be handled by Win32 APIs. Wine 6.0 also includes an experimental Vulkan rendered that translates Direct3D shaders to SPIR-V shaders. In another change related to Direct3D, the Direct3D graphics card database now recognizes more graphics cards and includes updated driver versions.

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Almost a Third of Recovered COVID-19 Patients Return To Hospital In Five Months, One In Eight Die
2021-01-19 07:00:00+00:00
According to new research from Leicester University and the Office for National Statistics (NS), almost a third of recovered COVID-19 patients will end up back in the hospital within five months and one in eight will die. Yahoo News reports via The Telegraph: Out of 47,780 people who were discharged from hospital in the first wave, 29.4 per cent were readmitted to hospital within 140 days, and 12.3 per cent of the total died. The current cut-off point for recording Covid deaths is 28 days after a positive test, so it may mean thousands more people should be included in the coronavirus death statistics. Researchers have called for urgent monitoring of people who have been discharged from hospital. Study author Kamlesh Khunti, professor of primary care diabetes and vascular medicine at Leicester University, said: "This is the largest study of people discharged from hospital after being admitted with Covid. People seem to be going home, getting long-term effects, coming back in and dying. We see nearly 30 per cent have been readmitted, and that's a lot of people. The numbers are so large. The message here is we really need to prepare for long Covid. It's a mammoth task to follow up with these patients and the NHS is really pushed at the moment, but some sort of monitoring needs to be arranged." The study found that Covid survivors were nearly three and a half times more likely to be readmitted to hospital, and die, in the 140 days timeframe than other hospital outpatients. Prof Khunti said the team had been surprised to find that many people were going back in with a new diagnosis, and many had developed heart, kidney and liver problems, as well as diabetes. "We don't know if it's because Covid destroyed the beta cells which make insulin and you get Type 1 diabetes, or whether it causes insulin resistance, and you develop Type 2, but we are seeing these surprising new diagnoses of diabetes,â he added. "We've seen studies where survivors have had MRS scans and they've cardiac problems and liver problems. These people urgently require follow up and the need to be on things like aspirin and statins."

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Spotify's Big Bet On Podcasts Is Failing, Citi Says
2021-01-19 03:30:00+00:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Spotify's multimillion-dollar bet on podcasting may not be working out, Citi analysts wrote in a note to clients Friday. "The cadence of Premium gross additions (through 3Q20) and app download data (through 4Q20) do not show any material benefit from recent podcast investments (that began in 2019)," the analysts wrote. The firm downgraded the stock to sell from neutral. Spotify kicked off its venture into podcasting in early 2019, after acquiring podcast companies Gimlet Media, Anchor and Parcast. Since then, the company has acquired sports and entertainment news company The Ringer, as well as Megaphone, which will bolster its ad tech business. It also spent what's likely millions gaining the exclusive rights to stream celebrity podcasts, including those from Joe Rogan, Kim Kardashian West, Michelle Obama and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The idea was that by bringing exclusive content to the app, the company could strengthen its advertising business as well as bring in Premium subscribers. "To date, we have not seen a material positive inflection in app downloads or Premium subscriptions," the Citi analysts wrote. "If we were to see a material positive inflection in app downloads or Premium subs (from higher gross adds or materially lower churn), we would alter our view," they added. "But, our fear is that if podcasting doesn't provide a way for Spotify to shift away from music label dependence, the Street may reassess the underlying value of the business. And, that would be bad for Spotify's multiple and equity value."

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Capsaicin Spices Up Perovskite-Based Solar Cells To Record Efficiencies
2021-01-19 02:10:00+00:00
"Researchers claim achievement of new record photovoltaic conversion efficiencies for perovskite-based solar cells by spicing them up with a little capsaicin," writes Slashdot reader ffkom, adding: "Of course everyone who loves to eat chilis already knew capsaicin energizes you to record levels." The researchers have published their findings in the journal Joule. From the report: Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) suffer from significant nonradiative recombination, limiting their power conversion efficiencies. Here, for the first time, we directly observe a complete transformation of perovskite MAPbI 3 surface region energetics from p- to n-type during defect passivation caused by natural additive capsaicin, attributed to the spontaneous formation of a p-n homojunction in perovskite active layer. We demonstrate that the p-n homojunction locates at 100 nm below perovskite surface. The energetics transformation and defect passivation promote charge transport in bulk perovskite layer and at perovskite/PCBM interface, suppressing both defect-assisted recombination and interface carrier recombination. As a result, an efficiency of 21.88% and a fill factor of 83.81% with excellent device stability are achieved, both values are the highest records for polycrystalline MAPbI 3 based p-i-n PSCs reported to date. The proposed new concept of synergetic defect passivation and energetic modification via additive provides a huge potential for further improvement of PSC performance.

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Tim Cook: Why I Kicked Parler Off Apple's App Store
2021-01-19 01:30:00+00:00
Charlotte Web shares a report from CNN: Apple, along with Amazon and Google, effectively kicked Parler off the internet in the wake of the January 6 US Capitol siege. Despite criticism that Big Tech wields too much power over speech, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his decision. "We looked at the incitement to violence that was on there," Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Sunday. "We don't consider that free speech and incitement to violence has an intersection..." Cook disputed that it's Apple's job to host every service, regardless of its content. He noted that Apple has terms of service for the 2 million apps its hosts, and apps that refuse to play by the rules aren't allowed to access Apple's massive audience. "We obviously don't control what's on the internet, but we've never viewed that our platform should be a simple replication of what's on the internet," Cook said.Apple will welcome back Parler -- provided Parler finds a new cloud provider to host the social network -- if the app effectively moderates users' speech, said the Apple CEO. "We've only suspended them," Cook noted. "If they get their moderation together they would be back on there." With regard to the Capitol siege, Cook said: "It was one of the saddest moments of my life -- seeing an attack on our Capitol and an attack on our democracy. I felt like I was in some sort of alternate reality, to be honest with you. This could not be happening."

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Apple's iPhone 13 Could Ditch the Lightning Port, Feature Next-Gen Vapor Chamber Cooling and In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor
2021-01-19 00:50:00+00:00
According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 could feature vapor chamber cooling, as well as an in-screen fingerprint sensor. It may also completely ditch the Lightning port in favor of wireless charging. Apple Insider reports: Kuo believes Apple is highly likely to incorporate vapor chamber tech into an upcoming iPhone model, though it is not clear if the system will be ready in time for 2021. Generally speaking, vapor chamber (VC) technology involves evaporation of a liquid (typically water) within a specialized heat pipe or heat retention structure that snakes its way through a device chassis. Heat from processors and other high load electronic components causes the liquid to evaporate into a vapor that spreads thermal energy through the evaporation chamber as it travels to areas of lower pressure. Fins or other condenser bodies remove heat from the vapor, which returns to a liquid state and is carried back to areas of high pressure through capillary action. "The iPhone's critical reason not to adopt VC is because of its reliability test results that cannot meet Apple's high requirements," Kuo writes. "Still, we are optimistic about the VC reliability improvement schedule and expect that at least high-end iPhone models would be equipped with VC in the near future." Kuo believes iPhone will need VC to keep up with rapid adoption of 5G and ever-increasing CPU thermal loads. In a separate report, Bloomberg reports that Apple is testing another key feature for its 2021 iPhone(s): an in-screen fingerprint reader. "This would add a new method for users to unlock their iPhone, going beyond a passcode and Face ID facial recognition," reports Bloomberg. "Apple won't remove its facial recognition scanner though as it's still useful for augmented reality and camera features." The report also mentions that Apple is discussing removing the Lightning port on at least some of the 2021 iPhone models, instead relying entirely on wireless charging or USB-C.

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Capitol Riot Suspect Plotted To Sell Stolen Pelosi Laptop To Russian Intelligence, Authorities Say
2021-01-19 00:10:00+00:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: A Pennsylvania woman accused of being one of the Capitol rioters told a former "romantic partner" that she planned to steal a laptop computer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and sell it to Russian intelligence, court documents revealed Monday. The woman, Riley June Williams, 22, was on the run, charged with disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds with the intent to disturb a session of Congress and other charges after her former flame turned her in. "Williams is not in custody," a federal law enforcement officials said Monday afternoon. William's ex, who was described in Special Agent Jonathan Lund's charging document as W1 (witness one), called the FBI and told it that she "intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service." "According to W1, the transfer of the computer device to Russia fell through for unknown reasons and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it," the document states. Lund said the device and circumstances of what Williams was doing with it remain under investigation. The laptop was reported stolen from the conference room on Jan. 6 but was "only used for presentations," according to Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, Drew Hamill.

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