Tech Today w/ Ken May

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Windows Insiders have a big day today. Microsoft just released Windows 10 Preview Build 16226 for PCs and it’s got a whole host of new goodies inside. Perhaps the most important update is support for Emoji 5.0. Now you can express yourself with new snacks, characters and even dinosaurs. The build also includes an updated Task Manager with GPU tracking information, improvements to Touch Keyboard and handwriting interactions, tweaks to Storage Sense and shell improvements, including the option to share a file in File Explorer via the right-click context menu. The build also includes improvements for IT professionals, including the removal of SMB1 as part of a multi-year security upgrade. There’s also a new Remote Desktop settings page. Additionally, Windows will finally display plain-text error codes when an update fails so you can troubleshoot what exactly went wrong and how to fix it. The latest release is accessible only to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring. You can see the full list of improvements, tweaks and add-ons at Microsoft’s website . Source: Microsoft

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg Businessweek feature: The Austrian village of Donawitz has been an iron-smelting center since the 1400s, when ore was dug from mines carved out of the snow-capped peaks nearby. Over the centuries, Donawitz developed into the Hapsburg Empire’s steel-production hub, and by the early 1900s it was home to Europe’s largest mill. With the opening of Voestalpine AG’s new rolling mill this year, the industry appears secure. What’s less certain are the jobs. The plant, a two-hour drive southwest of Vienna, will need just 14 employees to make 500, 000 tons of robust steel wire a year — vs. as many as 1, 000 in a mill with similar capacity built in the 1960s. Inside the facility, red-hot metal snakes its way along a 700-meter (2, 297-foot) production line. Yet the floors are spotless, the only noise is a gentle hum that wouldn’t overwhelm a quiet conversation, and most of the time the place is deserted except for three technicians who sit high above the line, monitoring output on a bank of flatscreens. “We have to forget steel as a core employer, ” says Wolfgang Eder, Voestalpine’s chief executive officer for the past 13 years. “In the long run we will lose most of the classic blue-collar workers, people doing the hot and dirty jobs in coking plants or around the blast furnaces. This will all be automated.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

WannaCry ransomware causes Honda plant to shut down

Posted by kenmay on June - 22 - 2017

WannaCry isn’t done yet. Honda Motor Co. had to shut down its Sayama plant on Monday after finding the ransomware in its computer network. The plant’s production resumed on Tuesday. The WannaCry ransomware got everyone’s attention in May when UK NHS hospitals fell victim to it. It then quickly spread around the world, affecting over 150 countries and hitting companies like French car manufacturer Renault and FedEx. WannaCry was made possible by a Windows vulnerability uncovered by the NSA and subsequently stolen and released by a hacking group called The Shadow Brokers. WannaCry, which US agencies suspect a North Korean group was behind, took advantage of that vulnerability in computers that hadn’t been updated with Microsoft’s patch or had versions of Windows that were too old to use it. Honda’s Sayama plant, located outside of Tokyo, manufactures the Accord, Odyssey and Step Wagon models and produces around 1, 000 vehicles each day. Production at other plants wasn’t affected. Via: Road Show Source: Reuters

GE is working on a massive 3D printer for jet engine parts

Posted by kenmay on June - 22 - 2017

3D printing is coming of age in numerous ways. On a large scale, MIT researchers built a 50-foot-wide, 12-foot tall igloo in just 13 hours. They’ve also debuted the first completely 3D-printed rocket engine. On a much smaller level, our own Sean Buckley printed a little d-pad for his Nintendo Switch, while medical researchers have produced a 3D-printed patch that can heal scarred heart tissue. Now we’re seeing this technology coming to the industrial world with a new laser-powered metal 3D printer from GE . GE Additive is a new business under the larger GE umbrella. It is developing what it calls “the world’s largest laser-powered 3D printer” to create parts that fit within one cubic meter cubic of space. “The machine will 3D print aviation parts suitable for making jet engine structural components and parts for single-aisle aircraft, ” said GE Additive’s Mohammad Ehteshami in a statement . “It will also be applicable for manufacturers in the automotive, power, and oil and gas industries.” Additive printers fuse fine layers of powdered metal with a laser beam to print objects. The new process could make complex parts like jet engine components easier and less costly to make than traditional casting and welding techniques. GE Aviation is already printing fuel nozzles for jet engines that will be found in Airbus, Boeing and narrow-body jets. GE has a prototype large-scale metal prnter, called ATLAS, that can print 2D objects up to 1 meter long, but the new one will extend that to a third dimension. Beta versions of the new printer should be ready by the end of this year, according to Ehteshami, with a production version slated for 2018. Source: GE Reports

Scientists may have solved a key barrier to fusion power

Posted by kenmay on June - 22 - 2017

We’ve been working towards nuclear fusion, a near-limitless source of clean energy, for the past six decades, and now scientists have made a major breakthrough. A new article published in Physical Review Letters details how to solve a dangerous issue with runaway electrons that has, until now, posed a major problem for fusion reactors. Fusion reactors model themselves on the reactions that power our stars: Hydrogen atoms collide at such incredibly high speeds that they fuse into helium. That process releases astounding amounts of energy. It’s the same thing that’s happening in our sun’s core right now. Runaway electrons are simply free-floating electrons that are energized by potent electric fields. In the high energy of nuclear fusion, the levels and speeds to which these runaway electrons are charged can be catastrophic. The team discovered that it’s possible to decelerate the electrons by injecting heavy ions, like neon or argon, into the reactor. The electrons collide with these neutral atoms, resulting in energy loss and slower speeds. It may seem like a small step, but every problem we solve with nuclear fusion moves us closer to finally achieving it here on Earth. Linnea Hesslow, coauthor of the article, told Wired , “Many believe it will work, but it’s easier to travel to Mars than it is to achieve fusion.” We’ve got a long way to go yet, but eventually (hopefully), we’ll get there. Via: Wired Source: Physical Review Letters

Enlarge (credit: Sega) Sega is bringing a collection of its finest retro video games to iOS and Android devices via a new service called Sega Forever. Unlike its past mobile releases—which include the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Football Manager Mobile —the entire Sega Forever line-up is free-to-play and supported by ads. Players can optionally remove the ads via an in-app purchase for £2. There are five games in the Sega Forever launch line-up, consisting of the original Sonic the Hedgehog , RPG Phatasy Star II , beat ’em up Comix Zone , platformer Kid Chameleon , and the original Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) pack-in game Altered Beast . An iOS and Android version of the classic Dreamcast game Crazy Taxi launched in May, which is also free-to-play. Additional games are promised to launch every two weeks. Although the launch line-up is exclusively made up of Mega Drive games, the Sega Forever Twitter feed has teased shots of other consoles, including the SG 1000, Dreamcast, and Saturn. How Sega tackles the Saturn will be particularly interesting given the difficulty developers have had creating a working emulator for the console’s classically esoteric hardware. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

AI has won at Go and done a few other cool things, but so far it’s been mighty unimpressive at harder tasks like customers service , Twitter engagement and script writing . However, a new algorithm from researchers at Stanford and Adobe has shown it’s pretty damn good at video dialogue editing, something that requires artistry, skill and considerable time. The bot not only removes the drudgery, but can edit clips using multiple film styles to suit the project. First of all, the system can organize “takes” and match them to lines of dialogue from the script. It can also do voice, face and emotion recognition to encode the type of shot, intensity of the actor’s feelings, camera framing and other things. Since directors can shoot up to 10 takes per scene (or way more , in the case of auteurs like Stanley Kubrick), that alone can save hours. However, the real power of the system is doing “idiom” editing based on the rules of film language. For instance, many scenes start with a wide “establishing” shot so that the viewer knows where they are. You can also use leisurely or fast pacing, emphasize a certain character, intensify emotions or keep shot types (like wide or closeup) consistent. Such idioms are generally used to best tell the story in the way the director intended. All the editor has to do is drop their preferred idioms into the system, and it will cut the scene to match automatically, following the script. In an example shown (below), the team selected “start wide” to establish the scene, “avoid jump cuts” for a cinematic (non-YouTube) style, “emphasize character” (“Stacey”) and use a faster-paced performance. The system instantly created a cut that was pretty darn watchable, closely hewing to the comedic style that the script was going for. The team then shuffled the idioms, and it generated a “YouTube” style that emphasized hyperactive pacing and jump cuts. What’s best (or worst, perhaps for professional editors) is that the algorithm was able to assemble the 71-second cut within two to three seconds and switch to a completely different style instantly. Meanwhile, it took an editor three hours to cut the same sequence by hand, counting the time it took to watch each take. The system only works for dialogue, and not action or other types of sequences. It also has no way to judge the quality of the performance, naturalism and emotional beats in take. Editors, producers and directors still have to examine all the video that was shot, so AI is not going to take those jobs away anytime soon. However it looks like it’s about ready to replace the assistant editors who organize all the materials, or at least do a good chunk of their work. More importantly, it could remove a lot of the slogging normally required to edit, and let an editor see some quick cuts based on different styles. That would leave more time for fine-tuning, where their skill and artistic talent are most crucial. Source: Stanford

New submitter threc shares a report from MIT Technology Review: The tech world descended on Washington, D.C. yesterday to attend a tech summit at the White House. According to MIT Technology Review associate editor Jamie Condliffe: “Trump suggested he might relax his stance on immigration as a way to get tech leaders to help his cause. ‘You can get the people you want, ‘ he told the assembled CEOs. That sweetener may be a response to a very vocal backlash in the tech world against the administration’s recent travel bans. Trump may hope that his business-friendly stance will offer enough allure: if tech giants scratch his back, he may later deign to scratch theirs.” The report continues: “‘Our goal is to lead a sweeping transformation of the federal government’s technology that will deliver dramatically better services for citizens, ‘ said Trump at the start of his meeting with the CEOs, according to the Washington Post. ‘We’re embracing big change, bold thinking, and outsider perspectives.’ The headline announcement from the event was Trump’s promise to overhaul creaking government computing infrastructure. According to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and advisor, there’s much to be done: federal agencies have over 6, 000 data centers that could be consolidated, for instance, while the 10 oldest networks in use by the government are all at least 39 years old. The upgrade, said Trump, could save the country $1 trillion over the next 10 years.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Enlarge / Recovered 3D meshes help, but pretty much everything about this Crash remaster image had to be rebuilt from scratch. (credit: Activision ) LOS ANGELES—The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy lands on consoles next week, and, from what I can tell, the game will offer very little in the way of surprises. All three of the series’ original PlayStation 1 games are coming back in a single package. From what I’ve played at multiple events, every brutally tough platforming level seems to be returning with faithful controls and substantially redrawn, HD-friendly graphics. Activision invited Ars to check out the near-final game one more time ahead of its June 30 launch, and, for some reason, they thought the most exciting news they had to offer was a new playable character. (Crash’s sister, Coco, will be playable in all three games, but she’s a cosmetic swap with zero unique moves.) But after hammering developer Vicarious Visions with question after question, I got something more interesting out of the team: the amount of from-scratch work that was required to make this remaster. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Former Epix exec pleads guilty over $7 million fraud

Posted by kenmay on June - 21 - 2017

In 2009, Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM joined forces to launch a premium movie channel called Epix, with Emil Rensing as its Chief Digital Officer. Turns out hiring Rensing was a bad move: according to the Justice Department , he has just pleaded guilty to defrauding the network $7 million over his five-year employment with the company. The former exec apparently used his position to forge contracts between the network and vendor companies he himself owned and controlled. He then used the names of business associates and acquaintances as vendor personnel, setting up fake email accounts for each one of them to make them look legit. Rensing would apparently use those dummy accounts to pose as the people whose identities he stole in order to communicate with the network about payment. The vendors never performed the services they promised, though, and the real people behind the names had no idea what the exec was doing. Acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement: “Emil Rensing, an executive at a premium cable network, defrauded his employer out of more than $7 million by causing the network to pay companies Rensing controlled for services that were never rendered. To conceal his role in the payments, Rensing used false and stolen identities and dummy email accounts. I want to thank the FBI for their work to hold Rensing accountable for his crimes.” A few months ago, Rensing pleaded not guilty to embezzling $8.5 million — people familiar with the matter said part of that amount is likely made up of legitimate expenses. He has changed his plea now that the amount is down to $7 million, admitting guilt to one count of wire fraud, which could lead to a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release. It was probably the best course of action for him, since his deal with prosecutors didn’t require him to plead guilty to aggravated identity theft, as well. According to Variety , Rensing is far from the only entertainment executive who got tempted by all the millions thrown around in the industry. The publication says the industry is “ripe for thievery” since media companies have grown so big in recent years, overwhelming their financial departments. As a result, questionable transactions take years to discover, if they’re even discovered at all. Source: Reuters , US Department of Justice