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Ryan Harris

Samsung wants to design its own smart speaker

(Mirror Daily, United States) – Samsung is planning to pose some serious competition to Amazon, as it wants to bring its own device on the smart speaker market. However, there is still quite a long way until the tech giant comes with the final form of this device, but it has already started getting ready for it.

Samsung wants to join other mobile companies in producing smart speakers

Samsung has already attempted to bring a smart assistant for the newly released Galaxy S8. However, they had a few difficulties in voice-powering Bixby, so it is not yet available for US customers. According to reports, this incoming smart speaker will be powered by Bixby, and goes under the codename Vega. As expected, there is still much work to do before such a device can enter the market.

This is not the first time when a mobile company shows some interest in developing such speakers. Previously, Apple wanted to remain in the mobile medium, and continue improving the services offered by its own smart assistant Siri. Then, during its latest developer conference, it presented a smart speaker of its own called HomePod.

The company can make use of certain advantages

However, the AI technology used by Apple comes with certain limitations, so this device is not marketed as a constantly working voice assistant. Instead, the company presented it as a regular speaker which comes with certain voice control features.

Some might say that Samsung is only following the same example and copying the device, but it depends on what the company is going to offer with its smart speaker. One area it can make great use of would be a close functionality between the speaker and smartphones.

Google might be holding supremacy over Android, but Pixel is the only device it can control completely. Therefore, Samsung might use this and connect the smart speaker and its Galaxy S8 through notifications and some handover features.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Five Nights at Freddy’s creator canceled the next game in the series right when he announced it

(Mirror Daily, United States) – Last year, Scott Cawthon, the creator of Five Nights at Freddy’s, released another game in the series called Sister Location. In case you were wondering if another title was going to come in the franchise, he offered an answer in a peculiar statement, where he revealed the cancellation of Five Nights at Freddy’s at the same time with the official announcement of the game.

Five Nights at Freddy’s creator says he’s facing too much pressure

This weekend, Cawthon posted an interesting message on Steam. At the beginning, he mentioned the existence of a new project in the series. Namely, he said that, last month, they had been offering some hints that a new game was in the making, and called it Five Nights at Freddy’s 6.

Immediately after capturing the fans’ attention and raising their expectations, he revealed this game would, in fact, not see the light of day. One reason might be the increasing expectations, which only get higher with each game and put a lot of pressure on him.

Therefore, he cannot keep up with this anymore. He won’t reveal any more details at the moment, and will abandon the work on Five Nights at Freddy’s 6. However, this doesn’t mean he would abandon the franchise completely. This is only a break.

Is this a publicity stunt or not?

This sounds quite serious, but will the game actually get canceled? Before, Cawthon had also claimed he would stop working on another title in the series, and the game came out anyway. For instance, two years ago, he claimed FNaF 3 had been leaked, and would no longer be released.

However, this was only a joke, and the so-called leak only led to a different game produced by Cawthon. Therefore, many say this is a similar strategy to attract attention, and the sequel to Sister Location will be released. On the other hand, the series has extended quite a lot in time, and the latest games haven’t received the same good feedback as the original.
Image Source: Flickr

The Petya virus turns out to have been a wiper, and not ransomware

(Mirror Daily, United States) – This week, a new virus began ravaging computers all over Europe. Initially, the virus known as Petya posed as ransomware, asking victims to pay $300 to have their files restored. However, it seems this was only a disguise, and the hackers had no intention of unlocking the corrupted devices.

Was the virus a ransomware?

After a thorough analysis of Petya, security experts revealed hackers weren’t able to restore the corrupted files. This happened since the virus was not actually a ransomware, but a wiper. This means it didn’t get hold of the files in question, but erased them right away.

However, Petya has not always been a wiper virus. This is not its first version, and the initial Petya was indeed designed as a ransomware. However, experts noticed the changes present in the current version of the malicious file.

Petya was probably not designed by a hacker group

Matt Suiche is the founder of Comae, the cybersecurity company which performed the analysis on the virus. They discover how this version got its code rewritten, and it was turned from a ransomware into a wiper. The older version encrypted files and then asked for a ransom to decrypt them. Now, the new version no longer encrypts them, but destroys them from the start.

The big question right now is why someone would resort to such an attack. Suiche suggests it is related to the people who were behind it. Therefore, instead of destroying the files directly, the hackers decided to disguise the virus into a ransomware, and trick the media into believing the virus was created by a group of hackers, and not a government.

These are only speculations at the moment, but the virus did indeed target mostly Ukrainian banks, airports, telecommunications, or electricity suppliers. The advanced analysis shows how Petya remained mostly within the Ukrainian borders.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Steam Summer Sale comes earlier than we have expected

(Mirror Daily, United States) – Gamers everywhere have been waiting impatiently for the start date of the Steam Summer Sale, but Valve has not revealed anything official yet. However, leaks are here to ease their wait, and it seems that it won’t be long until the sale starts. This time, it was PayPal’s turn once again to release the news.

PayPal tweeted a revealing message regarding the sale

The UK Twitter account of PayPal was responsible with releasing the rumors regarding the Steam Summer Sale, and it seems we won’t have to wait for long. In fact, we will almost not have to wait at all. The message revealed that the summer sale should start on Thursday, June 22nd.

Everything should start at 6 p.m. BST (meaning 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET). PayPal suggests that the news is official. However, Valve hasn’t made any announcements yet, but the rumors seem to be true. PayPal also comes with a special offer celebrating the start of the summer sale, which should be available at least in UK.

Special promotions for this year’s Steam Summer Sale

This promotion helps you save some money. More precisely, for each £20 spent on the Steam Summer Sale, you get to save £5. However, this is available only if you use PayPal as a payment method. Even so, the deal is pretty great if you have big plans this sale.

The offer is available until July 5th, which should mark the end of the sale. This should work as further proof that the dates are official, since they fit perfectly a Reddit image which appeared last month and claimed the summer sale should last from June 22nd to July 5th.

Valve will probably bring no major changes to this year’s sale, so you should expect a regular process. Previously, Valve used to rotate the deals at fixed intervals during the day, so you had to wait for those you were interested in. However, they seem to have given up this technique.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

IO Interactive owns now all the rights to the Hitman franchise

(Mirror Daily, United States) – After registering unexpectedly low sales, Square Enix declared it planned either to sell or to shutter the Hitman franchise, leaving its future unclear. Several weeks after the announcement, the developer IO Interactive managed to regain its independence, and take the franchise with it.

IO Interactive goes independent

Hakan Abrak, the CEO of IO Interactive, declared the studio managed to reach an agreement with Square Enix, and became independent. Also, they were able to keep all the rights to the Hitman franchise, since they had more stories to bring for the fans, and couldn’t afford to let the game die.

Therefore, IO Interactive is able to publish a future Hitman title on its own. However, Abrak declared they were open for collaborations. So, if another publisher is interested, they are willing to start a partnership and develop together a new game.

When Square Enix decided to let Hitman go, several employees had to be fired. Some or all of them could return and continue working on the franchise, but IO Interactive did not declare anything. These employees might either return or, since the studio is now independent, they might also scale down the team working on the games.

The studio is content with the Hitman game and wants to keep the franchise alive

If you love stealth action games, a second Hitman game should come as great news, since other similar titles seem to be far away. Splinter Cell, for instance, declared there might pass a few years until they come with a new game, while Metal Gear gave up espionage in favor of a zombie game.

IO regarded the first episode of Hitman as a success, and assured fans they will constantly receive new content. Since then, they were offered many new objectives or targets, and, now, even a MacOS version is pending.

The first episode of Hitman is available for $50 as a physical copy for both Xbox One and PS4. Also, you can download it in a digital version for both consoles and for PC.
Image Source: Flickr

Researchers found the oldest-ever fossils of Homo sapiens, which rewrite the theory on human evolution

(Mirror Daily, United States) – It seems that our species is much older than we thought. Scientists discovered some Homo sapiens fossils in Morocco, which are the oldest that have ever been disclosed. We previously thought that humans started evolving 200,000 years ago in eastern Africa, but these remnants are 100,000 years older.

Rewriting the theory on human evolution

A team of researchers discovered the fossils in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, together with some animal bones and stone-carved tools. This is the oldest evidence of human remains ever discovered, which challenges the former theory on the origin of humans. It seems that the first Homo sapiens does not originate from East Africa, and is in fact 300,000 years old.

Researchers found fossils of long bones, teeth, and skulls belonging to at least five specimens. Apart from the human fossils, they found extensive deposits of animal bones, such as gazelles, and tools which belonged to the Middle Stone Age. All of their findings have been collected in a study, published in the journal Nature.

Advanced dating methods show us our species is much older

They used advanced dating methods, such as thermoluminescence, on some heating flints found next to the fossils and tools, and established they were 300,000 years old. Then, they recalculated the age of some previously found fossils in the same area, and the results were in agreement with those yielded by the thermoluminescence method.

During the 1960s, researchers had found three mandibles in the same area. At the time, they used a dating method based on electron spin resonance, which established the age of the fossils at 160,000 years. However, more modern techniques placed it in the same period as the newly found remnants.

The fossils exhibit some different features from our ancestors, which helped us distinguish ourselves from other related species. They display a face and teeth with a more modern aspect, but the braincase is more archaic. This is a clear example of how we started as a species, and offers a new perspective on the theory of human evolution.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ubisoft revealed their new monochromatic logo

(Mirror Daily, United States) – After almost fifteen years, Ubisoft decided to replace their already classic logo with a more minimalist swirl with no color. The new design still bears resemblance to the previous logo, but the company claims this one is meant to be more “player-centric”.

Ubisoft is one of the oldest companies in the gaming field. Naturally, they adopted many logos and images over time. In the 1980s, the company was only distributing games locally, and they had a logo in many colors, which better suited the times.

Ubisoft has featured several logos over time

In 1995, Ubisoft changed its logo for the first time, and adopted the design with the rainbow above. This came immediately after the launch of the Rayman series. Gradually, the logo evolved into the blue swirl everybody is familiar with.

Fourteen years later, Ubisoft decided it is again time for a change. On Wednesday, the company announced they wanted to “create worlds” and bring a new vision on their classic swirl logo. They gave up on the colors and reimagined the former design into a more minimalist form, showing how they had evolved over the years.

A minimalist design which reflects Ubisoft’s “grain of madness”

The new swirl, which will sit at the top of all games, is a window into these new worlds. Ubisoft wants to allow players to see into the future through it. They offered a rather philosophical description of the swirl.

“[The logo is] reminiscent of hand-drawn shapes and represent[s] our human qualities of enthusiasm, curiosity and the grain de folie that Ubisoft is known for.”

You may agree with Ubisoft’s description or not, but you have to agree they chose a bold new design. The logo will soon become part of all the new games, and might even feature different color schemes, depending on the game it will merge with. The new swirl will make its official entrance at E3 2017, in a few weeks.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Bungie released a detailed explanation on the lack of dedicated servers for Destiny 2

(Mirror Daily, United States) – Last week, Bungie announced that Destiny 2 would not have dedicated servers. After spicing a lot of debates, the studio has finally explained their decision in a detailed post written by Matt Segur, the lead of engineering on the game.

How does the company explain the lack of dedicated servers for Destiny 2?

He declared that Destiny 2 comes with a unique model of networking which is still undergoing thorough tests. However, this still does not explain the fact that dedicated servers are absent. Segur explained how Destiny 2 is different from Destiny 1, and what improvement they had brought.

All the activity in the game is hosted by one of the company’s servers, meaning that players will not encounter a host migration which might take place in the middle of their raids or missions. In Destiny 1, hosting was the job of the console, and the studio’s servers dealt only with scripts or mission logic. Destiny 2 uses a combination of peer-to-peer and client-server technology.

The company promises to be tough on cheaters

This is beneficial for players, as this peer-to-peer technology allows the game to move more quickly in all areas of the world. Some might say that Bungie adopted this approach to save costs, but Segur disagrees. He said the company had invested much in cloud servers, but a peer-to-peer approach still poses some risks on PC when it comes to cheating.

However, Segur is optimistic. He declared that they have improved their security strategies, and have spent quite a lot of time analyzing ways to deal with their community. They claim that they can detect any time your character suffers an ‘illicit’ change, and promises cheaters will have no easy life.

In the end, the post offered some vague information regarding the Destiny 2 beta, but nothing is clear yet. Bungie revealed no release date, or if it would include a PC version as well.
Image Source: Flickr

Water entered the Doomsday Vault, so a restoration process has started to protect the seeds

(Mirror Daily, United States) – In 2008, the Norwegian government built a vault on the Svalbard Archipelago to preserve seeds of the most vital crops on Earth. The Doomsday Vault is meant to help us survive in case a huge calamity befalls Earth and impairs all vegetation. Officials detected water collecting in an access tunnel, so they quickly started a restoration process to prevent the deterioration of the seeds.

The water was spotted at the entrance of the vault. The building starts with a tunnel measuring 100 meters in length, which leads to the safe place where seeds are kept. Among the main crops which the vault preserves, there is wheat, maize, or rice. The enclosure is a sort of Noah’s Ark who ensures crop biodiversity on Earth in case of a natural catastrophe.

Water entered the access tunnel to the vault

However, the effects of global warming have showed their face. Since temperatures have increased, the snow layer started melting at a more rapid pace than usual. Moreover, last autumn was unusually rainy, and all led to water collecting near the entrance of the vault and invading the building. Fortunately, it did not reach the seeds.

Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Directorate of Public Construction and Property, said that they noticed the water collecting near the vault in October. This is not the first time when something like this happens, so the officials decided to start a restoration process.

Taking measures to keep the seeds safe

They are planning to remove all sources of heat which surround the vault and the tunnel leading to the seeds. Also, they want to limit the access of visitors, as even the presence of humans might constitute a heat source. Even so, melt water might still accumulate near the building, so they will build special ditches for draining.

The Norwegian government is planning to finish all these restoration measurements by the end of the year. Keeping the crop reserves safe is vital, as a calamity might strike Earth when we least expect it.
Image Source: Flickr

Moving from a racially segregated community can decrease blood pressure

(Mirror Daily, United States) – A new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that moving from segregated communities might prove beneficial to African Americans. If they choose to live in a racially diverse environment, their blood pressure can improve.

The systolic blood pressure decreased in a racially mixed community

Researchers measured the systolic blood pressure of African Americans who lived in a racially segregated community. Then, they noticed how it improved when they moved to other neighborhoods which were more mixed. Moving away led to drops from 1.2 to 1.3 mmHG in their systolic blood pressure.

Even if it sounds like a small decrease, it is substantial. Researchers say that this is enough to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events, such as stroke, heart failure, or coronary heart disease. Kiarri Kershaw, one of the lead authors of the study and professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, thinks their findings are relevant.

“These findings are important because they point to the important role social policies can have in health.”

For over twenty years, researchers closely observed 2,280 African Americans who moved in different neighborhoods. In 1985, when they started the study, the participants lived in Oakland, California; Minneapolis; Birmingham, Alabama; and Chicago.

The study has its limitations

Around 82 percent of these participants lived in highly segregated neighborhoods, 12 percent of them lived in communities with a medium level of segregation, while 6 percent lived in areas with low segregation. Also, researchers tracked them to see how often they relocated. Almost all of them moved at least once, and more than half moved around three times.

They found a relation between the environment in which these people lived and systolic blood pressure only. There was no connection between the social factor and diastolic blood pressure. Also, the study was not controlled to see how community segregation influences blood pressure.

Moreover, the research had many limitations, since it did not account for other factors which could have influenced the results. However, the findings are relevant enough to support the idea that social communities influence the health of their members.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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