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Updated: 17 min 34 sec ago

Unity Laying Off Hundreds of Staffers

26 min 26 sec ago
Unity, the company behind the popular game development engine of the same name, has recently laid off hundreds of staffers, multiple sources tell Kotaku. From the report: Founded in the mid-2000s, Unity is used by thousands of developers; you've almost certainly seen its logo pop up in the loading screens for some of your favorite -- or least-favorite -- games. In 2014, former EA head John Riccitiello took over as CEO. (In 2020, Riccitiello reportedly saw his compensation jump by 160 percent to $22 million.) The firm employed 3,300 people as of June 2020, according to its IPO filing with the Securities and Exchange Commision, though the company's LinkedIn and Glassdoor pages peg that figure as north of 5,000. Layoffs have afflicted Unity's offices across the globe. Sources tell Kotaku that pretty much every corner of the company has taken some sort of hit, though there's a concentration in the AI and engineering departments. On Blind, the anonymous messaging board commonly used by employees in the tech industry, Unity staffers say that roughly 300 or 400 people have been let go, and that layoffs are still ongoing. Kotaku's sources have said the same.

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Meta Sparks Anger By Charging For VR Apps

46 min 26 sec ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Financial Times: Meta is facing a growing backlash for the charges imposed on apps created for its virtual reality headsets, as developers complain about the commercial terms set around futuristic devices that the company hopes will help create a multibillion-dollar consumer market. [...] But several developers told the Financial Times of their frustration that Meta, which is seen as having an early lead in a nascent market, has insisted on a charging model for its VR app store similar to what exists today on smartphones. This is despite Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg being strongly critical in the past of charging policies on existing mobile app stores. "Don't confuse marketing with reality -- it's good marketing to pick on Apple. But it doesn't mean Meta won't do the exact same thing," said Seth Siegel, global head of AI and cyber security at Infosys Consulting. "There is no impetus for them to be better." The "Quest Store" for Meta's Quest 2, by far the most popular VR headset on the market, takes a 30 percent cut from digital purchases and charges 15-30 percent on subscriptions, similar to the fees charged by Apple and Android. "Undoubtedly there are services provided -- they build amazing hardware and provide store services," said Daniel Sproll, chief executive of Realities.io, an immersive realities start-up behind the VR game Puzzling Places. "But the problem is that it feels like everybody agreed on this 30 percent and that's what we're stuck with. It doesn't feel like there's any competition. The Chinese companies coming out with headsets are the same. Why would they change it?" Meta defended its policies, pointing out that unlike iPhone owners, Quest users can install apps outside its official store through SideQuest, a third-party app store, or make use of App Lab, its less restricted, more experimental app store. "We want to foster choice and competition in the VR ecosystem," Meta said. "And it's working -- our efforts have produced a material financial return for developers: as we announced earlier this year, over $1 billion has been spent on games and apps in the Meta Quest Store." Developers welcome these alternatives but say their impact is limited. SideQuest has been downloaded just 396,000 times, versus 19 million for the Oculus app, according to Sensor Tower. App Lab, meanwhile, still takes a 30 percent cut of purchases. Developers are also frustrated with Meta's shift to a more restrictive approach to allowing apps on its VR app store. Chris Pruett, Meta's content ecosystem director, said Meta found that lax standards resulted in too many users being frustrated by low-quality content, so the company has opted to play more of a gatekeeper role. But developers said the resulting barriers could lack transparency. "Getting something on the Quest store is painful," said Lyron Bentovim, chief executive of the Glimpse Group, an immersive experiences group. "It's significantly worse than getting on Apple or Android stores."

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FCC Commissioner Wants Apple, Google To Remove TikTok From App Stores

1 hour 26 min ago
A leader of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said he has asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over China-related data security concerns. CNBC reports: The wildly popular short video app is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which faced U.S. scrutiny under President Donald Trump. Brendan Carr, one of the FCC's commissioners, shared via Twitter a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. The letter pointed to reports and other developments that made TikTok non-compliant with the two companies' app store policies. "TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That's the sheep's clothing," he said in the letter. "At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data." Carr's letter, dated June 24 on FCC letterhead, said if the Apple and Alphabet do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8. The statements should explain "the basis for your company's conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok's pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies," he said. A TikTok spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in a statement: "We know we're among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data. That's why we hire experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and bring in reputable, independent third parties to test our defenses."

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Substack Is Laying Off 14% of Its Staff

2 hours 6 min ago
Substack, the newsletter start-up that has attracted prominent writers including George Saunders and Salman Rushdie, laid off 13 of its 90 employees on Wednesday, part of an effort to conserve cash amid an industrywide funding crunch for start-ups. The New York Times reports: Substack's chief executive, Chris Best, told employees that the cuts affected staff members responsible for human resources and writer support functions, among others, according to a person familiar with the discussion. The cuts are a blow to a company that has said it was opening up a new era of media, in which people writing stories and making videos would be more empowered, getting direct payments from readers for what they produce instead of being paid by the publications or sites where their work appears. Mr. Best told employees on Wednesday that Substack had decided to cut jobs so it could fund its operations from its own revenue without raising additional financing in a difficult market, according to the person with knowledge of the discussion. He said he wanted the company to seek funding from a position of strength if it decided to raise again. In his remarks to employees, Mr. Best said the company's revenues were increasing. He noted that Substack still had money in the bank and was continuing to hire, albeit at a slower place, the person said. Mr. Best said the cuts would allow the company to hone its focus on product and engineering. Months earlier, Substack scrapped a plan to raise additional funding after the market for venture investments cooled.

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Kim Dotcom Not Happy, Says 'Mega Mass Piracy Report' Is On the Way

2 hours 46 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom does not seem like a happy man right now. After accusing two of his former colleagues [Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk] of facilitating Chinese spying, Dotcom says that a report is being produced to show that mass infringement is taking place on Mega, a company he co-founded. Surprisingly, he says it will include live pirate links to content posted by Mega users. [...] Turning his attention to former colleagues Ortmann and van der Kolk, last week Dotcom publicly blamed them for his exit from Mega, claiming they had "stolen" the company from him. How this dovetails with previous allegations related to his major falling out with former Mega CEO Tony Lentino, who also founded domain name registrar Instra, is unknown. Local media reports suggest that Dotcom hasn't spoken to former friends Ortmann and van der Kolk for years but their recent deal to avoid extradition in the Megaupload case by pleading guilty to organized crime charges puts Dotcom in a tough spot. "My co-defendants who claimed to be innocent for 10+ years were offered a sweet exit deal for a false confession," he said last week. And he wasn't finished there. After a research team found that Mega was vulnerable to attacks that allow for a "full compromise of the confidentiality of user files", Ortmann himself responded via a security notification stating that the issues had been fixed. In response, Dotcom accused Ortmann and van der Kolk of creating "backdoors" in Mega so that the Chinese government could decrypt users' files. "Same shady guys who just made a deal with the US and NZ Govt to get out of the US extradition case by falsely accusing me," he added. Whether this reference to the no-extradition-deal betrayed what was really on Dotcom's mind is up for debate but whatever the motivation, he's not letting it go. In a tweet posted yesterday, he again informed his 850K+ followers that the company he founded "is not safe" and people who think that their files are unreadable by Mega are wrong. Shortly after, Dotcom delivered another message, one even darker in tone. It targeted Mega, the company he co-founded and where his colleagues still work. It's possible to interpret the tweet in several ways but none seem beneficial to his former colleagues, Mega, or its users. "In addition to security vulnerabilities a comprehensive report about mass copyright infringement on Mega with millions of active links and channels is in the works," he said. "[P]erhaps the most worrying thing about this new complication in an escalating dispute is its potential to affect the minority of users that actually store infringing files on Mega," adds TorrentFreak. "Any detailed report of 'mass copyright infringement' will draw negative attention directly to them, especially if the report includes active hyperlinks as Dotcom suggests." "Couple that with Dotcom's allegations that the content of user files can be read, any conclusion that this upcoming infringement report hasn't been thought through from a user perspective can be easily forgiven..."

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Crypto Tax Cheats Likely to Get Relief as US Crackdown Hits Snag

3 hours 26 min ago
The US government's bid to collect billions of dollars in taxes is hitting a snag, with the Biden administration poised to delay when crypto brokers and exchanges must start gathering detailed information on their clients' trading. From a report: The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are likely to push off a January date for the firms to begin tracking data such as customers' capital gains and losses, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because a final decision hasn't been made. The move would mean the tax agency waits longer to get the kind of data it gets for stocks or bonds. Crypto tax evasion remains a major issue for Washington policy makers even amid the recent downturn. Treasury and the IRS have struggled to quickly draft rules, which firms will use in collecting and reporting the information on their clients' trades.

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A Wide Range of Routers Are Under Attack By New, Unusually Sophisticated Malware

4 hours 6 min ago
An unusually advanced hacking group has spent almost two years infecting a wide range of routers in North America and Europe with malware that takes full control of connected devices running Windows, macOS, and Linux, researchers reported on Tuesday. From a report: So far, researchers from Lumen Technologies' Black Lotus Labs say they've identified at least 80 targets infected by the stealthy malware, infecting routers made by Cisco, Netgear, Asus, and DrayTek. Dubbed ZuoRAT, the remote access Trojan is part of a broader hacking campaign that has existed since at least the fourth quarter of 2020 and continues to operate. The discovery of custom-built malware written for the MIPS architecture and compiled for small office and home office routers is significant, particularly given its range of capabilities. Its ability to enumerate all devices connected to an infected router and collect the DNS lookups and network traffic they send and receive and remain undetected is the hallmark of a highly sophisticated threat actor.

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A Pro-China Online Influence Campaign is Targeting the Rare-Earths Industry

4 hours 46 min ago
Disinformation operatives seek to undermine firms in the Western world as China fights to maintain near-monopoly power. From a report: An online influence campaign carried out by a group that promotes China's political interests is targeting Western companies that mine and process rare-earth elements, according to a new report from cybersecurity firm Mandiant. The campaign, which is playing out in Facebook groups and micro-targeted tweets, is trying to stoke environmentalist protests against the companies in the US. The operation is attributed to an online group code-named Dragonbridge, which has also been responsible for campaigns claiming that covid-19 originated in the United States. Its latest campaign has increased in intensity in recent weeks as part of a strategic battle between China and its Western adversaries over who controls the precious resources and their own destiny. "We are headed to a future where the likelihood of tools like influence operations being used against key industries will only increase," says John Hultquist, Mandiant's head of intelligence. "As competition between the US and China changes, the nature of the competition may become more aggressive." It's also proof that influence campaigns are not easy: Dragonbridge has largely failed in its bid to draw negative attention to the Western companies. Shane Huntley, who directs Google's Threat Analysis Group and has tracked Dragonbridge since 2019, previously tweeted that his team has taken an "aggressive" approach against the influence operation but that "it really is amazing for all the effort put in how LITTLE engagement these channels get from real viewers."

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Firefox Can Now Automatically Remove Tracking From URLs

5 hours 18 min ago
Mozilla's latest Firefox browser release has a new feature that prevents sites like Facebook from tracking you across websites. Called Query Parameter Stripping, it automatically removes strings of characters added to the end of an URL.

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Apple Promises 'White Glove Experiences' For Its Most Helpful Community Members

6 hours 14 min ago
Apple is rewarding the most active and helpful members of its support forums with its new Community Plus program. The invite-only program gives these "high-level" Support Community members access to exclusive perks and experiences. From a report: Apple's Support Community members can already earn points based on their activity, granting them access to rewards as they level up. This includes the ability to upload a custom avatar as well as participate in conference calls with the Apple Support Community team and even in-person meetups with other members. But the Community Plus program appears to take things a bit further. It applies to the "shining stars" of Apple support forums who provide the most detailed and helpful answers. Apple says it will only add a "small group" of people to the program on a yearly basis. If this type of program sounds familiar, you may remember that Microsoft has had its MVP (most valuable professional) award for over 20 years and has recognized over 4,000 MVPs so far -- at times rewarding them with trips, subscriptions that included free access to expensive software, and free training materials.

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Gmail's Redesigned Interface, Featuring Chat and Meet, Now the New Default

6 hours 51 min ago
Gmail is now rolling out a new user interface that will show Chat and Meet sections on the side pane by default. From a report: Google introduced this new integrated view earlier this year through opt-in options, so you had to manually enable Chat and Meet panes. However, as the new phase of the rollout is starting, the company will force you to opt out if you want the classic Gmail view. Google says the change is rolling out to Google Workspace customers and users with personal Google accounts alike. This includes Google Workspace Business Starter, Business Standard, Business Plus, Enterprise Essentials, Enterprise Standard, Enterprise Plus, Education Fundamentals, Education Plus, Frontline and Nonprofits, as well as G Suite Basic and Business customers, and Google Workspace Individual users. Only Google Workspace Essentials customers will not see the change, or those Workspace customers that have only been provided access to Gmail and not other apps.

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Crypto Hedge Fund Three Arrows Set for Court-Ordered Liquidation

7 hours 34 min ago
A British Virgin Islands court ordered the liquidation of Three Arrows Capital, the crypto hedge fund that bet big on everything from Bitcoin to the ill-fated Luna tokens and then succumbed to a $2 trillion wipeout of the digital-asset markets. From a report: The court, which made the order on Monday, has appointed two partners at consulting and advisory firm Teneo to handle the liquidation, according to a person familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified because the information is confidential. Teneo will oversee talks with potential buyers that may be interested in Three Arrows's remaining holdings, such as tokens or equity stakes in crypto startups, the person added. A website will be set up to locate creditors and determine who is owed what. Three Arrows has invested in a range of decentralized finance platforms such as Aave and dYdX, as well as crypto infrastructure firms such as StarkWare, according to its website. It's not immediately clear what or how much of these holdings will be subject to a sale.

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Windows 10's 22H2 Update Might Not Actually Do Much of Anything

8 hours 11 min ago
The Windows 11 22H2 update is working its way through Microsoft's Windows Insider testing channels, and we'd expect it to begin rolling out to Windows 11 PCs at some point in the next few weeks or months. But Microsoft has had almost nothing to say about the next major update to Windows 10 beyond the fact that the operating system will keep getting yearly updates for the foreseeable future. From a report: And the Windows 10 22H2 update is actually already out there for those who know how to install it. Neowin has published a list of commands that can be typed into the Command Prompt or Windows Terminal to turn a fully updated Windows 10 21H2 install into a 22H2 install. The commands use Microsoft's Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool to make tweaks to your Windows install and require the optional KB5014666 update for Windows 10 to be installed first. The catch is that enabling Windows 10 22H2 doesn't actually seem to do much beyond incrementing the version number on the "About Windows" screen.

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TSMC To Customers: It's Time To Stop Using Older Nodes and Move to 28nm

8 hours 51 min ago
AnandTech: We tend to discuss leading-edge nodes and the most advanced chips made using them, but there are thousands of chip designs developed years ago that are made using what are now mature process technologies that are still widely employed by the industry. On the execution side of matters, those chips still do their jobs as perfectly as the day the first chip was fabbed which is why product manufacturers keep building more and more using them. But on the manufacturing side of matters there's a hard bottleneck to further growth: all of the capacity for old nodes that will ever be built has been built -- and they won't be building any more. As a result, TSMC has recently begun strongly encouraging its customers on its oldest (and least dense) nodes to migrate some of their mature designs to its 28 nm-class process technologies. Nowadays TSMC earns around 25% of its revenue by making hundreds of millions of chips using 40 nm and larger nodes. For other foundries, the share of revenue earned on mature process technologies is higher: UMC gets 80% of its revenue on 40 nm higher nodes, whereas 81.4% of SMIC's revenue come from outdated processes. Mature nodes are cheap, have high yields, and offer sufficient performance for simplistic devices like power management ICs (PMICs). But the cheap wafer prices for these nodes comes from the fact that they were once, long ago, leading-edge nodes themselves, and that their construction costs were paid off by the high prices that a cutting-edge process can fetch. Which is to say that there isn't the profitability (or even the equipment) to build new capacity for such old nodes.

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Cyber Pirates Prowling Ship Controls Threaten Another Big Shock

9 hours 27 min ago
An anonymous reader shares a report: In February 2019, a large container ship sailing for New York identified a cyber intrusion on board that startled the US Coast Guard. Though the malware attack never controlled the vessel's movement, authorities concluded that weak defenses exposed critical functions to "significant vulnerabilities." A maritime disaster didn't happen that day, but a warning flare rose over an emerging threat to global trade: cyber piracy able to penetrate on-board technology that's replacing old ways of steering, propulsion, navigation and other key operations. Such leaps in hacking capabilities could do enormous economic damage, particularly now, when supply chains are already stressed from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, experts including a top Coast Guard official said. "We've been lucky so far," said Rick Tiene, vice president with Mission Secure, a cybersecurity firm in Charlottesville, Virginia. "More and more incidents are happening, and the hackers are getting a better understanding what they can do once they've taken over an operational technology system. In the case of maritime -- whether it be the ports or the vessels themselves -- there is a tremendous amount that could be done to harm both the network and physical operations." Rear Admiral Wayne Arguin, the Coast Guard's assistant commandant for prevention policy, said shipping faces cyber risks similar to those in other industries -- it's just that the stakes are so much higher given that almost 80% of global trade moves on the sea. While Arguin declined to put a number on the frequency of attempted break-ins, he said "I feel very confident that every day networks are being tested, which really reinforces the need to have a plan." "That universe includes not just ship operators but port terminals and the thousands of logistics links in global supply chains that are increasingly interconnected," the story adds.

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Bitcoin is the Only Coin the SEC Chair Will Call a Commodity

10 hours 9 min ago
The chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Gary Gensler, said on CNBC's Squawk Box that the only token he would lump in with commodities was bitcoin. From a report: Gensler pointedly declined to name any cryptocurrency other than the original one, notable because the market has been operating under the assumption that there is a sort of wink-and-nod understanding that ether is also not a security. "Many of these financial assets, crypto assets, have the key attributes of a security... some like bitcoin, and that's the only one, Jim, I'm going to say, because I'm not going to talk about any of these tokens, my predecessors and others have said they're a commodity," Gensler said. He made the comment as he discussed the importance of collaborating with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

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Behind the Celsius Sales Pitch Was a Crypto Firm Built on Risk

10 hours 41 min ago
Celsius Network CEO Alex Mashinsky built his cryptocurrency lender into a giant on a pitch that it was less risky than a bank with better returns for customers. But investor documents show the lender carried far more risk than a traditional bank. From a report: The lender issued numerous large loans backed by little collateral, according to Celsius investor documents from 2021 reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The documents show that Celsius had little cushion in the event of a downturn, and made investments that would be difficult to quickly unwind if customers raced to withdraw their money. Celsius had $19 billion of assets and roughly $1 billion of equity as of last summer, before it raised new funds, according to Celsius investor documents from 2021 reviewed by the Journal. The median assets-to-equity ratio for all the North American banks in the S&P 1500 Composite index was about 9:1, or about half that of Celsius, according to data from FactSet. For banks, that ratio is of great importance: Regulators look at it as an indicator of risk. For unregulated companies like Celsius, the ratio of 19-1 is particularly high given that some of its assets were investments in the extremely volatile crypto sector, said Eric Budish, an economist at the University of Chicago's business school who studies cryptocurrencies. Large banks often have ratios near Celsius's, but they hold much more stable assets and have access to central-bank loans for ready cash. [...] Founded in 2017 by Mr. Mashinsky, Celsius surged amid the crypto boom to become one of the biggest crypto lenders, with more than $12 billion in deposits. Customers, wooed by high interest rates, flooded in, while venture capitalists showered it with money. Contrasts with banks were at the center of Mr. Mashinsky's public persona. Mr. Mashinsky frequently said Celsius passed along 80% of its lending revenue to customers in the form of its high yields. He often wore a black T-shirt reading, "Banks are not your friends." Compared with banks, "we have much less risk, but we've managed to deliver high single-digit, low double-digit numbers," Mr. Mashinsky told the YouTube channel CTO Larsson in August. Mr. Mashinsky said on a podcast last month that while "normally in panic, everybody runs to the bank and withdraws their money because they're afraid the bank is going to fail," Celsius had proven different in crypto downturns, as its business increased.

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Ford Says You Can Never Own Leased EVs

11 hours 56 min ago
schwit1 shares a report from The Truth About Cars: Ford Motor Co. will be suspending end-of-lease buyout options for customers driving all-electric vehicles, provided they took possession of the model after June 15, 2022. Those who nabbed their Mach-E beforehand will still have the option of purchasing the automobile once their lease ends. However, there are some states that won't be abiding by the updated rules until the end of the year, not that it matters when customers are almost guaranteed to have to wait at least that long on a reserved vehicle. The change, made earlier in the month, cruised under our radar until a reader asked for our take over the weekend. Ford could be wanting to capitalize on exceptionally high used vehicle prices, ensuring that more vehicles make it back into rotation. The broader industry has likewise been talking about abandoning traditional ownership to transition the auto market into being more service-oriented where manufacturers ultimately retain ownership of all relevant assets. But it may not be that simple as this being another step in the business sector's larger plan to maximize profitability by discouraging private vehicle ownership. [...] While leasing customers will not be able to buy their EV, Ford Credit will allow them to renew an expiring contract in exchange for a brand-new model. Amazingly, the manufacturer is trying to frame this as environmentally responsible. But it smells like planned obsolescence and desperation from where I'm sitting. Ford knows that electrics require far less labor to produce. By also retaining/recycling the most-expensive component (the battery) it can effectively maximize profitability on a three or four-year turnaround. For now, the updated leasing scheme is limited exclusively to all-electric products (e.g. Ford Lightning or Mach-E "Mustang") sold in 37 individual states. But the long wait times for new EVs and Ford's desire to expand the plan through the rest of the year effectively means it'll be national by the time most people take ownership.

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Gmail's New Look Is About To Become Opt-Out Instead of Opt-In

14 hours 56 min ago
Google started rolling out an updated user interface for Gmail in February that pulls Meet, Chat, and Spaces closer and applies more of its Material You styling effects. Starting today, it's becoming opt-out instead of opt-in, so your account will switch over to the new view by default pretty soon. The Verge reports: If you can't tell what's different here, the updated UI collects buttons for Mail, Meet, Spaces, and Chat into one list at the top of the left rail instead of showing several conversations from each one in a list. They're still easily accessible without having everything on screen at once, and you can quickly jump into a conversation in any one section as a list will pop out when you mouse over its icon. And if you just want to have one particular form of communication on screen without the others (like Gmail), it's a little easier to do that since Chat and the rest aren't listed underneath your inboxes and labels anymore. According to Google, you can choose which apps are included there in the Quick Settings menu, where you'll be able to switch back to the old look if you prefer. Unlike the usual 15-day rollout for new features, Google says this one is an "extended rollout," so while it's coming to Workspace and personal Gmail accounts alike, it could take longer than a couple of weeks for your interface to change over on its own. If you just want to try it, you should be able to opt-in (and back out) from the quick settings menu right now, as long as you've already switched to Chat from Hangouts and positioned Chat in the left-hand menu.

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Rock Samples From NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Contain Key Ingredient of Life

17 hours 51 min ago
Martian rock samples collected by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover show signs of key ingredients for life as we know it on Earth. Space.com reports: The venerable Curiosity Rover drilled samples from Gale crater, the site of an ancient lake on Mars. Using these samples, scientists were able, for the first time, to measure the total amount of organic carbon in Martian rocks, according to a statement from NASA. Organic carbon, which is carbon bound to a hydrogen atom, is a prerequisite for organic molecules created and used by all known forms of life. However, organic carbon can also come from non-living sources, such as meteorites and volcanic eruptions. While previous studies have detected organic carbon in smaller quantities in Martian rock samples, the new measurements provide insight into the total amount of carbon in organic compounds. "Total organic carbon is one of several measurements [or indices] that help us understand how much material is available as feedstock for prebiotic chemistry and potentially biology," Jennifer Stern, lead author of the study and a space scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in the statement. "We found at least 200 to 273 parts per million of organic carbon. This is comparable to or even more than the amount found in rocks in very low-life places on Earth, such as parts of the Atacama Desert in South America, and more than has been detected in Mars meteorites." [...] However, in addition to organic carbon, the researchers identified other signs suggesting Gale crater may have once supported life, including the presence of chemical energy sources, and chemical compounds such as oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur and low acidity. "Basically, this location would have offered a habitable environment for life, if it ever was present," Stern said in the statement. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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