Tech News Feed

Women Are Earth's Biggest Allies. It's Time to Let Them Heal the Planet - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 12:33
Commentary: The strong female voices in climate activism deserve to be heard -- and heeded.

Elon Musk Briefly Loses Forbes' Crown as World's Richest Person - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 12:28
It was snatched by luxury-brand boss Bernard Arnault.

Amazon Sued by District of Columbia for 'Stealing' Delivery Driver Tips

SlashDot - Wed, 2022-12-07 12:25
Washington DC's attorney general is suing Amazon, seeking civil penalties for allegedly misleading consumers who thought they were tipping delivery drivers but had the money diverted to cover the couriers' base pay. From a report: The case, filed in Washington DC Superior Court, cites a 2021 settlement between the company and the Federal Trade Commission, in which the agency found that Amazon withheld tips meant for its gig-economy drivers for more than two years.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Blue Origin makes another bid for a NASA lunar lander contract

Engadget - Wed, 2022-12-07 12:20

Blue Origin has made another attempt to secure a contract to build a lunar lander for NASA's future Artemis missions. It teamed up with several other companies for the proposal, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Draper. Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics are also involved.

In 2021, NASA gave SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to use a version of Starship as a lunar lander. Blue Origin challenged that move, claiming that NASA's "decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base and not only delays, but also endangers America's return to the Moon."

The National Team has submitted its proposal for NASA’s SLD program to help the US establish a sustained lunar presence. The National Team partners are @BlueOrigin, @LockheedMartin, @DraperLab, @Boeing, @Astrobotic, and @Honeybee_Ltd.

— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) December 6, 2022

Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos wrote in an open letter to NASA administrator Bill Nelson in July last year that his company was willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments in exchange for a fixed-price lander contract. Bezos also complained that the decision to award a single contract gave SpaceX "a multiyear, multibillion-dollar head start” and claimed it "broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come."

NASA had intended to award two lunar lander contracts, but it opted to only issue one due to funding concerns. In August 2021, Blue Origin filed a lawsuit against NASA over its handling of the Human Landing System program. However, a Federal Court of Claims judge ruled against Blue Origin. The lawsuit held up work on SpaceX's lander and delayed a crewed mission to the Moon until 2025.

Earlier this year, NASA said it would again accept proposals for a second lunar lander project. Now, Blue Origin is taking the agency up on the offer. As The Wall Street Journal notes, Blue Origin will face competition from Northrop Grumman and Leidos Dynetics. Northrop Grumman worked with Blue Origin during the first round of contract bids.

Free 'Mario Kart 8 Deluxe' update lets you choose what power-ups appear during races

Engadget - Wed, 2022-12-07 12:04

At its core, Mario Kart is a game about trolling your friends. So what better way to ratchet up the hijinks than by allowing players to decide what power-ups spawn during races? Nintendo has released a free update for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe that adds custom item selection for offline VS races and select online modes. Want to be a monster and force blue shells on all your friends? Go right ahead. It’s even possible to set specific items for each team in team races and battles.

The free update is the latest show of support for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a five-year-old rerelease of a nearly nine-year-old game. At the start of the year, Nintendo announced it would continue to support Mario Kart 8 Deluxe until the end of 2023 with paid DLC. The company plans to release a total of 48 remastered tracks, all of which can be obtained through the $25 Booster Course Pass.

A new Custom Items feature is now available for all #MarioKart 8 Deluxe owners via a free update. Use it to choose which items appear in offline VS Races and certain online modes!

— Nintendo of Europe (@NintendoEurope) December 7, 2022

This Movie Set 'Lord of the Rings' Hobbit Hole Is on Airbnb. How to Book a Stay - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 12:00
There are many fantastic imitations, but an actual Hobbit-hole at the actual Hobbiton set in New Zealand will soon become available on AirBnb.

'Avatar' Director James Cameron on Sequel's Emotion: 'Look Past the Spectacle' - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 12:00
James Cameron, Kate Winslet and Zoe Saldana reflect on the fear that drew them to Avatar 2: The Way of Water.

Congress axes media revenue sharing bill after pushback from Google and Meta

Engadget - Wed, 2022-12-07 11:54

A US government attempt to compensate publishers for web links has fallen apart, as Congress has cut the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) from the annual national defense spending bill. The measure would have made temporary exceptions to antitrust law letting media outlets negotiate revenue sharing deals, such as receiving a cut of ad money from links to news articles in search results and social media posts.

The removal comes after extensive resistance from tech firms. Just this week, Facebook owner Meta warned it would "consider removing news" from its platform rather than submit to government-required negotiations for revenue sharing deals. As with the social media giant's objections to similar legislative efforts in Australia and Canada, the company argued that the JCPA would force companies to pay for content whether or not they wanted to see it. This would supposedly create a "cartel-like entity" that made one company subsidize others.

Two industry groups, the Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice, also said they would launch extensive ad campaigns to oppose the JCPA. Both groups include major tech companies like Amazon, Google and Meta. Google has been a vocal opponent of link revenue shares in the past, and only reluctantly agreed to them in countries like France.

Advocacy groups have taken more varied stances. Public Knowledge and its allies were concerned tech companies could be forced to carry extreme content, and that the JCPA favored larger media producers over small publishers. Political critics across the spectrum, meanwhile, have worried that the Act could alternately strip away moderation tools or fuel biased reporting.

It's not certain what will happen to the efforts behind the JCPA. Lead proponent Sen. Amy Klobuchar said politicians "must" find a way to improve compensation for news. However, it's safe to say the media companies that supported the bill won't be happy. The Los Angeles Times, Fox News owner News Corp. and others had argued that the would-be law was necessary to counter years of declining ad revenue in the shift toward online news coverage. For now, at least, they won't have that potential help.

Microsoft Teams Adds Free Communities Feature To Take on Discord

SlashDot - Wed, 2022-12-07 11:41
Microsoft is launching a new communities feature for Microsoft Teams today, designed for consumers to use the best parts of Teams free of charge to create and organize groups. From a report: The new community feature will allow groups to use the calendar, meeting, and chat features of Teams. Features like group chat, calling, and file / photo sharing are all supported, and groups will also be able to use a shared calendar (which includes Google Calendar integration) to organize community events. This new community integration is really aimed at groups like sports clubs or even virtual community groups for small businesses and simple groups like a carpool for co-workers to organize transportation. Facebook, Reddit, Discord, WhatsApp, Twitter, and many other services already provide a variety of ways to organize groups online, so Microsoft is entering a crowded market, but it believes Teams has something different to offer.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Best iPad Deals: Get a 9th-Gen iPad for Only $270, Save $99 on Latest iPad Air - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 11:15
Check out the lowest prices for Apple's previous and latest iPad models.

Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 11:03
2022 brings us Knives Out 2, Avatar 2, a few original movies and more delays. Check out the latest blockbuster release dates.

Boeing's Last 747 Rolls Out of the Factory After More Than 50-Year Production Run

SlashDot - Wed, 2022-12-07 11:03
Boeing's final 747 rolled out of the company's cavernous factory north of Seattle Tuesday night as airlines' push for more fuel-efficient planes ends the more than half-century production run of the jumbo jet. From a report: The 1,574th -- and last -- 747 will later be flown by a Boeing test pilot, painted and handed over to cargo and charter carrier Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings early next year. "It's a very surreal time, obviously," said Kim Smith, vice president and general manager of Boeing's 747 and 767s programs out of the assembly plant here. "For the first time in well over 50 years we will not have a 747 in this facility."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

New Movies Coming Out in 2022 and 2023: Biggest Films Including Marvel, DC, Netflix - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 11:00
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Glass Onion and Avatar 2: It's a big year for sequels and blockbusters like Black Adam, even though Madame Web, Blade, Mario and The Flash are delayed again.

‘Diablo IV’ hands-on: This feels worryingly good

Engadget - Wed, 2022-12-07 11:00

About three hours into my preview of Diablo IV, I stumble upon the body of a dead priest. The discovery adds a quest to my journal to visit nearby Margrave. A short while later, I find a small village worn down by constant snowfall and all the monsters and bandits that lurk outside its palisade walls. Despite the town’s desperate state, there are signs of warmth and humanity everywhere.

By the south entrance, I find a woman praying for her deceased husband. She tells his gravestone how she can’t sleep now that no one is snoring at night. Nearby, a man tells his adopted son not to venture outside the town’s walls. I love these details. They remind me of some of my favorite moments playing Diablo II.

Whenever I went back over the years to revisit the action RPG on my own, I would listen to everything the non-playable characters had to say. The game doesn’t have much dialogue by modern standards, but if you pay attention, it says a lot with very little. Looking back at my time with Diablo III and, more recently, Diablo Immortal, what stands out is that those games rarely, if ever, slow down to take a breath.

A screenshot showing off one of Diablo IV's towns.Blizzard

Diablo IV feels different. It feels like a game that was designed by people who love the history of this franchise as much as I do. That might not seem like much, but it’s refreshing when you consider Diablo III’s original lead designer called his Diablo II predecessor a “loser.”

“Certainly, there are a lot of things about Diablo II that we think are really cool and need to be in Diablo IV, particularly when you look at the depth of systems and itemization… and, as you noted, there are things about Diablo III like the smooth and seamless combat that we wanted to bring forward to Diablo IV,” game director Joe Shely tells me during a roundtable interview. Shely took over leadership of the Diablo IV team in the fall of 2021 after the game’s previous director, Luis Barriga, left Blizzard when California’s fair employment agency accused the studio of systemic gender discrimination and sexual harassment. “We think Diablo IV can be a place that welcomes players from any previous Diablo game and people who have never played a Diablo game.”

A screenshot showing off one of Diablo IV's open-world environments. Blizzard

Diablo IV existing as a project that takes all the best aspects of past entries in the series and iterates on them in meaningful ways is a theme Shely and his boss, Diablo franchise head Rod Fergusson, repeat early and often. At first, I dismissed it as marketing, but after playing the game for about a dozen hours, I started to believe them.

Take combat, for instance. Carrying over a change Blizzard made for the console release of Diablo III, each class comes with a dodge ability built into their kit. At first, you can only use your dodge once before it goes on cooldown, but as you level your character, you’ll find magical and rare boots that give you additional charges.

The potion system, meanwhile, represents a hybrid of the systems that existed in Diablo II and III. When you first start playing, your character can carry a maximum of five potions on them. There’s no cooldown after you use one, and you gain refills by slaying enemies or bringing a boss down to certain thresholds of their health. Walking over a potion when your character is at max health won’t automatically heal you as it did in Diablo III, so there’s more strategy involved. As you might have guessed, you can upgrade the potency of your potions and find ways to carry more as you progress through the game.

A screenshot of the barbarian's skill tree, highlighting the rupture skill. Blizzard

On the surface, these are minor changes, but they add some much-needed tactical depth to Diablo’s combat, so you’re not just mindlessly clicking and spamming your skill rotation. Most larger enemies have a windup attack in their arsenal to stagger your character. Combine that with elite and champion variants of enemies that can use abilities like frost to trap you in place, and combat encounters feel more involved in Diablo IV than in past games. Playing on the game’s veteran world tier difficulty, I had the most success when I used my barbarian’s leap ability to close the distance quickly on ranged enemies and monsters like fallen shamans that could bring their comrades back from the dead.

All of that made for a fun and satisfying combat loop enhanced by how much the game encouraged me to experiment with my character’s build. Diablo IV sees the return of Diablo II’s skill trees, but this time around, you’re not limited to respecing your character once per difficulty. Instead, you can at any time refund a single skill point or all of them simultaneously to tweak your build. At first, doing so only costs a few gold coins, but the price increases as you level your character. The beauty of this system is that you’re free to experiment early before settling on the build that will take you through Diablo IV’s endgame activities.

Unfortunately, I only had enough time to play through the demo with the barbarian. The preview also came with access to the rogue and sorcerer classes. At launch, the final game will feature five classes, adding the druid and necromancer to the mix.

I wish I could write about the story, but Blizzard asked those of us taking part in the preview not to spoil anything. What I can say is that once you complete Diablo IV’s prologue, you can tackle its primary acts in any order you want. The preview build only came with access to act one and the Fractured Peaks zone where that part of the story takes place. When Blizzard revealed Diablo IV in 2019 by sharing the game’s gruesome “By Three They Come” intro cinematic, I was worried the story would end up being edgy instead of mature and dark.

The little I’ve seen of the plot has done a lot to address those concerns. Part of that has been thanks to the smart, restrained writing I saw and Diablo IV’s willingness to give its narrative time to breathe, but the thing I think that’s going to surprise a lot of people is how atmospheric Diablo IV can be in its best moments. All of the trailers Blizzard has released so far don’t do nearly enough justice to all the great work the art team has done with the environmental, lighting and particle effects in the game. When my barbarian first began his adventure on a mountain beset by a blizzard, I reached for a blanket.

One thing the demo didn’t include was a preview of Diablo IV’s monetization system. Blizzard provided an overview of those this past summer. The short version is that the game won’t include pay-to-win microtransactions. Instead, an in-game cosmetic shop will allow you to buy items you can use to customize the look of your characters further. Seasonal battle passes will allow you to earn additional cosmetics. From the moment you create your character, the customization systems are robust, offering you plenty of options to alter their physical appearance, including things like skin tone, head and facial hair, as well as jewelry.

A screenshot showing one possible look for the barbarian class. Blizzard

Additionally, the way you can modify the appearance of items is as fleshed out. For instance, if you use the transmog system to make a piece of armor look different, and then an item with better stats drops for you, you can match it with your previous set directly from the character sheet. By level 10, my barbarian had already started to look menacing.

If there’s one worry I have about Diablo IV, it’s the same one I’ve had with every Blizzard game in the past decade or so: Can the studio stick the landing? To say Blizzard’s recent output has been all over the place would be an understatement. I’m still disappointed with how it handled remastering my favorite RTS of all time. The studio will have the chance to reassure fans in early 2023 when Diablo IV’s open beta begins ahead of the game’s official launch later in the year.

Diablo 4 Takes Darkness to a New Level - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 11:00
Commentary: Be ready to be disturbed.

2 Million-Year-Old DNA, the Oldest Ever Found, Reveals an Ancient Ecosystem - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 11:00
The prehistoric forest of northern Greenland was home to mastodons, reindeer, hares and an abundance of plant life.

Get Lighting-Fast Internet for Less With This $25 TCL Mesh Router Two-Pack - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 10:56
Right now at B&H Photo, you can save $75 on this two-router bundle with impressive range and download speeds.

Google's Nest Hub drops to $39 with a free smart bulb

Engadget - Wed, 2022-12-07 10:40

If you've been looking to pick up a smart display, today looks like a decent time to take the plunge, as Walmart has our favorite option on the market, Google's Nest Hub, down to $39. That's the lowest price we've seen to date for the second-gen model. Notably, the discount includes a basic Philips Wiz smart bulb for no extra cost. For context, the 7-inch smart display technically has an MSRP of $99, though we frequently see it on sale for $50. The deal covers both the "chalk" and "charcoal" versions of the display, but the former looks to be out of stock as of this writing.

We gave the second-gen Nest Hub a review score of 89 when it launched last year, and it's currently a top pick in our guide to the best smart displays. Like Amazon's Echo Show devices, it's mainly there for those who like using a voice assistant to pull up the weather, control smart home gear, stream music and videos, display recipes in the kitchen and so on. Its chief advantage over Amazon's devices is, unsurprisingly, its tighter integration with Google services: If much of your life is organized in Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Photos, or if you use other Google-owned gear like Nest doorbells and thermostats, using the Google Assistant to access those things here will be far more convenient. We've also found the Google Assistant to be a little more capable than Alexa at answering web queries.

As a piece of hardware, the Nest Hub isn't blazingly fast, nor is its 1,024 x 600 resolution display especially sharp. Still, its built-in speakers and microphones do the job, and its soft fabric design should blend naturally into most rooms. Its 7-inch frame is a natural fit on a bedside table or bathroom counter, and while it lacks a built-in camera, that may be a good thing for those who want an added sense of privacy. The device can also provide a modicum of sleep tracking, though we wouldn't call that necessary for most, and Google plans to charge extra for the feature in the coming months. Nevertheless, the Nest Hub provides a strong mix of price and functionality for those who aren't already hitched to Alexa, and this deal only furthers that.

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Understanding Current Home Equity Interest Rates - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 10:33
Home equity loan rates will continue to rise in lock step with rising interest rates, but they're still a cheaper alternative to other types of financing.

Epic Games rolls out limited accounts to protect young 'Fortnite' and 'Fall Guys' players

Engadget - Wed, 2022-12-07 10:30

Epic Games is rolling out a new type of account for younger players that will require parental consent before they can do things like make purchases from Fortnite's in-game store with real money or use voice chat. Epic says these so-called "cabined accounts" will provide a "tailored experience that is safe and inclusive for younger players using the store or launcher."

In a blog post, Epic positioned cabined accounts as a "new way for kids to join the metaverse." It wrote that some companies try to provide a safe environment for kids in an online ecosystem by "by creating isolated experiences solely for their younger players, but these experiences are usually restrictive and unappealing when compared to the full game or activity and may encourage false reporting of age. Another approach has been to offer a fulsome experience for younger players, but if kids do not obtain permission from their parents, they are locked out entirely with no alternatives. Neither of these are optimal."

Starting today, players will see a one-time request for their age when they log into the Epic Games Store or the company's games. If someone indicates they are under 13 or a country's age of consent to use digital services, they will now have a cabined account. Although they'll still be able to play Fortnite, Rocket League or Fall Guys with access to previously purchased and earned in-game content, they'll need to provide a parent or guardian's email address and get consent from them to use certain features.

Several other features are disabled in cabined accounts, including any purchases with money, free text chat, making trades in Rocket League, buying or downloading Epic Games Store titles not owned by Epic, custom display names and SMS-based two-factor authentication. Without parental consent, younger players will not be able to link their Epic account to services such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitch. Developers with cabined accounts will also be prevented from accessing some Unreal Engine features.

Epic will lift the restrictions when a parent or guardian provides consent or the player turns 13 or their region's age of digital consent. In the meantime, those with such an account can still use any funds that are already in their Epic wallet to buy things in Fortnite, Rocket League, Fall Guys and other Epic-owned games.

After a parent or guardian has verified a cabined account, they can set up parental controls. Among other things, they'll be able to approve friend requests on the younger player's account, grant access to voice and text chat and track their offspring's Fortnite play time.