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Logitech Harmony Remote Controls Officially Discontinued

CIStud writes: The rumors have persisted for some time, and now Logitech has officially confirmed it has discontinued its once-vaunted Harmony remote controls, including the line of Logitech Harmony Pro programmable remotes for custom installers. Logitech plans to continue maintaining the Harmony database and software. The discontinuation does not affect the operation or the warranty on any Harmony remotes being used by integrators' clients already in the field. Logitech also plans to continue to offer service and support for Harmony remotes. The company also points out that the decision does not affect a customer's ability to interface with the Harmony universal remotes via their Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice controls.

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NHS Covid-19 App Update Blocked For Breaking Apple and Google's Rules

An update to England and Wales's contact tracing app has been blocked for breaking the terms of an agreement made with Apple and Google. From a report: The plan had been to ask users to upload logs of venue check-ins - carried out via poster barcode scans -- if they tested positive for the virus. This could be used to warn others. The update had been timed to coincide with the relaxation of lockdown rules. But the two firms had explicitly banned such a function from the start. Under the terms that all health authorities signed up to in order to use Apple and Google's privacy-centric contact-tracing tech, they had to agree not to collect any location data via the software. As a result, Apple and Google refused to make the update available for download from their app stores last week, and have instead kept the old version live.

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Nvidia To Make CPUs, Going After Intel

Nvidia said it's offering the company's first server microprocessors, extending a push into Intel's most lucrative market with a chip aimed at handling the most complicated computing work. Intel shares fell more than 2% on the news. From a report: The graphics chipmaker has designed a central processing unit, or CPU, based on technology from Arm, a company it's trying to acquire from Japan's SoftBank Group. The Swiss National Supercomputing Centre and U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory will be the first to use the chips in their computers, Nvidia said Monday at an online event. Nvidia has focused mainly on graphics processing units, or GPUs, which are used to power video games and data-heavy computing tasks in data centers. CPUs, by contrast, are a type of chip that's more of a generalist and can do basic tasks like running operating systems. Expanding into this product category opens up more revenue opportunities for Nvidia. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jensen Huang has made Nvidia the most valuable U.S. chipmaker by delivering on his promise to give graphics chips a major role in the explosion in cloud computing. Data center revenue contributes about 40% of the company's sales, up from less than 7% just five years ago. Intel still has more than 90% of the market in server processors, which can sell for more than $10,000 each. The CPU, named Grace after the late pioneering computer scientist Grace Hopper, is designed to work closely with Nvidia graphics chips to better handle new computing problems that will come with a trillion parameters. Systems working with the new chip will be 10 times faster than those currently using a combination of Nvidia graphics chips and Intel CPUs. The new product will be available at the beginning of 2023, Nvidia said.

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Epic Set To Lose at Least $330 Million in Efforts To Compete With Steam

Epic Games may lose millions after struggling to recuperate costs from the Epic Games Store, following its fight to gain market share from Steam. From a report: The Fortnite giant spent around $444 million in 2020 on making the storefront more lucrative to PC gamers, mainly through giving away titles for free and exclusivity deals. The company dug deep to offer "minimum guarantees" to developers releasing games exclusive to the Epic Games Store. Under this arrangement, titles must remain exclusive to the PC storefront for one year, even if they're released on console platforms. This means that the developer will receive a guaranteed advance from Epic whether or not their game sells enough to recoup the number. As an example, the company spent over $10 million securing PC exclusivity for Remedy's Control in 2019. A report by IGN that shows players spent $700 million on the Epic Store in 2020, but only $265 million of that was spent on third-party games exclusive to it. According to predictions made by Apple, the Epic Store will not see any profitability until 2027 if it continues to operate this way. Apple also projects that the store could lose around $600 million by the end of the year. While Apple claims that the figure is a loss, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney confirmed on Twitter that he considers it a "fantastic investment into growing the business."

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New Electrical Flaw Grounds More Than 60 737 MAXs, Adding To Boeing's Woes

phalse phace writes: A minor change in Boeing's 737 MAX manufacturing process that was insufficiently vetted caused an electrical system problem that on Friday temporarily grounded more than 60 of the aircraft -- out of almost 200 MAXs that have returned to service since December. While this latest manufacturing flaw is unrelated to the flight-control system implicated in two fatal crashes that grounded the MAX for nearly two years, it slows the positive momentum that had begun to build as more MAXs took to the air and new orders came in from United, Alaska and Southwest. The problem, according to two people with knowledge of the modified manufacturing process, arose when a backup electrical power control unit was secured to a rack on the flight deck with fasteners -- in place of the rivets previously used. This change was executed in such a way that it did not provide a complete electrical grounding path to the unit. The lack of secure electrical grounding could potentially cause malfunctions in a variety of electrical systems, such as the engine anti-ice system and the auxiliary power unit (APU) in the plane's tail. Boeing said it discovered the issue "on a production airplane during normal build activity" and that inspections are needed to verify "that a sufficient ground path exists" for this control unit.

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France To Ban Some Domestic Flights Where Train Available

AmiMoJo writes: French MPs have voted to suspend domestic airline flights on routes that can be travelled by direct train in less than two and a half hours, as part of a series of climate and environmental measures. After a heated debate in the Assemblee Nationale at the weekend, the ban, a watered-down version of a key recommendation from President Emmanuel Macron's citizens' climate convention was adopted. It will mean the end of short internal flights from Orly airport, south of Paris, to Nantes and Bordeaux among others, though connecting flights through Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport, north of the French capital, will continue. The climate commission set up by Macron had originally recommended the scrapping of all flights between French destinations where an alternative direct train journey of less than four hours existed. This was reduced to two and a half hours after strong objections from certain regions and from Air France-KLM, which, like other airlines, has been badly hit by local and international Covid-19 restrictions on travel.

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Microsoft is Acquiring Nuance Communications for $19.7 Billion

Microsoft agreed today to acquire Nuance Communications, a leader in speech to text software, for $19.7 billion. From a report: In a post announcing the deal, the company said this was about increasing its presence in the healthcare vertical, a place where Nuance has done well in recent years. In fact, the company announced the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare last year, and this deal is about accelerating its presence there. Nuance's products in this area include Dragon Ambient eXperience, Dragon Medical One and PowerScribe One for radiology reporting. "Today's acquisition announcement represents the latest step in Microsoft's industry-specific cloud strategy," the company wrote. The acquisition also builds on several integrations and partnerships the two companies have made in the last couple of years. The company boasts 10,000 healthcare customers, according to information on the website. Those include AthenaHealth, Johns Hopkins, Mass General Brigham and Cleveland Clinic to name but a few, and it was that customer base that attracted Microsoft to pay the price it did to bring Nuance into the fold.

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Historic Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin Commemorated in 'World of Tanks'

Space.com writes: Tank battles and history will collide this month as the makers of the free-to-play game "World of Tanks" honors the legacy of famed cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin for the 60th anniversary of his historic launch into space... "World of Tanks" developer Wargaming has launched its "To The Stars!" event, which recruits Gagarin into the game along with Vostok 1 themed goodies for players. The event launched Wednesday (April 7 ) and runs through April 19. Gagarin will be an in-game commander, dressed in his iconic orange flight suit, who will represent the U.S.S.R. nation. "World of Tanks" creators worked with Gagarin's daughter, Galina Gagarina, to launch a commemorative website for the 60th anniversary of Vostok 1. You can see that "To The Stars! website here, where players can also track their progress in the event. "Yuri Gagarin proved that humans can live and operate in space. His flight encouraged and gave hope to all those who dreamed of this! It kickstarted the deep understanding of humanity's role in preserving and developing our cosmic home — Earth," Galina Gagarin said in a statement. "I'm happy to know that, through the millions-strong audience of World of Tanks, the memory of mankind's first foray into space will be preserved for years to come!" The press release promises a "shower of cosmic activities," including return of "Gravity Force Mode" between April 12 and April 18 with a new ability that "allows tanks to jump up and operate in the air." And the Wargaming/MS-1 team behind the mobile tank game "World of Tanks Blitz" commemorated Gagarin's historic flight by launching a tank model into the stratosphere.

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Remembering Yuri Gagarin, the First Man in Space

Sixty years ago today, Yuri Gagarin became the first human ever in space. Space.com reports: Because no one was certain how weightlessness would affect a pilot, the spherical capsule had little in the way of onboard controls; the work was done either automatically or from the ground. If an emergency arose, Gagarin was supposed to receive an override code that would allow him to take manual control, but Sergei Korolev, chief designer of the Soviet space program, disregarded protocol and gave the code to the pilot prior to the flight. Over the course of 108 minutes, Vostok 1 traveled around the Earth once, reaching a maximum height of 203 miles (327 kilometers). The spacecraft carried 10 days' worth of provisions in case the engines failed and Gagarin was required to wait for the orbit to naturally decay. But the supplies were unnecessary. Gagarin re-entered Earth's atmosphere, managing to maintain consciousness as he experienced forces up to eight times the pull of gravity during his descent. The BBC remembers how on his return to earth, Gagarin parachuted into some farmland several hundred miles from Moscow — "much to the surprise of a five-year-old girl who was out in the fields planting potatoes." 60 years later, the BBC tracked down and interviewed Interviewed that woman — who still remembered Gagarin's kind voice and smile. (Thanks to Slashdot reader 4wdloop for sharing the article.) The BBC also published a look at Gagarin's global fame in the years that followed — and Phys.org notes that even today, there are few people more universally admired in Russia than Yuri Gagarin: His smiling face adorns murals across the country. He stands, arms at his sides as if zooming into space, on a pedestal 42.5 metres (140 feet) above the traffic flowing on Moscow's Leninsky Avenue. He is even a favourite subject of tattoos... The anniversary of Gagarin's historic flight on April 12, 1961 — celebrated every year in Russia as Cosmonautics Day — sees Russians of all ages lay flowers at monuments to his accomplishment across the country... Gagarin, says historian Alexander Zheleznyakov, was a figure who helped fuel the imagination. "He transformed us from a simple biological species to one that could imagine an entire universe beyond Earth."

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Are Silicon Valley Tech Workers Now Swarming 'a Reluctant Austin'£

Austin, Texas is America's fastest-growing major metro area, reports Bloomberg Businessweek, growing 30% from 2010 to 2019. But today a minimum wage worker hoping to afford a one-bedroom rental "would now need to work a 125-hour week." And meanwhile, homeowner Matthew Congrove says he's now getting a half-dozen all-cash offers on his house every week. "In the boldest attempt, a stranger simply showed up at his home unannounced and asked to buy it..." Even Congrove — a software engineer who moved from Florida seven years ago — is most concerned about how the new wave of tech workers is affecting his adopted city's culture. Lately, he's seen more T-shirts bearing startup logos than band names. New condos have sprouted up where quirky bungalows once stood. And the commute time to his downtown office has tripled. "They just keep coming," Congrove says. "The fleece vests, the tech bros — that's definitely imported from California." During the pandemic, Austin has welcomed more new residents from the Bay Area than from any other region outside Texas, according to records provided to Bloomberg by the U.S. Postal Service... Oracle late last year said it was moving its headquarters to Austin, and a stream of tech elites including prominent investor Jim Breyer and the chief executive officers of Dropbox and Splunk made plans to relocate. Elon Musk, the second-richest man in the world, is now a resident of Texas — though he hasn't said where — and Tesla Inc. is building a factory in Austin's outskirts, where Musk has said the company will need 10,000 people by 2022. He's also expanding the Austin area operations for Boring Co. and SpaceX, and has moved his personal foundation to the city's downtown. For all his boosterism, even Musk recognizes the potential hazards of the influx he's helping spark. In a tweet on April 4, he called out the "urgent need to build more housing in greater Austin area!" The region is facing the same boomtown dynamics that have plagued San Francisco for decades.... "There is a fairly broad-based concern that some of the things that aren't working in other areas are going to be brought here," says Dax Williamson, a managing director for Silicon Valley Bank who leads its technology banking practice for Central Texas. "If we price out the musicians we're going to find ourselves in a bad place." In a sign that may already be happening, Tesla recently selected a warehouse in southern Austin that served as music rehearsal space, with plans to transform it into a $2.5 million Tesla showroom this summer. Hating California is a tradition in Texas, but Austin's growing pains aren't all California's fault. According to the Austin Chamber, more than half of newcomers from 2014 to 2018 came from other parts of the state, followed by just 8% from California and 3% from New York... Still, out-of-state arrivals from affluent cities tend to be richer than average existing residents and, as a consequence, have a greater impact on the local economy. "Probably 5 out of 10 of my clients are Californians, and others could say the same thing," says Susan Horton, president of the Austin Board of Realtors. "The majority are all tech people, and the last wave were all coming to work at Tesla."

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Ask Slashdot: What's Your Worst Damaged Hardware Horror Story£

"Everyone has that story," writes Slashdot reader alaskana98: You know, the one where you spilled a Big Gulp-sized cup of sugary Coke all over your laptop and it somehow still works to this day — although the space bar is permanently glued in place. Or that time you left your iPhone out in a pouring thunderstorm, stuck it in a bag of rice and after a few days it miraculously turned back on. Yes, we've all been there, maybe cried a little and then went on with life — a little wiser for the wear. So, fellow Slashdotters, what's your worst tale of hardware horrors£ The original submission has already drawn some interesting tales from long-time Slashdot readers, including two thunderstorm hardware horror stories. And there's also the user who remembers how "In the mid 1980s I blew up a $75,000 laser by not turning the cooling water on before firing it up." But what's your story£ Share your own tale in the comments. What's your worst damaged hardware horror story£

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'Why We're Freaking Out About Substack'

The New York Times explores whether Substack is just a company that makes it easy to charge for newsletters — or a new direct-to-consumer media that's part of a larger cultural shift£ This new ability of individuals to make a living directly from their audiences isn't just transforming journalism. It's also been the case for adult performers on OnlyFans, musicians on Patreon, B-list celebrities on Cameo. In Hollywood, too, power has migrated toward talent, whether it's marquee showrunners or actors. This power shift is a major headache for big institutions, from The New York Times to record labels. And Silicon Valley investors, eager to disrupt and angry at their portrayal in big media, have been gleefully backing it. Substack embodies this cultural shift, but it's riding the wave, not creating it... A New York Times opinion writer, Charlie Warzel, is departing to start a publication on Substack called Galaxy Brain... The Times wouldn't comment on his move, but is among the media companies trying to develop its own answer to Substack and recently brought the columnist Paul Krugman's free Substack newsletter to the Times platform... [T]he biggest threat to Substack is unlikely to be the Twitter-centric political battles among some of its writers. The real threat is competing platforms with a different model. The most technically powerful of those is probably Ghost, which allows writers to send and charge for newsletters, with monthly fees starting at $9. While Substack is backed by the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Ghost has Wikipedia vibes: It is open-source software developed by a nonprofit... And it's easy to leave. Unlike on Facebook or Twitter, Substack writers can simply take their email lists and direct connections to their readers with them. Substack's model of taking 10 percent of its writers' subscriptions is "too greedy of a slice to take of anyone's business with very little in return," said Ghost's founder and chief executive, John O'Nolan, a tattooed, nomadic Irishman who is bivouacked in Hollywood, Fla. He said he believed subscription newsletter publishing was "destined to be commoditized." But Ghost represents an even purer departure from legacy media. More than half of the sites on the platform simply run the software off their own servers. "The technology is designed to be decentralized, and there's no one institution or one corporation that can decide what is OK," he said. The article also notes that Twitter recently bought the newsletter platform Revue, while Facebook "is developing ambitious plans for a rival that will provide a platform for local journalists, among other writers." And in a section on indie spirit, it adds as an aside that Bustle Digital Group "confirmed to me that it's reviving the legendary blog Gawker under a former Gawker writer, Leah Finnegan."

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How One Man Lost $20 Billion In Two Days

This week Bloomberg profiled "one of the most spectacular failures in modern financial history: No individual has lost so much money so quickly." Meet Bill Hwang, founder of Archegos Capital Management: Starting in 2013, he parlayed more than $200 million left over from his shuttered hedge fund into a mind-boggling fortune by betting on stocks. Had he folded his hand in early March and cashed in, Hwang, 57, would have stood out among the world's billionaires... At its peak, Hwang's wealth briefly eclipsed $30 billion... Hwang used swaps, a type of derivative that gives an investor exposure to the gains or losses in an underlying asset without owning it directly. This concealed both his identity and the size of his positions. Even the firms that financed his investments couldn't see the big picture. That's why on Friday, March 26, when investors around the world learned that a company called Archegos had defaulted on loans used to build a staggering $100 billion portfolio, the first question was, "Who on earth is Bill Hwang£" Because he was using borrowed money and levering up his bets fivefold, Hwang's collapse left a trail of destruction. Banks dumped his holdings, savaging stock prices. Credit Suisse Group AG, one of Hwang's lenders, lost $4.7 billion; several top executives, including the head of investment banking, have been forced out. Nomura Holdings Inc. faces a loss of about $2 billion... On March 25, when Hwang's financiers were finally able to compare notes, it became clear that his trading strategy was strikingly simple. Archegos appears to have plowed most of the money it borrowed into a handful of stocks — ViacomCBS, GSX Techedu, and Shopify among them. This was no arbitrage on collateralized bundles of obscure financial contracts. Hwang invested the Tiger way, using deep fundamental analysis to find promising stocks, and he built a highly concentrated portfolio. The denizens of Reddit's WallStreetBets day trading on Robinhood can do almost the same thing, riding such popular themes as cord cutting, virtual education, and online shopping. Only no brokerage will extend them anywhere near the amount of leverage billionaires get... People familiar with Archegos say the firm steadily ramped up its leverage. Initially that meant about "2x," or $1 million borrowed for every $1 million of capital. By late March the leverage was 5x or more. Raising money to invest in streaming made sense. Or so it seemed in the ViacomCBS C-suite. Instead, the stock tanked 9% on Tuesday and 23% on Wednesday. Hwang's bets suddenly went haywire, jeopardizing his swap agreements... Hwang, say people with swaps experience, likely had borrowed roughly $85 million for every $20 million, investing $100 and setting aside $5 to post margin as needed. But the massive portfolio had cratered so quickly that its losses blew through that small buffer as well as his capital. "The best thing anyone can say about the Archegos collapse is that it didn't spark a market meltdown," the article concludes. "The worst thing is that it was an entirely preventable disaster made possible by Hwang's lenders..." "Regulators are to blame, too. As Congress was told at hearings following the GameStop Corp. debacle in January, there's not enough transparency in the stock market."

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Google Accused of Secret Program Giving Them an Unfair Advantage in Ad-Buying

Google "has utilized a secret program to track bids on its ad-buying platform," writes the New York Post, "and has been accused of using the information to gain an unfair market advantage that raked in hundreds of millions of dollars annually, according to a report." The initiative — dubbed "Project Bernanke" in an apparent reference to former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke — was detailed in court filings in an ongoing Texas-led antitrust suit, which were initially uploaded to an online docket with incomplete redactions, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday... Lawyers for the Lone Star State argue, however, that the program was tantamount to insider trading, particularly when combined with Google's complicated, multi-layered role in the online advertising marketplace. The company operates simultaneously as the operator of a major ad exchange, a representative of both buyers and sellers on the exchange — and a buyer in its own right, according to the suit. By using Project Bernanke's inside information on what other ad buyers were willing to pay for space, Google could tailor its operations to beat out rivals and bid the bare minimum to secure ad inventory, the state reportedly alleges... Separately, the filings reveal more details about Jedi Blue — an alleged hush-hush deal in which Google allegedly guaranteed that Facebook would win a fixed percentage of advertising deals in which the social media giant bid... Google also admitted that the deal required Facebook to spend $500 million or more in Google's Ad Manager or AdMob bids in the pact's fourth year, and that Facebook agreed to make efforts to win 10 percent of the auctions in which it competed, the WSJ said. The arrangement appeared "to allow Facebook to bid and win more often in auctions," lawyers for Texas alleged in their filings.

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US Prosecutor Urges Crack Down on 'the Scourge of Online Scams'

Last month America's Federal Bureau of Investigation released its annual report on internet crime, which a former federal prosecutor bemoans as "another record year." The bureau received 791,790 complaints of "internet-enabled crime" in 2020 (a 69 percent increase over the prior year), representing over $4.1 billion in reported losses (a 20 percent increase). These complaints included a wide array of crimes, such as phishing, spoofing, extortion, data breaches, and identity theft. Collectively, they represent further evidence of the Justice Department's long-running failure to effectively pursue internet fraud. Since the start of the pandemic, the scope and frequency of this criminal activity has become noticeably worse. Online fraudsters have stolen government relief checks, sold fake test kits and vaccines, and exploited the altruistic impulses of the American public through fake charities. But the broader failure has wreaked incalculable harm on the American public for years, including those in our most vulnerable and less tech-savvy populations, like senior citizens. The FBI's most recent report makes it clear that the government needs to dramatically step up and rethink its approach to combating internet-based fraud — including how it tracks this problem, as well as how it can punish and deter these crimes more effectively going forward... One major reason that internet fraud remains such a persistent and vexing problem is that the Justice Department has never made it a real priority — in part because these kinds of cases are not particularly attractive to prosecutors. Victim losses on an individual basis tend to be relatively small and widely dispersed. A substantial amount of this crime also originates abroad, and it can be hard and bureaucratically cumbersome to obtain evidence from foreign governments — particularly from countries where these scams comprise a large, de facto industry that employs many people. It is also far more challenging to find and secure cooperating insider witnesses when the perpetrators are beyond our borders. And even under the best of circumstances, the large body of documentary evidence that fraud cases involve can be exceedingly difficult to gather and review. If you manage to overcome all of those obstacles, you may still end up having to deal with years of extradition-related litigation before anyone ever sees the inside of a courtroom. Making matters worse, much of the press does not treat these cases as particularly newsworthy — itself a symptom of how routine internet fraud has become — and prosecutors like being in the press... [T]ime is not on our side. This is a problem that will continue to metastasize — including in new and unpredictable ways — unless and until the federal government dramatically steps up its enforcement efforts.

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