Technology

Did a Timer Error Change the Outcome of a Division I College Basketball Game? 63

New submitter javakah writes: Controversy has erupted from the February 10th basketball game between Boise State and Colorado State, and speculation is that a timer may have made an incorrect assumption about the number of frames per second the game was recorded in, and ultimately lead to an erroneous result. With the game tied in overtime, Boise State had the ball out-of-bounds with 0.8 seconds left on the game clock. The ball was thrown in-bounds, the shot went in, and the game clock showed that the Boise State player got the shot off with 0.4 seconds left. However there was a problem: the game clock did not start until a fraction of a second after the in-bounds player touched the ball. Referees decided to use video replay to examine whether the player had gotten the shot off within 0.8 seconds or not. To do this, they used a timer embedded in the video replay system. This embedded timer indicated that 1.3 seconds had passed between the time that the in-bounds player touched the ball and when he got the shot off. (Read more, below.)
Windows

Internet Archive Brings Classic Windows 3.1 Apps To Your Browser (google.com) 62

The Internet Archive has made it possible for you to make a virtual visit to the wide, wide world of Windows 3.1 games (and other apps, too), via a collection of virtualized images. Jason Scott is the game collector and digital archivist behind the online museum of malware mentioned here a few days ago. "Now," Ars Technica reports, "Scott and his crew have done it again with the Windows 3.X Showcase, made up of a whopping 1,523 downloads (and counting), all running in a surprisingly robust, browser-based JavaScript emulation of Windows 3.1. You'll recognize offerings like WinRisk and SkiFree, but the vast majority of the collection sticks to a particularly wild world of Windows shareware history, one in which burgeoning developers seemed to throw everything imaginable against 3.1's GUI wall to see what stuck." Says the article: A volunteer "really did the hard work" of getting the Windows files required for each DOSBOX instance down to 1.8 MB, and in the process came up with a more centralized version of those files on his server's side, as opposed to kinds that would require optimizations for every single emulated app.
Android

Report: Google Will Go In Big For VR Hardware This Year 51

The Financial Times reports that Google isn't going to let the VR hardware wars fall to the likes of Samsung and Oculus; instead, it's working on a (cardboard-free) VR headset of its own, to be released in conjunction with Android VR software intended not only to make Android more VR friendly in general but specifically to help developers reduce nausea-inducing lag. The report doesn't quite come out of the blue, considering that Google has shipped more than 5 million of its own Cardboard viewer already, and has several projects dealing with VR infrastructure, either directly (like Jump) or indrectly (like Project Tango). Google (or Alphabet) has proven itself a hardware behemoth, not just the "search giant" it's so often called in news stories, and of late seems to be more interested in making its footprint in hardware a bit firmer.
Displays

Unreal Engine Will Soon Allow Developers To Build Games Inside of VR (roadtovr.com) 37

An anonymous reader writes: Epic Games, the creators of Unreal Engine, has been a longstanding supporter of VR. They were on board way back when Oculus sparked the VR industry in 2012 with a Kickstarter that would snowball into a rekindling of consumer virtual reality. Having been one of the first major game engines to support VR headsets like the Rift, the company has been aggressively positioning Unreal Engine as the go-to tool for VR developers. Now they're taking a massive next step, showing the first look at bringing developers themselves inside of virtual reality to craft games with the full set of UE4 tools at their fingertips. That means that developers can place and manipulate objects from right within a world in progress; the video demo in the linked story is impressive.
Botnet

Online Museum Displays Decades of Malware (thestack.com) 39

An anonymous reader writes: archive.org has launched a Museum of Malware, which devotes itself to a historical look at DOS-based viruses of the 1980s and 1990s, and gives viewers the opportunity to run the viruses in a DOS game emulator, and to download 'neutered' versions of the code. With an estimated 50,000 DOS-based viruses in existence by the year 2000, the Malware Museum's 65 examples should be seen as representative of an annoying, but more innocent era of digital vandalism.
Books

Amazon's Thin Helvetica Syndrome: Font Anorexia vs. Kindle Readability (teleread.com) 156

David Rothman writes: The Thin Helvetica Syndrome arises from the latest Kindle upgrade and has made e-books less readable for some. In the past, e-book-lovers who needed more perceived-contrast between text and background could find at least partial relief in Helvetica because the font was heavy by Kindle standards. But now some users complain that the 5.7.2 upgrade actually made Helvetica thinner. Of course, the real cure would be an all-text bold option for people who need it, or even a way to adjust font weight, a feature of Kobo devices. But Amazon stubbornly keeps ignoring user pleas even though the cost of adding either feature would be minimal. Isn't this supposed to be a customer-centric company?
Displays

Drone Races To Be Broadcast To VR Headsets (thenewstack.io) 30

An anonymous reader writes: You just plug in the HDMI feed, and you're in the cockpit of the drone," the CEO of the new Drone Racing League tells Wired. "Everyone from Oculus on is expecting to have VR headsets in every home for entertainment consumption, and we're a natural use for it." In anticipation of a new mass entertainment, the Drone Racing League released new footage Thursday highlighting one of their complicated competition courses, "a concrete steampunk torture chamber with cast-iron columns and massive hulking turbines from another era" described as The Gates of Hell. "[T]hese young drone pilots are not just enjoying themselves, but also inventing a new sport," reports one technology site, asking whether we'll ultimately see "drone parks" or even drone demolition derbies and flying robot wars. In an article titled "When Video Games Get Real," they quote one pilot who says it feels like skateboarding in the 1990's, "with a small group of people pushing the envelope and inventing every day" — this time wearing virtual reality googles to experience the addictive thrill of flying.
Displays

Google May Be Developing Consumer Virtual Reality Hardware (roadtovr.com) 27

An anonymous reader writes: Google's 'Cardboard' virtual reality initiative has put low-cost smartphone VR viewers in the hands of millions, but the experience provided by these simple phone holders doesn't compare with dedicated mobile VR hardware like Samsung's Gear VR. Now it seems that Google may be ready to move from Cardboard viewers to dedicated VR hardware. Four new full-time job listings at the company's Mountain View, CA headquarters seek candidates for the company's virtual reality group who are experienced with designing and manufacturing 'high-volume' consumer electronics devices. Road to VR suggests that Google could be creating a mobile VR headset under its flagship Nexus brand. The postings come just as the company's Clay Bavor dropped other responsibilities to fully dedicate his time as Google's VP of Virtual Reality.
Displays

Intel Compute Stick Updated With Cherry Trail Atom, Tested (hothardware.com) 90

MojoKid writes: The original Intel Compute Stick wasn't without issues. Last year's model featured dated 802.11n wireless connectivity and had only a single USB port, which meant using a hub and/or dongles, should you want to connect multiple peripherals to the device or boost its wireless capabilities. The new updated Intel Compute Stick, however, features Intel's newer Cherry Trail Atom platform, with 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi, and USB 3.0. There's still just 2GB of RAM in the device, along with 32GB of storage, but Windows 10 Home also now comes pre-installed. The result is a fully functional PC that won't burn up any benchmarks but offers utility for mainstream computing tasks and is even capable of streaming up to 4K video content. The little device can essentially turn any HDMI-equipped display into a basic PC.
Microsoft

Microsoft Leaks New HoloLens Details (mashable.com) 71

New submitter moriarty1972 writes: More details about Microsoft's HoloLens have come out. The device will offer roughly five to five and a half hours of battery life when working on Word documents or email, and about two and a half hours when using it for highly intensive computational work involving detailed renderings. Mashable reports: "Microsoft's augmented reality headset called the HoloLens has already won over a number of fans eager to try the device, but details about how it works have been scarce However, a few more bits of information about the HoloLens leaked during a recent event in Tel Aviv, Israel, courtesy of Bruce Harris, a technical evangelist at Microsoft."
Transportation

Inside Google's Self-Driving Car Test Center (medium.com) 43

An anonymous reader writes: Steven Levy reports on his trip to the facility where Google tests is autonomous vehicles (here's a map). The company apparently has a four-week program to certify people to not-drive these cars, and they gave Levy an abbreviated version of it. "The most valuable tool the test team has for making sure things are running smoothly is the laptop on the co-driver's lap. Using an interface called x_view, the laptop shows the world as the car sees it, a wireframe representation of the area that depicts all the objects around the car: pedestrians, trees, road signs, other cars, motorcycles—basically everything picked up by the car's radar and laser sensors.

X_view also shows how the car is planning to deal with conditions, mainly through a series of grid-like "fences" that depict when the car intends to stop, cautiously yield, or proceed past a hazard. It also displays the car's path. If the co-driver sees a discrepancy between x_view and the real world, that's reason to disengage. ... At the end of the shift, the entire log is sent off to an independent triage team, which runs simulations to see what would have happened had the car continued autonomously. In fact, even though Google's cars have autonomously driven more than 1.3 million miles—routinely logging 10,000 to 15,000 more every week—they have been tested many times more in software, where it's possible to model 3 million miles of driving in a single day."

Android

Android Banking Malware SlemBunk Part of Well-Organized Campaign (fireeye.com) 35

itwbennett writes: Researchers from FireEye first documented the SlemBunk Android Trojan that targets mobile banking users in December. Once installed, it starts monitoring the processes running on the device and when it detects that a mobile banking app is launched, it displays a fake user interface on top of it to trick users into inputting their credentials. The Trojan can spoof the user interfaces of apps from at least 31 banks from across the world and two mobile payment service providers. The attack is more complicated than it appears at first glance, because the APK (Android application package) that users first download does not contain any malicious functionality, making it hard for antivirus apps and even Android's built-in app scanner to detect it.
Programming

ESP8266 Basic Interpreter Lowers IoT Entry Bar For Amateur Programmers (esp8266basic.com) 112

New submitter mmiscool writes: ESP8266 Basic is a project less than 6 moths old. It is open source and designed specifically for the internet of things. The ESP8266 microcontroller costs less than $3, and once the basic firmware is loaded to the device a user can connect to it using Wi-Fi and start programming right inside their web browser. No wires, no software or plugins to install. Just a simple text editor. There is now a community, primarily older folks who fell in love with Basic on the Commodore, who are using it for controlling a variety of projects. The code is amazingly simple and includes commands for interfacing with neo pixels, OLED displays, Temperature sensors, hobby servo motors and of course the blinky LED. It also provides commands for browser widgets that can be used to construct interfaces for the device like textboxes, buttons, sliders and dropdowns. The bottom line is that Basic is not dead, and has finally made its way into the internet of things. Make last year ran a three-part series on the chip (here's part one), but things have advanced quite a bit since then, when people were first noticing that the ESP8266 is more powerful than the tasks for which it was first marketed.
Displays

Oculus Rift Pre-orders Begin At $600 (oculus.com) 278

New submitter jerome writes: Pre-orders have just started for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The $600 price tag is higher than most people were expecting — and that doesn't even account for the required upgrade needed to fully enjoy VR apps. "In September of 2014, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey said to expect a $200 to $400 range for the Rift." The device will first begin shipping on March 28th, though the store is already showing an estimate of April for Rifts beyond the initial stock. "The Rift package also doesn't include the relatively powerful Windows PC that will be required to use the device. Oculus recommends a rig with an Nvidia GTX 970 (or equivalent), an Intel i5 processor, and at least 8GB of RAM." In February, they'll start taking pre-orders for a package that does include a full, "Oculus-ready" system for $1500.
The Internet

New York Begins Public Gigabit Wi-Fi Rollout (theverge.com) 107

An anonymous reader writes: Workers in New York City have begun installing the city's first LinkNYC kiosks. The kiosks are free, public Wi-Fi access points, which are taking the spots formerly occupied by phone booths. 500 more of these hubs will be installed by mid-July, and the full network will eventually include over 7,500 of them. "Once completed, the hubs will also include USB device charging ports, touchscreen web browsing, and two 55-inch advertising displays." The displays are expected to bring the city $500 million in revenue over the next 12 years. When the project was announced in 2014, officials said construction would start "next year." They sure cut it close.
Google

Google Glass For Work Is Sleeker, Tougher and Foldable (engadget.com) 71

An anonymous reader writes: FCC filings published today are offering a glimpse of the "Enterprise Edition" of Google Glass. According to Engadget: "...The work-focused eyepiece touts a much slicker (and likely more durable) design with both a larger display prism and a hinge that lets you fold it up for travel. The test photos also reveal a spot for a magnetic battery attachment and what looks to be a speedier Atom processor. There's still no word on when Google will announce this headset, although the FCC presence hints that it might not take long."
China

HTC Wants To Bring Vive VR Headset To 100M+ Chinese Internet Cafe Users (roadtovr.com) 8

An anonymous reader writes: While the Western vision of an internet café includes a shoddy WiFi hotspot and a few old desktops running Windows XP, the Chinese counterpart is more closely related to LAN gaming centers, offering up not only high speed internet access but also high performance gaming systems. In an effort to expose this quite massive population of gamers to virtual reality, HTC announced a partnership with ShunWang Technology, the software provider behind some 70% of China's internet café market. ShunWang plans to roll out arcade-like Vive VR systems to partner internet cafés across China.
Transportation

Software-Defined Vehicles Will Dominate At CES (computerworld.com) 112

Lucas123 writes: Carmakers and their tier 1 parts suppliers at CES in January are expected to launch an unprecedented number of software advances centered around cloud services and over-the-air updates. The number of in-vehicle processors continues to grow, and consumers have come to expect their car to mimic smartphone functionality. As hardware becomes more of a commodity, increasingly cars will be defined by software. There will be about 464 automotive electronics exhibitors at this year's CES — a record number, according to IHS Automotive. Human-machine interface will be a core technology at the show — augmented reality and virtual reality, in the form of gesture recognition and heads up displays, are expected to be among the most cutting-edge features.

Cloud-based speech recognition technology that uses machine learning skills to identify speech patterns more quickly will also be more commonplace. One development the analysts said they're "crossing their fingers" to see at the show is Modular Infotainment Platforms, which allow carmakers to offer the latest electronic systems prior to a model launch. Today, car models are often launched with years-old electronics. Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto are also increasingly undermining the native infotainment system makers' business. Analysts believe all carmakers will eventually offer both APIs in future car models.

Power

Sony Creating Sulfur-Based Batteries With 40% More Capacity Than Li-Ion (hothardware.com) 151

MojoKid writes: Since the original iPhone was released in 2007, we have seen some incredible advances in smartphone processing power along with a wealth of feature improvements like faster Wi-Fi and cellular speeds and larger, higher resolution displays. However, battery technology, for the most part, hasn't kept up. There are a few major battery suppliers but Sony is currently an underdog, commanding just 8 percent of the market for compact lithium-ion batteries. Its three largest competitors — Samsung (SDI), Panasonic and LG Chem — each command around 20 percent of the market. In an effort to change that, Sony is developing a new type of battery chemistry that can boost runtimes by 40 percent compared to lithium-ion batteries of the same volume. Sony's batteries use a sulfur compound instead of lithium compounds for the positive electrodes, reportedly allowing for much great energy density. Sulfur batteries can also supposedly be made 30 percent smaller than traditional lithium-ion cells while maintaining the same run times. The company is now working to ensure that the new battery chemistry is safe enough for commercial use.
Displays

HTC Delays Vive VR Launch Until April 2016 (htc.com) 18

New submitter Will Mason writes: The HTC Vive VR headset, originally planned to launch by the end of this year, has been pushed back until April 2016. HTC plans to unveil a second developer kit for the Vive at CES this year, and they plan to make 7,000 additional units available to developers. Recently, HTC's head of marketing, who said on stage that the product would launch this year, jumped ship for the secretive Magic Leap startup in Florida.

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