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Action Launcher ditches the 3, adds a new logo and frees up previously paid features

Action Launcher is back, baby!

One of our (and your) favorite home screen launchers is getting itself a major update today. Action Launcher 3 is retaking the classic Action Launcher name with this update, and with the name change comes an icon change as Action Launcher ditches the Quickdrawer-reminiscent icon for a modernized, minimal AL logo.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.


Action Launcher has made the Pixel Launcher look and feel the default for the free version of the launcher. This means that a lot of the Pixel Launcher features that used to be hidden behind the paywall are now free to all users. Smartsizing icons is also turned on by default as it finally exits beta. There’s also a new icon system and gesture system guiding Shutters, Covers, and App Shortcuts, standardizing what swipes and long-presses do, allowing users to better use both features with the same apps.

Android O can’t come fast enough to many of us, and Action Launcher wants to scratch that itch with an Easter egg they’ve extracted from the Android O version of the Clock app: both the app icon for the Clock and its analog clock widget reflect the current time down to the second, with a smooth sweeping second-hand.

You can read the full changelog here while you wait for the update to roll out to your device.


Rockstar Games, Take Two seem to back off of PC game modders

Earlier this month, Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two angered the PC gaming community after sending a cease and desist letter to the developers of the OpenIV modding tool. OpenIV allowed people to create modifications for GTA IV and GTA V single player, but according to its creators, the letter said their tool could “allow third parties to defeat security features of its software and modify that software in violation Take-Two’s rights.” Facing the threat of legal action, they announced on June 14th that they would stop distributing OpenIV.

Now, after revolt by players including a campaign of bad ratings for the GTA games on Steam and a petition with over 77,000 signatures, Rockstar Games may have worked out a solution. A post on its support forum today said that Take Two has agreed that it will “generally” not take legal action against third party projects as long as they meet certain guidelines.

After discussions with Take-Two, Take-Two has agreed that it generally will not take legal action against third-party projects involving Rockstar’s PC games that are single-player, non-commercial, and respect the intellectual property (IP) rights of third parties. This does not apply to (i) multiplayer or online services; (ii) tools, files, libraries, or functions that could be used to impact multiplayer or online services, or (iii) use or importation of other IP (including other Rockstar IP) in the project.

While it went out of its way to say that this is not a waiver, and “is not a license, and it does not constitute endorsement, approval, or authorization,” it may be enough for modders to breathe easy. Rockstar representatives have told PC Gamer and Motherboard that it is in contact with the makers of OpenIV, apparently to try to prevent people from using it to affect the GTA Online multiplayer. There’s no word from the team yet, but today the tool received an updated build.

Source: Rockstar Games Support, OpenIV


Sharp will reportedly start building OLED TV panels next year

Now that Sharp is under new ownership by Foxconn, it may have big plans for a return to TV prominence. In a move that could explain a sudden push to recover the use of its name from Hisense, the Japanese company apparently has a plan to add OLED TV production lines at one of its plants next year. The Japan Times reports that at a cost of 57.4 billion yen ($515 million US), it could have production operation at two plants in the spring of 2018. While one would work on small and medium screens for phones (like, maybe a new iPhone?) and laptops, the other would focus on TVs, where LG dominates the segment, producing OLED panels for its own TVs as well as other brands.

Via: HD Guru

Source: Japan Times


Unicode 10.0, with gender-inclusive and 53 other new emojis, arrives

Why it matters to you

Like anyone who knows how to use a cell phone, we all use emojis and we received 56 more options to express ourselves without text.

Update: Added the official release of Unicode 10.0.

The Unicode Consortium announced the official release of Unicode 10.0 which means you’re that much closer to having 56 more ways to express yourself. The list of new emojis — released in March — will be included in major updates for Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Google

The variety of emojis includes several representations of diversity, along with a woman breastfeeding a baby, a woman wearing a hijab, a “gender-inclusive” child, adult, and older adult. For any fantasy fans out there, you’ll be happy to know the list also comes complete with a fairy, mage, vampire, mermaid, and elf.

When it comes to choosing which new emojis actually make the list, the consortium takes proposals and these additions are based on recommendations from the public over the past year. Other additions to the release of new emojis include a flying saucer, a T-rex, a sandwich, broccoli, and a pair of socks. And thanks to the efforts of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the new update does include a fortune cookie and dumpling emoji.

Google revealed the new emoji support in the first beta of Android O which has been redesigned to no longer look like strange “blobs.” They now look far more realistic and similar to the design you would see on iOS. As far as Apple goes with updates, users will most likely see the new emojis in the next major iOS release.

The use of emojis has grown immensely popular and migrated from texting to apps like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. The Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit responsible for developing, maintaining, and promoting software internationalization standards and data, has responded with its common practice of releasing new emojis that better represent society, our online language, and offer further inclusivity.

While most might think the word “emoji” derives from “emotion,” any similarity to the English word is purely coincidental, as the word has its roots in the Japanese language. Originally meaning pictograph, the Japanese “e” means picture, and “moji” means character, together literally meaning “picture character.”


Report: Obama authorized a secret cyber operation against Russia

President Barack Obama learned of Russia’s attempts to hack US election systems in early August 2016, and as intelligence mounted over the following months, the White House deployed secrecy protocols it hadn’t used since the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, according to a report by The Washington Post. Apparently, one of the covert programs Obama, the CIA, NSA and other intelligence groups eventually put together was a new kind of cyber operation that places remotely triggered “implants” in critical Russian networks, ready for the US to deploy in the event of a pre-emptive attack. The downed Russian networks “would cause them pain and discomfort,” a former US official told The Post.

The report says CIA director John Brennan, Obama and other officials had at least four “blunt” conversations with Russian officials about its cyber intrusions beginning August 4th. Obama confronted Vladimir Putin in person during a meeting of world leaders in China this past September, the report says, and his administration even sent Russia a warning through a secure channel originally designed to help the two countries avoid a nuclear strike. Moscow apparently responded one week later — after the US election — denying the accusation.

Trump’s win on November 8th came as a shock to the White House, The Post reports, and the investigation into Russia’s hacking campaign stalled until December.

That’s when Obama ordered a comprehensive review of Russia’s influence on US election systems, dating back to 2008. Later that month, he took a firm stance against Russia during a press conference, saying, “The Russians can’t change us or significantly weaken us. They are a smaller country. They are a weaker country. Their economy doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy, except oil and gas and arms.”

At this point, the investigation was picking up steam and uncovering a broader tapestry of Russian election meddling than the intelligence community originally realized, The Post writes. On December 29th, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia, ejected 35 Russian intelligence officials from the US and shut down two American compounds used by Russian intelligence authorities. The FBI compiled the list of officials to kick out of the country, and it had long lobbied to close those two US-based compounds, according to the report.

Even then, people involved in designing the sanctions told The Post they weren’t meant to be particularly punitive — they were more of a symbolic attack on Russia’s intelligence infrastructure.

Around this time, Obama authorized a secret cyber operation under the NSA, CIA and US Cyber Command, The Post says. The program reportedly involves NSA-designed “implants” hidden in important Russian networks: These implants can be remotely triggered to disrupt crucial Russian systems, ostensibly as a response to a pre-emptive cyber attack, the report says.

This wouldn’t be the US’ first brush with covert hacking operations: Stuxnet, the bug that took down portions of Iran’s nuclear ecosystem in 2009, is probably the most famous example.

The Post says Obama didn’t have enough time in office to see the secret program through, as it would take months just to position the implants. With his signature, though, security officials were cleared to implement such an operation and would only have to stop if Trump issued a direct order — which he hasn’t done, authorities told The Post.

Source: The Washington Post


‘Titanfall 2’ DLC adds another weapon slot and new maps on June 27th

It might be hard to top Titanfall 2’s last DLC release that dropped the first new playable titan since the game launched. But the mech-filled multiplayer shooter’s next free content block will add something back that fans have been wanting for months: Another weapon slot allowing players to carry both anti-titan weaponry and a sidearm in addition to their main gun.

Fans of the original game will smugly note that studio Respawn is returning to the three-slot setup from the first Titanfall, which they reduced to two in the transition to the sequel. But the War Games DLC has another throwback: The titular map returns from the original game, a TRON-esque simulated battlezone with plenty of elevated panels and surfaces to wallrun around. There’s also the new map Traffic for the intense small-area pilots-only Life Fire mode, a new pilot execution and an undefined new mode, Free Agent. (The only hint for the latter comes from Redditor Varixai, who plucked out this description from the game’s code: “You’re running solo. Kill enemies and collect 3 batteries for a Titanfall.”)

War Games is available to download on June 27th, and the other five DLC packs Respawn has released for the game, is completely free.

Via: Polygon

Source: Respawn


Don ‘Justice League’ masks using augmented reality effects inside Facebook

Why it matters to you

DC Comics fans can become any of the five Justice League characters using augmented reality.

Ever want to be Batman, or maybe Wonder Woman or a cyborg? Now, Facebook Camera’s augmented reality program makes it happen with the launch of five new masks by Warner Brothers for its new film, Justice League.

With the new masks, users can use the front-facing camera to turn into Aquaman, Batman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Wonder Woman. The camera will automatically detect any faces inside the image, then apply that character’s mask in the live camera view. Facebook Camera’s usual slew of controls allows users to take a photo inside the mask.


But, the facial recognition technology takes it even further — the program can recognize a raised eyebrow, which triggers more special effects designed to reflect that character’s superpowers. For example, wiggle your eyebrows while wearing the Wonder Woman mask and see her shield at work.

Warner Brothers is the first studio that worked with Facebook to develop effects inside the social media app’s integrated camera and augmented reality.  The production company used some of the same computer-generated assets from the movie, Facebook said, allowing for the highest possible quality.

The effects are accessible by swiping to the right in the Facebook app to access the camera. Tapping on the magic wand opens up the different masks and special effects — the new Justice League masks are designated with JL icons and accessible inside the starred favorites menu as well as under the theatrical mask icon.

Facebook’s Camera Effects Platform launched earlier in 2017, allowing artists and developers — and now Hollywood — to develop their own effects. The AR Studio uses object recognition and facial recognition technology to add art to the camera’s live feed. The feature was launched alongside a Frame Studio that allows for custom digital photo frames. Images captured from the AR mode can be directly shared on Facebook or saved to the camera roll.

AR Studio is still in a closed beta version that only allows approved developers access to the code in order to design their own effects. While Justice League, in theaters November 17, is the first major motion picture to contribute to the effects, Facebook suggests that the superhero masks are just the beginning for the new AR features.


Salivate over these beautiful screenshots of Destiny 2 running at 4K on a PC

While the gaming community may go back and forth on the merits of computer versus console gaming, the PC side always has high fidelity graphics on its side, in ways even the Xbox One X can’t reproduce. That’s particularly true with Bungie’s upcoming shooter Destiny 2, which is finally making its way to PC, complete with 4K, unlocked frame rates, 21:9 support, and all the other bells and whistles keyboard and mouse enthusiasts are used to seeing.

We got a chance to play Destiny 2 in 4K at 60 frames per second on systems powered by the GTX 1080 Ti. Even better, Nvidia took a full resolution capture of our gameplay session — the first campaign mission of the game — which players will dive into as they start it up for the first time.

If their system can keep up, they’ll be greeted with a gorgeous, highly-stylized game. As you can see from our session, it was raining in the tower, leaving water droplets on the player’s mask and weaponry, adding a glossy reflection to the last city and Earth’s ultra-modern architecture.

In addition to environmental elements, the game has its own filter that looks even more spectacular on the PC. Even the original Destiny didn’t strive for photo-realism, instead taking a more painted-over approach, and Destiny 2 leans even further into that realm. Colors have a vibrant pop to them, especially as we reach some areas of the tower that were previously inaccessible in the first game. Warm light from the neon signs bounces pleasantly off the water and windows, even as legionnaires swarm the area with massive weaponry.

Destiny’s aesthetic style and the harsh reality of the game’s world provides juxtaposed backdrops that helps remind the player of the humanity of this struggle. An overwhelming force threatens the light that powers the player and brings them back, and without it, Destiny 2 is sure to feel like a very different game than its predecessor.

Bungie’s hotly-anticipated sequel lands on Xbox One and Playstation 4 on September 6th, 2017, with the PC version releasing later, on October 24, according to the Blizzard Launcher, where PC gamers can already pre-order.


Neuroscientists figure out how to wipe individual memories from the brain — of a snail

Why it matters to you

Research on selectively wiping snails’ memories could make it possible to develop drugs that can delete traumatic memories, without negatively impacting memories of other past events.

“It’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but with snails” sounds like a desperate Friday afternoon pitch meeting at Pixar, where everyone’s a bit tired and just wants to get home for the weekend.

In fact, it describes actual work being carried out by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and Montreal’s McGill University.

For those who haven’t seen it, Eternal Sunshine tells the story of an estranged couple who use mind-wiping technology to have their memories of one another erased after they’ve broken up. Similarly — albeit without the relationship part — Columbia and McGill researchers have figured out how to selectively wipe some memories belonging to a certain type of marine snail, while leaving others intact.

They believe the research could make it possible to one day develop drugs that can “delete” certain traumatic memories without negatively impacting memories of other past events.

To carry out their targeted memory erasure, the researchers blocked certain molecules associated with an enzyme called Protein Kinase M (PKM), which is a crucial part of retaining long-term memories. Their work is described in a paper published in the journal Current Biology.

While it’s so far only been demonstrated on snails, they believe the work represents a valuable insight into the way that memories are laid down, and that its findings could be extrapolated to humans as well. That’s in part due to the fact that the PKM-protecting protein KIBRA is expressed in humans, and that mutations of this gene have been shown to result in intellectual disability.

“What makes the results reported in the paper promising is that the molecules we examined are expressed in mouse and man, and have been found to participate in long-term memory and long-term synaptic plasticity,” Samuel Schacher, a professor of neuroscience in the department of psychiatry at Columbia, told Digital Trends. “Homologous forms of the PKMs, and KIBRA in particular, are expressed in man. In elderly people with Alzheimer’s and old-age forms of dementia, the expression of KIBRA is compromised. This provides additional impetus to explore the panoply of different molecules contributing to the maintenance of different forms of synaptic plasticity and memory. Once the catalog of molecules is available, the design of specific drugs to affect the function of specific molecules can be examined in more ‘advanced’ animal models, and hopefully designed for use in humans.”

Proper regulation to ensure such drugs aren’t abused could make the results another smart tool in the arsenal to help improve life for people suffering from anxieties from traumatic memories. Even more traumatic — if you can believe such a thing exists — than breaking up with Jim Carrey or a blue-haired Kate Winslet.


OneWeb’s satellite network approved to bring the internet to isolated spots

Why it matters to you

Remote areas will soon be able to gain relatively faster internet access with cable-like latency.

Extending internet access to remote regions of the planet can be difficult and costly, particularly when considering laying down cable and fiber. Wireless connectivity can make a great deal of sense, but not all areas are served by cellular carriers.

Using satellites can provide another solution that can reach virtually any area without the need for expensive terrestrial physical infrastructure, but the usual satellites are so far up that latency becomes an issue. Now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a plan by OneWeb to put satellites closer than ever to the Earth’s surface, which will result in much faster communications, Ars Technica reports.

Normally, the satellites used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide broadband connectivity orbit the planet at about 35,400 kilometers. That is a fair distance away and because the signals travel at a fast but nevertheless fixed rate of speed — specifically, at the speed of light — there is pesky lag. The latency between when, say, a request for a web page leaves a user’s browser, travels to the satellite, back down to the Earth-based site, and then all the way back to the user’s PC is 600ms or greater.

OneWeb’s non-geostationary satellites, however, will be much closer to Earth, at a distance of about 1,200km. The signals, therefore, have significantly less latency, coming in at around 30ms. That is only a bit slower than the typical ground-based internet connection. And, OneWeb’s technology would provide about 50 Mbps of bandwidth, not as high as today’s gigabit connections but still quite usable.

Now that the FCC has approved OneWeb’s plan, the rollout will begin as soon as early 2018. Airbus has been tapped to build the satellites, which will total 720 low-Earth orbit models that will reach areas across the U.S., including areas in Alaska that have never been able to receive broadband connectivity in the past.

OneWeb is not alone in its goals of building out such a satellite network. SpaceX is an example of a company that also plans to attack the issue of providing high-speed internet connectivity to hard-to-reach locations. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is all for such networks, saying:

“We hope to approve many more constellations because we know that the more companies compete, the more consumers win. Additionally, the commission also has an ongoing rulemaking proceeding proposing to update the current NGSO Fixed Satellite Service rules to better accommodate this next generation of systems.”

That means that the FCC will be happy to approve the new technology, but it will also be keeping everyone’s interests in mind as it does so. In any event, the days of living too remotely to enjoy your internet fix might be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

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