Check your favourite sites right now, like Twitter, Spotify, Netflix, or Reddit.
They’re all down, right? That’s because much of the internet is broken due to one massive cyber attack that is affecting systems run by Dyn, one of the largest providers of internet services in the world. The distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack notice was posted on Dyn’s website:
“Starting at 11:10 UTC on October 21th – Friday 2016 we began monitoring and mitigating a DDoS attack against our Dyn Managed DNS infrastructure. Some customers may experience increased DNS query latency and delayed zone propagation during this time.”
Dyn, which provides managed domain name service via its Anycast Network, said on Friday that the DDoS attack has led to popular sites either not loading or being slowed down. The incident appears to be affecting large parts of the internet for Dyn’s customers in the both the US and UK. With DDoS attacks, servers are hit with so many requests that they stop responding.
If you find that you’re still able to get online, or that some devices are able to, your DNS information is probably cached by some networks, which can grant you access even if servers are down. Dyn’s engineers are working to mitigate the issue. It will post an update when it knows more.
“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” — United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart
In 1964, the Supreme Court overturned an obscenity conviction against Nico Jacobellis, a Cleveland theater manager accused of distributing obscene material. The film in question was Louis Malle’s “The Lovers,” starring Jeanne Moreau as a French housewife who, bored with her media-mogul husband and her polo-playing sidepiece, packs up and leaves after a hot night with a younger man. And by “hot,” I mean a lot of artful blocking, heavy breathing and one fleeting nipple — basically, nothing you can’t see on cable TV.
In six simple words, Justice Stewart encapsulated the near-impossible act of creating a single definition of pornography: “I know it when I see it”.
Attitudes toward sex have changed significantly since 1964. Soon after Jacobellis faced the Supreme Court, the United States experienced a sexual revolution followed by the porn boom of the 1970s and, more recently, the advent of the internet. Today, anyone with an internet connection can be knee-deep in creampies and pearl necklaces in a matter of seconds. We’ve come a long way, but one thing remains the same: We’re still nowhere close to a universal definition of pornography or obscenity.
Jean Moreau and Jean-Marc Bory in the not-so-sexy scene from “The Lovers” at the heart of Jacobellis v. Ohio (Image Credit: Getty Images)
But unfettered access to all things smutty, dirty and questionably filthy has created a surge in censorship tools that, in theory, use algorithms and advanced artificial intelligence programs to identify porn and weed it out. Last year, Twitter acquired Madbits, a small AI startup that, according to a Wired report, created a program that accurately identifies NSFW content 99 percent of time and alerts users to its presence. Late last month, Yahoo open-sourced its own deep learning AI porn filter and there are no doubt similar projects underway at other internet companies.
Big players have been sinking big money into cleaning up the internet for decades. The trouble is, censorship is a slippery slope, and obscenity is inherently subjective. If we can’t agree on what constitutes pornography, we can’t effectively teach our computers to “know it when they see it.” No matter the sophistication of the technology or the apparent margin of error, porn filters still depend on humans to teach them what is and isn’t NSFW.
Sometimes a naked child is more than a naked child.
In the early days of the world wide web, US libraries and schools implemented filters based on rudimentary keyword searches in order to remain in compliance with the Child Internet Protection Act. The act attempts, as the name suggests, to protect children from the darker side of the internet, specifically “pictures that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors).”
But that’s not exactly how it played out.
A 2006 report on internet filtering from NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice referred to early keyword filters and their AI successors as “powerful, often irrational, censorship tools.”
“Filters force the complex and infinitely variable phenomenon known as human expression into deceptively simple categories,” the report continued. “They reduce the value and meaning of expression to isolated words and phrases. An inevitable consequence is that they frustrate and restrict research into health, science, politics, the arts, and many other areas.”
The report found that popular filters inexplicably blocked sites belonging to Boing Boing, GLAAD, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and Super Bowl XXX, among others, and often reflected the political and social prejudices of their creators. While Yahoo and Google’s AI-powered filters have replaced keyword searches with sophisticated image recognition, they still rely on humans to teach them what is and isn’t safe for work. And as Facebook recently discovered, images are no less divisive than words.
(Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The social network faced widespread backlash in early September when it took down the photo above for violating its community standards. The Pulitzer Prize-winning image from 1972 shows a naked 9-year-old girl running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Facebook originally took the photo down for violating its community standards, saying, “While we recognize that this photo is iconic, it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.”
But as the New York Times reported, Facebook reinstated the original post after thousands of users posted the photo to their timelines in protest.
“An image of a naked child would normally be presumed to violate our community standards, and in some countries might even qualify as child pornography. In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.”
It’s not clear how the image was flagged, but whether it was a human or AI, or some mix of the two, the bottom line is: Sometimes a naked child is more than a naked child.
Sometimes a man with a bullwhip hanging out of his ass is more than a man with a bullwhip hanging out of his ass.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has been criticized for censoring images that many deem to be “clean.” The social network has repeatedly come under fire for deleting posts containing exposed female breasts in the context of nursing photos and information about mammograms. More recently it learned a lesson about the fine line between pornography and art, when it deleted and later reinstated a video of a black woman who painted her naked body white on Facebook Live to draw attention to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The real world too, is rife with examples of the debate about what is art and what is porn. In 1990, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati and its director were accused and acquitted of obscenity charges for an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography.
It was the first time such charges were brought against a museum in the US, and the photos in questions — depictions of gay S&M — were at the center of a national debate headed by the Republican Party. The prosecution argued that the exhibition, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, constituted pornography while the defense defined it as art. That case proved that sometimes a man with a bullwhip hanging out of his ass is more than a man with a bullwhip hanging out of his ass. It also proved that our access to art, no matter how controversial, isn’t always guaranteed.
Our personal prejudices continue to undermine our access to information and freedom of expression, despite advances in internet filtering. We may never agree on what NSFW really means, but without a universal definition, our machines will simply act as conduits for our own opinions. Not one of us can claim to know it when we see it, and no amount of code can change that.
At the conclusion of the third presidential debate in which Donald Trump failed to show American he has the temperament or knowledge to lead the country, the embattled Republican candidate hissed “such a nasty woman” at his opponent Hillary Clinton. The internet reacted predictably: with outrage and streaming of Janet Jackson’s 30-year-old hit “Nasty.” But Spotify wasn’t the only place that felt a “nasty” effect: Google says that searches for “nasty” have spiked more than 10 times over their normal level since last Thursday.
Furthermore, Google says that “nasty” searches have reached an all-time high on the search engine worldwide. What exactly people were looking for remains unclear; it could have been more people looking for Janet Jackson’s classic track, or it could have been people searching for news article relating to Trump’s comment. Whatever people may be looking for, it seems Trump has given birth to yet another meme that’ll come to define his campaign. In a crazy election cycle, he may have finally had his “binders full of women” moment.
Adventure and role-playing games have always focused on telling stories, and that tradition has permeated into almost every other genre. Whether with linear plots or with branching, adaptive tales, developers are putting story everywhere. And just as the technology powering games is evolving, so too are the narratives within them. One game, however, is pushing forward into entirely new territory: City of the Shroud.
Partially funded by a small-scale Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, City of the Shroud is being developed by Abyssal Arts, a small team strewn across the US and UK, with some assistance from Japan. It’s a hard game to categorize. It’s an RPG, yes, but it blends tactical elements from X-Com, The Banner Saga and Final Fantasy Tactics with a real-time combat system that borrows from classic fighting games.
There are no “turns” in City of the Shroud; instead, combatants all generate action points in real time that can be used whenever you like to either move or strike an opponent. Attacks themselves are performed using an upgradable combo wheel, which is a little like Street Fighter. As in Capcom’s famous series, you use the wheel’s “d-pad” to input commands (down, left, up, etc. …) for special attacks, and you can put them together (if you have enough action points) to pull off combos. There are multiple classes of character, each with their own moves, strengths and weaknesses, to combine however you please. Controlling them at the same time makes for challenging battles.
Between the frantic bouts of combat, the game presents itself much like a visual novel — you’ll converse with the residents of Iskendrun, the titular shrouded city. It’s isolated, and on the brink of civil war, with potential leaders squabbling for control. Something bad is coming, though, and someone in the city knows about it. As the archetypal hero, you’ll have to work out whom you can trust, choose whom to ally yourself with and whom to fight. But you are just one hero, in a city of thousands.
While City of the Shroud‘s world, its inhabitants and the broad plot line have all been devised already, where the story goes will depend on players. Throughout the game, they’ll be making decisions in the visual novel side of the game, aligning with different factions, supporting and betraying whomever they please. After the first chapter, though, those decisions begin to affect the world as a whole. Abyssal Arts is collecting gameplay data from each player, pooling it together and then reshaping the political landscape of Iskendrun around it.
“We wanted to give your decisions consequence, [and] we wanted the choices of the players and what was going on in your game to have consequence for everyone else,” Keaton White, the game’s director, explained. White has AAA experience in the industry, having spent four years in Japan at Capcom as a production manager, working on the Dead Rising series and the upcoming action RPG Deep Down. He’s now based in Brighton, England, where he founded Abyssal Arts. Together with author Moira Katson, whose self-published works have hit the top of Amazon’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy charts three times in three years, and programmer Ryan Becker, White created City of the Shroud.
“We wanted to give your decisions consequence, we wanted the choices of the players and what was going on in your game to have consequence for everyone else.”
Iskendrun can be divided into five factions, and the leaders of each are the main characters driving the story forward. At the start of the first chapter, each player aligns with one of those groups, and begins to uncover the story from that perspective. The decisions they make throughout the game — including, at one point, whether to defect to another faction — will directly influence their experience, as you’d expect, but after the chapter is done is when things will get really interesting.
After an undetermined amount of time — likely around two months — Abyssal Arts will close what’s referred to internally as “the influence period.” The chapter will still be playable, but decisions won’t influence the plot, and the team will begin to pore over the data. They’re playing their cards close to their chest with regard to which decisions will influence the story. “It’s not always going to be obvious that you’re at a feedback point,” explained Katson. “Little choices and comments you make may weaken your leader’s standing with allies or in the city as a whole.” There will be huge decisions to make, and those might be more conspicuous, “but then there will also be smaller decisions that shade the tone of how I write certain events.”
It’s not always going to be obvious that you’re at a feedback point. Little choices and comments you make may weaken your leader’s standing with allies or in the city as a whole.
Of course, Katson already knows the meat of the story. “We know the antagonist, we know the events that are coming down the pipeline,” Katson affirmed. But at the core of the story is a complex political landscape, and the strength and aims of each faction within will dramatically change how the city responds to these events. The city, as it were, is a “living organism,” whose reflexes are attuned to the actions of the players within. “Characters will get pushed to extremes in various ways” depending on what decisions gamers make, Katson continued, and “will end up possibly siding with people that they would’ve gladly have pushed off a cliff before.”
The experience of scripting a game, especially one as unique as City of the Shroud, is a world away from writing a novel. Aside from requiring vast amounts of writing in a very short time, it also requires the writer to let go of the story and allow others to shape it.
Abyssal Arts ran a small beta pilot earlier this year, with a different main character and much shorter chapters than the final game will have. “It was incredible watching that,” Katson explained. “When you’re writing a novel, you have no idea what people are thinking in the middle of it.” Here, though, she was able to see whom people trusted, whom people sided with, just as the story was beginning.
Character art for the “Duelist” class.
The test run allowed the team to tweak the way they introduced characters. One early problem they found was that gamers, perhaps conditioned from a lifetime of simpler, objective-based stories, were all making the same, dull decisions. “Our players are too practical, and sensible,” Katson explained. “We have all of these fun characters, and sure, they’re charming sociopaths, but they are charming, y’know? Players just did not trust them and did not want to ally with them.”
This isn’t a novel, though. If the team feels that people aren’t understanding a character fully, they can change that. Got an inherently untrustworthy character that people blindly trust? Throw some more clues their way. “I would say it’s different writing this, not just because of the medium, but because I have that feedback,” Katson said.
“Feedback” seems to be key here. Or maybe “feedback loop” is more apt. Based on what players do, Katson will continue developing the city, pushing the story forward, only for players to react again and send things in another direction. Throughout it all, one recurring character in the game will talk about the city as a whole whenever you meet him. Every time, he’ll relay the current state of play based on real-time data — which factions are strongest, which are growing in influence and which are shrinking. Small touches like this, it’s hoped, will give a sense of Iskendrun as a living entity.
In addition to creating a real-time experience for gamers, Abyssal Arts needs to make sure the game stays interesting. Each chapter is going to be “alive,” as it were, for only a couple of months or so. The team needs to factor in players coming late to the party, or those who want to replay the game from another faction after the fact. “We don’t want this to just be a compelling story because you’re influencing it,” White said. “We want to make sure the story itself is compelling enough — that you can watch choices ripple through this world. It needs to remain this very multifaceted world.”
City of the Shroud is very, very ambitious — especially as it’s the first game from a small studio. It’ll be released in four chapters (you only pay once; the other chapters will come free) over the course of a year. “We wanted to strike a balance between keeping updates at a regular pace and what we can handle as a team,” said Keaton. That means managing a game release, bugs, balancing and community management all while writing what needs to be a captivating, dynamic story. And that’s without factoring in server management: aside from the story mode, players can face off against each other in online battles, something that’ll require upkeep and tweaking of its own. It’s a gargantuan task.
This project could completely fail. Any title with such lofty aspirations runs that risk. But from a couple of hours playing through an early beta provided by the developers, it’s clear there’s a solid game here already. Battles are exciting, and unlike anything I’ve played through before. The characters are interesting, and the dialog is (unsurprisingly, given the author involved) well written and engaging. It’s not exactly beautiful right now — animation is a little choppy, and the UI is full of placeholders — but that’s to be expected at this point in development.
The first chapter of City of the Shroud should come at some point before the middle of next year. And after that, the real work begins.
By Jon Chase
This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read the full article here.
After researching more than 20 smart hubs—the brains that let all of your smart-home devices work together—and living with a half-dozen of them for a few months while putting them through their paces with an array of smart locks, thermostats, room sensors, switches, lights, and more, we think that the Samsung SmartThings Hub is the best hub for most people who want to buy right now. It’s competitively priced, is compatible with a large number of third-party devices, and supports most of the major wireless protocols relied on by smart devices.
We think it’s important to note, however, that we struggle to fully throw our support behind any one model without substantial reservations. The SmartThings hub is the most evolved among a number of well-rounded products out already. Still, to date, we don’t believe that any one smart hub is an unqualified, home-run purchase that would satisfy most people—our baseline standard.
Who this is for
A smart hub is essential for anyone who wants to use a single centralized app to control their wirelessly connected lights, thermostats, smoke alarms, motion detectors, sound systems, or any other smart-home devices and appliances. A smart hub acts as the middleman in a system, facilitating communications between all your various devices and enabling control of them too. It can also automate your devices so they work with each other without any interaction from you. You can easily set up simple scenarios such as having the system automatically turn on the lights whenever you unlock your front door; a more complex system and a little work can let you set up the hub to use inputs from various sensors and switches and adjust devices in your house accordingly. The DIY hubs we tested for our guide are a fraction of the cost of the top-shelf home-automation systems that are custom-installed by the pros, though to get anywhere near the same level of functionality and polish takes a little effort.
Setting up and using a smart hub requires a functional level of tech know-how, at a minimum the ability to use a smartphone or tablet and apps, as well as familiarity with pairing Bluetooth devices and/or logging your various devices onto your Wi-Fi network. Complicated setups may require a bit of patience, a few hours of perusing online help forums, or a call or two to tech support.
How we picked and tested
Because connected products have so many different competing technologies among them, we searched for hubs that offered compatibility with as many products and standards as reasonably possible, yet remained easy to set up and use. We also nixed hubs that required buying into a very expensive ecosystem to get started or require custom or professional installation. After cutting down our list, we consulted veterans in the field, including representatives from Apple, Nest, Insteon, Lutron, and the Z-Wave Alliance, as well as a number of editorial resources and customer testimonials.
To discover what these hubs are capable of, we pulled together a collection of test smart devices (from several manufacturers) that we think would be desirable for a typical household, including light bulbs, outlet switches, thermostats, door and window sensors, cameras, water sensors, and door locks. Our test regimen for each hub included downloading, installing, and registering an app, connecting the hub to our home network, going through the setup procedure, and then pairing each hub with as many devices as possible among our range of test accessories.
When performing our tests, we paid close attention to how friendly and intuitive the setup process was when setting up the hub and, in particular, when linking devices together to create scenes or macro actions. Compatibility with wireless protocols was a key concern, as well as whether a hub needed to be directly connected to our home router or could be located remotely—a major issue if you have a large home or one with spotty wireless issues. Almost as important as the physical components of a hub is the companion app you use to control it, so we spent most of our time using apps to set up devices, link them together, create scenes, and tweak notifications settings, wherever possible.
Our winner, the Samsung SmartThings Hub. Photo: Jon Chase
The Samsung SmartThings Hub is the most evolved among a number of well-rounded products already on the market. It’s competitively priced, is compatible with a wide range of third-party devices, and supports most of the major smart-home wireless protocols, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave. The companion controller app can be confounding, but within its many submenus and sections is a wealth of capability and, with some planning, the right smart accessories and devices, and patience—lots of patience—you can create a rich home-automation scheme that can hum along without requiring you to monitor it constantly. In the right hands, the SmartThings hub can steer the ship of a comprehensive DIY smart-home setup.
Setting up the SmartThings hub is straightforward, as it was with most of the hubs we tested. The SmartThings companion app, which is required for setting up and controlling the hub, takes a lot more work to understand. Compared with more streamlined app offerings, the SmartThings app is positively full of icons, buttons, submenus, and subsections. Though you could certainly get by using only a fraction of the functions offered, we recommend digging in a bit to get an idea of what SmartThings is capable of—and also why it may be a little too much for some potential users.
The Wink hub supports most of the popular wireless protocols and doesn’t need to be plugged into a router. Photo: Jon Chase
The Wink Hub supports most popular wireless protocols, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Lutron Clear Connect, ZigBee, and Z-Wave Plus. For individual control of a device or even a few, it’s a great bargain, but for automation of several devices we believe the SmartThings hub remains a better option. The Wink does have a few advantages though. You can connect it to your home network via Wi-Fi instead of a cable, allowing you to place the hub anywhere in your home you like, which is especially helpful if reception is an issue. And the ability to pair some devices by scanning a barcode is far easier than the SmartThings hub’s often multistep approach.
In our tests we had no trouble pairing the Wink hub with a few smart locks (in fact, it was our test hub for our smart locks guide), as well as a Connected Cree LED bulb, a Nest thermostat, a Nest Cam, and an Amazon Echo. Controlling any of them and setting up notifications is straightforward via the Wink’s companion app, which is far easier to decode and use than the SmartThings app. One foible though is the method for creating automation schemes, dubbed “robots.” It’s an obtuse system of creating logic schemes for actions that tips the Wink into more-advanced-user territory. We also found that the Wink tended to suffer a greater lag time between when we triggered an action to when it occurred, which is a common complaint.
An updated Wink hub, which the company is calling Wink Hub 2, will launch at the end of October. It does everything the original Wink does, but adds Ethernet, Bluetooth Low Energy (BTE), a faster processor, and support for locally controlled automation routines.
HomeKit, Nest, and Echo
Amazon, Apple, and Google have each staked a claim in the smart home as well. Google snapped up smart-thermostat pioneer Nest a few years ago, and later acquired Dropcam. Despite ending support for Nest’s own hub, the Revolv, Google remains involved in (and hopefully committed to) home products, and maintains a Works with Nest program that provides standards for third-party products to maintain compatibility with the Nest. Apple has its Works with Apple HomeKit program for products that meet hardware and software standards and that will, in theory, interact with other enabled devices as well as Apple devices seamlessly, including voice control via Apple’s Siri. And Amazon moved strongly into smart-home voice control with its Internet-connected Echo speaker and its newer variants, the Tap and Dot.
For more about the options for HomeKit, Echo, and Nest and what to look forward to in smart-home technology, check out our full guide.
This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.
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There was a no more exciting time to be a peripheral fan than 1999. For me, someone who loved the custom controls of the arcades, the Dreamcast was a fantasy. Its Visual Memory Unit (VMU) was a memory card with a screen that slotted into the controller — and a micro console in its own right. Games like Power Stone and Seaman let you load mini games onto the VMU to play on the go, but more interesting was its dual-screen potential.
The VMU could display information, like your health in Resident Evil or plays in NFL 2K, right on your controller. These features were ahead of their time — it wasn’t until the Wii U GamePad came along that we saw a company go all-in on dual-screen gaming (the DS and its successors don’t really perform the same task). But the VMU was only the beginning of Sega’s plan to expand the Dreamcast.
There was the Dreamcast Gun, a wired light gun that let you slide in a VMU or Jump Pack (for rumble support) into the top. There was the microphone attachment that slotted in underneath the VMU in your controller to let you talk to the weird fish-with-a-face virtual pet in Seaman.
Then there were the standalone peripherals. Who can forget the Sega Fishing Controller, which as well as making Sega Bass Fishing incredible, also acted as a Wii-like motion controller in Virtua Tennis and Soul Calibur? Not to mention Typing of the Dead‘s keyboard, Samba De Amigo’s maracas and Virtual On’s twin sticks.
For context, the Dreamcast was on sale for less than two and a half years worldwide, and just a year and a half in the West. The number of accessories, the number of innovative ideas realized in that time, is just ridiculous.
With Sega’s hardware days long behind it, Nintendo took up some of the slack. The Wii had add-ons for the Wiimote, including an analog nunchuck, a MotionPlus sensor pack and a “Classic Controller.” There were also peripherals that integrated a Wiimote slot into their design — namely a steering wheel and a gun — as well the standalone Balance Board for Wii Fit. Oh, and somewhat serendipitously, there was a maracas shell for the Wiimote to play Samba De Amigo.
That innovation in peripherals all-but died with the Wii U, though. The GamePad was certainly innovative in itself, but its all-in-one nature killed any chance for peripherals that weren’t Amiibos. But there’s a chance peripherals could return in a big way with Nintendo’s latest console, the Switch. A portable tablet with slide-on “Joy-Con” controllers, it takes the modular spirit of the VMU and applies it to the system as a whole. And a Switch concept by one artist, posted on Twitter and highlighted by Polygon, truly impresses me.
Ryan Salamanda imagines a world of add-ons that slide onto the right side of the main tablet to “augment” the controls. There’s a Yokai Watch attachment complete with a spinning disc and light-up button. There’s a Pokemon Snap add-on with zoom dial and shutter key. There’s even one with a fishing reel, as well as an attachment that mimics a GameCube controller. Salamanda’s vision of what was then known as the “NX” was that, for certain games, you’d be able to buy the game packaged with a custom controller.
It’s a great idea. The Dreamcast brought the magic of arcades into a 15-year-old me’s bedroom. The Switch detailed by Salamanda would let me bring that excitement with me wherever I went. Would I feel stupid frantically spinning a wheel on a bus? Sure. But I want it so bad, nonetheless.
I’ve been arguing on and off with my colleague Nick Summers all morning about whether this is a good idea. His point is that peripherals are great because they look and feel like a complete object. “Even the craziest of Joy-Cons can’t hide the fact you’re holding a 7-inch screen,” he says. That’s valid, but I feel like the need to make that complete object has stopped many companies from doing so. By producing small, focused add-ons, perhaps based around a reference design, Nintendo and its partners could make these peripherals happen for a much lower cost than producing one-off, standalone accessories. And if that’s what it takes for me to return, after 15 bass-less years, to that feeling of reeling in a giant fish, it’ll all be worth it.
Images of Sega peripherals from Sega Retro.
Source: Ryan Salamanda (Twitter)
Toyota will start selling fuel cell (FC) buses in 2017, with the aim of selling up to 100 in the Tokyo area ahead of the 2020 Olympic games. The company is using a beefed up version of the fuel system it developed for the Toyota Murai, with 10 high pressure tanks holding 600 liters of highly compressed H2. That gives it 235 kWh or power, about three times that of a Tesla Model S, meaning it “can be used as a power source in the event of disasters,” the company said in a press release.
Toyota has been working on CO2-free fuel-cell buses for a while now with its Hino bus and truck division. The company is bullish on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, even though they’re less efficient than EVs if the hydrogen is generated using water and electricity. Hydrogen made by reforming methane creates CO2 pollution, though less overall than if gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles are used. That’s assuming the methane, a potent greenhouse gas, doesn’t leak — and it often does.
Toshiba recently unveiled Japan’s largest water electrolysis hydrogen production plant (above) that uses power from the electrical grid. Unfortunately the nation still gets most of its electricity from fossil fuels, not renewable or nuclear energy. And the bulk of hydrogen is still produced by methane reforming, a polluting process made worse by the fact that Japan imports its methane. However, the nation plans to produce more hydrogen by electrolysis over the next decade as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to a hydrogen future. For more on fuel cells and hydrogen vehicles, check Engadget’s explainer.
AT&T’s next step to telecom dominance? Buying Time Warner, it seems. Before the next episode of Westworld airs, theoretically, AT&T could own HBO, CNN, Hulu, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures among others, according to The Wall Street Journal. Over the past few years pretty much any multibillion dollar corporation has flirted with the idea of buying Time Warner. Apple and Fox have both been heavily rumored, for example. And considering that Time Warner turned down $80 billion from the latter, it gives us an idea that the asking price is going to be northward of that.
Consolidation in the media landscape (oh hi, Verizon) is increasingly commonplace as companies look to bolster their bottom line with bigger customer numbers over individual profits. After all, that cable subscription’s going to get a lot cheaper when people start cutting the cord en masse in order to try winning you back. Just look at the price of monthly landline service as a parallel.
But last year’s $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV has left the coffers a bit dry, and its last investors report stated that the company only had about $5 billion in free cash. If the deal goes through, it’s going to leave the company pretty deep in the red. Or AT&T manage to raise the GDP of a small somehow just to afford the purchase price. But hey, corporations are good with math, right? The beancounters will make this work. Somehow.
Source: Wall Street Journal
This morning, several sites were shut down due to a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Dyn, a large domain name server. Sites affected include Twitter, Spotify, the New York Times, Reddit, Yelp, Box, Pinterest, Paypal and potentially a lot more. It seems as if this attack was focused on the east coast. Now Reuters is reporting that the US government is investigating it to see if it was a “criminal act.”
The news outlet reports that it’s not clear yet on who’s responsible and the Department of Homeland Security has said that it’s “investigating all potential causes.” According to Dyn, it resolved one attack earlier this morning, but there was a second attack a few hours later. As of this writing, some sites like Twitter and Spotify appear to be back up, but there are still sporadic outages that result in broken images and links.
AT&T is in “advanced talks” to acquire media company Time Warner, and a deal could be finalized as early as this weekend, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Bloomberg on Thursday said senior executives at AT&T and Time Warner met in recent weeks to discuss a possible merger, but it said the talks were informal at that stage.
The talks toward what likely would be a cash-and-stock deal have come together quickly, are fluid, and still could fall through, according the people familiar with the matter. An agreement also could be delayed, they said.
Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes has previously told investors he would entertain a sale of the media company, but only if it feels the price is right. In 2014, Bewkes and his board reportedly turned down an $85-a-share offer from 21st Century Fox, which valued Time Warner at more than $75 billion.
AT&T, looking to add more content and original programming, would gain a number of valuable assets from Time Warner, including CNN, HBO, TBS, TNT, NBA basketball, Cartoon Network and the Warner Bros. film and TV studio. Popular series airing on those networks include, among others, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley.
New York Post sources said Apple was a possible suitor to purchase Time Warner earlier this year, which Financial Times later said was an idea proposed by Apple’s services chief Eddy Cue. The discussions reportedly never progressed beyond the preliminary stage, however, and did not involve Apple CEO Tim Cook or Bewkes.
An acquisition would have provided Apple with content for its much-rumored streaming TV service, which it has reportedly placed on hold due to difficulties in negotiating deals. It was reported the Netflix-like service would have offered a skinny bundle of channels, including ABC, CBS, and FOX, as part of a monthly subscription.
An AT&T-Time Warner acquisition would likely be closely examined by federal regulators.
Tags: AT&T, Time Warner
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