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28
Sep

SEC sues Tesla CEO Elon Musk for securities fraud


Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s tweeting about taking the company private, with “funding secured,” took investors and the company by surprise. On Thursday, September 27, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed suit against Musk, charging him with securities fraud, according to court documents.

The SEC alleges that Musk made “false and misleading” statements on Twitter when he stated, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $400. Funding secured.”

Musk followed up the original tweet, saying “Shareholders could either to sell at 420 or hold shares & go private.”

Shareholders could either to sell at 420 or hold shares & go private

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2018

The SEC also alleged Musk did not properly inform securities regulators of what were considered material events.

Musk stated later in the month that when he proposed the $420 per share price, he was confident the funding he referred to would materialize at that price after prior discussions with Saudi Arabia’s Public Invest Fund, according to CNBC.

The SEC’s complaint alleged:

Musk knew that he (1) had not agreed upon any terms for a going-private transaction with the Fund or any other funding source; (2) had no further substantive communications with representatives of the Fund beyond their 30 to 45 minute meeting on July 31; (3) had never discussed a going-private transaction at a share price of $420 with any potential funding source; (4) had not contacted any additional potential strategic investors to assess their interest in participating in a going-private transaction; (5) had not contacted existing Tesla shareholders to assess their interest in remaining invested in Tesla as a private company; (6) had not formally retained any legal or financial advisors to assist with a going-private transaction; (7) had not determined whether retail investors could remain invested in Tesla as a private company; (8) had not determined whether there were restrictions on illiquid holdings by Tesla’s institutional investors; and (9) had not determined what regulatory approvals would be required or whether they could be satisfied.

Other Tesla executives, including the Tesla head of Investor Relations, were not informed about Musk’s plan to take the company private or make a statement to that effect.

Tesla was not named in the SEC lawsuit, although CNBC reported that sources close to Tesla told the news outlet that the company expected to be sued.

If Musk is found guilty of the fraud charges, the SEC wants to bar him from serving any publicly traded company as an officer or director, CNBC reports.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Tesla board waits for Musk’s plan to go private as Saudi Arabia stays silent
  • Tesla isn’t going private (but it had the funding to do so, Musk says)
  • Elon Musk tweets about privatizing Tesla Motors, causes an investor frenzy
  • 5 reasons why you shouldn’t be surprised Elon Musk smoked weed
  • Tesla says dash cam feature using car’s built-in cameras is coming soon



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28
Sep

Arrest Warrants Issued for 17 People in $1M California Apple Store Theft Ring


Authorities have issued arrest warrants for 17 people who were running an Apple Store theft ring across California, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced today.

The individuals involved robbed Apple retail stores in 19 different counties, including several in the Bay Area, where Apple’s headquarters are located. More than $1 million worth of Apple goods were stolen.

The robbers were known for wearing hoodies and storming Apple Stores in large groups to snatch up products that were on display “in a matter of seconds.”

Law enforcement agencies in Oakland and San Luis Obispo handled the investigation, but multiple law enforcement agencies across the state were involved in capturing the criminals. “The successful collaborative efforts of law enforcement has resulted in dismantling a large criminal ring,” said Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

According to Attorney General Becerra, organized theft rings like the one apprehended this week “cost California business owners millions” and ultimately lead to consumers paying the cost.

Seven of those involved were arrested on Tuesday and booked into the Alameda County Jail, while another person is in custody in Sonoma County. The remaining nine suspects have yet to be arrested, but will be when located. Charges include plotting to commit grand theft against individuals.

Related Roundup: Apple Stores
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28
Sep

Man or Vampire: A journey into the afterlife (Review)


Have you ever wondered what happens after you die? Does your soul goes somewhere? How does it looks like? Man or Vampire gives us another take on these questions by creating a dark, grim world that doesn’t look like how people normally picture heaven. This randomly-generated world full of monsters, bosses, and loot provides a superb amount of content and depth, thanks to its entertaining combat system, powerful character upgrade system, and extensive modes and options.

Developer: HIDEA
Price: Free

Tutorial

The mechanics of Man or Vampire are made much easier thanks to its brilliant tutorial. Very early in the game you realize that the character you control is dead, and you are in heaven. You then go through a basic dungeon, in which the game shows you the controls, battle mechanics, inventory management, and similar useful stuff.

The tutorial ends in a very intriguing way, and then it resets you to control the one who will actually be your character throughout the game. However, your character is not alone, since you have the possibility of taking at least three other characters with you, which you get in-game from an aptly-named function called “Soul Search.”

Overview

Man or Vampire is a combination of several mechanics from other games. At its core, it is a turn-based role-playing game, very similar to Fire Emblem. When battling against enemies, the battlefield becomes a grid, in which you can move around and perform actions like attacking, healing, or performing special abilities, depending on the grid space you land on. Upon defeating enemies, you get experience, which you use to level up and get new skills.

You explore the world through the Adventure mode. Here, you enter different levels that are created randomly in order to get loot and experience. When not battling, the characters are able to explore the world using a League of Legends-style navigation, in which you touch a point to which you want your characters to walk, rather than moving the characters yourself.

The Combat System

As previously mentioned, the CPU and you take turns in attacking each other. The order in which the characters attack, the damage they deal, and the damage they take when being attack are all calculated using your character’s stats as a base. There are also items you can equip to increase your character’s strength, defense, and intelligence.

The battle grid changes depending on the type of character you are controlling. For example, characters with sword will not get an attack tile unless they are right next to an emeny. Meanwhile, other characters can only attack if they are two tiles away from the target. There are also green tiles for healing, purple ones to heal all characters in a party, and yellow tiles to perform special abilities. The actual color, arrangement, and number of movements you are allowed greatly depends on the character.

Overall, there’s decent depth in the system. I have found the game to be a bit on the easy side, which makes the ellaborate system a little redundant. You can basically slash your way out of the dungeons without applying that much strategy, which defeats the purpose of the multiple levels that you can improve on. However, when enemies do give you a hard time, the system really shines.

Loot and Inventory

In every dungeon you will find chests with loot. You can equip items both for attacking and for defending yourself. Some types of character can equip a certain type of items, and there are different classes of items, which adds even another depth of complexity to the game. Initially, you can only hold 20 items, plus the ones your characters have equipped. If you need more, then you can buy more slots with gold.

There are also consumables, such as potions, teleport feathers, and cards. If you don’t find any of these items useful, you can sell them directly from the inventory, without having to go to a dedicated shop or something similar, like in other games. There are items marked as “Other” that have some special effects, such as opening special doors, “holy water” items that decrease the revival time of your allies, and even something called “Bat Scroll.”

Graphics and Sound

The artwork in Man or Vampire is, hands down, the strongest part of the game. The stylized graphics work really well with the overall theme of the game, the monsters and bosses are intriguing, and the animations are really fluid. Even though the characters you control look great when on the field, the picture that appears when you want to upgrade them does not match the rest of the artwork, making them feel out of place.

A complaint that I have with the interface is that everything is way too small to tap on it. This is especially true when you are in the campfire area, which acts as a hub to all of the different features of the game. Also, the text seems to be on the small side, and sometimes disappears way too quickly. However, when the text is big enough, it seems a bit blurry. I tested this game on a Samsung Galaxy S8, which, as you all know, has a top-notch screen. It is probably very hard to make something appear as blurry on a S8 screen, but this game unfortunately managed to do so.

The game’s music aptly follows the overall dark theme of the game, using soothing but intriguing music all over the game. I can see it growing old really quickly, though. Sound effects are appropriate and add to the experience.

Micro-transactions

No free game in the Play Store would be complete without micro-transactions. The cheapest one I found costs $4.46 and yields 500 gems and a mini map, and the most expensive one tops at an eye-watering $89.24, giving you 11500 gems. Most of the stuff you can buy with these gems are also items that you can get through playing the game, so it looks like you could play the game comfortably without spending money. Of course, if you like the game and enjoy it, spending a few dollars on the software will for sure make a huge difference to the developer.

Conclusion

Man or Vampire combines a superb graphic style with an old-school, turn-based combat in a solid RPG that can keep you entertained for hours. Although the combat is easy, the game has a lot of depth, with several different character classes, items, and heroes you can get to traverse through the intriguing, dark world. There are several elements that were left out, but they could easily fill a 5000-word review. It just has that much content.

There are some flaws, like some inconsistencies in the graphics, repetitive music, and low difficulty, but overall it is able to provide an entertaining gameplay that is very easy to pick up and start enjoying right away. If you want a game that deviates from common themes in the Play Store, such as endless games, shooters, or other genres with shallow elements, then Man or Vampire will satisfy your needs.

Download and install Man or Vampire from the Google Play Store.

28
Sep

Sprayable antennas could usher in a new era of ultracompact wearable devices


Researchers at Drexel University’s College of Engineering in Philadelphia have invented new spray-on antennas, which can be applied as easily as spray paint or bug spray. The sprayable antennas — which are so thin that they are referred to as being “two-dimensional” — perform as well as the mobile antennas used in modern devices such as smartphones and wireless routers. If commercialized, they could prove to be a game-changer in the growing field of smart devices, making it possible for devices to collect and transmit data in ways that are impossible today.

“These antennas are made of a novel two-dimensional material called MXenes that was first discovered at Drexel University in 2011,” Yury Gogotsi, director of Drexel Nanomaterials Institute and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, told Digital Trends. “MXenes are 1-nanometer thick sheets of metal carbides. [A single] nanometer is about 100,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper. Titanium carbide 2D sheets are metallic conductive, and keep their conductivity even when the sheets are stacked over each other during fabrication, making it possible to fabricate transparent, flexible, and wearable antennas.”

While having comparable efficiency with conventional smartphone antennas, the sprayable antennas have a few notable advantages. For one thing, they occupy less space, are lighter, and, as noted, can even be transparent. They can also easily attach to objects with a simple airbrush, requiring no binder material or further processing in order to do so.

Drexel University

Babak Anasori, Research Assistant Professor at Drexel, noted that this is still early stages for the technology; telling us that this is “just the beginning” when it comes to rolling out the antennas.

“We believe with more engineering we can get to even thinner sizes while improving the performance,” Anasori said. “Also, we are planning to study the fundamentals and understand the mechanism of the transmission at such small thicknesses. In terms of commercialization, we have a patent on MXene antennas, and since the publication of the paper we have received [interest from industry.] We have no doubt that it can make it to the market.”

A paper describing the work, titled “2D titanium carbide (MXene) for wireless communication,” was recently published in the journal Science Advances.

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  • Where to find all ‘Fortnite’ birthday cake locations
  • 6 amazing high-tech ways science could take care of the mosquito problem
  • Materials scientists have found a way to make graphene twice as tough
  • Solar-powered nanoscale coating could defrost frozen car windows



28
Sep

Sprayable antennas could usher in a new era of ultracompact wearable devices


Researchers at Drexel University’s College of Engineering in Philadelphia have invented new spray-on antennas, which can be applied as easily as spray paint or bug spray. The sprayable antennas — which are so thin that they are referred to as being “two-dimensional” — perform as well as the mobile antennas used in modern devices such as smartphones and wireless routers. If commercialized, they could prove to be a game-changer in the growing field of smart devices, making it possible for devices to collect and transmit data in ways that are impossible today.

“These antennas are made of a novel two-dimensional material called MXenes that was first discovered at Drexel University in 2011,” Yury Gogotsi, director of Drexel Nanomaterials Institute and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, told Digital Trends. “MXenes are 1-nanometer thick sheets of metal carbides. [A single] nanometer is about 100,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper. Titanium carbide 2D sheets are metallic conductive, and keep their conductivity even when the sheets are stacked over each other during fabrication, making it possible to fabricate transparent, flexible, and wearable antennas.”

While having comparable efficiency with conventional smartphone antennas, the sprayable antennas have a few notable advantages. For one thing, they occupy less space, are lighter, and, as noted, can even be transparent. They can also easily attach to objects with a simple airbrush, requiring no binder material or further processing in order to do so.

Drexel University

Babak Anasori, Research Assistant Professor at Drexel, noted that this is still early stages for the technology; telling us that this is “just the beginning” when it comes to rolling out the antennas.

“We believe with more engineering we can get to even thinner sizes while improving the performance,” Anasori said. “Also, we are planning to study the fundamentals and understand the mechanism of the transmission at such small thicknesses. In terms of commercialization, we have a patent on MXene antennas, and since the publication of the paper we have received [interest from industry.] We have no doubt that it can make it to the market.”

A paper describing the work, titled “2D titanium carbide (MXene) for wireless communication,” was recently published in the journal Science Advances.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The flu is a bad souvenir. Here’s how a pilot stays healthy while flying
  • Where to find all ‘Fortnite’ birthday cake locations
  • 6 amazing high-tech ways science could take care of the mosquito problem
  • Materials scientists have found a way to make graphene twice as tough
  • Solar-powered nanoscale coating could defrost frozen car windows



28
Sep

Oculus Quest hands-on review



Research Center:

Oculus Quest

The future of virtual reality is finally upon us, and it looks fantastic. Two years ago at its developer conference, Facebook teased a wireless VR future in the form of Project Santa Cruz. This year, at Oculus Connect 5, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the final evolution of the project: Oculus Quest. It comes out in Spring of 2019, offering Rift-quality games without wires, but we got some hands-on time with the headset to see if it lived up to that promise.

Like the bigger Rift, Quest is designed to deliver a PC-like gaming experience with high fidelity audio, and powerful graphics. However, unlike the Oculus Go, which Facebook debuted earlier this spring, Quest is also capable of spacial tracking in a package that’s completely designed for mobile thanks to a new technology called Oculus Insight. Insight, which took more than two years to develop, swaps out the Rift’s external sensors to track your movements in the virtual world with four front mounted cameras on the headset. These cameras allow you to play games in a smaller space like a New York City apartment — or a larger space like the living room of a larger home.

“There’s no external tracking accessories,” Oculus Quest product marketing manager Allison Berliner explained of Insight during an interview at Oculus Connect. “Everything you need is onboard. And because Oculus Insight is so robust, you can really have a precise and accurate experience in VR almost anywhere.”

The quest for mobile perfection

Whereas Rift relies on powerful computer processors and graphics cards to deliver an immersive VR experience, Oculus claims that it can bring the same high quality experience to Quest on more mobile hardware. Not only does Quest shed the cables for a truly immersive experience — you’re not “chained” to anything from the physical world as you navigate the virtual world — but the headset ships with a mobile processor more commonly found on smartphones. In fact, Quest relies on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835, a processor that’s found on last year’s Samsung Galaxy S8.

Chuong Nguyen/Digital Trends

Berliner explained that even though the Quest relies on the Snapdragon 835, the performance is still top-notch because Oculus is building the headset just for VR. “And because we’re owning so much of the stack, we can get so much out of that,” she said. “What goes into the overall experience is much more than just compute. A lot of it comes down to things that are totally unique to VR — the immersion, the presence, and the interaction that comes from touch. We are bringing the best learnings, the best practices, to Oculus Quest.”

At Oculus Connect, through several game titles that were developed by Oculus’ in-house studio, Facebook created demos to showcase what Quest is capable of. Early titles — the demo staff claims that most of these games should be available for consumers to purchase in the future — include first-person shooter Superhot VR, a sports-oriented Project Tennis Scramble, a fear-filled Face Your Fear adventure, and Dead and Buried, a VR twist on laser tag.

Because Oculus Insight is so robust, you can have a precise and accurate experience in VR almost anywhere.

Thanks to clever tuning, the results were impressive. We came into Facebook’s demo expecting lags, screen door effects, and a low quality experience, but we were left completely blown away by our experience with Quest. The resolution for each eye is 1,600 x 1,440, which is a meaningful upgrade over the Oculus Rift’s 1,080 x 1,200 and matches the Oculus Go. That’s still behind the higher resolution of the HTC Vive Pro (1440 x 1600 pixels per eye), but it’s nearly half the price.

Getting started with the games was extremely easy. Because you don’t have to worry about turning on a PC, tripping on wires, or setting up sensors, all you have to do is don the headset. Like the Rift, the Quest comes in a similar setup, with an elastic strap that wraps around the sides of your head and a second strap on the top of your head to secure the Quest in place. The demo staff recommends that you put Quest on “like a baseball cap” by securing the rear portion first, and then sliding down the front portion over your face. You can also make adjustments to tighten or loosen the straps with the velcro tabs on the sides.

On the head, the Quest feels extremely comfortable. The package feels a lot lighter than it looks, and we didn’t experience any fatigue even after several 30-minute sessions of gameplay. In addition to the headset, there are also two hand controllers. According to researchers Yelena Rachitsky and Isabel Tewes at Oculus Labs, the hand controllers are important components that help transport our physical selves into the virtual world to make games feel immersive and lifelike.

Chuong Nguyen/Digital Trends

The controllers come with a ring for the circular sensors, but unlike the Rift, these sensors curve to the top. There is a joystick, control buttons, and buttons for the grip and trigger. The controllers were lightweight and felt ergonomic to use.

Another difference between the Quest and the Rift is that the Quest comes with an open audio system. Rather than requiring headphones, the Quest uses spatial audio to aim sound at your ears. If you have a friend watching you play on the couch, Quest’s open audio design may be better — it allows you to still hear sounds from the game while still being able to carry on with conversations. We found the audio to be plenty loud, even in the noisy demo halls at the San Jose Convention Center, and we appreciated being able to hear and communicate with the demo staff.

Oculus Quest Compared To

Oculus Rift

HTC Vive

Oculus Go

Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream

HTC Vive Pro

Sony PlayStation VR (2017)

Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset…

Google Daydream View (2017)

Samsung Odyssey

Sony PlayStation VR

Google Daydream View

3Glasses D2 Vanguard Edition

Samsung Gear VR

Homido

Quest will map out your room before you start a game. This way, boundaries and obstacles can be avoided, and the goal is that you won’t collide with a wall or the living room sofa.

Game selection could be tricky

As a stand-alone headset, Oculus Quest will have its own store, like the Rift, and you can buy and manage your games directly from inside the VR headset. Users can also buy games through a companion app, Oculus staff informed me, though the company did not demo that process. Staff mentioned that the Quest will have its own Wi-Fi radio, so you can connect the headset directly to your home network. However, like a wearable, you’ll need your phone initially to setup the Quest. After that, you can do everything from the headset.

Although Oculus wants to see developers port over Rift games to the Quest, we don’t yet know how robust the software selection will be. Oculus has until Spring of 2019 to broaden the portfolio, but given how light VR content has been in general, it could be a significant issue. The games Oculus did have, however, were impressive.

Project Tennis Scramble showcases the Quest’s six degrees of freedom, or DoF, allowing you to move around in three-dimensional space. By comparison, the Oculus Go only comes with three DoF, and the Rift relies on external sensors to achieve the same sort of tracking abilities.

The spatial mapping still allows you to play fluidly in multi-player games even if your opponent may have a smaller space mapped for VR games. When we played our virtual tennis match against our opponent, we were in a smaller “living room” while he was playing in a larger game room. Despite the differences in sizes of our real-world space, Oculus Insight was able to map my space and allow me to still move around and hit the ball with forehand and backhand shots.

Chuong Nguyen/Digital Trends

The graphics in the game weren’t lifelike, the experience being more akin to some of the more active games on Nintendo’s Wii system. This is not to say that the graphics was poor or felt unfinished, it’s just that it appears that the scenes weren’t as detailed as some of the games on the PC-powered Rift. Nonetheless, Project Tennis Scramble was still fun to play, and unlike the Wii, we felt like we were actually on the court. Spectators were cheering us on, and the spatial audio made the whole experience feel immersive.

Face Your Fear is an adventure game that will either get you over your phobias or leave you with nightmares. The goal is to explore the environment, using a combination of panning and navigation with the left and right joysticks, along with a bit of walking. Thanks to spatial mapping, when you’re approaching a physical wall in the real world, you’ll see a blue grid appear to alert you, and you can pan with the joystick to continue maneuvering the virtual space, similar to a first-person shooter.

Chuong Nguyen/Digital Trends

As you’re exploring the environment, you’ll see phobia-inducing things pop out at you, and these range from bats to spiders and all sorts of crawly critters. The graphics were well done, and even though your brain knows that you’re not seeing a swarm of spiders running towards your legs, you still get the goosebumps. Oculus shows that even though graphics may not be top notch — you’re not getting Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080’s ray tracing effects — but it’s still an immersive experience.

The last demo showed off was Dead and Buried, which was another great example of Quest Insight’s mix of augmented reality and virtual reality. Like laser tag, this game requires teams of multiple players spread out over a large space. Quest Insight maps the terrain, and you can have boxes as shields. Press a toggle, and you can see the augmented reality — basically outlines of the terrain, boxes, and your teammates and opponents. However, release the toggle and you’re transported in time into a western setting. Those boxes in the real world transform into crates, and you’re engaged in a gunfight with the opposing team.

The wireless future

The Oculus Quest might not be the most powerful VR headset in the world, but it’s more than the sum of its parts.

The full package is what creates the visual fidelity in Oculus Quest.”

“We look at resolution on a per product basis, because there are a lot of components that go into visual fidelity,” explained Berliner. “So things that make this exciting is that on top of resolution, we also have the adjustable IPD, or lens spacing, and we’re bringing over our best-in-class optics from Oculus Go. The full package is what creates the visual fidelity in Oculus Quest.”

Sure, the graphics could be a bit better to match the Rift or Vive Pro — the Quest relies on a smartphone processor after all. But at no point during my experience with the Oculus Quest did we feel like we weren’t immersed in our adventures. The screen and the visuals were clean, and unlike the PlayStation VR, there wasn’t that annoying orange peel effect.

“For us, it’s the full package. It’s everything we’ve squeezed into the headset, and it’s also the form factor — the fact that it’s an all-in-one-system.”

The Oculus Quest headset is set for release in Spring of 2019, starting at $400.

28
Sep

Lenovo sets computer to stun, shows off Star Trek Enterprise PC



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Lenovo Star Trek Enterprise PC

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Lenovo Star Trek Enterprise PC

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Lenovo Star Trek Enterprise PC

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As the result of what we can only assume was a Star Trek-induced Netflix binge, the design team at Lenovo showcased its latest addition to the PC market, and it’s in the shape of the USS Enterprise. Modeled after the 23rd-century Federation starship, the Lenovo Titanium Enterprise NCC-1701A is a massive metal construction PC poised to freeze Star Trek fans in their tracks. The exterior design of the machine isn’t all that’s impressive, either, taking a look inside reveals quite a few surprises.

Avid Star Trek fans may be quick to point out that the PC doesn’t quite match the design of the Enterprise, but rest assured, Lenovo named the machine accordingly, and it matches the USS starship as close as possible while fitting in all the needed pieces. After all, where else would you fit in Nvidia’ next-generation GeForce RTX 2080 graphics? That’s right; there is more than just a warp core onboard this ship.

The Lenovo Enterprise PC comes stocked with the aforementioned GeForce RTX 2080 GPU, an overclocked ninth-generation Intel CPU, 32GB of DDR memory, a 1 TB M.2 SSD, and a 2 TB HDD. The Enterprise is also set to receive transmissions with a custom high-performance LAN and Wi-Fi setup. It has been made clear that this PC isn’t just a showpiece; it is aimed at serious gamers with a bit of a Star Trek obsession.

The Star Trek dream PC was unveiled in China at Lenovo’s Beijing Tech World Conference and has been receiving attention for its unique design. Beyond the standard specifications we would expect to find on a desktop PC, Lenovo has also managed to fit in a few surprises including LED lighting and a mini projector. We aren’t sure if you will be taking this machine into the boardroom anytime soon, but if you choose to do so, know that you will be able to present a killer PowerPoint.

Trekkies looking to purchase the PC starship will find it starting for around $2,180, but it is only available in China. Lenovo has yet to comment whether or not the Titanium Entperise will be traveling to any other countries. Until then, we can at least relish in the fact that Lenovo has boldly gone where no computer manufacturer has gone before.

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28
Sep

‘LoJax’ rootkit malware can infect UEFI, a core computer interface


Bill Hinton/Getty Images

Modern computers utilize what is known as a Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) to get up and running. When you press the power button on your Mac or PC, the UEFI begins communicating with your computer’s hardware and your operating system of choice, whether that be MacOS, Windows, or Linux. However, in a terrifying turn of events, ESET researchers have discovered a malicious piece of software, a rootkit, that burrows into your UEFI and is nearly impossible to get rid of, even when detected.

Rootkits are malicious bits of computer software that can infect a user’s machine and gain access to areas that are typically off-limits, such a private user data or protected system files. While the concept of rootkits taking advantage of a computer’s UEFI isn’t new, this is the first time that a sample has been detected in the wild.

The UEFI rootkit, code-named LoJax, takes advantage of a legitimate software designed by the Canadian company, Absolute Software. The security company offers an anti-theft solution for computers known as LoJack, which can assist victims in locating their stolen property. One of LoJack’s most exceptional features is its ability to stay present on a machine when the operating system is reinstalled, and the now malicious LoJax variation has taken keen advantage of that function.

LoJax has been shown to be the child of cyber espionage and hacking group Fancy Bear. Typically acknowledged as a product of the Russian military intelligence agency, GRU, the group has been behind many prominent attacks including those in the German parliament, the White House, NATO, the Democratic National Committee, and the International Olympic Committee.

What makes a UEFI rootkit particularly dangerous when compared to a standard rootkit is its ability to survive. Not only can LoJax gain access to restricted files on a user’s machine, but it can withstand the digital equivalent of a complete holocaust. Due to the way in which the rootkit attaches to a machine’s SPI flash memory, the chip in which a computer’s UEFI is kept, wiping your internal drive, or even completely replacing it, won’t get rid of it.

The LoJax rootkit can only be removed from a system by either reprogramming the SPI flash memory, a very delicate and complex operation, or by completely swapping out the motherboard. Individuals can help to keep themselves safe against the attack by ensuring that their machines have Secure Boot enabled; this prevents unauthorized firmware on your UEFI from booting your computer.

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28
Sep

These crazy alien-like structures were built by MIT’s silkworm-inspired robots


When it comes to futuristic construction technologies, few things can make 3D printing or bricklaying robots look like old news. A new swarm of silkworm-inspired robots built by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers certainly fits the bill, however. Called Fiberbots, these diminutive cylindrical robots are capable of spinning giant cocoons made of fiberglass, which spring up like otherworldly plants from a sci-fi movie.

The Fiberbots use a tiny arm to wind fiberglass thread around their bodies, pulling it up from a tank on the ground. The materials are then mixed in a nozzle and heated using ultraviolet light to form a hard tube. The robots spin 3-inch segments of tubing, before deflating themselves, and using a tiny onboard motor and wheels to crawl to the end of that segment, ready to begin the process again. The Fiberbots are even able to communicate with one another so as to avoid colliding with one another, and to coordinate the most efficient means of building. Over a 12-hour period, a swarm of 22 of these robots can weave multiple treelike structures stretching almost 15 feet in the air.

While it sounds like (and is) an impressive tech demo, the Fiberbots could have promising real-world applicability. Fiberglass might be a lightweight material, but it’s surprisingly strong and resilient against the elements. For example, the treelike structures built by the Fiberbot robots can survive weather conditions including extreme winds, rain, and snow for months at a time.

Due to the challenge of transporting large structures long distances, the hope is that tools like the Fiberbots could one day be used to build structures in inhospitable environments, such as on Mars. In that scenario, human builders wouldn’t be required and instructions would simply be transmitted to the robots for them to follow.

Is this the future of construction as we know it? The Fiberbot project seemingly isn’t yet ready to graduate on to more advanced structures such as houses or bridges just yet, but all the signs are there that this could be a significant development.

A paper describing the work, “Design of a multi-agent, fiber composite digital fabrication system,” was recently published in the journal Science Robotics.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Rolls-Royce is creating a fleet of robotic snakes and beetles to repair planes
  • Want a peek into the future? Watch these robots 3D print concrete structures
  • This amazingly acrobatic winged robot moves just like a fruit fly
  • Spirit animals: 9 revolutionary robots inspired by real-world creatures
  • The UN and Yale unite to build a ‘smart’ tiny house for the future



28
Sep

Apple Seeds First Public Beta of macOS Mojave 10.14.1


Apple today seeded the first beta of an upcoming macOS Mojave 10.14.1 update to its public beta testing group, two days after seeding the first beta to developers and three days after releasing the macOS Mojave update.

macOS Mojave introduces a new method of installing software updates, so after the initial beta has been installed using the appropriate profile from Apple, additional betas can be downloaded through opening up System Preferences and choosing the “Software Update” option.

The 10.14.1 update re-introduces support for Group FaceTime, a feature that was removed during the beta testing period. Group FaceTime, which lets you chat with up to 32 people at once, is also present in the iOS 12.1 beta.

It’s not clear what other improvements the first update to macOS Mojave will bring, but it likely includes performance improvements and bug fixes for issues that weren’t addressed in the first release of macOS Mojave.

macOS Mojave is a major update that brings features like a systemwide Dark Mode, stacks for organizing messy desktops, new Finder capabilities, new tools for taking screenshots, a Continuity Camera option for easily transferring photo scans and documents from iPhone to Mac, and more. For more on macOS Mojave, make sure to check out our roundup.

Related Roundup: macOS Mojave
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