Connect with us

Gaming

Facebook threatens to block news-sharing in Australia

Published

on

Enlarge / Logo of Facebook displayed on a smartphone screen and keyboard are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on August 11, 2020. (Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Getty Images

Facebook has threatened to block users and publishers in Australia from sharing news on its platform if the country presses ahead with a landmark proposal to force big tech to pay media groups for carrying their content.

The US social media platform said it would “reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram” if the draft legislation comes into force.

“This is not our first choice—it is our last. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector,” Facebook said in a statement.

Canberra signaled it would not back down. “Australia makes laws that advance our national interest. We don’t respond to coercion or heavy handed threats wherever they come from,” said Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer.

Internet platforms have long faced criticism for shaking up the traditional news industry, with Facebook and Google now receiving the majority of online advertising spending.

Meanwhile, global regulators are circling big tech over antitrust concerns and their potential to affect elections, with other governments including in Spain and France having already taken action similar to the Australian proposals.

Canberra’s draft legislation, which could pass parliament by December, is aimed at forcing Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for content. It seeks to redress the “fundamental imbalance in bargaining power between digital platforms and news providers” by establishing a compulsory system of arbitration over payments.

The code contains a tough nondiscrimination clause intended to prevent Facebook and Google discriminating against Australian news providers, with breaches liable for fines of up to 10 percent of the company’s Australian turnover.

Rod Sims, chief executive of Australia’s competition regulator, told the Financial Times that Facebook and Google would have to remove all international news from their platforms, not just Australian news, or they could face fines.

That would have a major impact on their services, he added. “First of all, you have to think what would Google Search be if it had no news at all?” said Sims. “I think Google Search would be much diminished.”

Blocking access to all news on their platforms in Australia would be complex and fraught with legal risk for the two groups.

“That means we’d have to undertake a mass cull of content globally to stop them being visible to Australians—we’d have to remove all foreign newspapers, bloggers, YouTube citizen reporters, but also sports reporting, discussions of global health issues, tweets about current events, and literally endless other types of content from all sources around the world,” said Google in a blog post last week.

Australia “presumes that Facebook benefits most in its relationship with publishers, when in fact the reverse is true,” the social media company said late on Monday in the US. It said news was a negligible source of revenue and accounted for only “a fraction” of what users see on its platform, while it has helped media groups garner billions of clicks.

Facebook did not spell out how it would stop news content from being shared on its platform in Australia, saying it would “provide specific details soon” on how it plans to do that.

Jason Kint, chief executive officer of Digital Content Next, a trade association for online publishers, said Facebook’s statement “negated the value of current and trusted news to a mostly user-generated content” platform.

He added Facebook appeared “prepared to draw a red line and put on battle gear in Australia in the hopes other nations don’t follow suit.”

© 2020 The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved. Not to be redistributed, copied, or modified in any way.

Continue Reading

Gaming

The Last of Us’ first PC port is riddled with apparent performance issues

Published

on

PC Shaders go brrrrr
by u/chrysillium in thelastofus

Naughty Dog says it is “actively investigating multiple issues” as complaints about graphical and performance issues continue to flood in following the PC release of The Last of Us: Part 1 on Tuesday.

The thousands of reviews on Steam—67 percent of which are negative, as of this writing—tell the tale of players facing massive problems simply playing the game they purchased. There is an overwhelming number of complaints about everything from frequent crashes and extreme loading times to “severe stuttering” during basic gameplay. Even with some positive reviews on the site supportive of the game’s underlying console versions, others complain that the PC edition is currently “stuttering, crashing, and unplayable.”

Even Joel can’t believe the amount of loading time..
by u/RuneLFox in thelastofus

Many user complaints seem to focus on the extreme amount of time needed for the game to build its graphical shader cache the first time it’s loaded. One Reddit user shared a timelapse of a 70-minute wait for those shaders to compile. Others point out that this extended loading time is particularly significant given Steam’s two-hour playtime window for requesting a no-questions-asked refund.

A “known issues” update on the Naughty Dog support site acknowledges issues with shader loading taking “longer than expected” and stresses that “performance and stability is degraded” while those shaders are loading. The support page also warns players of a “potential memory leak” (which some forum-goers are attributing to a bugged decompression library) and that “older graphics drivers” can also contribute to “instability or graphical problems.”

The Last of Us Part I PC players: we’ve heard your concerns, and our team is actively investigating multiple issues you’ve reported,” Naughty Dog wrote in a tweet Tuesday evening. “We will continue to update you, but our team is prioritizing updates and will address issues in upcoming patches.”

Joel has seen better days…
by u/can_i_see_your_cat in thelastofus

In a blog post accompanying the game’s PC launch Tuesday, Naughty Dog’s Christian Gyrling noted that moving the PS5-optimized Last of Us engine to PC involved “a large amount of tuning, tweaking, and even re-thinking, especially when it came to how we utilized the GPU.” The team was focused on “maintaining the equally high-quality bar across both PC and PlayStation consoles,” Gyrling wrote.

Nixxing Nixxes?

Some eagle-eyed fans started expressing worries about this latest PlayStation-to-PC port earlier this month when an Iron Galaxy logo appeared at the bottom of a PC spec sheet posted on the Naughty Dog blog. Iron Galaxy, you may remember, was responsible for the “seriously broken” port of Batman: Arkham Knight in 2015, which was eventually pulled from Steam amid widespread demands for refunds. Four months later, after multiple patches, players were still reporting massive resource allocation issues with that version of the game.
Iron Galaxy’s apparent involvement is especially notable given Sony’s 2021 purchase of Nixxes, which has been responsible for better-received PC ports of PlayStation titles like Spider-Man and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Then again, Iron Galaxy did work on the PC release of Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection, which Digital Foundry called an “accomplished but unambitious port” upon its release last year.

TLOUP1, Anyone else having glitches like these on PC?
by u/official_tommy_boi in thelastofus

Ironically enough, this week’s PC release came after a 25-day delay that Naughty Dog said at the time was to ensure the “PC debut is in the best shape possible.” Who knows how many more days players will have to wait until the game has truly reached that “best shape possible” status.

Listing image by Reddit / official_tommy_boi

Continue Reading

Gaming

Elemental music: Interactive periodic table turns He, Fe, Ca into Do, Re, Mi

Published

on

Enlarge / Graduate student W. Walker Smith converted the visible light given off by the elements into audio, creating unique, complex sounds for each one. His personal favorites are helium and zinc.

W. Walker Smith and Alain Barker

We’re all familiar with the elements of the periodic table, but have you ever wondered what hydrogen or zinc, for example, might sound like? W. Walker Smith, now a graduate student at Indiana University, combined his twin passions of chemistry and music to create what he calls a new audio-visual instrument to communicate the concepts of chemical spectroscopy.

Smith presented his data sonification project—which essentially transforms the visible spectra of the elements of the periodic table into sound—at a meeting of the American Chemical Society being held this week in Indianapolis, Indiana. Smith even featured audio clips of some of the elements, along with “compositions” featuring larger molecules, during a performance of his “The Sound of Molecules” show.

As an undergraduate, “I [earned] a dual degree in music composition and chemistry, so I was always looking for a way to turn my chemistry research into music,” Smith said during a media briefing. “Eventually, I stumbled across the visible spectra of the elements and I was overwhelmed by how beautiful and different they all look. I thought it would be really cool to turn those visible spectra, those beautiful images, into sound.”

What do the elements sound like?

Data sonification is not a new concept. For instance, in 2018, scientists transformed NASA’s image of Mars rover Opportunity on its 5,000th sunrise on Mars into music. The particle physics data used to discover the Higgs boson, the echoes of a black hole as it devoured a star, and magnetometer readings from the Voyager mission have also been transposed into music. And several years ago, a project called LHCSound built a library of the “sounds” of a top quark jet and the Higgs boson, among others. The project hoped to develop sonification as a technique for analyzing the data from particle collisions so that physicists could “detect” subatomic particles by ear.

Markus Buehler’s MIT lab famously mapped the molecular structure of proteins in spider silk threads onto musical theory to produce the “sound” of silk in hopes of establishing a radical new way to create designer proteins. The hierarchical elements of music composition (pitch, range, dynamics, tempo) are analogous to the hierarchical elements of protein structure. The lab even devised a way for humans to “enter” a 3D spider web and explore its structure both visually and aurally via a virtual reality setup. The ultimate aim is to learn to create similar synthetic spiderwebs and other structures that mimic the spider’s process.

Several years later, Buehler’s lab came up with an even more advanced system of making music out of a protein structure by computing the unique fingerprints of all the different secondary structures of proteins to make them audible via transposition—and then converting it back to create novel proteins never before seen in nature. The team also developed a free Android app called the Amino Acid Synthesizer so users could create their own protein “compositions” from the sounds of amino acids.

So Smith is in good company with his interactive periodic table project. All the elements release distinct wavelengths of light, depending on their electron energy levels, when stimulated by electricity or heat, and those chemical “fingerprints” make up the visible spectra at the heart of chemical spectroscopy. Smith translated those different frequencies of light into different pitches or musical notes using an instrument called the Light Soundinator 3000, scaling down those frequencies to be within the range of human hearing. He professed amazement at the sheer variety of sounds.

“Red light has the lowest frequency in the visible range, so it sounds like a lower musical pitch than violet,” said Smith, demonstrating on a toy color-coded xylophone. “If we move from red all the way up to violet, the frequency of the light keeps getting higher, and so does the frequency of the sound. Violet is almost double the frequency of red light, so it actually sounds close to a musical octave.” And while simpler spectra like hydrogen and helium, which only have a few lines in their spectra, sound like “vaguely musical” chords, elements with more complex spectra consisting of thousands of lines are dense and noisy, often sounding like “a cheesy horror movie effect,” according to Smith.

His favorites: helium and zinc. “If you listen to the frequencies [of helium] one by one instead of all at once, you get an interesting scale pattern that I have used to make a couple of compositions, including a ‘helium dance party,'” said Smith. As for zinc, “The first row of transition metals have very complex, dense grating sounds. But zinc, for whatever reason, despite having a large number of frequencies, sounds like an angelic vocalist singing with vibrato.”

Smith is currently collaborating with the Wonder Lab Museum in Bloomington, Indiana, to develop a museum exhibit that would enable visitors to interact with the periodic table, listen to the laments, and make their own musical compositions from the various sounds. “The main thing I want to [convey] is that science and the arts aren’t so different after all,” he said. “Combining them can lead to new research questions, but also new ways to communicate and reach larger audiences.”

Continue Reading

Gaming

Why Transformers now look like a big bunch of gears and car parts

Published

on

Enlarge / How did one of the rarest 911s end up becoming a Transformer?

Stef Schrader

“I didn’t know what car Mirage was going to be at first,” said Steven Caple Jr., director of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. “Where I’m from, in Cleveland, Ohio, I’d never even been in a Porsche before,” he continued. “My actual first introduction to Porsche was Bad Boys I, so shout out to Michael Bay—that’s all I really had.”

Caple admitted in a panel during Austin’s South by Southwest festival that the star car of the beloved action film Bad Boys inspired him to make Mirage a classic Porsche in the upcoming film. Mirage is a bit of a rebel himself, and the callback to the classic buddy-cop movie just felt right.

Fortunately, extraterrestrial Autobots won’t be tempted to pull over in any sketchy places to debate the merits of in-car snacking, but this does mean they have bigger nemeses that necessitate transforming into giant robots to handle. It can be more complicated than you’d expect to make a cool Porsche into an Autobot film star, though—in fact, Porsche has a whole team that helps Hollywood studios get just the right car on the silver screen. Here’s how it all comes together.

Character development

It starts with a character. Filmmakers have a certain look and vibe in mind when a new Transformer is “cast,” so to speak. Mirage is a bad boy with an attitude, and the film, set in 1994, is meant to be a sequel to Bumblebee. That made Caple think of the 1994 911 Turbo from Bad Boys.

“I was born in the ’80s, and I was a kid in the ’90s… this is the era when I grew up,” Caple explained. “This movie is like a time capsule to me.”

“You get to ’94, and everything started to change—from the wardrobe to the culture to the music to the cars,” he continued. “You start to step away from square-bodied cars and say, ‘hello curves.'”

You probably have to be pretty into your Porsches to spot that this is a 3.8 RS and not a 911 Turbo.
Enlarge / You probably have to be pretty into your Porsches to spot that this is a 3.8 RS and not a 911 Turbo.

Stef Schrader

The “casting” choice of the 964-era 911—a car that was dramatically smoother and more streamlined than any 911 before it—is a callback for the current Transformers series, given that Bad Boys was Michael Bay’s feature-length directorial debut. Yet Mirage has always been portrayed as an upper-crust member of Autobot society, so it makes sense that the Transformers team picked an even rarer 964-generation Porsche to portray him: a 1993 911 Carrera RS 3.8.

“When I was designing the character, it started there,” Caple said. “I talked to Owen [Shively] and the team at Porsche and said… he’s going to be an outlaw. He’s going to be a rebel. Going to be flashy. Very confident, but smooth.”

That’s when Porsche suggested looking into the 911 Carrera RS 3.8.

The Carrera RS 3.8 uses the same wider body shape as Bad Boys‘ 911 Turbo, but it was a homologation specially produced to legalize the Carrera RSR race car with a host of lightweight parts and a hardcore aerodynamic package designed for track domination. Porsche only ever made 55 RS 3.8s, according to Total 911, making it an exceptionally rare ride. In other media and toys in the past, Mirage has been a Ferrari and a Formula 1 car, so an ultra-rare Porsche feels like a solid fit.

While many of us associate the Transformers series with the heavy use of CGI, the filmmakers still need to source real cars to use for many of the shots—and Porsche has a whole team dedicated to helping filmmakers place just the right car into film and television projects.

Owen Shively, from that early ideation conversation Caple mentioned, is the CEO of RTTM Agency, Porsche Cars North America’s exclusive representative when it comes to entertainment partnership requests like this. When Porsche needs someone to arrange a specific car for a new film or TV project, Shively’s agency is where they turn.

Continue Reading

Trending