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Watch Rocket Lab launch its second orbital mission of 2019 late tonight – TechCrunch

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Fast-growing launch provider Rocket Lab is launching its second orbital payload of the year late tonight by our reckoning, early in the evening at the launch site in New Zealand. It will carry three experimental satellites to low Earth orbit, and you can watch it live.

The launch is Rocket Lab’s fifth orbital mission, and while it aims to eventually provide launches at a cadence of weeks, it’ll be some time before that’s possible — for now every couple months is what they can manage. But with $140 million in new funding, that should change pretty quickly.

The payloads going up tonight/tomorrow are:

  • SPARC-1: The Space Plug and Play Architecture Research CubeSat is an Air Force Research Lab they’ve been working on with the Swedish for years now. It’s a new design for a 6U craft with a reconfigurable orbital radio transceiver, intended to “support live experimentation with different waveforms and protocols useful to communications missions.” Plus a camera for checking out the scene up there.
  • Falcon ODE: This Orbital Debris Experiment will release two stainless steel ball bearings on known trajectories in space that will help calibrate ground-based debris-detection systems.
  • Harbinger: A scary-sounding small satellite and the heaviest single micro-sat to be lofted by Rocket Lab’s electron launch vehicle so far. This one, also from the Air Force, uses a synthetic aperture radar to observe Earth regardless of illumination or cloud cover. It’s a demonstrator for rapid production techniques and standardized parts meant to accelerate deployment of new spacecraft.

Fairing of the Falcon-ODE payload.

All told, its contents comprise 180 kilograms, or nearly 400 pounds, the heaviest load Electron has yet taken off with.

Lift-off is set for 6 PM local time in New Zealand, which corresponds to 11 PM Pacific time here in the U.S. If weather impinges on the opportunity, no worries — this launch window stays open for two weeks. You can watch the whole thing starting a few minutes before 11 at Rocket Lab’s website.

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Sony’s latest Home Cinema Projector has native 4K and a huge price tag

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Sony has announced two new projectors designed for home theaters: the VPL-VW325ES and VPL-VW1025ES. Both models feature native 4K support, according to Sony, which packed in features like its X1 projector picture processor and dynamic HDR enhancement. Both models are available now, but they come with substantial price tags.

The notable feature with both of these new Sony projectors is the inclusion of its ‘X1 for projector’ picture processor, which is based on the same tech found in the company’s BRAVIA televisions. The hardware has been, according to Sony, optimized for use in projectors to enable features like the aforementioned dynamic HDR enhancement.

Both models offer native 4096 x 2160 resolution for a true 4K home theater experience. Sony includes some of the features from the previous generation, including an input-lag reduction mode, but adds what the company says is ‘dramatically’ improved performance when it comes to display reaction speed.

These things should make the projectors a suitable option for gamers who want to play on the extra-big screen. Both models can likewise upscale FHD and 2K content to 4K resolution. There are some differences between the two models, however, including both the light source and lenses used.

The VPL-VW325ES model features a 1,500-lumen lamp as a light source, while the VPL-VW1025ES model has a brighter 2,200-lumen laser light source. Likewise, the latter model also has an All-Range Crisp Focus (ARC-F) lens that offers ‘pristine’ image quality from edge to edge, according to Sony.

Getting that benefit won’t come cheap, however, as the VPL-VW1025ES projector is priced at $39,999.99 USD. The VPL-VW325ES model, meanwhile, is more affordable at $5,499 USD. Both models can be preordered now.

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Geico security breach exposed customers’ driver’s license numbers

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A letter submitted by insurance company Geico to the California attorney general’s office details a data breach that took place earlier this year, exposing customers’ driver’s license numbers. The letter doesn’t include certain pertinent details such as how many people were potentially impacted by the security issue, though it did note the numbers may be used as part of unemployment benefits fraud.

The letter, which was first spied by TechCrunch, is dated April 9 and explains that the security incident took place from January 21 to March 1. During that time, the hacker(s) used customer data “acquired elsewhere” to get access to Geico subscribers’ driver’s license numbers using the company’s online sales system.

The company’s letter explains that it believes “this information could be used to fraudulently apply for unemployment benefits” in the customers’ names. For this reason, Geico customers who receive any unexpected mail from their state’s unemployment agency are encouraged to check it for signs of fraud taking place in their name.

Geico notes that it secured its website when it learned about the issue and that it investigated the cause of the breach. The company’s letter says that Geico has “implemented — and continues to implement — additional security enhancements to help prevent future fraud and illegal activities on our website.”

The company hasn’t yet published a security breach note on its website, but the letter is written to customers and explains that they will be offered a year’s subscription to IdentityForce for identity theft protection. The letter, it seems, includes a one-time code the customers can use to activate the free data monitoring service.

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Nextdoor app targets toxic behavior with anti-racism warning

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Nextdoor, the app that allows neighbors to connect with each other and share details about their communities, is introducing a new feature that will detect and warn against potentially racist content. The company announced the new feature today, explaining that it will ask users to reconsider their posts before sharing them if certain offensive language is detected.

If you’ve ever used Nextdoor, you’re likely familiar with some of the drama that can take place on community boards — as well as abusive behavior that not only ruins the experience for everyone, but that can also be harmful to people living in the community. Nextdoor’s new feature aims to reduce those messages.

The company says that it has rolled out an anti-racism prompt that will appear in the app when certain phrases are detected. Though the user won’t be blocked from posting, they will be asked to consider editing their content before publishing it to ensure it doesn’t violate the company’s policy and bring harm to users.

For example, Nextdoor has banned the use of the phrase ‘White Lives Matter’ and doesn’t allow the use of ‘Blue Lives Matter’ or ‘All Lives Matter’ if the post aims to ‘undermine racial equality.’ Users will see the warning starting this week on mobile devices.

This isn’t the first time Nextdoor has introduced a prompt designed to reduce problematic content on its platform. Back in 2019, Nextdoor introduced a warning called the ‘Kindness Reminder’ that spots ‘offensive language’ and encourages the user to edit their post or comment before sharing it.

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