Category Archives: Technology

Opportunity, NASA’s Mars Rover, Has Died

A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that NASA was running out of options in their efforts to reboot the Mars rover known as Opportunity after a dust storm blocked off the rover’s solar panels. Sadly, on Wednesday, Opportunity died after 14 years of hard work and the mission was declared complete.

The rover, which traveled over 28 miles during its mission, was unable to wake up after being frozen due to the harsh Mars weather. The rover’s last words in June were: “My battery is getting low and it’s getting dark.”

The rover was expected to recover as it has done previously but unfortunately, the rover didn’t wake up. The final resting place of the rover is called Perseverance Valley.

Opportunity’s many accomplishments include outlasting its twin, Spirit, by 8 years, remembering over 800 different commands from scientists, and finding a possible area where water had been on Mars.

Now, Curiosity is the only NASA rover left on the Red Planet until the launch of another rover in 2020 and the future launch of Britain and Russia’s first rover.

It was an opportunity for NASA to learn more when Opportunity was sent to the red planet and oh boy, Oppy did everything imaginable.

RIP to one of the best missions in NASA’s history.

President Trump Has Declared A National Emergency For The Wall

President Donald Trump, since day one of his presidential campaign, has said a wall would be built along the Mexican and U.S. border to stop illegal immigration. Unfortunately, it took declaring a national emergency in front of the Rose Garden.

In front of multiple reporters and press, President Trump declared the national emergency, stating, “the current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency.”

However, President Trump did state in his press conference that even he isn’t sure that this type of national emergency will be allowed in the court of law but this was the only way for him to get funds after the Senate and House passed the spending bill to avoid a government shutdown again. That bill only has $1.5 billion of the $5 billion that the president had originally wanted.

Now, it is expected that Trump will get at least $8 billion in funds if the order stands in the courts. It could also lead to more presidents declaring national emergencies to accomplish their campaign promises, which has both Democrats and Republicans fearful.

The 1,954-mile border which separates Mexico and the United States does have some type of border, but it’s not a wall. Rather, the border is made up of fences with barbed wire and there is even a butterfly sanctuary (featured in another article).

Some people are aware that the wall can present risks to wildlife that are crucial to the areas, but the White House has not presented any evidence that would show otherwise and have not even talked about it.

Even the true cost of an actual wall on the Mexico and U.S. border is estimated to be over $20 billion, but the amount that the president is getting is only worth renovating the areas that have a border.

There’s so much that can be talked about this wall and whether or not it is going to actually happen, but it’s going to be an interesting next few years in the court system.

Butterfly Sanctuary To Be Protected By Spending Bill

There were worries that a butterfly sanctuary in Texas would be destroyed by a proposed border wall that would have cut the sanctuary in half. The good news is that this will not be happening.

The bipartisan spending bill that was passed by both the House and the Senate on Thursday had language in the bill that will be protecting five different landmarks in the Rio Grande area, including the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas.

U.S Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas said he was the one to add in the language in the 1,159-page spending package that President Trump signed on Friday, avoiding another shutdown.

The five sites affected over $600 million of the wall’s proposed cost. There were worries that hundreds of different species of butterflies would be affected after a federal court had ruled that they would not be protecting the building.

Now, the building will be one of five sites unaffected by a proposed wall. The other four include the future home of Space X’s commercial spaceport, a Catholic chapel, a bird watching spot that is internationally recognized, and a wildlife refuge.

While this can be classified as “pork barrel spending” to some people, we need areas like the butterfly sanctuary as they are very critical to our food supply and growth.

It’s sad that it had to come to this point where we needed the intervention of a congressman to save the sanctuary, but at least the sanctuary will be there for many more years to come.

Mint Condition of Famous Game Sells Big

Have you ever thought, “yeah, I would spend over $100,000 for a video game.” Well, one person thought the money was well spend.

An original mint condition Super Mario Bros was sold at an auction on Thursday for $100,150 to a group of people that plan on sharing the game among each other.

This is the most expensive game to have been sold since the unique Nintendo World Championships cartridge was sold for $100,088 on eBay back in 2014.

This version of Super Mario Bros, is a  version that was used during the early test launch. So most likely, any version that you and I may have of Mario is not going to sell for that much. The same goes for most of our favorites and no, Fortnite isn’t one of them.

The question is now, could a game that is graded as mint, sell for over $1 million. A lot of people in the gaming world believe that we could see that in our lifetimes.

The question is that what would be the game to reach that mark. Could it be an arcade game like PAC-Man or could it be another Mario game or could a game that we don’t expect like the failed E.T. games that were reportedly buried because of how bad they were.

We just have to wait for the moment when one of these games hits the auction block.

One State is Trying to Tax Violent Video Games

For some, video games are the way of life while for others, gaming is just a lazy way to live your life. However, in one state, there are plans to place taxes on your favorite games like GTA, Call of Duty, and God of War.

Yes, the home of most Amish people, Pennsylvania, is trying to add a tax for games that are violent or mature, in efforts to make more money for state-run programs. The plan calls for a 10 percent tax, which would be at a cost of $6 for games that usually cost $60 when the game is initially released. This tax would only happen at retail stores as Pennsylvania would be unable to control the digital sales of the games.

This is the second time that the bill has been presented to the legislative body as the first bill failed to make it out of the committee. Now, the bill, which is called House Bill 109, is picking up steam with two Democrats and a Republican currently sponsoring it.

The tax money made from the games would be used to enhance school safety measures in the state.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is currently challenging the law. The ESA says that the law would violate the U.S. Constitution, citing a previous case that stated video games were protected by the Constitution.

ESA also cited research that says there’s no evidence attributing mass shootings to violent games.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the case will be, and we will be sure to keep up with any updates as the bill progresses.

 

Photo from Gamezine

Apple Has Officially Released the Fix for FaceTime Group Bug

A few weeks ago, a 14-year-old kid was able to find a bug that sent Apple into a panic and led to them shutting down an important function for any Apple product.

Just last Thursday, Apple released an update for their iOS software, which patched the FaceTime Group function after a bug was found that allowed people to eavesdrop on any conversation even if the call wasn’t answered.

This came after a 14-year-old, of all people, discovered the bug. Apple did acknowledge the finding and apologized about the issue, which resulted in a temporary shutdown of the function until the release of a patch.

Of course, this isn’t the first or last issue that Apple has dealt with over the years. Remember when all Apple users got a new U2 album for free on their products? Yeah, the backlash was so bad that it lead to Apple releasing a patch that allowed users to delete the unwanted music from their playlists.

How about the worst of the worst when Apple admitted to slowing down older phones so people would have to eventually buy another phone? Apple would have been better off if they just declared it an urban legend. This problem has led to many lawsuits that are still being fought in federal courts to this day.

The good news for Apple here is that no one (well, at least not yet) is planning on launching any lawsuits against the multi-billion dollar company for this bug and hopefully for them, the bug has been squished.

 

 

Systems Outage with Wells Fargo Services

Our money is very important to us in today’s society.  Of course without it, you won’t be able to buy your needs and any wants that you can afford for the week.  However, some people got worried when their hard earned money wasn’t showing up on their accounts.

Customers with Wells Fargo were unable to access their money on their accounts just this past Thursday and even as recent as Friday it was reported that customers were still having troubles and they were unable to access their accounts and direct deposits.

Wells Fargo released a statement that said that the issue was contained by their data center that the ATMs were working and most online and mobile services were back up and operating.

Because of the issue, Wells Fargo extend their hours for most of their branches by one hour for Friday and Saturday.

However, the issues that are still going on are serious ones like mortgage issues which are affecting closing on houses which could affect the futures of many.

Another issue which is the most common one is customers not being able to access their money which worried business owners and others as people’s paychecks could had been delayed due to the issue.

As of press time, some of the issues are lingering as some customers are planning on switching bank providers as soon as they are able to access their accounts, they will be switching to another bank. This won’t affect the fourth largest bank in the world right now but it could affect their future if they are not careful.

It is going to be an interesting few days to see how many customers leave Wells Fargo due to this debacle.

Robocalls At An All Time High In U.S.

Has there ever been a time where you were in class or at work when your phone went off and it was a call from a number that you did not recognize? That may have been a robocall, and you ain’t the only one getting them.

A whopping 26.3 billion robocalls were made just last year, according to a report from Hiya. This number has increased by 47 percent since 2017, when there were 18 billion robocalls. That means that the average person would have gotten at least 10 robocalls.

Hiya also released their first annual State of the Call report. Their mission is to give insight “into how Americans use their phones on a monthly basis given the rise of robocalls.”

They found that there are over 11 billion calls that are made monthly, but only 52 percent of them get answered. The unanswered calls are mainly robocalls, telemarketers, and fraudsters, which Hiya calls “general spam.”

Just remember that when you get a call saying you have won a world-wide trip or a call telling you that you have won a million dollars from a contest that you never entered, it’s a scam and you probably shouldn’t answer calls like that in the future.

 

Photo from KimKommando

Fortnite Reaches New Levels With Gaming’s First Ever Live Concert In Game.

Fortnite has been a revolutionary game for all of gaming. It has also been an example for many gaming companies that you can do microtransactions and not affect the gamers that play the game for fun.

It’s not pay-to-win, and along with Battle Royale, Fortnite and Epic Games have one of the better games in recent memories. Now they can say that they had gaming’s first live concert.

Marshmello, the DJ with hits like “Happier” and “Friends”, and avid Fortnite gamer had his first ever concert in a game that was live and free for all gamers to see.

The concert was a standard concert for Marshmello and had his standard set of songs, but of course, it was also different as he was performing these songs live on a game. The concert also stopped all action in the game as gamers were not allowed to kill each other or the virtual Marshmello until the concert was over.

After the concert ended, gamers were able to return to their games and play as they normally would.

Epic Games also released a Marshmello skin for gamers to use for their Fortnite characters.

This is not the first time that Fortnite has used their famous fans for advertisement. They have used Ninja’s popularity to reach the top of the streaming charts on Twitch and YouTube, and have also taken advantage of Drake’s popularity, who is known to be an avid Fortnite gamer as well.

As of right now, there were no reported issues with connections for the concert as it most likely produced a high amount of traffic in the game at that time.

This concert with Marshmello was a good day for gaming and music, as it could lead to something much bigger like a Drake concert. Then we will see if Epic Games has the best servers in the world.

 

U.S. Withdraws From Nuclear Arms Deal With Russia

President Donald Trump has made questionable decisions throughout his presidency that have had people wondering, “Why would he do that?” Well, this decision may be questioned by many as well.

It was made official on Saturday that the Trump Administration was pulling the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia. This action is only the beginning of a six-month formal withdrawal process that will allow both sides time to change their minds if they want to.

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, made the official announcement for the U.S. yesterday, citing Russia’s numerous violations of the treaty in the 30 years that it has been in effect.

The end of the treaty is most likely going to result in the production of more nuclear weapons from both sides, which has multiple countries around the world worried about another nuclear arms race between the former Cold War rivals. Continue reading U.S. Withdraws From Nuclear Arms Deal With Russia

NASA is Losing Hope to Revive Opportunity Rover

The clock is ticking for the 15-year-old Mars rover, Opportunity. After six months of attempts, scientists from NASA have failed to revive the rover.

In June of 2018, the rover was unable to avoid a planet-wide wind storm on Mars, which blocked out the sun for several months. Opportunity is powered by solar energy and without any new energy, the rover’s batteries are drained.

In those months since Opportunity went off online, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California has sent over 600 commands to the rover in hopes of reviving it. However, the warmer temperatures and wind knocking off the dust on the rover have not helped.

John Callas, the mission project manager for JPL said to reporters, “We’ve got another week, we are running out of time.”

The Martian winter has ended a rover’s mission before; it ended Spirit’s mission in 2011. But winter on Mars is still months away. However, the temperatures are dropping in the southern hemisphere where Opportunity is located right now.

The efforts to revive Opportunity have lasted just as long as Spirit’s attempts, but JPL has tried multiple long shot attempts. JPL had plans to head to NASA’s headquarters to talk about the next options for Opportunity, but that was postponed due to the government shutdown, which just ended on Friday.

Opportunity has lived up to its name. It has brought a ton of opportunity to everyone wanting to learn more about Mars, but it has done the impossible as well. Opportunity’s mission was supposed to last only 90 days when it landed on Mars on January 25, 2004, but it has lasted over 5,480 days and the rover has traveled about 28 miles in that time span.

It would, of course, be sad to see the end of NASA’s most successful mission but in the end, the many opportunities that Opportunity has brought to us are not to be forgotten.

Starbucks to Update Wi-Fi Filters

Starbucks has been known in recent years for great coffee, okay deserts and sandwiches, and some of the best Wi-Fi that a place can offer. But that has resulted in people trying to take advantage of it in all of the wrong ways.

In an announcement on Thursday, Starbucks will be placing new filters that will not allow people to watch porn. These new filters will be in place by the start of 2019.

Starbucks referred to themselves as a “third place” in between home and work for a lot of people, and in order to keep it that way, Starbucks will be enforcing the ban of porn in their stores. Previously, Starbucks only had a rule against using their Wi-Fi for viewing “illegal content…in their stores.”

The company did not have an answer for how it prevented the use of their Wi-Fi for such things as porn. They are also behind the 8-ball as most other companies, such as McDonald’s, went with the ban back in 2016, while Starbucks has just “pledged to place the filters.”

The type of filter is unknown as of right now, but in the UK, Starbucks uses a system called Friendly Wi-Fi, which has been approved by the government for use over there.

Now, for those who use the Wi-Fi the right way, hopefully the internet service will be much faster now without the risks of viruses.

 

Photo retrieved from Ars Technica

PlayStation Won’t Be Going To E3 2019

After Sony canceled the PlayStation Experience earlier this year, there was hope that Sony would make an appearance at E3 in 2019. Well, that’s another tradition that PlayStation will be breaking this year.

For the first time since E3 began over 24 years ago, PlayStation and Sony will not be showing up at the event. Sony said in a statement that their reason for missing the event comes down to the way games are showcased nowadays. “We always want to innovate, think differently, and experiment with new ways to delight gamers.”

This is not the first time that a big video game company has decided to skip E3. Nintendo started this back in 2013 when they decided to skip the event in favor of an online press conference that they still do to this day.

However, Nintendo did end up making a return to E3, but they had a much smaller role as a vendor.

As noted, Sony made the decision earlier this year to cancel their annual PlayStation Experience. Their decision to cancel it did not backfire in their face as they had one of the best years in gaming in recent memory.

Games like God of War and Spider-Man, which were PS4 exclusives, sold in record numbers, and this has resulted in higher PS4 sales so people can play those games.

In October, it was confirmed by Sony president and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida that Sony was working on a PlayStation 5 with an official announcement to come in 2019 or 2020.

Trump Administration Releases Report on Climate Change

A new report on climate change released by the U.S. Government shows not only that climate change is very real but it is also going to have dire effects on our economy.

The report, which was released on Friday, was due in December but was released early as Americans were distracted by family, friends, shopping, and good food.

The report states that if the United States was unable to change its course, the economy could lose over 10% of its GDP in a worst-case scenario.

This report only comes days after a tweet from the President asking what happened to global warming after most Americans across the nation experienced record-breaking cold weather.

However, as explained in most reports, a “record-breaking weather event” like the one on Thanksgiving is nothing compared to the yearly average, which shows humans are dealing with warming conditions.

As of right now, the top countries in the world, better known as the G20, are not reaching climate targets, according to research done by Climate Transparency.

Without any serious prevention or attempts to reduce our greenhouse emissions, the average global temperatures will rise over 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century.

We know that rising temperatures can have negative effects on our farming production and our health. We will be unable to work some days due to temperatures being too high, which will result in deaths to the lack of food and water.

We have been taught this many times in science class, and it is up to us to make sure that our children have a planet to live on by 2100.

Progress of Programs: The Rise of Small Productions

In the distant past of 1995, the first fully computer-generated animation film fell with style in to the laps of a generation; that movie was Toy Story.

This particular film was created in what Pixar referred to as their processor farm, because the machines would literally make animal noises when one finished a frame.

Just as with the rest of technology, we have progress very far in the 23 years since Toy Story.

What was once a process consuming hundreds of thousands of dollars and taking more man hours than fixing a city street, we can now do on tablets no bigger than a standard notebook.  

Two little words make this concept of computer animation for the every man possible: Open Source.

These programs, available online and often completely free, give creators the chance to stand among titans of production industry, like Disney and Pixar.

Truly this is the age of “where there’s a will there’s a way” for those with the will to create their own animation.

One program, however, is leading the charge for this movement: Blender, from the Blender Foundation, a dutch public-benefit corporation.  

You may be asking yourself, why Blender specifically? Surely there are other programs? But Blender has a couple of examples that really set it in the forefront of this movement.

The smaller of the two is a short film directed by Daniel M. Lara, and it is the 6th short film funded by the Blender Cloud. The beauty of this film is it shows off how even if your wanting to make 2D animation you can with this program.

Traditionally, most animation does need to be created nearly frame by frame. Often we allow for reusable resources like backgrounds or make minimal changes while leaving most of the frame static.

The main reason is consistency in as many aspects as we can, barring an artistic form of design or direction. Using a 3D animation setup, certain things like character orientation or spatial recognition within environments.  

While using Blender for 2D animation is very doable and has its advantages, the program was designed for 3D animation primarily.

The second film that shows us the tangible power of Blender on a few different levels is the film Next Gen created by a few studios hailing from China, Canada, and the U.S.A, but helmed by Netflix.

The reason this film is so important right now is that ninety-five percent of the animation used was Blender.

From a business standpoint that is super smart as getting Adobe Animate for a studio of around ten computers/tablets for animating would run you $2039.40 before tax.

Also that’s just the one program if you need others like Photoshop the costs begin to pile up quickly given the number of animators, foley artists, directors, musicians, and the numerous other employees you still need to pay.  

Next Gen is something to look towards as animators for seeing just how far you can get with this free program. Given some mid-grade hardware individuals can produce excellent quality films.

Though studios under Netflix do have an advantage over indie productions given that their animators get paid and have more time to devote strictly to production.

However, like I said at the beginning, where there is a will, there is a way. Remember, passion is the life blood of creation, and for those passionate enough the tools are before you. What will you create? 

 

On Toy Story: 

https://medium.com/the-mission/the-story-behind-the-toy-story-e660368bd0db 

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-toy-story-anniversary-20150930-story.html 

https://www.theverge.com/2015/3/17/8229891/sxsw-2015-toy-story-pixar-making-of-20th-anniversary 

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/production-begins-on-toy-story 

 

On Blender: 

https://www.blender.org/about/ 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKmSdY56VtY     Hero – made with blender’s grease pencil 

 

 

 

Tumblr Removed from App Store

Most of us have a Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter, but how many of us have a Tumblr? While most view the platform as simply another media platform, Apple found something that they did not like.

Tumblr was removed from the App Store due to the discovery of child porn on the social media platform during a routine audit. iOS does these usually to see if the apps have content filters that can prevent the spread of things like underage porn, according to the Verge.

However, this is not the first time that Apple has booted an app from the App Store. Earlier just this year, Telegram was booted for the exact same reason.

Tumblr issued a statement stating that they removed the content in question and are working with Apple to rejoin the App Store.

Tumblr has been known as a platform that is permissive towards adult content, and has even been involved in battles with the governments of South Korea and Indonesia over their app.

Only time will tell if Tumblr is allowed to come back into Apple’s App Store, but the good news for them is that they are still allowed in the Play Store (for now).

Disney Has a Name For Their New Streaming Service

Netflix could be in trouble come late 2019 when Disney launches its new streaming service, and now, the service has a name.

Disney+ (how original right?) will be launching in late 2019 and will be hoping for movies like Avengers, Deadpool, and Pirates of the Caribbean in order to pass Netflix as the number one streaming service.

As for the content, Disney owns not only their original content but also the Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars franchises. They also have the 21st Century Fox content as the result of their recent $71.1 billion acquisition. Disney will also own 60 percent of Hulu and will be using the Fox assets to bolster their already high content lineup.

As of now, it is way too early to determine what the price might be per month for subscribers, but some of the content that will be available on Disney+ has been determined somewhat.

There will be a new live-action “Star Wars” series that takes place prior to the events of “Rouge One: A Star Wars Story” and another series called “The Mandalorian,” which will be set after the fall of the Empire.

Disney CEO Bob Iger said to CNBC that Disney+ will be aimed towards the common viewer as well as the most hardcore Disney fan. Most content that Disney has will be available for all.

Back in August of 2017, Disney made the announcement that they would be pulling all of their content from Netflix, which set in motion the events taking place now.

The launch of Disney+ will follow after this years’ launch of ESPN+, the sports media service that is owned by Disney. Iger has stated that ESPN+ currently has over a million paid subscribers, and it only costs $5.00 per month for thousands of hours of sports content.

Study of Cellphone Use Finds a Link to Cancer

We have been debating for a long time whether or not cellphone use can cause cancer. On Thursday, the National Toxicology Program, a part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, concluded what experts called the world’s largest and most expensive experiment to determine whether or not cell phones are a cause of cancer.

The study began during the Bill Clinton Administration and it cost over $30 million and involved over 3,000 rats. The experiment ended on a positive note but found that some types of cell phones raise the chances of brain cancer developing in male rats.

John Bucher, a scientist with the National Toxicology Program, said in a statement to the New York Times that there is a link between radio frequency radiation and tumors in male rats.

He did warn us that the exposure levels and durations that the rats endured are far greater than what humans typically encounter and that this study could be used in comparison to the human’s experience.

Experts, however, are arguing that even a small demonstrated rise in cancer risk could be devastating, with billions using cell phones on a daily basis.

The lowest level that was used in the study was equal to the maximum amount of radiation allowed by the government, and that level rarely occurs in typical cell phone use. The highest level was four times the limit allowed.

So, in the end, the study was very beneficial to our futures, as we do need to know how much radiation is too much for human use. Hopefully, we can create a more powerful phone with less radiation, but that will be determined by the government regulations and what we want in our phones.