Category Archives: Technology

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.

Amazon’s HQ2 Might Be Located in Northern VA

After months of discussion about the location of Amazon’s second headquarters, aka HQ2, with options that include Dallas and Los Angeles, a leaked memo may have the answer. Amazon may have decided the place for their newest headquarters, and it could be good news for Radford students as well.

On Saturday, a leaked memo that was released by the Washington Post (owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos) showed that Northern Virginia has won the bid for Amazon headquarters. The post would not release the leaker’s name, and Amazon has not made a comment about the situation.

However, city leaders in Crystal City, VA are not happy with the leaker. Mike Grella, Amazon’s director of global economic development, said in a tweet that the leak was not doing Crystal City any favors.

Griella also stated that the decision would not be decided based off of Bezos’ travels. It has also been rumored that the selection of the new headquarters would be based off where his corporate jet flies as well as the Washington Post. That would leave the choices down to Northern Virginia and the New York area.

Of course, the area that wins the bid will be set economically as Amazon plans on investing over $5 billion into the local market, adding more than 50,000 jobs and yielding an average pay of over $100,000. As many as over 250,000 jobs will also be indirectly added as well, according to Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at the University of California Berkeley.

 

General Motors Bicycles? Yes, They Are Real And They Are Coming Soon

When you think about GM, full name General Motors, you think about current brands like Buick Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC, and old names like Pontiac and Oldsmobile. Would you have thought GM would be producing a bike? Most may have said no, but a GM bike is becoming a reality.

GM is releasing an electric bike next year as an alternative to a motor vehicle. Actually, GM is releasing two different types of electric bike in order to compete with rideshare companies, Uber and Lyft, and rival automaker Ford, in an attempt to enter the new market in urban electric bikes.

The e-bike is not a normal bicycle that you have to pedal just to get around town. The e-bike will provide a small battery-powered electric motor to help people with pedaling when going up hills and traveling long distances on flat terrain. Supporters of the e-bikes say it provides a realistic alternative to driving and a sweat-free alternative to traditional biking.

Along with GM’s announcement on Friday about the e-bikes, they also asked the public to name the bikes for the chance to win $10,000.

This is not GM’s first rodeo with electric products. They currently have the Chevy Bolt, and they came out with the e-bike concept in 2015.

The e-bike will be lightweight and also foldable, which wlll be useful for urban commuters.

As of right now, GM has not and will not say where the bikes will be produced and where they will be sold, only saying that all of those details will be released soon enough.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Sets New Records in Sales

The critically acclaimed game, Red Dead Redemption 2, was destined to be one of the games of the year, but most people could not have seen what RDR 2 would end up accomplishing.

Rockstar announced on Monday that within the first three days of release, Red Dead Redemption 2 sold over $725 million in copies, around 10 million units sold. Rockstar is also projecting that the game will have made a profit by December and will have sold over 20 million units by then.

Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two also has stated that RDR 2 had the most pre-order sales in PlayStation Network history.  However, RDR 2 is only second behind Grand Theft Auto 5, another Rockstar game that was released in 2013, for most sales in a three day period, with GTA 5 hitting the billion-dollar mark within that time period.

Most people don’t think about the cost that goes into making a game like RDR 2, and they may wonder why the game is not profitable as of right now. But if you think of it, this is very normal.

Since the release of the original Red Dead Redemption, developers have been working on the second one. There was controversy regarding paying employees, with some developers working over 80 hours in a week to get RDR 2 to the point where it is at now.

Not to mention, Red Dead Online has not been released as of press time. Take-Two will break even before the release of the online mode (release date is unknown), so do not feel bad for them as we will be giving them our money soon enough.

Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place in 1899 in the Wild West where you play as Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang. The game follows the story of the gang as well as a young John Marston, the protagonist of the first game.

The Audience Is Bigger At Netflix But So Is The Debt

Have you ever wondered how Netflix is able to have your favorite movie on their website within a matter of months after first appearing in the movie theaters? Of course they have to pay a licensing fee but those fees cost a ton, which is why Netflix is facing a huge debt like MoviePass.

But unlike MoviePass, Netflix has been willing to raise the prices of their service, which currently costs $13.99 with all of the benefits. But the biggest problem Netflixfilx comes with the original content that is produced.

Shows like Orange is the New Black and Big Mouth cost money to produce and a ton of it at that. This has resulted in Netflix selling over $2 billion worth of bonds earlier this week, which has multiple investors and rating agencies saying that Netflix is selling below market value. This also includes a current debt of $8.3 billion.

The good news for Netflix is that they will eventally break even, but as long as they keep spending cash faster than they collect it, Netflix will be in debt. The biggest issue for Netflix is its stock value, which is currently at $299. This number was at a high of $400, but numerous people have felt that even the $299 value is way too high.

If Netflix were to drop down lower than $200 a share, we could see companies like Disney, Time Warner, and Comcast try to buy the multi-billion dollar corporation. A result like that should have you worried about your “Netflix and Chill” nights.

However, that is only speculation. For right now, just realize that Netflix would have to collapse before we see results like these.

AT&T Says That They Have The World’s First 5G Connection

The race to 5G has been up and down for the top-tier cell phone companies in the United States. We have seen a merger collapse, and we have seen what turned into a merger for Spirit and T-Mobile when they joined forces against Verizon and AT&T to be the first to 5G. But according to one of the “Big 3,” the race is over.

AT&T made an announcement saying that they have produced the first 5G signal in Waco, Texas. This could be our chance to move from our current world to the world that we have seen only in movies.

Why make a big deal out of this news that just came out of the blue?Well, if it is true, then you can expect to see a line of 5G phones sold by AT&T.

AT&T has also promised to launch 5G service to Waco and 30 other cities across the nation. Most of those cities are in the southern part of the United States.

AT&T has a current goal of 5G on the road while rival Verizon has focused on producing a 5G product for the home.

As a reminder about news like this—we should not expect to see 5G service starting tomorrow or next week. It is just like flying cars and drones delivering our packages; it could take until the next decade before we see results.

Elon Musk, Inspiration or Jerk?

I do not often get the chance to write an opinion piece, so I am going to make the best of this opportunity as it’s been burning at me for awhile.

How to describe Elon Musk’s year so far? Musk so far has not had a good year. After calling a British diver a “pedo” on Twitter (due to his criticism toward Musk during the Thailand cave rescues), Musk is getting sued. After this, he returned to Twitter to threaten the removal of Tesla from the stock market. This ended with Musk being sued by the SEC which lead to him stepping down as chairman from Tesla, paying a $20 million fine and a Twitter “timeout” while Tesla monitors Musk and his activity on the social media platform.

These events happened over a two month period, and they are not the only thing that Musk has done that was stupid or questionable. The man donates money to both political parties for the heck of it, launches a Tesla car into space without any reason other than his own kicks, and started a company that was meant to help with Los Angeles traffic by creating “flamethrowers” just for the heck of it.

Now, there are reasons why Musk does these things. Launching a car into space shows how much potential SpaceX has, while donating money to both political parties serves to show how much influence that he can have in a more political scale. Lastly, creating “flamethrowers” seemed to simply be his method of showing that he can do whatever the “hell” he wants.

That reminds me of a certain someone who is currently sitting in the Oval Office. Yes, we know that you are rich, but you do not need to flash the money. Such actions only serve to make you look like a jerk. This is not sarcasm, nor is it Musk simply trying to be funny; these actions are trying to make yourself better than what you are.

I will admit that Musk has done a great job with SpaceX and PayPal (which he sold to Google). But that does not mean that I have to like the man. He is a person that has to show how much money that he has and does it in the worst ways possible. That is why I do not see him as an inspiration, I see him as a jerk.

A New PlayStation in the Works According to Sony CEO

Anytime a new generation of gaming systems is in the works, it is hard to keep it a secret, and this news is no exception. In fact, this story was probably the worst kept secret in the gaming industry.  However, the news was made official by Sony CEO, Kenichiro Yoshida, in an interview with the Financial Times. Sony is currently working on a successor to the PlayStation 4 but has stopped short of calling it the PlayStation 5.

ps

“At this point, what I can say is it’s necessary to have a next-generation hardware,” Yoshida said.

This announcement comes after Microsoft announced that they are currently testing Project xCloud, streaming technology for playing any Xbox games on phones and tablets. The public will be able to test this project beginning next year.

Sony does offer streaming games on the PS4 and PC with its PlayStation Now service, which was previously available on Samsung Smart TVs.

Yoshida did not give an exact date for when the new system would be available on the market, but according to Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO John Kodera, the new system is hinted to be released in 2021 as reported by Digital Trends. Kodera previously stated in May that the PS4 has entered “the final phase of its life cycle.”

Do not expect for Sony to drop the PlayStation name as the game systems with the name have been very successful in the past 3 decades. The PlayStation 2 is the best selling console of all time with 155 million units sold. The PS4 since it was launched in 2013 has sold 80 million units, and it will likely pass the sales of the PS3, which sold 83.8 million units according to GameSpot.

President Trump Signs a Landmark Bill for Musicians

On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed the Music Modernization Act, a landmark copyright reform that musicians in Nashville, TN, have been advocating for many years.

President Trump  with multiple politicians and celebrities after the signing of the Music Modernization Act; photo from pitchfork.com
President Trump with multiple politicians and celebrities after the signing of the Music Modernization Act; photo from pitchfork.com

What the act does for musicians and businesses is that it will create a new organization that will be in charge of the rising digital mechanical licensing of a song. This new organization will be run by producers and songwriters and will determine who the copyright owners are. The organization will also be in charge of paying the copyright owners their royalties when their songs are played through Apple, Spotify, etc.

Previously, this was up to the streaming companies and at some points, these companies would fail to properly license a song, which led to lawsuits in the millions and expensive settlements.

The new law will also create a new standard in the music industry by setting a digital royalty rate for songwriters and publishers, which will allow them to get paid more. This will allow for a more favorable free market value standard.

This law will close the loophole that allowed digital radio companies not to pay artists and their record labels royalties for songs recorded prior to 1972.

Mitch Glazier, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said to USA Today, “The Music Modernization Act is now the law of the land, and thousands of songwriters and artists are better for it.”

 

Mission Abort: ISS in Danger of Being Abandoned

On Thursday, a Soyuz rocket carrying an American and a Russian had to abort its mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station after the rocket suffered a failure that resulted in an emergency landing.

Astronauts Alexei Ovchinin and Nick Hague were the men who made the emergency landing. According to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, both men were very calm in the moment.  Bridenstine did have one communication issue with the astronauts as Hague was speaking in Russian to Bridenstine.

The International Space Station

The rocket, which was meant to go to the International Space Station, failed only two minutes after launch. The capsule fell at an altitude of 31 miles, which caused the men to experience gravitational forces 6-7 times the amount felt on Earth.

The failed attempt was the first manned mission for Russia in nearly three decades, although Russia has had to deal with failed missions involving unmanned missions.

Investigators are looking into why the spacecraft failed. Bridenstine has stated another mission, which involves taking a crew to the ISS in December, may be delayed.

The current crew at ISS which includes an American, a Russian, and a German, is scheduled to leave the space station in December. They could stay at the ISS until next year if needed, according to a Russian official.

If a crew cannot be brought to the ISS by the time the current crew leaves, the ISS may be abandoned for the time period.  That would be the first time since its launch in 1998. The ISS is expected to be fully operational until 2028.

Michael May Be Over But Devastation Lies Throughout US

Just days after Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida, residents are returning to what is left of their homes. Here are the latest updates on the storm that damaged the East Coast.

Hurricane Michael was originally going to be a strong category 3 hurricane. By the time it hit Florida, Michael was one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States, with a pressure of 919 mbar and winds of 155 mph. This hurricane was only 2 mph away from a category 5, which is the most powerful hurricane, according to the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

As of Saturday, 19 people were killed directly because of the hurricane and tropical storm. That number includes 6 that were killed in Virginia. The most notable death was Lt. Brad Clark of  Hanover County Fire Department and EMS. Lt. Clark, 43, and three other firefighters who survived were responding to an accident on I295 when a vehicle, driven by Lester Labarge of California, Maryland, crashed into the firetruck, killing Lt. Clark and injuring two others. Labarge, 49, has been charged with reckless driving and cited with defective brakes according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

As for the currently low death rate, the areas that were hit in Florida have a low population compared to Katrina, which made landfall in New Orleans in 2005.

As for Florida, the recovery process has just begun for the Sunshine State. People have started to pick up the pieces of their lives as they fight to get food and water. The Florida National Guard and numerous volunteer groups have been trying to provide as much water and food as possible, while the rebuild has not started yet. Florida Governor and Senate candidate Rick Scott calls the area hit hardest by Michael “a war zone.”

The hardest hit areas in Florida are Bay County and Mexico Beach. According to the head of FEMA, Brock Long, those areas are not safe to return to as of now and won’t be safe to return to for a while.

If you want to help with the Michael recovery efforts in Florida, the American Red Cross, World Hope International, and many other organizations have set up web pages so you can donate.

 

Google+ to Shut Down After User Data was Exposed

In 2011, Google launched a social media site called Google+ to challenge Facebook which was the number one social media site and one of the few out there. Google wanted in on the social media craze. Unfortunately for Google, nobody wanted or liked Google+ which made the decision easier when Google+ was hacked just recently.

Google+ is no longer available to public users; photo from stockio.com
Google+ is no longer available to public users; photo from stockio.com

Alphabet Inc. the parent company of Google announced on Monday that they will be shuting down the consumer verison of Google+ and tighting the data sharing policies after it was announced that over 500,000 users may have been exposed to hundreds of developers outside of Alphabet.

The issue involving Google+ was found and patched as a part of a review on how Google shares data with other applications and companies. No developer exploited the open data according to Google in their findings.

Alphabet Inc. stock only went down 1 percent to $1155.92 and this comes after numerous tech companies in the U.S. have had to deal with privacy issues.

For the reason on why the leak was announced to the public, Google had fears of the disclosure of the leak would be compared to Facebook’s leak of user info to Cambridge Analytica.

As for Google+ which was created in 2011 as more or less a copy of Facebook, it will no longer be offered to users as a social media platform but it will remain as an internal networking option for businesses who buy Google’s G-Suite.

As precaution that Google is taking is that they will no longer allow Play Store apps to access text messages and call logs unless they are the default calling or texting app on a user’s device or have the prior permission of Google.