Category Archives: Science, Tech, & Health

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

Red Dead Online Has Been Released and the Ratings Aren’t So Hot

Beginning on Tuesday, Rockstar released the highly anticipated Red Dead Online Beta to those who had purchased the Ultimate Edition. On Friday, the beta was released to everyone and oh boy, the mode has been filled with not so much glitches but rather a lack of things.

The lack of content:

So, for an online mode to succeed, there needs to be some type of content, like story mode or events, or something. Red Dead Online may be in the beta stages, but the lack of activities on the mode makes it seem like the only reason it was released was to give the players something, along with patching a few things.

It only took me a few game hours before I had finished the online story mode (more content to be released) and the few other optional missions. That’s a small issue when compared to this next one.

MICROTRANSACTIONS

Microtransactions are here to stay as long as the player is willing to pay for them but come on Rockstar, why does it seem like your Red Dead Online mode has the transaction system of a mobile game? There should not be two different currencies in the game.

It is bad enough that the in-game economy is so bad that it is going to take a ton of grinding to get the weapons and clothing you want if you did not buy the ultimate edition. I can not stand it when your game is more or less a pay to win situation.

That type of system has led to gamers buying fewer of those games. Now, most of the time, you’ll see those games in the sports gaming side of things, but you get my point.

The plotline makes no sense

There won’t be any spoilers in here, but the plotline describing how your character got to where he/she is makes no sense. Where is your “redemption” for this plot? Rockstar aims for a story mode here, but based on what I have played so far, it just seems like another GTA Online but with the lack of flying cars, jokes, and whatnot.

Do not even get me started with the try-hards as they are in every online game.  However, it does not help with the gaming experience.

Red Dead Online is unable to capitalize on the main game’s success for now, and it won’t until Rockstar is able to fix these issues or make the game better.

 

Photo retrieved from Polygon

US Only Country at G20 Not to Back Paris Climate Accord

President Donald Trump was the only person at the G20 summit in Argentina not to sign an agreement to uphold the Paris Climate Accord, but he and 19 other countries did sign an agreement committing to reform global trade.

It is well known that the president does not believe in climate change as shown by numerous tweets, but this is a firm committment to his campaign promise that said he would leave the agreement, which he did just last year.

However, in a huge win for the president, he was able to get an agreement on trade that more or less stated a need for reform. This agreement called for the reforming of the World Trade Organization. A topic of Trump’s campaign was that the United States has been treated unfairly by multiple countries in trade agreements.

The White House is treating the G20 as a victory for the president as he was able to achieve a better deal for the United States.

President Trump had to cut his visit short due to the death of former president George H.W. Bush on Friday.  He and the First Lady are planning on going to the funeral, which is to be held next week.

Trump has made it clear to the entire world that the United States will not be a part of the climate accord and the question now is: Will the Paris Climate Accord succeed without the United States?

Continue reading US Only Country at G20 Not to Back Paris Climate Accord

US Life Expectancy Drops Due to Multiple Factors Caused by Humans

The life expectancy in the United States has always been one of the top in the world for the longest time. It helps that we are a first world country, but in return, we have to deal with first world issues like drug addictions and suicide.

This has resulted in a decrease in the country’s life expectancy, which of course shows that women will most likely outlive men. This is common in most countries in the world, but the average age of life expectancy in the United States will drop to 78.6 years.

That is a decrease of 0.1 years since the previous year. This may seem small to most as we are looking for our next meal at the local grocery store or fast food place, but it has the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) worried.

The CDC noted that overdose deaths have reached an all-time high while the suicide rate has increased by 3.7% since last year.

However, the top ten causes of death have not been affected by these increases and are expected to stay the same unless there is a drastic change.

This information should worry us. Life is getting more stressful and drugs are easier to get than a Juul in California. It is going to take work from us and our government to help prevent suicides and drug overdoses.

 

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).

FDA Issues Another Recall on Romaine Lettuce

Was there something that you missed while shopping for this year’s Thanksgiving meal? Well, if it was romaine lettuce for the salad that you were planning on serving, then don’t feel too bad. Romaine lettuce was recalled once again for an E-Coli outbreak.

Two days before Thanksgiving, the FDA ordered stores across the nation to remove all romaine lettuce from shelves due to an E-Coli outbreak that is believed to have started in California, according to a tweet sent out by FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb.

32 people across 11 different states were sick by the time the recall was issued and this only comes less than 6 months after the first e-coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce that got hundreds sick and killed five people. That outbreak orignated in the Yuma, Arizona region.  FDA did note that the current outbreak was not related to the one from Yuma.

Another 18 people in Canada have also gotten sick from the same e-coli outbreak that is affecting the United States.

Common symptoms of e-coli include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody.  However, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, they usually disappear after a week.

For those who enjoy eating a salad, you might have to deal with spinach leaves until this newest outbreak has been contained.

 

 

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.

A Setback to Keystone XL Pipeline in Court

A judge has ruled that the Trump Administration has not presented a “reasoned explanation” for continuing the Keystone pipeline project. The administration also “simply discarded” evidence that said the pipeline could have a negative effect on the climate. As a result, the Keystone XL pipeline project has been halted for the time being.

Judge Brian Morris of the United States District Court in Montana blocked the construction of the 1,179 mile pipeline that would push oil from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast. For the past decade, the project has been halted and fought in the courts.

This decision will lead to a legal battle over climate change and global warming, which the president has described as “fake news.”

President Trump, as he was leaving the White House to travel to France for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1, said to reporters, “I think it’s a disgrace,” when asked about the decision regarding the pipeline.

While experts have said that the pipeline would not have an effect on jobs or climate change, people have fought against the pipeline since George W. Bush was in office back in 2008.

Mark Squillace, an expert on environmental law at the University of Colorado Law School, said to the New York Times that the Trump Administration has not done a good job dealing with the findings of the previous administration (Obama). Squillace noted that political stances can change, but one thing that won’t is how you get from “point A to point B.”

While there are plenty of options to appeal, oppressors of the project are celebrating the win, after a decade-long battle against the pipeline, which is mostly completed.

This could be only the beginning of a very long court battle that most likely may reach the Supreme Court.

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.

Despite Pleads and Warnings, FDA Approves a New and Powerful Opioid

The opioid crisis is stronger than ever. Just last year in the United States, there were 72,000 drug overdose deaths, and over 49,000 of those people died of opioid overdoses.  Despite a bill that was signed by President Trump to help tens of thousands battling opioid addictions, the FDA has approved a new opioid which is one of, if not the most, powerful opioid ever to be produced.

The drug, which is called Dsuvia, is the tablet form of sufentanil, a synthetic opioid that has been used since the 1980s. It is 10 times stronger than fentanyl, a parent drug that has often been used in hospitals. Fentanyl has been illegally produced in different ways, which has led to tens of thousands of overdose deaths in recent years.

Even though the FDA’s advisory committee approved the drug in a 10 to 3 vote, the panel’s chairman, Dr. Raeford Brown, wrote a letter to officials that expressed deep concern about allowing the drug to be used by the public.

In the letter, Dr. Brown predicted that the new opioid will lead to abuse and death within a few months of availability on the market. The letter questioned if the FDA would succeed in the enforcement of restrictions on the drug if it were to hit the market.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, gave the drug final approval and released a statement that defends the decision, stating that Dsuvia will only be allowed for use in hospitals and other medical settings. He also stated that the drug is ideal for serious situations and that more soldiers wounded in the battlefield would have died without the strong painkiller.

Now it is up to hospitals and the FDA to prevent this opioid from hitting the market. If they fail, it could be very bad news for addicts and families.

 

What is GAB?

After the shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people and injured numerous others, we are left to question: how did this happen?

The suspect, who has been identified as Robert Bowers, appears to have a history of anti-Semitic posts and speech on this social media platform called GAB. Yesterday, PayPal banned GAB from using their platform while Apple and Google have previously banned the social media platform for posts that were also anti-Semitic. So, what is GAB?

GAB describes themselves as “a social network that champions free speech.” However, it has turned into a “haven” for Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the extreme right.

GAB has also been compared as the right-leaning Twitter, which GAB has neither accepted nor denied.

Founder and CEO of GAB, Andrew Torba, has cited himself that GAB was inspired because of a “left-leaning monopoly on social media.”

Now, people will say that Torba has a right to keep the freedom of speech on GAB, while others will say that he does not. However, the 1st Amendment does protect hate speech but it does not protect GAB from the “wrath” of other companies banning it from its platform.

So for now, GAB is fighting to stay online in general as along with being cut by PayPal, they were cut off by their web host. Luckily for them, they were able to find another web host. After finding a new web host, GAB took to Twitter (irony at its finest) and tweeted out: “FREE SPEECH WILL ALWAYS WIN OUT.”

On the moral side of things, it should not be true, but in regards to the US Constitution, this statement is very true.

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.