Business TECH TECH_Social

AOL’s instant messenger returns as AIM Phoenix

Popular messaging application AOL Instant Messenger, from the late 90s and early 2000s, has reemerged as AIM Phoenix, without AOL association.

AIM operates through the same corresponding AOL software while controlled by Wildman Productions, a non-profit gaming development team.

Users will have no access to old buddy lists or messages due to the dissolved affiliation with AOL. Nonetheless, there is an opportunity to obtain the username or old credentials before the acquirement by another user.

When launched in 1997, AIM was a staple of personal computers. Created as an extension of AOL’s desktop software, the instant messaging client helped to revolutionize the way people interact online. The service’s popularity declined as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter took over the online social scene.

AOL only officially shut down the service late last year, citing a “cultural shift” in the way people communicate.

Users may download the old version from the AIM Phoenix website where a prompt to choose from 10 different release options spanning from 1.0 to AIM Lite will appear.

Opting for the Lite version allows users to choose from nine different themes including Gray Moose, RedBull, and Pink Sparkles.

Business TECH TECH_Technology

Dodge unveils 797-horsepower, 200 mph Hellcat Redeye

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) premiered the 797-horsepower 2019 Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, which the company highlighted Thursday at its Chelsea Proving Grounds.

Steve Beahm, head of passenger car brands for FCA North America, expressed numerous sentiments involving the high-performing vehicle. He notably acclaimed, “I like to say it’s a Hellcat that’s been possessed by a Demon.”

FCA explains the process of leveraging power output for the supercharged Hemi Demon V8, which powered the limited-edition Challenger SRT Demon that recently ended its production run in an attempt to boost the Hellcat Redeye.

Managing 707-pound-feet of torque with its 6.2-liter V8 mated to an eight-speed transmission, FCA says the Hellcat can reach 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds and has a top speed of 203 mph.

“Like its Demon brethren, it has 25 major component upgrades, including a larger supercharger, strengthened connecting rods and pistons, high-speed valve train, fuel injection system and improved lubrication system,” FCA explained in a news release.

While pricing has not yet been confirmed, Beahm stated the cost exists around $70,000 and with an availability in the fourth quarter of 2018.

In contrast to the Dodge Demon, the Hellcat Redeye will be broadly available to the public.

“We’re going to make them available to everyone rather than a select few,” Beahm said.

TECH TECH_Technology

IGN gaming editor fired for plagiarism

Filip Miucin, IGN’s former Nintendo editor, has been cited this week with plagiarism allegations involving his review of Dead Cells by YouTube channel Boomstick Gaming.

As a result, IGN fired Miucin after launching an investigation into the claims.

According to IGN, the infringement became public this week when Miucin was accused of plagiarizing sections of his Dead Cells review.

YouTuber Boomstick Gaming, who noted several similarities between his review of the game and Miucin’s, uploaded a comparison video to support his accusations.

On Thursday morning, IGN removed the text portion of Miucin’s Dead Cells review and replaced it with an editor’s note that read, “As a group of writers and creators who value our own work and that of others in our field, the editorial staff of IGN takes plagiarism very seriously. In light of concerns that have been raised about our Dead Cells review, we’ve removed it for the time being and are investigating.”

In a statement, the outlet has since announced that it had “parted ways” with Miucin after determining “that there were substantial similarities between a review posted weeks earlier and our review that could not be justified and warranted taking down.”

After further investigations, executed by IGN, the review has been removed.

“There are certain phrases in the two videos that are perhaps generic enough to be understandably similar (for instance, both reviewers highlight the way the game blends the Metroidvania and roguelike genres). However, as the comparison video goes on, we start to hear more and more statements that are indeed too close for comfort. The most damning similarity can be found at the end of Boomstick Gaming’s comparison video where he shows that his review and the IGN review feature almost an almost word-for-word closing statement”, Nintendo Enthusiast notes.

TECH TECH_Social TECH_Technology

Google launches Cameos, celebrity Q&A video app

Google Inc. premieres a new app on iOS termed Cameos that will allow users to tune in to video responses from their favorite celebrities, sports figures, politicians, and local businesses.

Users can record video answers to their most asked questions on Google. Whenever an individual searches for them on Google, the video will pop up to offer a personalized experience. Cameos on Google is currently available via invite only, which can be requested by installing the app from the Apple App Store on any iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running iOS 9.0 or above. File size is about 33.4MB.

With the iOS app, registered users will also get new questions about them regularly in order to help make their content more relevant and timely.

Viewers can watch the videos right in their Google feed, once they search for the same questions that have been answered. As per the official app landing page, celebrities such as basketball player Kevin Durant and model Karlie Kloss are some of the initial testers for Cameos on Google.

“Cameos seems to be an extension of a Search feature for celebrities to post selfie-style answers, which Google first launched in December last year. With testing in the US initially, this feature allowed popular celebrities to upload selfie-style videos of themselves answering the most popular questions about them on Google Search”, reports Gadgets 360.

The feature is slightly reminiscent of Instagram’s Questions sticker that was released back in July. However, Cameos will be much more publicly visible and have the potential to expand Google’s prowess as a social networking tool.

Business Mobile TECH

HTC layoff eliminates 1,500 employees

Smartphone maker HTC has announced a job reduction strategy scheduled for October, in which 1,500 employee layoffs will occur within the Taiwanese manufacturing division.

As the company eliminates roughly a quarter of its 6,450 global staff, HTC projects a bid to restore its profitability, as reported by Reuters.

In a statement, the company plans to reorganize and take advantage of efficiency savings as well as help cushion its non-existent bottom line.

Officials have pledged to work with the Bureau of Labor, supporting all of those affected.

“This plan will allow more effective and flexible resource management going forward,” the company told Reuters.

Reorganizations have become conventional within HTC, as the manufacturer attempts to leverage profits and stability from a previous shuffle earlier this year.

Shortly after the president of HTC’s mobile division resigned, the company decided to combine its VR and mobile divisions into one, resulting in minimal benefits.

Declining profits have continued to plague the company, which was once seen as a leader in the smartphone space. Since 2014, the company’s annual profits have trended downwards, with an unknown recovery projectors. HTC has affirmed its commitment to remaining in the mobile space amid strategy concerns.

The employee layoffs will officially occur in October 2018, as reported by Reuters.

Business TECH TECH_Social

Facebook acquires AI firm for human speech enhancements

Facebook has acquired Bloomsbury AI, a London-based artificial intelligence firm which specializes in natural language processing.

The company says Bloomsbury’s “expertise will strengthen Facebook’s efforts in natural language processing research, and help us further understand natural language and its applications”, according to a post from the official Academics page.

Facebook projects AI goals that align with the understanding of images, videos, and text to moderate the entire social network’s platform, including Facebook and Instagram.

Meantime, human contractors and teams inspect flagged and reported material. As Facebook enhances AI capabilities, the human analysis will be performed by algorithms. As a result, the company requires software to better understand language, the intent beyond that language, and other very tricky problems still out of reach for most modern AI.

The announcement post says that Bloomsbury’s work has focused on “machine reading and understanding unstructured documents in natural language in order to answer any question.” This may indicate Bloomsbury’s advantage towards Facebook AI tasks of filtering the massive amount of user-uploaded content on the social network every day.

Additionally, Facebook is also working on an AI-assisted home speaker with a display, with the possibility that Bloomsbury’s team may innovate the product to improve its ability to understand spoken commands and return answers with natural-sounding speech.

TECH TECH_Social TECH_Technology

Facebook bug reverses blocked accounts

Facebook announced on Monday an initiative to notify 800,000 individuals concerning a bug that unblocked accounts those users had previously blocked.

Facebook said the bug was active between May 29th and June 5th.

In a blog post, Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, explained how numerous blocked users may have viewed shared posts, providing them with access to the user who performed the block.

“We know that the ability to block someone is important — and we’d like to apologize and explain what happened,” Egan said in the post.

Typically, when a user is blocked on Facebook, the particular person cannot view posts on a specific profile, chat through Messenger, or add the blocker as a friend. The user is also automatically unfriended.

According to Facebook reports, 83% of users impacted by the bug had one person temporarily unblocked. A user who was unblocked during that time may have been able to talk to the person who blocked them on Messenger.

Facebook has been managing diverse privacy issues surrounding its platform, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a bug that changed 14 million users’ privacy setting defaults to public.

The social media company recognizes the inadvertent action of unblocking blocked accounts without a users’ consent is a major oversight. Facebook says the issue has been resolved, and all previous settings have been reinstated.

TECH TECH_Technology

Popular Facebook quiz app exposes 120 million users’ data

Facebook quiz developer NameTests has exposed the personal information of approximately 120 million Facebook users, according to a report from TechCrunch.

The company behind NameTests, German app maker Social Sweethearts, created popular social quizzes such as “Which Disney Princess Are You?” and distributed them on Facebook, which contained roughly 120 million monthly users on the platform.

Self-described hacker Inti De Ceukelaire wrote a Medium post yesterday, outlining how the quizzes were collecting Facebook information involving names, birthdays, photos, and friend lists, displaying them in a JavaScript file.

Data could easily be retrieved by malicious third parties. Only months later, in June, Ceukelaire noticed that NameTests had changed the way user data was processed.

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, in which tens of millions of users had their personal information collected, packaged, and sold to a third-party company, Facebook’s management of data leaks and security breaches has acquired a more prevailing, heavier scrutiny.

In a statement given to TechCrunch, Social Sweethearts said there was no evidence personal data was exposed to third parties or that the data was ever misused. “As the data protection officer of Social Sweethearts, I would like to inform you that the matter has been carefully investigated,” the statement reads, though it is not attributed to a named individual.

The company added, “The investigation found that there was no evidence that personal data of users was disclosed to unauthorized third parties and all the more that there was no evidence that it had been misused. Nevertheless, data security is taken very seriously at Social Sweethearts and measures are currently being taken to avoid risks in the future.”

TECH TECH_Technology

FBI reports 130 crypto investigations

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is presently facilitating 130 various cryptocurrency-related examinations, Bloomberg reported June 27th.

Kyle Armstrong, an FBI Supervisory Special Agent, recounted the Agency’s investigations at the Crypto Evolved conference in New York, involving a variety of crimes including human trafficking, drug transactions, kidnapping, and ransomware, which have a cryptocurrency component.

A recent increase in cases involving cryptocurrencies, he said, citing opioids as 1 area where the bureau needs to focus on. Roughly 10 percent of drug users worldwide purchase drugs online in illegal digital marketplaces.

Some parts of the U.S. have also seen an increase in extortion schemes, where the perpetrators wish to use cryptocurrencies.

In light of the latest reports, these “threat-tagged” investigations only represent a “small sliver” of the thousands of cases the Agency has, Armstrong added.

In contrast of the various crimes supported by cash, Armstrong said the blockchain’s immutability makes it easier to track transactions.

Contrariwise, cryptocurrencies’ anonymity or pseudonymity make it more difficult to properly investigate a crime.


Earth’s rivers cover 44 percent more land than recognized

A new global map of rivers and streams created using satellite data suggests that the global surface area of these bodies of water is about 44% higher than previously thought, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Particularly two studies to date have attempted to quantify the global surface area of rivers, noting that these were based on limited data.

Important and complex chemical exchanges with the atmosphere and biosphere happen at the water-atmosphere interface of rivers. The study provides examples, such as rivers releasing roughly one-fifth of the carbon dioxide levels emitted by fossil fuel combustion and cement production.

Using satellite data, George Allen and Tamlin Pavelsky created one of the most detailed databases of rivers and streams to date, called the Global River Widths from Landsat (GRWL) Database. It quantifies the surface area of rivers greater than 90 kilometers (km) in width.

The authors performed a series of calculations to account for smaller rivers, for which less data is available. Collectively, global rivers and streams were estimated to cover roughly 773,000 km2 of Earth’s global non-glaciated land surface – tens of thousands of kilometers squared higher than previous estimates.

Regionally, authors Allen and Pavelsky report more river surface area coverage in the Arctic, distinctly where the impacts of climate change on carbon fluxes are of a major concern than previous estimates have ballparked. Remarkably, the report displays less in Europe, the U.S., and other economically developed regions.

Allen and Pavelsky note that the “lower-than-previous estimate of river surface area” in many developed areas may suggest large-scale impacts of human modification on river networks, emphasizing the hypothesis necessitates additional examination.