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SpaceX Launch Vehicle Certification to Be Reviewed by US Pentagon

The Pentagon will evaluate the certification for Elon Musk’s SpaceX launch vehicles to determine whether the US Air Force complied with certain guidelines, according to a memo on Monday.

“Our objective is to determine whether the US Air Force complied with the Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide when certifying the launch system design for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles,” US Department Of Defense Deputy Inspector General Michael Roark said in the memo.

The review will begin this month, the memo stated.

In December, a SpaceX rocket carrying a US military navigation satellite blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral, marking the space transportation company’s first national security space mission for the United States.

The successful launch was a significant victory for billionaire Musk, who has spent years trying to break into the lucrative market for military space launches dominated by Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

Musk’s privately held rocket company said last month it would reduce its workforce by about 10 percent of the company’s more than 6,000 employees, citing “extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead”.

© Thomson Reuters 2019






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Microsoft Project xCloud Game Streaming May Run at Much Lower Internet Speeds Than Google Stadia

At Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2019, game streaming seems to be all the rage. While Google announced that its Stadia game streaming service will launch by the end of 2019, let’s not forget that Microsoft has also been working on a similar service for a while. Microsoft’s Project xCloud game streaming service was announced at E3 2018 and the company has now mentioned something that caught our eye. Kareem Choudhry, Microsoft’s VP of gaming cloud, has claimed that the company has managed to bring down Project xCloud latency to under 10ms and said it is working on making xCloud run smoothly on 5-6Mbps Internet connections.

This is far below the 25Mbps recommended Internet speed for Google Stadia, as reported by Kotaku. Choudhry made these comments in an interview with Eurogamer, which has lots of other insights on Project xCloud so you should definitely go read the full article. Here’s what Choudhry said about Internet speeds required for Project xCloud in the Eurogamer interview: “We hope to get down to single digit Mbps. I think some of the demos we’ve shown so far have probably gone down to nine, 10Mbps. Some of the work that we’re doing with Microsoft research, I think we’ll be able to get a really good video feed probably around six to five.”

This is promising news considering that Project xCloud is primarily geared towards allowing people to stream AAA games on Android phones. If the service ever makes it to India, its ability to work on low Internet speeds will be put to the test and maybe, just maybe Project xCloud could work reasonably well in India.

Choudhry also told Eurogamer, “From the data centres we have near Washington we’re seeing really good latency – less than 10 milliseconds that’s being added by the traversal to the cloud. Frankly we find more latency in the Bluetooth stack, connected to an Android phone.”

Latency is a big point of concern with game streaming services. This is essentially the time delay between when you press a button and when the corresponding action is executed in the game. The lower this number is, the better your gaming experience will be.

While it’s great to hear these low numbers for latency and minimum Internet speed required, let’s not forget that at this point there’s no real proof of how Project xCloud will work in real world tests. There’s some positive news coming from Microsoft but we’re going to take everything mentioned before launch with a pinch of salt. Even though the idea of playing Forza Horizon 4 on an Android phone sounds wonderful, it’s best to wait for Project xCloud to launch before getting excited about how good it could be.


If you’re a fan of video games, check out Transition, Gadgets 360’s gaming podcast. You can listen to it via Apple Podcasts or RSS, or just listen to this week’s episode by hitting the play button below.






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Twitter Sued for $250 Million by California Congressman Devin Nunes

Devin Nunes, a Republican Congressman from California, has sued Twitter and several of its users for more than $250 million, alleging that the open communication platform failed to curb defamatory and malicious tweets against him.

According to a report in Fox News late Monday, Nunes said he was going after Twitter first because they “are the main proliferator” of “fake” and “slanderous” news.

“The case we’re basically making is this was an orchestrated effort. So people were targeting me, there were anonymous accounts that were developed… and these accounts are not supposed to exist. Twitter says that they don’t have accounts that do this,” Nunes was quoted as saying.

“They need to come clean. They’re not a public square. They are content developers,” he added.

The lawsuit accused Twitter of “shadow-banning conservatives” to influence the 2018 mid-term election.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, in his testimony before Congress last year, said his platform is a kind of “digital public square”.

Nunes questioned why the company would allow certain accounts to attack him “hundreds of times a day”.

Twitter was yet to comment on the lawsuit.

US President Donald Trump last year slammed Twitter for “shadow banning” some Republicans in search results on the micro-blogging platform.

The micro-blogging platform had said it is not involved in banning people based on political viewpoints and there was a technical issue in its search that has been resolved.






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Facebook Agrees to Advertising Overhaul to Settle U.S. Discrimination Suits

Facebook Inc has agreed to change its paid advertising platform as part of a wide-ranging settlement to prevent discriminatory and “harmful” practices, the company and U.S. civil rights groups said on Tuesday.

Under the agreement, Facebook will create a new advertising portal for ads linked to housing, employment and credit ads that will limit targeting options for those ads across all of its services, including Instagram and Messenger, the rights groups said in a joint statement.

Advertisers on the portal, which will be separate from the system used to advertise other sets of services, will not be able to target ads by age, gender, cultural affinity or zip code, the statement said.

They will also be required to use a minimum geographic radius for location-based targeting to prevent the exclusion of certain communities.

In addition, the company pledged to build a tool allowing users to search all current housing ads listed in the United States, regardless of whether the ads were directed at them.

“There is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and credit, and this harmful behaviour should not happen through Facebook ads,” Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a separate statement.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.7 billion users and nearly $56 billion in annual revenue, has been on the defensive over its advertising practices, while also fending off privacy scandals and disclosures that Russia used its platform to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Complaints over ads-based discrimination have dogged the company since 2016, when news organisation ProPublica reported that advertisers could target ads on Facebook based on people’s self-reported jobs, even if the job was “Jew hater.”

ProPublica later reported that it was able to buy discriminatory housing ads and slip them past Facebook’s review process, despite the company’s claims it was blocking such ads.

Since then, Facebook has faced sustained legal pressure over the issue from the National Fair Housing Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Communications Workers of America, among other groups and individuals.

In five separate lawsuits, the groups alleged the company’s audience selection tools enabled advertisers to exclude specific demographics from seeing job postings and other opportunities.

Facebook’s settings “allowed advertisers to create ads that excluded people of colour or families with children,” said Sandra Tamez, head of the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio, which was part of Tuesday’s settlement.

Under U.S. law, including the federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to publish certain types of ads if they indicate a preference based on race, religion, sex or other specified classifications.

Facebook last year reached a similar settlement with Washington state to end discriminatory ad targeting. It said at the time that it had already removed thousands of categories of potentially sensitive personal attributes from its exclusion ad targeting tools.

Wit the new settlement, Facebook has committed to creating its ads portal by Sept. 30 and to implementing other changes by the end of the year.

© Thomson Reuters 2019






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