Valve, Five Other Publishers Fined For Geo-Blocking Steam Keys

https://www.gamespot.com/articles/valve-five-other-publishers-fined-for-geo-blocking-steam-keys/1100-6486492/?ftag=CAD-01-10abi2f


The European Commission has ordered six game publishers–including Steam creator Valve–to pay the equivalent of more than $9.4 million for their role in “geo-blocking” game digital game access between territories.

In addition to Valve, the publishers fined for their role in the practice are Focus Home Interactive, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Koch Media, and ZeniMax. Koch Media owns Deep Silver, while ZeniMax owns Bethesda–and will soon be owned by Microsoft.

“Valve and the publishers restricted cross-border sales of certain PC video games on the basis of the geographical location of users within the European Economic Area (‘EEA’), entering into the so-called ‘geo-blocking’ practices,” the report said. “The fines for the publishers, totaling over €6 million, were reduced due to the companies’ cooperation with the Commission. Valve chose not to cooperate with the Commission and was fined over €1.6 million.

The geo-blocking was made possible, according to the European Commission, because of Steam activation keys being territory-controlled, meaning players may have been unable to use them if they were in a different region than the key was made for. The game publishers who were fined had requested Valve set up these Steam activation keys with region-locking enabled.

“These business practices therefore denied European consumers the benefits of the EU’s Digital Single Market to shop around between Member States to find the most suitable offer,” the report continued. “The Commission concluded that the illegal practices of Valve and the five publishers partitioned the EEA market in violation of EU antitrust rules.”

With any luck, this should mean European players have access to better game deals from here on out. However, it remains to be seen if other publishers will try to engage in the same practice again.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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January 20, 2021 at 08:04AM

Virgin Orbit Just Launched a Rocket From a 747

https://www.wired.com/story/virgin-orbit-just-launched-a-rocket-from-a-747/


On Sunday morning, Virgin Orbit became the third privately funded American rocket company to reach orbit—and the only one to accomplish the feat from mid-air. The company’s liquid-fueled rocket, called LauncherOne, was released from beneath the wing of Cosmic Girl, Virgin Orbit’s customized Boeing 747, off the coast of California. Cosmic Girl’s pilot, Kelly Latimer, parted ways with the rocket at around 30,000 feet—the cruising altitude of a typical passenger jet—and after a few seconds of freefall, LauncherOne ignited its engines and boosted itself into space. Once it reached orbit, the rocket released its payload of 10 cubesats built by researchers from NASA and several American universities before it fell back to Earth.

The successful launch was a welcome win for the Virgin team, which has been buffeted by setbacks since its first launch attempt last spring. That first test flight in May was aborted seconds after the rocket was released due to a breakage in its propellant line. After engineers had identified and fixed the problem, company officials planned a second launch in December, but decided to postpone it as Covid-19 cases spiked around their headquarters in Los Angeles.

“We’ve done a huge amount to assure the safety of the team, and so much of our launch operations and our activities are virtual,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart told reporters on a call ahead of Sunday’s launch. “Doing it in the face of a pandemic is really amazing.”

Everything you need to know about Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and what actually happens to your body if you go live in space.

Today’s launch marked the culmination of nearly a decade of work by engineers at Virgin Orbit, which is one of two rocket companies founded by billionaire Richard Branson. In 2018, Virgin Orbit’s sister space company, Virgin Galactic, made history by launching a spacecraft carrying two humans from beneath a custom plane, which sent them rocketing to the edge of space. Branson clearly loves launching stuff from planes and has staffed both companies with engineers and pilots who make it look easy. Now the question is, can he turn it into a sustainable business?

Air launch is typically associated with missiles that are bound for targets on the Earth’s surface, but it has a long history in the space industry too. The first orbital air-launched rocket, known as Pegasus, was sent to orbit in early 1990 by Orbital Sciences Corporation, which has since been folded into Northrop Grumman. Like LauncherOne, Pegasus is able to boost around 1,000 pounds of payload into space, and the rocket is dropped from the belly of a gutted passenger jet. But in the last 30 years, Pegasus has flown only 44 missions. To put that in perspective, SpaceX has flown more than twice as many in the past decade.

“When I started looking at feasibility studies and thinking about whether we should do this, Pegasus was the blinking neon sign that was flashing in my vision 24/7,” Will Pomerantz, the vice president of special projects at Virgin Orbit, told WIRED ahead of the company’s first launch attempt last May. “Technologically, Pegasus is a huge success. But from a market perspective, perhaps not.”

Pomerantz says the reason Pegasus failed to attract many customers is because when it launched, those customers didn’t exist. The commercial small satellite industry has exploded in the past few years, and now there are hundreds of companies looking for a cheap ride to space. Pegasus is still around, but its launch cost has ballooned over the past few decades. In the 1990s, NASA paid $16 million for a Pegasus launch. Today it costs closer to $60 million. Even accounting for inflation, that cost has nearly tripled, and it is beyond what most of these small satellite companies can afford. Air launch was once an idea ahead of its time—but now Pomerantz believes its time has come.

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January 17, 2021 at 01:57PM

Opening your car windows could reduce your COVID-19 risk

https://www.autoblog.com/2021/01/17/coronavirus-in-cars-windows-down-study/


By now, we all know the basic coronavirus rules. Wear a mask, limit your exposure to other people and when you can’t, keep your distance, and … keep wearing your mask. We also learned at the outset of the pandemic how to properly keep surfaces clean, including in your car. But what we haven’t known is whether we should keep the windows up or down.

A new study from Brown University seeks to answer that question. Using complex computational fluid dynamic simulations, Varghese Mathai, Asimanshu Das, Jeffrey Bailey and Kenneth Breuer studied how the aerosols that we breath (some of which do escape even properly worn masks) move about a car’s cabin and how those flows change with various windows up and down. The results are very interesting, but in short, you’re probably going to want the windows rolled down when possible.

The details of the study are worth noting. The vehicle used in the simulations was loosely based on a Toyota Prius, and likely apply to vehicles of similar shape and size but may not be applicable to larger or smaller cars, trucks or vans. The occupants sat diagonally from one another, which is a common arrangement in taxis and rideshares. The team of researchers found that opening the windows opposite of each occupant can create a flow that drastically reduces the collection of aerosols in a car’s cabin. According to the New York Times, they also found that opening the windows even halfway can be very helpful but that just cracking them a bit doesn’t generate enough airflow.

There’s a lot more information in the study that you can read here. There’s also some additional information from the Times that’s worth checking out.

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January 17, 2021 at 11:21AM

Opening your car windows could reduce your COVID-19 risk

https://www.autoblog.com/2021/01/17/coronavirus-in-cars-windows-down-study/


By now, we all know the basic coronavirus rules. Wear a mask, limit your exposure to other people and when you can’t, keep your distance, and … keep wearing your mask. We also learned at the outset of the pandemic how to properly keep surfaces clean, including in your car. But what we haven’t known is whether we should keep the windows up or down.

A new study from Brown University seeks to answer that question. Using complex computational fluid dynamic simulations, Varghese Mathai, Asimanshu Das, Jeffrey Bailey and Kenneth Breuer studied how the aerosols that we breath (some of which do escape even properly worn masks) move about a car’s cabin and how those flows change with various windows up and down. The results are very interesting, but in short, you’re probably going to want the windows rolled down when possible.

The details of the study are worth noting. The vehicle used in the simulations was loosely based on a Toyota Prius, and likely apply to vehicles of similar shape and size but may not be applicable to larger or smaller cars, trucks or vans. The occupants sat diagonally from one another, which is a common arrangement in taxis and rideshares. The team of researchers found that opening the windows opposite of each occupant can create a flow that drastically reduces the collection of aerosols in a car’s cabin. According to the New York Times, they also found that opening the windows even halfway can be very helpful but that just cracking them a bit doesn’t generate enough airflow.

There’s a lot more information in the study that you can read here. There’s also some additional information from the Times that’s worth checking out.

via Autoblog https://ift.tt/1afPJWx

January 17, 2021 at 11:21AM

FAA approves first commercial drone flights with no on-site pilots

https://www.engadget.com/faa-approves-first-commercial-automated-drone-flights-192554778.html

Farms and other agricultural operations in certain rural areas in the US can now use robotic drones to take images of or gather data on their crops. The FAA has approved Massachusetts-based American Robotics’ request to be able to deploy automated drones without human pilots and spotters on site. As The Wall Street Journal notes, commercial drone flights typically require the physical presence of licensed pilots making them a costly undertaking. AR’s machine eliminates the need for on-site personnel, though each automated flight will still need to be overseen by a remote human pilot.

According to the relevant documents (via The Verge) the FAA has uploaded on its website, the pilot “who is not co-located with the aircraft” will have to conduct pre-flight safety checks to ensure the drone is in working condition. American Robotics’ drones are 20—pound machines powered by its Scout System technology, which uses predetermined paths. Scout also has a Detect-and-Avoid feature that allows the unmanned aircraft system to maintain a safe distance from other aircraft, birds and obstacles. When it’s not in the air, the UAS can stay inside a weatherproof base station for charging, data processing/analysis and data transmission

The company won the FAA’s trust by testing its technology for four years across eight states — last year, it flew as many as 10 autonomous flights a day to capture agriculture imagery and other data. AR’s drones can only fly in rural areas in Kansas, Massachusetts and Nevada and at altitudes below 400 feet at the moment. The company believes, however, that this is only the beginning and that it’s ushering in “a new era of widespread automated drone operations.”

American Robotics CEO Reese Mozer said in a statement:

“With these approvals, American Robotics is ushering in a new era of widespread automated drone operations. Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition. We are proud to be the first company to meet the FAA’s comprehensive safety requirements, which had previously restricted the viability of drone use in the commercial sector. We are very grateful for the FAA’s willingness to work closely with American Robotics over the past four years on this precedent-setting authorization. With this set of approvals, American Robotics can begin safely operating our automated Scout platform for the benefit of the energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and security market verticals, helping unlock the projected $100 billion commercial drone market.”

via Engadget http://www.engadget.com

January 16, 2021 at 01:36PM

Law enforcement officials say key fobs are causing car thefts to skyrocket

https://www.autoblog.com/2021/01/09/key-fobs-in-cars-leading-more-car-thefts/


Electronic keyless ignition systems partly developed as a way to prevent thefts are ironically making it easier for thieves to drive off in the car of their choice without damaging it. How? People keep leaving their fobs in the car, and police officers across the nation are reminding motorists not to do that as they fight back against a surge in thefts.

Car-jackings are on the rise in America, and the New York Times added that car thefts are on their way up as well. In the 1980s, stealing a car often required breaking one of its windows, hot-wiring it (usually by cutting a few wires), breaking the steering lock, and hoping it wasn’t equipped with an alarm. It was a risky, time-consuming endeavor. The key fob eliminates all of these steps; if it’s in the car, thieves can nonchalantly hop in and drive off.

Law enforcement officials partly blame the rise in thefts on motorists who leave a key fob in the cabin. Some hide it in the glovebox, while others don’t even bother putting it out of sight and leave it in the center console. If it’s in the car, anyone can open the door using the handle, push the ignition button, engage first or drive, and zoom off without drawing unnecessary attention. And, new-generation technology has allowed new-generation criminals to step onto the stage, so cars are sometimes taken by bored teenagers who want to take them for a joy ride.

Police in Los Angeles told the New York Times that, in an unexpected spin on the concept of car-sharing, some thieves are merely borrowing a stranger’s car without permission to drive from point A to point B, with no intention of chopping it up or parting it out. It’s cheaper than hailing an Uber. These cars are often found several miles away from where they were taken without major damage. Across the country, in New York City, delivery drivers who leave their car running while they drop off food have been targeted. In those situations, keeping the fob in your pocket doesn’t prevent someone from driving off in the car; it just makes it more difficult to start after the engine is stopped. 

The numbers are telling. 6,858 cars were stolen in New York City in 2020, up from 3,988 in 2019, and over 3,450 of them were taken while they were running. “This is a very stupid problem to have. The technology that was created specifically to eliminate car thefts, such as key fobs, is now being used against us,” a police officer from Hartford, Conn., said during a news conference. In Hartford, 1,449 stolen cars were recovered in 2020.

Thankfully, making sure you find your car where you parked it doesn’t require making a tremendous effort. Don’t bother buying a steering wheel lock or fitting an aftermarket alarm; simply keep the key fob with you at all times.

Related Video:

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January 9, 2021 at 11:35AM

SpaceX Will Try to ‘Catch’ Its Starship Boosters Instead of Landing Them

https://gizmodo.com/spacex-will-try-to-catch-its-starship-boosters-instea-1845983594


Conceptual image showing Starship atop its Super Heavy booster.
Image: SpaceX

Not content to keep things simple or easy, SpaceX plans to catch its upcoming Super Heavy booster rockets at the launch tower, allowing for subsequent relaunches a mere one hour later.

Not to be confused with the Falcon Heavy, the Super Heavy will serve as the booster stage for SpaceX’s upcoming Starship system. The second stage of the system will be Starship itself, which is designed to launch and land on its own. When paired with the booster, however, Starship will be transformed into a formidable launch system, capable of delivering cargo and dozens of passengers to Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars.

The Super Heavy, like the Starship second stage, is still in development, and specifications are very much in flux. Originally, the Super Heavy booster was supposed to land with retractable legs similar to those seen on the company’s Falcon 9 reusable rocket. But as SpaceX CEO Elon Musk explained in a recent series of tweets, they’ve rejigged the concept.

“We’re going to try to catch the Super Heavy Booster with the launch tower arm, using the grid fins to take the load,” he tweeted in response to an inquiry. “Saves mass & cost of legs & enables immediate repositioning of booster on to launch mount—ready to refly in under an hour,” added Musk.

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That SpaceX is designing a system capable of launching Starships at one hour intervals points to the company’s future ambitions. It remains to be seen if these gigantic boosters—which will measure 230 feet tall (70 meters) and 30 feet wide (9 meters)—can indeed be caught in this way, but Musk’s impressive track record means we need to take this prospect seriously.

Equipped with over two dozen Raptor engines, the Super Heavy booster will exert over 16 million pounds of force. By comparison, Block 2 of NASA’s upcoming SLS system will provide 9.5 million pounds of thrust.

On December 12, SpaceX performed a high-altitude test of a Starship prototype rocket, which blew to pieces while attempting a landing. Musk described it as a “successful ascent,” adding that “we got all the data we needed.” New Starship prototypes are currently being readied for further testing, but no dates for these launches have been released.

via Gizmodo https://gizmodo.com

January 4, 2021 at 02:00PM