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After Math: How long is that in moon years?


Yuri Milner's Breakthrough Listen project has teamed with the researchers at VERITAS Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System in hopes of finding signs of intelligent life, and then communicating with it, via high tech Morse code. Specifically, the VERITAS's 4-telescope array will beam nanosecond long bursts of laser energy into the cosmos, hopefully attracting the attention of a benevolent alien species.


There's water in them thar Moon hills, JAXA is sure of it. That's why the Japanese space agency has teamed with Toyota to develop a crewed lunar rover capable of scouring the surface for frozen water vapor. JAXA hopes to have the rover delivered to the Moon in 2030 along with a 2-person crew to command it.


A glitch in Uber's rate charging algorithm had rider's tempers flaring hotter than the surface of the sun. You would be too if the ridesharing app accidentally moved a decimal point and charged you more than two grand for a $20 cab ride.


Speaking of astronomical sums of money, Eddie Murphy will be able to complete his Scrooge McDuck money vault with the amount of cash that Netflix is considering giving him for a few hours worth of stand up material.


There's no word yet on when/if Eddie's comedy specials will be coming out but let's hope it's soon because it doesn't look like we have a whole bunch of pre-climate-apocalypse time left.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/21/after-math-how-long-is-that-in-moon-years/

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Marvel unveils its roadmap for Disney+ shows

The first out of the gate, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, will have Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprising the roles of their signature characters in fall 2020. They'll both square off against the returning Captain America: Civil War villain Baron Zemo (played by Daniel Brühl) and learn to fill their new roles in the aftermath of Endgame.

The next, the previously mentioned WandaVision, isn't due until spring 2021 but could easily become a cornerstone of the MCU. It will not only fill out details about Scarlet Witch and Vision (Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, pictured above) in the post-Endgame world, it'll help explain why Scarlet Witch is coming to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in May 2021. You'll also see a grown-up version of Captain Marvel's Monica Rambeau (played by Teyonah Parris).

Loki is also coming in spring 2021 and will see Tom Hiddleston reprise his role, although those who've seen the recent Avengers movies will know that things for his character will have... changed. His newfound abilities will allow for more hijinks, to put it one way.

Marvel rounded things out by confirming two previously rumored shows. What If...? premieres summer 2021 and is the first animated production to join the MCU. Much like the comic books it's named after, it'll explore alternate realities as one-offs. It'll include actors from across the MCU (yes, including some of the best-known stars), with Jeffrey Wright playing a consistent role as The Watcher. Hawkeye, meanwhile, has Jeremy Renner return as the archer superhero in fall 2021. He'll serve as a mentor for the fast-rising superhero Kate Bishop.

Notably, all these online shows were treated as equal parts of the MCU roadmap alongside the movies, which include the aforementioned Doctor Strange sequel as well as Black Widow (May 2020), The Eternals (November 2020), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (February 2021), Thor: Love and Thunder (November 2021) and an MCU revival of Blade (undated). While the since-ended Netflix shows were technically connected to this universe, they were ultimately self-contained and made few references to other adventurs. The Disney+ productions, however, are being treated as equals in the canon. That's no doubt meant to drive subscriptions, but it's also heartening news for fans worried that the small-screen efforts will take a back seat.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/21/marvel-disney-plus-shows-san-diego-comic-con/

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The best camera cleaning gear

Best practices

The best thing you can do to keep your lenses from getting dirty and scratched is to take smart preventive measures.

The first step is to make sure to keep lens caps (front and rear) on your lenses at all times when you're not using them. For more permanent protection, you can screw a basic UV filter onto the front of each lens, not for the UV protection—most modern lenses have that built into their coatings—but to help safeguard against drops. The idea is that if you fumble your camera and it lands on the lens (or your tripod falls and takes the camera with it), the filter might bear the brunt of the damage and leave your lens unscathed. But cheap filters can degrade image quality, so we recommend using a reputable brand such as B+W, Hoya, or Tiffen. You can grab one of their basic UV filters for as little as $15—a cheap insurance policy for an expensive lens.

Nikon once famously warned against using your breath to fog up a lens for cleaning, but you probably won't actually hurt anything by doing so. It's a method that has served photographers well since time immemorial. (And Nikon later retracted the warning.) But using a lens-cleaning solution such as Eclipse and a disposable cleaning pad will probably get your lens cleaner and cut down on the risk of scratching the coating.

Last but definitely not least, be as quick as possible when swapping lenses, and if you're outside, try to do it close to your body with the wind to your back. Each time you change your lens, you expose your camera's sensor, mirror (in the case of DSLRs), and other internals to dust and gunk. If your camera has a built-in sensor-cleaning tool, set it to run every time you turn it on or off. That should take care of most particles that find their way inside.

The lens-cleaning kit

The front element of your lens is the part that needs cleaning most often. It gets exposed to the most wear and tear, including errant raindrops, fingertip smudges, and dirt and dust.

For a good, step-by-step guide to cleaning your gear, we like these in-depth articles by Roger Cicala at Lensrentals and Bob Atkins. We lay out the basics here, but they'll give you more info about how the pros do it.

Your primary tool should be a simple puffer like the Giottos Rocket Air Blaster, a tool that's universally loved (well, except among TSA agents). It's basically a handheld bellows—a big rubber tube with a nozzle at one end and a one-way valve at the other. The blaster sucks air in through the valve, you squeeze, and it shoots the air out the nozzle at high speed, hopefully dislodging whatever is sitting on your lens. Unlike compressed-air canisters (which often contain an accelerant), the Rocket Air Blaster uses only air, so it won't leave residue on the surface you're trying to clean. That means it's also a great tool for contact-free sensor spot-cleaning in a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

If you have sticky stuff on your lens that won't come off with an air puffer, the next step is to use a LensPen. These double-ended cleaners are affordable, gentle, long-lasting, and available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

On one end the tool has a brush designed to knock away loose particles, and on the other it has a carbon-charged felt tip. The carbon end absorbs oil and other particles that may have settled on your lens. Each time you cap the pen, it recharges the felt tip with more carbon, letting you use it again to soak up even more grease and fingerprints. As Lensrentals's Roger Cicala points out in his guide, there's lots to like here:

"We like several things about them: no liquid residue, simple and easy to use, gets into the edge of the lens better than most other methods. And out of the office, they're small and easy to carry around. They come in a variety of types and sizes and we use a number of different ones. Smaller ones are perfect for camera viewfinders, angled edges are great for lenses with deep edge recesses like fisheyes, etc."

But he goes on to point out a crucial caveat:

"The most important point, though, is to not overuse a LensPen. Once the felt on the tip gets worn, the rubber underneath doesn't clean, and can leave marks if used with too much pressure. We get, at best, 100 cleanings from a Lenspen, but that varies by which brand we're using and how big the lenses are being cleaned."

We talked to Cicala about the differences between brands of pens, and he described the situation as murky. LensPen sometimes also makes pens for other companies to spec, and then there are cheap Chinese knockoffs. Cicala added that "screw-on-cap lens pens don't last very long or work as well as pop-off-capped ones." Generally speaking, our experience says that you can trust the LensPen brand.

One last tip: After you use the pen, be sure to give the lens another quick puff of air with your Rocket Air Blaster to blow off any carbon particles that might still be clinging to the glass.

If neither the air puffer nor the LensPen can get the job done, it's time to move to more hands-on methods, such as a cleaning cloth. For this purpose, we like PEC-PAD disposable lint-free wipes. They're safe, convenient, and very, very cheap. Some folks say that a clean microfiber cloth does just as good a job of removing tough gunk, but the problem is that if you reuse such cloths, it's easy for debris to get trapped in the material (even if you wash it between uses) and scratch the glass. In general, we don't like recommending one-time-use items, but this is one instance where it makes sense.

You can try cleaning your lens with a dry PEC-PAD, but you'll probably need lens-cleaning solution to really get the gunk off. Eclipse cleaner is the go-to brand for most experts. It takes only a tiny bit to remove most foreign material, it dries quick, and it doesn't leave streaks on glass. Paired with the PEC-PADs, the Eclipse solution is enough to take care of virtually anything that might reasonably end up on your lens. Put a drop or two on the pad, and then clean from the center of the lens outward in a circular motion. Throw the pad out after each use.

Alternatively, you can make your own lens-cleaning fluid, using either 99 percent pure isopropyl alcohol or a mixture further diluted with water. Some people recommend adding a drop of Dawn dish soap to the mix (which people apparently use to clean telescope elements). For further discussion of various cleaner types and formulation, see this post from a DPReview forum member who tested a number of them head to head.

If you want ultimate convenience and don't mind paying a little extra, you can use individually packaged, premoistened wipes, such as Zeiss Lens Cleaning Wipes. While some people like the Zeiss wipes, others accuse them of leaving streaks, though a swipe with a microfiber cloth will clear away any visible residue left when the Zeiss wipes' liquid evaporates. Regardless, since they're individually packaged, they're virtually guaranteed to be free of foreign particles that might scratch your lens coating. That makes them the safest option around.

Cleaning the sensor

Dust on your sensor will show up in exactly the same spot on every photo, no matter how clean your lens is. Photo: Tim Barribeau

It's perfectly possible to clean your own sensor, but we don't recommend it. The margin for error is simply too small, and you could easily end up causing hundreds of dollars of damage to your camera if your hand slips during the highly stressful process. Unless you're very confident in your own abilities, this is one situation in which it would be safer and smarter to leave the repair to the professionals. Most brands provide mail-in cleaning services, and many have authorized repair centers in cities across the US and Canada that will do the job.

Dealing with the rest of the camera

All of that takes care of the super-sensitive areas of a camera, but what about the rest of it, such as grime on the LCD or dirt on the buttons?

For the plastic, rubber, and metal of the camera body, you can be a bit more cavalier. Chamois and microfiber cloths work well. So does a soft toothbrush for getting into cracks. Use basic, gentle cleaners—warm water first, and if that doesn't work, diluted isopropyl alcohol. Avoid caustic cleaners that include bleach and ammonia. Generally speaking, this process should be pretty straightforward.

To clean your camera's LCD and viewfinder (be it optical or electronic), you can use the same wipes and lens-cleaning solution we recommend above.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commissions.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/21/the-best-camera-cleaning-gear/

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Hackers broke into a contractor for Russia’s spy agency

The most prominent of the projects, Nautilus-S, was meant to deanonymize Tor traffic and create a database of Tor users and devices. Work started on it in 2012, and it appears to have been put into use in 2014, when Swedish researchers discovered Russian Tor nodes trying to decipher data. It's unclear how successful the FSB has been, but its goal was likely to identify and silence political dissidents.

Other projects weren't as ambitious. One project that reached the test phase, Hope, mapped the Russian section of the internet and its connections to other countries. Nautilus (not Nautilus-S) collected social network data. Reward was meant to penetrate peer-to-peer networks, while Mentor was built to search and spy on the email of Russian companies. Tax-3 would have created a closed intranet to keep the information of key political figures and judges away from regular government networks.

SyTech took down its website after the hack and has so far declined to respond to the press.

This isn't the first hack against an FSB contractor. Quantum faced its own breach in 2018. The treasure trove of data appears to be larger here, though. It's also a likely embarrassment for the FSB. The agency has thrived on covering its tracks and otherwise remaining secretive, but couldn't ensure that key partners were equally secure. As in many other cases, security was only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/21/hackers-break-into-russia-fsb-contractor/

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Second season of DC’s ‘Doom Patrol’ will also stream on HBO Max

Word of the HBO Max arrangement came as DC announced that its first original live-action show, Titans, would return with its second season on September 6th. The animated series Young Justice: Outsiders has also been renewed for a fourth season. There's also a trailer for the Harley Quinn animated series, which is clearly taking advantage of its internet-only platform to produce an 'edgier' Quinn closer to her Suicide Squad version than the classic Batman: The Animated Series interpretation.

The Doom Patrol news could be worrying for DC. Its show lineup is its centerpiece, and there won't be as much reason to subscribe if you aren't hooked on its comic books. This does, however, demonstrate that there's plenty of interest in the shows themselves even after the Swamp Thing debacle. It's more a question of where you can watch than whether or not they'll stick around in the first place.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/21/doom-patrol-season-2-and-hbo-max/

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Tinder rebels against Google Play app fees by taking direct payments

Match Group spokeswoman Justine Sacco characterized this as an experiment to Bloomberg, saying that the firm "constantly" tests new features and that payment options which "benefit [the users'] experience" were an example of this. We've asked Google for comment, although it hadn't responded to Bloomberg's request as of this writing.

It's entirely practical for Android developers to enable direct payments without using Google Play, but that typically means bypassing Google Play altogether, like Epic did with Fortnite. It's another matter entirely to remain in the store but ditch Google's usual requirements. Tinder may be betting that Google won't pull such a high-profile app despite the obvious defiance.

Services like Tinder and Spotify are rebelling against app store revenue cuts for one simple reason: they want a larger slice of the pie. Google and Apple both take up to 30 percent from in-app subscriptions (15 percent after the first year), and that's a large hit for services that often cost $10 or less per month. Developers either have to take a revenue hit for customers who subscribe through the stores or else raise prices to compensate. They've also argued that the revenue sharing leads to unfair competition when it involves similar services. Apple gets all of the revenue from Apple Music subscriptions at $10 per month, for instance, but Spotify only gets $7 from in-app memberships.

Tinder and other objectors are unlikely to get what they want without a fight. While third party app subscriptions aren't vital to Google's bottom line, they likely represent a significant amount. Sensor Tower recently estimated that Tinder alone raked in $497 million of total revenue across Android and iOS in the first half of 2019. Even if you limit that to Google's cut, that could still be tens of millions of dollars lost from one company.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/21/tinder-rebels-against-google-play-app-fees/

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Netflix deal with Hollywood union promises better conditions for actors

The agreement also improves residual earnings from movie theaters, sets new overtime rules for stunt performers, offers more exclusivity and options rights and creates protections against harassment and for auditions. SAG-AFTRA added that minimum salary and turnaround conditions now apply to all Netflix shows, whether or not they reach the "high-budget" streaming threshold. An actor won't need to be part of a large production just to get pay guarantees.

The contract expires June 30th, 2022.

While SAG-AFTRA clearly sees its actors as the main beneficiaries of the deal, Netflix has plenty of reasons to hop aboard. If the internet giant is going to attract top talent, it needs to reassure performers that they'll be treated well -- even if they're not visible in a given scene. Increases in pay and labor costs could easily pay for themselves if they lead to greater star power and more awards.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/21/netflix-sag-aftra-deal/

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Amazon has already renewed ‘The Boys’ for a second season

Amazon is apparently confident The Boys will prove a hit -- so confident that it's committing to more before the Prime Video show is even available. The company has renewed its ugly-side-of-superheroes production for a second season days ahead of the series' July 26th premiere. On top of this, Amazon has confirmed that Aya Cash from You're the Worst will take on the role of Stormfront, the most powerful member of Payback (a spoof of the Avengers) and a "diabolical" character.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/21/amazon-the-boys-second-season/

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How HoloLens is helping advance the science of spaceflight

Microsoft and NASA's partnership began on June 28th, 2015 as part of Project Sidekick when a SpaceX supply rocket docked with the ISS and delivered the headsets to the waiting astronauts. "HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station," Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA said in a 2015 press release. "This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars."

Aboard the ISS, crews utilized the HoLolens' "Remote Expert Mode" in many of their tasks. Remote Expert connects the wearer with an Earth-based technician from the flight control team via Skype, allowing them to see what the astronaut is seeing and advise accordingly. The headsets could also be deployed in Procedure Mode, which played locally-stored animated holographic illustrations for times when an expert wasn't available.

Project Sidekick was short lived, only running until the following March. However, a few months later in the summer of 2016, NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida launched "Destination: Mars," a mixed reality guided tour of the Red Planet narrated by none other than Buzz Aldrin. Visitors were taken on a walking tour of several Martian sites using images captured by the Curiosity Mars Rover.

"This experience lets the public explore Mars in an entirely new way. To walk through the exact landscape that Curiosity is roving across puts its achievements and discoveries into beautiful context," said Doug Ellison, visualization producer at JPL, said in a press release at the time. The OnSight application, which actually stitched those captured images together, went on to win NASA's 2018 Software of the Year award.

Augmented reality has also found its way into spacecraft design and production with incredible results. Take the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, for example. It's currently being developed by NASA and the ESA and built by Lockheed Martin. The 4-person crew capsule is designed to ride atop the Space Launch System during the Artemis lunar exploration missions as well as to Mars.

It's also a fantastically complex piece of engineering. The Orion's assembly manual alone is a 1,500 page behemoth, requiring technicians to constantly flip back and forth between the instructions and the task at hand. But that's where the HoloLens comes in.


"Manufacturing was a good place to start because it's easier to quantify what we're seeing in terms of a comparison between traditional methods and what AR helping would take," Shelley Peterson, the principal engineer for Augmented Mixed Reality at Lockheed Martin Space, told Engadget.

Using the same Procedure Mode as aboard the ISS, Lockheed's teams were able to drastically reduce the amount of time needed to assemble the spacecraft's various systems. The team was able to cut down the time spent joining components and torquing bolts to precise specifications by 30 to 50 percent. Rather than having to thumb through the instructions to know how many pounds of pressure a specific bolt requires, that information is displayed directly atop the bolt by the HoloLens, Peterson explained.

"More recently, we've been working with position alignment of objects," she continued. It really just changes things when you can see within your environment where you're needing to place an object, instead of having to measure or use other methods. It's a fantastic way to represent the data."


What used to take a technician a full 8-hour shift to complete can now be done in 15 minutes, Peterson said. What would take a pair of technicians three days to do can now be done by a single technician in two and a half hours. "At Kennedy Space Center, we had an activity that normally takes eight shifts," Peterson said. "They completed it in six hours."

The HoloLens doesn't just reduce the amount of time (and money) spent putting the Orion together, it also helps to mitigate uncertainty in the manufacturing process and prevent costly mistakes. "If [the technicians are] trying to interpret a 2D drawing or 3D model on a 2D screen, and make that mental translation to what it means to the object in the room, there's still some questions," Peterson explained, "and they'd like to be absolutely certain when they're working on the spacecraft."


Peterson also points to the headsets' ease of use. A technician typically needs less than a half hour to get orient themselves with the system before jumping into their tasks. "They're able to put it on and just start working,' she continued. The current iteration of the HoloLens is still a bit heavy to be worn all day, though technicians can wear them for up to three hours before tiring, or simply pop the headset on and off as needed throughout the day.

The only major sticking point that Peterson notes is the difficulty in entering data. "We need a better way to type or to take the place of typing -- voice doesn't quite do it just yet," Peterson said. "There's times where we need to enter data, or capture data as we're working and they have to move across to a Bluetooth keyboard." That takes the technician out of their workflow, which is what the HoloLens was designed to minimize in the first place.

Lockheed isn't the only organization leveraging AR technology in its manufacturing process. Rival aerospace company BAE has also paired with Microsoft, using HoloLens to eliminate the need for paper assembly manuals in its electric bus division, while a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) have used the tech to design their Dragonfly rotorcraft lander.

The Dragonfly will be heading deep into our solar system when it launches towards Saturn's moon, Titan, in 2025. It'll take a whopping nine years to get to the moon's surface but once there, the Dragonfly's exploration will help unlock the mysteries of our home system and maybe even -- fingers crossed -- give us our first glimpse at extraterrestrial life.

Apollo 11 anniversary at Engadget

NASA apollo 11 lander illustration

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/20/hololens-augmented-reality-spaceflight-engineering/

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Blizzard co-founder Frank Pearce is leaving the gaming company

Part of his farewell message reads:

"The time has come for me to step away from Blizzard and pass the torch to the next generation of leaders...Our efforts were always guided by well-intentioned purpose. We made games that we wanted to play, believing that like-minded people would also want to play those games. Today we characterize it more specifically with the ambitious vision of bringing the world together through epic entertainment. I am so proud to have had the chance to positively impact the lives of so many people through the experiences we have created."

Pearce didn't say what he'll be doing doing next, only mentioning that he plans to spend more time active in the outdoors, to learn to play an instrument and to ultimately devote more time to other aspects of his life. The executive was never as visible as his co-founders, starting out as a programmer for some of the company's earliest titles like Diablo and StarCraft until he took on the role as CDO.

New company president J. Allen Brack said Pearce stepped into an advisory role to help him out when he took over from Morhaime last year. "I have been lucky enough to work with J and [Ray Gresko, the company's new Chief Development Office] for many years, and now it is their responsibility to define how the adventure continues," Pearce also wrote.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/20/blizzard-frank-pearce-leaving/

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