SpaceX successfully launches and lands a used rocket for the first time ever

Some things, like gum and diapers, are designed to only be used once. According to SpaceX though, their Falcon 9 rocket is not one of those things. For the first time ever, SpaceX has launched and landed a rocket that had flown to space before. This historic milestone was described as a “huge revolution in spaceflight” by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk following the mission. The rocket carried a communications satellite to orbit that will provide service to Latin America. This rocket was previously flown in April of last year.

SpaceX started working 6 years ago to try to make their rockets reusable, something Musk has envisioned for a decade and a half. Before this point however, SpaceX had to build and test an entirely new rocket for every launch. This ended up costing tens of millions of dollars to do. The actual part that is reused is the core which houses the main engines and most of the rocket fuel.

In addition to this, SpaceX recovered the Falcon 9’s $6 million nose cone for the first time as well.

Following a launch, the rocket core is rigorously inspected and tested to ensure there is no damage. This process currently takes up to four months, but getting this time down is beneficial for both SpaceX and its customers. Musk’s next goal is to be able to relaunch a rocket within 24 hours of its previous flight.

Evidently, one of the primary benefits to reusing rockets is the cost savings. SpaceX is estimating about a 30% reduction compared to a new rocket. This means launches could start around $40 million, an unthinkably low cost in the not to distant past. Although they don’t fly anymore, NASA’s Space Shuttle and its boosters were also reusable. SpaceX has plans to launch up to 6 additional second-hand rockets later this year.


Weekend tech reading: April Fools’ roundup, the ethics of emulators, LastPass updated, the $2 32-bit Arduino

April Fools’ Day 2017: the best (and worst) pranks April 1st — a day colloquially known as “April Fools’ Day” or “the worst holiday ever” — isn’t even until tomorrow, but because the month of April starts on a Saturday this year, all the #brands are already out in force to pollute the internet celebrate the occasion with a bunch of tiresome fun pranks meant to thirstily self-promote their products bring some levity into our day-to-day lives. The Verge

The ethics of emulation: how creators, the community, and the law view console emulators If you follow emulation news, here’s a story you’ve probably heard. Nintendo releases a brand new Legend of Zelda game for a young console. It is immediately heralded as one of the greatest games ever made. Reviewers give it perfect marks. It is, definitively, the best reason to own Nintendo’s new hardware. And mere weeks after its release, when buzz was at its highest, a PC emulator was able to run that massively popular game… PC Gamer

Inside the making of ‘Mass Effect Andromeda’ On Wednesday 22 February, there was a curious, disbelieving buzz in the studios of the video game developer BioWare in downtown Montreal. That morning, NASA had announced the discovery of seven Earth-sized, potentially life-harboring planets orbiting a dwarf star called Trappist-1, around 40 light years from Earth. Many at BioWare – home to the beloved Mass Effect series of sci-fi role playing games – felt that the timing was a little too good to be true. Glixel

Amazon is dead serious about delivering your goodies by drone Almost four years ago, in a puffy 60 Minutes piece about Amazon, CEO Jeff Bezos gave us a peek at a secret project: autonomous “octocopters,” also known as giant drones. The flying devices, Bezos assured us, would cut out UPS and FedEx to deliver packages to Amazon’s customers. At the time, skeptics dismissed it as a publicity stunt and doubted that the company would ever pursue the seemingly nutty scheme. Backchannel

Iron Man-style flight suit inventor struggles to convince anyone it is not an April Fools’ A British inventor had built an Iron Man-style flight suit, but is struggling to convince anyone it is not an April Fools’ joke. Richard Browning, a former Royal Marine Reserve, has created the machine using six miniature jet engines and a specially designed exoskeleton. But many news organisations have been getting in touch to ask if it is just an incredibly convincing hoax. The Independent

Game over, Uwe Boll In a small, cold film studio in early 2016, the man known by the Internet as the “worst director in the world” was doing what he does, well, worst. “O.K., one more time,” said Uwe Boll (his first name is pronounced “OO-vah”), feeding lines to one of the actors in the absence of a script. “Straight in the lens: ‘. . . has been killed. By the law . . . er . . . the law enforcement? Has been shot by law enforcement.’ Yes. O.K., do it. Ready, and . . . Action!” Vanity Fair

The $2 32-bit Arduino (with debugging) I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Arduino. But if I had two serious gripes about the original offering it was the 8-bit CPU and the lack of proper debugging support. Now there’s plenty of 32-bit support in the Arduino IDE, so that takes care of the first big issue. Taking care of having a real debugger, though, is a bit trickier. I recently set out to use one of the cheap “blue pill” STM32 ARM boards. Hackaday

The reckoning: Why the movie business is in big trouble The uncertainty surrounding the film business and the direction it needs to take in order to survive is also being manifested in the corporate suites. Sony Pictures is struggling to find a replacement for outgoing CEO Michael Lynton, having cycled through likely candidates such as former Disney COO Tom Staggs, while considering more offbeat options like former Hulu head Jason Kilar. Variety

Why I always tug on the ATM Once you understand how easy and common it is for thieves to attach “skimming” devices to ATMs and other machines that accept debit and credit cards, it’s difficult not to closely inspect and even tug on the machines before using them. Several readers who are in the habit of doing just that recently shared images of skimmers they discovered after gently pulling on various parts of a cash machine they were about to use. Krebs on Security

Reverse engineering malware 101: Section 1 – Fundamentals In this section you will be setting up a safe virtual malware analysis environment. The virtual machine (VM) that you will be running the malware on should not have internet access nor network share access to the host system. This VM will be designated as the Victim VM. On the other hand, the Sniffer VM will have a passive role in serving and monitoring the internet traffic of the Victim VM. This connection remains on a closed network within virtualbox.

Security update for the LastPass extension On Saturday, March 25th, security researcher Tavis Ormandy from Google’s Project Zero reported a security finding related to the LastPass browser extensions. In the last 24 hours, we’ve released an update which we believe fixes the reported vulnerability in all browsers and have verified this with Tavis himself. Most users will be updated automatically. Please ensure you are running the latest version (4.1.44 or higher), which can always be downloaded at LastPass

Amazon and Walmart are in an all-out price war that is terrifying America’s biggest brands Last month, Walmart gathered some of America’s biggest household brands near its Arkansas headquarters for a tough talk. For years, Walmart had dominated the retail landscape on the back of its “Everyday Low Price” guarantee. But now, Walmart was too often getting beaten on price. So company executives were there, in part, to reset expectations with Walmart’s suppliers… Recode

How the IBM 1403 printer hammered out 1,100 lines per minute Introduced in October 1959, IBM’s 1401 data-processing system was one of the first transistorized computers ever sold commercially. The 1401 marked the transition from wiring panels and punch cards to stored programs and magnetic tape drives, and it offered performance and versatility at a price that even small businesses could afford—about US $6,500 per month ($54,000 today). IEEE Spectrum

VPNs are not the solution to a policy problem The US House of Representatives just voted to eliminate the FCC ISP privacy rules. If you are interested in a further reading about the details of said rules, this article is a good place to get started. As Americans begin to accept this new reality, the discourse shifts to what we can do to workaround this particular issue. Yes, VPNs are a workaround at best, and a shitty one at that. AsinineTech

Twitter ditching default egg profile photos because they’re tied to “negative behavior” If you want to harass your fellow internet denizens on Twitter, you’ll have to do it without the cover of an anonymous egg in your profile photo: The social media site says it’s doing away with its default avatar, partly because it’s become associated with online harassment and other bad behaviors. The Consumerist

A faster single-pixel camera Compressed sensing is an exciting new computational technique for extracting large amounts of information from a signal. In one high-profile demonstration, for instance, researchers at Rice University built a camera that could produce 2-D images using only a single light sensor rather than the millions of light sensors found in a commodity camera. MIT

Virtual lemonade sends colour and taste to a glass of water When life hands you digital lemons, make virtual lemonade. A system of sensors and electrodes can digitally transmit the basic colour and sourness of a glass of lemonade to a tumbler of water, making it look and taste like a different drink. The idea is to let people share sensory experiences over the internet. New Scientist

How to start a hardware company with just $60K Two years ago, CoBattery raised a little over $60,000 on Kickstarter. And while many Kickstarter campaigns fail or take forever to fulfill their orders, we fulfilled all of our Kickstarter orders without raising any extra outside money. Cobattery


Starbucks is opening a store that only accepts mobile orders

Starbucks in 2015 introduced the option for customers to place orders via their mobile device. As the company quickly found out, being among the first to market with a new concept often comes with unforeseen challenges.

As TechCrunch highlights, tech-savvy customers flocked to the service to place their order and pay in advance in hopes of bypassing the in-store checkout line. At some popular shops, however, the virtual queue is as long (or longer) than the real-world line and has prompted the Seattle-based coffee company to explore ways to remedy the situation.

One solution, set to go live next week, is a retail store that only caters to those who order via mobile.

Starbucks reportedly announced the test store in a recent letter to employees. According to Reuters, the mobile-order-and-pay store will be located at Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters where it operates two cafes catering to its more than 5,000 on-site employees.

The repurposed store will have a large window where customers can pick up their orders and watch them being made.

Starbucks is one of several food and beverage establishments that have rolled out mobile ordering in recent memory. Others you might be familiar with include Taco Bell which added the ability in late 2014 and more recently, McDonald’s.


HTC reveals new VR ads that know when you’re looking at them

Former games journalist and current UK TV presenter/writer Charlie Brooker’s dystopian sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror may be fictional, but it has touched on themes that are making their way into the real world. The latest being ads that know when you’re looking at them. The technology is part of HTC’s recently announced “VR Ad service.” Essentially, it will allow brands to know if HTC Vive VR headset users have looked at one of their ads.

“Ads that appear in immersive VR environments can not only provide more effective impressions, they can also track whether the users have viewed them or have turned away their gaze. Accordingly, the multiplied effect of effective impressions and verified viewings will bring you higher advertising revenue!” HTC writes.

Business Insider reports that advertisers will only pay for an ad after a user has viewed it. The service is opt-in, so it’s up to the developers to decide if they want to include them in their applications. HTC states that by opting in, “all of your free apps would be automatically put on the list which can be used to integrate VR Ads.”

It’s important to note that the in-game ads will only appear within titles hosted on Viveport, HTC’s own app store. They include banners, 2D and 3D in-app placements, and app recommendation banners.

Black Mirror episode ‘Fifteen Million Merits,’ which stars a young Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), features ads that know when viewers look away and punish them for doing so. The advertisements in the show can’t be skipped or ignored without a financial penalty.


Tech companies promise to tackle extremist online content, but avoid encryption debate

The aftermath of last week’s London terror attacks saw renewed calls from politicians for weakened online encryption, along with backdoors into services like WhatsApp. UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she would be meeting technology firms to discuss the matter, and while the companies have agreed to do more to tackle terrorist content, it appears that encryption wasn’t on the agenda.

In a joint statement, senior executives from Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft promised to “tackle this vital issue” of extremist material.

“Our companies are committed to making our platforms a hostile space for those who seek to do harm and we have been working on this issue for several years,” the statement reads. “We share the Government’s commitment to ensuring terrorists do not have a voice online.”

Rudd said it was important to ensure organizations like WhatsApp don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other. “We need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp,” she told the BBC.

There is no mention of encryption in the joint statement. The letter set out three ways to remove terrorists’ online content: the creation of better tools to identify and remove the material; helping other tech companies do the same, and supporting actions by “civil society organizations” that “promote alternative and counter-narratives.”

Precise details, such as a plan of action and timelines, weren’t mentioned. Chair of the home affairs select committee, Yvette Cooper, said the outcome of the meeting was “a bit lame.”

“All the government and social media companies appear to have agreed is to discuss options for a possible forum in order to have more discussions,” said the MP.

The Guardian reports that Apple executives were not at the meeting, reportedly because it did not deal with the issue of encryption.

Rudd released her own statement following the meeting, in which she said she intends to tackle the issue of encryption “through further, separate discussions.”

“I am clear that government and industry need to work more closely together on this issue so that law enforcement and the intelligence agencies can get access to the data they need to keep us safe,” she said.


Mad Catz shuts down, files for chapter 7 bankruptcy

It’s the end of the road for Mad Catz Interactive as the gaming peripheral maker has filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy after betting the house on Rock Band 4.

As per the filing, all of Mad Catz’s directors and officers have resigned. The company will be liquidating all of its assets with proceeds from the sales going directly to its lenders. Subsidiaries such as audio company Tritton are also expected to shut down and liquidate their assets.

The bankruptcy news isn’t entirely surprising if you’ve kept tabs on the company as of late.

As Polygon recounts, Mad Catz CEO Darren Richardson and Chairman Thomas Brown both stepped down in February 2016 ahead of a corporate restructuring that saw the company shed 37 percent of its workforce.

In September, Mad Catz sold its Saitek brand and line of space, flight and farm simulation controllers to Logitech for $13 million in cash. This past January, the company received word that it was at risk of being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and last week, the exchange made good on that promise due to the “abnormally low” trading price of its common stock.

Mad Catz was founded in 1989 and produced a wide range of gaming accessories and controllers over the years.


JEDEC’s DDR5 standard will double bandwidth and density

The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association has announced that development of the DDR5 standard is “moving forward rapidly.” The standards body said DDR5 memory will provide double the bandwidth and density versus current generation DDR4. This, in turn, will result in improved performance with greater power efficiency.

The standard will also feature a more user-friendly interface for server and client platforms, we’re told.

Mian Quddus, Chairman of the JEDEC board of directors, said in a press release that increased server performance requirements are driving the need for advanced technologies and the standardization of next generation memory such as DDR5 will be essential to fulfilling those needs.

As The Tech Report recalls, JEDEC first started talking about DDR3 in May 2005 ahead of the first products hitting the scene in 2007. Similarly, JEDEC published the final specifications for DDR4 in September 2012 with support finding its way into consumer products in the second half of 2014.

JEDEC is also developing NVDIMM-P (Non-Volatile Dual Inline Memory Module, Persistent), a new high-capacity memory module that retains content after power is cut (kind of like Intel’s Optane memory).

More information on the DDR5 and NVDIMM-P standards will be shared at JEDEC’s Server Forum event in Santa Clara on June 19. The standards body said it aims to publish the design for DDR5 sometime in 2018.


Intel’s Optane memory may not be compatible with Kaby Lake Pentium or Celeron CPUs

Intel’s new Optane memory promises to help speed up traditional hard drives to near SSD speeds, but it won’t be compatible with lower-end Kaby Lake processors. According to the official product requirements page, Optane only works with 7th generation Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs. This is surprising since Optane is partly aimed at the budget conscious consumers who want SSD-like speeds without the high cost associated with SSDs.

Optane works by creating a bridge between fast DRAM and high capacity spinning hard drives which results in faster boot times, game launch times, and a generally more responsive system. It was positioned as a huge speed increase for low-end systems, but it turns out you’ll need a new and relatively high end system to use the technology.

The cheapest compatible CPU is the Core i3-7100 which costs around $120. Compared to an unsupported Pentium G4620 build with a 480GB SSD, upgrading to a barebones Optane setup costs nearly the same amount. The i3 is slightly faster and the 16GB Optane module paired with a 1TB HDD would give a larger capacity of high speed storage, but this is still a hard sell for Intel to make.

Intel’s decision to only allow Core series processors is a bit counter intuitive. As the platform becomes more mature though, we’ll see if the caching software and performance boost is enough to entice the next generation of budget PC builders. Of course, this could just be a marketing error on Intel’s part and in that case, everyone would be happy.


‘Total War: Warhammer II’ announced, coming to PC this year

Sega Europe has announced the second of three planned games in the Total War: Warhammer series. Aptly named Total War: Warhammer II, the game will pit players against each other in a race to become the first to either save or destroy the Great Vortex.

Along the way, you’ll build and expand your empire, develop cities, raise armies and fight “grand-scale” battles in the classic Total War style.

The campaign will play out across four new continents: Ulthuan, Naggaroth, The Southlands and Lustria. British video game developer Creative Assembly says there will also be a vast, combined map that covers the geographic areas of the first and second games.

Gamers can choose from four new playable races (High Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen and another that hasn’t yet been revealed), each with unique campaign mechanics and army rosters of Legendary Lords, Heroes, monsters, troops and siege weapons. Shortly after launch, an update will enable gamers to play through the campaign as any owned, playable race from the first title in the trilogy.

The first game in the series arrived less than a year ago on May 24, 2016, for Windows before finding its way to Linux in November. Game director Ian Roxburgh said the success of the first entry increased their ambition.

Total War: Warhammer II is set to arrive on PC sometime this year; unfortunately, a more specific launch window wasn’t provided.