Microsoft To Release a Non-Subscription Office Suite in 2021

In a blog post announcing the next version of its Exchange Server, Microsoft has slipped in a single line that’s bound to make those who hate paying subscription fees for Office apps happy. From a report: “Microsoft Office will also see a new perpetual release for both Windows and Mac, in the second half of 2021,” the tech giant’s Exchange team wrote, confirming that a new version of Office you can purchase with a one-time payment is coming next year. The company has been pushing Microsoft 365 for years now as the main way to get its Office apps. This subscription-based version of its suite gives you access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and other apps for a monthly payment. While you can use some of those apps for free online with a Microsoft account, you won’t be able to install them on your PC like you’d be able to if you pay for a subscription. Further reading: Microsoft Really Doesn’t Want You To Buy Office 2019.

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3D Printing Inside the Body Could Patch Stomach Ulcers

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: Stomach ulcers and other gastric wounds afflict one in eight people worldwide, but common conventional therapies have drawbacks. Now scientists aim to treat such problems by exploring a new frontier in 3-D printing: depositing living cells directly inside the human body. […] In their effort to treat stomach lesions less invasively, scientists in China wanted to develop a miniature bioprinting robot that could enter the human body with relative ease. The researchers used existing techniques for creating dexterous electronic devices, such as mechanical bees and cockroach-inspired robots, says the study’s senior author Tao Xu, a bioengineer at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

The resulting micro robot is just 30 millimeters wide — less than half the width of a credit card — and can fold to a length of 43 millimeters. Once inside a patient’s body, it unfolds to become 59 millimeters long and can start bioprinting. “The team has constructed clever mechanisms that make the system compact when entering the body yet unfurl to provide a large working area once past the tight constrictions at entry,” says David Hoelzle, a mechanical engineer at the Ohio State University, who did not take part in the study. In their experiments, the researchers in China fitted the micro robot onto an endoscope (a long tube that can be inserted through bodily openings) and successfully snaked it through a curved pipe into a transparent plastic model of a stomach. There, they used it to print gels loaded with human stomach lining and stomach muscle cells (which were grown in culture by a commercial laboratory) onto a lab dish. The printed cells remained viable and steadily proliferated over the course of 10 days. “This study is the first attempt to combine micro robots and bioprinting together,” Xu says. The study has been published in the journal Biofabrication.

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Western Digital releases new, larger Red Pro and Purple drives

Two hard drives have been badly photoshopped onto a desk in a high-rise office.

Enlarge (credit: Seagate)

Earlier this month, Seagate announced an 18TB entry in its Ironwolf Pro lineup. Western Digital answered Wednesday morning with 18TB versions of its Red Pro and Purple consumer-targeted lines. The new 18TB Red Pro and Purple drives follow the company’s first 18TB CMR drive, a Gold released in mid-July.

Both NAS (Network Attached Storage) drives—Seagate’s Ironwolf Pro and Western Digital’s Red Pro—are CMR drives and not the more performance-problematic SMR technology. Western Digital’s announcement of the 18TB Purple did not mention either SMR or CMR at all, which we must assume means it is an SMR drive.

Seagate’s 18TB Ironwolf Pro is available for ordering at select retailers now for $580 retail, but actual stock isn’t expected until mid-October. Western 18TB Gold drives are available now for $593; the 18TB Red Pro and Purple drives are expected sometime in October but no prices have been announced yet.

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Source: Tech – Ars Technica

Chitin Could Be Used To Build Tools and Habitats On Mars, Study Finds

A team of scientists from the Singapore University of Technology and Design discovered that, using simple chemistry, the organic polymer chitin — contained in the exoskeletons of insects and crustaceans — can easily be transformed into a viable building material for basic tools and habitats. The findings have been published in the journal PLOS ONE. Ars Technica reports: “The technology was originally developed to create circular ecosystems in urban environments,” said co-author Javier Fernandez. “But due to its efficiency, it is also the most efficient and scalable method to produce materials in a closed artificial ecosystem in the extremely scarce environment of a lifeless planet or satellite.” [T]he authors of the current paper point out that most terrestrial manufacturing strategies that could fit the bill typically require specialized equipment and a hefty amount of energy. However, “Nature presents successful strategies of life adapting to harsh environments,” the authors wrote. “In biological organisms, rigid structures are formed by integrating inorganic filler proceed from the environment at a low energy cost (e.g., calcium carbonate) and incorporated into an organic matrix (e.g., chitin) produced at a relatively high metabolic cost.”

Fernandez and his colleagues maintain that chitin is likely to be part of any planned artificial ecosystem because it is so plentiful in nature. It’s the primary component of fish scales and fungal cell walls, for example, as well as the exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects. In fact, insects have already been targeted as a key source of protein for a possible Martian base. And since the chitin component of insects has limited nutritional value for humans, extracting it to make building materials “does not hamper or compete with the food supply,” the authors wrote. “Rather, it is a byproduct of it.”

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ISS Successfully Dodges ‘Unknown Piece of Space Debris’

With space junk piling up around our planet, the International Space Station needed to perform a last-minute avoidance maneuver Tuesday to steer clear of an “unknown piece of space debris expected to pass within several kilometers.” From a report: Mission Control in Houston conducted the move at 2:19 p.m. PT using the Russian Progress resupply spacecraft docked to the ISS to help nudge the station out of harm’s way. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Expedition 63 crew will relocate to their Soyuz spacecraft until the debris has passed by the station,” NASA said in a statement prior to the move. The maneuver went off smoothly, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine reported. “The astronauts are coming out of safe haven,” he tweeted after the ISS relocated.

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The Short Weird Life — and Potential Afterlife — of Quantum Radar

sciencehabit writes: A mini-arms race is unfolding in the supposed field of quantum radar, spurred by press reports in 2016 that China had built one — potentially threatening the ability of stealthy military aircraft to hide from conventional radars. Governments around the world have tasked physicists to look into the idea. Whereas a conventional radar searches for objects by detecting pulse of microwaves reflected from them, quantum radar would utilize pulses of microwaves linked by a quantum connection called entanglement. The system would retain one pulse and measure it in concert with the one reflected from the object. Correlations between the two would make it easier to spot an object through the glare of the surroundings. Or so researchers hoped. Groups have demonstrated elements of a quantum radar, but only in limited experiments that a nonquantum system can still match. And fundamental physical limits suggest the scheme can’t beat ordinary radar for long-range detection. Even one of the inventors of the basic concept thinks it won’t work when applied to radar.

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Blizzard Co-Founder Mike Morhaime Launches New Gaming Endeavor Dreamhaven

Mike Morhaime, the cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment, has launched a new game company called Dreamhaven, and it has established two new game studios: Moonshot and Secret Door. VentureBeat reports: The Irvine, California-based company is a pretty good clue that Morhaime and his wife Amy Morhaime weren’t quite done with games when they left Activision Blizzard in 2018. Mike will be the CEO of Dreamhaven, while Amy will head operations. They have hired a number of (mostly former Blizzard) industry veterans to help run their studios, which will work on separate games. That’s an ambitious startup, as working on two games at once is a handful. But it’s not without precedent, as Harold Ryan’s Probably Monsters startup in Seattle also has two studios working on two games at once. What makes the Morhaimes’ company unique so far is that they’re funding it themselves. […] So far, the company has 27 employees across all three entities, and it’s hiring more staff. The artwork on the company’s homepage combines aspects of both fantasy and science fiction, but the company isn’t yet saying what games it is working on, nor is it talking about genres. But it is working on a familiar model, as it closely resembles the way Morhaime ran things at Blizzard, with an emphasis on quality, iteration, and giving creative staff enough time. The parent company’s role is to provide guidance and funding, as well as central services that each studio will need, such as communications and human resources. But each studio will make its own decisions about how to make the best games, Morhaime said. The founders have equity in the parent company.

Moonshot’s leaders are Jason Chayes, Dustin Browder, and Ben Thompson. Chayes was previously an executive producer at Blizzard Entertainment, where he worked on the Hearthstone team. He also worked at Electronic Arts and Disney. Browder’s 25-year career includes roles as the game director for StarCraft II, Heroes of the Storm, Command & Conquer, and The Lord of the Rings. Thompson’s credits include creative director for Hearthstone and art director for the World of Warcraft trading card game, with additional credits on Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. Moonshot is also home to a team of seasoned developers who’ve worked on some of gaming’s most popular franchises.

Dreamhaven’s second game studio, Secret Door, has a leadership team of Chris Sigaty, Alan Dabiri, and Eric Dodds. Sigaty’s roles have included executive producer on Hearthstone, StarCraft II, and Heroes of the Storm, as well as lead producer on the original Warcraft III. Dodds was the original game director of Hearthstone and veteran game designer on World of Warcraft and StarCraft. Dabiri has filled both technical director and game director roles and has worked on Warcraft III, StarCraft II, and Heroes of the Storm. Sigaty was at Blizzard for almost 24 years, working closely with Chayes on games like StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. He left Blizzard at the end of 2019 and to devote some time to family. He also talked with Morhaime and Chayes.

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‘Amnesia: The Dark Descent’ and ‘A Machine For Pigs’ Are Now Open Source

Legendary horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent and A Machine for Pigs is now open source, meaning that modders can dig in and see what lies underneath the hood of both games. Polygon reports: The full source code for The Dark Descent and A Machine for Pigs has been released on Github for folks who want to take a crack at modifying the game. It’s relatively rare for developers to post their game codes themselves, though sometimes proprietary code can make its way online via leaks. “This doesn’t mean that the game is suddenly free,” Amnesia developer Frictional Games said in a blog post. “It just means that people are free to use the source however they want as long as they adhere to the GPL3 licence. The game and all of its content is still owned by Frictional Games. Just like before.”

Seeing how these classic games are built will also mean seeing things like flaws, and inefficiencies Frictional Games warned — but it’s all still functional and potentially useful to anyone learning game development. “I also hope this release can be of help to anyone wanting to create their own engine or just wanting to learn more about game programming,” Frictional Games said. “While the code is not the greatest in places and the tech used is not the latest, it is a fully contained game engine in a fairly easy-to-understand package. It is also a testament that it is possible to do this sort of thing, even with a very limited team.”

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Researchers Found the Manual For the World’s Oldest Surviving Computer

Researchers will be able to gain a deeper understanding of what’s considered the world’s oldest surviving (digital) computer after its long-lost user manual was unearthed. Engadget reports: The Z4, which was built in 1945, runs on tape, takes up most of a room and needs several people to operate it. The machine now takes residence at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, but it hasn’t been used in quite some time. An archivist at ETH Zurich, Evelyn Boesch, discovered the manual among her father’s documents in March, according to retired lecturer Herbert Bruderer. Rene Boesch worked with the Swiss Aeronautical Engineering Association, which was based at the university’s Institute for Aircraft Statics and Aircraft Construction. The Z4 was housed there in the early 1950s.

Among Boesch’s documents were notes on math problems the Z4 solved that were linked to the development of the P-16 jet fighter. “These included calculations on the trajectory of rockets, on aircraft wings, on flutter vibrations [and] on nosedive,” Bruderer wrote in a Association of Computing Machinery blog post.

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Twitter To Start Testing Voice DMs

According to The Verge, Twitter says they will be testing voice DMs soon, after rolling out audio tweets for iOS in June. From the report: Brazil will be the first country included in that test. “We know people want more options for how they express themselves in conversations on Twitter — both publicly and privately,” [Alex Ackerman-Greenberg, product manager for direct messages at Twitter, said in a 20-second voice message].

Similar to voice tweets, voice messages have a bare-bones, simple interface: there’s just a play / pause button, and the sender’s avatar pulsates as the message plays. The product team designed an “in-line recording experience to make it easier to send these messages as part of the natural conversation flow,” so that’s one difference from the current audio tweets interface. There’s a “report message” option in the event that someone misuses voice DMs, which is always a fair concern with private audio.

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