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Computing

This 3-in-1 webcam claims to fix the eye contact problem

Eye contact is one of the main reasons video calls don’t feel as natural as real-life conversations. We’ve seen attempts to resolve the issue, such as Dell’s magnetic Concept Pari camera, but a new Kickstarter project has a new approach: A retractable camera that dangles down in front of your screen.

Created by a Hong Kong-based brand called MetaAxon, the “3-in-1” Meca webcam is featured on Kickstarter and has already raised $335,454 with 361 backers of the project.

The design and functionality of the Meca webcam are simple; the 3-in-1 peripheral features an adjustable camera, a microphone, and a ring light with scales for brightness and color temperature. These aspects are intended to help you keep a consistent presence during a video conference.

The primary feature of the Meca webcam, however, is its retractable camera. It can be pulled down from a 1.5mm cable at the base of the system to be level with your face. This configuration allows you to look directly into the camera and avoid the issues that come with having to look up or down at a misplaced webcam. The cable is also not supposed to be disruptive to any on-screen work. MetaAxon promises lifetime functionality of the retractable cable, claiming it has been tested to work accurately over 30,000 times.

The brand provides an adhesive, which allows you to stick the camera to your screen while in a conference, and easily remove it once the meeting is over. The camera itself is 1080p, 30fps, and 70-degree FOV, which MetaAxon says is ideal for video conferencing.

The light, camera, and microphone on the Meca 3-in-1 webcam

In addition to the camera are the microphone and ring light. The omnidirectional microphone features a privacy shutter. Meanwhile, the ring light, which takes up a considerable amount of the system, can also be turned on and off manually. There is also an adjustable software setting for brightness and color temperature.

The Meca webcam supports a USB 2.0 port; however, the brand said it hopes to provide backers with an OTG-C adapter. System-wise, the webcam works with Windows and MacOS.

Prices for the Meca webcam include super early bird prices of $89 per webcam and $168 for two webcams. Early bird prices are $99 per webcam, $188 for two webcams, and $445 for five webcams.

As always, Kickstarter projects are never guaranteed, and you’re always encouraged to follow our recommended crowdfunding guidelines before shelling out any cash.

Editors’ Choice




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Security

Websites are constantly tracking you, but Firefox has a fix

Mozilla Firefox has just expanded its range of features made to protect user privacy, this time attempting to tackle the issue of websites tracking you around the web. Whether we like it or not, the sad reality is that many web giants add trackers to URLs, which then allow them to monitor your online activity.

Added in Firefox 102, the new Query Parameter Stripping should address that problem in a substantial way — although we’re still far away from a complete fix.

The new privacy feature will not be enabled by default, but once you do enable it, it will begin stripping tracking parameters from URLs. Many companies add their own query parameters to outbound links listed on their websites. Adding the query parameter enables the company, be it Facebook (Meta), HubSpot, Marketo, or Olytics, to track clicks and subsequently, your web activity.

As an example, Facebook adds its own tracking to outbound links with a “fbclid” query, while Vero uses “vero_id=.” This often results in a long link, made much longer only for the purpose of tracking your web activity. Firefox will strip the links of all the nonsense and leave you with the raw URL that you actually want to visit. This will certainly remove a whole lot of trackers, but Brave still has the upper hand here, blocking even more than Firefox does.

Enabling the feature will allow Mozilla Firefox to remove the following tracking parameters from your links:

  • Facebook: fbclid=, mc_eid=
  • Vero: vero_id=
  • Drip: __s=
  • Olytics: oly_enc_id=, oly_anon_id=
  • HybSpot: _hsenc=
  • Marketo: mkt_tok=

How to enable Query Parameter Stripping in Firefox

The new feature is part of Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection, similar to the recently introduced Total Cookie Protection. In order to enable it, go into your Firefox Settings, click on Privacy & Security, and then toggle the Enhanced Tracking Protection to Strict.

Browsing in private mode, the feature will be disabled even if you enabled it otherwise. In order to activate it in private mode, type about:config in the Firefox address bar, then search for strip, and then toggle the privacy.query_stripping.enabled.pbmode setting to true.

If you’ve activated the feature and want to give it a spin, BleepingComputer prepared a test page that contains links to various websites with the query parameters added at the end. Once you’ve enabled Query Parameter Stripping, Firefox should automatically remove the trackers, sending you off to example.com with no extra additions. BleepingComputer also notes that browsing with this feature enabled might cause some issues, so if you’re running into problems, you’ll have to disable it until Firefox finds a fix.

Mozilla Firefox image.
Mozilla Firefox’s new feature will ensure that users are not susceptible to tracking from websites. Mozilla

Firefox seems to be trying to niche down and maximize browser security and user privacy, which is something similar to the Brave browser. After once being one of the browsers responsible for dethroning Internet Explorer in the early 2000s, Firefox has slowly slipped into near-obscurity as Google Chrome started to dominate. According to Statcounter, Google Chrome holds the largest market share with 64.95% as of May 2022, followed by Safari with 19.01%, and Microsoft Edge with 3.99%. Firefox trails behind in fourth place with just 3.26%.

While Firefox’s glory days might be long gone, the browser still stands strong and presents an agreeable alternative for users who value browsing privacy. It might not top the charts, but it’s still among the best browsers available right now.

Editors’ Choice




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AI

AI-produced images can’t fix diversity issues in dermatology databases

Image databases of skin conditions are notoriously biased towards lighter skin. Rather than wait for the slow process of collecting more images of conditions like cancer or inflammation on darker skin, one group wants to fill in the gaps using artificial intelligence. It’s working on an AI program to generate synthetic images of diseases on darker skin — and using those images for a tool that could help diagnose skin cancer.

“Having real images of darker skin is the ultimate solution,” says Eman Rezk, a machine learning expert at McMaster University in Canada working on the project. “Until we have that data, we need to find a way to close the gap.”

But other experts working in the field worry that using synthetic images could introduce their own problems. The focus should be on adding more diverse real images to existing databases, says Roxana Daneshjou, a clinical scholar in dermatology at Stanford University. “Creating synthetic data sounds like an easier route than doing the hard work to create a diverse data set,” she says.

There are dozens of efforts to use AI in dermatology. Researchers build tools that can scan images of rashes and moles to figure out the most likely type of issue. Dermatologists can then use the results to help them make diagnoses. But most tools are built on databases of images that either don’t include many examples of conditions on darker skin or don’t have good information about the range of skin tones they include. That makes it hard for groups to be confident that a tool will be as accurate on darker skin.

That’s why Rezk and the team turned to synthetic images. The project has four main phases. The team already analyzed available image sets to understand how underrepresented darker skin tones were to begin with. It also developed an AI program that used images of skin conditions on lighter skin to produce images of those conditions on dark skin and validated the images that the model gave them. “Thanks to the advances in AI and deep learning, we were able to use the available white scan images to generate high-quality synthetic images with different skin tones,” Rezk says.

Next, the team will combine the synthetic images of darker skin with real images of lighter skin to create a program that can detect skin cancer. It will continuously check image databases to find any new, real pictures of skin conditions on darker skin that they can add to the future model, Rezk says.

The team isn’t the first to create synthetic skin images — a group that included Google Health researchers published a paper in 2019 describing a method to generate them, and it could create images of varying skin tones. (Google is interested in dermatology AI and announced a tool that can identify skin conditions last spring.)

Rezk says synthetic images are a stopgap until there are more real pictures of conditions on darker skin available. Daneshjou, though, worries about using synthetic images at all, even as a temporary solution. Research teams would have to carefully check if AI-generated images would have any usual quirks that people wouldn’t be able to see with the naked eye. That type of quirk could theoretically skew results from an AI program. The only way to confirm that the synthetic images work as well as real images in a model would be to compare them with real images — which are in short supply. “Then goes back to the fact of, well, why not just work on trying to get more real images?” she says.

If a diagnostic model is based on synthetic images from one group and real images from another — even temporarily — that’s a concern, Daneshjou says. It could lead to the model performing differently on different skin tones.

Leaning on synthetic data could also make people less likely to push for real, diverse images, she says. “If you’re going to do that, are you actually going to keep doing the work? she says. “I would actually like to see more people do work on getting real data that is diverse, rather than trying to do this workaround.”

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Game

Rockstar apologizes for broken GTA remasters and pledges to fix bugs

Rockstar Games has apologized for the shoddy quality of . It plans to fix “the unexpected technical issues” and improve the three games in the collection.

“We want to sincerely apologize to everyone who has encountered issues playing these games,” . “The updated versions of these classic games did not launch in a state that meets our own standards of quality, or the standards our fans have come to expect.” The first update is scheduled to arrive in the coming days and it will “address a number of issues.”

It didn’t take long for players to start sharing clips of bugs and glitches on social media after the remastered collection of GTA III, GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas arrived last week. took a deep dive into GTA III and found there were “issues that are so blatant and jarring and ridiculous, it’s hard to understand how the game made its way through quality control.”

What’s more, Rockstar of the bundle soon after launch to “remove some data files that were unintentionally included in the new versions of these games” (those are believed to include files related to the infamous ). The collection was available to buy again . Rockstar Launcher services were unavailable for over a day too, making the collection and the PC versions of Grand Theft Auto Online and Red Dead Online unplayable during that time.

Soon after Rockstar for the trilogy in October, it removed the original versions the games from digital storefronts. Now, the classic versions of GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas are returning to PC as a bundle on the Rockstar Store. Players who buy the remastered trilogy on PC by June 30th will receive the originals at no extra cost.

Meanwhile, Rockstar has asked everyone to refrain from attacking developers on social media. “We would kindly ask our community to please maintain a respectful and civil discourse around this release as we work through these issues,” it said. Grove Street Games, which is behind ports of several other Rockstar titles, worked on these remasters.

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Categories
Game

Halo Infinite Multiplayer install blue screen fix and a reboot

There are several different methods available today to download or load Halo Infinite Multiplayer today, beyond the Blue Screen. If you’re getting a blue screen on your Xbox, you’re not alone. The placeholder file is just a 280mb file, but it’s causing quite a bit of an issue right this minute for more than a couple of users.

If you’ve downloaded the Halo Infinite placeholder, delete it immediately. This app has caused some users issues this afternoon as the app doesn’t know how to interact with the new update. That shouldn’t be the case, but it is – so there!

SEE TOO: Halo Infinite release date surprise

Once you’ve deleted the placeholder, search in the store for Halo Infinite. Select multiplayer, find the option that says buy for free, and install it from there. This new file is significantly larger than the placeholder app.

If you’d like to sidestep this silly process, try turning your Xbox off, then turning it back on. If this doesn’t work, it’s possible you’ve not turned the machine off in as hardcore a fashion as is necessary. You might just want to go ahead and unplug your Xbox entirely, then plug it back in, start it up, and check your downloads. You should see the update pushed automatically.

While you’re at it, you might want to consider hitting the switch for cross-play with PC users. If this is the first time you’ve played Halo on an Xbox while your buddy is playing Halo on a PC (and chances are it is), you’re in for a rude awakening. Take a peek at the trailer for this title above and prepare yourself for the hammering.

Also take a peek at the game on your PC, too. Maybe even download the game and play it on both machines and see if this experience ruins the Halo universe for you and everyone you love – it might!

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Security

Biden admin’s bug fix mandate aims to prevent the next major cybersecurity attack

The Biden administration is requiring civilian federal agencies to fix hundreds of cybersecurity flaws, as reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal. As the WSJ states, the BOD 22-01 directive from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) covers around 200 known threats that cybersecurity experts discovered between 2017 and 2020, as well as 90 more flaws that were found in 2021. Federal agencies have six months to patch older threats and just two weeks to fix the ones that were discovered within the past year.

The WSJ report points out that federal agencies are usually left to their own devices when it comes to security, sometimes resulting in poor security management. The goal is to force federal agencies to fix all potential threats, whether they’re major or not, and establish a basic list for other private and public organizations to follow. While zero-day vulnerabilities that exploit previously unknown openings get major headlines, addressing “the subset of vulnerabilities that are causing harm now” can get ahead of many incidents.

Previously, a 2015 order gave federal agencies one month to fix threats deemed “critical risk.” This was changed in 2019 to include threats categorized as “high risk,” as pointed out by the WSJ. The new mandate distances itself from prioritizing specific threat levels and instead acknowledges that small holes can quickly cause larger problems if hackers can find a way to take advantage of them.

“The Directive lays out clear requirements for federal civilian agencies to take immediate action to improve their vulnerability management practices and dramatically reduce their exposure to cyber attacks,” says CISA director Jen Easterly. “While this Directive applies to federal civilian agencies, we know that organizations across the country, including critical infrastructure entities, are targeted using these same vulnerabilities. It is therefore critical that every organization adopt this Directive and prioritize mitigation of vulnerabilities listed in CISA’s public catalog.”

CISA’s newly released list of known vulnerabilities notably includes the Microsoft Exchange Server flaw. In March, emails from over 30,000 US governmental and commercial organizations were hacked by a Chinese group, thanks to four known security holes that, had they been patched, would’ve prevented the attacks. CISA’s list requires patching the “Microsoft Exchange Remote Code Execution Vulnerability” and is calling on federal agencies to install available SolarWinds patches by May 2022.

The Solarwinds Orion Platform is also on the list, which was the victim of a major hack in late 2020 that compromised US government agencies. The CISA notes that the “SolarWinds Orion API is vulnerable to an authentication bypass that could allow a remote attacker to execute API commands.”

Cybersecurity has been a priority for President Biden since he entered office. In May, he signed an executive order to help prevent future cybersecurity disasters. The order mandates two-factor authentication across the federal government, establishes a protocol for responding to cyberattacks, and forms a Cybersecurity Safety Review Board, among other safety measures.

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Computing

Download AMD’s New Driver to Fix a Major Windows 11 Bug

A day after Windows 11 launched, AMD posted a notice about two severe bugs that could tank performance as much as 15%. The two issues are resolved now. One fix comes from AMD, while you can obtain the other through Windows Update.

The AMD update is focused on UEFI CPPC2, or in practical terms, AMD’s preferred core feature. The Windows 11 bug wouldn’t put the most demanding work on the fastest core, leading to decreased performance overall. You can download the chipset driver update now (revision 3.10.08.506) from AMD’s website. As a reminder, this update is relevant to all AMD processors that work with Windows 11.

Microsoft just released a patch for the issue that many Windows 11 users are concerned about that can reduce gaming performance as much as 15%. This bug is related to increased L3 cache latency. It’s the lowest level of cache on the CPU, and increased latency means it clogs up data flowing into the CPU and up to the higher levels of cache.

Originally, Windows 11 could nearly double the latency of the L3 cache. Microsoft issued a patch for Windows 11 on its normal Patch Tuesday, and we hoped to see the problem resolved. But the update made the L3 cache latency issue worse, more than tripling the latency in some processors.

Microsoft issued a patch fixing this issue to Windows Insiders on October 15. Now, the patch is rolling out to the general public. To update, use Windows Key + S, search for Windows Update, and select Check for Updates. The build that fixes this issue should be available (KB 5006476). The update is all the more important considering Intel’s upcoming 12th-gen Alder Lake launch. These processors are said to work best on Windows 11, but bugs meant AMD was entering the fight at a disadvantage.

If you have an AMD processor that works with Windows 11, you should install the new patch now. Ryzen 2000, 3000, 4000, and 5000 chips are affected, as well as Threadripper 2000 and 3000, select EPYC server processors, and select Athlon processors.

After downloading the update, AMD recommends users with Zen+ or Zen 2 CPUs (Ryzen 2000 and 3000) set the AMD Ryzen Balanced power plan in the power options. To do that, open the Control Panel, select Power Options, then select Choose Power Plan. You can change your plan there.

Needless to say, Windows 11 isn’t off to a perfect start. However, these two new patches fix two of the biggest problems with the operating system. Microsoft recently released Android apps to Windows Insiders, too, delivering on one of the biggest promises for the new OS.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Try to fix Valve’s Steam Deck at your own peril

Valve has long been a proponent of open hardware and software, but its latest video makes a case to the contrary for the upcoming Steam Deck. The game company has posted a Steam Deck teardown video that shows how to pry open the handheld console while simultaneously urging you to keep the system shut. It’s certainly possible to get in — it’s just that you might just cause more problems than you solve.

As Valve explains, the Steam Deck is tightly packed with highly customized parts, including the thumbsticks. While the company is promising replacements for various parts in the “coming months,” there are chances you’ll damage the system on your way in through static electricity or other mishaps. There can also be consequences to using off-the-shelf parts. A stock SSD might interfere with the handheld’s thermals, for instance. You might even compromise the integrity of the console just by opening it, according to Valve.

This likely won’t deter you if you insist on fixing your Steam Deck yourself. Valve clearly expects at least some unofficial repair attempts given its parts plan. However, it’s evident the Half-Life maker wants you to rely on Valve’s own technicians, or at least third-party pros, in the event the Deck breaks. This machine isn’t the poster child for right to repair advocates, even if it’s easier to fix than other devices.

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Security

Apple releases iOS 14.7.1 to fix Apple Watch unlocking and a zero-day exploit

Last week iOS 14.7 appeared, adding features including support for Apple’s magnetic battery pack. Unfortunately, the update also interrupted the “Unlock with iPhone” feature that Apple Watch wearers used for easy access to their wristwear. Now, another update is going out to fix that.

However, even if you don’t have an Apple Watch, you should still install iOS 14.7.1 (and for Mac owners, macOS 11.5.1) as soon as you can, because security notes from Apple reveal that the two updates it pushed today fix flaws that are already being exploited in the wild. The memory corruption issues in Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems have been assigned the same vulnerability ID and attributed to an anonymous researcher.

IOMobileFrameBuffer

Available for: iPhone 6s and later, iPad Pro (all models), iPad Air 2 and later, iPad 5th generation and later, iPad mini 4 and later, and iPod touch (7th generation)

Available for: macOS Big Sur

Impact: An application may be able to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges. Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.

Description: A memory corruption issue was addressed with improved memory handling.

CVE-2021-30807: an anonymous researcher

According to Security Week, this is the 13th zero-day vulnerability Apple has fixed this year.

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Security

19 days after REvil’s ransomware attack on Kaseya VSA systems, there’s a fix

Just ahead of the July 4th holiday weekend, a ransomware attack targeted organizations using Kaseya VSA remote management software. The outfit behind the attack, REvil, initially requested a $70 million ransom and claimed to have locked down millions of devices. That was before REvil suddenly went offline on July 13th, disconnecting its servers, abandoning forums, and shutting down a page on the dark web used to communicate with victims.

Now, Kaseya says it has obtained a universal decryptor from a “third party” that can restore data encrypted during the attack. The company has not said how it came by this technology, telling Bleeping Computer that it could not confirm or deny any ransom payment had occurred.

On 7/21/2021, Kaseya obtained a decryptor for victims of the REvil ransomware attack, and we’re working to remediate customers impacted by the incident.

We can confirm that Kaseya obtained the tool from a third party and have teams actively helping customers affected by the ransomware to restore their environments, with no reports of any problem or issues associated with the decryptor. Kaseya is working with Emsisoft to support our customer engagement efforts, and Emsisoft has confirmed the key is effective at unlocking victims.

NBC News reporter Kevin Collier first reported the decryption tool’s existence and speculates that one of three sources is likely behind the key: the US government, the Russian government, or a ransom payment to the attackers.

Kaseya says cybersecurity firm Emsisoft confirmed the restoration tool is “effective,” and now it’s working with victims of the attack to decrypt affected systems. It’s unknown how much help the tool will offer, coming several weeks after the attacks, but it’s better than nothing.



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