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Tech News

Self-destructing website is a time capsule of pandemic messages

A little more than a year ago, a website was launched that is designed to self-destruct if it doesn’t get at least one message in a 24-hour period. Anyone can leave a message on the website, which has spent its entire life operating during a very unique moment in time: the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. As the world slowly returns to normal, the website has become something like a time capsule of what the public was thinking during their months in isolation.

The website, which is appropriately called ‘This Website Will Self-Destruct,’ launched in April 2020 only weeks after the pandemic was announced. Many places were experiencing full lockdowns, the public was under the stress of uncertainty about how long the situation would last, and reports of depression and loneliness were rapidly climbing.

The website allows anyone to leave a short message, which will randomly be found and read by other people who click the ‘Read’ button. The website will live on for however long it continues to receive messages. Once attention dwindles and the messages finally dry up, the website will shut down.

The site’s launch date and simple design made it a perfect way to record snapshots of what people around the world were thinking during the pandemic. A journey through random messages left over the past year reveals concerns about how the virus may impact key aspects of life: health, job security, finances, and relationships. Snippets of loneliness are interspersed with messages of hope and encouragement.

There are no signs of interest in the website slowing down, so it’s likely to remain live for the remainder of the pandemic. Experts expect that the pandemic will come to an end in stages, with developed nations returning to ‘normal’ before poorer countries. Assuming everything goes as planned, the pandemic may be fully over worldwide by the end of next year.

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Security

New website tracks which colleges will use eproctoring this fall

Privacy-focused nonprofit Fight for the Future has launched a new website that tracks whether certain colleges and universities plan to use virtual proctoring software during the fall semester.

The platforms — like ProctorU and Proctorio — often make use of students’ webcams to watch and record them as they work, using automated systems or live monitors to flag possible signs of cheating. The practice has sparked controversy in the US, with critics in both academia and government citing privacy concerns and the potential for such software to discriminate against marginalized students. Still, some colleges began using eproctoring last year to watch for dishonesty on take-home exams, after moving testing online due to COVID-19.

Many schools will resume in-person examinations this fall due to the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccines, but it seems that some plan to continue using eproctoring software in some capacity. Fight for the Future says it has asked a number of colleges about their plans and has stamped each one with labels for “Won’t Use,” “Might Use,” and “Are Using.” (Colleges that haven’t responded to Fight for the Future’s inquiries got a “Might Use.”) Viewers are prompted to tweet at and email each university to denounce the software’s use.

Also on the front page is a “webcam image test” meant to determine whether eproctoring algorithms could accurately identify a viewer’s face (following reports that such algorithms disproportionately fail to identify faces with darker skin tones). Fight for the Future says the test uses the same computer vision software used by prominent eproctoring platform Proctorio, but insists that it doesn’t collect any data from the widget.

The website also urges followers to sign a petition addressed to school administrators and to submit “eproctoring horror stories” to the organization.

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Game

Shin Megami Tensei V Release Date Teased by Atlus Website

Shin Megami Tensei V looks like it’s coming to the Nintendo Switch on November 11. The release date appears to have accidentally leaked on the official Japanese website for Shin Megami Tensei V.

Shin Megami Tensei is a long-running Japanese roleplaying game series by Atlus that is actually the predecessor to its hit series, Persona. Many of the games in the series are considered cult classics, including the recently remastered, Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne.

The game’s website was mistakenly updated with information containing the release date, gameplay, and story details. Persona Central, which originally caught the leak, notes that the November 11 launch is expected to be a worldwide date, despite only appearing on the game’s Japanese website.

The leaked details state that the main character of the game will be a high school student that wanders into a demon-filled desert world called “Da’ath.” They fuse with a mysterious man and become the forbidden being called a “Nabino.” This leads the hero into the middle of a battle between gods and demons … a standard affair for the world of Shin Megami Tensei.

The game will reportedly feature over 200 demons, including returning favorites and new creations drawn by Masayuki Doi, a longtime character designer for the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series.

Like SMT titles before it, the gameplay involves the hero advancing through this new world by using their new demonic powers and gathering a party of demons to assist them. The leaked details note that the game will have multiple endings like previous games in the series.

A limited edition was also confirmed by the leak, but it isn’t known if it will be released outside of Japan.

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Tech News

Fake MSI website offers Afterburner app with possible malware

When access to a popular resource suddenly disappears, people are likely to search for an alternative source, no matter where it comes from. That’s true for websites but even more so for software and apps which can carry some unfortunate consequences. That might be the case with MSI’s popular Afterburner tool that suddenly became unavailable without much warning and was, at least briefly, imitated by an almost convincing fraudulent website that could have caused unwitting users to download some malware instead.

MSI’s Afterburner tool is quite popular among PC and gaming enthusiasts who want to squeeze out the most from their rigs. It offers both system monitoring as well as GPU overclocking tools that don’t discriminate between rivals NVIDIA and AMD. Given its popularity, it’s really no surprise that people went off looking for an alternative download source when MSI’s official server suddenly stopped working.

Unfortunately, one such source not only tried to offer a copy of MSI Afterburner, it also tried to masquerade as MSI itself. As with efforts designed to hide the owner’s true identity, any download coming from this fake MSI website should be held suspect. That’s exactly what MSI’s warning is all about but, it might have come too little too late to undo some damage.

The real problem is that MSI itself only used one such announcement to warn users about this situation. In the meantime, its official page for Afterburner has no warning whatsoever and still has a non-working download button. Without any explanation or clear alternative, users will naturally try to look for other sources.

Fortunately, it seems that the fraudulent website has been taken out of commission. MSI also says that Afterburner would be downloadable again after routine maintenance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t also offer an alternative download link which could have saved people time and trouble right from the start.

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Tech News

This website helps people in India between aged 18-45 find vaccination slots

India opened up its vaccine registration program for hundreds of millions of people aged 18-45 on April 28. However, most people in this age bracket could not find any slots for their vaccinations on the official CoWin website, as most states and private hospitals haven’t obtained the required doses.

To easily search for vaccination slots, Programmer Berty Thomas came up with a simple but effective website called under45.in. The site lets folks in search for places that are open for vaccination of the 18-45 age group. 

That solves a major point that visitors face on the CoWIN website: it’s meant to be used by people of all age groups eligible for the vaccine, but it doesn’t have a filter to display vaccination centers that will serve people between ages 18-45. Plus, a lot of centers that support vaccination for anyone over 18 years are still marked with a 45-years-and-over label, making the booking process confusing.

Credit: Under45.in