Friday, 22 February

15:00 EST

Halo Infinite now linked to next Xbox’s launch, rumor suggests RPG elements [Ars Technica]

The Halo Infinite logo, as revealed at E3 2018.

Enlarge / The Halo Infinite logo, as revealed at E3 2018. (credit: Xbox Studios / 343 Industries)

As rumors heat up over what to expect from this summer's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), one Microsoft-focused news site has tossed a few more logs on the next-Xbox fire. In today's case, that specifically means Halo rumors.

The news comes from Thurrott's Brad Sams, who's currently the leading resource for hints when it comes to Microsoft's plans for its next wave of Xbox-branded devices. On Friday, Sams pushed forward an unsurprising rumor: that the previously announced game Halo Infinite will be confirmed at E3 2019 as a "launch title" for Microsoft's next console (or consoles, more on that in a moment).

What makes this rumor a little more interesting is that Sams offered context we hadn't yet heard about the game:

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Hayabusa2 touches down on asteroid, shoots it [Ars Technica]

Plot of the timing of Hayabusa2's approach.

Enlarge / The timeline of the approach and sampling process. (credit: JAXA)

Today, in an extended Twitter thread and ensuing press conference, JAXA's Hayabusa2 team announced that everything had gone well in gathering an asteroid sample for eventual return to Earth. While we don't yet know about the material it obtained, the Japanese spacecraft has successfully executed all the commands associated with the sample recovery.

Hayabusa2 has been in space since 2014, and it slowly made its way to an orbit 20km above the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. In late 2018, the spacecraft made a close approach to the asteroid and released two small, solar-powered robots that have been hopping on the surface since. This week has seen the first of what are intended to be several sample-gathering attempts.

The procedure for this is pretty straightforward: Hayabusa2 snuggles up to the asteroid and shoots it. The probe has a sample-gathering "horn" that it can place up against the asteroid's surface. Once it's in place, Hayabusa2 can fire a bullet into the asteroid's surface, blasting material loose that will be gathered by the horn and stored for return to Earth. JAXA, the Japanese space agency, calls its gun a "projector" but admits that the thing it fires is a bullet. JAXA has a webpage that describes some on-Earth testing of the whole system.

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SpaceX to European competitors: We’re not subsidized, you are [Ars Technica]

A Falcon 9 rocket launches the Iridium-8 mission in January, 2019.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches the Iridium-8 mission in January, 2019. (credit: SpaceX)

Last summer, the Trump administration announced that it was opening negotiations with the European Union to achieve "fairer, more balanced trade" on behalf of US corporations, workers, and consumers. Since then, the talks have proceeded in fits and starts, with the president threatening auto tariffs if he didn't like the deal struck by the current US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer.

As part of this process, US companies were apparently asked what grievances they had concerning current barriers to free trade with the European Union. The most prolific US rocket company, SpaceX, was among those that responded, and the company used the opportunity to complain about foreign subsidies propping up its competitors for commercial satellite launches.

Large subsidies

On Dec. 10, SpaceX director of commercial sales Stephanie Bednarek wrote to Edward Gresser, chair of the Trade Policy Staff Committee in the Office of the US Trade Representative. The letter was first reported on by a French publication, Les Echos. A copy was then shared in the NASASpaceFlight.com forums.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Norwich's Fortnite Live Festival Was a Complete Disaster [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader shares a report: A festival designed to recreate Fortnite on the outskirts of Norwich has, somewhat predictably, not lived up to expectations. Event organisers flogged 2500 tickets to kids and parents. Entry cost upwards of $15 and unlimited access wristbands a further $26. In return, families got what amounted to a few fairground attractions. Photos from the event show a climbing wall for three people, archery for four people, and four go-karts. An attraction dubbed a "cave experience" was a lorry trailer with tarpaulin over it. An indoors area where you could play actual Fortnite was probably the best thing there -- although it cost money to access and you had to queue to do so. So much for free-to-play. And all of that was if you could actually get into the event to start with. Hundreds of people were left queuing for hours due to staff shortages.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

More reports emerge that Amy Klobuchar is awful to staff, especially when hangry [Boing Boing]

We've posted before here at Boing Boing about the many legendary reports of abusive behavior by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar.

Well, now there are more such reports.

One of the anecdotes in a new story by Matt Flegenheimer and Sydney Ember at the New York Times is pretty shocking.

Let's just call it the plastic hair comb and airplane salad incident.

It begins with the United States presidential candidate being tired and hangry in an airport.

Excerpt:

An aide, joining her on a trip to South Carolina in 2008, had procured a salad for his boss while hauling their bags through an airport terminal. But once onboard, he delivered the grim news: He had fumbled the plastic eating utensils before reaching the gate, and the crew did not have any forks on such a short flight.

What happened next was typical: Ms. Klobuchar berated her aide instantly for the slip-up. What happened after that was not: She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it, according to four people familiar with the episode.

Then she handed the comb to her staff member with a directive: Clean it.

The moment — an abridged version of which Ms. Klobuchar recounted herself in a speech to fellow Democrats at the time — encapsulates the underside of life on the Minnesota senator’s team, detailed in interviews with more than two dozen former staff members and internal emails reviewed by The New York Times. As Ms. Klobuchar joins the 2020 presidential race, many of these former aides say she was not just demanding but often dehumanizing — not merely a tough boss in a capital full of them but the steward of a work environment colored by volatility, highhandedness and distrust.

Oh boy. But read it to the end, it gets worse.

How Amy Klobuchar Treats Her Staff [NYT]

PREVIOUSLY: Amy Klobuchar legendarily abusive to staff

How Roger Stone's backfired testimony proves Judge Amy Berman Jackson is a damn boss [Boing Boing]

In an epic blog post, writer and law expert @emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler) dissects Thursday's hearing in court for Trump ratfucker and reckless Instagrammer Roger Stone.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson called Stone and his lawyers to her court and demanded that they explain why Stone shouldn't be gagged or jailed on the spot. Roger Stone ended up testifying, and it was a moment for the ages.

Judge Jackson ("ABJ" as she's now nicknamed online) imposed a gag on Stone at the end of Thursday's hearing, in response to his Instagram post of an image of her with crosshairs above her head.

In her post, Marcy breaks down the genius behind each step ABJ took to slice and dice Roger Stone's lies, and reveal his schtick for what it is: toxic speech that has real-world consequences for other human beings.

Here's a snip from the post:

Here’s why, I think, this was allowed to happen. For Stone’s entire life, the press has coddled Stone, treating him as a nifty character whose toxic speech doesn’t damage society. ABJ was having none of that, and used both Rogow’s position as an officer of the court and Stone’s insane willingness to take the stand to get them to acknowledge that his speech is toxic, that it does pose a threat to society. Stone presumably wasn’t prepared for that because no one has called him on his toxic speech before.

If Stone’s lucky, the now much harder to challenge gag will be the only detrimental outcome from yesterday’s hearing and he’ll avoid perjury charges.

Marcy suggests that it's likely Stone will violate (or may have already violated!) the terms of Thursday's gag order. Just go read the whole thing, and spare yourself the loud cable news commentators. This piece has all you need.

HOW AMY BERMAN JACKSON GOT ROGER STONE TO STEP IN IT AND THEN STEP IN IT AGAIN [https://www.emptywheel.net]

How would the Wall work through Big Bend National Park? [Philip Greenspun’s Weblog]

The U.S.-Mexico border is 1,954 miles long, of which 580 miles was fenced (not “walled”!) prior to Donald Trump taking office (Wikipedia). That leaves 1,374 miles of proposed new barrier (immoral “wall” if built by Trump; moral “fence” if built by others?). Of those 1,374 miles, 118 miles are part of Big Bend National Park.

Reading The Line Becomes a River, by a former Border Patrol agent (2008-2012), made me wonder how Trump’s proposed barrier can work along this part of the border. Some excerpts:

On a hot Texas evening at the edge of Big Bend National Park, I watched a man ride his horse across the Rio Grande.

I gestured at the village across the river and asked the man if he lived in Boquillas. Of course, he said, beaming with pride. I asked what he did for work and he nodded at the unattended souvenirs and handmade crafts that had been set out atop the rocks. No hay trabajo, he complained—we make our money from tourists. I asked if many Americans crossed over to visit. Sure, he said, Boquillas is very safe. Narcos don’t bother us, even the rangers and la migra leave us alone. He paused. You know, he said, there’s a nice restaurant in my village. Is there breakfast? I asked. Of course, he smiled. I’ll come for you in the morning.

The next morning, as the sun grew pale and white in the eastern sky, I met my guide at the banks of the river. He instructed me to climb onto his horse, and then, like it was nothing, he spurred the animal across the river into Mexico. We spoke little as I jostled atop sauntering haunches and grasped at the back of his saddle. Passing the first cinderblock homes of Boquillas, I considered the extent to which my safekeeping depended upon this stranger, leading me into the silent and unfamiliar streets of his village.

Our young fit fluent-in-Spanish half-Mexican hero bravely makes a trip that, during my visit to Big Bend, was mostly being taken by senior citizens after exiting from their RVs. The “river” is more like a wide shallow stream at this point in its course. Neither the U.S. nor Mexico was bothering to do any border control at the border. In the case of the U.S., there were checkpoints across the roads about 50 miles north. I enjoyed my time in Boquillas, especially the town’s dusty museum (unattended by any guard; pay into a box via the honor system).

The National Park Service now has an official guide to visiting Boquillas. It seems that the ability to walk to Boquillas and get a taco was one of the freedoms we supposed lost after 9/11 (Wikipedia; except that the author made it across easily!), but since 2013 (Wikipedia) there is a formal border crossing.

I wonder how Trump’s political promise can be implemented in this part of the country. Here are some possibilities:

  • Despite the idea that national parks are supposed to be mostly natural, we install an ugly fence along our side of the river. It will appear in every visitor’s snapshots from Big Bend.
  • We build a fence on the north edge of the park, with checkpoints at the handful of roads that would cross the fence. Any caravan of migrants that has made its way to Mexico City can ride a bus for another 18 hours, get off in Boquillas, walk across the Rio Grande and tell the nearest park ranger “I am seeking asylum” (or give birth to a baby who will then be entitled to bring the parents in 18 years from now, thus saddling U.S. taxpayers with the cost of public housing, health care, food stamps, etc., for the now-older parents)
  • We pay the Mexicans to build a monster fence somewhere on their side of the border, out of sight of the tourists who come to Big Bend (but the Mexicans have their own state park on their side).

Is there any other alternative that is consistent with Trump’s campaign promise?

[Also, given that it is easy to walk into the U.S. at Big Bend, why aren’t migrant caravans choosing this route right now? Why wait near the border in Tijuana, for example, when one could just as easily be over the border and on one’s way from Big Bend?]

Breakdancing In The Olympics? Paris 2024 Organizers Say, 'Oui, Garcon!' [News : NPR]

Paris Olympics organizers want breakdancing to be part of the 2024 Olympics; the sport was part of the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires last fall, when Russian b-boy Bumblebee, left, defeated Japan

Discussing "le breakdance" this week, Paris organizers said it speaks to young people — and that the sport's dance battles will be a hit in the 2024 Summer Games.

(Image credit: Eitan Abramovich /AFP/Getty Images)

Trump Administration Proposes Sweeping Changes To Federal Family Planning Program [News : NPR]

A person walks by a Planned Parenthood clinic on May 18, 2018 in Chicago. Under the new rule, posted Friday by the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs, any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions is ineligible for Title X funding to cover STD prevention, cancer screenings and contraception.

Any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions will be ineligible for Title X funding to cover STD prevention, cancer screenings and contraception.

(Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Trump's Venezuela Moves Follow Long History Of Intervention In Latin America [News : NPR]

U.S. soldiers direct traffic outside the residence of the Peruvian ambassador to Panama, right rear, in Panama City, on Jan. 9, 1990. In December 1989, U.S. President George H.W. Bush sent thousands of troops to Panama to arrest the country

History suggests that if the U.S. takes too large a role in the South American country's crisis, experts and former diplomats warn, it could spark a worse backlash than the original issue.

(Image credit: John Gaps/AP)

Jussie Smollett's Character Removed From Final Episodes Of 'Empire' Season [News : NPR]

Empire actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Cook County Jail in Chicago Thursday after posting bond. On Friday, the show

The actor was arrested Thursday for filing a false police report. Now, it appears the role that made him famous may be in doubt. Empire producers said they chose to "avoid further disruption on set."

(Image credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Florida Police: Robert Kraft, Owner Of Patriots, To Face Solicitation Charges [News : NPR]

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is being charged with soliciting prostitution.

The charges are part of a sting on a local spa. Kraft is being charged with two counts of soliciting another to commit prostitution, a misdemeanor, tied to two different visits to the spa.

(Image credit: Mark Humphrey/AP)

How far has technology come since the last ‘smart border’ failed? [The Verge - All Posts]

‘The old border was really good at detecting lost cows and jackrabbits and even in some cases tumbleweed.’

Continue reading…

Huawei’s foldable Mate X 5G phone leaks ahead of MWC 2019 [The Verge - All Posts]

Mobile World Congress hasn’t kicked off yet, but an early leak of a banner by Twitter user @gimme2pm may have blown one of the biggest announcements: the foldable Huawei Mate X that the company will presumably announce at this year’s show, via 9to5Google.

Huawei has been talking about the idea of a folding 5G phone for months, and it recently promised a full announcement with a brief teaser on its MWC invitation. The leaked banner gives the best look at phone yet, along with seemingly confirming that it’ll be called the Mate X.

While details are slim, Huawei’s poster is billing...

Continue reading…

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is an early adopter’s dream gadget [The Verge - All Posts]

Yesterday, responsible tech journalists across the web did an important job: they warned readers that it might be a little bit premature to spend $1,980 on a completely unproven, entirely new category of phone-computer.

That’s justified. Nobody gets it right on the first try. And there are already keen hints, if you know where to look, that Samsung’s Galaxy Fold may not have gotten it right.

But can we step back for a moment and appreciate that next month, you’ll be able to buy the kind of phone that could only have previously existed in a science fiction film?

Continue reading…

Apps makers are sharing sensitive personal information with Facebook but not telling users [The Verge - All Posts]

Facebook is getting ahold of sensitive personal information that smartphone owners submit to entirely separate mobile apps, thanks to a software tool that immediately shares that data with the social network to improve ad targeting, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. It’s long been known that apps outside of Facebook’s ecosystem can and do willingly share data with the company to make it easier to reach existing and new users on the platform through ads. Yet the WSJ report highlights a particularly privacy-violating behavior by health and fitness apps where the information shared can be anything from diet and exercise activities to a user’s ovulation cycle and whether they intend to get pregnant.

According to the...

Continue reading…

Apple is reportedly closing two stores in a Texas district to avoid patent trolls [The Verge - All Posts]

Apple is planning to shut down its two stores in the Eastern District of Texas in order to avoid patent troll lawsuits, according to a new report from MacRumors.

As MacRumors notes, the Eastern District of Texas is known for its patent cases (an SMU Dedman School of Law paper backs up that claim), and per US law, patent lawsuits can be filed in places where the defendant “has a regular and established place of business.” By closing its two stores in the district, Apple reportedly hopes to shield itself from those suits.

The Apple Willow Bend store in Plano and the Apple Stonebriar store in Frisco are both expected to close up shop on April 12th. Apple is planning to open a new store at the Galleria Dallas shopping mall just outside of...

Continue reading…

14:00 EST

Inside Elizabeth Holmes's Chilling Final Months at Theranos [Slashdot]

In the final months of Theranos, before the blood testing start-up was debunked and its founders charged with fraud, then-CEO Elizabeth Holmes brought a puppy, who she insisted was a wolf to others, with a penchant for peeing into the mix, according to Vanity Fair, which has detailed the chaos that ensued in the waning days of the startup, once valued at $9 billion. The 35-year-old Stanford University dropout has also met with filmmakers who she hopes would make a documentary about her "real story," the outlet reported. She also "desperately wants to write a book." An excerpt from the story: Holmes brushed it off when the scientists protested that the dog hair could contaminate samples. But there was another problem with Balto (name of the dog), too. He wasn't potty-trained. Accustomed to the undomesticated life, Balto frequently urinated and defecated at will throughout Theranos headquarters. While Holmes held board meetings, Balto could be found in the corner of the room relieving himself while a frenzied assistant was left to clean up the mess. [...] By late 2017, however, Holmes had begun to slightly rein in the spending. She agreed to give up her private-jet travel (not a good look) and instead downgraded to first class on commercial airlines. But given that she was flying all over the world trying to obtain more funding for Theranos, she was spending tens of thousands of dollars a month on travel. Theranos was also still paying for her mansion in Los Altos, and her team of personal assistants and drivers, who would become regular dog walkers for Balto. But there were few places she had wasted so much money as the design and monthly cost of the company's main headquarters, which employees simply referred to as "1701," for its street address along Page Mill Road in Palo Alto. 1701, according to two former executives, cost $1 million a month to rent. Holmes had also spent $100,000 on a single conference table. Elsewhere in the building, Holmes had asked for another circular conference room that the former employees said "looked like the war room from Dr. Strangelove," replete with curved glass windows, and screens that would come out of the ceiling so everyone in the room could see a presentation without having to turn their heads.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Lessons From Six Software Rewrite Stories [Slashdot]

A new take on the age-old question: Should you rewrite your application from scratch, or is that "the single worst strategic mistake that any software company can make"? Turns out there are more than two options for dealing with a mature codebase. Herb Caudill: Almost two decades ago, Joel Spolsky excoriated Netscape for rewriting their codebase in his landmark essay Things You Should Never Do . He concluded that a functioning application should never, ever be rewritten from the ground up. His argument turned on two points: The crufty-looking parts of the application's codebase often embed hard-earned knowledge about corner cases and weird bugs. A rewrite is a lengthy undertaking that keeps you from improving on your existing product, during which time the competition is gaining on you. For many, Joel's conclusion became an article of faith; I know it had a big effect on my thinking at the time. In the following years, I read a few contrarian takes arguing that, under certain circumstances, it made a lot of sense to rewrite from scratch. For example: Sometimes the legacy codebase really is messed up beyond repair, such that even simple changes require a cascade of changes to other parts of the code. The original technology choices might be preventing you from making necessary improvements. Or, the original technology might be obsolete, making it hard (or expensive) to recruit quality developers. The correct answer, of course, is that it depends a lot on the circumstances. Yes, sometimes it makes more sense to gradually refactor your legacy code. And yes, sometimes it makes sense to throw it all out and start over. But those aren't the only choices. Let's take a quick look at six stories, and see what lessons we can draw.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

What's new in tabletop gaming (February 2019 edition) [Boing Boing]

Here are some recent game releases of note and some of what I've been up to in hobby gaming over the past month or so.

Android: Shadow of the Beanstalk
Fantasy Flight Games, $60, Players, Ages: 12+
I have been looking forward to this book ever since it was announced by FFG following their retirement of the Netrunner card game, also set in the Android universe. Shadow of the Beanstalk is a 256-page sourcebook for use with the Genesys Roleplaying System. Two years ago, I got to talk to the creators of Genesys at NovaCon before they got scooped up by FFG. Genesys is a GURPS-like universal RPG system that allows you to roleplay any time period, setting, theme. Also like GURPS, it is designed to greatly encourage narrative play and DIY themes and settings. Shadow of the Beanstalk is a campaign setting for the Android universe centered on New Angeles, the city that is home to the beanstalk, the space elevator that has afforded humanity cheap and easy access to space (and has subsequently attracted every megacorp, criminal enterprise, and hacker/"runner" faction). When The Worlds of Android background book came out, many said it was so close to an RPG setting, they ached for the game mechanics to actually play it. These mechanics have arrived with Genesys and Shadow of the Beanstalk.

Cosmic Encounter
Fantasy Flight Games, $60, 3-5 Players, Ages: 14+
The classic alien negotiation and conquest game, which many consider one of the greatest board games ever made, is back with a slightly tweaked "42nd anniversary" edition. For over four decades, fans have raved over this diplomacy, colonization, and warfare game that Dice Tower once described as "a negotiation game with tentacles and freaky alien powers!" The new version is basically the same as FFG's 2009 release of the game with the edition of new cover art, a 51st alien (the Demon), colored translucent ships, and a redesigned and much more accessible rulebook. You also get a quick start set of rules in a cool comic book format. The main addition to this version is the inclusion of new Cosmic Combo cards. These are optimized alien match-ups that pit interesting races against each other. You just pick a card at random (or select one), and play with the suggested aliens based on your number of players. If you already have Cosmic Encounters, you won't get much out of this new set, but if this is your first encounter, now is the time to finally jump onto the Hyperspace Gate and let the cosmic expansion begin!

Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth
Osprey Games, $32, 1-4 players, Ages: 14+
One of my favorite games of 2017 was The Lost Expedition, an impressively intense card game of South American jungle survival by Peer Sylvester and Osprey Games. Building on the critical and commercial success of that game, Sylvester and Osprey have released Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth, a game set in the 2000 A.D. universe of Judge Dredd. The game uses a central core mechanic of event/choice/optional action cards similar to Lost Expedition and similar resources (health, food, ammo). Radiation and Violence, two new Dredd-y resource types, have been added. You also have expertise in Survival and Diplomacy to gain and lose. And true to the source, Psionic ability also comes into play in The Cursed Earth. The art for the game is by Judge Dredd artists Dan Cornwell and Rufus Dayglo, it is all new, and it is stunning. As is typical of Osprey Games these days, the entire production is first rate. One of the things I love about Lost Expedition and this game is that you can play in solo, coop, and competitive modes.

Wildlands: The Unquiet Dead Expansion
Wildlands: The Adventuring Party Expansion
Osprey Games, $25 each, 2-4 players, Ages: 14+
Martin Wallace's Wildlands, released last year, was a big hit. And for good reason. It is a fantastic card-driven dungeon-delving boardgame with lovely ink-washed minis and very satisfying gameplay. Two new expansion sets, The Unquiet Dead and The Adventuring Party allow you to bring new factions and new twists on gameplay to the world of Wildlands. The Unquiet Dead comes with six undead miniatures. You can either play them as a faction, or in a fun rules addition, you can reanimate dead characters from other factions and allow them to fight on as zombies. The zombies can't collect shards like other characters (the winning condition) but they can be used to attack others. In The Adventuring Party, a team of classic D&D adventurers, a rogue, a cleric, a barbarian, and a wizard, walk into a bar. Or in this case, the joke is that they wander onto your Wildlands board to steal your stuff! There are only 4 (very lovely miniatures) instead of the normal 5, and you can either play them as a 4-character faction or use them as a looting, NPC-like party that's there to harass the other players. The set also comes with 35 character, action, and faction cards and a rules sheet.

Necromunda House Delaque Gang
Games Workshop, $36
I was thrilled this Christmas when my son gave me a copy of the new edition of Necromunda, the beloved game of brutal hive gang combat set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. I've always had a huge soft spot in my nerdy little heart for the original sci-fi skirmish game of note. Of all of the lower-hive gang houses in Necromunda, the two I was always most attracted to are House Escher (a matriarchal gang that keeps men as breeding stock) and those snoopy, Dark City-like upper hive suck-ups, House Delaque. The new core game box includes a gorgeously-sculpted Escher gang (along with a House Goliath force). For my birthday, the good son gifted me the Delaque Gang boxed set. It contains ten highly-detailed, multipart miniatures--one leader, two champions, and seven gangers, all in different poses with different weapons and wargear. With 12-15 parts per 28mm mini, sometimes even including individual hands and feet, these models were surprisingly challenging to build. There was a fair amount of snipping, cutting, sanding, filing, gap-filling, and gluing. But the results are worth it. Next up, painting them all.

The Wizards' Conclave
Osprey Games, $25
The Wizards' Conclave is a collection of scenarios for the hit fantasy skirmish game, Frostgrave. Contributors include the amazing likes of Alessio Cavatore, Alex Buchel, Andy Chambers, Gav Thorpe, Ash Barker, Chris Pramas, Daniel Mersey, Andrea Sfiligoi, and many more. There are solo scenarios (yay!), mini campaigns, and regular scenarios. There appears to be only one co-op group campaign (a 4-player, 3-scenario campaign, penned by Frostgrave creator, Joseph McCullough), so I guess the conclave of wizards here is more a reference to the game designers that weave the magic of this book. Love the concept. The Wizards' Conclave includes the usual outstanding Frostgrave art from Dmitri and Kate Burmak.

Steve Jackson Pocket Box Games
Steve Jackson Games, $20 per classic pocket box game
SJ Games is finishing up another successful crowdfunding campaign. This one should be near and dear to old-school wargaming nerds. It's the re-release of most of the pocket box games that put Steve and company on the map in the 1980s. The campaign so far includes classics like Car Wars, Illuminati, Undead, and OGRE, but also lesser-known titles like Raid on Iran, One-Page Bulge and Kung Fu 2100, fourteen choices in all (to date), with additional expansions and goodies at stretch goals. The campaign ends on March 1st.

Reichbusters: Project Vril
Mythic Games, $100
A game that I am very excited to see this year is Mythic's Reichbusters: Project Vril. This is a Weird World World game where you play an international elite force at the end of WWII trying to stop Nazi scientists from fielding mutant soldiers and wargear enhanced with occult "Vril" technology. I have watched several play-throughs of this game and it looks incredibly exciting, cinematic, and fun, with lots of cooperative decision-making and planning that makes it feel a lot like an RPG. The KS campaign for the game was another huge success for Mythic. For those who missed it, the post-campaign Pledge Manager for Reichbusters is now live until April 2. One hundred clams gets you the core game and tons of unlocked stretch goals.

Gaslands Battle Reports
Bleeped Up Productions
I'm still mad for Gaslands, the post-apocalyptic vehicular combat game that uses Wasteland-converted Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars as game pieces. The best Gaslands battle reports that I've found on YouTube are on the Bleeped Up Productions channel. The co-host of these reports is none other than James Hall from JH Miniatures, my favorite YouTube channel for Gaslands car conversions.

Bexim's Bazaar
The Tabletop Engineer, $2 per month or $3 per issue
I wrote about Bexim's Bazaar previously. The new issue is out, #2, and I have a new column in it, "Gareth's Table of Tinkering." I will be, monthly, writing about tools, tips, techniques, and resources I discover in the course of my game crafting. Lots of other great content in this issue. In the March issue, I have a fairly lengthy introduction to modeling in the Gaslands universe and a "Tinkering" column on unique hobby tips for Gaslands modeling.


What are your favorite indie games and zines?

I want to do a piece on some of the best indie/"underground"/small publisher games and gaming zines that are out there. If you have favorites, please tell us about them in the comments.

Bully officer threatens to send kid reporter to juvy, but kid doesn't back down [Boing Boing]

A reporter for Pennsylvania's Orange Street News rode her bike near the Arizona-Mexico border on an assignment when a marshal in the town of Patagonia threatened to arrest her. He wanted her to stop what she was doing. The reporter, Hilde Lysiak, is only 12 years old.

According to her story in the Orange Street News, when she gave him her name and phone number and told him she was working for a news organization, he said, “I don’t want to hear about any of that freedom of the press stuff. I’m going to have you arrested and thrown in juvey."

A bit later, she approached him to ask what he meant about sending her to juvey. "What exactly am I doing that's illegal?"

He tells her if she puts his face on the Internet it's against the law in Arizona. He then talks in circles, not ever giving a valid reason of how she was breaking the law.

Via USA Today:

He went on to tell her that he was worried about her safety and had told her not to follow the marshals because they were going into an area where people have seen mountain lions. From Patterson's perspective, Hilde had ignored a lawful order, the video shows.

Hilde wasn't satisfied.

"Yeah, how is that illegal?" Hilde asked. "I understand that you're concerned about the safety, but what exactly am I doing?"

Patterson insisted she disobeyed and also lied about where she was going. He told her she originally said she was going to her friend's house when he first stopped her, and instead she followed him, the video shows.

"You can lie to your mother, you can lie to your father, you can lie to your priest, but you can't lie to a law-enforcement officer," Patterson told her.

The officer then says he'll be contacting her parents before he took off in his truck.

The town of Patagonia claims on their website that the marshal is being disciplined, but doesn't give any details on what that looks like.

Meanwhile, Lysiak, the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists, tweeted that she's glad the town is taking action, but doesn't want people harassing the marshal online. "My focus is on protecting our First Amendment Rights."

This is one amazing kid and I look forward to seeing where she's at 10 years from now.

13:00 EST

Why putting Xbox games on Switch isn’t as ridiculous as it might sound [Ars Technica]

Why putting Xbox games on Switch isn’t as ridiculous as it might sound

Enlarge (credit: Aurich)

Here at Ars, we tend to be skeptical of the regularly recurring rumors that two major video game competitors are going to be merging or teaming up in some way. From the early 2000s whispers that Microsoft would buy a struggling Sega to suggestions that Apple should buy Nintendo, these rumors often reflect wishful thinking at least as much as actual insider knowledge.

That said, we're still intrigued by recent rumors that Microsoft could be bringing certain Xbox One games—and a version of its Xbox Game Pass subscription service—to the Nintendo Switch and other consoles.

As the current scuttlebutt has it, an Xbox app to be released for the Switch would let players with an Xbox Game Pass subscription play a selection of Xbox One games on Nintendo's hardware. High-end games would work on Nintendo's lower-end hardware thanks to streaming via Microsoft's recently announced Project xCloud. Meanwhile, Microsoft would also sell certain low-end first-party Xbox One games, like the Ori series, to the Switch directly, according to the rumors.

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Google ends forced arbitration for all employees [Ars Technica]

Exterior of Google office building.

Enlarge / Some Googlers held protest signs during the November 2018 walkout. (credit: Cyrus Farivar)

Google is dropping forced arbitration requirements for its employees, the company announced on Thursday. Starting March 21, both existing and new employees will have the option to sue Google in court and to join together in class-action lawsuits.

The news is a victory for a group of activist Google employees who have been pressuring Google to make this change since last fall. Thousands of Googlers walked out last November to protest Google's handling of recent sexual harassment controversies.

Google quickly agreed to drop forced arbitration requirements in certain sexual harassment cases. But critics kept up the pressure, and Google is now exempting all employees and direct contractors from forced arbitration requirements in a broader range of cases.

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Facebook VPN that snoops on users is pulled from Android store [Ars Technica]

Facebook logo on a phone.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images )

Facebook has pulled its privacy-invading Onavo Protect VPN app off the Google Play store and will reportedly stop gobbling up data from users who still have the app on their devices.

Facebook "will immediately cease pulling in data from [Onavo] users for market research though it will continue operating as a Virtual Private Network in the short term to allow users to find a replacement," TechCrunch reported yesterday.

Facebook's Onavo website still exists, but links to the Android and iOS apps are both broken. Facebook pulled the app from the iPhone and iPad App Store in August 2018 after Apple determined that Onavo violated its data-collection rules. Facebook purchased Onavo, an Israeli company, in 2013.

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Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Programming Books You Wish You Had Read Earlier? [Slashdot]

A blog post from developer turned writer Marty Jacobs caught my attention earlier this morning. In the post, Jacobs has listed some of the programming books he says he had discovered and read much sooner. He writes, "There are so many programming books out there, sometimes it's hard to know what books are best. Programming itself is so broad and there are so many concepts to learn." You can check out his list here. I was curious what books would you include if you were to make a similar list?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Kraft, Oscar Mayer Brands Take A Massive Hit As Tastes Shift [News : NPR]

Kraft Heinz stock dropped 28 percent Friday after the company announced it was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The giant Kraft Heinz food company's stock dropped sharply Friday after it said its Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands are worth $15.4 billion less than previously stated.

(Image credit: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

When the iPhone doesn’t change, Android phones get weird [The Verge - All Posts]

<em>The Nubia Alpha wearable smartphone.</em>

We’re living in a funny sort of ultra-connected time where no consumer tech company can keep its secrets secret. So when I gaze out toward the approaching Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I can already tell you that it will bring perhaps the most diverse selection of smartphone forms, sizes, designs, and specifications we’ve yet seen. MWC 2019 will be defined by this diversity, with companies straining at the edges of conventional design to try and come up with an original idea, an attention-grabbing concept, or just a good old gimmick that will differentiate their product from all the rest. In simple terms, things are going to get weird.

Over the many years that I’ve been attending MWC, I’ve also noticed two primary routes of...

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How Devotion, Twitch’s hottest horror game, builds on the genre’s legacy [The Verge - All Posts]

A family apartment in 1980s Taiwan sets the scene for architectural horror

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Virgin Galactic spaceplane reaches space with first passenger on board [The Verge - All Posts]

<em>Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity during its first spaceflight</em>

Tourism venture Virgin Galactic sent its spaceplane into space for the second time this morning, qualifying all three people on the flight for their commercial astronaut wings. One of those riders was Virgin Galactic’s first test passenger, Beth Moses, the chief astronaut instructor at Virgin Galactic, who flew along with the vehicle’s two pilots. She’s also Virgin Galactic’s first female flyer.

Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane, the VSS Unity, is designed to take passengers to the edge of space where they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness. But up until the end of last year, the vehicle had yet to breach Earth’s atmosphere. That changed in December when Virgin Galactic made history by sending VSS Unity to a height of 51.4 miles...

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Resurrected Firefly Aerospace will take over a launch site at busy Florida spaceport [The Verge - All Posts]

<em>An artistic rendering of Firefly’s future Alpha rocket.</em>

Texas-based spaceflight company Firefly Aerospace is moving into a new launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida — the location of US’s premier spaceport. Thanks to a deal with Space Florida, a government agency that spurs development in the state, Firefly will be taking over a pad called SLC-20 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as well as building a nearby manufacturing facility. That means the launch provider now has secured two launchpads for the rockets it has been developing: one in Florida and another at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

It’s a significant achievement for Firefly, a company that has essentially come back from the dead. Firefly Aerospace used to be Firefly Space Systems, which vied to build a rocket to launch...

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FTC to hold a public workshop on loot box concerns this year [The Verge - All Posts]

The Federal Trade Commission is planning to hold a public workshop later this year to analyze the video game industry’s sale of loot boxes, according to an agency letter obtained by The Verge. The workshop would bring together the video game industry and consumer advocates to discuss concerns and possible outreach around the controversial practice.

The letter came as a response to a request from Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) last month, which asked agency officials for an update into their investigation into loot boxes.

In today’s letter, FTC chairman Joe Simons declines to comment on the alleged investigation, but he says that the agency will open up a public forum on the video game industry’s sale of loot boxes in the next few months. A...

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Unearthing Hardcore, DICE’s long-lost Sega Genesis shooter [The Verge - All Posts]

In the early 1990s, after making its name with a pair of successful pinball games, Digital Illusions — which would go on to become Battlefield studio EA DICE — tried its hand at something more ambitious. Called Hardcore, it was a run-and-gun shooter with huge, detailed levels and frantic action. “It could be said that Digital Illusions’ motivation for creating games comes from looking at other examples of genres, sneering, and making them better,” gushed a preview in British games magazine The One. “With Hardcore, though, the boys are aiming at a very competitive area of the games market.”

Despite all of the hype, Hardcore never actually launched. Much like Nintendo’s Star Fox 2, it was a victim of timing. Hardcore was virtually...

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