Reuters: Technology News
last updated: Tue, 17 Oct 2017 20:14:57 -0400

IBM beats revenue estimates; hints at sales growth
(Reuters) - International Business Machines Corp's shift to newer businesses such as cloud and security services helped it beat analysts' quarterly revenue estimates, and the technology major hinted at sales growth after nearly six years of declines.

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BBC News - Technology
last updated: Tue, 17 Oct 2017 23:38:27 GMT

Child safety smartwatches ‘easy’ to hack, watchdog says
A watchdog finds that hackers can track, eavesdrop or even communicate with children.

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Geek.com
last updated: Tue, 17 Oct 2017 18:15:27 +0000

Doctor Who Gifts to Tickle Both Your Hearts

Whether a Whovian of old or new to the man in the box….well now woman in the box. Those dedicated to the Who crew are fierce and loyal to the beloved staple of British […]

The post Doctor Who Gifts to Tickle Both Your Hearts appeared first on Geek.com.

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PC World - News RSS feed
last updated: Thu, 04 May 2017 03:28:00 +1000

Sneaky Gmail phishing attack fools with fake Google Docs app
Google Docs was pulled into a sneaky email phishing attack on Tuesday that was designed to trick users into giving up access to their Gmail accounts.

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Yahoo News - Latest News & Headlines
last updated: Sat, 09 Sep 2017 08:32:49 -0400

Twitter tests longer character limit

Twitter tests longer character limitYou may soon get to say a lot more on Twitter. The social media giant announced it is testing a longer character limit. The change will extend the current 140 characters to 280 for all languages except Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Users won’t see this change right away, though. Only a small percentage will be testing it at first, and according to the company, it is just a test and there is no guarantee this change will be available to everyone. Via Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider. ...


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Galaxies collide in stunning picture
A NEW image captured by NASA Hubble space telescope shows ‘doomed duo’ galaxies colliding and then trying to destroy one another.

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CNET News
last updated: Tue, 17 Oct 2017 23:07:34 +0000

US beats Japan in ultimate giant-robot smackdown - CNET
In the "first ever giant robot battle," mammoth machines from MegaBots and Suidobashi Heavy Industry fight for the world title using chainsaws, cannons and attack drones.

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BuzzFeed - Geeky
last updated: Mon, 15 May 2017 16:16:04 -0400

Here's What "Pokkén Tournament DX" Taught Me About Fighting Games

"The most important thing is to have fun," adviser Nia reminds you at least once during every Pokkén Tournament DX battle. She is your tour guide, tutorial master, and cheer captain throughout the game — and, for me personally, a ubiquitous reminder of how much fun I'm not having (but could be).

Don't get me wrong — there is a lot to love in Pokkén: The graphics are great. The gameplay feels smooth. The sampling of playable Pokémon is a nice reminder of just how large the franchise has become. But at its core, it's a fighting game, not a Pokémon game, and while I love the latter, I've always despised the former.

Maybe if I were any good at fighters, I'd feel differently, but, to me, they've always felt repetitive, frustrating, and silly. I gave Pokkén a shot only because it takes place in a universe I love (and tbh I just couldn't pass up the chance to play as a realistic-looking, ass-kicking Empoleon).

Don't mess.

Nintendo

"Once you start really digging into [fighters], they're basically a high-speed version of chess."

As I journeyed through Pokkén, I leaned on my Street Fighter–obsessed friend Mike Andronico, who's also a senior editor at Tom's Guide, for helpful tips and advice. "On a basic level, fighting games are video games at their purest," he told me. (Nerd.) "You and your friend beat each other up until one of you is knocked out. What's more straightforward and fun than that? But once you start really digging into them, they're basically a high-speed version of chess. You and your opponent are constantly trying to outsmart each other on a second-by-second basis, and when you make that smart guess or land that crazy combo, it provides a rush that you just can't get from other types of games."

As I continued playing, I tried to actualize this mindset and devoted time to the tutorial, learning combos, and thinking of the game strategically. So for others who are similarly inexperienced and/or skeptical of the fighting game genre, here are some basic tenets of Pokkén I took away:

1. The breadth of customization options is silly, hilarious, and really fun.

1. The breadth of customization options is silly, hilarious, and really fun.

Nintendo

I was not expecting the level of customization Pokkén offers because why would you expect much of *any* customization in a fighting game? (At least I've never seen customization like this in a fighter.) But the plethora of possibilities, while largely (if not completely) unimportant to the main gameplay, brought me nothing but joy. There's no reason I should have been able to deck my trainer out in items that reflect my upcoming Hawaiian vacation, and yet there he is in a lei among sunflowers wearing his finest hipster flannel. OK, Nia, NOW I'm having fun.

And speaking of Nia...yes, you can even customize HER outfits.

And speaking of Nia...yes, you can even customize HER outfits.

Santa Nia because why not.

Nintendo

It makes absolutely no sense and, when it comes to the mechanics of actually playing the game, doesn't matter in the slightest, but I can't wait to keep playing to see if I'll unlock more. Aside from my innate desire to just not suck at fighting games, customization is my main motivation for advancing.

Not to mention the absurd number of titles and "self-promotions" you can choose from.

Not to mention the absurd number of titles and "self-promotions" you can choose from.

Nintendo

"I love the woods" vs. "I always win, in spirit!" was my Sophie's Choice.

2. Sometimes you can run freely around the whole arena; sometimes, à la classic fighters, you just face each other.

2. Sometimes you can run freely around the whole arena; sometimes, à la classic fighters, you just face each other.

Nintendo

As the all-knowing Nia states above, the two phases are called Field Phase (aka running around freely) and Duel Phase (aka classic left and right movement only). You can make the battle shift between phases by successfully executing certain moves. Why? I have no idea, but, honestly, I really like it. It gives you more to accomplish than simply KOing your opponent, and I realized that I much prefer fighting games when I'm afforded more mobility. Field Phase reminds me a lot of an earlier Switch release, Arms, which I'm shockingly pretty good at (tyvm). Part of me wishes the whole game were like this.

"[Field Phase] gives you more to accomplish than simply KOing your opponent, and I realized that I much prefer fighting games when I'm afforded more mobility."

Unsurprisingly, fighting game elitist Mike disagreed. "The game just feels kinda loose and sloppy when you're floating around in 3D," he said. "Once you get into the 2D Duel Phase, the game starts to feel like a proper fighter" — (lol) — "in which things such as spacing and combos matter." But Mike sucks at Arms, so what does he know, amirite?

A key takeaway here? Training mode is your friend. Listen to Nia, despite her Navi-like tendencies. And, as Mike told me, "Don't worry about pulling off crazy combos right away. It's far more important knowing the range and properties of your character's basic attacks and how those might be useful in battle. Once you have those fundamentals in place, you can start learning flashier stuff."

3. The Attack Triangle is an easy-to-follow but hard-to-execute endless cycle of grabs and counters.

3. The Attack Triangle is an easy-to-follow but hard-to-execute endless cycle of grabs and counters.

Nintendo

The this-beats-this-beats-that system is a sensical and interesting element of Pokkén I found easy to understand but difficult to put into practice. Blame it on having a slower-than-normal reaction time if you must, but I was only really able to counter a counter with a grab attack by accident. Nonetheless, knowing about it really helped me enjoy the mechanics of the game more. I found myself trying to anticipate my opponents' moves and strategizing more than I normally would rather than simply button-mashing my way to non-victory. I'm not sure if this mechanic is unique to Pokkén, but it feels new and different to me.

Another key takeaway: Watch tons of matches. Mike is a firm believer that watching your favorite fighting game being played at a high level is just as integral as playing yourself. Once you have a decent understanding of your game of choice, you can learn a ton about how to optimally use the characters and mechanics when watching two really talented players go at it.
Pro tip: Focus on tournament footage on Twitch or YouTube.

3. Watching the Pokémon run around, punch, kick, and hurl magical blasts is pretty dope, albeit a little weird.

3. Watching the Pokémon run around, punch, kick, and hurl magical blasts is pretty dope, albeit a little weird.

I see you, Ponyta.

Nintendo

There's something a little disconcerting and awkward about having Pokémon we know and love as mostly inactive creatures run around on two legs in all their 3D glory, but ultimately you get used to it. And their specials are admittedly pretty badass.

4. Support Pokémon are cute but pretty much all the same.

4. Support Pokémon are cute but pretty much all the same.

Nintendo

Support Pokémon are a nice excuse to be able to feature more Pokémon in the game, and the feature is a fun twist on tagging in help, but despite their different "attack," "enhance," etc., abilities, they're not really all that different or helpful in the scheme of things. Maybe they're of much greater importance for a Pokkén master, but still, I think there's an option to choose a "random" set for a reason.

5. The game makes you feel pretty invincible...for a while.

5. The game makes you feel pretty invincible...for a while.

Nintendo

As you're well aware by now, I'm obviously pretty sh*tty at fighting games, but Pokkén does a good job of letting even the least skilled players feel powerful for a while, which gives you a lot of time to perfect your combos and strategy. Tbh, it's downright easy to coast through the various leagues, but because of the grading system that pops up after every battle — which includes a grade on your technique — you're always pushed to develop various aspects of your fighting style.

"'Online will continue to be a core part of every fighting game, but 'most of the good fighting games out there still do a great job catering to single-player folks.'"

What's not easy though? Playing online. After 30 consecutive wins playing against the league CPUs, I felt like I was ready to try other IRL players. But that confidence, I learned, was completely undeserved. I was destroyed countless times in a row. I could barely even get one hit in let alone a combo or counter and several times I was honestly *this close* to throwing my controller against the wall and swearing off the game for good.

According to Mike, although "online has become integral to just about every fighting game ... games such as Injustice 2, Tekken 7, and Pokkén are brimming with fun solo content, meaning you won't have a cheapened experience if you don't feel like getting destroyed online." He thinks online will continue to be a core part of every fighting game, but "most of the good fighting games out there still do a great job catering to single-player folks." Phew.

An important lesson: Patience is a virtue. I expected to pick up my controller and become a PokéMaster after just a few hours, and while at times the game made me feel like I was, it takes a lot more time than that "to be the next Evo champ," as Mike put it.

At the end of the day, I agree with Mike's assessment that "Pokkén is one of the best fighting games out there in terms of being easy to learn and hard to master." For beginners, it's great to play when you're bored and want to have some casual fun (but beware of online); for more experienced players, it must also be a lot of fun to play online and kick beginners' asses.

One last word of advice: Find a community or training partner. From weekly fighting game meet-ups in your area to friends who are also trying to get better, set aside time to practice with real people. It's way more fun that way! Online communities like Reddit and dedicated FG sites like Shoryuken and EventHubs are also filled with folks willing to help out.

And finally, as Nia says (quite often), have fun! Despite my initial misgivings, I really came around to Pokkén in the end and embraced its weirdness, uniqueness, and playability. Fighting games aren't as vapid or boring as I'd originally thought, and embracing the strategy and time required to master them made playing that much more rewarding in the end.

All images from Nintendo

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Tech – TIME
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Review: Google’s Pixel 2 Is the Best Android Phone for Anyone Tired of Samsung
Google is playing catch up to Apple and Samsung with the Pixel 2

The good: Clean interface, great camera, long battery life.
The bad: Underwhelming screen, no facial recognition or iris scanning, not much that makes it stand apart from Samsung and Apple.
Who should buy: Any Android fan that values clean software and camera quality, particularly those looking for something beyond what Samsung’s offering.

When Google unveiled its first Pixel smartphone last year, it felt like a giant leap for a company better known for its software and search engine than its gadgets. Google’s message was clear: Apple and Samsung aren’t the only tech giants capable of making high-quality gadgets. That remains the case with the company’s impressive new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones.

Both of the new Pixels take what already worked and complement with admirable new features. The larger Pixel 2 XL includes a nearly borderless screen that dominates the phone’s face: a design approach Samsung, Apple, LG and Essential staked out first. Like other recent phones, the new Pixels have adopted basic water resistance. And the camera boasts some fancy new features, like the ability to capture a few seconds of footage around a still photo to create images that move, and a new Portrait Mode for delivering bokeh effects.

Sound familiar? It should if you’ve been following the smartphone industry for the past year. It’s also a familiar song you could sing about some of Google’s competitors, each of whom invariably borrow a feature here or there in what’s become a game of feature leapfrog. The Pixel 2 and 2 XL are more Google catching up than edging past those others, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth a look. With its easy-to-navigate interface, long battery life and great camera, the larger Pixel 2 XL may in fact be the smartphone of choice for Android fans looking for take fresher than Samsung’s.

Let’s start with screens: the $649 Pixel 2 includes a 5-inch, 1920-by-1080 pixel display, while the pricier $849 XL version has a 2880-by-1440 pixel screen. The XL edition’s nearly edge-to-edge screen is far more impressive. As nearly borderless screens become common on flagship smartphones, the standard Pixel 2’s thick frames make the phone look outdated. The Pixel XL 2’s screen is sharp and vibrant, but not quite as stunning as the displays found on the Samsung Galaxy S8+, Apple iPhone 8 and Essential Phone. All three of those devices produced bolder colors than the Pixel 2 during my experience.

The new Pixel phones are getting another handy new feature that Samsung phones have long had: an always-on display. That means that even when the screen is turned off, you’ll be able to see things like the time and notifications. It’s a welcome addition that makes your smartphone even more useful as a bedside clock. Google is taking this one step further with a new feature called Now Playing, which identifies songs and shows the title and artist name on screen. This worked occasionally for me, but there were times in which the Pixel 2 XL failed to pick up on songs that were currently playing, even when there was minimal background noise. Google says the feature is designed to recognize songs within a few seconds in optimal conditions, which means when it’s quiet and there isn’t much chatter happening.

My favorite aspect of Google’s Pixel phones, though, is their software, and that’s no different with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. The interface is simpler and more streamlined than Samsung’s Galaxy S8, if only slightly. Samsung has made tremendous improvements to its software over the years by cutting the clutter and widgets, and the Galaxy S8’s interface rivals Google’s. Then again, if you’re closely tethered to Google services like Gmail or Google Chrome, Google’s phone does more to make these apps central to your experience.

Google also moved the phone’s search bar to the bottom of the screen, beneath the app dock, which makes the home screen feel cleaner than on last year’s model. And the new Pixel phones have a special shortcut called Active Edge for accessing the Google Assistant more easily. Instead of talking or holding a button to summon Google’s digital helper, you squeeze the sides of the phone to activate the Assistant. The feature works well enough, but can’t be customized to perform different tasks. Squeezing the phone’s corners to silence my alarm in the morning, for example, would be very useful.

If I had to pick one area the new Pixel phones notably surpass last year’s model, it’s their cameras. Both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL include 12.2-megapixel cameras with f/1.8 aperture capable of taking more colorful photos than the original Pixel. When testing the Pixel 2 XL’s camera against that of the iPhone 8 Plus, Galaxy S8+ and previous generation Pixel XL, I thought the new Pixel was best at capturing the right balance of color and detail when shooting outdoors in daylight.

Take a look at the batch of sample photos below. You’ll notice the iPhone 8 Plus’ image makes certain parts of the flower look washed out compared to the other photos. The Galaxy S8’s image isn’t quite as sharply focused as the rest, and the overall color in the original Pixel’s photo feels flat and muted. The Pixel 2 XL had the right mix of accurate color, balanced lighting and precise detail.

Google Pixel 2 XL

Lisa Eadicicco

Apple iPhone 8 Plus

Lisa Eadicicco

Samsung Galaxy S8+

Lisa Eadicicco

Google Pixel XL

Lisa Eadicicco

The new Pixel’s Portrait Mode feature, which blurs the background in order to make a subject appear more crisp in the foreground, also performs just as well as Apple’s. The iPhone 8 Plus’ photo was better lit, but the Pixel 2 XL’s showed richer color. Take a look at the examples below.

Google Pixel 2 XL

Lisa Eadicicco

Apple iPhone 8 Plus

Lisa Eadicicco

Google Pixel owners also get a nice, exclusive bonus feature called Google Lens that turns your camera into a realtime object-identification tool. It’s similar to the Google Goggles app the company’s offered for years, only baked into the Google Photos app on the phone. Just tap the Lens icon when looking at a photo, and Google will identify the subject and provide useful information. When viewing a photo of my cat, for example, Google was able not only to identify it as a cat, but also got the breed right.

Google Lens is still in preview mode, so the subjects it can identify are limited. But when it works it definitely impresses. Samsung offers something similar on its newest Galaxy phones called Bixby Vision, but its results are less granular. Bixby Vision will often pull up related images through Pinterest, for interest, instead of offering detailed information about a subject.

Battery life is more than reasonable, if standard at this point. In the few days I’ve spent using the Pixel 2 XL as my primary phone, I never ran out of juice. By the end of my workdays, around 7:00 p.m., I usually had about two-thirds battery charge left. Your mileage may vary, as always given different usage profiles: if you’re a heavy Bluetooth user, leave the brightness cranked up to high, or record a lot of video, the battery will drain quicker. If you opt for the basic Pixel 2, which has a smaller battery, you’ll run out of charge sooner as well. My results are based on moderate to heavy usage that involved frequently checking email and social media, capturing photos, streaming Netflix, and making occasional phone calls.

Overall, the Pixel 2 is a great choice for Android fans that care about camera quality and having an easy-to-use interface above all else. Yes, nothing about the Pixel 2 sets it apart from Apple and Samsung’s phones. But while Google’s rivals are setting the stage for what’s to come by incorporating potentially trendsetting new technologies like facial recognition and iris scanning, Google is quickly catching up.

4 out of 5

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Microsoft Has a New Surface Book to Take on Apple’s MacBook Pro
The new Surface Book is more powerful and comes in 13 and 15-inch size options.

Microsoft is launching a new version of its Surface Book, the detachable laptop-tablet hybrid it first introduced in 2015. The new model includes five times the graphics performance of its predecessor, according to Microsoft, which also claims it has twice the power of a MacBook Pro. The Surface Book 2 will be available in 13 and 15-inch configurations, with the smaller model starting at $1,499 and the larger at $2,499.

The laptop runs on Intel’s eighth generation processors and the company says it offers 17 hours of battery life, an improvement from the older model. Microsoft is pushing the Book 2 for gamers as well — a crowd that Apple has never been able to capture with its own laptops. Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Microsoft Devices, said the Book 2 is capable of running demanding video games when unveiling the device at a recent event. During a demo, the Surface Book 2 was able to run Gears of War 4 smoothly without any stutters.

The launch comes after Microsoft released the Surface Laptop in June, the company’s first notebook that’s designed to be just that. Unlike the Surface Book and the standard Surface, the Laptop isn’t meant to be a clamshell-tablet hybrid. But Panay isn’t worried about these Surface devices cannibalizing one another in the market. “Giving [consumers] choice is very important to me,” Panay said to TIME. “Each one of these is designed with a very clear intent.”

Read more: How Microsoft Is Stealing Apple’s Cool Factor

The overall design of the second-generation Surface Book is very similar to that of the first. As was the case with the previous model, the notebook’s standout feature is its flexible hinge, which makes it possible to easy snap on or detach the screen from the laptop’s body. The 13.5-inch Surface Book’s screen has a 3,000 by 2,000 resolution, while the 15-inch version’s screen has a resolution of 3,240 by 2,160.

The refreshed Surface Book is another indication that Microsoft hopes to convert Apple loyalists into Surface users. During a presentation, Panay added that Microsoft is making more of an effort to make its products more iPhone-friendly. Case in point: Microsoft’s new Edge web browser app for iPhone, which allows Apple smartphone owners to sync their favorite websites and browsing history between their iPhone and Windows device.

Microsoft’s focus on hardware also comes as Google has been devoting more resources to developing gadgets of its own. Just earlier this month, Google unveiled a high-end new Pixelbook laptop, which runs on its Chrome OS and works with a Google-made stylus known as the Pixelbook Pen.

In recent years, firms like Google and Microsoft have been taking a page from Apple’s product strategy, which involves designing both the hardware and the software for its gadgets so that the two can work together more seamlessly. Apple made it clear last October when it unveiled its newest MacBook Pro that it believes the future of personal computing involves keys that change as you need them. The company’s most recent Pro laptops include touch screen strip that sits above the keyboard known as the Touch Bar, which displays different buttons depending on the app or program being used. But Panay believes the biggest breakthroughs in laptops and mobile devices will involve advancements in artificial intelligence than anything else. He says: “If you take artificial intelligence, ambient computing, machine learning, I think there’s this interaction frontier that’s right in front of us.”

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What Russia — I Mean Facebook — Knows About Me
What happens when enemies and not advertisers take aim at users?

To hear Facebook describe me, I’m a bit of a lone wolf. I live away from my family, the site says. I’m a frequent traveler. I’m interested in real estate, engineering, chemistry and hotels. I enjoy the German death metal band Obscura. They’re associated with the bands Suffocation and Pestilence — at least that’s what Wikipedia told me, because I had to look them up.

Truth be told, I got a “C” in high school chemistry, I haven’t been on a plane in about a year and I’m not into death metal — German or otherwise. Yet for some reason, Facebook not only thinks this is who I am, it’s also what the social network tells its advertisers about me. I learned this by combing through my Facebook ad preferences, something any of the service’s users can do. And while some of Facebook’s data points made sense and seemed even reasonable to collect, others (like that I’m a “close friend of expats,” the site says) are more than unsettling — they could be damaging if used by advertisers the wrong way.

The big problem currently facing Facebook is making this point in a horrific way. According to 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, Russia used social media to influence the 2016 presidential election. This is jarring and alarming because about two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media, says a Pew Research Center survey. And now Facebook, the largest and most influential social network with more than two billion users, is being threatened by Congress with regulations over how it presents political ads. The concern is that outside actors, like Russia, can manipulate the popular social network, and in turn, influence the thoughts and opinions of its users. You know, regular people like you and me, posting things about their cats and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

If you’ve been purposefully disconnected following November 8, 2016, here’s what we’ve learned since the election: The F.B.I. and other U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed that Russia used social media to influence the election. According to Facebook’s internal investigations, approximately 500 Russia-linked accounts bought 3,000 ads worth about $100,000 during the 2016 campaign. Targeting issues like Islam, gun ownership and the Black Lives Matter movement, these ads were specifically aimed at swing states and intended to sow discord. But virality being what it is, 10 million people saw the ads, says Facebook.

On November 1, executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google will testify publicly before Congress. And soon the Facebook ads in question will be publicly released. As forthcoming as Facebook may be with Congress both publicly and behind closed doors, it’s unlikely the company will speak plainly about everything users might want it to.

For instance, when it comes to advertising, the bread and butter that accounted for Facebook’s $26 billion in revenue in 2016, the company is tight-lipped. It’s a no-brainer that when you “like” something such as Mr. Bean on Facebook — which, amazingly in 2017, 75 million people do — the social network collects that data and uses it to curate content and ads, making the site more relevant. And when you’re served an ad, you can even click on a discrete drop-down menu to see why it targeted you specifically.

But advertisers can use the information Facebook users provide in unsettling ways. For instance, recent reporting by ProPublica showed how repugnant terms that users had put on their profiles, like “NaziParty,” “how to burn jews,” and “jew hater,” later appeared in Facebook’s ad targeting system. There have been no known cases where advertisers used this information to sell anti-Semitic targeted ads, but it’s possible that they could have.

Instead, it’s more likely that advertisers, like the Russian-linked accounts looking to game the social network, used more common and socially acceptable interests to reach users who were susceptible to being influenced by controversial messaging. In other words, if you “like” the National Rifle Association or Planned Parenthood on Facebook, there’s a chance you got played.

And if I hadn’t taken the time to clean up my own ad preferences, I could have been one of them. For the most part, my Facebook ad preferences are tame. I’m conservative with what I “like” on Facebook: I don’t let friends tag me in posts or photos, and I purposely try not to like anything with bias or controversy. In fact, I’m so fastidious with my Facebook that of the roughly 175 advertising data points the company lists about me, they completely miss the fact that I’m an enormous Red Sox and Star Wars fan. (I can only imagine all that marketing I’m “missing.”)

Still, with how regimented I am, it makes no sense that Facebook thinks I like racewalking (I don’t), vikings (not interested), leather (I’m more of a fleece guy), and finance (you’re kidding, right?). What the heck is going on here? The answer may be one of the social network’s closer-held secrets.

Facebook works with a number of third-party data providers, forging partnerships that make the seemingly all-knowing website even smarter. The company doesn’t reveal what information it culls about us from those services — that’s Facebook’s secret sauce — culminating in a stance that irks privacy experts. And the company is unlikely to detail any of this research when it testifies before Congress next month.

In fact, don’t expect Facebook to give us access to the full scope of our own information any time soon. Instead, in the coming days, we’ll see the ads that the Russian-backed accounts bought to divide us. And when we look at them, it’ll be like peering in a mirror, only the faces staring back will be shrewder. They’ll know exactly how all those nonchalant or impassioned “likes” have been turned against us. And like ideas trapped behind a looking glass, all they’ll tell us is what’s been there all along, hiding in plain sight.

Until Facebook is forced to disclosed the full scope of its knowledge of users — as well as the means through which it gathers that information — lingering questions will outnumber answers. And in demanding those answers, our voices are fundamentally diminished. We aren’t Facebook’s customers, after all, we’re its products.

And that’s what Russia — I mean Facebook — has known about us all along.

John Patrick Pullen has written about smart devices and home automation for TIME and Fortune since 2009. His column, “Tech in Real Life,” appears weekly on TIME.com and explores the ways that technology impacts people in their daily lives. He lives (in a home that’s much smarter than he is) in Portland, Oregon.

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New Google Doodle Celebrates Iconic Singer Selena Quintanilla
Google honors the late singer who became famous for hits like "Dreaming of You"

Google on Tuesday launched a new Doodle on its homepage celebrating the life and career of Selena Quintanilla, the Tejano singer known for hits like “Dreaming of You,” “I Could Fall in Love,” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” Quintanilla was shot and killed by the former president of her fan club in 1995.

The new Doodle illustrates the story of Quintanilla’s life through an animated video that shows her singing at home as a young girl, performing in cafes and at weddings, and finally in the center of a large stage and jamming on a tour bus. The brief video is set to one of Quintanilla’s most recognizable songs, “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” Google is launching the Doodle on the anniversary of Quintanilla’s first studio album, “Selena,” which debuted 28 years ago. In addition to the Doodle, Google will be rolling out a new exhibit for the late singer on its Arts & Culture website.

Quintanilla recorded her first song in Spanish when she was eight years old and started a band at the age of nine. She spent many of her teenage years on the road and landed a contract with recording giant EMI in 1989. Her album Live earned her a Grammy for the Best Mexican-American Album category in 1994.

Perla Campos, a marketing manager for Google’s Doodle team and project lead for this Doodle, said the Doodle has been planned for almost two years. Google has experimented with various Doodle types over the years, ranging from interactive games to GIFs and pictures, but Campos says video always felt like the right medium for Quintanilla. “For the people who don’t really know her, this was an opportunity to really tell her story,” she said. “Pretty early on, we decided that video was the right way to go.”

Read more: What It’s Really Like to be a Google Doodler

The Quintanilla-inspired Doodle comes after Google’s homepage artwork has been criticized in the past for its lack of diversity. A report from advocacy group SPARK Movement found in 2014 that 62% of people featured in Google Doodles from 2010 through 2013 were white men. Then in 2015, some took issue with a Veteran’s Day-themed Doodle for being too diverse.

When deciding on new Doodles, Campos says the team considers feedback from a variety of sources within the company, including employees in Local Doodle Manager roles, who are essentially cultural consultants for Doodles located in different countries around the world. Campos has been championing for a Doodle to honor Quintanilla for years, particularly because she can relate to the late singer. “I’ve never seen myself on the Google homepage,” Campos says. “I know that’s probably the case for a lot of people.”

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Everything With Wi-Fi Has a Newly Discovered Security Flaw. Here’s How to Protect Yourself
What to know and do to safeguard your devices

A recently discovered vulnerability could allow attackers to intercept sensitive data being transmitted between a Wi-Fi access point and a computer or mobile device, even if that data is encrypted. The flaw, known as KRACK, affects WPA2, a security protocol widely used in most modern Wi-Fi devices.

In some cases, a hacker could exploit KRACK to inject malware such as ransomware into websites, according to KU Leuven’s Mathy Vanhoef, the researcher who discovered the vulnerability. Vanhoef’s findings were reported by tech site Ars Technica early Monday morning.

Here’s an overview of what to know about the vulnerability, and how you can protect your devices.

What is KRACK?

KRACK is an acronym for Key Reinstallation Attack. It involves an attacker reusing a one-time key that’s provided when a client device attempts to join a Wi-Fi network. Doing so could enable the hacker to decrypt information being exchanged between the access point and the client device, which could leave personal details like credit card numbers, messages and passwords exposed, as Vanhoef notes.

Read more: You Can Now Hack the SNES Classic to Add More Games

Here’s how and why the process and hack can happen, as described on Vanhoef’s website: When a device joins a protected Wi-Fi network, a process known as a four-way handshake takes place. This handshake ensures that the client and access point both have the correct login credentials for the network, and generates a new encryption key for protecting web traffic. That encryption key is installed during step three of the four-way handshake, but the access point will sometimes resend the same key if it believes that message may have been lost or dropped. Vanhoef’s research finds that attackers can essentially force the access point to install the same encryption key, which the intruder can then use to attack the encryption protocol and decrypt data.

Who’s affected?

Vanhoef warns that any device that supports Wi-Fi is likely affected by KRACK, but that Linux-based devices as well as Android devices running version 6.0 or higher of the Android operating system are especially at risk. At the moment that includes more than 40% of Android devices.

Vanoef demonstrated a proof of concept illustrating how exploitations using the KRACK technique are possible. But on his website, he cautions that he’s “not in a position” to determine whether such attacks are actively being used.

What should I do about it?

To protect yourself from falling victim to a KRACK attack, you should update Wi-Fi devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops as soon as updates become available, Vanhoef says. If possible, users are also advised to update their router’s firmware. Microsoft has already released a security update to address the issue, reports The Verge. The Wi-Fi Alliance, a network of companies that make Wi-Fi devices and define Wi-Fi standards and programs, has said that platform providers have already started deploying patches to address the issue.

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This Is What a Super Nintendo Plus Magic Looks Like
One SNES to rule them all

There’s another Super Nintendo on the block, and this one means business.

Not the lucrative sort Nintendo’s sold out Super NES Classic seems to be doing as availability bulletins circulate like whispers of a ghost. Nor the steady sort Nintendo’s handheld 3DS has been up to for years, dishing up choice SNES downloads by way of its Virtual Console. But business the way an audio engineer means when retooling decades-old tunes for playback on modern audio hardware. Or as a film preservationist does when cleaning and converting acetate film to digital ones and zeroes.

It’s called the Super Nt, plays some of the medium’s most treasured games (like Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past), and judging from the literature its Seattle-based boutique hardware-maker sent over, it’s poised to be a Super Nintendo nonpareil.

“The whole beginning of Analogue and the kind of products we’ve wanted to make is this holy grail, end-all, pedestal sort of thing,” Analogue CEO and founder Christopher Taber tells me during a Skype call from Hong Kong, where the company keeps a second office to monitor its supply chain. “It’s a have every single feature and every single detail you can possibly imagine and make it as good as it can possibly be mindset. You don’t see a lot of products in any category that do that, because obviously that ends up making them very expensive.”

Analogue Inc.

I can vouch for Analogue’s obsession with retro fidelity as well as their products’ sticker shock. Earlier this year I sampled a $449 Analogue Nt mini, the Super Nt’s predecessor and culmination of Analogue’s work reproducing the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. The company’s standards were borderline absurd. It was so devoted to authenticity that its initial efforts involved cannibalizing processors from bona fide NES systems. The company hand-repurposed these to replicate the NES’s functions at chip-level, then cloaked the system in a stylish aluminum enclosure.

It was a lovely thing. But the mathematical inevitability of dwindling resources made scavenging unwieldy, prompting Analogue to pursue something known as a Field Programmable Gate Array, a sort of engineer’s tabula rasa: hardware that can transform itself. Or, if you’re a layperson like me and prefer Clarke’s third law, a level of architectural fastidiousness akin to magic.

Emulators, including Nintendo’s own Super NES Classic, let you play legacy games, but at a cost. Emulation approximates the behavior of hardware, sheathing its virtual circuits in software layers capable of conversing with modern processors. But those abstractions introduce quirks inherent to software, such as latency.

FPGAs by contrast involve physical chips you can instruct to behave like other chips. Instead of emulation, which involves degrees of imprecision, you’re talking about simulation, which brooks none. When games interact with an FPGA’s logic gates and switches, they’re doing so with the same purity of parallelized communication you’d expect from the original hardware.

The upshot of Analogue’s FPGA adventurism was the Nt mini, a device I called “paradoxically both pliable and purist.” Pliable because it also bundled a suite of post-processing tools that let you fiddle the audiovisual output in all sorts of fascinating ways — a preservationist’s fantasy rolled into a tweaker’s Shangri-La.

“We spent a long time researching and developing the basic internal structure for an FPGA-based video game system,” explains Taber. “There’s not a lot of people out there who’ve developed and worked on FPGA implementations of 16-bit systems. It’s all kind of people dabbling as a hobby, implementing certain pieces of it. But nobody who completes it. What we’re doing is totally proprietary. And we’re a small company, so that’s involved an enormous amount of time, effort and money.”

FPGA remains the foundation of the Super Nt, a device Analogue describes as “a reimagining of perhaps the greatest video game system of all time.” Not just the Super Nintendo, either, but its Japanese equivalent, the Super Famicom. Analogue says the Super Nt supports all of both systems’ more than 2,200 games as well as their original accessories.

Want to plug in a Super Game Boy sleeve to play original Game Boy cartridges? Waggle an SNES mouse to swat flies in Mario Paint? Play SNES games like Marvelous: Mōhitotsu no Takarajima or Mario & Wario that never made it stateside? The only thing you probably won’t be able to do is heft a Super Scope, the bazooka-styled light gun that let players smash blocks in Blastris or velvety varmints in Mole Patrol: the Super Nt fully supports the Super Scope, mind you, but you’ll need a CRT television to get the device’s “hit detection” to work.

Analogue Inc.

As you’d expect, reverse-engineering the Super NES’s circuitry was a vastly more complex endeavor than mapping the original NES’s. “The difference is absolutely exponential implementing a 16-bit versus an 8-bit system into FPGA,” says Taber. “It’s on the meta level compared to an 8-bit system. The way the chips are interfacing with each other in the Super Nintendo, it’s like an amplification from the NES multiplied by a factor of 10.”

Taber thus calls the Super Nt his company’s “magnum opus,” and “the culmination of the last seven years.” But hold onto your hats, because instead of debuting with a premium price in line with its last two systems, Taber says Analogue will sell the Super Nt for $189. That’s hundreds of dollars less than the Analogue Nt mini, and not much more than the figures scalpers have been landing for Nintendo’s Super NES Classic.

Thank Analogue’s pivot from an anodized fully aluminum body to the Super Nt’s variably colored plastic enclosures: black, classic SNES gray and purple, Super Famicom grayscale with rainbow face buttons, or transparent. “With aluminum, it’s not just the materials, it’s the quality control that goes into it,” says Taber. “It’s also the almost unreasonable level of effort that we put into ensuring every unit is absolutely perfect. Every single Nt mini and every single original Nt, I personally checked through the manufacturing process for defects. For the original Nt, I personally assembled each and every one.”

Plastic makes things more cost-effective, but Taber says the material tradeoff yielded other perks. “It’s almost more interesting, because when we come from such an obsessively high quality perspective to a category of material like plastics, we end up doing things different from others,” he says. “We always over-engineer everything, so the Super Nt is built like a tank, because we’re using higher quality plastics. Even the colors, they’re not just four different colors, they’re actually multiple different colors of plastic, multiple different materials of plastic, all the way from the inside to the outside. Every single piece of the product is matched to the motif.”

Pull the Super Nt out of the box and you get the system itself — about 5 inches long by 6.5 inches wide by 1.5 inches high, or not much bigger than the pint-sized Super NES Classic itself — an HDMI cable for up to 1080p output, a USB cable and USB power supply. Like the Analogue Nt mini, audio outputs at 48KHz, 16-bit stereo. There’s an SD card slot for firmware updates, and the system also supports a range of post-processing features so you can tinker with the audiovisuals. You’ll have to provide your own controllers, but as with its NES systems, Analogue has partnered with retro gamepad maker 8bitdo, who’ll offer color-matched, wireless, lag-free SNES gamepads.

Analogue Inc.

Uncompromising quality control can’t change the fact that the original Super Nintendo was designed long before fixed pixel flatscreens supplanted tube TVs with electron guns. A reference quality game system can replicate the internal processes that crunch game code, but what you’re observing on modern 1080p or 4K sets will never look exactly as it did piped through coaxial or composite or S-video or component cables to curved-screens at 256-by-224 pixels. You can apply retro filters like the Super NES Classic’s scan lines that fuzz the graphics, but nothing that perfectly captures the experience of playing a Super Nintendo with cruder cabling on a tube TV more than two decades ago.

I tell Taber about my chat with Sony’s global sales chief Jim Ryan this summer, whose comments about the complications and visual paradoxes of revisiting older PlayStation games prompted some to accuse Sony of tone-deafness. Most seemed to read Ryan’s comments as an indictment of all eras, when he was really speaking of one. When I explain this to Taber, he agrees that gaming’s transition from 2D to rudimentary 3D doesn’t translate as harmoniously as, say, an 8-bit 2D game like Super Mario Bros., or more modern 3D games past a certain point.

“I think that when you get into the post-SNES polygonal early 3D era, some of the stuff just didn’t age well,” says Taber. “Maybe there were design implementations or aesthetics that just don’t look as good in retrospect, and maybe certain eras have more of that than others. Maybe it’s that the source assets are of mixed resolution and so they don’t upscale well across the board.”

Whatever the case, Taber says you won’t have that experience with the Super Nt. “The 2D era doesn’t have those issues. The games should look pristine and crisp and perfect if they’re running the right way,” he says. “The SNES Classic isn’t going to be pristine because it’s running on a little Linux chip, it’s just an emulator. It looks good enough to most people, but it’s not going to look perfect. The Super Nt will look perfect. Audio and video will be the best you’ve ever seen, and even non-enthusiasts are going to be able to see the difference.”

You’ll be able to test that claim soon enough. The Super Nt is available for preorder now, and Taber says the company plans to start shipping systems to buyers sometime next February.

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This Is When You Can Play Doom on the Nintendo Switch
It's coming sooner than you think

It was said to be incoming, and now we have the date: You can play studio id Software’s 2016 splatter-fest Doom on the Nintendo Switch this November 10.

Bethesda just announced as much, along with a new developer video in which creative lead Hugo Martin and executive producer Marty Stratton pore over the Switch’s features. In short, it’s everything that shipped on the original platforms, plus all the downloadable content. It’s all done smartly in question and answer format, and they even broach the one question I assume anyone who’s played it on Playstation 4 and Xbox One and contemplating the portable version’s playability might be asking: “How does Doom perform on the Nintendo Switch?”

“We knew we had a very scalable engine,” says Stratton, noting id Software worked with studio Panic Button on the Switch port. “They basically took that and ran with it … and really tailored the tech for that hardware without watering anything down.” Stratton says that means all the “awesome features” found in the other versions are here, the chief compromise being a drop from 60 to 30 frames per second. “It’s really remarkable and visually stunning,” he adds. “We wouldn’t put it in people’s hands if we weren’t proud of it and we didn’t think it was the best possible representation of Doom.”

“I’m just excited for Doom and Nintendo to be in the same sentence again,” says Martin, a nod to the times id Software’s gore-shellacked franchise has appeared on Nintendo platforms in the past: On the Super Nintendo in 1995, the Nintendo 64 in 1997, then twice on the Game Boy Advance.

Parent publisher Bethesda Softworks has embraced the Switch since its arrival in March. Its port of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is due for the system a week later on November 17, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which debuts on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this month, is confirmed for the Switch sometime next year.

Buy it now: Doom for Nintendo Switch, Amazon, $59.99

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‘This Should Not Have Happened.’ A Drone Crashed Into a Canadian Passenger Plane
But everybody on board was OK

A drone crashed into a commercial plane in Canada on Thursday, renewing the aviation industry’s worries about the growing number of small hobbyist aircraft taking to the skies.

A landing Skyjet flight was less than two miles from Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City when a drone struck the aircraft, according to CTV News. The plane landed successfully and “only sustained minor damage,” according to a Sunday statement from Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

“This should not have happened,” Garneau told reporters, according to CTV News. “The drone should not have been there.”

Garneau said that the flight crew followed emergency measures, ensuring a safe landing for the six passengers and two airline staffers on board. He added that it’s a “serious offense” to endanger aircraft in Canada, with potential penalties ranging from fines of up to $20,000 or prison time.

Transport Canada released in June interim safety regulations for drone usage, which stipulated that model aircraft may not fly higher than 300 feet above ground level or within 3.4 miles (5.5 km) of an airport. The drone in this case reportedly crashed into the plane at nearly 1,500 feet above ground level, according to CTV News.

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Review: South Park The Fractured But Whole Is a Great Excuse to Revisit the Kids
A good reason to come back to South Park

Anyone who’s watched South Park during its 20 years on the air knows it entertains by harmonizing offensive characters, shocker storylines and waggish writing. Interactive South Park is no different: There are moments in studio Ubisoft San Francisco’s South Park: The Fractured But Whole guaranteed to make you cringe. But the irreverent roleplaying game, out October 17 for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One, counterpunches with amusing side missions, engaging battles and a steady barrage of take-no-prisoners quips.

Remember The Coon, the Batman-esque racoon-themed superhero South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone created for season 13? He’s back, once more played by Cartman, who has to assemble a squad of do-gooders. But instead of pretending to be wizards and elves as in the last game, everyone’s roleplaying superheroes, including Kyle as The Human Kite, Craig as Super Craig, and you as your superhero alter ego. Like The Stick of Truth, you’ll start by choosing a profession and picking a class, including types like Speedster, which gives you an arsenal of fast-paced abilities, Brutalist, a close-ranged powerhouse brawler, or Blaster, which can deal fire damage.

In classic roleplaying fashion, each character brings their own strengths and weaknesses to battle based on their traits and class. Super Craig is ideal for dishing out damage, for example, while The Human Kite is a useful healer to have on board. Cartman’s gang is at odds with Butters, who plays the villainous Professor Chaos, as well as another group of heroes known as the Freedom Pals, which were originally part of Coon & Friends but split off to form their own team after a disagreement. This group includes Stan as Toolshed, Tweek as Wonder Tweek, and Token as Tupperware.

Ubisoft

Cartman’s longterm plan for Coon & Friends is to turn it into an ultra-successful entertainment franchise, as Marvel has done with its superhero roster. But for the purposes of this game, Cartman is on a mission to find a local cat that’s gone missing. As is always the case with Cartman, there’s an ulterior motive here: he wants to snatch up the $100 reward for returning the cat to its owner before the Freedom Pals can get to it.

As the new kid in town, your first objective is to prove that you’re worthy of joining Coon & Friends by completing a few simple missions and gaining followers on the Instagram-inspired fictional social network Coonstagram. The bigger following you have on Coonstagram, the more influence you hold in South Park, which boosts your hero rank and makes you a more formidable opponent in battle.

While much of the game involves scouting the town of South Park for items and characters to complete missions, the heart of the game is its battle system. The good news is that its creators have at least partly rectified the The Stick of Truth‘s simplistic fighting sequences. Like its predecessor, The Fractured But Whole uses a turn-based battle system, but you now move your character on an isometric grid to attack, with where you are on the board determining what you can do and to whom. It’s a nice upshift that adds nuance to combat, though you wouldn’t mistake it for the depth of a tactical RPG like Fire Emblem.

The Fractured But Whole also incorporates different battle types that can make defeating enemies more difficult as the game progresses. Roughly four hours into The Fractured But Whole, for example, you’ll encounter a surprisingly tough foe and have to knock out minions, complete your turn within a certain time period, and avoid certain areas on the board to escape blows that kill with a single hit. One way to boost your strength in battle is by collecting and equipping artifacts, which are items that can give your team an edge. Artifacts offer special perks, like increasing your defense, and raise your Might, which makes your team more difficult to defeat.

Another quibble with The Stick of Truth that’s been fixed in The Fractured But Whole: the former’s irritating training sequences. You had to complete these in order to learn a new ability in The Stick of Truth, but they’re been abandoned entirely here, which is grand, because the controls were sometimes buggy and the whole process time-consuming. In The Fractured But Whole, new gameplay elements are smartly explained through onscreen prompts, which keeps the story moving.

Ubisoft

If you enjoyed the last game’s scavenger hunt quests, like the Chinpokomon side mission, you’ll be happy to know that similar challenges exist in The Fractured But Whole. Instead of collecting those Pokémon-parody toys, you’ll be keeping an eye out for intimate portraits of Tweek and Craig drawn Yaoi-style, a callback to the sixth episode in the show’s nineteenth season. Roaming around South Park is a huge part of what’s made both of these games so fun, and The Fractured But Whole gives you even more reason to stroll around South Park Elementary or dig through the filing cabinets in Tom’s Rhinoplasty. You can craft useful tools out of the materials you gather, which range from high-level artifacts to costumes and objects you need to complete a mission. You’ll also find items that can help you in combat, like food and antidotes, but the new crafting system gives the game a bit more substance.

For all that’s improved, there are areas I expected more. The puzzles are still eye-rolling-easy to complete. Many involve finding a path around an obstacle, which can usually be done by shooting a twinkling object to reveal a new entrance or ladder. Currency doesn’t matter as much as it should: There are a few situations in which having a cash stash comes in handy, but most useful items can be had from crafting, which makes money feel pointless. And while the new crafting system incentivizes players to check out every shop and home in South Park, the setting is starting to feel awfully familiar, especially if you’re coming from The Stick of Truth.

The Fractured But Whole wouldn’t be a South Park game if didn’t occasionally disgust and poke fun at real-world issues. There’s no shortage of that in this game, and that’s evident from the moment you build your character. Choosing a darker skin color makes the game generally more difficult. Later on, you’ll get ridiculed and assaulted because of your gender, no matter how you choose to identify. At some point you’ll find yourself fending off a pair of frisky priests trying to get handsy with you in the back of the town church. It’s all in keeping with Parker and Stone’s relentless commitment to keeping observers of whatever stripe off balance.

And that more than anything is what makes the game worth a look. The new combat enhancements and crafting elements aside, it still feels like you’re playing through a hilarious episode of South Park, where nothing is sacred, and everything and everyone gets skewered.

4 out of 5

Buy now: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

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Women Are Boycotting Twitter For the Day to Protest Harassment and Abuse
#WomenBoycottTwitter is for "all the victims of hate and harassment Twitter fails to support."

Silence will speak volumes on Friday as a day long Twitter boycott has been organized to protest harassment and abuse against women on the social media platform.

The idea is the brainchild of software engineer Kelly Ellis in defense of actress Rose McGowan and “all the victims of hate and harassment Twitter fails to support.”

McGowan has been a loud voice on social media advocating for victims of sexual harassment and abuse following the multiple allegations against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. McGowan, who accused Weinstein of raping her, had her Twitter account suspended Thursday. The company said she violated their terms of service by tweeting a phone number.

Twitter users lashed out in her defense, accusing the company of not equally enforcing the rules against those who use hate speech.

#WomenBoycottTwitter was trending on Twitter Friday morning, with celebrities joining the campaign too.

It isn’t just women who are joining the boycott. McGowen urged men on the site to use their voices to “call on your brothers to be better.”

Actor Terry Crews tweeted: “I stand with women,” after sharing his own experience with sexual assault at the hands of a Hollywood executive.

 

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liamalexander: My daily stats: 12 new followers, 9 new unfollowers via http://t.co/hROlspGI
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alanjonesUK: RT @PopSci: Scientists finally have some answers about the mysterious "dark matter" in the human genome: http://t.co/Gm4Fh0B6
alanjonesUK: RT @PopSci: Scientists finally have some answers about the mysterious "dark matter" in the human genome: http://t.co/Gm4Fh0B6

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The importance of sticking to your company values

Having a set of public company values gives your business a distinct stature and can significantly strengthen your company’s image and reputation, especially when it comes to outreach, promotions, and other social initiatives your company may seek to pursue. Oftentimes, having a brand or image that is consistent with your company’s public values can garner consumer loyalty and make people feel good about the purchases they are making with your company. Here are some companies that can teach us the importance of sticking to company values. Antithetical commercial success: Patagonia For instance, consider how the popular clothing brand Patagonia has…

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