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Cyberpunk 2077 was one of the most awaited games of 2020, and it turns out it’s also one of the most overhyped games of 2020, which is a fitting way to cap off the year. The first major title from Polish developer CD Projekt Red since the award-winning 2015 action RPG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, is nearly unplayable on the PlayStation 4 (Slim). It’s like watching a low-resolution 360p YouTube video. And despite the terrible graphics, Cyberpunk 2077 delivers a frame rate that at times feels like it’s dipping into single digits. The voice acting is really good — it’s a shame conversations are in first-person, because for all of V’s expressiveness with her voice (I haven’t played as the male version, so can’t vouch for that), it’s brought down by the fact that you can’t see her emote — but it’s lost in a visual mess.

Even a really good Netflix series is not going to be that good if you’ve got a bad Internet connection. And having failed in both the quality and performance department, Cyberpunk 2077 on the PS4 is a stop-start experience as well. Every tiny bit of dialogue is interrupted by a loading screen, which lasts for 20 seconds at least. A 30-second scene, followed by a loading screen, 40-second scene, loading screen, 25-second scene, loading screen. It’s like watching a video that keeps buffering. What amazing assets is it busy loading anyway? Cyberpunk 2077’s poor PS4 frame rate affects gameplay in turn, delaying many in-game actions such as switching the car camera or accessing your phone by several seconds. And frankly, it’s annoying enough that the game forgets your preferred camera for driving.

And that’s only half of it. Cyberpunk 2077 is also full of bugs. I’ve seen floating phones and guns (after installing day-one patch). I’ve encountered invisible weapons where your character holds out their hands like they are grabbing a weapon but there is no weapon in their hands. And I’ve worn invisible clothing where you select clothing and it’s applied but it’s not visible, leaving you looking naked even though the game says you aren’t. A hat I chose wouldn’t show up no matter what, and the game showed me as bald, with a bug even taking the hair under the hat with it. It’s hilarious on one level, but mostly very, very annoying. And oh, there is also so much texture pop-in on the PS4, even after installing the “Hotfix 1.04” that was released a day after launch.

I wish the PS4 version had this much detail. Pictured: Carla Tassara as Judy Alvarez in Cyberpunk 2077
Photo Credit: CD Projekt Red

If all that wasn’t enough, Cyberpunk 2077 routinely crashes as well. In the 15 hours I’ve spent testing the game on my PS4, it’s conked off in the middle of missions half a dozen times (after day-one and hotfix, both). And there are times where you dread it’s about to crash (again), only to realise that it had temporarily frozen. Spin the camera with the right-stick and you’re bound to see it hang half the time. I’ve never had a game crash on me so much during review. If I’d paid for Cyberpunk 2077, I’d be requesting a refund from CD Projekt Red. And it’s already issuing refunds, having apologised on Monday for not showing the game running on PS4 or Xbox One before release. Had it actually shown the game, then Cyberpunk 2077 certainly wouldn’t have hit the pre-order records that it did.

This is also why the (highly-positive) early reviews were based on Cyberpunk 2077’s PC version, as console review codes were not given. I only got my PS4 code eight hours before launch. And I had to spend many of those hours downloading the game; it’s 100GB on the PS4. Strangely, it’s 60GB on the Xbox Series X, for which I got the code only on Monday, four days after the release.

Welcome to Night City

Cyberpunk 2077 follows a mercenary named V, whom you can choose to play as a woman (Cherami Leigh) or a man (Gavin Drea). If you keep the nudity option on, then for some reason, the developers also decided that the character creation process should allow you to customise your genitals. There are two types and three sizes of penises, but just one vagina. You’ll also get to choose a lifepath: Nomad, Streetkid, or Corpo. That will later define the kind of dialogue choices you’ve, though for the early story bits, it’s all the same. You will meet up with local thug Jackie Welles (Jason Hightower) with whom you go on various adventures in Night City, a dystopian megapolis in North California that is now an independent state of its own.

The high point of your adventures is stealing a precious prototype biochip that gets damaged in the ensuing escape and you have to slot it in your head to protect its data. It turns out to have the soul of a former rock star turned terrorist Johnny Silverhand (Keanu Reeves), who has been believed dead for half a century. Owing to circumstances, Silverhand’s soul starts rewriting your memories and essentially taking over your body. Meanwhile, Silverhand becomes your companion, like a voice in your head and the devil on your shoulder, pushing you towards self-serving choices. That existential quest spurs the narrative as there’s a ticking bomb attached to it, though given Cyberpunk 2077 is an open world game, you’re free to explore the world without worrying about collapsing any second.

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Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077
Photo Credit: CD Projekt Red

Night City is the quintessential melting pot, taking design influences from the West and the East — its populace is equally diverse as well — to create its world. It predictably lights up with a whole lot of neon at night, befitting the hallmarks of its genre that is also the title of the game. In Reeves, Cyberpunk 2077 has an actor who’s been involved with three of the biggest cyberpunk movies of all time, and the game includes some winking nods to his work in The Matrix. Night City is filled with things to do when you’re not busy saving yourself from turning into Silverhand. You can hunt for lost items or help steal items. You can be a hit man, aid the NCPD, clean up organised crime, or help put an end to an ongoing crime.

Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay

In terms of gameplay, you begin by picking one of three approaches in Cyberpunk 2077: hack your way through (“NetRunner”), be a gadget and Cyberware expert (“Techie”), or go all out with weapons (“Solo”). The game doesn’t bind you to these classes though, and as you level up, you can become a hybrid of two or more if you like. What you will actually be doing involves a mix of combat, timed puzzles, hacking computers or bodies, and analysing “BrainDance”, a virtual reality recording that captures audio, video, and thermal feeds. Cyberpunk 2077 has a variety of side activities on offer too, including the likes of boxing, racing, and shooting ranges.

The things you throw at enemies in Cyberpunk 2077, they can use against you too. This includes the ability to hack bodies, which opponents regularly deploy. The most common tactic is to heat your body up, which causes you to lose health. You can protect yourself by taking yourself offline but it’s an upgrade you have to unlock by levelling up.

Of course, for Cyberpunk 2077, allowing your body to be hacked is a way to pull you out of cover in combat and make up go hunting for the person who is hacking you. But even when you do want to fight from cover, it doesn’t go smoothly. Technically speaking, there is no cover system per se in Cyberpunk 2077. Instead, while you’re in crouch position — you can’t go prone, at least willingly — and walk behind a pillar, a big crate or something like that, you’re essentially in cover. But here’s the thing: since there is no cover button, V doesn’t dynamically adapt their crouch position to what they are standing next to. Hence, you’re at the mercy of the object’s height in front of you. If it’s not tall enough, you’re exposing your forehead to headshots.

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Combat in Cyberpunk 2077
Photo Credit: CD Projekt Red

There are some other annoyances as well. Enemies can feel like bullet sponges, with even non-armoured opponents miraculously getting up after taking a shotgun pellet to the chest from a close distance. Stealth feels a tad unbelievable, for enemies will spot you — or a portion of you — but won’t even attempt to inspect what they just saw. Additionally, dialogue tree options seemingly function independent of each other. On more than one occasion, a non-player character (NPC) talked about something like we were discussing it the first time, even though that wasn’t the case. Speaking of NPCs, they are very noticeably repetitive. The same NPC model crossed me twice in 10 seconds, another kept going around in a loop, and two different NPCs behaved the exact same way at the same spot.

Lastly, there’s too much loot in Cyberpunk 2077, which doesn’t sound like a valid complaint, but really is, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the pick-up system itself is a mess. It needs you to be so accurate and directly looking at something that I wanted to throw my controller. At times, items or bodies are positioned in such a way that it’s impossible to even access them. Even once you’ve the loot, Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t auto equip the best stuff (there are 12 categories to pick through) nor does it discard useless items. There’s no way to batch discard items either, you’ve to do it manually. You can disassemble loot you don’t need for parts, or you can sell it for cash (EuroDollars, as the currency is called). And because there’s so much loot, inventory management becomes an activity in itself, and takes up too much of your time.

A debacle

There’s nothing too special about anything that Cyberpunk 2077 offers; nothing especially that deserves the amount of hype and attention that has been cast in its direction. But what makes it all the more disappointing is the terrible package it’s being offered in. The PlayStation 4 and its counterpart, the Xbox One, have sold over 160 million units combined so far. Some of the gamers who pre-ordered would have a PS4 Pro or an Xbox One X, but many of them have the base versions. It is entirely unacceptable that performance on current-gen consoles is so poor, despite several release date delays. What that proves is that CD Projekt Red has rushed its release. Not a single soul should have to pay full price for this debacle. At least not until the developer proves that it’s fixed everything.

The era of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X has arrived, but Cyberpunk 2077 is currently running on those next-gen platforms via backwards compatibility. A true next-gen update isn’t due until sometime in 2021. That means CD Projekt Red developed a game for three platforms, and it’s running on an acceptable level on just one (PC), provided you have the hardware. That is just plain ridiculous.

Pros:

  • Good voice acting
  • Lots to do in Night City
  • Multiple ways to play
  • Three lifepaths, multiple endings

Cons:

  • Terrible graphics
  • Low frame rate that impacts gameplay
  • Filled with bugs, frequent crashes
  • Too many loading screens
  • Enemies are bullet sponges
  • No cover system
  • Repetitive NPCs
  • Too much loot

Rating (out of 10): 3

Gadgets 360 played Cyberpunk 2077 on the PlayStation 4 Slim. The game is available worldwide on PC, PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One. It is also playable on PS5 and Xbox Series S/X.

On PC, it costs Rs. 2,499 on Amazon and Games The Shop, Rs. 2,999 on Epic Games Store, and $43 (about Rs. 3,160) on CD Projekt Red-owned GOG.com. Cyberpunk 2077 is priced at Rs. 3,490 on Microsoft Store, Rs. 3,499 on PlayStation Store, and Rs. 3,999 on disc.

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These Microsoft Azure tools can help you unlock the secrets lurking in your business data

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How to develop business insights from big data using Microsoft’s Azure Synapse and Azure Data Lakes technologies.

Image: Microsoft

Data lakes are an important part of a modern data analysis environment. Instead of importing all your different data sources into one data warehouse, with the complex task of building import pipelines for relational, non-relational and other data, and of trying to normalise all that data against your choice of keys, you wrap all your data in a single storage environment. On top of that storage pool, you can start to use a new generation of query tools to explore and analyse that data, working with what could be petabytes of data in real time. 

SEE: Windows 10 Start menu hacks (TechRepublic Premium)

Using data this way makes it easier to work with rapidly changing data, getting insights quickly and building reporting environments that can flag up issues as they arise. By wrapping data in one environment, you can take advantage of common access control mechanisms, applying role-based authentication and authorisation, ensuring that the right person gets access to the right data, without leaking it to the outside world. 

Working at scale with Azure Data Lake 

Using tools like Azure Active Directory and Azure Data Lake, you can significantly reduce the risk of a breach as it taps into the Microsoft Security Graph, identifying common attack patterns quickly. 

Once your data is in an Auzre Data Lake store, then you can start to run your choice of analytics tooling over it, using tools like Azure Databricks, the open-source HDInsight, or Azure’s Synapse Analytics. Working in the cloud makes sense here, as you can take advantage of large-scale Azure VM instances to build in-memory models as well as taking advantage of scalable storage to build elastic storage pools for your data lake contents. 

Microsoft recently released a second generation of Data Lake Storage, building on Azure Blobs to add disaster recovery and tiered storage to help you manage and optimise your storage costs. Azure Data Lake Storage is designed to work with gigabits of data throughput. A hierarchical namespace makes working with data easier, using directories to manage your data. And as you’re still using a data lake with many different types of data, there’s still no need for expensive and slow ETL-based transformations. 

Analysing data in Azure Synapse 

Normally you need separate analytics tooling for different types of data. If you’re building tooling to work with your own data lake, you’re often bringing together data-warehousing applications alongside big data tools, resulting in complex and often convoluted query pipelines that can be hard to document and debug. Any change in the underlying data model can be catastrophic, thanks to fragile custom analysis environments. 

Azure now offers an alternative, hybrid analytical environment in the shape of Azure Synapse Analytics, which brings together big data tooling and relational queries in a single environment by mixing SQL with Apache Spark and providing direct connections to Azure data services and to the Power Platform. It’s a combination that allows you to work at global scale while still supporting end-user visualisations and reports, and at the same time providing a platform that supports machine-learning techniques to add support for predictive analytics. 

At its heart, Synapse removes the usual barriers between standard SQL queries and big data platforms, using common metadata to work with both its own SQL dialect and Apache Spark on the same data sets, either relational tables or other stores, including CSV and JSON. It has its own import tooling that will import data into and out of data lakes, with a web-based development environment for building and exploring analytical models that go straight from data to visualisations. 

Synapse creates a data lake as part of its setup, by default using a second-generation BLOB-based instance. This hosts your data containers, in a hierarchical virtual file system. Once the data lake and associated Synapse workspace are in place, you can use the Azure Portal to open the Synapse Studio web-based development environment. 

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Writing a PySpark query in a Spark (Scala) notebook in Azure Synapse Studio.

Image: Microsoft

Building analytical queries in Synapse Studio 

Synapse Studio is the heart of Azure Synapse Analytics, where data engineers can build and test models before deploying them in production. SQL pools manage connections to your data, using either serverless or dedicated connections. While developing models, it’s best to use the built-in serverless pool; once you’re ready to go live you can provision a dedicated pool of SQL resources that can be scaled up and down as needed. However, it’s important to remember that you’re paying for those resources even if they’re not in use. You can also set up serverless pools for Apache Spark, helping keep costs to a minimum for hybrid queries. There is some overhead when launching serverless instances, but for building reports as a batch process, that shouldn’t be an issue. 

Azure Synapse is fast: building a two-million row table takes just seconds. You can quickly work with any tabular data using familiar SQL queries, using the Studio UI to display results as charts where necessary. That same data can be loaded from your SQL store into Spark, without writing any ETL code for data conversion. All you need to do is create a new Spark notebook, and then create the database and import it from your SQL pool. Data from Spark can be passed back to the SQL pool; allowing you to use Spark to manipulate data sets for further analysis. You can use SQL queries on Spark datasets directly, simplifying what could otherwise be complex programming tasks unifying results from different platforms. 

SEE: Checklist: Securing Windows 10 systems (TechRepublic Premium)

One useful feature of Azure Data Lakes using Gen 2 storage is the ability to link to other storage accounts, allowing you to quickly work with other data sources without having to import them into your data lake store. Using Azure Synapse Studio, your queries are stored in notebooks. These notebooks can be added to pipelines to automate analysis. You can set triggers to run an analysis at set intervals, driving Power BI-based dashboards and reports. 

There’s a lot to explore with Synapse Studio, and to get the most from it requires plenty of data-engineering experience. It’s not a tool for beginners or for end users: you need to be experienced in both SQL-based data-warehousing techniques and in tools like Apache Spark. However, it’s the combination of those tools and the ability to publish results in desktop analytical tools like Power BI that makes it most useful. 

The cost of at-scale data lake analysis will always make it impossible to bring to everyone. But using a single environment to create and share analyses should go a long way towards unlocking the utility of business data. 

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Moonshots for the Treatment of Aging: Less Incrementalism, More Ambition

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There is far too much incrementalism in the present research and development of therapies to treat aging. Much of the field is engaged in mimicking calorie restriction or repurposing existing drugs that were found to increase mouse life span by a few percentage points. This will not meaningfully change the shape of human life, but nonetheless costs just as much as efforts to achieve far more.

If billions of dollars and the efforts of thousands of researchers are to be devoted to initiatives to treat aging, then why not pursue the ambitious goal of rejuvenation and adding decades to healthy life spans? It is just as plausible.

Moonshots for the Treatment of Aging Less Incrementalism More Ambition

Image credit: Pixabay (Free Pixabay license)

There are just as many starting points and plausible research programs aimed at outright rejuvenation via repair of molecular damage, such as those listed in the SENS approach to aging, as there are aimed at achieving only small benefits in an aged metabolism. The heavy focus on incremental, low yield programs of research and development in the present community is frustrating, and that frustration is felt by many.

As the global population ages, there is increased interest in living longer and improving one’s quality of life in later years. However, studying aging – the decline in body function – is expensive and time-consuming. And despite research success to make model organisms live longer, there still aren’t really any feasible solutions for delaying aging in humans. With space travel, scientists and engineers couldn’t know what it would take to get to the moon. They had to extrapolate from theory and shorter-range tests. Perhaps with aging, we need a similar moonshot philosophy. Like the moon once was, we seem a long way away from provable therapies to increase human healthspan or lifespan. This review therefore focuses on radical proposals. We hope it might stimulate discussion on what we might consider doing significantly differently than ongoing aging research.

A less than encouraging sign for many of the lifespan experiments done in preclinical models, namely in mammals such as mice, is that they have modest effect sizes, often only having statistically significant effects in one of the genders, and often only in specific dietary or housing conditions. Even inhibiting one of the most potent and well-validated aging pathways, the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway has arguably modest effects on lifespan – a 12-24% increase in mice. This is all to ask, if the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin is one of the potential best-case scenarios and might be predicted to have a modest effect if any (and possibly a detrimental one) in people, should it continue to receive so much focus by the aging community? Note the problems in the aging field with small and inconsistent effects for the leading strategies aren’t specific to rapamycin.

Treating individual aging-related diseases has encountered roadblocks that should also call into question whether we are on the optimal path for human aging. Alzheimer’s is a particularly well-funded and well-researched aging-related topic where there are still huge gaps in our understanding and lack of good treatment options. There has been considerable focus on amyloid beta and tau, but targeting those molecules hasn’t done much for Alzheimer’s so far, leaving many searching for answers. The point is when we spend collectively a long time on something that isn’t working well, such as manipulating a single gene or biological process, it should seem natural to consider conceptually different approaches.

Link: https://doi.org/10.3233/NHA-190064

Source: Fight Aging!




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Signal Back Up: Users May See Some Errors, Company Says Will Be Fixed in Next Update

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Signal said it had restored its services a day after the application faced technical difficulties as it dealt with a flood of new users after rival messaging app WhatsApp announced a controversial change in privacy terms.

Signal has seen a rise in downloads following a change in WhatsApp’s privacy terms, that required WhatsApp users to share their data with both Facebook and Instagram.

Signal users might see errors in some chats as a side effect to the outage, but will be resolved in the next update of the app, the company said in a tweet.

The error does not affect the security of the chat, the company added.

The non-profit Signal Foundation based in Silicon Valley, which currently oversees the app, was launched in February 2018 with Brian Acton, who co-founded WhatsApp before selling it to Facebook, providing initial funding of $50 million (roughly Rs. 365 crores).

Signal faced a global outage that began on January 15. Although users could open the app and send messages, nothing was actually delivered.

Signal later sent Gadgets 360 a message with the following statement from its COO Aruna Harder: “We have been adding new servers and extra capacity at a record pace every single day this week, but today exceeded even our most optimistic projections. Millions upon millions of new users are sending a message that privacy matters, and we are working hard to restore service for them as quickly as possible.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021


Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.



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