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Cats Can Imitate Humans, Scientists Show For First Time

Slashdot - 9 orë 2 min më parë
sciencehabit writes: A number of animals, from dogs to chimpanzees, can imitate human behavior. Now scientists have shown that cats can too. Under controlled conditions, a Japanese cat named Ebisu copied the movements of her owner when she touched a cardboard box and rubbed her face against it. Researchers say it's evidence of complex cognition, because the cat must be able to "map" the human's body parts onto her own. The finding may also suggest that the ability to imitate arose earlier in mammalian evolution than previously thought. The study has been published in the journal Science.

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MS Treatment a Step Closer After Drug Shown To Repair Nerve Coating

Slashdot - 12 orë 32 min më parë
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Doctors believe they are closer to a treatment for multiple sclerosis after discovering a drug that repairs the coatings around nerves that are damaged by the disease. A clinical trial of the cancer drug bexarotene showed that it repaired the protective myelin sheaths that MS destroys. The loss of myelin causes a range of neurological problems including balance, vision and muscle disorders, and ultimately, disability. While bexarotene cannot be used as a treatment, because the side-effects are too serious, doctors behind the trial said the results showed "remyelination" was possible in humans, suggesting other drugs or drug combinations will halt MS. "It's disappointing that this is not the drug we'll use, but it's exciting that repair is achievable and it gives us great hope for another trial we hope to start this year," said Prof Alasdair Coles, who led the research at the University of Cambridge. The drug had some serious side-effects, from thyroid disease to raised levels of fats in the blood, which can lead to dangerous inflammation of the pancreas. But brain scans revealed that neurons had regrown their myelin sheaths, a finding confirmed by tests that showed signals sent from the retina to the visual cortex at the back of the brain had quickened. "That can only be achieved through remyelination," said Coles.

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Crows Possess Higher Intelligence Long Thought a Primarily Human Attribute, New Research Shows

Slashdot - 14 orë 17 sek më parë
Research unveiled on Thursday in Science finds that crows know what they know and can ponder the content of their own minds, a manifestation of higher intelligence and analytical thought long believed the sole province of humans and a few other higher mammals. STAT reports: "Together, the two papers show that intelligence/consciousness are grounded in connectivity and activity patterns of neurons" in the most neuron-dense part of the bird brain, called the pallium, neurobiologist Suzana Herculano-Houzel of Vanderbilt University, who wrote an analysis of the studies for Science, told STAT. "Brains can appear diverse, and at the same time share profound similarities. The extent to which similar properties present themselves might be simply a matter of scale: how many neurons are available to work." The study shows that neurons in the most complex part of the crows' brain, the pallium, "do have activity that represents not what was shown to them, but what they later report," said Herculano-Houzel. Neurons "represent what the animals next report to have seen -- whether or not that is what they were shown," she said. The neurons figure this out, so to speak, during the time lapse between when Nieder tells the birds the rule and when they peck the target to indicate their answer. "That's exactly what one would expect from neurons that participated in building the thoughts that we later report," she said, suggesting that corvids "are as cognitively capable as monkeys and even great apes." A second study, also in Science, looked in unprecedented detail at the neuroanatomy of pigeons and barn owls, finding hints to the basis of their intelligence that likely applies to corvids', too. STAT reports: Specifically, the pigeons' and owls' neurons meet at right angles, forming computational circuits organized in columns. "The avian version of this connectivity blueprint could conceivably generate computational properties reminiscent of the [mammalian] neocortex," they write. "[S]imilar microcircuits ... achieve largely identical cognitive outcomes from seemingly vastly different forebrains." That is, evolution invented connected, circuit-laden brain structure at least twice. "In theory, any brain that has a large number of neurons connected into associative circuitry ... could be expected to add flexibility and complexity to behavior," said Herculano-Houzel. "That is my favorite operational definition of intelligence: behavioral flexibility." That enables pigeons to home, count, and be as trainable as monkeys. But for sheer smarts we're still in the corvid camp.

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Facebook's Oversight Board Won't Launch In Time To Oversee the Election

Slashdot - 14 orë 37 min më parë
"On Friday, a coalition of academics and legal experts announced the formation of the 'Real Facebook Oversight Board,' an informal group that will publicly call out Facebook's slow action in advance of the election, including early Facebook investor Roger McNamee and Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff," reports The Verge. The only problem is that it won't launch in time to hear cases related to the U.S. election. From the report: The group plans to hold regular "board meetings" to discuss failures of platform policy, with the first scheduled to be hosted by Kara Swisher on October 1. In a statement, Zuboff described Facebook as "a roiling cauldron of lies, violence and danger destabilizing elections and democratic governance around the world." The group also include Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr, known for her work on the Cambridge Analytica story. "This is an emergency response," Cadwalladr told NBC News this morning. "We know there are going to be a series of incidents leading up to the election and beyond in which Facebook is crucial." The board will hold no power and is largely meant as a symbolic gesture. Still, it has placed new pressure on Facebook's Oversight Board, which was initially scheduled for launch this summer. Oversight Board members now estimate that the project will launch in October. That will be too late to hear cases related to the US election, given the months-long process for fully adjudicating a case. "We are currently testing the newly deployed technical systems that will allow users to appeal and the Board to review cases," the Oversight Board said. "Assuming those tests go to plan, we expect to open user appeals in mid to late October. Building a process that is thorough, principled and globally effective takes time and our members have been working aggressively to launch as soon as possible."

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Amid the Pandemic's Urban Quiet, a Song That Makes Sense

Slashdot - 15 orë 17 min më parë
"Every musician knows that when the performers can hear one another, the performance is always better than otherwise," writes Slashdot reader nightcats. "This principle applies in nature as well, and has been anecdotally witnessed amid the quiet imposed by COVID-19 on cities around the world. In San Francisco, behavioral ecologist Liz Derryberry has been able to deliver a dramatic scientific demonstration of the changes to the songs of the white-crowned sparrow amid the quiet of 2020." National Geographic reports: With most San Franciscans staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, she decided to seize an unprecedented opportunity to study how this small, scrappy songbird responded when human noises disappeared. By recording the species' calls among the abandoned streets of the Bay Area in the following months, Derryberry and colleagues have revealed that the shutdown dramatically improved the birds' calls, both in quality and efficiency. The research, published today in Science, is among the first to scientifically evaluate the effects of the pandemic on urban wildlife. It also adds to a burgeoning field of research into how the barrage of human-made noise has disrupted nature, from ships drowning out whale songs to automobile traffic jamming bat sonar.

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The Best Chrome Extensions To Prevent Creepy Web Tracking

Slashdot - 16 orë 17 sek më parë
Wired has highlighted several browser extensions that "are a simple first step in improving your online privacy." Other steps to take include adding a privacy-first browser and VPN to further mask your web activity. An anonymous reader shares the report: Privacy Badger is one of the best options for blocking online tracking in your current browser. For a start, it's created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a US-based non-profit digital rights group that's been fighting online privacy battles since 1990. It's also free. Privacy Badger tracks all the elements of web pages you visit -- including plugins and ads placed by external companies. If it sees these appearing across multiple sites you visit then the extension tells your browser not to load any more of that content. DuckDuckGo is best-known for its anonymous search engine that doesn't collect people's data. DuckDuckGo also makes an extension for Chrome. The Privacy Essentials extension blocks hidden third-party trackers, showing you which advertising networks are following you around the web over time. The tool also highlights how websites collect data through a partnership with Terms of Service Didn't Read and includes scores for sites' privacy policies. It also adds its non-tracking search to Chrome. The Ghostery browser extension blocks trackers and shows lists of which ones are blocked for each site (including those that are slow to load), allows trusted and restricted sites to be set up and also lets people you block ads. The main Ghostery extension is free but there's also a paid for $49 per month subscription that provides detailed breakdowns of all trackers and can be used for analysis or research. There are Ghostery extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Opera. Unlike other tools here, Adblock Plus is primarily marketed as an ad blocking tool -- the others don't necessarily block ads by default but aim to be privacy tools that may limit the most intrusive types of ads. Using an ad blocker comes with a different set of ethical considerations to tools that are designed to stop overly intrusive web tracking; ad blockers will block a much wider set of items on a webpage and this can include ads that don't follow people around the web. Adblock Plus is signed up to the Acceptable Ads project that shows non-intrusive ads by default (although this can be turned off). On a privacy front Adblock Plus's free extensions block third party trackers and allow for social media sharing buttons that send information back to their owners to be disabled.

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Apple Backs Down on Taking 30% Cut of Paid Online Events on Facebook

Slashdot - 16 orë 37 min më parë
Facebook has temporarily shamed Apple out of taking a 30 percent cut of paid online events organized by small businesses and hosted on Facebook -- things like cooking classes, workout sessions, and happy hours. Demand for these kinds of online events has soared during the COVID-19 pandemic. From a report: Apple says that it has a longstanding policy that digital products must be purchased using Apple's in-app payments system -- and hence pay Apple's 30 percent tax. In contrast, companies selling physical goods and services are not only allowed but required to use other payment methods (options here include Apple Pay, which doesn't take such a big cut). For example, an in-person cooking class is not a digital product, so a business selling cooking class tickets via an iPhone app wouldn't have to give Apple a 30 percent cut. But if the same business offers a virtual cooking class, Apple considers that to be a digital product and demands a 30 percent cut -- at least if the customer pays for the class using an iOS device. Last month, Facebook announced it would start offering a new feature for small businesses to host paid online events. Facebook has waived any fees for the first year, allowing small businesses to pocket 100 percent of the revenue. But Apple refused to budge on its 30 percent take.

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Microsoft's New Xbox App Will Let You Stream Xbox One Games To Your iPhone

Slashdot - 17 orë 2 min më parë
Microsoft is about to release a big Xbox app update for iOS that includes the ability to stream Xbox One games to an iPhone. The Verge reports: A new Xbox app will arrive in the App Store soon that includes a remote play feature, which lets Xbox One console owners stream their games to an iPhone. Remote play is different to Microsoft's xCloud service, which streams games directly from servers instead of your own Xbox One console. This Xbox remote play feature will only connect to your own Xbox console, not to xCloud. It's similar to Sony's own PS4 Remote Play feature that's also available on Android and iOS. You will be able to access an Xbox console over Wi-Fi, or even an LTE or 5G connection, too. As this app takes control of your home Xbox, you can remotely start your console outside of your home. The Xbox will start up without a sound or the Xbox light at the front, and when you disconnect, it goes back into standby after a brief period of inactivity. A new Xbox app arrived on Android recently, and this updated iPhone version includes the same new design and new features.

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Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Plane Completes Maiden Flight In 'World First'

Slashdot - 17 orë 22 min më parë
ZeroAvia's hydrogen fuel-cell plane that's capable of carrying six passengers completed its maiden flight this week. The aircraft has been retrofitted with a device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity. CNBC reports: ZeroAvia has said the trip, described as a "hydrogen fuel cell powered flight of a commercial-grade aircraft," is a "world first." Other examples of hydrogen-fuel cell planes that can host passengers do exist, however. Back in 2016, the HY4 aircraft, which is able to carry four people, undertook its first official journey when it flew from Stuttgart Airport in Germany. The HY4 was developed by researchers at the German Aerospace Center alongside "industry and research partners." Thursday's ZeroAvia flight was carried out at the company's research and development site at Cranfield Airport, in England -- 50 miles north of London. The airport is owned by Cranfield University. "While some experimental aircraft have flown using hydrogen fuel cells as a power source, the size of this commercially available aircraft shows that paying passengers could be boarding a truly zero-emission flight very soon," Val Miftakhov, the CEO of ZeroAvia, said in a statement. The next step of the HyFlyer project will see ZeroAvia work toward carrying out a flight of between 250 and 300 nautical miles from the Orkney Islands, an archipelago located in waters off the north coast of mainland Scotland. The plane on this flight will use hydrogen-fuel cells. It's hoped this trip will happen before the end of 2020.

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Twitter Is Bringing Its 'Read Before You Retweet' Prompt To All Users

Slashdot - 18 orë 17 sek më parë
Twitter says it's working on bringing its "read the article before you retweet it" prompt to all users "soon." The Verge reports: The company began testing the prompt in June, which shows up when people go to retweet a story they haven't clicked through to actually read. Twitter says its motivation is to "help promote informed discussion." Headlines often don't tell the whole story and can even be actively misleading. Encouraging people to at least read the article they're sharing seems like a smart way to promote media literacy and stop some of the knee-jerk reactions that can make misinformation viral. The company shared some results from its initial test of the feature, which was limited to Twitter users on Android. It says people shown the prompt opened articles 40 percent more often and that the overall proportion of people opening articles before retweeting increased by 33 percent. The company also said that "some people" (a statistically meaningless phrase!) didn't retweet the article after opening it up.

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Amazon Employee Warns Internal Groups They're Being Monitored For Labor Organizing

Slashdot - Pre, 25/09/2020 - 11:25md
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: An Amazon Web Services employee emailed a series of internal Amazon listservs and told them that their communications were being monitored for labor organizing efforts and processed in a data farming project by the company's Global Security Operations, according to an internal email obtained by Motherboard. The emails were sent -- at least -- to the employee listservs "Indigenous@amazon.com" and "transgender@amazon.com," and mentioned a handful of other listservs the employee believed were being watched. "If you are a moderator or user of this list, please note that it is being explicitly watched by an internal monitoring team," the Amazon Web Services employee wrote to members of at least two of the listservs. "This is part of a wider project to generate and curate data on internal employees and external entities." "While we may be under the impression that everything we write at Amazon is at least saved somewhere for review, it is important that those on this list know that they are being explicitly watched and processed in a data farming project from GSO [Global Security Operations]," the employee continued. According to the email, listservs being monitored include black-employee-network@, we-wont-build-it@, transgender@, indigenous@, arabs@, persians@, glamazon@, latinos@, colombianos@, asians-at-amazon@, coronavirusvolunteers@, and dozens of others. An Amazon spokesperson said that the company uses "several methods to gather feedback at scale," which includes "anonymized feedback that is sometimes shared from these open email forums." "We continually work to improve the Amazon employee experience, and with hundreds of thousands of employees located around the world, we use several methods to gather feedback at scale," the spokesperson said. "The anonymized feedback that is sometimes shared from these open email forums has helped us improve our employee benefits, further strengthen our COVID-19 procedures, and improve the overall Amazon employee experience."

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China Blocks Wikimedia Foundation's Accreditation To World Intellectual Property Organization

Slashdot - Pre, 25/09/2020 - 10:45md
China this week blocked the Wikimedia Foundation's application for observer status at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations (UN) organization that develops international treaties on copyright, IP, trademarks, patents and related issues. As a result of the block, the Foundation's application for observer status has been suspended and will be reconsidered at a future WIPO meeting in 2021. Wikimedia Foundation: China was the only country to raise objections to the accreditation of the Wikimedia Foundation as an official observer. Their last-minute objections claimed Wikimedia's application was incomplete, and suggested that the Wikimedia Foundation was carrying out political activities via the volunteer-led Wikimedia Taiwan chapter. The United Kingdom and the United States voiced support for the Foundation's application. WIPO's work, which shapes international laws and policies that affect the sharing of free knowledge, impacts Wikipedia's ability to provide hundreds of millions of people with information in their own languages. The Wikimedia Foundation's absence from these meetings further separates those people from global events that shape their access to knowledge.

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Swift System is Now Open Source and Supports Linux

Slashdot - Pre, 25/09/2020 - 10:05md
Michael Ilseman, an engineer on the Swift Standard Library team at Apple, writes: In June, Apple introduced Swift System, a new library for Apple platforms that provides idiomatic interfaces to system calls and low-level currency types. Today, I'm excited to announce that we're open-sourcing System and adding Linux support! Our vision is for System to eventually act as the single home for low-level system interfaces for all supported Swift platforms.

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Facebook Critics Take on Its Oversight Board

Slashdot - Pre, 25/09/2020 - 9:25md
A group of high-profile Facebook critics on Friday announced the launch of what they are calling the "Real Facebook Oversight Board," an effort that aims to counter an independent board established by Facebook last year to oversee its decisions on content moderation. From a report: The opposing effort represents how political the fight between Facebook and its critics has become in the lead-up to the presidential election. The group includes leaders from the Stop Hate for Profit boycott, like Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, as well as prominent Facebook critics like Roger McNamee and some journalists and pundits. The new oversight board rival cites an "urgent threat to democracy" leading up to its launch. It criticizes the independent oversight board, funded by Facebook, for its delayed launch. The board is billing its formation as an "emergency response" to urgent issues like voter suppression, election security and misinformation. The first of its meetings -- which appear to be more like media events than deliberations on content decisions -- will be held next week, broadcast on Facebook Live, with New York Times columnist Kara Swisher hosting. The response comes just after the actual Facebook-funded appeals board announced that it would be launching earlier than expected. [...] A document obtained by Axios that appears to be a pitch deck for the project alleges that the Facebook-funded oversight board is "little more than a corporate whitewashing exercise."

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Twitter Warns of Possible API Keys Leak

Slashdot - Pre, 25/09/2020 - 8:44md
Twitter is notifying developers today about a possible security incident that may have impacted their accounts. From a report: The incident was caused by incorrect instructions that the developer.twitter.com website sent to users' browsers. The developer.twitter.com website is the portal where developers manage their Twitter apps and attached API keys, but also the access token and secret key for their Twitter account. In an email sent to developers today, Twitter said that its developer.twitter.com website told browsers to create and store copies of the API keys, account access token, and account secret inside their cache, a section of the browser where data is saved to speed up the process of loading the page when the user accessed the same site again. This might not be a problem for developers using their own browsers, but Twitter is warning developers who may have used public or shared computers to access the developer.twitter.com website -- in which case, their API keys are now most likely stored in those browsers.

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next-20200925: linux-next

Kernel Linux - Pre, 25/09/2020 - 12:52md
Version:next-20200925 (linux-next) Released:2020-09-25

ISS Successfully Dodges 'Unknown Piece of Space Debris'

Slashdot - Enj, 24/09/2020 - 9:00pd
With space junk piling up around our planet, the International Space Station needed to perform a last-minute avoidance maneuver Tuesday to steer clear of an "unknown piece of space debris expected to pass within several kilometers." From a report: Mission Control in Houston conducted the move at 2:19 p.m. PT using the Russian Progress resupply spacecraft docked to the ISS to help nudge the station out of harm's way. "Out of an abundance of caution, the Expedition 63 crew will relocate to their Soyuz spacecraft until the debris has passed by the station," NASA said in a statement prior to the move. The maneuver went off smoothly, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine reported. "The astronauts are coming out of safe haven," he tweeted after the ISS relocated.

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The Short Weird Life -- and Potential Afterlife -- of Quantum Radar

Slashdot - Enj, 24/09/2020 - 5:30pd
sciencehabit writes: A mini-arms race is unfolding in the supposed field of quantum radar, spurred by press reports in 2016 that China had built one -- potentially threatening the ability of stealthy military aircraft to hide from conventional radars. Governments around the world have tasked physicists to look into the idea. Whereas a conventional radar searches for objects by detecting pulse of microwaves reflected from them, quantum radar would utilize pulses of microwaves linked by a quantum connection called entanglement. The system would retain one pulse and measure it in concert with the one reflected from the object. Correlations between the two would make it easier to spot an object through the glare of the surroundings. Or so researchers hoped. Groups have demonstrated elements of a quantum radar, but only in limited experiments that a nonquantum system can still match. And fundamental physical limits suggest the scheme can't beat ordinary radar for long-range detection. Even one of the inventors of the basic concept thinks it won't work when applied to radar.

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Blizzard Co-Founder Mike Morhaime Launches New Gaming Endeavor Dreamhaven

Slashdot - Enj, 24/09/2020 - 4:02pd
Mike Morhaime, the cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment, has launched a new game company called Dreamhaven, and it has established two new game studios: Moonshot and Secret Door. VentureBeat reports: The Irvine, California-based company is a pretty good clue that Morhaime and his wife Amy Morhaime weren't quite done with games when they left Activision Blizzard in 2018. Mike will be the CEO of Dreamhaven, while Amy will head operations. They have hired a number of (mostly former Blizzard) industry veterans to help run their studios, which will work on separate games. That's an ambitious startup, as working on two games at once is a handful. But it's not without precedent, as Harold Ryan's Probably Monsters startup in Seattle also has two studios working on two games at once. What makes the Morhaimes' company unique so far is that they're funding it themselves. [...] So far, the company has 27 employees across all three entities, and it's hiring more staff. The artwork on the company's homepage combines aspects of both fantasy and science fiction, but the company isn't yet saying what games it is working on, nor is it talking about genres. But it is working on a familiar model, as it closely resembles the way Morhaime ran things at Blizzard, with an emphasis on quality, iteration, and giving creative staff enough time. The parent company's role is to provide guidance and funding, as well as central services that each studio will need, such as communications and human resources. But each studio will make its own decisions about how to make the best games, Morhaime said. The founders have equity in the parent company. Moonshot's leaders are Jason Chayes, Dustin Browder, and Ben Thompson. Chayes was previously an executive producer at Blizzard Entertainment, where he worked on the Hearthstone team. He also worked at Electronic Arts and Disney. Browder's 25-year career includes roles as the game director for StarCraft II, Heroes of the Storm, Command & Conquer, and The Lord of the Rings. Thompson's credits include creative director for Hearthstone and art director for the World of Warcraft trading card game, with additional credits on Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. Moonshot is also home to a team of seasoned developers who've worked on some of gaming's most popular franchises. Dreamhaven's second game studio, Secret Door, has a leadership team of Chris Sigaty, Alan Dabiri, and Eric Dodds. Sigaty's roles have included executive producer on Hearthstone, StarCraft II, and Heroes of the Storm, as well as lead producer on the original Warcraft III. Dodds was the original game director of Hearthstone and veteran game designer on World of Warcraft and StarCraft. Dabiri has filled both technical director and game director roles and has worked on Warcraft III, StarCraft II, and Heroes of the Storm. Sigaty was at Blizzard for almost 24 years, working closely with Chayes on games like StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. He left Blizzard at the end of 2019 and to devote some time to family. He also talked with Morhaime and Chayes.

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'Amnesia: The Dark Descent' and 'A Machine For Pigs' Are Now Open Source

Slashdot - Enj, 24/09/2020 - 3:25pd
Legendary horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent and A Machine for Pigs is now open source, meaning that modders can dig in and see what lies underneath the hood of both games. Polygon reports: The full source code for The Dark Descent and A Machine for Pigs has been released on Github for folks who want to take a crack at modifying the game. It's relatively rare for developers to post their game codes themselves, though sometimes proprietary code can make its way online via leaks. "This doesn't mean that the game is suddenly free," Amnesia developer Frictional Games said in a blog post. "It just means that people are free to use the source however they want as long as they adhere to the GPL3 licence. The game and all of its content is still owned by Frictional Games. Just like before." Seeing how these classic games are built will also mean seeing things like flaws, and inefficiencies Frictional Games warned -- but it's all still functional and potentially useful to anyone learning game development. "I also hope this release can be of help to anyone wanting to create their own engine or just wanting to learn more about game programming," Frictional Games said. "While the code is not the greatest in places and the tech used is not the latest, it is a fully contained game engine in a fairly easy-to-understand package. It is also a testament that it is possible to do this sort of thing, even with a very limited team."

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