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Android Things Is Google's New OS For Smart Devices
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 01:22 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's things-google-does department:
Google wants to put Android in the next wave of smart devices that'll be vying to fill up your home. It's launching a version of Android today called Android Things that can run on products like connected speakers, security cameras, and routers. A report adds: The OS is supposed to make it easier for companies to start shipping hardware, since they'll be able to work with the Android dev tools they already know. Android Things is a new name, but the operating system itself isn't strictly new. It's basically an update and a rebranding to Brillo, an Android-based OS for smart devices and Internet of Things products announced a little more than a year and a half ago. Brillo has -- publicly, at least -- gone close to nowhere. It was more or less a no-show at CES last year, and there's been little mention of it since. But today's rebranding marks a key update meant to make developing a product with this operating system much easier. Unlike Brillo, development on Android Things can be accomplished with "the same developer tools as standard Android," according to Google. The hope is that experienced developers will be able to quickly get up to speed and start work on a new product.ArsTechnica has more details.

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SpaceX Delays First Crewed Flight Of Its Dragon Capsule For NASA
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 12:02 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's no-hurry department:
NASA says the first crewed test flight of SpaceX's Dragon vehicle has been delayed until May 2018. From a report on The Verge: In the wake of its September 1st rocket explosion, SpaceX has officially delayed the first crewed flight of its Crew Dragon vehicle -- the capsule that the company is building to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Originally planned for late 2017, the first flight of the Crew Dragon with people on board is now slated to take place in May of 2018, according to a NASA blog post. Prior to that flight, SpaceX will perform a demonstration mission of Crew Dragon in November 2017 -- a flight that won't include any astronauts. There had been heavy speculation that the flight would be delayed following the accident, in which a Falcon 9 rocket exploded as it was being fueled on a Florida launch pad. And SpaceX says the move was made as the company finalizes its investigation into the accident. "As this investigation has been conducted, our Commercial Crew team has continued to work closely with NASA and is completing all planned milestones for this period," SpaceX said in a statement to The Verge. "We are carefully assessing our designs, systems, and processes taking into account the lessons learned and corrective actions identified. Our schedule reflects the additional time needed for this assessment and implementation."

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Energy Department Refuses To Give Trump Team Names of People Who Worked On Climate Change
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 12:02 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's taking-a-stand department:
The Department of Energy said Tuesday it will reject the request by President-elect Donald Trump's transition team to name staffers who worked on climate change programs. Energy spokesman Eben Burnhan-Snyder said the agency received "significant feedback" from workers regarding a questionnaire from the transition team that leaked last week. From a Reuters story, syndicated on BusinessInsider: The response from the Energy Department could signal a rocky transition for the president-elect's energy team and potential friction between the new leadership and the staffers who remain in place. The memo sent to the Energy Department on Tuesday and reviewed by Reuters last week contains 74 questions including a request for a list of all department employees and contractors who attended the annual global climate talks hosted by the United Nations within the last five years. "Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of (the Energy Department) and the important work our department does to benefit the American people," Eben Burnham-Snyder, Energy Department spokesman said. "We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department," he added. "We will be forthcoming with all publicly available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team."

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Android Chief Squashes Rumors of Android Merging With Chrome OS
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 10:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's making-sense department:
If you were holding out hope that Android and Chrome would one day merge into some kind of super OS that marries the desktop and mobile worlds once and for all, Google's senior vice president for Android, Chrome, and Chromecast Hiroshi Lockheimer has some bad news for you: It's not happening. From a PCWorld report: Speaking on the All About Android podcast, the mobile chief threw a giant bucket of cold water on the idea that the two platforms would eventually converge, despite recent rumors that suggest such a project is already in development at Google. "There's no point in merging them," Lockheimer said, pointing out sales of that Chromebooks overtook Macs in the first quarter of this year. "They're both successful." He added, Google's aim is "to make sure that both sides benefit from each other. ... You'll see a lot more of that happening, where we're cross-pollinating, but not a merge."

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Why China Can't Lure Tech Talent
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 10:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's explain-like-I-am-5 department:
China may have been hoping to attract tech talent to its nation, but it is unlikely that people in the tech industry will move there. A columnist at Bloomberg explains why: The biggest problem is government control of the internet. For a software developer, the inconvenience goes well beyond not being able to access YouTube during coffee breaks. It means that key software libraries and tools are often inaccessible. In 2013, China blocked Github, a globally important open-source depository and collaboration tool, thereby forcing developers to seek workarounds. Using a virtual private network to "tunnel" through the blockades is one popular option. But VPNs slow uploads, downloads and collaboration. And it isn't just developers who suffer. Among the restricted sites in China is Google Scholar, a tool that indexes online peer-reviewed studies, conference proceedings, books and other research material into an easily accessible format. It's become a crucial database for academics around the world, and Chinese researchers -- even those with VPNs -- struggle to use it. The situation grew so dire this summer that several state-run news outlets published complaints from Chinese scientists, with one practically begging the nationalist Global Times newspaper: "We hope the government can relax supervision for academic purposes." The cumulative impact of these restrictions is significant. Scientists unable to keep up with what researchers in other countries are publishing are destined to be left behind, which is one reason China is having difficulty luring foreign scholars to its universities. Programmers who can't take advantage of the sites and tools that make development a global effort are destined to write software customized solely for the Chinese market. The author has raised several other reasons to make his case.

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Apple Warns Of Counterfeit Power Adapters and Batteries Following Lawsuit
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 09:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fake-products department:
Following a lawsuit revealed back in October in which Apple exposed an issue with a large percentage of fake Apple adapters being marketed as "genuine" online, today the company has posted an official warning to customers. From a report on 9to5Mac: The message, posted on the front page of the company's support webpage, warns customers that counterfeit power adapters and batteries could pose safety issues. The company also offers customers that might have had a recent battery replacement the option to bring in their devices to an Apple Store or authorized service provider to check if the battery is genuine.

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Malware Found In the Firmware of 26 Low-Cost Android Models
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 09:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
An anonymous reader writes: Security researchers have found malware hidden in the firmware of several low-end Android smartphones and tablets, malware which is used to show ads and install unwanted apps on the devices of unsuspecting users. 26 Android device models have been found to be vulnerable. The common link between all these devices is that all are low-cost devices, mostly marketed in Russia, and which run on MediaTek chipsets. According to security researchers from Dr.Web, a Russian antivirus vendor, the malware appears to have been added to the firmware by "dishonest outsourcers who took part in [the] creation of Android system images decided to make money on users." The security firm has informed MediaTek and the device vendors about this issue so the affected companies can inspect their distribution chain and find the possible culprits.

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Google Has Stopped Developing Its Own Self-Driving Car - Report
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 09:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-in-plans department:
Google has reportedly shelved its long-standing plan to develop its own autonomous vehicle in favor of pursuing partnerships with existing car makers. From an article on TechCrunch: The Information reports that Google's self-driving car unit -- known internally as Chauffeur -- is working with established automotive names to develop cars which will include some self-driving features, but won't ditch the steering wheel and pedal controls. The firm is already working with Fiat Chrysler, per a partnership announced in May, and that could be the start of others to come. Google first set out to do away with the steering wheel and pedals approach, but this backtrack is from Alphabet CEO Larry Page and CFO Ruth Porat who found the original approach to be "impractical," according to the report. That's despite Google's autonomous vehicles clocking over two million miles of tests on public roads.

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SWIFT Confirms New Cyber Thefts, Hacking Tactics
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 09:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's more-hacks department:
Cyber attacks targeting the global bank transfer system have succeeded in stealing funds since February's heist of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank as hackers have become more sophisticated in their tactics, according to a SWIFT official and a previously undisclosed letter the organization sent to banks worldwide. From a report on Reuters: The messaging network in a Nov. 2 letter seen by Reuters warned banks of the escalating threat to their systems, according to the SWIFT letter. The attacks and new hacking tactics underscore the continuing vulnerability of the SWIFT messaging network, which handles trillions of dollars in fund transfers daily. "The threat is very persistent, adaptive and sophisticated -- and it is here to stay," SWIFT said in the November letter to client banks, seen by Reuters. The disclosures provide fresh evidence that SWIFT remains at risk of attacks nearly a year after funds were stolen from a Bangladesh Bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The unprecedented cyber theft prompted regulators around the globe to tighten bank security requirements, amidst a global investigation by the FBI, Bangladesh authorities and Interpol.

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Microsoft To Bring Cortana To IoT Devices With Screens Next Year
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 06:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's imminent-plans department:
Microsoft plans to add Cortana support to Windows 10 IoT Core devices with screens as part of its Windows 10 Creators Update release. ZDNet adds: That's according to information Microsoft officials provided to the company's OEM partners at WinHEC 2016 in Shenzhen last week, in a session titled "Cortana and the Speech Platform." Microsoft Principal Program Manager May Ji outlined the ways that Microsoft wants its PC and device partners to make use of new "Wake on Voice from Modern Standby" and "Far-field Voice" support that's being added to Windows 10 with the Creators Update that's due out in the Spring of 2017. Wake on Voice from Modern Standby is a feature that allows Cortana to turn on PCs from off to a full-powered state on devices with Windows 10 "Modern Standby" power-management support. Far-field voice is what will allow Cortana to work in rooms with ambient noise at a distance of up to 13 feet/4 meters away.

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PwC Sends Legal Threats To Researchers Who Found Critical Security Flaw
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 06:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A security research firm has released details of a "critical" flaw in a security tool, despite being threatened with legal threats. The advisory said that an attacker could "manipulate accounting documents and financial results, bypass change management controls, and bypass segregation of duties restrictions," which could result in "fraud, theft or manipulation of sensitive data," as well as the "unauthorized payment transactions and transfer of money." An attacker could also add a backdoor to the affected server, the advisory said. The researchers contacted and met with PwC in August to discuss the scope of the flaw. As part of its responsible disclosure policy, the researchers gave PwC three months to fix the flaw before a public advisory would be published. Three days later, the corporate giant responded with legal threats. A portion of the cease-and-desist letter, seen by ZDNet, said that PwC demanded the researchers "not release a security advisory or similar information" relating to the buggy software. The legal threat also said that the researchers are not to "make any public statements or statements to users" of the software. The researchers told PwC that they would publicly disclose their findings once the three-month window expires, which is in line with industry standard disclosure practices. That was when PwC hit the security firm with a second cease-and-desist letter. Undeterred, the researchers released a security advisory a little over two weeks later.

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Quest Diagnostics Says Personal Health Information of 34,000 Customers Hacked
Posted by News Fetcher on December 13 '16 at 02:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's another-day-another-hack department:
Quest Diagnostics has said in a statement that a hack of an internet application on its network has exposed the personal health information of nearly 34,000 people. "Quest Diagnostics has notified affected individuals via mail and established a dedicated toll-free number to call with questions regarding this incident," the company said. CBS News reports: The Madison, New Jersey-based company says âoean unauthorized third partyâ on Nov. 26 gained access to customer information including names, dates of birth, lab results and in some instances, telephone numbers. The stolen data did not include Social Security numbers, credit card accounts, insurance details or any other financial information. Quest said Monday it is working with a cybersecurity firm and law enforcement to investigate the breach, while taking steps to prevent similar incidents from recurring. If you think you're affected by this hack, you can call (888) 320-9970.

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Rapid Rise In Methane Emissions In 10 Years Surprises Scientists
Posted by News Fetcher on December 12 '16 at 11:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's surprise-party department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane have surged in the past decade, threatening to thwart global attempts to combat climate change. Scientists have been surprised by the surge, which began just over 10 years ago in 2007 and then was boosted even further in 2014 and 2015. Concentrations of methane in the atmosphere over those two years alone rose by more than 20 parts per billion, bringing the total to 1,830ppb. This is a cause for alarm among global warming scientists because emissions of the gas warm the planet by more than 20 times as much as similar volumes of carbon dioxide. In the meantime, emissions of carbon dioxide -- the main component of manmade greenhouse gases in the atmosphere -- have been leveling off. The new research, published in the peer-review journal Environmental Research Letters, suggests that the world's attempts to control greenhouse gases have failed to take account of the startling rises in methane. The authors of the 2016 Global Methane Budget report found that in the early years of this century, concentrations of methane rose by only about 0.5ppb each year, compared with 10ppb in 2014 and 2015. The scientists speculate that agriculture may be the main source of the additional methane that has been recorded. However, they cannot be sure of all the sources, owing to a lack of monitoring. At least a third of methane comes from the exploitation of fossil fuels, including fracking and oil drilling and some coal mining, where methane is viewed as a waste gas and is frequently allowed to escape or, in some cases, flared off, which is less harmful. Unlike carbon dioxide emissions, however, which have been tracked in various ways since the 1950s, emissions of methane are poorly understood and could represent a threat that scientists have still not accounted for.

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Google, Cuba Sign Deal Allowing Faster Access To Company's Data
Posted by News Fetcher on December 12 '16 at 08:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's local-area-network department:
Google has signed a deal with the Cuban government on Monday that will grant internet users in the Communist-run country quicker access to its branded content. Google plans to install servers on the island that will store a majority of its most popular content. ABC News reports: Storing Google data in Cuba eliminates the long distances that signals must travel from the island through Venezuela to the nearest Google server. More than a half century after cutting virtually all economic ties with Cuba, the U.S. has no direct data link to the island. The deal announced Monday removes one of the many obstacles to a normal internet in Cuba, which suffers from some of the world's most limited and expensive access. Home connections remain illegal for most Cubans and the government charges the equivalent of a month's average salary for 10 hours of access to public WiFi spots with speeds frequently too slow to download files or watch streaming video. The deal does not affect Cuba's antiquated communications infrastructure or broaden public access to the internet, but it could make Google websites like YouTube or Gmail up to 10 times faster for users inside Cuba. Content hosted by other companies will not be affected.

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Fossil Fuel Divestment Has Doubled In the Last 15 Months
Posted by News Fetcher on December 12 '16 at 05:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's clean-energy department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A little over a year ago, it was big news that thousands of people and hundreds of institutions controlling more than $2.6 trillion in total assets had pledged to remove their investments from stocks, mutual funds, and bonds that invest in fossil fuel companies. A year later, that number has doubled. According to a report by DivestInvest, a philanthropy helping to lead the movement, more than 688 institutions and 60,000 individual investors worth $5.2 trillion have pulled their investments from fossil fuel companies and have reinvested a portion of their assets into clean energy companies. In September 2015, 436 institutions and 2,040 individuals worth $2.6 trillion had divested. For comparison, the total net worth of investors who had pulled out of the fossil fuel market was just $52 billion in September 2014. Divestment is increasingly seen as one of the stronger moves that private citizens and companies can take to support the move to clean energy. The movement started in earnest in 2011 when college students began petitioning their institutions to remove their assets from stocks, bonds, and mutual funds that invest in fossil fuel companies. What was seen as a gimmick at the time appears to be gaining real momentum a year after the Paris Climate Treaty was signed.

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Disney IT Workers, In Lawsuit, Claim Discrimination Against Americans
Posted by News Fetcher on December 12 '16 at 05:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's one-party-to-another department:
dcblogs quotes a report from Computerworld: After Disney IT workers were told in October 2014 of the plan to use offshore outsourcing firms, employees said the workplace changed. The number of South Asian workers in Disney technology buildings increased, and some workers had to train H-1B-visa-holding replacements. Approximately 250 IT workers were laid off in January 2015. Now 30 of these employees filed a lawsuit on Monday in U.S. District Court in Orlando, alleging discrimination on the basis of national origin and race. The Disney IT employees, said Sara Blackwell, a Florida labor attorney who is representing this group, "lost their jobs when their jobs were outsourced to contracting companies. And those companies brought in mostly, or virtually all, non-American national origin workers," she said. The lawsuit alleges that Disney terminated the employment of the plaintiffs "based solely on their national origin and race, replacing them with Indian nationals." The people who were laid off were multiple races, but the people who came in were mostly one race, said Blackwell. The lawsuit alleges that Disney terminated the employment of the plaintiffs "based solely on their national origin and race, replacing them with Indian nationals."

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EFF: The Music Industry Shouldn't Be Able To Cut Off Your Internet Access
Posted by News Fetcher on December 12 '16 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's few-and-far-between department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electronic Frontier Foundation: No one should have to fear losing their internet connection because of unfounded accusations. But some rights holders want to use copyright law to force your Internet service provider (ISP) to cut off your access whenever they say so, and in a case the Washington Post called "the copyright case that should worry all Internet providers," they're hoping the courts will help them. We first wrote about this case -- BMG v. Cox Communications -- when it was filed back in 2014, and last month, EFF, Public Knowledge (PK), and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) urged the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to overturn a ruling that ISP Cox Communications was liable for copyright infringement. EFF, PK and CDT advised the court to consider the importance of Internet access in daily life in determining when copyright law requires an ISP to cut off someone's Internet subscription. The case turns in part on a provision in copyright law that gives internet intermediaries a safe harbor -- legal protection against some copyright infringement lawsuits -- provided they follow certain procedures. Online platforms like Facebook and YouTube, along with other internet intermediaries, have to "reasonably implement" a policy for terminating "subscribers and account holders" that are "repeat infringers" in "appropriate circumstances." But given the importance of Internet access, the circumstances where it's appropriate to cut off a home Internet subscription entirely are few and far between. The law as written is flexible enough that providers can design and implement policies that make sense for the nature of their service and their subscribers' circumstances. A repeat infringer policy for the company that provides your link to the Internet as a whole should take into account the essential nature of internet access and the severe harm caused by disconnection. But music publisher BMG wants to use this provision to force ISPs to become tougher enforcers of copyright law. According to BMG, ISPs should be required both to forward rights holders' threatening demand letters to their subscribers and terminate a subscriber's Internet access whenever rights holders allege that person has repeatedly violated copyright law. A subscriber is a "repeat infringer" and subject to termination, they argue, whenever they say so. Cox's appeal of the ruling raises two very important issues: (1) Who should be considered a "repeat infringer" who should be cut off from the Internet, and (2) whether ISPs must either cede to rights holders' demands or monitor their subscribers' internet habits to avoid liability. Slashdot reader waspleg adds: Two landmark Supreme Court cases, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., and Sony Corp. of America v. Universal Studios made clear that if a service is capable of significant lawful uses, and the provider doesn't actively encourage users to commit copyright infringement, the provider shouldn't be held responsible when someone nonetheless uses the service unlawfully.

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Panasonic's New Shopping System Automatically Bags, Tallies Your Bill
Posted by News Fetcher on December 12 '16 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's retail-automation department:
The Wall Street Journal is reporting (Warning: paywalled; alternate source) that Panasonic is "introducing convenience-store checkout machines that can scan and bag items on their own, joining Amazon.com Inc. in the push for more retail automation." The machines will also tally up the total amount owed at checkout so that all you have to do is pay. TechCrunch reports: Last week, Amazon revealed its own more frictionless convenience store pilot, with a location that lets shoppers simply walk out with whatever they want to purchase, for which they're charged automatically via their Amazon account. The Panasonic system uses tags applied to the goods you pick up to tally the cost as you shop, and then automatically bags your selections via a trap-door in the counter that accepts your basket when you're ready to go. It could help with lines, and could also help address some of the issues with current self-checkout system, which require a user to scan their own items to find out their bill prior to paying. That added step may seem small, but it actually causes a lot of headaches and hangups, especially with shoppers who aren't so comfortable with tech. Panasonic's setup is already in use at a Lawson convenience store near its Osaka HQ, but the broader rollout is still a while off.

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First Version of Sandboxed Tor Browser Available
Posted by News Fetcher on December 12 '16 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's separate-entity department:
An anonymous reader writes: To protect Tor users from FBI hacking tools that include all sorts of Firefox zero-days, the Tor Project started working on a sandboxed version of the Tor Browser in September. Over the weekend, the Tor Project released the first alpha version of the sandboxed Tor Browser. "Currently, this version is in an early alpha stage, and only available for Linux," reports BleepingComputer. "There are also no binaries available, and users must compile it themselves from the source code, which they can grab from here." The report notes: "Sandboxing is a security mechanism employed to separate running processes. In computer security, sandboxing an application means separating its process from the OS, so vulnerabilities in that app can't be leveraged to extend access to the underlying operating system. This is because the sandboxed application works with its own separate portion of disk and memory that isn't linked with the OS."

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Xbox One Games Arrive On Oculus Rift With New Streaming App
Posted by News Fetcher on December 12 '16 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's comfort-of-your-couch department:
Microsoft has released its Xbox One streaming app to the Oculus Store today, allowing Xbox One owners to stream games to their Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset via a Windows 10 PC. The Verge reports: The app itself looks just like the Windows 10 version of Xbox streaming, with the ability to select different consoles on a network before streams are launched. Microsoft has also added the ability to open the Xbox One guide and control the orientation of games in the virtual environment. If you're interested in streaming Xbox One games to the Oculus Rift then you'll need a Windows PC to take advantage of the streaming, and games will be streamed directly from a console that's powered on and not in use. The Xbox streaming app is available immediately in the Oculus Store. The streaming app is a far cry from full VR gaming, but the app will let you simulate playing games on a large screen in a virtual environment. "Whether you're taking on Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, or any other Xbox One game, you'll be able to play in three different environments from the start -- each titled 'Citadel,' 'Retreat,' and 'Dome,'" reports Windows Central.

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