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The New 'Red Dead Redemption' Reveals the Biggest Problem With Marquee Games Today: They're Boring as Hell.
Posted by News Fetcher on March 01 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
An anonymous reader shares a column: Everything about "Red Dead Redemption 2" is big. The latest open-world western, released in October by Rockstar Games, constantly reminds you of this. It takes roughly 15 minutes for its bland everycowboy star, Arthur Morgan, to gallop across the 29-square-mile map. It has 200 species of animals, including grizzly bears, alligators, and a surprising number of birds. It takes about 45.5 hours to play through the main quest, and 150-plus hours to reach 100 percent completion. There are more than 50 weapons to choose from, such as a double-barreled shotgun and a rusty hatchet. It's big, big, big.

[...] On top of all the bigness, "Red Dead Redemption 2" is also incredibly dull. I've been playing it off and on since it was released, and I'm still waiting for it to get fun. I'm not alone in thinking so -- Mark Brown of Game Maker's Toolkit called it "quite boring" and Mashable said it's a "monumental disappointment." There are a glut of Reddit posts from people complaining about how slow the game feels, usually with a tone of extreme self-consciousness. Unless you're a real a**hole, it's not exactly fun to stray from popular consensus. Perhaps the general hesitancy to criticize the game is due to the fact that it's not technically bad. Its graphics and scale really are impressive. It is designed to please.

And yet "RDR2" seems to exemplify a certain kind of hollowness that's now standard among Triple-A titles. It's very big, with only tedium inside. Call it a Real World Game. The main problem with "RDR2" is that it's comprised almost entirely of tedious, mandatory chores. It always feels like it's stalling for time, trying to juke the number of hours it takes to complete it.

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University of California Boycotts Publishing Giant Elsevier Over Journal Costs and Open Access
Posted by News Fetcher on March 01 '19 at 07:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
The mammoth University of California (UC) system announced this week that it will stop paying to subscribe to journals published by Elsevier, the world's largest scientific publisher. From a report: Talks to renew a collective contract broke down, the university said, because Elsevier refused to strike a package deal that would provide a break on subscription fees and make all articles published by UC authors immediately free for readers worldwide. The stand by UC, which followed eight months of negotiations, could have significant impacts on scientific communication and the direction of the so-called open access movement, in the United States and beyond. The 10-campus system accounts for nearly 10 percent of all U.S. publishing output and is among the first American institutions, and by far the largest, to boycott Elsevier over costs. Many administrators and librarians at American universities and elsewhere have complained about what they view as excessively high journal subscription fees charged by commercial publishers.

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Shared Scooters Don't Last Long
Posted by News Fetcher on March 01 '19 at 07:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Alison Griswold, writes on her newsletter Oversharing: I took a look at data on scooter rides in Louisville, Kentucky, shared online as part of the city's open data policy. The latest data is available here. The data set I used was older and included monthly data on scooter trips from August through December. It also included a unique "ID" for each scooter, a detail that was key to my analysis and has been stripped out of subsequent data sets published by Louisville. The data doesn't differentiate between Bird and Lime, but as Bird started operations in August 2018 and Lime that November, you can assume it skews toward Bird.

With that preamble, here are some things I found: The average lifespan of a scooter in Louisville from August to December was 28 days. Median lifespan was 23 days. If you stripped out scooter IDs that first appeared in December, to focus on older vehicles, the average lifespan increased slightly to 32 days and the median lifespan to 28 days. Still stripping out scooter IDs that started in December, the median scooter took 70 trips over 85 miles.

Scooter lifespan is a key factor in scooter unit economics, as you may recall. The more trips and miles a single scooter can cover, the better for shared scooter companies, which have to recoup the cost of each vehicle before they can start making any money. In October, The Information reported that Bird was spending $551 per scooter with a goal of reducing that cost to $360. At the time, I said that meant Bird needed five rides a day on a $551 scooter for 5.25 months just to recoup the initial cost. The picture painted by the Louisville data is even worse.

< article continued at Slashdot's closer-look department >

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Twitter Confirms It's Working On a 'Hide Tweet' Feature
Posted by News Fetcher on March 01 '19 at 05:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's click-to-reveal department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Twitter today confirmed it's developing a new "Hide Tweet" feature, which it says will give users another option to protect their conversations. The option, spotted in Twitter's code, is available from a list of moderation choices that appear when you click the "Share" button on a tweet -- a button whose icon has also been given a refresh, it seems. Like it sounds, "Hide Tweet" functions as an alternative to muting or blocking a user, while still offering some control over a conversation. Related to this, an option to "View Hidden Tweets" was also found to be in the works. This allows a user to unhide those tweets that were previously hidden by the original poster.

Immediately, there were concerns that an option like this would allow users to silence their critics -- not just for themselves, as is possible today with muting and blocking -- but for anyone reading through a stream of Twitter Replies. Imagine, for example, if a controversial politician began to hide tweets they didn't like or those that contradicted an outrageous claim with a fact check, people said. It also requires the user to click to view the Replies that were hidden, which some users may not know to do and others may not bother to do. They may then miss out on an important point in the conversation, or a critical fact check. On the flip side, putting the original poster back in control of which Replies are visible may allow people to feel more comfortable with sharing on Twitter, which could impact user growth -- a number Twitter struggles with today. And it could encourage people to debate things with less vitriol, knowing that their nastier tweets could get hidden view. The "Hide Tweet" feature was first discovered by Jane Manchun Wong.

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Folding iPhone Patent Application Shows How the Company Could Prevent Damage In Cold Weather
Posted by News Fetcher on March 01 '19 at 03:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's clever-thinking department:
A new patent application from Apple, titled "Electronic Devices with Flexible Displays," describes how the company could prevent foldable smartphone displays from getting damaged in extreme temperatures. "While at or in the region of typical temperatures hospitable to humans, folding systems may work fine, but adhesives and other elements used in a device's production may become more resistant to flexing at cold temperatures, which could cause unwanted wear or damage to the display if attempted in such conditions," reports AppleInsider. "To mitigate the cold temperature, Apple simply suggests there should be some way to warm up the area of the display panel where the bend takes place." From the report: As part of Apple's solution, an onboard temperature sensor is used to determine how warm the device is, and whether or not there is any danger to allowing the screen to be flexed by the user. The warming process itself can be performed by a heating element located near to the section that bends the most, with heat conductors transferring the warmth to where it is required. A heating element may not be practical to add to such a device, which has led to Apple suggesting an alternative, namely using the heat generated by illuminating the screen. To do this, a screensaver could be used that concentrates most on the bent section, such as by making it brighter and lit up more than the rest of the screen.

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Nanotechnology Makes It Possible For Mice To See In Infrared
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's promising-findings department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceDaily: Humans and other mammals are limited to seeing a range of wavelengths of light called visible light, which includes the wavelengths of the rainbow. But infrared radiation, which has a longer wavelength, is all around us. People, animals and objects emit infrared light as they give off heat, and objects can also reflect infrared light. A multidisciplinary group of scientists led by Xue and Jin Bao at the University of Science and Technology of China as well as Gang Han at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, developed the nanotechnology to work with the eye's existing structures.

In this study, the scientists made nanoparticles that can anchor tightly to photoreceptor cells and act as tiny infrared light transducers. When infrared light hits the retina, the nanoparticles capture the longer infrared wavelengths and emit shorter wavelengths within the visible light range. The nearby rod or cone then absorbs the shorter wavelength and sends a normal signal to the brain, as if visible light had hit the retina. "In our experiment, nanoparticles absorbed infrared light around 980 nm in wavelength and converted it into light peaked at 535 nm, which made the infrared light appear as the color green," said one of the researchers. The researchers tested the nanoparticles in mice, which, like humans, cannot see infrared naturally. Mice that received the injections showed unconscious physical signs that they were detecting infrared light, such as their pupils constricting, while mice injected with only the buffer solution didn't respond to infrared light. The study was published in the journal Cell.

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Prominent New Yorkers Are Trying To Get Amazon To Bring Back HQ2
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 08:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes-efforts department:
The New York Times reported Thursday that an open letter will be published in the Times on Friday that asks Amazon to reconsider its decision to walk away from its plan to build a 25,000-employee campus in Long Island City, Queens. The company pulled the plug on the project, dubbed HQ2, following vocal and persistent opposition to the plan after it was announced three months ago. CNET reports: The letter was signed by the CEOs of Mastercard, Warby Parker, Goldman Sachs, Tishman Speyer and Jetblue, among others. The presidents of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and state AFL-CIO, which were expecting thousands of construction jobs to come from the project, also signed, as did U.S. Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Carolyn Maloney. "We know the public debate that followed the announcement of the Long Island City project was rough and not very welcoming," the letter stated. "Opinions are strong in New York -- sometimes strident. We consider it part of the New York charm! But when we commit to a project as important as this, we figure out how to get it done in a way that works for everyone."

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$200 Million Dollars a Year Could Reverse Climate Change, Says Wave Energy Pioneer
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's but-at-what-cost department:
dryriver writes: BBC Future reports on a geoengineering technique called "marine cloud brightening" that makes marine Stratocumulus clouds -- which currently reflect almost 30% of total Solar radiation back into space -- whiter, causing them to reflect more sunlight away from earth. Professor Stephen Salter of Edinburgh University, a well-known 1970s wave and tidal power pioneer, has designed an unmanned hydro-foil ship, computer-controlled and wind-powered, which pumps an ultra-fine mist of sea salt toward the cloud layer, causing it to turn white: "'Spraying about 10 cubic meters per second could undo all the [global warming] damage we've done to the world up until now,' Salter claims. And, he says, the annual cost would be less than the cost to host the annual UN Climate Conference -- between $100-$200 million each year. Salter calculates that a fleet of 300 of his autonomous ships could reduce global temperatures by 1.5C. He also believes that smaller fleets could be deployed to counter-act regional extreme weather events. Hurricane seasons and El Nino, exacerbated by high sea temperatures, could be tamed by targeted cooling via marine cloud brightening. Salter boasts that 160 of his ships could 'moderate an El Nino event, and a few hundred [would] stop hurricanes.' The same could be done, he says, to protect large coral reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef, and even cool the polar regions to allow sea ice to return. So, what's the catch? Well, there's a very big catch indeed. The potential side-effects of solar geoengineering on the scale needed to slow hurricanes or cool global temperatures are not well understood. According to various theories, it could prompt droughts, flooding, and catastrophic crop failures. Another major concern is that geoengineering could be used as an excuse to slow down emissions reduction, meaning CO2 levels continue to rise and oceans continue to acidify -- which, of course, brings its own serious problems."

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Elasticsearch Clusters Face Attacks From Multiple Hacker Groups
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-to-update department:
itwbennett writes: If you're running Elasticsearch 1.4.2 and lower, you should make sure your patches are up to date. That's because researchers from Cisco's Talos group have "detected an increase in attacks targeting unsecured Elasticsearch clusters." At least six different groups are responsible for the increase, each deploying different malware, but regardless of the method, the potential impact of a breach is huge because Elasticsearch is designed to work with big data and companies use it to process sensitive data. "Given the size and sensitivity of the data sets these clusters contain, the impact of a breach of this nature could be severe," the Talos researchers warned.

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Facebook Is Working On a New Cryptocurrency For WhatsApp Payments
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's alternative-world-of-digital-coins department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Some of the world's biggest internet messaging companies are hoping to succeed where cryptocurrency start-ups have failed by introducing mainstream consumers to the alternative world of digital coins. The internet outfits, including Facebook, Telegram and Signal, are planning to roll out new cryptocurrencies over the next year that are meant to allow users to send money to contacts on their messaging systems, like a Venmo or PayPal that can move across international borders. The most anticipated but secretive project is underway at Facebook. The company is working on a coin that users of WhatsApp, which Facebook owns, could send to friends and family instantly.

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Tesla Will Close Most of Its Stores, Only Sell Cars Online
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's financially-stable department:
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a call with reporters Thursday that the company will only sell its vehicles online. As a result, the electric carmaker will close most of its stores over the "next few months." The Verge reports: Tesla will keep some of its retail locations open, which the company described as "a small number of stores in high-traffic locations remaining as galleries, showcases and Tesla information centers." The decision to shift away from brick-and-mortar retail is necessary if the company is to remain financially sustainable, Tesla said. The company's finances have stabilized somewhat in recent months, but Tesla still operates on very tight margins. Tesla said in a blog post: "You can now buy a Tesla in North America via your phone in about 1 minute, and that capability will soon be extended worldwide. We are also making it much easier to try out and return a Tesla, so that a test drive prior to purchase isn't needed. You can now return a car within 7 days or 1,000 miles for a full refund. Quite literally, you could buy a Tesla, drive several hundred miles for a weekend road trip with friends and then return it for free."
The company announced the move at the same time it said it will finally begin to sell its long-promised $35,000 Model 3.

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Tesla Launches Base Model 3 For $35,000 With Shorter Range, New Interior
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-late-than-never department:
In a call with reporters Thursday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company is finally launching the long-promised standard Model 3 with a base price of $35,000. "The automaker is now making several new versions of the Model 3 available with a shorter range and new interior options," reports Electrek. From the report: Today, Tesla sent an email to its retail stores the details of the announcement of the new options being available to order in the U.S. today and available as soon as next month. All the details are expected to become available in the next hour, but here's what we know so far: Customers are now able to order the $35,000 Model 3 with a standard interior and standard battery pack enabling 130mph top speed and 5.6s 0-60s acceleration. Tesla is also making a new "Partial Premium Interior" with better seats than the standard interior available with a different "standard range plus" battery pack for a $2,000 premium. The Model 3 Standard Range Plus results in 240 miles of range, a top speed of 140mph, 0-60mph acceleration of just 5.3 seconds. Tesla says that deliveries are starting within the next 2 to 4 weeks depending on the configuration in the U.S. In Europe, Musk said it will be available to order within the "next 3 to 6 months."

Slashdot reader Rei provides additional details: The new unveiling introduced a whole slew of variants, including (price, range, top speed, 0-60, premium):

SR: $35K, 220 miles, 130mph, 5.6 seconds, non-PUP
SR+: $37K, 240 miles, 140mph, 5.3 seconds, partial-PUP
MR: $40K, 264 miles, 140mph, 5.2 seconds, PUP
LR: $43K, 325 miles, 140mph, 5.0 seconds, PUP
AWD: $47K, 310 miles, 145mph, 4.5 seconds, PUP
P: $48K, 310 miles, 162mph, 3.2 seconds, PUP

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The Volvo Polestar 2 Is the First Google-Powered, All-Electric Car
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's natively-supported department:
The Polestar 2 is the first all-electric car from Volvo, and the first car to feature Google's new native version of Android Auto. Billed as a competitor to Tesla's Model 3, "the Polestar 2 should be able to travel up to 275 miles (about 443 kilometers) on a single charge thanks to a 78kWh battery that makes up the entire floor of the car," reports The Verge. "It will be quick, too; Polestar says there's 300kW (about 408 horsepower) to play with, spread across dual electric motors. That all-wheel drive power should help the car get from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 5 seconds." From the report: All this will eventually cost about 39,900 euros, or about $45,000, at the cheapest. Polestar will sell versions of the car that cost as much as 59,900 euros, or about $68,000. But none of that will happen until the second year of production. The version available when the car launches later this year will cost $63,000, and Polestar will make only that "launch edition" car for the first 12 months. Pre-orders are open now, and production begins next year in China (where Volvo's Chinese parent company Geely is headquartered). Polestar's launching the car with in an ambitious slate of markets, too: China, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Belgium.
[...]
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Mozilla Updates Common Voice Dataset With 1,400 Hours of Speech Across 18 Languages
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 03:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's greater-good department:
Mozilla wants to make it easier for startups, researchers, and hobbyists to build voice-enabled apps, services, and devices. From a report: Toward that end, it's today releasing the latest version of Common Voice, its open source collection of transcribed voice data that now comprises over 1,400 hours of voice samples from 42,000 contributors across 18 languages, including English, French, German, Dutch, Hakha-Chin, Esperanto, Farsi, Basque, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Welsh, and Kabyle. It's one of the largest multi-language dataset of its kind, Mozilla claims -- substantially larger than the Common Voice corpus it made publicly available eight months ago, which contained 500 hours (400,000 recordings) from 20,000 volunteers in English -- and the corpus will soon grow larger still. The organization says that data collection efforts in 70 languages are actively underway via the Common Voice website and mobile apps.

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Anti-Cheat Software Causing Big Problems For Windows 10 Previews
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 01:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's moths-old-problems department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Windows 10 Insider Preview Slow Ring -- the beta track that's meant to receive only those builds that are free from any known serious problems -- hasn't received an update for months. While the fast ring is currently testing previews of the April 2019 release, codenamed 19H1, and the even-faster skip-ahead ring is testing previews not of the October 2019 release, 19H2, but of the April 2020 release, 20H1, the Slow Ring is yet to receive a single 19H1 build. This has prompted some concern among insiders that perhaps the ring has been forgotten about, and it has even caused a few complaints from companies that are using the Windows Insider for Business program to validate new Windows releases before their launch. Without Slow Ring builds to test, there's nothing to validate, meaning that they'll have to delay deployment of 19H1 once it ships.

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US Companies Put Record Number of Robots To Work in 2018
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 01:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's automation-gains-greater-ground department:
U.S. companies installed more robots last year than ever before, as cheaper and more flexible machines put them within reach of businesses of all sizes and in more corners of the economy beyond their traditional foothold in car plants. From a report: Shipments hit 28,478, nearly 16 percent more than in 2017, according to data seen by Reuters that was set for release on Thursday by the Association for Advancing Automation, an industry group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Shipments increased in every sector the group tracks, except automotive, where carmakers cut back after finishing a major round of tooling up for new truck models.

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US Bars Lithium-ion Batteries From Passenger Aircraft Cargo
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's greater-good department:
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration have issued new rules designed to protect air passengers from the potential dangers of lithium ion batteries. From a report: The new Transportation Department rules come after Congress last year directed the agency to adopt the new rules. The new restriction doesn't apply to passengers or crew bringing electronics aboard aircraft. "This rule will strengthen safety for the traveling public by addressing the unique challenges lithium batteries pose in transportation," US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said in a statement. In the past couple of years, the use of lithium-ion batteries has been linked to fires and spewing smoke in a slew of products, including Samsung's now-canceled Galaxy Note 7, hoverboards and Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

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YouTube Will Disable Comments on Nearly All Videos With Kids
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-development department:
YouTube said today it will disable the ability for viewers to leave comments on most videos featuring minors, as it tries to contain the damage from a scandal involving child predators leaving coded sexual comments on the site. From a report: YouTube said in a blog post Thursday that over the past week it had already disabled comments from "tens of millions of videos" that could be subject to predatory behavior. Now, it will expand that to suspend comments on virtually all videos featuring young minors, as well as videos featuring older kids that "could be at risk of attracting predatory behavior." In a tweet, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki linked to the update and explained the change: "Recently, there have been some deeply concerning incidents regarding child safety on YouTube. Nothing is more important to us than ensuring the safety of young people on the platform."

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Senate Confirms Former Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler To Lead EPA
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's breaking-news department:
The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, ratifying President Trump's choice of a former advocate for business interests to lead the agency. From a report: Wheeler, also a former Republican Senate aide on environmental issues, has been acting administrator since July, when former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned amid a host of ethics controversies. Since Wheeler began leading the agency, he has continued work on many of the same priorities as his predecessor, including looking to roll back Obama-era air and water pollution regulations. But Wheeler has brought a level of stability to the agency that didn't exist under Pruitt, keeping a relatively low profile while continuing to make progress towards meeting the Trump administration's policy goals for the agency. He has met often with industry representatives. Wheeler attended or held more than 50 meetings with representatives of companies or industry groups regulated by the EPA between April and August of 2018, a CNN review of his internal schedules found.

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Netflix is Testing Even More Expensive Subscription Prices
Posted by News Fetcher on February 28 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Every once in a while, we see Netflix test new plans in certain markets, and most of them involve price hikes. The same goes for the latest test that was spotted over in Italy, where the streaming giant is toying with a couple of different scenarios. First spotted by Italian-language blog SmartWorld, the tests suggest that Netflix is toying with the idea of either raising Standard and Premium subscription, or increasing all of its prices across the board.

Right now the default monthly Netflix streaming prices for Italy and other countries in the European Union are at Euro 7.99, or ~$9.1 (Base), Euro 10.99, or ~$12.5 (Standard), and Euro 13.99, or $16 (Premium). One of the tests that Netflix is currently conducting proposes that the Base subscription stays the same, but the Standard and Premium plans go up to Euro 12.99, or ~$14.8 and Euro 17.99, or ~$20.5 respectively.

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