BPainter Add-on Extends Painting in Blender

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2017 - 11:03 PM |
Tagged: Blender

These days, 3D content is created mostly by blocking out geometry, then painting materials onto it with stencils and stamps. For instance, if you wanted a rusty sign, you would start with a metal base, stencil on the logo, then paint, stamp, or stencil rust spots, scratches, and whatever else. When you’re done, you can then export the resulting, 2D textures. Previously, you would bounce back and forth between Photoshop and your 3D application, trying to remember which edge on your UV outline corresponds to which triangles on the model.

While this Blender Plug-in doesn’t have the same benefits as something like Substance Painter, and its library of PBR materials, BPainter can allow you to paint separate layers and channels on your 3D model. In other words, you can paint scratches and scuffs into the roughness channel, and colors into the albedo channel, directly on top of your model, which immediately shows you the results in your scene’s lighting. Again, this is less direct than “select steel from material library” “fill steel on object” “select rusted steel from material library” “paint rusted steel on object” but it’s a welcome plug-in none-the-less.

Unless one has been announced in the last week, there is currently no release date for BPainter. Their last plug-in, Asset Sketcher, was released under the GPL license.

Steam Client Can Now Move Game Installations

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2017 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: valve, pc gaming, steam

A little late on this one, but it’s been on my backlog for quite a while and I think it’s worthy of “public service announcement” status. Last week, Valve published a new Steam Client feature that allows users to relocate specific games to other folders. Just right-click on any installed games, click “Properties”, click the “Local Files” tab, then click “Move Install Folder...”.

Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinallyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

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Yup!

So yeah, if you want to switch games to and from an SSD, the Steam Client can do it for you. You could always do it by shutting down Steam Client, moving the folder between two folders that Steam tracks, and restarting the client. I have experienced some situations where the Steam Client then looks at the files, determines that they’re invalid, and redownloads them. While I that just happened to align with a new patch or something, it’s a moot point now that Steam Client just does it for you.

So yeah, if you didn’t already find out about this: enjoy.

Firefox 51 and Chrome 56 Launch with WebGL 2.0

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2017 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: webgl, webgl2, firefox, chrome, google, mozilla, Opera

After quite a bit of anticipation, both Mozilla and Google have just shipped compatible implementations of WebGL 2. This feature was unlocked to the public in Firefox 51 and Chrome 56 for the desktop, both released this week, while Opera will push it out to desktop and mobile on their next version, Opera 43. Microsoft currently has the API “under consideration” for Edge.

As we’ve highlighted in the past, this new version of the graphics API pushes the platform up to OpenGL ES 3.0, with a few exceptions that are typically made for security reasons. This update allows quite a few new features like off-screen render targets, which is useful for deferred rendering. The shading language is also significantly larger, and can now operate natively on integer types and 3D textures.

WebGL 2.0 does not include compute shaders, however, which is a bit unfortunate. That said, it is (at least last I checked) a highly-requested feature and the browser vendors are interested in providing it.

Learn about holography

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2017 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: holography

Ars Technica takes a look at a recent breakthrough in projecting dynamic holograms which can be viewed from a wide variety of angles.  This has been something which has been very difficult to achieve, for reasons which Ars articulates, but which researchers have managed to accomplish with the use of clouded glass.  You usually see that type of glass used to obscure light, for instance to offer privacy when in the bathroom but when designed correctly it can instead act as a large number of lenses project a focused holographic image. There is still a lot of work to be done to scale the holograms to a size and resolution which would be attractive for commercial usage but you can read up on the current state of the research if you are curious.

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"Sometimes it amazes me how fast physics goes from fundamental ideas to producing a new toy. The latest example comes from a bunch of experiments and theory on how opaque materials affect light passing through them, a topic that we have covered extensively in the past."

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Source: Ars Technica

Optical disillusion; Microsoft's HoloLens

Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2017 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, hololens

Microsoft seems to be exploring new territory, previously reserved for those who need a nice mouse or headphones with the pure sound of platinum.  Their HoloLens has been available for several months and they have managed to sell several thousand of them in that time.   Roger Walkden, the commercial lead for HoloLens spoke with The Register and stated that he is happy with the amount of sales so far.  While you cannot expect a headset costing well over $2000 to have large commercial appeal, the pittance of sales of the HoloLens so far makes you wonder if they have misjudged the market.  Then again, maybe we will be seeing Windows 11 Rhodium Exclusive Edition on offer for a select few.

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"The Microsoft HoloLens, Judge Dredd-style "mixed reality" headset, went on sale in the UK last year, with the firm offering a developer-only version for £2,179, and an enterprised-focused model for £4,529."

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Source: The Register

For those who like it longer and harder; XCOM 2: The Long War

Subject: General Tech | January 25, 2017 - 02:35 PM |
Tagged: gaming, xcom 2, the long war 2, Pavonis Interactive

Pavonis Interactive have come through once again for XCOM fans, with the release of the Long War 2 mod, available for download though Steam.  It adds many things other than simply length to your game, such as an infiltration stage to missions which represents the amount of groundwork done by your team before the mission.  If you can reach 100% then Advent forces will be at a disadvantage, if you do not have time to fully prepare you can expect to face stronger opposition.  If you have enough active forces, you can choose to split them between two simultaneous mission instead of having to choose one mission while ignoring the other.  If this peaks your curiosity, pop over to Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN for a deeper look into the changes this mod makes to XCOM 2.

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"From the very first mission of The Long War 2, the stakes are different. Your enlarged squad isn’t doing anything as brash as blowing up an Advent statue; instead, they’ve managed to track down an under-strength patrol and are determined to take it down."

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If you hate Windows 10, stop whining and start WINE-ing

Subject: General Tech | January 25, 2017 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: apple, wine, linux, windows 10, mac

So much for your excuses, if you have sworn that you are abandoning Microsoft because of Windows 10 then start migrating to Mac or Linux and shrink their market share.  Wine 2.0 just dropped, allowing you to continue to use your Windows programs and play your games on Mac or Linux.  Shader Model 4 and 5 support has been improved, DX9, Direct3D 10 and Direct3D 11 all are improved or added for your visual enjoyment.  If you want to make a statement to Microsoft then hit them where it hurts and head over to Slashdot to start your journey onto a competitors OS.

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"It's finally here! After so many months of development and hard work, during which over 6,600 bugs have been patched, the Wine project is happy to announce today, January 24, 2017, the general availability of Wine 2.0. Wine 2.0 is the biggest and most complete version of the open-source software project that allows Linux and macOS users to run applications and games designed only for Microsoft Windows operating systems."

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Source: Slashdot

Dropbox now offering randomly accessible memories

Subject: General Tech | January 24, 2017 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: security, dropbox

Dropbox has been around long enough that you see it used in a variety of situations, sharing recipes, press releases and holiday snaps, all perfectly reasonable scenarios.  Unfortunately you also see it used as an alternative to SFTP in business, as some clients and executives are less afraid of the pretty blue colours than they are of the folder lists and text that FTP programs present. 

This can present a security problem and possible legal risk as the terms and conditions Dropbox sets may not exactly match what you and your client agreed to.  Case and point today is the news that many users were gifted with a trip down memory lane as files deleted from Dropbox years ago suddenly made a reappearance.  Dropbox states in their retention policy that files which are deleted should be unrecoverable after 30 days but it seems we have more proof that the Cloud never truly forgets.  Think back to what you, or people you know, might have shared on Dropbox and consider it coming back to haunt you a decade down the line before you upload.  You can follow the links from [H]ard|OCP back to the initial forum report and Dropbox's response.

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"This article is merely entertaining if you stay within the headline, but it becomes disturbing once you get into the story and realize that Dropbox’s policy is to keep deleted files only for 30 days. Ever the cynic, I will go ahead and consider the possibility that the file hosting service has been consciously keeping files around forever."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

SteelSeries' Apex M500 keyboard, simple yet effective

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2017 - 02:21 PM |
Tagged: input, steelseries, apex M500, mechanical keyboard, cherry mx red, cherry mx blue

SteelSeries offers their Apex M500 mechanical keyboard in Cherry MX Blue and Red flavours, so if you are a fan of Brown switches you are out of luck.  The colourblindness also extends to the LEDs, which can only do blue, however that blue is rather rich as there is a blue backplate underneath the keys to enhance the look.   The Tech Report appreciated that the software for this keyboard is entirely optional, if you have no plans on creating macros you can skip it altogether; those who do create macros will have no troubles setting up their preferred programming.  Pop on by for a full look at the review.

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"SteelSeries' Apex M500 keyboard ditches RGB LED backlighting and complicated software for a simple look and feel pinned on the quality typing experience of Cherry MX Red or MX Blue switches. We got in many hours of gaming on this board to see whether it lives up to its $100 price tag."

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Symantec's Sorta Secure Sockets Layer

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2017 - 12:21 PM |
Tagged: SSL, security, symantec

Symantec may not have chosen their partners wisely as once again we see some questionable SSL certs being released into the wild by one of their audited partners.  For a while last week, some rather questionable domains had Symantec issued SSLs, offering a wide variety of possible attack vectors for anyone nefarious enough to take advantage of the fact.  Thankfully this does not happen often, though The Inquirer points out that it is nothing new, as it casts doubt on how secure an SSL site actually is.  Symantec promises to investigate what happened and release that information publicly; we can only hope they also learn from it.

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"Andrew Ayer of certificate vendor and wrangler SSLMate went public with his discovery last week. The mis-issued certs were issued for example.com, and a bunch of variations of test.com (test1.com, test2.com and so on)."

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Source: The Register

Mushkin Enters Peripheral Market With Carbon KB-001 Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2017 - 04:29 PM |
Tagged: RGB LED, Mushkin, mechanical keyboard, kailh brown

Memory and SSD manufacturer Mushkin appears to be branching out into other markets with the launch of its Carbon KB-001 mechanical keyboard.

The Carbon KB-001 is built from CNC anodized and brushed aluminum and offers a frameless floating key design in black and gray color scheme. The keyboard uses Kailh Brown key switches and has per-key RGB LED lighting, media playback controls on the function keys, and a Windows key lock. Further, Mushkin claims its mechanical keyboard offers N-key rollover and anti-ghosting technologies.

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Other nice touches include a small wrist rest (not detachable unfortunately for those with less desk space) and braided USB cable.

The Carbon KB-001 certainly looks sleek though we will have to wait until reviews hit to known how well it performs. Mushkin has not announced pricing or availability, but The Tech Report claims it will launch for around $70 which is not bad at all if the build quality is there

Mushkin appears to be joining the likes of G.Skill, Corsair, and others in diversifying into other markets and away from only specializing in memory and mass storage. In the end this should be a good thing for Mushkin and for consumers as it means memory manufacturers are going to be able to hang in there despite low memory prices and we can continue to see competition. Compared to the spinning rust market where the small guys have gotten swallowed up and we have only three major players left, there are a ton of memory and SSD players -- and I hope it stays that way!

Source: VR-Zone

Raspberry Pi Foundation Updates Compute Module With Faster Processor

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2017 - 12:11 AM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, compute module, Raspberry Pi 3, broadcom, iot

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is introducing an updated Compute Module that puts the single board computer for embedded devices more in line with the performance of the newest hobbyist Raspberry Pi 3.

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 is a pin compatible successor to the Compute Module 1 (there is no CM2) that, according to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, offers twice the RAM and 10-times the CPU performance.

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Note that while the Compute Module 3 may be able to be a drop in upgrade / replacement for devices powered by the first generation CM1, it uses more power, puts out more heat, and is 1mm taller so while it is pin compatible it may not work in all devices if their module slot space, power supply, and airflow / heatsinks are not up to the task.

The Compute Module 3 is a small single board computer with a SO-DIMM connector that can slot into embedded and IoT products. It is powered by a Broadcom BCM2837 with four ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores clocked at 1.2 GHz and a dual core VIdeoCore IV GPU clocked at 400 MHz. The processor is paired with 1GB of RAM. As far as onboard storage, the Compute Module 3 will come in two SKUs: the CM3 with 4GB of eMMC or a CM3 Lite without pre-installed eMMC and solder points for manufacturers to add their own eMMC or micro SD card slot. The VideoCore IV GPU supports 1080p30 decode of H.264. Users wanting hardware decode of H.265 and/or 4K support will have to look elsewhere. As is usual with Broadcom, exact specifications of the BCM2837 (especially their GPU) are kept close and quiet, unfortunately.

The exact ports and I/O from the Compute Module 3 will depend on the device and what manufacturers implement and wire to the connectors on the SO-DIMM slot. However, looking at the CMIO3 development board (96 Euros, $116 USD) shows that the CM3 supports GPIO, USB, micro USB, CSI (camera interface), DSI (display interface), HDMI, micro SD, audio, and networking. 

The Compute Module 3 can run Windows IOT Core or any number of Linux distributions compatible with ARM processors.

The Compute Module 3 is $30 while the “lite” variant without eMMC is $25. A kit including the development I/O board and both CM3 SKUs is $200. NEC has already announced it will be using the new Compute Module 3 in their digital signage and displays. Other applications include Smart TVs, home automation, and industrial control systems as well as hobbyist projects and robotics.

Source: Raspberry Pi

Windows 10 Build 10240 End of Life on March 26th

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2017 - 08:42 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Microsoft will be ending support for Windows 10 build 10240 on March 26th (via Mary Jo Foley), after a year and eight months since it launched in July 2015. For our home readers, this will not be too much of a concern, as most of us are on the Anniversary Update (or another OS entirely). Also, Microsoft supported it longer than some hardware vendors, such as NVIDIA, who requires a later build for PCs with a Pascal-based GPU. (Update: I haven't been able to find out whether AMD supports 10240 or not, and it's really a small point for home users anyway. The point was to show that users are heavily intended to be on the latest version.)

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Rippin' off the band-aid.

Again, these new builds are free from Microsoft, so, from a financial standpoint, there’s little reason to not update if your machine can support it. What it does show, however, is how short of a time we have between a bad decision being implemented and a bad decision being forced upon all Windows PCs. If a change upsets you, or feels like it could be used anti-competitively now or in the future, don’t be shy to raise the concern when it appears. You will only have a year or two before it can no longer be avoided... at most... even if you're a business. In most cases, you'll only have a handful of months.

Source: Microsoft

Windows Insiders Receive Several New Features Post-Holiday

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2017 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Now that the holidays are over, software developers are going back to work. It seems like ones at Microsoft had several big changes stashed away, waiting to release when they would be around to support them in the new year. Over the last two weeks, we received three different builds, each with several significant changes. They seem to be tapering off, though, which would make sense if they’re merging through their backlog from 2016.

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One feature that might be lauded by our readers is the ability to temporarily pause updates. This one came in on build 15002, and it gives users an option to delay any update that will cause a restart for up to 35 days. Unfortunately for some, this will be restricted to Windows 10 Pro and above, because Microsoft still does not trust that Windows 10 Home users will not ignore updates then complain about how insecure Windows is when a 9-month-old worm hits them. Instead, from Home users, they are pushing a change to “Active Hours”, allowing it to be extended into an 18-hour window. Sorry if you have a 24-hour render or something!

Moving on, some users will appreciate the lunar calendar being added to the taskbar calendar, alongside the conventional, Gregorian one. You would think that this localization feature should have been implemented years ago, but, with the Creator’s Update, affected users will have a more functional, built-in calendar.

Another interesting feature, which came out in the most recent build, 15014, is the power mode slider attached to the battery icon. Rather than having it buried in the advanced power settings, Microsoft is allowing users to “slide right” when they need things like higher CPU power states. In the current build, the UI isn’t hooked up to the back-end yet, because they’re still discussing (with OEMs) what power settings the slider options should correspond to.

There are also a lot of enhancements for Edge, of course, as all web browsers are still undergoing a rapid release schedule. A lot of it involves tab management, such as stashing tabs for later (like a more transient bookmark) and sharing them to other applications.

The Windows 10 Creators Update (1703) is expected for April.

Source: Microsoft

Another reason IPv6 is not as common as it should be

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2017 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: ipv6, microsoft

Among the numerous incompatibilities and troubles we are seeing with the rollout of IPv6 is a new hitch.  It seems Microsoft just opened up a ticket with themselves over a problem they are having with their Azure Active Directory cloud-based ID system; it would seem it is incompatible with IPv6.  The Register specifies Windows 10 for this issue however it is very likely that previous versions are also going to encounter issues.  You can read more about the troubles and attempted solutions here.

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"According to Redmond's principal network engineer Marcus Keane, the software giant is struggling to move over to the decade-old networking technology due to a DHCPv6 bug in Windows 10, which made it "impossible" to expand its planned corporate network."

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Source: The Register

Just Picked Up: Google Chromecast Ultra

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | January 20, 2017 - 07:39 AM |
Tagged: google, chromecast ultra, chromecast

One of the disadvantages of the ZTE Axon 7, which a lot of other phones share, is that you cannot directly connect it to a TV over HDMI via MHL. Granted, it’s a good screen and great speakers, so I can just pass the device around, but sometimes you want to show a video (or something) on the TV. As such, I was looking around at the Chromecast, but I heard a bunch of complaints that ranged from low frame rate to frequent stutters in some apps.

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Then Google announced the Chromecast Ultra, which launched in November. I put my email address on the official waiting list and... haven’t heard a thing since. I also haven’t seen it in many stores. I then found out that the local Best Buy Mobile kiosk had it (yet the full store a few blocks away somehow did not???) Interestingly, when I arrived, they had several of them, and on sale for $20 off, too.

Upon bringing it home, it had a little difficulty connecting to my WiFi router. (The 5 GHz band was a little weak at that location.) Once that was resolved, though, it was a very pleasant experience. It played 1080p60 video from YouTube without any trouble, even switching to the correct input automatically with HDMI CEC (although I needed to manually change it back to the digital TV box when I was done).

I don’t have a 4K or HDR TV, though, so I cannot test its more advanced features. Sorry!

Source: Google

Another Beautiful, Profound Breach of Nintendo Trademarks

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2017 - 08:13 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, ue4, Nintendo

Once again, one of CryZENx’s videos found its way into my YouTube recommendations list. This one outlines progress on their recreation of various Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time elements in Unreal Engine 4. While the graphics have been updated significantly, such as using inverse-kinematics for foot positioning, they have also remade the original pause menu, which wraps around the camera like a box (with no top or bottom).

If anyone is wondering, inverse-kinematics is an animation tool that focuses on goals, as opposed to individual rotations. Instead of bending a knee by X degrees and bending the hip by Y degrees, you say that the foot of the skeleton must be at some point, and the skeleton adjusts to make that happen. This is obviously much easier for animators to visualize in many situations, especially when trying to align to objects that you know will be in range of the skeleton, but not exactly where.

I’m not exactly sure how Nintendo hasn’t struck their Patreon and YouTube pages yet, given their reaction to other fan materials. I’m glad it’s up, though. They’re quite impressive homages to the games they love.

Source: CryZENx

Looking for quality desktop speakers? Perhaps Audioengine's HD3 would fit the bill

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2017 - 02:25 PM |
Tagged: audio, speakers, Audioengine HD3, Audioengine

We have seen a lot of headset reviews but lately there have not been many reviews of desktop speakers which some of us still use.  CPCR have offered up a change of pace for those looking for some new stereo speakers with their review of Audioengine's HD3 powered desktop speakers.  They contain a Burr Brown PCM5102 DAC as well as a OPA2134 amp if you do happen to have a set of high impedance headphones you might have occasion to utilize.  Those components do come at a cost, the MSRP is $399, but if that doesn't immediately scare you off you should take a look at their full review.

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"When it comes to premium desktop computer speakers, few manufacturers on the market match the level of Audioengine when it comes to sound quality. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to review the Audioengine A2+ and the Audioengine A5+ which were outstanding speakers that are simply unmatched by other computer speaker manufacturers..."

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If you haven't tried Mechwarrior: Living Legends, here is a good excuse

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2017 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Mechwarrior: Living Legends, crysis wars, mod

Mechwarrior: Living Legends is a total conversion mod for Crysis Wars, which you can grab free of charge from this site, they use the Crysis Wars demo to provide the assets so you do not need to purchase the game.  It will dump you and up to 32 players on a multiplayer map with a side arm and a desperate need to get a vehicle.  The vehicles range from smaller tanks and VTOLs to a wide variety of Battlemechs.  Development had stalled somewhat until this week when it was announced that Version 0.8 is now available.  You should pop by to download and install it so you can give this game a shot; even if you end up disliking it you will get your moneys worth.

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"Almost a decade ago, a talented team started working on what was to become the favorite game for many of us. Version 0.7.1, released in 2013, was to be the final version of MechWarrior: Living Legends by Wandering Samurai Studios."

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Practice safe programming

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2017 - 12:39 PM |
Tagged: security, mostly harmless, google play, andriod

Fallible is a security firm which developed an automated tool for reverse engineering Android apps and used it to take a look at a large portion of the top apps on Google Play.  They found quite a few things that really should not have been there, including keys to Amazon Web Services which would grant them the ability to start and stop instances under the developers account.  In total they found 2500 apps with at least some sensitive information contained within them, in many cases those keys were necessary for the proper functioning of the app but in some cases they were secrets which did not need to be there.  Follow The Register's advice and think long and hard before hard coding keys into any apps you might be developing.

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"A security firm has reverse engineered 16,000 Android apps on Google's Play store and found that over 304 contain sensitive secret keys."

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Source: The Register