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The Last of Us recap episode four – ambush in Kansas! | Television




This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us TV series. Do not read unless you have seen episodes one to four

After the heartbreaking spectacle of Bill and Frank’s two-hander, here we saw Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) return to centre stage as they embarked on an epic road trip and adjusted to life post-Tess.

All was going swimmingly until they got to Kansas City, where the highways were blocked and they needed to find a detour. Of course, this being The Last of Us, nothing can go to plan. After a quick gunfight, in which Joel swiftly took out two of their attackers, a third took advantage of Joel’s poor hearing to creep up and get the better of him. Thankfully, Ellie, who had been pleading for a gun, had squirrelled one away while rooting around at Bill’s place and used it, saving Joel. I’m sure he wanted to be disappointed, but how could be anything other than pleased. Later, he gave his ward a few pointers on stance and grip for her troubles.

Ellie, meanwhile, said she had killed before. Whoever could she mean? (I don’t think she was referring to that trapped infected she stabbed in the head in the bunker.)

We then met Kathleen (Yellowjackets star Melanie Lynskey), leader of a local band of revolutionaries who have seemingly risen up to overthrow the Federal Disaster Response Agency (Fedra), which has control of the city, and dismantle the quarantine zone. The group’s rule is every bit as terrifying as Fedra’s, with Kathleen hellbent on finding Henry (Lamar Johnson) and his kid brother, Sam (Keivonn Woodard). Quite why isn’t clear (something about giving information to Fedra), but she does talk to the doctor about her brother being beaten to death, and reels off a list of names of people she is looking for – “collaborators” – later rushing back to the cell to calmly shoot the doctor dead. She may have an utterly unthreatening voice, but don’t be fooled – this is one ruthless individual.

As the militia searched high and low for the boys and the mystery outsiders we know to be Joel and Ellie, we saw a strange undulation in the ground. Never a good sign, especially in the survival horror genre … “When do we tell the others?” said Kathleen’s beardy right-hand man, Perry (Jeffrey Pierce). “Not yet,” said Kathleen. “Let’s handle what we have to handle. We can deal with this after.” That definitely sounds like a sensible suggestion that won’t come back to bite you.

Perry (Jeffrey Pierce), right-hand man to Kathleen, leader of the revolutionaries.
Perry (Jeffrey Pierce), right-hand man to Kathleen, leader of the revolutionaries. Photograph: HBO/Warner Media

Ambush city limits

As Joel and Ellie made their way to the top of that terrifying looking staircase – I was fully expecting something to be waiting for them as they ascended – Ellie seemed shocked to learn a bit more about her travelling partner. Joel was so quick to spot the earlier ambush because he had done similar things with Tommy and Tess in the past. He is also 56, and his hearing is probably even worse than he has let on, a result of firing too many guns.

Ellie wasn’t the only one with questions, though, with Joel picking up on something Ellie had said earlier about hurting people. “What did you mean that it wasn’t your first time?” he asked. “I don’t want to talk about it,” came her reply, while his attempt at reassurance fell flat when he admitted that this life doesn’t get any easier as you get older. It’s the nearest they have come to a normal conversation and, ultimately, bonding. Thanks to the minimal script and excellent performances from Pascal and Ramsey, it’s wholly believable.

They drifted off, but Joel’s hearing is totally kaput – not even his glass-on-the-floor trick stopped Henry and Sam sneaking up on them. What a sight to wake up to; two boys holding pistols. Let’s hope they are not as dangerous as Kathleen believes them to be. I have a feeling they’re not …

Notes and observations

Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey)
Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) must adjust to life post-Tess. Photograph: HBO/Warner Media
  • One person commenting on the recap of the first episode suggested it was ridiculous that petrol-powered cars still worked in a world without petrol production, correctly stating that fuel has a shelf life. It was nice for that to be addressed here, with Joel explaining why he and Ellie had to stop to siphon petrol so often. “It’s basically water.” Bleak_T_W, I hope you enjoyed that one.

  • I liked Joel’s attempt at explaining how siphons work. Something, something gravity is about the extent of my understanding, too.

  • Ellie’s book, No Pun Intended: Volume Too, is straight from the video game. It was an artefact first seen as a collectible in The Last of Us Pt I and later the expansion spin-off The Last of Us: Left Behind. It was written by Will Livingston.

  • The Hank Williams song that played in the truck was the aptly titled Alone and Forsaken.

  • Lincoln, Massachusetts, where Joel and Ellie picked up Bill’s truck, is about 2,500 miles from Jackson, Wyoming, where they are heading. On a good run, with efficient fuel and no militia roadblocks, it would take about 39 hours to drive.

  • If you think eating 20-year-old tinned ravioli is bad, here’s a video of someone eating 90-year-old canned soup.

  • Jeffrey Pierce, who plays Perry, provided the voice of Tommy in the video games. He was cast as Joel’s brother after initially auditioning for the part of Joel.

  • The closing song was a cover of New Order’s True Faith by Lotte Kestner. (That link is safe, but a word of warning to anyone hoping to find out more about that cover version: spoilers abound and the YouTube comments section is not your friend!)

What did you think of episode four? Enjoying things so far? Who are Henry and Sam? What is that underground? Have your say below …

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Irish orgs part of EU-wide push to build €19.92m digital skills project




The Digital4Business consortium, which has several Irish members, aims to launch its first MSc programmes in January 2024.

The National College of Ireland (NCI) helped to launch a new pan-European digital and entrepreneurial skills project that aims to provide a steady pipeline of talent to SMEs in the region.

NCI is one of 15 partners from seven European countries that are taking part in the consortium leading the project, which is called Digital4Business.

Digital4Business is a four-year initiative that will see various EU institutions and businesses work together to devise and deliver a market-led postgraduate programme to help SMEs access a pipeline of digital talent.

Other programmes launching in the coming few months and years will concentrate on key topics such as cloud, data analytics, AI, cybersecurity, blockchain, IoT and quantum computing.

Overall, the project will cost €19.92m. The programmes that will result from it will offer both industry and academic accreditation. The consortium will be focused on the practical application of advanced digital skills within European companies.

The initiative is being funded by the European Commission’s Digital Europe programme, which focuses on the digital transformation of Europe’s society and economy. The funding award to Digital4Business is one of the largest awards the programme has made to date.

Digital4Business was officially launched at an event in the IFSC in Dublin today (21 March).

The project began in December 2022. The consortium aims to launch the first part-time and full-time MSc programmes in January 2024.

Speaking by video link at the event, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, highlighted the project’s relevance as part of the European Year of Skills.

“2023 is European Year of Skills – the focus is on helping people get the right education to be prepared for quality jobs, and to address specific skills shortages that businesses are experiencing – particularly SMEs.  Digital4Business directly serves this mission.”

Dara Calleary TD, Minister of State for Trade Promotion and Digital Transformation attended the event in person.

“Digital4Business’ focus on the practical application of advanced digital skills within companies, and especially, within our small and medium businesses, is of great importance. This type of talent development is essential to ensure that the skills and the expertise are in place for businesses to maximise their digital potential – to take advantage of the opportunities digital presents and to assist them in maintaining their competitive edge,” he said.

As well as NCI, the other Irish partners involved in Digital4Business are IT company Terawe, Skillnet Ireland and Digital Technology Skills Limited. Digital agency Matrix Internet co-headquartered between Ireland and Belgium is also involved.

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Cults, prophecies and helpless villagers galore: Diablo 4 is back to its moody goth best | Games




With a click of the right-mouse button, my musclebound barbarian sinks his axe into the ground behind him, sweeps it forward and creates a shock wave that obliterates everything in its path. Ahead, a horde of undead creatures is repulsed by the blast, zombies flayed by the force of the air, skeletons scattered across the ground, wraiths dissipating into spectral dust. The room’s furnishing fly with them, chairs, candlesticks and barrels smashing into the far wall. The ground itself is scarred by the attack, a conical depression left in the floor as if struck by a meteorite airburst.

I’ve performed this attack countless times over the last weekend, and it never fails to light up my brain like Blackpool in September. The Diablo series represents video gaming in its purest and perhaps most reductive form and has exploited these feedback loops to enormous success in the last 25 years, reworking the complex rulesets of role-playing games into something less cerebral and more sensory. While there’s an argument to be had about how intellectually nourishing these games may be, Diablo 4 has a lot of seductive power. Clicking monsters to death in this game feels dangerously good.

Diablo IV screenshot
Diablo 4 returns to being the moody goth kid of its RPG social group. Photograph: Blizzard

Yet having spent 48 hours with the game during its beta phase, it’s clear there’s more to this than mindless monster-bashing. Diablo 4 sees the series return from a long hiatus after a third game that proved controversial in more ways than one. Partly because of this, it looks both backward and forward, addressing some criticisms of Diablo 3 while striving to compete in a world that has changed dramatically since 2012.

After a mixed reception to the colourful visuals of Diablo 3, Diablo 4 returns to being the moody goth kid of its RPG social group: pale-faced, clad in black and obsessed with death. The opening area, named Fractured Peaks, is an oppressive place where muddy, monster-ravaged villages cling to the edges of a snowy mountain range, with warrens of caves and dungeons concealed beneath the frozen surface. Said dungeons revel in their own dinginess. Painted in abundant dark shades, much like FromSoftware’s Bloodborne, the blackened walls and floors are slick with decaying viscera and often writhe with strange tendrils that grasp at you from the stonework.

Diablo 4’s appeal to the past isn’t purely stylistic. As your character accrues power across the game’s dark fantasy adventure, you must choose how to channel that power, picking skills and abilities that complement one another to make your chosen warrior an unstoppable destructive force. Diablo 4 ditches the previous game’s overly streamlined approach, returning to a more traditional skill tree that shows your character’s entire power trip at a glance.

Diablo IV screenshot
Players now carve their way through a huge open world. Photograph: Blizzard

I tested two of the five available character classes in the open beta – the barbarian and the sorcerer. What became obvious during my time with them is how intuitive character progression is. My sorceress, for example, offered an array of elemental powers to choose from. I could have made her an incandescent pyromancer, or a weaponised Elsa who froze her enemies to death. Instead, I focused on electrical abilities, Emperor Palpatine-ing my way through dungeons by zapping demons with bouncing bolts of lightning. This wasn’t the limit of my options, either. Diablo 4 let me further tailor these attacks to produce a collectible item known as “Crackling Energy”. As I plucked these orbs of static electricity from fallen foes, they’d discharge automatically when approaching new enemies. Hence, my sorceress could fry whole groups of demons before casting her first spell – a delightful sensation.

Structurally, Diablo 4 is different, as players now carve their way through a huge open world. For the beta, only the Fractured Peaks area was available to explore, but this nonetheless represents a sizeable and impressively freeform area. Although there is a central story to follow, it’s easy to get side-tracked into some offshoot adventure, helping a villager find her missing husband in some shadowy forest or delving into optional dungeons with foreboding names such as the Black Asylum. These secondary activities are tied together by “Renown”, a currency that, when accrued, periodically rewards players with extra gold, skill points, and other bonuses.

The looser structure creates a more coherent world, but it doesn’t radically change how Diablo plays. Instead, the open world exists mainly to facilitate Diablo 4’s new status as a persistent online game. Diablo 4 has extensive multiplayer features, with other players wandering freely around the game world able to periodically fight together as they explore individually, or actively join clans and embark on quests together. This ever-present multiplayer element could prove controversial, but interaction with other players isn’t mandatory, and you can happily plunder dungeons and pursue the central storyline solo.

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Diablo IV screenshot
Cults. Prophecies. More helpless villagers. Photograph: Blizzard

While the story has always been a part of Diablo, its role is small compared with other RPGs – largely an excuse for players to mash monsters by the million. But Diablo 4 makes a more concerted effort to grab the player’s attention, breaking up the action with more elaborate cutscenes and dialogue that dwell on individual characters, and takes more time to explore the game’s pseudo-Christian lore. These sequences bring with them all the flair you’d expect from Blizzard, and an impressive cast that includes veteran voice actors such as Troy Baker and Jennifer Hale, alongside Hollywood names like Ralph Ineson.

Broadly, it’s a typical fantasy adventure, a grand battle between good and evil. There are cults. There are prophecies. There are more helpless villagers than you can shake a pitchfork at. But there is also an attempt at more nuanced characterisation. The main antagonist – the demonic goddess Lilith – is not wholly villainous, while the fallen angel Inarius, a central figure in the religion of the game’s longsuffering humans, is not wholly good. There’s enough of interest to be audible above the sound of battle, and it helps that the game takes itself seriously, avoiding the temptation to lace the narrative with knowing side-glances and ironic gags.

Some questions remain. While Diablo’s character progression is slick and intuitive, will it offer the same level of flexibility as other ARPGs, most notably Path of Exile, which stepped in during Diablo’s long absence? Moreover, what does this new multiplayer structure mean for Blizzard’s long-term monetisation plans – will we eventually be asked to pay for a subscription? It appears inevitable it will continue to evolve after launch, and the question is what form will that evolution take. This is a game that could change shape substantially in the coming years. In its current form at least, Diablo 4 seems like a worthy ascendant to the throne of destruction.

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Nvidia hooks TSMC and friends on GPU accelerated chip design • The Register




GTC Nvidia’s latest gambit? Entrenching itself as a key part of the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain.

At GTC this week, the chipmaker unveiled cuLitho, a software library designed to accelerate computational lithography workloads used by the likes of TSMC, ASML, and Synopsys, using its GPUs.

The idea behind the platform is to offload and parallelize the complex and computationally expensive process of generating photomasks used by lithography machines to etch nanoscale features, like transistors or wires, into silicon wafers.

“Each chip design is made up of about 100 layers and in total contains trillions of polygons or patterns. Each of these 100 layers are encoded separately into a photomask — a stencil for the design if you will — and, using a rather expensive camera, are successively printed onto silicon,” Vivek Singh, VP of Nvidia’s advanced technology group, explained during a press conference on Monday.

Originally, photomasks were just a negative of the shape engineers were trying to etch into the silicon, but as transistors have gotten smaller these photomasks became more complex to counteract the effects of optical distortion. If unchecked, this distortion can blur these features beyond recognition. This process is called optical proximity correction (OPC) and more recently has evolved into inverse lithography technology (ILT). In the case of the latter, the photomasks look nothing like the feature they’re designed to print.

And the more ornate these photomasks get, the more computational horsepower is required to produce them. However, using GPUs, Nvidia believes it can not only speed up this process, but reduce the power consumption required. The company claims that cuLitho running on its GPUs is roughly 40x faster than existing computational lithography platforms running on general purpose CPUs.

“It’ll help the semiconductor industry continue the pace of innovation that we’ve all come to rely on, and it’ll improve the time to market for all kinds of chips in the future,” Singh claimed.

However, at least in the near term, Nvidia’s expectations seem to be a little more grounded. The company expects fabs using cuLitho could produce 3-5x more photomasks a day while using 9 percent less power, which if true, should help to boost foundries’ already thin margins

And with the likes of ASML, Synopsys, and TSMC lining up to integrate Nvidia’s GPUs and libraries into their software platforms and fabs, we won’t have to wait long to see these claims put to the test.

TSMC is already investigating Nvidia’s GPUs and cuLitho to accelerate ILT photomasks, while ASML and Synopsys are working to integrate support for GPU acceleration using cuLitho in their computational lithography software platforms.

And while Nvidia execs would love to sell its latest and most expensive GPU architectures to these companies, Singh notes that the library is compatible with GPUs going back to the Volta generation, which made its debut in 2017.

While Nvidia is using GPUs to accelerate these workloads, it’s worth noting that cuLitho isn’t using machine learning or AI to optimize semiconductor design just yet. But it’s no secret that Nvidia is also working on that particular problem.

“Much of this has to do with accelerating the underlying primitive operations of computational lithography,” Singh said. “But I will say that AI is very much in the works in cuLitho.”

As our sister site The Next Platform reported last summer, Nvidia has been working on ways to accelerate computational lithography workloads for some time now. In a research paper published in July, engineers at the company used AI to design equivalent circuits 25 percent smaller than those created using traditional EDA platforms.

Nvidia is hardly the only company investigating the use of machine learning to accelerate circuit design. Synopsys and Cadence have both implemented AI technologies into their portfolios, while Google researchers developed a deep-learning model called PRIME to create smaller and faster accelerator designs. And previously, the company used reinforcement learning models to design portions of its tensor processing unit (TPU).

With that said, the addressable market for something like cuLitho isn’t that big, and thanks to efforts by the US Commerce Department to stifle China’s fledgling semiconductor industry, the number is only getting smaller.

cuLitho will almost certainly be subject to US export controls governing the sale of advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment and software to countries of concern, which for the moment means China. Pressed on this point, Singh said the library would be “available wherever this end-to-end OPC software is available,” but declined to comment further on US trade restrictions. ®


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