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This Finnish startup’s new VR headset rivals Apple’s Vision Pro – and business users will love it




When Apple launched its Vision Pro earlier this year, it joined a crowded virtual reality headset market that includes entries from Meta, PlaystationHTC, and more.

That market got a little more crowded this week as Varjo, a Finnish company, launched its XR-4 headset. And while it may be similar to the other headsets on the market, there’s one big difference. 

Also: The best VR headsets right now (and they’re not just from Meta)

The new VR headset, which carries a price tag of $3,990, functions much like models from Apple and Meta. It has a 120-degree field of view, dual 20-megapixel cameras, two 4K displays, and a gaze-driven XR autofocus system — all specs that rival the Vision Pro.

But Varjo’s device is aimed squarely at businesses instead of consumers. And with dozens of Fortune 100 companies using VR in myriad ways — from training astronauts and pilots to reconfiguring production processes to advancing medical research — there are plenty of applications to be found.

While most VR headsets highlight 2D uses with some mixed reality, the XR-4 focuses on mixed reality.

In addition to the base version, there’s a “Focal Edition” that features significantly improved passthrough (and a significantly higher price at $9,900) and a “Secure Edition” that offers what Varjo describes as “government-grade compliance” and “pilot-grade visual fidelity.” (No price is listed for this version, only a message to “Contact us for pricing.”)

The Secure Edition is perhaps the most intriguing, as it’s designed to work with high-end training software like VBS Blue IG from Bohemia, Prepar3D from Lockheed Martin, Unity’s Unreal Engine, OpenXR 1.0, and FlightSafety Vital. In August, the company was selected to provide head-mounted displays for the US Army’s Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer Air Program, a portable program used for pilot training in various helicopters.

Also: Meta’s $500 Quest 3 is the mainstream VR headset I’ve been waiting for, and it delivers

Some of the applications Varjo has in mind appear to lean toward military pilots and flight training. (The company does describe the headset as enabling “highly effective and cost-efficient training scenarios.”) However, considering the high level of mixed reality this headset delivers, it’s easy to see how it could be used in other environments where security is paramount — say, for creating a map of a building’s interior that can be interacted with or even weapons training. 

And unlike other headsets, the biggest difference is that the Secure version Edition of the XR-4 doesn’t require online connectivity.

Since the XR-4 is intended for business, and the highest version is intended for secure government applications, there’s a pretty slim chance that most consumers will ever get their hands on one. But, the fact that a headset like this is hitting the market is important, in that it shows where VR for the average consumer could ultimately go and it showcases the capability of VR far beyond entertainment. 

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Tackling health impacts of climate change and scaling up digital climate action in the spotlight at COP28


Ahead of the first ever ‘Health Day’ at a UN climate conference, delegates signed onto a new declaration on climate and health and separately considered the role of digital technology can play in climate action. 

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed the new declaration, which aims to help accelerate actions to protect people from growing climate impacts, including by strengthening collaboration to reduce emissions and by increasing finance for climate and health solutions. 

“The climate crisis is a health crisis, but for too long, health has been a footnote in climate discussions,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told delegates gathered in an auditorium in Dubai’s iconic Expo City, where much of the action at COP28 has been taking place this far. 

According to WHO the climate crisis drives the extreme weather that is taking lives around the world. Moreover, the same emissions that are warming our planet are also poisoning the air we breathe.

WHO estimates that air pollution kills some seven million people worldwide every year, while millions of people are exposed to extreme weather-related events each year.

Reducing the health impacts of climate change demands action across all of society, including steps to decarbonize energy systems to reduce emissions by at least 43 percent over the next seven years.

“WHO thanks the [United Arab Emirates] for making health a key priority in its COP28 Presidency, and welcomes this Declaration, which emphasizes the need to build climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems, to protect the health of both planet and people,” Dr. Tedros added.

Declaration ahead of ‘Health Day’

Signed on Saturday by 123 countries, the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health acknowledges the need for governments to protect communities and prepare healthcare systems to cope with climate-related health impacts such as extreme heat, air pollution and infectious diseases.

It has been developed with the support of a number of ‘country champions’ including Brazil, Malawi, the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Kenya, Fiji, India, Egypt, Sierra Leone, and Germany, according to the COP28 presidency.

“The impacts of climate change are already at our door. They have become one of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century. Governments have now rightly recognized health as a crucial element of climate action” said Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP28 President.

The Declaration covers a range of action areas at the nexus of climate and health, including:

  • Building more climate-resilient health systems;
  • Strengthening cross-sectoral collaboration to reduce emissions; 
  • Maximizing the health benefits of climate action; and
  • Increasing finance for climate and health solutions.

Digital climate action

This second and final day of the COP28 World Climate Action Summit also featured an event on ‘Green Digital Action’ hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) spotlighting the role of digital technologies at the forefront of climate action.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) technologies are instrumental in climate monitoring, building resilience to climate change, and deploying early warning systems.

They can also play a vital role in mitigation efforts, including boosting energy efficiency, building green networks and assisting the transition towards a green economy.

However, the rapid uptake of data and devices increases the sector’s energy consumption, emissions, material use and e-waste worldwide.

“Green Digital Action is a step in the right direction, but we all have to do more. Now. Together,”

ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin told the gathering at the Global Innovation Hub of UN Climate Change.

COP28 is an opportunity to showcase the value of digital climate action as well as raise ambition to reduce the footprint of the ICT sector, contributing to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, according to ITU.

“We have to build a future where digital technology and climate action go hand in hand. This future is possible. It is our only choice,” the ITU chief added.

Following the high-level opening of the Green Digital Action Track, potential of technology for environmental solutions will be highlighted over the course of the next several days.

Want to know more? Check out our special events page, where you can find all our coverage of the COP28 climate conference, including stories and videos, explainers and our newsletter.

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Google’s new AI Core update for Pixel 8 Pro will boost its powers and performance


Google Pixel 8 Pro AI Wallpaper

June Wan/ZDNET

Christmas may come early for Google 8 Pro users, by way of an AI Core update. This update focuses on the AI power on the phone, which empowers the Pixel 8 Pro smart features (such Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur for the camera and Google Assistant). Of course, AI powers more than just the camera and Assistant. 

Also: Google Pixel 8 Pro review: This phone sold me on an AI-powered future

The AI Core app provides AI functionality while running as a background service. The eventual goal with AI is to roll out generative text and image capabilities across Pixel devices — and the AI Core app is a step toward this reality.  Of course, this first update won’t suddenly empower your Pixel phone to generate AI images for you. That takes more processing power than a phone can supply. However, it will (most likely) eventually be able to access Google’s massive cloud processing power to make this a reality. 

Google has not provided many specifics about  AI Core. In fact, the app listing in the Google Play Store offers very little descriptive information. Scroll to the bottom and you’ll find this in the “About this App” section:

AI Core powers features across Android and provides apps with the latest AI models.

However, if you glance at the included listing images, you see the following: 

AI-driven features run directly on your device, using the latest foundation models. To keep those features smart, your device updates the AI models automatically, and AI Core manages these updates while providing AI functionality to other apps.

From that description, we can deduce that AI Core is responsible for keeping the foundation models updated and providing AI functionality to apps on your device.

Also: 4 AI-powered features on Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro giving us Google envy

Given that Google has gone all in on AI for Pixel devices, that’s a rather important service. With the update, features like Magic Eraser will not only work faster but smarter. On top of that, all apps that depend on AI will have access to the latest Foundation Models, of which there are three:

  • Imagen Model Family – image generation and editing models
  • Codey – empowers developers to be more productive and creative
  • Chirp – models for automatic speech recognition in more than 100 languages

This first AI Core update will give Pixel phones access to the latest versions of those models (as well as new AI features for your hardware and installed software). 

There is currently no timetable for when the Core AI update will be available. I’ve checked my Pixel 8 Pro and it has yet to land on my device. When the update is first released, it will only be available to the Pixel 8 Pro but is expected to roll out to other Pixel devices soon. 

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World News in Brief: Engagement with Sudan, Red Sea vessel attacks, SDGs disabilities promise


On Friday, the Security Council adopted a resolution to close the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) following a request last month from the authorities.

UNITAMS was established in June 2020 to provide support to Sudan for an initial 12-month period during its transition to democratic rule following the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir, who had been in power for 30 years.

Sudan’s military Government, whose forces have been battling the RSF militia for control of the country since mid-April, has said that the UN mission was failing to meet expectations.

Concern for civilians

The Secretary-General has taken note of the Council resolution, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement issued on Friday evening.

He added that the UN Country Team in Sudan will continue its essential work there, including providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance.

“The Secretary-General remains deeply concerned about the escalating conflict in the Sudan and its devastating impact on civilians and will continue to engage with all Sudanese stakeholders in support of the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a peaceful and secure future,” the statement continued.

“He reiterates his call to the warring parties to reach an agreement on an immediate ceasefire and engage in discussions to achieve a permanent cessation of hostilities.

Security Council condemns attacks on vessels in the Red Sea

The Security Council has condemned in the strongest terms recent attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen against a commercial vessel in the Red Sea, which are occurring against the backdrop of the conflict in Gaza.

The 15 members also recalled ongoing threats and previous attacks against oil terminals under the control of the Government of Yemen.  

They issued a statement on Friday demanding “that such attacks and action cease immediately.”

The Council also called for the immediate release of the MV Galaxy Leader and its crew. 

The cargo ship, which was hijacked on 19 November, is reportedly owned by an Israeli businessman and operated by Japan, according to international media.

Members underlined the importance of the navigational rights and freedoms of all vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, in accordance with international law.

They also stressed the importance of enhancing international and regional cooperation to counter threats to peace and security in the region.

A disabled student on a sports court in Brazil.

A disabled student on a sports court in Brazil.

Persons with disabilities face discrimination despite SDG promise: Guterres

Persons with disabilities must be at the decision-making table and across countries’ efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – from poverty eradication, to health, education, and climate action.

That’s the message from UN Secretary-General António Guterres to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, observed on 3 December.

The 17 SDGs were adopted by world leaders in 2015 and have a 2030 deadline.

Mr. Guterres said achieving the goals requires living up to the promise to leave no one behind, especially the 1.3 billion persons with disabilities worldwide. 

However, they continue to face systemic discrimination and barriers that restrict their meaningful inclusion in all areas of society. 

“Truly sustainable development for persons with disabilities requires a laser-like focus on their needs and rights — not only as beneficiaries, but as active contributors across social, economic and political life,” he said.

The UN chief urged everyone “to work side-by-side with persons with disabilities to design and deliver solutions based on equal rights in every country and community.”

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You should probably update your Google Chrome browser this weekend


Holding up the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook.

June Wan/ZDNET

If you are one of the millions of worldwide Chrome users, it’s time for yet another update. That’s right, a sixth zero-day exploit has been discovered in Chrome and, fortunately, the update was released shortly after.

If you’re uncertain as to what a zero-day vulnerability is, it’s simply a vulnerability that has been discovered but not yet patched.

Also: Android’s September security update fixes actively exploited zero-day and more

The exploit in question is CVE-2023-6345 and does exist in the wild. According to Tenable, the official description of this vulnerability is, “Integer overflow in Skia in Google Chrome prior to 119.0.6045.199 allowed a remote attacker who had compromised the renderer process to potentially perform a sandbox escape via a malicious file. (Chromium security severity: High).”

The Chrome Stable channel has been updated to 119.0.6045 for both Linux and Mac and 119.0.6045.199/.200 for Windows. Although the update hasn’t been rolled out for every user, Google has confirmed it will happen over the coming days/weeks. 

This update includes seven different security fixes (including for the zero-day exploit), which are:

  • CVE-2023-6348: Type Confusion in Spellcheck
  • CVE-2023-6347: Use after free in Mojo. 
  • CVE-2023-6346: Use after free in WebAudio.
  • CVE-2023-6350: Out of bounds memory access in libavif.
  • CVE-2023-6351: Use after free in libavif.
  • CVE-2023-6345: Integer overflow in Skia.

It is the final vulnerability, listed above, that is the zero-day exploit. It’s interesting to know that this vulnerability is listed as High and not Critical. Even so, any bug listed as High should be considered a must-patch. Other than saying this vulnerability exists in the wild, Google has been a bit hush-hush about it. You can read Google’s official statement about the issue.

Also: Hands on with Google’s new Titan Security Keys – and why they still have their place

To find out which version of Chrome you are using, go to Settings > About Chrome, where you’ll see the version number. If there is an update available, make sure to click Relaunch, so the updates will be applied. If you find your version is out-of-date, you can always go to the Chrome download page, download the latest version, and install it.

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COP28: UN chief previews panel on management of minerals essential for green energy transition


The UN chief made this announcement in an address to a summit of developing country leaders taking place at the latest UN climate conference, COP28, now under way in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Guterres, who has been a strong proponent of moving away from fossil fuels, told leaders of the Group of 77 Developing Countries, which includes China, that the availability and accessibility of critical energy transition minerals is crucial to reach the goals set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“COP28 must commit countries to triple renewables capacity, double energy efficiency, and bring clean energy to all, by 2030,” stated the UN chief, stressing that the phase out fossil fuels with a roadmap that is equitable and with a timeframe compatible with 1.5 degrees is also essential. 

As such, he said, “we need a just, fair and equitable transition from fossil fuels to renewables…The very existence of some countries in this room depends on it.” 

The green energy boom is an opportunity for commodity-rich developing countries to transform and diversify their economies.

However, a lack of global guidance to manage these resources could exacerbate geopolitical risks and environmental and social challenges, including impacts on water, biodiversity, health and indigenous peoples’ rights.

“The extraction of critical minerals for the clean energy revolution – from wind farms to solar panels and battery manufacturing – must be done in a sustainable, fair and just way,” the UN chief said, adding that the demand for minerals, such as copper, lithium and cobalt, is set to increase almost fourfold by 2030.

“We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past,” with a systematic exploitation of developing countries reduced to the production of basic raw materials.

The proposed Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals will bring together governments, international organizations, industry, and civil society to develop common and voluntary principles to guide extractive industries in the years ahead “in the name of justice and sustainability.”

‘Keep pushing the needle’

In his remarks, UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis praised the G77 and China for leading the charge to shift to renewable energy and leading the calls for building resilience.

“They have spearheaded debates on climate finance – including pushing for the reform of the international financial architecture, that would afford developing countries better access to development funding without the overhang of unsustainable debt levels,” he added.

The Assembly President noted his intention to convene a ‘Sustainability Week’ in April 2024, to address the dynamics of sustainability in relation to infrastructure, transportation, tourism, and, of course, energy.

“We must continue to push the needle on these sectors that are so essential to modern economies, that yet constitute some of the greatest contributors to atmospheric emissions,” he said invited the developing country leaders to come to New York for that ‘week’ to build on the impact of the decisions taken at COP28.

‘Renewables revolution’

The second and final day of the World Climate Action Summit – the ministerial-level segment of COP28, where world leaders have been laying out their national strategies – also saw the Secretary General press for accelerated climate action that would help offset the challenges faced by mountainous and landlocked developing countries.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (centre left) and other panellist at the High-Level meeting on Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) held during the World Climate Action Summit at COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (centre left) and other panellist at the High-Level meeting on Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) held during the World Climate Action Summit at COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

At a high-level meeting of the landlocked developing countries (LLDc), the UN chief highlighted that they are on the frontlines of climate change, facing a range of dramatic impacts: desertification and prolonged droughts, catastrophic biodiversity loss and rapidly melting glaciers.

According to Mr. Guterres, there are no LLDCs that are big emitters, but all landlocked nations are coping with the negative and devastating impacts of runaway emissions and the climate chaos it drives.

“So I think you have a moral authority to tell big emitters, namely the G20 countries that represent 80 per cent of the emissions, it’s time to seriously reduce emissions,” so the more than 500 million people living in least developed countries are not so impacted by the accelerated effects of climate change and benefit from “the same levels of well-being that we want for everyone everywhere in the world.”

At the same time, he pointed out how they could also harness it to their advantage, reaping the “rewards of the renewables revolution.”

“You can be champions of an energy transition that is sustainable, just, inclusive, and equitable. But to do all of this, you need much, much more support,” said Mr. Guterres.

‘Distress call’

Addressing the high-level side event ‘Call of the Mountain: Who Saves us from the Climate Crisis?’, the UN chief said mountains are issuing a distress call, and COP28 must respond with a strong rescue plan.

Mr. Guterres described his recent “unforgettable visit” to Nepal, where he was deeply shocked to learn about the rapid pace of glacier melting and its “terrible impact” on local communities.

The Himalayan nation has lost close to a third of its ice in just over 30 years – a direct result of the greenhouse [gas] pollution heating our planet.

“Nepal, and other vulnerable mountain countries, are being pounded by a crisis that is not of their making. Unless we change course, we will unleash catastrophe,” he explained.

Screenshot of a monitor in the meeting room at the COP28 event in Expo City in Dubai on ‘Call of the Mountains: who saves us from the climate crisis?’

Screenshot of a monitor in the meeting room at the COP28 event in Expo City in Dubai on ‘Call of the Mountains: who saves us from the climate crisis?’

COP28: Towards solutions

Against the backdrop of the challenges faced by vulnerable landlocks and mountainous nations, The Secretary-General underscored the critical importance of the expected decisions by delegates at COP28 on the so-called ‘Global Stocktake’, which should set the stage for a “surge in global climate ambition in 2025 and beyond.”

The stocktake is a crucial mechanism established under the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, aimed at measuring progress towards the accord’s goals and encouraging countries to ramp up their climate action plans.

An ambitious outcome from the global stocktake process will require major progress on three fronts, Mr. Guterres explained.

Finance: “We need to see a boosting of contributions to the new Loss and Damage Fund.” Developed countries need to make good on their financial commitments.

Reducing emissions: “We must preserve the limit of 1.5-degrees of heating, as set out in the Paris Agreement, to avert the worst of climate chaos.” It must advance a just, fair and equitable transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

More international cooperation: Achieving the climate goals agreed in Paris “depend on new levels of collaboration between government, and between countries and companies, to drive down emissions, and to protect everyone on earth with an effective early warning system by 2027.”

Want to know more? Check out our special events page, where you can find all our coverage of the COP28 climate conference, including stories and videos, explainers and our newsletter.

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dlp – Download YouTube Videos in Linux Command Line


YouTube is an online video-sharing platform that contains a vast repository of videos covering a wide range of topics such as music videos, educational content, vlogs, tutorials, movie trailers, gaming videos, and live streams.

While the platform offers the convenience of streaming, there are certain scenarios where you might want to download these videos for offline viewing.

In the Linux command-line environment, yt-dlp is a powerful and versatile command-line program that allows users to download 1080p or 4K YouTube videos from YouTube.com and other video sites.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of installing and using yt-dlp to download YouTube videos on a Linux command line.

What is yt-dlp?

yt-dlp is a Python-based command line and fork of the well-known youtube-dl program that is created for downloading videos from popular video streaming platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Imgur, Dailymotion, Hotstar, and various other video sites.

It is developed in Python and requires only Python 3.8+ and it is platform-specific, and designed to function seamlessly on Unix, Windows, or macOS environments.

It also supports many options, allowing users to customize their downloads based on preferences. One notable feature is downloading videos in different resolutions, including high-quality formats like 1080p or 4K.

Additionally, youtube-dl supports downloading entire playlists, extracting only the audio from videos, bypassing YouTube geo-restrictions, pausing and resuming video downloads, and splitting videos into multiple files.

How to Install yt-dlp on Linux

yt-dlp is the most widely used command-line tool that is easily available to install from the default repositories in most Linux distributions, if not all.

To install yt-dlp on Linux, use the following appropriate command for your specific Linux distribution.

sudo apt install yt-dlp         [On Debian, Ubuntu and Mint]
sudo yum install yt-dlp         [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky/AlmaLinux]
sudo emerge -a sys-apps/yt-dlp  [On Gentoo Linux]
sudo apk add yt-dlp             [On Alpine Linux]
sudo pacman -S yt-dlp           [On Arch Linux]
sudo zypper install yt-dlp      [On OpenSUSE]    

To install the most recent version of yt-dlp, you can use the following curl command.

sudo curl -L https://github.com/yt-dlp/yt-dlp/releases/latest/download/yt-dlp -o /usr/local/bin/yt-dlp
sudo chmod a+rx /usr/local/bin/yt-dlp

If you do not have curl installed, you can alternatively use the following wget command.

sudo wget https://github.com/yt-dlp/yt-dlp/releases/latest/download/yt-dlp -O /usr/local/bin/yt-dlp
sudo chmod a+rx /usr/local/bin/yt-dlp

Once installed, you can use the following command to update it to the latest version.

yt-dlp -U

Downloading a YouTube Video on Linux

To download a YouTube video, use the following command, where <video_url> is the URL of the YouTube video that you want to download.

yt-dlp <video_url>

For example, to download a YouTube video replace <video_url> with the actual URL of the YouTube video you intend to download.

yt-dlp https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60ItHLz5WEA
Download YouTube Video in Linux
Download YouTube Video on Linux

You can also download multiple videos at once by specifying a list of URLs separated by spaces.

yt-dlp  <video_url_1> <video_url_2> ...

Downloading a YouTube Playlist on Linux

To download a YouTube playlist, simply run the following command to download the entire playlist. Make sure to replace the <playlist_url> of the YouTube playlist URL that you want to download.

yt-dlp -i --yes-playlist 

Downloading YouTube Videos in Different Formats

yt-dlp provides several options for downloading YouTube videos in various formats, allowing you to tailor the process to your specific needs.

To download a specific format, you first need to list the available format codes for a video by running.

yt-dlp -F https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60ItHLz5WEA
List YouTube Video Formats
List YouTube Video Formats

To download high-quality YouTube video and audio, use the following command.

yt-dlp -f best https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60ItHLz5WEA

To download YouTube videos in 1080 resolution, use the following command.

yt-dlp -f 'bestvideo[height=1080]+bestaudio/best[height=1080]' <video_url>

To download a YouTube video in 4K resolution, use the following command.

yt-dlp -f 'bestvideo[height=2160]+bestaudio/best[height=2160]' <video_url>

To download audio only (mp3 format) from a Youtube video, use the following command.

yt-dlp -x --audio-format mp3 <video_url>

To download a YouTube video in a specific format, use the following command.

yt-dlp -f mp4 <video_url>

Download Subtitles of YouTube Videos

yt-dlp provides the easiest way to download subtitles of videos directly alongside the video itself.

To list all available subtitles for a specific YouTube video, use the following command, which will show a list of available subtitles along with their language codes.

yt-dlp --list-subs  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60ItHLz5WEA 
List YouTube Video Subtitles
List YouTube Video Subtitles

To download subtitles along with a video, use the -S option.

yt-dlp -S <video_url>

To download only specific subtitles, you can specify the language code after the -S option.

yt-dlp -S en,es <video_url>

If you only want to download subtitles without the video, you can use the –write-sub option with the -S option.

yt-dlp -S --write-sub <video_url>

yt-dlp is a versatile and efficient command-line tool for downloading YouTube videos in the Linux environment. It comes with a broad range of customization options and supports various video and audio formats.

By following the steps outlined in this article, you can harness the power of yt-dlp to easily download and enjoy your favorite YouTube content offline on your Linux system.

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Sam Altman’s AI ‘mission continues’ at Microsoft, future of OpenAI and ChatGPT uncertain


Sam Altman

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

After a rollercoaster ride of a weekend for OpenAI, its co-founders Sam Altman and Greg Brockman have now been snapped up by Microsoft, where they will lead a “new advanced AI research team”. 

Hours after this was announced, though, some 500 employees from OpenAI released an open letter to their board of directors, saying they may resign and join the duo at Microsoft, if the two co-founders are not reinstated. OpenAI has more than 700 employees.

Also: How to use Copilot (formerly called Bing Chat)

The ongoing saga all began on Friday evening when generative AI powerhouse OpenAI released a statement announcing the ousting of Altman, over what the board of directors said was lack of confidence in his ability to continue leading the company. 

“Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities,” the board said. “OpenAI was deliberately structured to advance our mission: to ensure artificial general intelligence (AGI) benefits all humanity. The board remains fully committed to serving this mission.”

It expressed gratitude for Altman’s contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI, but noted new leadership was “necessary” as the company moved forward. 

The board had appointed CTO Mira Murati as interim CEO, describing her as “exceptionally qualified” since she had led the company’s research, product, and safety functions.

As the news rippled throughout the weekend, reports suggested that Murati was looking to rehire Altman as well as Brockman, who had resigned from his positions as chairman and president following Altman’s ousting. The board also reportedly was reconsidering its decision, as it faced pressure from investors and staff demanding Altman’s return, but this appeared to have fallen through on Saturday.

Also: I spent a weekend with Amazon’s free AI courses, and highly recommend you do too

Instead, Twitch’s co-founder and former CEO, Emmett Shear was brought in as interim CEO, replacing Murati. 

Amid speculations on what might transpire next, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella on Monday announced he had snagged Altman and Brockman, along with “colleagues”, for “a new advanced AI research team”. 

“We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners,” Nadella said in an X post. “We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OpenAI’s new leadership team and working with them.”

The CEO added that Microsoft would move “quickly” to provide the resources its new advanced AI research team would need for its success. 

Also: AI pioneer Cerebras is having ‘a monster year’ in hybrid AI computing

In response to his appointment, Altman said simply: “The mission continues.”

He would lead as CEO of the new Microsoft team, according to Nadella, who added it would join others that had built “independent identities and cultures” within Microsoft, including GitHub and LinkedIn

Soon after Nadella unveiled Altman was headed for Microsoft, 505 employees at OpenAI released a letter to their board of directors saying they might be heading in the same direction if Altman and Brockman were not reinstated in the company. They also asked for all members of the board to resign and two new independent directors be appointed. 

“Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI. We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgment, and care for our mission and employees,” the letter read. “Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary, should we choose to join.”

Among the list of names who signed the letter were Murati and OpenAI’s co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who reports have speculated had played a part in the decision to remove Altman. Sutskever sits on the board of directors at OpenAI. 

Sutskever, who had remained silent since the news first broke on Friday, posted on X just before the letter surfaced, saying: “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.”

Also: OpenAI aiming to create AI as smart as humans, helped by funds from Microsoft

In an X post on his own appointment, Shear laid out a 30-day plan for OpenAI, which included launching an independent investigation into the “entire process leading up to this point” and producing a full report. Also on his to-do list is to “reform” the management and leadership team, amid recent departures, with the aim to drive results for customers. 

Adding that he had “checked” the rationale behind Altman’s ousting, Shear said: “The board did not remove Sam over any specific disagreement on safety. Their reasoning was completely different from that. I’m not crazy enough to take this job without board support for commercializing our awesome models.”

During his visit to Singapore this June, Altman had said it was important for the public to learn about and experience AI even as the technology continued to evolve.” This would be more effective than building and testing a piece of technology behind closed doors and releasing it to the public on the assumption that all possible risks had been identified and plugged, he noted. “You can’t learn everything in a lab,” he said. 

In a July 2023 post, Sutskever wrote alongside machine learning researcher Jan Leike: “Superintelligence will be the most impactful technology humanity has ever invented and could help us solve many of the world’s most important problems. But the vast power of superintelligence could also be very dangerous and could lead to the disempowerment of humanity or even human extinction.”

Also: My 5 favorite AI tools for work

“Currently, we don’t have a solution for steering or controlling a potentially superintelligent AI, and preventing it from going rogue,” said Sutskever, who also sits on OpenAI’s board of directors. “Our current techniques for aligning AI, such as reinforcement learning from human feedback, rely on humans’ ability to supervise AI, but humans won’t be able to reliably supervise AI systems much smarter than us. So our current alignment techniques will not scale to superintelligence. We need new scientific and technical breakthroughs.”

In the post, Sutskever was announcing a new team of machine learning researchers and engineers to work on this problem. Their efforts would include developing a scalable training method, validating the resulting model, and stress-testing the company’s entire alignment pipeline.

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Stories from the UN Archive: The origin of #PalestineDay


Why 29 November? On that day in 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the partition of Palestine.

At the founding commemoration of the international day, the then-UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim expressed a view echoed by successive secretaries-general that “events of these last years have made the world painfully aware that the Palestinian people and the recognition and implementation of their rights are the key to any solution in the Middle East.” 

Watch how the UN created the international day here, part of our #ThrowbackThursday series showcasing epic moments across UN history, cultivated from the UN Audiovisual Library’s 49,400 hours of video and 18,000 hours of audio recordings.

Visit UN Video’s Stories from the UN Archive playlist here and our Podcast Classics series here. Join us next Thursday for another dive into history.

When this picture was taken at Khan Younis in 1955, the tented refugee camp in the Gaza Strip had just been replaced by cement block houses. These youngsters were happy to have more weatherproof shelter against the summer sun and winter rains.

When this picture was taken at Khan Younis in 1955, the tented refugee camp in the Gaza Strip had just been replaced by cement block houses. These youngsters were happy to have more weatherproof shelter against the summer sun and winter rains.

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Make your WhatsApp chats even more private with a secret code. Here’s how


Protect your chats using Secret Code WhatsApp


Some conversations are meant to stay between you and the sender, and WhatsApp just added a feature to help your private chats stay private. Typically, access to your phone means access to all your conversations, but with Secret Code, it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Also: 3 new WhatsApp features businesses need to know about

On Thursday, WhatsApp unveiled a feature called Secret Code that provides a new layer of protection for chats by allowing users to add a unique password to access specific chats.

Secret Code builds on Chat Lock, a feature introduced by WhatsApp in May, that lets users hide specific chats by moving them from the inbox into a folder that can only be accessed via a password or biometric. 

With Secret Code, users now will have the option of hiding the locked chats from the user’s chat list, with the chat only being accessible to them if they type that code into the chat bar. 

Locking a chat is easy and doesn’t even require a visit to the chat’s settings. All a user has to do is long press on the chat to lock it. 

Also: The 5 best encrypted messaging apps: Keep your chats private

Whether someone shares a phone or has family or friends with access to their passcode, Secret Code ensures that other users won’t be able to see their private chats’ contents — or even know of the chat’s existence — if they don’t want them to.

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