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Industry & Technology

'Berlin rocks,' says Elon Musk as he chooses European factory

BBC Technology News - November 13, 2019 - 2:52pm
Elon Musk tells AutoExpress Brexit made the UK "too risky" for his first major European factory.

Google fires staffer, suspends two others, amid rising workplace tensions

Ars Technica - November 13, 2019 - 2:38pm

Enlarge / Google's main headquarters. (credit: Cyrus Farivar)

Google has fired a staffer who allegedly leaked the names of Google employees and their personal details to the news media, Ryan Gallagher reports in a scoop for Bloomberg News. Two other Googlers have been put on leave for violating company policies, Google told Gallagher.

A Google spokeswoman told Gallagher that one of the employees "had searched for and shared confidential documents outside the scope of their job, while the other tracked the individual calendars of staff working in the community platforms, human resources, and communications teams." The tracking made affected staff uncomfortable, the spokeswoman said.

Google's move represents the latest sign of growing tensions between labor and management at Google. Until recently, Google was known for having one of Silicon Valley's most open workplace cultures. Employees could access information about projects they weren't working on. Rank-and-file employees could ask tough questions of senior management at weekly "TGIF" meetings that were broadcast throughout the company.

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Apple introduces a redesigned, thicker MacBook Pro

Ars Technica - November 13, 2019 - 2:30pm

Today, Apple begins taking orders on a new version of its largest MacBook Pro laptop. While its basic design is similar to that of the Touch Bar models the company has made since 2016, it is slightly larger and heavier, the screen is bigger thanks to reduced bezels, and it has new keyboard and speaker designs. The Pro has faster graphics and new upgrade options, such as a 64GB RAM configuration and larger default SSD sizes.

This 16-inch MacBook Pro (the inches here refer to diagonal screen size) replaces the 15-inch in Apple's lineup. Its display has a pixel density of 226 ppi at 3,072 x 1,920 resolution—that's slightly higher than the 2,880 x 1,800 resolution and 220 ppi of the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Apple says that pro video editors will now be able to adjust the refresh rate of the display to match content they're working with. Little else has changed about the screen. It's worth noting, by the way, that the prior model's screen actually measured 15.4 inches, not 15; this new model measures 16 inches.

Dimensions are 0.64 x 14.09 x 9.68 inches—up marginally across the board from its predecessor's 0.61 by 13.75 by 9.48 inches. It weighs 4.3 pounds, compared to 4.02 for the prior model. Chances are it will fit in most existing cases intended for the 15-inch model.

Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

How a turf war and a botched contract landed 2 pentesters in Iowa jail

Ars Technica - November 13, 2019 - 2:29pm

Enlarge / Mug shots of Gary De Mercurio, left, and Justin Wynn. (credit: Dallas County Jail)

In the early hours of September 11, a dispatcher with the sheriff’s department in Dallas County, Iowa, spotted something alarming on a surveillance camera in the county courthouse. Two men who had tripped an alarm after popping open a locked door were wandering through courtrooms on the third floor, she reported over the radio as deputies raced to the scene. The intruders wore backpacks and were crouching down next to judges’ benches. When the first deputy pulled into the parking lot, the men moved to an open area outside the court rooms and concealed themselves.

“They were crouched down like turkeys peeking over the balcony,” Dallas County Sheriff Chad Leonard said in an interview. “Here we are at 12:30 in the morning confronted with this issue—on September 11, no less. We have two unknown people in our courthouse—in a government building—carrying backpacks that remind me and several other deputies of maybe the pressure cooker bombs.”

After more deputies arrived, Justin Wynn, 29 of Naples, Florida, and Gary De Mercurio, 43 of Seattle, slowly proceeded down the stairs with hands raised. They then presented the deputies with a letter that explained the intruders weren’t criminals but rather penetration testers who had been hired by Iowa’s State Court Administration to test the security of its court information system. After calling one or more of the state court officials listed in the letter, the deputies were satisfied the men were authorized to be in the building.

Read 44 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Guidemaster: Ars picks its favorite tech gifts you can buy for under $50

Ars Technica - November 13, 2019 - 1:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Finding a gift for your most tech-savvy friends and family can be tough, especially with electronics getting more expensive as the years go by. While it may seem like the only electronics worth getting are those that exist outside of your budget, that's not actually the case. Plenty of tech gifts are available at affordable prices—the struggle is sorting through the junk to find the devices worth shelling out any amount of money for.

This is where we at Ars come in: we spend all year testing electronics, with prices spanning everything from "luxury" to "dirt-cheap." So recently, we poured through our notes to find some of the best tech gifts you can buy that are under $50. All of the devices listed below have been tested and verified for excellence or for personal use on a regular basis. Instead of shooting in the dark or overspending when it comes to tech gifts this year, consider the following devices that we know will make any recipient happy.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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Living with range anxiety: Two weeks with the Jaguar I-Pace

Ars Technica - November 13, 2019 - 1:15pm

Enlarge (credit: Marlowe Bangeman)

The Jaguar I-Pace is a brilliant car. The first battery electric vehicle from Jaguar-Land Rover, the I-Pace starts at about $70,000 and goes up from there.

My colleague, Ars Automotive Editor Jonathan Gitlin, drove the I-Pace when it launched and came away raving about it—and for good reason. Not only did it win the World Green Car award, but it also won World Car of the Year.

Jonathan covered the I-Pace in great detail, so I won't spend much time talking about the driving experience. But, put simply, the I-Pace is a blast to drive. It accelerates briskly, it's incredibly comfortable, sight lines are good, handling is impeccable, it's roomy for its size, it has some modest off-road skills, and Jaguar-Land Rover's infotainment system, Touch Duo Pro, is well-thought-out, even if slightly laggy at times. Beyond that, JLR fixed one of the major complaints Jonathan had about the I-Pace as it entered production: the regenerative-braking settings are no longer buried under layers of menus.

Read 33 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Electric car future may depend on deep sea mining

BBC Technology News - November 13, 2019 - 1:02pm
Demand is soaring for the metal cobalt, an essential ingredient in batteries and abundant on the seabed.

A “mouse-deer,” seen once in the last century, has now been caught on film

Ars Technica - November 13, 2019 - 12:45pm

Enlarge / Camera-trap photo of silver-backed chevrotain (Tragulus versicolor). (credit: SIE/GWC/Leibniz-IZW/NCNP)

Every time field biologist An Nguyen finds a mammal in the wild that he's never seen before, he adds a line to the tally count tattoo on his left wrist.

The silver-backed chevrotain, a tiny "mouse-deer" native to Vietnam, is a sighting significant for more than just Nguyen's personal tally. There has been only one confirmed record of the elusive mammal since 1910—a specimen obtained from a hunter in 1990—until Nguyen and his team set camera traps that recorded 280 sightings within nine months.

The news, reported this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution, is more than just confirmation that the silver-backed chevrotain is not yet extinct. It means that researchers can start studying it more comprehensively, trying to get a sense of how many are left and what kinds of protections it needs. And protecting the chevrotain also means protecting the less cute, but equally essential, species that share its habitat.

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Kids' social media app ad banned on health grounds

BBC Technology News - November 13, 2019 - 12:25pm
The advertisement for PopJam is banned for encouraging children to gain followers and likes.

Project Nightingale: Google probed over US patient data deal

BBC Technology News - November 13, 2019 - 12:17pm
Regulator says it will examine the details of Google's deal with a major healthcare firm in the US.

EPA still moving to limit science used to support regulations

Ars Technica - November 13, 2019 - 2:00am

Enlarge / Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. (credit: Win McNamee / Getty)

Former Texas Congressman Lamar Smith may have retired in January, but his ideas still stalk the halls of the US Environmental Protection Agency. The New York Times reported Monday that the latest incarnation of Smith's quest to change the science the EPA can use for its rule making is moving forward.

Smith had unsuccessfully pushed a bill called the "Secret Science Reform Act," which would have required the EPA to consider only those studies with data that is "publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results." He claimed that opponents of regulations were often unable to audit the science underlying the regulations—although those opponents could, of course, have done their own science.

Limiting science

The scientific community noted that this requirement would have the effect of excluding quite a lot of relevant science published in peer-reviewed journals. In particular, research on the public health impacts of pollutants is only possible through the use of confidential health data. There are systems in place to give researchers controlled access to that data, but releasing it to the public is simply not an option, and doing so very well might violate other federal rules.

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Adobe readies for the age of smart glasses and deepfakes

BBC Technology News - November 13, 2019 - 1:49am
Richard Taylor looks at what is new at the LA Adobe Max Creative Conference for BBC Click.

The world finally has an approved vaccine against Ebola

Ars Technica - November 13, 2019 - 1:12am

Enlarge / A man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse outside the Afia Himbi Health Center on July 15, 2019, in Goma. (credit: Getty | PAMELA TULIZO )

Regulators in Europe have granted the world's first approval of a vaccine against Ebola—and health officials are wasting no time in rolling it out.

The European Commission announced at the start of the week that it had granted a landmark marketing authorization of Merck's Ebola vaccine Ervebo. The vaccine has been in the works since the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak. It is now being used in the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo based on a "compassionate use" protocol.

The current outbreak in the DRC has killed nearly 2,200 since August 2018, causing nearly 3,300 cases. The outbreak is the second-largest recorded, surpassed only by the 2014 West African outbreak that caused more than 11,000 deaths and 28,000 cases.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

US violated Constitution by searching phones for no good reason, judge rules

Ars Technica - November 13, 2019 - 12:09am

Enlarge / US Customs and Border Protection agents participate in a training exercise at a vehicle entry point along the border with Mexico on November 5, 2018, in Hidalgo, Texas. (credit: Getty Images | Andrew Cullen)

The United States government violated the Fourth Amendment with its suspicionless searches of international travelers' phones and laptops, a federal court ruled today.

The ruling came in a case filed "on behalf of 11 travelers whose smartphones and laptops were searched without individualized suspicion at US ports of entry," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said today. The ACLU teamed up with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to fight the government on behalf of plaintiffs including 10 US citizens and one lawful permanent resident.

The order from a US District Court in Massachusetts limits what searches can be made by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

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How does Plume get all these ISP partnerships? Open source software

Ars Technica - November 12, 2019 - 11:23pm

Yesterday, Charter Communications*—the second-largest ISP in the United States—announced its adoption of the OpenSync software platform for Spectrum's advanced in-home Wi-Fi. This raises a few questions, first of which is "what's OpenSync?"

The short answer is "Plume," which in turn means that Plume now has partnerships with the first- and second-largest ISPs in the United States, as well as the first- and second-largest in Canada—and also with the National Cable Television Collective (NCTC), a membership organization comprising several hundred independent US cable companies.

Earlier this month, we covered the announcement of a Plume partnership with J:COM, Japan's largest ISP. In that coverage, we referenced tighter integration into ISPs' existing infrastructure than better-known mesh alternatives such as Eero, Google (now Nest) Wi-Fi, or Orbi can provide. OpenSync is where that tighter integration comes from.

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Tesla announces its next car factory will be near Berlin

Ars Technica - November 12, 2019 - 10:29pm

Enlarge / Elon Musk. (credit: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

Tesla's next "Gigafactory" will be in the Berlin area, Elon Musk announced at an event in Germany on Tuesday evening. Techcrunch's Kirsten Korosec reports that Musk made the comments during an on-stage conversation with Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess at the Golden Steering Wheel awards show.

The original Gigafactory was Tesla's massive battery factory in Nevada. Musk dubbed it a "Gigafactory" because it was designed to produce batteries with gigawatt-hours of storage capacity. Batteries are made in Nevada and then shipped to Tesla's car factory in Fremont, California, for final assembly.

When Tesla built a car manufacturing facility in Shanghai, China, the company dubbed that "Gigafactory 3." (Tesla's beleaguered solar panel factory in Buffalo, NY, is Gigafactory 2.) Tesla took a more integrated approach in China, building batteries and cars in the same facility.

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Amazon gains unfair edge by making sellers use its shipping, complaint says

Ars Technica - November 12, 2019 - 10:15pm

Enlarge / The Amazon logo at the entrance of a logistics center in France, July 2019. (credit: Denis Charlet | AFP | Getty )

Amazon has come quite a way from when it was just an online bookstore, but it still operates a booming retail business among all its other ventures. A majority of the retail products sold on Amazon aren't actually sold by Amazon at all but rather by its sprawling network of third-party "marketplace" vendors. The company's relationships with those vendors, foreign and domestic, are at the center of a web of investigations and criticism.

Third-party retailers accounted for about 58% of Amazon's retail activity in 2018, company CEO Jeff Bezos said earlier this year, and they sold a cumulative $160 billion worth of goods. But those goods are sold in a "flea market" environment with minimal quality control, leading to ubiquitous counterfeits or recalled goods available for sale from fly-by-night merchants. If something goes wrong with your sale, getting recourse from these sellers is impossible.

Risky imports

All those kinda shady Amazon listings from companies in China you never heard of? They're not a bug, The Wall Street Journal reports today. They're a feature, present by design.

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Dealmaster: Get a year of Disney+ for free if you’re a Verizon Wireless user

Ars Technica - November 12, 2019 - 9:05pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back once again with a new round of deals and price drops. Today's list is headlined by a quick PSA for those who subscribe to a Verizon unlimited data plan or plan to subscribe to a Fios home Internet plan: if you're at all interested the new Disney+ streaming service, you can get a 12-month subscription at no extra cost. As a refresher, Disney's Netflix competitor launched on Tuesday and normally costs $7 a month or $70 a year.

Now, as is often the case with mobile carrier promos, there's some fine print to sort through. To get the free year of service, you need to subscribe to one of the carrier's Verizon Unlimited, Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited, Above Unlimited, Get More Unlimited, Do More Unlimited, Pay More Unlimited, or Start Unlimited plans. (If you're marveling at the fact that Verizon has had this many unlimited plans, many of which aren't actually unlimited, you're not alone.) Both new and existing subscribers are eligible; Verizon has options on its promo page for existing subscribers who wish to switch to an unlimited plan and those who wish to move over from another carrier.

The offer is also available to Verizon Fios home Internet users and the handful of people who can access its 5G Home plan, but only if you're a new subscriber, not if you have currently pay for one of those services. For Fios users, you'll need a standalone Internet plan of at least 50/50 Mbps service, a two-year "Triple Play" bundle, or a 2-year Internet + TV "Double Play" bundle. Either way, all of this has you signing up for Disney+ through Verizon, not Disney.

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General election 2019: Labour Party hit by second cyber-attack

BBC Technology News - November 12, 2019 - 6:15pm
The party says the first DDoS attack against it failed and it has "ongoing security processes in place".

High demand causes login problems on Disney+ launch day

Ars Technica - November 12, 2019 - 6:01pm


Disney's new streaming service is straining under the load as users rush to log in to the highly anticipated service on its US launch day. Frustrated users took to social media to complain about seeing "unable to connect" error screens instead of the Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar movies they were hoping for.

"The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our high expectations," Disney tweeted on Tuesday morning. "We are working to quickly resolve the current user issue."

Disney is aiming to reshape the paid video streaming landscape with its Disney+ offering. Until now, a lot of online streaming has been done on independent services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

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