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Industry & Technology

ARM: Tudor Brown says chip-maker should remain independent

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 1:44pm
The UK-based chip designer's ex-president Tudor Brown warns of the risks of the firm being sold on.

Untitled Goose Game ditches plastic for its eco-friendly game cases

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 1:23pm

When Untitled Goose Game finally sees a physical release later this year (after a highly successful digital launch last year), it will also see the debut of a new line of "eco-packaging" that publisher iam8bit says it "hope[s] leads an entire industry into the future."

Iam8bit's so-called "Lovely Edition" release of the game will be the first PS4 title to eschew the standard plastic Blu-ray DVD case in favor of a cardboard box made with "100% post-consumer, recycled material with heavy duty 20-pt stock and no harmful inks." The packaging also makes use of a biodegradable plastic shrinkwrap called biolefin, which breaks down into biomass after just one to three years, instead of the usual 300 to 600, according to its manufacturer.

The eco-friendly decisions extend to what comes inside the game box, as well. A booklet and foldout poster included in the package get their paper from sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, ensuring the wood "comes from only the most well-managed and environmentally responsible forests," as iam8bit puts it. And the included "No Goose" sticker is made from sugar cane waste, which the company assures us is fully biodegradable but not as delicious as it sounds.

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Here’s why Apple believes it’s an AI leader—and why it says critics have it all wrong

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 12:45pm

Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) now permeate nearly every feature on the iPhone, but Apple hasn't been touting these technologies like some of its competitors have. I wanted to understand more about Apple's approach , so I spent an hour talking with two Apple executives about the company's strategy—and the privacy implications of all the new features based on AI and ML.

Historically, Apple has not had a public reputation for leading in this area. That's partially because people associate AI with digital assistants, and reviewers frequently call Siri less useful than Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. And with ML, many tech enthusiasts say that more data means better models—but Apple is not known for data collection in the same way as, say, Google.

Despite this, Apple has included dedicated hardware for machine learning tasks in most of the devices it ships. Machine intelligence-driven functionality increasingly dominates the keynotes where Apple executives take the stage to introduce new features for iPhones, iPads, or the Apple Watch. The introduction of Macs with Apple silicon later this year will bring many of the same machine intelligence developments to the company's laptops and desktops, too.

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Instagram rolls out TikTok 'rip-off' Reels

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 10:01am
As TikTok faces uncertainty, Instagram adds new features that will be very familiar to TikTok fans.

Jake Paul: FBI swat team seizes guns at home of YouTube star

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 9:18am
The social media star is no stranger to controversy and has had other run-ins with law enforcement.

Facebook and Twitter restrict Trump accounts over 'harmful' virus claim

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 6:39am
The social networks say a post of a TV interview Mr Trump gave contained Covid-19 "misinformation".

TikTok: Trump administration plans Chinese tech crackdown

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 5:53am
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wants a “clean network” free of "untrusted" apps like TikTok and WeChat.

Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Raised by Wolves is giving us strong Alien vibes

Ars Technica - August 6, 2020 - 2:05am

Executive Producer Ridley Scott's sci-fi series Raised by Wolves is coming to HBO Max in September.

Androids struggle to raise human children on a mysterious planet in the first trailer for Raised by Wolves, a new sci-fi series coming to HBO Max, courtesy of none other than Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, etc., etc.). Created by Aaron Guzikowski, who also penned the script for the 2013 thriller Prisoners, the ten-episode series was initially a straight-to-series order for TNT but moved to HBO Max last October. Scott even directed the first two episodes, making this his US TV directorial debut.

“I’m always searching for new frontiers in the sci-fi genre and have found a true original in Raised by Wolves— a wholly distinct and imaginative world, full of characters struggling with existential questions," Scott told Deadline Hollywood in 2018 about what drew him to the project. "What makes us human? What constitutes a family? And what if we could start over again and erase the mess we’ve made of our planet? Would we survive? Would we do better?”

The tagline for the series gives little away: "Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust." But the basic premise revealed during development is that the story involves two androids serving as Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) figures on a strange virgin planet. They are programmed to raise human children to rebuild the population. However, the people of the fledgling colony develop stark religious differences, and "the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task."

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TikTok to open $500m data centre in Ireland

BBC Technology News - August 6, 2020 - 12:20am
The firm says the move represents its "long-term commitment to Europe".

Insecure satellite Internet is threatening ship and plane safety

Ars Technica - August 5, 2020 - 11:31pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

More than a decade has passed since researchers demonstrated serious privacy and security holes in satellite-based Internet services. The weaknesses allowed attackers to snoop on and sometimes tamper with data received by millions of users thousands of miles away. You might expect that in 2020—as satellite Internet has grown more popular—providers would have fixed those shortcomings, but you’d be wrong.

In a briefing delivered on Wednesday at the Black Hat security conference online, researcher and Oxford PhD candidate James Pavur presented findings that show that satellite-based Internet is putting millions of people at risk, despite providers adopting new technologies that are supposed to be more advanced.

Over the course of several years, he has used his vantage point in mainland Europe to intercept the signals of 18 satellites beaming Internet data to people, ships, and planes in a 100 million-square-kilometer swath that stretches from the United States, Caribbean, China, and India. What he found is concerning. A small sampling of the things he observed include:

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With COVID-19 spreading, 49% of low-income communities have zero ICU beds

Ars Technica - August 5, 2020 - 9:35pm

Enlarge / Medics transfer a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance outside of Emergency at Coral Gables Hospital where coronavirus patients are treated in Coral Gables near Miami, on July 30, 2020. (credit: Getty | CHANDAN KHANNA)

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads uncontrolled in much of the United States, a new study finds that almost half of low-income areas are gravely unprepared to treat severe cases of COVID-19, hinting at higher death rates to come.

Forty-nine percent of the country’s lowest-income communities—with median incomes of $35,000 or less—have zero intensive care unit beds in their area hospitals. Looking only at rural areas, the picture is even worse: 55 percent had no ICU beds. This is in stark contrast to the highest-income communities, defined by a median income of $90,000 and above. Of those, only 3 percent overall lack access to ICU beds. The study, published by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, appeared this week in the journal Health Affairs.

The findings further heighten concern over how the pandemic is exacerbating gaping socioeconomic disparities in the US. Low-income communities are already more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 due to unavoidable job-related exposure, reliance on mass transit, higher population densities, and less ability to quarantine upon potential exposure, the authors note.

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What we know about the massive chemical explosion in Beirut

Ars Technica - August 5, 2020 - 9:10pm

On Tuesday, Beirut was devastated by a massive chemical explosion that occurred at the city's port a little after 6pm local time. The blast killed at least 135 people and injured thousands more, and it may have left 300,000 residents homeless after the shockwave shattered glass and damaged buildings across the Mediterranean city. Initial reports blamed improperly stored fireworks for the disaster, but the real culprit soon emerged: 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) that had been seized by Lebanese officials from a freighter in 2013 and stored at a warehouse at the port ever since.

It's now believed that a fire broke out at the warehouse—possibly due to careless welding performed as an anti-theft measure—which caused the stockpile of the chemical, often used as a fertilizer, to explode catastrophically.

Ammonium nitrate has often been combined with fuel oil to create an explosive that's used in mining and construction, and it has been used as an oxidizer for rocket engines. But it's also been employed for more nefarious ends. The first recorded ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO) bomb was detonated in 1970 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a protest against the Vietnam War. Terror groups on both sides of Northern Ireland's sectarian conflict also built bombs using ANFO from the 1970s until the 1990s, and Timothy McVeigh used a combination of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane for a terror attack in Oklahoma City in 1995.

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Zoombomber crashes court hearing on Twitter hack with Pornhub video

Ars Technica - August 5, 2020 - 8:20pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Zoombombers today disrupted a court hearing involving the Florida teen accused of masterminding a takeover of high-profile Twitter accounts, forcing the judge to stop the hearing. "During the hearing, the judge and attorneys were interrupted several times with people shouting racial slurs, playing music, and showing pornographic images," ABC Action News in Tampa Bay wrote. A Pornhub video forced the judge to temporarily shut down the hearing.

The Zoombombing occurred today when the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in Tampa held a bail hearing for Graham Clark, who previously pleaded not guilty and is reportedly being held on $725,000 bail. Clark faces 30 felony charges related to the July 15 Twitter attack in which accounts of famous people like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Joe Biden were hijacked and used to push cryptocurrency scams. Hackers also accessed direct messages for 36 high-profile account holders.

Today, Judge Christopher Nash ruled against a request to lower Clark's bail amount. But before that, the judge "shut down the hearing for a short time" when arguments were interrupted by "pornography... foul language and rap music," Fox 13 reporter Gloria Gomez wrote on Twitter.

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Many of Mars’ stream valleys might have formed under an ice sheet

Ars Technica - August 5, 2020 - 8:08pm

Enlarge / Examples of different types of valleys on Mars. (credit: Galofre et al./Nature Geoscience)

The further back into Earth’s history your mind wanders, the more work your imagination has to put in. That’s even more true for Mars. None of us have physically stepped foot on the present-day version of the planet, and its past was clearly very different from its present, with evidence pointing to flowing and standing water.

Among the relics of the watery past are networks of valleys incised into Mars’ surface. The Red Planet’s southern hemisphere highlands host many valleys, which have largely been interpreted as formed by rivers and groundwater springs. The source of water in rivers—whether rainfall in a warm climate or just melt from glacial ice—has been a question mark.

It’s thought that Mars’ past was generally quite cold, so a connection between the valleys and glacial ice is quite plausible. But how direct is that connection? We can identify the drainages in which water flows beneath ice sheets based on physical characteristics of the valleys left behind. So a team led by Anna Grau Galofre at Arizona State set out to analyze the valleys on Mars to see if any would better match a sub-glacial origin.

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Mulan: UK cinemas hit out at 'disappointing' Disney+ release

BBC Technology News - August 5, 2020 - 6:55pm
A plan to release the film on Disney+ instead of in cinemas is described as "hugely disappointing".

Twitter users urged to update over Android security flaw

BBC Technology News - August 5, 2020 - 6:51pm
Millions of Android users should update their apps, Twitter warns.

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 2 is official, comes with a ton of improvements [Update]

Ars Technica - August 5, 2020 - 6:47pm

Samsung Unpacked 2020 is happening today, but the star of the show, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, only got a light teasing. We got official press pictures, one or two specs, and a promise of more info on September 1. The good news is that there was also a full spec sheet leak today from XDA's Max Weinbach, and it fills in most of the blanks.

Samsung's second-generation foldable is officially the "Galaxy Z Fold 2," a slight name change from "Samsung Galaxy Fold" that puts it in the same class as Samsung's other foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip. The smartphone/tablet hybrid is very much in the mold of the Galaxy Fold 1 from last year, but it has a ton of iterative yearly upgrades and refinements.

The most noticeable upgrade is that the outer screen now fills the front of the phone. XDA's specs list the display as a 6.2-inch, 2260×816 OLED display with a crazy 25:9 aspect ratio. This is dramatically bigger than the 4.6-inch display that shipped on the Fold 1, which looked really out of place, with somewhere around a 50-percent body-to-display ratio. The new display is still very tall and skinny, but the "phone" part of the Fold 2 now looks more like a smartphone.

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Star Trek: Lower Decks review: Comfort food with a comic twist

Ars Technica - August 5, 2020 - 6:32pm

Enlarge / Ensigns Tendi (Noël Wells), Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), Boimler (Jack Quaid), and Mariner (Tawny Newsome) reporting for duty. (credit: YouTube/CBS All Access)

Star Trek has been many things in the past 54 years: eight television series, 13 films, the better part of a thousand total novels, and the beating heart that arguably created modern fandom as it now stands. But for all the humor—both intentional and not—scattered throughout its storied history, there is one frontier it has not yet explored: the half-hour comedy.

The ninth and newest Star Trek series aims to change all that. Lower Decks is a half-hour animated series set in the timeline two years after the conclusion of Star Trek: Voyager. The half-hour comedy cartoon format is a definite change of pace from ViacomCBS' other recent Star Trek offerings, the heavily serialized dramas Picard and Discovery. The question any fan might have then, is simple: does it hold up?

And the answer is yes, mostly—but don't set your expectations to "stunned."

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BP plans to cut oil production 40 percent by 2030

Ars Technica - August 5, 2020 - 6:11pm

Enlarge (credit: b k)

In February, BP announced a pledge to (mostly) reach net-zero CO­2­ emissions by 2050, a noteworthy change of course steered by new CEO Bernard Looney. BP had long dabbled in promoting an interest in greener pursuits, but these promises pointed toward a more serious shift.

On Monday, the company released some specifics for the coming decade, describing “a new strategy that will reshape [BP’s] business as it pivots from being an international oil company focused on producing resources to an integrated energy company focused on delivering solutions for customers.” The new details are focused on investors, as the plan involves about a 50-percent reduction in dividends for shareholders. That money will instead go to paying down debts—partly a response to the economic consequences of COVID-19—as well as funding some of the planned investments.

BP says it will increase investment in “low carbon energy” from $500 million to around $5 billion per year by 2030. That includes building renewable electricity generation reaching 50 gigawatts in capacity, as well as pushing into the nascent hydrogen, biofuel, and carbon capture industries. It also includes betting on the electric vehicle charging business, with a goal of expanding from the current 7,500 charging points to over 70,000.

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Horizon Zero Dawn on PC: Not the optimized port we were hoping for

Ars Technica - August 5, 2020 - 5:53pm

Enlarge / In still-image form, Horizon Zero Dawn sure is a looker on PC. But it's a video game, not a slideshow, and that brings us to some bad news. (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Horizon Zero Dawn was an easy Ars pick for one of 2017's top five video games, but a certain subset of our readers disagreed. This was due almost entirely to the game's PS4 exclusivity. Never mind that its developer, Guerrilla Games, is a wholly owned Sony subsidiary; we want it on PC, our readers declared.

Historically, Sony Interactive Entertainment (not to be confused with other Sony publishing arms) has been cagey about letting its PlayStation exclusives land elsewhere, but the past couple of years has seen that stance shift, with games like Heavy Rain and Death Stranding making their PC debuts. Death Stranding stands out as a particularly impressive example of a console game's PC port gone right.

I remarked at the time that DS' PC version was good news for HZD, mostly because they share the same underlying tech, Guerrilla's Decima Engine. But today, two days before HZD's "complete" edition lands on Steam for $50, I'm here to report that their shared tech hasn't been paid forward with identical PC-version results.

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