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Industry & Technology

Breast cancer: Patient creates app to help with treatment

BBC Technology News - November 27, 2019 - 3:30am
Karen Bonham struggled to find the information she needed ahead of radiotherapy - so she created an app.

General Election 2019: The Facebook influencers you've never heard of

BBC Technology News - November 27, 2019 - 2:47am
Far from newspaper offices and TV studios, committed volunteer activists have created an alternative Facebook media universe.

How a cake company pioneered the office computer

BBC Technology News - November 27, 2019 - 1:15am
How the Lyons catering company pioneered LEO, the first electronic office system

The YouTuber with 26 billion views

BBC Technology News - November 27, 2019 - 1:03am
Brazil's Konrad Dantas, better know as Kondzilla, has the world's second most watched music video channel.

CEO Secrets: 'My success is all down to maths'

BBC Technology News - November 27, 2019 - 1:03am
Timothy Armoo of Fanbytes explains how his success is grounded in a love of maths.

No, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is not disintegrating, physicist claims

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 11:46pm

Enlarge / A dramatic view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot and its surroundings, courtesy of Voyager 1 on Feb. 25, 1979, when the spacecraft was 5.7 million miles (9.2 million kilometers) from Jupiter. (credit: NASA/JPL/Public domain)

Earlier this year, several amateur astronomers spotted an unusual anomaly on the planet Jupiter: bits of the gas giant's famed Great Red Spot appeared to be flaking off, raising fears that the planet's most identifiable feature might be showing signs of disappearing. But Philip Marcus, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, begs to differ. He argues that reports of the red spot's death have been greatly exaggerated, and at a meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics in Seattle this week, he offered an intriguing counter-explanation for the flaking.

The Great Red Spot is basically a gigantic storm in Jupiter's atmosphere, about 22 degrees south of the planet's equator. Because it's located in the southern hemisphere, it rotates counter-clockwise, meaning it's more of an "anti-cyclone." The 17th-century scientist Robert Hooke is commonly credited with the first recorded observation of the red spot in 1664, although some contend Giovanni Cassini provided a more convincing description in 1665. After 1713, there were no reported observations for over 100 years, until the red spot was observed again in 1830 and continually thereafter. Despite the gap in recorded observations, many astronomers believe it's the same storm, still going strong more than 350 years later.

This isn't the first time an alarm has been raised about the possible dissolution of the red spot. Back in 2004, astronomers concluded that it was shrinking, compared to 100 years ago, and the spot seems to have been shrinking even more rapidly since 2012. In May 2017, the Gemini North telescope on the summit of Hawaii's Maunakea captured an image of a small hook-like cloud on the red spot's western side, as well as a long wave, or "streamer," extending off its eastern side.

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Senate takes another stab at privacy law with proposed COPRA bill

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 10:55pm

Enlarge / Sen. Maria Cantwell during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Aug. 22, 2018. (credit: Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Perhaps the third time's the charm: a group of Senate Democrats, following in the recent footsteps of their colleagues in both chambers, has introduced a bill that would impose sweeping reforms to the current disaster patchwork of US privacy law.

The bill (PDF), dubbed the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA), seeks to provide US consumers with a blanket set of privacy rights. The scope and goal of COPRA are in the same vein as Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect in May 2018.

Privacy rights "should be like your Miranda rights—clear as a bell as to what they are and what constitutes a violation," Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who introduced the bill, said in a statement. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) also co-sponsored the bill.

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Despite clear warnings, Europe is out of IP addresses—again

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 10:29pm

Enlarge / This is RIPE's new IPv4 waiting list. If you've never received IP addresses from RIPE before, you can request a single /24 (256 IPs) and wait for somebody to croak and relinquish theirs. (credit: Jim Salter)

Monday afternoon, RIPE—Réseaux IP Européens—or the regional Internet Registry for Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Central Asia—announced that it's out of IPv4 addresses.

What this means is that the organization has handed out its last available /22 (1,022 address) netblock. If you need European public IP addresses of your very own, you must get on a waiting list and hope for some other company to die on the vine and relinquish its address space when it does.

There are some caveats to RIPE's used-IPv4-address car lot, though. To get on the waiting list, you must never have received any subnet from RIPE in the past... and you may only receive a single /24 subnet. That gets you 256 total IPv4 addresses, three of which are used just to set the whole thing up (network, broadcast, and gateway). So if you plan to have more than 253 devices connected, you're going to need to get thrifty and figure out how many of them can be put behind NAT (Network Address Translation).

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Disney+’s The Mandalorian joins a long list of fake HDR content, analysis finds

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 10:06pm

Enlarge / Pedro Pascal stars as the Mandalorian. (credit: YouTube/Disney Plus)

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is the most notable new display technology for rich-media consumption since high definition, but judging from some implementations of it, you wouldn't necessarily know it.

YouTube channel HDTVTest is known for doing quality analysis of the HDR implementations in popular media like films, games, and TV shows, and it found that Disney+'s The Mandalorian live-action Star Wars series is the latest in a long line of high-profile content that is just SDR wrapped up in an HDR package. The show has none of the actual benefits of HDR and a number of additional downsides, such that viewers might actually prefer to disable HDR on their TVs when viewing.

Most good TVs that support HDR are capable of displaying specular highlights at around 800-1,200 cd/m² in brightness, and that range of brightness from black (or close-enough to it on LCD displays) is what makes HDR possible. By presenting such a wide range of brightness, content has realistic and visually arresting contrast between the brightest and darkest parts of the image—and that range and granularity in brightness has a big impact on color, too.

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Dealmaster: Take $70 off Sony’s WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling headphones

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 9:04pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of early Black Friday deals. Today's list is highlighted by a deal on Sony's WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling headphones, which are down below $280 at various retailers. This will be their sale price for the holiday season; normally, they retail for around $350.

We've recommended these headphones multiple times in the past year and change. While we wouldn't be surprised to see Sony release a new model in the coming months, the WH-1000XM3 remain a superb blend of well-cushioned comfort, clean sound, and the most effective active noise-canceling on the market. Their sound profile does skew a bit toward heavier bass, but they're not sloppy about it, and it's possible to customize the signature through a companion app. We'd like the ability to customize the strength of the ANC, and we'd prefer physical controls over the touch-based ones here, but if you've been searching for a premium pair of noise-canceling headphones, this is a good price for a set we recommend with confidence.

That said, a metric ton of Black Friday deals has gone live ahead of Black Friday proper, including a whole bunch of discounts on PS4 and Xbox One hardware, video games for those systems, Amazon Fire TV streamers and Fire tablets, the latest-gen Apple iPad, and much more. So even if you don't need a new pair of headphones, have a look through the full roundup below.

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Supreme Court allows climate scientist’s defamation case to proceed

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 8:48pm

Enlarge / Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann giving a presentation on records of past climate. (credit: American Association of University Professors)

Climate scientists take a lot of abuse. The political opposition to climate science in some countries breeds nasty attacks on the scientists themselves. Penn State's Michael E. Mann, for example, became a favorite target after his work on tree-ring records of past climate produced a "hockey stick" graph showing that a gradual cooling trend flipped into sharp, human-caused warming.

In 2012, Mann decided he'd had enough and did something few other scientists have—he filed a defamation lawsuit. After years bouncing around in court, with the defendants appealing decisions that would let the case proceed, the suit's last obstacle was cleared Monday as the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal. A 2016 decision by a District of Columbia court will stand, and the case will now have to be heard.

The original suit was prompted by articles written by Conservative columnist and radio show host Mark Steyn and Rand Simberg of the Conservative Enterprise Institute. The articles claimed that Mann's research was fraudulent—that he had intentionally manipulated data. And Simberg added a regrettable analogy that Steyn quoted in his piece: "Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except for instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data."

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Iran letter raises prospect of 'white list' internet clampdown

BBC Technology News - November 26, 2019 - 8:40pm
Citizens fear Iran will soon limit access to a so-called "white list" of approved foreign services.

Google fires four employees at center of worker organization efforts

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 7:47pm

Enlarge / Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019. (credit: Lyu Liang | VCG | Getty Images)

Tensions between Google parent company Alphabet and its workers are again on the rise, as four employees at the forefront of an organization movement within Google have been fired.

The firings came Monday in the wake of an employee rally at Google's San Francisco office that took place last Friday. The rally was in support of employees Rebecca Rivers and Laurence Berland, both of whom had been placed on administrative leave in the wake of their previous protests against the company.

Bloomberg obtained a memo sent to all Google employees on Monday about the firings, which described the dismissal as due to "clear and repeated violations" of the company's data security policies.

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Is it time to turn away from touchscreens in our cars?

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 7:29pm

Enlarge / The Porsche Taycan can feature up to four touchscreens, three of which are seen here. That might be overkill. (credit: Porsche)

The primary controls for operating a car are the same today as they were a hundred years ago. We push one foot pedal to speed up, another to slow down, and turn a hand-operated wheel to steer our direction. Over the years, people have suggested joysticks or other radical replacements for controls, but none has proven superior to wheels and pedals. However, when it comes to our other interactions with automobiles, the past decade or so has seen quite the change within our car interiors. The high-definition, multicolored glitz of the consumer electronics world has proliferated throughout the industry, replacing dials and buttons with touchscreens. Whether that's an entirely good thing is up for debate.

It might all be infotainment's fault. In the old days, there were just car stereos. You turned a knob or pushed a button to listen to the radio, inserted some kind of physical media, and if you were really fancy, maybe there were some sliders to change the EQ settings. Soon, small digital screens were appearing in our cars' center consoles, built-in alternatives to the suction-cupped GPS units that all of a sudden rendered the road atlas a thing of the past. Those screens grew and became more capable, so there was more need to interact with them. Dedicated physical buttons have given way to jogwheels, scroll- and touchpads, and then the touchscreen.

One problem with all of these additions is that they can be a distraction from driving. Taking your eyes off the road is bad, and touchscreen interfaces are generally not conducive to developing "eyes-off" muscle memory, particularly if they lack haptic feedback. It's not that touch interfaces are inherently bad, but they do let designers get away with shipping poor user interfaces.

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Android’s new “Ambient Mode” turns a charging phone into a smart display

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 7:08pm

Google has quietly released a new Android feature called the "Google Assistant Ambient Mode," a new screen Google is calling a "proactive experience" your phone can kick over to while it's charging.

Ambient mode is built into the Google Search app and takes over the lock screen any time you charge the phone. The new ambient mode shows a quick greeting message at the top, followed by your calendar, weather, upcoming flights, and notifications. Below that is a quick settings section that shows things like a do-not-disturb toggle and smart home controls for lights and thermostats. There's also a photo frame mode. It looks like a handy screen that could pop up when you're just charging your phone before bed.

There's no blog post on this new feature, only a single YouTube video. In the video, Google Assistant Product Manager Arvind Chandrababu says the new screen is about "moving from an app-based way of doing things to an intent based way of doing things. Right now users can do most things with their smartphone, but it requires quite a bit of mental bandwidth to figure out 'Hey, I need to accomplish this task, so let me backtrack and figure out what are all the steps I need to do.'"

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Researchers find dangerous, FDA-rejected drug in supplements—by reading labels

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 6:55pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Scott Olson)

Several supposed brain-enhancing supplements sold in the US contain a questionable drug that has been rejected by the Food and Drug Administration, according to a new analysis published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers led by Harvard’s Pieter Cohen identified four dietary supplement makers illegally selling the drug, piracetam, in their products. The researchers were clued in to the presence of the unapproved drug by simply reading the products’ labels. Two of the supplement makers brazenly called their brain pills “piracetam” outright.

In a twist, researchers found that a fifth supplement maker named its product after the unapproved drug but didn’t actually include any piracetam in the product.

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Xbox chief: “Nobody’s asking for VR” for Project Scarlett

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 5:46pm

Enlarge / Microsoft's own Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets aren't set for support on the Xbox side, according to Spencer.

Microsoft Head of Xbox Phil Spencer told Australian gaming site Stevivor that virtual reality support is "not where our focus is" for next year's planned release of an Xbox One successor known as Project Scarlett.

"I have some issues with VR," Spencer told the site. "It’s isolating and I think of games as a communal, kind of together experience. We’re responding to what our customers are asking for and... nobody’s asking for VR."

That closely mirrors comments Spencer made to Ars Technica in 2017, when he said, "We haven't had people climbing over us saying, 'Hey, when can you deliver a family room VR experience.' I think a little of the setup with TV and dragging cables across the room is a little difficult." Apparently Microsoft's view of its customers' VR demand hasn't changed much in the intervening years.

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Intel Core i9-10980XE—a step forward for AI, a step back for everything else

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 5:41pm

Intel's new i9-10980XE, debuting on the same day as AMD's new Threadripper line, occupies a strange market segment: the "budget high-end desktop." Its 18 cores and 36 threads sound pretty exciting compared to Intel's top-end gaming CPU, the i9-9900KS—but they pale in comparison to Threadripper 3970x's 32 cores and 64 threads. Making things worse, despite having more than double the cores, i9-10980XE has trouble differentiating itself even from the much less expensive i9-9900KS in many benchmarks.

This leaves the new part falling back on what it does have going for it—cost, both initial and operational. If you can't use the full performance output of a Threadripper, the i9-10980XE will give you roughly half the performance for roughly half of the cost, and it extends that savings into ongoing electrical costs as well.


Our i9-10980XE system desktop idled at 69W and drew 257W at the wall under full CPU load. (credit: Jim Salter)

Our i9-10980XE test rig was a lot easier to share an office with than the competing Threadripper 3970x rig. Its EVGA X399 Dark motherboard didn't make it look like a scene from Poltergeist was playing out in the office, and it drew a lot less power and threw off a lot less palpable heat.

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Teen's TikTok video about China's Muslim camps goes viral

BBC Technology News - November 26, 2019 - 5:05pm
Video clips masquerading as being about beauty tips actually criticise China's treatment of Muslims.

Massachusetts bill would block logging, let state forests keep their carbon

Ars Technica - November 26, 2019 - 4:43pm

Enlarge / A gravel path cuts through a forest in Mount Everett State Reservation in Massachusetts. (credit:

We're going to have to do more than just reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change, according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report issued last year. Given our current emissions trajectory, we'll also have to remove excess carbon from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, there is not a proven industrial technique that can accomplish carbon removal on the scale required.

But the IPCC authors do point out a rather banal way to draw CO2 out of the atmosphere: trees.

This year, Massachusetts lawmakers proposed novel legislation that would enlist all state forest lands in the fight against climate change by protecting them from commercial logging. The law would affect roughly 600,000 acres. If it passes, "Massachusetts would become a model for wildland protection and for using its public lands to maximize carbon storage and address the climate crisis," said Edward Faison, senior ecologist at Highstead, a New England-based ecological research organization.

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