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Just when an end seemed near, two 3D-printed gun-file legal battles get new life

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 11:30pm

Enlarge / The information contained on this Defense Distributed USB drive has been sparking quite a bit of legal action over the last year. (credit: Nathan Mattise)

Last week, the legal drama surrounding 3D-printed gun files and firearms tech company Defense Distributed seemed near the finish line. A judge had newly ruled that a federal court in Texas lacked jurisdiction to decide whether a new New Jersey "ghost gun" law was unconstitutional in Defense Distributed v. Grewal. And a previous, separate effort from 19 states and the District of Columbia to keep the gun files offline, State of Washington v. Department of State, continued to sit in limbo as it had for months. Nothing happened in the case since the fall when the defense wanted to stay (or pause) the whole thing. The defense claimed rule changes were coming at the State Department within the next four months, and those tweaks would make Washington irrelevant.

But this week, two new and unexpected court filings have set the table for yet another round in this ongoing courtroom saga. In one motion, the judge in Washington v. State has decided the case won't wait any longer and can move forward. And in the other filing, Grewal may now get a sequel situated in the state of New Jersey, as Defense Distributed has submitted a fresh legal complaint against New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. The company did so after a website that hosted DD's gun files received a corresponding takedown notice from New Jersey.

Evidently it can’t wait

The last major action in Washington came toward the end of 2018 when the defendants filed a motion to pause everything for four months while the State Department considered new rules that it argued would "directly bear on this case." Washington et al. pursued this legal action initially because they believed that, when the Department of Justice settled its five-year legal battle with Defense Distributed in July 2018 and allowed the CAD files in question to be re-posted, that action violated the Constitution. But in a November 2018 filing, government lawyers for the defense explained that rule changes being considered by the State Department would make any legal conflicts in Washington moot.

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Flickr gives free accounts a few more days to save their pictures from destruction

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 10:47pm

Enlarge (credit: Randy Adams / Flickr)

Last November, photo-hosting site Flickr announced that it was going to slash the storage afforded to free accounts; they'd be capped at just 1,000 pictures each. Starting January 8 this year, free accounts with more than 1,000 pictures were rendered unable to upload any new images, and on February 5, the service was due to start deleting the excess images. Flickr intends to delete pictures working from the oldest to the newest until each account is brought under the threshold.

February 5 has come and gone, and so far nothing has been deleted. Deletion is still in the cards, but Flickr has extended its deadline to March 12, giving its users a few more weeks to rescue their pictures. The extension comes amid widespread difficulties with downloading pictures en masse from the site, especially among its very heaviest users. As Flickr's own help pages note, it can take as long as a week to package your pictures into a single downloadable ZIP file.

Alternatively, account holders can upgrade to Flickr Pro to safeguard their pictures.

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Cable lobby asks for net neutrality law allowing paid prioritization

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 10:20pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | nevarpp)

Cable industry chief lobbyist Michael Powell today asked Congress for a net neutrality law that would ban blocking and throttling but allow Internet providers to charge for prioritization under certain circumstances.

Powell—a Republican who was FCC chairman from 2001 to 2005 and is now CEO of cable lobby group NCTA—spoke to lawmakers today at a Communications and Technology subcommittee hearing on net neutrality (see a transcript of Powell's prepared testimony).

Powell said there is "common ground around the basic tenets of net neutrality rules: There should be no blocking or throttling of lawful content. There should be no paid prioritization that creates fast lanes and slow lanes, absent public benefit. And, there should be transparency to consumers over network practices."

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Woody Allen sues Amazon for $68m for dropping A Rainy Day in New York

BBC Technology News - February 7, 2019 - 10:17pm
The film-maker takes legal action against the company for allegedly refusing to release his latest film.

Apple pushes fix for “FacePalm,” possibly its creepiest vulnerability ever

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 9:53pm

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

Apple has patched one of its creepiest vulnerabilities ever—a flaw in its FaceTime messenger app that made it possible for people to eavesdrop on audio and video captured by iPhones and Macs.

The bug in Group FaceTime, a feature that allows conference-call-style chats, made it trivial for someone to eavesdrop on someone else simply by initiating a FaceTime call, swiping up and choosing “add person,” and entering their own number to add themselves as a participant in a Group FaceTime call. While people on the receiving end would see a call was coming through, they would have no idea that the person trying to connect could already hear nearby audio and, in many cases, see video.

Two other potentially serious iOS security bugs Apple fixed Thursday have been under active attack in the wild, security researchers with Google's Project Zero said. One bug indexed as CVE-2019-7287, is a memory corruption flaw in the IOKit. Apple said it may allow apps to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges. Another memory corruption bug in Foundation, CVE-2019-7286 may allow an application to gain elevated privileges.

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Second-generation Range Rover Evoque gets hybrid option

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 9:07pm

Enlarge / A 2020 Land Rover Evoque parked on a drawbridge over the Chicago River. (credit: Jaguar Land Rover)

CHICAGO—At the Chicago Auto Show, Land Rover took the wraps off the newly redesigned Range Rover Evoque. Originally introduced for the 2011 model year, the second-generation subcompact SUV has undergone a complete makeover, featuring a hybrid powertrain option, advanced driver-assistance tech, and what Land Rover calls "groundbreaking" off-road tech.

Starting at $42,650 for the base S model, the 2020 Evoque keeps the coupe-like silhouette and dimensions of the first-generation models. Although it's roughly the same size, Land Rover has carved out more interior space for the second-gen Evoque to make the backseat more comfortable. There's also 6 percent more luggage space (now 21.5 cubic feet), which expands to 50.5 cubic feet when the back seat is folded flat.

In addition to the four-cylinder, 2.0-liter twin-turbo engine, there will be a 48V mild hybrid powertrain version that is paired with the internal-combustion engine. Like other hybrids, the Evoque will use regenerative braking to charge the battery positioned under the floor of the cabin. The engine will shut off when the Evoque drops below 11mph, and the car will tap the battery to boost acceleration once it starts moving again.

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Instagram vows to remove all graphic self-harm images from site

BBC Technology News - February 7, 2019 - 8:40pm
But some pictures - such as scars - will be allowed to remain, the head of the platform says.

Dealmaster: Take $150 off a new 11-inch iPad Pro with 256GB of storage

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 8:30pm

Enlarge (credit: TechBargains)

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal on Apple's latest 11-inch iPad Pro, the 256GB model of which is currently down to $799 at Amazon (for select users) and B&H. That's a $150 discount and the lowest sale price we've seen.

As we noted in our review a few months back, it's still premature to say the 2018 iPad Pros can totally replace a traditional laptop for most people's productivity needs. iOS is still a mobile-first operating system, and the tablet's USB-C port doesn't support external peripherals as easily as your everyday notebook. There's no headphone jack, annoyingly, and to get the most out of the device, you'll still need to pay for an external keyboard, which drives the price up further.

All that said, just because the iPad Pro can't serve as a pseudo-laptop for most people doesn't mean it can't work for everyone. And taken as a iPad, it's a phenomenal piece of hardware. The bezels are slimmer, Apple's A12X chip is blazingly fast, and the 120Hz display is both smoother and more color accurate than Apple's lower-end offerings. The 9.7-inch iPad—which is also on sale—is still the best tablet for most people, but if you've been wanting the best iPad possible for gaming, multimedia work, or what have you, this is a good time to take a look.

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Messy office owners, rejoice: Skype now blurs the background to your video

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 7:18pm

Watch the user on the bottom left corner—voila! No more ho-hum apartment backdrop.

The desktop Skype client now supports blurring the background of your video calls so that all the clutter and mess that, ahem, some of us accumulate no longer needs to be broadcast to everyone you talk to.

The background-blurring feature has already been rolled out to Microsoft's corporate communication client, Teams, and now it's in the consumer-oriented app. While bulletproof detection of the background requires a depth-sensing camera, the approach used in Skype (and Teams) uses machine learning-derived algorithms in order to work with any camera. The algorithms have been trained to detect human outlines, including the voluminous hair that some lucky people are blessed with as well as arms and hands. Presumably this means that it will properly detect even those arms and hands that appear dismembered, appearing from off the edge of the screen. Using blur is optional, and it can be enabled on a call-by-call basis.

This use of machine learning does, however, mean that it's not 100 percent guaranteed to blur everything that you might want blurred. So if there's anything too embarrassing behind you, you still might want to move it out of the camera shot just in case.

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Green New Deal bill aims to move US to 100% renewable energy, net-zero emissions

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 7:12pm

Enlarge / Wind turbines on private working ranch land on August 1, 2017 near Kevin, Montana. (credit: Getty Images / William Campbell-Corbis)

On Thursday morning, NPR posted a bill drafted by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) advocating for a Green New Deal—that is, a public works bill aimed at employing Americans and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the face of climate change.

A similar version of the bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

The House bill opens by citing two recent climate change reports: an October 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a heavily peer-reviewed report released in November 2018 by a group of US scientists from federal energy and environment departments. Both reports were unequivocal about the role that humans play in climate change and the dire consequences humans stand to face if climate change continues unchecked.

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Social media: How can governments regulate it?

BBC Technology News - February 7, 2019 - 6:57pm
As the government draws up plans, what are its options for regulating the firms?

Judge orders $150,000 in damages in GTA Online cheating case

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 6:30pm


A federal court has filed a default judgement against Jhonny Perez, the maker of Grand Theft Auto Online cheat program Elusive, in a copyright infringement suit. Southern District of New York Judge Kevin Castel has ordered Perez to pay the statutory maximum of $150,000, plus attorney's fees, after Perez declined to answer the charges in court.

Elusive is one of a number of "mod menus" that let Grand Theft Auto Online players take practically full control of the multiplayer game environment, including granting the ability to generate infinite amounts of in-game currency. That in turn "undermines Take-Two's pricing and sales of legitimate virtual currency," as the ruling obtained by TorrentFreak puts it. The ruling also says Elusive caused "Take-Two to lose control over its carefully balanced plan for how its video game is designed to be played... harm[ing] Take-Two's reputation for maintaining its gaming environment [and] discouraging users from further purchases and gameplay."

Take-Two says it has no way of knowing exactly how much revenue has been lost due to the use of Elusive, but it estimated damages of at least $500,000 in the suit.

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Trailer for latest adaptation of Pet Sematary has some surprising twists

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 6:11pm

Take it from the Creed family cat, Church: sometimes dead is better.

Stephen King published his bestselling novel, Pet Sematary, 35 years ago, and it has definitely stood the test of time. We think we know the story, but there will be some unexpected, horrifying twists in the new film adaptation, judging by the spooky latest trailer.

(Spoilers for original book and film below.)

Staunch King fans know the basic plot by now: a doctor named Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his family from the big city (Chicago in the book, Boston in the 2019 film) to a charming small town in Maine. The new house is right by a busy highway on one side and bumps up against a forest in back. So many local pets meet their demise on the highway that the children have set up a "Pet Sematary" in the forest to bury their beloved animals. Louis' daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) discovers the site while walking in the woods.

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Jack'd gay dating app exposes millions of private photos

BBC Technology News - February 7, 2019 - 4:51pm
A security flaw in gay dating app Jack'd left private intimate photos publicly exposed on the internet.

Vaccinations jump 500% in antivax hotspot amid measles outbreak

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 4:45pm

Enlarge / Administration of a measles, mumps, rubella vaccine. (credit: Getty | MediaNews Group/Orange County )

Demand for measles vaccines leapt 500 percent last month in Clark County, Washington—a hotbed for anti-vaccine sentiment that has now become the epicenter of a ferocious measles outbreak.

As of February 6, the county—which sits just north of the border from Portland, Oregon—has tallied 50 confirmed cases and 11 suspected cases of measles since January 1. The case count is rising swiftly, with figures more than doubling in just the last two weeks. On January 18, the county declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak.

Health officials have long feared an outbreak in the area, given the rampant skepticism of vaccines driven by misinformation and fear-mongering by anti-vaccine advocates. Only 76.5 percent of kindergarteners in Clark County had all the standard immunizations during the 2017-2018 school year. Overall, the county’s population is below the 92-percent to 94-percent range some experts consider necessary to curb the spread of disease.

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'Cyber-attack' on Bernard Matthews staff bank details

BBC Technology News - February 7, 2019 - 4:32pm
Bernard Matthews says bank account details of 200 employees were "potentially compromised".

Twitter shares drop 10% as revenue outlook disappoints

BBC Technology News - February 7, 2019 - 4:29pm
The social media firm reports higher profits, but its revenue forecast falls short of expectations.

Inside Ocado's burning robotic warehouse

BBC Technology News - February 7, 2019 - 3:51pm
The BBC's Zoe Kleinman describes what was inside the Ocado grocery warehouse, which has been hit by fire.

Deaths put e-scooters in spotlight

BBC Technology News - February 7, 2019 - 3:29pm
A watchdog calls for improved safety following another death and a series of severe injuries in US cities.

AMD Radeon VII: A 7nm-long step in the right direction, but is that enough?

Ars Technica - February 7, 2019 - 3:00pm
Specs at a glance: AMD Radeon VII STREAM PROCESSORS 3,840 TEXTURE UNITS 240 ROPS 64 CORE CLOCK 1,400MHz BOOST CLOCK 1,800MHz MEMORY BUS WIDTH 4,096-bit MEMORY BANDWIDTH 1,024GB/s MEMORY SIZE 16GB HBM2 Outputs 3x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0b Release date February 7, 2019 PRICE $699 directly from AMD AMD Radeon VII Price: $699 at AMD


In the world of computer graphics cards, AMD has been behind its only rival, Nvidia, for as long as we can remember. But a confluence of recent events finally left AMD with a sizable opportunity in the market.

Having established a serious lead with its 2016 and 2017 GTX graphics cards, Nvidia tried something completely different last year. Its RTX line of cards essentially arrived with near-equivalent power as its prior generation for the same price (along with a new, staggering $1,200 card in its "consumer" line). The catch was that these cards' new, proprietary cores were supposed to enable a few killer perks in higher-end graphics rendering. But that big bet faltered, largely because only one truly RTX-compatible retail game currently exists, and Nvidia took the unusual step of warning investors about this fact.

Meanwhile, AMD finally pulled off a holy-grail number for its graphics cards: 7nm. As in, a tiny fabrication process that packs even more components onto a GPU's silicon for other hardware and features (the Radeon VII's HBM2 RAM shares die space with the GPU). In the case of this week's AMD Radeon VII—which goes on sale today, February 7, for $699—that extra space is dedicated to a whopping 16GB VRAM, well above the 11GB maximum of any consumer-grade Nvidia product. AMD also insists that its memory bandwidth has been streamlined to make that VII-specific perk valuable for any 3D application.

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