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Industry & Technology

House budget for NASA frees Europa Clipper from SLS rocket

Ars Technica - 1 hour 17 min ago

Enlarge / A full-scale prototype of the high-gain antenna on NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft. (credit: NASA)

The US House of Representatives released its proposed fiscal year 2021 budget for NASA on Tuesday, funding the agency at $22.63 billion. This is the same amount of funding that was enacted for NASA's budget this year.

This is just the beginning of the budget process, of course. The White House released its budget request back in February, and now the House and Senate will establish their priorities. Months of negotiations will ensue, compounded by the COVID-19 crisis and the 2020 presidential election. After the fiscal year 2020 budget ends in October, a continuing resolution is likely. The 2021 budget seems unlikely to be resolved before December.

Still, the new document does tell us where Democrats and Republicans in the House think NASA funding should go. And there are a few important clues within worth discussing.

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Elon Musk taunts Tesla critics as stock soars to new highs

Ars Technica - 1 hour 27 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Tesla)

Tesla's stock leapt above $1,400 for the first time on Tuesday morning—a nearly 50 percent increase over the price just a week earlier. As of publication time, Tesla's stock has slumped a bit to around $1,380. That's still more than the stock was worth at any time before today and a six-fold jump from Tesla's share price a year earlier.

The primary villains in Tesla's mythology are "shorts": investors who short-sell the company's stock in hopes of profiting from a falling price. CEO Elon Musk has regularly taunted these critics about the company's rising stock price. On Sunday, Musk gleefully announced that Tesla was selling "limited edition short shorts" on its website.

The shorts are red with gold trim, with a small Tesla logo on the side. "S3XY" is emblazoned across the back in large type. The shorts cost "only $69.420," Musk wrote. As I write this on Tuesday morning, the shorts are sold out.

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Petnet charges new $30 annual fee for a service that still doesn’t work

Ars Technica - 1 hour 42 min ago

Enlarge / Example of how your furry friend may react to your automated pet feeder being offline. Not pictured: Insistent, deeply annoyed meowing. (credit: Catherine Falls Commercial | Getty Images)

It has not been a good year for customers of Petnet's cloud-connected automated pet-feeder system. After a rough spring, with multiple prolonged service outages, the company tried a last-ditch plea to its customers: pay a subscription fee of $4 a month, or $30 a year, and we'll be able to keep the lights on. Some users paid up—but it was apparently in vain, as their smartfeeders are still basically paperweights without connected service.

Petnet's public troubles began in February, when a service outage took feeders offline. The connection issues lasted for more than a week, during which time Petnet was completely and utterly unresponsive to customer complaints made by email, phone, or Twitter. Nor were customers the only ones who couldn't reach the company: messages Ars and other outlets sent to Petnet's press contact bounced back with an error saying the email address did not exist.

Service was finally restored—but only fleetingly, it turned out. Customers again began to complain of system outages beginning in late March. That time, Petnet blamed the COVID-19 crisis for its lack of response, saying in a March 26 email, "One of our third party vendors has notified us that due to COVID-19 their operations are experiencing an adverse effect. We will monitor this situation closely and provide you with any updates as they arise."

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Coronavirus: Drone display says 'thanks' to key workers

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 59 min ago
The light show in South Korea also reminded people to wash their hands.

Royal Mail trials refitted black cab electric vans

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 48 min ago
The project will start in Birmingham and gradually extend to other areas of the country.

TikTok: Chinese app may be banned in US, says Pompeo

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 23 min ago
US Secretary of State hints that Chinese apps - like TikTok - could be targeted.

Microsoft and Zoom join Hong Kong data 'pause'

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 31 min ago
Firms join others in saying they are not currently complying with government requests for user data.

The rise and fall of Adobe Flash

Ars Technica - 4 hours 51 min ago

Soon, Adobe itself will remove Flash Player from computers, too.

Few technologies have yielded such divisive and widespread passion as Flash. Many gush over its versatility and ease of use as a creative platform or its critical role in the rise of web video. Others abhor Flash-based advertising and Web design, or they despise the resource-intensiveness of the Flash Player plugin in its later years.

Whichever side of the love-hate divide you land on, there's no denying the fact that Flash changed how we consume, create, and interact with content on the Web. For better and worse, it helped shape the Internet of today.

But now, after roughly 25 years, Flash is finally nearing its end. In less than six months—December 2020—Adobe will officially end support and distribution of Flash Player, the browser plugin we all associate most strongly with the technology. And already, months ahead of this end-of-life switch, Flash has been disabled in most Web browsers (often flagged as a security risk should you choose to override the default settings). Even Google Chrome, long the browser of choice for Flash content, will soon remove Flash Player.

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TikTok to exit Hong Kong 'within days'

BBC Technology News - 10 hours 32 min ago
The move by the short-form video app comes after China imposed its new security law on the city.

How to have a big night out by staying in

BBC Technology News - 11 hours 8 min ago
Kate Russell has tips on where to watch Broadway musicals, opera and top comedy performances online.

COVID-19 safety: Around the world, many of the elderly can’t be bothered

Ars Technica - 17 hours 9 min ago

Enlarge (credit: David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

There are still a significant number of unknowns about the coronavirus—we're struggling to understand what influences the severity of some cases, why other people remain asymptomatic, and why most people experience only a subset of its total symptoms list. But one thing has been crystal clear in the data: the elderly are most at risk from COVID-19. A disproportionate number of the fatalities have come in those over 65.

As such, many countries have implemented strategies focused on minimizing the risks for the elderly, and appeals to the public have been made centered around protecting older family members. But are the elderly doing their part to protect themselves? Not really, according to a study that analyzed survey data from dozens of countries.

Following advice?

The work was done by Jean-François Daoust, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh. Daoust took advantage of a huge collection of survey data obtained by YouGov and Imperial College London. The dataset is enormous. While Daoust had to exclude India and China, where the population surveyed wasn't representative of the country's demographics, he was still left with over 72,000 people in 27 countries (Africa is notably unrepresented, and the only South American country is Brazil.) While his main conclusions are drawn from the data as a whole, Daoust also did country- and region-level analyses to look for differences in attitudes.

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'Horrible' offices look to tempt back workers

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 15 min ago
Landlords are hoping cleaner, more convenient and more intelligent offices will tempt back workers.

Iran's female gamers face challenges to stay online

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 19 min ago
There's been a lockdown gaming boom – but in Iran it's been difficult to stay connected.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos: The richest person in the world

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 19 min ago
His wealth is now estimated to be $171bn (£137bn), having made billions during the pandemic.

US to withdraw visas for foreign students if classes moved fully online

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 21 min ago
Some foreign students may need to move to a university with in-person classes to stay in the US.

Toxic hand sanitizers have blinded and killed adults and children, FDA warns

Ars Technica - 17 hours 27 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Jena Ardell)

Adults and children in the United States have been blinded, hospitalized, and, in some cases, even died after drinking hand sanitizers contaminated with the extremely toxic alcohol methanol, the Food and Drug Administration reports.

In an updated safety warning, the agency identified five more brands of hand sanitizer that contain methanol, a simple alcohol often linked to incorrectly distilled liquor that is poisonous if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.

The newly identified products are in addition to nine methanol-containing sanitizers the FDA identified last month, which are all made by the Mexico-based manufacturer Eskbiochem SA de CV. According to FDA testing, one of the products contained 81 percent methanol and no ethanol, a safe alcohol typically used in hand sanitizers. At the time, the agency reported that it was “not aware of any reports of adverse events associated with these hand sanitizer products.”

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FBI nabs Nigerian business scammer who allegedly cost victims millions

Ars Technica - 18 hours 8 min ago

Enlarge / Ray "Hushpuppi" Abbas poses in front of a private jet in a 2019 Instagram photo. "It’s a different type of GLOW and STANDARD when you start hopping out of Rolls Royces to catch a Jet just to attend fashion shows in a different continent," he wrote. "Your smile begin to be bright just as the sun." (credit: Ramon Abbas)

The US government has gained custody of a Nigerian man who is accused of participating in a massive fraud and money laundering operation. The defendant, Ray "Hushpuppi" Abbas, has amassed 2.4 million followers on Instagram, where he flaunts his access to luxury cars, designer clothing, and private jets. The feds say that he gained this wealth by defrauding banks, law firms, and other businesses out of millions of dollars. He was arrested last month by authorities in the United Arab Emirates, where he had been living.

The FBI's criminal complaint details how the government obtained a wealth of information tying Abbas to his alleged crimes. Abbas was an avid user of American technology platforms, including Instagram, Gmail, iCloud, and Snapchat. Accounts on these platforms were all registered using a handful of common email addresses and phone numbers. Abbas's main email account——included a copy of Abbas' lease at a luxury hotel in Dubai and scans of various government-issued photo IDs under Abbas' name.

Abbas is accused of participating in a number of "business email compromise" scams. By posing as trusted employees or customers of a target organization, Abbas and his fellow fraudsters allegedly tricked employees into sending large sums to bank accounts they controlled.

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OnePlus’ sub-$500 smartphone launches July 21

Ars Technica - July 6, 2020 - 10:49pm

OnePlus appears to have picked a date for the launch of its midrange smartphone: July 21. Invites for the event were posted early to Amazon India (a major launch country for the device) and first spotted by leaker Ishan Agarwal (the actual tweet has been deleted, but XDA has a backup). Amazon pulled the page down, too, but a Google cache copy still exists.

OnePlus has been slowly dripping out information on its next smartphone, which will see a return to a cheaper price tag. Early rumors called the phone the "OnePlus 8 Lite" or "OnePlus Z," but the company confirmed the phone will go with the odd moniker of "OnePlus Nord," a word that means "north" in several languages. We might not know all the specs, but OnePlus has already confirmed the price will be "under $500."

OnePlus says the phone will come with a Snapdragon 765G and will sport a "flagship camera." Sadly, North America does not seem to be in the first wave of countries for this release, with OnePlus CEO Pete Lau saying, "we are going to start relatively small with this new product line by first introducing it in Europe and India. But don't worry, we're also looking to bring more affordable smartphones to North America in the near future as well."

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Hong Kong: Facebook, Google and Twitter among firms 'pausing' police help

BBC Technology News - July 6, 2020 - 9:36pm
Twitter and Telegram also put a halt to processing data requests, but Apple has not commented.

Microsoft’s next Xbox Series X game showcase coming July 23

Ars Technica - July 6, 2020 - 8:02pm

Enlarge / Halo Infinite is still slated to launch close to Xbox Series X's "holiday 2020" launch window. (credit: Xbox)

Our next look at new games for the Xbox Series X will be coming on July 23. That's when Microsoft will be holding its next Xbox Games Showcase, the company announced today, streaming on multiple digital platforms starting at 9am Pacific Time.

Unlike Microsoft's May promotional event, which focused on third-party launch titles for the upcoming console, the July 23 event is expected to discuss first-party exclusives from Microsoft's own Xbox Game Studios. That likely includes new footage of Halo Infinite, which saw a new teaser trailer a few weeks ago.

"Xbox Series X is now in the hands of our 15 Xbox Game Studios teams and the biggest names from our network of game development and publishing studios worldwide, ensuring Xbox Series X will power a new generation of blockbuster games, like Halo Infinite," Microsoft said in a blog post last month.

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