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Industry & Technology

Facebook to create 1,000 jobs in London

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 37 min ago
The new posts will take the tech giant's total number of employees in Britain to more than 4,000.

Meng Wanzhou case: Huawei executive's extradition hearings begin

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 44 min ago
Meng Wanzhou is fighting an extradition request from the US following her arrest in Canada in 2018.

Robot tanks: On patrol but not allowed to shoot

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 49 min ago
Sophisticated unmanned mini-tanks patrol alongside soldiers, but humans still decide when to shoot.

Researchers completely re-engineer yeast to make more biofuel

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 11:50pm

Enlarge / Colonies of genetically modified yeast. (credit: Conor Lawless)

A little while ago, we covered the idea of using photovoltaic materials to drive enzymatic reactions in order to produce specific chemicals. The concept is being considered mostly because doing the same reaction in a cell is often horribly inefficient because everything else in the cell is trying to regulate the enzymes, trying to use the products, trying to convert the byproducts into something toxic, or up to something even more annoying. But in many cases, these reactions rely on chemicals that are only made by cells, leaving some researchers to suspect it still might be easier to use living things in the end.

A new paper in Nature Catalysis may support or contradict this argument, depending on your perspective. In the end, the authors of the new paper re-engineer standard brewer's yeast to produce molecules that can be used as fuel for internal combustion engines. The full catalog of changes they have to make is a bit mind-numbing and most achieve a small, incremental increase in production. The end result is a large step forward toward biofuel production, but the effort involved is intimidating.

Making fuel

Brewer's yeast, as the name implies, can already produce a biofuel: alcohol. But ethanol isn't a drop-in replacement for many current uses, which raises questions about its overall utility. If we have to re-engineer both our engines and our infrastructure in order to use it to replace fossil fuels, then there's not much space for a smooth transition away from gasoline and other liquid fuels.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Radiohead.com unveils “The Radiohead Library,” an official band repository

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 10:59pm

On Monday, British rock band Radiohead rolled out arguably the most comprehensive one-stop website for a single band we've ever seen—and for an Internet-savvy band like Radiohead, that's saying something.

The Radiohead Library, which can be found at the sensible URL of radiohead.com/library, includes nearly every official studio release since the band's debut album Pablo Honey launched in 1993, along with much, much more. Full concerts, TV appearances, CD booklet art, long-lost promotional videos: they're all here.

Whether you visit the site on a smartphone or desktop browser, it's formatted to present each Radiohead era as a series of squares and rectangles. The top of the site includes generic, single-colored squares, which each represent a major studio album. Click any of them to reveal the album, its associated EPs and singles, and a scattershot assortment of official music videos, full concert recordings, and other audio and video samples from that album's era. While you're picking through each era, you may notice squares with T-shirt logos. Turns out, these link to reprints of classic tour shirts and merchandise from almost every Radiohead album, back on sale for the first time in years.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Boeing seeks $10 billion in loans as 737 Max crisis continues

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 10:45pm

Enlarge / Boeing 737 Max planes. (credit: Boeing)

Boeing is aiming to borrow $10 billion or more to help it get through the 737 Max crisis, CNBC reported today, citing people familiar with the matter.

"The company has secured at least $6 billion from banks so far, the people said, and is talking to other lenders for more contributions," CNBC wrote. Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan already agreed to loan Boeing money.

A Boeing 737 Max crash killed 189 people in October 2018 and another crash killed 159 people in March 2019. The US Federal Aviation Administration and governments from around the world ordered the grounding of 737 Max planes after the March crash.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Outbreak of new virus explodes in China; human-to-human spread confirmed

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 10:26pm

Enlarge / Medical staff transfer patients to Jin Yintan hospital on January 17, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei, China. (credit: Getty )

An outbreak of a never-before-seen coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan dramatically worsened over the last few days—the case count has more than tripled, cases have appeared in new cities, and authorities have confirmed that the virus is spreading person to person.

The World Health Organization announced Monday that it will convene an emergency meeting on Wednesday, January 22, to assess the outbreak and how best to manage it

On Saturday, January 18, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported 136 newly identified cases of the viral pneumonia and one additional death. On Tuesday, January 21 (local time 4:18am), the commission reported another death. That brings Wuhan’s totals to 198 cases and four deaths. Just one day earlier, on January 17, the health commission had reported just 62 cases and two deaths.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Crytek, Cloud Imperium battle over how to end Star Citizen lawsuit

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 9:55pm

Enlarge / Ships full of lawyers descend on planet Cloud Imperium to deal with the fallout from this trial. (credit: Star Citizen)

Back in late 2017, we told you about Crytek's lawsuit against Star Citizen developer Cloud Imperium Games over an "exclusive" license to use CryEngine in its titles. Now, over two years (and one failed settlement attempt) later, the two companies are fighting over how exactly that lawsuit should be dismissed.

The actual allegations and counter-allegations between Crytek and Cloud Imperium get pretty labyrinthine pretty quickly. But a core part of Crytek's argument is that its original agreement with Cloud Imperium only covered the use of CryEngine in Star Citizen and not the single-player Squadron 42 spin-off (Cloud Imperium disputes this characterization of the original license).

Technically, though, any supposed breach of Crytek's license won't actually take place until and unless Squadron 42 is actually released. And with that game's "staggered development" beta test recently pushed back to the third quarter of 2020, Crytek this month filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss its own lawsuit "without prejudice to re-filing those claims upon the actual release of Squadron 42." In essence, this "dismissal" would just delay the trial from its currently planned June start date to October 13 (if Squadron 42 has indeed come out by then).

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

As attacks begin, Citrix ships patch for VPN vulnerability

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 6:41pm

Enlarge (credit: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

On January 19, Citrix released some permanent fixes to a vulnerability on the company's Citrix Application Delivery Controller (ADC) and Citrix Gateway virtual private network servers that allowed an attacker to remotely execute code on the gateway without needing a login. The vulnerability affects tens of thousands of known VPN servers, including at least 260 VPN servers associated with US federal, state, and local government agencies—including at least one site operated by the US Army.

The patches are for versions 11.1 and 12.0 of the products, formerly marketed under the NetScaler name. Other patches will be available on January 24. These patches follow instructions for temporary fixes the company provided to deflect the crafted requests associated with the vulnerability, which could be used by an attacker to gain access to the networks protected by the VPNs.

Fermin J. Serna, chief information security officer at Citrix, announced the fixes in a blog post on Sunday. At the same time, Serna revealed that the vulnerability—and the patches being released—also applied to Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway Virtual Appliances hosted on virtual machines on all commercially available virtualization platforms, as well as those hosted in Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Platform, and Citrix Service Delivery Appliances (SDXs).

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Astronomers find an oddball asteroid entirely inside the orbit of Venus

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 5:57pm

Enlarge / The Zwicky Transient Facility at Palomar Observatory in California. (credit: Caltech Optical Observatories)

Astronomers have found nearly 1 million asteroids in our Solar System, with the vast majority located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

It is far rarer to find asteroids with orbits closer to the Sun, and especially inside the orbit of Earth, due to Jupiter's gravitational influence. There are only about 20 known asteroids with orbits entirely inside that of Earth's. They are called Atira asteroids.

Many of these Atira asteroids have orbits that are substantially tilted away from the plane of the Solar System, suggesting past encounters with Mercury or Venus.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Frontier, an ISP in 29 states, plans to file for bankruptcy

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 5:47pm

Enlarge / A Frontier Communications service van. (credit: Mike Mozart)

Frontier Communications is planning to file for bankruptcy within two months, Bloomberg reported last week.

The telco "is asking creditors to help craft a turnaround deal that includes filing for bankruptcy by the middle of March, according to people with knowledge of the matter," Bloomberg wrote.

Frontier CEO Bernie Han and other company executives "met with creditors and advisers Thursday and told them the company wants to negotiate a pre-packaged agreement before $356 million of debt payments come due March 15," the report said. The move would likely involve Chapter 11 bankruptcy to let Frontier "keep operating without interruption of telephone and broadband service to its customers."

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Vietnamese firm Viettel's 5G claim raises eyebrows outside

BBC Technology News - January 20, 2020 - 5:21pm
The military-controlled firm's claim to have joined the 5G network equipment-making elite is questioned.

Google boss Sundar Pichai calls for AI regulation

BBC Technology News - January 20, 2020 - 4:40pm
Sundar Pichai seeks a "sensible approach" after Europe said it was mulling a facial recognition ban.

Study finds that the popular rubber hand illusion could be used to treat OCD

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 4:20pm

Enlarge / Fictional detective Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) famously suffered from OCD, with a powerful germ phobia, among many others. Perhaps "multi sensory stimulation therapy" would have helped. (credit: USA Network)

Chances are good that you've seen entertaining footage of the so-called "rubber hand illusion," where someone becomes convinced that a fake rubber hand is actually their own. It's more than a clever party trick, however. Not only does the illusion shed light on how the brain "maps" our physical bodies, it could also prove to be an effective treatment for patients suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), according to a recent paper published in Frontiers in Neuroscience.

German philosopher Martin Heidegger introduced the notion of "ready-to-hand" in the 1930s to describe how the body can incorporate our most familiar functional tools into its concept of the self, much like a blind person who regularly uses a cane to navigate his or her surroundings. As far as the brain is concerned, the cane becomes an extension of the physical body.

Studies have shown a similar effect when we regularly use a computer mouse. It might even be true of our avatars in virtual space. Virtual reality guru Jaron Lanier introduced the concept of "homuncular flexibility" in the 1980s to describe how the brain could become unable to distinguish between our real and virtual bodies over time. If something bad happens to you in the virtual world, the same neural circuitry is activated that would be engaged if it happened to you in the "real" world.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Uber and Hyundai’s plan to develop air taxis hinges on mass production

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 4:04pm

The joint announcement at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) by Uber Elevate and Hyundai Motor Company that the companies will partner to develop Uber Air air-taxis for a future aerial ride-share network is news, but just as importantly, it's corporate messaging. At the crux of the announcement is Hyundai's reputation as an automotive OEM with a perceived ability to leverage economies of scale. For an urban air mobility (UAM) market to emerge at any sort of scale, Uber and industry observers believe that hundreds of thousands of four-passenger electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft will have to be built.

Their numbers, along with theoretically cheap eVTOL operating costs, are the key to getting the cost per seat at or near the level of ground transportation. But passenger air vehicles aren't built in taxi-cab-like numbers. So the prospect of a car maker churning out air taxis like sedans is an attractive one.

"We believe Hyundai has the potential to build Uber Air vehicles at rates unseen in the current aerospace industry, producing high quality, reliable aircraft at high volumes to drive down passenger costs per trip," Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, said at CES.

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Regus sales staff data exposed after undercover job review

BBC Technology News - January 20, 2020 - 3:19pm
Job performance data about more than 900 IWG employees is accidentally published online.

Dad builds Nintendo games controller for disabled daughter

BBC Technology News - January 20, 2020 - 2:44pm
A video of Rory Steel's nine-year-old daughter Ava using the device has had more than 800,000 views.

Bioplastics continue to blossom—are they really better for the environment?

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / Spilled garbage on the beach off the Black Sea in Bulgaria. (credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

The English metallurgist Alexander Parkes never saw the widespread realization of his spectacular 19th-century invention, celluloid, the first plastic. While a revolutionary breakthrough, Parkesine, as it was called, was expensive and brittle. It was used in objects like buttons and combs, but ultimately quality control issues led Parkes’ company to bankruptcy in 1868 just 12 years after the discovery.

Parkesine, however, was also the first bioplastic—a plastic made from renewable plant material instead of fossil fuels. And today with the environmental impact of plastics increasingly on the public mind, bioplastics are making a big comeback. They’re proposed by some as the solution to beaches deluged with plastic and fish bellies stuffed with bottle caps. And perhaps bioplastics can replace oil-based polymers that commonly trash oceans with materials that can break down more easily and would protect a planet already smothered in these resilient substances.

Bioplastic items already exist, of course, but whether they’re actually better for the environment or can truly compete with traditional plastics is complicated. Some bioplastics aren’t much better than fossil fuel-based polymers. And for the few that are less injurious to the planet, cost and social acceptance may stand in the way. Even if widespread adoption of bioplastics occurs down the line, it won’t be a quick or cheap fix. In the meantime, there is also some pollution caused by bioplastics themselves to consider. Even if bioplastics are often less damaging than the status quo, they aren’t a flawless solution.

Read 33 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The machines are whispering: We tested AI Dungeon 2 and cannot stop laughing

Ars Technica - January 20, 2020 - 12:45pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

In February 2019, we at Ars Technica learned about the Generative Pre-trained Transformer-2 (GPT-2) toolset, a freakish machine-learning algorithm that was trained on roughly 40GB of human-written text. Its ability to generate unique, seemingly human text scared its creators (the non-profit research group OpenAI) enough for them to temporarily lock the tools up for public consumption. (Despite those fears, we at Ars got to access and play with the results two weeks later.)

Since then, GPT-2's public availability has exploded with tons of experiments, and the one that has arguably made the rounds more than any other is AI Dungeon, a freely available "text adventure" that is designed to create a seemingly endless interactive narrative experience. That experience received a formal "sequel" in December, and we've finally tested the results as a staff.

According to its creators, the game combines GPT-2 with roughly 30MB of stories lifted from ChooseYourStory.com, a community-driven hub for interactive fiction. The resulting database is served to users in a funnel of one of four story prompts: fantasy, mystery, apocalyptic, or zombie. (A fifth option lets users write their own one- or two-sentence prompt to describe their own ideal setting.) From there, users are given some sort of verbose prompt, then left to type out whatever action, description, or rumination they imagine doing in that fictional universe.

Read 31 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Europe-wide traffic survey to recruit 'citizen scientists'

BBC Technology News - January 20, 2020 - 10:34am
Unique vehicle-counting sensors will be placed in 1,500 homes across Europe.

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