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Apple tracks looters who steal iPhones

BBC Technology News - 28 min 32 sec ago
Messages that appear on stolen phones suggest the authorities are also being alerted.

How Sega hopes to use Japanese arcades as streaming data centers

Ars Technica - 57 min 8 sec ago

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Sega)

If you thought the 3-inch-wide Game Gear Micro was going to be the weirdest announcement out of Sega today, think again. Instead, we give that honor to the company's announcement of a strange and somewhat amorphous concept known as "fog gaming," which seems set to utilize idle arcade machines to distribute a new type of cloud-gaming service in Japan.

Details on the initiative are pretty scarce at the moment—the main source of English-language information is a tweet from a Japanese analyst working from a summary by a Japanese blogger (Google translate) of a story appearing in the new print issue of Japan's Weekly Famitsu magazine. Journalist Zenji Nishikawa was teasing the story last week as a "major scoop" on the level of Wired's revelation of the first PlayStation 5 details last year, which seems a bit grandiose for now.

In any case, the "fog gaming" concept seems to be centered around converting Sega's massive infrastructure of Japanese arcades and arcade machines into a kind of widely distributed streaming-gaming data center. Those cabinets—and the decently specc'ed CPUs and GPUs inside them—are only in active use by players for perhaps eight hours a day at a busy location, according to Adam Pratt, an arcade operator who runs industry website Arcade Heroes. The rest of the time, those machines could serve streaming gaming content to homebound players, without the need for an immense, Google Stadia-sized data center investment.

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Slay the Spire, the decade’s best deckbuilding game, coming to iOS in June

Ars Technica - 8 hours 32 min ago

Slay the Spire's success story is a remarkable one. As one of thousands of games to land on Steam in 2017, this fusion of roguelite progression and "deckbuilding" mechanics, made by a heretofore unknown development team out of Seattle, managed to become a phenomenon due entirely to word-of-mouth. The game has since surpassed its "2.0" milestone and climbed the download charts on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

Yet the game has stayed an arm's length away from smartphone platforms this whole time, in spite of being built primarily using libGDX, a flexible, open source development framework with smartphone-specific hooks. That changes this month, as the development team at MegaCrit ironically used its Steam community page on Wednesday to announce Slay the Spire's next platform: iOS.

The game's first smartphone port will launch at $9.99 "this month," according to the developers at MegaCrit, with an exact date likely coming during the upcoming Guerrilla Collective game reveal stream, currently scheduled for June 6-8. ("You should try to tune in" on the event's first day, June 6, according to MegaCrit's latest update.)

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HBO’s latest terrifying trailer for Lovecraft Country couldn’t be more timely

Ars Technica - 11 hours 27 min ago

HBO's new horror series Lovecraft Country is adapted from the novel by Matt Ruff.

With impeccable timing, HBO has dropped a new trailer for its upcoming horror series, Lovecraft Country. The series is based on the 2016 dark fantasy/horror novel, of the same name by Matt Ruff, which deals explicitly with the horrors of racism in the 1950s, along with other, more supernatural issues.

As we previously reported, Ruff also found inspiration in a 2006 essay by Pam Noles describing what it was like growing up being both black and, well, a hardcore nerd. Lovecraft Country is a gripping, extremely powerful read, which is why it was one of my choices for the Ars summer reading guide. The book's protagonist is a black veteran of the Korean War and science fiction fan named Atticus, who embarks on a perilous road trip from his home on Chicago's South Side to a small town in rural Massachusetts. He's looking for his estranged father, who purportedly vanished after encountering a well-dressed man driving a silver Cadillac.

Atticus' Uncle George and childhood friend/fellow sci-fi buff, Letitia (aka Leti), comes along for the ride. Because their journey is inspired by Lovecraft, they naturally encounter all kinds of arcane rituals, magic, shape-shifters, monsters, and an alternate reality or two along the way. HBO seems to be sticking pretty closely to the novel, if the official synopsis is any indication:

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SpaceX lands the same rocket for the fifth time [Updated]

Ars Technica - 11 hours 47 min ago

Enlarge / With an updated camera and internet connection, Just Read The Instructions showed better video of the landing. (credit: SpaceX)

9:50pm ET Update: Right on schedule, a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off on Wednesday evening from Florida. Several minutes later, the first stage came roaring back to Earth, and for the first time, the same rocket landed for the fifth time. The view from the Just Read the Instructions drone ship, with a better camera and internet connection, was quite good. The rocket descending at night light the ocean a bright blue before touching down.

Meanwhile, the second stage pushed onward into orbit, deploying its payload of 60 Starlink satellites. SpaceX has now launched nine rockets this year.

Original post: A mere four days after its historic launch of NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station, SpaceX is preparing for another launch of its Falcon 9 rocket.

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Social media firms fail to act on Covid-19 fake news

BBC Technology News - 12 hours 11 min ago
A study indicates that 90% of misinformation reported to Facebook and Twitter remains online.

The Pentagon’s hand-me-downs helped militarize police. Here’s how

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 10:54pm

Enlarge / A Miami Police officer watches protesters from an armored vehicle on May 31, 2020. (credit: Richard Arduengo | Getty Images)

The images of this past week are both inescapable and indelible: protesters flooding the streets of cities across the United States, met by police forces equipped with full body armor and tactical vehicles that vaguely resemble tanks. The local law enforcement responding to even nonviolent protests has often looked more like the US Armed Forces—and that was before President Donald Trump deployed an actual military police battalion against peaceably assembled US citizens in the nation's capitol Monday. That’s no accident.

It’s easy enough to buy tactical gear in the US, and the Homeland Security Grant Program has funneled billions of dollars to law enforcement agencies to acquire military-grade equipment. But for decades, a primary driver for why it can be so hard to tell a National Guard troop from a local cop has been the Department of Defense itself, through a program that has parceled out everything from bayonets to grenade launchers to precincts across the country.

Created as part of 1997’s National Defense Authorization Act, the 1033 program allows the Department of Defense to get rid of excess equipment by passing it off to local authorities, who only have to pay for the cost of shipping. (A precursor, the slightly more restrictive 1208 program, began in 1990.) According to the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), which oversees the process, over $7.4 billion of property has been transferred since the program’s inception; more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies have enrolled. Much of that inventory is perfectly ordinary: office equipment, clothing, tools, radios, and so on. But the haul also includes some of the so-called controlled equipment—rifles, armored vehicles, and so on—that have helped create such a spectacle of disproportion.

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Employees, civil rights groups blast Facebook inaction on Trump statements

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 10:26pm

Enlarge / Thousands of peaceful demonstrators holding banners gather in front of the White House for the fifth consecutive day to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer in Minneapolis, on June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC, United States. (credit: Yasin Ozturk | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images)

As enormous protests in support of black communities and against police brutality continue to sweep across the United States, Facebook is facing a protest of its own. The company and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are facing criticism from users, competitors, civil rights organizations, and even employees for allowing racist content and hate speech to proliferate on the platform, amplified by President Donald Trump.

Facebook on Tuesday removed some accounts affiliated with white supremacist groups after some members advocated bringing weapons to current protests, Reuters reports. It also removed accounts falsely claiming to be affiliated with antifascist groups that advocated stirring up trouble. Over the weekend, Twitter similarly removed accounts that were purporting to represent antifascist organizations but were in fact linked to a white nationalist group.

What Facebook has not taken action against, however, are statements by Trump or other public officials that also call for violence or stoke racism. Specifically, Facebook has declined to act against a post from May 29 in which Trump called protesters demonstrating following Minneapolis's police killing resident George Floyd "thugs." In the same post, the president added, "Any difficulty and we will assume control, but when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

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Google’s leaked TV dongle looks like a merger of Android TV and Chromecast

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 9:43pm

It looks like Google will finally sell an Android TV dongle to the masses. XDA Developers has leaked promo images of a device codenamed "Sabrina." The device looks like a slightly bigger Chromecast with a remote control, and it runs Android TV.

The device is very much in the mold of an Amazon Fire Stick or Roku Stick—it's a tiny HDMI stick that gives you all the benefits of a set-top box in a wall-mount-friendly form factor. The remote offers basic navigation, volume control, and voice commands through the Google Assistant.

9to5Google first reported on the existence of "Sabrina," saying it would be "a second-generation Chromecast Ultra" that comes with a remote and runs Android TV. The Chromecast "Ultra" is the version of a Chromecast with 4K compatibility and currently costs $69. A report from Protocol says Sabrina will cost "around or below $80."

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Frontier users must pay “rental” fee for equipment they own until December

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 8:05pm

Enlarge / Don't worry, the fire isn't real. (credit: Getty Images | RapidEye)

Broadband and TV providers can keep charging "rental" fees for equipment that customers own themselves until December 2020, thanks to a Federal Communications Commission ruling that delays implementation of a new law.

A law approved by Congress and signed by President Trump in December 2019 prohibits providers from charging device-rental fees when customers use their own equipment, and it was originally scheduled to take effect on June 20. As we've written, this law will help Frontier customers who have been forced to pay $10 monthly fees for equipment they don't use and, in some cases, have never even received. But the law gave the FCC discretion to extend the deadline by six months if the commission "finds that good cause exists for such an additional extension," and the FCC has done just that.

The FCC ruling on April 3, which we didn't notice at the time, extends the deadline to December 20 and says that providers need more time to comply because of the coronavirus pandemic:

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iPhone looters find devices disabled, with a warning they’re being tracked

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 7:43pm

Enlarge / The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Along with other retailers big and small, Apple Stores have been subject to looting by opportunists amid the ongoing protests around the United States. In response, Apple has again closed all of its stores in the US. Stores had only recently reopened after closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But looters who brought stolen iPhones home, or people who end up buying those phones in person-to-person transactions, are in for what may be a surprise: it appears that the stolen iPhones don't work and may even be tracked by Apple or authorities. This could pose a challenge for regular consumers who buy second-hand iPhones—as well as repair shops—in the coming weeks and months.

Individuals with iPhones allegedly looted from Apple stores found that the phones were automatically disabled and had messages like the following (via Twitter) displayed on-screen:

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TrueNAS isn’t abandoning BSD—but it is adopting Linux

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 7:15pm

Enlarge / Penguins and sharks, living together in perfect harmony—what a wonderful world it will be! (credit: FreeNAS / Ars Technica)

To the surprise—and likely consternation—of BSD fans everywhere, FreeNAS vendor iXsystems is building a new version of its core product, TrueNAS, on top of Debian Linux.

This week's TrueNAS Scale announcement builds on the company's March announcement that its commercial project TrueNAS and its community project FreeNAS would be merging into a common base. Effectively, all the NAS projects from iXsystems will be TrueNAS variants moving forward, with the free-to-use version being TrueNAS Core, the new Debian-based project becoming TrueNAS Scale, and the commercial project remaining simply TrueNAS.

The company is still being coy about the overall goals of the new project, with the major clue being that "SCALE" is used as an acronym. Morgan Littlewood, iXsystems' senior vice president of project management and business development, expanded on this to Ars a little further in an email exchange today:

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Snapchat stops promoting Donald Trump's account due to 'racial violence'

BBC Technology News - June 3, 2020 - 7:13pm
The social network says it will drop Trump from Discover over 'racial violence and injustice'.

George Floyd death: Anti-racism sites hit by wave of cyber-attacks

BBC Technology News - June 3, 2020 - 6:29pm
Amid the US civil unrest, advocacy groups are hit by attacks designed to knock them offline.

Bot test proves Jack ain’t lying—Twitter treats Trump differently

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 6:27pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

In the past, Twitter has said that incitements to violence from world leaders like President Donald Trump should be treated differently from those made by the rest of us. This week, that policy was shown to clear effect when the social media network banned the @SuspendThePres account and ordered it to delete a tweet. Its crime? Tweeting the exact same words used by Trump a day earlier.

The experiment began on May 29 when a Twitter account was repurposed as a bot with a single mission: to copy Trump's tweets verbatim and see how long it would take to get banned.

This account will tweet what the President tweets. Let’s see if it gets suspended for violating twitters TOS. Follow along with this social experiment. Report any tweets that violate the rules. Thank you.

— Will they suspend me? (@SuspendThePres) May 30, 2020

The next thing the account tweeted was a copy of Trump's infamous "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" missive. When the president issued that tweet, it was, in fact, sufficient for Twitter's moderation to kick in. Trump's tweet is still viewable behind a "click to view" barrier. But three days after repeating that same call to shoot at protestors, @SuspendThePres got a Twitter timeout, along with an order to take down the offending message:

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Archaeologists discover the largest—and oldest—Maya monument ever

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 6:06pm

Enlarge (credit: Inomata et al. 2020)

The Mayan culture built city-states across Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize for centuries, but we’re only starting to appreciate how extensive Maya civilization was and how drastically Maya farmers and engineers reworked the Mesoamerican landscape. Over the last few years, lidar surveys have revealed an ancient landscape previously hidden beneath vegetation and features that are too large-scale to recognize from the ground. Aguada Fenix, a newly discovered monument site, is the latter.

“A horizontal construction on this scale is difficult to recognize from the ground level,” wrote University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata and his colleagues. The earthen platform is 1.4 kilometers (0.87 miles) long and 10 to 15 meters (33 to 49 feet) tall, with raised earthen causeways connecting it to groups of smaller platforms nearby. Based on excavations at the site, it served as a ceremonial center for the Maya.

Inomata explained further, "This area is developed—it’s not the jungle; people live there, but this site was not known because it is so flat and huge. It just looks like a natural landscape. But with lidar, it pops up as a very well-planned shape.” The team first noticed the platform in a set of low-resolution lidar images collected by the Mexican government, and they followed up with higher-resolution surveys and then excavations at the site.

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“Let’s start a riot”: Denver cop fired for inflammatory Instagram post

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 5:49pm

Enlarge / Tommy McClay, left, poses with two other officers in a photo that has since been taken down from Instagram. (credit: Tommy McClay)

The Denver police department has fired an officer who posted a photo to Instagram with the caption "let's start a riot."

"The officer violated the Department's social media policy, posted content inconsistent with the values of the Department, and the officer has been terminated," the department announced on its official Twitter account.

(credit: Colorado Politics / Thomas McClay / Instagram)

The now-deleted post showed officer Tommy McClay in riot gear alongside two other officers. McClay wrote "let's start a riot" below the photo on a day when his colleagues used tear gas and foam bullets on protesters in the city.

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Game companies delay events, make donations amid police brutality protests [Updated]

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 4:30pm


Activision is delaying the launch of new seasonal content in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Call of Duty: Mobile amid continuing protests over police brutality and the taped killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

"Now is not the time," publisher Activision wrote on Twitter of the previously planned release of new Call of Duty content. "Right now it's time for those speaking up for equality, justice, and change to be seen and heard. We stand alongside you."

— Call of Duty (@CallofDuty) June 2, 2020

Activision's delay came just hours after Sony delayed a planned press event to promote the PlayStation 5, saying that "we do not feel that right now is a time for celebration... For now, we want to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard." And earlier in the day Monday, EA Sports delayed a planned online "celebration" of the upcoming Madden NFL 21, "because this is bigger than a game, bigger than sports, and needs all of us to stand together and commit to change."

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US cop hits Australian cameraman live on national television

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 4:01pm

Enlarge / Australian reporter Amelia Brace speaks on camera shortly after the police punched her cameraman. (credit: Channel 7 of Australia)

The prime minister of Australia has called for an investigation into the assault of an Australian cameraman that aired live on a national television news show on Tuesday morning, Australia time. That's Monday evening in Washington, DC, where the attack occurred.

Amelia Brace, a reporter for Australia's Channel 7, and her cameraman, Tim Myers, were covering a protest near the White House in Washington, DC. It was around 6:30pm—half an hour before a 7pm curfew was scheduled to start.

"We've just had to run about a block as police moved in," Brace said as she stood amid protesters outside the White House. "We've been fired at with rubber bullets. My cameraman has been hit."

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Sega’s tiny Game Gear Micro is 92% smaller than the original

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 3:49pm

In honor of the company's 60th anniversary, Sega has announced the coming Japanese release of the Game Gear Micro. What Sega is calling a "portable mascot" will ship in Japan on October 6 for an MSRP of ¥4,980 (about $50). No release plans have been announced for other markets.

The "Micro" moniker is well-earned here—the system measures just 3.14-inches wide, 1.69-inches high, and 0.79-inches deep (80mm×40mm×20mm). That's roughly a 92-percent volume reduction (or an 86-percent "footprint area" reduction) from the original Game Gear, which was bulky even by early '90s portable console standards. That also means the Game Gear Micro is set to take the "smallest gaming portable" crown from 2005's Game Boy Micro, which held the previous record at 4×2×0.7 inches with a 2-inch diagonal screen.

Despite the tiny size, the Game Gear Micro's 1.15-inch screen manages a 240×180 pixel resolution, which actually improves on the 160×144 pixel resolution of the original Game Gear's 3.2-inch screen. That puts the display at roughly 260 pixels per inch, or just short of Apple's roughly 300 dpi "retina display" standard.

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