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Industry & Technology

Lenovo refreshes its ThinkPad lineup with AMD Ryzen Pro 4000

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 11:50pm

Lenovo has announced updates to its ThinkPad lineup with a number of improvements, chief among them the option for some models to include AMD Ryzen Pro 4000 mobile CPUs. The updated models are expected to launch in the second quarter of 2020. These are the models Lenovo plans to refresh, along with their starting prices:

  • ThinkPad T14 ($849)
  • ThinkPad T14s ($1,029)
  • ThinkPad T15 ($1,079)
  • ThinkPad X13 ($849)
  • ThinkPad X13 Yoga ($1,099)
  • ThinkPad L13 ($679)
  • ThinkPad L13 Yoga ($799)
  • ThinkPad L14 ($649)
  • ThinkPad L15 ($649)

AMD's Ryzen 4000 Pro is available as an optional pick on the ThinkPad T14, T14S, X13, L14, and L15 models. The highest-end of the new AMD Ryzen 4000 Pro chips has eight cores and gives Intel a run for its money.

Intel chips are available picks across the line too, though (10th-generation Intel Core vPro later in 2020). And Intel-equipped T or X series laptops get a CAT 16 WWAN option. For the L14 and L15, CAN 9 WWAN is available. All the new ThinkPad models have Wi-Fi 6, and several models (all but the L13 and L13 Yoga) offer LTE configurations.

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CDC tells Americans to brace for coronavirus

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 11:01pm

Enlarge / Team leader of the joint mission between World Health Organization (WHO) and China on COVID-19, Bruce Aylward shows graphics during a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on February 25, 2020. (credit: Getty | Fabrice Coffrini)

Fresh off a plane from China, epidemiologist Bruce Aylward sat before members of the press at the World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday and laid out key insights from the coronavirus front lines.

Aylward, a nearly 30-year veteran of outbreak and emergency responses with the WHO, had just led a joint mission through the COVID-19 trenches to appraise the outbreak and China’s control efforts. His assessment was glowing: China had responded swiftly, on a mind-boggling large scale, and with differential outbreak responses tailored to curb disease spread in different settings—from the outbreak’s blazing epicenter in a highly populated city to the spotty disease clusters in rural areas.

He pointed to humped graphs of cases over time—they are the shape of an epidemic that has been hobbled, he said. Disease spread has been in decline since the beginning of the month, and doctors in China are honing their ability to treat patients. “If I had COVID-19, I’d want to be treated in China,” he said candidly.

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Thanks, Qualcomm: Mandatory 5G means phones now ship with disabled 5G modems

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 10:33pm

It's Qualcomm's world, and we're all just living in it.

Phones are starting to trickle onto the market with Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 865 SoC, and the company's unchecked monopoly power over the mobile industry is really coming to a head with this new chip. Qualcomm is forcing 5G on everyone with the Snapdragon 865, increasing the size, cost, and complexity of smartphones, even if the world's 5G networks are not ready yet. This week, we're seeing an absurd new wrinkle in the Mandatory 5G Saga: manufacturers are sticking to Qualcomm rules and shipping its 5G modems, but they are also disabling them because 5G just doesn't work in some markets.

Meet the "iQoo 3." As pointed out by XDA Developers, in India, this phone ships the Snapdragon 865 in a first-ever "4G" configuration. Apparently, BBK subsidiary iQoo does all the work of paying for Qualcomm's mandatory 5G modem, integrating it into the phone design, and then the company just, uh, disables the 5G functionality completely.

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The wear patterns of your jeans aren’t good forensic evidence

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 9:27pm

Enlarge / The "barcode" pattern of light and dark points along the seam of a pair of jeans. (credit: -Bine- / Flickr)

Is every pair of jeans like no other? According to the testimony of FBI forensic analysts, the patterns seen on denim are reliably unique and can be used to identify a suspect in surveillance footage.

The problem is, this technique has never been subjected to thorough scrutiny, and evidence acquired through it may not be as strong as it has been claimed to be. A paper published in PNAS this week puts denim-pattern analysis through its paces, finding that it isn’t particularly good at matching up identical pairs of jeans—and may create a number of “false alarm” errors to boot.

Shoddy evidence

For some time, there have been rumblings about the reliability and quality of commonly used forensic techniques. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences published a weighty report observing that, apart from nuclear DNA analysis, “no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”

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New Netflix series Night on Earth shows wildlife in a startling new light

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 8:50pm

Intrepid camera crews braved the elements all over the world to capture wildlife in the dark for Night on Earth.

Intrepid camera crews braved harsh nighttime conditions and used all the technical ingenuity at their disposal for Night on Earth, a new nature documentary series from Netflix that lets viewers see familiar animals in a startling new light. There's also a fascinating behind-the-scenes standalone episode, "Shot in the Dark," that details everything that went into several highlighted shoots.

Per the official synopsis: "When the sun goes down, a new world awakes. New technology reveals wonders of the planet in a completely new light. Across the globe we discover a hidden side to the world's greatest landscapes and animals." Creating the series required 60 separate shoots over one year, in 30 different countries, tapping pretty much everyone who works professionally in the wildlife filmmaking community.

"We wanted to show the color and magic of the night," series producer Bill Markham told Ars. That said, finding stories of things that happen in the wild after dark was quite difficult, because not many scientists stay up all night to observe animal behavior, although there is much they can infer from tracking data, for instance. There was also the technical challenge of modifying various cameras, picking the correct lenses, and finding camera crews willing to brave extreme conditions all over the globe—all in the dark.

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Dealmaster: Get our favorite budget gaming monitor for just $190

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 8:19pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is headlined by a new one-day Amazon Gold Box sale with a number of deals on PC gaming gear. More specifically, our favorite discount of the bunch is a $50 drop on ViewSonic's XG2402 monitor. That brings the 24-inch display down to $190, which is the lowest price we've seen in the past year outside of a very brief drop to $156 in December. In general, drops below $200 have been few and far between.

We deemed the ViewSonic XG2402 our top budget pick in our gaming monitor buying guide last August, and at this price, it remains an excellent value for anyone looking for smooth PC gaming on a budget. The poor viewing angles and contrast ratio of its TN panel make it a less-than-ideal option for everyday work, but its 144Hz refresh rate and outstandingly clear motion handling allow it to play fast-paced games without visible blurring or ghosting. It's a particularly strong option for budget buyers who often play competitive shooters like Overwatch or Counter-Strike. Just note that it only has a 1080p resolution, which isn't as much of a nuisance on a smaller 24-inch display like this but is still less sharp than a 1440p panel.

If you don't need a new gaming monitor, though, we also have deals on Amazon's Fire TV lineup, Xbox Live Gold subscriptions, wireless noise-cancelling headphones from Bose and Jabra, and much more. Have a look at the full rundown below.

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Etika mural becomes Pokemon Go spot in tribute to YouTuber

BBC Technology News - February 25, 2020 - 7:17pm
A New York City mural to deceased YouTuber Etika becomes a point of interest in video game Pokemon Go.

Space Channel 5 VR review: The worst value proposition for a PSVR game yet

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 7:00pm

Enlarge / Space Channel 5 hero Ulala (center, in yellow) deserved so much better. (credit: Grounding Inc.)

For anybody in the tiny Venn diagram of users who have heard of and are anticipating this week's Space Channel 5 VR, I have very bad news: it's the worst value proposition of any PlayStation VR game ever made. And while this Dreamcast-era revival's issues could be forgiven in isolation, the game's mix of price, brevity, simplicity, and ho-hum aesthetics makes it a bummer for anybody with hopes of a new, solid VR-dancing option.

Space Channel 5, for the uninitiated, is a beloved rhythm game made by Sega for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. It pioneered a "mods in space" aesthetic, as if a groovy British dance club from the '60s took off in a rocketship. Its star, an intrepid "space reporter" named Ulala, engages in Simon-style dance battles with monsters; she watches a pattern of button taps to the beat of the music, then responds in kind. It's similar to rhythm-gaming classics like Parappa the Rapper.

The best thing I can say about Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash!, which is currently a PlayStation VR exclusive, is that it neatly translates the original game's formula to a version with motion controls. The original game limited its players to tapping four cardinal directions and a single button, while SC5VR replaces all button taps with arm motions. Move your hands up, to the sides, down, or forward, then mix and match these for approximately 15 dance moves.

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The nuclear option: EA bans “abusive” FIFA player from all of its games

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 6:06pm

Fenech responds to his competitive ban in November in a lengthy YouTube message.

Electronic Arts has banned controversial 25-year-old Maltese FIFA esports player Kurt "Kurt0411" Fenech from all EA games and services. The move is an unprecedented escalation in punishment for a player EA has been struggling to deal with publicly for well over a year.

EA says Fenech has "continued to post abusive and threatening messages and videos about EA employees and competitive players on social media and he has encouraged others to do the same. His messages have crossed a line of decency into very personal attacks and breach our Terms of Service. We will not tolerate threatening behavior."

An Important message regarding FIFA player Kurt0411.

— Electronic Arts (@EA) February 24, 2020

Fenech, who has been banned from EA's professional FIFA esports competitions since November, has continued to host popular FIFA streams on Twitch in a personal capacity in recent months (despite previous threats to quit the game). He wrote on Twitter Monday that "I have never said anything I shouldn’t have. This is just deeper than anyone thinks. They didn’t want me competing at events [because] they were scared I’d win them, now I’m the 2nd biggest streamer of their game and they’re scared I’ll overtake their golden boy. But when everything is said and done we’ll beat them trust me. They have money but we have numbers. Fuck [them] and everyone on their side."

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Delay seems likely as parachute problems plague European Mars lander

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 4:25pm

Enlarge / ESA’s ExoMars rover (foreground) and Russia’s stationary surface science platform (background) are scheduled for launch in July 2020, (credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

The European and Russian space agencies have announced they will decide the fate of their ExoMars mission at a meeting on March 12.

The joint mission to deliver a rover and suite of scientific instruments to the surface of the red planet is set for a July on a Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. However, serious questions were raised about the viability of the lander's complicated parachute systems last year and ongoing problems in testing them.

According to a spokesperson for the European Space Agency (ESA), a "working-level review" for the project was held among ESA and Roscosmos officials in late January, and a preliminary assessment was forwarded to the respective heads of the space agencies, Jan Wörner of ESA and Dmitry Rogozin of Roscosmos, on February 3.

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VW to appoint “aggressive” climate activist to scrutinize policies

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 3:46pm

Enlarge (credit: Alexander Koerner / Stringer / Getty Images)

Volkswagen’s chief executive has pledged to employ a young climate campaigner to “aggressively” challenge the company’s environmental policies, as he acknowledged the world’s largest carmaker was moving too slowly in the race to roll out electric vehicles.

“I’m looking to hire an activist,” Herbert Diess told the Financial Times. “We have so many ideas, but they take too long to implement in our big organization, so I need someone really aggressive internally.”

In a rare move for a multinational, the appointee will be granted direct access to Diess and other top VW executives.

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Pets 'go hungry' after smart feeder goes offline

BBC Technology News - February 25, 2020 - 3:35pm
The device, designed to schedule pets' food and control portions, appears to have been offline for seven days

Marsquakes and ancient magnetic fields: InSight’s first data

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 3:19pm

Enlarge / A self portrait of InSight's hardware on the Red Planet. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

While the rovers seem to get most of the attention, they're just one part of a suite of instruments we're using to understand the history and geology of Mars. We have an orbiting telescope pointed down toward its surface and an orbiting atmospheric observatory trying to help us understand why Mars is so sparse. And, for nearly a year, we have had a seismograph, weather observatory, and magnetic sensor parked at Mars' equator.

The InSight mission (from the bacronym "Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport") is a stationary lander and contains a suite of instruments designed to give us a clear picture of Mars' workings. It landed toward the end of 2018 and has had instruments in operation since early last year. Now, in a large series of papers, the teams behind the lander's hardware have analyzed the first data to come back from InSight, which includes the first recordings of marsquakes, along with some details on the local magnetic field.

At the equator

InSight landed at a region of Mars called Elysium Planiti, a region sandwiched between the southern highlands and the second largest volcano on the planet, Elysium. Billions of years ago, that volcano left large rock deposits that spread across parts of Elysium Planitia. But to the east, there's additional volcanic terrain that appears to have formed as little as 10 million years ago and terrain that's associated with the flow of liquid water.

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A peanut butter brand has put its spoon into the GIF pronunciation debate

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 3:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Last week, an email popped into my mailbox with a simple subject: "Jif vs. GIF." Its sender asked if I was interested in hearing about a peanut butter producer's interest in "setting the record straight on how to pronounce GIF."

That's not quite what I got. The powers that be at Smucker's advertising department thought we at Ars Technica might bite on their proposal that a new jar of Jif would put the years-long pronunciation debate to rest. Instead, I ended up spending too much time talking about, contemplating, and researching the pronunciation of the letter G—and of other invented brands and acronyms in general.

Does Wilhite have it right?

If you're wondering, the J.M. Smucker Company—known on the street as Smucker's—comes down on the "hard-G" side of this debate. The company does this in order to support its latest advertising campaign that says—wouldn't you know it—the soft-G version has already existed for decades in the form of a massive peanut butter brand. Thus, the people at Smucker's say, don't mix up the two. Soft G "jiff" for food; hard G "giff" for an animated image format that came into vogue during GeoCities' heyday.

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The mid-engined Corvette was 60 years in the making—now we’ve driven it

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 2:50pm

Predicting the arrival of a mid-engined Corvette has been a perennial bench-racing sport in the auto news game for decades. The first of the Chevrolet research cars that placed an engine behind the driver goes back to 1960, conceived by the first chief engineer of the Corvette, Zora Arkus-Duntov. Now, after thinking about it very, very long and very, very hard, Chevrolet starts building production mid-engined Corvettes this year, some 60 years after that first research vehicle.

With all that pent-up anticipation, could the new $59,995 Corvette actually be both brilliant and actually shy of the mark? We tested several with different suspensions on the road and the track around Spring Mountain Raceway in Nevada to glean the truth.


The inescapable reality of designing a mid-engine layout in the sports car segment is that, well, the Italians basically own it. But they didn't pioneer it. Post-WWII, Porsche built sports-racing 550 Spyders, RSKs and 904s, but Ferrari and Lamborghini built street cars placing engines behind drivers' heads in earnest by the 1960s.

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Push-button warfare: How artists use games to capture drone strike horror

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 1:30pm

Enlarge / "Cowardly Drones," a piece by Jospeh Delappe, is a bit more direct about its message than some of his more interactive work.

In 1983, President Reagan gave a speech about the role of computers in military preparation and recruiting that seems more relevant than ever nearly 40 years later.

In it, he noted the “incredible hand, eye, and brain coordination” many young people were developing by playing video games, and said the “Air Force believes these [game-playing] kids will be outstanding pilots should they fly our jets.” Reagan also pointed out that the “computerized radar screen in the cockpit is not unlike the computerized video screen,” and that if you “watch a 12-year-old take evasive action and score multiple hits while playing Space Invaders… you will appreciate the skills of tomorrow's pilot.”

What Reagan didn’t know was that some of those kids-turned-pilots would grow up never needing to take evasive action. That is because they’d be flying deadly drone warplanes remotely over villages half a world away. “Right now you're being prepared for tomorrow in many ways, and in ways that many of us who are older cannot fully comprehend,” Reagan said at the conclusion of his speech.

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Met Police chief defends facial recognition from 'ill-informed' critics

BBC Technology News - February 25, 2020 - 1:15pm
London's police chief says privacy risks are much smaller than "a knife through the chest".

Firefox turns encrypted DNS on by default to thwart snooping ISPs

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 12:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Anadolu Agency)

Firefox will start switching browser users to Cloudflare's encrypted-DNS service today and roll out the change across the United States in the coming weeks.

"Today, Firefox began the rollout of encrypted DNS over HTTPS (DoH) by default for US-based users," Firefox maker Mozilla said in an announcement scheduled to go live at this link Tuesday morning. "The rollout will continue over the next few weeks to confirm no major issues are discovered as this new protocol is enabled for Firefox's US-based users."

DNS over HTTPS helps keep eavesdroppers from seeing what DNS lookups your browser is making, potentially making it more difficult for Internet service providers or other third parties to monitor what websites you visit. As we've previously written, Mozilla's embrace of DNS over HTTPS is fueled in part by concerns about ISPs monitoring customers' Web usage. Mobile broadband providers were caught selling their customers' real-time location data to third parties, and Internet providers can use browsing history to deliver targeted ads.

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What happens when the internet vanishes?

BBC Technology News - February 25, 2020 - 1:54am
During a troublesome protest or tricky election, some countries just cut the online cord.

Removing a GPS tracking device from your car isn’t theft, court rules

Ars Technica - February 25, 2020 - 1:38am

Enlarge / Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush. (credit: Indiana Supreme Court)

An Indiana man may beat a drug prosecution after the state's highest court threw out a search warrant against him late last week. The search warrant was based on the idea that the man had "stolen" a GPS tracking device belonging to the government. But Indiana's Supreme Court concluded that he'd done no such thing—and the cops should have known it.

Last November, we wrote about the case of Derek Heuring, an Indiana man the Warrick County Sheriff's Office suspected of selling meth. Authorities got a warrant to put a GPS tracker on Heuring's car, getting a stream of data on his location for six days. But then the data stopped.

Officers suspected Heuring had discovered and removed the tracking device. After waiting for a few more days, they got a warrant to search his home and a barn belonging to his father. They argued the disappearance of the tracking device was evidence that Heuring had stolen it.

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