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Industry & Technology

Senate vote puts Green New Deal resolution to bed

Ars Technica - 1 hour 43 min ago

Enlarge / Activists outside the Congress demanding a vote to pass the Green New Deal. (credit: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

On Tuesday afternoon, US Senators voted 0-57 on whether to take a vote on the Green New Deal, according to The Hill. Fifty-three Republicans, three Democrats, and an Independent from Maine voted not to advance the resolution, and 43 Democrats voted "present," essentially taking no official side in the vote.

The Green New Deal is a sweeping but non-binding resolution, unofficially committing the United States to radically update its energy grid with renewable energy in a span of 10 years. The plan would be accomplished through major infrastructure projects akin to those seen during the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's time.

The plan, sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the Senate and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in the House, has been extraordinarily controversial. It's been panned as "socialism" on the right and tacitly disavowed by more moderate Democrats in Republican-leaning states.

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Lion Air 737 MAX crew had seconds to react, Boeing simulation finds

Ars Technica - 1 hour 51 min ago

Enlarge / A Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed in October 2018 because of problems with a sensor and a failure of flight control software. The crew had little time to react, data shows. (credit: PK-REN, Jakarta, Indonesia )

In testing performed in a simulator, Boeing test pilots recreated the conditions aboard Lion Air Flight 610 when it went down in the Java Sea in October, killing 189 people. The tests showed that the crew of the 737 MAX 8 would have only had 40 seconds to respond to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System’s (MCAS’s) attempts to correct a stall that wasn’t happening before the aircraft went into an unrecoverable dive, according to a report by The New York Times. by

While the test pilots were able to correct the issue with the flip of three switches, their training on the systems far exceeded that of the Lion Air crew—and that of the similarly doomed Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed earlier this month. The Lion Air crew was heard on cockpit voice recorders checking flight manuals in an attempt to diagnose what was going on moments before they died.

One of the controls—the electric stabilizer trim thumbswitch on the pilot’s control yoke—could temporarily reset MCAS’s control over stabilizers. The Lion Air pilots hit this switch over 24 times, buying them some time—but MCAS’ stall prevention software kicked in afterwards each time because of faulty data coming from the aircraft’s primary angle of attack sensor.

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Emergency declared in NY over measles, unvaccinated barred from public spaces

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 11:53pm

Enlarge / HOPKINS, Minn. - APRIL, 27: Abdullahi Mohamud, 5, awaits returning to school after two of his siblings contracted the measles during an current outbreak. (credit: Getty | Courtney Perry)

Plagued by a tenacious outbreak of measles that began last October, New York's Rockland County declared a state of emergency Tuesday and issued a directive barring unvaccinated children from all public spaces.

Effective at midnight Wednesday, March 27, anyone aged 18 or younger who has not been vaccinated against the measles is prohibited from public spaces in Rockland for 30 days or until they get vaccinated. Public spaces are defined broadly in the directive as any places:

[W]here more than 10 persons are intended to congregate for purposes such as civic, governmental, social, or religious functions, or for recreation or shopping, or for food or drink consumption, or awaiting transportation, or for daycare or educational purposes, or for medical treatment. A place of public assembly shall also include public transportation vehicles, including but not limited to, publicly or privately owned buses or trains...

The directive follows an order from the county last December that barred unvaccinated children from schools that did not reach a minimum of 95 percent vaccination rate. That order—and the directive issued today—are intended to thwart the long-standing outbreak, which has sickened 153 people, mostly children.

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New Huawei phone has a 5x optical zoom, thanks to a periscope lens

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 10:49pm

Huawei officially announced the Huawei P30 Pro smartphone today. While it has a new Huawei-made SoC, an in-screen optical fingerprint reader, and lots of other high-end features, the highlight is definitely the camera's optical zoom, which is up to a whopping 5x. Not digital zoom. Real, optical zoom.

On most high-end smartphones today, like the iPhone XS and Galaxy S10, you'll only ever get a 2X optical zoom. Usually, these exist in an entire second sensor and lens on the back of the phone, giving you a choice between the standard 1x lens or extra 2x lens. The reason you usually don't get large zoom multipliers in smartphones is because zoom lenses take space. Inside a zoom lens is a series of smaller lenses, some of which move inside the lens body to change the focal length. A larger distance between the lenses will get you a higher zoom multiplier, and on real cameras this can reach several feet long.

Space, of course, is at a premium in smartphones. Imagine a smartphone sitting face down, and you would have to fit a vertical stack of the display, the CMOS sensor, and the lens all in about an 8mm height. There is just not a lot of room.

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74% of US coal plants threatened by renewables, but emissions continue to rise

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 10:00pm

Enlarge / Wind turbines spin as steam rises from the cooling towers of the Jäenschwalde coal-fired power plant. (credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report on Monday saying that in 2018, "global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 percent to 33 Gigatonnes." That's the most growth in emissions that the world has seen since 2013.

Coal use contributed to a third of the total increase, mostly from new coal-fired power plants in China and India. This is worrisome because new coal plants have a lifespan of roughly 50 years. But the consequences of climate change are already upon us, and coal's hefty emissions profile compared to other energy sources means that, globally, carbon mitigation is going to be a lot more difficult to tackle than it may look from here in the US.

Even in the US, carbon emissions grew by 3.1 percent in 2018, according to the IEA. (This closely tracks estimates by the Rhodium Group, which released a preliminary report in January saying that US carbon emissions increased by 3.4 percent in 2018.)

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HTML email reborn, as Google brings AMP to your inbox

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 9:42pm

Enlarge / Lightning bolts have currents from 5,000 up to perhaps as many as 200,000 amps. (credit: John Fowler / Flickr)

Google is bringing AMP, its cut-down version of HTML, to email. Starting today, Gmail on the Web will be able to support embedded AMP content, with support rolling out to mobile clients later. Gmail will also be joined by Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail, and Mail.Ru, with their respective developers promising to add support soon.

AMP for email isn't just a warmed-over version of email with HTML formatting. The embedded AMP content will be able to offer features such as interactivity without having to click away from your inbox. For example, an online store could send you an email about a product or promotion you're likely to be interested in, and the AMP embed could allow scrolling through pictures of the products and even initiate the purchasing process. Or Pinterest could email you a selection of the day's popular items and you could pin them directly from your inbox.

Accelerated Mobile Pages were introduced by Google in 2015 as a narrow set of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS capabilities that produced pages that are fast to download and render, could easily be packaged together, and were amenable to being embedded in, for example, Google search results pages. JavaScript features were limited to those offered by a Google-supplied library. This greatly curtails the range of things that pages can do in favor of being extremely cache-friendly and having consistently good performance.

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Vice President directs NASA to return to the Moon by 2024

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 9:21pm

Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. (credit: NASA)

On Tuesday, at a museum within a stone's throw of Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, Vice President Mike Pence delivered a significant space policy speech that called for American men and women to return to the Moon by 2024. If the Trump administration follows through on the policies Pence outlined—admittedly a huge if—this was arguably the most consequential space speech since President Kennedy's Moon speech in 1962.

However, Pence's comments, and some of the plan later outlined by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, raised significant questions about the viability of these ideas.

During a 30-minute speech that Ars previewed last week, Pence said NASA has moved too slow for too long. Half a century ago, the agency only took eight years to go to the Moon, Pence said, when NASA didn't know how to do the job. Therefore, he was not satisfied with NASA's stated aim of landing humans on the Moon by 2028, which would come 11 years after President Trump first established the goal of returning humans to the lunar surface.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Article 13: Memes exempt as EU backs controversial copyright law

BBC Technology News - March 26, 2019 - 8:46pm
Sharing memes and GIFs is still allowed under the new laws, after tweaks to allow "parody".

How Microsoft found a Huawei driver that opened systems to attack

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 8:03pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Huawei MateBook systems that are running the company's PCManager software included a driver that would let unprivileged users create processes with superuser privileges. The insecure driver was discovered by Microsoft using some of the new monitoring features added to Windows version 1809 that are monitored by the company's Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) service.

First things first: Huawei fixed the driver and published the safe version in early January, so if you're using a Huawei system and have either updated everything or removed the built-in applications entirely, you should be good to go.

The interesting part of the story is how Microsoft found the bad driver in the first place.

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A superposition of possible facts causes quantum conflict

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 7:07pm

Enlarge / Eugene Wigner first came up with the thought experiment this real experiment is based on. (credit: Denver Post Inc (Photo By David Cupp/The Denver Post via Getty Images))

“More than one reality exists” screams the headline. Cue sighs of tired dread from physicists everywhere as they wonder what otherwise bland result has been spun out of control.

In this case, though, it turns out that the paper and the underlying theory are much more interesting than that takeaway. Essentially, modern physics tells us that two observers of the same event may never agree on the result, even if they have all possible knowledge. This is already accepted as part of special relativity, but now we have experimental proof that it applies to quantum mechanics as well. 

What Galileo and Einstein tell us

Let’s start with the simplest possible example of how we typically resolve conflicting measurements. I am standing on a platform and measure the speed of an approaching train to be 180km/hr. You are on the train and measure the speed of the train to be 0km/hr. We can resolve the difference by making an additional measurement on our relative speeds. Afterward, we both know that we’ve measured the speed correctly relative to our own motion. 

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Three-unique-words 'map' used to rescue mother and child

BBC Technology News - March 26, 2019 - 6:03pm
How three words - "weekend", "foggy" and "earphones" - rescued a mother and child after a car crash.

Verizon refuses to admit that its “first to 5G” commercials are misleading

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 5:47pm

Enlarge (credit: Verizon)

The advertising industry's self-regulatory division has urged Verizon to stop claiming that it has America's first 5G network, but Verizon claims that its "first to 5G" commercials are not misleading and is appealing the decision.

The National Advertising Division (NAD), an investigative unit managed by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, announced its recommendation to Verizon last week. The NAD investigated after a challenge lodged by AT&T, which has been misleading customers itself by renaming large portions of its 4G network to "5G E." But AT&T's challenge of Verizon's 5G ads was "the first case involving advertising for 5G" to come before the self-regulatory body, the NAD said.

Specifically, AT&T challenged three Verizon commercials that included claims that Verizon is "first to 5G" and that it has launched America's "only 5G ultra wideband network." While "ultra wideband" does refer to real radio technology, it's more of a marketing term when Verizon uses it in the context of 5G. Verizon doesn't even always use that qualifier to describe its future 5G service—at one point, this commercial says Verizon is "building America's first 5G network" without the ultra wideband language.

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Sony stops selling digital game codes at physical retailers

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 5:14pm

(credit: Aurich x Getty)

PlayStation 4 owners who like buying downloadable game codes directly from brick-and-mortar stores will soon be out of luck. That's because Sony has confirmed to The Verge that it will stop selling such downloadable codes through physical retailers starting on April 1.

The report confirms a Wario64 tweet from last week, which quoted a GameStop memo saying, "Sony full game digital downloads will only be available for purchase through the PlayStation marketplace" after April 1. Days Gone and Mortal Kombat 11 will be the sole full-game exceptions to this policy, according to the memo, though DLC and season passes will still be available for direct purchase. It's currently unclear if Web-based retailers like Amazon will be affected by the decision.

Retail availability of digital game codes was especially useful for players who didn't or couldn't use a credit card on the PlayStation Network storefront. Buying digital codes through a retailer also let customers make use of trade-in credit from used physical games and take advantage of other retailer promotions without requiring the purchase of a physical disc.

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How a kingfisher helped reshape Japan's bullet train

BBC Technology News - March 26, 2019 - 5:10pm
The bullet train used to make a loud boom going through tunnels - but inspiration from the natural world helped fix it.

Huawei shows off flagship camera phone

BBC Technology News - March 26, 2019 - 4:46pm
Two new smartphones from Huawei use artificial intelligence to create better exposures.

Dealmaster: Get Roku’s Streaming Stick+ 4K media streamer for $49

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 4:33pm

Enlarge / The Roku Streaming Stick+. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal on Roku's Streaming Stick+, which is currently down to $49 at Walmart and Amazon. While not the absolute cheapest it's ever been, it's the 4K media streamer's typical discount price and a good savings from the usual going rate of $59. Walmart's deal also includes a three-month subscription to CBS' All Access streaming service, so if you've been interested in checking out Star Trek: Discovery, consider it a nice kicker.

We reviewed the Streaming Stick+ back in late 2017. To sum it up: the Streaming Stick+ lacks the Dolby Vision HDR support of Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K and can't quite match the voice search capabilities of that device's built-in Alexa assistant, but it still runs well, works with HDR10, and is easy to set up. Perhaps most importantly, Roku's device interface doesn't funnel you toward certain services and programs the way Amazon or Apple tend to do. The UI could stand to get a makeover, but even if it looks bland, it stays relatively neutral in letting you use the apps you prefer to use. Unlike Roku's cheaper Premiere streamers, the Streaming Stick+ also supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which should keep it from buffering as much as those other devices might.

If you don't need a 4K media streamer, though, this week's Dealmaster also has a big Gold Box sale on gaming accessories at Amazon, a number of Apple device discounts, deals on Fire tablets, and more. Have a look for yourself below.

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EU parliament passes controversial copyright overhaul [Updated]

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 3:00pm

An EU flag at the European Parliament. (credit: European Parliament / Flickr)

Update: The European Parliament approved the new European copyright directive on Tuesday by a vote of 348 to 274. Our original story on the legislation follows.

On Tuesday, the European Parliament will vote on an overhaul of the EU's copyright system. The body will vote on a compromise announced last month that has received the backing of key European governments. An earlier version of the proposal was approved by the European Parliament last September.

The legislation is controversial, with two provisions receiving the bulk of the criticism. Article 11 aims to help news organizations collect more licensing fees from news aggregators like Facebook and Google News. Article 13 aims to help copyright holders to collect licensing fees from user-generated content platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

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Facebook, YouTube sued over Christchurch shootings video

BBC Technology News - March 26, 2019 - 2:39pm
A French Muslim group launches legal action over the way disturbing footage of the shootings was shared.

It’s unfortunate NASA canceled the all-female EVA, but it’s the right decision

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 2:23pm

Enlarge / NASA astronaut Anne McClain needs to use a smaller spacesuit. (credit: NASA)

NASA announced on Monday afternoon that it had canceled a plan to have astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch perform the agency's first all-female spacewalk on Friday. The decision follows McClain's first spacewalk outside the International Space Station, which occurred last Friday, March 22.

"Mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station," the space agency said. "McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso—essentially the shirt of the spacesuit—fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it."

Astronaut Nick Hague will suit up along with Koch this Friday to replace a set of batteries outside the station that store solar power for use when the station is in the Earth's shadow. This decision to replace McClain with Hague has raised a number of questions, including some conspiracy theories that NASA is incompetent or misogynistic. Neither of these is true, although the space agency does have a problem with its spacesuit inventory and future procurement plans. Let's dig into some of the questions raised here.

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Casino Screwup Royale: A tale of “ethical hacking” gone awry

Ars Technica - March 26, 2019 - 1:01pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

People who find security vulnerabilities commonly run into difficulties when reporting them to the responsible company. But it's less common for such situations to turn into tense trade-show confrontations—and competing claims of assault and blackmail.

Yet that's what happened when executives at Atrient—a casino technology firm headquartered in West Bloomfield, Michigan—stopped responding to two UK-based security researchers who had reported some alleged security flaws. The researchers thought they had reached an agreement regarding payment for their work, but nothing final ever materialized. On February 5, 2019, one of the researchers—Dylan Wheeler, a 23-year-old Australian living in the UK—stopped by Atrient's booth at a London conference to confront the company’s chief operating officer.

What happened next is in dispute. Wheeler says that Atrient COO Jessie Gill got in a confrontation with him and yanked off his conference lanyard; Gill insists he did no such thing, and he accused Wheeler of attempted extortion.

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