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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 58 min 41 sec ago

The iPhone 11’s U1 chip necessitates constant geolocation checks, Apple says

6 hours 53 min ago

Enlarge / From left to right: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Earlier this week, security reporter Brian Krebs published a story explaining that Apple's latest iPhones (iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro) periodically check the user's location even if the user disables location services individually for each and every app and service in the iPhone's Settings app.

While this behavior ended when the user disabled location services system-wide, it was a bit of a head-scratcher. What was the iPhone doing and why? Was it sending this information to Apple? Why couldn't users find information on what was happening? Krebs had notified Apple of the issue as a potential security problem back in mid November, but the company responded this week stating:

We do not see any actual security implications... It is expected behavior that the Location Services icon appears in the status bar when Location Services is enabled. The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings.

While Apple deemed this not to be a security issue, Krebs rightly pointed out that it remained a potential privacy issue, given Apple's promises that users have control over how and when iPhones track or report their locations.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Here’s how much global carbon emission increased this year

December 5, 2019 - 11:24pm

Enlarge / Bar graph of climate data. (credit: Global Carbon Project)

Large oceangoing ships turn very slowly, which can be frustrating to someone accustomed to speeding around on nimble watercraft. Those eagerly watching for progress on climate change can relate. Every year, another batch of stats on greenhouse gas emissions comes in, and we're left to wonder whether we're turning things around yet.

This year's update was just published as part of the Global Carbon Project—a large scientific collaboration that coordinates this difficult accounting work. The researchers compile the latest estimates for every component of Earth's carbon cycle, from fossil fuel emissions and deforestation to the uptake of carbon by the ocean and vegetation.

The topline numbers are the total global emissions estimates. As this is published before the end of the year, the report includes a preliminary estimate for 2019 and a revision to the 2018 numbers published last year. Estimated 2018 emissions come in at a 2.1 percent increase over 2017—well within the error bars of last year's preliminary estimate of 2.7 percent.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Motorola One Hyper brings a pop-up camera, all-screen design for $400

December 5, 2019 - 11:03pm

Motorola has what might be the best-looking mid-range smartphone with the "Motorola One Hyper," a $400 phone with flagship touches like an all-screen front design and a motorized, pop-up camera. It's like a mini OnePlus 7 Pro! You won't find any notches or other screen blemishes here.

For specs, you have a 6.5-inch 2340×1080 IPS LCD, a 2GHz Snapdragon 675, 4GB of memory, 128GB of storage, and a 4000mAh battery. The are two rear cameras: a 64MP main sensor and a 8MP wide angle lens, and a 32MP front camera. Both the main front and back cameras have a pretty high megapixel count, and both have an optional "quad pixel" mode, which merges every four pixels together for better light pickup.

There's a rear fingerprint reader, a 3.5mm headphone jack (!), a microSD slot for expandable storage up to 1TB, and NFC. There is clearly some cost cutting here, but that's to be expected at $400. You'll get a USB-C port capable of 45W quick charging, but you'll only get a 15W charger in the box. The body is made of plastic, and while it has a "water-repellant design" there's no official IPxx rating. Motorola is not great at OS updates, but at least out of the box, the phone has Android 10.

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Kingpin of Evil Corp lived large. Now there’s a $5 million bounty on his head

December 5, 2019 - 10:50pm

Enlarge / Screenshot of Justice Department website shows four pictures of same alleged criminal. (credit: US Justice Department)

Federal prosecutors have indicted the kingpin of Evil Corp, the name used by a cybercrime gang that used the notorious Dridex malware to drain more than $70 million from bank accounts in the US, UK, and other countries.

Maksim V. Yakubets, a 32-year-old Russian national who used the handle "Aqua," led one of the world's most advanced transnational cybercrime syndicates in the world, prosecutors said on Thursday. The crime group's alleged deployment of Dridex was one of the most widespread malware campaigns ever. The UK's National Crime Agency said the syndicate used the name Evil Corp.

Dridex was configured to target the customers of almost 300 different organizations in more than 40 countries by automating the theft of online banking credentials and other confidential information from infected computers. Over time, Dridex creators updated the malware to install ransomware. Previously known as Bugat and Cridex, Dridex used zeroday exploits and malicious attachments in emails to infect targets. The malware was designed to bypass antivirus and other security defenses.

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DOL’s $400M pay-discrimination suit is unconstitutional, Oracle argues

December 5, 2019 - 10:03pm

Enlarge / Regional headquarters of software company Oracle in San Jose, California, April 13, 2019. (credit: Smith Collection | Gado | Getty Images)

As a long-running Department of Labor suit against Oracle heads in front of a judge this week, Oracle is fighting back by arguing that the DOL's suit, alleging violation of labor laws, is unconstitutional.

The DOL filed suit against Oracle in 2017, alleging that the company had a broad, systemic pay discrepancy that underpaid women and people of color employed by the firm by a total $401 million in a four-year period. Analyses conducted by the department, as well as by independent third parties, found women were being paid between $13,000 and $20,000 less per year, on average, than their male peers.

The hearings in the case began today. The DOL is expected to call more than 20 current and former employees as witnesses in the case over the next week or two of proceedings.

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Google Fiber ends $50, 100Mbps plan, but 1Gbps is still $70 with no data cap

December 5, 2019 - 9:50pm

Enlarge / A Google Fiber van. (credit: Google Fiber)

Google Fiber has stopped offering its $50-per-month, 100Mbps Internet plan to new customers, leaving its gigabit service as the only option available to people who weren't grandfathered into the cheaper plan.

On the plus side, Google Fiber has still never raised the $70-per-month price of its gigabit plan since beginning operations in November 2012, a rarity in an industry in which incumbent ISPs routinely raise prices and tack on hidden fees because they face little competition.

"We're going all in on a gig," Google Fiber said in its announcement yesterday. "We will no longer offer a 100Mbps plan to new customers."

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Amazon’s inexpensive Eero mesh Wi-Fi kit is shockingly good

December 5, 2019 - 9:36pm
Eero specs at a glance Kit type three-piece mesh Wi-Fi 6 support no Radios one 2x2 2.4GHz (each unit)
one 2x2 5GHz (each unit) Wired Ethernet 2 Gigabit jacks per unit Family Filtering Yes, with $30/yr subscription Internet Pause Yes, both manual and scheduled

We finally got our hands on Amazon's redesigned second-gen Eero kit, and we won't bury the lede—it's a fantastic performer, especially for the price. Although its performance isn't on par with the Plume Superpods, it was easy to set up and didn't outright fail any of our torture tests. Eero maintained decent browsing latency all around the house, even while simultaneously delivering four emulated 4K video streams.

Don't get us wrong, there's still a lot of daylight between Eero and Plume—but with the Eero kit retailing for $250 normally, and currently on special for $189 with a free Echo Dot and without need for a subscription (for most features), it's a heck of a deal.

On the other hand, if you want Eero because of its Alexa integration... maybe you ought to wait a bit.

Read 30 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The full trailer for Disney’s live-action Mulan is here, and it’s breathtaking

December 5, 2019 - 7:15pm

Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei stars in Disney's live-action Mulan.

Disney has released the full trailer for Mulan, the studio's live-action remake of its own 1998 animated film. When the first teaser dropped in July, I noted that, while I'm not a huge fan of Disney's live-action remakes, "this is an effective, sumptuously eye-catching teaser for Mulan." This latest trailer cements that assessment. It looks gorgeous, very much in the style of a period war drama, and its rumored $300 million production budget shows in every breathtaking shot.

Both films are based on the Chinese legend "The Ballad of Hua Mulan," which tells the story of a young woman in the Northern Wei era (spanning 386-536 CE) who takes her father's place when each family is required to provide one male to serve in the emperor's army. In this version, Hua Mulan is already a well-trained fighter, and she serves for 12 years, with none of her fellow soldiers ever suspecting her true gender.

Disney's animated film broadly followed the traditional storyline, except Mulan is not well-trained when she first runs away. The film also added a love interest, a goofy dragon representative of the family ancestors named Mushu (hilariously voiced by Eddie Murphy), and a catchy original soundtrack. Mulan was released to critical acclaim, grossing $304 million worldwide and earning Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. In other words, while it didn't exactly set the box office on fire, it was popular enough to merit a spot on the roster of Disney's ongoing live-action remakes.

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Radiolab co-host to depart podcast after 15 years

December 5, 2019 - 6:45pm

Robert Krulwich, left, is departing Radiolab after co-hosting the radio series for 15 years with Jad Abumrad, right. (credit: Jad Abumrad / WNYC)

Radiolab, the WNYC radio show that became the pop-science cornerstone of most podcast directories throughout the 2010s, announced a major shakeup on Thursday to fans via its official newsletter. Longtime co-host Robert Krulwich will soon leave the show, with his announcement hinting to only a pair of episodes left before he moves on to other independent projects.

In his not-quite-goodbye to fans, Krulwich appears to declare that the series' producers and staff have succeeded in the mission he'd begun with the series years ago: to create a pipeline (a self-perpetuating one, arguably) for compelling science-based radio accessible to new audiences. After the show caught on with radio listeners nationwide, "the next question we asked ourselves is what’s Radiolab to become, other than the two of us delighting each other?" Krulwich writes. "The answer came literally through the door as one wonderfully talented person after another came and joined us until we now have pretty much the strongest bench in the business, a gang of people who, in their very different ways, have learned to tell stories that grab audiences, sort of like we did but more and more in their own voices with their own musics and their own styles."

Krulwich then describes a moment from roughly a year ago where it dawned upon him that his time at Radiolab was drawing to a close:

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Huawei sues FCC to stop ban on Huawei gear in US-funded networks

December 5, 2019 - 5:44pm

Enlarge / Huawei's logo at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona in November 2019. (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images)

Huawei has sued the Federal Communications Commission over the agency's order that bans Huawei equipment in certain government-funded telecom projects.

"Huawei asks the court to hold the FCC's order unlawful on the grounds that it fails to offer Huawei required due process protections in labelling Huawei as a national security threat," the Chinese company said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. "Huawei believes that the FCC also fails to substantiate its arbitrary findings with evidence or sound reasoning or analysis, in violation of the US Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act, and other laws."

Huawei said it filed the complaint in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. We haven't been able to get a copy of the lawsuit yet.

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The modders who spent 15 years fixing Knights of the Old Republic 2

December 5, 2019 - 5:29pm

Released on December 6, 2004, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords (KOTOR2) was the first game from the then newly formed Obsidian Entertainment. At that time, the new studio was a shoestring operation with just seven veteran developers who had made the move from the recently shuttered Black Isle Studios, all holed up in CEO Feargus Urquhart’s attic. But publisher LucasArts, wanting to capitalize on the success of the original KOTOR from the year before, reportedly gave that threadbare new team just 14 to 16 months to create a sequel.

It’s no surprise that the finished product had some issues.

The most noticeable of these issues at launch might have been the conclusion to the HK-50 factory side quest. Specifically, that conclusion is just nowhere to be found in the final game.

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White dwarf star covering itself with the atmosphere of a hot Neptune

December 5, 2019 - 4:34pm

Enlarge (credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessinger)

White dwarfs are the cores of stars that were once similar to the Sun. At some point, these stars have exhausted the lighter elements that fueled their earlier existence, flared up into a bloated red giant, and burned down into carbon and oxygen rich cores not much larger than the Earth (but far more massive). With fusion shut down, they gradually radiate away the remaining temperature, fading out of our ability to detect them.

We now know that a large number of stars have planets around them. So what happens to a planet orbiting a star that puffs up on its way to becoming a white dwarf? Some hints of that have come from a number of these stars that have material similar to that of a rocky planet embedded in their surface. But a new example has been found with gas that has been drawn off from a Neptune-like planet.

One weird dwarf

The white dwarf in question, WD J091405.30+191412.25 (the authors refer to it affectionately as WD J0914+1914), was initially identified as having hydrogen on its surface. This, on its own, is not unusual. While it would have burned much of its hydrogen during its past life, many white dwarfs pull material off nearby stars. But in this case there was no sign of a nearby star. And, even more oddly, there was sulfur on the surface of the white dwarf as well. Sulfur is generally a very rare element on stars, which suggested that the material did not have a stellar origin.

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On its second attempt, SpaceX sends Dragon soaring to the ISS [Updated]

December 5, 2019 - 3:20pm

12:45pm ET Thursday Update: A Falcon 9 rocket launched on Thursday from Florida, delivering its Dragon spacecraft into orbit. The first stage then made a safe landing on a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The company's webcast ended without any coverage of the second stage's six-hour coast to demonstrate a capability for an unnamed customer.

This was the tenth Falcon 9 launch of 2019. Overall the rocket has now launched 76 times. Sometime in 2020, among rockets in active service, the Falcon 9 will almost certainly become the U.S. booster with the most launch experience, surpassing the Atlas V. That rocket has launched 80 times, with one more mission scheduled for later this month—a test flight of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft.

Original post: At Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday morning, the countdown clock is again ticking toward a launch of the Falcon 9 rocket.

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Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865 is 25% faster, comes with mandatory 5G

December 5, 2019 - 1:50am

Enlarge / The Snapdragon 865.

Today, Qualcomm detailed its new flagship SoC for 2020: the Snapdragon 865. This is going to be the chip that ships in every single high-end Android phone that comes out in 2020, and there's a lot to go over.

First up: we're getting the usual modest speed increases that Qualcomm delivers every year. Qualcomm says the CPU and GPU are 25-percent faster compared to this year's Snapdragon 855. Like last year, this is an eight core, 7nm chip, but as AnandTech reports, now it's being manufactured on TSMC-improved 7nm "N7P" node, the same manufacturing process used by Apple's A13 SoC.

This year the bigger CPU cores have been upgraded from Qualcomm's Kryo 485 cores in the 855, which were based on ARM's Cortex A76 design, to the new "Kryo 585 CPU," which uses ARM Cortex A77 cores. The frequencies are unchanged from last year: the single "Prime" A77 core is at 2.84GHz, and three other A77 cores are at 2.42GHz. Four Cortex A55s make up the smaller cores for background processing and other lower-power tasks and are clocked at 1.8GHz.

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Unvaccinated Samoans should identify themselves with red flags, officials say

December 5, 2019 - 1:02am

Enlarge / Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi receiving a measles vaccine to support the Mass Vaccination Drive (credit: Samoan Government)

People who have not been vaccinated against the measles virus should mark their homes with red flags, Samoan officials announced Tuesday.

The decree comes amid a devastating outbreak of measles, which was declared in October. As of December 3, officials have recorded 4,052 cases, 171 of which were recorded within the 24 hours before the tally. Officials also reported 60 deaths, 52 of which were in children ages 0 to 4 years old.

The outbreak has flourished after the vaccination rate of infants plunged to an estimated 31 percent last year. Health officials linked the drop in vaccination to the tragic deaths of two infants, who were given measles vaccines tainted with fatal doses of muscle relaxant. Two nurses were convicted in the cases and sentenced to five years in prison. Despite the convictions, anti-vaccine advocates have used the cases to drum up fear of vaccines.

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The next Xbox is in the wild, connecting to current-gen Xbox One players

December 5, 2019 - 12:49am

Enlarge / We'd prefer to use an official image of the console, but we won't have one of those until Xbox chief Phil Spencer invites us over to his house. And, ya know, Ars tech culture editor Sam Machkovech lives down the block in Seattle, so... (credit: Xbox)

A late Wednesday post from the leader of Microsoft's Xbox team, Phil Spencer, confirmed that the first "Project Scarlett" console is officially in the wild, ahead of its late 2020 launch window. And current Xbox One players appear to have already unknowingly connected to it.

"And it's started," Spencer posted on his Twitter account on Wednesday. "This week, I brought my Project Scarlett console home and it's become my primary console, playing my games, connecting to the community and yes, using my Elite Series 2 controller, having a blast."

Without any extra posts or clarification as of press time, we can only surmise so much from this single statement. But it's admittedly dense. Primarily, Spencer affirms a few details that he and the Xbox team have previously announced about Project Scarlett, the current codename for the unnamed successor to the Xbox One console.

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Star Trek writer and Hollywood trailblazer D.C. Fontana has died

December 5, 2019 - 12:31am

Enlarge / Fontana discusses her storied career in an interview. (credit: The Writer's Guild Foundation)

Dorothy Fontana—one of the most influential writers in Star Trek's long history, a renowned teacher and mentor of screenwriters, and a trailblazer for women in Hollywood—passed away in her home in Los Angeles this week at the age of 80, according to a press release from the American Film Institute.

Her numerous Star Trek contributions and roles include story editor on The Original Series and writing credits for several key episodes of The Original Series including the introduction of Spock's parents and many explorations of Vulcan culture. She also co-wrote The Next Generation pilot "Encounter at Farpoint" with franchise creator Gene Roddenberry, and she had various writing and story roles for Star Trek video games and several individual The Next GenerationDeep Space Nine, and The Animated Series episodes, such as the DS9 episode "Dax," which established the background of the titular character and her species.

In addition to her work on Star Trek, Fontana wrote episodes of Babylon 5, Bonanza, Dallas, Kung Fu, The Six Million Dollar Man, and many more classic TV series. She was also a member of the board of directors for the Writers Guild of America, and she was most recently employed as a senior lecturer at the American Film Institute, where she taught classes to screenwriters, directors, and producers.

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FCC tries to bury finding that Verizon and T-Mobile exaggerated 4G coverage

December 4, 2019 - 11:20pm

Enlarge / Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, during an interview in New York, on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular exaggerated their 4G coverage in official filings to the Federal Communications Commission, an FCC investigation found. But FCC officials confirmed that Chairman Ajit Pai does not plan to punish the three carriers in any way. Instead, the FCC intends to issue an enforcement advisory to the broader industry, reminding carriers "of the penalties associated with filings that violate federal law."

"Overstating mobile broadband coverage misleads the public and can misallocate our limited universal service funds, and thus it must be met with meaningful consequences," FCC staff said in an investigative report released today.

But there won't be any meaningful consequences for Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. "Based upon the totality of the circumstances, the investigation did not find a sufficiently clear violation of the MF-II [Mobility Fund Phase II] data collection requirements that warranted enforcement action," an FCC spokesperson told Ars via email.

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BMW does about-face, drops CarPlay annual subscription requirement

December 4, 2019 - 11:09pm

Enlarge / A BMW X7 navigating an off-road course (credit: Eric Bangeman)

When you buy a new car, you own it. Make the payments, and the car is 100 percent yours, with the only standing relationship between you and the carmaker consisting of scheduled maintenance. BMW broke that model when it decided to sell a software subscription along with its new cars, forcing buyers to pay $80 per year for continued access to CarPlay in cars that support Apple's in-car infotainment interface.

As first reported by Autocar, the German automaker has decided to get rid of the subscription fee and make CarPlay standard across most of its lineup.

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Payment card-skimming malware targeting 4 sites found on Heroku cloud platform

December 4, 2019 - 10:15pm

Enlarge (credit: Mighty Travels / Flickr)

Payment card skimmers have hit four online merchants with help from Heroku, a cloud provider owned by Salesforce, a researcher has found.

Heroku is a cloud platform designed to make things easier for users to build, maintain, and deliver online services. It turns out that the service also makes things easier for crooks to run skimmers that target third-party sites.

On Wednesday, Jérôme Segura, director of threat intelligence at security provider Malwarebytes, said he found a rash of skimmers hosted on Heroku. The hackers behind the scheme not only used the service to host their skimmer infrastructure and deliver it to targeted sites. They also used Heroku to store stolen credit-card data. Heroku administrators suspended the accounts and removed the skimmers within an hour of being notified, Segura told Ars.

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