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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 1 hour 24 min ago

Mad scientists flip the Earth’s spin in climate models, watch water go nuts

2 hours 7 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Gabriela Pinto)

Climate models—computer simulations of Earth’s climate system—are crucial tools for scientists, given that it's impossible to run experiments on the entire planet. Access to these digital laboratories also gives people the option to occasionally play “mad scientist” and mess with the Earth a bit. One newly published study falls into that category, asking the question “What would happen if the Earth spun backward?” You can almost hear the maniacal laughter.

Back flip

If you’ve ever learned about the atmosphere, you know that Earth’s rotation makes swirling weather like hurricanes possible through something called the Coriolis Effect. Simply put, fluids heading in a straight line on a spinning globe deflect off to the side—to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. And if the Earth’s rotation reversed, fluids (including ocean currents) would deflect the other way.

It may sound like a trivial bit of pondering, but it’s actually a scientifically interesting question. A group led by Uwe Mikolajewicz of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology effectively set the planet spinning backward to find out just how many things would change when they let their model run for a few thousand years.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

After $5 billion EU antitrust fine, Google will start charging for Android apps

2 hours 19 min ago

(credit: Aurich Lawson)

Google is adjusting to life in the EU after the $5.05 billion (€4.34 billion) antitrust fine levied against it by the European Commission earlier this year. Google is still appealing the initial ruling, which found that Google used Android to illegally dominate the search market, but for now Google will comply with the ruling and offer looser licensing agreements to Android device makers.

In a post on the official Google Blog titled "Complying with the EC’s Android decision," Google outlined a few changes coming to the Google app licensing agreements that it offers to Android OEMs. As you might recall from the numerous times we've written about it, this announcement is a change to the secretive "Mobile Application Distribution Agreement" (MADA) document that is a requirement for getting access to the Play Store and other Google apps. What we think of as a commercial "Android" device comes in two parts. The core Android OS is free and open source—anyone can take it and do whatever they want with it without Google's involvement. If you want the Play Store, Google Maps, Gmail, and all the other Google apps you need to make a viable commercial smartphone, though, you need to talk to Google and sign an MADA, which comes with a ton of restrictions.

The new rules

Google's new MADA makes three big changes. First, Google's blog states "Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps may also build non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the European Economic Area (EEA)." The last time we saw an MADA document (back in 2014), it had an "anti-fragmentation" clause, which said that any company signing the agreement has to be all-in on Google's Android. If you produced any Android device without Google's apps, you got booted from the Google ecosystem. This means that a company like Amazon, which makes forked Kindle devices, could never ship a smartphone with Google apps.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ars on your lunch break: Getting high and breaking faith

2 hours 38 min ago

Enlarge / Let's go on a journey. A journey with drugs! (credit: NBC Universal)

Today we’re presenting the second installment of my wide-ranging interview with outspoken author, podcaster, philosopher, and recovering neuroscientist Sam Harris. Part one ran yesterday. If you missed it, click right here. Otherwise, you can press play on the embedded audio player or pull up the transcript—both of which are below.

In today’s installment, we discuss some of the experiences that shaped Sam's perspectives and interests. His father was raised Quaker, and his mother was Jewish—but neither were at all religious, and Sam had a wholly secular upbringing. As a freshman at Stanford (where he and I happened to overlap as undergraduates), he recalls being irked by the special treatment he felt the Bible received in a required course on Western culture. However, he didn’t label himself an “atheist” at the time—although in retrospect, he essentially was one.

Everything changed when he tried the drug MDMA (which is more commonly known to its friends as "Molly" or "Ecstasy"). This wasn’t at a party or rave but part of a quiet exploration of the mind’s capabilities (more of a Timothy Leary experience than a Ken Kesey one, for those versed in the history of psychedelics).

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fortnite, GTA V hackers face legal action for online cheating

3 hours 12 min ago

Enlarge

It's pretty standard for game developers to use a variety of technical and community management methods to try to stop cheaters from ruining the online experience for legitimate players. But some game makers are increasingly using the courts to try to stop the spread of mods that give players an unfair advantage, as highlighted by a pair of stories this week.

The first such story comes from Rockstar and Take-Two, which have convinced an Australian court to freeze the assets of five people believed to be behind Grand Theft Auto V cheating software known as "Infamous." The full court order, as reported by TorrentFreak, also allows authorities to search the homes and computers of Christopher Anderson, Cycus Lesser, Sfinktah, Koroush Anderson, and Koroush Jeddian. Authorities are looking for evidence of the creation or distribution of "any software that provides a player of Grand Theft Auto V access to unauthorized features..."

The Infamous "mod menu" gives users pretty much full control over the world of Grand Theft Auto universe, online or off, granting abilities that include teleportation, flying, and full environmental manipulation. Perhaps most distressingly for Rockstar and Take-Two, the mod also let players generate arbitrary amounts of virtual currency for themselves or other players online, which could have a direct effect on the game's microtransaction-driven bottom line.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tesla buys 210-acre site for factory in Shanghai

4 hours 33 min ago

Enlarge / A Tesla car is charging at a Tesla electric vehicle charging station in front of Baolong building on July 15, 2018 in Beijing, China. (credit: Photo by VCG / Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Tesla announced that it had purchased a 210-acre site in Shanghai, China, where it will begin building a second battery and auto factory.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Robin Ren, Tesla’s vice president of worldwide sales, attended a signing ceremony in Shanghai today, stating, “Securing this site in Shanghai, Tesla’s first Gigafactory outside of the United States, is an important milestone for what will be our next advanced, sustainably developed manufacturing site."

A Shanghai government website tracking major land purchases in the city detailed a purchase in the eastern Lingang district for about $140 million, which likely reflects Tesla's latest acquisition.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rocket Lab reveals new factory and launch site, aims for 16 flights next year

4 hours 38 min ago

William Booth/www.photosport.nz

Rocket Lab last launched its Electron vehicle nearly nine months ago, in January, from its New Zealand launch site. This was the vehicle's second flight and first successful orbital mission. Nine months is a long gulf between launches for a company that ultimately aspires to send rockets into space on a weekly basis.

However, Rocket Lab has not been idle for much of this year. Earlier this month, the company opened a second rocket development and production facility in Auckland, New Zealand. And on Wednesday, Rocket Lab announced the location of its second launch site, Wallops Island in Virginia, on the East Coast of the United States. It hopes to have the site operational about one year from now.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Some of this year’s best microscopy images

5 hours 14 min ago

Each year, Nikon runs a microscopy competition honoring the best images of all things small. And, well, we're kind of suckers for it here at Ars. So when the company got in touch and offered us the chance to share a peek at this years' winners, how could we say no?

Karl Deckart

While most of you may know Nikon as a camera company, microscopy is a sibling of photography in many ways beyond the involvement of high-end lenses. While it might not matter for scientific purposes, a compelling microscope image depends on things like composition, lighting, exposure, and more. And these days, both fields rely heavily on post-processing. Many of the images you see above are the product of multiple exposures, each on a different focal plane, all stacked and flattened to provide a full three-dimensional view that's actually not possible from a microscope alone.

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Volvo’s new V60 is proof the station wagon must never die

5 hours 46 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Forget the impending death of the sedan, as an automotive species the station wagon should be on life support. Which is a shame, because station wagons are great: the utility of an SUV without the high seating position, sure, but also without the high center of gravity and drag coefficient. In return, they are a much more elegantly proportioned vehicle, one that would be more popular but for the decades-old stigma of being a "mom car." (The same fate is coming for you, SUV.) Almost no one sells a wagon any more, which makes some people cross enough to leave angry comments online about the stupidity of car companies. In their defense, the car companies tell me angry Internet comments aren't really worth the same as an actual deposit, and they have too few of those to make it worthwhile. Not Volvo, though.

The Swedish automaker has been fascinating to watch these past few years as it has bloomed thanks to Geely's investment. Little happened for the first few years, but Volvo used the investment to thoroughly modernize the way it designed and built cars. Platforms have given way to modular architectures that simplify production yet at the same time allow for great flexibility when it comes to designing different vehicles.

In 2015, the XC90 SUV marked the introduction of the first of these new architectures, called Scalable Product Architecture. SPA lets Volvo build large and midsized vehicles, and it was soon joined by an S90 sedan and V90 wagon. Three years later and the SPA line-up is complete. Last year the XC60 arrived, a more moderate take on the 21st century Swedish SUV. Yesterday we wrote about the new S60 sedan, which means we've saved the best one for last. The new V60 wagon.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

What do we actually know about the risks of screen time and digital media?

6 hours 23 min ago

Uh... this is fine, right? (credit: Getty Images)

“Yesterday after I wrote to you, I had an attack of asthma,” Marcel Proust wrote to his mother in 1901. “[It] obliged me to walk all doubled up and light anti-asthma cigarettes at every tobacconist’s I passed.”

While that sounds a bit crazy by 2018 standards, Proust was far from alone: “Medicated cigarettes marketed for respiratory complaints continued to be endorsed, and smoked, by doctors until well after the Second World War,” writes medical historian Mark Jackson.

Of course, tobacco eventually joined the list of treacherous substances once thought to be healthy and subsequently discovered to be harmful, keeping excellent company alongside radium and mercury. It's enough to make people constantly wonder what else might make it onto the list of friends turned foe. Could coffee be next? Processed meat?

Read 27 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Advertisers allege Facebook hid the fact that no one watches video ads

8 hours 9 min ago

Enlarge

According to a newly public filing in an ongoing lawsuit, a group of advertisers now says that Facebook has been willfully withholding information about how much time its users spend watching paid ads—if more people spend more time watching ads, then those ads can command higher rates.

The case of LLE One LLC et al. v. Facebook, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was filed two years ago and is currently pending in federal court in Oakland, California. In it, the plaintiffs say that, as part of the discovery from their lawsuit, they have learned that Facebook's "action rises to the level of fraud and may warrant punitive damages."

As the plaintiffs' attorneys continued:

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Trivial authentication bypass in libssh leaves servers wide open

16 hours 53 min ago

Enlarge (credit: starwars.com)

There’s a four-year-old bug in the Secure Shell implementation known as libssh that makes it trivial for just about anyone to gain unfettered administrative control of a vulnerable server. While the authentication-bypass flaw represents a major security hole that should be patched immediately, it wasn’t immediately clear what sites or devices were vulnerable since neither the widely used OpenSSH nor Github’s implementation of libssh was affected.

The vulnerability, which was introduced in libssh version 0.6 released in 2014, makes it possible to log in by presenting a server with a SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_SUCCESS message rather than the SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_REQUEST message the server was expecting, according to an advisory published Tuesday. Exploits are the hacking equivalent of a Jedi mind trick, in which an adversary uses the Force to influence or confuse weaker-minded opponents. The last time the world saw an authentication-bypass bug with such serious consequences and requiring so little effort was 11 months ago, when Apple’s macOS let people log in as admin without entering a password.

The effects of malicious exploits, assuming there were any during the four-plus years the bug was active, are hard to fathom. In a worst-case scenario, attackers would be able to use exploits to gain complete control over vulnerable servers. The attackers could then steal encryption keys and user data, install rootkits and erase logs that recorded the unauthorized access. Anyone who has used a vulnerable version of libssh in server mode should consider conducting a thorough audit of their network immediately after updating.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla come together to end TLS 1.0

20 hours 38 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Indigo girl / Flickr)

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla have announced a unified plan to deprecate the use of TLS 1.0 and 1.1 early in 2020.

TLS (Transport Layer Security) is used to secure connections on the Web. TLS is essential to the Web, providing the ability to form connections that are confidential, authenticated, and tamper-proof. This has made it a big focus of security research, and over the years, a number of bugs that had significant security implications have been found in the protocol. Revisions have been published to address these flaws.

The original TLS 1.0, heavily based on Netscape's SSL 3.0, was first published in January 1999. TLS 1.1 arrived in 2006, while TLS 1.2, in 2008, added new capabilities and fixed these security flaws. Irreparable security flaws in SSL 3.0 saw support for that protocol come to an end in 2014; the browser vendors now want to make a similar change for TLS 1.0 and 1.1.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Trump’s coal rescue is getting more complicated

October 16, 2018 - 10:39pm

Enlarge / An eastbound Norfolk Southern Corp. unit coal train passes through Waddy, Kentucky. (credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

According to four people who spoke to Politico on conditions of anonymity, the Trump administration's plan to bail out coal and nuclear plants has hit a speed bump within the White House itself.

The most recent plan from the Department of Energy (DOE) involved invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950, a wartime rule that allows the president to incentivize and prioritize purchases from American industries that are considered vital to national security.

Another potential plan involved invoking Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act to mandate that struggling coal and nuclear plants stay open either through compulsory purchases by grid managers or through subsidies. FirstEnergy, a power corporation whose coal and nuclear units are under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, petitioned the DOE to use this power in April.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ajit Pai slams carriers for slow restoration of cell service after hurricane

October 16, 2018 - 10:06pm

Enlarge / A Verizon logo at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Wireless carriers' failure to fully restore cellular service in Florida after Hurricane Michael "is completely unacceptable," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said today in a rare rebuke of the industry that he regulates.

Verizon in particular has been under fire from Florida Governor Rick Scott, who says Verizon hasn't done enough to restore service. By contrast, Scott has praised AT&T for its disaster response.

The FCC will open an investigation into the post-hurricane restoration efforts, Pai said. Pai and Scott urged wireless carriers to immediately disclose plans for restoring service, waive the October bills of affected customers, and let customers switch providers without penalty.

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Starlink: Battle for Atlas review: Cool toys, solid spacefaring

October 16, 2018 - 8:50pm

Enlarge / Shiny. (credit: Ubisoft)

Amid the luminescent, blue-green plants of some once-forgotten world, my sharp red dart of a ship narrowly avoids ambush. Carrying important cargo that is hefty enough to keep my versatile vessel from being able to take off, I’m left with two choices: flee or dump the ballast to turn and fight.

Those who are familiar with 2016’s No Man’s Sky will undoubtedly notice more than a few similarities between it and Starlink: Battle for Atlas, which created the above scene. The visuals in both are consistently bizarre and otherworldly—they are believably alien in a way the last few decades of serialized television haven’t been able to capture. Both games offer just about free rein to fly anywhere and do more or less whatever you will across the vast reaches of space (though Starlink is limited to a single solar system).

The key difference—aside from Starlink’s additional narrative glue (at least compared with No Man’s Sky at launch)—is that it’s a toys-to-life game, much like Disney Infinity or Activision’s Skylanders. Yet despite the contraptions you’ll need to attach to your controller, the game itself is remarkably accessible and surprisingly entertaining regardless of your age.

Build-a-ship

Starlink’s narrative setup is straightforward: thanks to a genius astrophysicist and an alien that crashed on Earth, humans are now making their first nascent voyages to the stars. But the fuel humans are using for those trips, Nova, is a rare resource. The aliens of the Atlas star system have long since lost the knowledge of how to make the interstellar fuel, leaving them largely trapped near their home planet.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

21-year-old who created powerful RAT software sentenced to 30 months

October 16, 2018 - 7:43pm

Enlarge (credit: Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A 21-year-old Kentucky man who previously admitted to creating and selling a "remote access trojan" (RAT) known as LuminosityLink has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

Colton Grubbs had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully accessing computers in the furtherance of a criminal act, among other crimes.

When Grubbs was first charged, he claimed LuminosityLink was a legitimate tool for system administrators, and he never intended for it to be used maliciously. He reversed course in a plea agreement he signed in July 2017. In that document, he admitted for the first time that he knew some customers were using the software to control computers without owners' knowledge or permission. Grubbs also admitted emphasizing a wealth of malicious features in marketing materials that promoted the software.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Roborace wants the future of racing to be AI plus humans, working together

October 16, 2018 - 7:22pm

Errolson Hugh

A quick look through the Cars Technica back catalog (the carchive, perhaps?) shows that autonomous driving technology and racing technology are both topics we return to quite often. But it has been a while since we covered their intersection—specifically, what's been going on at Roborace. The series first broke cover at the end of 2015 and then wowed everybody with the Robocar a few months later. It looks outrageous, made possible because it does not need to protect a human driver or generate meaningful downforce, two factors that overwhelmingly influence most race car designs.

Initially, the idea was for a driverless support series for Formula E. Roborace would supply teams with identical Robocars, and the teams would try to program a better racing AI. However, it's fair to say that the idea of watching a grid full of AI cars race each other did not meet with universal approval. "We realized that humans are very much part of the storyline of autonomous driving technology. The machines need to learn from humans. What’s it like to take a ride in one as a passenger? These cars have to learn how to fit into a human world. Human and AI cars will share the road," said Rod Chong, Roborace's deputy CEO.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Get a Google Daydream View VR headset for $40

October 16, 2018 - 7:19pm

Enlarge (credit: TechBargains)

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal on the coral version of Google's Daydream View VR headset, which is down to $40 at Verizon as of this writing.

While this is not the absolute lowest we've seen Google's mobile VR headset, it's still more than half off its standard $99 list price. Smartphone VR is still the lightest VR experience, but if you plan on buying a new Pixel 3, want to use it as your own personal movie theater, and don't want to splash the cash on a more advanced and standalone headset like the upcoming Oculus Quest, the Daydream View is still a decent entry point.

If you have no interest in virtual reality, we also have deals on AMD processors, sous vide cookers, the Nvidia Shield, storage, and much more. Have a look for yourself below.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Comcast complains it will make less money under Calif. net neutrality law

October 16, 2018 - 6:52pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

California's net neutrality law will cause "significant lost revenues" for Comcast, the nation's largest cable company said in a court filing this month.

Comcast described the net neutrality law's potential impact on its ability to charge online service providers and network operators for network interconnection.

"The paid interconnection provisions will harm Comcast's ability to enter into new, mutually beneficial interconnection agreements with edge providers that involve consideration, leading to a loss of existing and prospective interconnection partners and significant lost revenues," Comcast Senior VP Ken Klaer wrote in the filing in US District Court for the Eastern District of California. ("Edge provider" is the industry term for websites and other online platforms, such as Netflix and Google.)

Read 33 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Want to move something at nearly the speed of light? Here’s how

October 16, 2018 - 5:15pm

Video shot and directed by Justin Wolfson, edited by John Cappello. Click here for transcript.

We recently ran a little poll of our science readers to find out what they were looking for from our coverage. One of the things that was clear was that you wanted to know how things work—what's the technology that enables the latest science (and vice versa), and how does it operate?

These things can be a challenge to handle via text, since there are often a lot of moving parts, things that really require diagrams to explain, and so forth. In a lot of ways, this makes video a better tool for helping people visualize what's going on. Given that we've got access to people who make some fine videos, we decided to give it a try.

What you'll see above is our first go at explaining a pretty amazing bit of technology: the Large Hadron Collider. Nearly everything about the LHC—its detectors, the data filtering, the clusters that store, share, and analyze the data—is pretty astonishing. But at the heart of it all, the key to enabling everything, is the fact that we have a way to accelerate objects so that they are moving so close to the speed of light that the difference is a rounding error. How do we do that? Hopefully, after watching the video, you'll come away with a pretty good idea.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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