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AT&T is considering whether to "part ways" with DirecTV, just four years after buying the satellite company, the Wall Street Journal reported today. The Journal report doesn't use the word "sale" to describe what AT&T is considering, but the end result could be AT&T no longer owning DirecTV.
"The telecom giant has considered various options, including a spinoff of DirecTV into a separate public company and a combination of DirecTV's assets with Dish Network, its satellite-TV rival," the Journal report said, citing "people familiar with the matter."
It's still early in the process, so AT&T could end up sticking with DirecTV. "AT&T may ultimately decide to keep DirecTV in the fold. Despite the satellite service's struggles, as consumers drop their TV connections, it still contributes a sizable volume of cash flow and customer accounts to its parent," the Journal reported.
Fiber broadband is now available to more than 30% of households across the US, and fiber networks should reach 50% of homes by 2025, a new study says.
But 50% coverage would obviously leave another 50% of homes without access to the fastest wireline broadband technology. Reaching 80% of homes instead of just 50% would require an additional cash infusion of $52 billion over the next 10 years, the study says. Going from 80% to 90% would then require another $18 billion. Going from 90% to 100% would be far more cost-prohibitive because it would require wiring up the least populated parts of the country, which make up "the vast majority of US land," the study said.
The study was commissioned by the Fiber Broadband Association, whose members include municipal broadband providers, private ISPs such as Verizon and Sonic, and various vendors that sell equipment to the broadband industry. The industry group hired consulting firm Cartesian to conduct the study and submitted it to the Federal Communications Commission last week (see full study).
Debris gathered from the drones and missiles used to attack an oil field and refinery in eastern Saudi Arabia increasingly lends credence to US and Saudi accusations that Iran was in some way behind the attacks. Other evidence presented thus far also suggests that the attacks may have been launched from Iran rather than Yemen, as the leadership of the Houthi militia fighting Saudi Arabia there has claimed.
A total of 25 drones and missiles were used in the attack. The missiles appear to have been identical to the Quds-1 cruise missile revealed by Ansar Allah (the Houthi militia) in a weapons display on July 7. The drones were delta-winged, propeller-driven unmanned aircrafts with stabilizer fins at the tips of each wing.Quds it be?
The Quds-1 is a smaller missile than the Soumar—Iran's clone of a Soviet-era cruise missile obtained from Ukraine in 2001—and its latest iteration, the Hoveyzeh. The Quds-1 uses what appears to be a Czech-built turbojet engine, the PBS Aerospace TJ100 (which PBS advertises as "especially suitable for unmanned aerial vehicles") stuck onto its upper fuselage for propulsion.
The phenomenal success of our integrated circuits managed to obscure an awkward fact: they're not always the best way to solve problems. The features of modern computers—binary operations, separated processing and memory, and so on—are extremely good at solving a huge range of computational problems. But there are things they're quite bad at, including factoring large numbers, optimizing complex sets of choices, and running neural networks.
Even before the performance gains of current processors had leveled off, people were considering alternative approaches to computing that are better for some specialized tasks. For example, quantum computers could offer dramatic speed-ups in applications like factoring numbers and database searches. D-Wave's quantum optimizer handles (wait for it) optimization problems well. And neural network computing has been done with everything from light to a specialized form of memory called a memristor.
But the list of alternative computing architectures that have been proposed is actually larger than the list of things that have actually been implemented in functional form. Now, a team of Japanese and American researchers have added an additional entry to the "functional" category: probabilistic computing. Their hardware is somewhere in between a neural network computer and a quantum optimizer, but they've shown it can factor integers using commercial-grade parts at room temperature.
A previously undocumented attack group with advanced hacking skills has compromised 11 IT service providers, most likely with the end goal of gaining access to their customers' networks, researchers from security firm Symantec said on Wednesday.
The group, dubbed Tortoiseshell, has been active since at least July 2018 and has struck as recently as July of this year, researchers with the Symantec Attack Investigation Team said in a post. In a testament to Tortoiseshell’s skill, the new group used both custom and off-the-shelf hacking tools. At least two of the 11 compromises successfully gained domain admin level access to the IT providers’ networks, a feat that gave the group control over all connected machines.
Tortoiseshell's planning and implementation of the attacks was also notable. By definition, a supply chain attack is hacking that compromises trusted software, hardware, or services used by targets of interest. These types of attacks require more coordination and work. Taken together, the elements suggest that Tortoiseshell is likely a skilled group.
The legendary Viking warriors known as berserkers were renowned for their ferocity in battle, purportedly fighting in a trance-like state of blind rage (berserkergang), howling like wild animals, biting their shields, and often unable to distinguish between friend and foe in the heat of battle. But historians know very little about the berserkers apart from scattered Old Norse myths and epic sagas. One intriguing hypothesis as to the source of their behavior is that the berserkers ingested a specific kind of mushroom with psychoactive properties. Now an ethnobotanist is challenging that hypothesis, suggesting in a recent paper in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology that henbane is a more likely candidate.
Accounts of the berserkers date back to a late ninth-century poem to honor King Harald Fairhair. The 13th-century Icelandic historian/poet Snorri Sturluson described Odin's berserkers as being "mad as dogs or wolves" and "strong as bears or wild oxen," killing people with a single blow. Specific attributes can vary widely among the accounts, often veering into magic or mysticism. There are claims that berserkers were not affected by edged weapons or fire, but they could be killed with clubs. Other claims say they could blunt the blades of their enemies with spells or just by giving them the evil eye. Most accounts at least agree on the primary defining characteristic: a blind ferocious rage.
The onset of berserkergang purportedly began with bodily chills, shivering, and teeth chattering, followed by swelling and reddening of the face. Then the rage broke out, and once it abated, the berserker would experience both physical fatigue and emotional numbness for a few days. Several hypotheses have been proposed for why the warriors would have behaved this way, including self-induced hysteria—aided by biting their shields and howling—epilepsy, ergot poisoning, or mental illness. One of the more hotly contested hypotheses is that the berserkers ingested a hallucinogenic mushroom (Amanita muscaria), commonly known as fly agaric, just before battle to induce their trance-like state.
Facebook, which has managed to transcend geographic borders to draw in a population equal to roughly a third of all human life on Earth, has made its final charter for a "Supreme Court" of Facebook public. The company pledges to launch this initiative by November of next year.
The new Oversight Board will have five key powers, according to a charter (PDF) Facebook released yesterday. It can "request that Facebook provide information" it needs in a timely manner; it can make interpretations of Facebook standards and guidelines "in light of Facebook's articulated values"; and it can instruct the company to allow or remove content, to uphold or reverse a decision leading to content being permitted or removed, and to issue "prompt, written explanations of the board's decisions."
"If someone disagrees with a decision we've made, they can appeal to us first, and soon they will be able to further appeal this to the independent board," company CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a letter (PDF). "As an independent organization, we hope it gives people confidence that their views will be heard and that Facebook doesn't have the ultimate power over their expression."
At Ars, we get daily product pitches that range on a scale from "must review" through "no thanks" to "WTF." So when a representative for a small company's PR firm reached out with a pitch for a "radio signal that's thousands of times more robust than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi" and invited us to "take the Wi-Fi challenge," it pegged my BS meter—but I took a closer look anyway.
It turns out that Sure-Fi isn't intended to replace Wi-Fi at all. When Ars spoke to Sure-Fi president Mark Hall, he clarified that the company's gear is high tech RF for industrial controls, and it's not intended for a consumer audience. It uses 900MHz spectrum RF chirp communications to establish a low-bandwidth, high-reliability connection between industrial equipment (such as HVAC systems or electronic security gates) and their controllers.
With a typical throughput of around 300 bits per second, you definitely wouldn't want to browse the Internet across a Sure-Fi bridge. That's roughly equivalent to the external dial-up modem I used to connect to BBSes in the mid-1980s—and it would take more than an hour to load Ars Technica's current front page. But you can get a lot done in 300 bits per second if you don't need graphics. For industrial controllers that really only need to relay simple commands and occasional meter readings, it's more than enough. It would also make one heck of an RC drone controller!
Sega and Sports Interactive have announced that Football Manager 2020 will be sold in new eco-friendly package that uses much less plastic, and they're pushing for the rest of the entertainment industry to follow suit.
The new packaging replaces the now-standard plastic DVD case used for most game discs with a folded, reinforced cardboard sleeve made of 100% recycled fiber. The shrinkwrap surrounding that package has also been replaced with a low-density LDPE polyethylene that's highly recyclable. Even the ink on the cardboard has been changed out for a vegetable-and-water-based version (so it's technically vegan if you're desperate for a snack).
The new packaging does cost a bit more to produce—about 20 (British) cents per unit (or 30 percent), according to an open letter from Sports Interactive Studio Director Miles Jacobson. But those costs are somewhat offset by reduced shipping and destruction costs for excess units, he added. And as Spanish footballer Hector Bellerin says in a video accompanying the letter, "if there's no Earth, there's no money to spend."
With Google's big 2019 hardware event set for October 15, we're starting to zero in on what exactly to expect from the show. Besides the heavily leaked Pixel 4, we're also expecting a new Google Home Mini, maybe a new Pixelbook, and today's subject: a sequel to Google's mesh Wi-Fi router, the Google Wifi.
A report from 9to5Google claims that the new Google Wifi will be the long-rumored hybrid device, combining a Google Wifi's mesh router capabilities with a Google Home's microphone and speaker that integrates the Google Assistant for voice commands and music playback. Rather than call this device the "Google Wifi 2," the Wifi line will reportedly fall under Google's reworking of Nest into a Google-wide smart home sub-brand. Thus, it will be called the "Nest Wifi." It's also going to come in a selection of three colors, which would be in line with the Google Home Minis.
Unlike the current generation Google Wifi, which uses multiple identical devices, the report says the new Nest Wifi will have a larger primary router and smaller satellite routers that extend the mesh network. The primary router won't have any Assistant features, according to the report—only the smaller satellites would have speakers, microphones, and the Google Assistant. For users of the current Google Wifi, you'll be able to mix and match new and old hardware.
The relentless march of ransomware, business email compromises, and other attacks against small private and public organizations over the past few years has demonstrated the hazard of operating below the information security poverty line—the point at which local governments, small and midsize businesses, and other institutions lack the expertise and budget required to implement basic computer and network security best practices needed to protect the organizations against cybercrime.
So on September 17, a Los Angeles-based cybersecurity nonprofit organization unveiled a new effort to help end that cycle, at least locally. Partnering with IBM Security and enterprise intelligence management provider TruStar, LA Cyber Lab has launched two initiatives to help organizations spot and stop malware and phishing attacks—a Web portal for sharing threat data and a mobile application targeted at helping small businesses detect and avoid email-based attacks like spear phishing.
LA Cyber Lab, a 501(c) nonprofit organization, received $3 million in funding from the US Department of Homeland Security in 2017. The organization is a "private-public partnership," LA Cyber Lab executive director Joshua Belk told Ars, "which works with the City of Los Angeles and the business committee of the Greater Los Angeles area." The lab's mission is helping Los Angeles area organizations "protect themselves and be more aware of cyberattacks and just different things that are happening in that realm," Belk explained.
Hackers have found a new way to amplify the crippling effects of denial-of-service techniques by abusing an improperly implemented tool found in almost 1 million network-connected cameras, DVRs, and other Internet-of-things devices.
The technique abuses WS-Discovery, a protocol that a wide array of network devices use to automatically connect to one another. Often abbreviated as WSD, the protocol lets devices send user datagram protocol packets that describe the device capabilities and requirements over port 3702. Devices that receive the probes can respond with replies that can be tens to hundreds of times bigger. WSD has shipped with Windows since Vista and is one of the ways the operating system automatically finds network-based printers.IoT strikes again
The WSD specification calls for probes and responses to be restricted to local networks, but over the past few months, researchers and attackers have started to realize that many Internet-of-things devices allow devices to send probes and responses over the Internet at large. The result: these improperly designed devices have become a vehicle capable of converting modest amounts of malicious bandwidth into crippling torrents that take down websites. Depending on the device, responses can be anywhere from seven to 153 times bigger, an amplification that puts WSD among the most powerful techniques for amplifying distributed denial of service attacks.
Mike Patey, the Utah entrepreneur who transformed his Polish-built Wilga 2000 short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft into a million-dollar "ultimate bush plane" called DRACO, crashed on takeoff leaving the Reno National Championship Air Races on Monday.
Patey was attempting to depart Reno (where DRACO had been featured in a static display) the day after the races were over, seeking to beat a fast-moving weather front. With him aboard DRACO were his wife and best friend. All three escaped the crash without injury.The incident
The crash occurred at about 10:12 pm local time. According to the Meteorological Aerodrome Report (METAR), the winds at Stead Airport were out of the southwest, blowing steady at 24 knots (28mph, or about 45km/h) and gusting to 38 knots (44mph, or about 71km/h). Patey was taking off on runway 26 with a crosswind from his left.
The commercial PC space can be slow to catch up to the consumer space when it comes to design and next-gen features. But HP thinks it has a solution for business users who want a laptop that looks just as good as it works and doesn't sacrifice pro features to do so. The HP Elitebook Dragonfly, despite its playful name, doesn't play around with its top-tier specs, and at just 2.2 pounds, it's one of the lightest business notebooks you'll find.
The "dragonfly" name refers to the device's ultra-light weight and its color, which HP calls dragonfly blue. The 13-inch Dragonfly is certainly one of the lightest business notebooks I've touched, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that HP still managed to include one USB-A port and an HDMI port on the convertible's slim frame. Those ports are accompanied by two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a headphone jack, and a security lock slot.
The Dragonfly's modern design would make it seem like a good competitor for machines like Dell's XPS 13 or even the now-discontinued MacBook, but it is part of the Elitebook family, so it has a number of features that pro- and business-users will require standard. The machine has a chassis made of magnesium alloy and ocean-bound plastic material and is MIL-STD 810G certified, so it will withstand drops and shocks better than most of its consumer counterparts. In addition to a shutter-able webcam, the Dragonfly can be equipped with an IR camera, and it comes with a fingerprint reader standard for Windows Hello. The Dragonfly will also support vPro Intel CPUs, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 2TB of storage, Wi-Fi 6, and optional 4x4 LTE connectivity.
Elon Musk spent more than $50,000 digging into the personal life of British expat and Thai caver Vern Unsworth in summer 2018 in an effort to substantiate the claim that he was a "pedo guy." Musk revealed the spending in his latest response to a defamation lawsuit Unsworth filed against him last year.
Initially, Musk's investigator turned up some seemingly damning information about Unsworth, including a claim that Unsworth began dating his wife when she was around 12 years old. However, further investigation failed to confirm this claim, with the investigator finding she was actually around 18 years old when the couple met. (The wife, Woranan Ratrawiphukkunand, later told UK newspapers she was 33 when they met.)
But Musk argues that it doesn't matter, legally speaking, if his claims about Unsworth were actually true. What matters is that Musk believed the claims were true at the time he repeated them to BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac.
The New York Times reports that the Trump administration will use a meeting at the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday to announce the revocation of California's ability to set its own air pollution standards. The state's authority was granted by a waiver that allows it to set pollution limits that are stricter than the federal government's, which is now threatening the administration's ability to roll back Obama-era standards for automobile fuel economy. This move has been rumored to be under consideration for months and sets up a legal showdown that will pit the federal government against California and the 13 states that plan to follow its lead.
As part of the Obama administration's push to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the Obama-era EPA negotiated a deal with automakers that would significantly improve the efficiency of future vehicles. As with many Obama-era environmental accomplishments, that agreement has been targeted by the Trump administration. In its analysis, the Trump EPA claimed that fuel-efficient vehicles would increase the fatalities from automobile accidents and proposed freezing fuel efficiency at 2020 levels while preparing new standards. But that analysis was hammered by scientists, who suggested that its cost/benefit analysis was flawed and that it failed to take into account negative consequences.
Meanwhile, various news reports indicated that automakers were uneasy about the degree to which the Trump administration was intending to cut back on automotive efficiency. Part of that unease was likely due to the fact that the automakers are already building far more efficient vehicles for markets that do have stricter standards. But a major factor for automakers was California's likely unwillingness to go along with the changes.
On the good side, this means that Borderlands 3 still provides the same kind of slick, fast-paced, varied, and just-plain-smooth shooter experience that the series has always provided. As usual, the game provides a seemingly endless variety of weapons that, crucially, all look and feel entirely distinct from one another in a number of ways. Experimenting with new gear to find the correct mix of damage impact, accuracy, magazine size, reload rate, and special abilities is a never-ending and continually fascinating process.
Earning access to a new weapon that fits your style just right still provides that adrenaline hit in a way that can't be matched by finding yet another identical shotgun in most other shooters. And many guns now have a secondary fire option, greatly increasing the level of personal tuning by offering new pros and cons.
That variety now also seems matched by the game's environments. The neons and blues of planet Promethea's urban guerrilla warfare provide a welcome change from the brown and gray desert environments Borderlands is generally known for (Pre-Sequel also showed a lot of promise on this score). Even in the relatively early going, it feels like there's going to be plenty of new planets and side-quests to keep players busy if they want to hit that rarefied 100% completion.
Physicists have "heard" the telltale ring of an infant back hole for the first time, thanks to a fresh analysis of LIGO data. Researchers specifically looked for telltale "overtones" in the data from the collaboration's Nobel Prize-winning detection of two black holes merging. Not only were the overtones present, but the pattern of pitch and decay matches predictions for the black hole's mass and spin derived using the general theory of relativity. According to a new paper in Physical Review Letters, the result also supports the so-called "no hair" theorem for the classical description of black holes.
That classical picture of a black hole is a circle with a dot at the center. The circumference of the circle is the event horizon, and the dot is the singularity. General relativity holds that the area of the event horizon is a vacuum with no structure. That's because any dust, gas, or elementary particle placed at the horizon should fall into the black hole, maintaining the vacuum state. There would be no noticeable change if you threw something into a black hole—nothing that would provide a clue as to what that object might have been. It was the late physicist John Wheeler who coined the colorful description, "Black holes have no hair." (Wheeler had a knack for catchy names and phrases.) So all you need to describe black holes mathematically is their mass and their spin, plus their electric charge.
"We all expect general relativity to be correct, but this is the first time we have confirmed it in this way," said lead author Maximiliano Isi of MIT. "This is the first experimental measurement that succeeds in directly testing the no-hair theorem. It doesn't mean black holes couldn't have hair. It means the picture of black holes with no hair lives for one more day."
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Medical images and health data belonging to millions of Americans, including X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, are sitting unprotected on the Internet and available to anyone with basic computer expertise.
The records cover more than 5 million patients in the United States and millions more around the world. In some cases, a snoop could use free software programs—or just a typical Web browser—to view the images and private data, an investigation by ProPublica and the German broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk found.
The US Department of Justice may never be able to prosecute Edward Snowden for his procurement and distribution of highly classified information from the network of the National Security Agency. But DOJ lawyers have found a way to reach out and touch his income—and that of Macmillan Publishers—by filing a civil suit today against them for publication of his book, Permanent Record.
The lawsuit, filed in the US Court for the District of Eastern Virginia, does not seek to stop publication or distribution of Permanent Record. Instead, as a DOJ spokesperson said in a press release, "under well-established Supreme Court precedent [in the case] Snepp v. United States, the government seeks to recover all proceeds earned by Snowden because of his failure to submit his publication for pre-publication review in violation of his alleged contractual and fiduciary obligations."
The suit—which also names Macmillan, its Henry Holt and Company imprint, and its parent company Holtzbrinck Publishers—claims Snowden was in violation of both CIA and NSA secrecy agreements he signed as terms of his employment. In the CIA Secrecy Agreements Snowden signed, he acknowledged that "Snowden was required to submit his material for prepublication review 'prior to discussing [the work] with or showing it to anyone who is not authorized to have access to' classified information," DOJ attorneys wrote in their filing. "Snowden was also required not to 'take any steps towards public disclosure until [he] received written permission to do so from the Central Intelligence Agency.'"