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US Birthrate Is Lowest In 32 Years, CDC Says

Slashdot - May 17, 2019 - 8:45pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Xbox, PC get a little bit closer with the latest Xbox updates

Ars Technica - May 17, 2019 - 8:16pm

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

The May 2019 update for the Xbox One's system software is now rolling out, bringing some small refinements to the friends list, messaging, and game/app list.

Starting with the last one first, the app list will now ignore "a," "an," and "the" when sorting or grouping alphabetically. This is the kind of change that makes me amazed that they weren't already doing this, as it almost always makes for easier-to-use listings. Video games don't even have The The to contend with.

The Messaging change is rather inexplicable. There's a sensible change: incoming messaging requests from your friends are now prioritized, with requests from non-friends put in a separate category. But for some reason, Microsoft is going to wipe all group messages as a result. You can save backups of the messages for a limited time at Xbox.com, and messages with individual users are safe, but the group messages are all going. There's no obvious justification for this change, as even if there were some significant change being made to group messaging, one would expect Microsoft to handle migrating the messages from old to new.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Slack patches vulnerability in Windows client that could be used to hijack files

Ars Technica - May 17, 2019 - 7:40pm

Enlarge / Strangers in your Slack channel could have messed with Slack for Windows' download settings, redirecting files to a malicious shared folder. It's fixed now. (credit: NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)

On May 17, researchers at Tenable revealed that they had discovered a vulnerability in the Windows version of the desktop application for Slack, the widely used collaboration service. The vulnerability, in Slack Desktop version 3.3.7 for Windows, could have been used to change the destination of a file download from a Slack conversation to a remote file share owned by an attacker. This would allow the attacker to not only steal the files that were downloaded by a targeted user, but also allow the attacker to alter the files and add malware to them. When victims opened the files, they would get a potentially nasty surprise.

Tenable reported the vulnerability to Slack via HackerOne. Slack has issued an update to the Windows desktop client that closes the vulnerability.

The potential attack used a weakness in the way the "slack://" protocol handler was implemented in the Windows application. By creating a crafted link posted in a Slack channel, the attacker could alter the default settings of the client—changing the download directory, for example, to a new location with a URL such as “slack://settings/?update={‘PrefSSBFileDownloadPath’:’’}”. That path could be directed to a Server Message Block (SMB) file-sharing location controlled by the attacker. Once clicked, all future downloads would be dropped onto the attacker's SMB server. This link could be disguised as a Web link—in a proof-of-concept, the malicious Slack attack posed as a link to Google.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Grumpy Cat internet legend dies

BBC Technology News - May 17, 2019 - 7:17pm
Hers was the feline face that launched a thousand memes, but Grumpy Cat is no more.

Single neutron star merger supplied half the Solar System’s plutonium

Ars Technica - May 17, 2019 - 7:00pm

Enlarge / The aftermath of a simulated neutron star merger. (credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab)

We are all, as Carl Sagan said, star-dust. You might think that since most stars are pretty much the same, all star-dust is equal. But we have evidence that some star-dust is more equal than others. Yes, some elements seem to have a very special origin: neutron star mergers.

Most stars are pretty much all hydrogen. Near their center, fusion busily turns hydrogen into helium. Eventually, that hydrogen will run out and, like a pub that runs out of beer, the real destruction begins. The star starts turning helium into heavier elements at an increasingly feverish rate. The end, no matter how hot and heavy the star, comes when the star’s core is made of iron.

Up to iron, the process of fusion releases more energy than it consumes. But after iron, fusion consumes more energy than it releases, which essentially shuts the star down. Once this was understood, scientists were left wondering where the remaining 80 odd elements that are heavier than iron came from.

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AT&T denies that selling phone location data was illegal as FCC investigates

Ars Technica - May 17, 2019 - 5:18pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Witthaya Prasongsin)

AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have all told the Federal Communications Commission that they recently stopped selling their customers' phone location information to other companies. Sprint said it is phasing out the sales and will shut them down by the end of this month.

The details came in letters to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who had demanded an update on the carriers' sale of customers' real-time geolocation data. Rosenworcel released the carriers' responses yesterday.

Rosenworcel, a Democrat, criticized the Republican-controlled FCC for not taking action against the carriers over the privacy invasions.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Archaeologists find DNA in a 10,000-year-old piece of chewing gum

Ars Technica - May 17, 2019 - 5:10pm

Enlarge (credit: Kashuba et al. 2019)

The people who lived at Huseby-Kiev in western Sweden 10,000 years ago made their living by hunting and fishing. That doesn't sound surprising until you consider that this was a landscape that had, until recently, been covered by ice sheets 4km (2.5 miles) thick. How they occupied the re-emerging landscape is a bit of a mystery. We don't know much about who they actually were, where they came from, or how they made their way into Sweden as the ice receded.

In the 1990s, archaeologists recovered a few chewed-up lumps of birch bark pitch, some of which still held fingerprints and tooth marks left behind from millennia ago. Using this ancient chewing gum, archaeologist Natalija Kashuba of Uppsala University recently recovered DNA from two women and one man who had lived, worked, and apparently chewed gum on the shores of ancient Sweden. That means we can now link DNA from ancient people to their artifacts, and that's a big clue about how people migrated into Scandinavia after the Ice Age.

Two groups of hunter-gatherers met in Sweden

Birch bark pitch, like other saps and resins from various trees around the world, makes a decent chewing gum. When chewed and softened, it's also a handy glue for repairing cracked pottery or gluing bone points onto stone blades to make a vicious-looking composite point (see gallery). That's how people at Huseby-Kiev seem to have used it.

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OnePlus 7 Pro Review—The fastest, best-designed, best-value Android phone

Ars Technica - May 17, 2019 - 4:41pm

Wow. OnePlus is putting the rest of the smartphone world on notice with the launch of its newest smartphone, the OnePlus 7 Pro. The company has become known for providing excellent value in the Android market, and while that is still true of the OnePlus 7 Pro, everything moves even further toward the premium side of the spectrum with this device. With a bigger bill of materials budget behind it, OnePlus has created the best Android phone on the market.

OnePlus isn't just offering features and performance that feel a generation ahead of many of the current devices on the market—it's doing so for a lower price than the super-premium, $1,000 flagships out there. While you can buy a OnePlus 7 Pro today, I think a lot of manufacturers are going to spend the next year scrambling to catch up to OnePlus.

Brace yourselves for an incredibly positive review of the OnePlus 7 Pro.

Read 51 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Minecraft Earth: Minecraft's answer to Pokemon Go

BBC Technology News - May 17, 2019 - 2:29pm
Newsbeat is one of the first to get a look at the newly announced Minecraft augmented reality game

NASA chooses companies to design part of its Artemis lunar lander

Ars Technica - May 17, 2019 - 2:27pm

Enlarge / Artist's concept of a lunar lander. (credit: NASA)

Although NASA's plans to land humans on the Moon by 2024 face some political headwinds, the space agency has taken its first concrete step toward making its ambitions a reality.

On Thursday, NASA chose 11 companies to develop concepts and prototypes for its lunar lander. The companies chosen for the awards, a total of $45.5 million for all contracts, include a mix of aerospace bluebloods such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, premier new space firms like SpaceX and Blue Origin, and smaller companies like Masten Space Systems. The companies have six months to complete their work.

The awards cover design work for two of the three components of NASA's proposed "Human Landing System." As presently envisioned, NASA's plan for landing humans on the Moon will involve a "transfer" vehicle to carry the lander from a Gateway in a high orbit above the Moon down to low-lunar orbit, a "descent" vehicle to carry the crew down to the surface, and then an "ascent" vehicle to separate from the descent module and ferry the astronauts back into low-lunar orbit.

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