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Google says a fix for Pixel 4 face unlock is “months” away

Ars Technica - October 21, 2019 - 5:08pm


When the Pixel 4 ships this week, it will be releasing to consumers with a face-unlock security issue that will apparently stick around for some time. Unlike the iPhone's FaceID (and Google's earlier face-unlock system on Android 4.1), the Pixel 4's face unlock doesn't look for the user's eyes, so the phone could be pointed at a sleeping or unconscious owner and unlocked without their consent. This weekend, Google said in a statement that a fix "will be delivered in a software update in the coming months."

The Pixel 4 was announced last week, and instead of including a fingerprint reader like most Android phones do, the Pixel 4 features Google's newly developed face-unlock system as the only biometric option. Google is clearly chasing the iPhone here, and the Pixel 4's face unlock works just like Apple's Face ID system: an IR dot projector blasts a grid of invisible dots onto the user's face, and a camera (a pair of cameras, in the case of the Pixel 4) reads the user's face in 3D.

As part of the many pre-release Pixel 4 leaks, screenshots of pre-release builds of the Pixel 4's software showed an option to "require eyes to be open." So we know Google hasn't been completely blindsided by this problem; the fix just wasn't ready in time for launch. Here's Google's full statement on the issue:

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Amazon Echo and Google Home owners spied on by apps

BBC Technology News - October 21, 2019 - 4:57pm
Researchers build voice apps for smart speakers that can listen in on owners without them knowing.

In the Amazon, deforestation is linked to higher malaria rates

Ars Technica - October 21, 2019 - 4:36pm

Enlarge / Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, near Manaus the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, Brazil. (credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT)

In Brazil, the rapid deforestation of the Amazon has been accompanied by a rise in malaria. But did the deforestation help increase malaria rates? Or is something more complicated going on?

Researchers Andrew MacDonald and Erin Mordecai think there is in fact a more complicated story at play. In a paper published in PNAS last week, they report evidence suggesting that deforestation does lead to a rise in malaria—but that at the same time, a rise in malaria reduces deforestation. The complicated relationship makes the effects difficult to tease out of the data. And together, the two effects mean that conservation and human health go hand in hand—what's good for one is good for the other.

Confusing evidence

Because malaria is spread by mosquitoes, it would be easy to think that humans have little to do with its prevalence if we're not killing mosquitos. But because human land use leads to habitat change for disease vectors like mosquitoes, human activity can dramatically change the risks of vector-borne diseases.

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Magic: The Gathering pro uses win to show Hong Kong protest support

Ars Technica - October 21, 2019 - 3:56pm

Enlarge / Lee Shi Tian pumps his fist during an interview in which he highlighted the ongoing protests in his native Hong Kong.

Magic: The Gathering pro Lee Shi Tian used a major win at this weekend's Mythic Championship V event in Long Beach, California, as a chance to call attention to protesters in his native Hong Kong.

"Life has been very tough in my hometown in Hong Kong," Lee said in an emotional, livestreamed post-match interview after reaching the Top 8 in the digital Magic: The Gathering Arena event. "It feels so good to play as a free man" he added later.

Lee wore a dark red scarf as a mask over the lower half of his face during the match and interview, because "we wear [masks like that] when we go on the street," as he told Magic site Hipsters of the Coast. Lee also covered one eye during his entrance to the tournament, an apparent show of support for a nurse who was hit in the eye with a beanbag during a recent protest in Kowloon.

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Long stretches of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA helped Homo sapiens adapt

Ars Technica - October 21, 2019 - 3:45pm

Global map of Denisovan gene frequency in modern human genomes (credit: Image courtesy of Jacobsson and Skoglund/Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

University of Washington geneticist PingHsun Hsieh and his colleagues found Neanderthal and Denisovan versions of some genes in the genomes of people from Melanesia. These versions have several thousand base pairs of DNA that have been duplicated or deleted in the normal human versions. Most of this altered DNA is in or near genes related to metabolism, development, the life cycle of cells, communication among cells, or the immune system.

Those gene variants are surprisingly common among Melanesian peoples, and that could mean that their effects were useful enough that natural selection favored passing them along.

DNA from the Denisovans

As Homo sapiens first ventured beyond Africa, they encountered other hominins already living in Europe and Asia, and those encounters left their mark on our modern genomes. Most people from outside Africa carry a little Neanderthal DNA (it makes up about one to four percent of the average non-African genome), and some people from East Asian, Melanesian, and indigenous Australian populations also have a bit of DNA inherited from Denisovans (about one to five percent of the average genome; it’s highest in Melanesian and indigenous and Australian people). Some of that DNA probably stuck with us for tens of thousands of years because it somehow helped our species adapt to new environments and challenges.

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Phone case created out of artificial skin

BBC Technology News - October 21, 2019 - 2:34pm
Researchers have designed a case that looks and feels like human skin, and can activate controls via touch.

League of Legends admits 'censoring error'

BBC Technology News - October 21, 2019 - 2:13pm
The popular online multi-player game is facing backlash from users.

Remember Sure-Fi? Lostik is open standards Lora you can play with

Ars Technica - October 21, 2019 - 1:07pm

Enlarge / Lostik is plugged in to the left USB port of this Samsung Chromebook running GalliumOS Linux. It's currently transmitting packets, using the sample utility, from a basement about 15 feet underground. (credit: Jim Salter)

A lot of readers commented on our earlier report on Sure-Fi long-range, low-bandwidth RF chirp communicators that we should test generic Lora gear. Lora is the open standard that Sure-Fi began with and built on top of, and it's available in a variety of inexpensive kits. Most of those kits are aimed at low-level maker-style integration with Internet-of-Things gear like Arduino, but I found a couple of preassembled kits with generic USB interfaces suitable for use with regular x86 computers. One of those, Lostik, had consistently better user reviews and glowingly boasted of its "extensive documentation," so we picked a pair up for $46 apiece and got to testing.

We should be clear about one thing up front—nobody should claim that any Lora device has "extensive documentation" with a straight face. Lostik seems to have more documentation than any of its competitors, but figuring out exactly what it would do felt like learning to play pirated video games in the 1980s. What we eventually discovered was that Lora devices are sort of like dial-up modems all connected to a single party line—they run on serial interfaces over which they can be issued commands and can send or receive data.

It's possible to use a generic terminal emulator (at 57,600bps, 8 data bits, 1 stop bit, and no parity) to communicate directly with Lostik, but you'll need to understand its commands—analogous to the Hayes AT modem commands of yore—if you do. That was a bridge too far for us, so we said "the heck with it" and just lightly modified the ./ and ./ sample scripts from Lostik's Github repository and used them for some simple range testing. These scripts don't require (or offer) any kind of authentication or pairing; any Lora device running will successfully receive data from any Lora device running within its effective range.

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Review: Jojo Rabbit walks a fine line between humor and heart

Ars Technica - October 21, 2019 - 12:52pm

Enlarge / Taika Waititi plays a young Nazi boy's imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, in his new film Jojo Rabbit. (credit: YouTube/Fox Searchlight)

There's a very fine line between successfully mining Hitler and Nazi Germany for laughs and telling distasteful "jokes" that land with an ignominious splat. Director Taika Waititi navigates that treacherous tightrope perfectly in Jojo Rabbit, his bittersweet new dramedy based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens. The film will definitely make you laugh, but be forewarned: it may also break your heart.

Waititi's film defies easy categorization. Let's just call it an absurdist dramedy. It's being touted as a satire, and the marketing has emphasized the humorous elements, but the WWII setting also calls to mind darker fare like Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds (2009). Several critics have compared it to the Oscar-winning 1997 Italian film Life Is Beautiful, directed by and starring Roberto Benigni as a Jewish father shielding his son from the horrors of a WWII concentration camp by pretending it's all an elaborate game.

Jojo Rabbit falls somewhere in between. It has more warmth and heart than the former and more of a savage edge than the latter. And while Waititi cites Terrence Malick's Badlands (1973) and the 1988 black comedy Heathers as influences, tonally, Jojo Rabbit also owes quite a lot to Waititi's charming 2016 film Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

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Windows 10 1909 and 1903: These are our new CPU requirements, says Microsoft

ZDnet Blogs - October 21, 2019 - 11:46am
The 1909, 1903 updates support up to Snapdragon 850, 8cx, and Intel Comet Lake CPUs on new devices.
Categories: Opinion

Rocket Lab—yep, Rocket Lab—has a plan to deliver satellites to the Moon

Ars Technica - October 21, 2019 - 11:00am

Enlarge / The "Make It Rain" mission launches in June 2019 from Rocket Lab's spaceport in New Zealand. (credit: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab has successfully begun to transform into an operational launch company this year, with five successful Electron missions in 2019 and the promise of a couple more before the year ends. In accomplishing this, it has become the world's first private company to develop a low-cost rocket for small satellites.

Moreover, it continues to set performance milestones. With its "As the Crow Flies" mission earlier this month, Rocket Lab set a new altitude record for the company by sending a 20kg payload to a 1,200km circular orbit. But now, the US-based company that launches primarily from New Zealand has set its sights much, much higher.

On Monday, Rocket Lab announced that with its "Photon" upper stage, it will be able to send small payloads all the way to lunar orbit. “Small satellites will play a crucial role in science and exploration, as well as providing communications and navigation infrastructure to support returning humans to the Moon," Peter Beck, the company's chief executive, said in a news release. "They play a vital role as pathfinders to retire risk and lay down infrastructure for future missions."

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Are electric cars as 'green' as you think?

BBC Technology News - October 21, 2019 - 10:36am
The lithium powering electric vehicles is found deep beneath the salt flats of Argentina

Mitt Romney's secret Twitter account revealed

BBC Technology News - October 21, 2019 - 10:30am
The ex-presidential hopeful admits using the Twitter account "Pierre Delecto" - "C'est moi", he says.

Elton John app lets concert audiences mix his music

BBC Technology News - October 21, 2019 - 8:17am
A device which lets the audience choose which instruments they hear at a concert has been created.

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