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Industry & Technology

Startup will store energy by forcing compressed air in a defunct zinc mine

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 7:20pm

An energy storage startup called Hydrostor is planning to build an Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) project in Australia, using an out-of-operation underground zinc mine as a container for the compressed air.

Hydrostor announced its plans this week after being awarded AUD $9 million (USD $6.4 million) in grants from Australian government institutions.

Compressed air energy storage (CAES) is a sort of physical battery (as opposed to a chemical battery) that uses excess electricity to compress air. The compressed air is stored in a tank, in a balloon, or in an underground cavern. When more electricity is needed, the compressed air is heated, which drives a turbine as it expands.

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Facing opposition, Amazon scraps New York HQ2 plans

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 6:36pm

Enlarge / Protestors at New York City Hall on January 30, 2019. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) (credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Amazon is canceling its controversial plan to build a new corporate campus in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. The plan, which included almost $3 billion in subsidies and tax breaks, provoked a grassroots backlash.

"The commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term," Amazon said in a statement. "While polls show that 70 percent of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project."

In 2017, Amazon announced that a single city would be chosen for Amazon's "HQ2," a second headquarters that would be an equal of Amazon's original Seattle location and employ as many as 50,000 people. But Amazon ultimately decided to split this "headquarters" up into two pieces, announcing plans to build one campus in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC and the other in Queens. Each location was slated to get around 25,000 new jobs.

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Devs accuse Sony of “playing favorites” with PS4’s cross-platform support

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 6:16pm

Enlarge / On the right, Wargroove developers asking for Sony to open up cross-platform support on the PS4. On the left, Sony.

Last September, after years of fighting the idea, Sony finally announced that "cross-platform [console] gameplay, progression, and commerce" would be coming to the PlayStation Network, with Fortnite as the first example. Now, though, some third-party developers are saying Sony is still standing in the way of letting the PS4 versions of their games play nicely with other platforms.

"We just launched Wargroove with crossplay between PC, Switch, and Xbox," Chucklefish CEO Finn "Tiy" Brice wrote on the ResetEra forums. "We made many requests for crossplay (both through our [Sony] account manager and directly with higher-ups) all the way up until release month. We were told in no uncertain terms that it was not going to happen."

Brice's comments came days after new Hi-Rez Studios CEO Stew Chisam tweeted at Sony that the studio was "ready to go when you are" for cross-play on Smite, Paladins, and Realm Royale. "It's time to stop playing favorites and tear down the crossplay/progression wall for everyone," he said.

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Opera shows off its smart new redesign that’s just like all the other browsers

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 5:46pm

Enlarge / Both the new dark view and light view look good. (credit: Opera)

Opera has unveiled a new look and feel for its browser. Expected to ship in version 59 and codenamed "Reborn 3" (R3), the new appearance adopts the same square edges and clean lines that we've seen in other browsers, giving the browser a passing similarity to both Firefox and Edge.

The principles of the new design? "We put Web content at center stage," the Opera team writes on its blog. The design is pared down so that you can browse "unhindered by unnecessary distractions." Borders and dividing lines have been removed, flattening out parts of the browser's interface and making them look more uniform and less eye-catching. The new design comes with the requisite dark and light modes, a welcome trend that we're glad to see is being widely adopted.

Being Web-centric is not a bad principle for an application such as a browser, where the bulk of the functionality and interest comes from the pages we're viewing rather than the browser itself. At first blush, I think that Opera has come up with something that looks good, but it does feel like an awfully familiar design rationale.

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Want a better idea of your future climate? Try this map

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 5:23pm

Enlarge (credit: Alan Levine)

Absent a time machine, it’s hard to truly wrap your head around what the future climate will be like. Climate projection numbers carry a lot of information, but those numbers can seem abstract—what does 2.5º warmer actually feel like?

One way to understand that information is to hop in the car (even if it’s not a DeLorean). There are a huge variety of local climates around the world, and it’s possible to find a location today that ought to feel a lot like your hometown will in a few decades. A new study by Matt Fitzpatrick and Rob Dunn applies this “climate analog” approach to 540 cities in the US and Canada—which means about 250 million people can use a Web map to look for an analog to their future climate.

Present and future climates

There are multiple ways you could imagine defining such a comparison. In this case, the researchers broke the data down by season, calculating minimum/maximum temperatures and total precipitation averaged over 1960-1990. This is basically the seasonal weather you’re used to.

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JP Morgan creates first US bank-backed crypto-currency

BBC Technology News - February 14, 2019 - 4:58pm
The US investment bank has created the JPM Coin to handle wholesale payments for some clients.

Amazon caught selling counterfeits of publisher’s computer books—again

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 3:56pm

Enlarge / At left, a counterfeited No Starch book. At right, the real deal. (credit: left, Bill Pollock; right, Jon Sawyer (@jcase))

Bill Pollock, the founder of the tech how-to book publisher No Starch Press, called out Amazon on February 13 for selling what he says are counterfeit copies of his company's book, The Art of Assembly Language—copies that Amazon apparently printed.

Just discovered today a new case of copyright infringement directly by AMAZON'S CREATESPACE. Not the first time! This is obviously NOT printed by No Starch. Kindly report any other cases to us. Please RT and share. @amazon @nostarch

— Bill Pollock (@billpollock) February 2, 2019

One of the Amazon printed fakes. Note the poor spine wrapping. @nostarch

— Bill Pollock (@billpollock) February 12, 2019

Even the photo for the book's main listing on the Amazon marketplace is of a fake, showing a misaligned spine image.

After Pollock's post on Twitter on Wednesday, other people posted pictures of other No Starch books that had been counterfeited through Amazon, including books that had pages poorly cut. What's even crazier is that this isn't the first time this has happened.

In 2017, Pollock got reports of Amazon selling counterfeit copies of Python for Kids, a popular children's introduction to programming, and four other No Starch titles. The books were easy to distinguish from No Starch's production runs because of the poorer quality of the paper and binding, changes likely resulting from Amazon's print-on-demand production.

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Citing lack of demand, Airbus cancels A380 superjumbo aircraft

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 3:17pm

Enlarge / An Emirates Airbus A380. (credit: Getty | NurPhoto)

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced today that it will halt production on its enormous A380 superjumbo passenger airliner.

The news was delivered by Airbus CEO Tom Enders at the company's headquarters in Toulouse, France. Enders cited a lack of orders as the key reason behind the cancellation of what is currently the world's largest airliner. Airbus expects the cancellation to potentially affect thousands of employees in the UK currently working on A380 production, though the company hopes to reassign as many of those employees as possible to other roles.

Efficiency remains king

The writing has been on the wall for the A380 for quite some time, and sales of the enormous jet never really reached the levels Airbus had hoped. The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, according to The Guardian's report, was an order reduction from Emirates, the A380's largest buyer.

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British hacker Marcus Hutchins loses bid to omit 'intoxicated' testimony

BBC Technology News - February 14, 2019 - 2:42pm
Devonian Marcus Hutchins is accused of writing virus code and says he was "intoxicated" in an interview.

Crackdown 3 review: Half-baked action with tasty triple-jumping

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 2:17pm

Enlarge / The views are pretty nice.

Originally announced way back in 2014 for a 2016 launch, Crackdown 3 has certainly taken its time in finally reaching Xbox One and Windows PC players this week. Despite all that time in the proverbial oven, though, Crackdown 3 comes out feeling dated and half-baked—though it's still a fun world to jump around in.

This time around, the super-powered agents of, uh, The Agency, are unleashing their carnage-filled version of justice on the secluded city of New Providence. The metropolis is controlled by Terra Nova, an immensely powerful corporation that apparently organized a blackout of every major city in the world (and incinerated most of the Agency agents dispatched to stop them) in order to attract new citizens to their futuristic haven. Once there, though, these refugees find they're forced to exist as impoverished grist for Terra Nova's economic mill, enriching company executives who live in relative opulence.

The stratified architecture found in the different regions of New Providence provides some important grounding for the battle between the haves and have-nots that the Agency finds itself in. For the most part, though, the game is annoyingly blunt about telling—rather than showing—how your actions are inspiring the proletariat to "rise up" against their authoritarian masters (throwing in plenty of "edgy-for-a-thirteen-year-old" random cursing along the way).

Free some dissidents from jail, for instance, and a voice in your ear immediately tells you how they will help "take the fight to Terra Nova." But I can only recall one time in my play-through when I actually saw citizens taking up arms against their corporate masters (rather ineffectually, I might add). Shut down a mining operation for Chimera—a poisonous weapon Terra Nova gathers for vast profits—and you're reminded how it will disrupt the company's plans without ever really seeing that effect in the city itself.

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What is Article 13? The EU's copyright directive explained

BBC Technology News - February 14, 2019 - 2:13pm
The final version of the new EU copyright law is agreed after three days of talks in France.

Alita: Battle Angel rises above its ugly ads, flies to a cloud city of awesome

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 1:30pm

Enlarge / There's just no getting around the eyes, huh, 20th Century Fox? So be it. (credit: 20th Century Fox)

Alita: Battle Angel lands in theaters on Thursday, February 14, with—if my own pessimistic assumptions are any indication—some significant baggage attached.

I know I'm not the only person to sigh after seeing the oversized, Avatar-esque eyes in Alita's trailers. Worse, those eyes are attached to a James Cameron script that adapts an early '90s Japanese manga into a multimillion-dollar film that casts zero Asian actors as leads. Nothing about that bullet-point trio, which reminded me of the 2017 ScarJo stinker Ghost in the Shell, got me excited ahead of Alita's press screening.

But the name "Robert Rodriguez" made me interested. Could one of my favorite directors of the past 20 years strike gold again, even while saddled by so much apparent baggage?

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School bomb hoax suspect arrested in US

BBC Technology News - February 14, 2019 - 12:45pm
Thousands of US schools were shut down by fake threats involving bombs, allege prosecutors.

Airbus scraps A380 superjumbo jet as sales slump

BBC Technology News - February 14, 2019 - 12:03pm
The aircraft manufacturer ends production of the superjumbo after key buyer Emirates cuts order.

YouTube's copyright claim system abused by extorters

BBC Technology News - February 14, 2019 - 11:37am
Google acts after YouTubers report users attempting to extort money via fraudulent copyright claims.

The basketball coverage directed and filmed by AI

BBC Technology News - February 14, 2019 - 9:37am
The British Basketball League is testing a new way of filming games that picks the action using AI.

Former Apple lawyer charged with insider trading

BBC Technology News - February 14, 2019 - 4:03am
Gene Levoff is accused of engaging in insider trading on several occasions between 2011 and 2016.

Good Omens fans will love finding all the Easter eggs in new teaser

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 1:55am

Animated versions of the angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley take a walk through history in latest Good Omens teaser.

We've been on tenterhooks for months, waiting for news of when the long-awaited TV adaptation of Good Omens would air. And now the wait is over.

In conjunction with an announcement at the Television Critics Association regarding an airdate of May 31, Amazon Prime dropped a charming animated teaser trailer. Huzzah!

(Mild spoilers for the novel below.)

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MalwareTech loses bid to suppress damning statements made after days of partying

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 1:19am

Enlarge / Then-23-year-old security researcher Marcus Hutchins in his bedroom in Ilfracombe, UK, in July 2017, just weeks before his arrest on malware charges. (credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Marcus Hutchins, the widely acclaimed security researcher charged with creating malware that sold for thousands of dollars on the Internet, has lost his bid to suppress self-incriminating statements he made following days of heavy partying at the 2017 Defcon hacker convention in Las Vegas.

Hutchins—who, under the moniker MalwareTech, unwittingly helped neutralize the virulent WannaCry ransomware worm—was charged with developing the Kronos banking trojan and an advanced spyware program known as the UPAS Kit. The then-23-year-old UK citizen was arrested in August 2017 at McCarran International Airport as he was about to fly home. He had spent the previous week attending the Black Hat and Defcon conferences. Hutchins has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

According to court documents, federal agents questioned Hutchins in an airport interview room shortly after he was arrested. When asked about his involvement in developing malware, the court records show, Hutchins grew visibly confused about the purpose of the interrogation. Eventually, prosecutors said, Hutchins acknowledged that, when he was younger, he wrote code that ended up in malware, but he denied that he had developed the malware itself. After reviewing some source code produced by the agents, Hutchins asked if the investigators were looking for the developer of Kronos. Hutchins then told the interrogators he didn't develop Kronos and had "gotten out" of writing code for malware before he turned 18.

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Super Mario Maker 2, Link’s Awakening remaster headline latest Nintendo Direct

Ars Technica - February 14, 2019 - 12:31am

The latest "Nintendo Direct" announcement video came packed with surprises, and none shattered more earth than the big Mario and Zelda games at the video's beginning and end.

As seen in the above gallery, Super Mario Maker 2 is heading to Nintendo Switch in June, 2019, and it appears to include enough new tools and systems to rank as a bona fide sequel, if not at least a serious "deluxe" edition. The revealed footage sticks primarily to the four games that the original build-your-own-platformer game supported (SMB1, SMB3, SMW, NSMB), but it adds tools like auto-scrolling paths, clear tubes, piranha plant pathing, more platforms, and the cat-suit power-up.

Though Nintendo issued only a vague release window of "2019," the company had a lot to showcase for its upcoming, surprise-announced remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. This apparently faithful remake retains the 1993 Game Boy game's top-down perspective (along with its occasional drops into underground side-scrolling), but it otherwise remakes the entire game as a fully 3D adventure.

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