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Industry & Technology

Google tweaks search after EU competition scrutiny

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 11:56am
Rival companies' price comparison results will be displayed more prominently thanks to the changes.

Ars Technica is hiring an experienced reporter

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 11:30am

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Ars Technica is looking for an experienced reporter—a true journalistic hustler who will work the (literal and metaphorical) phones to bring our readers fresh, hot news about the interaction between technology and society.

What do we mean by "technology and society"? We mean stories about the growing political and cultural "Big Tech backlash," copyright clashes, the culture of Silicon Valley firms, tech-policy battles, and important tech-related court cases—not a review of the science in the latest sci-fi blockbuster.

We're looking for someone "experienced to senior" (at least 3 years of quality reporting experience) who already knows what we mean by an "Ars story."

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

San Francisco moves to ban e-cigarettes until health effects known

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 10:37am
The law would halt sales until vaping's health effects are fully evaluated by US regulators.

Tokyo 2020: Robots to feature at Olympic and Paralympic Games

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 10:27am
The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are set to revolutionise the way spectators experience sporting events - by introducing robots

£36 iPhone XR ad criticised

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 9:12am
Advertising body criticises a Black Friday promotion for iPhones, following complaints from the public.

PayPal urged to block essay firm cheats

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 3:11am
Ministers call for payments companies to block essay writing firms, in a bid to beat university cheats.

Future transport: How will we get around in 2050?

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 1:02am
The push for cleaner air will mean more electric vehicles that are driverless and shared, according to experts.

An astronaut with PTSD loses her cool in first trailer for Lucy in the Sky

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 11:58pm

Natalie Portman stars as an astronaut who starts to unravel after returning from space in Lucy in the Sky.

A female astronaut returns to Earth and starts a downward psychological spiral in the first trailer for Lucy in the Sky, a forthcoming film from Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Lucy in the Sky tells the story of married astronaut Lucy Cola (Portman), who has an affair with fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm). When he dumps her for another woman in the program, she begins to lose her grip on reality. Originally titled Pale Blue Dot, the movie is the feature-film debut for director Noah Hawley, whose TV credits include Fargo and Legion. Reese Witherspoon was initially considered for the lead role of Lucy but dropped out to shoot the second season of Big Little Lies. Portman came aboard instead, making this at least her second song-titled film alongside Jane Got a Gun.

The film is loosely based on the real-world case of NASA astronaut and US Naval officer Lisa Nowak, who became involved with fellow astronaut William Oefelein in 2004 after his divorce. The affair lasted a couple of years, until Nowak discovered her lover had taken up with an Air Force engineer named Colleen Shipman. In February 2007, Nowak drove from Houston to Orlando International Airport with a car full of kidnapping gear (including an 8-inch folding knife) and confronted Shipman in her car in the airport parking lot. Nowak copped a guilty plea in 2009 and received two years' probation; she also received an "other than honorable" discharge from the Navy.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hands on with Google Stadia: It works, but is that enough?

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 11:41pm

SAN FRANCISCO—Shortly after Google announced its upcoming Stadia streaming platform this morning at the Game Developers Conference, the company opened up a few kiosks showing off the technology in a corner of a Moscone Center West hallway. Unfortunately, these extremely limited demos didn't answer most of the burning questions that Google has still left unanswered about it much-hyped platform.

The most popular demo, judging by the crowds gathered around the screen, was an opportunity to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey on a standard Chromebook via Stadia streaming. The game—running at apparently native resolution and 60 frames per second on a 1080p display—was for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from a local copy running on a high-end gaming rig. Playing and watching the games for a few minutes, I didn't notice any of the input delay, dropped frames, or stuttering that sometimes characterizes the current state of game streaming.

The important caveat here, of course, is that the demo was running on a wired Ethernet connection hooked to the Moscone Center's industrial-strength Internet hookup. The demo team couldn't confirm the location for the Google data center where the game was actually running, but we can't imagine it would be very far from the heart of San Francisco, where the demo was being played.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

People who live near wind turbines prefer them to solar and fossil plants

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 11:12pm

Enlarge / Wind turbines near Palm Springs, Calif. (credit: nate2b / Flickr)

More and more people are finding themselves with a new neighbor: a commercial electricity-generating system. As electricity grids move from centralized fossil fuel plants to decentralized renewables, the world is switching from fewer, larger plants to more, smaller ones. For some people, this means they're looking out of their windows at wind turbines that weren't there a few years ago.

How do people feel about these turbines? That may seem like a question best answered with "why should we care?" but if we get serious about addressing climate change, lots of people might end up living with generating hardware. To better understand people's preferences, researchers Jeremy Firestone and Hannah Kirk analyzed the results of a large-scale survey on attitudes toward wind turbines. The results, published this week in Nature Energy, show that people in both red and blue states who live near wind turbines would rather keep them than swap them out for either solar or fossil fuel plants.

Wind over coal

The results came from a survey of 1,705 people living less than five miles from at least one commercial-scale wind turbine across the United States. The survey, conducted in 2016 by the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, included a hefty set of questions aiming to get a full understanding of how community members feel about their local turbines. It asked questions like how involved people felt in the planning process for the project, how noticeable the turbines are from people's homes, and whether they notice the impact of things like turbine noise.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Devin Nunes’ ludicrous $250 million lawsuit against Twitter, explained

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 10:52pm

Enlarge / Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in 2018. (credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A lot of people on Twitter have been criticizing and mocking Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and he's not going to take it anymore. On Monday, he sued several of his online critics—as well as Twitter itself—for defamation, negligence, and conspiracy. He claims that his critics' harsh words have cost him $250 million in "pain, insult, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and mental suffering, and injury to his personal and professional reputations."

Eric Goldman, a legal scholar at Santa Clara University, isn't optimistic about Nunes's chances. "There were so many obvious examples in the complaint of tweets that were clearly not defamatory," Goldman told Ars in a phone conversation. "It's not a lawsuit I would have wanted to bring, as a lawyer or as a plaintiff."

Nunes will face a particularly uphill battle with respect to Twitter, Prof. Goldman argues. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives online platforms like Twitter broad immunity against liability for the writings of their users. "Twitter is clearly going to qualify for Section 230," Goldman says. And that means that Nunes won't get a dollar—to say nothing of $250 million—from the social media giant.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

D3D raytracing no longer exclusive to 2080, as Nvidia brings it to GeForce 10, 16

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 10:35pm

Enlarge / A screenshot of Metro Exodus with raytracing enabled. (credit: Nvidia)

Microsoft announced DirectX raytracing a year ago, promising to bring hardware-accelerated raytraced graphics to PC gaming. In August, Nvidia announced its RTX 2080 and 2080Ti, a pair of new video cards with the company's new Turing RTX processors. In addition to the regular graphics-processing hardware, these new chips included two extra sets of additional cores, one set designed for running machine-learning algorithms and the other for computing raytraced graphics. These cards were the first, and currently only, cards to support DirectX Raytracing (DXR).

That's going to change in April, as Nvidia has announced that 10-series and 16-series cards will be getting some amount of raytracing support with next month's driver update. Specifically, we're talking about 10-series cards built with Pascal chips (that's the 1060 6GB or higher), Titan-branded cards with Pascal or Volta chips (the Titan X, XP, and V), and 16-series cards with Turing chips (Turing, in contrast to the Turing RTX, lacks the extra cores for raytracing and machine learning).

The GTX 1060 6GB and above should start supporting DXR with next month's Nvidia driver update. (credit: Nvidia)

Unsurprisingly, the performance of these cards will not match that of the RTX chips. RTX chips use both their raytracing cores and their machine-learning cores for DXR graphics. To achieve a suitable level of performance, the raytracing simulates relatively few light rays and uses machine-learning-based antialiasing to flesh out the raytraced images. Absent the dedicated hardware, DXR on the GTX chips will use 32-bit integer operations on the CUDA cores already used for computation and shader workloads.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“Severe” ransomware attack cripples big aluminum producer

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 9:46pm

Enlarge / Notes posted on a window of Norsk Hydro's headquarters in Norway on March 19, 2019. (credit: Getty Images)

One of the world’s biggest producers of aluminum has been hit by a serious ransomware attack that shut down its worldwide network, stopped or disrupted plants, and sent IT workers scrambling to return operations to normal.

Norsk Hydro of Norway said the malware first hit computers in the United States on Monday night. By Tuesday morning, the infection had spread to other parts of the company, which operates in 40 countries. Company officials responded by isolating plants to prevent further spreading. Some plants were temporarily stopped, while others, which had to be kept running continuously, were switched to manual mode when possible. The company’s 35,000 employees were instructed to keep computers turned off but were allowed to use phones and tablets to check email.

“Let me be clear: the situation for Norsk Hydro through this is quite severe,” Chief Financial Officer Eivind Kallevik said during a press conference Tuesday. “The entire worldwide network is down, affecting our production as well as our office operations. We are working hard to contain and solve this situation and to ensure the safety and security of our employees. Our main priority now is to ensure safe operations and limit the operational and financial impact.”

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Report: Carbon-capture group gets some serious lobbying muscle

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 9:34pm

Enlarge / A pipe installed as part of the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project carries carbon dioxide captured from the emissions of the NRG Energy Inc. WA Parish generating station in Thompsons, Texas, on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Beltway news site Axios reported that a carbon-capture-focused lobby created last year has teamed up with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a powerful lobbying association with lots of resources. The news suggests that proponents of carbon capture and storage (CCS) are getting more serious about pulling strings in Washington after new tax credits were approved last year.

The carbon-capture lobby, called the Energy Advance Center (EAC), was listed last year in April. In 2018, the lobby spent $80,000 on CCS-related lobbying and retained three lobbyists, according to Open Secrets. EAC is supported by oil companies like BP and Chevron, as well as power firm Southern Company and technology firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

According to Axios, EAC is now under the umbrella of NAM. That means it will be able to use the lobbying association's resources to push for more advantageous terms for carbon-capture projects and protect the nascent industry's new tax credits in the future. Ars Technica contacted NAM and did not receive a response.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Don’t believe the hype: We may never know the identity of Jack the Ripper

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 8:22pm

Enlarge / Fictional Victorian physician John Stephenson (David Warner) is Jack the Ripper in the 1979 film Time After Time. A new scientific paper claiming to have identified the real Ripper might as well be speculative fiction, say geneticists. (credit: YouTube/Warner Bros.)

A new DNA analysis of stains on a silk shawl that may have belonged to one of Jack the Ripper's victims concluded that the killer was a Polish barber named Aaron Kosminski, according to a paper published last week in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. But other scientists are already calling into question the paper's bombshell conclusions—and they're not exactly mincing words.

Finally putting to rest the identity of one of history's most notorious killers would indeed be very big news, especially for true-crime buffs who have followed the Ripper saga for years (so-called "Ripperologists"). The problem is, we've been here many times before. This is just the latest claim to have "proof" of Jack the Ripper's true identity, and while it has all the trappings of solid science, the analysis doesn't hold up under closer scrutiny. Several geneticists have already spoken out on Twitter and to Science magazine to point out, as Kristina Killgrove writes at Forbes, that "the research is neither new nor scientifically accurate."

On August 31, 1888, police discovered the body of Mary Ann Nichols in Bucks Row in London's Whitechapel district. Her throat had been cut and her abdomen ripped open. Over the next few months, a serial killer who came to be known as Jack the Ripper would use the same method to kill four women: Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. And then, as abruptly as they began, the murders stopped. (These are the "canonical five." Other murders sometimes attributed to the Ripper are inconclusive.)

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Musk defense “borders on the ridiculous,” SEC tells court

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 8:10pm

Enlarge (credit: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

The Securities and Exchange Commission heaped scorn on Elon Musk and his legal arguments in a Monday legal filing. The agency is asking New York federal Judge Alison Nathan to hold Musk in contempt for tweeting a projection of 2019 vehicle output without first getting the tweet approved by Tesla's lawyers.

Musk has been battling the SEC since last August, when he tweeted that he had "funding secured" to take Tesla private. That turned out to be untrue, and it's illegal to publish inaccurate information that has the potential to move markets. Under the terms of a September deal, Musk paid a $20 million fine and gave up his role as the chairman of Tesla's board (Tesla paid an additional $20 million).

Musk also promised to have Tesla lawyers review future tweets that could contain information that is "material"—that is, significant enough to affect the price of Tesla's stock.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Grab another year of PlayStation Plus for $45

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 7:50pm

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 Sony's PlayStation Plus, as digital codes for a 12-month membership are currently going for $45 at Amazon, GameStop, and other retailers. That's $15 off the subscription's standard going rate.

The value here is pretty straightforward: PlayStation Plus is required to play multiplayer games online with a PlayStation 4. It still gets you access to a couple free games each month, 100GB of cloud storage for game saves, and various discounts in Sony's PlayStation Store, too.

This deal isn't the absolute best we've seen—these 12-month codes were going for $40 around Black Friday last year, and every now and then we'll see some promo code bring it down as well. But this is the cheapest it's been at major retailers since the holidays, so if you need to top-up soon—or if you just want to tack on another year of service in advance and don't want to wait a few months—this might be a good time to take advantage.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

All aboard the driverless bus in Greater Manchester

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 7:32pm
Developers hope driverless technology could be used in public transport within five years.

Hayabusa2 finds that its destination is also a very dark rubble pile

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 7:28pm

Enlarge / A sense of the phenomenal resolution at which we can explore the asteroid Ryugu. (credit: JAXA)

Asteroids can tell critical stories about the birth of our Solar System and the processes that produced its planets. In some cases, they are time capsules for the planetesimals that went on to form our planets. In others, they've been through multiple rounds of catastrophic collisions and reformation, providing testimony of the violent processes that built our current Solar System. But figuring out what they tell us has been difficult, because their small size and generally large distance from Earth make them difficult to study using telescopes. And the bits and pieces we have been able to study directly have been altered by the process of plunging from space through the Earth's atmosphere.

All that's on the verge of changing in the near future, as we have not one but two missions that will return samples from asteroids over the next couple of years. In the case of JAXA's Hayabusa2 mission, the first sample retrieval has already taken place, while NASA's OSIRIS-REx arrived at its destination more recently. But since arriving, both probes have been studying the mini-worlds they were sent to, and the first results of those studies are now in.

Today, Nature and Science are releasing a large collection of papers that describe the initial observations of the two asteroids that these missions have targeted. The bodies have turned out to be remarkably similar, as you can see by visiting our Bennu coverage and then comparing it with what we now know about Ryugu, described below.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google reveals gaming platform Stadia

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 6:33pm
The new digital platform will stream games over the internet at console-like quality, the company said.

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