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Industry & Technology

General election 2019: Ads are 'indecent, dishonest and untruthful'

BBC Technology News - December 10, 2019 - 10:12pm
Campaigners say fact checks of political ads must become legally required after a "fake news" election.

Uploaded Ring footage reportedly provides location to the square inch

Ars Technica - December 10, 2019 - 9:50pm

Enlarge / A Ring camera doorbell. (credit: Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)

Amazon's aggressive push to grow its surveillance-camera company Ring is working, and adoption has skyrocketed in the past two years thanks to deals with hundreds of police departments. A new set of reports highlights the ways Amazon convinces police to join those partnerships—and the amount of data that users can inadvertently reveal.

Integral to the Ring system is an app called Neighbors, kind of like an over-eager NextDoor with everything except the crime stripped out. Neighbors generates a map of your local area, based on your address, and then populates it with crime reports. Those reports include comments from other Neighbors users, as well as reports of burglaries, vehicle break-ins or theft, shots fired or shootings, stabbings, hostages taken, and arson imported from real-time 911 dispatcher data.

Anyone can install the app and create an account, but owners of Ring devices can also upload video snippets to the service, either when they have something they want to share or when police request it using the companion portal for law enforcement. Gizmodo this week published a new report delving into video data available on Neighbors to identify precisely how many Ring cameras are deployed, and where.

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Apple releases macOS Catalina 10.15.2, iOS, and iPadOS 13.3

Ars Technica - December 10, 2019 - 9:11pm

Enlarge / The 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro. (credit: Samuel Axon)

As has become a custom, Apple has simultaneously released software updates for nearly its entire suite of consumer products today—including iOS 13.3, iPadOS 13.3, macOS Catalina 10.15.2, watchOS 6.1.1, tvOS 13.3—and an update for HomePods. All updates should be available to all users by the end of the day.

iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3 together make for arguably the most notable update. They introduce yet another feature that was originally pitched by Apple as part of iOS 13 but was delayed before that annual update's release this September: Communication Limits in ScreenTime. Parents can now whitelist contacts for their kids' accounts, which allows them to block their kids from communicating with anyone outside the list on Apple-made apps like Messages and FaceTime, with exceptions for emergency calls and services like 911.

These two updates also introduce new layouts for certain publications in Apple News+, adds a new interface for liking or disliking stories in News, and expands on the news options and coverage in the Stocks app.

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Unusual type of flu virus is dominating early start to this year’s flu season

Ars Technica - December 10, 2019 - 8:37pm

Enlarge / A child received a vaccination against influenza A (H1N1). (credit: Getty | BSIP)

The 2019-2020 flu season is up and running—and so far, it's off to a weird start.

Flu activity has been elevated since the start of November and is only expected to continue climbing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in its latest flu update. That's a few weeks earlier than in past years.

Flu season in the United States can ramp up in the fall and peak anywhere between December and March, then drag itself out as late as May. In the last 36 years, flu most often ramped up in December and January and peaked in February. But for this winter, the CDC says there's a 40 percent chance the flu will peak in December based on activity so far.

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AT&T raises DirecTV prices again despite losing millions of customers

Ars Technica - December 10, 2019 - 7:57pm

Enlarge / A DirecTV satellite dish seen outside a bar in Portland, Oregon in October 2019. (credit: Getty Images | hapabapa)

AT&T announced another round of DirecTV and U-verse TV price increases, saying that monthly rates will rise by up to $8 per month starting on January 19. "Because our programming costs went up, we have to raise our monthly prices for select packages," AT&T said in a notice titled "TV price changes for 2020." An additional $2 increase on the Regional Sports Network fee means that some customers will pay another $10 per month.

The $8-per-month increase will apply to the DirecTV Premier plan that currently costs $189. A $7 increase will apply to the Ultimate package that costs $135 and to the Xtra package that costs $124; a $5 increase will apply to the Choice plan that costs $110; a $4 increase will apply to the Select package that costs $81 a month and to the Entertainment package that costs $93; and increases of $1 or $3 will apply to basic plans.

Customers who have promotional pricing will "keep that discount until it expires" and pay the new, higher price afterward, AT&T said. The promotional pricing generally lasts for one year and has discounts ranging from $21 to $55 a month.

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Dealmaster: Get $30 in Amazon credit when you buy a new Nintendo Switch

Ars Technica - December 10, 2019 - 7:13pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back today with more holiday deals to share. Of note are a few deals on the newest model of the Nintendo Switch. Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart all have Nintendo Switch deals right now that include up to $30 in gift cards or promotional credit when purchasing the console at its regular price of $299.

At Amazon, you can get the Nintendo Switch plus a $30 promotional credit (to be issued within one week of the console shipping) for $299. Best Buy has a similar offer, including a $30 Best Buy e-gift card with the purchase of a Nintendo Switch for $299. Walmart's deal includes the Nintendo Switch, $20 Nintendo eShop credit, and a carrying case for $299.

Aside from console-and-game bundles, these are the best kinds of deals you can expect on the Nintendo Switch. The console rarely dips below its regular price of $299, so the more additional things you can get in a bundle price, the better. Retailers typically include games, accessories, and credit in such bundles, and we saw similar deals on the Nintendo Switch during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It's likely that these deals from Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart will be the best deals on the Nintendo Switch that we'll see between now and the end of 2019.

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Pixel 4 “Feature Drop” is a first of several planned quarterly updates

Ars Technica - December 10, 2019 - 6:46pm

Google is going to start giving the Pixel line more than just monthly security updates and yearly major OS updates. Yesterday, Google announced the first "Feature Drop" for the Pixel 4, and according to a new report from The Verge, this is the first of several planned quarterly feature updates for Google's flagship smartphone.

There are four big updates included in this first feature drop. The most important sounds like an update to the Pixel 4's memory management, which Google says "proactively compresses cached applications so that users can run multiple applications at the same time—like games, streaming content and more." The Pixel 4's 6GB of RAM is less than most of its Android competition, which means it can't run as many apps in the background as other phones. This feature is also coming to older Pixel devices like the Pixel 3; with only 4GB of RAM, these devices are definitely RAM starved compared to other Android phones.

The Pixel line has long had a "Call Screen" feature that allows the Google Assistant to pick up a call and ask the caller who they are and what they want. Their answer would then be transcribed on your phone screen, allowing you to see what that call was about without having to actually pick up the call. Before, this was a manually activated feature—your phone would ring, and instead of pressing the "answer" button, you could send the call to the Google Assistant. With this new update, the Google Assistant can now screen calls automatically. Robocalls can be automatically declined, and unknown numbers can get sent to the Google Assistant, where the caller can identify themselves, and then the phone will ring, showing the caller's statement on the call screen.

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Man beats AI drone in first race of its kind

BBC Technology News - December 10, 2019 - 6:18pm
The team behind the fasted automated drone walked away with $1m.

Mini 4WD is an electrifying race series for makers and tinkerers

Ars Technica - December 10, 2019 - 5:03pm

Video shot by Justin Wolfson and John Cappello, edited by Aulistar Mark. Click here for transcript.

We're going to try something a little different this morning. Partially in response to several requests for more maker-focused videos and partially because my executive producer is head-over-heels in love with Pocket Circuit racing in Yakuza 0, we're bringing you the first in what we hope to make into a series called "Mini Motors," and it's all about tiny cars going really fast.

RC racing in all its various forms has always been a maker-y kind of hobby, and Mini 4WD serves as an excellent genre example to start with. You take a 1:30-scale battery-powered car, spend days carefully and patiently tuning the crap out of it, and then you set it loose on a curving track as fast as its little wheels can make it go—up to 40 miles per hour (about 65km/h). The Mini 4WD that wins does so by a mixture of careful planning, careful engineering, and a big heaping of pure luck.

Must go faster

For this video, we spent time talking Mini 4WD with Randy Holt, owner of the HobbyTown store in Toms River, New Jersey. The biggest factor that sets Mini 4WD apart from other RC cars is that Mini 4WD cars are hands-off during the race—once the green flag waves, the cars are on their own. They zip around the track, steered by the cars' built-in bumpers and rollers pushing against the track walls. Though the track appears to have multiple lanes in parallel, it's actually a single lane that spirals around the circuit, connected by a jump-over. This ensures that all the Mini 4WDs on the track are all racing the same total distance (because otherwise the inner lanes would be shorter than the outer lanes).

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Resident Evil 3 remake headlines a handful of PS4 announcements

Ars Technica - December 10, 2019 - 4:22pm

Capcom will be bringing an HD remake of 1999's Resident Evil 3 to the PS4, Xbox One, and PC on April 3.

The "completely reimagined" take on the game, revealed during Sony's "State of Play" livestream this morning, presents a similar presentational overhaul to the Resident Evil 2 remake that Capcom released earlier this year. That title shipped 3 million copies in its first week and 4 million in a little over a month, pretty much guaranteeing a followup would be in the cards. A short trailer for the remake features franchise regular Jill Valentine running through cramped hallways and struggling with the implications of the now-rampant zombie outbreak.

RE3 purchasers will also get access to "Resident Evil: Resistance," a 4-on-1 online multiplayer battle mode previously known as Project Resistance. Preorders, starting today, will come with a "classic costume pack" for the game's main characters.

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How MechWarrior’s return took me back to the early ‘90s mall in my mind

Ars Technica - December 10, 2019 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / 17 years later, the first-person bombast of MechWarrior returns to PC in campaign form. What better way to pilot a King Crab than with a robust HOTAS rig? (credit: Piranha Games)

Today marks the launch of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries on Windows PC, which is a pretty big deal for any gamer who likes blasting massive robots to bits. This is one of many video games based on the biggest Western mech-combat franchise out there, BattleTech, but most of the recent games have landed in tactical, top-down territory.

That befits a series that began life as a tabletop strategy game, but any hardcore PC gamer who came up in the '90s remembers when the series' bombastic, first-person offshoot, MechWarrior, debuted as a drool-worthy highlight of the 3D-gaming revolution. And it's been a while since we've seen a traditional MechWarrior campaign game: 17 years.

As such, you can't take a single mecha-stomp through MechWarrior 5's gameplay without trampling some fields of nostalgia. For some players, that rewind may go back to 2002's MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries. For others, it's a brief rewind to 2013's MechWarrior Online, an MMO that's still in operation and resembles MW5:M.

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Influencer jailed for plot to steal website at gunpoint

BBC Technology News - December 10, 2019 - 12:42pm
Rossi Lorathio Adams II is sentenced to 14 years in prison.

George Laurer, co-inventor of the barcode, dies at 94

BBC Technology News - December 10, 2019 - 11:27am
The US engineer helped to perfect the technology to read barcodes, which revolutionised retail.

Online prescribing 'must get safer'

BBC Technology News - December 10, 2019 - 8:40am
A UK coroner warns there could be more deaths unless regulation is tightened.

SoftBank selling its stake in dog-walking app - reports

BBC Technology News - December 10, 2019 - 4:29am
The move would mark another disappointment in a bad year for the Japanese investment giant.

Sony announces plan to publish PlayStation games on non-PS consoles [updated]

Ars Technica - December 10, 2019 - 4:12am

Enlarge / Today's announcement could really use some console logos, because we have no idea which consoles to expect MLB The Show on starting in 2021. But it won't just be PlayStation-branded ones. (credit: MLB / Sony)

A Monday night announcement about Sony's long-running baseball sim series MLB The Show included a clause we have yet to see attached to a PlayStation series announcement: plans to launch on other consoles.

Sony and Major League Baseball issued a joint statement on Monday night confirming that their shared license for the series MLB The Show will persist for an indeterminate amount of time. This also included a pledge that the series will appear on "additional console platforms beyond PlayStation platforms as early as 2021."

The gazillion-dollar question, of course, is which other console platforms we might expect the series to launch on. Neither Sony nor MLB had any answers to that question as of press time. Sony also didn't hint to doing the same thing for any other current PlayStation-exclusive series.

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The secrets of 'food porn' viral videos

BBC Technology News - December 10, 2019 - 1:04am
Is the fashion for filming calorie-saturated food videos encouraging unhealthy eating?

'Hackable' karaoke and walkie talkie toys found by Which?

BBC Technology News - December 10, 2019 - 1:01am
Strangers could connect to the toys via Bluetooth in certain cases, the consumer body claims.

Evaluating the risks of Africans opting for coal power

Ars Technica - December 9, 2019 - 11:34pm

Enlarge / Image of a solar thermal plant planned for South Africa. (credit: US Embassy)

In most developed economies, carbon emissions have flattened out or are trending downward. More efficient technology, a correspondingly lower demand, and an increasing reliance on renewable energy have been changing these countries' energy economies. But China provides a cautionary example of what could happen as other countries join those developed economies: a massive use of coal has caused China's carbon emissions to explode, turning it into the world's largest emitter. While it's possible that China has now started to control its fossil fuel use, having other countries follow China's lead could pose extreme risks to our climate.

That has caused many nervous glances toward Brazil, India, Indonesia, and other countries with large populations and rapidly expanding economies. But there's also an entire continent filled with countries that are developing rapidly and have high populations: Africa. As these economies continue to develop, there's a risk that they, too, could become major sources of carbon emissions. But our understanding of Africa's emissions trajectory is rather limited. To try to correct that, a group of German researchers has obtained detailed information on what has been going on in Africa.

Defining developing Africa

Africa is an enormous continent, with countries at various stages of development. But if you take the continent as a whole, its carbon emissions have risen at about 3.3 percent a year, half the rate of China's in the decade from 2005 to 2015. That's above the global rate for this period, and it's well above that of the developed economies. Sub-Saharan Africa saw a rise similar to China's, and a number of African countries—Angola, Congo, Mozambique, and Niger—saw emissions grow by 20 percent or more a year over this decade. This was only true for a single country outside the continent.

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Star Trek and Fallout actor Rene Auberjonois has passed away

Ars Technica - December 9, 2019 - 11:24pm

Enlarge / Rene Auberjonois speaking at a fan convention. (credit: Steve Potter on Flickr)

Esteemed character actor Rene Auberjonois died in his home in Los Angeles on Sunday at the age of 79, The New York Times reports. The cause of death was lung cancer.

Auberjonois was a prolific actor whose 55-year career spanned well over 200 roles. To many, he was the shapeshifting security officer Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. To others, he was Father John Mulcahy from M.A.S.H. or Clayton Endicott III from Benson. Others still may know him as Paul Lewiston from Boston Legal or as Dr. Burton from Batman Forever. Many more would recognize him from his numerous guest roles on TV series like Stargate SG-1, Madam Secretary, The Good Wife, Archer, Grey's Anatomy, Criminal Minds, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and many more.

He also played numerous roles in video games. He voiced Mr. House, a central character in 2010's Fallout: New Vegas. He also appeared as Karl Schafer in Uncharted 2, Talos in God of War, and Janos Audron in the Legacy of Kain series. Additionally, he was an acclaimed audiobook reader and a regular performer on the theatre stage.

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