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Industry & Technology

In 2019, multiple open source companies changed course—is it the right move?

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 12:30pm

Enlarge / Stock photos continue to be a gift to the world. Maybe it's sometimes on par with open-source software. (credit: cnythzl / Getty Images)

Free and open source software enables the world as we know it in 2019. From Web servers to kiosks to the big data algorithms mining your Facebook feed, nearly every computer system you interact with runs, at least in part, on free software. And in the larger tech industry, free software has given rise to a galaxy of startups and enabled the largest software acquisition in the history of the world.

Free software is a gift, a gift that made the world as we know it possible. And from the start, it seemed like an astounding gift to give. So astounding in fact that it initially made businesses unaccustomed to this kind of generosity uncomfortable. These companies weren't unwilling to use free software, it was simply too radical and by extension too political. It had to be renamed: "open source."

Once that happened, open source software took over the world.

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Unmanned ship to go on 400-year-old journey across the Atlantic

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 12:01pm
UK-based team to chart unprecedented waters with fully autonomous sea journey.

Germany will not bar Huawei from its 5G networks

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 10:45am
The ruling is welcomed by the Chinese company, which warned against "politicising security".

Why scientists are ‘listening’ to the Matterhorn

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 8:00am
Sparked by an unexpected rockfall, researchers placed sensors on the mountain to monitor the site.

After a decade of League of Legends, Riot to expand with new games

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 4:34am

For a decade now, Riot Games has been known almost exclusively for League of Legends, the ultra-successful MOBA that can still attract 8 million simultaneous players at its daily peak. But in an anniversary livestream tonight, the company confirmed a veritable smorgasbord of new gaming and entertainment projects for the first time, all set in the same League of Legends universe.

Those projects include:

  • League of Legends: Wild Rift: A new version of the MOBA built from the ground up with a twin-stick control scheme designed for consoles and mobile phones and a focus on 15- to 18-minute games. Due on mobile phones in 2020.
  • Legends of Runeterra: A competitive card game set in the League of Legends universe. Cards will not be unlocked via randomized pack purchases, Riot said.
  • "Project A": Described as "a stylish, competitive, character-based tactical shooter for PC," this sounds like Riot's answer to Overwatch or Team Fortress 2. More information is expected next year.
  • "Project L": "A fighting game set in the LoL universe" that's "in early stage development." Likely being developed by the remnants of Rising Thunder developer Radiant Entertainment, which Riot acquired in 2016.
  • "Project F": "A very early development project that explores the possibilities of traversing the world of Runeterra with your friends," as Riot describes it. Brief streamed footage looked reminiscent of Diablo and other third-person action RPGs.
  • League of Legends Esports Manager: A team management game that lets players manage a team of simulated LoL pros that sounds similar to the Football Manager series. Planned to launch with League of Legends Pro League support next year.
  • Teamfight Tactics Mobile: A smartphone port of Riot's recent autobattler game mode, planned for the first quarter of 2020.
  • Arcane: An animated series set in the League of Legends universe, planned for 2020.
  • League of Legends Origins: A "feature-length documentary" highlighting the game's growth, available now on Netflix.

The rapid project expansion, after a full decade of existence as a de facto single-game company puts the Tencent-owned conglomerate and its 2,500 employees immediately in a class with multi-franchise publishing behemoths like Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft. Unlike those companies, though, Riot is currently focusing all of its efforts on games in a single shared universe, building on ten years of lore and character design as it attempts to rapidly expand to other popular genres.

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'Send nudes' Boohoo ad banned after complaint

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 12:01am
The advert for clothes in skin tones was not socially responsible, the UK advertising watchdog rules.

Man agrees to pay $25,000 for abusing YouTube’s takedown system

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 11:15pm

Enlarge (credit: Toolstotal)

A Nebraska man has agreed to pay $25,000 for abusing YouTube's takedown system under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, YouTube said in an emailed statement Tuesday. The man, Christopher Brady, also signed a public apology admitting to "falsely claiming that material uploaded by YouTube users infringed my copyrights."

In reality, Brady didn't have any legitimate claim to the material, YouTube charged in an August lawsuit. YouTube said that Brady targeted at least three well-known Minecraft streamers with a series of takedown requests.

Under YouTube's rules, a series of three takedown requests in a short period of time can lead to the loss of a YouTube account—a serious penalty for someone who has built up a large following on the platform. According to YouTube, Brady would submit two bogus takedown requests against a target's videos. Then he would send the victim a message demanding payments—$150 in one case, $300 in another—to prevent the submission of a third request. For some reason, Brady allegedly offered victims a discount if they paid with bitcoin.

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On the road with Audi’s new Q5 and A8 TFSI e plug-in hybrids

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 10:16pm

MUNICH—That we need to do something about the transportation sector's carbon impact should be beyond clear by now. With luck, that means a lot more people walking, cycling, and taking public transport for the short trips that make up so much of our lives. But America's infrastructure and culture is heavily biased toward the personal automobile and the need to make road trips, even if few drive more than 100 miles a day.

But even if we can't get to a full battery EV fleet any time soon, there's still plenty of low-hanging fruit. Like the big and inefficient luxury vehicles bought by the upper-middle class—if there's a way to make the short trips that people do in those less actively damaging to the planet, I think that's a positive. Which is where these two Audis come in.

I was in Munich to learn more about PPE, the modular electric-car architecture that Audi, Porsche, and perhaps Bentley and Lamborghini will use to build EVs to escape the massive fines looming for OEMs that can't get their European fleet CO2 average down to below 95g/km. But not everyone can or will want a BEV as their next car. Fortunately for those with serious range anxiety, there's always the option of a plug-in hybrid EV. So it was handy that the company had some of its new PHEVs on hand for us to try out.

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Bringing in the big gun: Army paves way for “strategic cannon”

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 9:00pm

Enlarge / US Army troopers assigned to the Field Artillery Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, fire their M777 Howitzer. The Army is looking for a gun with a bit more range—over 1,000 nautical miles. (credit: US Army)

In 2017, the US Army established a collection of cross-functional teams (CFTs) aimed at rapidly pushing forward key technologies to advance the services' next generation of capabilities. One of those teams was the Long Range Precision Fires "pilot," an effort to develop the next generation of Army artillery—including "deep fires," an artillery capability that can strike at strategic targets well within an adversary's defenses.

That effort has spawned what Army Futures Command chief Gen. John Murray described to Congress last year as "the Strategic Long Range Cannon, which conceivably could have a range of up to 1,000 nautical miles" (1,150 miles, or 1,850 kilometers).

The Strategic Long Range Cannon program is now advancing through its first set of technical hurdles. Col. John Rafferty, head of the Long Range Precision Fires CFT, told Defense News in advance of this week's Association of the US Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting that the Army wants to demonstrate a prototype of the gun system by 2023. Currently, the Army is working with the Center for Army Analysis and the Research and Analysis Center at White Sands Missile Range to confirm the technical feasibility of the cannon. The Army is preparing to perform early tests at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, the site of the Navy's test range for naval artillery.

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Washington State keeps enforcing net neutrality as it hails FCC court loss

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 8:41pm

Enlarge / Washington State Capitol building in Olympia, Washington. (credit: Getty Images | Richard Cummins)

Although the Federal Communications Commission abandoned its regulation of net neutrality, it wouldn't be accurate to say there are no net neutrality laws anywhere in the United States.

No one enforces net neutrality in Washington, DC, but on the opposite coast, the state of Washington imposed a net neutrality law in June 2018 that remains in effect today. The Washington State law prohibits home and mobile Internet providers from blocking or throttling lawful Internet traffic and from charging online services for prioritization.

The Washington State law cleared its biggest hurdle on October 1 when a federal appeals court vacated the Federal Communications Commission's decision to preempt all state net neutrality laws.

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Data for a whopping 26 million stolen payment cards leaked in hack of fraud bazaar

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 8:28pm

Enlarge (credit: Mighty Travels / Flickr)

A thriving online bazaar selling stolen payment card data has been hacked in a heist that leaked the records for more than 26 million cards, KrebsOnSecurity reported on Tuesday.

The 26 million figure isn't significant only to the legitimate consumers and businesses who own the stolen cards or the financial institutions that issued them. Fortunately for the card owners, the database is now in the hands of affected financial institutions, who can invalidate and replace the cards.

The number, therefore, is perhaps a bigger deal because it represents a significant fraction of the world's stolen-card inventory. Krebs said that Gemini Advisory, a company that monitors dozens of underground markets trafficking stolen card data, currently tracks a total of 87 million credit and debit card records. The haul of 26 million cards means that about a third of that supply has been taken out of circulation in a single swipe.

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Near-infinite specific thrust from drive that ignores physics

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 7:45pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

NASA is renowned for doing really difficult stuff. You want to drop a Mini-sized lander on Mars using a sky crane? Well, NASA will do that for you. There is a view of NASA as staid and conservative but, on the whole, I think the agency is full of innovative problem solvers, albeit sometimes crippled by political oversight.

The side-effect of being innovative is that some rather strange and unphysical ideas sometimes escape from NASA. This probably explains the Helical Drive.

Twisting the laws of physics

The basic idea of the Helical Drive, according to the author of that link, is simple. Imagine that you have a mass in a cylinder that is oscillating back and forth. Every time the mass hits the end of the cylinder, it will impart some momentum, accelerating it. Because the mass sequentially collides with each end of the cylinder, the net force is zero, and the only outcome is that the cylinder gets a massive headache.

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Fake-meat fans have beef with Big Meat for trying to cut into plant-based market

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 7:30pm

Enlarge / A stack of plant-based Impossible Burgers. (credit: Impossible Foods)

Plant-based meat alternatives are having a moment—from Burger King’s Impossible Whoppers, White Castle’s Impossible sliders, McDonald’s Beyond Meat PLT, and Subway’s Beyond Meatball Marinara, not to mention the growing shelf space for meatless-meat in grocery stores nationwide.

Though veggie burgers have been around for ages, the more meat-like generation of products has clearly piqued the appetite of the public. And that has another group—perhaps a surprising one—salivating over the profit potential: the meat industry.

Big names in meaty-meat products—including Tyson, Perdue, Hormel, Smithfield, and Nestlé—are all trying to get a cut of the fake and alternative-meat products world, according to The New York Times. Following the juicy success of Impossible Foods (with its Impossible Burgers) and Beyond Meat, meat producers have carved out their own plant-based versions of burgers, chicken nuggets, sausages, and more.

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Blizzard calls off public event to promote Switch Overwatch launch

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 7:02pm

Enlarge / Overwatch running on the Nintendo Switch. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Blizzard has canceled a planned event to promote tomorrow's launch of Overwatch on the Nintendo Switch at Nintendo World's New York City retail location. Nintendo announced the cancellation in a Twitter post late last night, attributing the decision to Blizzard and apologizing for "any inconvenience this may cause."

Blizzard has not responded to a request for comment from Ars Technica (Nintendo simply referred our request back to Blizzard). But the abrupt decision to abandon the long-planned event comes a week after the company briefly banned pro Hearthstone player Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung and stripped him of his tournament winnings. That move came after Blitzchung offered support for the ongoing and long-running Hong Kong protests during an official Hearthstone Grandmasters online broadcast.

The backlash continues

Blizzard later reinstated Blitzchung's winnings and reduced his ban to a six-month suspension, but the damage among many fans seems to have already been done. The replies to Nintendo World's announcement tweet are already filled with hundreds of angry responses, most suggesting Blizzard is kowtowing to Chinese political interests to maintain access to the country's lucrative gaming market.

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Dealmaster: Get a $25 gift card when you buy the latest Nintendo Switch

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 6:40pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a modest but notable deal on the Nintendo Switch, as Target is throwing a $25 store gift card in with the purchase of the console at its standard $300 MSRP. The deal applies to the full-fat Switch, not the more portable Switch Lite, but it covers the latest model of the larger console, which has significantly improved battery life compared to the original system that launched in 2017. Similar $25 gift card bundles were available at Amazon and Best Buy earlier this month, but those have since expired.

This isn't a massive discount, and we wouldn't blame you if you held off until Black Friday before pulling the trigger on a new console. That can be said about almost everything tech-related, though, and straight discounts on the Switch have been relatively rare from major retailers. On Prime Day, for instance, Nintendo's main Switch deal kept the console at full price but bundled it with a $35 Nintendo eShop gift card. So if you were really eager to pick up the console today, and you plan to shop at Target again, there are worse offers out there.

If you're all good on the Switch front, though, we also have a truckload of deals on PS4 and Xbox One video games, $20 off one of our favorite portable Bluetooth speakers, discounts on Apple Watches and Roku TVs, and more. Have a look for yourself below.

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UK renewables out-generate fossil fuels for an entire quarter

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 5:00pm

Enlarge / Components of an offshore windfarm await transport in Billingham, England. (credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

The third quarter of 2019 saw the UK's renewable generation pass that of fossil fuels for the first time, according to an analysis by the climate and energy policy group CarbonBrief. The shift is driven by the completion of several enormous offshore windfarms and has been accompanied by a near-elimination of coal on the UK grid. And it comes only four years after the very first day in which renewables outpaced fossil fuels.

Vanishing coal

CarbonBrief performs regular analyses of the UK electrical market based largely on government figures but also incorporating off-grid sources like combined heat and power facilities. In general, its results have been within 3% of the final quarterly figures for the last several years, but the numbers for 2019 are close enough that it remains possible that the first quarterly landmark will have to wait until 2020.

That said, the organization estimates that renewables produced 29.5 TeraWatt-hours in July, August, and September, while fossil fuels only produced 29.1 TW-hr. The news for carbon emissions is even better, as the UK is well on its way toward its goal of eliminating coal-fired generation—almost all of the fossil fuel generation was in the form of natural gas, which has relatively low emissions. The report estimates that less than 1% of the UK's electricity came from coal during the quarter.

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Garmin Venu review: Fitness expertise with many pixels left to fill

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 5:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Smartwatches try to get us away from our smartphone screens, but ironically, a smartwatch's screen is one of the most important things about it. While plenty of materials have been used in smartwatch displays (including E-Ink, RIP Pebble), OLED and AMOLED panels have become ubiquitous on high-end wearables.

But Garmin, maker of some of the most comprehensive fitness wearables available, hasn't taken advantage of such screen technology until now. The $399 Garmin Venu is the first of the company's wearables to have an AMOLED display akin to that on the Apple Watch and some WearOS devices.

While it's an extension of the Vivoactive family, the Venu injects a premium feel that Garmin will clearly use to attract those who are drawn to competitors like the Apple Watch. However, just because the Venu looks lovely doesn't mean Garmin has found ways to use that pretty panel to the best of its abilities.

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Google chief: I'd disclose smart speakers before guests enter my home

BBC Technology News - October 15, 2019 - 4:09pm
Rick Osterloh suggests house guests have the right to know smart speakers are in use before entering.

Pixel 4 seeks to reclaim low-light photography crown for Google

BBC Technology News - October 15, 2019 - 4:07pm
Google adds an astrophotography mode to its new phone, allowing it to take pictures of the Milky Way.

Google Pixel 4: 90Hz screen, next-gen Google Assistant, shipping Oct 24

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 3:57pm

Enlarge / Google's first official picture of the Pixel 4. (credit: Google)

NEW YORK— There really aren't many surprises left, but Google went through the motions today and unveiled the Pixel 4. The P4 is possibly the most-leaked smartphone of our lifetimes, with the previous record holder being the Pixel 3.

Anyway, everything you've heard is true. The Pixel 4 is Google's first smartphone with a dual rear-camera setup, and the front has a 90Hz display and a lopsided design with a big top bezel. That top bezel is packed with sensors housing both an iPhone-style 3D sensing face unlock system and Google's Project Soli technology for radar-based air gestures. The main thing we wanted to confirm at this event was the price, which hasn't changed. The Pixel 4 starts at $799, and the Pixel 4 XL starts at $899. Pre-orders are now live, and the phone ships on all major American networks starting on October 24.

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL both come with a Snapdragon 855, 6GB of RAM, and options for 64GB or 128GB of storage. (Pay $100 more for either phone's larger capacity.) The smaller Pixel 4 comes with a 5.7-inch OLED display and a positively tiny 2800mAh battery. The bigger Pixel 4 XL has a 6.3-inch OLED display and a 3700mAh battery. Both displays are 90Hz, which means the UI should run smoother and faster at 90fps than the 60Hz phones that currently dominate the market. The displays also feature "Ambient EQ," a Google version of Apple's "True Tone" display, which updates the screen color temperature to match your surroundings—and promises to automatically intelligently reduce the 90Hz refresh to preserve battery life as well.

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