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Industry & Technology

PS5 game reveal event has been delayed: “Not a time for celebration” [Updated]

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 7:59pm

Enlarge / Sony's vision of the "future of gaming" will come some day, but not as originally scheduled, thanks to this week's event delay. (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Update, June 1: In the wake of mass American protests over the weekend, and social media being used to broadcast on-the-ground reports of their events, Sony has chosen to indefinitely delay its reveal of major PlayStation 5 games that was originally set for June 4.

"While we understand gamers worldwide are excited to see PS5 games, we do not feel that right now is a time for celebration," the official PlayStation Twitter account posted on Monday. "For now, we want to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard."

As of press time, Sony Interactive Entertainment hasn't announced a replacement date or time for the event.

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The 2021 Honda Insight is an efficient but inconspicuous hybrid

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 7:56pm

Did you know Ars reviewed its first car 20 years ago? Back in the year 2000, Will Ryu tried out the brand-new Honda Insight, justifying it because the car married some impressive technology and a fun-to-drive nature—criteria we still look for today. Back then, the Insight looked like little else on the road. It had advanced aerodynamics, used lightweight alloy construction, and was the first parallel hybrid powertrain to go on sale in the US market. Today, we're revisiting the Insight, now in its third generation.

The differences are pronounced: what was cutting edge two decades ago is mainstream now. Instead of shouting its presence, the current Insight hides in crowds. And hybrid powertrains are commonplace and even seen as old tech in a world of 300-mile battery EVs and vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells. But proven technology has its upside. Today's Insight might look normal, but it's still remarkably efficient, even beating the old streamliner when it comes to city driving.

And it's cheap, too. That weird-looking Insight with the faired-in wheels cost just over $20,000 in 2000—just under $30,000 in today's dollars. The 2021 Insight starts at $22,930, and a Touring model loaded up to press-fleet specifications is still only $28,840. And you can actually fit people in its back seats, too.

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Android 11 power menu leak shows new smart home integration

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 7:33pm

Android 11 has had four preview releases so far, but they've been stripped of many features that we know are in development and just haven't seen in a public build yet. One such feature is a revamp to the power menu, which has been getting code drops for smart home controls and credit cards for some time now. The near-final design of the new power menu appears to have leaked, thanks to XDA Developer's Mishaal Rahman.

Android 11

View more stories Rahman shared two low-res screenshots showing a dramatically different power menu than what Android has typically had. What was just a simple four-option overlay has become a full-screen interface packed with buttons. The usual "Power," "Restart," "Screenshot," and "Emergency" buttons have shifted to the top of the screen, and below that is a carousel of credit cards from Google Pay. Below that are "Quick controls" which are smart home controls that are most likely sourced from the Google Home app.

The Quick Controls are the major new feature on the power menu. The screenshots appear to show options for smart lights, door locks, thermostats, cameras, and smart blinds, all of which are products you can currently access through the Google Assistant, the Google Home app, and Google Smart Displays. If you're on a phone and don't want to use voice commands, your only other option is to dig through the Google Home App, which can be cumbersome. This menu, which would be brought up just by long-pressing the power button, would be considerably faster.

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SpaceX launch footage was taken down thanks to bogus copyright claim

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 6:38pm

Enlarge / The Falcon 9 rocket climbs to space on Saturday. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

This weekend's launch, in which SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully propelled the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the two astronauts on board from Florida safely into space, was amazing, awe-inspiring, and frankly, just plain cool to watch. And here in the age of inexpensive, tiny high-definition cameras and streaming content, it should be easy to catch up on it if you missed it—or even if you just want to watch it again for fun. But for most of the weekend and into this morning, you couldn't watch it at all, thanks to copyright content ID bots working overtime.

The May 30 launch was streamed live to NASA's YouTube channel and then archived, along with several shorter clips and highlights taken from the day-long livestream. NASA footage, like photo and video from other government agencies, is generally published into the public domain, not under copyright, and other entities can mirror or rebroadcast it. National Geographic also covered the launch, and its footage incorporated some of the NASA content. Then things got stupid.

By Sunday, the archival NASA video was no longer available to view, Twitter users spotted, because of a copyright claim from National Geographic. Attempts at that time to play back some of the NASA videos resulted in an error message saying, "Video unavailable: This video contains content from National Geographic, who has blocked it on copyright grounds."

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Dallas Police asked public for videos of protesters—it didn’t go well

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 6:03pm

Enlarge / Screenshots of the iWatch Dallas iPhone app from the Apple App Store. (credit: City of Dallas)

With protests against police brutality and racism happening in many major US cities, the Dallas Police Department on Sunday asked the public to submit videos of "illegal activity from the protests" through the city's smartphone app. It didn't go well, as the app was reportedly inundated with unrelated content, such as K-pop videos, and within less than a day, the app had stopped working due to "technical difficulties."

"In response to the tweeted request from Dallas Police, hundreds of K-pop fans replied with photos and videos of their favorite artists," BuzzFeed News wrote. "Many people also claimed to have submitted videos of the police harming protesters, as well as fan edits of K-pop artists, to the iWatch Dallas app."

The department made its request for video of protesters at 12:48am CT Sunday. "If you have video of illegal activity from the protests and are trying to share it with @DallasPD, you can download it to our iWatch Dallas app. You can remain anonymous," the tweet said.

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George Floyd: Anonymous hackers re-emerge amid US unrest

BBC Technology News - June 1, 2020 - 5:27pm
As the US is engulfed in civil unrest, the masked hackers are being credited with new action.

30 years later, a lost Days of Thunder NES game recovered from 21 floppy disks

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 5:00pm

In one of the most unreal data-recovery projects we've ever heard of, a seemingly lost NES game has been unearthed—as archived on a single hard drive backup, spread across 21 5.25-inch floppy disks.

A joint effort led in part by the Video Game History Foundation began earlier this year with a pile of leftover CD-Rs, floppies, computers, and other errata donated by the family of late programmer/designer Chris Oberth. The results, thus far, are one fully functioning game whose code had to be recovered, then compiled, to run on original NES hardware.

Anybody still have their copy of PCTools?

The game in question is based on Days of Thunder, a stock-racing film from 1990 starring Tom Cruise. One reason this version got lost in the shuffle is because a tie-in DoT video game came out the same year, as published by Mindscape. Oberth's co-creation, for the same publisher, was dated one year earlier, and it looks quite different. As Frank Cifaldi, VGHF co-director, points out, the unreleased prototype had only been mentioned once by Oberth: in a 2006 interview with the retro-gaming fan newsletter Retrogaming Times.

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Google’s “overpromising” led to Stadia “disappointment,” says RDR2 publisher

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 4:17pm

A year ago, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick said he was "pretty optimistic" about Google's Stadia game-streaming service. The concept of "being able to play our games on any device whatsoever around the world, and to do it with low latency, well that’s very compelling if that can be delivered," he offered in May of 2019.

Now, though, Zelnick has changed his tune a bit. In an interview given during the Bernstein Annual Strategic Decisions Conference late last week, Zelnick acknowledges what has been apparent to industry watchers for a while: "The launch of Stadia has been slow," he said. "I think there was some overpromising on what the technology could deliver and some consumer disappointment as a result."

While major publishers like EA and Activision stayed away from Stadia's "Founders" launch last November, Take-Two provided three of the service's highest-profile games in its early months—Red Dead Redemption 2, NBA 2K20, and Borderlands 3. And Zelnick said such Stadia support will continue in the future "as long as the business model makes sense." (Take-Two's PGA Tour 2K21, WWE2K Battlegrounds, and the Mafia series are currently planned for future Stadia release.)

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Facebook employees revolt over Zuckerberg’s stance on Trump

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 3:05pm

Enlarge / Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook profile that he had been "struggling with how to respond" to Donald Trump’s posts (credit: Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg is facing a backlash from within Facebook after several senior employees publicly criticized the chief executive for refusing to take action over posts by President Donald Trump that Twitter censured last week for “glorifying violence.”

As protests and rioting over the death in police custody of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, spread through several American cities this weekend, Mr. Zuckerberg was forced to defend Facebook’s position as—in his words—“an institution committed to free expression.”

On Friday, Mr. Trump posted on both Facebook and Twitter that he would respond to violent protests with military force, saying: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” But while Twitter slapped a warning on the post and hid it from view, Facebook left the message intact.

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Facebook staff anger over Trump post

BBC Technology News - June 1, 2020 - 2:37pm
Employees say they are ‘ashamed’ that a controversial post by the President was not removed.

After Dragon’s historic docking, America has more new spaceships on the way

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 2:29pm

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft made history for the second time on Sunday.

On May 25, 2012, a Cargo Dragon was grabbed by the ISS. It became the first private spacecraft to visit the International Space Station. On Sunday, when Dragonship Endeavour docked with the station 15 minutes ahead of schedule, above the border of China and Mongolia, it became the first private spacecraft to fly crew there (or anywhere in orbit, for that matter).

After the docking, the spacecraft's commander, NASA Astronaut Doug Hurley, was complimentary after he and Bob Behnken spent some time flying Dragon manually. "It flew just about like the sim, so my congratulations to the folks at Hawthorne," he said, referring to SpaceX's headquarters in California, where the astronauts spent many weeks practicing in a flight simulator. "It flew really well, very crisp. We couldn't be happier about the performance of the vehicle."

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Understanding epidemiology models

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 12:15pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

One of the least expected aspects of 2020 has been the fact that epidemiological models have become both front-page news and a political football. Public health officials have consulted with epidemiological modelers for decades as they've attempted to handle diseases ranging from HIV to the seasonal flu. Before 2020, it had been rare for the role these models play to be recognized outside of this small circle of health policymakers.

Some of that tradition hasn't changed with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. International bodies, individual countries, most states, and even some cities have worked with modelers to try to shape policy responses to the threat of COVID-19. But some other aspects of epidemiological modeling life clearly have changed. The models, some of which produce eye-catching estimates of fatalities, have driven headlines in addition to policy responses. And those policy responses have ended up being far more controversial than anyone might have expected heading into the pandemic.

With the severity of COVID-19, it's no surprise that there has been increased scrutiny of epidemiological models. Models have become yet another aspect of life embroiled in political controversy. And it's fair for the public to ask why different models—or even the same model run a few days apart—can produce dramatically different estimates of future fatalities.

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George Floyd death: Jake Paul denies looting Arizona mall

BBC Technology News - June 1, 2020 - 11:15am
The social media star told followers he was only at the protest to create content for his YouTube.

Coronavirus: How will contact tracing work in England?

BBC Technology News - June 1, 2020 - 9:40am
Millions in the UK will soon be asked to monitor who they have been near to combat coronavirus.

Drones keep a close eye on Australia’s wildlife

BBC Technology News - June 1, 2020 - 7:45am
Thermal imaging is helping to monitor and survey Australia's wildlife even in remote areas.

KSI: 'I wanted to make my parents proud through YouTube'

BBC Technology News - June 1, 2020 - 1:05am
The YouTuber says his mum and dad initially wanted him to become a doctor or lawyer.

SpaceX Nasa Mission: Astronauts welcomed to the space station

BBC Technology News - May 31, 2020 - 10:02pm
Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have floated into the International Space Station.

Amazon UK website defaced with racist abuse

BBC Technology News - May 31, 2020 - 5:51pm
The online giant blames a "bad actor" for the language appearing alongside multiple product listings.

SpaceX Nasa Mission: Astronaut capsule docks with ISS

BBC Technology News - May 31, 2020 - 4:12pm
Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have successfully docked with the ISS after 19 hours in orbit.

Good podcast vibes for the nerdy set: Our recent faves in science, research

Ars Technica - May 31, 2020 - 2:30pm

Enlarge / Ars' creative director Aurich Lawson describes this image as: "good vibes, friends, and listening to the reaches of space." We like to think that fits well with our latest podcast recommendations. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

In some ways, podcasts are among the most quarantine-proof forms of entertainment right now. Maybe some bigger hosts have been forced to move their microphones and wall padding to a home office, or they're now hiding in closets for better sound quality (but not as an anxious reaction to terrifying and confusing news headlines).

But that doesn't mean all podcasts currently in production are a perfect fit for a nerd's listening diet, whether because they're too flippant or too doom-and-gloom. In my case, at least, I seek a mix of emotional support, comfort, and normalcy in my regular podcast library. Hence, I'm recommending the five podcasts below as my favorites if you're looking for that much-needed connection to the outside world. (These are in addition to other podcasts I've previously recommended at Ars.)

My latest selections tell uplifting stories; they feature friends talking about things they love; and while they've had to adapt to keep their hosts safe from COVID-19, they've held onto the joy and optimism that drew me to them in the first place. All of these podcasts have new, regularly updated episodes in common, and all of them revolve around research and science.

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