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Industry & Technology

Japan Sega game sales halted after cocaine arrest

BBC Technology News - March 13, 2019 - 1:51pm
Japanese sales of Sega's Judgment are put on hold following the arrest of an actor involved in the game.

Study: Hacking 10 percent of self-driving cars would cause gridlock in NYC

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 1:05pm

Enlarge / A traffic jam in New York City. (credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

In 2015, a pair of hackers demonstrated just how easy it was to break into the UConnect system of a Jeep Cherokee, remotely manipulating the speed, braking, steering, even shutting the car down entirely. Vehicles on the road will only have greater interconnectivity from this point forward, with self-driving cars on the horizon. That poses a unique potential risk: if someone can hack one car, what happens if they manage to hack many at once in a major metropolitan city?

That question inspired scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology to quantify the likely impact of such a large-scale hack on traffic flow in New York City. Skanda Vivek, a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia Tech, described the study's findings at the American Physical Society's 2019 March meeting, held last week in Boston. Worst-case scenario: a small-scale hack affecting just ten percent of cars on the road would be sufficient to cause city-wide gridlock, essentially cutting half of Manhattan off from the rest of the city. And unlike compromised data, compromised vehicles can lead to physical injury.

Vivek and his colleagues performed computer simulations of traffic flow in Manhattan, using a statistical method called percolation theory. If that reminds you of brewing coffee, that's exactly the right image. Percolation theory is a mathematical model of a smooth, continuous phase transition (as opposed to a rapid one, like flicking a light switch), similar to water seeping through roasted ground coffee beans until it shifts into a new state: "coffee." Hot water seeping through packed coffee grains will hunt for the most viable path. The more connected routes that are open, the more likely it is the water will filter through. Traffic works much the same way. Cut off too many routes, and there won't be sufficient connectivity for cars to filter through.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

All signs point to a Google game console announcement at GDC

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 12:51pm

Enlarge / A (not serious) artist's conception of what Google's gaming hardware might look like. (credit: Ron Amadeo / Apple)

Normally, Google showing up to the Game Developers Conference isn't a huge deal. The company does this pretty much every year—Android smartphones and Google Play are a pretty big gaming platform, after all—and it shows up with livestreams and blog posts and all the usual festivities. This year, though, is different. Google has been sending out vague teasers since last month for a GDC event, but as the date approaches, the company has been dropping more and more hints of exactly what it is announcing: Google is launching video game hardware for the Project Stream platform.

A new YouTube video for the event posted today asks people to "Gather around as we unveil Google’s vision for the future of gaming at GDC19." Google recently wrapped up the "Project Stream" beta test, which streamed a full version of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey from the Internet to any desktop version of Chrome. A game-streaming platform certainly fits a vision for the future of gaming, but this is still just a piece of software.

Google hardware

There are two big pieces of evidence that this is a hardware announcement. First, Google is a heavily compartmentalized company, and the person promoting this event on Twitter is none other than Risk Osterloh, Google's senior vice president of Hardware. Osterloh is behind the division that brought us the Pixel phone, Google Home, and every other Google hardware product. His involvement is a solid sign that, yes, new hardware is coming.

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Congress at SXSW: Yes, we’re dumb about tech, and here’s what we should do

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 11:45am

Enlarge / The United States Capitol Building, the seat of Congress, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (credit: Omar Chatriwala / Getty Images)

AUSTIN, Texas—Some legislators make for a sexier news headline at an arts-and-tech conference like South By Southwest. Famous Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Elizabeth Warren did just that over the weekend with their respective radical suggestions about government oversight.

Meanwhile, other members of Congress sat in poorly attended panels, and their low numbers weren't helped with snooze-worthy names like "Politicians Yell at the Cloud" and "Politicians in Tech: When the Bubble Bursts." But what these panels lacked in pizzazz, they made up for with fascinating context, direct from three House Representatives, on how starved our American Congress is in terms of staffing and support for understanding and tackling America's biggest tech priorities.

The Senate is “woefully uninformed”

Conveniently for Congress' most tech-fluent members, they had an easy reference point to use for their messaging. "There was a glaring lack of knowledge from Senators when they interviewed [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg," Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) said on Sunday, in reference to a 2018 Congressional hearing. "They were woefully uninformed."

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Cartoons about online safety launched for four-year-olds

BBC Technology News - March 13, 2019 - 11:39am
The UK's National Crime Agency launches a series of animations aimed at children aged four to seven.

Devil May Cry 5 review: Demon-hunting aplenty

BBC Technology News - March 13, 2019 - 1:57am
Demons have invaded the city of Redgrave and only Dante and his companions can stop them.

Tech-filled strap makes old watches smart

BBC Technology News - March 13, 2019 - 1:15am
A strap that adds notifications and payments to old watches has been designed by Sony engineers.

Tackle tech giants' 'bullying tactics' review urges

BBC Technology News - March 13, 2019 - 1:12am
The UK must update its approach to competition in the tech sector, a new report says.

“Yelp, but for MAGA” turns red over security disclosure, threatens researcher

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 11:31pm

Enlarge / 63red Safe... wasn't. (credit: 63red)

A new application from the "conservative news" site 63red, called 63Red Safe, is advertised as a sort of "Green Book" for the MAGA set. It lets users rate local businesses "from a conservative perspective," according to the app's Google Play listing, "helping insure[sic] you're safe when you shop and eat!" And in this case, "safe" means freedom to wear "Make America Great Again" clothing without having to bear verbal challenge.

The app rates the safety of a business based on user's input on four factors:

—Does this business serve persons of every political belief?

—Will this business protect its customers if they are attacked for political reasons?

—Does this business allow legal concealed carry under this state's laws?

—Does this business avoid politics in its ads and social media postings?

But the safe space for 63red founder Scott Wallace was violated quickly when French security researcher Elliot Alderson discovered some fundamental security flaws in Safe's architecture—making it not so safe.

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Halo: Master Chief Collection is finally confirmed for PC, will include Reach

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 11:08pm

Enlarge / It's good to see some PC logos in this image. (credit: Xbox Studios)

After a seemingly endless run of rumors, the news Halo fans have been waiting for is here: the series is finally coming back to PC, and in pretty big fashion.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection will arrive on Windows PCs "later this year," according to the official Halo Waypoint site, and fans will be able to buy the collection either via Steam or the Windows Store. (Anybody who's dealt with Windows 10's UWP woes will appreciate this rare example of Microsoft launching one of its first-party games on Steam at the same time as Windows Store, as opposed to delaying a Steam version for a few months.)

The game's listing confirms that PC gamers can look forward to full mouse-and-keyboard control support, along with support for resolutions up to 4K and an HDR toggle. Whether this version will also include the kinds of tweaks that hardcore PC gamers crave—including ultra-widescreen ratios, higher frame rates, and fully remappable controls—remains to be seen. We highly doubt Microsoft will include official mod support beyond letting players use individual games' built-in "Forge" creation tools.

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Windows 10 will automatically remove updates, drivers that break booting

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 10:41pm

Enlarge / Genuinely the worst.

Windows appears to be getting a little smarter about updates that go wrong. A newly published support page (spotted by Windows Latest) describes what the operating system does when a recent update causes a boot failure. First, Windows will uninstall the update and revert to a configuration that should work correctly. It will then block the update for 30 days.

The page states that this approach will be taken for both driver updates and the regular monthly Patch Tuesday updates. It's not unusual for Microsoft to have to issue blocks for these updates to prevent them from being distributed to certain system configurations after problems are found. But this policy allows for more fine-grained blocking, wherein systems will impose a temporary block on themselves should they have to. In most cases, when problems with updates are discovered, they're fixed and the updates are re-issued within a few days or weeks. So a 30-day block should typically give enough time for the update to be fixed prior to the attempted reinstallation.

It's not clear if this approach will be used for the twice-yearly feature upgrades or just the regular monthly Patch Tuesday updates. Microsoft's terminology usually distinguishes between "updates" (which are the things released on Patch Tuesdays) and "upgrades" (which come out twice a year). The description only mentions updates and driver updates. The install mechanism used by upgrades is completely separate from that used by updates, with its own separate rollback logic, so we'd suspect that nothing has changed for those.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

A world of hurt after GoDaddy, Apple, and Google misissue >1 million certificates

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 10:26pm

Enlarge (credit: Internet1.jpg by Rock1997 modified)

A major operational error by GoDaddy, Apple, and Google has resulted in the issuance of at least 1 million browser-trusted digital certificates that don’t comply with binding industry mandates. The number of non-compliant certificates may be double that number, and other browser-trusted authorities are also likely to be affected.

The snafu is the result of the companies' misconfiguration of the open source EJBCA software package that many browser-trusted authorities use to generate certificates that secure websites, encrypt email, and digitally sign code. By default, EJBCA generated certificates with 64-bit serial numbers, in keeping, it seemed, with an industry mandate that serial numbers contain 64 bits of output from a secure pseudo-random number generator. Upon further scrutiny, engineers discovered that one of the 64 bits must be a fixed value to ensure the serial number is a positive integer. As a result, the EJBCA default produced a serial number with 63 bits of entropy.

The 63 bits is far off the mark of the required 64 bits and, as such, poses a theoretically unacceptable risk to the entire ecosystem. (Practically speaking, there’s almost no chance of the certificates being maliciously exploited. More about that later.) Adam Caudill, the security researcher who blogged about the mass misissuance last weekend, pointed out that it’s easy to think that a difference of 1 single bit would be largely inconsequential when considering numbers this big. In fact, he said, the difference between 263 and 264 is more than 9 quintillion.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Musk lawyers accuse SEC of “unconstitutional power grab”

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 9:46pm

Enlarge / Elon Musk speaks at the 68th International Astronautical Congress 2017 in Adelaide on September 29, 2017. (credit: PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Elon Musk's lawyers have fired back at the Securities and Exchange Commission, arguing that the Tesla CEO did not violate the terms of his September settlement with the agency—and that the agency's attempt to gag Musk violates the First Amendment. The SEC has asked a federal judge to hold Musk in contempt for tweeting out a projection of Tesla's 2019 car production without first clearing the tweet with Tesla's lawyers.

The core disagreement in the case is over whether Musk's February 19 tweet stating "Tesla made 0 cars in 2011, but will make around 500k in 2019" was material—legal jargon for information that's significant enough to affect Tesla's stock price. If that 500k figure is material, then Tesla's policy required Musk to clear the tweet with his lawyers. Failure to do so would be a violation of Musk's deal with the SEC, which settled a previous lawsuit over another tweet containing allegedly inaccurate information.

But if Musk's 500k tweet is not material, as Musk's lawyers claim, then Musk did nothing wrong. Musk's lawyers argue Tesla's policy gives Musk discretion to decide which tweets are material and that Musk reasonably determined that this February 19 tweet was non-material. They argue that Musk's "around 500k" figure wasn't providing new information to the market but rather reiterating information Tesla had disclosed previously.

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It’s definitely aliens: Teen girls save the world in genre-bending Snatchers

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 9:30pm

Enlarge / Sara (Mary Nepi) and Hayley (Gabrielle Elyse) team up to save their Arizona town from an alien invasion in Snatchers. (credit: Stage 13)

A teen pregnancy goes horribly awry in Snatchers, a charming genre-bending send-up of B-movie creature features, infused with the anything-goes spontaneity of sketch comedy. The horror/comedy debuted last weekend at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

(Mild spoilers for Snatchers below.)

High school student Sara (Mary Nepi) is pretty and popular, but she's also just been dumped by her hunky boyfriend, Skyler (Austin Fryberger) because she wanted to wait to have sex. He tells her he's "changed" during his trip to Mexico over the summer and now has "different priorities"—essentially he's turned into a mass of teenage hormones seeking any outlet for release. Desperate to hang onto her social status, Sara relents to his advances, but they don't use protection. She wakes up a day later not just pregnant, but fully nine months pregnant. And what she's carrying is definitely not a baby but some parasitic alien creature that shoots out from her uterus like a bloody cannonball. Things just get weirder (and gorier) from there.

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Windows 7 end-of-life nag messages will start showing up next month

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 9:02pm

Enlarge / Licensing and support lifecycles are not really the easiest topics to illustrate. (credit: Peter Bright)

As the end of Windows 7's free extended support period nears, Microsoft is going to do more to tell Windows 7 users that their operating system will soon cease receiving security updates.

Starting next month, the operating system will show users a "courtesy reminder" to tell them that security updates will cease and that Windows 10 (and hardware to run it on) exists. Microsoft promises that the message will only appear a "handful of times" during 2019 and that there will be a "do not notify me again" checkbox that will definitely suppress any future messages.

For those organizations that intended to keep using Windows 7 beyond its January 14, 2020 cut-off date, Microsoft has up to three years of paid fixes through its new Extended Security Update (ESU) scheme. These will be available to any organization with a volume license and will have a ratcheting cost structure that doubles the price each year.

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Dealmaster: Take 23% off the latest waterproof Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 7:30pm

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 Amazon's latest Kindle Paperwhite, which is currently available for $100. That's the typical sale price Amazon likes to slap on its e-book reader every now and then, but it's still good for a solid $30 discount.

You can check out our review of the Kindle Paperwhite for more in-depth feedback, but the short take on the 10th-gen e-reader is that it's the obvious choice for most people in this market. It's still light (6.4 ounces), thin (0.32 inches), and easy to use, with a massive library of things to read. The 6-inch display is still sharp (300 ppi), bright, and evenly lit, and it now sits flush against the display instead of having a cheaper recessed look.

The big upgrade with this particular model is that it's now waterproof with an IPX8 rating, so there's no need to worry about dropping it in the tub or getting it soaked by the pool. It can now play Audible audiobooks back through Bluetooth headphones, too—though there's no headphone jack—and its battery should last for weeks before it needs recharging.

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Red’s Hydrogen One smartphone won’t actually get those camera modules

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 6:39pm

Late last year, professional movie camera company Red dove into the smartphone market with the extremely industrial-looking Red Hydrogen One. It was big, ugly, and built with carbon fiber and aluminum, just like Red's ~$20,000 movie cameras. But other than a 3D display and the aggressive design, the $1,300 Hydrogen One was built from mostly standard smartphone parts. The main sales pitch for the device was Red's modular accessory system, which someday promised to bring a real Red-developed camera sensor to the Red smartphone. It now sounds like the modular system is dead. Red has scrubbed the mention of the modules from its website and announced "radical changes" to its smartphone program that seemingly include a new device with a Red sensor built in.

Anyone familiar with the company would naturally expect a Red smartphone to come with a great camera. Instead, Red used off-the-shelf smartphone parts and turned in a device with standard camera performance. The modular accessory system was due out in 2019, and it was supposed to work via a set of copper contacts on the back. Besides a promised power pack and expandable storage modules, this was supposed to be the way to finally put Red's camera magic into its smartphone. The "cinema grade camera module" would have doubled or tripled the thickness of the phone, but it would have come with a Red sensor and a removable lens system.

The camera module photo and any other mention of modules was quietly removed from Red's website almost a month ago (you can compare this archive to the live site). After Red forum members started to notice, Red founder Jim Jannard made a vague and incoherent statement addressing the move. Jannard admitted that the Hydrogen smartphone project ran into "a series of obstacles," and he said that "changes" were coming to the program. At no point did Jannard say that the modular system would continue to be developed, and with the removal of the photos, we're going to call the modular system dead.

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AT&T raises DirecTV Now price—again—after promising lower post-merger bills

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 6:26pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | ljhimages)

AT&T is reportedly raising the price of DirecTV Now by $10 a month and notifying current subscribers that they will pay the new, higher price starting in April.

DirecTV Now packages today cost $40 to $75 a month before add-ons such as HBO, and current customers will reportedly pay $10 a month more regardless of which package they subscribe to, making the prices $50 to $85. News reports say AT&T is also reconfiguring its channel packages for new subscribers, adding HBO to basic packages while eliminating dozens of channels that aren't part of the AT&T-owned Time Warner Inc. New customers will reportedly be able to choose from two slimmer plans costing $50 or $70 a month.

The price hike and channel reduction are happening despite AT&T promising that its acquisition of Time Warner would lower prices for customers. When the Department of Justice tried to stop the merger, AT&T told a judge in a May 2018 court filing that the merger "will enable the merged company to reduce prices."

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Without federal help, local governments are trying to save coal

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 6:16pm

Enlarge / A truck loaded with coal is viewed at the Eagle Butte Coal Mine, which is operated by Alpha Coal, on Monday May 08, 2017 in Gillette, Wyoming. (credit: Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As the Trump administration's attempts to save coal have stalled, a record number of coal plants were shut down or scheduled for shut down in 2018.

The federal government has floated extra compensation for coal and nuclear plants, it has tried to use federal wartime powers to mandate that coal plants stay open, and it has rolled back the Clean Power Plan in the hopes that fewer regulations would help coal power plants stay solvent. Still, though, coal plants close and threaten to close largely because coal is more expensive than natural gas and renewable energy, and it's more cost-effective for utilities and energy companies to retire old plants than to refurbish them.

The federal government is still working to boost coal. In yesterday's budget proposal, the Trump administration proposed extensive cuts to a variety of renewable and efficiency programs run by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, but it said it wanted to increase the Bureau of Land Management's coal management program funding by $7.89 million. In addition, the Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development saw a proposed increase in funds by $60 million.

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Unknown NES wrestling game discovered, beaten 30 years later

Ars Technica - March 12, 2019 - 6:02pm

After all this time, you might think we already know about every NES game made during the system's '80s heyday, but to this day collectors are still discovering and preserving one-of-a-kind prototypes that were produced but never released for the system. The latest example of this gaming history trend is UWC, a surprisingly complete prototype wrestling game made in 1989 by obscure Japanese developer Thinking Rabbit (perhaps best known for block-pushing puzzle game Sokoban) and published by defunct Japanese company Seta.

The name might sound familiar to classic wrestling fans, as UWC was the acronym for the Universal Wrestling Corporation, which later grew into World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Thus, the UWC prototype includes digitized versions of real wrestlers, including Ric Flair, the Road Warriors, and Sting, as part of what was apparently planned to be a fully licensed game. A completely different, officially licensed WCW game was released in the US in 1990 from publisher FCI, which could explain why this UCW prototype never saw an official release.

Unlike previous long-lost NES finds like Bio Force Ape, Happily Ever After, and SimCity, UWC was never even announced for the system, much less released to retailers. The only reason we know about it is a discovery by NES collector Stephan Reese. He says in a recent YouTube video that he obtained the game from a former Nintendo of America employee who held on to a prototype that was submitted to the company for review. "They gave it to him to test because he was a wrestling fan," Reese says.

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