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Industry & Technology

Anyone can fingerprint unlock a Galaxy S10—just grab a clear phone case

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 5:24pm

Samsung is once again in hot water for a shoddy biometrics implementation. This time the culprit is the Galaxy S10 and its ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint reader, which apparently can be unlocked by anyone as long as there is a screen protector or some other piece of transparent plastic between a finger and the sensor.

British tabloid newspaper The Sun originally reported the news, saying a British woman discovered she could unlock her husband's phone just by adding "a £2.70 screen protector bought on eBay." After reporting the issue to Samsung, the couple says Samsung "admitted it looked like a security breach," and a spokesperson told The Sun, “We’re investigating this internally. We recommend all customers to use Samsung authorised accessories, specifically designed for Samsung products.”

Days later when the BBC picked up the story and contacted Samsung again, the company said it is "aware of the case of S10's malfunctioning fingerprint recognition and will soon issue a software patch."

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Chrome rolls out new protections preventing password and data theft

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 5:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Google is temporarily increasing the rewards it pays for hacks that exploit holes in a beefed-up security protection that debuted in desktop versions of Chrome last month. Chrome for Android, meanwhile, is receiving a slimmed-down version of the same protection.

For a limited time, Google will boost its normal bounty amounts for exploits that allow one site the browser is interacting with to steal passwords or other sensitive data from another accessed site. Google is also broadening its vulnerability reward program to include bugs in Blink—the core software that Chrome uses to render HTML and other resources—that allow similar types of cross-site data thefts.

Fortress of solitude

The changes come a month after the release of Chrome 77, which quietly strengthened an existing protection known as site isolation. Google developers first added site isolation in July 2018 in a highly ambitious engineering feat that required major architectural changes to the way the browser worked under the hood.

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Google Pixel 4 Face Unlock works if eyes are shut

BBC Technology News - October 17, 2019 - 4:35pm
Google confirms its new security system may unlock a person's device even if their eyes are shut.

Acer Swift 3 review: Better as a budget device than as a mid-range laptop

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 4:22pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

The Acer Swift 3 laptop is not a flagship, but its lack of anything strange, striking, or gimmicky may work in its favor. While the Swift 3 starts at $479, most of its configurations (including our review unit) cost between $699 and $999. That puts it in line with the entry-level models of the HP Envy and Dell's Inspiron 13 7000 series, and it makes it digestible for most consumers' wallets.

The tech industry places a lot of value on flagship devices, but those high-end devices aren't always what consumers are looking for—or what they're willing to pay for. Some may also come to realize that they don't need a flagship device if they can get exactly what they need in a more affordable, less flashy machine. The Acer Swift 3 is one of those laptops, and I tested it for a few days to see how well it could stand up against its mid-tier competition.

Look and feel Specs at a glance: Acer Swift 3 Worst Best As reviewed Screen 14-inch FHD (1920×1080) IPS non-touch OS Windows 10 Home, 64 bit CPU Intel Core i3-8130U Intel Core i7-8565U Intel Core i7-8550U RAM 4GB LPDDR3 8GB LPDDR3 8GB LPDDR3 HDD 128GB PCIe SSD 256GB PCIe SSD 512GB PCIe SSD GPU Intel UHD 620 Graphics Nvidia GeForce MX150 (2GB) Intel UHD 620 Graphics Networking Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0 Ports 2 x USB-A, 1 x USB-C, 1 x microSD card slot, 1 x HDMI, 1 x headphone jack, 1 x DC power Size 12.16×8.43×0.63 inches (310×214×16 mm) Weight 2.87 pounds Battery 4-cell (3220 mAh) Warranty 1 year Price $479 $999 $899 Other perks Fingerprint sensor Acer Swift 3 $836.87 from Amazon (Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

Acer usually keeps it simple when designing laptops, and it continued that trend with the Swift 3. The aluminum chassis is unmarred by grooves, metallic accents, or anything that would make it stick out among the crowd of silver laptops that inevitably congregate in most meeting rooms. At 2.87 pounds and .63-inches thick, the Swift 3 also doesn't try to be as light or thin as possible—just thin enough to tote around with you wherever you go.

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Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order hands-on: Tried, true, and tough

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 4:00pm

It has been far too long since Star Wars fans got a true, triple-A, single-player campaign experience. With exclusive access to the Star Wars license, publisher EA and its stable of studios have largely been content to release multiplayer games-as-a-service like Battlefront or, well, multiplayer games-as-a-service for mobile like Galaxy of Heroes. Given that the appeal of Star Wars is in the stories, places, and characters for most people, I've long found that a bit tragic.

But enter Respawn Entertainment, the original developer behind the Call of Duty franchise. The previously shooter-focused studio is coming hot off the big commercial success of free-to-play battle royale Apex Legends, as well as Titanfall 2, which many critics (myself included) deemed one of the greatest single-player shooters of all time, even though it didn't achieve widespread popularity or especially strong sales numbers.

Respawn has been working on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a third-person action-adventure game in which players play as a young Jedi attempting to rebuild the Jedi Order after the events of Revenge of the Sith. Respawn, EA, and Disney held a press preview event this week at which I played the game for almost three hours, and I'm here to share some impressions.

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Blizzard belatedly punishes college Hearthstone team for Hong Kong protest

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 3:58pm

Enlarge / The on-stream moment that eventually earned the AU Hearthstone team a six-month suspension from tournament play.

The American University Hearthstone team that held up a sign reading "Free Hong Kong Boycott Blizz" during a tournament stream last week has now received a six-month ban from competition, according to a tweet from team member Casey Chambers.

"We expect all players to follow the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship rules," the punishment letter reads, in part. "Every Voice Matters at Blizzard, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves. However, the official broadcast needs to be about the game and the competition, and to be a place where all are welcome."

The language in the AU punishment letter closely mirrors that found in a statement Blizzard released last Friday regarding Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung and an on-stream statement he made in support of Hong Kong protesters after winning a Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament last week. Blizzard's statement reduced Blitzchung's punishment to a similar six-month suspension and reinstated tournament winnings that had been denied in the immediate wake of Blitzchung's protest earlier that week.

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Feds bust massive child porn sharing site—hundreds of users arrested

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 3:05pm

Enlarge (credit: Andrew Brookes / Getty)

Authorities have shut down a massive underground child pornography network, arresting 337 alleged users in the process, the Department of Justice announced on Wednesday. The mastermind, a South Korean man named Jong Wo Son, ran the Tor hidden service from a server in his bedroom, according to authorities.

The feds say the site hosted 200,000 video files. Users who uploaded videos to the site were rewarded with free access to videos uploaded by others. Users could also purchase access to the videos using bitcoin.

A notice on the upload page stated "do not upload adult porn." A search page listed popular search terms on the site including "PTHC" ("preteen hardcore") and "%4yo."

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Google and BBC scrap VR projects

BBC Technology News - October 17, 2019 - 2:37pm
Virtual reality may still be a few years from realising its potential, says one expert.

NASA will award Boeing a cost-plus contract for up to 10 SLS rockets

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 2:35pm

Enlarge / The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s liquid oxygen tank structural test article was manufactured and stacked in June 2019 at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (credit: NASA)

The principle behind a cost-plus contract is simple. Occasionally, the US government needs something exceptionally difficult, complex, and unprecedented to be built. In those cases, with technical challenges all but certain to arise, the government pays a contractor the entire value of the development costs, plus a fee—often 10 percent.

This is a useful tool to get the best contractors in the country to focus their efforts on large programs the government deems valuable. But it's not a good way to encourage a company to move quickly on a program, especially as businesses seek to maximize profits. This is because the longer a contract goes, the more money it costs, and the greater fees it generates.

The alternative to this is a fixed-price contract, in which the government pays a vendor a fixed fee for a product. If the company delivers a product for less than that, it makes a profit. If the product ends up costing more, the company eats the difference. Most of the time, a company does not get paid the bulk of the funding until they deliver a product.

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The latest Google shutdowns: Daydream VR, Google Clips

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 12:52pm

Google's big hardware event happened yesterday, which saw the announcement of the Pixel 4, Pixelbook Go, Nest Wi-Fi, Nest Home Mini, and new Pixel Buds. While the "Made by Google 2019" event was going on, Google was quietly shutting down enough products that it could have also held a mini "Killed by Google 2019" event that same day. Pour one out for the Google Daydream VR headset and the Google Clips camera.

Google Daydream now sleeps forever

Google Daydream View launched in 2016 and was Google's swing at proper phone-based virtual reality. Like the Samsung and Oculus collaboration Gear VR, the Daydream View was a cheap, light, "dumb" headset that featured VR lenses and little else. You slotted a smartphone into the front, and the phone switched to a VR mode, rendering a stereoscopic image that was blasted into your eyeballs through the lenses. You already have an expensive smartphone, so why not dip your toe in the VR waters with a cheap $100 headset.

Google kills product

View more stories Google originally experimented with phone-based VR with Google Cardboard, but the Daydream View added key features, like a head strap, a controller, and a material that wasn't literal garbage. Unlike Cardboard, Daydream made it so you'd actually want to stay in VR for more than 5 minutes. There was even a second-generation Daydream View headset released in 2017.

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Vatican launches new 'eRosary' bracelet

BBC Technology News - October 17, 2019 - 11:25am
The gadget aims to help young Catholics pray for world peace and contemplate the gospel.

Samsung: Anyone's thumbprint can unlock Galaxy S10 phone

BBC Technology News - October 17, 2019 - 9:53am
Firm promises fix after couple discover any fingerprint can unlock the device when put in case.

India's on a digital sprint that is leaving millions behind

BBC Technology News - October 17, 2019 - 5:09am
For every urban Indian who has access to the internet, there is at least one rural Indian who does not.

O2 launches 5G network in five UK cities and Slough

BBC Technology News - October 17, 2019 - 1:50am
The operator is going head to head with rivals EE, Vodafone, Three and BT Mobile.

T-Mobile and Sprint get FCC approval to merge in 3-2 party-line vote

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 10:25pm

Enlarge / Federal Communication Commission Republican members (L-R) Brendan Carr, Michael O'Rielly, and Chairman Ajit Pai participate in a discussion during the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 23, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland. (credit: Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla )

The Federal Communications Commission has voted 3-2 to approve T-Mobile's acquisition of Sprint, an FCC spokesperson confirmed to Ars today.

Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O'Rielly backed Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to allow the merger, while Democrats Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks voted against it.

T-Mobile and Sprint previously secured merger approval from the Department of Justice, so the deal has been fully cleared by the federal government. But the companies won't be completing the merger just yet, as they face a lawsuit from a group of state attorneys general who are trying to block the deal.

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Volvo’s XC40 crossover goes fully battery electric for “under $48,000”

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 9:59pm

Volvo was one of the first automakers to declare its plans to do something about carbon emissions. In 2017, the Swedish OEM announced that it was abandoning development of diesel engines. A few weeks later, it promised that every new Volvo introduced from 2019 would be electrified in some form, whether that be as a mild hybrid, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or a battery electric vehicle.

On Wednesday, Volvo Cars President and CEO Håkan Samuelsson got even more concrete, saying that the company is aiming for plug-ins to make up 20% of all its new vehicle sales in 2020 and 50% by 2025. "Although you never really know how the customers will react," he added (customers still have to want to buy the EVs it wants to sell). To accomplish that, Volvo is going to be launching a new BEV each year. Today in Los Angeles, we got introduced to the first of these—the new battery electric XC40 SUV.

The XC40 first appeared in 2017 as the first vehicle to use Volvo's new Compact Modular Architecture. This is the same architecture that provides the building blocks for the forthcoming Polestar 2 BEV, as well as vehicles from Geely and Lynk & Co. Any XC40s you've seen on the road up until this point will have been conventional internal combustion engine-powered crossovers. But with this new variant, all that changes.

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EU orders Broadcom to halt exclusivity deals while investigation deepens

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 9:05pm

Enlarge / EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager imposes interim measures on Broadcom in TV and modem chipset markets on October 16, 2019, in Brussels, Belgium. (credit: Thierry Monasse | Getty Images)

European regulators have hit chipmaker Broadcom with a rare "interim" restriction on its behavior as their antitrust probe into the company's alleged abuse of its market power deepens.

Broadcom was ordered immediately to stop applying and enforcing "anticompetitive provisions" in its dealings with six major customers, the European Commission's competition bureau said.

The order has to do with exclusivity agreements. Such agreements by suppliers are considered anticompetitive because they lock a dominant company into continued dominance. Exclusivity deals prevent would-be competitors from accessing any customers of their own, thus preventing their meaningful entry into the marketplace. In short: if nobody is allowed to buy from you, because they're forced to buy from the bigger company, then you can't sell anything, and your new business flops.

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SpaceX says 12,000 satellites isn’t enough, so it might launch another 30,000

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 7:10pm

Enlarge / 60 Starlink satellites stacked for launch at SpaceX facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is seeking permission to launch another 30,000 low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites for its Starlink broadband network, which would be in addition to the nearly 12,000 satellites the company already has permission to launch. But it's too early in the process to determine whether SpaceX is likely to launch most or all of the additional 30,000 satellites.

The Federal Communications Commission made the requests on SpaceX's behalf, as is standard practice, in a series of filings with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) last week. (Here's an example of one of the filings.) The 30,000 satellites would operate "at altitudes ranging from 328 kilometers to 580 kilometers," SpaceNews reported yesterday.

The filings are known as coordination requests. As SpaceNews noted, the ITU coordinates spectrum "to prevent signal interference and spectrum hogging." SpaceX's filing is an early step in the process and doesn't commit SpaceX to launching all 30,000 satellites.

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Dodgy sex-psychology paper finally gets retracted

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 6:52pm

Enlarge / Floppy data leads to abandoned high-heels research. (credit: Jason Parks / Flickr)

Two years ago, Ars published a story about some famous psychology research that smelled... off. Psychologist Nicolas Guéguen's flashy findings on human sexuality appeared to be riddled with errors and inconsistencies, and two researchers had raised an alarm.

Now, four years after James Heathers and Nick Brown first started digging into Guéguen's work, one of his papers has been retracted. The study reported that men were more helpful to women wearing high heels compared to mid heels or flats. "As a man I can see that I prefer to see my wife when she wears high heels, and many men in France have the same evaluation," Guéguen told Time in its coverage of the paper.

Slow progress

Since Brown and Heathers went public with their critiques of Guéguen's work, there has been little progress. In September 2018, a meeting between Guéguen and university authorities concluded with an agreement that he would request retractions of two of his articles. One of those papers is the recently retracted high-heels study; the other was a study reporting that men prefer to pick up female hitchhikers who were wearing red compared to other colors. The latter has not yet been retracted.

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$199 Analogue Pocket promises FPGA accuracy for portable retro gaming

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 6:03pm

If you know the name Analogue, you know the company's reputation for somewhat pricey but authentic and beautiful HDMI-compatible FPGA (field-programmable gate array) recreations of classic gaming consoles. Today, the company is announcing that it will extend that line into the portable market next year with the Analogue Pocket, a $199 FPGA handheld that's fully compatible with literally thousands of original cartridges for the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance (and other portables like Lynx, Game Gear, and Neo Geo Pocket Color via planned cartridge adapters).

The Pocket's 3.5-inch, 1600×1440 resolution, 615 pi LTPS LCD display frankly seems like a bit of overkill, considering the Game Boy Advance topped out at 240×160 and about 100 ppi. But Analogue's Christopher Taber tells Ars the Analogue Pocket will sport the same Altera Cyclone V FPGA found in its previous Super Nt and Mega Sg, plus a second Cyclone 10 FPGA "just for developers to develop and port their own cores."

That means it should be trivial for hackers to add aftermarket firmware to the Pocket through the system's microSD card slot, as they have for other analogue products in the past. So don't be surprised if the Pocket gets "unofficial" support for the same NES, Super NES, and Genesis FPGA cores built into previous Analogue products, as well as homebrew cores that support classic systems, from the Atari 2600 to the Sega Master System.

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