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Industry & Technology

The Indian small-town shop owner who became a TikTok star

BBC Technology News - January 15, 2020 - 1:16am
Sumit Jain from India has discovered TikTok fame thanks to his singing and dancing skills.

Apple’s rack-mountable Mac Pro is now available

Ars Technica - January 15, 2020 - 12:30am

Apple has begun selling the rack-mounted variant of its Mac Pro desktop computer. The tower version launched about a month ago, but the rack version is currently showing ship dates ranging from January 23 to February 13, depending on the buyer's chosen specifications.

Starting at $6,499 (or $500 more than the tower version), the rack-mounted Mac Pro is identical in terms of specifications and internals. It comes in all the same hardware configuration options, has the same ports, is laid out the same inside the case, and has the same rear connections.

Configurations still range from a 3.5GHz, 8-core Intel Xeon W CPU to a 2.5GHz, 28-core Xeon W; from 32GB of RAM to 1.5TB; and from a Radeon Pro 580X GPU with 8GB of video memory to dual Radeon Pro Vega II Duo GPUs with a total of 128GB of video memory. The highest spec still tops out at over $50,000.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Major investment firm to prioritize sustainability, back off coal

Ars Technica - January 15, 2020 - 12:03am

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

When it comes to taking action on climate change, the world has entered a very strange place. Scientific results continue to indicate that the consensus on our role in driving climate change has every reason to be accepted. Several years of the predicted impacts of climate change—record-high temperatures, massive storms, and out-of-control wildfires—have left ever more of the public ignoring the few skeptics and denialists who persist. Aside from a handful of holdouts, governments have accepted that they need to do something about climate change.

Despite all that, we continue to do very little, and carbon emissions have continued to rise. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the financial markets. It's very clear that companies are assigning value to the rights to extract fossil fuel deposits, even though governments will almost certainly block some of them from being developed. And they continue to do so because governments and investors allow them to.

Divestment campaigns have started to change that, causing $12 trillion in assets to be pulled from businesses dependent upon fossil fuels. But the movement may have picked up some significant additional momentum this week as one of the largest investment firms, BlackRock, announced that it will be making sustainability, and climate change in particular, central to its strategies. Included in its announcement is that it would immediately begin pulling out of many coal investments and complete the change before the year is out.

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Verizon offers no-tracking search engine, promises to protect your privacy

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 11:49pm

Enlarge / Verizon's OneSearch, a privacy-focused search engine. (credit: Verizon)

Verizon today launched a new search engine, claiming that its "OneSearch" service will offer users more privacy than the standard options in a market dominated by Google.

Verizon's actual search results are provided by Microsoft's Bing, but Verizon added several privacy-focused features—while retaining the ability to serve contextual ads.

"To allow for a free search engine experience, OneSearch is an ad-supported platform," Verizon said in its announcement. "Ads will be contextual, based on factors like search keywords, not cookies or browsing history."

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Advocates ask colleges to avoid facial recognition as surveillance grows

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 10:24pm

Enlarge / Students from George Washington University in DC are among those calling for a resolution against the use of facial recognition at their school. (credit: Toni L. Sandys | The Washington Post | Getty Images)

Ah, college: that time in a young adult's life for encountering new friends, new areas of study, ill-advised time management and beverage consumption decisions, and a pervasive surveillance network to track it all.

Sophisticated systems for tracking people have sprung up everywhere as we march through the 21st century, and institutions of higher education are no exception. To that end, digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future today launched a campaign to get facial recognition off of college campuses. The campaign is partnering with student advocacy groups at The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and DePaul University in Chicago.

"Facial-recognition surveillance spreading to college campuses would put students, faculty, and community members at risk. This type of invasive technology poses a profound threat to our basic liberties, civil rights, and academic freedom," Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said in a written statement. Greer added that facial recognition is not yet widely seen on college campuses, and she and the members of the campaign hope to keep it that way.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Researchers find 17 Google Play apps that bombard users with battery-draining ads

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 9:59pm

Enlarge (credit: Bram.Koster / Flickr)

Developers employed a variety of tricks to populate Google Play with more than a dozen apps that bombard users with ads, even when the apps weren't being used, researchers said on Tuesday.

Among the tactics used to lower the chances of being caught by Google or peeved users: the apps wait 48 hours before hiding their presence on devices, hold off displaying ads for four hours, display the ads at random intervals, and split their code into multiple files, researchers with antivirus provider Bitdefender reported. The apps also contain working code that does the things promised in the Google Play descriptions, giving them the appearance of legitimacy. In all, Bitdefender found 17 such apps with a combined 550,000 installations.

One of the apps Bitdefender analyzed was a racing simulator that also charged in-app fees for extra features. While it worked as advertised, it also aggressively displayed ads that drained batteries and sometimes prevented people from playing the game. After a four-hour waiting period, ad displays are generated using a random number (less than three) that was checked against a value. If the random number was equal to the value, an ad would appear.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Patch Windows 10 and Server now because certificate validation is broken

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 9:40pm

Enlarge / The NSA says to patch now. (credit: National Security Agency)

Microsoft's scheduled security update for Windows includes a fix to a potentially dangerous bug that would allow an attacker to spoof a certificate, making it look like it came from a trusted source. The vulnerability, reported to Microsoft by the National Security Agency, affects Windows 10, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2019, and Windows Server version 1803.

Microsoft has rated the update as "important" rather than critical. But in a blog post, Mechele Gruhn, the Principal Security Program Manager for Microsoft Security Response Center, explained that this was because "we have not seen it used in active attacks."

However, researchers outside Microsoft—including Google's Tavis Ormandy—have a much more dire assessment of the vulnerability and urge users to patch quickly before an active exploit appears.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The 2020 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in proves pleasing, perhaps pedestrian

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 8:51pm

This might be a dreadful admission to make, but until late December, I'd never driven a Toyota Prius. It's not that we've ignored the hybrid in our coverage, it's just that it has always been someone other than me driving it. To rectify that error, I spent a week with a 2020 Prius Prime Limited, the $33,500* range-topping plug-in version of the car that, for a while, was a synonym for being environmentally conscious.

Not a huge amount has changed in the two years since Ars last drove a Prius Prime. It's still a plug-in hybrid EV with a 1.8L, four-cylinder internal combustion engine under the hood that generates 95hp (71kW) and 105lb-ft (142Nm). The internal combustion engine uses the more efficient Atkinson cycle; this delays closing the intake valve until the piston is already moving back up during the compression stroke, meaning that it compresses less volume than gets expanded subsequently in the power stroke. As a result, the engine has a thermal efficiency of about 40 percent, which is better than just about any other engine outside of Formula 1 or Mazda's Skyactiv-X engine.

The internal combustion engine is joined by a 71hp (53kW) permanent magnet synchronous electric motor, the two working together to drive the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission, for a total system output of 121hp (90kW). (Beware, purists: the internal combustion engine can directly drive the front wheels when it's more efficient to do so.) The battery pack is an 8.8kWh lithium-ion unit weighing 265lbs (120kg) giving the Prius Prime a range of up to 25 miles (40km) on electric power alone. Recharging is just via AC power and takes about two hours with a 240V source or five hours connected to a 110V socket. The EPA rates it at 133mpge or 54mpg on gasoline alone.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Amazon asks court to block US/Microsoft contract because of Trump interference

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 8:05pm

Enlarge / President Donald Trump speaks with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, during an American Technology Council roundtable in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on Monday, June 19, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | The Washington Post)

Amazon is seeking a court order that would prevent Microsoft from doing work for the US Department of Defense under a contract that Amazon says was awarded improperly.

As previously reported, Amazon sued the Trump administration in the US Court of Federal Claims, claiming that Microsoft's Azure cloud service won the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract because of "improper pressure from President Donald J. Trump."

Amazon alleges that the president "launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer the JEDI Contract away from AWS [Amazon Web Services] to harm his perceived political enemy—Jeffrey P. Bezos," the founder and CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Galaxy S20 Ultra to come with a whopping 16GB of RAM

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 7:55pm

After the recent leak of live pictures of Samsung's next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S20, more details have started to trickle in about the upcoming device.

First, a recap: the Galaxy S20 is the follow-up to last year's Galaxy S10. Samsung's naming scheme is apparently changing, and a "Galaxy S11" is not a product that will be happening. It looks like it's now going to be "Samsung Galaxy S [current year]" so this year it's the S20. The model lineup is also changing, too, and we're getting three sizes: the Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, and the highest-end phone, the Galaxy S20 Ultra. In the US, they're all going to be 5G with Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoCs, and internationally you should be able to find 4G and 5G versions with Samsung Exynos chips.

Now, the new stuff: Max Weinbach, the XDA author who scored the live pictures of the Galaxy S20, has some spec info.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Apple’s AirPods are back to their Black Friday price at Amazon

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 7:28pm

Enlarge / Apple's AirPods.

Today's Dealmaster is headlined by a joint-low on Apple's second-generation AirPods on Amazon. The totally wireless earbuds are currently down to $129, which is $30 off Apple's normal MSRP and about $15 off their typical price online. This is the latest version of the earbuds, meaning they come with Apple's improved H1 wireless chip and support for hands-free "Hey Siri" commands. This model does not come with a case that can be powered up via wireless chargers, though, nor does it support active noise cancellation like the AirPods Pro.

We still can't say these are the absolute best true wireless headphones on the market: the 4-5 hours of battery life is just OK, the lack of physical controls can be annoying, and the sound quality is mediocre as ever. (The Powerbeats Pro from Apple's Beats subsidiary are better in just about every way if you're looking for alternatives, but they're pricier.) Still, we can't deny how simple they are to use with iOS devices, nor how utterly popular they've become. If your heart is dead-set on buying a pair, this current sale matches the AirPods' going rate on Black Friday, so this looks like a sensible time to take the plunge.

If you're not interested in new headphones, the Dealmaster also has big sales on Audible subscriptions, Amazon's latest Kindle Paperwhite, a variety of discounts on TCL Roku TVs, and much more. Have a look at the full list below.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Windows 7: “I’m not dead yet!”

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 7:18pm

Enlarge / A man looks at the home screen for the "new" Windows 7 platform when it was launched in October 2009. Microsoft has ended support, but the OS lives on. (credit: Katie Collins - PA Images / Getty Images)

We are here to bury Windows 7, not to praise it. Today is the day that Microsoft's extended support for the Windows 7 operating system ends. Microsoft stopped selling Windows 7, which was first released in 2009, on October 13, 2013. Sales of systems with Windows 7 pre-installed ended three years to the day later in 2016. It lived a long life and is survived by Windows 10 and maybe a few remaining instances of Windows 8.

But it seems most organizations are in no hurry to cast off the now-unsupported Microsoft operating system, based on a survey from the enterprise content delivery company Kollective. A survey of 100 US- and UK-based companies found that overall, 53 percent of companies had not completed or had not started migration off of Windows 7 to Windows 10.

The continued presence of Windows 7 was more prevalent in the UK, where two-thirds of businesses are still using the operating system on at least some devices. US businesses were more likely to have moved on, with 40 percent reporting they still had Windows 7. But one-tenth of those surveyed had no idea whether Windows 7 was still running on devices within their organizations.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New police equipment to search mobile devices

BBC Technology News - January 14, 2020 - 6:29pm
Technology which can override encryption on some devices is to be rolled out across Scotland next week.

Windows 10: NSA reveals major flaw in Microsoft's code

BBC Technology News - January 14, 2020 - 6:07pm
A patch is likely to be announced later although Microsoft insists no hacker has exploited it.

How Google researchers used neural networks to make weather forecasts

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 5:56pm

Enlarge (credit: YakobchukOlena)

A research team at Google has developed a deep neural network that can make fast, detailed rainfall forecasts.

The researchers say their results are a dramatic improvement over previous techniques in two key ways. One is speed. Google says that leading weather forecasting models today take one to three hours to run, making them useless if you want a weather forecast an hour in the future. By contrast, Google says its system can produce results in less than 10 minutes—including the time to collect data from sensors around the United States.

This fast turnaround time reflects one of the key advantages of neural networks. While such networks take a long time to train, it takes much less time and computing power to apply a neural network to new data.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Grindr and Twitter face 'out of control' complaint

BBC Technology News - January 14, 2020 - 4:30pm
The two firms, and four other ad-tech companies, are accused of sharing user data unlawfully.

Modeling what would happen to the UK if the Gulf Stream shuts down

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 3:26pm

Enlarge / The warm waters of the gulf stream as they pass the US East Coast. (credit: NASA)

While we track climate change as a gradual rise in temperatures, most of its effects are going to be anything but gradual: an increased risk of extreme temperatures and storms, extended droughts, expanded fire seasons, and so on. There's also the risk of pushing the climate past some tipping points, which can change the state of entire areas of the globe. But it can be difficult to understand the impact of tipping points, given that they're occurring against a backdrop of all those other climate changes.

For example, one of the major potential tipping points we're aware of is the shutdown of the North Atlantic's current system, which brings warm water north, moderating the climate of Europe. The loss of this warm water would obviously result in a cool down in Northern Europe. But calculations indicate that the shutdown isn't likely to take place until after the planet had warmed enough to offset this cooling.

But temperatures aren't the only thing affected by some of the tipping points we've looked at. And a new study manages to separate out the effect of shutting down the gulf stream from the general impact of a warming climate. And it finds that, for the UK, changes in precipitation may have a larger impact than changes in temperature.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Anti-vaxxers celebrate victory in NJ as pro-vaccine bill falls apart

Ars Technica - January 14, 2020 - 3:07pm

Enlarge / Anti-vaccine protesters outside the NJ State House. (credit: Twitter | NJ.com politics)

Amid raucous protest from hundreds of anti-vaccination advocates, state lawmakers in New Jersey have abandoned legislation to ban vaccination exemptions based on religious beliefs.

The bill, S2173, collapsed in the state Senate Monday as lawmakers realized it was a single vote shy of passage, according to The New York Times. The defeat came after a last-ditch effort to amend the beleaguered legislation, which ultimately generated new opposition.

S2173 would have prohibited parents from using religious beliefs as an excuse to get out of providing standard, life-saving immunizations for their children. Instead, only children with medical conditions that preclude a child from being vaccinated—as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—would be granted an exemption.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

YouTube signs three top gamers away from rival Twitch

BBC Technology News - January 14, 2020 - 11:44am
The market for live-stream gamers intensifies as companies compete to sign exclusive deals.

US urges Apple to unlock air base shooter's phones

BBC Technology News - January 14, 2020 - 10:31am
The tech firm denies the US attorney's accusation that it is not helping the investigators enough.

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