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Industry & Technology

Ligue du LOL: Secret group of French journalists targeted women

BBC Technology News - February 12, 2019 - 11:24am
Media execs at several major outlets used anonymous accounts to harass women writers and activists.

Not even the bathtub is safe in new trailer for The Curse of La Llorona

Ars Technica - February 12, 2019 - 4:00am

A ghostly presence targets two young children in new trailer for New Line Cinema’s The Curse of La Llorona.

Fresh off the blockbuster success of Aquaman, Director James Wan has produced an upcoming film that returns to his horror roots. And judging by the latest trailer, The Curse of La Llorona will offer chills aplenty in the same spirit as his Conjuring and Insidious franchises.

The titular ghost La Llorona (which translates as "The Weeping Woman") is based on Latin American folklore; there are many variants, but the film seems to be based on the Mexican version. A beautiful young woman named Maria marries into a wealthy family, and because her new in-laws disapprove of the match, the newlyweds build a home in her rural village. She bears her man two sons, but he eventually abandons her for a younger woman. A distraught Maria drowns the boys in a blind rage and then drowns herself.

For this crime, she is barred from the afterlife. She is condemned to spend eternity looking for her lost sons, trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead. Her constant weeping is why she is called La Llorona, and legend has it that, if you hear her wailing, you will have bad fortune and possibly die. La Llorona also kidnaps children wandering alone at night, mistaking them for her dead sons, and she is said to drown those children, too, all while begging for forgiveness.

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Ordnance Survey to launch mapping drone

BBC Technology News - February 12, 2019 - 2:46am
The mapping organisation's craft will collect images and data for businesses and organisations to use.

Stranger Things franchise is getting spin-off prequel novel about Jim Hopper

Ars Technica - February 12, 2019 - 2:30am

Enlarge / We'll finally get the backstory of everyone's favorite small-town sheriff, Jim Hopper, in second spinoff novel. (credit: Netflix)

We've still got several months of waiting for the debut of season 3 of Stranger Things. Fans hungry for the backstory to the various residents of Hawkins, Indiana, can play the mobile game. Or they might try one of the prequel novels published by Del Rey Books that delves into the pasts of some of the peripheral characters.

Suspicious Minds, published earlier this month, tells the story of Eleven's mother, Terry Ives, and how she got involved with MKUltra. A second prequel novel, Darkness on the Edge of Town, will arrive June 4 and focuses on police Chief Jim Hopper's early years in New York City as a homicide detective. And yes, both are considered "canon," for fans who are purists.

(Minor spoilers for the first two seasons of Stranger Things below.)

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Would you be happy to see your doctor online?

BBC Technology News - February 12, 2019 - 1:20am
Video consultations are saving doctors time and money, but are they good for patients, too?

Microsoft teases next-gen HoloLens ahead of February 24 reveal

Ars Technica - February 12, 2019 - 1:03am

New HoloLens teaser

Microsoft is expected to reveal a new version of its HoloLens headset at Mobile World Congress later this month. The company has an event scheduled for February 24, and that date is being promoted in the rather mysterious video published by HoloLens' creator Alex Kipman.

The planned 2019 release of the next-generation headset was leaked last year. Codenamed Sydney, the new model is expected to be lighter, more comfortable, and sport a better display. The sensors are updated (likely to something close to the Project Kinect for Azure standalone sensor), and Microsoft has confirmed that it will include an updated Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) with AI acceleration capabilities. The processor is believed to be a Qualcomm Snapdragon 850, replacing the Intel Atom of the first-generation unit.

This comes as Microsoft has sold out of original HoloLens units. Neither the developer kit nor the commercial version is available to buy.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Hackers keep trying to get malicious Windows file onto MacOS

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 11:59pm

Enlarge (credit: Christiaan Colen / Flickr)

Malware pushers are experimenting with a novel way to infect Mac users that runs executable files that normally execute only on Windows computers.

The files and folders found inside a DMG file that promised to install Little Snitch. (credit: Trend Micro)

Researchers from antivirus provider Trend Micro made that discovery after analyzing an app available on a Torrent site that promised to install Little Snitch, a firewall application for macOS. Stashed inside the DMG file was an EXE file that delivered a hidden payload. The researchers suspect the routine is designed to bypass Gatekeeper, a security feature built into macOS that requires apps to be code-signed before they can be installed. EXE files don’t undergo this verification, because Gatekeeper only inspects native macOS files.

“We suspect that this specific malware can be used as an evasion technique for other attack or infection attempts to bypass some built-in safeguards such as digital certification checks, since it is an unsupported binary executable in Mac systems by design,” Trend Micro researchers Don Ladores and Luis Magisa wrote. “We think that the cybercriminals are still studying the development and opportunities from this malware bundled in apps and available in torrent sites, and therefore we will continue investigating how cybercriminals can use this information and routine.”

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Valve has some new thoughts on what’s “humanly possible” in SteamVR

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 11:30pm

The kind of Beat Saber levels that require hand movements that were once considered superhuman by SteamVR developers.

Over the years, Valve has made dozens of changes to the system-level software behind SteamVR. Most of them aren't inherently interesting if you're not a VR developer. Then there's the latest update, which Valve says was prompted by a change in the "limits of what we thought was humanly possible for controller motion."

After looking at "tracking data from Beat Saber experts," Valve says it had to increase the theoretical limits for how quickly a human can move in VR. In the comments, Valve developer Ben Jackson details how top-level Beat Saber players were sometimes overwhelming the "internal sanity checks" that make sure SteamVR's lighthouse tracking system is working correctly.

"One of these checks relates to how fast we thought it was physically possible for someone to turn their wrist," Jackson writes. "It turns out that a properly motivated human using a light-enough controller could go faster (3,600 degrees/sec!) than we thought."

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Texas lawmaker wants to ban mobile throttling in disaster areas

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 10:38pm

Enlarge / Texas' state flag. (credit: Getty Images | CGinspiration)

A Texas lawmaker is proposing a state law that would prohibit wireless carriers from throttling mobile Internet service in disaster areas.

Bobby Guerra, a Democratic member of the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives, filed the bill last week. "A mobile Internet service provider may not impair or degrade lawful mobile Internet service access in an area subject to a declared state of disaster," the bill says. If passed, it would take effect on September 1, 2019.

The bill, reported by NPR affiliate KUT, appears to be a response to Verizon's throttling of an "unlimited" data plan used by Santa Clara County firefighters during a wildfire response in California last year. But Guerra's bill would prohibit throttling in disaster areas of any customer, not just public safety officials.

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To almost no one’s surprise, Mars One is done [Updated]

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 10:00pm

Enlarge / Mars One had some drawings. But that is about it. (credit: Mars One)

To the surprise of almost no one, Mars One appears to be dead. This project, founded in 2013, said it would raise funds from fees and marketing rights in order to send humans on a one-way mission to settle the Red Planet.

Now, thanks to a user on Reddit, we know that the effort has come to an apparent end. Mars One consists of two entities: the Dutch not-for-profit Mars One Foundation and the publicly traded, Swiss-based Mars One Ventures. A civil court based in Basel, Switzerland, opened bankruptcy proceedings on the latter company in mid-January. Efforts on Monday to contact officials with Mars One were not successful. (See update below).

To say this site was skeptical of Mars One would be putting it mildly. In May 2013—after more than 30,000 people around the world applied to become "astronauts" for Mars One—Ars' Lee Hutchinson scoffed at the venture, writing an article about some of the technical challenges it would face.

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Anti-vaxxers plan to subvert changes to vaccination laws

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 9:30pm

This child, who had been ill with measles, exhibited the characteristic rash on the fourth day of its evolution. Measles can cause hearing loss and brain damage, and it can be fatal in young children. (credit: CDC/NIP/ Barbara Rice)

Lawmakers in Oregon and Washington state are scrambling to pass new vaccination laws as a swiftly spreading measles outbreak rages in Washington’s Clark County, a hotbed of anti-vaccine sentiment just north of Portland, Oregon.

New bills aim to eliminate personal and philosophical exemptions for standard life-saving vaccines in schoolchildren—exemptions that have fueled such outbreaks and allowed once-bygone infectious diseases to come roaring back in the United States. But as the lawmakers work to craft their new bills, they may do well to keep a close eye on their counterparts in California, who are now realizing the pitfalls of such laws—and debating how to avoid them.

Since California banned non-medical vaccine waivers three years ago, the number of children with medical exemptions in the state has tripled. The medical exemption rate rose from 0.2 percent to 0.7 percent statewide. While California’s overall vaccination level increased two percent, there are still small pockets where vaccination rates are low. The boom in medical exemptions has left some counties’ vaccinations rates below the threshold necessary to keep diseases, such as measles, from spreading.

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Teen has vaccinations after asking Reddit

BBC Technology News - February 11, 2019 - 8:29pm
Ethan Lindenberger took to the website to ask whether he could get vaccines without his parents .

Marvel’s “Offenders” will bring comic baddies, weirdos to 4 new Hulu series

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 7:35pm

Enlarge / This single teaser image of characters Dazzler, Tigra, Hit-Monkey, Howard the Duck, and M.O.D.O.K. (L-R) seems to indicate the art style of each upcoming Hulu series, as we didn't immediately recognize these drawings from existing comics issues. (credit: Marvel)

Marvel Entertainment's shift away from Netflix became clearer on Monday with the announcement of a massive new multi-series initiative, dubbed The Offenders. Announced as part of a Television Critics Association press tour, this collection of four animated series revolves around a few Marvel Universe misfit characters—and it will land exclusively on Hulu.

That streaming-service destination makes some sense, as Marvel Entertainment is already two seasons into its Runaways series as a Hulu exclusive. But the news also emerges days after Marvel's corporate parent Disney talked up sweeping content plans for its own upcoming video-streaming service, Disney Plus.

Marvel didn't clarify exactly why Hulu was chosen, though the four series' combination of lesser heroes and boundary-pushing writers could have made Hulu a better fit than a family-friendlier Disney service. (Maybe the corporate lords of Disney didn't like the idea of kids clicking on a cartoon duck with no pants, only to wind up very, very surprised by what they got.) The series has yet to have any announced release dates or voice actors, but they are as follows, with their respective writers listed:

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SpaceX seeks FCC OK for 1 million satellite broadband Earth stations

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 7:10pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Olena_T)

SpaceX is seeking US approval to deploy up to 1 million Earth stations to receive transmissions from its planned satellite broadband constellation.

The Federal Communications Commission last year gave SpaceX permission to deploy 11,943 low-Earth orbit satellites for the planned Starlink system. A new application from SpaceX Services, a sister company, asks the FCC for "a blanket license authorizing operation of up to 1,000,000 Earth stations that end-user customers will utilize to communicate with SpaceX's NGSO [non-geostationary orbit] constellation."

The application was published by FCC.report, a third-party site that tracks FCC filings. GeekWire reported the news on Friday. An FCC spokesperson confirmed to Ars today that SpaceX filed the application on February 1, 2019.

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Augmented Reality Google Maps is coming, starts testing in private

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

If you remember, in May 2018, Google showed off an augmented reality version of Google Maps during the Google I/O 2018 keynote. The feature was only described as a "what if" experiment and "How [augmented reality] could look in Google Maps"—it wasn't given a firm release date. Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal got to try a real working version of this concept, and, while there still isn't a release date, it sounds like Augmented Reality Google Maps is moving from "What if?" to an actual product.

The Journal was given a Google Pixel 3 XL with an "alpha" version of Google Maps to test. Just like what was shown at Google I/O, the new feature augmented the 2D, GPS-and-compass-powered map system with a 3D, augmented reality camera overlay and a camera-based positioning system. Basically, you hold your phone up, and it displays a camera feed with directions overlaid over it.

The feature seemed aimed at solving a lot of pain points that pop up when using Google Maps in a big city. The densely packed points-of-interest means GPS isn't really accurate enough for getting around, especially when you consider GPS doesn't work well indoors, or underground, or when you're surrounded by tall buildings, and it can take several minutes to reach full accuracy when stepping outside. Smartphone compasses are also, generally, terrible when you are standing still and need to figure out which direction to start walking.

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Would you swap your smartphone with a brick phone?

BBC Technology News - February 11, 2019 - 6:33pm
Michaela Community School sells "brick phones" to students to stop them from being distracted.

Following lawsuit, Activision starts refund program for Guitar Hero Live

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 6:30pm

Enlarge / You could get paid for your now-crippled version of Guitar Hero Live.

American players who purchased Guitar Hero Live recently may be eligible for a refund being offered by Activision. The move comes after a lawsuit over the December shutdown of the game's streaming "Guitar Hero Live" mode, which included more than 90 percent of the game's available song library.

Activision's support page was updated recently to announce what it is calling a "voluntary refund program" for anyone who purchased Guitar Hero Live between December 1, 2017 and January 1, 2019. Those players have until May 1 to fill out a claim form and submit proof of purchase (a receipt or credit card statement) for a refund up to the purchase price.

Activision announced last June that it would be shutting down the Guitar Hero TV servers in December, more than three years after the game's late 2015 launch. That move cut off in-game access to more than 480 in-game songs that were only playable via live streaming channels or microtransaction rentals through the server. Console versions of the game still have access to 42 songs included on the game disc, but the iOS and Apple TV versions of the game are now completely unplayable.

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Gavin Williamson: Drone 'swarm squadrons' to be deployed by military

BBC Technology News - February 11, 2019 - 5:35pm
The defence secretary says the network enabled aircraft could be used to overwhelm the enemy.

After glitch grants access, Bethesda says locked Fallout 76 vault will open

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 5:25pm

Enlarge / You can't legitimately access this Fallout 76 vault yet, but you can take a peek inside. (credit: McStaken / Reddit)

Bethesda has confirmed that a locked vault in Fallout 76 will eventually open, but the admission came only after a player was briefly trapped in the locked area due to an in-game glitch.

The saga started this weekend when Reddit user McStaken posted pictures from inside the mysterious vault, which appears on the Fallout 76 map but can't be entered through normal gameplay. McStaken said he "didn't intend to end up" in the vault and entered accidentally while participating in another event.

That makes their situation different from previous players who have been able to force their way into Vault 63 and other locked in-game locations using a Power Armor glitch. Once inside, these players found a spacious, partially furnished vault, complete with overseer's office, wrecked kitchen, and even a terminal reading "Nice Work Assholes" (a possible hidden message for potential hackers?).

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Shipwreck reveals ancient market for knock-off consumer goods

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 5:20pm

Enlarge / Archaeologists use a portable X-ray fluorescence detector to analyze 900-year-old artifacts. (credit: Xu et al. 2019)

Sometime in the late 12th century CE, a merchant ship laden with trade goods sank off the coast of Java. The 100,000 ceramic vessels, 200 tons of iron, and smaller amounts of ivory, resin, and tin ingots offer a narrow window onto a much broader world of global trade and political change. The merchant vessel that sank in the Java Sea was the pointy tip of a very long spear, and a new study sheds some light on the trade networks and manufacturing industry hidden behind its cargo—all thanks to a little help from a cool X-ray gun.

Sailing ancient trade routes

There was a network of trade routes that crisscrossed the Indian Ocean and South China Sea by the late 12th century, linking Song Dynasty China to far-flung ports in Japan and Southeast Asia to the east, Indonesia to the south, and the Middle East and eastern Africa to the west. Merchant ships carried crops, raw materials like metals and resin, and manufactured goods like ceramics along these routes. Today, ceramics are a common sight in shipwrecks in these waters, partly because the material outlasts most other things on the seafloor, and partly because of the sheer volumes that could be packed into the holds of merchant ships from around 800 CE to 1300 CE.

Archaeologists have found Chinese ceramics at sites stretching from Japan to the east coast of Africa. And excavations in Southeast China have unearthed several kiln complexes, each with hundreds of dragon kilns—long tunnels dug into hillsides, which could fire up to 30,000 ceramic pieces at a time—clustered into a few square kilometers. All that production was aimed at exporting ceramic bowls, boxes, and other containers to overseas markets. “Most ceramics from this region are seldom recovered from domestic settings in China and are almost exclusively found along the maritime trading routes,” Field Museum archaeologist Lisa Niziolek, a co-author on the study, told Ars Technica.

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