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Industry & Technology

New algorithms aim to stamp out abuse on Twitter

BBC Technology News - September 18, 2019 - 11:00am
US researchers develop a tool that can detect abuse with "90% accuracy".

The debate over facial recognition technology

BBC Technology News - September 18, 2019 - 10:55am
Some MPs have called for UK police and companies to stop using live facial recognition for public surveillance.

HP debuts Elite Dragonfly 2-in-1 with ultra-light chassis, 24-hour battery life

Ars Technica - September 18, 2019 - 7:00am

The commercial PC space can be slow to catch up to the consumer space when it comes to design and next-gen features. But HP thinks it has a solution for business users who want a laptop that looks just as good as it works and doesn't sacrifice pro features to do so. The HP Elitebook Dragonfly, despite its playful name, doesn't play around with its top-tier specs, and at just 2.2 pounds, it's one of the lightest business notebooks you'll find.

The "dragonfly" name refers to the device's ultra-light weight and its color, which HP calls dragonfly blue. The 13-inch Dragonfly is certainly one of the lightest business notebooks I've touched, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that HP still managed to include one USB-A port and an HDMI port on the convertible's slim frame. Those ports are accompanied by two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a headphone jack, and a security lock slot.

The Dragonfly's modern design would make it seem like a good competitor for machines like Dell's XPS 13 or even the now-discontinued MacBook, but it is part of the Elitebook family, so it has a number of features that pro- and business-users will require standard. The machine has a chassis made of magnesium alloy and ocean-bound plastic material and is MIL-STD 810G certified, so it will withstand drops and shocks better than most of its consumer counterparts. In addition to a shutter-able webcam, the Dragonfly can be equipped with an IR camera, and it comes with a fingerprint reader standard for Windows Hello. The Dragonfly will also support vPro Intel CPUs, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 2TB of storage, Wi-Fi 6, and optional 4x4 LTE connectivity.

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Live facial recognition surveillance 'must stop'

BBC Technology News - September 18, 2019 - 5:51am
Campaigners say the technology is inaccurate, intrusive and infringes on an individual's right to privacy.

The robot that cleans floors and tells jokes

BBC Technology News - September 18, 2019 - 12:03am
More than 100 fully autonomous cleaning robots are coming to Singapore this year, made by local manufacturer Lionsbot. Ella's job is cleaning the floors at the National Gallery.

BBC launches 'digital wellbeing' Own It app for children

BBC Technology News - September 18, 2019 - 12:03am
The Own It app watches what children type and offers advice about how to stay healthy online.

Musk spent $50,000 digging into critic’s personal life

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 11:41pm

Enlarge / Elon Musk in 2015. (credit: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Elon Musk spent more than $50,000 digging into the personal life of British expat and Thai caver Vern Unsworth in summer 2018 in an effort to substantiate the claim that he was a "pedo guy." Musk revealed the spending in his latest response to a defamation lawsuit Unsworth filed against him last year.

Initially, Musk's investigator turned up some seemingly damning information about Unsworth, including a claim that Unsworth began dating his wife when she was around 12 years old. However, further investigation failed to confirm this claim, with the investigator finding she was actually around 18 years old when the couple met. (The wife, Woranan Ratrawiphukkunand, later told UK newspapers she was 33 when they met.)

But Musk argues that it doesn't matter, legally speaking, if his claims about Unsworth were actually true. What matters is that Musk believed the claims were true at the time he repeated them to BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac.

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Trump to eliminate California’s car emission standards waiver

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 10:26pm

Enlarge (credit: Lawrence Berkeley Lab)

The New York Times reports that the Trump administration will use a meeting at the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday to announce the revocation of California's ability to set its own air pollution standards. The state's authority was granted by a waiver that allows it to set pollution limits that are stricter than the federal government's, which is now threatening the administration's ability to roll back Obama-era standards for automobile fuel economy. This move has been rumored to be under consideration for months and sets up a legal showdown that will pit the federal government against California and the 13 states that plan to follow its lead.

As part of the Obama administration's push to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the Obama-era EPA negotiated a deal with automakers that would significantly improve the efficiency of future vehicles. As with many Obama-era environmental accomplishments, that agreement has been targeted by the Trump administration. In its analysis, the Trump EPA claimed that fuel-efficient vehicles would increase the fatalities from automobile accidents and proposed freezing fuel efficiency at 2020 levels while preparing new standards. But that analysis was hammered by scientists, who suggested that its cost/benefit analysis was flawed and that it failed to take into account negative consequences.

Meanwhile, various news reports indicated that automakers were uneasy about the degree to which the Trump administration was intending to cut back on automotive efficiency. Part of that unease was likely due to the fact that the automakers are already building far more efficient vehicles for markets that do have stricter standards. But a major factor for automakers was California's likely unwillingness to go along with the changes.

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Borderlands 3 is a lot more Borderlands, in ways both good and bad

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 9:56pm
We've had to wait seven years to get a new numbered game in the Borderlands series and almost five years since the (surprisingly fun) Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel that was supposed to hold us over in the interim. Now that we're a few days past the retail launch (our review codes arriving only hours before the game went on sale) and have plowed a fair share of hours into the game, we're struck by just how little Borderlands has changed in that intervening time, both for good and for ill.

On the good side, this means that Borderlands 3 still provides the same kind of slick, fast-paced, varied, and just-plain-smooth shooter experience that the series has always provided. As usual, the game provides a seemingly endless variety of weapons that, crucially, all look and feel entirely distinct from one another in a number of ways. Experimenting with new gear to find the correct mix of damage impact, accuracy, magazine size, reload rate, and special abilities is a never-ending and continually fascinating process.

Earning access to a new weapon that fits your style just right still provides that adrenaline hit in a way that can't be matched by finding yet another identical shotgun in most other shooters. And many guns now have a secondary fire option, greatly increasing the level of personal tuning by offering new pros and cons.

That variety now also seems matched by the game's environments. The neons and blues of planet Promethea's urban guerrilla warfare provide a welcome change from the brown and gray desert environments Borderlands is generally known for (Pre-Sequel also showed a lot of promise on this score). Even in the relatively early going, it feels like there's going to be plenty of new planets and side-quests to keep players busy if they want to hit that rarefied 100% completion.

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Fresh analysis of LIGO data supports “no hair” theorem for black holes

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 9:31pm

Enlarge / Simulated image of two merging black holes detected by LIGO, viewed face-on. (credit: SXS Lensing)

Physicists have "heard" the telltale ring of an infant back hole for the first time, thanks to a fresh analysis of LIGO data. Researchers specifically looked for telltale "overtones" in the data from the collaboration's Nobel Prize-winning detection of two black holes merging. Not only were the overtones present, but the pattern of pitch and decay matches predictions for the black hole's mass and spin derived using the general theory of relativity. According to a new paper in Physical Review Letters, the result also supports the so-called "no hair" theorem for the classical description of black holes.

That classical picture of a black hole is a circle with a dot at the center. The circumference of the circle is the event horizon, and the dot is the singularity. General relativity holds that the area of the event horizon is a vacuum with no structure. That's because any dust, gas, or elementary particle placed at the horizon should fall into the black hole, maintaining the vacuum state. There would be no noticeable change if you threw something into a black hole—nothing that would provide a clue as to what that object might have been. It was the late physicist John Wheeler who coined the colorful description, "Black holes have no hair." (Wheeler had a knack for catchy names and phrases.) So all you need to describe black holes mathematically is their mass and their spin, plus their electric charge.

"We all expect general relativity to be correct, but this is the first time we have confirmed it in this way," said lead author Maximiliano Isi of MIT. "This is the first experimental measurement that succeeds in directly testing the no-hair theorem. It doesn't mean black holes couldn't have hair. It means the picture of black holes with no hair lives for one more day."

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Millions of Americans’ medical images and data are available on the Internet

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 8:21pm

Enlarge / Dislocated cervical vertebrae (traumatic lesion of cervical vertebrae C1-C2). X-ray in profile. (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) (credit: BSIP | GettyImages)

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

Medical images and health data belonging to millions of Americans, including X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, are sitting unprotected on the Internet and available to anyone with basic computer expertise.

The records cover more than 5 million patients in the United States and millions more around the world. In some cases, a snoop could use free software programs—or just a typical Web browser—to view the images and private data, an investigation by ProPublica and the German broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk found.

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Feds seek to seize all profits from Snowden’s book over NDA violation

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 8:04pm

Enlarge / The US Government thanks Edward Snowden for the revenue stream with a filing in US court on September 17—the day his book hit shelves in the US. (credit: Henry Holt / Macmillan)

The US Department of Justice may never be able to prosecute Edward Snowden for his procurement and distribution of highly classified information from the network of the National Security Agency. But DOJ lawyers have found a way to reach out and touch his income—and that of Macmillan Publishers—by filing a civil suit today against them for publication of his book, Permanent Record.

The lawsuit, filed in the US Court for the District of Eastern Virginia, does not seek to stop publication or distribution of Permanent Record. Instead, as a DOJ spokesperson said in a press release, "under well-established Supreme Court precedent [in the case] Snepp v. United States, the government seeks to recover all proceeds earned by Snowden because of his failure to submit his publication for pre-publication review in violation of his alleged contractual and fiduciary obligations."

The suit—which also names Macmillan, its Henry Holt and Company imprint, and its parent company Holtzbrinck Publishers—claims Snowden was in violation of both CIA and NSA secrecy agreements he signed as terms of his employment. In the CIA Secrecy Agreements Snowden signed, he acknowledged that "Snowden was required to submit his material for prepublication review 'prior to discussing [the work] with or showing it to anyone who is not authorized to have access to' classified information," DOJ attorneys wrote in their filing. "Snowden was also required not to 'take any steps towards public disclosure until [he] received written permission to do so from the Central Intelligence Agency.'"

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Dealmaster: You can still convert 3 years of Xbox Live to Game Pass Ultimate for $1

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 7:45pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of bargains to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal over at Microsoft that gets you a month of the company's Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service for $1 or two months for $2. Normally, a Game Pass Ultimate membership—which wraps Game Pass for console and PC together with Xbox Live Gold—costs $15 a month. This offer has admittedly been live for a while now, but Microsoft says the $2 deal is set to expire on September 30. (The company declined to specify when the $1 offer will end.) Plus, you could still turn the discount into an even better value with the right planning.

To explain: we noted this back when Microsoft first ran this deal earlier in the year, but when you buy Game Pass Ultimate, the company will still turn up to 36 months of existing Xbox Live Gold (or non-Ultimate Game Pass) subscription time on your account into the all-in-one membership. That means you can stock up on Xbox Live Gold first—which many Xbox players will buy anyway to play online—then add up to three years of Game Pass to that prepaid time for $1 total instead of the usual $10 (for console) or $5 (for PC) a month. Put another way: after getting three 12-month Xbox Live Gold codes for $60 each, you could get three years of Game Pass Ultimate for $181 instead of the $540 it would cost at full price. (Or two years for $121 instead of $360, one year for $61 instead of $180, etc.)

The catch is that these offers are only available to those who are new to Game Pass Ultimate, not existing subscribers. If you have a standard Game Pass subscription for console or PC, though, you can still take advantage. It's also worth noting that Game Pass Ultimate subscription time can't be reverted back to individual Xbox Live Gold or standard Game Pass subscriptions after upgrading—your account won't be locked into the Ultimate plan forever, just the prepaid time up to 36 months. But you'll have to turn off recurring billing and re-join those other services separately if you don't want to renew Game Pass Ultimate once that prepaid time expires.

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Rockstar Games Launcher: We install it on Windows so you don’t have to [Updated]

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 7:32pm

Enlarge / Right now, Rockstar is giving out a free copy of a 2004 game to entice you to install their new Rockstar Games Launcher on Windows PCs. We imagine more fare—including exclusives—will come to this storefront before long. But for now, Rockstar isn't saying. (credit: Rockstar Games)

After catching our breath and believing the fractured space of PC game launchers had calmed down for a second, yet another contender arrived on Tuesday: Rockstar Games.

The simply named Rockstar Games Launcher went live worldwide on Tuesday on Windows PCs, and it includes the ability to purchase and install a range of Rockstar-developed games (and their associated microtransactions). This is the first time Rockstar has offered direct purchases of its PC games, as opposed to serving games on services such as Steam. With that in mind, the launcher also lets players find and boot existing Rockstar games' Steam installations.

Currently, the app includes zero exclusives or apparent discounts compared to other retailers, so why should gamers install it?

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Lawsuit: AT&T signed customers up for DirecTV Now without their knowledge

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 7:20pm

Enlarge / AT&T logo. (credit: Mike Mozart / Flickr)

AT&T supervisors encouraged sales reps to create fake DirecTV Now accounts to make the online video service seem more successful than it really was, a class-action complaint alleges.

AT&T "promot[ed] and reward[ed] account fraud" such as creating the fake accounts and signing AT&T customers up for DirecTV Now "without the customer knowing," the lawsuit claims.

The new allegations were made Friday in an amended complaint as part of a lawsuit filed against AT&T in April in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. The lawsuit alleges that AT&T lied to investors in order to hide DirecTV Now's failure.

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Google Fi gets a cheaper “unlimited” plan, bundled cloud storage

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 6:38pm


Google Fi, Google's MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) cellular service, is launching a second plan for users today. Besides the original pay-per-megabyte plan with unlimited calls and text, Google Fi is now launching a full blown "Unlimited" plan (with throttling after 22GB) for $70, and it comes with 100GB of cloud storage thanks to a bundled "Google One" membership.

In 2018, Google Fi introduced "Bill Protection," a tweak to the pay-per-MB plan that capped monthly bills at $80, making it an "unlimited" plan that throttled after 15GB. This new $70 plan is $10 cheaper and comes with more unthrottled data, and the bundled 100GB of Google One storage saves you another $2 a month. Google One is a monthly subscription service that gives you more storage for your Google account. Free Google accounts get 15GB across Gmail, Drive, and Google Photos, and Google One allows you to purchase anywhere from 100GB to 30TB of online storage.

The new Fi plan supports Google's family bundling, too. The unlimited plan is $70 a month for a single person, $60 a month each for two accounts ($120 total), $50 each for three accounts ($150 total) and $45 each for four accounts or more ( $180 total). With this plan, you'll get 22GB of unthrottled data and 100GB of storage per person, not shared across the whole family, which sounds like a good deal.

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Video: DOD pulls plug on Boeing/Raytheon missile interceptor program

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 6:28pm

SITREP: The RKV has been cancelled, meaning multi-target ballistic missile interceptors are even further off. (video link)

With North Korea throwing missiles around again and Iran continuing to depart from the nuclear framework after President Donald Trump exited the deal and re-imposed sanctions, there is as much reason as ever to be concerned about the United States' nascent anti-ballistic missile defenses. While the Missile Defense Agency's Ground-based Midcourse Defense System (GMD) and the Navy's Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system have shown some promise in testing, there are still some weaknesses in those systems that could be exploited by an attacker—including the use of multiple decoys to soak up attempted intercepts.

That was the rationale behind the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV), a $1 billion program intended to create the US military’s next ballistic missile interceptor. A joint effort by Boeing and Raytheon, RKV was supposed to give GMD the capability of engaging multiple targets with a single interceptor. The RKV was intended to build on the Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle, or EKV, currently deployed as part of the Missile Defense Agency’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense System. But the RKV program has been cancelled, and the Department of Defense has put the whole program back into competitive bidding after having been placed on hold for evaluation in May by Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin.

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This is what it’s like driving a Bugatti Chiron at 305mph

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 6:09pm


FRANKFURT, GERMANY—As the twin forces of efficiency and safety change the vehicles around us to meet the needs of the 21st century, there's not much day-to-day relevancy in how fast a car can go on a straight and flat enough road. Just about any new car sold today will happily cruise 20-30mph (30-65km/h) faster than even the most permissive speed limits outside a few stretches of German Autobahn. Even on the derestricted stretches, you might struggle to find yourself traffic-free long enough to exercise a supercar up to 200mph, and anything beyond that has always been more of an academic exercise than anything else. Unless your name is Andy Wallace, that is.

The British racing driver's initial big result came at Le Mans in 1988, the first of many in a success-filled career racing sports prototypes. That first win was back when the Mulsanne Straight really was flat-out for 3.7 miles (6km), which meant going a little faster than 247mph (398km/h) for most of the 394 laps it took to win that year. So it shouldn't be surprising that Wallace has gotten the call when someone needed a production car tested at that kind of velocity. He was behind the wheel of the record-setting McLaren F1 at Ehra-Lessien in 1998 and then again with an even faster Bugatti in 2007. That association continues to this day, most recently experiencing the 305mph (495km/h) Vmax of the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+.

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Facebook to use Met Police videos to recognise shooters

BBC Technology News - September 17, 2019 - 6:00pm
The technology giant will provide body cameras to Metropolitan Police officers on firearms training.

Richard Stallman leaves MIT after controversial remarks on rape

Ars Technica - September 17, 2019 - 5:57pm

Enlarge / Richard Stallman in 2015. (credit: Michael Debets/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Free software pioneer Richard Stallman has resigned from his posts at MIT and the Free Software Foundation after leaked emails showed him quibbling over the definition of rape in a conversation related to Jeffrey Epstein.

The conversation that triggered Stallman's fall started when someone—names other than Stallman's are redacted in the leaked emails—posted about a planned protest at MIT. The email stated that famed MIT computer scientist Marvin Minsky "is accused of assaulting one of Epstein's victims."

Stallman objected, saying that the blurb "does an injustice" to Minsky because even if it's true that the then-17-year-old had sex with Minsky, "the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing." (One witness to the alleged incident says that Minsky, who died in 2016, declined to have sex with her.)

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