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Industry & Technology

Detroit police chief cops to 96-percent facial recognition error rate

Ars Technica - June 30, 2020 - 5:12pm

Enlarge / CCTV security guard in the mall building.

Detroit's police chief admitted on Monday that facial recognition technology used by the department misidentifies suspects about 96 percent of the time. It's an eye-opening admission given that the Detroit Police Department is facing criticism for arresting a man based on a bogus match from facial recognition software.

Last week, the ACLU filed a complaint with the Detroit Police Department on behalf of Robert Williams, a Black man who was wrongfully arrested for stealing five watches worth $3,800 from a luxury retail store. Investigators first identified Williams by doing a facial recognition search with software from a company called DataWorks Plus. Under police questioning, Williams pointed out that the grainy surveillance footage obtained by police didn't actually look like him. The police lacked other evidence tying Williams to the crime, so they begrudgingly let him go.

Now Vice's Jason Koebler reports that Detroit Police Chief James Craig acknowledged the flaws with its facial recognition software at a Monday event.

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NatGeo expedition hunts for 1924 climber’s body in Lost on Everest documentary

Ars Technica - June 30, 2020 - 4:35pm

Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay made climbing history when they became the first men to successfully summit Mount Everest on May 29, 1953. But there's a chance that someone may have beaten them to the summit back in 1924: a British mountaineer named George Leigh Mallory and a young engineering student named Andrew "Sandy" Irvine. The two men set off for the summit in June of that year and disappeared—two more casualties of a peak that has claimed over 300 lives to date.

Lost on Everest is a new documentary from National Geographic that seeks to put to rest the question of who was first to the summit once and for all. The gripping account follows an expedition's attempt to locate Irvine's body (lost for over 95 years) and hopefully retrieve the man's camera—and photographic proof that the two men reached the summit.

NatGeo is also premiering a second companion documentary, Expedition Everest, narrated by actor Tate Donovan (MacGyver, Man in the High Castle), following an international team that included multiple scientists as they trek up the mountain. Along the way, team geologists collected sediment samples from the bottom of a Himalayan lake; biologists surveyed the biodiversity at various elevations to track how plants, animals, and insects are adapting to a warming climate; and climate scientists collected ice cores from the highest elevation to date to better understand glacier evolution. Finally, the team installed the world's highest weather station in Everest's infamous "death zone," above 26,000 feet, to gather real-time data on weather conditions at that altitude.

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Human Interface: What (almost) every button in an F-15C fighter’s cockpit does

Ars Technica - June 30, 2020 - 4:10pm

Video directed by Morgan Crossley, edited by Ron Douglas and Brady Jackson. Motion graphics by Brady Jackson and Dylan Blau. Click here for transcript.

Welcome to the pilot episode of "Human Interface," a new series we're kicking off wherein we take you up close and personal with complex systems and have an expert explain what all the buttons and switches do. "Pilot episode" is particularly appropriate here, because we're kicking off the series with a look at a McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle, one of the world's most famous air superiority fighters. The F-15C and its variants are in service with multiple air forces around the world, including the United States, Japan, and Israel, and the aircraft has an outstanding combat record—across all its deployments and operators, air-superiority F-15s like the F-15C have racked up more than 100 air-to-air kills and zero losses.

Before the coronavirus made everything crazy, we were able to score some time with an F-15C on the flight line at Fresno Air National Guard Base in California. Our tour guide was Air Force pilot Colonel Andrea Themely, who retired in 2018 after serving for 23 years. Col. Themely has about 3,400 hours piloting high-performance jet fighters and about 1,100 hours specifically in F-15Cs, and her last post was commanding the Air Force's 80th Flying Training Wing.

Buttons, buttons everywhere...

As I found out firsthand a few years ago in the Navy's F/A-18 simulator at NAS Oceana, a fourth-generation jet fighter like the F-15C is typically equipped with a mish-mash of '70s- and '80s-era screens and buttons, with other more current-looking '00s-era controls shoehorned into the corners. This reflects the fact that fighters like the F-15C and its contemporaries are mostly products of the 1970s, with more modern improvements bolted on over time.

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Google stops storing photos from WhatsApp and Instagram

BBC Technology News - June 30, 2020 - 4:04pm
The Google Photos app will no longer automatically store images and videos from social media apps.

How’s this for aerodynamic? The Lucid Air’s drag coefficient is only 0.21

Ars Technica - June 30, 2020 - 3:40pm

A few weeks ago, we took a look at the most aerodynamically efficient vehicles ever made. At the time, the lowest-drag production car for sale in the US was the Porsche Taycan, which cuts through the air with a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.22. But the rather excellent electric Porsche won't wear that crown for very long. Lucid Motors is readying production of its first battery electric vehicle, the Air, and it has just released the results of some wind tunnel testing. Tests at the Windshear facility in North Carolina have determined that the Air has a Cd of only 0.21.

Moving through the air as easily as possible is important if you want to travel the farthest distance using a given amount of energy. As such, optimizing a car for low drag has become more important, first as regulators in Europe demanded more efficient cars, then more recently as range has become the most important attribute of a battery electric vehicle.

"Aerodynamic efficiency plays a key role in achieving world-beating range and performance and is particularly valuable to an EV in that it provides 'smart range' independent of battery pack size. So naturally we intensively focused upon aerodynamics throughout the Lucid Air’s development. Our aero team worked seamlessly with design and engineering counterparts, establishing aero efficiency as a core tenet of Lucid Air from its very inception, enabling us to achieve this new standard," said Peter Rawlinson, CEO and CTO of Lucid Motors.

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Harmonix’s Fuser wants to make you a DJ… but only up to a point

Ars Technica - June 30, 2020 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / You can't have Coachella this summer, but you can fake like a Coachella main-stage DJ "this fall" with Harmonix's Fuser. (credit: Harmonix)

Late last decade, plastic guitars and motion sensors vanished from the console gaming landscape—and, coincidentally, the same goes for Harmonix. For years, the pioneering music-gaming developer has struggled to break out with a mainstream hit anywhere near the scale of Guitar Hero, Rock Band, or Dance Central.

The company's last new-series stab, 2018's DropMix, was a complicated gamble, as it required players to buy a bulky peripheral and a series of physical playing cards. DropMix had its aficionados, but for whatever reason—a smartphone requirement, or a "buy more cards to get more songs" gimmick—the collaboration with toymaker Hasbro didn't pan out.

Harmonix is clearly still bullish on DropMix's music-engineering trickery, which revolves around letting players splice and combine existing songs' separate elements (vocals, guitars, drums) and become "mash-up" DJs. This year, the developer is trying again with Fuser, a version made specifically for consoles and PC. Thanks to Harmonix, we were able to go hands-on with the game's latest preview build ahead of its launch "this fall," and our existing controllers sufficed—no additional hardware or cards are required. That's good news, but does that mean Fuser is poised to succeed where DropMix failed?

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Dr Disrespect: The mystery surrounding his Twitch ban

BBC Technology News - June 30, 2020 - 1:05pm
He signed an exclusive streaming deal with Twitch earlier this year. So what happened?

Facebook must 'develop a conscience'

BBC Technology News - June 30, 2020 - 12:30pm
The boss of European outdoor clothing firm Patagonia warns advertising may not return to Facebook.

Roblox accounts hacked to support Donald Trump

BBC Technology News - June 30, 2020 - 12:22pm
Video game avatars have been changed to display pro-Trump messages in a hack targeted at children.

Coronavirus: Geneva Motor Show 2021 scrapped and event to be sold

BBC Technology News - June 30, 2020 - 6:44am
The organisers of one of the world's biggest car shows have seen weak demand for next year's event.

YouTube bans prominent white supremacist channels

BBC Technology News - June 30, 2020 - 5:12am
The move comes as internet companies face a backlash over racist content and hate speech.

Facebook targets 'false news' amid growing pressure from advertisers

BBC Technology News - June 30, 2020 - 12:07am
Facebook's boss in Northern Europe says a new media literacy campaign is not about "financial considerations".

Coronavirus: How much does your boss need to know about you?

BBC Technology News - June 30, 2020 - 12:01am
Firms are collecting a lot more information about staff as they try to contain coronavirus risks.

India bans TikTok, WeChat and dozens more Chinese apps

BBC Technology News - June 29, 2020 - 11:37pm
The Indian government says it has banned 59 apps with links to China on national security grounds.

Developers leak benchmarks from the Apple silicon Mac transition kit

Ars Technica - June 29, 2020 - 10:19pm

Enlarge / Developers are wasting no time getting their hands dirty with the new A12Z ARM Developer Transition Kits. (credit: Axel Roest)

As reported by MacRumors, eager Apple developers are already posting benchmarks on the developer transition kits for Macs with Apple silicon. These kits are based on the Mac mini chassis but include ARM-derived Apple silicon rather than Intel CPUs.

Before we dig in, it's important to note a few caveats. First, the CPU included in these developer kits may or may not reflect the CPUs included in future Apple Macs. These are not consumer products; they're developer tools. Second, the benchmarks were done using Rosetta, which likely still has many changes and optimizations coming. And thirdly, the developers who've leaked this information are in violation of non-disclosure agreements at Apple.

Developers who wanted access to the kit were required to pay a $500 access fee, agree to return the kit after one year—and agree not to publicly write about, review, share, or display the unit without Apple's prior written approval. At least eight developers so far seem not to have read the fine print, judging by the uploads to Geekbench's online leaderboard.

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Chrome for Android finally gets a bottom tab bar in new experiment

Ars Technica - June 29, 2020 - 10:05pm

Everyone reading this probably uses multiple tabs on a desktop computer, but on mobile, tab management can be tough. On and Android tablet, Chrome looks like a real browser with a top tab strip, but on a phone, you don't get any kind of tab UI. There is a button that will take you to cascading UI of different Chrome windows, but a one-tap tab strip hasn't existed on Chrome for phones—until now!

A new Chrome for Android experiment, first spotted by Android Police, will add a tab strip to the bottom of the Chrome window. Tabs take the form of site favicons, and just like on a real computer, a single tap will switch between tabs. The currently active tab gets a little close icon next to it, meaning that tapping the tab again will close it. An "X" button to the left will close the tab bar entirely, while a plus button on the right will open a new tab.

For now, the feature is in Chrome Beta for some people, and you'll need to turn on a flag to enable it. To turn it on, paste chrome://flags/#enable-conditional-strip into the address bar, hit enter, enable the flag, and restart. Right now it can be kind of finicky to pop up at first. When I first open Chrome, sometimes I have to tap on the old window-switcher button to make the tab strip appear. This is just an experiment, and Android Police says it plainly doesn't work for some people. So there is probably a server-side switch involved, too.

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Could a boycott kill Facebook?

BBC Technology News - June 29, 2020 - 9:36pm
As Ford, Adidas, Microsoft and HP pause ads on the social network, should Facebook be worried?

Microsoft adds WINFR file undeletion tool to the Microsoft Store

Ars Technica - June 29, 2020 - 9:00pm

Enlarge / Although an undeletion utility may occasionally save your bacon, it's never been a good idea to rely on one. (credit: AFP via Getty Images / Benjamin Esham / Jim Salter)

Although it isn't yet built into Windows, Microsoft has finally released its own file undelete tool—it's called Windows File Recovery, and it works with the newest builds of Windows (variously known as 20H1, 2004, and 19041). We were pretty excited to see this tool has become available—even though proper system administration means frequent backups, which render this tool unnecessary. In the real world, proper system administration and frequent backups are a lot less common than we might wish.

The lack of a proper file undeletion tool in Windows means that many of us have been hoarding one of a handful of old shareware or freemium third-party utilities capable of scanning disks and looking for remnants of deleted files. The "hoarding" part is unfortunately necessary because finding one of those utilities means sorting through stacks of scam apps targeting desperate users—and frequently, you can't be certain whether you've found one of the good ones or one of the scams until after you've installed it (hopefully, inside a sandbox or isolated VM).


It's great news that Microsoft is finally bringing that capability in-house—but the tool certainly could be easier to find. When we looked for Windows File Recovery by name on Bing, in a freshly installed Windows 10 2004 VM, we got buried under pages of ads for other things.

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Reddit bans pro-Trump /r/The_Donald for “rule-breaking content”

Ars Technica - June 29, 2020 - 7:50pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica)

Reddit has banned hundreds of subreddits after a major rewrite of its content rules, the site announced on Monday. The newly banned subreddits include /r/The_Donald, a leading forum for fans of the president. Reddit also banned /r/ChapoTrapHouse—a subreddit dedicated to the popular left-wing podcast.

The bans are the latest signs of how much Reddit's content-moderation policy has evolved. Until 2015, the site hosted openly racist subreddits. But like Twitter and other social media sites, Reddit has adopted increasingly strict policies against hosting hate speech.

The new version of Reddit's content policies makes Reddit's opposition to hate speech more overt. "Reddit is a place for creating community and belonging, not for attacking marginalized or vulnerable groups of people," the company says in the first of its eight new rules.

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Facebook will label rule violations as Coke, Pepsi, Starbucks join ad “pause”

Ars Technica - June 29, 2020 - 6:43pm

Enlarge / Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking about Facebook News in New York, Oct. 25, 2019. (credit: Drew Angerer | Getty Images)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company will change the way it handles rule-breaking speech from high-profile politicians in the future amid an advertising boycott that has drawn participation from large firms across several sectors.

Several nonprofits, including the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, and Color of Change, launched the Stop Hate for Profit campaign about two weeks ago. The boycott accuses Facebook of a "long history of allowing racist, violent, and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform" and asks advertisers to "show they will not support a company that puts profit over safety."

The boycott drew early support from outdoor apparel retailers Patagonia, The North Face, and REI. By Friday, the movement seemed to hit critical mass as food and personal care behemoth Unilever said it would suspend US ad campaigns on both Facebook and Twitter for the rest of the year. Telecom giant Verizon also said Friday it would suspend Facebook advertising for the time being.

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