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Industry & Technology

Judge orders Georgia to switch to paper ballots for 2020 elections

Ars Technica - August 16, 2019 - 4:13pm

Enlarge / An election official holds an electronic voting machine memory card following the Georgia primary runoff elections at a polling location in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Election security advocates scored a major victory on Thursday as a federal judge issued a 153-page ruling ordering Georgia officials to stop using its outdated electronic voting machines by the end of the year. The judge accepted the state's argument that it would be too disruptive to switch to paper ballots for municipal elections being held in November 2019. But she refused to extend that logic into 2020, concluding that the state had plenty of time to phase out its outdated touchscreen machines before then.

The state of Georgia was already planning to phase out its ancient touchscreen electronic voting machines in favor of a new system based on ballot-marking machines. Georgia hopes to have the new machines in place in time for a presidential primary election in March 2020. In principle, that switch should address many of the critics' concerns.

The danger, security advocates said, was that the schedule could slip and Georgia could then fall back on its old, insecure electronic machines in the March primary and possibly in the November 2020 general election as well. The new ruling by Judge Amy Totenberg slams the door shut on that possibility. If Georgia isn't able to switch to its new high-tech system, it will be required to fall back on a low-tech system of paper ballots rather than continue using the insecure and buggy machines it has used for well over a decade.

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Meadowhall shoppers scanned in facial recognition trial

BBC Technology News - August 16, 2019 - 4:00pm
The owner of Sheffield's Meadowhall centre says data was "immediately deleted" after the trial.

We’ve driven VW’s bright green smile machine, the electric ID Buggy

Ars Technica - August 16, 2019 - 3:48pm

CARMEL, CALIF.—Do you remember that bright green electric beach buggy that Volkswagen showed off back in March? It's called the ID Buggy, and it's one of a growing number of ID-badged concepts from the automaker that show the way to its post-diesel future. It's a wildly different-looking bunch, yet each uses VW's new modular architecture for battery electric vehicles, called MEB. The ID Buggy is definitely the most left-field of the ID vehicles, even without the bright green bodywork. But under that one-off concept body is a production MEB powertrain, just like the one that will appear in the Europe-only ID 3 as well as the US-bound ID Crozz crossover and ID Buzz BEVs. But the craziest thing about the Buggy isn't the way it looks or that VW let me drive it. No, the craziest thing about the Buggy it's the fact that VW is actively exploring ways to put it into production.

Modular architectures have been all the rage among automakers for a while now. These are much more flexible than the platforms of old and are more like a giant box of parts and components that simplify the design process and the supply chain. VW Group has been all-in when it comes to modular architectures since it introduced its MQB platform in 2011, which provides the bone structure for everything from the diminutive Polo hatchback in Europe to the made-in-Chattanooga, Tennessee Atlas three-row SUV.

MEB is the newest of the company's architectures, and unlike the modular architecture that BMW's developing, this one is just for BEVs. (MEB will provide the bones for rear- and all-wheel drive BEVs for the VW, Skoda, and Seat brands. Meanwhile, Audi and Porsche are developing a separate architecture for bigger, faster, and more expensive BEVs.) As you might expect, at the heart of each MEB model is its lithium-ion battery pack. For the Buggy, that's a 62kWh pack, which powers a 150kW (201hp), 310Nm (227lb-ft) electric motor that drives the rear wheels. VW's press materials say that the buggy will go from 0-62mph (0-100km/h) in 7.2 seconds, reaching a top speed of 100mph (160km/h), with an estimated range of 155 miles (250km) on the WLTP test.

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How a new antibiotic destroys extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis

Ars Technica - August 16, 2019 - 2:25pm

Enlarge / A security guard mans the gate January 23, 2008 of the ward of extreme drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), a near-untreatable strain of the disease, at the Brooklyn Infectious Disease Hospital in Cape Town. The hospital is trying to take extra security measures to ensure patients with XDR stay there for treatment, instead of leaving to go back to their communities, still highly contagious. (credit: Getty | AFP)

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a new antibiotic that, when combined with two existing antibiotics, can tackle the most formidable and deadly forms of tuberculosis. The trio of drugs treats extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), along with cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) that have proven unresponsive to other treatments.

Tuberculosis is the single leading infectious killer in the world, infecting an estimated 10 million people in 2017 and killing 1.6 million of them. XDR-TB and MDR-TB are even more savage forms of the disease, which is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The drug-resistant strains of TB kill an estimated 60% and 40% of their victims, respectively.

MDR-TB strains can resist at least the two most powerful anti-TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampin. A strain gets into XDR-territory when it also becomes resistant to any fluoroquinolone drug, such as ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin, plus at least one of three injectable second-line drugs, which are amikacin, kanamycin, and capreomycin. Drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis infected an estimated 558,000 people in 2017.

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Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus might be Netflix’s best nostalgia throwback yet

Ars Technica - August 16, 2019 - 1:05pm

Of all the cartoon series produced by Nickelodeon in its decades of operation, none could have been more unlikely than Invader Zim. Creator Jhonen Vasquez had previously achieved cult fame and notoriety for producing two of the most twisted comic series of the late '90s, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Squee, full of gallons of black-and-white blood and utterly evil characters. Yep, that's a perfect fit for one of the biggest children's networks of all time.

That the series aired for a full year on Nickelodeon, packed full of dark comedy and sneering satire of complacent mainstream culture, is as baffling now as it was then. But that surprise has nothing to do with the series' inherent preteen-friendliness. Above all, Invader Zim worked because its wiry alien fingers tapped directly into the nonconformist weirdo tendencies that lurk in growing children. It respected the instincts of preteens—and understood their equal desires to feel smugly superior to authority while also acting as immaturely as possible. This concept wrapped deftly around a universe where one alien had sneaked onto the planet Earth—with the Vasquez twist that nobody other than the two main characters (the alien, Zim, and his Mulder-like rival, Dib) gave a damn.

This balanced juggling of topics—of maniacally cackling teen aliens, galactic-stakes battles over the universe, and bulbous creatures who both roll around in and vomit entire pizza pies—is not an easy thing to pull off. Thank the Almighty Tallest, then, that Invader Zim's return this week on Netflix is not a lazy cash-in on catch phrases or previous episodes. Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus may rank as Netflix's most impressive nostalgia rebirth to date.

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Google Play app store accused of anti-gay bias

BBC Technology News - August 16, 2019 - 12:44pm
Social app Hornet says Google moderators in Malaysia targeted its app several times.

Rocket Report: SpaceX nets another boat, Air Force competition heats up

Ars Technica - August 16, 2019 - 12:00pm

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (credit: Aurich Lawson/SpaceX)

Welcome to Edition 2.11 of the Rocket Report! As always, there is lots going on in the world of lift. This week saw a flurry of activity surrounding the US Air Force's competition for launch contracts between 2022 and 2026. Bids were due, and each of the four participating companies had plenty on the line. And already, we've had one protest of the process.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Vector "pauses" its operations amid CEO shake-up. On Friday, Vector sent its employees in Arizona and California home from work, saying the company had failed to raise the needed capital to keep going, Ars reported. The company said it had parted ways with its chief executive: "Jim Cantrell is no longer with Vector effective today," a spokeswoman said. "John Garvey has assumed the role of CEO." The company has been working on developing its Vector-R vehicle and trying to prepare it for a suborbital flight this summer.

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Kaspersky AV injected unique ID that allowed sites to track users, even in incognito mode

Ars Technica - August 16, 2019 - 11:45am

(credit: Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock)

Antivirus software is something that can help people be safer and more private on the Internet. But its protections can cut both ways. A case in point: for almost four years, AV products from Kaspersky Lab injected a unique identifier into the HTML of every website a user visited, making it possible for sites to identify people even when using incognito mode or when they switched between Chrome, Firefox, or Edge.

The identifier, as reported Thursday by c't Magazine, was part of a blob of JavaScript Kaspersky products injected into every page a user visited. The JavaScript, presented below this paragraph, was designed to, among other things, present a green icon that corresponded to safe links returned in search results.

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Home Office role in 'Woke' Muslim social network revealed

BBC Technology News - August 16, 2019 - 11:26am
The network on Facebook and Instagram helps combat online radicalisation, says Home Office.

Robotic Buddhist priest joins temple and other news

BBC Technology News - August 16, 2019 - 10:04am
BBC Click’s LJ Rich looks at some of the week’s best technology stories.

Jimmy Kimmel show fined $395,000 over alert joke

BBC Technology News - August 16, 2019 - 9:54am
ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! mocked an emergency presidential alert issued to warn of major threats.

Eurofins Scientific: Cyber-attack leads to backlog of 20,000 forensic samples

BBC Technology News - August 16, 2019 - 5:44am
Police warn of delays to investigations and court cases after the attack led to a backlog of 20,000 samples.

President Trump praises reusable rockets, omits Moon in space remarks

Ars Technica - August 16, 2019 - 3:20am

Enlarge / President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally in Manchester on August 15, 2019 in Manchester, New Hampshire.

On Thursday evening, President Donald Trump spoke at a MAGA rally in New Hampshire. The president touched on his usual themes, such as immigration and guns, but he also spent two minutes talking about space—a subject he is interested in, and has held several Oval Office events around.

“We’re investing in the future of human spaceflight," the president said, prefacing his off-the-cuff remarks on spaceflight. "And some day soon American astronauts will plant the stars and stripes on the surface of Mars."

Trump never mentioned the Moon, or his administration's lunar program, during this comment or in any of his subsequent remarks Thursday night. This is notable, because the signature human spaceflight initiative of his administration is the Artemis Program, an attempt to accelerate a human return to the Moon by 2024. The closest Trump came to acknowledging the Moon program was saying, "NASA has some of the greatest plans we’ve ever had. These are great people, great scientists."

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Apple will unveil new iPhones on September 10, leak suggests

Ars Technica - August 16, 2019 - 1:46am

Apple revealed the iPhone XS at a similar event on September 12, 2018. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Apple released the seventh beta of iOS 13 today, and that release contained image files that seem to indicate that Apple will hold its next big iPhone unveiling event on September 10, 2019.

A screenshot of iOS in the beta labeled "HoldForRelease" was originally found by iHelpBR but shared on MacRumors and elsewhere. The image includes an iOS Calendar app icon that says September 10 on it. A similar screenshot was found saying September 12 shortly before Apple's iPhone unveiling event last year. That event was held on—you guessed it—September 12. Also this time around, versions of the image with the date on them were found depicting both the iPhone and iPad interfaces.

Of course, this date was likely anyway. The current incarnation of Apple almost always holds its iPhone event around the same time each September. The event is commonly in the second week of September and usually on a Tuesday. Last year's event was on a Wednesday presumably because the Tuesday fell on September 11. (It was Tuesday, September 12 in 2017.)

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'How I lost £25,000 when my cryptocurrency was stolen'

BBC Technology News - August 16, 2019 - 12:14am
Investing in digital currencies is fraught with danger, not just because the prices are so volatile.

Microsoft bucks trend, maintains contractor reviews of voice recording

Ars Technica - August 15, 2019 - 11:32pm

Cortana integration lets Windows Phone users speak to the new Band.

A wave of privacy scandals has led several major companies to end or pause their programs for human reviews of voice recordings. But Microsoft has bucked the trend.

Last week, a whistleblower went to the press to reveal that Microsoft relied on employees and contractors to review recordings made by its Skype Translator call platform and its Cortana voice assistant. The company had documentation informing users that audio recorded by its services might be reviewed to improve systems for language processing, but there was no explicit mention that the reviews would be done by humans.

In response to the outcry, Microsoft has revised its privacy policy, FAQs, and other language to clarify that there are people who will listen to captured audio. The company's privacy policy now states that "Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing." The FAQ pages for Skype Translator and Cortana have also been updated to explain that Microsoft employees or contractors might transcribe and review recordings. Both FAQs note the privacy protections Microsoft has for those activities, which it also presented when the initial reports about its review program were published.

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Disney fights streaming account sharing with help from cable industry

Ars Technica - August 15, 2019 - 7:41pm

Enlarge / Here they come, all together in a streaming bundle. (credit: Disney / Sam Machkovech)

Disney and Charter Communications are teaming up to fight account sharing in an attempt to prevent multiple people from using a single account to access streaming video services.

The battle against account sharing was announced as Disney and the nation's second-biggest cable company struck a new distribution agreement involving Disney's Hulu, ESPN+, and the forthcoming Disney+. Customers could still buy those online services directly from Disney, but the new deal would also let them make those purchases through Charter's Spectrum TV service.

If you buy a Disney service through Charter, be aware that the companies will work together to prevent you from sharing a login with friends. Disney and Charter said in their announcement yesterday that they have "agreed to work together on piracy mitigation. The two companies will work together to implement business rules and techniques to address such issues as unauthorized access and password sharing."

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Dealmaster: iPads, Pixel phones, routers, and more in today’s top tech deals

Ars Technica - August 15, 2019 - 6:08pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with a new round of deals to share. Today's list includes $100 off the 128GB variant of Apple's 9.7-inch iPad, about $200 off Google's Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones, and a good $129 price—provided you're OK going wired—on Bose's old-but-still-great QuietComfort 25 noise-cancelling headphones.

Beyond that, we have a number of discounts on charging accessories from Anker, a couple of deals on Vizio's newest M-Series Quantum 4K TVs, and a good price on an Xbox One S bundle that includes copies of The Division 2 and Madden NFL 20. As always, there's plenty more beyond that, so have a look at the full rundown below.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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Data regulator probes King's Cross facial recognition tech

BBC Technology News - August 15, 2019 - 5:44pm
The UK's data protection watchdog probes how facial recognition is being used at King's Cross.

Bungie says current Destiny 2 development is “unsustainable”

Ars Technica - August 15, 2019 - 5:24pm

The arrow is aimed at a culture of overwork.

Bungie says it is taking steps "to keep our teams healthier" following a year of Destiny 2 content development that "was starting to wear people down."

That messaging comes from Bungie Creative Director Luke Smith, who shared the concerns as part of a massive "Director's Cut" community update this week. In the update, Smith praised the team at Bungie for recently avoiding Destiny's history of post-launch "content droughts" and for doing "a great job of providing stuff to do, items to chase, growing fat with strength, et cetera."

At the same time, though, providing the kind of content promised by Bungie's Annual Pass system "was harder on the team than we anticipated," according to Smith:

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