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Industry & Technology

John Oliver fights robocalls… by robocalling Ajit Pai and the FCC

Ars Technica - March 11, 2019 - 8:30pm

Enlarge / John Oliver talking about FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. (credit: HBO)

Comedian John Oliver is taking aim at the Federal Communications Commission again, this time demanding action on robocalls while unleashing his own wave of robocalls against FCC commissioners.

In a 17-minute segment yesterday on HBO's Last Week Tonight, Oliver described the scourge of robocalls and blamed Pai for not doing more to stop them. Oliver ended the segment by announcing that he and his staff are sending robocalls every 90 minutes to all five FCC commissioners.

"Hi FCC, this is John from customer service," Oliver's recorded voice says on the call. "Congratulations, you've just won a chance to lower robocalls in America today... robocalls are incredibly annoying, and the person who can stop them is you! Talk to you again in 90 minutes—here's some bagpipe music."

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Harry Potter: Wizards Unite lets fans cast spells and rescue magic creatures

BBC Technology News - March 11, 2019 - 6:20pm
The company behind Pokemon Go reveals details of their new augmented reality game.

Sprint steps up fight against AT&T’s “fake 5G” with full-page Sunday NYT ad

Ars Technica - March 11, 2019 - 5:36pm

Enlarge / Screenshot from an AT&T commercial. (credit: AT&T)

Sprint is warning customers not to be fooled by AT&T's "fake 5G" claims.

One month after suing AT&T, Sprint took out a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times to spread the word that AT&T's "5G E" is really just 4G. The ad takes the form of an open letter and begins:

Dear wireless consumers,

While Sprint is working hard to deliver mobile 5G and the first 5G smartphone in the US, AT&T is hard at work trying to convince you that they already won the race to 5G with something they call "5G Evolution." That is simply untrue.

Don't be fooled. 5G Evolution isn't new or true 5G. It is fake 5G. They would love for you to believe they are different... better. The truth is AT&T is simply offering customers a nationwide 4G LTE network just like Sprint and all the other major wireless carriers. It's not 5G.

We filed a lawsuit against AT&T demanding that they immediately end their false and deceptive marketing campaign.

AT&T seems to be delighted by the depth and breadth of their deception. AT&T admitted that the company's 5G E advertising is strictly a narrative to outline how they want the world to work—not a reflection of today's reality.

Sprint's open letter repeated its own misleading claim that it needs to merge with T-Mobile in order to deliver a robust nationwide 5G network. Still, Sprint said it plans to offer "real mobile 5G in nine major metro areas" by this summer, regardless of whether the merger is approved.

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The Galaxy S10’s face unlock fooled by pictures, siblings

Ars Technica - March 11, 2019 - 5:05pm

Enlarge / This is a person or a photo of a person? The Galaxy S10 can't tell. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Here's another friendly reminder that if your Android phone doesn't have some kind of special hardware for face unlock, the feature probably isn't very secure. The latest phone to implement face unlock with nothing but the normal front camera is the Galaxy S10, and users across the Web are reporting that the feature is easily confused or defeated.

There are a number of reports that say—surprise!—a 2D image sensor can be fooled by a 2D image. The Verge was able to unlock the device with a video, and YouTube channel Unbox Therapy was able to unlock the S10 just by playing one of its public channel videos in view of the camera. The worst example is probably from, which was able to unlock the Galaxy S10 by waving a still photo around in front of the device.

The Galaxy S10 can also reportedly have trouble telling different people apart. Security Researcher Jane Wong was able to unlock her brother's phone with her face.

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Richard Garfield leaves Valve, puts Artifact’s future in question

Ars Technica - March 11, 2019 - 4:09pm

Richard Garfield, the legendary game designer behind Magic: The Gathering, says he has been laid off from Valve as part of a recent modest downsizing effort at the company. The move comes as Artifact, Valve's Dota 2-based card game which Garfield worked on closely, struggles to find a continuing audience.

"We weren't surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was," Garfield told Artifact-focused site Artibuff. "The team was enthusiastic about the game and were confident that they had a good product, but it became clear it wasn't going to be easy to get the game to where we wanted it."

Garfield goes on to suggest that a smaller Artifact team makes some sense now that the game has been launched and that Valve has probably already maximized the value to be gleaned from Garfield's contract company, 3 Donkeys.

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Breakthrough, the rare science documentary that feels like a miracle

Ars Technica - March 11, 2019 - 2:35pm

AUSTIN, Texas—"It's astonishing how few documentaries there are about gifted scientists," filmmaker Bill Haney tells Ars about Breakthrough, his new documentary premiering over the weekend at South by Southwest. "Part of it is, most filmmakers don’t know much about science, they’re thinking about film. But science can be complex, and audiences can be overwhelmed by scientific subjects. If you’re not careful, you can make NOVA, which hits your head not your heart."

Ars at SXSW 2019

View more stories Luckily for audiences, Breakthrough has both. And that's because (luckily for Haney) recent Nobel-winning scientist Dr. James Allison agreed to be the film's focal point. For those familiar with Allison's groundbreaking work centered on empowering the immune system to battle cancer, the documentary spends ample amounts of time in the lab detailing everything from how the scientist first became fascinated by T cells to his years of work leading up to the potentially game-changing cancer drug, Ipi. (No less than Woody Harrelson narrates each of Allison's scientific steps along the way.)

And while it may not pack in the same amount of information as reading an Allison paper directly, Breakthrough remains loyal to its academic source material in a way that's clear enough for any viewer to follow. The film quite frankly feels a little bit like a science communications miracle in this regard.

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Elon Musk’s late-night announcement to raise prices and reopen some stores

Ars Technica - March 11, 2019 - 1:40pm

Enlarge (credit: Robyn Beck/Pool via Bloomberg|Getty Images)

In the early hours of Monday morning, Tesla employees got a surprising email from CEO Elon Musk. Less than two weeks after announcing that he was closing the company's retail stores and letting go the sales staff, it was time for an about-turn. According to CNBC, which received a copy of the email, Musk wrote that the company would now be keeping many of its unclosed stores open and would even reopen some of the now-shuttered locations. Additionally, a week from now, there will be price increases on all of its vehicles with the exception of the standard range Model 3. The email to employees was also followed by a public-facing blog post.

Musk referred to some of the closed stores as being "in such difficult or obscure locations, only Sherlock Holmes could find them." Such a criticism could not be leveled at Tesla's now-closed store in Washington, DC, located in the city's newest and poshest downtown retail location; perhaps this store was one that suffered from "low apparent demand generation."

Despite this possible reprieve for the thousands of retail workers at Tesla, Musk's email and the blog post state that sales will remain online only and that the stores will exist just to show people how to order a car "on their phone in a few minutes."

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US seeks to allay fears over killer robots

BBC Technology News - March 11, 2019 - 1:38pm
Humans will always make the final decision on whether armed robots can shoot, the US says.

Facebook sues over 'data-grabbing' quizzes

BBC Technology News - March 11, 2019 - 1:36pm
Malicious quiz apps were used to harvest thousands of users' profile data, according to Facebook.

Apex Legends studio bans 355,000 cheating players

BBC Technology News - March 11, 2019 - 1:25pm
The players were all using the PC version of the game, Respawn Entertainment said.

Smart speakers and baking into inflation basket

BBC Technology News - March 11, 2019 - 12:15pm
Q: "Alexa - what is now being used to help calculate the cost of living in the UK?" A: "I am."

The mask that could provide a spot of calm and other tech

BBC Technology News - March 11, 2019 - 10:40am
Lucy Hedges tries out the latest gadgets which could brighten up the winter months.

Tesla to raise prices and keep more stores open

BBC Technology News - March 11, 2019 - 8:56am
The electric carmaker says prices will rise by 3% and reverses a decision to close stores.

RBS trials biometric fingerprint bank card

BBC Technology News - March 11, 2019 - 1:32am
The bank says the technology is designed to increase security and make payments at tills easier.

‘I sold my wedding presents to set up my company’

BBC Technology News - March 11, 2019 - 1:15am
How tech firm Twilio was able to survive the global financial crisis and grow into a $14bn business.

Russia internet freedom: Thousands protest against cyber-security bill

BBC Technology News - March 10, 2019 - 5:10pm
The government says the bill will boost security but activists say it will stifle dissent.

Wildlife World Zoo: Jaguar attacks selfie-taker

BBC Technology News - March 10, 2019 - 4:56pm
Zoo officials warn that barriers are "there for a good reason" after a woman is injured.

Dealmaster: Nintendo discounts a bunch of Mario games for “MAR10 Day”

Ars Technica - March 10, 2019 - 2:15pm

Enlarge / The many faces of Mario. (credit: Collage by Aurich Lawson)

Today is March 10, and for fans of video games and calendar-based puns, that means it’s time to celebrate gaming’s favorite plumber, golfer, race car driver, doctor, boxing referee, and typing instructor: Mario.

Nintendo has declared this date “Mario Day” for the past few years (March 10 = Mar10 = Mario), but today the company is once again paying homage to its most famous character by launching a number of discounts on games featuring the little guy.

The deals include $20 off the following Mario titles for the Nintendo Switch:

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Past its expiration date: Infiniti QX80 review

Ars Technica - March 10, 2019 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / The Infiniti QX80 on a cold winter day. (credit: Eric Bangeman)

As the old saying goes: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When I climbed into the Infiniti QX80 for the first time, one of the first things I saw was a monochromatic LCD display smack-dab in the middle of the instrument panel. I looked at the Monroney sticker sitting on the passenger seat and saw a price tag north of $90,000. The juxtaposition of a display that would look at home in the decade-old cars in my garage with the luxurious interior trim left me with the impression that Infiniti made some odd choices with the QX80—an impression that I never managed to shake in my week with the vehicle.

The QX80 is the flagship of Infiniti's SUV lineup. It's a true full-size, three-row SUV, competing with the Mercedes GLS, Lexus LX, and Lincoln Navigator for the hearts and wallets of large families and folks who want a massive, spacious vehicle to tool around in. The QX80 underwent an overhaul for the 2018 model year, getting an exterior redesign that elongated the body and made it appear larger. For 2019, Infiniti added a Limited model with dark, machine-finished 22-inch wheels.

Pricing for the QX80 starts at $65,100 for a rear-wheel-drive model; if you want all-wheel drive, you'll need to fork out another $3,000. Our review model was the QX80 Limited, which comes with all the fixins—theater package, driver-assist, the aforementioned 22-inch wheels, and more—and a price tag of $91,450. This expensive beast is powered by a 5.6-liter V8 capable of 400hp (298kW) at 5,800rpm and 413lb-ft (560Nm) of torque at 4,000rpm. That's paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission, which I prefer to the continuously variable transmission in the QX50 and QX60. If you need to drive your QX80 over some nasty terrain, it has a crawl ration of 1.0 in 4WD high and 2.7 in 4WD low.

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A brief history of Wi-Fi security protocols from “oh my, that’s bad” to WPA3

Ars Technica - March 10, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / Netgear's RAX-120 router. (credit: Netgear)

Thanks to upcoming developments in Wi-Fi, all of us connectivity-heads out there can look forward to getting familiar with new 802.11 protocols in the near future. Ars took a deep look at what's on the horizon last fall, but readers seemed to have a clear request in response—the time had come to specifically discuss the new Wi-Fi security protocol, WPA3.

Before anyone can understand WPA3, it's helpful to take a look at what came before it during The Dark Ages (of Internet)—a time with no Wi-Fi and unswitched networks. Swaths of the Internet today may be built upon "back in my day" ranting, but those of you in your 20s or early 30s may genuinely not remember or realize how bad things used to be. In the mid-to-late 1990s, any given machine could "sniff" (read "traffic not destined for it") any other given machine's traffic at will even on wired networks. Ethernet back then was largely connected with a hub rather than a switch, and anybody with a technical bent could (and frequently did) watch everything from passwords to Web traffic to emails wing across the network without a care.

Don't let the cheerful-looking ivory chassis fool you; these were dark days, friend.

Closer to the turn of the century, wired Ethernet had largely moved on from hubs (and worse, the old coax thinnet) to switches. A network hub forwards every packet it receives to every machine connected to it, which is what made widespread sniffing so easy and dangerous. A switch, by contrast, only forwards packets to the MAC address for which they're destined—so when computer B wants to send a packet to router A, the switch doesn't give a copy to that sketchy user at computer C. This subtle change made wired networks far more trustworthy than they had been before. And when the original 802.11 Wi-Fi standard released in 1997, it included WEP—Wired Equivalent Privacy—which supposedly offered the same expectations of confidentiality that users today now expect from wired networks.

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