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First-known interstellar visitor is a bizarre, cigar-shaped asteroid

Ars Technica - November 20, 2017 - 9:12pm

Enlarge / An artist’s impression of the oddly shaped interstellar asteroid `Oumuamua. (credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

Since mid-October, the astronomy community has been buzzing about what might be our Solar System’s first confirmed interstellar visitor. An automated telescope spotted an object that appeared as if it had been dropped on the Solar System from above, an angle that suggests it arrived from elsewhere. Now, a team of astronomers has rushed out a paper that describes the object's odd properties and gives it the name “1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua.” In Hawaiian, ‘Oumuamua roughly means “first messenger,” and the 1I indicates that it’s the first interstellar object.

‘Oumuamua was first spotted on October 19 by the Pan-STARRS1 automated telescope system. Pan-STARRS1 turned out to have captured images of the object the day previously, but the automated analysis software hadn’t identified it. Further images over the next few days allowed researchers to refine its travel through our Solar System, confirming that ‘Oumuamua was making the most extreme approach toward the inner Solar System of any object we’ve ever seen. In essence, it appeared to have been dropped onto the Solar System from above, plunging between the Sun and the orbit of Mercury. It was also moving extremely quickly.

The Solar System was formed from a flattened disk of material, and all of the planets orbit roughly in the plane of that disk. Smaller objects, like dwarf planets and comets, may take somewhat more erratic approaches with orbits tilted out of that plane, but they still roughly aligned with it. We had literally never seen anything like ‘Oumuamua.

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It was El Reg wot won it: Bing banishes bogus Brit bank banner ad

The Register - November 20, 2017 - 9:06pm
Link to fake TSB site canned after we help raise alarm

Microsoft has axed a Bing search result advert that masqueraded as a legit online banking website – but was in fact a sophisticated phishing operation.…

Amazon Echo comes in red now to help raise funds to fight AIDS - CNET - News - November 20, 2017 - 9:00pm
Amazon is partnering with (RED) and donating $10 from the sale of every red Echo to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.

That interstellar asteroid is even weirder than we thought - CNET - News - November 20, 2017 - 8:38pm
The asteroid, discovered last month, lives up to its alien reputation as scientists reveal its bizarre traits and give it a proper name.

Inside CNET: Welcome to the all-new CNET app - CNET - News - November 20, 2017 - 8:10pm
Modernizing and reimagining what CNET does best, primed for the latest iPhones and Android phones.

The dream of the ’90s is alive in this Windows 95 screensaver indie game

Ars Technica - November 20, 2017 - 8:00pm


Twenty-two years ago, Microsoft Windows took a big leap forward with Windows 95. Most would say that Windows 95 was significant for its addition of the Start button, or the merging of MS-DOS and Windows, or plug and play. Maybe they were wrong; maybe it was the screensavers that mattered the most. That's what Screensaver Subterfuge, an indie game made by Cahoots Malone, posits.

The game is freely available on for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and it was previously reported on by Motherboard. It takes the assets (they were extracted directly from ssmaze.scr) from Windows 95's iconic 3D Maze screensaver—the one that endlessly wanders a maze of brick walls in first-person perspective—and turns it into a very goofy cyberpunk hacking game.

The conceit is that the mazes are actually the tunnels through which truly valuable corporate data travels. You're a young hacker on a mission to stop your dystopian world from turning into a slightly different kind of dystopian world—this is according to the game's hilariously bad narration that includes '90s hype lines such as, "Cyberspace has never looked so three dimensional! The geniuses at Microsoft have done it again!"

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US Navy sends underwater robots to assist in search for Argentine sub [Updated]

Ars Technica - November 20, 2017 - 7:56pm

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez

US Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol planes have joined an international search for the Argentine Armada submarine San Juan, and the Navy has prepared submarine rescue vehicles and four uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) to assist in the search as well. The Argentine sub has been missing in the Argentine Sea, and the subsequent search is entering its fifth day.

One Naval P-8 arrived in Argentina over the weekend, and another is arriving today. Additional rescue systems are now on their way, including a NATO submarine rescue system. Thus far, rough weather and high seas have been hindering the search, and hopes for the missing crew are fading.

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Buyer beware: Cheap Black Friday TVs might not be a good deal - CNET - News - November 20, 2017 - 7:49pm
As Black Friday approaches, brace yourself for a tidal wave of cheap TV deals. But many aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.

Nebraska approves controversial Keystone XL pipeline with conditions

Ars Technica - November 20, 2017 - 7:44pm

Enlarge / This is the pipeline pumping station for the Keystone operations in Steele City, Nebraska. Steele City is a strategic location for the Keystone Pipeline projects. (credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Image)

On Monday, the Nebraska Public Service Commission issued its final order (PDF) on the fate of energy company TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The commission conditionally approved the pipeline, but it ordered the pipeline to be moved east of Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sandhills region.

The condition sets up a hurdle for TransCanada—now the company needs to seek the approval of different local landowners, according to The Washington Post. Still, the approval likely means Keystone XL will be able to deliver tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas in the near future. Reuters called the Nebraska approval "the last big regulatory obstacle" to the completion of the pipeline.

The pipeline, which was proposed in 2008, has become a political football in a partisan world. In 2015, the Obama administration’s State Department denied approval for a large section of the pipeline, saying that it wouldn’t meaningfully contribute to the US economy, and already-low US gas prices wouldn’t be affected by the influx of Canadian oil. After the Trump administration took over, the new president signed an executive order reversing the Obama administration’s 2015 decision and its 2016 decision to rescind approval for the also-controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

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Kia built an AI chatbot to sell you stuff on Facebook - Roadshow - News - November 20, 2017 - 7:36pm
This is what AI's going to be stuck doing for the next decade, isn't it?

Google Pixel Buds review - CNET - Reviews - November 20, 2017 - 7:26pm
They're not as bad as some people are saying, but the Pixel Buds don't yet translate to a good deal.

OnePlus 5T review - CNET - Reviews - November 20, 2017 - 7:25pm
The OnePlus 5T improves an already solid flagship phone. But if you have the OnePlus 5, don't fret.

Paris Hilton says she and Britney Spears invented the selfie - CNET - News - November 20, 2017 - 7:18pm
Commentary: The socialite takes to Twitter to insist that she was at the dawn of a cultural phenomenon. But was she?

Apple won't be HomePod for the holidays (The 3:59, Ep. 319) - CNET - News - November 20, 2017 - 7:15pm
The $349 smart speaker is delayed until 2018. Plus, we talk about the new Google Pixel Buds.

Got $10,000? KFC's Col. Sanders-themed Faraday cage could be yours - CNET - News - November 20, 2017 - 7:05pm
KFC's latest goofy gimmick is a mesh steel cage designed to cut off your cell signal during the holidays.

Did Disney push for EA’s Battlefront microtransaction decision?

Ars Technica - November 20, 2017 - 6:51pm


In the immediate wake of last week's surprise announcement that EA and developer DICE were temporarily removing microtransactions from Star Wars: Battlefront II, VentureBeat reported that no less than Disney CEO Bob Iger called EA CEO Andrew Wilson to discuss the roiling controversy over the in-game purchases. Subsequent reporting from The Wall Street Journal now suggests Disney did put pressure on the game publisher to fix things, though not necessarily at the CEO level.

According to an unnamed "person familiar with the matter" who spoke to the Journal, Disney executives were "upset at how online outrage over the costs of gaining access to popular characters such as Luke Skywalker reflected on their marquee property." While Iger was concerned about this perception, it was Disney Head of Consumer Products and Interactive Media Jimmy Pitaro who sent EA a message expressing those concerns, according to the report.

EA acquired the lucrative exclusive rights to publish Star Wars-based games in 2013, a year after Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion.

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Germany slaps ban on kids' smartwatches for being 'secret spyware'

The Register - November 20, 2017 - 6:35pm
Hands up, whose parents are listening in on this class?

The German telecoms regulator has banned the sale of children's smartwatches that allow users to secretly listen in on nearby conversations.…

Verizon may sign new deal with NFL to expand game streaming rights

Ars Technica - November 20, 2017 - 6:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Daniel Spiess)

Verizon and the National Football League are in talks to sign another streaming rights deal. According to a Bloomberg report, the wireless provider and the NFL are close to finalizing a new deal that would let Verizon stream games to Internet-connected TVs, tablets, and phones. Verizon's previous deal only allowed it to stream games to devices with screens that are 7-inches or smaller, so the new deal would open up NFL games to Verizon customers who primarily consume TV content on smart TVs, tablets, and other large devices.

According to people familiar with the matter, Verizon would also lose exclusive rights to air games on mobile devices as part of the deal. That means that while Verizon customers would have more device options for watching football, it may not be the only one to stream NFL games. Other wireless providers or streaming TV providers, such as Sling TV or DirecTV Now, may be able to strike their own deals with the NFL and provide streamed games to their subscribers through their own apps.

Verizon will have rights to deliver the NFL's Thursday night games, "among others." The NFL has divided up broadcasting rights among several companies, including Verizon and DirecTV. Amazon outbid Twitter for the rights to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games for the 2017 season, but only Prime members can watch them online.

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Amid soaring drug prices, FDA reverses stance and cracks down on cheap imports

Ars Technica - November 20, 2017 - 6:23pm

Enlarge / Sixty-one-year-old US citizen Shirley Wilford hops the border to buy prescription drugs in a pharmacy in Hemmingford, Canada. (credit: Getty | Darren McCollester)

Late last month, the Food and Drug Administration raided nine stores in Central Florida that help customers illegally order affordable prescription drugs from verified pharmacies overseas, particularly those in Canada, according to a report by Kaiser Health News.

The agency sent in criminal investigation agents with search warrants for computer files and any paperwork related to sales of foreign drugs. The agents also took files on customers and the stores’ financial records. They left behind a letter for store owners to sign, acknowledging that the practice of importing foreign medicines is illegal.

Although none of the stores has closed due to the activity, the owners are spooked by the turn of events—and puzzled by the timing.

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This is the best tablet deal in history - CNET - News - November 20, 2017 - 6:21pm
For an impossible $99.99, you can get a 10-inch HD tablet with oodles of bells and whistles. Game, set and match, Apple. Plus: a super-fast mobile charger.

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