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Industry & Technology

Drug companies are sitting on generics—43% of recently approved aren’t for sale

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 10:50pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Ute Grabowsky )

Of the more than 1,600 generic drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration since January of 2017, more than 700—or 43 percent—are not for sale in the US, according to a new analysis by Kaiser Health News.

The finding means that many pricy, brand-name drugs are not facing the competition that could help drive down soaring prices. Among the drugs missing in action are generic versions of the expensive blood thinner Brilinta and the HIV medication Truvada. Moreover, of the approved drugs that would offer a brand-name drug its first competition, 36 percent are being held off the market, the analysis found.

Experts told KHN that the reasons drug makers may withhold an approved generic from the market are varied. Industry consolidation has made buying, manufacturing, and distributing generics more difficult in recent years. Generic drug makers also, as always, face patent litigation from brand-name makers. Then there’s potentially anti-competitive deals, in which brand-name drug makers simply pay generic makers to keep their product off the market for a while—a so-called “pay for delay” tactic.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New images of the distant Ultima Thule object have surprised scientists

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 9:45pm

Enlarge / New Horizons took this image of the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule) on Jan. 1, 2019, when the NASA spacecraft was 8,862km beyond it. The image to the left is an "average" of ten images. (credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

Back in early January, when scientists pulled down their first batch of data from the New Horizons spacecraft, they celebrated an odd snowman-shaped object in the outer Solar System. From this first look, it appeared as though Ultima Thule, formally named 2014 MU69, consisted of two spheres in contact with one another—a contact binary.

Now that scientists have downloaded more data from the distant spacecraft, however, our view of Ultima Thule has changed. A sequence of images captured as New Horizons moved away from the object in the Kuiper Belt at a velocity of 50,000 km/hour, taken about 10 minutes after closest approach, show a much flatter appearance.

After analyzing these new images, scientists say the larger lobe more closely resembles a large pancake, and the smaller lobe looks a bit like a walnut. The new photos reveal a dramatically different object because they were taken from a different angle than the images that were downloaded first.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple’s internal hardware team is working on modems now, likely to replace Intel

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 9:25pm

Enlarge / The iPhone XS. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple will design its own modems in-house, according to sources that spoke with Reuters. In doing so, the company may hope to leave behind Intel modems in its mobile devices, which Apple has used since a recent falling out with Qualcomm.

According to the sources, the team working on modem design now reports to Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies. Srouji joined Apple back in 2004 and led development of Apple’s first in-house system-on-a-chip, the A4. He has overseen Apple silicon ever since, including the recent A12 and A12X in the new iPhone and iPad Pro models.

Before this move, Apple’s modem work ultimately fell under Dan Riccio, who ran engineering for iPhones, iPads, and Macs. As Reuters noted, that division was heavily focused on managing the supply chain and working with externally made components. The fact that the team is moving into the group focused on developing in-house components is a strong signal that Apple will not be looking outside its own walls for modems in the future.

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Two sea level studies have some good news, bad news

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 9:05pm

Enlarge / The Stange Ice Shelf in Antarctica. (credit: Mark Brandon)

One of the most shocking climate science studies in recent years came in 2016. That study, from David Pollard at Penn State and Rob DeConto at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, showed that adding a couple physical processes to their model of the Antarctic ice sheets caused it to produce significantly more sea level rise this century. In their simulation, shrinking Antarctic glaciers raised sea level by a full meter by 2100—and things only picked up from there.

These simulations were much closer to hypotheses than to iron-clad predictions. The model showed these processes—the collapse of ice cliffs above a certain height and pressure-driven wedging apart of ice crevasses by meltwater—could make a huge difference. But such scenarios haven’t been studied well enough in the real world to know if the model was representing them well. Luckily, that task climbed the priority list after the work was published.

A newly published study led by Tamsin Edwards at King’s College London first dove into DeConto's and Pollard’s simulations for some clarity. This team thought they had a better way of characterizing the range of results in the simulations to find the highest probability answers. They didn’t have the supercomputer time to repeat the simulations and add new ones, so instead they “emulated” the simulations by representing the existing ones with some statistics. That allows them to fill in the gaps between the limited number of simulations.

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AT&T sued by Sprint, must defend decision to tell users that 4G is “5G E”

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 8:52pm

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

Sprint is suing AT&T, alleging that AT&T's misleading "5G E" advertising campaign violates laws prohibiting false advertising and deceptive acts and practices.

AT&T renamed a large portion of its 4G network, calling it "5G E," for "5G Evolution." But as we've written, what AT&T calls 5G E consists of technologies that are part of the years-old 4G LTE-Advanced standard and are already used by Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint on their 4G networks. Despite that, AT&T has been advertising this supposed upgrade to 5G E and even changing network indicators on smartphones from 4G to 5G E.

"By making the false claim that it is offering a 5G wireless network where it offers only a 4G LTE Advanced network, AT&T is attempting to secure an unfair advantage in the saturated wireless market," Sprint wrote in a complaint filed yesterday in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. "AT&T's false and misleading statements deceive consumers into believing that AT&T now operates a 5G wireless network and, through this deception, AT&T seeks to induce consumers to purchase or renew AT&T's services when they might otherwise have purchased Sprint's services."

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Raspberry Pi: Hi-tech firm goes for high street experience

BBC Technology News - February 8, 2019 - 6:59pm
Why would a technology firm that has sold millions of units online venture on to the high street?

Nintendo: 3DS sales falling “faster than anticipated”

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 6:25pm

Enlarge / Just a few of the many 3DS hardware options still being supported by Nintendo.

Since just before the Switch launched and as recently as October, Nintendo has continued to insist that the 3DS can exist alongside the Switch as a lower-cost, lower-powered portable gaming alternative. Over the last two years, there have even been some signs of life for the aging portable's continued market health.

But 2018 might be seen as the year the market finally started slipping away from the aging 3DS. Hardware sales for the 2018 calendar year were just 2.85 million, down over 57 percent from the year before. That's a marked change from the 2016 to 2017 period, where 3DS sales worldwide fell just nine percent year-over-year (despite the intervening launch of the ultra-hot Switch in 2017).

Nintendo's new president Shuntaro Furukawa admitted in a recent Q&A that "the Nintendo 3DS market has contracted faster than we anticipated." But in practically the same breath, he once again committed to supporting the system alongside the Switch going forward.

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Microsoft: Yeah, we make Office 2019 and Internet Explorer, but don’t use ‘em

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 6:00pm

Two twins race to complete a PowerPoint challenge.

In an unusual turn of events, Microsoft this week warned Windows users off from using its Internet Explorer and dissed its new Office 2019 suite in a series of videos that show it to be worse than the competition.

While Windows 10 uses the newer, faster, much more standards compliant Edge browser as its default, it still ships with Internet Explorer 11. Enterprise customers with legacy systems from time to time want to make Internet Explorer 11 the default, but Microsoft doesn't think this is a good idea. Internet Explorer 11 isn't being updated to support new Web technology (and indeed, hasn't been updated for many years), existing only as a compatibility tool to access legacy "designed for Internet Explorer" content that simply won't work properly in any other browser.

As such, while it might be tempting to set Internet Explorer as the default to ensure that any intranet and line-of-business applications continue to work, that comes at a price. It will be slower, less secure, and increasingly incompatible with the broader Web as developers drop the old browser from their testing. So please, use it only when it's absolutely necessary.

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Google wants a VP of Wearables, might finally take smartwatches seriously

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 5:45pm

Enlarge / The new Wear OS. (credit: Google)

Think you can save Android Wear? A new Google job listing (first spotted by Android Police) shows an opening for "Vice President, Hardware Engineering, Wearables" on the Google Hardware team. The person would "work collaboratively with the Senior Leadership team for Google Hardware and will be responsible for the design, development, and shipment of all Google's Wearable products." This job position and the recent acquisition of technology from Fossil are both solid evidence that Google is interested in producing a self-branded wearable.

There are currently zero Google wearable products on the market. Google Hardware builds Pixel phones, tablets, smart speakers, Wi-Fi routers, phone-powered VR headsets, and Chromecasts, but it has never tackled a wearable. To date, the only Google-branded wearable the company has ever made is (checks notes) Google Glasswhich came out five years ago and was barely a consumer product.

While Google has mostly been letting the wearable hardware world pass it by, the company at least makes wearable software in the form of (Android) Wear OS. At one point Wear OS shipped on smartwatches from Samsung, LG, Sony, Huawei, Motorola, Fossil, and Asus, but most major OEMs have given up on Google's wearable OS. A big part of the problem is that there is just nothing to make a smartwatch with. The hardware ecosystem has been strangled by Qualcomm, which refuses to make a modern smartwatch chip that can compete with Apple or Samsung's in-house chip divisions. Qualcomm's lack of wearable investment means its "Snapdragon Wear" chips are basically the same repackaged SoC every year. They are all built on a manufacturing process technology from 2013, which means Wear OS devices can't compete with Apple or Samsung when it comes to speed, battery life, or device compactness.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google Fiber’s biggest failure: ISP will turn service off in Louisville

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 5:15pm

Enlarge (credit: Google Fiber)

Google Fiber will turn off its network in Louisville, Kentucky and exit the city after a series of fiber installation failures left cables exposed in the roads. Google Fiber's customers in Louisville will have to switch ISPs and will get their final two months of Google Fiber service for free to help make up for the disruption.

Google Fiber went live in Louisville late in 2017, just a few months after construction began. The quick turnaround happened because Google Fiber used a shallow trenching strategy that is quicker than traditional underground fiber deployment and doesn't require digging giant holes. Instead of a foot-wide trench, a micro-trench is generally about an inch wide and four inches deep. In Louisville, Google Fiber reportedly was burying cables in "nano-trenches" that were just two inches deep.

But Louisville residents soon found exposed cables, as a WDRB article noted in March 2018. "When you're walking around the neighborhood, [the lines are] popping up out of the road all over the place," resident Larry Coomes said at the time. "People are tripping over it."

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Report: Bezos-hired sleuth suspects sexts stolen by “government entity”

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 4:58pm

Enlarge / Jeff Bezos. (credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Yesterday Jeff Bezos alleged that David Pecker, CEO of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, attempted to blackmail Bezos by threatening to publish nude photos of Bezos. The married Bezos allegedly sent the explicit photos to another woman, broadcaster Lauren Sanchez.

One of the big unanswered questions in the story is how the National Enquirer obtained the photos. One obvious possibility is that someone hacked Bezos' phone—or possibly Sanchez's.

But in an interview on MSNBC, Washington Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia pointed to a different possibility. The Post is owned by Bezos, and while Roig-Franzia says he hasn't talked to Bezos directly, he has talked to Gavin De Becker, a legendary security consultant who is working for Bezos. "Gavin De Becker told us that he does not believe that Jeff Bezos' phone was hacked," Roig-Franzia said. "He thinks it's possible that a government entity might have gotten hold of his text messages."

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Hate needles? This ingestible pill painlessly injects drugs into your gut

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 4:51pm

Enlarge / Self-righting capsule orients itself in the gastric cavity and delivers biologic molecules to the tissue wall. (credit: Science | Felice Frankel)

If the sight of a doctor flicking a needle makes you cringe, you may be better off going with your gut, according to a team of researchers at MIT and Harvard.

The team is working to knock out the need for painful, anxiety-inducing shots by having patients gulp a pill instead. But not just any pill, but an autonomous one that can right itself in your gut while packing a tiny, spring-loaded shot of drugs that it then injects directly into the thick wall of your stomach. The painless prick could deliver therapeutic payloads that normally wouldn’t survive the harsh, acidic environment of the stomach. By doing so, it would make life a lot easier for needle-fearing patients and for those who depend on frequent drug injections, such as people with diabetes who take daily insulin shots, the researchers say.

In a report in the February 8 issue of Science, the researchers reveal a prototype of their autonomous pill along with positive results from tests in pig stomachs where they tried delivering insulin. While the research is still in the very early stages, the data so far hints that their self-righting pill—about the size of a pea—could one day work in patients.

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Apple to developers: disclose screen recording or get booted from App Store

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 4:14pm

Enlarge / The home screen on the iPhone XS. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Apple has begun notifying developers who use screen-recording code in their apps to either properly disclose it to users or remove it entirely if they want to keep their apps in the App Store. The move comes after a TechCrunch report showed that many apps do not disclose such activity to users at all, and some sensitive user data has been compromised through screen recordings.

"Protecting user privacy is paramount in the Apple ecosystem," an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. "Our App Store Review Guidelines require that apps request explicit user consent and provide a clear visual indication when recording, logging, or otherwise making a record of user activity."

The initial report highlighted third-party analytics code used by Air Canada, Expedia, Hotels.com, Hollister and other companies in their mobile apps that allows them to record the screens of users while they navigate the app. These "session replays" are designed to help developers work out kinks, make informed UI decisions, and better inform them on how users are interacting with their apps in general.

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Jeff Bezos: Amazon boss accuses National Enquirer of blackmail

BBC Technology News - February 8, 2019 - 3:32pm
Jeff Bezos says National Enquirer attempted extortion by threatening to publish "intimate photos".

Lego Movie 2 isn’t just amazing—it’s also the Solo we always wanted

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 1:30pm

Enlarge / This image's colors make me wish Optimus Prime was in the film. He's not. That's pretty much my only complaint about this family-comedy masterwork. (credit: Warner Bros.)

Confession time: I was not a massive fan of 2014's The Lego Movie.

I'm not a heartless idiot, of course. I enjoyed it. When it comes to the filmmaking duo that is Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, I'm ride-or-die since the Clone High days, and at its best, The Lego Movie saw them bounce between heart and weirdness in delightful ways. But the film's "surprise" reveal and its reliance on zillions of Lego-tweaked pop-culture references felt enough like a crutch to take me out of my investment in the film's strange brand of wit and heart.

I say all of this before uttering a word about The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part to make something clear: I absolutely lost my marbles watching this pitch-perfect, hilarious, full-steam-ahead sequel. Lego Movie 2 is everything I hoped for from a film that comes with established characters and setting, and its comfort with the first film's gimmicks means it spends less time trying to prove itself and more time letting its varied characters grow and explore in exciting new territory.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rocket Report: Rogozin’s crazy promise, SpaceX tests Mars engine, SLS slips

Ars Technica - February 8, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / The mighty Delta IV Heavy rocket takes to the skies. (credit: Aurich Lawson/United Launch Alliance)

Welcome to Edition 1.35 of the Rocket Report! The leader of Russia's space program, Dmitry Rogozin, has promised his president that the country can double its launch total this year. And if you believe that, well, we've got a trampoline to sell you that will allow your astronauts to reach orbit.

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.

ABL scales up vehicle performance. ABL Space Systems said that it will offer a more powerful variant of its RS1 rocket—up from 900 to 1,200kg to LEO—to find its niche in the crowded smallsat-launcher market. A launch will cost $12 million. Company executives told SpaceNews that the increase in performance comes after a year and a half of work to refine the design of the vehicle and better understand what it would take to produce the rocket.

Read 28 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Revolut admits making up stats in adverts

BBC Technology News - February 8, 2019 - 12:56pm
Digital banking service Revolut is referred to the City watchdog over its Valentine's Day "single takeaway" ad.

Apple to pay teenager who found FaceTime bug

BBC Technology News - February 8, 2019 - 12:54pm
The flaw let iPhone owners eavesdrop on people they called via the FaceTime video-chat system.

Robot aims to inspire girls to take STEM and other news

BBC Technology News - February 8, 2019 - 11:53am
BBC Click's Jen Copestake looks at some of the best technology stories of the week.

YouTube U-turn over child abuse singer

BBC Technology News - February 8, 2019 - 11:47am
YouTube deletes singer Austin Jones's channel, after he exchanges sexual images with underage girls.

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