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Industry & Technology

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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SXSWarren: A day later, Elizabeth Warren defends her Big Tech breakup proposal

Ars Technica - March 10, 2019 - 1:40am

Enlarge / During the first weekend of SXSW, 2020 was a big programming topic. Among the politicians on the schedule, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took the stage to field questions and address that tech monopoly proposal of hers. (credit: Nathan Mattise)

AUSTIN, Texas—"So yesterday you made a pretty big announcement about tech. Then like the gangster you are, you flew down to a tech conference... "

Time Editor-at-Large Anand Giridharadas led with that at his South by Southwest conversation with Massachusetts Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren. The politician didn't miss a beat. Barely 24 hours after she made headlines by publicly proposing that the US should break up companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook as part of a plan to regulate tech platforms as utilities, Warren took the opportunity to further emphasize her idea.

"Today, we have companies like Amazon: they have a platform. I buy a coffee maker and use it all the time, but Amazon also sucks out an incredible amount of info about every buyer and every seller. Then, Amazon makes the decision to have a competing coffee machine and drive out the business in that space," she explained. "They have this incredible advantage from the information they get from their platform and the fact they can also manipulate the platform, putting themselves on page 1 and put the competitor on page 16 where no one ever goes... My view is break those things apart, and we'll have a more robust market in America."

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An email marketing company left 809 million records exposed online

Ars Technica - March 9, 2019 - 7:36pm

Enlarge (credit: Ullstein Bild | Getty Images)

By this point, you've hopefully gotten the message that your personal data can end up exposed in all sorts of unexpected Internet backwaters. But increased awareness hasn't slowed the problem. In fact, it's only grown bigger—and more confounding.

Last week, security researchers Bob Diachenko and Vinny Troia discovered an unprotected, publicly accessible MongoDB database containing 150 gigabytes of detailed, plaintext marketing data—including 763 million unique email addresses. The pair went public with their findings this week. The trove is not only massive but also unusual; it contains data about individual consumers as well as what appears to be "business intelligence data," like employee and revenue figures from various companies. This diversity may stem from the information's source. The database, owned by the "email validation" firm, was taken offline the same day Diachenko reported it to the company.

While you've likely never heard of them, validators play a crucial role in the email marketing industry. They don't send out marketing emails on their own behalf or facilitate automated mass email campaigns. Instead, they vet a customer's mailing list to ensure that the email addresses in it are valid and won't bounce back. Some email marketing firms offer this mechanism in-house. But fully verifying that an email address works involves sending a message to the address and confirming that it was delivered—essentially spamming people. That means evading protections of Internet service providers and platforms like Gmail. (There are less invasive ways to validate email addresses, but they have a tradeoff of false positives.) Mainstream email marketing firms often outsource this work rather than take on the risk of having their infrastructure blacklisted by spam filters or lowering their online reputation scores.

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Elizabeth Warren vows to break up tech giants if elected in 2020

BBC Technology News - March 9, 2019 - 5:03pm
The US Democratic presidential hopeful tells a rally she is "sick of freeloading billionaires".

Quacks of Quedlinburg deserves its “Board Game of the Year” win

Ars Technica - March 9, 2019 - 4:00pm

Enlarge / Let's brew some potions!

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at

Who knew that being a snake-oil salesman was so much fun?

Last summer, the board game Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg won a major award from the German press, and buzz was big on both sides of the Atlantic. Now out in English as The Quacks of Quedlinburg from North Star Games, we've finally had a chance to put this bag-building, press-your-luck game through its potion-making paces.

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The 2020 Kia Soul—the boar with a backpack busts a move

Ars Technica - March 9, 2019 - 3:30pm

Enlarge / How appropriate that we found a yeti on a day it snowed in Southern California. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Although we make every effort to cover our own travel costs, in this case Kia flew me to San Diego (where it was very cold and sometimes snowy) to drive the Soul, and provided two nights in a hotel.

When the first Kia Soul arrived in 2005, the boxy hatchback look was definitely a thing. A decade and a half later, neither the Nissan Cube nor Scion xB are around, but the Soul soldiers on as the last toaster on wheels. Except, a toaster wasn't actually the inspiration for the styling. No, it's considerably weirder than that—the car is meant to represent a boar wearing a backpack. (It's OK, I'll just let that one sit with you for a bit.)

I don't ever remember spending time in the first generation Kia Soul, but I have had a more recent one as a rental car on occasion. Whether you want to call it a hatchback or a crossover, it was actually pretty good at being an affordable, utilitarian transport. It could even be pretty fun to drive, provided you concentrated on keeping up your momentum. So I was looking forward to trying out the new, third-generation Soul, particularly since the route we'd be using involved some rather good roads in eastern San Diego County.

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Love, death, and spaceships: Lee Hutchinson’s Fangs concludes

Ars Technica - March 9, 2019 - 12:45pm

I've never made any secret about my love for (and occasional frustration with) Frontier Development's space combat/trading/exploration sandbox game Elite: Dangerous. In my 2015 review I called it "the best damn spaceship game I've ever played," and four years later, it's an opinion I still hold. Although it's taken literally years for the developers to flesh out some of the game's mechanics, there's always been something special about Elite, even going all the way back to the beta when it was barely a game at all.

I love it so much, in fact, that a few years ago I started up an Elite: Dangerous Web comic called Fangs (many of the ships in Elite are named after snakes, so the title seemed appropriate). I can't actually, you know, draw anything, but a couple of posts on the official subreddit gave me a neat idea: instead of illustrating panels, I could simply take screenshots directly from within the game and run them through a threshold filter to achieve a very distinctive film noir-esque feeling. Couple that with some clever framing and some snappy dialog, and I was in business.

Fangs originally started out as a series of short self-contained vignettes about various aspects of the Elite universe—I did a comic on exploration, on ship names, on smuggling, and a bunch of others.

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Lords urge tougher rules for tech firms

BBC Technology News - March 9, 2019 - 2:04am
Technology firms and social media apps should all fall under one regulatory body, Lords report says.

Citrix says its network was breached by international criminals

Ars Technica - March 9, 2019 - 12:30am

Enlarge / The query window for username and password on a Web page can be seen on the monitor of a laptop. (credit: Jens Büttner/Getty Images)

Virtualization and software provider Citrix said its internal network was breached by international criminals who most likely exploited weak passwords to gain limited access before working to gain more privileged control.

The notice published Friday morning sent shockwaves through security circles because Citrix’s products and services are used by more than 400,000 organizations around the world, including 98 percent of the Fortune 500. Citrix is also widely used by governments and militaries. An intrusion by overseas hackers carries the risk of exposing technical information that could compromise the networks of customers.

Citrix said it still doesn’t know what specific data was stolen, but an initial investigation appears to show the attackers may have obtained business documents. For now, company officials said, there’s no indication that the security of any Citrix product or service was compromised. The company has commenced a forensic investigation and engaged a security firm to assist. Citrix has also taken unspecified actions to better secure it internal network.

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Boy spent 47 agonizing days in ICU with tetanus. Parents still refuse vaccines

Ars Technica - March 8, 2019 - 11:40pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Thomas Samson)

The young son of anti-vaccine parents endured excruciating pain and spent 47 days in pediatric intensive care after contracting tetanus, a devastating bacterial infection easily prevented by vaccines.

Despite the nightmarish ordeal, his parents still refused to have him vaccinated, according to health officials in Oregon who helped treat the boy. They reported the boy’s harrowing case Friday, March 8, in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, an online publication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The six-year-old Oregon boy contracted tetanus—also called lockjaw—innocently enough. He got a cut on his forehead while playing on his family’s farm in 2017. The boy’s wound was treated and sutured at home. Six days later, he showed signs of tetanus.

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JavaScript infinite alert prank lands 13-year-old Japanese girl in hot water

Ars Technica - March 8, 2019 - 10:45pm

Enlarge / Edge makes it easy to break out of infinite JavaScript alert loops.

Japanese police in the city of Kariya have questioned and charged a 13-year-old female student for distributing malicious code online after she linked to the code on an online message board. The malicious code in question? An infinite loop that popped up an alert message, immediately showing a new message each time you click OK.

Those curious to see the code can see it in action here, though it's probably unwise to visit on mobile browsers, as they don't seem particularly tolerant of this kind of prank. Every mainstream desktop browser seems to handle the malicious page without incident. Edge, for example, offers a checkbox to prevent the page from being able to show subsequent dialogs, and Chrome lets you close the tab in spite of the alert box. The code itself is extraordinarily simple; it's literally nothing more than an infinite loop and an alert box that prints a kaomoji and a short message that translates as "It's no use closing it so many times."

for ( ; ; ) {
window.alert(" ∧_∧ ババババ\n( ・ω・)=つ≡つ\n(っ ≡つ=つ\n`/  )\n(ノΠU\n何回閉じても無駄ですよ~ww\nm9(^Д^)プギャー!!\n byソル (@0_Infinity_)")

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The secret of how the mako shark swims so fast lies in its flexible scales

Ars Technica - March 8, 2019 - 10:30pm

Enlarge / A shortfin mako shark off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. Tiny flexible scales on its skin control flow separation as it swims, reducing pressure drag. (credit: YouTube/Guy Harvey)

Mako sharks can swim as fast as 70 to 80mph, earning them the moniker "cheetahs of the ocean." Now scientists at the University of Alabama have determined one major factor in how mako sharks are able to move so fast: the unique structure of their skin, especially around the flank and fin regions of their bodies. The team described their work at the American Physical Society's 2019 March meeting this week in Boston.

University of Alabama engineer Amy Lang conducted a series water tunnel experiments in her lab to test samples of real mako shark skin from the animal's flanks, using a technique called particle image velocimetry to measure the velocity of the water flowing over and around the skin. Anyone who has touched a shark knows the skin feels smooth if you stroke from nose to tail. Reverse the direction, however, and it feels like sandpaper. That's because of tiny translucent scales, roughly 0.2 millimeters in size, called "denticles" (because they strongly resemble teeth) all over the shark's body, especially concentrated in the animal's flanks and fins. It's like a suit of armor for sharks.

Mako sharks have evolved a distinct passive "bristling" aspect on some of their scales to swim faster. Lang's lab coordinated their project with biologists at the University of South Florida, who imaged shark skin and mapped out the scales, noting particularly how many of the scales were capable of this passive bristling and the angles at which such bristling occurs. They found that near regions like the nose, the scales aren't especially flexible, more like molars embedded in the skin. But near the flanks and fins, the scales are much more flexible.

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New York hasn’t followed through on order to kick Charter out of state

Ars Technica - March 8, 2019 - 9:20pm

Enlarge / A Charter Spectrum vehicle. (credit: Charter)

New York government officials still haven't followed through on a July 2018 decision to kick Charter Communications out of the state. Negotiations between Charter and the state have dragged on for months past the original deadline, and the sides say they're getting closer to an agreement that would allow Charter to remain in New York.

The state Public Service Commission (PSC) voted on July 27, 2018 to revoke its approval of Charter's 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable (TWC), after accusing Charter of failing to meet merger-related broadband expansion commitments. The PSC ordered Charter to sell the former TWC system and to file a transition plan within 60 days.

But Charter still hasn't had to file that transition plan, and may never have to, because the PSC has repeatedly granted deadline extensions while Charter negotiates with the state. Charter requested yet another extension on Tuesday this week, and the PSC granted it on Wednesday, setting a new deadline of May 3, 2019.

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Elizabeth Warren proposes breaking up Amazon, Google, and Facebook

Ars Technica - March 8, 2019 - 6:48pm

Enlarge / Elizabeth Warren speaking to a crowd on February 18, 2019 in Glendale, California. (credit: Getty Images | Mario Tama)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today proposed breaking up Amazon, Google, and Facebook as part of a plan to regulate tech platforms as utilities.

In a blog post, Warren said she'll pursue the plan if she wins the presidency. The first part of the plan is legislation that would designate the companies as "platform utilities" and break them apart "from any participant on that platform."

Warren wrote:

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Physicists are decoding math-y secrets of knitting to make bespoke materials

Ars Technica - March 8, 2019 - 6:30pm

Enlarge / Introducing topological defects into knitted patterns can shape the (a) out-of-plane elasticity of a stuffed rabbit (left), and (b) the in-plane deformations of knitted textiles (right). (credit: Elisabetta Matsumoto)

Knitted fabrics like a scarf or socks are highly elastic, capable of stretching as much as twice their length, but individual strands of yarn hardly stretch at all. It's the way those strands form an interlocking network of stitches that give knitted fabrics their stretchiness. Physicists are trying to unlock the knitting "code"—the underlying mathematical rules that govern how different stitch combinations give rise to different properties like stretchiness—in hopes of creating new "tunable" materials whose properties can be tailored for specific purposes.

"Knitting is this incredibly complex way of converting one-dimensional yarn into complex fabric," said Elisabetta Matsumoto, a physicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "So basically this is a type of coding." Figuring out how different stitch types determine shape and mechanical strength could help create designer materials for future technologies—everything from better materials for the aerospace industry to stretchable materials to replace torn ligaments. The models her team is developing may also be useful in improving the realistic animation of clothing and hair in video game graphics. Matsumoto described her research during the American Physical Society's 2019 March meeting taking place this week in Boston.

Knitted fabrics can technically be considered a type of metamaterial (engineered materials that get their properties not from the base materials but from their designed structures), according to Matsumoto, who points to the medieval embroidery technique known as "smocking" as an early example. From a physics standpoint, smocking uses knots to essentially convert local bending energy into bulk stretching energy.

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In a golden age of SXSW brand activations, at least Game of Thrones draws blood

Ars Technica - March 8, 2019 - 6:20pm

AUSTIN, Texas—The hottest ticket at South by Southwest 2019 may not involve a band or a film. Instead... it's for blood donations.

Fresh off its much hyped SXSW 2018 Westworld experience, HBO partnered up with the American Red Cross this year for "Bleed For The Throne," a blood drive held within yet another signature "immersive activation" at the festival. While people anywhere can participate in the overall Red Cross initiative, donors in Austin this week get the perk of walking through recreations of Game of Throne's King's Landing Throne Room and an exterior camp site where everyday people from Westeros await to perform and interact. According to the event press release, 80-plus actors and musicians have been hired to bring it all to life, and they're working from 100-plus pages of character script and backstory. A royal woman told us we had to listen to light inside us; a female soldier at the camp commented on the excellent mobility of our "armor"—aka, a bike helmet attached to a backpack.Ars at SXSW 2019

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If you're attending SXSW and haven't reserved a spot yet, don't bother. After a Thursday media preview, HBO PR sent out an update noting all available appointments for the weekend had been reserved within two hours of opening. On the plus side, the GoT tie-in has led to a reported 40 percent increase in new donor appointments since the campaign announcement.

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As anti-vax movement gets weirder—and dumber—Facebook announces crackdown

Ars Technica - March 8, 2019 - 4:36pm

Enlarge / A single dose of MMR (for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) at Kaiser Permanente East Medical offices in Denver. (credit: Getty | Joe Amon)

Facing scrutiny for allowing anti-vaccine lies and conspiracy theories to fester and spread on its pages, Facebook announced Thursday a set of steps it will take to rid its platform of misinformation—which has seemingly become even weirder and more idiotic recently.

The move follows a letter sent to Facebook from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) last month, raising concerns that anti-vaccine information spread on the site could corrupt anxious parents’ views of safe, life-saving immunizations. Schiff also questioned the popular social media site about accepting payments from anti-vaccine advertisements.

Facebook wasn’t the only media giant questioned; Schiff sent a similar letter to Google, too, raising concerns about content on YouTube specifically. Still, Facebook has taken center stage on the issue.

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SpaceX completes a historic mission, crew flight possible later in 2019

Ars Technica - March 8, 2019 - 4:22pm

Enlarge / All four parachutes opened as intended, bringing Dragon to a soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday. (credit: NASA TV)

After a six-day mission in orbit, SpaceX's Dragon capsule returned to Earth on Friday morning and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. The landing, at 8:45am ET, came right on schedule, as did pretty much every milestone during the Crew Dragon's first mission, a test before humans fly aboard the vehicle.

Shortly after the landing, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell could be seen on NASA's webcast, walking around her company's mission control at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Shotwell spent a few minutes shaking the hands of each controller and offering a few hugs. Certainly, this triumphant moment capped an emotional week for a company that has worked for the better part of a decade to develop a crewed spacecraft.

At first blush, the performance of Dragon appears to have met or exceeded NASA's hopes for this flight to the International Space Station, including during the critical descent back to Earth Friday morning. "The vehicle really did better than we expected," Steve Stich, deputy Commercial Crew program manager for NASA, said shortly after the landing.

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