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Industry & Technology

Coder deletes open source add-on for Chef in protest over ICE contract

Ars Technica - 1 hour 9 min ago

Enlarge / Open source ingredients borked some Chef users' systems because of an ICE protest by one developer. (credit: Kelsey McNeal / Getty Images)

On September 17, Seth Vargo—a former employee of Chef, the software deployment automation company—found out via a tweet that Chef licenses had been sold to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) under a $95,500, one-year contract through the approved contractor C&C International Computers & Consultants. In protest, Vargo decided to "archive" the GitHub repository for two open source Chef add-ons he had developed in the Ruby programming language. On his GitHub repository page, Vargo wrote, "I have a moral and ethical obligation to prevent my source from being used for evil."

That move, according to an all-hands email sent out by Chef CEO Barry Crist—later published on the company's website—"impact[ed] production systems for a number of our customers. Our entire team has worked to minimize customer downtime and will continue to do so until we restore services to 100% operation."

Crist faced backlash internally from employees over the deal. The work, he pointed out, had begun in 2014, well before the current administration implemented the child detention policies that Vargo was protesting. "For context, we began working with DHS-ICE during the previous administration to modernize their IT practices with agile and DevOps," Crist wrote.

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Google launches Play Pass apps subscription package

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 20 min ago
It will charge $4.99 a month for access to more than 350 apps, posing a challenge to Apple Arcade.

Snapchat reportedly has “Project Voldemort” dossier on Facebook’s bad behavior

Ars Technica - 1 hour 59 min ago

Enlarge / Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress in April, 2018. (credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Facebook is only 15 years old, yet in that time it has become the world's dominant social media platform, boasting more than 2.4 billion users. It has also become the world's second-largest digital advertising platform, effectively the runner-up in a worldwide duopoly dominated by Google. Now, it is under a baker's dozen of investigations alleging that it rose to the top by using unfair, anticompetitive tactics—and at least one competitor kept records.

Snap, parent company of Snapchat, kept a dossier "for years" detailing Facebook's attempts to thwart it, sources told The Wall Street Journal. The file, dubbed "Project Voldemort" after the just-doesn't-know-when-to-stay-dead villain of Harry Potter fame, "chronicled Facebook's moves that threatened to undermine Snap's business."

According to the WSJ, Snap's legal team recorded instances where Facebook discouraged prominent social media influencers with a presence on multiple platforms from mentioning Snap on their Instagram accounts. Snap executives also suspected Facebook was suppressing content that originated on Snap from trending on Instagram, when such content was shared there.

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Yahoo data-breach settlement: You’ll get $100, if you’re lucky

Ars Technica - 2 hours 18 min ago

Enlarge / A Yahoo logo on a smartphone. (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images )

People who had Yahoo accounts between 2012 and 2016 can now apply for a cash payment of $100, but the final amount you receive could be more or less than $100 depending on how many people file claims.

It's also possible to file claims for up to $25,000 if you can document actual out-of-pocket losses and lost time due to the breach. However, actual payouts for all claims could be much lower if the total amount claimed exceeds what's available from the $117.5 million settlement. The settlement class potentially includes up to 194 million people, so these amounts would be paid in full only if the vast majority of eligible people don't ask for money.

The settlement website lets all class members choose from at least two years of free credit monitoring services or the $100 cash payment. While that amount isn't guaranteed, just like in the Equifax settlement, at least the Yahoo settlement website makes that clear up front.

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OnePlus chases the title of “Best Android OEM” with 18-day update time

Ars Technica - 2 hours 38 min ago

If you haven't been paying attention to OnePlus, you should probably start. We've been calling the OnePlus 7 Pro the best Android phone you can buy for about the last six months. And now, in addition to the great hardware and software of that phone, you can add "pretty fast OS updates" to its list of positives. On Friday, OnePlus shipped the newly released Android 10 to the OnePlus 7 Pro and OnePlus 7, taking just 18 days after Android 10's release to update the current company flagship phones.

This is not the fastest Android update speed in the industry for a third-party—the Essential Phone and the Xiaomi Redmi K20 both got day-one Android 10 updates—but OnePlus' time is still pretty darn fast. OnePlus is one of the rare companies that seems to actually listen to the community, and it has been working to improve its update speed these last few years. 2017's OnePlus 5T took a middling five months to update from Android 7.1 to 8.0, but OnePlus majorly improved in 2018 when the OnePlus 6 got an Android Pie upgrade in 45 days. This year's 18-day update time is a new high mark for the company, and it's not that surprising after seeing OnePlus' increased investment in Android 10 preview releases this year. OnePlus released six Android 10 developer previews and two open betas for the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro.

Android 10 brings a ton of improvements to the OnePlus 7 Pro. There's a better gesture navigation system with a more ergonomic back gesture, ecosystem-support for dark mode, a faster share menu, new emojis, a dual-boot option, and tons of security and privacy improvements.

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Google Play Pass on Android: $5/mo for 350+ games, apps sans microtransactions

Ars Technica - 2 hours 43 min ago

After an August reveal of its intentions, Google has opened the door on Google Play Pass, a $5/mo subscription service for Android phones that unlocks access to a whopping 350 games and apps. The move follows Apple's much ballyhooed dive into its own mobile gaming subscription service, Apple Arcade, which launched last week at the same monthly price point.

Google's service will go live exclusively on Android phones in the United States on a rolling basis "this week." In order to access Google Play Pass, you'll have to wait for your Android device's Play Store app to update with a new "Play Pass" toggle in its hamburger menu. Once you have access, your account can claim a free 10-day trial and then begin paying only $2/mo for the service's first 12 months, so long as you start paying by October 10.

Google has yet to release a formal list of compatible Play Pass software, but its "games and apps" designation already confirms an effort to step outside the "games only" reputation that its rival Apple Arcade currently enjoys. For now, the revealed list includes popular and critically acclaimed games like Stardew Valley, Terraria, Thimbleweed Park, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, 80 Days, Monument Valley 2, Limbo, Mini Metro, Death Squared, and Hidden Folks, along with productivity apps AccuWeather and Pic Stitch.

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PlayStation 5 to increase energy efficiency—but only if users opt in

Ars Technica - 2 hours 49 min ago

Enlarge / If you aren't concerned about your console's energy use, you probably should be—American console gaming has about the same carbon footprint as 2.3 million cars. (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

In an open letter on Sunday, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan declared that PlayStation is "joining forces with the United Nations" to combat climate change. The statement hinted at improvements in the PlayStation 5 to make it more power-efficient, but Ryan initially focused on how vital it is to consider the carbon footprint of gaming consoles while sharing some technological details in the PlayStation 4 that help reduce its footprint.

At SIE, we have made substantial commitments and efforts to reduce the power consumption of the PS4 by utilizing efficient technologies such as System-on-a-Chip architecture integrating a high-performance graphics processor, die shrink, power scaling, as well as energy saving modes such as Suspend-to-RAM. For context, we estimate the carbon emissions we have avoided to date already amount to almost 16 million metric tons, increasing to 29 million metric tons over the course of the next 10 years (which equals the CO2 emissions for the nation of Denmark in 2017).

If you're interested in the interplay of technology with power consumption (and battery life), it's worth paying attention to what Sony is saying here. These bullet points—System-on-Chip architecture with integrated GPU, die shrink (meaning moving the manufacturing process to a smaller scale as measured in nanometers), and energy-saving modes—are what to look for in everything from game consoles to desktop PCs to mobile phones.

When you see these technologies, you should expect lower consumption and (where applicable) longer battery life. When you see one or more of these technologies missing, expect the inverse—we have reached a point in electronics design where the small choices matter, and seemingly minor architectural differences like graphics (or Wi-Fi) built into the CPU (as opposed to being provided from a peripheral) matter.

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Danielle Cohn: Are teen influencers being exploited?

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 12 min ago
Danielle Cohn posts provocative images and videos. She says she is 15, but her father claims she is younger.

It looks like NASA is getting serious about finding hazardous asteroids

Ars Technica - 4 hours 20 min ago

Enlarge / NASA's chief of science has made asteroid detection a priority at the space agency. (credit: NASA)

On Monday, NASA's science chief committed to funding a space-based telescope to find the vast majority of near-Earth asteroids that may one day threaten Earth.

During an advisory committee meeting at NASA's headquarters in Washington, DC, the agency's associate administrator for science, Thomas Zurbuchen, said the agency was moving forward with the NEO Surveillance Mission, which would be ready to launch no earlier than 2025, at cost of less than $600 million.

"This is a priority for us," Zurbuchen said. He has been negotiating with the White House and Congress to obtain funding for the mission, which will be paid for out of the agency's planetary defense budget. NASA currently spends about $150 million a year to track and characterize hazardous objects, but that amount will need to increase in future years. The new surveillance mission's launch date will depend on funding allocated for the project.

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Tanzania is being cagey about suspected Ebola cases, WHO warns

Ars Technica - 4 hours 50 min ago

Enlarge / Staff from South Sudan's Health Ministry pose with protective suits during a drill for Ebola preparedness conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO). (credit: Getty | Patrick Meinhardt)

The United Republic of Tanzania has been unforthcoming about several reports of suspected Ebola cases in the country, and the reports have been trickling in since September 10, the World Health Organization said in an unusual statement Saturday.

To date, the WHO said its disease surveillance programs have picked up unofficial reports of at least four cases of suspected Ebola virus disease in Tanzania, including one death, as well as an unidentified number of contacts being quarantined in “various sites in the country.”

The official word from Tanzanian authorities is that there have been no cases of Ebola in the country and that it does not “have any suspected case admitted anywhere.” However, the WHO says Tanzanian officials have been cagey about sharing information about the cases and have not said what the people involved were sickened with if it was not Ebola.

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Video: Ars talks Civilization with the man himself: Sid Meier

Ars Technica - 4 hours 58 min ago

Video shot and edited by Justin Wolfson. Click here for transcript.

Although he comes from that wild time in gaming that gave us Trip Hawkins and the concept of "rock star developers," Sid Meier is not loud and brash. Nor is he looking to make anyone his bitch. These days he's more like your friendly gaming grandpa—as we spoke, he placed his words carefully and deliberately, as if he were positioning game pieces on a hex grid. He became animated as we discussed game mechanics but otherwise answered questions almost laconically, with a slight smile—after all, he's been dealing with the press for decades.

Meier spent a few hours walking us through the birth of Civilization, one of the most famous and lauded franchises in the history of gaming. It's among those rarest of titles that effectively mainstreamed an entire genre—in this case, the "4X game" (which stands for "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate"). Although Civilization wasn't the first strategy game on the market, it was the proverbial 800-pound gorilla—and it did for turn-based strategy games what Doom would do for the FPS genre a few years later.

But as so often happens with genre-defining games, Civilization started out as a very different experience.

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Will you still need me, will you still feed me: Yes, your cat bonds with you

Ars Technica - 5 hours 8 min ago

This video shows a seven-year-old male cat exhibiting strong attachment. Courtesy Kristyn Vitale/Oregon State University

It's a common stereotype that dogs bond strongly with their owners and are highly dependent on them, while cats are aloof and independent—and therefore exhibit weaker attachment to their humans. Cat lovers would beg to differ, and now there's some science to bolster our case. According to a new study by scientists at Oregon State University, most kittens and cats show a marked attachment to their owners or caregivers, especially when stressed, on par with prior studies involving dogs and human infants. And that bonding ability is likely one reason cats have flourished in human homes.

"Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans. I think a lot of people don't think about the fact that the majority of cats use their owners as a source of security when they're stressed," said co-author Kristyn Vitale. "We have this stereotype that cats don't depend on their owners. But it makes sense [that they would], because they are still living in a state of dependency in human homes."

There have been a number of attachment studies on human infants, primates, and dogs, usually involving tracking how the subjects respond after being left alone in an unfamiliar room for several minutes, followed by a reunion with their caregivers. Vitale designed her feline study along similar lines. She recruited local cat and kitten owners to bring their pets to OSU's Human-Animal Interaction Lab. They used both kittens (between 3 and 8 months old) and cats in the study, because they wanted to verify that attachment behavior persisted into adulthood.

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Chuck Yeager sues Airbus for writing “Yeager broke the sound barrier”

Ars Technica - 5 hours 10 min ago

Enlarge / Chuck Yeager in 2015. (credit: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMHOF)

In 2017, Airbus published a promotional article promoting an Airbus helicopter.

"Seventy years ago, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier,” said Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. "We’re trying to break the cost barrier. It cannot be 'speed at any cost.'"

The 96-year-old Yeager wasn't happy. Last week, he filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that Airbus had infringed his rights by using his name without permission.

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Defense media tweet threatening Area 51 “raiders” pulled, DOD apologizes

Ars Technica - 5 hours 42 min ago

Enlarge / The photo posted in an DVIDS tweet joking about what would happen to anyone storming Area 51 this past weekend. (credit: US Air Force)

The Defense Department's Defense Video and Image Distribution Service (DVIDS) issued an apology on September 21 after deleting a Twitter post that suggested individuals who participated in the "Storm Area 51" event and entered Air Force property would be blown up by bombs.

The post, tweeted on September 20, displayed a B-2 Spirit bomber on a runway at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, behind a formation of airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri deployed during a Bomber Task Force mission in January. The tweet's text read, "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today…."

A tweet, since deleted, by an employee of DOD's Defense Video and Image Distribution Service. (credit: DVIDS)

DVIDS, a service of the Defense Media Activity, is responsible for providing media organizations access to Defense Department imagery, video, and other content, including real-time broadcast-quality video links for interviews with service members (as well as the video content frequently used by Ars' Sitrep video series). On September 21, a spokesperson for DVIDS issued the following statement via Twitter:

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Security gadgets 'making people more vulnerable' from hackers

BBC Technology News - 5 hours 55 min ago
Hacking experts show a family how easily they can be spied on by technology bought for their safety.

Dealmaster: Last call for Prime members to get a free year of Switch Online

Ars Technica - 7 hours 3 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Nintendo)

A quick PSA for anyone with a Nintendo Switch and an Amazon Prime account: a deal that gives a free year of Nintendo Switch Online to those who subscribe to Amazon’s Twitch Prime service is set to expire tomorrow, September 24.

For the uninitiated, Nintendo Switch Online is a subscription service that normally costs $20 a year and is required to play online multiplayer in most Switch games. (Free-to-play titles like Fortnite are exempt, but it’s needed for games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or the upcoming Overwatch port.) We noted this Amazon deal when it arrived in March, but with Nintendo adding a slate of classic Super Nintendo games to the service (albeit at the expense of monthly releases), it remains a good bargain if you already have a Prime membership.

Redeeming the offer isn’t entirely straightforward, so as a reminder, here’s what you have to do to get the full year. Again, all of this presumes you pay for Prime to begin with:

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Google seeks permission for staff to listen to Assistant recordings

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 15 min ago
The company acknowledges it had not been clear enough that humans might listen to users' recordings.

Pedaling with extra power: A look at Trek’s new electric bike

Ars Technica - 7 hours 38 min ago

Enlarge / This isn't your author, but he did get to take this model down a busy urban street and into the relative sanity of Central Park. (credit: Trek)

One of my favorite moments in bicycling comes when you find the exact right combination of effort, gearing, wind speed, road surface, and slope. For a few magic moments, acceleration feels effortless, and you rocket forward like there's a giant hand pushing you from behind.

Last week, I experienced something similar, but it came while riding uphill on the toughest section of Central Park's loop road. The effortless acceleration was courtesy of a compact but powerful electric motor embedded in the frame of a new line of bikes introduced by Trek. The test ride was meant to introduce me to Trek's new models, but it also introduced me to pedal-assist bikes more generally.

The experience was very different from my expectations, in part because there are multiple experiences, depending on exactly how you tweak a combination of settings, gearing, and effort. The results were anything from a gentle boost as I pedaled on the flats to ripping up a hill at speeds that made me a hazard to my fellow cyclists.

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YouTube U-turn after protests over verified status

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 6 min ago
The video-sharing site apologised after proposing a change that drew criticism from prominent YouTubers.

Atoms spin backward while flying along a surface

Ars Technica - 9 hours 23 min ago

Enlarge / Atoms are a bit like this wheel, but they spin backward while moving forward. (credit: Ross Elliott / Flickr)

Have you ever noticed that when a car is filmed, sometimes the wheels appear to be turning backward? For cars, having the wheels rotate in the opposite sense to the car's motion is an artifact. But, for atoms, it may actually happen.

Picture this

Let's set the scene. A flat sheet of metal, hanging in the vacuum: the camera pans to see a single atom moving flat-out a few nanometers above the surface. The electrons surrounding the nucleus of the atom push the electrons in the metal away from the metal's surface, creating a kind of bow wave of charge in front of the nucleus and a wake of charge behind it. What we're looking at is the very picture of a quantum salt flat racer.

The forces that generate the bow wave and wake are carried by virtual photons that are exchanged between the metal surface and the atom. In the exchange process, the atom will emit a steady stream of real photons in the direction of travel. The momentum kick from launching these photons slows the atom. This is, ultimately, friction for a single atom.

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