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Industry & Technology

Is the US market ready to embrace a $500 game console?

Ars Technica - 36 min 59 sec ago

Last week, a Bloomberg report about PS5 component costs suggested the upcoming system would cost no less than $450 for Sony to manufacture. Add in costs for packaging, shipping, and retail markup, and Sony would likely need to charge about $500 per PS5 just to break even on the hardware at launch (though taking a loss on hardware has also been an option, historically).

The prospect of a $500 PS5 got industry watchers chattering about whether such a price point could be broadly acceptable to the US console-buying market. A look back at console-pricing history suggests that, while a $500 launch would be at the high end of nominal prices, it actually sits right near the middle of the pack when inflation and median buying power are taken into account.

Inflated expectations?

In the history of the game industry, only two game console have launched at an MSRP above $500: the $650 Neo Geo in 1991 and the $700 3DO in 1993 (Fig. 1). Both of those consoles sold for way more than the contemporary competition and became instant niche products, as well as cautionary tales for anyone who might decide to price a console too highly in the future.

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ISS World: Hack leaves half a million employees without computers

BBC Technology News - 48 min 13 sec ago
ISS World, a major facilities provider, has been hit by an apparent ransomware attack.

Samsung explains mystery alert sent overnight

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 28 min ago
The company says it sent the strange "1" alert to Samsung devices by mistake.

Larry Tesler: Computer scientist behind cut, copy and paste dies aged 74

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 28 min ago
Larry Tesler was responsible for many of the innovations that made personal computing accessible.

MGM hack exposes personal data of 10.6 million guests

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 46 min ago
Celebrities including Justin Bieber were among those whose data was stolen, one report said.

Facebook boss faces 'blow-dried armpit' jibes

BBC Technology News - 11 hours 18 min ago
Mark Zuckerberg faced jibes on social media over a claim that he has staff blow-dry his armpits.

Microsoft releases new all-in-one Office app for iOS and Android

Ars Technica - 13 hours 18 min ago

Today, Microsoft launched the Microsoft Office app for iOS and Android. It combines PowerPoint, Word, and Excel into one application, and it adds a number of mobile-oriented features.

“This app maintains all the functionality of the existing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint mobile apps but requires far less phone storage than using three separate apps,” Microsoft’s description in the iOS App Store says. The app is free to download and use, but many “premium features” are locked behind an Office 365 subscription.

After a few privacy notifications and the like, the app launches to a homescreen that lists all your recent cloud documents, with a bottom navigation panel. That panel can take you to other places. The first is the add menu, where you can create a document or note either from scratch, from a template, or from something captured by your device’s camera. Documents you create can be stored in iCloud, OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, or Dropbox.

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Americans on coronavirus cruise ship barred from US after failed quarantine

Ars Technica - February 19, 2020 - 11:33pm

Enlarge / YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 19, 2020: A bus carrying passengers who will take the flight chartered by the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China drives past the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship docked the Daikoku Pier. (credit: Getty | Tomohiro Ohsumi)

On Wednesday, the initial 14-day quarantine aboard a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, officially ended. But the grueling saga seems far from for over for the ship’s 3,711 passengers and crew.

As the quarantine time ran out, Japanese officials were still reporting dozens of new cases of COVID-19 aboard. As of Wednesday, the number of coronavirus infections linked to the ship total 621—by far the largest cluster of COVID-19 infections anywhere outside of China. The next-largest cluster outside of China is in Singapore, which has 84 confirmed cases.

Japanese health officials are facing international criticism for their handling of the quarantine on the ship, the Diamond Princess. The quarantine was intended to curb the spread of disease by keeping people aboard, isolated from each other and from the public on land. But as cases mounted over the two weeks, it became clear that the control efforts only enabled the new coronavirus to spread. In fact, the 621 cases include at least three Japanese health officials, who were there to support the quarantine efforts but ended up becoming infected themselves.

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Battery charging meets machine learning

Ars Technica - February 19, 2020 - 11:10pm

Enlarge / The seemingly simple act of charging is getting increasingly complex. (credit: Argonne National Lab)

Batteries tend to involve lots of trade-offs. You can have high capacity, but it means more weight and a slower charge. Or you can charge quickly and see the lifetime of your battery drop with each cycle. There are ways to optimize performance—figuring out the fastest charging you can do without cutting into the battery life—but that varies from product to product and requires extensive testing to identify.

But perhaps that testing is not so extensive, thanks to a new system described in the journal Nature. The system uses a combination of machine learning and Bayesian inference to rapidly zero in on the optimal charging pattern for any battery, cutting the amount of testing needed down considerably.

Not so fast

Fast charging is obviously useful for everything from phones to cars. But when a battery is subjected to fast charging, it doesn't store its ions quite as efficiently. The overall capacity will go down, and there's the potential for permanent damage, as some of the lithium ends up precipitating out and becoming unavailable for future use.

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Cyberpunk 2077 confirmed for GeForce Now, will have ray tracing via the cloud

Ars Technica - February 19, 2020 - 10:35pm

Enlarge / Nvidia recently announced a limited edition, sweepstakes-only version of its most expensive consumer-grade GPU. One day later, the company announced a way that PC gamers can enjoy its RTX perks without even buying a new GPU. (credit: Nvidia)

Thanks to Cyberpunk 2077's delay to September 2020, gamers have even longer to decide how they'll play this highly anticipated game. Existing consoles? The upcoming PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X? Various PC configurations?

We're still waiting for more details on the game's launch strategy (particularly on newer consoles), but one other option just got more interesting: playing this stylish, Keanu-tinged adventure over the cloud. We already knew Google Stadia would have the game in September, but now, Nvidia has confirmed it's coming on launch day to its own GeForce Now service as well. Meaning, you'll be able to buy the game on Steam, then stream its gameplay from one of Nvidia's servers.

On the surface, this availability seems similar to Google Stadia's offer. If you want to play the (presumably) demanding Cyberpunk 2077 at its "highest quality" settings when it launches and don't want to pony up for a newer console or PC, you can stream the game as rendered by a server farm and contend with a hit to latency—which we've found in our tests ranges from annoying to tolerable to downright unnoticeable. Even with a smidgen of button-tap lag and a hit to bandwidth caps, the results could be easier to stomach than the sticker price of a new piece of hardware.

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Trump offered Assange a pardon if he denied Russia gave him emails, lawyer says

Ars Technica - February 19, 2020 - 10:09pm

Enlarge / LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19, 2020: A demonstrator wearing a Julian Assange mask attends a demonstration ahead of the preliminary hearing. Assange's lawyer claims President Donald Trump's administration had offered a pardon in exchange for covering up Russian involvement in the leaks of Democratic Party emails during the 2016 election. (credit: Ilyas Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In August of 2017, then-Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) visited Julian Assange at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. Rohrabacher told The Wall Street Journal that he was trying to broker a deal between Assange and the White House that would allow Wikileaks' Julian Assange to leave the embassy and be granted a pardon or similar clemency by the Trump administration—in exchange for information proving that the Russian government had not been the source of Democratic Party emails published by WikiLeaks.

But in court today, an attorney for Assange put a different spin on his dealings with Rohrabacher: the congressman promised a pardon in exchange for covering up Russia's role in the leaking of Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails. Assange's lawyer for his extradition hearings (Edward Fitzgerald) offered into evidence a statement from another Assange lawyer (Jennifer Robinson) which showed, Fitzgerald said, “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange... said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks."

The US government is seeking Assange's extradition to face 18 charges (including conspiracy to commit computer intrusion) connected to the leak of Defense Department and State Department documents to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who is presiding over the hearing at Westminster Magistrate's Court, ruled the statements by Robinson as admissible evidence.

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Skin-detection software could improve smartphone security

BBC Technology News - February 19, 2020 - 9:59pm
TrinamiX has developed a facial recognition software that they say could provide better security.

No Playstation for PAX East: Sony backs out, citing coronavirus

Ars Technica - February 19, 2020 - 9:05pm

Enlarge / Guess what won't be on display at one of the biggest US gaming gatherings? (credit: Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

One of the biggest names in gaming won't be at one of the biggest US gaming conventions next week, as Sony today unexpectedly pulled out of PAX East, citing coronavirus concerns.

Sony Interactive Entertainment today announced its withdrawal from the event as an update to an earlier blog post touting its planned lineup for the exhibition.

"We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily," the update reads. "We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern."

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BT account scammers jailed for £358k fraud

BBC Technology News - February 19, 2020 - 8:57pm
The group infiltrated more than 2,000 BT customer accounts and used the details to buy luxury goods.

Anatomy of a dumb spear-phish: Hitting librarians up for Zelle, CashApp cash

Ars Technica - February 19, 2020 - 7:34pm

Enlarge (credit: Sarah Shuda / Flickr)

Here's a clue for would-be Internet financial scammers: do not target librarians. They will catch on fast, and you will have wasted your time.

Yesterday, the outgoing chair of the Young Adult Library Services Association's Alex Awards Committee (and my wife) Paula Gallagher got a very odd email that purported to be from a colleague within her library system who is a member of YALSA's board. The email asked, "Are you available to complete an assignment on behalf of the Board, And get reimbursed? Kindly advise."

There were a few things off about the email. First of all, while the first half of the email address that the message came from matched the email address of her colleague, the domain name was very phishy:, a site that offers "secure private email" to users who want to "keep President Ronald Reagan's legacy alive." The purported sender of the message was, to put it mildly, not a big fan of President Reagan's legacy. (Ars attempted to reach the operators of the site for comment, but they are very privacy-minded.)

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Google launches the Android 11 Developer Preview today

Ars Technica - February 19, 2020 - 7:00pm


It's a bit earlier than the usual March release, but today Google is launching the first Android 11 Developer Preview. This first OS preview is coming to the Pixel 2, 3, 3a, and 4, along with generic system images for Project Treble devices. It also has a new name. Typically these releases have been denoted by a letter—Android 10 was the "Android Q Preview"—and while Android 11 is still called "Android R" internally, publicly this is the "Android 11 Developer Preview" to all us non-Googlers. True to form, Google has already started with the Spinal Tap references and starts the blog post with a dial that goes to 11.

For now we're just working off a giant blog post with lots of bullet points, and nearly zero screenshots, so we're not sure what the scope of this release is really like. We'll have a hands-on later, but for now, here are some highlights.

One of the most-used features of Android 11 will probably be a new "one-time permission" option for apps that want to access location, microphone, and camera data. In Android 10, Google added the ability to grant a permission to an app only when it was running in the foreground, and now users will be able to grant access to a permission a single time. This is already in iOS, and it makes a lot of sense for certain apps.

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TikTok 'family safety mode' gives parents some app control

BBC Technology News - February 19, 2020 - 6:49pm
A new mode links parents' TikTok accounts to their child's, and gives control over some features.

Ransomware-hit US gas pipeline shut for two days

BBC Technology News - February 19, 2020 - 6:45pm
The entire pipeline was closed after the cyber-security incident.

T-Mobile claims it didn’t lie about 4G coverage, says FCC measured wrong

Ars Technica - February 19, 2020 - 6:18pm

Enlarge / The logo of Deutsche Telekom, owner of T-Mobile, seen at Mobile World Congress in February 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

T-Mobile says the Federal Communications Commission screwed up 4G measurements in a report that accused the carrier of exaggerating its mobile coverage. The FCC report "incorrectly implies, based on a flawed verification process, that we overstated coverage," T-Mobile said in an FCC filing Monday.

The FCC staff report, issued in December, found that Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular exaggerated their 4G coverage in official filings. As the FCC said, "Overstating mobile broadband coverage misleads the public and can misallocate our limited universal service funds."

The FCC relies on carriers' submissions to determine which parts of the country receive government funding to expand broadband access. The disputed submissions are among those the FCC is using to distribute up to $4.5 billion in Mobility Fund money over the next 10 years.

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Instagram influencers pranking the internet:

BBC Technology News - February 19, 2020 - 5:42pm
An Instagram influencer has faked a holiday to Bali to show followers not to believe everything they see on social media. But how does it compare to these other epic social media pranks?

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