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Industry & Technology

How a kingfisher helped reshape Japan's bullet train

BBC Technology News - 7 min 2 sec ago
The bullet train used to make a loud boom going through tunnels - but inspiration from the natural world helped fix it.

Huawei shows off flagship camera phone

BBC Technology News - 30 min 50 sec ago
Two new smartphones from Huawei use artificial intelligence to create better exposures.

Dealmaster: Get Roku’s Streaming Stick+ 4K media streamer for $49

Ars Technica - 43 min 54 sec ago

Enlarge / The Roku Streaming Stick+. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal on Roku's Streaming Stick+, which is currently down to $49 at Walmart and Amazon. While not the absolute cheapest it's ever been, it's the 4K media streamer's typical discount price and a good savings from the usual going rate of $59. Walmart's deal also includes a three-month subscription to CBS' All Access streaming service, so if you're been interested in checking out Star Trek: Discovery, consider it a nice kicker.

We reviewed the Streaming Stick+ back in late 2017. To sum it up: the Streaming Stick+ lacks the Dolby Vision HDR support of Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K and can't quite match the voice search capabilities of that device's built-in Alexa assistant, but it still runs well, works with HDR10, and is easy to set up. Perhaps most importantly, Roku's device interface doesn't funnel you toward certain services and programs the way Amazon or Apple tend to do. The UI could stand to get a makeover, but even if it looks bland, it stays relatively neutral in letting you use the apps you prefer to use. Unlike Roku's cheaper Premiere streamers, the Streaming Stick+ also supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which should keep it from buffering as much as those other devices might.

If you don't need a 4K media streamer, though, this week's Dealmaster also has a big Gold Box sale on gaming accessories at Amazon, a number of Apple device discounts, deals on Fire tablets, and more. Have a look for yourself below.

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EU parliament passes controversial copyright overhaul [Updated]

Ars Technica - 2 hours 16 min ago

An EU flag at the European Parliament. (credit: European Parliament / Flickr)

Update: The European Parliament approved the new European copyright directive on Tuesday by a vote of 348 to 274. Our original story on the legislation follows.

On Tuesday, the European Parliament will vote on an overhaul of the EU's copyright system. The body will vote on a compromise announced last month that has received the backing of key European governments. An earlier version of the proposal was approved by the European Parliament last September.

The legislation is controversial, with two provisions receiving the bulk of the criticism. Article 11 aims to help news organizations collect more licensing fees from news aggregators like Facebook and Google News. Article 13 aims to help copyright holders to collect licensing fees from user-generated content platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

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Facebook, YouTube sued over Christchurch shootings video

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 38 min ago
A French Muslim group launches legal action over the way disturbing footage of the shootings was shared.

It’s unfortunate NASA canceled the all-female EVA, but it’s the right decision

Ars Technica - 2 hours 54 min ago

Enlarge / NASA astronaut Anne McClain needs to use a smaller spacesuit. (credit: NASA)

NASA announced on Monday afternoon that it had canceled a plan to have astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch perform the agency's first all-female spacewalk on Friday. The decision follows McClain's first spacewalk outside the International Space Station, which occurred last Friday, March 22.

"Mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station," the space agency said. "McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso—essentially the shirt of the spacesuit—fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it."

Astronaut Nick Hague will suit up along with Koch this Friday to replace a set of batteries outside the station that store solar power for use when the station is in the Earth's shadow. This decision to replace McClain with Hague has raised a number of questions, including some conspiracy theories that NASA is incompetent or misogynistic. Neither of these is true, although the space agency does have a problem with its spacesuit inventory and future procurement plans. Let's dig into some of the questions raised here.

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EU backs controversial copyright law

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 38 min ago
The Copyright Directive was backed by 348 MEPs, with 278 against.

Casino Screwup Royale: A tale of “ethical hacking” gone awry

Ars Technica - 4 hours 16 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

People who find security vulnerabilities commonly run into difficulties when reporting them to the responsible company. But it's less common for such situations to turn into tense trade-show confrontations—and competing claims of assault and blackmail.

Yet that's what happened when executives at Atrient—a casino technology firm headquartered in West Bloomfield, Michigan—stopped responding to two UK-based security researchers who had reported some alleged security flaws. The researchers thought they had reached an agreement regarding payment for their work, but nothing final ever materialized. On February 5, 2019, one of the researchers—Dylan Wheeler, a 23-year-old Australian living in the UK—stopped by Atrient's booth at a London conference to confront the company’s chief operating officer.

What happened next is in dispute. Wheeler says that Atrient COO Jessie Gill got in a confrontation with him and yanked off his conference lanyard; Gill insists he did no such thing, and he accused Wheeler of attempted extortion.

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Ready Player One: How we made the film's visual effects

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 53 min ago
Industrial Light and Magic explain the challenges involved in making the film.

'The biggest, strangest problem I could find to study'

BBC Technology News - 16 hours 22 min ago
Tackling the "grey noise" of potentially malicious web traffic is a full-time job for IT teams.

Apple announces new services

BBC Technology News - March 25, 2019 - 11:01pm
Apple announced new services across some of their apps at a conference in Cupertino, California.

Apple releases iOS 12.2 with support for News+ service, new AirPods [Updated]

Ars Technica - March 25, 2019 - 10:47pm

Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook announcing Apple News+.

Apple quietly pushed out a lengthy iOS software update today. While the day was largely dominated by Apple's "It's Show Time" event in which the iPhone maker announced news, gaming, and TV subscription services, it just released updates that will help users get settled with some of the new announcements.

Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ won't be available until the fall, so iOS 12.2's biggest updates revolve around Apple News+. The company's new, $10-per-month news and magazine subscription service requires an update to the existing News app, which brings the UI for top articles and magazine issues chosen by Apple editors. The updated News app will also allow subscribers to read content offline and receive personalized recommendations based on topics that are most interesting to them.

iOS 12.2 also adds support for Apple's newest AirPods, which carry the new H1 chip that lets wearers call upon Siri without touching the AirPods first. The update also lets users summon Siri from iPhones or iPads to play any video, show, movie, sports game, or channel on their Apple TVs, essentially extending Siri's role on mobile devices as a virtual remote for the Apple TV.

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Apple unveils TV streaming platform and credit card

BBC Technology News - March 25, 2019 - 10:21pm
The tech giant confirmed it was focusing on online services, rather than devices, at a live event.

Music labels sue Charter, complain that high Internet speeds fuel piracy

Ars Technica - March 25, 2019 - 9:50pm

Enlarge / "Yarr, matey, a pirate would be lost at sea without a swift broadband connection." (credit: Getty Images | OcusFocus)

The music industry is suing Charter Communications, claiming that the cable Internet provider profits from music piracy by failing to terminate the accounts of subscribers who illegally download copyrighted songs. The lawsuit also complains that Charter helps its subscribers pirate music by selling packages with higher Internet speeds.

While the act of providing higher Internet speeds clearly isn't a violation of any law, ISPs can be held liable for their users' copyright infringement if the ISPs repeatedly fail to disconnect repeat infringers.

The top music labels—Sony, Universal, Warner, and their various subsidiaries—sued Charter Friday in a complaint filed in US District Court in Colorado. While Charter has a copyright policy that says repeat copyright infringers may be disconnected, Charter has failed to disconnect those repeat infringers in practice, the complaint said:

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Hijacked ASUS software updates installed backdoor on at least 0.5 million PCs

Ars Technica - March 25, 2019 - 8:40pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

An attack on the update system for ASUS personal computers allowed attackers to inject backdoor malware into thousands of computers, according to researchers at Kaspersky Labs. The attack, reported today on Motherboard by Kim Zetter, took place last year and dropped malicious software signed with ASUS’ own digital certificate—making the software look like a legitimate update. Kaspersky analysts told Zetter that the backdoor malware was pushed to ASUS customers for at least five months before it was discovered and shut down.

Zetter reported that Kaspersky researchers estimated half a million Windows machines received the malicious backdoor via ASUS' update server. But the attack appeared intended for approximately 600 of the affected PCs.

The traces of the attack were discovered by Kaspersky in January 2019, but it actually occurred between June and November 2018. Called “ShadowHammer” by Kaspersky, the attack targeted specific systems based on a range of MAC addresses. That target group, however, was substantial. According to a blog post by a Kaspersky spokesperson:

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Apple debuts its own credit card with a physical version to complement the app

Ars Technica - March 25, 2019 - 8:06pm

At Apple's event on Monday, the company announced that it would partner with Goldman Sachs and MasterCard to offer its own credit card, not only within the Apple Wallet app but also as a physical metal credit card that can be used wherever Apple Pay isn't accepted.

The Apple Card will come without any late fees, annual fees, over-limit fees, or international fees. The company promised a low interest rate, but that rate does not seem to have been made public yet. Instead of offering points, Apple's card will apply cash to the customer's card. Customers receive 2 percent cash back on purchases made with Apple Pay and 3 percent cash back on purchases made on Apple products.

On pure economics, Ted Rossman, industry analyst at, said that Apple's cash back terms were OK but not great. Rossman pointed to Citi's Double Cash card, which offers 2 percent cash back on every purchase (not just purchases made with Apple Pay) or US Bank's Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card, which "gives three points per dollar on mobile wallet spending (worth 3 percent cash back or 4.5 percent off travel)."

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Edge-on-Chromium approaches; build leaks, extensions page already live

Ars Technica - March 25, 2019 - 7:45pm

The Edge Insider extension. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's first public release of a Chromium-based version of its Edge browser is fast approaching. Microsoft has published an early version of its extension market for the new browser, and the Windows Store includes a new extension for Edge-on-Chromium. On top of all this, a build of the browser has leaked.

The new build confirms much of what we've seen before: the browser is a minimally changed rebranded version of Chrome, replacing integration with Google's accounts with integration with Microsoft's accounts. This integration is still at an early stage; bookmarks can be synced between systems, but history, passwords, open tabs, autocomplete information, and open tabs don't yet sync.

Google has multiple release channels for Chrome; beyond the Stable channel, there's a Beta channel previewing the next release, the Dev channel previewing the release after that, and the Canary channel, which provides nightly builds. Microsoft's new extension for Edge Insider appears to offer easy switching between channels, announcements, known issues, and asking users for focused testing on particular areas.

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Apple finally enters TV streaming space with new Apple TV+ service

Ars Technica - March 25, 2019 - 7:08pm

Enlarge (credit: Ron Amadeo)

CUPERTINO, Calif.—It's been a long time and many rumors coming, but Apple has finally unveiled its streaming video service. Dubbed Apple TV+, the service combines some aspects of existing players in the space like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.

The originals

At the vanguard of Apple TV+ is Apple's own original programming. The company reportedly spent $1 billion developing TV shows and films to include on the service. Upon announcing the streaming service, Apple showed a video featuring the numerous artists it worked with to create original content for the service—filmmakers including Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams, as well as actors including Reese Witherspoon and Octavia Spencer.

These creators and actors serve as the foundation for Apple TV+, thanks to all the original content they have created (and will continue to create) for the service. Steven Spielberg took Apple's stage to talk about the reboot of Amazing Stories, a sci-fi anthology series that Spielberg hopes will "transport the audience with every episode."

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Apple unveils Apple Arcade subscription service for iOS, Mac, Apple TV games

Ars Technica - March 25, 2019 - 6:59pm

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

CUPERTINO, Calif.—Apple today announced a new subscription service called Apple Arcade for games on its platforms, including iPad, iPhone, Mac, and Apple TV. The service will debut "this fall." Its exact price has not yet been confirmed.

The paid-subscription service will include games "unavailable on any other mobile service," Apple confirmed, and it will launch with "over 100 new and exclusive games." A sizzle reel of flashy games appeared at today's Apple event, and it largely focused on indie games that haven't yet launched on either traditional or mobile platforms yet. One notable exception: there was a brief shot of an apparently unannounced Sonic the Hedgehog game.

By paying the subscription fee, players will have access to all games for as long as they want with no limits or microtransactions attached. Shared family accounts will have access to the titles and parental controls for no additional charge. And the service's multi-device support extends to letting iOS gamers suspend an Apple Arcade game on their phone, then resume playing it on another device, or vice versa.

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Apple News+: A newsstand of 300 glossy magazines for $9.99/month

Ars Technica - March 25, 2019 - 6:19pm

Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook announcing Apple News+.

CUPERTINO, Calif.—As expected, Apple has announced a magazine subscription service built on top of its acquisition last year of Texture. Called Apple News+, it will offer fully browsable, digital versions of over 300 print magazines and newspapers like Wired, GQ, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal. The service also includes a number of digital-only publications. The service builds on Apple's free news content, which aggregates content from online publications like Forbes and The Atlantic.

As presented on stage, the service closely resembles what Texture looked like before. There is a heavy emphasis on human curation, with reading lists of articles across publications on certain themes and the like. As a bonus, magazines can offer live covers, turning their splashy photos into miniature videos.

Texture was previously owned jointly by several publishers, but Apple acquired the company, its staff, and its technology for an undisclosed amount in March of 2018. According to reports, publishers make their content available on the platform and share 50 percent of the revenue with Apple. Some publishers have balked at these terms, and some are reportedly grandfathered in from their deal with Texture, meaning that their continued participation in the service is not assured.

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