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Industry & Technology

Chrome 79 will continuously scan your passwords against public data breaches

Ars Technica - 58 min 41 sec ago

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Google's password checking feature has slowly been spreading across the Google ecosystem this past year. It started as the "Password Checkup" extension for desktop versions of Chrome, which would audit individual passwords when you entered them, and several months later it was integrated into every Google account as an on-demand audit you can run on all your saved passwords. Now, instead of a Chrome extension, Password Checkup is being integrated into the desktop and mobile versions of Chrome 79.

All of these Password Checkup features work for people who have their username and password combos saved in Chrome and have them synced to Google's servers. Google figures that since it has a big (encrypted) database of all your passwords, it might as well compare them against a 4-billion-strong public list of compromised usernames and passwords that have been exposed in innumerable security breaches over the years. Any time Google hits a match, it notifies you that a specific set of credentials is public and unsafe and that you should probably change the password.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Nintendo’s Switch Pro Controller is down to $55 today

Ars Technica - 1 hour 10 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today, the Dealmaster's tech discount roundup is headlined by a deal on the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, which is currently down to $55. While this isn't the absolute lowest we've seen Nintendo's ergonomically friendly gamepad fall, it is the cheapest we've seen it in some time, as drops below $60 have been infrequent over the past year. The controller normally retails closer to its $70 MSRP. For reference, it only fell to $62 on Black Friday.

The Pro Controller itself is worth it if you frequently use the Switch docked to a TV. As we note in our guide to the best Nintendo Switch accessories, it's much more akin to an Xbox One controller than the Switch's default Joy-Cons, whose tiny buttons and joysticks can become uncomfortable over time. The Switch Pro pad should present no such issues—its face buttons and triggers are sized more appropriately for adult hands, its joysticks are tight and responsive, its textured handles give plenty of room to grip, and it has an actual d-pad. Its battery lasts around 40 hours on a charge, which is excellent, and it can pair with a gaming PC over Bluetooth. The only big downsides are that getting it to work with those PCs can require a little extra setup and that there's no headphone jack for hooking up a headset. Still, it's a massive upgrade for those who get lots of mileage out of Nintendo's console.

If you have no need for a better Switch gamepad, though, we also have a variety of deals on Switch console bundles, the latest Apple iPad, a deal that pairs an Echo Dot with a month of Amazon's Music Unlimited service for $1 extra, sales on various Anker accessories, a discount on Ars-approved board game Azul, and more. Check them all out in the full list below.

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Why new consoles probably won’t be enough to save GameStop

Ars Technica - 1 hour 30 min ago

Enlarge / How long will this be a common sight in malls across America? (credit: Flickr / JeepersMedia)

Things continue to look rough for struggling brick-and-mortar game retailer GameStop. This week, the company announced comparable store sales were down 23.2 percent year over year for the third quarter of 2019. It's a decrease led by a whopping 45.8 percent decline in hardware sales and a 32.6 percent fall in software sales.

Those are hard numbers to spin, especially when they're leading to corporate layoffs and hundreds of store shutdowns (including the newly announced shuttering of all GameStop stores in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden by the end of 2020). But GameStop CEO George Sherman attempted to put a good face on the results in an earnings call this week. There, he argued GameStop's current troubles are a predictable result of the end of the current console generation—and consumer anticipation of upcoming consoles from Sony and Microsoft—as much as anything else.

"With 'generation nine' consoles on the horizon set to bring excitement and significant innovation to the video game space, those anticipated releases in late 2020 are putting pressure on the current generation of consoles and related games, as consumers wait for new technology and publishers address their software delivery plans," Sherman said.

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Anti-vax students say outbreak response violates civil rights—judge disagrees

Ars Technica - 1 hour 42 min ago

Enlarge / This image depicts a child with a mumps infection. Note the characteristic swollen neck region due to an enlargement of the boy’s salivary glands. (credit: CDC)

With a one-sentence order Tuesday, an Arkansas judge rejected a request from two unvaccinated University of Arkansas students to have the court block a public health decree that temporarily bars them from classes amid a mumps outbreak.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported that as of December 5, there have been 26 cases of mumps at the university since September. Twenty of those cases occurred in November. According to a recent report in The Washington Post, the outbreak decleated the school’s already struggling football team, knocking out as many as 15 players and a few coaches from the end of its dismal two-win season.

On November 22, the health department issued a directive that any student who had not received two doses of the MMR vaccine (which protects against mumps, measles, and rubella) must either get vaccinated immediately or be barred from classes and school activities for 26 days. As of last week,168 students lacked the vaccinations and were barred from classes.

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Russia’s only carrier, damaged in shipyard accident, now on fire

Ars Technica - 4 hours 10 min ago

Enlarge / MURMANSK, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 12, 2019: A fire has broken out aboard the Project 11435 aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov of the Russian Northern Fleet. Admiral Kuznetsov is the only aircraft carrier of the Russian Navy. Lev Fedoseyev/TASS (credit: TASS / Lev Fedosev)

The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia's only aircraft carrier, caught fire today during repairs in Murmansk. While officials of the shipyard said that no shipyard workers were injured, Russia's TASS news service reports that at least 12 people (likely Kuznetsov sailors) were injured, some critically. In addition, three people, possibly including the third-rank captain in charge of the ship's repairs, are unaccounted for.

The Kuznetsov has had a long string of bad luck, experiencing fires at sea, oil spills, and landing deck accidents—including a snapped arresting wire that caused a landing Sukhoi Su-33 fighter to roll off the end of the deck and into the ocean. Its boilers belched black smoke during the ship's transit to Syria in 2016, and it had to be towed back home after breaking down during its return in 2017. Then last year, as it was undergoing repairs in a floating drydock in Murmansk's Shipyard 82, the drydock sank and a crane on the drydock slammed into the Kuznetsov, leaving a gash in the ship's hull. It looked like completion of repairs might be put off indefinitely because repair of the drydock would take over a year, and the budget for repairs had been slashed.

The fire was caused when sparks from welding work near one of the ship's electrical distribution compartments set a cable on fire. The fire spread through the wiring throughout compartments of the lower deck of the ship, eventually involving 120 square meters (1,300 square feet) of the ship's spaces.

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Man killed by Lexus car being remotely started

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 10 min ago
Michael Kosanovich was standing between two cars when one was accidentally started with a remote.

Minecraft diamond challenge leaves AI creators stumped

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 59 min ago
Humans usually take minutes to learn how to find diamonds in the game, but AI agents struggled.

Santa hacker speaks to girl via smart camera

BBC Technology News - 5 hours 21 min ago
Video shows a hacker talking to a young girl in her bedroom via her family's Ring camera.

Win part of a $4,500 prize pool in the 2019 Ars Technica Charity Drive

Ars Technica - 6 hours 23 min ago

Enlarge / Just some of the prizes you could win by entering our Charity Drive sweepstakes.

It's once again that special time of year when we give you a chance to do well by doing good. That's right—it's time for the 2019 edition of our annual Charity Drive.

Every year since 2007, we've been actively encouraging readers to give to Penny Arcade's Child's Play charity, which provides toys and games to kids being treated in hospitals around the world. In recent years, we've added the Electronic Frontier Foundation to our annual charity push, aiding in their efforts to defend Internet freedom. This year, as always, we're providing some extra incentive for those donations by offering donors a chance to win pieces of our big pile of vendor-provided swag. We can't keep it (ethically), and we don't want it clogging up our offices anyway. So, it's now yours to win.

This year's swag pile is full of high-value geek goodies. We have over 50 prizes amounting to over $4,500 in value, including game consoles, computer accessories, collectibles, smartwatches, and more. In 2018, Ars readers raised over $20,000 for charity, contributing to a total haul of more than $300,000 since 2007. We want to raise even more this year, and we can do it if readers really dig deep.

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This 3D-printed Stanford bunny also holds the data for its own reproduction

Ars Technica - 7 hours 8 min ago

Courtesy ETH Zurich.

It's now possible to store the digital instructions for 3D printing an everyday object into the object itself (much like DNA stores the code for life), according to a new paper in Nature Biotechnology. Scientists demonstrated this new "DNA of things" by fabricating a 3D-printed version of the Stanford bunny—a common test model in 3D computer graphics—that stored the printing instructions to reproduce the bunny.

DNA has four chemical building blocks—adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C)—which constitute a type of code. Information can be stored in DNA by converting the data from binary code to a base 4 code and assigning it one of the four letters. As Ars' John Timmer explained last year:

Once a bit of data is translated, it's chopped up into smaller pieces (usually 100 to 150 bases long) and inserted in between ends that make it easier to copy and sequence. These ends also contain some information where the data resides in the overall storage scheme—i.e., these are bytes 197 to 300. To restore the data, all the DNA has to be sequenced, the locational information read, and the DNA sequence decoded. In fact, the DNA needs to be sequenced several times over, since there are errors and a degree of randomness involved in how often any fragment will end up being sequenced.

DNA has significantly higher data density than conventional storage systems. A single gram can represent nearly 1 billion terabytes (1 zettabyte) of data. And it's a robust medium: the stored data can be preserved for long periods of time—decades, or even centuries. But using DNA for data storage also presents some imposing challenges. For instance, storing and retrieving data from DNA usually takes a significant amount of time, given all the sequencing required. And our ability to synthesize DNA still has a long way to go before it becomes a practical data storage medium.

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Boneworks review: An absolute VR mess—yet somehow momentous

Ars Technica - 7 hours 38 min ago

It's not Half-Life, they keep saying. But maybe Boneworks shouldn't have leaned so freaking heavily into the obvious visual similarities, considering how this week's new VR game doesn't quite hold up compared to its Valve inspirations. Still, it's a remarkable VR achievement. (credit: Stress Level Zero)

For years, an ambitious game called Boneworks has hovered in the periphery of the VR enthusiast community, inspiring equal parts drool and confusion. It's made by a scrappy-yet-experienced VR team (makers of quality fare like Hover Junkers and Duck Season). It revolves around realistic guns and a complicated physics system—thus immediately looking more ambitious than other "VR gun adventure" games in the wild.

And it so strongly resembled Half-Life in its preview teases, both in aesthetics and in physics-filled puzzles, that fans wondered if this was the oft-rumored Half-Life VR game after all. (It's not.)

Now that Boneworks has launched for all PC-VR platforms, does the gaming world finally have an adventure game worthy of an "only in VR" designation? The answer to that question is a resounding "yes"—but that's not the same as saying it's a good video game.

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The NHS robots performing major surgery

BBC Technology News - 18 hours 56 min ago
It all seems futuristic but 2019 has seen a boom in the use of cutting edge robotic technology.

Full university scholarships offered to video gamers in Pennsylvania

BBC Technology News - 19 hours 21 min ago
The new game on US university campuses is behind computer screens as esports gets major investment.

Senate Judiciary committee interrogates Apple, Facebook about crypto

Ars Technica - 19 hours 46 min ago

Enlarge / Lindsay Graham doesn't want people reading his texts. But he'll make darned sure there are backdoors for law enforcement into encrypted texts and devices, and he will pass a law if he needs to. (credit: US Senate)

In a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, while their counterparts in the House were busy with articles of impeachment, senators questioned New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, University of Texas Professor Matt Tait, and experts from Apple and Facebook over the issue of gaining legal access to data in encrypted devices and messages. And committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned the representatives of the tech companies, "You're gonna find a way to do this or we're going to do it for you."

The hearing, entitled "Encryption and Lawful Access: Evaluating Benefits and Risks to Public Safety and Privacy," was very heavy on the public safety with a few passing words about privacy. Graham said that he appreciated "the fact that people cannot hack into my phone, listen to my phone calls, follow the messages, the texts that I receive. I think all of us want devices that protect our privacy." However, he said, "no American should want a device that is a safe haven for criminality," citing "encrypted apps that child molesters use" as an example.

"When they get a warrant or court order, I want the government to be able to look and find all relevant information," Graham declared. "In American law there is no place that's immune from inquiry if criminality is involved... I'm not about to create a safe haven for criminals where they can plan their misdeeds and store information in a place that law enforcement can never access it."

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fewer than 10% of Americans are buying $1,000 smartphones, report says

Ars Technica - 19 hours 59 min ago

Enlarge / The Samsung Galaxy Note10. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

We've already seen indications that American consumers are holding onto their smartphones longer than before, posing challenges for companies like Apple and Samsung for whom mobile phone sales are important to the bottom line. A new NPD report reiterates that point but adds that fewer than 10 percent of American smartphone buyers spend more than $1,000, effectively ruling out flagship phones like the iPhone 11 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Note10 that gather most of the marketer and media attention.

The main point of concern raised by the NPD report, though, is 5G adoption. 5G phones will likely be unaffordable for many consumers at first, with the first wave of mainstream 5G phones in 2020 likely to cost at least $1,000 in most cases. On the other hand, consumer awareness of the imminent rollout of 5G is high, and many consumers cited that coming change as a reason they're holding out on spending big on new phones. It could be that some consumers who can afford $1,000 handsets but haven't made the plunge will do so when 5G arrives, provided that it offers all the benefits marketers have claimed. (That will likely vary quite significantly by city and region, though.)

And speaking of cities and regions, the report also found notable differences in smartphone buying habits across different designated market areas (DMAs). For example, the NPD claims that Americans in major urban centers like New York City or Los Angeles are more likely to spend $1,000 or more on a smartphone. It's unclear from the data whether this is a result of comparatively high average incomes in those areas or other factors.

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Heatwaves on multiple continents linked by jet stream tendency

Ars Technica - 20 hours 14 min ago

Enlarge / An example of meandering jet stream winds. (credit: NASA)

Summer 2018 saw some notably extreme weather in multiple locations around the Northern Hemisphere. There were heatwaves in the Western United States, Western Europe, the Caspian region through Siberia, and Japan as well. That’s not necessarily interesting on its face, as there’s always weird weather going on somewhere. But this was not a coincidence, as all these events were physically linked by the physics of the jet stream. It's a linkage that could contribute to a crisis for food production.

The Northern Hemisphere jet stream is a band of strong winds that marks a boundary between cold Arctic air and warmer mid-latitude air. As the jet stream slides farther north or south, it brings changes in temperatures with it, via the cold and warm fronts that can bring rain.

The jet stream's path can range from a neat, east-west stripe around the planet to lazy meanders that form serpentine shapes. Large meanders tend to move slowly, setting the stage for extremes like heatwaves (or cold rain in the next meander over). These meanders are affected by the location of continents and oceans, as well as by wind patterns around mountain ranges. Because these locations are fixed, there are some common positions for jet-stream meanders that occur over and over again.

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Lawsuit forces CenturyLink to stop charging “Internet Cost Recovery Fee”

Ars Technica - December 11, 2019 - 11:12pm

Enlarge / A CenturyLink repair truck in Estes Park, Colorado, in 2018. (credit: Tony Webster / Flickr)

CenturyLink has agreed to pay a $6.1 million penalty after Washington state regulators found that the company failed to disclose fees that raised actual prices well above the advertised rates. CenturyLink must also stop charging a so-called "Internet Cost Recovery Fee" in the state, although customers may end up paying the fee until their contracts expire unless they take action to switch plans.

"CenturyLink deceived consumers by telling them they would pay one price and then charging them more," Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in an announcement yesterday. "Companies must clearly disclose all added fees and charges to Washingtonians."

Ferguson encouraged Washington residents "who believe they have received bills that include undisclosed fees to file a complaint" with the state.

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New YouTube policy tries to ban “implied” threats, “malicious” insults

Ars Technica - December 11, 2019 - 8:58pm

Enlarge / Photoshopped image of YouTube logo behind a barbed-wire fence. (credit: YouTube / Getty / Aurich Lawson)

YouTube has for a long time been used as a platform for bad actors to launch massive campaigns of targeted harassment against individuals. After years of professing an inability to act and reduce such behavior, YouTube is finally updating its policies to reflect the ways bad actors actually tend to behave, and the site is promising to increase consequences against harassers.

Content that "maliciously insults" someone based on their membership in a legally protected class, such as race, gender, or sexual orientation, is now against the rules, YouTube said in a blog post today. "Veiled or implied" threats, of the sort that tend to rile up an online mob to go harass someone, are also now prohibited.

"Something we've heard from our creators is that harassment sometimes takes the shape of a pattern of repeated behavior across multiple videos or comments," YouTube added, catching up to what targets of coordinated online abuse campaigns have been saying for the better part of a decade. As such, the pattern of behavior will now be something the platform takes into account.

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BBC iPlayer stops working on some Samsung TVs

BBC Technology News - December 11, 2019 - 8:02pm
Eleven models are not expected to get a fix until after the Christmas holiday season.

E3 without the lines: System Shock, other games to get 48-hour Steam demos

Ars Technica - December 11, 2019 - 7:45pm

Enlarge (credit: The Game Awards)

In an era when traditional game-preview expos like E3 are languishing, a new contender has emerged with an idea we've been privately requesting from game publishers for years: a game expo that any fan and enthusiast can download and enjoy on their home computer.

Simply titled The Game Festival, this 48-hour event will launch exclusively on Steam tomorrow, Thursday, December 12, as part of the run-up to that evening's broadcast of The Game Awards. Starting at 1pm ET (10am PT) on Thursday, log in to Steam on a Windows PC to access "over a dozen" time-restricted game demos, and these will be available for play for approximately 48 hours. Users will download complete game clients, as opposed to streaming the games from the cloud, and like other time-restricted Steam games, these will require that players remain connected to the Internet to play them during their availability window.

The biggest news, as of press time, is that this slate of demos includes a world-premiere opportunity to play System Shock, the repeatedly delayed "faithful reboot" of the '90s classic. (It's not to be confused with System Shock 3, an entirely new entry in the series still in production and helmed by co-creator Warren Spector.) The full list of announced Game Festival demos is below:

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