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Industry & Technology

SpaceX to attempt cargo launch, upper-stage experiment for second time

Ars Technica - 1 hour 36 min ago

At Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday morning, the countdown clock is again ticking toward a launch of the Falcon 9 rocket.

On Wednesday, poor weather scrubbed the first attempt to launch the cargo mission to the International Space Station. Winds in the upper level of the atmosphere were above the acceptable level for a safe launch, and seas near the drone ship stationed offshore, Of Course I Still Love You, were too rough to ensure the rocket's first stage could make a stable landing.

And so SpaceX reset the launch to its backup date of Thursday, at 12:29pm ET (17:29pm UTC). Weather conditions along the Florida coast are more sedate as of Thursday morning, but meteorologists will still need to send up a weather balloon to provide in-situ data about conditions in the mid and upper levels of the atmosphere.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple iPhone 11 Pro 'can override location settings'

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 38 min ago
The phone maker denies any privacy flaw despite evidence locations are tracked even if set otherwise.

Huawei launches new legal challenge against US ban

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 48 min ago
The Chinese company filed the case after it was labelled as a security threat by Washington.

Lotus Evija: The £2.2m electric hypercar

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 13 min ago
The Lotus Evija goes into production next year and Click gets a look at what drivers can expect.

Cave diver tells court Elon Musk tweets 'humiliated' him

BBC Technology News - 12 hours 7 min ago
Vernon Unsworth tells a court that he felt "ashamed" after the Tesla founder dubbed him "pedo guy".

Mars rover aims to grab a piece of history

BBC Technology News - 14 hours 39 min ago
British engineers test technologies that will be needed to bring samples of Martian rock to Earth.

Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865 is 25% faster, comes with mandatory 5G

Ars Technica - 14 hours 39 min ago

Enlarge / The Snapdragon 865.

Today, Qualcomm detailed its new flagship SoC for 2020: the Snapdragon 865. This is going to be the chip that ships in every single high-end Android phone that comes out in 2020, and there's a lot to go over.

First up: we're getting the usual modest speed increases that Qualcomm delivers every year. Qualcomm says the CPU and GPU are 25-percent faster compared to this year's Snapdragon 855. Like last year, this is an eight core, 7nm chip, but as AnandTech reports, now it's being manufactured on TSMC-improved 7nm "N7P" node, the same manufacturing process used by Apple's A13 SoC.

This year the bigger CPU cores have been upgraded from Qualcomm's Kryo 485 cores in the 855, which were based on ARM's Cortex A76 design, to the new "Kryo 585 CPU," which uses ARM Cortex A77 cores. The frequencies are unchanged from last year: the single "Prime" A77 core is at 2.84GHz, and three other A77 cores are at 2.42GHz. Four Cortex A55s make up the smaller cores for background processing and other lower-power tasks and are clocked at 1.8GHz.

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Unvaccinated Samoans should identify themselves with red flags, officials say

Ars Technica - 15 hours 27 min ago

Enlarge / Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi receiving a measles vaccine to support the Mass Vaccination Drive (credit: Samoan Government)

People who have not been vaccinated against the measles virus should mark their homes with red flags, Samoan officials announced Tuesday.

The decree comes amid a devastating outbreak of measles, which was declared in October. As of December 3, officials have recorded 4,052 cases, 171 of which were recorded within the 24 hours before the tally. Officials also reported 60 deaths, 52 of which were in children ages 0 to 4 years old.

The outbreak has flourished after the vaccination rate of infants plunged to an estimated 31 percent last year. Health officials linked the drop in vaccination to the tragic deaths of two infants, who were given measles vaccines tainted with fatal doses of muscle relaxant. Two nurses were convicted in the cases and sentenced to five years in prison. Despite the convictions, anti-vaccine advocates have used the cases to drum up fear of vaccines.

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The next Xbox is in the wild, connecting to current-gen Xbox One players

Ars Technica - 15 hours 40 min ago

Enlarge / We'd prefer to use an official image of the console, but we won't have one of those until Xbox chief Phil Spencer invites us over to his house. And, ya know, Ars tech culture editor Sam Machkovech lives down the block in Seattle, so... (credit: Xbox)

A late Wednesday post from the leader of Microsoft's Xbox team, Phil Spencer, confirmed that the first "Project Scarlett" console is officially in the wild, ahead of its late 2020 launch window. And current Xbox One players appear to have already unknowingly connected to it.

"And it's started," Spencer posted on his Twitter account on Wednesday. "This week, I brought my Project Scarlett console home and it's become my primary console, playing my games, connecting to the community and yes, using my Elite Series 2 controller, having a blast."

Without any extra posts or clarification as of press time, we can only surmise so much from this single statement. But it's admittedly dense. Primarily, Spencer affirms a few details that he and the Xbox team have previously announced about Project Scarlett, the current codename for the unnamed successor to the Xbox One console.

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Star Trek writer and Hollywood trailblazer D.C. Fontana has died

Ars Technica - 15 hours 58 min ago

Enlarge / Fontana discusses her storied career in an interview. (credit: The Writer's Guild Foundation)

Dorothy Fontana—one of the most influential writers in Star Trek's long history, a renowned teacher and mentor of screenwriters, and a trailblazer for women in Hollywood—passed away in her home in Los Angeles this week at the age of 80, according to a press release from the American Film Institute.

Her numerous Star Trek contributions and roles include story editor on The Original Series and writing credits for several key episodes of The Original Series including the introduction of Spock's parents and many explorations of Vulcan culture. She also co-wrote The Next Generation pilot "Encounter at Farpoint" with franchise creator Gene Roddenberry, and she had various writing and story roles for Star Trek video games and several individual The Next GenerationDeep Space Nine, and The Animated Series episodes, such as the DS9 episode "Dax," which established the background of the titular character and her species.

In addition to her work on Star Trek, Fontana wrote episodes of Babylon 5, Bonanza, Dallas, Kung Fu, The Six Million Dollar Man, and many more classic TV series. She was also a member of the board of directors for the Writers Guild of America, and she was most recently employed as a senior lecturer at the American Film Institute, where she taught classes to screenwriters, directors, and producers.

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FCC tries to bury finding that Verizon and T-Mobile exaggerated 4G coverage

Ars Technica - December 4, 2019 - 11:20pm

Enlarge / Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, during an interview in New York, on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular exaggerated their 4G coverage in official filings to the Federal Communications Commission, an FCC investigation found. But FCC officials confirmed that Chairman Ajit Pai does not plan to punish the three carriers in any way. Instead, the FCC intends to issue an enforcement advisory to the broader industry, reminding carriers "of the penalties associated with filings that violate federal law."

"Overstating mobile broadband coverage misleads the public and can misallocate our limited universal service funds, and thus it must be met with meaningful consequences," FCC staff said in an investigative report released today.

But there won't be any meaningful consequences for Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. "Based upon the totality of the circumstances, the investigation did not find a sufficiently clear violation of the MF-II [Mobility Fund Phase II] data collection requirements that warranted enforcement action," an FCC spokesperson told Ars via email.

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BMW does about-face, drops CarPlay annual subscription requirement

Ars Technica - December 4, 2019 - 11:09pm

Enlarge / A BMW X7 navigating an off-road course (credit: Eric Bangeman)

When you buy a new car, you own it. Make the payments, and the car is 100 percent yours, with the only standing relationship between you and the carmaker consisting of scheduled maintenance. BMW broke that model when it decided to sell a software subscription along with its new cars, forcing buyers to pay $80 per year for continued access to CarPlay in cars that support Apple's in-car infotainment interface.

As first reported by Autocar, the German automaker has decided to get rid of the subscription fee and make CarPlay standard across most of its lineup.

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Payment card-skimming malware targeting 4 sites found on Heroku cloud platform

Ars Technica - December 4, 2019 - 10:15pm

Enlarge (credit: Mighty Travels / Flickr)

Payment card skimmers have hit four online merchants with help from Heroku, a cloud provider owned by Salesforce, a researcher has found.

Heroku is a cloud platform designed to make things easier for users to build, maintain, and deliver online services. It turns out that the service also makes things easier for crooks to run skimmers that target third-party sites.

On Wednesday, Jérôme Segura, director of threat intelligence at security provider Malwarebytes, said he found a rash of skimmers hosted on Heroku. The hackers behind the scheme not only used the service to host their skimmer infrastructure and deliver it to targeted sites. They also used Heroku to store stolen credit-card data. Heroku administrators suspended the accounts and removed the skimmers within an hour of being notified, Segura told Ars.

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BolaWrap: LA police to use 'Batman-style' device to snare suspects

BBC Technology News - December 4, 2019 - 9:27pm
Police say the gadget can restrain people without force, amid scrutiny of law enforcement tactics.

Study that argued EVs aren’t cleaner gets an update

Ars Technica - December 4, 2019 - 8:11pm

Enlarge (credit: Maurizio Pesce / Flickr)

There are people who object to newfangled technologies that address our reliance on dirty energy. For them, claims like this are irresistible catnip: electric vehicles aren't actually cleaner than their gas-burning counterparts. What a delicious I-told-you-so to those naïve environmentalists! The only problem with these claims is that they aren't true.

This particular assertion is based on the idea that the manufacturing of big batteries for these cars generates so much emissions that all later savings are canceled out. Sometimes, this argument requires unfair assumptions, like expecting an internal combustion vehicle to last far longer than an EV. But it always requires cherry-picking a high estimate for battery manufacturing emissions.

One of those estimates came from a 2017 study from the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute. Based on the data that it had to work with, the institute's study put the emissions at 150-200 kilograms of CO2 per kilowatt-hour of lithium-ion battery capacity—one of the highest estimates that has been published.

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Peloton exercise bike ad mocked as being 'sexist' and 'dystopian'

BBC Technology News - December 4, 2019 - 7:44pm
A Christmas ad for the exercise bike firm has been mocked on social media as being "out of touch".

Amazon’s new fantasy series, Wheel of Time, adds four more cast members

Ars Technica - December 4, 2019 - 6:59pm

Cover art for the first Wheel of Time novel. Production on the fantasy series began on September 16 of this year. (credit: Tor Books)

Amazon Studios has announced four new cast members for The Wheel of Time, the long-awaited TV adaptation of the late Robert Jordan's bestselling 14-book series of epic fantasy novels, Deadline Hollywood reports. Clearly, Amazon has joined the hunt for the next Game of Thrones, since within the fantasy genre, Jordan's series is as popular as George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire. The first season of the TV adaptation started shooting on September 16—coincidentally, the 12th anniversary of Jordan's death in 2007.

The TV series will center on Moiraine (played by Oscar-nominee Rosamund Pike), a member of a powerful, all-woman organization called the Aes Sedai. (In this world, magic exists, but only certain women can use it—i.e., the members of the Aes Sedai.) She identifies four young people, one of whom could be the reincarnation of a person who, prophecies say, will save or destroy humanity. Together, the youngsters embark on a journey across the world.

As Ars reported earlier this year, the first round of casting included Josha Stradowski as Rand al'Thor, aka The Dragon Reborn, He Who Comes With the Dawn, the Coramoor, Shadowkiller, and who knows how many other monikers. Marcus Rutherford was cast as apprentice blacksmith and dream-walker Perrin Aybara. Zoe Robins plays healer Nynaeve al'Meara, and Madeleine Madden plays the powerful channeler Egwene al'Vere. Finally, Barney Harris was cast as series comic relief Matrim Cauthon.

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New Iranian wiper discovered in attacks on Middle Eastern companies

Ars Technica - December 4, 2019 - 6:49pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

IBM X-Force, the company's security unit, has published a report of a new form of "wiper" malware connected to threat groups in Iran and used in a destructive attack against companies in the Middle East. The sample was discovered in a response to an attack on what an IBM spokesperson described as "a new environment in the [Middle East]—not in Saudi Arabia, but another regional rival of Iran."

Dubbed ZeroCleare, the malware is "a likely collaboration between Iranian state-sponsored groups," according to a report by IBM X-Force researchers. The attacks were targeted against specific organizations and used brute-force password attacks to gain access to network resources. The initial phase of the attacks was launched from Amsterdam IP addresses owned by a group tied to what IBM refers to as the "ITG13 Group"—also known as "Oilrig" and APT34. Another Iranian threat group may have used the same addresses to access accounts prior to the wiper campaign.

"While X-Force IRIS cannot attribute the activity observed during the destructive phase of the ZeroCleare campaign," the researchers noted, "we assess that high-level similarities with other Iranian threat actors, including the reliance on ASPX web shells and compromised VPN accounts, the link to ITG13 activity, and the attack aligning with Iranian objectives in the region, make it likely this attack was executed by one or more Iranian threat groups."

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Qualcomm builds a bigger, better in-screen fingerprint reader

Ars Technica - December 4, 2019 - 6:39pm

In-screen fingerprint readers were the standard form of Android biometrics on 2019 flagships, and in 2020 we'll start seeing the second-generation versions of this technology. Qualcomm is hosting its big tech show this week, and one of the first announcements is the new version of its "3D Sonic Max" ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor. The second-gen sensor is absolutely huge. Qualcomm says it's 17 times larger than the previous version.

In-screen fingerprint readers offer the benefit of being invisible and under the screen, and they can go on the front of the device while still allowing for an all-screen smartphone design. Being on the front lets you activate the fingerprint reader while the phone is on a desk, without picking it up. The downside is that there's not tactile guidance for where your finger should go. There's just a big, smooth pane of glass, and if you miss the fingerprint sensor, you're going to fail to unlock your phone. For in-screen fingerprint readers, bigger is better, since a wider target area means less of a chance you miss the invisible reader.

Qualcomm's first in-screen fingerprint reader, available on the Samsung Galaxy S10, was basically as small as it could possibly be: 9mm×4mm. This is much smaller than a fingertip, which is somewhere around 14mm×14mm—you were only scanning a tiny sliver of your fingertip. Qualcomm's second-gen reader is huge: 30mm×20mm. Qualcomm says this is big enough to scan two fingers at once, and—while I'm not sure why you would ever want to do this—"simultaneous two-finger sensing" is actually supported. You can be extra-secure at the cost of one-handed usage.

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Attacking agricultural pests with viruses

Ars Technica - December 4, 2019 - 6:36pm

Enlarge / A false color image of a phage attached to a bacterium. (credit: Lawrence Berkeley Lab)

About a third of the food that we grow, along with all of the effort and energy and labor and resources put into growing it, goes to waste. Much of it is thrown out by consumers or rots on shelves. But a substantial fraction of it is attacked by pests while still in the field. 

Bacterial wilt infects a number of crops throughout the world, including tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts, and tobacco. It is caused by Gram-negative bacteria. As with human antibiotics, treating agricultural pathogens suffers from problems with destructive, broad-spectrum, and increasingly ineffective pesticides. And just as in humans, people have suggested using viruses to attack the bacterial pests.

Phages are viruses that infect bacteria. They are highly selective, disabling only the bacterial species they specifically target and leaving neighboring bacteria alone. Since undesirable pathogens are often mired within a diverse bacterial community containing species that we want·(both in our guts or in the soil), this specificity is usually preferable to antibiotics and pesticides that indiscriminately kill every microbe they encounter.

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