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Industry & Technology

Gigabit broadband: Rural households urged to claim upgrade cash

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 36 min ago
The government's gigabit voucher scheme has £70m available to poorly served communities.

Screen-time messages designed to decrease phone use

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 20 min ago
A new project encourages adults to communicate more with their kids and focus less on their devices.

In a consequential decision, Air Force picks its rockets for mid-2020s launches

Ars Technica - 4 hours 39 min ago

Enlarge / Artist's rendering of a Vulcan-Centaur rocket launch. (credit: United Launch Alliance)

On Friday afternoon, the US Air Force answered one of the big questions that had been hanging over the US launch industry for more than a year—which two companies will be selected to compete for national security launch contracts from 2022 to 2026?

During a video call with reporters, William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said that United Launch Alliance will receive approximately 60 percent of the launch orders and SpaceX will receive the other 40 percent. Two other bidders, Northrop Grumman with its Omega rocket, and Blue Origin with its New Glenn vehicle, will not receive awards.

"The ability to meet our technical factors to do the mission is the most important thing," Roper said, in response to a question on the Air Force criteria. Secondary factors included past performance, the ability to work with small businesses, and total evaluated price. The military has nine reference orbits for large and complex payloads that these rockets must meet.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Appeals court rules 10¢-a-page charge for court documents is too high

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 10:12pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

A federal appeals court has ruled that the federal judiciary has been overcharging thousands of users for access to public court records. PACER, short for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is an online system that allows members of the public (including Ars Technica reporters) to download documents related to almost any federal court case. For PDF documents, the site charges 10 cents per page—a figure far above the costs of running the system.

In 2016, three nonprofit organizations sued the judiciary itself over the issue. The class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of almost everyone who pays PACER fees, argued that the courts were only allowed to charge enough to offset the costs of running PACER. Over the last 15 years, as storage and bandwidth costs fell, the courts actually raised PACER fees from 7 cents to 10 cents. The courts used the extra profits to pay for other projects, like installing speakers and displays in courtrooms.

The plaintiffs argued that the courts were only allowed to charge the marginal cost of running PACER—which would be a fraction of the current fees. The government claimed that the law gave the courts broad discretion to decide how much to charge and how to use the money. In a 2018 ruling, a trial court judge charted a middle course. She ruled that some uses of PACER fees had exceeded Congress's mandates. But she didn't go as far as plaintiffs wanted by limiting spending to the operation of the PACER system itself.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Doom Patrol comes back strong with fierce and fun S2

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 9:00pm

Trailer for the second season of Doom Patrol.

Lots of people missed last year's debut of Doom Patrol, a delightfully bonkers show about a "found family" of superhero misfits, because it aired exclusively on the DC Universe streaming service.  Fortunately, S2 also aired on HBO Max, expanding the series' potential audience. Apart from one sub-par episode, this second season expanded on the strengths of the first, with plenty of crazy hijinks, humor, pathos, surprising twists, and WTF moments. Alas, the season finale is bound to frustrate fans, since it ends on a major cliffhanger and leaves multiple dangling narrative threads.

(Spoilers for S1; some S2 spoilers below the gallery.)

As we reported previously, Timothy Dalton plays Niles Caulder, aka The Chief, a medical doctor who saved the lives of the various Doom Patrol members and lets them stay in his mansion. His Manor of Misfits includes Jane, aka Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), whose childhood trauma resulted in 64 distinct personalities, each with its own powers. Rita (April Bowlby), aka Elasti-Woman, is a former actress with stretchy, elastic properties she can't really control, thanks to being exposed to a toxic gas that altered her cellular structure. Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, is a US Air Force pilot who has a "negative energy entity" inside him and must be swathed in bandages to keep radioactivity from seeping out of his body. (Matt Bomer plays Trainor without the bandages, while Matthew Zuk takes on the bandaged role.)

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New Jersey prosecutors drop charges over tweeting a cop’s photo [Updated]

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 8:35pm

Enlarge (credit: Kevin Alfaro / Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

A New Jersey man is facing felony charges for a tweet seeking to identify a police officer. Four others are facing felony charges for retweeting the tweet, the Washington Post reports.

Kevin Alfaro was attending a Black Lives Matter protest in the New York suburb of Nutley, New Jersey in June. He snapped a photo of a masked police officer and tweeted, "If anyone knows who this bitch is throw his info under this tweet."

In a GoFundMe campaign to cover his legal fees, Alfaro explained that he had been "physically threatened" by counter-protesters during the Black Lives Matter demonstration. He was trying to identify an officer who seemed to be friends with one of the counter-protestors, who Alvarao considered a "blatant racist."

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple won’t let Stadia or xCloud into iOS, citing App Store guidelines

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 8:24pm

Enlarge / Androids only. (credit: Microsoft)

Cloud gaming is increasingly becoming a thing, one that lets you play AAA games on a device regardless of the hardware specs. If your device can stream a video, it can probably play Red Dead Redemption on Google Stadia or Halo on Microsoft's xCloud (which is now technically called "Cloud gaming (Beta) with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate"). If your device is an iPhone or iPad, though, you're out of luck. Apple says these apps violate its App Store policies and will not be allowed into Apple's walled garden.

Apple sent a statement to Business Insider:

The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers.

Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.

Apple's App Store pitch is that it has real, live humans personally review each app for safety and quality, giving users a single, trusted place to get all their apps. Apple wants to approve these games individually and let users rate them individually through the App Store. The guidelines Apple cites flatly ban showing "store-like interfaces" on a remote computer and "thin clients for cloud-based apps," which Stadia and xCloud both run afoul of.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Mass hijacking spree takes over subreddits to promote Donald Trump

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 8:05pm

Enlarge

Dozens of discussion groups on Reddit—including those dedicated to the National Football League, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Gorillaz—were hit in a Friday morning mass takeover spree that used the subreddits to spread messages promoting President Trump.

The hijacked accounts had tens of millions of combined members. The 148,000-member subreddit Supernatural, dedicated to the TV show by the same name, was emblazoned with pro-Trump images and slogans. Reddit personnel have since restored the moderator account to its rightful owner. The image above is how the subreddit appeared when the takeover was still active. The takeovers came five weeks after Reddit banned /r/The_Donald, a leading forum for fans of the president, and hundreds of other unrelated subreddits for violating recently rewritten content rules.

Reddit personnel published this post captioned, "Ongoing incident with compromised mod accounts." Reddit personnel then warned that moderator accounts were being compromised and used to vandalize subreddits. It asked moderators of affected subreddits to report them in responses. At the time this post when live, the list of reported subreddits included:

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

What is Tencent?

BBC Technology News - August 7, 2020 - 6:50pm
The Chinese firm's investments include Fortnite, Tesla and Universal Music - but it's under fire in the US.

Trump declares TikTok, WeChat “national emergency,” preps bans

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 6:12pm

Enlarge / If the Trump administration has its way, these logos will be scarce inside the US in a few weeks. (credit: Ivan Abreu | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

The White House's campaign against the China-based developers of popular apps escalated dramatically in the last day, as President Donald Trump declared both TikTok and WeChat to be national emergencies and said the administration will ban or curtail their operations in September.

Trump late Thursday signed a pair of very similar executive orders "addressing the threat" allegedly posed by TikTok and WeChat.

"The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," both orders read. "The United States must take aggressive action against the owners" of the apps "to protect our national security."

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

HS suspends teen who tweeted photo of hallway packed with maskless students

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 5:14pm

Enlarge / Photo from North Paulding High School, tweeted by student Hannah Watters on Tuesday. (credit: Hannah Watters)

A 15-year-old high school student who posted a viral photo of a crowded school hallway says the school suspended her for five days for allegedly violating a social-media policy. But the school has since backed down and lifted the suspension.

Hannah Watters, a student at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, posted a photo to Twitter on Tuesday, noting the "jammed" hallways and "10 percent mask rate." Her tweet received 1,800 retweets and 4,500 likes. She also posted a 10-second video of a hallway at the 2,000-student school and says she was suspended around noon the next day.

This is what it looks like even with split dismissal. pic.twitter.com/erCA2lhOUb

— hannah (@ihateiceman) August 4, 2020

"The policies I broke stated that I used my phone in the hallway without permission, used my phone for social media, and posting pictures of minors without consent," Watters said, according to a BuzzFeed article. Watters called her actions "good and necessary trouble"—an apparent reference to a John Lewis quote—saying she is worried about the safety of students, faculty, and staff as the school reopens despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New study models ways of emerging from a pandemic lockdown

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 3:54pm

Enlarge / Testing and contact tracing may be essential for exiting pandemic lockdowns. (credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

As the scale and threat of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, researchers who trace the spread of diseases were pretty unanimous: to buy us time to develop a therapy or vaccine, countries needed to implement heavy-handed restrictions to limit the opportunities for the virus to spread. Experts painted frightening pictures of huge peaks of infections that would overwhelm local hospital systems if lockdowns weren't put in place, leading to many unnecessary deaths. For countries like Italy and Spain, which were already in the throes of an uncontrolled spread, reality bore these predictions out. Peaks rose sharply in advance of restrictions but fell nearly as sharply once they were put in place.

But those same models also predicted that ending the restrictions would put countries at risk of a return of the virus a few months later, forcing governments to again decide between strict restrictions or an out-of-control pandemic in the next step of a cycle that would repeat until a vaccine or therapy became available. Those countries now have a somewhat different question: are there ways of controlling the virus without resorting to a cycle of on-and-off lockdowns? For countries like the US, which implemented restrictions briefly, erratically, and half heartedly, such that peaks haven't been separated by much of a trough, the same question will become relevant if we ever get the virus under control.

A new study by a large international team uses epidemiological models to explore ways of keeping things in check while allowing most of the population to resume a semi-normal life. It finds that there are ways of handling restriction easing, but they require a combination of an effective contact tracing system, extensive testing, and a willingness of households to quarantine together.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Lawn chairs and kitchen tables: Ergonomics in the involuntary work-from-home era

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / This is your skeleton. This is your skeleton working from home. Any questions? (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

With offices shuttered around the world, many people are experiencing working from home for the first time—or experiencing it in much longer doses than they were used to. Many companies are planning to keep employees working remotely at least part of the time well into 2021. And some are considering making it permanent.

Countless people have had to improvise their work-at-home workspaces. But now that we're several months in, some of that improvisation may be wearing thin. And one of the things that often gets pushed to the back burner in all this improvisation is ergonomics. If you haven't worked from home regularly in the past, and you're now sitting at the kitchen table every day working from a corporate-issued laptop, you're probably feeling the physical strains of this never-going-to-be-normal reality.

As someone who has worked primarily from home for a quarter of a century, I've had a lot of time to figure out what does and does not work in a home office. The changes that have come with COVID-19—including having my wife and daughter in lockdown with me, both working from home themselves—have required some adjustments and some re-equipping. We needed our home workspaces to support the new world of work while maintaining comfort and a reasonable level of sanity mid-pandemic.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

TikTok threatens legal action against Trump US ban

BBC Technology News - August 7, 2020 - 1:43pm
The Chinese firm says it is "shocked" by an order for US companies to stop doing business with the app.

Facebook removes QAnon conspiracy group with 200,000 members

BBC Technology News - August 7, 2020 - 1:42pm
Facebook has joined Twitter and TikTok in taking action against QAnon conspiracy-theory content.

New cars can stay in their lane—but might not stop for parked cars

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 1:33pm

Enlarge / A test vehicle collides with a dummy car at a AAA test track in California. (credit: AAA)

In recent years, a number of car companies have—like Tesla—begun offering driver assistance systems that offer lane-keeping as well as adaptive cruise control. This might seem like a big step toward a "self-driving car," since a system like this can travel down the freeway for miles without human intervention. But a new report from AAA underscores the limitations of these systems.

Its most dramatic finding: the advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) on the latest cars still struggle to avoid collisions with parked vehicles. They tested cars from BMW, Kia, and Subaru; none consistently avoided running into a fake car partially blocking the travel lane.

The researchers also examined the ADAS in the Cadillac CT6 and the Ford Edge, but these cars' systems weren't included in the parked-vehicle test because their driver assistance systems wouldn't engage on AAA's closed course. They were included in other tests conducted on public highways.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rocket Report: South Korea’s SpaceX dilemma, Rocket Lab finds a quick fix

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 12:00pm

Enlarge / An overview of Astra's picturesque launch site for Rocket 3.1. (credit: John Kraus for Astra)

Welcome to Edition 3.11 of the Rocket Report! A lot of the most interesting news this week came in the world of small launch, with Electron announcing a quick return to flight as well as boosting the capacity of its Electron booster. We were also surprised to see such a robust fundraising effort by ABL Space Systems.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Astra attempts launch of second orbital rocket. The launch window for launching Rocket 3.1 from the company's spaceport on Kodiak Island, Alaska, opened Sunday night. A combination of technical issues with the rocket and ground systems, as well as weather issues, precluded launches on Sunday through Wednesday.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fall Guys review: A perfect amount of cheap, stupid fun with online friends

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 11:45am

Enlarge / Try not to get whacked on your way to this race's finish line. (credit: Mediatonic / Devolver Digital)

Have you been looking for a good online multiplayer game that's accessible to anyone who can use a joystick and three buttons? Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is that game. Imagine the minigame zaniness of Mario Party combined with the simple, squishy controls of Gang Beasts, then remixed to deliver the kind of fun that won't have you screaming in sheer anger at your friends. (Meaning, much better than Mario Party.)

The biggest catch, as those comparisons hint at, is Fall Guys' weakness as a solo game. Every match you'll play in the game's launch version is a battle against up to 59 online strangers, and the same design elements that make this a fun game with friends will leave you frustrated and furious when it's just you versus the world.

Fall Guys is a must-play with friends in your online party, a more tiring slog when played alone, and a party game that currently lacks any form of local-multiplayer functionality. If that sales pitch hasn't lost you, read on.

Tails, balls, and whacks

Each Fall Guys session takes place over five rounds of elimination contests, whittling the fray down from 60 competitors to a single winner. In every round, you control a slow, bean-shaped "fall guy," likely named after its floppy balance issues. You'll run and jump through obstacle courses, between swinging pendulums and platforms, and across soccer-like arenas, and anything less than a smooth landing will see your colorful, squeaky character topple over, get up, and try again.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple defends Xbox streaming block on iPhones

BBC Technology News - August 7, 2020 - 11:43am
Apple is denying consumers cloud gaming, says Microsoft, as streaming service is blocked on iPhones.

Facebook founder sees wealth hit $100bn after TikTok rival launch

BBC Technology News - August 7, 2020 - 5:07am
The social media giant's shares rose on Thursday after the launch of its new TikTok rival Instagram Reels.

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