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Industry & Technology

Charging into the mainstream: Volvo electrifies its first class-8 truck

Ars Technica - 25 min 16 sec ago

The reality of a production-ready fully electric semi is now upon us, at least for the short-haul routes. Last week, Volvo Trucks revealed the VNR Electric, the centerpiece of an ambitious and highly collaborative $90-million pilot project. It's known as Low-Impact Green Heavy Transport Solution, or LIGHTS for short. In addition to Volvo, which has invested $36.7 million, 14 other entities from both the public sector and private enterprise have signed on to this collaboration.

"Bringing electric trucks commercially to market takes more than the launch of the truck," says Keith Brandis, vice president of partnerships and strategic solutions at Volvo Group. "With the LIGHTS program, Volvo and its partners are working on creating a true holistic strategy," simultaneously studying not only the performance of the truck itself, but also variables such as maintenance needs, route logistics, infrastructure requirements, and environmental impact.

"Goods movement in the region is one of the biggest contributors to smog-causing emissions and 22 percent of emissions from California's overall transport sector," says Harmeet Singh, chief technology officer at Greenlots, the company developing and deploying the charging infrastructure for the LIGHTS program. "Our goal for the project is to demonstrate that electric trucks and the requisite charging infrastructure and systems are ready for real-world application," Singh told Ars.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Linux distro review: Intel’s own Clear Linux OS

Ars Technica - 39 min 21 sec ago

Intel's Clear Linux distribution has been getting a lot of attention lately, due to its incongruously high benchmark performance. Although the distribution was created and is managed by Intel, even AMD recommends running benchmarks of its new CPUs under Clear Linux in order to get the highest scores.

Recently at Phoronix, Michael Larabel tested a Threadripper 3990X system using nine different Linux distros, one of which was Clear Linux—and Intel's distribution got three times as many first-place results as any other distro tested. When attempting to conglomerate all test results into a single geometric mean, Larabel found that the distribution's results were, on average, 14% faster than the slowest distributions tested (CentOS 8 and Ubuntu 18.04.3).

There's not much question that Clear Linux is your best bet if you want to turn in the best possible benchmark numbers. The question not addressed here is, what's it like to run Clear Linux as a daily driver? We were curious, so we took it for a spin.

Read 41 remaining paragraphs | Comments

HQ Trivia: Quiz app ends with drunken broadcast after 'running out of money'

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 48 min ago
A buyout collapsed, leading to the app closing and a presenter paying for final game's $5 prize.

Israeli soldiers duped by Hamas 'fake women' phone ruse

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 3 min ago
Hamas militants hacked dozens of smartphones by posing as female admirers, Israel's military says.

Amazon: Suspect child car seats found for sale on its store again

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 13 min ago
Trading standards officers are probing the products, which Amazon has now removed from sale.

Can we fix our way out of the growing e-waste problem?

BBC Technology News - 13 hours 47 min ago
Levels of electrical and electronic waste are expected to more than double by 2050, according to the UN.

The doctors and lawyers giving advice on TikTok

BBC Technology News - 13 hours 50 min ago
The BBC meets the medics and lawyers across America who are using the app to help educate the public.

Farmageddon movie review: Stop-motion sheep > CG hedgehog

Ars Technica - February 16, 2020 - 11:35pm

Enlarge / This promotional image isn't actually in Farmaggedon, but it sums up the mood of the movie. (credit: Aardman Animations)

Do you like stop-motion animation? I love stop-motion animation. I can't remember a time when I didn't love stop-motion. From King Kong to the California Raisins—put that good stuff straight into my veins.

The current champion of stop-motion is Aardman Animations, which mostly works in a brand of modeling clay called Plasticine that is equal parts cutting-edge and charmingly handmade. I stumbled across an Aardman short called The Wrong Trousers (1993) on PBS in high school, and I was hooked. The film follows a pathologically British inventor named Wallace and his long-suffering dog, Gromit. In Trousers and their other various adventures, Wallace displays a profound lack of proportionality: he builds Rube Goldberg inventions when a butter knife would do, he buys robotic pants to help paint his walls, and he constructs a rocket to go to the Moon when he runs out of cheese. He also lives in a universe where everyone has more teeth than could possibly fit in their mouths.

I love Aardman's stuff for two big reasons: I love the way it looks, and I love its worldview. An Aardman production combines near-miraculous feats of stop-motion with characters who mostly have resting "durrr" face. Aardman's clay tears glisten like real water, but since running is a physical impossibility for stop-motion figures, they just walk hilariously fast instead. I love that the chickens in Chicken Run (2000) use their "hands" to cram feed into their mouths even though it would probably have been easier to show them pecking like real birds. The animators went out of their way to be inaccurate. In the universe of Aardman, "charming" trumps "realistic." (Also, Aardman did the 1986 music video for Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" in conjunction with—holy cow—the Brothers Quay.)

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tesla: German court halts work on new 'Gigafactory'

BBC Technology News - February 16, 2020 - 8:28pm
Environmentalists win a temporary injunction against forest clearance for a new "Gigafactory".

Fish monsters, barking dogs, and roach patties: The films of Bong Joon-ho

Ars Technica - February 16, 2020 - 4:30pm

Enlarge / Three-time Oscar winner Bong Joon-ho makes his statuettes kiss. Legend. (credit: David Swanson / Shutterstock)

Late last year, Ars picked Parasite by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho as the best movie of 2019. Last weekend, so did the Oscars. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that 100 percent of Academy voters must read Ars.


After recovering from our self-congratulatory champagne showers, however, we were stunned to see Bong's earlier films poorly represented in our archives. I've come to rectify that, since the South Korean writer-director fits into the Ars mold of creepy, stylish, and cutting-edge filmmaking.

My experience with Korean filmmaking in general...

Because I'm basic AF, my first exposure to Korean cinema was when the jury at Cannes (headed by Quentin Tarantino) awarded Oldboy the 2004 Grand Prix. From there, I watched the rest of Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy and The Handmaiden as well as making my way through flicks like The Chaser, A Tale of Two Sisters, A Hard Day, Attack the Gas Station!, and Train to Busan. If you've heard one thing about Korean films in general, it's that they are violent. I am by no means an expert on every movie put out below the 38th parallel, but I am reasonably erudite about the Korean films that US distributors have seen fit to bring stateside in the last couple decades as part of what's called "New Korean Cinema." This reputation for violence is partly warranted and partly marketing.

Read 29 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Fairey Rotodyne, the vertical takeoff and landing airliner time forgot

Ars Technica - February 16, 2020 - 3:00pm

The phrase "Urban Air Mobility" (UAM) seems like it's been with us for quite a while, but really it's only been in widespread use for two or three years. NASA officially recognized UAM in 2017, calling for a market study of remotely piloted or unmanned air passenger and cargo transportation around an urban area. Most people would probably call this the "air taxi" idea—a vision of hundreds of small, unmanned electric multi-copters shuttling two or three passengers from nearby suburbs or city spaces to vertiports at about 100 mph (roughly 161 km/h).

But if things had worked out differently in the late 1950s and early 1960s, we might have a very different understanding of UAM—something more like mass-transit. We might have had a city-center to city-center 55-passenger vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) airliner shuttling between urban heliports at 180 mph (289 km/h).

Actually, we did have that, it's just few people remember. It was called the Fairey Rotodyne.

Read 39 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Porsche Macan S will leave you wanting more

Ars Technica - February 16, 2020 - 2:00pm

The name Porsche conjures images of fun time behind the wheel. For me, that means tooling around in a friend's 1969 Porsche 912 on sunny Colorado afternoons with the top down. Of course, while many of us grow up dreaming about cruising winding roads in a roadster, reality ends up looking like squiring our kids and groceries around sprawling suburban streets in something with at least two rows of seats.

Like every other carmaker that wants to stay in business, Porsche has embraced the SUV. Indeed, the Macan was the Stuttgart-based OEM's best-selling model worldwide, with nearly 100,000 shifted in 2019. (The Cayenne was second, with 92,055 sold—we truly live in an SUV-ified world).

Launched in 2014, the Macan is still in its first generation, albeit with a modest makeover in 2019, the visuals of which are seen mostly in the interior and in new front and rear fascia. From a performance standpoint, last year's refresh made the front wheels a half-inch wider, added some new tires, and swapped out steel for aluminum in the forks that connect the front-axle carrier to the spring and damper. There is little change to the 2020 model.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Signal is finally bringing its secure messaging to the masses

Ars Technica - February 16, 2020 - 12:52pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Last month, the cryptographer and coder known as Moxie Marlinspike was getting settled on an airplane when his seatmate, a midwestern-looking man in his 60s, asked for help. He couldn't figure out how to enable airplane mode on his aging Android phone. But when Marlinspike saw the screen, he wondered for a moment if he was being trolled: Among just a handful of apps installed on the phone was Signal.

Marlinspike launched Signal, widely considered the world's most secure end-to-end encrypted messaging app, nearly five years ago, and today heads the nonprofit Signal Foundation that maintains it. But the man on the plane didn't know any of that. He was not, in fact, trolling Marlinspike, who politely showed him how to enable airplane mode and handed the phone back.

"I try to remember moments like that in building Signal," Marlinspike told Wired in an interview over a Signal-enabled phone call the day after that flight. "The choices we’re making, the app we're trying to create, it needs to be for people who don’t know how to enable airplane mode on their phone," Marlinspike says.

Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Why the world needs 'Instagrans'

BBC Technology News - February 16, 2020 - 1:00am
A new generation of influencers are making their mark on social media.

Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook boss urges tighter regulation

BBC Technology News - February 16, 2020 - 12:28am
Mark Zuckerberg says social media firms should not decide what counts as legitimate free speech.

Review: Fantasy Island commits the ultimate cinematic sin: It’s boring

Ars Technica - February 15, 2020 - 8:53pm

Sony’s reboot of Fantasy Island plays up the horror.

Five guests at a remote vacation resort find their fantasies are turning into nightmares in Sony Pictures' big-screen reboot of Fantasy Island, based on the popular TV series of the same name that ran from 1977 to 1984. This 21st-century update plays up the horror aspects and has been touted as a cross between Westworld and The Cabin in the Woods—perhaps with a little bit of Lost thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, the film fails to capture any of the elements that made those works uniquely appealing, and the result is a muddled mishmash of tired tropes and yawn-inducing plot twists you can see coming from miles away.

(Mild spoilers below the gallery.)

Fantasy Island was always a terrific storytelling concept, despite its cheesier elements. Apparently, creator Aaron Spelling pitched the series to ABC executives as a joke after they'd rejected all his other ideas—and the network loved it. The ultra-urbane Ricardo Montalbán played the dashing Mr. Roarke, proprietor of the titular island, providing guests the chance to live out their fantasies for a suitable price. He was aided by his trusty sidekick Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize). Every episode opened with Tattoo shouting the catchphrase, "Ze plane! Ze plane!" and ringing a bell in the island's main tower as guests arrived.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Americans trapped on cruise ship with coronavirus get to go home

Ars Technica - February 15, 2020 - 7:35pm

Enlarge / YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 10: A member of the media wears a face mask while walking past the Diamond Princess cruise ship. (credit: Getty | Carl Court)

Approximately 400 Americans may finally get to go home after being trapped aboard a cruise ship in Japan with the largest outbreak of coronavirus outside of China.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday announced plans to evacuate the US citizens, who are encouraged to disembark the quarantined ship—the Diamond Princess—and fly to the States on planes chartered by the US State Department. The aircraft will arrive in Japan on the evening of February 16. Upon their return, the Americans will be subject to a 14-day federal quarantine in one of two military bases.

Everyone aboard the Diamond Princess has been under quarantine on the ship in Yokohama, Japan (south of Tokyo), since February 3. At the start of the quarantine, there were 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on board the ship. Since then, 285 cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) have been identified, according to the latest figures reported by the World Health Organization.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Researchers have already tested YouTube’s algorithms for political bias

Ars Technica - February 15, 2020 - 6:15pm

Enlarge / Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019. (credit: Lyu Liang | VCG | Getty Images)

In August 2018, President Donald Trump claimed that social media was "totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices." Not much was new about this: for years, conservatives have accused tech companies of political bias. Just last July, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked the FTC to investigate the content moderation policies of tech companies like Google. A day after Google's vice president insisted that YouTube was apolitical, Cruz claimed that political bias on YouTube was "massive."

But the data doesn't back Cruz up—and it's been available for a while. While the actual policies and procedures for moderating content are often opaque, it is possible to look at the outcomes of moderation and determine if there's indication of bias there. And, last year, computer scientists decided to do exactly that.

Moderation

Motivated by the long-running argument in Washington, DC, computer scientists at Northeastern University decided to investigate political bias in YouTube's comment moderation. The team analyzed 84,068 comments on 258 YouTube videos. At first glance, the team found that comments on right-leaning videos seemed more heavily moderated than those on left-leaning ones. But when the researchers also accounted for factors such as the prevalence of hate speech and misinformation, they found no differences between comment moderation on right- and left-leaning videos.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“I was just shaking”—new documents reveal details of fatal Tesla crash

Ars Technica - February 15, 2020 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / The trailer sheared off the roof of Jeremy Banner's car, killing him instantly.

"It really looked like I had plenty of time to go across," an anguished Florida truck driver said in an interview transcript released by the National Transportation Safety Board this week. Unfortunately, he was wrong.

Richard Wood was driving a semi truck on the morning of Friday, March 1, 2019. He pulled onto Florida's SR 7 from a driveway, intending to make a left turn. But as he crossed to the opposite lane, a Tesla Model 3 belonging to Jeremy Banner crashed into the side of the truck. Banner's Tesla went under Wood's trailer, shearing off the roof and killing Banner.

The case attracted wide attention because Banner had engaged Tesla's Autopilot technology. Not only that, the circumstances of Banner's death were almost identical to the first Autopilot-related death in the United States: the death of Josh Brown in 2016. Brown was also killed when Autopilot failed to stop for a semi truck crossing in front of him on a Florida highway.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Evolving underwater: Oceans board game review

Ars Technica - February 15, 2020 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / The game in all its glory on the table. (credit: North Star Games)

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.

I once spotted a barracuda while scuba diving. It darted in close, shimmering silver, its features reminiscent of a high school bully: lean, sharp, with an underbite that jutted forward in defiance of both authority and band kids.

If I were to build that creature in Oceans, the latest card game from North Star Games, its traits would be Speed, Apex Predator, and Scare The Crap Out Of Fourteen-Year-Old Dan. (That last one is a promo card. It isn’t available, so don’t request it.)

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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