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Industry & Technology

Netflix’s Rim Of The World shows where sci-fi is headed

Ars Technica - 44 min 35 sec ago

Enlarge / Netflix really knows how to keep this controller in the hand of certain niche audiences. (credit: Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

If the movie Rim of the World, which premiered on Netflix this week, looks a little familiar to you, that's on purpose. It's the story of four kids, thrown together at summer camp in the middle of an alien invasion, faced with the task of carrying the one object that can defeat the aliens across war-torn Los Angeles. It's a fun ride through childhood friendship forged amid killer aliens and saving the world. Sound like a 1980s-style adventure, like what Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment used to make? Well, good.

Maybe you'll see echoes of Stand By Me in its story of four kids on a road trip, or the vibe of Goonies and Explorers in the movie's diverse tweens in science-fictional, action-adventurous peril. Sharper-eyed nerds will spot locations such as Courthouse Square on the Universal backlot (the clock tower in Back to the Future) and the Sepulveda Dam used in Escape from New York and the closing credits of Buckaroo Banzai. These kinds of movies used to be a reliable product. "There were a couple of them every summer, and they were great, and I loved them. They were emotionally important to me," says Zack Stentz, who wrote Rim of the World. "And Hollywood stopped making them."

Now, though, digital streaming services like Netflix are upending of Hollywood's business model. Small screens can do what big screens won't.

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Dealmaster: All the best Memorial Day sales on TVs, laptops, and more tech

Ars Technica - 48 min 30 sec ago

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! It's Memorial Day here in the US, and for the Dealmaster that means it's time to check in with another big list of tech sales and bargains. While today's holiday is truly about honoring those who have served for our country, retailers, as they often do, have turned the day into a giant shopping event.

Many of the deals out there apply to mattresses, appliances, and other home goods, but those looking for discounts on tech aren't totally left in the cold, as there are a number of sales on laptops, televisions, and other electronics as well. Because he loves you, the Dealmaster has taken a break from his long weekend to round these up for you below.

The highlights today include various sales on iPads, Lenovo and Dell laptops, LG and Samsung 4K TVs, the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, and more. You can have a look at our full Memorial Day sales roundup below.

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Kelly’s Heroes: Lockheed’s five finest airplanes

Ars Technica - 1 hour 34 min ago

Update: It's Memorial Day weekend here in the US, and the Ars staff has a long weekend accordingly. As we all reflect on the sacrifice of the people bravely serving in the Armed Forces, we thought resurfacing this piece—an homage to some of the finest aviation ever deployed by the US—would be a welcomed accompaniment. This story originally ran on March 4, 2016, and it appears unchanged below.

Roughly 110 years ago, one of the world's greatest aircraft designers—Clarence "Kelly" Johnson—was born in Ishpeming, Michigan. And since we're gigantic aviation nerds here at Ars Technica, the week of his birthday (February 27) is as good a reason as any to celebrate some of his legendary designs. Johnson spent 44 years working at Lockheed, where he was responsible for world-changing aircraft including the high-flying U-2, the "missile with a man in it" F-104 Starfighter, and the almost-otherworldly Blackbird family of jets.

In his career at Lockheed, Johnson's engineering acumen won him two Collier trophies, the most prestigious award one can win in the field of aeronautics (Lockheed chief engineer Hall Hibbard once famously said about Johnson, "That damn Swede can see air!"). In addition to being an excellent engineer, Johnson was also a powerfully effective manager; his practices running Lockheed's Advanced Design Projects unit are commonly regarded now as a master-class on how small focused groups should communicate and manage projects.

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Deepfakes are getting better—but they’re still easy to spot

Ars Technica - 2 hours 14 min ago

Deepfakes generated from a single image. The technique sparked concerns that high-quality fakes are coming for the masses. But don't get too worried, yet. (credit: Egor Zakharov, Aliaksandra Shysheya, Egor Burkov, Victor Lempitsky)

Last week, Mona Lisa smiled. A big, wide smile, followed by what appeared to be a laugh and the silent mouthing of words that could only be an answer to the mystery that had beguiled her viewers for centuries.

A great many people were unnerved.

Mona’s “living portrait,” along with likenesses of Marilyn Monroe, Salvador Dali, and others, demonstrated the latest technology in deepfakes—seemingly realistic video or audio generated using machine learning. Developed by researchers at Samsung’s AI lab in Moscow, the portraits display a new method to create credible videos from a single image. With just a few photographs of real faces, the results improve dramatically, producing what the authors describe as “photorealistic talking heads.” The researchers (creepily) call the result “puppeteering,” a reference to how invisible strings seem to manipulate the targeted face. And yes, it could, in theory, be used to animate your Facebook profile photo. But don’t freak out about having strings maliciously pulling your visage anytime soon.

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Amazon defeated Rekognition revolt by a large margin

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 27 min ago
Ballot to ban sales of Rekognition system to police attracted less than 3% of investors' votes.

The ethical hackers taking the bugs to the bank

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 54 min ago
Looking for bugs in computer code can be lucrative but there's more to security than just cashing in.

Russian data theft: Shady world where all is for sale

BBC Technology News - 11 hours 58 sec ago
Sales of hacked personal data are booming in Russia as the penalties are rarely heavy.

Washington Governor signs bill to allow composting human bodies

Ars Technica - May 26, 2019 - 6:30pm

Enlarge / Mockup of a future Recompose facility. (credit: MOLT Studios)

This week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill to allow the composting of human remains within the state. It is the only state in the US—and possibly the only government in the world—to explicitly allow "natural organic reduction" of human remains.

The bill also legalizes alkaline hydrolysis, a base chemical process that also uses heat, pressure, and water to liquify remains. Bone is not liquified in the process, so it can be crushed and given to loved ones. Alkaline hydrolysis is legal in 19 other states, according to the New York Times.

The new law, which will take effect in May 2020, is a boon for Recompose, an organization that wants to offer composting as an alternative to green burials and cremation. Traditional burials usually require embalming chemicals and caskets that will remain in the ground for centuries if not millennia. Green burials, which forgo elaborate caskets and embalming chemicals, still require some amount of land, which can be expensive, especially in urban areas. Cremation, on the other hand, requires a significant amount of energy (mostly from fossil fuels) to complete, releasing greenhouse gases in the process.

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New Netflix original Rim of the World is pretty much perfect summer fare

Ars Technica - May 26, 2019 - 4:00pm

Four misfit kids must stave off an alien invasion in Netflix's original film Rim of the World.

Summer camp can be challenging enough for an awkward 13-year-old nerdy kid without aliens invading and turning the surrounding region into a war zone. That's the premise of Rim of the World, a fresh and fun original film from Netflix, written by screenwriter Zack Stentz (Thor, X-Men: First Class) and directed by McG (Charlie's Angels, Terminator Salvation). It's pretty much perfect summer fare, the kind of kid-centric action/adventure that used to bring audiences flocking to theaters in the 1980s. Stentz sat down to chat with Ars about his inspirations, and how he and McG successfully brought the story to the screen on a relatively modest budget.

(Some spoilers below.)

In the film, four misfit kids from very different backgrounds meet at a summer adventure camp in southern California's San Bernardino Mountains. Then aliens invade and Alex (Jack Gore), ZhenZhen (Miya Cech), Dariush (Benjamin Flores, Jr.) and Gabriel (Alessio Scalzotto) find themselves stranded alone in the woods when they miss the evacuation. An astronaut from the International Space Station crash-lands near the camp while the four are out hiking. She knows the location of the alien mother ship and gives the kids a flash drive with that data, asking them with her dying breath to take it to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. It's Earth's best hope to beat back the invasion—but the lab is 70 miles away, so the foursome must use their wits to make it there in time.

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Australian rare-earth ore processor wants to build a plant in the US

Ars Technica - May 26, 2019 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / Construction takes place at the site of Lynas Corp.'s Advanced Materials Plant in the Gebeng Industrial Zone near Kuantan, Malaysia, on Thursday, April 19, 2012. (credit: Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

This week, two rare-earth mineral-processing companies announced a new joint-venture whose aim will be to establish a rare-earth ore processing plant in Hondo, Texas.

Lynas Corp., an Australian rare-earths processor, and Blue Line Corp., a chemical company which is already based in Texas, agreed to a partnership to "see that US companies have continued access to rare-earth products by offering a US-based source."

Rare-earths minerals are found in consumer electronics, military equipment, electric vehicles, and wind turbines and solar panels. China sees rare-earths metals as a potential wedge in current trade talks with the United States, because it mines and processes the majority of the rare-earths used around the world.

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Before Netscape: The forgotten Web browsers of the early 1990s

Ars Technica - May 26, 2019 - 2:32pm

Browsers of the world, unite! (credit: Photograph by Computer History Museum)

Update: It's Memorial Day weekend here in the US, and the Ars staff has a long weekend accordingly. 2019 marks 30 years since Tim Berners-Lee worked at CERN and came up with a little idea known as the World Wide Web. As all of us do a little Web browsing this weekend, we thought resurfacing this piece outlining those early browsers might make all of us even appreciate Internet Explorer today. This story originally ran on Oct. 11, 2011, and it appears unchanged below.

When Tim Berners-Lee arrived at CERN, Geneva's celebrated European Particle Physics Laboratory in 1980, the enterprise had hired him to upgrade the control systems for several of the lab's particle accelerators. But almost immediately, the inventor of the modern webpage noticed a problem: thousands of people were floating in and out of the famous research institute, many of them temporary hires.

"The big challenge for contract programmers was to try to understand the systems, both human and computer, that ran this fantastic playground," Berners-Lee later wrote. "Much of the crucial information existed only in people's heads."

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Test performance, gender, and temperature

Ars Technica - May 26, 2019 - 2:00pm

(credit: Nest)

As we move from a season marked by unstoppable heating units and into one dominated by aggressive air conditioning. Figuring out how to optimize the thermostat involves a balancing of individual comfort and energy efficiency. But a new study suggests that there's an additional factor that should feed into decisions: the performance of any employees or students who happen to be subjected to the whims of whoever has access to the thermostat.

Unexpectedly, the new results show that men and women don't respond to different temperatures in the same way. And, in doing so, they raise questions about just what we've been measuring when other studies have looked at gender-specific differences in performance.

You’re making me cold!

As someone whose mother admonished him to put on sweaters because my bare arms "made her cold," I'm well aware that there's a long-standing cliché about the sexes engaging in a battle of the thermostat. What I hadn't realized is that the existence of that battle is backed by data. Tom Chang and Agne Kajackaite are able to cite four references for the tendency of women to prefer their indoor environments warmer than men do. Chang and Kajackaite, however, found that the academic literature is silent on a related issue: do women have a good reason for wanting it warmer?

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Why Huawei's Google woes worry Africa

BBC Technology News - May 26, 2019 - 12:21am
Will Africa's governments and consumers have to choose between using US and Chinese technology?

Is the voice assistant on your phone sexist?

BBC Technology News - May 26, 2019 - 12:02am
BBC's Megha Mohan finds out why voice assistant technologies often have female voices.

30-plus years of HyperCard, the missing link to the Web

Ars Technica - May 25, 2019 - 2:56pm

The Computer Lab's Beyond Cyberpunk Hypercard stack (credit: Beyond Cyberpunk!)

Update: It's Memorial Day weekend here in the US, and the Ars staff has a long weekend accordingly. Many will spend that time relaxing or traveling with family, but maybe someone will dust off their old MacIntosh and fire up Hypercard, a beloved bit of Apple software and development kit in the pre-Web era. The application turns 32 later this summer, so with staff off we thought it was time to resurface this look at Hypercard's legacy. This piece originally ran on May 30, 2012 as Hypercard approached its 25th anniversary, and it appears unchanged below.

Sometime around 1988, my landlady and I cut a deal. She would purchase a Macintosh computer, I would buy an external hard drive, and we would leave the system in the living room to share. She used the device most, since I did my computing on an IBM 286 and just wanted to keep up with Apple developments. But after we set up the Mac, I sat down with it one evening and noticed a program on the applications menu. "HyperCard?" I wondered. "What's that?"

I opened the app and read the instructions. HyperCard allowed you to create "stacks" of cards, which were visual pages on a Macintosh screen. You could insert "fields" into these cards that showed text, tables, or even images. You could install "buttons" that linked individual cards within the stack to each other and that played various sounds as the user clicked them, mostly notably a "boing" clip that to this day I can't get out of my mind. You could also turn your own pictures into buttons.

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Website for storing digital currencies hosted code with a sneaky backdoor

Ars Technica - May 25, 2019 - 1:45pm

(credit: NoHoDamon / Flickr)

A website that bills itself as providing a safer way to store Bitcoin and other digital currencies has been using a coding sleight of hand to generate private keys that are suspiciously trivial for the operators to guess, leaving all funds stored in the wallets open to theft, researchers with a different service said on Friday. provides code for creating what are known as paper wallets for 197 different cryptocurrencies. Paper wallets were once billed as a secure way to store digital coins because—in theory, at least—the private keys that unlock the wallets are stored on paper, rather than on an Internet-connected device that can be hacked. (In reality, paper wallets are open to hack for a variety of reasons.) While the site advises people to download the code from this Github page and run it while the computer is unplugged from the Internet, it also hosted a simpler, stand-alone service above all the instructions for generating the same wallets.

Researchers from MyCrypto, which provides an open-source tool for cryptocurrency and blockchain users, compared the code hosted on Github and and found some striking differences. Sometime between August 17 and August 25 of last year, the code was changed to alter the way it produced the random numbers that are crucial for private keys to be secure.

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Here are the finalists for 2019’s “Board game of the year” award

Ars Technica - May 25, 2019 - 1:25pm

Enlarge (credit: Spiel des Jahres)

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

The nominees for board gaming's biggest award, the German "Spiel des Jahres" trophy, were announced this week and feature a total absence of entries from designers Wolfgang Warsch and Michael Kiesling. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, those two absolutely dominated last year's awards).

This year, the jury of German critics went with light, easy-to-teach games for the family-friendly "Spiel des Jahres" award. Just One and Werwörter (Werewords in English) are word-based party games, while L.A.M.A. is a card-shedding game from design legend Reiner Knizia. All three play in under 20 minutes (!).

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Laser drones protect Scottish forests

BBC Technology News - May 25, 2019 - 9:01am
The drones use lidar to create a 3D picture to assess the health of what lies beneath the forest canopy.

Four times more data breaches logged in UK

BBC Technology News - May 25, 2019 - 3:36am
No companies have been fined in the first year of tough new data laws, despite a sharp rise in breaches.

Apple releases iOS 12.3.1 and a supplemental update for macOS 10.14.5

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 10:59pm

Enlarge / From left to right: the iPhone 8, the iPhone XS, the iPhone XR, and the iPhone XS Max. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Just a little over a week after iOS 12.3 hit iPhones and iPads everywhere, Apple has released iOS 12.3.1—a minor update that fixes a couple bugs. Earlier this week, Apple also released a supplemental update for macOS 10.14.5 to fix issues with the T2 chip on some MacBook Pros, addressing a common user complaint.

The iOS update primarily focused on fixing some issues with the Messages app. More specifically, it addresses a bug that prevented the "report junk" option from appearing on applicable threads and another one that made unknown senders appear in your main inbox when they shouldn't. Additionally, it addresses an issue that affected VoLTE calls.

Apple's patch notes for iOS 12.3.1 are as follows:

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