Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a number of bargain on high-profile video games, including a trio of popular games for the Nintendo Switch—Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Splatoon 2 are all down to $45.
These titles have dropped to this price a few times in the past, but they're all still good for a $15 discount. To be frank, we'd like to see their prices sink a bit lower considering they all launched in 2017, but more substantial deals from reputable retailers have been few and far between. Nevertheless, each game is still worth owning. You can read our reviews of each game for more details, but Odyssey's inventiveness, Breath of the Wild's sense of wonder, and Splatoon's colorful multiplayer haven't aged badly at all. Many Switch owners have these games already, but if you just grabbed the console, this might be a good excuse to catch up on some of its early essentials.
If you aren't hitched to the Switch wagon, though, we also have deals on popular games for the PS4 and Xbox One, including Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and Marvel's Spider-Man. And if you don't care about video games at all, one, what is wrong with you, and two, you can catch more discounts on iPads, Amazon devices, ThinkPads, portable batteries, and more below.
Nike users are experiencing some technical difficulties in the wild world of connected footwear. Nike's $350 "Adapt BB" sneakers are the latest in the company's line of self-lacing shoes, and they come with the "Nike Adapt" app for Android and iOS. The app pairs with the shoes and lets you adjust the tightness of the laces, customize the lights (yeah, there are lights), and see, uh, how much battery life your shoes have left. The only problem: Nike's Android app doesn't work.
Android users report that their new kicks aren't paring with the app properly, and some customers report failed firmware updates for the shoes, which render them unable to pair with the app at all. Nike's app on Google Play has been flooded with 1-star reviews in response to the faulty update.
One user writes, "The first software update for the shoe threw an error while updating, bricking the right shoe." Another says, "App will only sync with left shoe and then fails every time. Also, app says left shoe is already connected to another device whenever I try to reinstall and start over."
SAN FRANCISCO—Samsung presented not one, not two, not three, but four new phones at its Unpacked event in San Francisco yesterday. The devices included three variants of the conglomerate's S-series flagship phones—the Galaxy S10 as the default model, the S10 Plus as a larger variant, and the S10e as an iPhone XR-like lower-priced alternative, though in this case, the more affordable one is smaller than both of the other two. Samsung also introduced the radical (and extremely pricy) Galaxy Fold.
After the public briefing, we were hurried to a crowded demo room to see three of those phones, as well as some wearables and a tablet that Samsung also presented.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to do a whole lot with the devices on a crowded show floor. For example, there was no time to set up a fingerprint to see if the reader is fast enough, and the Adobe Premiere Rush CC app announced during the presentation was not installed on any of the phones. Also, Samsung did not offer hands-on opportunities with the 5G Galaxy S10 or its new folding phone. We were told more information about the folding phone will be released at Mobile World Congress later this month.
YouTube is losing advertising from Fortnite maker Epic Games, Disney, and other companies because of ads appearing alongside videos shared by pedophiles.
YouTube told Ars that it has taken action against users violating its policies this week, including by terminating more than 400 channels, deleting accounts, and disabling comments on tens of millions of videos. YouTube said it has also reported illegal content to authorities, but the company admitted it has more to do. We asked YouTube if it has identified any problems in its algorithms that helped cause the problem but received no answer to that question.
"All Nestle companies in the US have paused advertising on YouTube, a spokeswoman for the company said Wednesday in an email," Bloomberg reported yesterday. "Video game maker Epic Games Inc. and German packaged food giant Dr. August Oetker KG also said they had postponed YouTube spending after their ads were shown to play before the videos. Disney has also withheld its spending, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the decision hasn't been made public."
Remote Assist is an app designed for service engineers operating in the field, letting them show what they can see to a remote expert, who can then use a mixture of voice and AR drawing and annotation on what they see to provide guidance, troubleshooting, and instruction. This feature is already available for HoloLens and is being used by real service engineers. A preview of Remote Assist is coming to Android; while it won't offer the same hands-free convenience as the HoloLens, it also won't require the $5,000 headsets, instead running on a smartphone.
Product Visualize is a sales app that salespeople can use to show customers the products that they're buying in context, letting them see how big machinery and equipment is, check if it will fit in the space they want to use it, and so on. It's similar to, but simpler than, a HoloLens app called Layout, which similarly allows 3D models to be placed and laid out in the real world. A preview of Visualize is being released for iOS; an Android version may follow, depending on customer demand.
Is your Android phone feeling hot to the touch, acting sluggish, in need of frequent charges, or using dramatically more data than it used to? It may be a victim of DrainerBot, a major fraud operation distributed through Google Play apps with more than 10 million downloads, researchers said Wednesday.
The apps catered to a wide variety of interests, from makeup and beauty to mobile gaming. Under the hood, the apps download hidden video ads to the phones that consume as much as 10GB per month of bandwidth. While the videos are never viewed or visible by anyone, the downloads generate fraudulent advertising revenue each time a legitimate end user device appears to view a video while visiting a spoofed but legitimate publisher site.
“DrainerBot is one of the first major ad fraud operations to cause clear and direct financial harm to consumers,” said Eric Roza, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle Data Cloud, which uncovered the scheme. “DrainerBot-infected apps can cost users hundreds of dollars in unnecessary data charges while wasting their batteries and slowing their devices.”
SpaceX is set to launch a Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday night, and while it may not be the primary payload, a small Israeli lunar lander is by far the mission's most intriguing payload.
The 180kg Beresheet spacecraft, privately developed by SpaceIL in Israel and funded largely through philanthropy, will spend more than six weeks raising its orbit and becoming captured into lunar orbit before finally making the first private attempt to land on the Moon. Until now, only the US, Russian, and Chinese space agencies have ever successfully landed on the Moon.
This means there is a lot of pressure on the small Israeli team leading the mission, both in their native country and among the commercial lunar community, which wants to prove that private ventures can do what only nations have done before. "What it means to me is that the responsibility is very high," said Yoav Landsman, a senior systems engineer for the project, in an interview.
So you want to buy an Android phone, eh?
It's often said that a strength of the Android ecosystem is the sheer number of manufacturers out there producing devices, but that also means there is an absolutely intimidating amount of devices to pick from. Over 400 Android devices were released just in 2018—and the idea of buying a single device and then living with it for years can be daunting. Throw in tons of different price points, carrier compatibility, and user preferences, and "What Android phone should I buy?" can be a very complicated question.
We're here to sift through the absolutely crazy amount of choices and point out the phones we think would be best for most people. These are the best Android phones you can buy.
Every year, despite frigid temperatures and threats of snow, toymakers from across the country gather at New York City's Javits Center to show off their newest playthings. Companies big and small set up booths to showcase the year's most exciting forthcoming toys, and Ars wandered around most (although not all) of the 1.8 million-square-foot convention center to scope them out.
The Toy Fair takes up the entirety of the Javits Center, or four expansive floors that can and will mystify attendees as they walk through them. Around every corner are all-new stuffed animals, board games, collectibles and figurines, and of course, huge structures made by toymakers. We were particularly struck by the K'Nex area, which housed a fully functioning ferris wheel, a huge rollercoaster with zipping cars, and other moving creations, as well as a life-sized Lego Unikitty creation that appeared to be guarding one of the escalators.
We only spent one day at this year's Toy Fair (the entire show spanned the long President's Day weekend), but we managed to check out new additions to Funko, Lego, and Hasbro's already impressive toy families. The latter two companies have embraced new technologies more than ever before, both featuring connected toys that appear regular to the unknowing eye. Hasbro's new Star Wars Lightsaber Academy features a typical glowing lightsaber, but a customizable module inside the handle lets you choose the Master you want to "train" you.
How Ninja has gone from a high of 200,000 Twitch subscribers to around 30,000 in only 10 months.
Marc Cieslak looks at Metro Exodus, the first-person shooter video game developed by 4A Games.
It's no secret that some of our federal legislators don't have a firm grip on scientific evidence; it only takes watching a session of the House Science Committee, where one member suggested the climate-driven rise of the oceans might instead be caused by rocks falling into the ocean.
What's often overlooked is that state legislators are even worse (though it's not clear how much this is a product of there simply being more of them). Each year, they oversee a variety of attempts to introduce pseudoscience into the public schools of a number of states.
But it recently came out that a legislator in Montana was attempting to have the state officially renounce the findings of the scientific community. And, if the federal government decides to believe the scientists and do something about emissions, he wants the Treasure State to somehow sit those efforts out.
Several big firms pull ads after they appear next to sexualised comments left on children's videos.
Dreams, the first major PS4 exclusive from longtime PlayStation developer Media Molecule, is finally almost here. But if you think its protracted development cycle is anywhere near over, think again.
PlayStation Blog has the news today: starting "this Spring," gamers will be able to buy the latest "play, create, share" title from the makers of LittleBigPlanet for $29.99 ($39.99CDN in Canada, €29.99 in Europe). But there's a catch: this version of the game will be given a loud "early access" label, a rarity on the PlayStation Store.
"If you participated in the [closed] beta and felt like Dreams wasn’t fully featured enough for you yet, or you wanted more Media Molecule game content, then Early Access might not be for you," Media Molecule director Siobhan Reddy wrote on Wednesday. The sales pitch seems targeted at excited content creators who are ready to dive into the game, even without a full-fledged "campaign" mode or finalized UI and tutorials.
Last week, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a complaint against a company called CB&I Areva MOX Services and its subcontractor, Wise Services, for allegedly billing the US government for supplies that were never delivered. According to the complaint, a manager at Wise offered kickbacks including football tickets, guns, a YETI cooler, and a television to receive preferential treatment on a US government project to build a nuclear fuel reforming facility.
MOX Services was contracted by the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to build the Mixed Oxides Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF), which would have repurposed weapons-grade plutonium as fuel for nuclear reactors in the United States.
After wasting more than $7.6 billion on the MFFF, the US Department of Energy (DOE) canceled work on the South Carolina facility. The department has been quietly moving plutonium out of the area since then.
In 2017, Microsoft changed its Edge browser so that Flash content would be click-to-run (or disabled outright) on virtually every site on the Web. A handful of sites were to be whitelisted, however, due to a combination of Flash dependence and high popularity.
The whitelist was intended to make it easier to move to a world using HTML5 for rich interactive content and to limit the impact of any future Flash vulnerabilities. At the same time, the list would still allow sites with complex Flash-dependent content to keep on running. If only a few trusted sites can run Flash content by default, it should be much harder for bad actors to take advantage of Flash flaws. A similar approach was adopted by other browsers; Google, for example, whitelisted the top-10 Flash-using sites for one year after switching Chrome to "click-to-run."
But Google figured out how Edge's whitelist worked (via ZDNet) and found that its implementation left something to be desired. The list of 58 sites (56 of which have been identified by Google) including some that were unsurprising; many of the entries are sites with considerable numbers of Flash games, including Facebook. Others seemed more peculiar; a Spanish hair salon, for example, was listed.
The handset-maker wows with its phone-tablet hybrid, but many struggle to get over its price.
Florida inmate William Demler says that since 2012, he has spent $569.50 on digital music via a proprietary digital music service sponsored by the Florida prison system. Demler listened to his music on a prison-sponsored music player he purchased for $99.95. Demler, who is serving a life sentence, says ads for the prison-sponsored service promised access to his music for his entire prison term.
But last year, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) switched music vendors, and as a result, Demler lost access to his music collection. He was told that he'd need to buy the same songs again using the new system if he wanted to continue listening to them.
So Demler is suing the FDOC, arguing that the prison system broke its own promises and violated the US Constitution by depriving him of his music without compensation. He is seeking class-action status, allowing him to represent every prisoner in the Sunshine State who has lost access to the music.
A flash game available on the Environmental Protection Agency website since at least early 2017 made surprising use of copyrighted music from Nintendo's 2006 game Yoshi's Island DS.
Recycle City Challenge is an extremely simple educational Web game that asks players to answer basic questions about how to reduce waste and energy use. But yesterday, fan site Nintendo Soup was among the first to publicly notice that the Web game used a looping version of Yoshi's Island DS' "Underground" theme in the background.
The music, which played in a version of Recycle City Challenge accessed by Ars as recently as this morning, has since been removed from the live version on the EPA's website. You can still hear it in this Internet Archive copy of the site, though, and compare that directly to the same song on the Yoshi's Island DS soundtrack. Perhaps not coincidentally, a file named "yoshidsunderground.mp3" containing a copy of the song in question was in a music subfolder on the EPA website (as cataloged in this Internet Archive link) until earlier today.