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Industry & Technology

What’s scarier than hosts gone rogue? Westworld’s idea for privacy laws

Ars Technica - 47 min 50 sec ago

Enlarge / Surely everyone in the world could trust these guys with 100% of their personal data, right? (credit: (WarnerMedia))

Delos Destinations—the company behind Westworld, Shogunworld, and other living theme parks—is optimistic about US lawmakers' ability to eventually agree on and enact some kind of sweeping privacy regulation. That day will come, HBO's fictional company tells us, in 2039: 19 years from today.

Email users who subscribed to Westworld updates from Delos Destinations may have received a message today about the Privacy Act of 2039 and its projected impact on Delos experiences.

"As you may have heard," the email from "Delos" begins, "US Congress has just passed the Privacy Act of 2039, which will be effective starting today. You will begin to see the impact of this legislation roll out over the coming weeks." The missive continues:

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The Raspberry Pi 4 gets a RAM upgrade: The 2GB version is now $35

Ars Technica - 58 min 52 sec ago

The Raspberry Pi 4 is approaching its first birthday in a few months, but it's already getting an upgrade: more memory. The Raspberry Pi launched in June 2019 with 1GB of RAM for $35, 2GB of RAM for $45, and 4GB of RAM for $55, but today the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced that the 2GB model is getting a permanent price drop to $35.

The rest of the specs are the same as always: a Broadcom BCM2711 SoC with four 1.5GHz Cortex A72 CPU cores, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3 ports, two USB 2 ports, a headphone/composite video jack, and two micro-HDMI ports capable of powering two 4K monitors.

Interestingly, the foundation says the 1GB version of Pi 4 is sticking around and "will remain available to industrial and commercial customers, at a list price of $35." If you were using fleets of these things for some industry project before, you can still get the old version and not change anything. For everyone else, you probably want the version with more memory. The new pricing seems to already be active at most of the recommended Pi resellers.

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New US coronavirus case from area with quarantined evacuees from cruise, Wuhan

Ars Technica - 1 hour 12 min ago

Enlarge / UC Davis Medical Center, where the patient with a COVID-19 infection of unknown origin is being treated. (credit: UC Davis)

A Northern California resident has contracted the new coronavirus despite having no known exposure through travel or obvious contact to an infected person—a first for the US.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the case late Wednesday, saying, “It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19,” meaning that the virus may be moving through members of the general US public undetected.

“It’s also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected,” the agency said.

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Both Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions are on sale today

Ars Technica - 3 hours 12 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is highlighted by a couple of deals on Xbox subscriptions, as 3-month membership codes for both Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate are on sale. The former is down to $15 from its usual $25, while the latter is down to $25 from its usual $45. Neither deal is an all-time low, but they're still good prices that we typically see whenever these memberships get discounted from reputable retailers.

For the unfamiliar, an Xbox Live Gold subscription is required to access the online components of most Xbox games and nets you a couple bonus games every month, much like Sony's PlayStation Plus service. Game Pass Ultimate, meanwhile, bundles a Gold membership with subscriptions to Microsoft's pseudo-Netflix-style Xbox Game Pass service for console and PC. We generally consider Game Pass to be a good deal on its own—its library has grown to include several worthwhile games, and Microsoft makes its own first-party games available on the service at launch. The company is heavily pushing Game Pass with its upcoming Xbox Series X console, but since it plans to make all of its "next-gen" games available on the current Xbox One for the first year or so of the Series X's life, Game Pass subscribers who don't plan on upgrading their hardware right away should still be able to get the most out of their membership.

Of note: if you already pay for Game Pass Ultimate, Microsoft says that buying a 3-month Xbox Live Gold membership will convert to 50 days of Ultimate service. If you've never subscribed to Game Pass Ultimate, though, know that it's still possible to save hundreds of dollars on up to three years of service by stocking up on Gold memberships first, then grabbing an Ultimate of the latter for $1 extra, converting all that Gold subscription time to an Ultimate subscription in the process. We've gone over how this deal works before, but if you plan to use an Xbox for the next couple of years, it's still a great deal worth considering.

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HTTPS for all: Let’s Encrypt reaches one billion certificates issued

Ars Technica - 3 hours 36 min ago

Enlarge / Encrypted communication has gone from "only if it's important" to "unless you're incredibly lazy" in four short years—and Let's Encrypt deserves a lot of the credit for that. (credit: nternet1.jpg by Rock1997 modified.)

Let's Encrypt, the Internet Security Research Group's free certificate signing authority, issued its first certificate a little over four years ago. Today, it issued its billionth.

The ISRG's goal for Let's Encrypt is to bring the Web up to a 100% encryption rate. When Let's Encrypt launched in 2015, the idea was pretty outré—at that time, a bit more than a third of all Web traffic was encrypted, with the rest being plain text HTTP. There were significant barriers to HTTPS adoption—for one thing, it cost money. But more importantly, it cost a significant amount of time and human effort, both of which are in limited supply.

Let's Encrypt solved the money barrier by offering its services free of charge. More importantly, by establishing a stable protocol to access them, it enabled the Electronic Frontier Foundation to build and provide Certbot, an open source, free-to-use tool that automates the process of obtaining certificates, installing them, configuring webservers to use them, and automatically renewing them.

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T-Mobile conducts layoffs as it prepares to complete Sprint merger

Ars Technica - 3 hours 59 min ago

Enlarge / The logo of Deutsche Telekom, owner of T-Mobile, seen at Mobile World Congress in February 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

T-Mobile "has laid off a number of employees" in its prepaid business, Light Reading reported yesterday. Light Reading said three sources confirmed layoffs in the Metro by T-Mobile prepaid business, but "the extent of the layoffs is unclear." We contacted T-Mobile about the reported layoffs and will update this article if we get a response.

A federal judge approved T-Mobile's $26 billion acquisition of rival Sprint about two weeks ago, rejecting a lawsuit by 13 state attorneys general who warned that the merger will reduce competition in the wireless telecommunications market and harm consumers with higher prices.

New York Attorney General Letitia James decided not to appeal the ruling, and the merging firms say they expect to be one company by April 1. California telecom regulators still have not approved the deal, a potential factor that could delay the merger closing.

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Pandemic simulation game Plague Inc. pulled from iOS App Store in China

Ars Technica - 4 hours 44 min ago

Enlarge / A virtual plague spreads from a virtual China in Plague Inc.

Plague Inc. maker Ndemic Creations says the game has been removed from sale on the iOS App Store in China because the relevant authorities say it “includes content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China.”

The popular game—which asks players to shepherd a virus' deadly spread around the world—has been available on the Chinese App Store for years without issue. Ndemic says it's "not clear to us if this removal is linked to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that China is facing," but it certainly seems like the most likely proximate cause.

"This situation is completely out of our control," Ndemic writes. "We are working very hard to try and find a way to get the game back in the hands of Chinese players—we don’t want to give up on you—however, as a tiny independent games studio in the UK, the odds are stacked against us. Our immediate priority is to try and make contact with the Cyberspace Administration of China to understand their concerns and work with them to find a resolution."

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War Stories: How Crash Bandicoot hacked the original PlayStation

Ars Technica - 6 hours 2 min ago

Shot by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcript.

When you hear the name Crash Bandicoot, you probably think of it as Sony's platformy, mascoty answer to Mario and Sonic. Before getting the full Sony marketing treatment, though, the game was developer Naughty Dog's first attempt at programming a 3D platform game for Sony's brand-new PlayStation. And developing the game in 1994 and 1995—well before the release of Super Mario 64—involved some real technical and game design challenges.

In our latest War Stories video, coder Andy Gavin walks us through a number of the tricks he used to overcome some of those challenges. Those include an advanced virtual memory swapping technique that divided massive (for the time) levels into 64KB chunks. Those chunks could be loaded independently from the slow (but high-capacity) CD drive into the scant 2MB of fast system RAM only when they were needed for Crash's immediate, on-screen environment.

The result allowed for "20 to 30 times" the level of detail of a contemporary game like Tomb Raider, which really shows when you look at the game's environments. Similar dynamic memory management techniques are now pretty standard in open-world video games, and they all owe a debt of gratitude to Gavin's work on Crash Bandicoot as a proof of concept.

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Everyone agrees: Facebook, Twitter should block disinfo—but probably won’t

Ars Technica - 6 hours 34 min ago

Enlarge / Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding foreign influence operations' use of their social media platforms on September 5, 2018. (credit: Drew Angerer | Getty Images)

If you're feeling extremely cynical about social media's preparedness for the rest of the madcap 2020 election season, you're in good company: A whopping three-quarters of Americans don't expect Facebook, Twitter, or other large platforms to handle this year any better than they handled 2016.

That finding comes from the Pew Research Center, which polled Americans about their confidence in tech platforms to prevent "misuse" in the current election cycle. A large majority of respondents think platforms should prevent misuse that could influence the election, but very few think they actually will.

Overall, only 25 percent of respondents said they were very or somewhat confident in tech platforms' ability to prevent that kind of misuse, Pew found. Meanwhile, 74 percent reported being not too confident or not at all confident that services would be able to do so. The responses were extremely similar across both Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning respondents.

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Google asked to justify Toronto 'digital-city' plan

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 39 min ago
Sister company Sidewalk Labs must explain why it has chosen digital solutions over non-digital ones.

YouTube 'not a public forum' with guaranteed free speech

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 45 min ago
First Amendment rights do not force YouTube to host or promote videos, a court rules.

Review: Altered Carbon comes back strong with twisty, fast-paced S2

Ars Technica - 8 hours 47 min ago

The first season of Altered Carbon, the Netflix adaptation of Richard K. Morgan's 2002 cyberpunk novel of the same name, earned critical praise for its existential themes and visually stunning world-building, plus a few dings for uneven storytelling and excessive violence. The much-anticipated second season has all the same strengths and almost none of S1's weaknesses, delivering an engrossing storyline that delves deeper into the underlying mythology and history of the planet known as Harlan's World. Fans of the first season won't be disappointed.

(Spoilers for S1 below; some spoilers for S2, but no major plot twist reveals.)

Like the novel (the first of a trilogy), the series is set in a world more than 360 years in the future, where a person's memories and consciousness can be uploaded into a device—based on alien technology—known as a cortical stack. The stack can be implanted at the back of the neck of any human body (known as a "sleeve"), whether natural or synthetic, so an individual consciousness can be transferred between bodies. Income inequality still exists, however, so only the very rich can afford true immortality, storing their consciousness in remote backups and maintaining a steady supply of clones. Those people are called "Meths" (a reference to the biblical Methuselah, who supposedly lived for 969 years).

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Ars Technicast special edition, part 3: Putting AI to work defending your stuff

Ars Technica - 9 hours 18 min ago

Enlarge / Artist's impression of adversarial AI being adversarial. (credit: Grassetto / Getty Images)

In the third and final installation of our podcast miniseries on artificial intelligence, produced in association with Darktrace, we delve into the realm of AI fighting AI—or what researchers refer to as "adversarial AI."

Click here for a transcript and click here for an MP3 direct download.

Adversarial artificial intelligence can take many forms—as a tool for hacking through AI-powered security of other systems, for example, or deceiving another algorithm with input that causes a specific, fake result. Ars editors Sean Gallagher and Lee Hutchinson spoke with the leader of the winning team from the 2016 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Cyber Grand Challenge, ForAllSecure CEO David Brumley, about advancements in AI-driven hacking. Lujo Bauer, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Institute for Software Research at Carnegie Mellon, joined Lee and Sean to talk about his research into ways to use AI to defeat technologies such as facial recognition. And Max Heinemeyer, director of threat hunting at Darktrace, discussed research already being done into how to stop AI-driven attacks on computer networks.

This special edition of the Ars Technicast podcast can be accessed in the following places:

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Clearview AI: Face-collecting company database hacked

BBC Technology News - 11 hours 7 min ago
Many law-enforcement agencies in the US use Clearview AI's facial-recognition technology.

Tim Cook says Apple's first Indian store to open 2021

BBC Technology News - 21 hours 30 min ago
The iPhone maker lags behind competitors in the world's second largest mobile phone market.

Anti-vaxxers wage war in Conn., lawmaker calls vaccines “witches brew”

Ars Technica - 21 hours 32 min ago

Enlarge / Image of anti-vaccine protesters in Connecticut's Legislative Office Building. They formed a prayer circle and said the Pledge of Allegiance and the Our Father before chanting “Healthy kids belong in school.” (credit: Twitter | Christopher Keating)

The battle over vaccinations ramped up in Connecticut this week as state lawmakers narrowly advanced a bill—with last-minute amendments—aimed at banning religious vaccine exemptions for children.

If passed, the measure will no longer allow parents to cite their religious beliefs as a valid reason not to provide their children with life-saving immunizations, which are otherwise required for entry into public and private schools and daycares.

The legislature’s public health committee passed the bill Monday in a 14-11 vote but not before making a last-minute amendment that would grandfather in children who already have such an exemption. As passed, the amended legislation would only apply to children newly enrolling.

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LG’s 2020 flagship smartphone is LG V60 ThinQ

Ars Technica - February 26, 2020 - 11:32pm

Mobile World Congress had to stay home sick this year with the coronavirus, but that's not stopping the mobile industry from making a bunch of announcements this week. LG has announced its obligatory Snapdragon 865 smartphone: the "LG V60 ThinQ."

The phone has Qualcomm's latest SoC, the Snapdragon 865, along with the X55 5G modem. LG's spec sheet does not say what kind of 5G (really, LG?) but Android Police reports that there is "mmWave exclusive to Verizon, and sub-6 for everyone, including AT&T." The phone has a 6.8-inch 2460×1080 OLED display, 8GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of storage, a microSD slot, and a 5000mAh battery. There are four holes in the rear-camera array but only three cameras: a 64MP main camera, 13MP wide-angle, and two holes for a time-of-flight camera for 3D effects. Like every other Snapdragon 865, 5G-packing smartphone we've seen so far, this is a lot bigger than last year's device. The LG V50 measured 159.2 x 76.1 x 8.3 mm, while the V60 is bigger in every direction: 169.3 x 77.6 x 8.9mm.

Also like the LG V50, the V60 again has an optional second screen attachment, This makes the phone look a bit like a Microsoft Surface Duo without any of the striking good looks. The second screen is the same as the first: a 6.8-inch 2460×1080 OLED display, and there's even a  2.1-inch monochrome screen on the front, which shows the time, date, battery level, and notification icons. The case is powered by the phone by plugging into the USB-C port, and for charging with the case on, you get a Mag-Safe-style magnetic charging connector. It's kind of neat that's it's reversible, but it's also a proprietary charger to worry about.

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First Amendment doesn’t apply on YouTube; judges reject PragerU lawsuit

Ars Technica - February 26, 2020 - 10:56pm

Enlarge (credit: YouTube / Getty / Aurich Lawson)

YouTube is a private forum and therefore not subject to free-speech requirements under the First Amendment, a US appeals court ruled today. "Despite YouTube's ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform, it remains a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment," the court said.

PragerU, a conservative media company, sued YouTube in October 2017, claiming the Google-owned video site "unlawfully censor[ed] its educational videos and discriminat[ed] against its right to freedom of speech."

PragerU said YouTube reduced its viewership and revenue with "arbitrary and capricious use of 'restricted mode' and 'demonetization' viewer restriction filters." PragerU claimed it was targeted by YouTube because of its "political identity and viewpoint as a non-profit that espouses conservative views on current and historical events."

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In a historic first, one private satellite docks to another in orbit

Ars Technica - February 26, 2020 - 9:32pm

On Tuesday, a spacecraft that was launched four months earlier docked with a communications satellite about 36,000km above the Earth. Northrop Grumman reported the historic docking on Wednesday, and the company heralded the mission as an "historic accomplishment" in the field of satellite servicing. Prior to this mission, no two commercial spacecraft had ever docked in orbit before.

Launched on a Proton rocket in October, the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) has a fairly long history of development under various companies. Ultimately, it was brought to space by SpaceLogistics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. After the company's rideshare launch in October, its MEV-1 spacecraft used electric-propulsion thrusters to raise its orbit 290km above geosynchronous orbit.

Meanwhile, a communications satellite launched in 2001 (Intelsat-901) was pulled from active service in December 2019 as it ran low on fuel. Operators commanded the satellite to move into a "graveyard orbit" above geostationary space. It is here that MEV-1 linked up with the communications satellite on Tuesday.

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People survived the Toba supervolcano’s global winter after all

Ars Technica - February 26, 2020 - 9:14pm

Landsat image of Lake Toba (credit: NASA)

A supervolcano eruption 74,000 years ago wasn’t enough to stop humanity in its tracks, artifacts at a Paleolithic site in central India suggest. The study is the latest strike against a hotly debated proposal that suggests the eruption of Indonesia’s Toba supervolcano had a huge influence on human evolution. The idea is that the eruption caused global cooling that killed most of the humans who had spread from Africa into Europe and Asia. But at the Dhaba site in Madhya Pradesh, India, archaeologists found stone tools in sediment layers spanning thousands of years before and after the eruption—evidence that human life went on.

An ancient apocalypse?

Today, the Toba supervolcano lies beneath the strikingly scenic Lake Toba on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Seventy-four thousand years ago, it erupted in the middle of an important chapter in humanity’s takeover of the world. One of archaeology’s biggest questions in recent years has been when and how people first spread beyond Africa into different areas of the world; the answers lie in fossilized skeletons, objects left behind, and the DNA of modern people.

Fossil evidence suggests that people had reached the Levant by around 200,000 years ago, the Arabian Peninsula by around 85,000 years ago, and northern Australia by around 65,000 years ago. But the genomes of modern people suggest that the ancestors of modern African and non-African peoples branched off from a common ancestor around 70,000 years ago. At first glance, those lines of evidence don’t seem to agree, and some paleoanthropologists say that’s because a sudden, lengthy period of global cooling changed environments around the world in very drastic ways. The resulting crisis allegedly killed off most of the people alive at the time, leaving only a few thousand survivors.

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