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US court grants permission to recover Marconi telegraph from Titanic wreckage

Ars Technica - 1 hour 5 min ago

Enlarge / View of the bow of the RMS Titanic photographed in June 2004 by the ROV Hercules during an expedition returning to the shipwreck. (credit: NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island (NOAA/IFE/URI))

When RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, crew members sent out numerous distress signals to any other ships in the vicinity using what was then a relatively new technology: a Marconi wireless telegraph system. More than 1,500 passengers and crew perished when the ship sank a few hours later. Now, in what is likely to be a controversial decision, a federal judge has approved a salvage operation to retrieve the telegraph from the deteriorating wreckage, The Boston Globe has reported.

Lawyers for the company RMS Titanic Inc.—which owns more than 5,000 artifacts salvaged from the wreck—filed a request in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, arguing that the wireless telegraph should be salvaged because the ship's remains are likely to collapse sometime in the next several years, rendering "the world's most famous radio" inaccessible. US District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith concurred in her ruling, noting that salvaging the telegraph "will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived, and those who gave their lives in the sinking."

However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is fiercely opposed to the salvage mission. The agency argues in court documents that the telegraph should be left undisturbed, since it is likely to be surrounded "by the mortal remains of more than 1500 people." Judge Smith countered in her decision that the proposed expedition meets international requirements: for instance, it is justified on scientific and cultural grounds, and has taken into account any potential damage to the wreck.

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Russian hackers are exploiting bug that gives control of US servers

Ars Technica - 1 hour 19 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A Russian hacking group tied to power-grid attacks in Ukraine, the world’s most destructive data wiper worm, and other nefarious Kremlin operations is exploiting a vulnerability that allows it to take control of computers operated by the US government and its partners.

In an advisory published on Thursday, the US National Security Agency said that the Sandworm group was actively exploiting a vulnerability in Exim, an open source mail transfer agent, or MTA, for Unix-based operating systems. Tracked as CVE-2019-10149, the critical bug makes it possible for an unauthenticated remote attacker to send specially crafted emails that execute commands with root privileges. With that, the attacker can install programs of their choosing, modify data, and create new accounts.

A patch CVE-2019-10149 has been available since last June. The attacks have been active since at least August. NSA officials wrote:

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A $350 “anti-5G” device is just a 128MB USB stick, teardown finds

Ars Technica - 3 hours 9 min ago

Enlarge / The 5GBioShield, a USB stick that allegedly protects you from 5G and other radio signals. (credit: 5GBioShield)

Believers of 5G conspiracy theories have apparently been buying a $350 anti-5G USB key that—not surprisingly—appears to just be a regular USB stick with only 128MB of storage.

As noted by the BBC today, the "5GBioShield" USB stick "was recommended by a member of Glastonbury Town Council's 5G Advisory Committee, which has called for an inquiry into 5G." The company that sells 5GBioShield claims it "is the result of the most advanced technology currently available for balancing and prevention of the devastating effects caused by non-natural electric waves, particularly (but not limited to) 5G, for all biological life forms."

The product's website charges £283 for a single 5GBioShield, which converts to nearly $350. That's what it costs to get "protection for your home and family, thanks to the wearable holographic nano-layer catalyser, which can be worn or placed near to a smartphone or any other electrical, radiation or EMF emitting device."

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Zuckerberg dismisses fact-checking after bragging about fact-checking

Ars Technica - 3 hours 27 min ago

Enlarge / Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress in April 2018. It wasn't his only appearance in DC this decade. (credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Almost exactly two weeks ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was touting the success his platform has had with fact-checking and false-content warnings on posts. This week, however, Zuckerberg told Fox News that, really, he doesn't think Facebook should be in the fact-checking business at all.

"I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online," Zuckerberg said in an interview with Dana Perino. "Private companies probably shouldn't be, especially these platform companies, shouldn't be in the position of doing that."

The comments come amid a renewed debate about fact-checking on social media as Twitter and its most famous user, President Donald Trump, find themselves at odds. Twitter appended a fact-check notice—its first—to two Trump tweets relating to mail-in ballot fraud. In retaliation, Trump is expected to sign a new executive order as soon as today explicitly targeting Facebook's and Twitter's ability to fact-check, restrict, or otherwise manage content.

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Yamaha’s “Remote Cheerer” brings fan applause back to empty stadiums

Ars Technica - 3 hours 38 min ago

Yamaha staged a field test for its Remote Cheerer at Japan's Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA on May 13.

This week, Yamaha announced a plan to put fans back in the stadiums for major sporting events this summer—virtually, at least.

The company's new smartphone application, Remote Cheerer, is designed to allow sports fans to cheer from home in a way their teams can hear in the stadium. The app itself looks and functions much like a typical soundboard app you might use to summon up a Homer Simpson D'oh!—but instead of just making a noise on your phone, it integrates the cheers of potentially tens of thousands of fans and plays them on loudspeakers at the stadium where their teams are playing.

When fully integrated at the stadium itself, the application does a better job of emulating normal crowd noise than the short description suggests. For Yamaha's field test at Shizuoka Stadium, there were amplified loudspeakers placed in each seating section of the stadium, and fans' cheers were localized to the section where they would sit, had they been able to attend the football match personally. The result is a much more diffuse and authentic-sounding crowd noise.

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Poop alert: Sewage could signal impending burst of COVID-19 cases

Ars Technica - 3 hours 56 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

Around the country and the world, coronavirus lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are being lifted as the rate of new infections begins to slow. That shouldn't be interpreted as humans having suddenly beaten the virus; local outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 are going to be something we contend with until there's an effective vaccine or widespread immunity. For public health officials, having as much notice as possible about those outbreaks will be vital. And it's possible that sewage sludge might be able to provide that notice.

The idea is pretty simple. We know that infected humans shed SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in feces, so you can take samples of sewage sludge, look for the virus's genetic materials, and thereby get an idea of the viral load of the pooping population.

In fact, the idea of using our sewers for biosurveillance isn't a new one. I first heard the concept at the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology meeting in 2011, when biotechnology companies like PacBio and Oxford Nanopore proposed using their advanced new platforms to sequence the DNA in sewage for public health intelligence. But the idea was old hat even then—Israel has been monitoring sewage for signs of polio outbreaks since 1989, and it detected outbreaks in 1991, 2002, and 2013.

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Trump to take 'big action' against social media

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 47 min ago
The US president is expected to sign an executive order following a row with Twitter.

We’ve got exclusive deals on a bunch of Anker chargers this week

Ars Technica - 5 hours 16 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is something of a special edition of our usual tech deals roundup, as it's highlighted by exclusive discount codes we've secured for a bevy of Anker charging gear.

Our selection covers 15 different devices from the popular accessory maker, including USB-C wall chargers, Qi wireless chargers, USB-C hubs, portable batteries, fast Lightning charging cables, and power strips. The deals bring several items down to their all-time lowest prices and all of them well below their typical going rates. You can find the codes for each individual item below—just apply them at checkout to see the respective discount. Anker says they'll be valid until June 4.

Some highlights here include the Anker PowerPort PD 2 wall charger, which is down to a new low of $16 with the code "ARSTECH25". This is a 30W charger that includes both an 18W USB-C Power Delivery port for charging many newer smartphones at maximum speeds as well as a 12W USB-A port for powering up a second device simultaneously. The PowerCore Metro Slim 10000 PD, meanwhile, is a newer power bank with a similarly fast 18W USB-C PD port and a fairly thin (0.59 inches) fabric-coated design; it's about $15 off and down to a new low of $30 with the code "ARSTECH11".

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New macOS 10.15.5 feature reduces your battery life to save your battery’s life

Ars Technica - 5 hours 26 min ago

Enlarge / The new update is available via System Preferences on supported Macs. (credit: Samuel Axon)

This week, Apple released macOS Catalina 10.15.5, rounding out a series of system software updates that has rolled out to various Apple platforms (iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS) over the course of a week or so.

This version of macOS is primarily focused on a new battery management feature similar to one already introduced in iOS. It helps prolong the life of the device's physical battery by moderating charging based on users' habits.

With "Battery Health Management" in macOS 10.15.5, Apple aims to increase the life of the lithium-ion battery in each MacBook by limiting that laptop's maximum charge level when plugged in based on analysis of your charging patterns and the battery's temperature history. Charging to full unnecessarily can reduce the number of cycles before a lithium-ion battery becomes less reliable.

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New Raspberry Pi 4 model comes with a ton of RAM: 8GB

Ars Technica - 5 hours 48 min ago

Hot off the launch of an interchangeable camera system earlier this month, Raspberry Pi is introducing a new configuration of the Pi4: a model with a whopping 8GB of RAM. The new, highest-end config for the Pi 4 will run you $75.

The 8GB version of the Raspberry Pi 4 has been long rumored, thanks to Raspberry Pi itself leaking the existence of an 8GB model. The blog post reveals that an 8GB model was always a possibility and says, "We were so enthusiastic about the idea that the non-existent product made its way into both the Beginner’s Guide and the compliance leaflet."

The Raspberry Pi 4 launched last year with a faster SoC, more RAM, dual micro-HDMI, USB 3.0 support, and a USB-C charging port. In addition to the usual server and hobbyist uses, Raspberry Pi promoted performance on par with an "entry-level x86 PC" and dual-monitor desktop uses.

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The commander who laughed and joked Wednesday does not lack courage

Ars Technica - 6 hours 12 min ago

Shortly after sunrise on the morning of February 1, 2003, Doug Hurley waited on the long runway at Kennedy Space Center for a vehicle that would never come.

Only recently graduated to becoming a full-fledged astronaut, one of Hurley's first tasks was serving as a "Cape Crusader" for the corps, meaning he watched out for the Astronaut Office's interests in Florida. On this morning, he was part of a small cadre of astronauts to greet seven returning crew members on board the space shuttle Columbia.

As he waited, Columbia broke into pieces as it passed over Texas and other southern US states along its ground track to Florida. Hurley's friends died as their spacecraft burned up and broke apart during their reentry to Earth's atmosphere. From the beginning of his career, then, Doug Hurley profoundly understood the risks of the profession he had just entered into.

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Archaeologists in Norway are about to dig up a Viking ship

Ars Technica - 6 hours 38 min ago

Enlarge / If Scandinavian archaeology needed a logo, this outline would be a good one. (credit: NIKU)

A ground-penetrating radar survey in 2018 found a 20-meter Viking ship buried just beneath the surface of a farmer’s field in Østfold, Norway. At the time, archaeologists decided that the rare find was safest where it was. But recent analysis of a wood sample taken in 2019 reveals that although the ship looks remarkably well-preserved, it’s actually being eaten away by fungus. And that means it’s time for a rescue mission.

A Viking burial

The intended excavation is being led by archaeologist Jan Bill, curator of the Viking Ship Collection at Norway’s Museum of Cultural History, and his colleagues at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU). When they start digging in June, they’ll be the first archaeologists in a century to excavate a Viking ship.

The site, called Gjellestad, is especially interesting—and especially complicated. It’s a ship from the period when Scandinavian seafarers were raiding and settling their way around the North Sea and Atlantic—but it’s also the tomb of a Norse ruler. “Ship graves of this size were built for persons from the uppermost echelons in society—we would tend to call them kings and queens today, possibly also jarls,” Bill told Ars.

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Leaked draft details Trump’s likely attack on technology giants

Ars Technica - 7 hours 11 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

The Trump administration is putting the final touches on a sweeping executive order designed to punish online platforms for perceived anti-conservative bias. Legal scholar Kate Klonick obtained a draft of the document and posted it online late Wednesday night.

"In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand-pick the speech that Americans may access and convey online," the draft executive order states. "This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power."

The document claims that online platforms have been "flagging content as inappropriate even though it does not violate any stated terms of service, making unannounced and unexplained changes to policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints, and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse."

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Lego brings out a $380, 3,969-piece Lamborghini Sián FKP 37 kit

Ars Technica - 7 hours 55 min ago

Lamborghini chose last year's Frankfurt auto show to debut its Sián FKP 37 hypercar. Based on the Lamborghini Aventador, the Sián FKP 37 teaches that old dog a new trick through the addition of a supercapacitor hybrid system, adding an additional 34hp (25kW) to help out the 774hp (577kW) V12 engine. Only 63 Sian FKP 37s will be built, and even if you have the $3.7 million asking price, they're already sold out. But from June 1st, there's a cheaper way to get your own Sián FKP 37, as long as you don't mind it being 1:8 scale. That's when the Lego Technic version comes out—a 3,696-piece kit that will cost $379.99.

Highly detailed technical models of cars have been a thing for Lego's Technic line since the late 1970s. Building techniques have changed a lot in that time, as has the array of Technic parts, resulting in a remarkably accurate-looking scale model of the outrageous Lamborghini. But in keeping with more than four decades of Technic car models, this one still has functional suspension, steering, moving pistons inside its engine, and a working eight-speed paddle-shift gearbox.

The Sián FKP 37 is one of the latest in Lego's range of 18+ sets, although that age rating is for the difficulty of the build, not any NSFW content. Building it should occupy at least a weekend, if my experience of the Lego Technic LMP2 car is anything to go by (and no, I still haven't disassembled that one to fix a tiny error that I made early on). Lego and Lamborghini have also put together a series of 13 videos, accessible via QR codes in two included booklets, that it says "delve into the inspiration behind different stages of the design."

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Coronavirus: How will contact tracing work in England?

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 57 min ago
Millions in the UK will soon be asked to monitor who they have been near to combat coronavirus.

Coronavirus: France set to roll out contact-tracing app before UK

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 19 min ago
One minister has compared the UK and France's outlier approaches to their nuclear deterrent effort.

Dangerous SHA-1 crypto function will die in SSH linking millions of computers

Ars Technica - 9 hours 42 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Chaval Brasil)

Developers of two open source code libraries for Secure Shell—the protocol millions of computers use to create encrypted connections to each other—are retiring the SHA-1 hashing algorithm, four months after researchers piled a final nail in its coffin.

The moves, announced in release notes and a code update for OpenSSH and libssh respectively, mean that SHA-1 will no longer be a means for digitally signing encryption keys that prevent the monitoring or manipulating of data passing between two computers connected by SSH—the common abbreviation for Secure Shell. (Wednesday's release notes concerning SHA-1 deprecation in OpenSSH repeated word for word what developers put in February release notes, but few people seemed to notice the planned change until now.)

“Chainsaw in a nursery”

Cryptographic hash functions generate a long string of characters that are known as a hash digest. Theoretically, the digests are supposed to be unique for every file, message, or other input fed into the function. Practically speaking, digest collisions must be mathematically infeasible given the performance capabilities of available computing resources. In recent years, a host of software and services have stopped using SHA-1 after researchers demonstrated practical ways for attackers to forge digital signatures that use SHA-1. The unanimous agreement among experts is that it's no longer safe in almost all security contexts.

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Twitter fact-checks China amid bias row

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 44 min ago
After fact-checking President Trump, Twitter adds warnings to Chinese tweets too.

Artificial “tongue” for maple syrup weeds out batches with “buddy” off flavors

Ars Technica - 11 hours 12 min ago

Enlarge / A sampling of different brands of Canadian maple syrup. Scientists at the University of Montreal have developed an artificial "tongue" using gold nanoparticles to detect batches with "buddy" off flavors. (credit: Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Genuine maple syrup is a treat for the taste buds, whether you prefer light golden varieties or robust darker syrups. But sometimes batches can have off-putting flavors. Scientists at the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, have developed an artificial "tongue" using gold nanoparticles that can weed out bad batches early on. It's not so much an electronic device as a simple, portable chemistry test that detects a color change when an off flavor is present in a sample, according to a recent paper published in the journal Analytical Methods.

"Especially here in Canada, we take maple syrup for granted," said co-author Jean-François Masson of the University of Montreal. "But it is much more complicated than we had anticipated. It has some of the same complexities as fine wine and whiskey." Quebec is the largest producer of maple syrup, accounting for about 70 percent of the world's supply.

He is not referring to cheap knockoffs whose primary ingredients are high-fructose corn syrup with imitation maple flavoring. To be considered a true maple syrup, at least in Canada, a product must be made entirely from maple sap collected from maple trees, usually sugar maple, red maple, or black maple varieties. Maple syrup is mostly sugar, water, and a small amount of organic molecules that are responsible for the final product's flavor profile. Those compounds account for just 1 percent of the content, but it is a crucial 1 percent, determining whether a given syrup is caramelized, smoked, salty, or woody, among the 60 or so possible categories.

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Uber destroys thousands of bikes and scooters

BBC Technology News - 11 hours 16 min ago
Videos of the red bikes being crushed were shared online after Uber sold its Jump business to Lime.

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