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Industry & Technology

High Score review: Netflix’s story of gaming’s “golden age” is honestly solid

Ars Technica - 2 hours 1 min ago

Enlarge / The series' title is silly, but it's actually such a good series that we found ourselves nitpicking its faults instead of feeling entirely embarrassed by it. In the gaming-media world, we'll call that progress. (credit: Netflix)

We at Ars Technica's gaming section are flattered by High Score, the newest docu-series launching August 19 on Netflix. The easiest way to describe this gaming-centric interview series, split into six 40-minute episodes, is to give a shoutout our own War Stories video series.

For a few years, War Stories has been asking developers of beloved game series to explain how they overcame problems and got their eventual classics to your favorite PCs and consoles. Netflix's new series does something very similar: it asks members of the game industry to stitch together a narrative of gaming's so-called "golden era," which, in their eyes, begins with Space Invaders in arcades and ends with Doom on PC.

All in all, I'm happy High Score exists. If you want to watch it uncritically, especially with people who don't necessarily play video games, you can look forward to a mix of intriguing and all-too-familiar classic-gaming tales, told with high production values and clear storytelling throughlines. For the most part, the series is dignified, not embarrassing—a fact that delights the inner 12-year-old in me, who still has a chip on his shoulder about being a gamer "outcast" for most of my youth.

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Online political campaigning 'to be more transparent'

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 31 min ago
A "digital imprint" will make web content as accountable as leaflets and posters, ministers say.

Police use of facial recognition violates human rights, UK court rules

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 10:08pm

Enlarge / A close-up of a police facial recognition camera in use at the Cardiff City Stadium on January 12, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales. Police used the technology to identify individuals who were issued with football banning orders in an attempt to prevent disorder. Critics argued that the use of such technology is invasive and discriminatory. (credit: Matthew Horwood | Getty Images)

Privacy advocates in the UK are claiming victory as an appeals court ruled today that police use of facial recognition technology in that country has "fundamental deficiencies" and violates several laws.

South Wales Police began using automated facial recognition technology on a trial basis in 2017, deploying a system called AFR Locate overtly at several dozen major events such as soccer matches. Police matched the scans against watchlists of known individuals to identify persons who were wanted by the police, had open warrants against them, or were in some other way persons of interest.

In 2019, Cardiff resident Ed Bridges filed suit against the police, alleging that having his face scanned in 2017 and 2018 was a violation of his legal rights. Although he was backed by UK civil rights organization Liberty, Bridges lost his suit in 2019, but the Court of Appeal today overturned that ruling, finding that the South Wales Police facial recognition program was unlawful.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Always read the fine print? GM Super Cruise only free for three years

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 9:23pm

Enlarge / 2019 Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise engaged. (credit: Cadillac)

I have regularly been effusive about General Motors' Super Cruise. By geofencing the combination of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping so that it will only engage on divided-lane highways and topping that with a gaze-tracking driver-monitoring system that only allows Super Cruise to function when drivers have their eyes on the road ahead, it works extremely well and within a tight operational design domain that should preclude any chance of encountering a parked car.

After trying it out in the Cadillac CT6 in 2018, I was so impressed I echoed Alex Roy and called on GM to make Super Cruise available in as many models as possible, as soon as possible. GM is slowly doing this. Even Consumer Reports was impressed. But in all that time, I guess I never read the fine print.

Well, the people over at MotorTrend did, and guess what? It turns out that if you bought a model year 2018, 2019, or 2020 CT6, you actually only get a free three-year trial of Super Cruise functionality. After that point, you must have an active OnStar account for Super Cruise to continue to work:

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft announces November launch for Xbox Series X, Halo Infinite delay

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 8:36pm

Over a year after it first publicly revealed "Project Scarlett," Microsoft announced today that the Xbox Series X console will be available in November. But while that launch will include what Microsoft says are "thousands of games spanning four generations"—including 50 new titles "optimized for Xbox Series X" planned for release this year—it will not include Halo Infinite.

That high-profile first-party shooter, originally announced for a "Holiday 2020" release, has now been pushed back to 2021. In announcing the delay, Microsoft cited "balancing the team's well being" with "finish[ing] the critical work necessary to launch" the game. The official Halo Twitter account cited "the ongoing COVID-related impacts affecting all of us this year" as one of multiple factors behind the delay.

Specific dates for the worldwide launch for the Series X console have not been announced, and a suggested price point has not been publicly confirmed for the hardware.

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US childhood SARS-CoV-2 infections surging with the current peak

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 8:34pm

Enlarge / NEW YORK CITY - AUGUST 08: A kid wears a face mask while riding a bicycle in Madison Square Park. (credit: Noam Galai / Getty Images)

The US is currently debating if and how schools can be reopened safely during the COVID-19 pandemic while dealing with a cloud of presidential misinformation. The debate is made difficult by a mix of ambiguous data about how much children contribute to the spread of the virus and some dramatic instances of the pandemic spreading within schools. Given the confusing and sometimes anecdotal evidence, it can be difficult to get a decent picture of how children are affected by SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.

Fortunately, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association have decided to provide some perspective. The two groups have been gathering state-level data on a number of stats in children and compiling it to produce a national picture. While there are definitely limitations to the data, the picture it paints is one in which the national surge in infections is being paralleled by a surge in cases in children, with nearly 100,000 new cases in the last two weeks of July.

Data and its limitations

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association have been analyzing childhood infections at weekly intervals, allowing researchers to track the pandemic's progression in the United States. Their most recent report covers up to July 30, and they have data going back to mid-April.

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Final Blockbuster to open for summer sleepover

BBC Technology News - August 11, 2020 - 7:56pm
The chain's last store in the US state of Oregon is to give locals the chance to stay the night.

Charter tries to convince FCC that broadband customers want data caps

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 7:55pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Charter Communications has claimed to the Federal Communications Commission that broadband users enjoy having Internet plans with data caps, in a filing arguing that Charter should be allowed to impose caps on its Spectrum Internet service starting next year.

Charter isn't currently allowed to impose data caps because of conditions the FCC placed on its 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable. The data-cap condition is scheduled to expire on May 18, 2023, but Charter in June petitioned the FCC to let the condition expire two years early, in May 2021.

With consumer-advocacy groups and Internet users opposing the petition, Charter filed a response with the FCC last week, saying that plans with data caps are "popular."

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Amazon’s Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets are back on sale today

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 7:36pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is headlined by a trio of discounts on Amazon's Fire HD tablets. The deals drop the Fire HD 8 to $60, the Fire HD 8 Plus to $80, and the Fire HD 10 to $100. Though we've seen these tablets discounted a handful of times already this year, each offer matches the lowest price we've seen for each device to date.

The thrust of the Fire HD line is getting good enough hardware and performance for significantly lower prices than Apple's iPads or a premium Android tablet. The three slates here don't change that value proposition: even Apple's entry-level iPad offers a more premium design, a better display, and a more comprehensive app library to those willing to pay for it. But if you're determined to pay $100 or less for a tablet, the Fire HD slates are generally good buys.

At its current price, the 8-inch Fire HD 8 might be the best value of the bunch: it offers a moderately sharp 1280x800 display in a comfortable design, its battery can last a few days on a charge, and while it's never outright fast, it performs competently for the basic media consumption for which it's intended. Just don't expect much in the way of gaming.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

EA shareholders say no to massive proposed raises for executives

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 6:52pm

Enlarge / Some of the executives in this building may be getting less money than they expected this year, thanks to a shareholder vote. (credit: Eliot Lash)

A significant majority of Electronic Arts shareholders voted against the company's executive compensation plans late last week. The vote follows a pressure campaign from activist investor groups against what they see as excessive bonuses for executives at the company.

So-called "say-on-pay" votes rarely fail when put before shareholders of major publicly held companies; a recent Harvard Business School study showed well below 3 percent of such votes failing in the last decade or so. And while the results of the vote aren't binding on the company's board of directors, they would have to overrule a full 68 percent of the company's voting shares that rejected the pay plan.

The rejected payment plan included a proposed $21.37 million in total compensation for CEO Andrew Wilson in the 2020 fiscal year, up from $18.3 million in 2019. Other executives were set to see much larger bumps, including CFO Blake Jorgensen ($9.41 million in 2019 to $19.5 million in 2020) and Chief Studios Officer Laura Miele ($6.95 million to $16.1 million), and CTO Kenneth Moss ($6.95 million to $14.2 million).

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Russia skips COVID-19 vaccine trial, says millions to be vaccinated this month

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 6:07pm

Enlarge / The unproven vaccine candidate has been dubbed "Sputnik V" (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that Russia is the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval for a COVID-19 vaccine—dubbed “Sputnik V.”

Putin claimed that one of his own daughters has already received a dose of the vaccine, according to reports from Moscow—though he didn’t note which daughter. Russian officials pledged to vaccinate millions within the month, starting with healthcare workers and teachers.

Little is known about Sputnik V, which was developed by researchers at the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow. There is no public data on the vaccine, let alone any published, peer-reviewed scientific studies. Public registration of two small clinical trials notes that Sputnik V uses a viral-vector-based design, but they suggest that it has only been tested in a small number of people. The trials, which began less than two months ago, each enrolled 38 healthy volunteers and have an estimated study completion date of August 15.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

NJ Supreme Court: No 5th Amendment right not to unlock your phone

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 5:57pm

Enlarge (credit: ymgerman / Getty)

New Jersey's Supreme Court has ruled that compelling a suspect to unlock his or her cell phone doesn't violate the Fifth Amendment. The courts continue to be deeply split on this question. Back in June, Indiana's Supreme Court reached the opposite conclusion, and several other state and federal courts have reached divergent positions on the issue over the last few years.

This case focuses on an allegedly corrupt cop named Robert Andrews. Andrews is a former Essex County Sheriff who allegedly tipped off a suspect named Quincy Lowery about a pending police investigation. Under police questioning, Lowery testified that Andrews had advised him to get a new phone to avoid a police wiretap. He also said Andrews helped Lowery identify an undercover police officer and an unmarked police vehicle. These allegations were corroborated by data from Lowery's phone.

The police seized two iPhones belonging to Andrews, but investigators were unable to unlock them. Andrews refused to unlock the phones based on the Fifth Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facial recognition use by South Wales Police ruled unlawful

BBC Technology News - August 11, 2020 - 4:19pm
Ed Bridges, 37, from Cardiff, brought a legal challenge after having his image captured twice.

McDonald’s CEO sent nude photos of employees over work email, lawsuit says

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 4:13pm

Enlarge / The McDonald's logo at a restaurant on November 4, 2019 in New York City. (credit: Getty Images | Kena Betancur )

McDonald's Corporation has sued former CEO Steve Easterbrook to recoup a $40 million severance package, saying the company found evidence on its email servers that Easterbrook was lying when he denied having sexual relationships with employees. Easterbrook initially fooled McDonald's by deleting emails from his phone, allowing him to get the generous severance payment despite being fired, the lawsuit against him said. But months after paying him the severance package, McDonald's checked its email servers and discovered that Easterbrook sent nude photographs of employees from his work email account, the lawsuit said.

McDonald's said it also discovered that Easterbrook approved a stock grant "worth hundreds of thousands of dollars" for an employee he was in a sexual relationship with. McDonald's said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday that its lawsuit aims "to recover compensation and severance benefits that would not have been retained by Mr. Easterbrook had he been terminated for cause." The SEC filing includes a copy of the lawsuit McDonald's filed against Easterbrook in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware.

Easterbrook was forced out at McDonald's in November 2019 after an internal investigation found he engaged in "a non-physical, consensual relationship involving texting and video calls" with a subordinate, which violated company policy and "demonstrated poor judgment that disqualified him from continued service as the CEO," the lawsuit said.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Eurostar blames Covid-19 for premium seat only wi-fi

BBC Technology News - August 11, 2020 - 3:35pm
The rail firm said free wi-fi was removed from standard-class carriages because of coronavirus.

Independent testing confirms the Lucid Air has a range of 517 miles

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 3:12pm

Enlarge / The Air looks superficially the same as when we saw it in 2017, but almost every body panel has changed. (credit: Lucid Motors)

Like it or not, range has become the primary criteria by which electric vehicles are judged. Even though most Americans travel fewer than 73 miles a day and almost every EV owner wakes up to a freshly charged battery each morning, there remains a deep-seated psychological dread at the possibility of having to drop everything and drive from New York to California with as little time spent stationary as possible. Limited range is frequently used as justification for the idea that the EV is a mere fad and will never actually catch on.

Well, road trippers, you'll soon need to find a new excuse not to go electric. Independent testing of the Lucid Air, which goes into production toward the end of the year, has determined that the car can travel 517 miles (832km) on a single charge.

When I spoke with Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson earlier this year, he told me that the company was targeting at least 400 miles (643km) from a single charge, which would make the Air competitive with the longest-range EV currently on the market. But when FEV North America, a Michigan-based engineering company, put an Air through the EPA's multitest cycle procedure, the results were far in excess of this internal goal.

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Xbox xCloud: How does Game Pass streaming work?

BBC Technology News - August 11, 2020 - 2:47pm
Microsoft's game streaming service is set to launch in beta - including in the UK and US.

Uber and Lyft drivers are employees, says US judge

BBC Technology News - August 11, 2020 - 2:12pm
The California court gives the two ride-hailing firms 10 days to challenge the ruling.

Android is now the world’s largest earthquake detection network

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 2:00pm

Back in 2016, Ars reported on an interesting use for the bundle of sensors we carry around every day in our smartphones—earthquake detection. The accelerometers in your phone make a passable-enough seismometer, and together with location data and enough users, you could detect earthquakes and warn users as the shocks roll across the landscape. The University of California-Berkeley, along with funding from the state of California, built an app called "MyShake" and a cheap, effective earthquake detection network was born, at least, it was born for people who installed the app.

What if you didn't need to install the app? What if earthquake detection was just built in to the operating system? That's the question Google is going to answer, with today's announcement of the "Android Earthquake Alerts System." Google is going to build what it calls "the world’s largest earthquake detection network" by rolling earthquake detection out to nearly every Google Play Android phone. Here's the meat of the announcement:

All smartphones come with tiny accelerometers that can sense earthquakes. They’re even sensitive enough to detect the P-wave, which is the first wave that comes out of an earthquake and is typically much less damaging than the S-wave which comes afterward. If the phone detects something that it thinks may be an earthquake, it sends a signal to our earthquake detection server, along with a coarse location of where the shaking occurred. The server then combines information from many phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening. We’re essentially racing the speed of light (which is roughly the speed at which signals from a phone travel) against the speed of an earthquake. And lucky for us, the speed of light is much faster!

That "race" often works out to only a minute or so of warning, but that's usually enough to duck and cover if you catch the notification.

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TCL’s latest 6-Series Roku TVs move up to mini-LEDs, start at $650

Ars Technica - August 11, 2020 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / TCL's new 6-Series QLED Roku TVs come with mini-LED backlights. (credit: TCL)

TCL on Tuesday launched the latest iterations of its popular 6-Series and 5-Series 4K HDR TVs. Both lineups are available starting today, though TCL says the former will have "limited availability" on Tuesday.

Prices for the 5-Series start at $400 for a 50-inch model, then move up to $450 for a 55-inch model, $630 for a 65-inch model, or $1,100 for a 75-inch model. The 6-Series, meanwhile, costs $650 for a 55-inch model, $900 for a 65-inch model, or $1,400 for a 75-inch model.

The 6-Series and 5-Series tend to be TCL's most recommended models for mainstream TV buyers, having offered laudable performance and simple Roku TV software at reasonable prices in recent years. The 6-Series slots in just below the company's highest-end 8-Series models, while the 5-Series sits just ahead of the more budget-friendly 4-Series and 3-Series TVs. In general, TCL's TV business has seen increasing success in the United States; today, the Chinese electronics firm only trails Samsung in US market share.

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