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Industry & Technology

A nebbishy bank teller discovers he’s trapped in a video game in Free Guy

Ars Technica - December 7, 2019 - 11:47pm

Ryan Reynolds stars in Free Guy.

A lowly bank teller discovers he's actually a non playable character in an open-world video game in Free Guy, a forthcoming film from 20th Century Fox. Director Shawn Levy debuted the first trailer this weekend at the 2019 Comic Con Experience (CCXP) in Sao Paulo, Brazil, describing it as "a superhero origin story except without the tights, powers, or pre-existing IP," according to Deadline Hollywood. Stars Ryan Reynolds and Joe Keery (Steve Harrington on Stranger Things) were also on hand for the event.

Per the official synopsis, Free Guy is about "a bank teller who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game, decides to become the hero of his own story…one he rewrites himself. Now in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world his way…before it is too late."

The trailer opens with cheery bank teller Guy (Reynolds) waking up and heading to work. He remains completely unfazed as he encounters all manner of bizarre occurrences en route: shootouts, explosions, a guy with a flame-thrower, and his pal Joe getting thrown through a storefront window. ("Whoa-ho! Mondays! Amirite, Joe?")

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Bernie Sanders vows to break up huge ISPs and regulate broadband prices

Ars Technica - December 7, 2019 - 10:07pm

Enlarge / Bernie Sanders speaks to the Organic Farmers Association on December 05, 2019 in Story City, Iowa. (credit: Getty Images | Win McNamee )

Presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders yesterday released a plan to overhaul the US broadband market by breaking up giant providers, outlawing data caps, regulating broadband prices, and providing $150 billion to build publicly owned networks.

"The Internet as we know it was developed by taxpayer-funded research, using taxpayer-funded grants in taxpayer-funded labs," the Sanders plan said. "Our tax dollars built the Internet, and access to it should be a public good for all, not another price-gouging profit machine for Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon."

If enacted, Sanders' "High-Speed Internet for All" plan would be the polar opposite of the Trump administration's treatment of broadband companies and far more aggressive than the regulatory approach of the Obama administration. Sanders pledged to "use existing antitrust authority to break up Internet service provider and cable monopolies," specifically by "bar[ring] service providers from also providing content and unwind anticompetitive vertical conglomerates."

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Aeronauts brings the joy and perils of Victorian ballooning to vivid life

Ars Technica - December 7, 2019 - 9:37pm

Enlarge / Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones star in The Aeronauts (credit: Amazon Studios)

Just in time for the holiday season, Amazon Studios has released The Aeronauts, a soaring historical adventure film about the perils faced by a Victorian scientist and a balloonist attempting to fly higher than anyone before them. Granted, the characters might be a bit thinly drawn when it comes to emotional depth, and the earth-bound first act is solid, if unremarkable, period drama. However, once the film (literally) gets off the ground, it blossoms into a gripping, thoroughly entertaining epic tale of survival at punishing altitudes. Above all, the film looks spectacular; every frame is practically a canvas, painted in vibrant, almost Disney-esque hues.

(Some spoilers below.)

The Aeronauts is a fictionalized account of a historic balloon flight by pioneering meteorologist James Glaisher. He and his pilot, Henry Coxwell, made several balloon flights to measure the temperature and humidity of the upper atmosphere between 1862 and 1866. Armed with scientific instruments and bottles of brandy, Glaisher and Coxwell set a world-altitude record, reaching an estimated 38,999 feet (11,887 meters) on September 5, 1862. They were the first men to reach the atmospheric stratosphere, and they did it without the benefit of oxygen tanks, pressure suits, or a pressurized cabin.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Horrified is a terrific family-friendly monster-themed board game

Ars Technica - December 7, 2019 - 5:48pm

Enlarge

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

Some folks use "family game" as a pejorative. Not me. For one thing, I happen to like my family. More importantly, as a player and critic of board games, it is my holy duty to introduce as many games as possible to my family. In the cardboard eschaton, all games shall be family games, because families will play anything and everything together.

With that very important disclaimer out of the way, it's now time to announce that Prospero Hall's Horrified is my favorite family game of the year.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

No one knows why rocks are exploding from asteroid Bennu

Ars Technica - December 7, 2019 - 3:42pm

Enlarge / A composite image of a short and long exposure photograph of Bennu showing the largest particle ejection on January 6, 2019. (credit: NASA | Goddard | University of Arizona | Lockheed Martin)

For the last year, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been circling a large asteroid named Bennu that regularly passes uncomfortably close to Earth. The spacecraft has been painstakingly mapping the asteroid's rocky surface using a suite of cameras and other instruments that will help it determine where to land next year. Once NASA selects a final landing site, OSIRIS-REx will kiss Bennu just long enough to scoop up a sample to bring back to Earth in 2023.

Many scientists expect the Bennu sample to revolutionize our understanding of asteroids, especially those that are near Earth and pose the greatest threat from space to life as we know it. But as detailed in a paper published this week in Science, NASA has already started making surprising discoveries around this alien world. Earlier this year, the OSIRIS-REx team witnessed particles exploding from the asteroid's surface—and the team's not sure why.

"No one has ever seen an active asteroid up close like this," says Carl Hergenrother, an astronomer at the University of Arizona and the scientist who proposed Bennu as the target for OSIRIS-REx. "It wasn't that long ago that the conventional wisdom was that asteroids are these dead bodies that didn't change very much."

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General election 2019: Reddit says UK-US trade talks document leak 'linked to Russia'

BBC Technology News - December 7, 2019 - 2:24pm
Jeremy Corbyn claimed the papers proved "the NHS is for sale" when he highlighted them at a press conference.

Floor pavements in Pompeii illustrate surveying technology

Ars Technica - December 7, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge (credit: L. FERRO, G MAGLI, M. OSANNA)

Decorative pavements in the floor of a recently unearthed Roman house in Pompeii offer a glimpse into the life and work of an ancient land surveyor. The pavements depict a stylized drawing of an ancient surveyor’s tool called a groma, along with a diagram of a surveying technique and the plan of a construction project in Pompeii. So far, they’re the only original Roman illustrations of the tools and techniques the Romans used to help build an empire and its infrastructure.

The land surveyor’s house

Only a few metal fragments of a Roman groma exist today (also recovered from Pompeii), and archaeologists have found only a few images carved into surveyors’ tombstones. Otherwise, we know the tool only from descriptions in medieval versions of ancient Roman surveying manuals.

The newly unearthed pavements at Pompeii suggest that those medieval copies were pretty close to the original ancient texts. An image on the floor of the entrance hall is nearly identical to illustrations in medieval copies of Roman texts, attributed to Roman surveyor Hygius and famed architect Vitruvius.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

'How smart home tech helps me live independently'

BBC Technology News - December 7, 2019 - 2:06am
Specially designed tech is allowing Adam, who has Down's syndrome, to live without in-home carers.

NHS e-health systems 'risk patient safety'

BBC Technology News - December 7, 2019 - 1:26am
The use 21 separate electronic record systems in NHS hospitals across England 'could lead to errors'.

General election 2019: Labour pledges to electrify England's bus fleet

BBC Technology News - December 7, 2019 - 1:15am
It wants to electrify England's buses by 2030, but the Tories say Labour would "scrap vital new roads".

Sweden's Ericsson to pay over $1bn to settle US corruption probe

BBC Technology News - December 7, 2019 - 1:12am
The telecoms giant has agreed to pay to resolve bribery allegations, the US justice department says.

Elon Musk wins defamation case over 'pedo guy' tweet about caver

BBC Technology News - December 7, 2019 - 12:55am
Tesla's founder did not defame a UK caver who helped in the Thai cave rescue, a US jury finds.

Jury sides with Elon Musk in “pedo guy” defamation case

Ars Technica - December 7, 2019 - 12:29am

Enlarge / Elon Musk leaves a Los Angeles federal court on Tuesday December 3, 2019. (credit: Apu Gomes/Getty Images)

A Los Angeles federal jury has found Elon Musk not liable for defamation in a lawsuit brought by British caver Vernon Unsworth. Musk dubbed Unsworth a "pedo guy" in a tweet last year but argued in court that he meant this as a generic insult—not as an accusation that Unsworth was a pedophile.

"My faith in humanity is restored," Musk reportedly said on his way out of court.

Musk and Unsworth have been trading insults since last July, when Unsworth mocked a miniature submarine SpaceX engineers created to help rescue a dozen boys trapped in a cave in Thailand (it didn't arrive in time to be useful). In an interview with CNN, Unsworth said that Musk should "stick his submarine where it hurts."

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On the day of a key test, Russia trolls Boeing’s Starliner mission

Ars Technica - December 6, 2019 - 11:19pm

Enlarge / Starliner is tested on top of an Atlas V rocket on Friday. (credit: Boeing)

On Friday, Boeing and United Launch Alliance conducted a number of key tests in preparation for the launch of the Starliner spacecraft later this month.

During this "Integrated Day of Launch," flight controllers in Houston and Florida monitored data as the spacecraft and its United Launch Alliance rocket practiced fueling as if the booster were about to launch. During this test, the Atlas V rocket was loaded with propellants, and the countdown was taken to the final second at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Boeing and United Launch Alliance said this wet dress rehearsal was successful and that they remain on track for a December 20 launch. This Starliner uncrewed mission is a precursor to a flight with astronauts that will follow several months later.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hulu is finally offering 4K and 5.1 audio on Roku devices

Ars Technica - December 6, 2019 - 11:06pm

Enlarge / The Handmaid's Tale, a Hulu original series. (credit: Hulu)

The long, give-and-take saga of 4K streaming on Hulu continues with the addition of 4K streaming for supported Roku devices. Hulu also added 5.1 surround sound capabilities on Roku.

The Disney-owned streaming platform updated its user-facing help pages with the information sometime in the past few days. Previously, only 1080p streaming was possible with the Hulu app on Roku devices, despite many Roku devices' hardware support for 4K. Unfortunately, Hulu still does not support HDR.

It's been a rocky road for 4K on Hulu. The service first offered 4K streaming on select titles for some devices in 2016, then removed support in 2018. It was then re-added on some devices like the Apple TV 4K, but it was not available on Roku sticks or boxes.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Newly discovered Mac malware uses “fileless” technique to remain stealthy

Ars Technica - December 6, 2019 - 10:17pm

Enlarge (credit: iphonedigital)

Hackers believed to be working for the North Korean government have upped their game with a recently discovered Mac trojan that uses in-memory execution to remain stealthy.

In-memory execution, also known as fileless infection, never writes anything to a computer hard drive. Instead, it loads malicious code directly into memory and executes it from there. The technique is an effective way to evade antivirus protection because there’s no file to be analyzed or flagged as suspicious.

In-memory infections were once the sole province of state-sponsored attackers. By 2017, more advanced financially motivated hackers had adopted the technique. It has become increasingly common since then.

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Halo Reach on PC is the customizable combat we’ve been wanting—but just barely

Ars Technica - December 6, 2019 - 9:50pm

Enlarge / Back into Reach. This time, on Windows PC. (credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Years of teases and waiting have finally ended with this: Halo is back on PC in officially supported fashion.

In particular, this week's launch of 2011's Halo Reach on Windows PC is fascinating because of how it compares to the last time Microsoft tried the Halo-on-PC thing. Rewind to 2007, and Microsoft shoved out a Halo 2 port that required both Games For Windows Live and Windows Vista to run—and shipped in mod-unfriendly fashion. It received nary a patch or useful update and left diehard fans scrambling to patch it into decent shape.

Compare that to Halo Reach, which is still a Windows-only game but works on any Microsoft OS from Windows 7 and up and can be purchased either on the Windows Store or Steam. If you pay for Xbox Game Pass on PCs, you get it day-and-date via Windows Store. If you buy it on Steam, meanwhile, you get one heckuva cool option already: total mod support. Simply pick the game's "cheat detection disabled" option upon boot and you can fiddle with every relevant file (within a "friends-only" online sandbox, which is fair enough).

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The “burp-talking” in Rick and Morty isn’t as meaningless as you might think

Ars Technica - December 6, 2019 - 9:31pm

Enlarge / Constant burping is one of the defining features of mad scientist Rick Sanchez on Rick and Morty. (credit: Adult Swim/Comedy Central)

Eccentric mad scientist Rick Sanchez, of Rick and Morty fame, is as notorious for his constant mid-speech belching as he is for his brilliantly eccentric inventions—and for routinely dragging grandson Morty into highly dangerous situations. Now, paralinguistic researcher Brooke Kidner of the University of Southern California has made the first acoustical analysis of Rick's unique speech patterns. She described her work at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America this week in San Diego.

“Paralinguistics have been shown to carry significant meaning when inserted into conversation, and being able to understand the meanings of these less common sounds can lead to a greater understanding of natural language processing," Kidner said at a press conference.

Kidner's unusual study began with a phonetics seminar course at USC, focusing on non-speech sounds that occur in human speech—groans, gasps, sighs, the infamous "Loser!" sneeze, and so forth—and how we attribute meaning to them (sarcasm, for instance). The instructor noted that burps were an example of non-speech sounds with no meaning. Kidner brought up Rick Sanchez's constant mid-sentence burps in Rick and Morty as a counter-argument, and the instructor encouraged her to investigate further.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Social media platforms leave 95% of reported fake accounts up, study finds

Ars Technica - December 6, 2019 - 8:42pm

Enlarge / One hundred cardboard cutouts of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, April 10, 2018. (credit: SAUL LOEB | AFP | Getty Images)

It's no secret that every major social media platform is chock-full of bad actors, fake accounts, and bots. The big companies continually pledge to do a better job weeding out organized networks of fake accounts, but a new report confirms what many of us have long suspected: they're pretty terrible at doing so.

The report comes this week from researchers with the NATO Strategic Communication Centre of Excellence (StratCom). Through the four-month period between May and August of this year, the research team conducted an experiment to see just how easy it is to buy your way into a network of fake accounts and how hard it is to get social media platforms to do anything about it.

The research team spent €300 (about $332) to purchase engagement on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, the report (PDF) explains. That sum bought 3,520 comments, 25,750 likes, 20,000 views, and 5,100 followers. They then used those interactions to work backward to about 19,000 inauthentic accounts that were used for social media manipulation purposes.

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Leading anti-vaxxer jailed as measles death toll rises to 63 in Samoa

Ars Technica - December 6, 2019 - 7:57pm

Enlarge / APIA, SAMOA - DECEMBER 5: Red flags are seen hanging outside of homes of Apia residents indicating they have not been vaccinated for measles on December 5, 2019 in Apia, Samoa. (credit: Getty | Chikara Yoshida)

Samoa’s most prominent locally based anti-vaccine advocate will stay behind bars as officials go door to door vaccinating residents against a massive measles outbreak that has already killed 63—nearly all of whom are children under 4 years old.

Officials arrested Edwin Tamasese Thursday, December 5, charging him with "incitement against the Government vaccination order[s]," according to the Samoa Observer. He faces two years in jail.

The arrest came after he allegedly posted a message on social media about the current vaccination campaign that read, "I will be here to mop up your mess. Enjoy your killing spree."

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