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Industry & Technology

New antibiotic found in bacteria inside a worm inside an insect egg

Ars Technica - 18 min 47 sec ago

Enlarge (credit: BSIP/Universal Images Group)

The last antibiotics generated against Gram-negative bacteria—which tend to be the more dangerous type—were developed in the 1960s. Thanks to the rise of antibiotic resistance, we need more. But rather than going through the trouble of trying to make our own, scientists have looked to other species that might need to kill the same bacteria that we do—we can just swipe theirs. Our own guts and soil bacteria have yielded a few recent hits.

The latest organisms that researchers have looked to are bacteria in the microbiomes of roundworms that parasitize insects (technically termed enteropathogenic nematodes). They were considered promising candidates because the worms invade insect larvae and release bacteria. Those bacteria then have to fend off the ones already living in the insect larva, as well as all the other bacteria the nematodes just spewed out. Conveniently for us, those species include common pathogens in our own guts, like E. coli

Usually, when microorganisms are being screened to see if they make effective antibiotics, they are grown on a plate along with the pathogenic bacteria to see if the ones being screened thwart the growth of the ones being targeted. The species taken from the nematodes’ guts did not stop the growth of E. coli in this traditional assay. But the scientists speculated that maybe they still made antibiotics, just not at high enough levels.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google Earth gets content creation tools for geography-focused presentations

Ars Technica - 58 min ago

Enlarge / A Google Earth presentation in action. (credit: Google)

Google Earth is getting a new content creation feature set. You'll now be able to make presentations using Google's vast 3D Earth imagery and point-of-interest information. It's sort of like a geography-focused Powerpoint.

Back in 2017, Google Earth was completely rebuilt from a desktop application to a WebGL-based browser app at earth.google.com/web. Starting today, on the left side of the website, you'll see a new "Projects" button, which will let you create a presentation. Just like a Google Doc or Sheet or Slide, these Google Earth Projects get saved as files on your Google Drive.

And like a normal presentation, you can create slides and attach text, images, and videos. Since this is Google Earth, though, all the text and images get overlaid on top of Google's terabytes of Earth imagery. You can pick from Google Earth's 3D views or Street View, set the camera just right, and capture a view. As you click through slides in your presentation, Google Earth will smoothly fly from point to point as your slides pop up.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Did Neanderthals make eagle talon necklaces 120,000 years ago?

Ars Technica - 1 hour 58 min ago

Enlarge (credit: José Antonio Lagier Martin)

At Foradada Cave in northeast Spain, Neanderthal fossils lie mingled with stone tools and animal bones. Here, archaeologists recently unearthed the tip of a 39,000-year-old eagle toe with its claw missing. The phalanx (toe bone) came from the end of a Spanish imperial eagle’s big toe (the left one, to be exact), and cut marks along the length of the bone suggest that someone had cut off the large, curved talon at the end of the toe.

Archaeologist Antonio Rodriguez, of the Institute of Evolution in Africa, and his colleagues suggest that the missing talon ended up on a Neanderthal necklace.

The case of the missing jewelry

Along the top side of the toe (a proximal phalanx, if you’re an anatomy fan), 11 deep cut marks run diagonally across the bone; a shallower twelfth cut crosses the others, parallel with the bone’s length. Under the microscope, the cuts have v-shaped cross-sections, leaning to one side—the signature shape of tool-made cuts rather than predator teeth or damage from scraping against rocks or other bone. In fact, the cuts look almost exactly like the marks archaeologists left behind when they used stone tools to separate a raptor’s claw from its toe (because of course they did, for science).

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Iran's internet blackout reaches four-day mark

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 51 min ago
Almost all internet connectivity in the country has been switched off since Saturday.

Researchers see spike in “out of season” IRS-impersonating phishing attacks

Ars Technica - 2 hours 57 min ago

Enlarge / A fake IRS site used in a set of phishing campaigns observed by Akamai from August to October. (credit: Akamai)

Tax return scammers usually strike early in the year, when they can turn the personal information of victims into fraudulent tax refund claims. But members of Akamai's threat research team found a recent surge in "off-season" phishing attacks masquerading as notices from the Internal Revenue Service, targeting over 100,000 individuals. The attackers used at least 289 different domains hosting fake IRS websites—the majority of them legitimate sites that had been compromised. This wave of attacks came as the October 15 deadline for people who had filed for extensions approached.

According to a post by Akamai's Or Katz, the phishing campaigns kicked off in the second half of August, with the majority of victims targeted between August 22 and September 5. But the campaigns continued to be launched into early October. Each of the fake websites used visually identical HTML pages, but used randomly generated style tags and other content in an attempt to throw off signature detection by security software.

Most of the domains were active for under 20 days. However, a significant number of them remained active after a month—undetected by the owners of the sites. "The lack of maintenance on legacy websites, as well as the challenges of patching and removing injected content, explains the duration over which phishing pages can remain active," Katz wrote.

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Volkswagen is putting this cool electric station wagon into production

Ars Technica - 3 hours 24 min ago

LOS ANGELES—Buzz. Crozz. Buggy. Vizzion. And now Space Vizzion. No, I haven't overdosed on the letter Z; those are the slightly wacky names for a series of not-at-all-wacky electric ID concept cars from Volkswagen, the newest of which was just unveiled on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The ID Space Vizzion is the latest installment in an electrification push from one of the world's largest automakers, one aiming to sell 20 million electric cars worldwide over the next 10 years.

Volkswagen Group had little choice but to embrace electric powertrains in the aftermath of dieselgate—the alternative would be failing to meet 2021's European CO2 rules, which would result in billions of dollars in fines. Audi and Porsche, the two big premium brands within the group, got their battery EVs to market first. The first of these—the Audi e-tron—is mainly a stop-gap, a Q8 with batteries and two electric motors in place of the normal internal combustion engine stuff. The Porsche Taycan had an extra year to gestate, and is all the better for it, a mostly clean-sheet design that's wowed everyone who's driven it.

Meanwhile, over at VW (the brand, not the group) the engineers were working on MEB (Modularer E-Antriebs-Baukasten, or Modular Electrification Toolkit), which it will use to build millions of BEVs over the next decade. VW has long embraced the use of modular architectures; its current MQB (Modularer Querbaukasten, or Modular Transverse Toolkit) gives rise to such diverse cars as the VW Atlas and Audi TT-RS. And MEB should be even more flexible, as the various ID concept cars have shown.

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Molly Russell: Coroner demands social media firms turn over account data

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 27 min ago
Social media firms must provide data from the accounts of a teenager who killed herself, a coroner says.

Guidemaster: The most useful gadgets to have in your bag while traveling

Ars Technica - 5 hours 48 min ago

Enlarge / Not all of us frequently travel with camping/hiking backpacks like these joyful stock photo travelers—luckily, we have some recommendations on tech tailored for on-the-go life. (credit: Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images)

Traveling can be a fun, illuminating experience, but packing for your travels is often stressful. Everything you choose to bring with you on your excursions must have a purpose, because unnecessary items do not belong in anyone's cramped suitcase. Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, it can be difficult to decide which pieces of tech deserve to come with you and which you only think would be useful.

It can also be hard to find gadgets that are suitable for travel—devices that work even more efficiently when you're not in your normal environment. To combat this, Ars has picked out some of the best travel tech gifts that will be solid additions to anyone's travel bag. All of the items below we've personally tested or reviewed, so we're confident saying that none of these devices will end up languishing, abandoned, at the bottom of your suitcase.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

Read 38 remaining paragraphs | Comments

400-year-old warships in Swedish channel may be sisters of doomed Vasa

Ars Technica - 6 hours 33 min ago

Enlarge / These curved timbers, called knees, help support deck beams. (credit: Jim Hansson, Vrak Museum of Wrecks)

Two 17th-century shipwrecks on the bottom of a busy Swedish shipping channel may be the sister ships of the ill-fated Vasa. Archaeologists with Sweden's Vrak—Museum of Wrecks discovered the vessels in a 35-meter-deep channel near Stockholm during a recent survey. Neither wreck is as well-preserved as Vasa (to be fair, there are probably ships actually sailing today that aren't as well-preserved as Vasa), but they're in remarkably good shape for several centuries on the bottom.

Studying the wrecks could reveal more details about how early naval engineers revised their designs to avoid another disaster like Vasa.

Hiding in plain sight

The wrecks may be the remains of two of the four large warships Sweden's King Gustav II Adolf built in the 1620s and 1630s. The earliest of the four ships, Vasa, had a first trip out of port in 1628 that ended in disaster; the top-heavy vessel caught a gust of wind and leaned over far enough to let water rush in through open gun ports. King Gustav's prized warship sank just a few dozen meters offshore in front of hundreds of spectators, killing half the crew onboard.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

UK gambling machines loaded with AI 'cool off' system

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 45 min ago
Software designed to curtail excessive play has come to all gambling machines in betting shops.

Official Monero website is hacked to deliver currency-stealing malware

Ars Technica - 16 hours 22 sec ago

(credit: Pixabay)

The official site for the Monero digital coin was hacked to deliver currency-stealing malware to users who were downloading wallet software, officials with GetMonero.com said on Tuesday.

The supply-chain attack came to light on Monday when a site user reported that the cryptographic hash for a command-line interface wallet downloaded from the site didn't match the hash listed on the page. Over the next several hours, users discovered that the miss-matching hash wasn't the result of an error. Instead, it was an attack designed to infect GetMonero users with malware. Site officials later confirmed that finding.

"It's strongly recommended to anyone who downloaded the CLI wallet from this website between Monday 18th 2:30 AM UTC and 4:30 PM UTC, to check the hashes of their binaries," GetMonero officials wrote. "If they don't match the official ones, delete the files and download them again. Do not run the compromised binaries for any reason."

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Election debate: Conservatives criticised for renaming Twitter profile 'factcheckUK'

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 33 min ago
Twitter said the stunt was misleading to the public and would not be tolerated in future - but did not take any direct action.

Amazon gets closer to getting Alexa everywhere

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 57 min ago
Alexa chief discusses plans to make the virtual assistant more useful when used outside the home.

Google outlines plans for mainline Linux kernel support in Android

Ars Technica - 18 hours 19 min ago

It seems like Google is working hard to update and upstream the Linux kernel that sits at the heart of every Android phone. The company was a big participant in this year's Linux Plumbers Conference, a yearly meeting of the top Linux developers, and Google spent a lot of time talking about getting Android to work with a generic Linux kernel instead of the highly customized version it uses now. It even showed an Android phone running a mainline Linux kernel.

But first, some background on Android's current kernel mess.Currently, three major forks happen in between the "mainline" Linux kernel and a shipping Android device (note that "mainline" here has no relation to Google's own "Project Mainline"). First, Google takes the LTS (Long Term Support) Linux kernel and turns it into the "Android Common kernel"—the Linux kernel with all the Android OS-specific patches applied. Android Common is shipped to the SoC vendor (usually Qualcomm) where it gets its first round of hardware-specific additions, first focusing on a particular model of SoC. This "SoC Kernel" then gets sent to a device manufacturer for even more hardware-specific code that supports every other piece of hardware, like the display, camera, speakers, usb ports, and any extra hardware. This is the "Device Kernel," and it's what actually ships on a device.

This is an extremely long journey that results in every device shipping millions of lines of out-of-tree kernel code. Every shipping device kernel is different and device specific—basically no device kernel from one phone will work on another phone. The mainline kernel version for a device is locked in at the beginning of an SoC's initial development, so it's typical for a brand-new device to ship with a Linux kernel that is two years old. Even Google's latest and, uh, greatest device, the Pixel 4, shipped in October 2019 with Linux kernel 4.14, an LTS release from November 2017. It will be stuck on kernel 4.14 forever, too. Android devices usually do not get kernel updates, probably thanks to the incredible amount of work needed to produce just a single device kernel and the chain of companies that would need to cooperate to do it. Thanks to kernel updates never happening, this means every new release of Android usually has to support the last three years of LTS kernel releases (the minimum for Android 10 is 4.9, a 2016 release). Google's commitments to support older versions of Android with security patches means the company is still supporting kernel 3.18, which is five years old now. Google's band-aid solution for this so far has been to team up with the Linux community and support mainline Linux LTS releases for longer, and they're now up to six years of support.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

As DirecTV tanks, AT&T says it will “re-bundle” TV with HBO Max

Ars Technica - 18 hours 43 min ago

Enlarge / AT&T executive John Stankey at a presentation for investors at Warner Bros. Studios on October 29, 2019, in Burbank, California. (credit: Getty Images | Presley Ann)

AT&T's traditional TV business is tanking, with the company having lost nearly 5 million satellite and wireline TV customers since the end of 2016.

But AT&T President John Stankey sees a path forward in recreating the traditional cable-TV bundle on the Internet. AT&T's HBO Max is slated to launch in May 2020 for $14.99 a month, and AT&T has set an ambitious goal of 50 million US subscribers within five years.

A subscriber number like that would make HBO Max far bigger than AT&T's DirecTV satellite division and its U-verse wireline TV service. But ultimately, the service customers get could end up looking pretty similar to DirecTV, U-verse, or cable TV.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ayahuasca alters brain waves to produce waking dream-like state, study finds

Ars Technica - 19 hours 9 min ago

Enlarge / A sketch drawn by study participant of visuals during their experience. (credit: Imperial College London/Chris Timmermann)

People under the influence of a psychedelic brew known as ayahuasca frequently experience vivid visual and aural hallucinations and also report feeling as if they are in a dream. Now a new study published in Scientific Reports has shown that the drug alters the user's waking brain-wave patterns to produce a mental state that the researchers describe as "dreaming while awake."

Ayahuasca is a bitter tea made from the Brazilian vine banisteriopsis caapi, colloquially known as the "spirit vine," used in shaman-led spiritual ceremonies among native people in the Amazon basin. Its primary active ingredient is dimethyltryptamine (DMT). That's the secret to ayahuasca's powerful psychedelic effects, which can also produce feelings of elation and fear or a sense of epiphany or psychological breakthrough. Those mind-altering properties come at a price, however. Participants in the ceremonies are often advised to bring a bucket, since nausea and vomiting (and sometimes diarrhea) are common reactions to the tea.

The brain controls perception and communication throughout the body via chemical neurotransmitters. Each neurotransmitter attaches to matching areas on nerve cells known as receptors. LSD, for example, targets the brain's serotonin receptors. Ayahuasca contains a compound (banisterine) that latches onto dopamine receptors in the brain. (That's why banisterine holds potential as a treatment for Parkinson's disease, which destroys dopamine receptors.)

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New WhatsApp security concern: India cyber cell advises update

BBC Technology News - November 19, 2019 - 11:57pm
In a statement, WhatsApp said that it had no reason to believe that users phones were affected.

Bonkers pricing of “free” flu shots shows what’s wrong with US healthcare

Ars Technica - November 19, 2019 - 11:23pm

Enlarge / Regardless of the crazy pricing, you should get your flu shot. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

The annual flu shots that are free to those with health insurance are not immune from the convoluted and contemptible price-gouging that plague the US healthcare system.

Health insurance companies pay wildly different amounts for the same vaccines depending on how negotiations go with individual medical providers across the country. In some cases, providers have forced insurers to pay upward of three times the price they would pay to other providers, according to an investigation by Kaiser Health News.

The outlet noted that one Sacramento, California, doctors’ office got an insurer to pay $85 for a flu shot that it offered to uninsured patients for $25.

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Password data for ~2.2 million users of currency and gaming sites dumped online

Ars Technica - November 19, 2019 - 11:09pm

Enlarge (credit: Bureau of Land Management Alaska Follow)

Password data and other personal information belonging to as many as 2.2 million users of two websites—one a cryptocurrency wallet service and the other a gaming bot provider—have been posted online, according to Troy Hunt, the security researcher behind the Have I Been Pwned breach notification service.

One haul includes personal information for as many as 1.4 million accounts from the GateHub cryptocurrency wallet service. The other contains data for about 800,000 accounts on RuneScape bot provider EpicBot. The databases include registered email addresses and passwords that were cryptographically hashed with bcrypt, a function that's among the hardest to crack.

The person posting the 3.72GB Gatehub database said it also includes two-factor authentication keys, mnemonic phrases, and wallet hashes, although GateHub officials said an investigation suggested wallet hashes were not accessed. The EpicBot database, meanwhile, purportedly included usernames and IP addresses. Hunt said he selected a representative sample of accounts from both databases to verify the authenticity of the data. All of the email addresses he checked were registered to accounts of the two sites.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“Where the Wi-Fi sucks” is where a new wireless protocol does its magic

Ars Technica - November 19, 2019 - 10:03pm

Enlarge / BYU assistant professor of computer engineering Phil Lundrigan is looking at an ONPC heartbeat on an RF signal analyzer. (credit: Brigham Young University)

Researchers at Brigham Young University have created a new RF protocol that runs on top of existing consumer Wi-Fi at significantly greater range. But before you get too excited, the protocol's bandwidth is extremely low—so much so that it makes LoRa look like an OC-24. The protocol, called ONPC—short for On-Off Noise Power Communication—currently only specifies a single bit per second.

Although ONPC only conveys one bit per second of data, its range is 60m or more beyond Wi-Fi—and it runs in software alone, on unmodified Wi-Fi hardware. An ONPC device can connect to standard Wi-Fi when range permits, fall back to ONPC mode if the connection drops, and then re-connect to the Wi-Fi when it becomes available again.

Disconnected versus unpowered

BYU Associate Professor of Computer Engineering Phil Lundrigan told Ars that ONPC was inspired by problems in an otherwise unrelated health care research project he'd worked on. The project required placing IoT sensors in the homes of study participants so that BYU's control over the environment was minimal to nonexistent. The project also required the sensors to report back to the researchers over the Internet, using whatever Wi-Fi the study participants had in place.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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