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Industry & Technology

SpaceX launch: Nasa astronauts blast off to the International Space Station

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 18 min ago
Two astronauts launched into orbit for historic mission to the International Space Station.

SpaceX successfully launches two humans into orbit [Updated]

Ars Technica - 3 hours 24 min ago

3:30pm ET Update: The weather was good, and right on cue a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on Saturday. The first stage performed nominally, and separating, it successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, the second stage cruised into into orbit and dropped off the Dragon spacecraft right where it needed to be.

It will take about 19 hours for the Crew Dragon spacecraft to catch up with, and dock with the International Space Station. Ars will have continuing coverage of this historic mission.

Original post: After nine years without a human launch from Florida, it's about damn time, isn't it?

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

An advanced and unconventional hack is targeting industrial firms

Ars Technica - 4 hours 44 min ago

Enlarge / Binary code, illustration. (credit: KTSDESIGN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images)

Attackers are putting considerable skill and effort into penetrating industrial companies in multiple countries, with hacks that use multiple evasion mechanisms, an innovative encryption scheme, and exploits that are customized for each target with pinpoint accuracy.

The attacks begin with emails that are customized for each target, a researcher at security firm Kaspersky Lab reported this week. For the exploit to trigger, the language in the email must match the localization of the target’s operating system. For example, in the case of an attack on a Japanese company, the text of the email and an attached Microsoft Office document containing a malicious macro had to be written in Japanese. Also required: an encrypted malware module could be decrypted only when the OS had a Japanese localization as well.

Recipients who click on a request to urgently enable the document’s active content will see no indication anything is amiss. Behind the scenes, however, a macro executes a Powershell script. The reason it stays hidden: the command parameters:

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Vast of Night is an alien encounter film like no other

Ars Technica - 8 hours 25 min ago

The official trailer for Amazon's The Vast of Night.

AUSTIN, Texas—Everyone kinda, sorta knows the story of The Vast of Night before they even hear of this movie. Filmmaker Andrew Patterson readily admits he partially based his debut feature on a real-life event—the 1965 Kecksburg incident—and even the initial idea that led him to researching Kecksburg struck Patterson as familiar. “I have a document in my phone of three or four dozen single line movie ideas,” he told Ars. “This one said, ‘1950s, black and white, New Mexico, UFO film.’”Ars at Fantastic Fest

View more stories

But The Vast of Night ultimately doesn’t hinge on how its plot plays out. This small budget, tightly scoped sci-fi film has wowed festival audiences enough to attract Amazon money largely on its spectacle—individual images you’d gladly frame for the office wall, dialogue that draws you in no matter the subject, sonic flourishes that stick with you long after the credits roll. Talking to the filmmaker after a recent Fantastic Fest screening, it becomes hard to shake the feeling he’ll be managing a much larger studio budget of his choosing in the very near future.

“We knew we were working in a genre that was shop-worn, nothing new,” Patterson says. “We wanted to let people know, ‘OK this is an abduction in New Mexico—we know this story, you know this story. How can we find a way in and do something special, to make something new?' I wanted to make it like the films I enjoy, which are usually about people learning about each other, their dynamics and relationships. So, OK, I want to start this like it’s a Richard Linklater movie… then we get side-swiped into something extraordinary.”

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

‘Why I recreated my local pub in virtual reality’

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 54 min ago
Tristan Cross taught himself how to make the 3D models from scratch by watching YouTube videos.

Everyone’s ordering delivery, but apps aren’t making money

Ars Technica - 9 hours 3 min ago

Enlarge / Two Uber Eats delivery courier wait outside Mc Donalds fast food in Ghent, Belgium on May 14, 2020. As Belgium takes steps in easing Restrictions, Restaurant and cafe are not allowed to open to customers only fast food and take away is allowed. restaurants and restaurants may not reopen before June 8. (Photo by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

When Luke Edwards opened OH Pizza & Brew in 2014, the Columbus, Ohio, restaurateur thought delivery apps could help his business. His chicken wings and specialty pizzas—the most popular and appropriately named “Bypass,” topped with pepperoni, sausage, ham, salami, bacon, and extra cheese—needed an audience. And he says working with apps such as DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Canada’s SkipTheDishes helped him build a loyal following, allowing him to open two more OH Pizza & Brews, with another location on the way.

But by January 2019, Edwards had had enough. For one, he didn’t think the services were helping his bottom line. “Even though we were bringing in more money, after paying out the commission rates, we were seeing a decrease in net profits,” he says. The drivers were inconsistent, he reports, and sometimes lacked equipment like insulated food bags to keep deliveries warm. Edwards also found it harder to get in touch with customer service reps for the apps, who would sometimes refund customers at the eatery's expense for deliveries he believed had gone well.

“Quickly, I realized [the apps] were good at the search and optimization thing,” he adds. “They were terrible at delivery.” Today, OH Pizza & Brew pays its own contracted drivers to deliver, which Edwards believes saves him money.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro mini-review: A vast improvement

Ars Technica - 9 hours 34 min ago

The past year has brought big changes to the iPad. First, the branch from iOS to iPadOS—and some accompanying changes to the software—signaled an effort by Apple to make real productivity possible on the platform. Second, Apple introduced trackpad support, bringing a whole new user interface paradigm to the iPad.

The latest product of that particular effort is the introduction of the Magic Keyboard peripheral from the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models. It combines a keyboard modeled after the keyboard peripheral of the same name for Macs—a generally beloved design—with the first trackpad made by Apple specifically for the iPad.

After spending some time with the Magic Keyboard, we’re ready to share our impressions. It’s just a peripheral, though, so this is going to be a very short review. We’re not going to get too much into the software side of things, as we’ve done that in our previous coverage of iPadOS as well as our most recent iPad Pro review. And we’re going to go into even more detail in an upcoming article entirely about working with trackpads and keyboards on the iPad.

Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Whoooaaa duuuuude: Why we stretch words in tweets and texts

Ars Technica - 10 hours 28 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Paul Linse | Getty Images)

On Twitter, when a simple ha won’t do, there’s always hahahaaaa, haaaahaaaa, or even hahahahahahahahahahahahaha, indicating you’ve just read the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. (Or that you’re a sarcastic talking raccoon.) These are known as stretchable or lengthened words, and now researchers from the University of Vermont have figured out just how pervasive they are on Twitter, uncovering fascinating patterns about their use.

Stretchability is a powerful linguistic device that visually punches up a written word, imparting a wide range of emotions. That goes for the gooooooaaaaaaal of a soccer announcer, a teenager’s exasperated finallyyyyy, and a surfer’s aweeeeeesome. And booooyare they popular on Twitter. Writing today in the journal PLOS One, the researchers detail how they combed through 100 billion tweets, mapping how often these words are stretched, and how far they are elongated—haha versus hahahahaaaa, for example.

Consider dude and its many formulations. “That can convey basically anything, like ‘Duuuuude, that's awful,’” says University of Vermont applied mathematician Peter Sheridan Dodds, one of the study’s coauthors. On the other hand, “Dude!” is different. “It could be excitement; it could be joy,” says Dodds.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

'Scorching-hot hacked computer burned my hand'

BBC Technology News - 21 hours 48 min ago
Student's computer overheated after it was hit with a "crypto-jacking" attack.

Twitter hides Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence'

BBC Technology News - 22 hours 19 min ago
For the first time, Twitter has hidden a tweet on the president's profile behind a warning.

CDC says its testing fail didn’t hurt US response. Experts disagree

Ars Technica - May 29, 2020 - 10:45pm

Enlarge / Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), attends an event about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Drew Angerer)

The botched rollout of COVID-19 testing did not cripple the country’s early response to the pandemic, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed Friday.

CDC Director Robert Redfield cited a new analysis published by the agency Friday. The analysis suggests the new coronavirus began spreading in the country in late January or early February—but only at low levels. The study appears in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

With the new data, Redfield argued that the level of spread was so low in those early days that additional testing would not have made a difference in detecting the spread of the pandemic virus. If the CDC had initially produced and scaled up a functional test for COVID-19—which it infamously failed to do—“it really would be like looking for a needle in a haystack," Redfield said, according to NPR.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Western Digital gets sued for sneaking SMR disks into its NAS channel

Ars Technica - May 29, 2020 - 10:40pm

Enlarge / Hattis Law isn't pulling any punches in the allegations made in its class-action lawsuit, specifically calling WD out not only for using SMR technology in less-than-ideal devices, but flatly accusing them of outright deception in the process. (credit: Hattis Law)

All three of the surviving conventional hard drive vendors—Toshiba, Western Digital, and Seagate—have gotten caught sneaking disks featuring Shingled Magnetic Recording technology into unexpected places recently. But Western Digital has been the most brazen of the three, and it's been singled out for a class action lawsuit in response.

Although all three major manufacturers quietly added SMR disks to their desktop hard drive line-up, Western Digital is the only one so far to slip them into its NAS (Network Attached Storage) stack. NAS drives are expected to perform well in RAID and other multiple disk arrays, whether ZFS pools or consumer devices like Synology or Netgear NAS appliances.

In sharp contrast to Western Digital's position on SMR disks as NAS, Seagate executive Greg Belloni told us that there weren't any SMR disks in the Ironwolf (competitor to Western Digital Red) line-up now and that the technology is not appropriate for that purpose.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

US “terminating relationship” with World Health Organization, Trump says

Ars Technica - May 29, 2020 - 9:56pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Westend61)

President Trump today said the US government is "terminating our relationship" with the World Health Organization, alleging that the global health group has not implemented needed reforms and that it is controlled entirely by China.

"China has total control over the World Health Organization despite only paying $40 million per year, compared to what the United States has been paying, which is approximately $450 million a year," Trump said during a brief press conference at the White House Rose Garden (see video).

Trump halted funding to WHO in mid-April. On May 18, he sent a letter to WHO, saying that the US will permanently stop funding the group if it "does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days." It's only been 11 days since then, but Trump said today he is moving ahead with his threat.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

135-year-long streak is over: US renewable sources topped coal in 2019

Ars Technica - May 29, 2020 - 9:45pm

Enlarge (credit: Mark Rickaby)

Two weeks ago, we covered a US Energy Information Administration (EIA) projection that renewable wind, solar, and hydroelectric power would top coal for total electricity generation in 2020. That was particularly believable given that renewables had beat coal in daily generation every day going back to March 24. As it happens, that daily streak finally came to an end this week, as coal picked up amid rising demand and a couple low days for wind. Coal likely topped renewables on Tuesday, although it’s possible that rooftop solar generation (not included in EIA’s daily data) extended the run until Wednesday.

But the EIA also released some numbers Thursday that highlight a related and interesting piece of trivia: if you include energy use beyond the electric sector and all types of renewable energy, renewables actually beat out coal last year. And to find the last time that was true, you have to go all the way back to the 1880s.

(credit: US EIA)

This comparison includes biofuels (like ethanol and biodiesel), wood-burning, and waste incineration or landfill gas. And beyond electricity, it adds in energy used by industry, residential and commercial buildings, and transportation—uses where coal plays little or no role.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

SpaceX’s Starship underwent a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly—we do mean rapid

Ars Technica - May 29, 2020 - 9:10pm

Enlarge / Aftermath of SN static fire test on Friday. (credit: Screengrab from NASASpaceflight.com video)

On Friday, SpaceX prepared its latest iteration of the Starship prototype vehicle, known as Serial No. 4, or SN4, for a static fire test in Texas. The Raptor engine appeared to fire nominally for a couple of seconds at 1:47pm local time and then shut down as planned.

However, about one minute after engine shutdown there was some kind of uncontrolled gaseous leak, and one minute later the vehicle exploded almost instantaneously—a truly rapid Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly.

The Starship prototype, fueled with liquid oxygen and methane, appeared to be mostly destroyed when the fire and smoke cleared. The test stand also sustained substantial damage. Some of the surrounding ground support equipment appeared unharmed, but it is possible the shock wave from SN4's demise may have also damaged those structures.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Border Patrol flies anti-terrorism drone over Minneapolis protestors

Ars Technica - May 29, 2020 - 8:42pm

Enlarge (credit: Customs and Border Patrol)

Thousands of people took to the streets of Minneapolis on Friday to protest the death of George Floyd, a local black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest. All the while, a Customs and Border Patrol drone kept a careful eye on the unfolding unrest.

The drone, using the tracking signal CBP104, took off from Grand Forks Airforce Base at 9:08 am Central Daylight Time and shortly afterward headed directly to Minneapolis, this feed from live flight tracking service FlightAware showed. The drone then circled the city six times from about 10:45 until noon. The aircraft maintained an altitude of about 20,000 feet.

Grand Forks AFB is the home of the Air Force's 319th Reconnaissance Wing. It is also a site Customs and Border Patrol personnel use for takeoff and landing of the Predator B unmanned aircraft system. CBP uses the drone in anti-terrorism operations by helping to identify and intercept potential terrorists and illegal cross-border activity.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

FCC Republican excitedly endorses Trump’s crackdown on social media

Ars Technica - May 29, 2020 - 7:40pm

Enlarge / FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Republican Brendan Carr of the Federal Communications Commission is cheering on President Trump's attack on Big Tech this week. The commissioner also accused social media platforms of bias against the president and of trying to swing the 2020 presidential election.

Carr has supported Trump's action in a series of tweets, in an official statement posted on the FCC website, and in interviews including one with Lou Dobbs on the Fox Business channel.

"This is really welcome news," Carr told Dobbs. "Since the 2016 election, the far left has hopped from hoax to hoax to hoax to explain how it lost to President Trump at the ballot box. One thing they've done is look to social media platforms and they've put pressure on them for the crime, in their view, of staying neutral in the 2016 election and they're committed to not letting those platforms stay neutral in the run-up to 2020. So this step by President Trump shines a light on some of that activity and tees up some steps that can be taken."

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Big Tech goes on pandemic M&A spree despite political backlash

Ars Technica - May 29, 2020 - 7:19pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Big technology companies are hunting for deals at their fastest pace in years, racking up acquisitions and strategic investments despite increased regulatory scrutiny during the coronavirus-led market turmoil.

Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have announced 19 deals this year, according to Refinitiv data from May 26, representing the fastest pace of acquisitions to this date since 2015.

The Financial Times on Tuesday reported Amazon was also in advanced talks to purchase the self-driving car company Zoox, which was valued at $3.2 billion two years ago. Meanwhile, Facebook in March announced its largest international investment yet, purchasing a $5.7 billion stake in the juggernaut Indian telecoms operator Reliance Jio.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

YouTube makes video chapters official

Ars Technica - May 29, 2020 - 6:38pm

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto/Getty Images)

In your travels around YouTube the past few weeks, you might have seen a video or two that features "chapters." Chapters allow creators to timestamp and name sections of their videos for easy navigation. The feature has been in experimental mode for the past few weeks, but now YouTube is making chapters official.

Chapters add a lot of functionality to the YouTube seek bar. The bar is now chopped up into segments instead of being a solid red line. Mouse or drag over the segments and you'll get a thumbnail with the title of the chapter for that section of the seek bar. Below the seek bar, after the time, you'll now get the title of the current chapter, too. (Here's an example video.)

Video chapters result in a segmented seek bar and titles. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

YouTube creators can add chapters to their videos via the description. Just start a list of timestamps with "0:00" followed by chapter titles, with one timestamp on each line. If you don't want chapters, just don't start a timestamp list with "0:00."

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

iPhone privacy prompts discriminate against non-Apple apps, complaint says

Ars Technica - May 29, 2020 - 6:28pm

Enlarge / Tile Mate, one of Tile’s tracking hardware products. (credit: Tile)

Tile, a maker of hardware and software for digitally tracking the location of personal possessions, has written a letter to the European Commission accusing Apple of anti-competitive behavior as rumors abound that Apple plans to launch a competitor to Tile in the near future. This follows similar complaints by Tile in the United States.

The letter claims that Apple favors FindMy, the tech giant’s own device tracking app, over Tile’s in a few specific ways and asks for the European Commission to open a probe into Apple’s business practices. Here’s an excerpt from the letter by Tile general counsel Kirsten Daru, which was acquired by Financial Times:

In the past twelve months, Apple has taken several steps to completely disadvantage Tile, including by making it more difficult for consumers to use our products and services. This is particularly concerning because Apple’s actions come at the same time that Apple both launched a new FindMy app that competes even more directly with Tile and also began preparing for the launch of a competitive hardware product.

One of Tile’s key arguments is that Apple defaults the “Always Allow” flag to "on" for location-based tracking in the FindMy app when users set up their phones, but third-party apps that perform similar functions default to "off." The result is that third-party apps must frequently show dialogues asking the user for permission until the user opts to manually turn on “Always Allow” for the app. This “denigrates the user experience,” according to Tile’s letter.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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