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Industry & Technology

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

Ars Technica - 1 hour 1 min ago

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.

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

Ars Technica - 1 hour 50 min ago

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 - 2 hours 35 min ago

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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Google Assistant gets a big note-taking revamp, with support for several apps

Ars Technica - 3 hours 1 min ago

Enlarge / The Google Assistant and Google Keep, now back together.

Shopping list creation can be a very handy feature to have in a voice assistant. As you pull the jug of milk out of the fridge and realize it's a little light, just give a quick "Hey Google, add milk to my shopping list," and the little voice box on the kitchen counter will dutifully jot down that you need more milk. In the early days of the Google Assistant, this feature was pretty good—your lists were created in Google Keep, a fully featured note-taking app. In 2017, Google seriously limited the usefulness of Google Assistant shopping lists when it took away Google Keep integration and instead forced the feature into Google Express, Google's online-shopping-focused Amazon Prime clone.

It has been two and a half years now, and Google Keep integration is coming back to the Google Assistant. Google is actually introducing a full-blown note taking feature set now. You can pick from several note apps—Google Keep,, AnyList, and Bring—and you can juggle multiple lists now instead of just a single shopping list. Shopping lists, holiday gift lists, a list of who is naughty and nice—It seems like you can pick any arbitrary name you want and the Google Assistant will create it and add to it. These lists can now pop up on Google Smart Displays, too—just ask for them.

The Google Assistant's 2017 integration with Google Express (now called Google Shopping) was a mess. Google Express was nowhere near the fully featured note-taking app that Google Keep was, and overnight users lost the ability to reorder items with drag and drop, share lists and do real-time collaboration with other users, attach location or time-based reminders to lists, and add voice recordings and images. The Google Express-hosted shopping list turned your shopping list into a big advertisement for Google Express, adding search links next to all your items, encouraging you to order them online through Google's $95-a-year shipping service. If you were just intending to run down to the local grocery store, that wasn't really supported by the Google Express UX.

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Dealmaster: Get holiday sales on Lenovo ThinkPads, board games, and more

Ars Technica - 4 hours 8 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's tech deal roundup brings a number of leftover sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Lenovo, for one, is still running a couple of deals on very good ThinkPad laptops: a configuration of its latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon with an 8th-gen Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid state drive is available for less than $1,000 with the code "THINKBF1," while a similar config of the more business-oriented ThinkPad T490 is down to $749 with the code "THINKBF7". We rate the former very highly—just note that its memory is not upgradeable, though it is a lighter and more premium-feeling machine than the latter.

Beyond that, we're still seeing a number of Cyber Week sales going strong: the Razer DeathAdder Elite, our favorite gaming mouse, is still at a low of $25; a number of Instant Pot models remain on sale; and our favorite noise-cancelling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3, are still at their Black Friday discount of $70 off. The Dealmaster has a one-day Amazon sale on board games, a discount on retro NES-style controllers for the Nintendo Switch, deals on recommended microSD cards and portable power banks, and much more. Have a look at the full rundown below.

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

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Some Stadia games cost more than their downloadable counterparts

Ars Technica - 4 hours 58 min ago

Since back in June, Google has been telling us that the publisher-set prices for games on its Stadia streaming service would be "competitive... to what you would see on other platforms." While that's been true of the vast majority of games on the service, fans were surprised to find a Stadia price premium for yesterday's launch of Darksiders Genesis.

The new action-adventure title is currently on sale for $40 on Stadia, compared to a $30 price on other PC platforms (including Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store). Steam players could get an even better deal with a pre-order price of $25.50 for the game. Console versions, which aren't due until next February, are currently listed at the higher $40 price point on various digital and retail storefronts.

A spokesperson for THQ told Polygon that "THQ doesn’t comment on their price policy."

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Keybase moves to stop onslaught of spammers on encrypted message platform

Ars Technica - 7 hours 10 min ago

Enlarge / All scammers, all the time: my Keybase message inbox.

Keybase started off as co-founder and developer Max Krohn's "hobby project"—a way for people to share PGP keys with a simple username-based lookup. Then Chris Coyne (who also was cofounder of OkCupid and SparkNotes) got involved and along came $10.8 million in funding from a group of investors led by Andreesen Horowitz. And then things got increasingly more complicated. Keybase aims to make public-key encryption accessible to everyone, for everything from messaging to file sharing to throwing a few crypto-coins someone's way.

But because of that level of accessibility, Keybase faces a very OkCupid kind of problem: after drawing in people interested in easy public-key crypto-based communications and then drawing in blockchain lovers with its partnership with (and funding from), Keybase has also drawn in spammers and scammers. And that has brought a host of alerts and messages that have made what was once a fairly clear communications channel into one clogged with unwanted alerts, messages, and other unpleasantry—raising a chorus of complaints in Keybase's open chat channel.

It turns out there's a reason spell check keeps wanting to tell me that Keybase should be spelled "debase."

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Guidemaster: The best tech that will make your home an even better place

Ars Technica - 8 hours 47 min ago

Enlarge (credit: iRobot )

We could all use a little more help around our home, and luckily now there's a lot of tech that can lend a hand. So that’s where we’re looking for our latest holiday gift guide. There are a plethora of smart home devices that can do everything from lock your doors, vacuum your carpets, or keep a watchful eye over your possessions while you're away.

Wading through the ocean of smart home tech isn't easy—and, admittedly, much of the smart home space is not worth your time or your money. However, we've tried (and personally purchased) many home tech devices that actually do deliver on what they promise. These items make keeping your home how you like it much easier.

Not all of the home tech we recommend falls into the large and nebulous category of "the Internet of Things," either—some are kitchen appliances, home speakers, gaming accessories, and other devices that most people primarily use in the home in order to make that space feel more like our own. So after a lot of lived-in testing time, here's all of the home tech that we think would make great gifts this holiday season.

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Rocket Report: Starship build sites shuffled, SLS “absolutely mandatory”

Ars Technica - 9 hours 32 min ago

Enlarge / The Electron launch vehicle is ready to soar. (credit: Rocket Lab)

Welcome to Edition 2.25 of the Rocket Report! Please note that there will be no report next week due to extreme laziness on the part of the author taking a week off from his day job to work on a book project. Thank you for your patience, and we'll be back in mid-December.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Kashmir users kicked off WhatsApp

BBC Technology News - 10 hours 42 min ago
A four-month internet blackout in the region means accounts are classed as inactive and shut down.

Heavy fine for Chinese firm over unlicensed game

BBC Technology News - 10 hours 44 min ago
The company, which has not been named by authorities, has been fined 700,000 yuan (£75,800).

Uber had 6,000 US sexual assault reports in two years

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 30 min ago
The figures come as the ride-hailing company is under intense pressure globally over safety issues.

Electric eel lights up Christmas tree and other news

BBC Technology News - 21 hours 14 sec ago
BBC Click's Marc Cieslak looks at some of the best technology stories of the week.

Rory Cellan-Jones: Reporting the news with Parkinson's

BBC Technology News - 21 hours 2 min ago
The BBC's technology correspondent shares how he manages Parkinson's in the workplace.

Bug busters: The tech behind new vaccines

BBC Technology News - 21 hours 9 min ago
A revolution in the way vaccines are developed is raising hopes of faster protection from deadly infections.

The iPhone 11’s U1 chip necessitates constant geolocation checks, Apple says

Ars Technica - 22 hours 12 min ago

Enlarge / From left to right: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Earlier this week, security reporter Brian Krebs published a story explaining that Apple's latest iPhones (iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro) periodically check the user's location even if the user disables location services individually for each and every app and service in the iPhone's Settings app.

While this behavior ended when the user disabled location services system-wide, it was a bit of a head-scratcher. What was the iPhone doing and why? Was it sending this information to Apple? Why couldn't users find information on what was happening? Krebs had notified Apple of the issue as a potential security problem back in mid November, but the company responded this week stating:

We do not see any actual security implications... It is expected behavior that the Location Services icon appears in the status bar when Location Services is enabled. The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings.

While Apple deemed this not to be a security issue, Krebs rightly pointed out that it remained a potential privacy issue, given Apple's promises that users have control over how and when iPhones track or report their locations.

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Here’s how much global carbon emission increased this year

Ars Technica - December 5, 2019 - 11:24pm

Enlarge / Bar graph of climate data. (credit: Global Carbon Project)

Large oceangoing ships turn very slowly, which can be frustrating to someone accustomed to speeding around on nimble watercraft. Those eagerly watching for progress on climate change can relate. Every year, another batch of stats on greenhouse gas emissions comes in, and we're left to wonder whether we're turning things around yet.

This year's update was just published as part of the Global Carbon Project—a large scientific collaboration that coordinates this difficult accounting work. The researchers compile the latest estimates for every component of Earth's carbon cycle, from fossil fuel emissions and deforestation to the uptake of carbon by the ocean and vegetation.

The topline numbers are the total global emissions estimates. As this is published before the end of the year, the report includes a preliminary estimate for 2019 and a revision to the 2018 numbers published last year. Estimated 2018 emissions come in at a 2.1 percent increase over 2017—well within the error bars of last year's preliminary estimate of 2.7 percent.

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The Motorola One Hyper brings a pop-up camera, all-screen design for $400

Ars Technica - December 5, 2019 - 11:03pm

Motorola has what might be the best-looking mid-range smartphone with the "Motorola One Hyper," a $400 phone with flagship touches like an all-screen front design and a motorized, pop-up camera. It's like a mini OnePlus 7 Pro! You won't find any notches or other screen blemishes here.

For specs, you have a 6.5-inch 2340×1080 IPS LCD, a 2GHz Snapdragon 675, 4GB of memory, 128GB of storage, and a 4000mAh battery. The are two rear cameras: a 64MP main sensor and a 8MP wide angle lens, and a 32MP front camera. Both the main front and back cameras have a pretty high megapixel count, and both have an optional "quad pixel" mode, which merges every four pixels together for better light pickup.

There's a rear fingerprint reader, a 3.5mm headphone jack (!), a microSD slot for expandable storage up to 1TB, and NFC. There is clearly some cost cutting here, but that's to be expected at $400. You'll get a USB-C port capable of 45W quick charging, but you'll only get a 15W charger in the box. The body is made of plastic, and while it has a "water-repellant design" there's no official IPxx rating. Motorola is not great at OS updates, but at least out of the box, the phone has Android 10.

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Kingpin of Evil Corp lived large. Now there’s a $5 million bounty on his head

Ars Technica - December 5, 2019 - 10:50pm

Enlarge / Screenshot of Justice Department website shows four pictures of same alleged criminal. (credit: US Justice Department)

Federal prosecutors have indicted the kingpin of Evil Corp, the name used by a cybercrime gang that used the notorious Dridex malware to drain more than $70 million from bank accounts in the US, UK, and other countries.

Maksim V. Yakubets, a 32-year-old Russian national who used the handle "Aqua," led one of the world's most advanced transnational cybercrime syndicates in the world, prosecutors said on Thursday. The crime group's alleged deployment of Dridex was one of the most widespread malware campaigns ever. The UK's National Crime Agency said the syndicate used the name Evil Corp.

Dridex was configured to target the customers of almost 300 different organizations in more than 40 countries by automating the theft of online banking credentials and other confidential information from infected computers. Over time, Dridex creators updated the malware to install ransomware. Previously known as Bugat and Cridex, Dridex used zeroday exploits and malicious attachments in emails to infect targets. The malware was designed to bypass antivirus and other security defenses.

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Evil Corp: US charges Russians over hacking attacks

BBC Technology News - December 5, 2019 - 10:18pm
They allegedly stole billions worldwide and conducted work for a Russian intelligence agency.

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