Summer is the perfect time to catch up on all the things you've been meaning to do—like get your to-be-read (TBR) pile down to a manageable size (if that's even possible). As the longer days with better weather beg you to venture outside and crack open your current read, we at Ars considered our recent favorite reads to compile this makeshift summer 2019 reading list.
These titles may not be what most would consider "summer reads." Scant few white-sand beaches and picture-perfect resorts fill these pages—but that doesn't make them any less escape-worthy. Whether they be space operas or true crime sagas, we consider a "summer" read to be a story that you can fully immerse yourself in, leaving work and other worries behind even just for a little while.
Regardless if you prefer reading physical books, e-books, or audiobooks, these recommendations will keep you wanting to read all summer long. Apologies in advance for adding to your already extensive TBR—but we think these books are worth it.
If you want to not only read more, but read better, an e-reader may be for you. Yes, it has become easy to find material to read and to get it on any of the numerous devices we have in our electronic arsenals—smartphones, tablets, computers, and the like. But even in a world full of versatile devices, e-readers are still favorites among dedicated readers open to getting their hands on e-books and digital publications in many ways. Ultimately, it may be freedom through limitation: E-readers help you focus on the reading rather than the distractions that are oh-so easily accessible through other electronics.
But that's just one perk to having a dedicated reading device that either replaces or supplements your physical library. While e-reader technology hasn't radically changed much in the past few years, companies have updated to their most popular e-readers recently to make them even more useful and competitive. One e-reader also doesn't look very different from the next, so it can be difficult to tell them apart—but trust the dedicated readers of Ars, there are notable differences within this product category.
Luckily, to help you decipher the world of e-readers ahead of any beaches, porches, or general down time that may await you this summer, Ars has been testing and tinkering. Today, these are the best devices for all kinds of readers.
It has been nine days since Microsoft patched the high-severity vulnerability known as BlueKeep, and yet the dire advisories about its potential to sow worldwide disruptions keep coming.
Until recently, there was little independent corroboration that exploits could spread virally from computer to computer in a way not seen since the WannaCry and NotPetya worms shut down computers worldwide in 2017. Some researchers felt Microsoft has been unusually tight-lipped with partners about this vulnerability, possibly out of concern that any details, despite everyone’s best efforts, might hasten the spread of working exploit code.
Until recently, researchers had to take Microsoft's word the vulnerability was severe. Then five researchers from security firm McAfee reported last Tuesday that they were able to exploit the vulnerability and gain remote code execution without any end-user interaction. The post affirmed that CVE-2019-0708, as the vulnerability is indexed, is every bit as critical as Microsoft said it was.
From January, new DJI drones will be able to detect nearby planes and helicopters.
The two titles break local gambling laws that prohibit giving players random rewards in "loot boxes".
A serial publisher of Microsoft zeroday vulnerabilities has dropped exploit code for three more unpatched flaws, marking the seventh time the unknown person has done so in the past year.
Like the other exploits SandboxEscaper has published over the past year—including this one Ars covered last August and this one from last October—the three recent ones don’t allow attackers to remotely execute malicious code. Still, as security defenses in recent versions of Windows and other operating systems have improved, the value of these types of exploits has grown, since they are often the only way to bypass security sandboxes and similar protections. Despite some limitations in the exploit that were transparently noted by SandBoxEscaper, the disclosures are significant if they work as purported against fully patched versions of Windows 10.
When did the first complex multicellular life arise? Most people, being a bit self-centered, would point to the Ediacaran and Cambrian, when the first animal life appeared and then diversified. Yet studies of DNA suggest that fungi may have originated far earlier than animals.
When it comes to a fossil record, however, things are rather sparse. No unambiguous evidence of a fungus appears in fossils until after the Cambrian was over. A few things from earlier may have looked fungus-like, but the evidence was limited to their appearance. It could be that fungi branched off at the time suggested by the DNA but didn't evolve complex, multicellular structures until later. Alternatively, the fossils could be right, and there's something off about the DNA data. Or, finally, it could be that we simply haven't found old enough fossils yet.
A new paper out in today's Nature argues strongly for the last option. In it, a small team of researchers describe fossils of what appear to be fungi that could be up to a billion years old. And the researchers back up the appearance with a chemical analysis.
Google will roll out a policy next month to crack down on deceptive advertisements dealing with abortion—a topic rife with misleading and false health information.
The policy changes come amid backlash from a report in The Guardian saying that the tech giant granted $150,000 worth of free advertisements to The Obria Group, which runs a network of clinics across the United States that are funded by Catholic organizations. Obria's advertisements have suggested that the clinics (aka Crisis Pregnancy Centers) provide abortions and other medical services. But the clinics are in fact opposed to abortion and all forms of contraception, including condoms. According to The Guardian, the misleading advertisements are an attempt to bait "abortion-minded women" so that the clinics can then deter them from terminating their pregnancies.
To ostensibly address this problem, Google will now require all advertisers in the United States, Ireland, and the United Kingdom who run abortion-related ads to submit to a pre-certification. The process is intended to identify the types of services that the advertisers provide. All of their subsequent advertising will then be automatically and clearly labeled with either "Provides abortions" or "Does not provide abortions."
Amazon has created video games that its warehouse workers can "play" while they fill customer orders in an effort to speed up fulfillment and relieve the tedium of packing products into boxes.
The Washington Post described the warehouse games in a report yesterday:
Developed by Amazon, the games are displayed on small screens at employees' workstations. As robots wheel giant shelves up to each workstation, lights or screens indicate which item the worker needs to pluck to put into a bin. The games simultaneously register the completion of the task, which is tracked by scanning devices, and can pit individuals, teams or entire floors against one another to be fastest, simply by picking or stowing real Lego sets, cellphone cases or dish soap. Game-playing employees are rewarded with points, virtual badges and other goodies throughout a shift.
Think Tetris, but with real boxes.
Amazon has deployed the games in "five warehouses from suburban Seattle to near Manchester in Britain, after starting to offer them at a lone warehouse in late 2017," the Post wrote. The games ratchet up workplace competition, while "slyly pushing workers to raise the stakes among themselves to pack more boxes bound for customer homes," the Post wrote. (The Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.)
Apple has sent out invites to the press for its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote—or as the invite calls it, a "special event." The event will take place on June 3 at 10am PDT. Ars will be in attendance to liveblog the proceedings and all the announcements.
Sometimes the invites Apple sends out contain hints as to what will be announced. It seems members of the press received various graphics depicting neon emoji and animoji images set against midnight blue backgrounds—perhaps to evoke iOS 13's rumored Dark Mode. Ars received the above emoji.
We're expecting extensive details about the company's major three OS releases that are expected later in the year: iOS 13 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch; macOS 10.15 for the Mac; and watchOS 6 for the Apple Watch.
Nintendo's first racing game for smartphones, Mario Kart Tour, is barreling like a red shell toward a free-to-play launch on iOS and Android later this year. But today's kickoff of a closed-beta test (only on Android, only for randomly invited users) makes me wonder whether Nintendo and its development partner, DeNA, should tap the brakes in a huge way.
From a sheer gameplay standpoint, Mario Kart Tour is actually a pretty solid facsimile of the classic series, albeit with a couple of puzzling design decisions. But the game's path to monetization is the most brazen yet applied to a Nintendo smartphone app.Don’t look! Don’t you dare look at the leaked videos!
In good news, Mario Kart Tour plays much like the series' past 25 years of home and handheld versions. Race on go-karts through cartoony racetracks while picking up and using weapons (turtle shells, banana peels) and boost items ("nitro" mushrooms, mostly). In this version, your kart automatically accelerates, so use your fingers to steer left or right, tap weapon items to activate them (with a forward- or back-flick to direct them as needed), and pick from one of two drifting options to trigger "micro-boosts" in speed.
Chinese company is dealt an "insurmountable" blow as chip designer says it must comply with US trade ban.
A group of investors had sought to stop the firm providing its Rekognition system to police.
If you live in Seattle, your scheduled garbage pickup might be about to get a lot quieter. Recology, a West Coast waste management company, has just taken the delivery of its first fully electric garbage trucks. The vehicle is a class 8 truck—meaning the heaviest—made by BYD, with New Way supplying the Viper rear-loading garbage truck body. It's also apparently the first electric class 8 rear-loader in the country and the first of two that Recology ordered last year.
The BYD's specs make for very different reading compared to the average electric vehicles we cover. The powertrain is a 320kW (430hp), 1101Nm (812ft-lbs) electric motor, supplied by a 295kWh battery pack. However, it does have to carry around a truck with a 21,605lb (9,800kg) curb weight, and it can be optioned to a gross vehicle weight of either 57,500lbs (26,082kg) or 66,000lbs (29,937kg). (Interestingly, the photo BYD sent us has the GVW at 50,000lbs on the door.)
All that mass means the truck is limited to a 65mph (104km/h) top speed and a range of 56 miles (90km) and 600 pickups. Recharging the truck doesn't take as long as you think, despite all those kWh—nine hours connected to a 33kW AC outlet. The 8R supports either 120kW or 240kW DC fast charging, which takes 2.5 hours or 1.5 hours to recharge, respectively.
The Irish Data Protection Commission will look into whether Google's Ad Exchange system is GDPR-compliant.
Superconductivity offers the promise of hyper-efficient electric motors, ultra powerful magnets, and the transmission of electricity without losses. The reality, however, has fallen considerably short of that promise, as superconducting materials are difficult and expensive to manufacture, requiring a constant bath of liquid nitrogen to keep them cold enough to operate. And progress at identifying new high-temperature superconductors went through an extended stall, with no new contenders for decades.
But behind that stall, researchers were getting a better understanding of the physics involved with superconductivity, and that understanding seems to be paying off. A few years back, researchers found that a high-pressure form of hydrogen sulfide would superconduct at 203K (-70°C), roughly 65K higher than any previous material. Now, following up on suggestions from computer modeling, researchers have discovered that a metal-hydrogen compound (LaH10) can superconduct all the way up to 250K. That's roughly -25°C, a temperature that can be reached by a good freezer.
Unfortunately, its superconductivity is dependent upon pressure and required compressing the sample between two diamonds. But the results do tell us that our understanding is on the right track, and there are undoubtedly additional chemicals worth examining.
It looks like Huawei is not just being shunned by the US, but now, the world! According to a report from the BBC, ARM has told its employees the US export ban means it can no longer work with Huawei, dealing a crippling blow to Huawei's SoC division, HiSilicon, and to Huawei's ability to create smartphone chips in the future.
Trade War! USA v. China
ARM doesn't manufacture smartphone chips but instead licenses its intellectual property to other vendors. The ARM CPU architecture is the dominant instruction set in smartphones and embedded computers, and it's a rival to Intel's x86 architecture mainly seen in PCs and servers. Qualcomm, MediaTek, Apple, Samsung, and Huawei are all ARM architecture licensees and, as a consequence, nearly every smartphone on the market uses an ARM-based CPU. Besides the basic architecture, ARM also licenses out "Cortex" CPU designs and "Mali" GPU designs, which are often used by these licensees as a basis for their own SoCs.
In recent weeks, Tesla has been pushing out a new version of Autopilot with automatic lane-change capabilities to Model 3s—including one owned by Consumer Reports. So the group dispatched several drivers to highways around the group's car-testing center in Connecticut to test the feature. The results weren't good.
The "latest version of Tesla's automatic lane-changing feature is far less competent than a human driver," Consumer Reports declares.
Tesla introduced its Navigate on Autopilot feature a few months ago, but at first, it would ask the driver to confirm lane changes. More recently Tesla has given drivers the option to have Autopilot initiate lane changes without confirmation. But CR's reviewers argue that feature isn't ready for prime time.
The Department of Justice's antitrust staff has recommended blocking T-Mobile's attempted purchase of Sprint, Reuters reported today, citing an anonymous source.
DOJ staff "fear that after the deal T-Mobile will no longer aggressively seek to cut prices and improve service to woo customers away from market leaders Verizon and AT&T," Reuters wrote. A final decision is expected to come in about a month.
To block the merger, the DOJ would have to sue in federal court and convince a judge that the merger violates antitrust law. DOJ staff recommendations can influence agency decisions on whether to file antitrust lawsuits, but they aren't automatically followed. The DOJ's decision will be made by antitrust chief Makan Delrahim, a Trump appointee.
Nintendo has become the latest publisher affected by a 2018 decision by Belgium's Gaming Commission to treat games with randomized loot boxes as an illegal form of gambling. The publisher announced that mobile titles Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes will be shut down in Belgium on August 27. In a published statement that was translated by Eurogamer, Nintendo of Belgium chalks up the move "to the current unclear situation in Belgium regarding certain in-game revenue models."
Fire Emblem Heroes lets players summon new heroes via a "gacha"-style mechanic that provides random characters to assist in battle. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp also offers randomized boxes of "fortune cookies" that can contain some of the game's most valuable items. Both would seem to be a clear violation of the Belgian Gaming Commission's 2018 ruling, which prohibits titles that offer variable in-game items via "games of chance."
Blizzard, Valve, and 2K quickly removed or altered games for the country in the wake of the ruling, and EA gave up a legal fight against Belgian regulators in January. It's not clear why Nintendo took so much longer to be directly affected by Belgium's decision or why these game removals don't also apply in the Netherlands, which has ruled similarly against loot boxes.