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Industry & Technology

A different kind of “gamer” hotline: Free, anonymous emotional support

Ars Technica - 37 min 6 sec ago

The classic version of "gamer support hotlines" revolved around a late '80s and early '90s period of titans like Nintendo and Sega. You'd either make a long-distance call or call a 1-900 line to get help from a live counselor on how to beat a tough video game.

Those kinds of hotlines are long gone, replaced by YouTube tutorials—which is fair enough, because it's usually easy to spell out steps to fight a boss or solve a puzzle. This week, a completely different type of gamer-centric hotline has emerged to address an industrywide issue that isn't as easily solved by walkthroughs: emotional support.

The Games and Online Harassment Hotline (GOHH) launches today as a free text-based hotline that anyone can use to begin talking about the emotional issues that emerge all over the gaming industry. Twitch streamers, game developers, Discord server members, even online trolls: all are invited to begin talking—anonymously and confidentially—about mental health with counselors who are equipped to understand gaming's social systems and lingo.

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Google invests $450 million in ADT, gets exclusive hardware deal

Ars Technica - August 3, 2020 - 10:45pm

Google and ADT have announced, "a long-term, strategic partnership" that will see Google invest $450 million in ADT and the two companies combine their smart home and home security lineup. Google says the two companies will work together to "create the next generation of the helpful home," while ADT says the deal "will combine Nest's award-winning hardware and services, powered by Google's machine-learning technology, with ADT's installation, service and professional monitoring." A site detailing the collaboration is up at

Google and ADT have both been working toward smart home security solutions over the years. Google is coming from the position of an Internet company moving into smart homes, while ADT is starting from an old-school home-security company that doesn't want to get run over by these smart home upstarts. By now, both have covered the same areas and have a ton of overlap. There are Google and ADT smartphone apps, smart displays, security cameras, smoke detectors, and, of course, home-security systems, with motion detectors, entryway sensors, keychain presence sensors, security keypads, and monthly subscriptions. (Google's security solution is the not-very-well-known Nest Secure).

Google doesn't have an in-house solution for professional remote monitoring, but Nest Secure worked with Brinks Home Security monitoring. ADT doesn't have an in-house solution for smart home automation like voice commands and smart speakers, but ADT devices worked with Z-Wave, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa devices.

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ProtonMail founder: Apple uses monopoly to “hold all of us hostage”

Ars Technica - August 3, 2020 - 10:07pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

The developer behind secure email service ProtonMail today came out swinging against the way Apple allegedly uses its App Store to control access to iOS users and cut out competitors. The company is all but begging regulators to take stronger action.

"Apple has become a monopoly, crushing potential competitors with exploitative fees and conducting censorship on behalf of dictators," ProtonMail founder and CEO Andy Yen wrote in a company blog post. "We know this because we have quietly tolerated this exploitation for years."

Apple, Yen claimed, is using its market power "to hold all of us [developers] hostage." Referring to the 30 percent cut Apple takes of any sales through its App Store as a "tax," he added that traditional analogies to retail space break down when it comes to software:

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Watch Live: SpaceX clears pad in advance of hop Monday evening [Updated]

Ars Technica - August 3, 2020 - 10:00pm

After successfully completing a static fire test of its Starship prototype last Thursday, SpaceX engineers and technicians in Boca Chica have been preparing the vehicle for its first test flight.

This brief hop, to an altitude of 150 meters, may come as early as today. According to the Federal Aviation Administration's temporary flight restrictions, SpaceX has a "launch window" from 8am local time in South Texas to 8pm. This means the window closes at 01:00 UTC Tuesday.

Although the company has not announced precisely when it will launch, based upon activity at the pad, SpaceX will likely target later this afternoon or evening for the hop. Photojournalist Trevor Mahlmann is on hand to document activities and provide images of the launch and landing attempt. If the company runs into technical problems on Monday, SpaceX also has a backup day on Tuesday.

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Call for TikTok security check before HQ decision

BBC Technology News - August 3, 2020 - 9:46pm
The owner of the short-form video app has London on a shortlist of possible locations.

Ajit Pai calls for “vigorous debate” on Trump’s social media crackdown

Ars Technica - August 3, 2020 - 9:27pm

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The Federal Communications Commission today asked the public for responses to the Trump administration's attempt to punish social media websites for alleged anti-conservative bias.

"Longstanding rules require the agency to put such petitions out for public comment 'promptly,' and we will follow that requirement here," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.

Trump issued an executive order in May, instructing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to petition the FCC for a new interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that would limit social media platforms' legal protections for hosting third-party content when the platforms take down content they consider objectionable.

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In wake of Apple acquisition, Dark Sky ends Android support

Ars Technica - August 3, 2020 - 8:44pm

As promised, popular weather app Dark Sky ended support for Android and Wear OS over the weekend. Android Dark Sky users report that the app is no longer working and that it presents the user with a message saying that the "app has shut down."

The impending shutdown was first announced when Apple acquired the company in March of this year. Despite the end of support for the world's most popular mobile operating system, Dark Sky's developers wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition that joining Apple means they could "reach far more people, with far more impact, than we ever could alone."

The Dark Sky Android app is not the only popular service on the chopping block as a result of the acquisition. Several app developers on both iOS and Android have used Dark Sky's API for weather data for a while now, but like Android support, that's going away. There's a little more time in that case, though: developers have until the end of next year to find and implement alternative data sources.

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Trump administration gives TikTok 45 days to sell to Microsoft or leave US [Updated]

Ars Technica - August 3, 2020 - 8:23pm

Enlarge / TikTok's US operations may soon be part of every cool teen's favorite code conglomerate, Microsoft. (credit: SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

After weeks of rumor and speculation, the Trump administration this weekend gave TikTok's parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, 45 days to sell off the social media sensation or else stop operating in the United States—and Microsoft looks to be the buyer.

Microsoft on Sunday confirmed what several media outlets had been speculating since Friday, saying it is in talks to buy TikTok's operations in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and may also invite other US investors to take minority stakes in the deal.

"Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020," the company said in a corporate blog post. "During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States Government, including with the President."

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Russian hackers stole trade papers from Liam Fox email

BBC Technology News - August 3, 2020 - 6:44pm
Documents on UK-US trade negotiations were leaked in the run-up to the 2019 general election.

The Umbrella Academy comes back stronger than ever with briskly paced S2

Ars Technica - August 3, 2020 - 6:40pm

Ars staffers were divided on the merits of The Umbrella Academy's first season. The pacing dragged a bit in the earlier episodes, and the deviations from the source material—the Dark Horse Comics series created by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá—were not to everyone's taste. But I appreciated the time taken to flesh out the main characters, and I thought S1 ended strong, with a promising setup for a second season. I'm happy to report that S2 is even better: faster paced and well-acted, with some intriguing plot twists and developmental arcs for the Hargreeves siblings as they find themselves scattered in Dallas, Texas, in the early 1960s.

(Spoilers for S1; some spoilers for S2, but no major reveals with regard to the final episodes.)

For those unfamiliar with the series, billionaire industrialist Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore, House of Cards) adopts seven children out of 43 mysteriously born in 1989 to random women who had not been pregnant the day before. The children are raised at Hargreeves' Umbrella Academy, with the help of a robot "mother" named Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins, iZombie) and become a family of superheroes with special powers. But it's a dysfunctional arrangement, and the family members ultimately disband, only reuniting as adults when Hargreeves dies.

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Google finally announces the Pixel 4a for $349

Ars Technica - August 3, 2020 - 5:37pm

Remember the Pixel 4a? After months of delays, Google's midrange smartphone is finally coming to market. Google made the phone official with only a quiet blog post, instead of the hyped-up online launch most other phones have been getting in the COVID-19 era.

The main thing we didn't know from the seven months of leaks was the price, which Google confirmed today is $350. It really seems like Google is doing the bare minimum for a launch here—there is no XL model, and the phone only comes in one color. The Pixel 4a is up for pre-order right now, with a ship date of August 20.

For your $350, you get a 5.81-inch, 2340×1080 60Hz OLED display, a Snapdragon 730G SoC, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage, a 3140mAh battery, a single 12MP camera on the back and an 8MP camera on the front. There's a USB-C port and, surprisingly, a headphone jack.

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Beyond TikTok: Who else might President Trump ban?

BBC Technology News - August 3, 2020 - 5:28pm
Other Chinese-owned software could face difficulties in the US, if TikTok ban goes ahead.

SpaceX now plans for 5 million Starlink customers in US, up from 1 million

Ars Technica - August 3, 2020 - 5:03pm

Enlarge / A SpaceX Starlink user terminal/satellite dish. (credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has asked the US for permission to deploy up to 5 million user terminals for its Starlink satellite-broadband network in the US after nearly 700,000 people in the country registered interest in the service.

SpaceX in March received a Federal Communications Commission license for up to 1 million user terminals (i.e. satellite dishes) in the United States. That would allow for 1 million homes to receive the service, but SpaceX now wants to quintuple that number.

"SpaceX Services requests this increase in authorized units due to the extraordinary demand for access to the Starlink non-geostationary orbit satellite system," the company told the FCC in a license-change request on Friday. "Despite the fact that SpaceX has yet to formally advertise this system's services, nearly 700,000 individuals represented in all 50 states signed up over a matter of just days to register their interest in said services at To ensure that SpaceX is able to accommodate the apparent demand for its broadband Internet access service, SpaceX Services requests a substantial increase in the number of authorized units."

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PS4 gamepads won’t work for PS5 games, Sony says

Ars Technica - August 3, 2020 - 3:37pm

You won't be able to use Sony's DualShock 4 or other third-party PS4 gamepads to play PlayStation 5 games, Sony confirmed in a blog post today.

Those older gamepads will still work with "supported PS4 games" running on the PS5, Sony said, and PS5 software will work with "specialty peripherals" designed for the PS4—including "officially licensed racing wheels, arcade sticks, and flight sticks." Those caveats highlight the fact that there's no technical limitation or communication protocol mismatch stopping the upcoming hardware from communicating with legacy controllers.

But Sony says it "believe[s] that PS5 games should take advantage of the new capabilities and features we’re bringing to the platform, including the features of DualSense wireless controller." Those features include what Sony is calling "haptic feedback and dynamic trigger effects" and a built-in microphone (last month, Geoff Keighley hosted what is, thus far, the only public hands-on impressions of these new controller features).

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Bill English: Computer mouse co-creator dies at 91

BBC Technology News - August 3, 2020 - 1:37pm
Bill English was the first person to use a computer mouse, building the first prototype in 1963.

Microsoft and TikTok talks continue after Trump call

BBC Technology News - August 3, 2020 - 10:02am
The firm said it has talked with President Trump about buying the Chinese app's US business.

Adverts for large polluting cars 'should be banned'

BBC Technology News - August 3, 2020 - 8:46am
A new campaign says the government should ban adverts for large cars like sports utility vehicles.

TikTok: How would the US go about banning the Chinese app?

BBC Technology News - August 3, 2020 - 6:20am
Several options exist, from preventing Google and Apple offering the app, to blocking its servers.

TikTok: Pompeo says Trump to crack down on Chinese software in coming days

BBC Technology News - August 3, 2020 - 1:12am
The US state secretary says Chinese-owned software poses a "broad array" of security risks.

After a splendid flight test, NASA now has a new ride to space

Ars Technica - August 2, 2020 - 11:40pm

They made it.

On Sunday afternoon a slightly charred spacecraft dropped out of the blue sky and splashed down into a placid Gulf of Mexico. The safe return of NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken from orbit capped a nearly 64-day mission that proved the viability of a new spacecraft built by SpaceX, Crew Dragon. It was a complete success.

"This was an extraordinary day," said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, during a post-flight news conference. "It was an enormous relief after months of anxiety."

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