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Industry & Technology

UK's Huawei 5G network ban 'disappointing and wrong'

BBC Technology News - 39 min 59 sec ago
China's ambassador to the UK hits out at the move to exclude Huawei from Britain's 5G networks.

As pandemic rages out of control, CDC head warns of darker times this fall

Ars Technica - 1 hour 50 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images / Pool)

If seasonal influenza roars back this fall while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, the combined weight of the diseases could cause US healthcare systems to collapse, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday.

The grim warning comes as COVID-19 is spreading out of control in many areas of the country, which is now seeing upwards of 60,000 new cases a day.

I am worried,” CDC director Robert Redfield said in a live interview with Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of the medical journal JAMA. “I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times we’ve experienced in American public health.”

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Could US or UK ban TikTok?

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 50 min ago
With the short-video app already banned in India, Sophia Smith Galer looks at whether the UK or the US could be next.

Jail time for polluters in Biden’s $2T climate plan

Ars Technica - 5 hours 43 min ago

Enlarge / Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden arrives to speak at a "Build Back Better" Clean Energy event on July 14, 2020 at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. (credit: Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden today unveiled a $2 trillion policy platform that seeks to address both the climate crisis and the worsening pandemic-driven economic crisis by drastically expanding investments in infrastructure improvements and clean energy.

The proposals in the Biden plan are in line with a policy package released earlier this month by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The House Democrats' plan (a 550-page PDF), at a very high level, calls first for bringing the United States to net-zero emissions by 2050, then for using the back half of the century to get to negative emissions. That ambitious goal would be reached by adopting new regulations and incentives in energy, transportation, housing, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, telecommunications, and infrastructure, among other sectors.

Biden's plans, as outlined on his campaign website, go much less in-depth than the Congressional proposal package but are perhaps even more aggressive.

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Microsoft urges patching severe-impact, wormable server vulnerability

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 10:49pm

Enlarge / A data center stock photo. I spy with my little eye some de-badged EMC Symmetrix DMX-3 or DMX-4 disk bays at right and some de-badged EMC CX disk bays at left. Disk arrays like these are a mainstay of traditional enterprise data center SANs. (credit: Bryce Duffy / Getty Images)

Microsoft is urgently advising Windows server customers to patch a vulnerability that allows attackers to take control of entire networks with no user interaction and, from there, rapidly spread from computer to computer.

The vulnerability, dubbed SigRed by the researchers who discovered it, resides in Windows DNS, a component that automatically responds to requests to translate a domain into the IP address computers need to locate it on the Internet. By sending maliciously formed queries, attackers can execute code that gains domain administrator rights and, from there, take control of an entire network. The vulnerability, which doesn’t apply to client versions of Windows, is present in server versions from 2003 to 2019. SigRed is formally tracked as CVE-2020-1350. Microsoft issued a fix as part of this month's Update Tuesday.

Both Microsoft and the researchers from Check Point, the security firm that discovered the vulnerability, said that it’s wormable, meaning it can spread from computer to computer in a way that’s akin to falling dominoes. With no user interaction required, computer worms have the potential to propagate rapidly just by virtue of being connected and without requiring end users to do anything at all.

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Microsoft details how Xbox Series X will load 4.8GB/s from memory

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 10:36pm

The bulk of the speed increase, as Microsoft has said before, comes from the system's use of NVMe SSD memory, rather than the much slower-spinning hard drives of past consoles. That gives the system "2.4 GB/s of raw I/O throughput," Microsoft says, though we've noted previously it will also likely make expanding that memory past the built-in 1TB default more expensive.

To extend that speed even further, Microsoft says it's expanding on the "industry standard LZ decompressor" with "a brand new, proprietary algorithm specifically designed for texture data named BCPack." This hardware-accelerated texture-unpacking algorithm can be run in parallel with the standard LZ decompressor, Microsoft says, increasing the functional throughput of the I/O bus without using up precious CPU core cycles. In fact, without hardware acceleration, Microsoft says similar software-exclusive decompression methods "would require more than four Zen 2 CPU cores" to achieve the same results.

Microsoft also went into a bit more detail on its previously announced DirectStorage API. That new expansion of the DirectX pipeline offers developers "fine grain control of their I/O operations" on the Series X, "empowering them to establish multiple I/O queues, prioritization and minimizing I/O latency," Microsoft says. That should help with situations where developers need specific data to show up from memory right when they need it, ahead of other data that used to be loaded at the same time.

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Trump admin caves to Harvard and MIT, won’t deport online-only students

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 10:09pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Motortion)

The Trump administration has rescinded a controversial policy that could have forced the deportation of foreign students who attend colleges that aren't offering in-person classes during the coronavirus pandemic.

As we reported last week, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration to block the policy issued by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under the policy change announced July 6, foreign students with nonimmigrant (F-1 and M-1) visas would have had to leave the United States or transfer to different schools that offer in-person classes.

But US officials agreed to rescind the new policy in a settlement with Harvard and MIT, as revealed today at a hearing on the case at US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. "At a short hearing Tuesday afternoon, US District Judge Allison Burroughs confirmed that a settlement had been reached," The Wall Street Journal reported. "She said the government would rescind the policy, withdraw an FAQ detailing the rule and return to the status quo of guidance issued in the spring."

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It’s modular, it’s cheap, it runs Windows—it’s the $300 Kano tablet PC

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 9:43pm

Last June, educational software and hardware vendor Kano announced an ambitious new project: a build-your-own computer kit based on x86 hardware and Windows 10. This replaces similar products Kano has offered for years, based on the Raspberry Pi. The finished product, designed in partnership with Microsoft, launched today.

The Kano PC, retailing for $299, is an 11.6-inch touchscreen two-in-one design, usable as either tablet or laptop—although it's a Windows system, it most strongly resembles an extremely chunky Android tablet in a folding case with a built-in keyboard. The case includes a built-in stand to prop the screen up at a landscape viewing angle, as well as the integrated keyboard and touchpad.

The Kano PC ships with Windows 10 Home in S Mode and is powered by an Intel Celeron N4000 CPU, 4GB of DDR3L RAM, and 64GB eMMC storage. It also has a microSD card slot for adding storage later. Wi-Fi connectivity is included, but it's not stellar—the specs describe it as dual-band b/g/n, with Bluetooth 5.0. Resolution on the touchscreen is 1366x768, and video can be pushed to an external display via an HDMI port. The system also offers two USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C port, and three audio jacks (two out, one in).

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Huawei 5G kit must be removed from UK by 2027

BBC Technology News - July 14, 2020 - 9:37pm
The government is also banning telecoms firms from buying new Huawei 5G kit after 31 December.

OnePlus shows off its sub-$500 smartphone, the OnePlus Nord

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 8:40pm

OnePlus has shown off the design of its upcoming midrange smartphone, the OnePlus Nord. YouTuber Marques Brownlee interviewed OnePlus' Global Director Carl Pei and showed off a few glimpses of the upcoming device.

Like the rumors indicated, the front of the device features two selfie cameras in an oval-shaped cutout. The phone's appearance is reminiscent of a Samsung Galaxy S10+ but with the hole punch on the opposite side of the display. The back camera block follows the same design language as earlier OnePlus phones by putting everything in a vertical strip, but on the Nord, the camera assembly is in the corner of the phone instead of centered in the middle like previous devices.

We now know most of the big points of the OnePlus Nord, thanks to OnePlus' constant, iterative leaking. Previously, the company said the phone would be under $500, feature a Snapdragon 765G SoC, and come with a "flagship camera." Rumors previously pointed toward a 90Hz display, and today's conversation hinted at that, with Pei saying, "When it comes to displays, [the cost is] a lot about volume, so now that 90Hz displays have become really common, that drives the volume up and the price down." Pei went onto say, "We spent a lot on this display to ensure smooth scrolling, but we think it's worth it."

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UK bans Huawei from 5G networks in “victory for the Trump administration”

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 6:21pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images)

The UK government today announced a ban on Huawei equipment in 5G wireless networks, along with a plan to urge home-Internet providers to stop buying Huawei gear. The UK government's announcement said that US sanctions imposed in May factored heavily into the decision, which was "taken today in a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by the Prime Minister [Boris Johnson]."

"Following US sanctions against Huawei and updated technical advice from our cyber experts, the government has decided it is necessary to ban Huawei from our 5G networks," UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said in the announcement. A New York Times report called today's UK announcement "a victory for the Trump administration and a reversal of an earlier decision that underscores how technology has taken center stage in the deepening divide between Western powers and China."

Under the new rules, the UK said that "buying new Huawei 5G equipment [is] banned after 31 December 2020" and that "Huawei will be completely removed from the UK's 5G networks by the end of 2027." Today's announcement expands on an earlier ban that applies to the "most sensitive 'core' parts of 5G network[s]," the UK said.

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New analysis prompts rethinking of date, time for Vermeer’s View of Delft

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 6:17pm

Enlarge / Johannes Vermeer's View of Delft is considered to be his greatest masterpiece. (credit: Johannes Vermeer/Mauritshuis, The Hague)

The 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer is perhaps best known in the popular imagination for Girl with a Pearl Earring, which inspired both a 1999 novel and a 2003 film adaptation of said novel. But among art historians, Vermeer's masterpiece is View of Delft, a cityscape of the painter's hometown that beautifully illustrates Vermeer's skill with light and shadow.

Art historians have long thought that Vermeer likely created View of Delft around 1660-1661, but because we have so little biographical information about the artist, pinpointing the exact date, and even time of day, that the scene represents has proven challenging. Some have argued for late spring or early summer, with times ranging from mid-day to sunset. A new astronomical analysis concludes that Anthony Bailey, author of Vermeer: A View of Delft (2001), was correct in concluding that the painting depicts the town in the morning, "with the sun striking the buildings from the south east." Furthermore, the time is most likely 8am, on September 3 or 4, in the year 1659 or earlier.

That's the conclusion of Donald Olson, an astronomer at Texas State University known as the "celestial sleuth" for his work in so-called "forensic astronomy," and several colleagues, who describe their analysis in the September 2020 issue of Sky and Telescope (subscription required). Over the years, Olson has found evidence that the blood-red sunset that inspired Edvard Munch's The Scream was likely an after-effect of the 1883 eruption of Mount Krakatoa in Indonesia; that the Moon may have contributed to the sinking of the Titanic; helped identify the precise location of Julius Caesar’s landing site in Britain in 55 BC; and showed that Mary Shelley was probably telling the truth about a moonlit “waking dream” that inspired Frankenstein, among other findings.

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Rare Super Mario becomes highest-selling video game

BBC Technology News - July 14, 2020 - 6:15pm
The auctioned game, still in its original 1985 packaging, sold to an anonymous bidder for $114,000.

Huawei UK 5G ban 'should happen sooner'

BBC Technology News - July 14, 2020 - 6:08pm
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith calls the Chinese telecoms firm a "risk" to national security.

Amazon's hand-washing policy in spotlight

BBC Technology News - July 14, 2020 - 6:00pm
As part of legal action brought by workers in New York, Amazon's policy on toilet breaks is debated.

Amazon supermarket will roll out fancy new smart cart when it opens

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 5:39pm

Enlarge / Amazon has provided an educational video explaining how to use a grocery cart when it is also the register. (credit: Amazon)

Amazon is working to expand its grocery business—not Whole Foods, which already has more than 500 store locations, but its Amazon-branded line of register-free stores. While it's easy for a customer to carry a small bag of items around a convenience store like in the first Amazon Go, it's a lot harder to schlep around the volume of groceries one often buys at a regular supermarket. So Amazon is doing what Amazon does and is making the shopping cart itself an essential part of its high-tech retail experience.

The Amazon Dash cart will launch along with the company's Los Angeles supermarket later this year, the company said today. The smart cart requires a customer to log in to the cart using the Amazon app on their phone, then uses a system of cameras and sensors to take stock of what a shopper puts in the basket. It also has a touchscreen panel on the front handle, so consumers can purchase items that don't have barcodes, such as fresh produce. When a shopper is done with their grocery trip, they roll the cart out of the "dash lane," grab their now paid-for groceries, and saunter away.

Amazon's camera-heavy, cashier-free convenience stores first opened to the public in 2017. Earlier this year, the company followed suit with a slightly larger Amazon Go Grocery location in Seattle, which Ars' own Sam Machkovech tested to see exactly how accurate the panopticon supermarket setup is. (Spoiler: It's not completely foolproof, but it can identify if you try to steal a banana.)

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Our favorite wireless gaming mouse is down to a new lowest price today

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 5:13pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is headlined by a new low price for Razer's Viper Ultimate wireless gaming mouse, which is currently down to $100 on Amazon as part of a wider one-day Gold Box sale on Razer gaming products. Normally, the Viper Ultimate retails closer to $130 online.

The Viper Ultimate is the top gaming recommendation in our guide to the best wireless mice. It's expensive, even at this discounted price, but it's tremendous in both comfort and performance. It's lightweight at 74 grams, and while its relatively flat shape makes it a bit better for claw and fingertip grips than palm grips, it's sized well enough to be comfortable for most people. It's primarily made of plastic, but it's tightly built, with grippy rubberized sides, springy click buttons, and PTFE feet that glide smoothly. Its scroll wheel could be quicker, but it's precise, and while it unfortunately uses microUSB instead of USB-C, it can work with an included (and highly flexible) cable. It does have a modicum of RGB lighting built into the logo on the front of the mouse, but for a gaming mouse, its effects are minimal enough to work in an office setting.

Beyond that, the Viper Ultimate should present no issues with accuracy, latency, or responsiveness. It has a high tracking speed (up to 650 IPS) and a massive CPI range of 150 to 20,000. You'll never need to increase the sensitivity that much, but since you can adjust it in 50 CPI increments, all this means you have room to fine-tune the mouse to a place you find comfortable, be it for twitchy shooter games or everyday office work. You can swap between five different sensitivity presets from the mouse itself. This is also a truly ambidextrous design, with a pair of macro buttons on either side, so lefties aren't left out in the cold.

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Huawei: What does the ban mean for you?

BBC Technology News - July 14, 2020 - 5:04pm
Restrictions on use of Huawei's kit are set to slow down the rollout of 5G and perhaps broadband too.

Lucasfilm and MythBusters roboticist Grant Imahara has passed away

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 4:58pm

Enlarge / Imahara at w00tstock in 2012. (credit: uncle_shoggoth)

Grant Imahara, a roboticist and electrical engineer whose work appeared in films and TV series such as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceThe Matrix Reloaded, and MythBusters, died suddenly on Monday following a brain aneurysm. He was 49 years old.

Imahara worked for years at storied special-effects firm Industrial Light and Magic, where he worked on films such as A.I: Artificial IntelligenceGalaxy QuestTerminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the two sequels to The Matrix, and George Lucas' Star Wars prequel trilogy. On the last of those, he was responsible for restoring and recreating the iconic R2D2 robot for the new films. Imahara also created Geoff Petersen, the comedic robot co-host from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

But he is probably best-known to most people as a member of the build team on MythBusters for many years, with co-hosts Tory Belleci and Kari Byron. On the show, Imahara was often portrayed as the geek of the group as he worked on robots and computers related to the myths that were tested over the course of the series. He was an infectiously positive personality on screen and was beloved by fans.

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Nintendo and Lego team up on a $229 mechanical NES and TV set

Ars Technica - July 14, 2020 - 3:42pm

Back in March, we found out about a collaboration between Nintendo and Lego, who have teamed up to make a Super Mario platform game made out of Lego bricks. It's fair to say that Lego Mario was met with an underwhelming reception from adult fans of Lego—no surprise since that set was aimed squarely at children. On Tuesday, the two companies revealed another joint project, one we think most of you will love: a brick-built Nintendo NES and TV, complete with a mechanical scrolling Super Mario on the screen.

Lego NES B-Roll.

The set includes an NES console with one controller, along with a game cartridge that fits into the cartridge slot, just like the real thing. While that's pretty neat, I'm more impressed with the little retro TV set, inside of which is part of a level from Super Mario Brothers. As you turn a handle on the side of the TV, the level scrolls by, with Mario jumping over the obstacles in 8-bit glory, bouncing on Koopas and collecting power-ups as he goes. Not only does it look totally awesome, it also appears to use some really interesting building techniques that go to show how far Lego's construction methods have come since the sets of my childhood all those decades ago.

"Super Mario has been a cherished figure in the gaming world for over thirty years now," said Maarten Simons, Creative Lead on Lego Nintendo Entertainment System, the Lego Group. "Many adults still fondly remember that first time they saw Mario leap across the small screen, even if the graphics were a lot simpler than they are today. With the Lego Nintendo Entertainment System, we're letting them truly indulge in that nostalgia, recreating one of the most-loved consoles of all time so they can see the Super Mario from their childhoods once again—and even to share the experience of gaming in the 1980s with their own children."

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