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Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 1 hour 2 min ago

Verizon says Yahoo users must waive class action rights—or stop using Yahoo

1 hour 37 min ago

Enlarge / A sign outside a Yahoo corporate building in Los Angeles. (credit: Getty Images | FG/Bauer-Griffin Getty Images | )

Verizon is forcing users of Yahoo services to waive their class action rights and agree to resolve disputes through arbitration. Yahoo users who don't agree to the new terms will be cut off from the services, though Verizon hasn't said exactly when the cutoff date will happen.

The change happens as Verizon fights lawsuits related to a 2013 data breach that affected all three billion Yahoo accounts. The company could try to use the new class action waiver to fight such lawsuits after any future incidents.

Verizon completed its $4.48 billion acquisition of Yahoo's operating business in June 2017, and the company formed a new subsidiary called "Oath" that combines Yahoo and the Verizon-owned AOL.

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Video game loot boxes are now considered criminal gambling in Belgium

2 hours 19 min ago

Enlarge / This innocuous-looking Overwatch loot box is now criminal in Belgium, according to the country's gambling regulators.

The Belgian Gaming Commission has determined that randomized loot boxes in at least three games count as "games of chance," and publishers could therefore be subject to fines and prison sentences under the country's gaming legislation.

A statement by Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens (machine translation) identifies loot boxes in Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive as meeting the criteria for that "game of chance" definition: i.e., "there is a game element [where] a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game." The Commission also looked at Star Wars: Battlefront II and determined that the recent changes EA made to the game means it "no longer technically forms a game of chance."

Beyond that simple definition, the Gaming Commission expressed concern over games that draw in players with an "emotional profit forecast" of randomized goods, where players "buy an advantage with real money without knowing what benefit it would be." The fact that these games don't disclose the odds of receiving specific in-game items is also worrisome, the Commission said.

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Researchers edit coral genes, hope to understand how to save them

2 hours 27 min ago

Enlarge (credit: NOAA)

Coral reefs are the poster-organisms for ecosystem services, aiding fisheries, promoting biodiversity, and protecting land from heavy waves. Unfortunately, we seem to be repaying them by killing them. Our warming oceans are causing coral bleaching and death, rising sea levels will force them to move, and the acidification of our oceans will make it harder for them to form reefs. It would be nice if we could help them, but interventions are difficult to design when you don't know enough about coral biology.

Now scientists have announced a new tool is available to study corals: genetic editing provided by the CRISPR/Cas9 system. The ability to selectively eliminate genes could help us understand how corals function normally and could eventually provide a tool that lets us help them ride out climate change.

Coral complexities

You might think that we'd have a pretty good grasp of coral biology, given the amount of study that reefs receive. But much of that study has focused on coral reefs as an ecosystem, rather than coral as an organism. And that's a big barrier to helping these reef-builders survive in our changing world. To give one example, coral bleaching is caused by a heat-driven breakdown in the symbiosis between coral and a photosynthetic algae that provides the coral with food. Corals that live in warmer waters are clearly able to form partnerships with heat-tolerant algae, but the precise mechanics of which species partner with what algae aren't well understood.

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“You may shut the f— up”: Dashcam vindicates cops confronting corruption

2 hours 40 min ago

This video was released Tuesday by Tenafly police.

Sometimes, dashcams and bodycams catch police in their worst behavior. But a video released on Tuesday shows police in Tenafly, New Jersey exercising remarkable restraint in the face of badgering by Caren Turner, a commissioner from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Turner, who was appointed to the position by former Governor Chris Christie, suddenly resigned last week.

"Commissioner Turner's resignation was appropriate given her outrageous conduct," a Port Authority official said in a statement to

Turner's daughter was riding in a friend's car on March 31 when police pulled the car over. Police decided to tow the vehicle after determining that the car's Nevada registration had expired and the driver couldn't produce proof of insurance. Turner was called to pick up the daughter and her friends, but when Turner arrived, she tried to intercede with the police officers. "I'm here as a concerned citizen and friend of the mayor," Turner told the officers. "I take full responsibility for them."

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Ever wanted to see a race series just for Teslas? I’ve got good news

2 hours 47 min ago

Electric GT

Two things we love here in the four wheels-and-a-motor section of Ars are racing and electric vehicles. The former is just plain fun, the latter is just plain common sense. But there has been relatively little overlap between them, save for Formula E and the occasional entry at Pikes Peak. From November, we can add one more to the list: the Electric Production Car Series from Electric GT. It's a one-make series that will use a grid of identical Tesla Model S sedans converted for track action, and this week Electric GT confirmed the first season will start November 3 in Jerez, Spain, followed by nine other races in Europe.

We first reported on Electric GT back in 2016, when the series planned to use modified Model S P85+s and then again last year, following the news that the cars would now be the more powerful all-wheel drive P100D. Electric GT has stripped more than 1,100lbs (500kg) of weight out of the luxury EVs, ditching most of the interior comforts and replacing them with a stout roll cage. The cars also feature wheel arch extensions to allow for wider racing tires (specially made by Pirelli), as well as a front splitter and rear wing to add some downforce. Additionally, the suspension is now a double wishbone setup with pullrod dampers for better handling, and the cars feature a racing-spec braking system.

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Danish inventor gets life for murder, rape of journalist on personal submersible

3 hours 3 min ago

Enlarge / COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - APRIL 25: Special prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen (R) holds a press briefing after pronouncement of sentence in the case against submarine owner Peter Madsen for the murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall. A unanimous court reached the verdict that Peter Madsen was guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Madsen has lodged an appeal. (credit: Ole Jensen - Corbis/Getty Images)

Peter "Rocket" Madsen, the Danish inventor who sought to put himself into space aboard an amateur-built rocket and built (with the aid of colleagues) his own submarine—the UC3 Nautilus—was found guilty today by a judge and two jurors in the bizarre death of journalist Kim Wall, who disappeared last August while aboard the Nautilus.

Madsen was found guilty on all three of the primary charges filed by Copenhagen prosecutors against him: premeditated murder, aggravated sexual assault, and the desecration of a corpse. He was given a life sentence—a rare verdict in Denmark, and one that on average means 16 years of prison time. Madsen's attorney, Betina Hald Engmark, said after the sentencing that Madsen will appeal the verdict.

Wall's dismembered body and decapitated head were recovered weeks after her disappearance, as Madsen repeatedly changed his story about what happened to her. At first he said he had dropped her off the night before, and then he claimed she had died when the submarine's deck hatch slipped from his fingers and hit her on the head. Finally, after her head was recovered without signs of a head blow, he said that she had died of asphyxiation from carbon monoxide.

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Amazon made an Echo Dot for kids, and it costs $30 more than the original

3 hours 41 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Amazon)

Those with an Amazon Echo device in their homes have likely already exposed their children to Alexa. Now, Amazon wants to give kids the opportunity to turn Alexa into their friend with the new Echo Dot Kids Edition. The hockey puck-like smart speaker doesn't look too different from the original Dot, but it comes with new "Amazon FreeTime" content that gives kids new ways to interact with Alexa and parents more control over those interactions.

The $79 Echo Dot Kids Edition takes the original device's design and wraps it in a kid-friendly, colorful case. Otherwise, the hardware is the same as the tiny smart speaker that debuted in 2016. While the regular, $49 Dot is considered a more affordable and accessible version of the Echo speaker, the Kids Edition costs more thanks to its bundled software. Amazon includes a two-year warranty plus a one-year subscription to the new Amazon FreeTime Unlimited service, an expanded version of Amazon's new FreeTime for Alexa.

FreeTime gives users "family-focused features" and new parental controls that adults can use to restrict what their kids can do with Alexa. Family features include "Education Q&A," allowing kids to ask Alexa science, math, spelling, and definition questions, "Alexa Speaks 'Kid,'" which gives Alexa kid-appropriate answers to nebulous statements that kids may say, such as "Alexa, I'm bored." Parents can also limit the times during which kids can speak to Alexa (like no talking to it after bedtime), restrict the skills kids can use, filter out songs with explicit lyrics, and more.

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A short new movie of a comet’s surface is pretty incredible

4 hours 39 min ago

Enlarge / False-color image showing the smooth Hapi region connecting the head and body of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (credit: ESA)

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in 2014 and subsequently became the first mission to ever orbit around a comet. Additionally, its small Philae lander became the first to touch down on a comet’s surface—although it was subsequently lost after it was unable to deploy its solar panels in a proper configuration to capture enough energy to continue operations.

During its two years in varying orbits around the comet, which is about 4km on its longest side, Rosetta captured some unprecedented imagery of these Solar System interlopers. Now, a Twitter user named landru79 has combed through the Rosetta image archives and found a striking series of 12.5-second exposure photos taken from about 13km away from the comet. The images from June 1, 2016 are combined into the short video below.

The bright dots travelling from the top of the frame to the bottom, which look something like snow, are in fact background stars. They have that apparent motion as the spacecraft moves and the comet rotates. The more rapidly moving streaks are thought to be dust particles illuminated by the Sun. There also appear to be a few streaking cosmic rays.

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Basis—the “stable” cryptocurrency with $133 million invested—explained

7 hours 2 min ago

Enlarge / A bollard. (credit: praveenkay / Flickr)

Last week, we learned that an impressive slate of Silicon Valley investors was pouring $133 million into Basis, a company that aims to create a cryptocurrency with a stable value against the dollar.

It's easy to see why investors would be excited about a project like this. If successful, it would provide all the benefits of conventional cryptocurrencies without the volatility that plagues bitcoin and its competitors today. Demand for such a cryptocurrency could easily outstrip demand for conventional cryptocurrency, since volatility is one of their big weaknesses.

But there's no guarantee that the Basis project will succeed. Lots of people have tried to create stablecoins in the past, with generally poor results.

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Apple releases iOS 11.3.1 alongside security updates for macOS 10.13.4

18 hours 18 min ago

Enlarge / The 2018 iPad running iOS 11.3. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Today, Apple released small software updates for iPhones, iPads, and Macs: iOS 11.3.1 for the mobile devices, and a security update to the already-released macOS 10.13.4 for Macs.

At just over 49 megabytes, iOS 11.3.1 is a minor update that fixes iPhone 8s for users whose touchscreens were rendered unresponsive by aftermarket replacement displays. iOS 11.3 caused iPhones that had been serviced by outside vendors to have this issue. Users expressed frustration that it seemed Apple was punishing them for not going through the company's own process for repairs.

The patch notes below include a warning from Apple to steer clear of "non-genuine replacement displays." Apple's value proposition has always been around total control of the hardware to ensure a smooth experience. The company used these update notes to stress that yet again, the subtext being that the company can't be expected to support work done by other entities.

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The Xbox One will get 120Hz support in a May software update

April 24, 2018 - 10:20pm

Enlarge / You can't tell from this photo, but the One X is incredibly dense. (credit: Kyle Orland)

Microsoft has announced that the Xbox One will get 120Hz-display refresh-rate support in a software update for the consoles. Support for higher refresh rates opens the door for smoother gameplay, both in terms of performance and input responsiveness.

In a news post on the Xbox website, Microsoft briefly described the 120Hz feature, along with several other updates, and said they are coming this May. Other coming changes include the ability to group games and apps in new ways for easier browsing of your library, an improved interface for managing family account permissions for parents, a slight overhaul of button commands in the Xbox interface, the ability to trim game capture clips directly from the Guide interface, and improvements to the Xbox Accessories app.

Earlier this year, Microsoft added support for AMD FreeSync 2 to the Xbox One S and Xbox One X. FreeSync is a variable refresh rate (VRR) technology that reduces distracting screen tearing on many displays without impacting game performance. FreeSync, along with 1440p resolution support that was added in the same update (and now 120Hz support), all expand the Xbox One S and Xbox One X's compatibility with computer monitors. Microsoft is positioning the Xbox One as an alternative to a gaming desktop, even if your preferred setup is in the home office rather than the living room. That said, many TVs also support 120Hz.

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Supreme Court upholds patent review process, dealing trolls a blow

April 24, 2018 - 9:00pm

Enlarge / Justice Clarence Thomas, front, wrote the majority opinion. (credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of a process for challenging low-quality patents. Since its creation in 2011, this "inter partes review" (IPR) process has dramatically lowered the cost of defending against frivolous patent litigation.

The process allows an executive branch agency—not the courts—to revoke a patent after it has been granted. Critics claim that runs afoul of the Constitution's requirement that only the courts can deprive people of their property.

But the Supreme Court didn't buy it. In a 7-2 decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the nation's highest court ruled that patent rights were fundamentally a government-granted privilege that could properly come with strings attached. One such condition is the risk that the patent office might change its mind and invalidate a patent that it had previously approved.

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Suspicious event hijacks Amazon traffic for 2 hours, steals cryptocurrency

April 24, 2018 - 8:00pm

(credit: Amazon)

Amazon lost control of a small number of its cloud services IP addresses for two hours on Tuesday morning when hackers exploited a known Internet-protocol weakness that let them to redirect traffic to rogue destinations. By subverting Amazon's domain-resolution service, the attackers masqueraded as cryptocurrency website and stole about $150,000 in digital coins from unwitting end users. They may have targeted other Amazon customers as well.

The incident, which started around 6 AM California time, hijacked roughly 1,300 IP addresses, Oracle-owned Internet Intelligence said on Twitter. The malicious redirection was caused by fraudulent routes that were announced by Columbus, Ohio-based eNet, a large Internet service provider that is referred to as autonomous system 10297. Once in place, the eNet announcement caused Hurricane Electric and possibly Hurricane Electric customers and other eNet peers to send traffic over the same unauthorized routes. The 1,300 addresses belonged to Route 53, Amazon's domain name system service

In a statement, Amazon officials wrote: "Neither AWS nor Amazon Route 53 were hacked or compromised. An upstream Internet Service Provider (ISP) was compromised by a malicious actor who then used that provider to announce a subset of Route 53 IP addresses to other networks with whom this ISP was peered. These peered networks, unaware of this issue, accepted these announcements and incorrectly directed a small percentage of traffic for a single customer’s domain to the malicious copy of that domain."

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Dealmaster: Take 18% off a new MacBook Pro with 256GB of storage

April 24, 2018 - 7:45pm

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is led by a deal on a latest-generation model of Apple's MacBook Pro, sans Touch Bar: its variant with 256GB of storage is down to $1,235. That's a high price for a laptop that's almost a year old, but c'est la Apple—this is still close to 20% off its usual going rate.

While the Dealmaster fully understands that this MacBook Pro isn't the most welcoming device for, y'know, professionals, it still packs an excellent display, a smooth trackpad, a decent-enough processor for most everyday tasks, and at least a couple of Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports. The Touch Bar isn't really a must-have, either, and you won't have to worry about weird battery issues. You still can't expect it to power you through graphics-heavy work, but at the end of the day, some people will only settle for an Apple laptop regardless of its flaws. If that's you, this is a solid discount. Just keep in mind that new models will likely arrive in the coming months.

If you're not hitched to the Apple wagon, though, we also have deals on various Dell PCs and monitors, Samsung SSDs, 4K TVs, and more. Take a look for yourself below.

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For the first time, Facebook clearly tells its users what’s allowed

April 24, 2018 - 7:06pm

Enlarge (credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Facebook has released a lengthy 22-point document that explains more fully what its "community standards" are—in short, what is and isn’t allowed on the platform.

Facebook representatives declined to respond to Ars’ request for comment on the record, insisting that we speak to them only on background. It is not clear why the company, after 14 years, is finally releasing its guidelines now. Facebook also noted that these newly published standards "closely mirror our internal guidelines."

Last year, ProPublica obtained a slide deck outlining some of the mystifying rules, which allowed, for instance, attacks on a subset of a group ("radical Muslims" or "white female drivers") but not larger groups with immutable characteristics ("all men").

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Windows goes on a diet with yet another variant: Windows 10 Lean

April 24, 2018 - 6:57pm

Enlarge / Windows 10 Lean on offer within the Windows 10 installer. (credit: Lucan)

Just as Microsoft gets rid of one Windows SKU, it seems to have created another one to take its place. The short-lived Windows 10 S version has been replaced by a mode that can be applied to regular Windows, but it appears that there is already a successor: the latest Insider preview build for Redstone 5, due for release in the second half of this year, has an install option for "Windows 10 Lean," as found by Lucan.

Windows 10 Lean appears to live up to its name: an installation is about 2GB smaller than Windows 10 Pro, and it is missing a bunch of things, such as desktop wallpaper, Registry Editor, the MMC management console, and more. Lucan reports that Lean does not seem to apply the same restrictions as S Mode, and as such it is capable of running both Universal Windows Programs from the Store and traditional Win32 applications.

What's unclear is precisely who this Lean version is for. Saving disk space is certainly welcome, though on most PC-type devices, an extra 2GB isn't really going to make or break anything. It would be more important on a mobile device, but Lucan is certain that Windows 10 Lean is not some precursor to the operating system for the mythical Microsoft Andromeda device.

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Frostpunk review: Urban planning at the end of the world

April 24, 2018 - 6:50pm

Enlarge / This house is a pixel too big to fit into that slot. It's driving me bonkers just looking at it.

One part survival game and one part city builder, Frostpunk doesn’t give you time to play around. The citizens of this frozen, alternate-history England are cold, hungry, restless, and despairing. Your job is to manage these four societal factors—though not necessarily fix them.

Nobody is ever really happy in the world of Frostpunk. The world has already come to an icy end, after all. This reality is reflected in a series of political and technological upgrade trees that usually trade one pro for another con. Ordering the cookhouses to liquefy food rations into soup will feed more people, for instance, but it will also raise discontent. Another option is to cut the gruel with sawdust, though that might make residents (aka potential workers) sick.

That latter option won’t seem so clever, either, when those sick workers can’t collect the coal that fuels the city generator that keeps everyone from freezing to death or the wood and steel needed to build new structures. Loyal, placated citizens are a resource just like anything else in this grim take on the usual city-management simulation.

This is not a slow and relaxing sort of playground like SimCity or Cities: Skylines. Nor is it a creative exercise in making the most aesthetically pleasing city possible. True to developer 11-Bit’s pedigree (This War of Mine), Frostpunk wants you to confront what you’re willing to sacrifice to keep on living. And to do that, it constantly hits you with choices between two bad options.

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Ajit Pai hasn’t finalized net neutrality repeal—here’s a theory on why

April 24, 2018 - 5:22pm

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with his oversized coffee mug in November 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

More than four months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality rules, the rules are technically still on the books, and we still don't know when they will die their final death.

If you think that's strange, you're not alone. Harold Feld, one of the top experts on telecom law among net neutrality supporters, wrote this week that the situation is "highly unusual." (Feld is a telecom lawyer and senior VP of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge.)

"There is absolutely no reason for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to have stretched out this process so ridiculously long," Feld wrote. "It is especially puzzling in light of Pai's insistence that he had to rush through repeal of net neutrality over the objections of just about everyone but the ISPs and their cheerleaders because every day—nay every minute!—ISPs suffer under the horrible, crushing burden of Title II," the FCC statute that governs common carriers.

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Video: We force kids to confront ’80s technology

April 24, 2018 - 5:05pm

Video shot and edited by CNE. Click here for transcript.

Last, month we asked representatives from a whole range of generational cohorts what they liked about the time into which they were born. As a member of the tail end of Generation X (sometimes referred to as a "xennial," or by my preferred nomenclature, "the Oregon Trail generation"), my 40-year-old self identified more with the older folks in the video than with the younger, primarily because teenagers are snapchatting aliens who don't understand the true struggle of having to memorize all their friends' phone numbers because get off my lawn or something (and speaking of lawns, why can't I buy a fool-proof automatic lawn mowing robot in 2018?).

This time around, rather than have folks reflect on the ups and downs of their own generation, we took a bunch of really nice kids and threw them into a specially designed basement crammed full of '80s stuff—Nintendo Entertainment Systems, record players, Polaroid cameras, and a few other odds and ends—and told them that they had to figure out each of the gadgets or we'd keep them locked down there while the rest of us devoured the craft services table.

Ha, I kid. There was no craft services table. We spent the craft services budget building the '80s basement dungeon.

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Here’s our best look yet at the LG G7

April 24, 2018 - 4:52pm

Enlarge / Our latest look at the LG G7. (credit: Evan Blass)

The next company in the unending lineup of spring smartphone launches is LG, which has promised us a May 2 launch for its next flagship phone. After the LG G6, everyone was expecting the next phone to be called the LG G7, but LG is throwing us a branding curve ball and going with the much more awkward name of "LG G7 ThinQ."

The design of the G7 ThinQ has been no secret. The basics leaked all the way back in February at Mobile World Congress, but now, thanks to Evan Blass, we have our clearest look yet at the new device.

The image shows pretty much what we were expecting: a front design with an iPhone X-style notched display, rear dual-camera design, and the weird ThinQ branding. This new leak shows the phone from every angle, allowing us to see the USB-C port on the bottom along with the returning headphone jack.

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