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Ars Technica
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Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 1 hour 9 min ago

A startup aims to stop gentrification, with help from the tech industry

2 hours 19 min ago

At Ars Technica Live, Catherine Bracy talked about her nonprofit startup TechEquity, and how the tech industry can mitigate the housing crisis. (video link)

If the headline on this article made your eyes burn with fire, and your fingers twitch to comment without reading further, then you're in the majority. The relationship between Silicon Valley's tech industry and economic inequality in the Bay Area is an incendiary issue, as civic tech leader Catherine Bracy is all too aware. She came to Ars Technica Live to talk about her vision for a future where people in Oakland celebrate when a new tech company comes to town. With her startup TechEquity Collaborative, she's showing techies what they can do to help their neighbors benefit from the tech economy as much as they have.

Ars Technica Live

View more stories Bracy's first message to the packed crowd was that we shouldn't blame techies for the housing crisis. She said she'd had to overcome her own prejudices to make that realization. When Uber announced they were buying the historic Sears Building in Oakland, where Bracy lives, she said she had to struggle not to get angry. She worried that her neighborhood would be less brown, and that there would be a wave of housing displacement like the one San Francisco has already experienced. But after years of working on civic-minded tech projects like Code for America, and founding nonprofit TechEquity several years ago, she's come to a new understanding.

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FTC: We won’t stand in the way of pending Amazon-Whole Foods merger

August 23, 2017 - 10:07pm

Enlarge (credit: Portal Abras)

The Federal Trade Commission has formally allowed Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods to go forward.

According to a statement released Wednesday by acting FTC director Bruce Hoffman, "Based on our investigation, we have decided not to pursue this matter further. Of course, the FTC always has the ability to investigate anticompetitive conduct should such action be warranted."

Last month, there had been some public opposition to the deal. Back in June, the online retail giant announced it would acquire Whole Foods Market for approximately $13.7 billion.

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Feds: Son teaches dad how to sell drugs on AlphaBay, they both get busted

August 23, 2017 - 10:00pm

Enlarge (credit: mementosis)

A New York City father and son have been arrested and indicted on allegations of selling fentanyl and oxycodone on the underground drug website AlphaBay, which was seized and closed by federal law enforcement in July.

The indictment comes days after six Californians were indicted on similar charges of drug trafficking on AlphaBay, suggesting that federal law enforcement is now ready to start prosecuting at least some of the dealers that used the notorious site.

According to a newly issued criminal complaint, Michael Luciano admitted in July to selling the opioid drugs, with the help of his son Philip Luciano, out of his Staten Island home.

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Hands-on with the Galaxy Note8: Haven’t we seen this before?

August 23, 2017 - 9:38pm

"Didn't this device launch earlier this year?"

That's the overwhelming feeling I got after a test drive with the Galaxy Note8. Samsung's earlier flagship for 2017, the Galaxy S8—specifically the Galaxy S8+—is so close to the Note8 I'm not sure why anyone would wait the five months of lag time between the two devices.

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Wanted: Weaponized exploits that hack phones. Will pay top dollar

August 23, 2017 - 8:30pm

(credit: Wikipedia)

In a sign of the soaring demand for zeroday attacks that target software that's becoming increasingly secure, a market-leading broker is offering serious cash for weaponized exploits that work against Signal, WhatsApp, and other mobile apps that offer confidential messaging or privacy.

Zerodium, the Washington, DC-based broker that launched in 2015, said on Wednesday that it would pay $500,000 for fully functional attacks that work against Signal, WhatsApp, iMessage, Viber, WeChat, and Telegram. The broker said it would start paying the same rate for exploits against default mobile e-mail apps. Those are among the highest prices Zerodium offers. Only remote jailbreaks for Apple's iOS devices fetch a higher fee, with $1.5 million offered for those that require no user interaction and $1 million for those that do. The jailbreak fees were announced in September 2016 and September 2015, respectively.

"Overall prices are trending up—and quite significantly in many cases, and there's an increased focus on mobile," Adam Caudill, a senior application security consultant at AppSec Consulting, told Ars. "The new $500k targets for messaging and default e-mail apps show what a priority attacking individuals via their devices has become (which makes sense, given the recent increase in state-sponsored malware targeting mobile devices via SMS and the like)."

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Time on a therapist’s couch yields persistent personality changes

August 23, 2017 - 7:45pm

Enlarge / Even Lego clowns need therapy sometimes. (credit: Pascal / Flickr)

If you’ve ever wondered whether psychotherapy achieves meaningful, long-term change in a person’s life, wonder no more: combined evidence from multiple studies suggests that it does. A meta-analysis published recently in Psychological Bulletin reports that a variety of different therapeutic techniques result in positive changes to personality, especially when it comes to neuroticism, that last over a considerable period of time.

Personality is, as your intuition might tell you, relatively stable—people who start out gregarious and adventurous tend to stay gregarious and adventurous throughout their lives. Assessments of people’s personality traits taken at different times tend to agree pretty well with each other. But that doesn’t mean personality is static: personal growth, life experiences, and age all play their part, and people’s personalities do change somewhat throughout their lives—usually for the better.

An OCEAN of change

But it can be tricky to work out precisely what is being evaluated in measures of personality like the “Big Five” of Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism ("OCEAN"). Any personality questionnaire will come up with metrics that capture both someone's stable, long-term tendencies (their traits), as well as how they are feeling in a given moment or phase in their life (their state). So, it’s not enough to find that therapy brings about personality changes—it’s also necessary to figure out how deep those changes go.

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Here’s a way to silence Trump on Twitter: Buy the microblogging service

August 23, 2017 - 7:26pm

Enlarge (credit:

Anybody who knows that Donald Trump is president of the United States probably knows that his Twitter feed is his mouthpiece to the world. He criticizes global leaders, threatens war, berates the media, and, well, you name it. It's no understatement to suggest that the nation's 45th chief executive has assumed the Twitter Presidency.

Now there is a movement afoot to silence the @realdDonaldTrump handle, which has 36.6 million followers and has tweeted more than 35,000 times. Despite allegations that Trump is breaching Twitter's terms of service for using the service to threaten violence, Twitter isn't about to kick off its most high-profile tweeter.

Valerie Plame Wilson. (credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

So a former CIA undercover operative is trying to do what Twitter won't: end the Twitter Presidency. Although her plan will most likely never come to fruition, Valerie Plame Wilson has started a GoFundMe page to raise $1 billion, which would make her Twitter's largest shareholder and give her great monetary influence over Twitter's policies.

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Fall Creators Update hitting the home straight with focus on stabilization

August 23, 2017 - 7:12pm

Enlarge (credit: Gordon Plant)

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, aka version 1709, is due to be finished next month. Accordingly, the builds released to the Windows Insider Program are now heading toward stabilization, with bug-fixing the priority.

This has a somewhat greater significance than was the case for prior Windows 10 updates because of the "Skip Ahead" scheme Microsoft introduced a few weeks ago. Most members of the Insider Program will continue to receive Redstone 3 builds and head toward stabilization and finalization for the Fall Creators Update release. Those who opted in to the (limited) Skip Ahead group, however, will imminently be switched to a different Windows branch. This branch will begin development of the Redstone 4 release that's due in March 2018.

Once the Fall Creators Update release is out, all Insiders will be moved to the Redstone 4 branch, and the program will continue as before.

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AT&T brings 500Mbps home Internet to cities outside its territory

August 23, 2017 - 7:00pm

(credit: Brad Smith)

Major home Internet providers in the US don't typically expand into each other's territory, but this week, AT&T said it is launching high-speed Internet in parts of New York City and other major metro areas outside of its traditional wireline footprint.

The new service is for apartment and condominium buildings, so don't expect to get it if you live in a single-family house. It's also only available in cases where AT&T has gotten access into buildings, which is often a problem for competing ISPs because of exclusive arrangements between providers and landlords. But for some consumers, the new AT&T launch could provide some much-needed competition.

AT&T's new deployment uses, a technology that relies on fiber deployments into neighborhoods and copper wires to make the connection inside each building. But instead of old phone lines, AT&T said it is using coaxial cables to make the final connection to consumers.

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Patent-licensing company loses its $30M verdict against Sprint

August 23, 2017 - 6:50pm

Enlarge / A sign hanging inside a San Francisco Sprint store. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A patent-licensing entity that sued the five largest cell phone carriers has seen its biggest victory slip away.

Prism won a $30 million verdict against Sprint in 2015, when a jury found that Sprint violated US Patents No. 8,127,345 and 8,387,155, both of which describe methods of "managing access to protected computer resources." According to the complaint (PDF), filed in 2012, Sprint's Simply Everything Plan and Everything Data Plan were both methods of "controlling access to Sprint’s protected network resources" and thus infringed the patents.

Earlier this month, though, US District Judge Lyle Strom ruled (PDF) that Prism won't be able to collect on its verdict. Prism used the same patents to take on T-Mobile, which defeated the patents and prevented Prism from collecting the Sprint verdict as well.

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Bungie prioritizing “simulation” over frame rate for console Destiny 2

August 23, 2017 - 4:39pm

Our own Mark Walton plays Destiny 2 at 4K and 60fps on PC.

Here at Ars, we spend a lot of time talking about how developers deal with the trade-offs between resolution, frame rate, graphical detail, and simulation complexity they face at the top end of modern console and PC hardware. Quite often, the first-blush "wow factor" of more pixels and higher frame rates wins out in this constant balancing act. For Destiny 2, though, Executive Producer Mark Noseworthy says the team prioritized the complexity of the game itself over hitting a frame rate higher than 30fps.

In a Twitter thread back in June, Noseworthy said that the CPU limits on current consoles mean the game had to scale back to 30fps "to deliver D2's AI counts, environment sizes, and # of players." In the latest issue of Edge magazine (excerpted by WCCFTech), Noseworthy expands on the reasoning behind that choice:

It’s about the simulation of the Destiny world. Thirty AI at once, large open spaces, six players, sometimes with vehicles, and dropships coming in; that’s where we’re using the CPU.

Could we make a Destiny game that ran at 60fps? Yes, but the space would be smaller, it would be less cooperative, and there’d be fewer monsters to shoot. That’s not the game we want to make.

First and foremost, we’re trying to make an incredible action game. We don’t feel we’ve been held back by the choices we’ve made about world simulation versus frame rate; in fact, we think we’re offering a player experience you can’t have elsewhere because of the choices we’re making.

Put like that, the trade-off doesn't sound like a bad one. Yes, a game that's locked to 30fps looks markedly worse than one running at 60fps or more, all things being equal. The resulting lack of smoothness is especially noticeable in a reflex-based shooting game like Destiny 2 (though the server's internal tick rate has arguably more impact on how the game feels). That said, a smoother Destiny 2 with fewer simultaneous enemies and fewer player characters in smaller battle locales would probably be noticeably worse to play, too. As long as the game can run steadily at a playable 30 frames per second, without dips, that sounds like a perfectly acceptable trade.

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Ariel—makers of the Atom—have a hybrid hypercar in the works

August 23, 2017 - 4:27pm

Ariel Motor Company

If you watch Top Gear, you'll know the Ariel Motor Company. It's the British maker of the Atom, a mid-engined assortment of scaffolding that was dreamt up as a modern answer to the Lotus/Caterham Seven—the same car that gave Jeremy Clarkson an epiglottis full of bees. Ariel also makes the Nomad, an off-road version of the Atom that featured in Matt Le Blanc's Top Gear debut.

Both of those vehicles are utterly bonkers, stripped down to the very essence of a car but overloaded with excitement. Which makes us rather excited about the fact that the next four-wheeled thrill ride to emerge from its Somerset factory is going to be an electric vehicle.

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Samsung makes the Galaxy Note8 Official

August 23, 2017 - 4:15pm


NEW YORK CITY—We're live from New York, where Samsung has taken the wraps off its new flagship device, the Galaxy Note8.

Samsung changed everything about the Galaxy S line earlier this year, and those changes are all making the jump to the bigger Note model. You get an extra-tall display with on-screen navigation buttons and slim bezels. The fingerprint reader has been moved to the back, next to the camera components. There's also an iris scanner, a dedicated hardware button for Samsung's "Bixby" voice assistant, and compatibility with Samsung's "Dex" desktop dock.

Galaxy Note8 in Orchid Gray. (credit: Samsung)

So what is actually different from the Galaxy S8, which launched almost five months ago? Well, first, it's slightly bigger. While the Galaxy S8+ topped out at 6.2-inches, the Note 8 bumps up to 6.3-inches. On the back there's Samsung's first dual-camera design, pairing a wide-angle camera with a telephoto one with 2× optical zoom. Both have optical image stabilization, something Samsung claims is a first. Samsung has a number of trick features using the dual cameras, such as fine control over depth-of-field and simultaneous dual captures to take a whole-scene, wide-angle shot at the same time as taking a close-up, detailed shot.

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Liveblog: The Galaxy Note 8 launches

August 23, 2017 - 3:15pm

Enlarge / The Note 8 invitation.

View Liveblog

It's about time for Samsung to take the wraps off its latest flagship, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. On Wednesday, August 23 at 11am ET (8am PT) , the company will hold a massive event in New York City to show off its latest flagship.

We know pretty much all the basics about the Galaxy Note 8. Samsung gave the Galaxy S8 a big redesign with slimmer bezels, on-screen navigation buttons, and a rear fingerprint reader, and we're expecting that to carry over to the Galaxy Note 8. The main differences will be a slightly bigger screen, the usual addition of an S-Pen, and Samsung's first dual-camera setup with a 3x optical zoom.

SoCs haven't changed much since the release of the Galaxy S8, so we're expecting the Note 8 (in the US, at least) to also pack a Snapdragon 835 SoC. The Note 8 should get a boost to 6GB of RAM, though. With the release of the Note 8, Samsung can also finally put the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco behind it.

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Satellites that can image Earth at night, and through clouds, near launch

August 23, 2017 - 2:35pm

Enlarge / A rendering of ICEYE’s SAR micro satellite deployed in space. (credit: ICEYE)

The biggest thing in aerospace these days is the trend toward small things, from small satellites to small satellite launch vehicles like those under development by Rocket Lab, Virgin Galactic, and Vector Space Systems. Now a new microsatellite company, ICEYE, says it is moving forward with development and deployment of its synthetic-aperture radar technology.

On Wednesday morning, the Finland-based company will announce that it has raised $13 million in a new round of funding led by Draper Nexus, including investments from space capital firms such as True Ventures, Lifeline Ventures, Space Angels, and Draper Associates. Since its founding in 2015, the company has raised $18.7 million.

In an interview with Ars, the company's chief executive and cofounder, Rafal Modrzewski, said ICEYE plans to launch its technology within the next 12 months. It intends to begin the launch of a full constellation by 2019. "For the first two years we were mainly a technology company, and we were working with customers to find their needs," he said. "Now we have matured the idea."

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Elon Musk posts first photo of SpaceX’s new spacesuit

August 23, 2017 - 2:12pm

Enlarge / Wear this to ride in a Dragon spacecraft. (credit: SpaceX)

Early Wednesday morning, SpaceX founder Elon Musk posted a photo of the spacesuit that will be used by astronauts flying aboard the company's Dragon spacecraft, perhaps as early as next year. It is white and looks futuristic.

In his Instagram post, Musk added that this suit was not a mock-up but rather a fully functional unit. "Already tested to double vacuum pressure," he wrote. "Was incredibly hard to balance aesthetics and function. Easy to do either separately." (Double vacuum pressure simply means the suit was probably inflated to twice the pressure of sea level and then put into a vacuum chamber.)

Musk gave no other technical information about the suit. Most strikingly, it is white, in contrast to the very blue spacesuits unveiled by Boeing in January.

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Uber drivers have made more than $50M in the first month of tipping

August 23, 2017 - 2:01pm

Enlarge (credit: Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Uber is making additional changes to its driver-side app by allowing drivers to set more destinations and offering "long trip notifications" to tell a driver when a rider is requesting a ride that's 45 minutes or longer.

The company will also stop penalizing drivers who turn down trips. Previously, when a driver turned down potential trips, it could affect promotions and account standing.

The changes are part of a process the company is calling "180 Days of Change," which it says will transform the driver experience for the 2 million people who drive for Uber each week. It began about two months ago with the notable addition of tipping to the app. Uber US and Canada manager Rachel Holt told several press outlets that the company's drivers have earned $50 million in tips since that feature was added. In-app tipping became available nationwide in mid-July.

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Feds drop demand for 1.3 million IP addresses that visited anti-Trump site

August 23, 2017 - 1:45am

Enlarge / Police officers wearing tactical gear form a barrier with riot shields to prevent the movement of protestors after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017 in Washington D.C. Hundreds of thousands of people combined to celebrate and protest. (credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images)

The US Department of Justice is backing down on its request to Web hosting service DreamHost to divulge the 1.3 million IP addresses that visited a Trump resistance site. The request was part of the government's investigation into Inauguration Day rioting, which has already resulted in the indictment of 200 people. More are likely.

"The government has no interest in records relating to the 1.3 million IP addresses that are mentioned in DreamHost's numerous press releases and Opposition brief," federal prosecutors said in a new court filing concerning its investigation of the site.

The government, in the court document, said it did not realize that its original warrant, (PDF) which is part of a federal grand jury investigation into Inauguration Day rioting, was so grand in scope.

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Bethesda’s big VR games now have release dates, and they’re all in 2017

August 23, 2017 - 12:44am

Nice box art. (credit: id Software)

Bethesda had previously announced that it would release not one, not two, but three VR versions of its biggest franchises by the end of this year. Rather than disappoint headset hopefuls with a last-minute delay, the company has gone ahead and announced firm release dates for all three.

Mark your calendars, real or virtual: Doom VFR will land on both the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR on December 1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR will launch exclusively on PlayStation VR on November 17. And Fallout 4 VR will round out the company's 2017 VR schedule by launching exclusively on the HTC Vive on December 12.

Bethesda has not announced plans for any of those games to appear outside of their announced platforms. While it's likely that at least one of the three games will flutter out to another platform, we at Ars Technica would bet cacodemons to cacodonuts that Bethesda has no intention of releasing a game on an Oculus-branded platform any time soon. Or ever.

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Another staged body cam leads to 43 more dropped Baltimore prosecutions

August 23, 2017 - 12:21am

Enlarge (credit: carlballou/Getty Images)

A Baltimore Police Department officer has "self-reported" a staged body cam video. This brings the number of fabricated body cam videos rocking the agency to at least three. In this most recent instance alone, 43 cases are being dropped or not prosecuted, the state's top prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, said.

In all, more than 100 cases have been dropped or will be. Dozens of additional cases are being investigated because of three body cam videos fabricated by the Baltimore Police Department. The first video was disclosed a month ago. Dozens of closed cases are also being re-examined, state prosecutors said. They said they are examining hundreds of cases involving officers connected to the videos.

"The body-worn camera program was established to fight crime, better protect officers, and foster public trust," said State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. "Whether planting evidence, re-enacting the seizure of evidence, or prematurely turning off the department-issued body-worn camera, those actions misrepresent the truth and undermine public trust."

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