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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 1 hour 19 min ago

The RAM 1500 Laramie Crew Cab fuses “luxury” and “pick-up truck”

2 hours 3 min ago

Enlarge / The '19 RAM 1500 Laramie edition doesn't handle like a boat, but it sure can pull one—in style. (credit: Sean Gallagher)

I have an inordinate fondness for trucks. I learned to drive in a 1978 Chevy Suburban and drove an '88 Ford Ranger for years. However, in recent years, my selection of vehicles has been restrained by my wife's insistence on this thing called "practicality"—we are city dwellers, and despite the sometimes post-apocalyptic terrain of Baltimore streets, Paula has resisted the wisdom of driving something huge with a cargo capacity suitable for evacuating survivors.

I wanted a pickup, and she wanted a Subaru. So we compromised. We got a Subaru.

But when the 2019 RAM 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 arrived for my test drive—$60,190, as tested—I gained an ally in my pickup-truck cause. "This is my dream car... I mean, truck," my 17-year old daughter said as she climbed up into the expansive cab and sat in one of the vented, leather-trimmed front seats.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

3D-printed gun activists set to face numerous US states in court

4 hours 3 min ago

Enlarge / Cody Wilson, owner of Defense Distributed company, holds a 3D printed gun, called the "Liberator", in his factory in Austin, Texas on August 1, 2018. (credit: KELLY WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

Attorneys from 19 states and the District of Columbia will ask a judge to continue an order forbidding the release of 3D-printed gun files on Tuesday morning at 9:00am Pacific Time, in federal court in Seattle.

Strangely, the lawsuit, State of Washington et al. v. United States Department of State et al, seems to ignore the fact that the files are already available on numerous sites, including Github, The Pirate Bay, and more. These files have circulated online since their original publication back in 2013. (Recently, new mirrors of the files have begun to pop up: here's one, and here's another.)

Lawyers representing both the Department of State and Defense Distributed argue that their already-approved legal settlement should go forward, and that DEFCAD should be allowed to re-publish its 10 firearms CAD files.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A new Mac mini and a Retina MacBook Air are imminent, report says

11 hours 54 min ago

Enlarge / The 2014 Mac mini is pictured here. This redesign was seen by some users as a downgrade compared to its predecessor, and Apple hasn't overhauled it since. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Apple plans to release a new replacement for the MacBook Air (and possibly the current MacBook) with a Retina display later this year, according to a report in Bloomberg. More surprising: the report also claims an updated Mac mini is right around the corner.

The report comes from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who has built a reputation recently on breaking news of major Apple initiatives and products before they are announced. As always, his report cites "people familiar with" Apple's plans.

The new Mac mini would be geared more toward pro users than its predecessor, the report says, with more powerful specifications but steeper pricing. The previous Mac mini is something of a cult hit with independent software developers; this report suggests Apple will double down on that. That would move the Mac mini further away from one of its original purposes—cheap consumer home theater PC—likely because that product category has been replaced by devices like the Apple TV or various Roku dongles and boxes, among other things.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Minigame integrated into EVE Online helps scientists understand cells

14 hours 26 min ago

Enlarge / Yes, those are real human cells inside a fictional galaxy.

Citizen science, which asks the public to help out science projects, has produced some spectacular successes. But finding a way to grab and maintain hold of the public's attention can be a challenge. That has led to a number of projects that turn the science challenge into a game, finding ways of making a "win" into scientific progress.

But scientists have also figured out ways of hijacking existing games, including using pre-existing fan bases that recruit players through in-game rewards. Now, there's a progress report on an effort to turn EVE Online players into cell biology experts. Thanks to some in-game rewards, more than 300,000 players contributed roughly 33 million calls on where in a cell a protein was located. This not only greatly expanded a public database of information on proteins, but it enabled the researchers to better train a neural network to do the same thing.

Call it

While in many cases it has been possible to determine or infer what a protein does, that only gives us a partial idea of its actual function. That's because many proteins are shipped to specific locations in cells. So while two proteins may look similar in terms of the order and identity of their amino acids, one may be shipped to the nucleus, where it interacts with DNA, while its relative gets sent to the cell's surface, where it acts on proteins in the surroundings. So figuring out where a protein normally resides within cells can go a long way toward helping us figure out its normal functions.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Huawei was caught using a pro camera to fake smartphone photos (again)

August 20, 2018 - 10:21pm

Enlarge / A photo taken with a DSLR is used to demonstrate the smartphone's AI beauty feature. (credit: Huawei)

Huawei might make decent smartphones, but its marketing and advertising campaigns have, multiple times, been struck by controversy. That continues today, as an actor's social media post revealed that the company faked smartphone photos with a professional DSLR camera for an advertisement in Egypt.

In the ad (embedded below), a couple takes selfies at a party and at home with the Huawei Nova 3. The Huawei video shows a rapid succession of moments in which the couple prepares to take the selfie, then shows the final photos as snapshots between moments. As it turns out, though, the photos were taken on a DSLR camera—the type of dedicated (and not-at-all-tied-to-a-smartphone) camera used by professional photographers.

Huawei Mobile Egypt's ad for the Huawei Nova 3.

Reddit user AbdullahSab3 discovered that Sarah Elshamy, one of the actors in the video, posted some behind-the-scenes photos to her Instagram page. One image revealed a photographer shooting the at-home selfie with a DSLR.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Pay now or kiss Twitch Prime’s no-advertising perk goodbye starting Sept 14

August 20, 2018 - 10:08pm

Some of Twitch Turbo's icons, with its special smiley face flipped in light of today's Twitch Prime news. (credit: Twitch)

On Monday, Twitch announced a major downgrade coming soon to its paid Twitch Prime service. Starting September 14, any renewal of the paid service (as part of a paid Amazon Prime subscription) will have its no-advertising benefit lopped off.

On that day, existing paid Amazon Prime (and thus Twitch Prime) subscribers will continue receiving an ad-free viewing experience on the site, which revolves primarily around video game live-streaming. Any renewals paid for after that date, either on a monthly or annual basis, will flip the switch and turn video ads back on, to be played at random intervals during Twitch video streams.

In short: if you want to reap ad-free Twitch benefits via Amazon Prime for as long as possible and you like paying for Amazon's service, re-up that subscription ahead of September 14.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft prepares to kill the Windows 8 store: No new apps from November

August 20, 2018 - 8:44pm

(credit: Microsoft)

Windows 8.1 dropped out of mainstream support earlier this year, entering the five-year extended support period in which it receives only security fixes. However, Microsoft is still accepting new application submissions to the Windows 8 Store. Submissions for new Windows Phone 8 apps are also currently accepted.

Today, Microsoft announced that this is soon coming to an end. After October 31, new applications will no longer be accepted for distribution through the store.

Updates to existing applications will continue to be supported. However, there's now an end date for these, too: from July 1, 2023, Microsoft will cease to distribute any updates for Windows 8.1 Store applications. The deadline for Windows Phone 8 is sooner: updates for those apps will end on July 1, 2019.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Raytracing explained: Nvidia, Microsoft lead the way in revolutionizing gaming graphics

August 20, 2018 - 8:40pm

Enlarge / This image from EA’s SEED group shows off realistic shadows and reflections, and it highlights DXR. (credit: Project PICA PICA from SEED, Electronic Arts)

The announcement today of Nvidia's new GPUs with integrated acceleration of raytracing makes Microsoft's plans for DirectX even more relevant. Raytracing gives developers access to a wide range of effects that the current mainstream approach (rasterization) handles poorly. Shadows, reflections, and glass are all set to look much more realistic.

At GDC, Microsoft announced a new feature for DirectX 12: DirectX Raytracing (DXR). The new API offers hardware-accelerated raytracing to DirectX applications, ushering in a new era of games with more realistic lighting, shadows, and materials. One day, this technology could enable the kinds of photorealistic imagery that we've become accustomed to in Hollywood blockbusters.

Whatever GPU you have, whether it be Nvidia's monstrous $3,000 Titan V or the little integrated thing in your $35 Raspberry Pi, the basic principles are the same; indeed, while many aspects of GPUs have changed since 3D accelerators first emerged in the 1990s, they've all been based on a common principle: rasterization.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Finally, the biggest airplane in the world has some rockets to launch

August 20, 2018 - 7:16pm

Enlarge / Meet the Stratolaunch fleet. (credit: Stratolaunch)

For the last year or so, Stratolaunch has conducted a number of ground-based tests on the world's largest aircraft, both inside its gargantuan hangar and on a runway in Mojave, California. If all goes well, the company plans for the aircraft with a 117-meter wingspan to make its maiden flight by the end of this year.

But the aircraft is only a means to an end—sustainably launching rockets into space. Although Stratolaunch appears to have built a fine airplane, questions have lingered for years regarding exactly which rockets will be flown to a cruising altitude to then be released by the airplane. And when you've built an aircraft the likes of which has never been seen before, such curiosity is understandable.

On Monday, the company finally provided some additional clarity. Previously, Stratolaunch announced an agreement to launch small Pegasus rockets from the aircraft, but these boosters can only deliver up to 370kg into low-Earth orbit. (And they are so small, their use could not possibly justify the scale of the Stratolaunch plane, with a wingspan 20 meters greater than even the Spruce Goose).

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Man sues over Google’s “Location History” fiasco, case could affect millions

August 20, 2018 - 6:55pm

Enlarge (credit: Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Google is facing new scrutiny in the wake of revelations that it stores users’ location data even when "Location History" is turned off.

Last Friday, Google quietly edited its description of the practice on its own website—while continuing said practice—to clarify that "some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps."

As a result of the previously unknown practice, which was first exposed by the Associated Press last week, Google has now been sued by a man in San Diego. Simultaneously, activists in Washington, DC are urging the Federal Trade Commission to examine whether the company is in breach of its 2011 consent decree with the agency.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

DirecTV beats $4B lawsuit that alleged it tricked customers into paying more

August 20, 2018 - 5:54pm

(credit: Aurich Lawson)

AT&T-owned DirecTV has defeated the bulk of a $4 billion lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission, which wasn't able to convince a judge that DirecTV ads deceived customers about the price of service.

The FTC sued DirecTV in March 2015, alleging that the nation's largest satellite TV provider used deceptive advertising to get consumers to agree to price increases of up to $45 per month and early cancellation fees of up to $480. The FTC was seeking refunds for affected consumers.

But a judge's ruling on Thursday gutted the FTC's case against DirecTV, which has been an AT&T subsidiary since July 2015. "The FTC's ambition in attempting to show that over 40,000 advertisements were likely to deceive substantially exceeded the strength of its evidence," wrote Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr. of US District Court for the Northern District of California. "This case did not involve the type of strong proof the Court would expect to see in a case seeking nearly $4 billion in restitution, based on a claim that all of DirecTV's 33 million customers between 2007 and 2015 were necessarily deceived."

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Nvidia’s new RTX 2080, 2080 Ti video cards ship on Sept. 20, starting at $699

August 20, 2018 - 5:33pm

Enlarge / Say "hello!" to yet another GeForce graphics card. (credit: Nvidia)

Ahead of Nvidia's pre-Gamescom keynote on Monday, Internet retailers spilled the beans on the existence of the company's next consumer-grade graphics cards: the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti.

Nearly an hour later, Nvidia unveiled its own product listings for "Founders" editions of the "20-series" video cards. The company confirmed a September 20 launch for those two models and a "coming later" notice for an additional RTX 2070. The prices for the Founders Editions are as follows: $599 for the RTX 2070; $799 for the RTX 2080, and $1,199 for the RTX 2080 Ti. Pre-orders are live at the above Nvidia link.

Nvidia's event concluded by advertising prices "starting" at $499, $699, and $999, respectively, for those same models—presumably referring to video card partners producing their own models outside Nvidia's own Founders Edition line.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

We can learn the secrets of smooth traffic flow by watching fire ants

August 20, 2018 - 4:25pm

Enlarge / Georgia Tech researchers color-coded fire ants with markers to better monitor their movements. (credit: Rob Felt/Georgia Tech)

The next time you're stuck in traffic, consider taking a cue from the lowly ant. Fire ants may hold the secret to regulating traffic flow, whether it be dealing with cars packed on a freeway during rush hour, shepherding crowds through narrow passageways, or coordinating swarms of robots.

"Ants that live in complex subterranean environments have to develop sophisticated social rules to avoid the bad things that can happen when you have a lot of individuals in a crowded environment," said Georgia Tech physicist Daniel Goldman, who has been studying fire ants for years and is co-author of a new paper in Science detailing how they optimize their tunnel-digging efforts.

In a jam

Physicists have long been fascinated by traffic jams, especially so-called "phantom" traffic jams (aka, "jamitons"), where there doesn't seem to be any good reason for the slowdown. It all comes down to density and the physics of self-organization. Traffic moving freely "flows" like a liquid. Traffic jammed to a standstill is akin to a solid.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Aston Martin will build 25 new Goldfinger cars—with gadgets

August 20, 2018 - 3:45pm

Few cars are quite as legendary as the Aston Martin DB5. It's not because they sold well—just over a thousand were built between 1963 and 1965. And it's not because they won famous races. Instead, the DB5 became such an icon thanks to an early example of product placement, because it's the car that James Bond drove in the film Goldfinger. And now, Aston Martin has said it's going to build 25 of them, complete with gadgets. But they won't be cheap—each will cost $3.51 million (£2.75 million) plus tax.

In the film, 007's car was modified by Q Branch and equipped with revolving number plates, machine guns, an oil slick dispenser, and even an ejector seat. In reality, the car used in the film—actually one of Aston Martin's pre-production prototypes—was modified by John Stears, who won an Oscar for his work. No one knew at the time quite how much the DB5 would steal the show, and after the film the gadgets were removed from the car and then reinstalled some years later.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple complies with China’s rules again, pulls gambling apps from App Store

August 20, 2018 - 3:10pm

Enlarge / A customer inspects the 2013 iPhone at the Wangfujing flagship store in Beijing. (credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Apple removed thousands of gambling apps from China's App Store after the company came under fire from state-run media. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the tech giant removed as many as 25,000 illegal gambling apps, many of which were disguised as official lottery apps, from China's App Store after China Central Television criticized the company for not doing more to catch and remove banned content.

"Gambling apps are illegal and not allowed on the App Store in China," Apple said in an emailed statement to The Wall Street Journal. "We have already removed many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps on our App Store, and we are vigilant in our efforts to find these and stop them from being on the App Store."

While Apple occasionally cleans up its App Stores to remove spam apps and content, this recent situation shows another way that the company has bent to the rules of the Chinese government. Last year, Apple removed VPN apps from its Chinese App Store after the local government banned services that were not already approved by the state. VPN apps allowed Chinese users to bypass the Great Firewall to get uncensored access to blocked websites.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Shenmue I & II impressions: A gaming history lesson, but it feels like school

August 20, 2018 - 3:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Sega)

This week, for the first time since the early '00s, Sega's Shenmue games will be available on modern platforms. Both original games, 1999's Shenmue and 2001's Shenmue II, arrive on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC on Tuesday, August 21, as a $30 compilation.

Chances are, you never got to dive into either, owing not only to their age but also their exclusive launches on largely unpopular consoles in the West (the Dreamcast and original Xbox, respectively). This week's compilation changes the access-half of the equation (and comes to tide fans over while waiting for the crowdfunded Shenmue III). But does it deliver a must-play return to Sega's console swan song?

Not really. The team responsible for restoring this pair of games has erred on the side of authenticity. In good news, that means everything from the original games—art, dialogue, presentation—has been shined up as much as humanly possible. These are the best versions of Shenmue games in the world. But hundreds of open-world games have surpassed Yu Suzuki's classic in the days since, and none of those later games' successes have inspired Sega to fix what's broken here.

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

An early SpaceX employee will now help Relativity reach the launch pad

August 20, 2018 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / At the heart of the Relativity factory is the "Stargate" 3D printer, which the company says is the largest metal 3D printer in the world. (credit: Relativity Space)

Relativity is one of the most ambitious companies in the rocket industry. It seeks to manufacture the entirety of its rockets using 3D printing techniques, hoping to one day print a rocket on the surface of Mars to launch from there. But are either of these goals achievable?

Some new moves by the company suggest they just might be. On Monday morning, Relativity will announce the hiring of Tim Buzza as an adviser to shepherd the company's launch vehicle execution. These duties will include finalizing the selection of a US-based launch site (a decision will come before the end of this year) and overseeing development of ground launch systems at that site.

Tim Buzza (credit: Relativity Space)

Buzza is a well-known figure in the aerospace industry. He was employee number five at SpaceX, having hired on in 2002, and over a 12-year career he ended up as the company's vice president of launch operations. In an oral history interview in 2013 with NASA, Buzza explained his early duties at SpaceX.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: The Essential Phone fire sale continues, now just $224 [Updated]

August 20, 2018 - 2:46pm

Enlarge

Update (8/20/2018 10:55am ET): The discount looks to have expired for now; we'll update this post if it returns.

Original story: Essential really seems to want to get rid of whatever phones it has left in stock. Last month we highlighted a deal in which the struggling startup’s first and only Android phone was marked down to $250 on Amazon Prime Day. On Monday, the device is going for even less than that, as Amazon is selling the “Halo Gray” edition of the handset for $224.

The Essential Phone first sold for $699 when it launched last summer and has undergone a couple of permanent price drops after sales reportedly fell well short of expectations. To be clear, the device still has its share of issues: there’s no waterproofing, no microSD slot, no headphone jack, and some users have reported issues with reception on T-Mobile. Battery life is just okay, and even after several updates the camera isn’t really competitive with any other flagship phone from last year. Essential’s modular accessory system has been a total bust, too.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fitbit returns to its roots with new $150 Charge 3 fitness tracker

August 20, 2018 - 2:00pm

Valentina Palladino

It has been two years since Fitbit updated its Charge 2 fitness tracker, the $150 device that represents the most advanced activity band in Fitbit's lineup before you enter smartwatch territory. Today, Fitbit announced the Charge 3, a new tracker that maintains the Charge 2's spot but further bridges the gap between fitness tracker and smartwatch.

Fitbit made subtle changes to the Charge 2's design to come up with the Charge 3. Immediately noticeable in my short demo of the Charge 3 is its lightness—at 20-percent lighter than the Charge 2, you can barely feel it when it's on your wrist as you're wearing it.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Logitech gets into the vertical mouse game with the MX Vertical

August 20, 2018 - 8:01am

Logitech

Logitech on Monday announced the MX Vertical, the first vertical mouse to come from the popular peripheral maker.

The mouse costs $99.99 and is available to pre-order on Logitech’s website as of Monday. Logitech says it will start shipping the MX Vertical to customers sometime in September.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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