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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 15 min ago

French investigators to work directly with Facebook to monitor hate speech

1 hour 26 min ago

Enlarge / French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the opening session of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on November 12, 2018. (credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)

For the first time, Facebook has agreed to allow French regulators to work closely with the company as a way to monitor what actions it's taking to combat hate speech. If necessary, France could impose further regulations on the social media giant.

In a French-language speech before the Internet Governance Forum held in Paris on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that the two sides would work together for six months starting in early 2019 to come up with "joint, precise, and concrete" proposals that both Menlo Park and Paris could agree with.

LIVE l Ouverture du Forum sur la Gouvernance de l'Internet. #GovTechSummit #IGF2018

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 12, 2018

"There's a Californian Internet and a Chinese Internet," he explained, urging those in attendance to seek a middle-ground "European" model.

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The next version of HTTP won’t be using TCP

November 12, 2018 - 11:41pm

Enlarge (credit: Andy Maguire / Flickr)

The next version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)—the network protocol that defines how browsers talk to Web servers—is going to make a major break from the versions in use today.

Today's HTTP (versions 1.0, 1.1, and 2) are all layered on top of TCP (Transmission Control Protocol). TCP, defined as part of the core set of IP (Internet Protocol) layers, provides reliable, ordered, and error-checked delivery of data over an IP network. "Reliable" means that if some data goes missing during transfer (due to a hardware failure, congestion, or a timeout), the receiving end can detect this and demand that the sending end re-send the missing data; "ordered" means that data is received in the order that it was transmitted in; "error-checked" means that any corruption during transmission can be detected.

These are all desirable properties and necessary for a protocol such as HTTP, but TCP is designed as a kind of one-size-fits-all solution, suitable for any application that needs this kind of reliability. It isn't particularly tuned for the kinds of scenarios that HTTP is used for. TCP requires a number of round trips between client and server to establish a connection, for example; using SSL over TCP requires subsequent round trips to establish the encrypted connection. A protocol purpose-built for HTTP could combine these negotiations and reduce the number of round trips, thereby improving network latency.

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Being a morning person might have some health advantages

November 12, 2018 - 11:00pm

Enlarge / If you consider 10:50 a reasonable time to wake up, it may or may not say something about your breast-cancer risk. (credit: Henrique Simplicio / Flickr)

A paper presented at the National Cancer Research Institute this week has made for some flashy headlines, like this confident declaration from India’s Economic Times: “Ladies, check your alarm: Waking up early may cut breast-cancer risk.” But most headlines have been appropriately measured and wordy, like The Independent’s “Women who prefer to wake up early have lower risk of breast cancer than night owls.”

In amidst the largely cautious coverage is a truckload of confusion over the details. Some reports frame the paper’s findings as being about preference (preferring to wake up early or stay up late) while others frame them as being about behavior (actually waking up earlier, regardless of preference). Some hold questions of cause and effect at arm’s length, while others dive right in with claims about sleep habits causing cancer.

And what’s the data that was used by the National Cancer Research Institute? Health News Review, in its critique of media coverage of the research, reports that researchers examined “self-reported responses” about being a morning person, but genetic data came into the mix, too.

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A 100,000-router botnet is feeding on a 5-year-old UPnP bug in Broadcom chips

November 12, 2018 - 10:20pm

Enlarge (credit: D-Link)

A recently discovered botnet has taken control of an eye-popping 100,000 home and small-office routers made from a range of manufacturers, mainly by exploiting a critical vulnerability that has remained unaddressed on infected devices more than five years after it came to light.

Researchers from Netlab 360, who reported the mass infection late last week, have dubbed the botnet BCMUPnP_Hunter. The name is a reference to a buggy implementation of the Universal Plug and Play protocol built into Broadcom chipsets used in vulnerable devices. An advisory released in January 2013 warned that the critical flaw affected routers from a raft of manufacturers, including Broadcom, Asus, Cisco, TP-Link, Zyxel, D-Link, Netgear, and US Robotics. The finding from Netlab 360 suggests that many vulnerable devices were allowed to run without ever being patched or locked down through other means.

Last week's report documents 116 different types of devices that make up the botnet from a diverse group of manufacturers. Once under the attackers' control, the routers connect to a variety of well-known email services. This is a strong indication that the infected devices are being used to send spam or other types of malicious mail.

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Making light twist into a bowtie may reveal dark matter

November 12, 2018 - 9:08pm

Enlarge / Puttin' on an axion. (credit: Stephen Kennedy / Flickr)

Dark matter is a theory that is excellent for inspiring new theories. It also seems to be an excellent way to generate new and expensive detector hardware. A new paper bucks the trend, though, proposing a dark-matter experiment that seems almost... cheap.

Chris’ theory of theoretical physics

I have a rather dark view of theoretical physics.

Unbeknownst to most, theoretical physicists (there is no other type) increase their stability by splitting into two, which happens during a process known as defending a PhD. During this fission, new dark-matter-particle candidates are emitted, mostly of a variety called axions. Whenever there is a conference of theoretical physicists, critical mass is exceeded, and an explosion of more dark-matter-candidate particles is produced. These events will occasionally emit large and expensive experiments.

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Legendary Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee has died

November 12, 2018 - 8:07pm

Evan Hurd/Sygma/Corbis via Getty Images

Stan Lee—the Marvel Comics legend responsible for cultural icons from Spider-Man and Iron Man to X-Men and Black Panther—has died, according to multiple reports from places like TMZ and The Hollywood Reporter.

THR spoke with a source that said Lee died early Monday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. TMZ spoke to Lee's daughter, J.C., who said an ambulance rushed to Lee's Hollywood Hills home early Monday morning to take him to Cedars-Sinai. That outlet noted Lee had suffered several illnesses over the last year or so, including dealing with pneumonia. Lee was 95 years old.

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Tinkerers, repair shops will have mixed feelings about this iPad Pro teardown

November 12, 2018 - 7:30pm


Following the controlled destruction of the Mac mini and the MacBook Air, iFixit turned its gaze to the new 11-inch iPad Pro. Its teardown reveals lots of adhesive, even more magnets, and only a few surprises inside the newest Apple tablet.

Unsurprisingly, the super-narrow bezels make the new iPad Pro harder to get into than the previous models. Awkwardly positioned display ribbons make removing the display more difficult, but underneath it we find the usual suspects: the logic board, speakers, TrueDepth camera array, and batteries, to name a few components.

The new iPad Pro should be an entertainment powerhouse thanks to a total of eight speakers, composed of four woofers and four tweeters. Combine those with the Liquid Retina display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and you have a stellar music and video consumption device. However, the speakers proved impossible to remove without destroying a portion of them, thanks to their housings being carved into the aluminum case. Magnets also live under the speakers, and those are just a fraction of the magnets present inside the iPad Pro.

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Behind-the-scenes audio from Apollo 11 mission made public for first time

November 12, 2018 - 7:00pm

Enlarge / On July 20, 1969, NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. (credit: NASA)

When Neil Armstrong took his legendary first steps on the Moon on July 20, 1969, it defined a generation. As NASA prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing next year, it has released newly unearthed backchannel conversations from the mission to the public, giving us an unprecedented peek at what was happening behind the scenes.

The main air-to-ground recordings and on-board recordings from the historic mission have been publicly available online for decades. But that was just a fraction of the recorded communications for the mission. Thousands of hours of supplementary conversations ("backroom loops") between flight controllers and other support teams languished in storage at the National Archives and Records Administration building in Maryland—until now.

Thanks to a year-long project to locate, digitize, and process all that extra audio (completed in July), diehard space fans can now access a fresh treasure trove of minutiae from the Apollo 11 mission. And those records are now preserved for future generations.

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Comcast uses NBC to harm other cable companies, rivals say

November 12, 2018 - 6:33pm

(credit: Comcast)

Comcast's smaller rivals in the cable industry have called on the Department of Justice to investigate whether Comcast uses its ownership of TV programming to harm competitors.

The American Cable Association (ACA), a lobby group for more than 700 smaller TV and broadband companies, asked for the investigation in a letter to Department of Justice (DOJ) antitrust chief Makan Delrahim.

The investigation should target "the business practices of the vertically integrated media giant Comcast-NBCU, focusing on harms stemming from the dominant communications firm's control of cable systems, TV stations, and regional sports networks (RSNs) concentrated in some of the largest local markets in the country," the ACA said in a press release today. Some ACA members such as RCN, Wide Open West, and Wave Broadband compete directly against Comcast for TV and broadband customers in certain local markets.

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Rocket Lab now has a fully operational small satellite launcher

November 12, 2018 - 6:18pm

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab succeeded this weekend in moving from a company testing its rocket to one that has truly begun commercial operations. With the third flight of its Electron booster, the company delivered seven different satellites into orbit as part of its first fully commercial spaceflight.

“The world is waking up to the new normal," the company's founder and chief executive, Peter Beck, said in a news release. "With the Electron launch vehicle, rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites. We’re thrilled to be leading the small satellite launch industry by reaching orbit a second time and deploying more payloads."

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Surface Go with integrated LTE available for preorder now, from $679

November 12, 2018 - 6:08pm

Enlarge / Surface Go. (credit: Microsoft)

Last week Microsoft added an extra configuration to the Surface Go lineup. Today it's rounding out the range and filling the final gaps, adding systems with integrated LTE to the product mix.

LTE adds $130 to the system price. At $679 is the consumer SKU: 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD storage, Windows 10 Home, and integrated LTE. Business users have two configurations: 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD storage, Windows 10 Pro, for $729, or the same spec with 256GB SSD storage, for $829. The LTE option adds a fraction to the weight (0.02lb/10 grams) and equips the machine with a nano-SIM tray, GPS, and GLONASS positioning.

Microsoft estimates that the LTE model has marginally lower battery life than the Wi-Fi version, quoting 8.5 hours of video playback for the LTE model, in contrast to 9 hours for the Wi-Fi version. This is likely a small price to pay for the ability to get online anywhere and everywhere. Microsoft has positioned the Surface Go as an ideal system for frontline workers: people who may be out in the field on customer or other remote sites. Adding LTE means that these workers are always online and able to reach their corporate systems for inventory management, support tickets, or whatever else they need.

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Dems to probe whether Trump retaliated against CNN, Washington Post

November 12, 2018 - 6:02pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Chris Kleponis)

Democrats in Congress are planning to probe whether the Trump administration improperly used its regulatory powers to punish the owners of CNN and The Washington Post—two high-profile media outlets that have repeatedly clashed with Donald Trump.

Adam Schiff, a senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, told Axios that Democrats would try to find out whether Trump used "the instruments of state power to punish the press."

In 2016, AT&T announced that it intended to acquire Time Warner, parent company of CNN. The Trump administration objected to the merger, but a federal court ruled against the administration earlier this year, allowing the merger to go through.

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Hitman 2’s Denuvo DRM cracked days before the game’s release

November 12, 2018 - 5:53pm

Enlarge / Agent 47 represents Hitman 2. The boxes represent Denuvo's DRM protection. The attackers in purple represent crackers to bust through that protection.

Over the years, we at Ars have watched with interest as anti-piracy technology Denuvo has progressed from the seemingly unbeatable scourge of the cracking scene to a trivial security measure routinely defeated within a day of a game's release. But Denuvo protection wasn't even able to provide a few hours of security for this week's official launch of Hitman 2, which has seen its DRM cracked days before the official release.

The early crack, released on November 10, was made possible by publisher Warner Bros.'s decision to make Hitman 2 available on November 9 to those who preordered the game—four days before the official street date of November 13. The quick crack also comes despite Hitman 2's use of a brand-new "version 5.3" variant of Denuvo, the latest in a long line of changes intended to thwart the cracking community.

Hitman 2's DRM situation mirrors that of Final Fantasy XV's March release on PC. In that case, the preloading of unencrypted game executable via Origin let crackers remove Denuvo protection four days before the game's launch date.

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VA’s software so SNAFU’d that vets were made homeless waiting for benefits

November 12, 2018 - 5:44pm

Enlarge / The Department of Veterans Affairs: Lincoln would not approve of the way the agency is running its IT. (credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Department of Veterans Affairs has acknowledged that the failure of a new IT system for processing claims for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits has been holding up payments for months and causing financial hardship for thousands of veterans. "Many of our Post-9/11 GI Bill students are experiencing longer than typical wait times to receive monthly housing payments," the VA said in a statement, with processing times averaging "a little over 35 days" for first-time veteran applicants. More than 82,000 veterans were still waiting for housing payments for the fall semester as of November 8, with some having lost housing as the result of non-payment.

In a statement issued by the VA on October 25, a spokesperson said:

We continue to experience a high pending claims inventory which is causing continuing processing delays for some GI Bill students. We apologize for these delays, and want to assure you we are doing everything in our power to reduce the pending workload, address the oldest claims, and continue to test the housing payment IT modifications required for the Colmery Act. As of October 24, our pending work is continuing to go down, and we are maintaining our focus on the oldest items. As we get reports of hardship situations we are addressing those immediately.

Passed in July 2017, the Colmery Act (also known as the Forever GI Bill) added new housing allowances based on the ZIP code of the school being attended by veterans. Previously, benefits were based on where the veterans lived before they enrolled in school. But the VA found that the software was improperly calculating benefits. Since the school year had already begun, the VA rolled back to the 2017 system—resulting in smaller housing stipend payments to veteran students by 1 percent. Then the old system broke down under a stress test, which delayed the process of having schools enroll students for benefits until July 16. Even then, many schools delayed filing information because they were told that they would have to resubmit it when a software update was rolled out in August.

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Volkswagen plans to make 50 million electric cars, CEO says

November 12, 2018 - 5:06pm

Enlarge / The I.D. (left), I.D. Vizzion (center), and I.D. Buzz (right). (credit: Volkswagen)

They say new converts are always the most devout. Take Volkswagen: after betting big on diesel—and losing—the automaker is going full-speed ahead on electrification. Earlier this year, it revealed it had committed to spending $25 billion on batteries from a number of suppliers, including Samsung and LG Chem. Now those plans may be accelerating, if all goes well at a meeting of VW's supervisory board this coming Friday.

Last week, Reuters reported that there is a proposal to convert two German factories over to electric vehicle production. One of these—at Emden—would build an as-yet unnamed sub-€20,000 ($22,550) EV and another called the I.D. Aero, both from VW Group's new EV architecture (called MEB). Another plant at Hannover would produce the crowd-pleasing I.D. Buzz. The first of VW's new MEB vehicles will be the I.D. which goes into production at a third factory in Zwickau in late 2019.

And today, VW CEO Herbert Diess told the German publication Automobilwoche that total battery earmarks for the company were now up to €50 billion ($56 billion). "We have bought batteries for 50 million vehicles," he told the publication.

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Samsung’s foldable smartphone reportedly costs $1,770, launches in March

November 12, 2018 - 4:59pm


Samsung intrigued the world with the announcement last week that it would launch a smartphone with a folding display sometime early next year. Now a report from South Korea's Yonhap News Agency adds a few more details to Samsung's secretive tease.

First is an actual name; according to Yonhap's sources, the phone will be called the "Galaxy F"—presumably that's "F" for "Foldable." The second big claim in the article is a price: $1,770 (₩2,000,000) for Samsung's cutting-edge smartphone. That's a big increase from the ~$1,000 flagships of today, but if this rumor pans out, the Galaxy F wouldn't even be Samsung's most expensive phone. That honor goes to the $2,700 Samsung W2019, which, believe it or not, is a dual-screen flip phone with flagship specs and some ultra-luxury add-ons like a Samsung concierge service.

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Attenborough’s calming narration comes to Netflix in 2019 doc Our Planet

November 12, 2018 - 4:37pm

Enlarge / Coming in 2019 to a Netflix near you. (credit: Netflix)

Two of the main people behind the BBC's modern wave of nature documentary series, including their iconic narrator, have signed on to make their next documentary project with Netflix.

The soothing, British-accented tones of narrator Sir David Attenborough, along with Blue Planet and Planet Earth creator, director, and executive producer Alastair Fothergill, are the headline names for a new project, dubbed Our Planet. Netflix says this eight-part "natural history" documentary series will debut exclusively on its service on April 5, 2019.

The series includes a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, along with statements from Attenborough about the "beauty and fragility" of our planet and the claim that humanity is "the greatest threat to the health of our home," but this all merely implies that Our Planet will heavily focus on conservation. The series' released teaser trailer instead largely resembles recent BBC docuseries—meaning, dramatic, crystal-clear shots of wildlife in its natural habitat. We'll always take more of those, and Netflix is advertising 4K-ready video content for this one.

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New year, same story: Cost of wind and solar fall below cost of coal and gas

November 12, 2018 - 4:23pm

Enlarge (credit: Germanborrillo)

It's that time of the year again: time for asset management company Lazard to release its annual Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) study. (We know, you've been waiting all year.) The numbers in the report offer economic insight into how energy choices were made in the previous year and how the energy landscape will likely change in the coming year.

The bottom line? The cost of coal-fired electricity per megawatt-hour hasn't budged a bit from 2017, while wind and solar costs per MWh are still falling. That spells bad news for an American coal revival, especially in places where the cost of building brand-new renewable installations is cheaper than the cost of operating existing coal and gas plants—a situation that Lazard says is happening with increasing frequency (PDF).

Lazard surveys energy buildouts that occurred in the previous year and divides the estimated cost of building and operating the plant, including fuel cost estimates, by the amount of energy a particular plant is expected to produce in its lifetime. This is useful because a nuclear power plant might cost billions to build, but it would have a vastly longer life and higher output than, say, a field of solar panels. By breaking costs down on a per-megawatt-hour basis, it becomes easier to compare sources of electricity.

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Keyboard and mouse controls finally hit Xbox One this week

November 12, 2018 - 3:55pm

Enlarge / Lap-based keyboard and mouse solutions like the Razer Turret will soon be fully compatible with the Xbox One. (credit: Razer)

It has now been two years and four months since Microsoft's Phil Spencer first told PCGames that keyboard and mouse support for the Xbox One was "not years away, it’s more like months away." In any case, the feature is now just two days away, as Microsoft announced this weekend that support for the traditionally PC-based control scheme would be rolling out to Xbox One players on Wednesday, November 14.

In addition to Fortnite and Warframe, which should receive the new control options this week, Microsoft said the following Xbox One games would receive mouse and keyboard support in November:

  • Bomber Crew
  • Deep Rock Galactic
  • Strange Brigade
  • Vermintide 2
  • War Thunder
  • X-Morph Defense

Seven more titles will add mouse and keyboard support "in the future," according to Microsoft:

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Apple to replace unresponsive iPhone X touchscreens for free

November 12, 2018 - 3:36pm

Enlarge (credit: Samuel Axon)

If you've had problems with the touch responsiveness of your iPhone X's display, you may be in luck. According to a support document, Apple identified a problem with some iPhone X devices that may cause a component of the display module to fail. The company has now launched a program to replace affected screens for free.

Apple claims that failed display components have caused touch response issues on some iPhone X devices. Part, or all, of the affected displays may not respond to touch input, or, in some cases, they may only respond intermittently. In other instances, displays react to touch even when they have not been touched.

Under the repair program, users can go to Apple or to an authorized service provider to get an iPhone X examined. If they verify that the device is eligible for the repair, the display module will be replaced free of charge.

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