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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 20 min ago

After June fires, energy group says hydrogen is future’s fuel

June 16, 2019 - 6:00pm

Enlarge / A hydrogen filling station. (credit: Peter Gercke/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Hydrogen fuel facilities experienced two fires this month in Santa Clara, Calif., and in Norway. But despite these setbacks, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report on Friday saying that the fuel is an important potential part of a low-carbon future.

The first fire in Santa Clara happened on Saturday, June 1 at a hydrogen reforming facility run by Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. No one was injured, but according to the Silicon Valley Voice, multiple hydrogen tanker trucks caught fire. The fire was extinguished a little over an hour after the firefighters arrived on the scene.

After the fire was put out, Santa Clara Fire Department Battalion Chief Drew Miller told the press that “a hydrogen tanker truck was being fueled and a leak occurred," adding, "when the shutdown of the tanker truck that was being fueled occurred, an explosion resulted."

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

E3 2019 in photos: Gooigi, crazy arcade machines, and a DOOM museum

June 16, 2019 - 2:00pm

LOS ANGELES—If you couldn't or didn't make it to E3 2019, you're not the only one. Anecdotal evidence suggests this was the most poorly attended E3 in some time (though its organizers at the ESA insist that this E3 had only 3,000 fewer attendees than 2018's jam-packed affair), owing perhaps to Sony's no-show or the abundance of live-streamed options for enjoying the event at your own home.

That being said, we attended, and Ars Technica came back from Los Angeles with plenty to show for it. In addition to a few more hands-on previews coming (which will build upon the best-of E3 2019 list we already filed), we took our cameras out at both the official E3 halls and nearby events (Xbox Fan Fest, EA Play).

The result is a whopping three image galleries here. The first is a catch-all for most of the basic, expected fare, while the second and third focus on retro elements: a DOOM-specific mini-museum, and a curated collection of very rare gaming hardware and collectibles courtesy of the National Videogame Museum in Frisco, Tex. (If you've never been to that physical location before, we strongly encourage you to book a trip.)

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Director Jim Jarmusch puts his deadpan stamp on The Dead Don’t Die

June 15, 2019 - 8:15pm

Enlarge / Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, and Adam Driver star in Director Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die. (credit: Focus Features)

With The Dead Don't Die, auteur director Jim Jarmusch puts his unique, deadpan stamp on this staple of the horror genre. As one might expect, Jarmusch's vision is more ironically cerebral than your typical zombie fare and a bit less viscerally horrifying—even when the aforementioned dead are chowing down on their victims' viscera. It's not a perfect film, but it's got Tilda Swinton brandishing a katana with deadly accuracy against the undead. What's not to love?

(Some spoilers below.)

Zombies might seem an odd choice of subject matter for this longtime darling of the Cannes Film Festival crowd. Jarmusch's career took off in 1984 with his first major film, Stranger Than Paradise. Shot entirely in black-and-white (a signature of the director's early work), the film won the Caméra D'Or at Cannes that year and established the director as a rising creative force in arthouse cinema.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Final Fantasy VII Remake hands-on: Already feels like the one for jaded JRPG fans

June 15, 2019 - 1:30pm

LOS ANGELES—I have not seen or played enough of Final Fantasy VII Remake to confirm exactly how the game will play out when it launches on PlayStation 4 consoles in March 2020. What I can say so far, at least, is that I'm far from a Final Fantasy or JRPG apologist, and yet 1.5 hours with the game's E3 2019 debut has me absolutely excited.

Really, I'm shocked to admit that. Yet familiar elements, new combat, and incredible polish across the presentation and dialogue have me convinced that I'll be a day-one FFVIIR player, no matter how good, weird, or poor the final game turns out to be. Thus, I'm here to talk about why I feel that way—and what remains to be confirmed or explained about this ambitious, murky, "first in an undetermined series" return to Square Enix's glory days.

Weighing in for a legitimate brawl

Square Enix's Monday E3 press conference confirmed a few things about FFVIIR, from the refreshed visuals to the expanded story and its newly recorded, voice-acted dialogue. But first things first: how does it feel to play the darned thing?

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hackers behind dangerous oil and gas intrusions are probing US power grids

June 15, 2019 - 12:50pm

Enlarge / Power Lines in Page, Arizona (credit: IIP Photo Archive)

In a new troubling escalation, hackers behind at least two potentially fatal intrusions on industrial facilities have expanded their activities to probing dozens of power grids in the US and elsewhere, researchers with security firm Dragos reported Friday.

The group, now dubbed Xenotime by Dragos, quickly gained international attention in 2017 when researchers from Dragos and the Mandiant division of security firm FireEye independently reported Xenotime had recently triggered a dangerous operational outage at a critical-infrastructure site in the Middle East. Researchers from Dragos have labeled the group the world's most dangerous cyber threat ever since.

The most alarming thing about this attack was its use of never-before-seen malware that targeted the facility’s safety processes. Such safety instrumented systems are a combination of hardware and software that many critical infrastructure sites use to prevent unsafe conditions from arising. When gas fuel pressures or reactor temperatures rise to potentially unsafe thresholds, for instance, an SIS will automatically close valves or initiate cooling processes to prevent health- or life-threatening accidents.

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We used to be friends: Veronica Mars is back in the first full season 4 trailer

June 14, 2019 - 11:15pm

Enlarge / Hulu also distributed this poster for the new season. (credit: Hulu)

As the premiere for a new season of fan-darling-TV-series-brought-back-from-the-dead Veronica Mars draws closer, Hulu has released the first full trailer for the show.

Previous clips were just teasers, but this one really fleshes out what viewers can expect. In general, it looks like it will retain the original series' wit and darkness, just without the heavy 2000s-ness of it all. Since Veronica is a grown-up, working private investigator now, it looks a bit edgier in some ways, with guns and the like playing a more prominent role than they did in the original series. (Previously, Veronica usually relied on her dog Backup or her taser to do her dirtiest work.)

The Veronica Mars season 4 trailer from Hulu

In this reboot, the small seaside town of Neptune, California has seen a rash of bombings of late, and Veronica and her father are hired by the family of one of the victims to figure out what’s going on.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Anti-vaxxers defeated: NY bans exemptions as doctors vote to step up fight

June 14, 2019 - 10:46pm

Enlarge / Actress Jessica Biel supporting prominent anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in an effort to protect non-medical vaccine exemptions. (credit: Instragram)

Anti-vaccine advocates received a blow in New York Thursday as state lawmakers banned non-medical exemptions based on religious beliefs—and there may be more blows coming.

Also on Thursday, the American Medical Association adopted a new policy to step up its fight against such non-medical exemptions. The AMA, the country’s largest physicians’ group and one of the largest spenders on lobbying, has always strongly support pediatric vaccination and opposed non-medical exemptions. But under the new policy changes, the association will now “actively advocate” for states to eliminate any laws that allow for non-medical exemptions.

“As evident from the measles outbreaks currently impacting communities in several states, when individuals are not immunized as a matter of personal preference or misinformation, they put themselves and others at risk of disease,” AMA Board Member E. Scott Ferguson, M.D. said in a statement. “The AMA strongly supports efforts to eliminate non-medical exemptions from immunization, and we will continue to actively urge policymakers to do so.”

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Porn trolling mastermind Paul Hansmeier gets 14 years in prison

June 14, 2019 - 9:55pm

Enlarge / Justice. (credit: Brian Turner / Flickr)

A federal judge in Minneapolis has sentenced Paul Hansmeier to 14 years in prison for an elaborate fraud scheme that involved uploading pornographic videos to file-sharing networks and then threatening to sue people who downloaded them.

“It is almost incalculable how much your abuse of trust has harmed the administration of justice,” said Judge Joan Ericksen at a Friday sentencing hearing.

We've been covering the antics of Hansmeier and his business partner John Steele for many years. Way back in 2012, we started reporting on a law firm called Prenda Law that was filing lawsuits against people for sharing pornographic films online. Prenda wasn't the only law firm filing these kinds of lawsuits, but Prenda came up with a novel way of ginning up more business: uploading the films itself, including some that were produced by Prenda associates.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Men in Black: International is a solid addition to the popular franchise

June 14, 2019 - 9:45pm

Enlarge / Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson join forces as Agent H and Agent M to ward off an alien attack in Men in Black: International. (credit: YouTube/Sony Pictures)

A pair of shapeshifting aliens with electrifying powers and mad breakdancing skills threaten the safety of Earth's inhabitants in Men in Black: International. The fourth installment in the popular franchise hits theaters this weekend, and this iteration is the first not to star Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Fortunately, former Thor: Ragnorak co-stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson prove themselves worthy successors to that dynamic duo, bringing their own brand of wisecracking buddy-cop chemistry to this standalone sequel.

(Some mild spoilers below.)

The first Men in Black film (1997) was an instant classic and pretty much cemented Will Smith's status as a mega-star. Smith's chemistry with co-star Tommy Lee Jones was a sheer delight, and the original was rounded out by an equally terrific cast. Miraculously, the sequel, Men in Black II (2002), was almost as good, and a Hollywood franchise was born, reuniting Smith and Jones one last time with Men in Black III (admittedly the weakest film of the trilogy) in 2012.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Cable companies can save money now that DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade is mostly done

June 14, 2019 - 9:10pm

Enlarge / A Comcast van in Sunnyvale, California, in November 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Andrei Stanescu)

Cable-company spending on network equipment is dropping as major providers like Comcast and Charter finish up their nationwide DOCSIS 3.1 rollouts.

Equipment vendors that sell to cable companies such as Arris/CommScope and Casa Systems are reporting drops in cable-related revenue. Light Reading detailed the situation this week:

Total cable access network-related revenues plummeted 38 percent in Q1 2019, to $275 million, versus the year-ago period, driven by a "strong slowdown" on capacity purchases by MSOs and an ongoing delay in deployments of new distributed access architectures, according to new data from Dell'Oro.

Cable access network spending is known to be lumpy, "but not to this extreme," said Jeff Heynen, Dell'Oro's research director, broadband access and home networking. He said he doesn't recall seeing revenues in this segment of the market reach drop to such a low level since 2013.

He said the trend in reduced Q1 spending can be traced partly to Comcast and Charter Communications, which have all but wrapped up their DOCSIS 3.1 network deployments.

Charter's first-quarter earnings announcement on April 30 said that its "decrease in scalable infrastructure spending was primarily driven by the completion of the rollout of DOCSIS 3.1 technology." Charter, the nation's second-largest home Internet provider after Comcast, said its capital expenditures (excluding mobile) will be $7 billion this year, down from $8.9 billion in 2018.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

If you’re crazy rich, you can pay Ferrari to be a test driver

June 14, 2019 - 7:50pm

MONTEREY, Calif.—"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." Those words were written by F. Scott Fitzgerald back in 1926, and they remain true almost a century later. It's certainly true when it comes to cars, where having a telephone number bank balance opens doors to machinery that the rest of us only ever get close to in video games. Recently, I got a chance to take a peek behind that curtain at the historic Laguna Seca racetrack in California.

Once upon a time, the supercar was the top of the tree, and cars like the McLaren F1 and Ferrari Enzo re-wrote the rules on how fast a car could go and how much it would cost. Before too long, that kind of performance trickled down—even a Tesla P100D will beat either of those cars in a race to 100mph, for example—and so we got the hypercar.

Carbon fiber hybrids with around 1,000hp on tap and seven-digit price tags became the new apex predators of the car world, but for some, even these are now too common, too pedestrian. So what do you do if you've got several million dollars burning a hole in your pocket and you want to go fast, really, really fast? For a certain kind of person, the answer is, you call up Ferrari and ask about its Corsa Clienti program.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ebola spreads in Uganda, but not an international emergency, WHO says [Updated]

June 14, 2019 - 6:38pm

Enlarge / A health worker puts on protective gear as he prepares to screen travelers at the Mpondwe Health Screening Facility in the Ugandan border town of Mpondwe as they cross over from the Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 13, 2019. (credit: Getty | Isaac Kasamani)

UPDATE 6/14/2019, 1pm ET: The World Health Organization's Emergency Committee met today to discuss the spread of Ebola outbreak and declared (for the third time) that the ongoing outbreak does not constitute a “public health emergency of international concern" or PHEIC. It is an emergency for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, but does not meet the criteria for an international public health emergency, the committee concluded. Original story from 6/13/2019 follows.

Local and international health officials are scrambling to smother a flare-up of Ebola in Uganda, which spread this week from a massive, months-long outbreak in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. The outbreak has sickened 2,084 and killed 1,405 since last August.

Uganda announced its first case stemming from the outbreak on Tuesday, June 11. The case was in a 5-year-old Congolese boy who traveled across the border with family a few days earlier. The Ugandan Health Ministry reported shortly after that the boy succumbed to his infection the morning of June 12. Two of his family members also tested positive by that time: the boy’s 50-year-old grandmother and his 3-year-old brother.

Today, June 13, the Ministry announced that the grandmother had also passed. In an urgent meeting over the situation, officials from Uganda and the DRC mutually decided to send the remaining family back to the DRC. That includes the 3-year-old boy with a confirmed case, as well as the mother, father, a 6-month-old sibling, and their maid. Health officials noted that the latter four family members are all considered “suspected cases.”

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One dead after poop transplant gone wrong, FDA warns

June 14, 2019 - 6:16pm

Enlarge / The Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Md. (credit: Getty | Congressional Quarterly)

One patient has died and another became seriously ill after fecal transplants inadvertently seeded their innards with a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection, the Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.

The cases highlight the grave risks of what some consider a relatively safe procedure. They also call attention to the mucky issues of federal oversight for the experimental transplants, which the FDA has struggled to regulate. In its warning Thursday, the agency announced new protections for trials and experimental uses of the procedure.

The FDA shared minimal details from the deadly transplants. Its warning only noted that the cases involved two patients who were immunocompromised prior to the experimental transplants and received stool from the same donor. Subsequent to the transplant, the patients developed invasive infections from an E. coli strain that was resistant to a wide variety of antibiotics in the penicillin and cephalosporin groups. The E. coli strain carried a drug-defeating enzyme called an extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL), which generally cleaves a ring common to all the chemical structures of those antibiotics. When unnamed researchers who administered the transplant looked back at the donor stool, they found that the stool contained an identical ESBL-producing E. coli.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Huawei export ban claims another victim: Huawei’s $2,600 foldable smartphone

June 14, 2019 - 6:10pm

Enlarge / Huawei's response to the export ban so far. (credit: KC Green / Ron Amadeo)

The Huawei export ban has claimed another victim. The embattled Chinese company told CNBC that it is now delaying perhaps its most anticipated product, the $2,600 Mate X foldable smartphone. Huawei's official explanation is that it wants to avoid a Samsung Galaxy Fold-level launch disaster, so the company is holding the device back for more tuning. But the Trump administration's export ban is undoubtedly a contributing factor. That policy has shut Huawei off from so many suppliers that it could not launch a new smartphone right now if it wanted to. Huawei cancelled a laptop launch just a few days ago, in fact.

Trade War! USA v. China

View more stories The Mate X was originally scheduled for the middle of the year, with a rumored launch this month, but now CNBC reports that the Mate X launch will be delayed until September. Huawei doesn't officially blame this delay on the export ban, instead telling CNBC it didn't "want to launch a product to destroy our reputation." CNBC writes that Huawei will use this delay to do "extra testing with mobile carriers around the world and developers to make sure their apps work when the device is fully unfolded."

It is hard to believe Huawei's official explanation here, especially in light of the laptop launch it canceled just a few days ago. The export ban means Huawei cannot ship new devices running US-made operating systems like Windows and Android, and the wide scope of US export regulations means many hardware components are off-limits, too. Huawei has not shown the capability to launch anything since the export ban went into effect.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Study finds that a GPS outage would cost $1 billion per day

June 14, 2019 - 5:38pm

Enlarge / The first of the Air Force's new GPS 3 satellites launches on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December, 2018. (credit: SpaceX)

Since becoming fully operational in 1995, Global Positioning System technology has become widely adopted in the United States and abroad. The concept of satellite-based navigation has become so essential that other world powers, including China, Russia, the European Union, India, and Japan, have all started building their own regional or global systems.

Now, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject has assessed the value of this GPS technology to the US economy and examined what effect a 30-day outage would have—whether it's due to a severe space weather event or "nefarious activity by a bad actor." The study was sponsored by the US government's National Institutes of Standards and Technology and performed by a North Carolina-based research organization named RTI International.

Economic effect

As part of the analysis, researchers spoke to more than 200 experts in the use of GPS technology for various services, from agriculture to the positioning of offshore drilling rigs to location services for delivery drivers. (If they'd spoken to me, I'd have said the value of using GPS to navigate Los Angeles freeways and side streets was incalculable). The study covered a period from 1984, when the nascent GPS network was first opened to commercial use, through 2017. It found that GPS has generated an estimated $1.4 trillion in economic benefits during that time period.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Target’s same-day deliveries might break my Amazon Prime addiction

June 14, 2019 - 4:25pm

Enlarge (credit: Shipt)

On Thursday, Target unveiled a new same-day ordering feature on its website. For just $9.99, customers can get items delivered to their door in a couple of hours. I gave the service a try on Thursday, and I loved it. It was fast, convenient, and affordable.

The part I'm most excited about, though, is something that isn't actually new—though I hadn't heard about it until yesterday. Target's same-day delivery option is powered by a startup called Shipt that Target acquired in 2017. And Shipt has a subscription offer that I find compelling: for $99, you can get a year of free same-day deliveries on any Target order over $35.

This is such a good deal that it ought to keep Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos up at night. Amazon Prime has been a key driver of Amazon's growth over the last decade. By making two-day deliveries free, Prime got millions of subscribers in the habit of checking Amazon first for almost anything they buy online.

Read 32 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The best games, demos, and tech of E3 2019

June 14, 2019 - 2:30pm

C'mon, how can you deny Keanu? (credit: Xbox / Microsoft)

LOS ANGELES—There's no getting around it: Walking through the Los Angeles Convention Center for 2019's Electronic Entertainment Expo felt weird. This year's new Sony-sized hole compounded the fact that Xbox and EA held events elsewhere (and Activision, once again, didn't really show up).

As a result, this year's E3 was the most thinly attended iteration we've seen in years—but that was by no means the fault of the games on offer. We left E3 2019 impressed by a variety of games old and new. While we're still working through a backlog of hands-on impressions, the Ars gaming braintrust is already ready to name its favorite games of the show—all of which were games shown with real, live gameplay. Admittedly, narrow preview builds mean devs could still be fooling us with some smoke and mirrors—this is E3, land of unfinished games—but all of the below demos presented well enough at E3 to pass our sniff test for hype and BS.

Here, for your consideration, is our unranked list of the Top 10 games of E3 2019, along with a selection of honorable mentions.

Read 53 remaining paragraphs | Comments

HBO’s Los Espookys will make you want to be a horror technician, too

June 14, 2019 - 11:45am

AUSTIN, Texas—"When was the last time you ever saw a show like that?" Drunk History's Derek Waters asked the crowd after a world premiere screening at last week's ATX TV Festival. "I'm honored to moderate this panel because what you just saw is groundbreaking."

To be clear, "never" might be the answer to Waters' question. And this panel did not center on Drunk History; it didn't even feature another Comedy Central show. Instead, the host sat onstage alongside an all-Latinx main cast and head-writers group from what might be HBO's next great comedy: a half-hour, Spanish-language, horror-adjacent series debuting tonight (11pm ET) called Los Espookys.

Horror how-to

At the most basic level, Los Espookys follows four friends who form a business in an undisclosed Latin-American country where occasional supernatural occurrences are an unacknowledged, normal part of daily life. After the friends successfully execute a spooky-themed Quinceañera for one of their younger sisters, wise Uncle Tico (Fred Armisen of SNL, Portlandia) offhandedly says their work looks so good, so full of passion that they should pursue it as a side hustle. (Wise Uncle Tico would know; he works as a valet.)

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Here’s what an Apple TV and Alexa look like on an old TV and record player cabinet

June 13, 2019 - 10:56pm

Enlarge / Apple TV on a vintage TV cabinet. (credit: Thomas Martin Lewins V)

Consumer and household tech obviously looks quite different today than it did years ago—there's a significant analog and digital divide, for one thing. Among other things, bridging that gap makes integrating the latest tech with tech from a few decades back a real challenge. But it's not impossible.

Facebook user Thomas Martin Lewins V proved that last point by getting a modern Apple TV box to work with his gigantic, archaic console television and by integrating analog speakers, radios, and record players throughout his house with Amazon Alexa. He posted a couple of videos online as proof, which Boing Boing picked up recently.

First up: the Apple TV setup. This allows him to view Netflix and Hulu shows on that old TV. Here's what he wrote to introduce the clip:

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Little Danny Torrance is all grown up and still shining in Doctor Sleep trailer

June 13, 2019 - 9:58pm

Ewan McGregor stars as adult Danny Torrance in the film adaptation of Stephen King's novel Doctor Sleep, a follow-up to The Shining.

A hospice worker with psychic abilities must confront the horrors of his past to protect a young girl from a murderous cult in the first trailer for Doctor Sleep, the big-screen adaptation of horror master Stephen King's novel. It's a sequel of sorts, since both the novel and film explore what happened to young Danny Torrance as he grew into adulthood after the horrifying events of The Shining.

(Spoilers for The Shining novel and film; mild spoilers for Doctor Sleep the novel.)

King published The Shining in 1977. It became his first hardback bestseller and was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1980, starring Jack Nicholson as struggling alcoholic and aspiring writer Jack Torrance. Initial reviews weren't particularly favorable—King himself is not a fan of the film—but it's now considered a horror classic.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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