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Microsoft rose to dominance during the '80s and '90s thanks to the success of its Windows operating system running on Intel’s processors, a cosy relationship nicknamed “Wintel”.
Now Microsoft hopes that another another hardware–software combo will help it recapture that success—and catch rivals Amazon and Google in the race to provide cutting-edge artificial intelligence through the cloud.
Microsoft hopes to extend the popularity of its Azure cloud platform with a new kind of computer chip designed for the age of AI. Starting today, Microsoft is providing Azure customers with access to chips made by the British startup Graphcore.
We're getting a TV adaptation of Sin City, Frank Miller's series of neo-noir comics inspired by crime pulp fiction, Deadline Hollywood reports. Miller just inked a deal with Legendary Television for the project, and apparently a similar agreement is close to completion with Robert Rodriguez, who collaborated with Miller on the film adaptions of the comic series in 2005 and 2014. The agreement comes with a first season guarantee, pending a partnership with one of the major networks or streaming platforms. Given that Miller wants the series to rate a hard "R," streaming seems the most likely option.
Miller cut his teeth in the 1980s on Marvel Comics' Daredevil series and DC Comics' The Dark Knight Returns. A longtime fan of film noir, especially the films of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, Miller wanted to bring that same tone to Sin City, an anthology of stories set in the fictional Western town of Basin City (aka Sin City). The series art was noteworthy for its unique aesthetic, drawn almost entirely in black-and-white, with occasional bright splashes of color (red, yellow, blue, or pink) to highlight certain characters. And Miller drew on classic pulp fiction for the writing as well.
Almost every inhabitant of Sin City is corrupt, from the police department to the wealthy Roark family dynasty, with different factions carving out niches in the overall hierarchy. Miller has said he wanted it to be "a world out of balance, where virtue is defined by individuals in difficult situations, not by an overwhelming sense of goodness that was somehow governed by this godlike Comics Code." So we get stories, or "yarns," about one man's brutal rampage to avenge his lover's killer; gang warfares; and the hunt for a disfigured serial killer targeting young women. The yarns aren't necessarily connected, but they all take place in the same fictional world, and various characters recur in different stories.
Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.
As a longtime player of cardboard civilization games, I’m always looking for titles that break the mold. From the moment it was revealed, Jamey Stegmaier’s Tapestry looked like it might fit the bill. With its pre-painted buildings, non-historical civilizations, and the hieroglyphic script that runs the perimeter of the board, it seemed to promise a civilization game that wasn’t quite like any other.
And, well, it certainly delivers on that front. Tapestry is indeed unlike most of its civ-game peers.
The first episode of audio-obsessed podcast Reasonably Sound that made me stop and think was an early entry called "Whisper Quiet." As my introduction to Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), and the specific auditory cues related to its reported physical reactions, I felt like someone had taken the top off my head, rummaged around in my brain, and found something overlooked inside that was suddenly useful. And not just in an ASMR sense, though the sample clips of Bob Ross hit all the right notes for that, as did host Mike Rugnetta getting into the spirit of ASMR by whispering the end credits.
Reasonably Sound is a podcast about audio and about the historical and cultural context of particular sounds and sonic experiences. In his episode about ASMR, Rugnetta not only introduces his audiences to what ASMR is, but he also contextualizes the rise of ASMR culture on YouTube within the broader history of communication technology, starting with an AT&T advertising campaign from the 1970s promoting long-distance calls as a medium for emotional intimacy. He also digs into the jargon of ASMR culture, comparing the pleasant "triggers" found in ASMR videos to the more serious triggers of trauma responses.
Research into the causes of ASMR didn't start being published in earnest until 2015, months after the release of "Whisper Quiet," so Rugnetta mentions in a later episode that he's skeptical of the phenomenon’s existence. But, real or imagined, he acknowledges ASMR's memetic status and delights in exploring the cultural context that produced it.
Matter, despite being omnipresent here on Earth, is a bit of a mystery. Most of the matter in the Universe comes in the form of dark matter, which doesn't seem to have significant interactions with light or other matter. Meanwhile, the more familiar form of matter shouldn't be here at all. It should have been created in equal amounts to antimatter, allowing the two to annihilate each other following the Big Bang.
Physicists have found a few ways of breaking the matter/antimatter symmetry, but they aren't sufficient to account for matter's vast predominance. So, there are lots of ideas floating around to handle it, and some of them are even testable. One of the more intriguing categories of solution links the two big problems with matter: tying the prevalence of matter to the existence of a specific dark matter particle.
Now, scientists have made some antimatter in a lab and used that to test one of these ideas. The test came up blank, putting limits on the possible link between dark matter and antimatter's absence.
Drew Stewart got the call at around 2am: They broke the universe again, you should check it out.
So Stewart did something he's done countless times before; he has no idea how many. He turned on Star Wars. But this time was different—literally. The galaxy had changed, like a glitch in the Matrix (if you'll allow a mixed cinematic metaphor). And it wasn't the first time.
As the person behind a Twitter account called Star Wars Visual Comparison, Stewart is a kind of unofficial keeper of apocrypha, of the sometimes subtle, sometimes extraordinary changes wrought by their makers upon three Star Wars movies: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi. These alterations to the canon are the stuff of many nerd debates, and Stewart has followed them closely. That's why, at 2:50am on the day Disney+ launched with the whole Star Wars catalog in 4K resolution (pretty!), he found himself watching A New Hope yet again. What he found was yet another wrinkle: an all-new, all-different shoot-out between Han Solo and the lizardish bounty hunter Greedo.
Google, and its parent company Alphabet, has its metaphorical fingers in a hundred different lucrative pies. To untold millions of users, though, "to Google" something has become a synonym for "search," the company's original business—a business that is now under investigation as more details about its inner workings come to light.
A coalition of attorneys general investigating Google's practices is expanding its probe to include the company's search business, CNBC reports while citing people familiar with the matter.
Attorneys general for almost every state teamed up in September to launch a joint antitrust probe into Google. The investigation is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said last month that the probe would first focus on the company's advertising business, which continues to dominate the online advertising sector.
The Supreme Court has agreed to review one of the decade's most significant software copyright decisions: last year's ruling by an appeals court that Google infringed Oracle's copyrights when Google created an independent implementation of the Java programming language.
The 2018 ruling by the Federal Circuit appeals court "will upend the longstanding expectation of software developers that they are free to use existing software interfaces to build new computer programs," Google wrote in its January petition to the Supreme Court.
The stakes are high both for Google and for the larger software industry. Until recently, it was widely assumed that copyright law didn't control the use of application programming interfaces (APIs)—standard function calls that allow third parties to build software compatible with an established platform like Java.
The same team who tied the first "quantum knots" in a superfluid several years ago have now discovered that the knots decay, or "untie" themselves, fairly soon after forming, before turning into a vortex. The researchers also produced the first "movie" of the decay process in action, and they described their work in a recent paper in Physical Review Letters.
A mathematician likely would define a true knot as a kind of pretzel shape, or a knotted circle. A quantum knot is a little bit different. It's composed of particle-like rings or loops that connect to each other exactly once. A quantum knot is topologically stable, akin to a soliton—that is, it's a quantum object that acts like a traveling wave that keeps rolling forward at a constant speed without losing its shape.
Physicists had long thought it should be possible for such knotted structures to form in quantum fields, but it proved challenging to produce them in the laboratory. So there was considerable excitement early in 2016 when researchers at Aalto University in Finland and Amherst College in the US announced they had accomplished the feat in Nature Physics. The knots created by Aalto's Mikko Möttönen and Amherst's David Hall resembled smoke rings.
Apple has removed all 181 vaping-related apps from the iOS App Store, Axios reported on Friday morning. The move follows rising concern about the possible health impacts of vaping.
Some of the banned apps provided news and information about vaping. Some were vaping-themed games. There were also apps that allowed users to adjust the temperature and other settings on their vaping devices.
To avoid breaking functionality for existing customers, Apple is allowing them to continue using vaping apps already on their devices—and to transfer them to new devices. But new users won't be able to download these apps, and new vaping apps can't be published on Apple's store.
Huawei's futuristic foldable smartphone, the Huawei Mate X, is finally a real product. The phone went on sale in China today for the heart-stopping price of $2,421 (16,999 yuan).
Just like that other foldable smartphone on the market, the Galaxy Fold, the Mate X had a very bumpy road on its way to market full of delays and setbacks. The phone was originally scheduled for release in "the middle of the year," but in the midst of the US' Huawei export ban and the Galaxy Fold's initial delay, Huawei opted to delay the Mate X. The new launch target was September, but when September rolled around, the phone was delayed again to today's November 15 launch date.
Trade War! USA v. China
Ten months after his arrest by a swarm of FBI agents, former Trump adviser and self-proclaimed "dirty trickster" Roger Stone was found guilty of all seven felony counts against him, including obstruction of Congress, five counts of false testimony to Congress, and witness tampering. The conviction is the eighth guilty sentence or plea resulting from grand jury indictments spawned by the investigations into Russian election interference by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
At the center of the case was Stone's quest in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election to obtain the emails from WikiLeaks stolen by Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) operatives from the Democratic National Committee and people within Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign organization. Stone frequently bragged about his connections with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, and Stone communicated with the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks' plans to release those emails “every chance he got,” said lead federal prosecutor Jonathan Kravis.
Stone was found to have concealed the nature of his communications with WikiLeaks and to have lied to Congress about who acted on his behalf in those contacts. And he attempted to dissuade one of those intermediaries, radio personality Randy Credico, from contradicting his false testimony to Congress, making Godfather II references in his messages to Credico—threatening to take away his therapy dog and to order his lawyers to "rip you to shreds." At one point, Stone allegedly even texted Credico, "Prepare to die [expletive]."
Move over, Dark Lord of Mordor. There’s a new blazing peeper in town.
Doctors in Texas came face to face with a dark, spine-tingling eye that looked rimmed by flames—or, as they calmly described it in a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine: an eye with “circumferential spoke-like iris transillumination defects.”
They met this penetrating gaze during the routine eye exam of a 44-year-old man. The man had come into their Texas ophthalmology clinic simply to establish care as a new patient. He had recently moved into the area.
Sherpas are physiologically adapted to breathing, working, and living in the thin air of the Himalayas, enabling them to repeatedly schlep stuff up and down Mount Everest. The Quechua, who have lived in the Andes for about 11,000 years, are also remarkably capable of functioning in their extremely high homes. New work suggests that these adaptations are the result of natural selection for particular genetic sequences in these populations.
Both populations live above 14,000 feet (4,267m), under chronic hypoxia—lack of oxygen—that can cause headaches, appetite suppression, inability to sleep, and general malaise in those not habituated to altitude. Even way back in the 16th century, the Spaniards noted that the Inca tolerated their thin air amazingly well (and then they killed them).
Metabolic adaptations give these highlanders a notably high aerobic capacity in hypoxic conditions—they get oxygenated blood to their muscles more efficiently. But the genetic basis for this adaptation has been lacking. Genome Wide Association Studies, which search the entire genome for areas linked to traits, had found tantalizing clues that one particular gene might be a site of natural selection in both Andeans and Tibetans. It encodes an oxygen sensor that helps cells regulate their response to hypoxia.
In the early 1960s, the Ford Motor Company was in need of a little pizzazz. Its then-General Manager Lee Iacocca had some ideas on how to do that. One of them was the Ford Mustang, which invented a new class of car that looked cool but was both cheap to buy and profitable to sell, thanks to heavy use of the corporate parts bin. Another was to get FoMoCo some racing glory, this being back in the days when "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" really worked. What happened next is the topic of Ford v Ferrari, the latest attempt by Hollywood to translate motorsport to the silver screen.
As the name might suggest, the film tells the story of a Detroit auto giant taking on the tiny but extremely successful Italian sports car maker at its own game. Ford tried to buy Ferrari, you see, until Enzo Ferrari pulled the plug over concerns that his potential new master could veto his eponymous race team's participation in races like the Indianapolis 500. Incensed with having been led up the garden path, Ford president and scion Henry Ford II commissioned a full factory-backed race program with the goal of beating Enzo at his own game, specifically at marquee endurance races like the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the most important race of the year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. To do it, Ford would develop a purpose-built race car, one that has entered the pantheon of the greats: the GT40.
Ford vs Ferrari stars Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as Ken Miles. Shelby was a larger-than-life Texan who won Le Mans with Aston Martin in 1959 before his driving career was sidelined due to atrial fibrillation. For his next act, Shelby turned his hand to building cars, finding plenty of success when he married the lithe but underpowered AC Ace roadster with Ford V8 power, starting a relationship with the Blue Oval that carries on today. Bale takes on the role of Ken Miles, a British engineer and racing driver who relocated to California in the '50s and raced for Shelby in the early '60s.
It has been a week since the release of Checkra1n, the world’s first jailbreak for devices running Apple’s iOS 13. Because jailbreaks are so powerful and by definition disable a host of protections built into the OS, many people have rightly been eyeing Checkra1n—and the Checkm8 exploit it relies on—cautiously. What follows is a list of pros and cons for readers to ponder, with a particular emphasis on security.The good
First, Checkra1n is extremely reliable and robust, particularly for a tool that’s still in beta mode. It jailbreaks a variety of older iDevices quickly and reliably. It also installs an SSH server and other utilities, a bonus that makes the tool ideal for researchers and hobbyists who want to dig into the internals of their devices.
“I expected it to be a little rougher around the edges for the first release,” Ryan Stortz, an iOS security expert and principal security researcher at the firm Trail of Bits, said in an interview. “It’s really nice to be able to install a new developer beta on your development iPhone and have all your tooling work out of the box. It makes testing Apple's updates much much easier.”
Update: Ars has stayed busy after publishing this guide in April 2019. We've tested a number of new Qi wireless chargers available since and have updated our top picks ahead of the 2019 holiday shopping season.
Wireless charging has a long way to go before it replaces wired charging, but the technology has advanced dramatically in the past few years. Everyone with the newest smartphones, wearables, and other gadgets can get behind the idea—simply place your device on a charging pad or stand and let it sit. Within a few minutes, you'll have more battery power than you did before, and you didn't have to fuss with wires or cables to get it.
But quite a bit of technology goes into making an accessory that makes your life that much easier. Most wireless chargers come in the form of circular or rectangular pads, some of which are propped up on legs to make stands that take up minimal space and work well as nightstand or desk accessories. But don't be fooled by their minimalist exteriors—there are a number of things you should know before investing in a wireless charging pad. To navigate this murky world, Ars tested out some of the most popular Qi wireless chargers available now to see which are worth buying.
As "best of 2019" lists flood in, we're looking toward the future—the literary future, to be precise. After another solid year of reading in 2019, we're excited for new releases to come in the early months of 2020. Below are some of our most anticipated reads that you can get your hands on within the first three months of 2020.
Hugo-award-winner N.K. Jemisin will be releasing the first novel in a new series in March, while German author-songwriter Marc-Uwe Kling has a satirical novel about our addiction to convenience coming out in English for the first time. We know setting New Year's resolutions can be hard, but we think you'll want to put all five of these upcoming releases at the top of your TBR list.
Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.
Really, 2010's Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is an appropriate reference point as we peel back the EA-ization of Star Wars games—from MMO-related bloat to cancellations to loot boxes—and dive into Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Respawn Entertainment's new game, out now on PCs and consoles, pits you (and a suite of Force powers) against armies of AI-controlled foes. Sounds familiar, right? And is that a good thing?
After playing its 12-hour campaign, I can only muster a shoulder shrug as a response. I guess. Sure. If you want.
That's not to say Fallen Order isn't polished or, at times, quite impressive. But it's also a painfully safe game, built to check a list of "hardcore gamer" boxes instead of forging particularly new paths for the Jedi power fantasy. Respawn was given the unenviable task of winning back some of the most opinionated fans in the world, and the developer charted a tried-and-true course of doing so: a third-person adventure that combines lightsaber waving and a healthy mix of Force superpowers. (You know, like Force Unleashed II.)
Just two organizations were responsible for the majority of anti-vaccine advertisements on Facebook before the social media giant restricted such content in March of this year, according to a November 13 study in the journal Vaccine.
Of 145 anti-vaccine Facebook advertisements that ran between May 31, 2017 and February 22, 2019, the World Mercury Project and a group called Stop Mandatory Vaccination together ran 54% of them.
The World Mercury Project, which ran the most ads of any single source, is an organization closely aligned with the anti-vaccine group Children's Health Defense. Both are spearheaded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer turned prolific peddler of dangerous anti-vaccine misinformation. He and his organizations promote conspiracy theories about vaccine safety, including the roundly debunked claim that safe, life-saving immunizations are linked to autism. More recently, Kennedy has become a prominent opponent of laws aimed at increasing vaccination rates among school children.