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BELLEVUE, Washington—Virtual reality has been a thing for years, yet for some reason, it has had a lack of real-time strategy (RTS) games. To this, I can't help but say, what gives? Managing a giant army à la StarCraft seems like a nice fit for VR's mix of hand-tracked controllers and first-person twists—while also minding VR's limits. Stand above a battlefield (or, if your room is cramped, sit without losing the effect). Use your hands to become a war puppeteer. Enjoy a refreshing control and perspective alternative to ancient, mouse-driven menus.
It's a VR no-brainer... that nobody has truly attempted until this week.
Unlike other RTS-ish games in VR, this week's Brass Tactics is the first full-blown take on the genre to see a retail release. It's not perfect—indeed, it has a couple of glaring issues ahead of its Thursday launch—but Brass Tactics is clearly a few steps above "just good enough." It functions as a pure, solid RTS, while it also comes packed with nice VR touches. Best of all, thanks to a free, unlimited, works-online demo version, every single VR owner out there (even outside the Oculus ecosystem) can try it for themselves—and try it they should.Clear RTS skies
A group of video game preservationists wants the legal right to replicate "abandoned" servers in order to re-enable defunct online multiplayer gameplay for study. The game industry says those efforts would hurt their business, allow the theft of their copyrighted content, and essentially let researchers "blur the line between preservation and play."
Both sides are arguing their case to the US Copyright Office right now, submitting lengthy comments on the subject as part of the Copyright Register's triennial review of exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Analyzing the arguments on both sides shows how passionate both industry and academia are about the issue, and how mistrust and misunderstanding seem to have infected the debate.The current state of play
In 2015, the Librarian of Congress issued a limited exemption to the DMCA, allowing gamers and researchers to circumvent technological prevention measures (TPMs) that require Internet authentication servers that have been taken offline. Despite strong pushback from the Entertainment Software Association at the time, the Register of Copyrights argued that the abandonment of those servers "preclude[s] all gameplay, a significant adverse effect."
Apple may cut out the cobalt middlemen by obtaining supplies for its batteries on its own. According to a Bloomberg report, Apple is in talks with miners to buy long-term supplies of cobalt, a key ingredient in the lithium-ion batteries used in Apple's iPhones and iPads. Apple has reportedly been in discussions to secure contracts for "several thousand metric tons" of cobalt each year for at least five years.
If a deal comes to fruition, it would be the first time Apple has secured its own supplies of cobalt for batteries. The tech giant currently leaves cobalt buying to battery manufacturers, but now the company wants to ensure it can lock down enough of the metal to maintain a sufficient supply.
The growth of the electric car industry has prompted fears of a cobalt shortage—electric car batteries use much more cobalt than those of consumer electronics, and car manufacturers are already seeking contracts with cobalt miners to get the amounts they need for their vehicles. BMW is reportedly close to securing a 10-year supply deal, and Volkswagen Group tried but failed to secure a long-term cobalt supply deal at the end of last year. Cobalt prices are rising, and VW's plans failed partly because the company wanted to set a fixed price for the metal for the entirety of the contract.
The Geneva Motor Show is just around the corner, and Porsche and Ferrari both have something special up their sleeves. Yes, it's a pair of track-focused supercars that promise to lap faster and thrill more than anything either company has built in the past. Meet the new 911 GT3 RS and 488 Pista, two cars that herald the end of the "regular" production models they're derived from—in this case the 991 generation Porsche 911 and the Ferrari 488, each of which is due for replacement in the near future.In the red corner, from Maranello, Italy, weighing in at 2,800lbs...
We'll start with the Ferrari. The 488 Pista is the latest in a line that started with the 360 Challenge Stradale back in the early 2000s. Pista is Italian for track, and that's what this car has been optimized for.
It's not a race car, but it does incorporate a lot of the lessons that Ferrari has learned racing the 488 GTE and 488 GT3. In fact, Ferrari says that the Pista "marks a significant step forward from the previous special series... for the level of technological carry-over from racing."
On Wednesday, Uber announced a new feature, where riders "wait a few minutes before their trips begin, and then walk a short distance to a nearby spot for pick up and drop off." If that sounds awfully similar to a bus, you’re not entirely wrong.
Uber calls it "Express Pool," an offshoot of an Uber option known as simply, "Pool," which allows Uber riders to save a few bucks by sharing rides (thus usually taking a little more time).
Express Pool, meanwhile, simply calculates what is ostensibly a more efficient route and asks the rider to walk a few minutes away.
Two versions of uTorrent, one of the Internet's most widely used BitTorrent apps, have easy-to-exploit vulnerabilities that allow attackers to execute code, access downloaded files, and snoop on download histories, a Google Project Zero researcher said. uTorrent developers are in the process of rolling out fixes for both the uTorrent desktop app for Windows and the newer uTorrent Web product.
The vulnerabilities, according to Project Zero, make it possible for any website a user visits to control key functions in both the uTorrent desktop app for Windows and in uTorrent Web, an alternative to desktop BitTorrent apps that uses a Web interface and is controlled by a browser. The biggest threat is posed by malicious sites that could exploit the flaw to download malicious code into the Windows startup folder, where it will be automatically run the next time the computer boots up. Any site a user visits can also access downloaded files and browse download histories.
In an e-mail sent late Tuesday afternoon, Dave Rees, VP of engineering at BitTorrent, which is the developer of the uTorrent apps, said the flaw has been fixed in a beta release of the uTorrent Windows desktop app but has not yet been delivered to users who already have the production version of the app installed. The fixed version, uTorrent/BitTorrent 126.96.36.199352, is available here for download and will be automatically pushed out to users in the coming days. In a separate e-mail sent Tuesday evening, Rees said uTorrent Web had also been patched. "We highly encourage all uTorrent Web customers to update to the latest available build 0.12.0.502 available on our website and also via the in-application update notification," he wrote.
Wednesday morning update: Due to unfavorable upper-level winds before the opening of an instantaneous launch window, SpaceX had to scrub the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday morning. The company's next attempt will come at 9:17am ET on Thursday.
Original post: After the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket two weeks ago, going back to launching a single core of a Falcon 9 rocket may seem like something of a letdown. But the next SpaceX launch, presently scheduled for early Wednesday morning, is worth tuning into.
The instantaneous launch window opens (and closes) at 9:17am ET Wednesday, and weather conditions forecast for the launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, are 90-percent favorable. (Update: About an hour before the launch window, upper-level winds are too high, so SpaceX will gather additional data from a weather at T-25 minutes, and make a final launch decision from there. It has proceeded with propellant loading, however.)
AT&T's court defense of its merger with Time Warner Inc. suffered a blow today, as a judge ruled against AT&T's attempt to find evidence that President Trump meddled in the government's merger review.
AT&T claims that its merger is being singled out by the Department of Justice because of Trump's hatred of CNN, which is owned by Time Warner. This "selective enforcement" defense would require AT&T to show that the DOJ hasn't tried to block similar mergers and is selectively enforcing antitrust laws.
AT&T thus asked the DOJ to produce logs related to conversations with the White House and logs related to internal communications about the White House's views on the merger.
The US Navy's Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has announced the award of development contracts to five contenders for the FFG(X) program—a 20-ship class of "next-generation" guided-missile frigates intended to fill the gap in capabilities left by the retirement of the 1980s-era FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry class and not quite filled by the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. Two of the contenders are modified, more heavily armed versions of the LCS designs, while the other three are based on ship designs being produced for other navies—or in one case, for the US Coast Guard.
Since each of the designs is based on an existing "parent" ship design and should use existing technologies (rather than radical new designs), the Navy is hoping to keep the cost of each frigate at $800 to $950 million—about double the cost of an LCS ship but half the cost of an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer.
Years before diplomats in Cuba were assailed by grating noises and left with baffling brain injuries, the residents of a Canadian city began hearing maddening hums and rumbles. The deep noises mysteriously wash in and out of their neighborhoods and homes, hitting the ears of some but not all residents. And according to recent local news coverage, the eerie disturbances are now getting bad again.
Since 2011, some residents of Windsor, Ontario—directly across the border/river from Detroit, Michigan—reported intermittent bursts of noise established as the “Windsor Hum.” It’s described as a low-frequency throbbing sound, like a fleet of idling diesel engines, a distant rumble of thunder, or a roaring furnace. Some “hummers” report feeling vibrations, too, and having items in their homes rattle. They’ve linked the hum to depression, nausea, sleep problems, heart palpitations, ear aches, headaches—not to mention widespread annoyance.
Windsor residents are not imagining it; there is a real hum. A months-long investigation by National Resources Canada in the summer of 2011 identified a prominent, air-borne frequency of approximately 35Hz. There have been plenty of recordings and reports since then. And its existence was confirmed in a 2014 investigation carried out by the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and the University of Windsor, which was supported by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).
When it comes to data storage, efforts to get faster access grab most of the attention. But long-term archiving of data is equally important, and it generally requires a completely different set of properties. To get a sense of why getting this right is important, just take the recently revived NASA satellite as an example—extracting anything from the satellite's data will rely on the fact that a separate NASA mission had an antiquated tape drive that could read the satellite's communication software.
One of the more unexpected technologies to receive some attention as an archival storage medium is DNA. While it is incredibly slow to store and retrieve data from DNA, we know that information can be pulled out of DNA that's tens of thousands of years old. And there have been some impressive demonstrations of the approach, like an operating system being stored in DNA at a density of 215 Petabytes a gram.
But that method treated DNA as a glob of unorganized bits—you had to sequence all of it in order to get at any of the data. Now, a team of researchers has figured out how to add something like a filesystem to DNA storage, allowing random access to specific data within a large collection of DNA. While doing this, the team also tested a recently developed method for sequencing DNA that can be done using a compact USB device.
Job listings recently posted by Spotify suggest that the company is close to launching one or more connected hardware products. Currently open job listings relevant to the company's hardware ambitions include Operations Manager – Hardware Product, Project Manager – Hardware Production & Engineering, Product Analyst – Hardware Products, and Senior Project Manager Hardware Production.
The Operations Manager listing is explicit about Spotify's plans, saying:
Spotify is on its way to creating its first physical products and setting up an operational organization for manufacturing, supply chain, sales & marketing.
The responsibilities listed for this role also suggest Spotify is far enough along with one or more products that it will soon be talking with vendors and planning distribution, if it has not started that already:
Add Tesla to the legion of organizations that have been infected by cryptocurrency-mining malware.
In a report published Tuesday, researchers at security firm RedLock said hackers accessed one of Tesla's Amazon cloud accounts and used it to run currency-mining software. The researchers said the breach in many ways resembled compromises suffered by Gemalto, the world's biggest SIM card maker, and multinational insurance company Aviva. In October, RedLock said Amazon and Microsoft cloud accounts for both companies were breached to run currency-mining malware after hackers found access credentials that weren't properly secured.
The initial point of entry for the Tesla cloud breach, Tuesday's report said, was an unsecured administrative console for Kubernetes, an open source package used by companies to deploy and manage large numbers of cloud-based applications and resources.
Swype, the influential smartphone keyboard, is dead. XDA Developers is reporting that Swype's owner, Nuance Communications, is discontinuing development of the popular keyboard app. While it might still exist in the iOS and Android app stores for now, it will be left to rot.
In a statement on its website, Nuance said it was leaving the "direct-to-consumer keyboard business" to "concentrate on developing our AI solutions for sale directly to businesses." Nuance—which bought Swype in 2011 for $102 million—has long been a force in voice recognition and text-to-speech software, and it helps companies build consumer products (like this BMW 7 Series) with its voice technology. Lately the company has also set its sights on the healthcare market.
Swype is noteworthy as the third-party smartphone keyboard that originated gesture typing. Rather than holding a phone in both hands and tapping on each letter, Swype let you hold the phone in one hand, hold a finger down on the screen, swing it around the keyboard from letter to letter, and lift off to spell a word. Swyping, as it was called, wasn't as exact of an input as tapping on each key, but it was close enough that the software could usually figure out your intent. Most of all, it was fast, especially considering that it only took one hand to type.
If you need to pack more storage into your enterprise systems, then boy has Samsung got the SSD for you. The new PM1643 boasts a capacity of 30.72TB in a standard 2.5-inch drive.
On the inside, the drive has nine flash controllers driving 32 1TB packages of NAND flash, with each package containing 16 layers of 512Gb 3-bit-per-cell V-NAND. There's also 40GB of DDR4 RAM. The RAM is unusual, too; the 8Gb chips are built using Through Silicon Vias (TSVs), enabling them to be stacked vertically. They're assembled into 10 packages each of 4GB.
The drive uses a 12Gb/s Serial Attached SCSI interface. Samsung claims it can reach 400,000 read and 50,000 write random IOPS, with sequential read and write speeds of 2,100MB/s and 1,700MB/s, respectively.
Virgin Hyperloop One signed an agreement with the Indian state of Maharashtra to conduct a feasibility study and build a demonstration track that could lead to the construction of a hyperloop system between two of the state's major city centers: Mumbai and Pune.
Ryan Kelly, director of marketing for the startup formerly known simply as Hyperloop One, said that the pact between Virgin Hyperloop One and Maharashtra represents "the strongest language we’ve seen from a government to date." The company, which recently received a sizable investment from the Virgin Group and counts billionaire founder Richard Branson among its board members, intends to complete a feasibility study within the next six months and complete a demonstration track in two to three years.
Kelly told Ars in an email that "the plan is that this track will go from use as a demonstration to part of the live track." He added that the track from Mumbai to Pune could be completed in three to five years.
There are more than 90,000 vitamin and dietary supplement products sold in the US. They come in pills, powders, drinks, and bars. And they all anticipate some better versions of ourselves—selves with sturdier bones, slimmer waist lines, heftier muscles, happier intestines, better sex lives, and more potent noggins. They foretell of diseases dodged and aging outrun.
On the whole, we believe them. Supplements are a $30 billion industry in the US. Recent surveys suggest that 52 percent of Americans take at least one supplement—and 10 percent take four or more. But should we? Are we healthier, smarter, stronger, or in any way better off because of these daily doses?
The answer is likely no. Most supplements have little to no data to suggest that they’re effective, let alone safe. They’re often backed by tenuous studies in rodents and petri dishes or tiny batches of people. And the industry is rife with hype and wishful thinking—even the evidence for multivitamins isn’t solid. There are also outright deadly scams. What’s more, the industry operates with virtually no oversight.
Older PC gamers who were playing games in the late '90s and early 2000s likely have a soft spot in their hearts for Looking Glass Studios. The company's two best-known properties are Thief and System Shock, though Looking Glass was also responsible for the visually stunning Flight Unlimited and, of course, Ultima Underworld. Although financial troubles at publisher Eidos Interactive (caused in part by the development of the hilarious money pit that was Daikatana) led to the eventual dissolution and sale of Looking Glass, the studio left an outsized footprint on the history of PC gaming through its excellent games.
The Thief series in particular—or at least the first two games—resonated with audiences. The phrase "innovative gameplay" is a laughable cliché in 2018, but Thief really did have innovative gameplay when it was released—other FPS titles had explored stealth-focused gameplay before, but none had managed to so completely capture the experience of sneaking. More, Thief took the unusual (for FPSes at the time) approach of incentivizing the player to not murder everyone and everything in the level—brutality, in fact, was actively punished by the game's scoring system. Sneaking through an entire level without detection became a more important goal than wiping out guards.
But it turns out the tightly coupled gameplay mechanisms that enabled players to so easily understand how hidden they were from the CPU's prying eyes was nowhere near as intuitive to design as it was to use. We sat down with Looking Glass founder Paul Neurath, who was involved heavily in Thief's design and development, to get the scoop. And even though he didn't take any rips from a wolf bong, he did have some juicy info on how Thief and its signature sneaking came to be.
Facebook has agreed to give a hotshot Stanford economist unprecedented access to its internal data as a way to better understand income disparity in the United States.
According to Politico, which first broke the news on Tuesday morning, the investigation will be led by Raj Chetty, who won a 2012 MacArthur Genius grant and is well-known for his analysis of America’s social and economic problems. Facebook did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment, but the company "confirmed the broad contours of its partnership with Chetty" to Politico.
"We're using social networks, and measuring interactions there, to understand the role of social capital much better than we've been able to," Chetty told the political news site in January.
Amazon's latest grocery push focuses on enticing Prime members to shop at Whole Foods with cash back. Amazon announced that Prime members using the company's Rewards Visa card will now get 5 percent back on Whole Foods purchases. The new rewards are in addition to the card's existing rewards for eligible Prime members, which include 5 percent back on Amazon.com purchases; 2 percent back on restaurant, gas station, and drugstore purchases; and 1 percent back on everything else.
You don't have to be a Prime member to be approved for Amazon's Rewards Visa, but it pays if you are. Non-Prime members will get only 3 percent back on Whole Foods purchases under the new plan, which is the same as the 3 percent back those cardmembers get on Amazon.com purchases already.
This is the first time Amazon extended its 5 percent back perk to a retailer aside from Amazon. This could persuade Prime members who are also cardholders to shop at Whole Foods more. Since Amazon's purchase of the supermarket chain last year, it has been trying to encourage more people (especially Prime members) to shop at the grocer. Amazon slashed some Whole Foods' prices almost immediately after the acquisition, and recently the company expanded its Prime Now two-hour delivery to include Whole Foods items in a few markets.