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Ars Technica
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Updated: 1 hour 3 min ago

Nokia 3310 hands-on: It’s hard not to like this modern take on the feature phone

February 26, 2017 - 8:53pm

BARCELONA, SPAIN—Feature phones are cool again! At least that's the feeling you get when you are holding the new Nokia 3310, a candy bar feature phone made out of weapons-grade nostalgia. It doesn't really have apps, you'll be texting with T9, it has a new color version of Snake, and of course it plays the traditional Nokia tone when you get a call.

The new 3310 is no longer a "brick." It's a lot rounder than the old one—it feels like a well-worn river rock. I actually would have liked if it was a little squarer and more reminiscent of the original. Given that it has a really light plastic body (79g) and a plastic screen, it can probably stand up to lots of abuse (though no one would let me test this at the event).

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Router assimilated into the Borg, sends 3TB in 24 hours

February 26, 2017 - 8:00pm

Enlarge / A Netgear R6400. (credit: Netgear)

"Well, f**k."

Harsh language was appropriate under the circumstances. My router had just been hacked.

Setting up a reliable home network has always been a challenge for me. I live in a cramped three-story house and I don't like running cables. So my router's position is determined by the fiber modem. In a corner on the bottom floor. Not long after we moved in, I realized that our old Airport Extreme was not delivering much signal to the attic, where two game-obsessed occupants fought for bandwidth.

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Moto G5 and G5 Plus: Metal finish, larger cameras boost these budget Androids

February 26, 2017 - 7:35pm

Lenovo has announced the Moto G5 and G5 Plus, the next generation of its budget G-series phone line.

The angle is the same as that of the Moto G4 phones: good hardware for relatively little money. But this time the two phones have greater differences.

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Samsung tackles tablets and two-in-ones with new Tab S3 and Galaxy Book

February 26, 2017 - 7:00pm


BARCELONA, Spain—We already know we're not going to see Samsung's Galaxy S8 smartphone at MWC. But the company has other devices up its sleeve for the show.

Today, Samsung announced the new version of the Tab S2 (which it's calling the Tab S3) and the Galaxy Book, a two-in-one that's reminiscent of the company's Tab Pro S. According to Samsung's research, consumers are interested in buying tablets more than smartphones right now, and they're also interested in doing more with these devices.

Most PC OEMs have embraced the two-in-one trend in recent months. Now it's Samsung's turn as it positions these new slabs as hard-working productivity and entertainment tools.

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Huawei Watch 2 hands-on—This feels like a last-gen smartwatch

February 26, 2017 - 5:54pm

BARCELONA, SPAIN—We're just getting started at Mobile World Congress 2017, and the latest new gadget revealed is the Huawei Watch 2. Huawei's flagship smartwatch is getting a upgrade, and this version has GPS, NFC, optional LTE, and is launching with Android Wear 2.0.

There are actually two Huawei Watches: The "Huawei Watch 2" and the "Huawei Watch 2 Classic." The classic version is made of metal, has a 22mm watch band, and looks a lot like the original Huawei Watch, while the non-classic version is "sportier" (read: made totally of rubbery plastic), has a 20mm watch band, and has optional LTE. The materials, band size, weight, and LTE availability are really the only two differences between the watches.

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Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How food and culture made the human mind

February 26, 2017 - 5:00pm

Enlarge / Eating our way to world domination. (credit: Vince Smith - Flickr)

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams noted that “on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars, and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”

This is an interesting point, and one that’s tackled in great detail in Kevin Laland’s new book, Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony. Other species are indisputably smart; they can learn by example, they can communicate, they can innovate to solve problems, they can use tools, they may even have distinct cultures. But humans are clearly different. Other species don’t listen to Baroque concerti or read classical philosophy hundreds of years after the scores were composed or the treatises written. They just don’t.

A culture of teaching

This difference really bugged Laland. He is loath to say that humans are special because that implies some vast, unbridgeable gulf between us and our closest kin. Laland is an evolutionary biologist, and he doesn’t go for those sorts of claims. He knows that humans evolved from a common ancestor with other primates through natural selection and other such well-defined mechanisms.

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Forget DMCA takedowns—RIAA wants ISPs to filter for pirated content

February 26, 2017 - 4:00pm

(credit: Elias Bizannes)

The Recording Industry Association of America and other rights holders are urging US copyright regulators to update the "antiquated" DMCA takedown process. They want Internet Service Providers to filter out pirated content.

What the RIAA and 14 other groups are telling the US Copyright Office is simple: The 19-year-old Digital Millennium Copyright Act isn't working. They say the process of granting legal immunity—or "safe harbor"—to ISPs who "expeditiously" remove copyrighted content upon notice of the rights holder needs to be supplanted with fresh piracy controls. That's because, they say, the process creates a so-called "endless game of whack-a-mole" in which an ISP will remove pirated content only to see it instantaneously reappear at the push of a button by a copyright scofflaw. This requires the rights holder to send a new takedown notice—often again and again.

The groups say (PDF):

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In southeastern Colorado, robots carefully disarm WWII-era chemical weapons

February 26, 2017 - 3:30pm

(video link)

PUEBLO, Colorado—On the dry, windswept plains of southeastern Colorado, a military checkpoint protects a vast field of igloos built with corrugated steel, covered with a thick layer of Earth, and fitted with thick, blast-resistant doors. The walls of the igloos keep the interior a consistent 51 degrees Fahrenheit whether it's in the heat of summer or the depths of winter, and the high-altitude air has little enough water in it that corrosion-causing moisture is an afterthought.

These mounds are carefully spaced to prevent an explosion in one igloo from triggering explosions in neighboring igloos. That's because inside, the US military stores a stockpile of 780,000 unused WWII-era munitions, filled with dangerous and deadly viscous sulfur mustard agent. This stockpile of chemical weapons was shipped to these igloos in the 1950s. They have been carefully guarded since then.

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Moov HR review: Everyone should wear heart rate monitors on their heads

February 26, 2017 - 3:00pm

Video shot/edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

We're all used to heart rate monitoring chest straps and wristbands, but Moov has just introduced a fitness tracker that goes inside a headband. The new $99 Moov HR monitor is a small module that captures your pulse via the blood that rushes through your head. While most companies favor the wrist or the chest for pulse-tracking sensors, the temple is a good pressure point that is under-utilized in the fitness tracker world.

Paired with the Moov mobile app and its motion sensor, the Moov Now, the company's new heart rate monitor completes the trifecta of fitness coaching that it has been developing for the past few years. However, the challenge for Moov HR is that it needs to be good enough and easy enough to use that people will get over the weirdness of working out with a sensor resting on their foreheads.

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LG G6 hands-on: A beautiful design with a disappointing processor

February 26, 2017 - 1:01pm

Ron Amadeo

BARCELONA, Spain—We're live from Mobile World Congress, and the time has come for the stampede of high-end Android devices to begin. The first out of the gate—and one of the best looking—is the LG G6, a gorgeous slim-bezeled phone with a truly questionable SoC choice.

After the failure of the LG G5—the company lost nearly $400 million in Q3 2016, which it blamed on "weak sales of [the] G5"—LG is scrapping just about everything from its prior flagship. The modularity is gone, as is the removable battery. Instead, we get a simple slab phone with IP68 water resistance.

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Google Assistant comes to every Android phone, 6.0 and up

February 26, 2017 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / The Google Assistant. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

The Google Assistant launched on Android with the Google Pixel phones, and since then it has been in an awkward position. The Google Assistant is one of the main interfaces for Google Search, Google's flagship product. Google is accustomed to serving billions of searches per day, but when Google made the Assistant exclusive to the Pixel phones, it limited the usage of the heavily-promoted interface to a tiny fraction of possible users.

Today, Google is finally lifting the arbitrary limits on the Google Assistant and bringing it to all Android phones running version 6.0 and up—about 30 percent of active devices. Soon, an update to the Google Search app—which the Assistant is a part of—should arrive and enable the new voice interface on all devices that can handle it. Google is also opening up the Google Assistant to OEMs this week, with the just-announced LG G6 being the first to ship with the Assistant.

As for the full rollout details, Google says:

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BlackBerry KeyOne hands-on—BlackBerry wants $549 for mid-range device

February 25, 2017 - 10:00pm

Ron Amadeo

BARCELONA, Spain—Mobile World Congress is starting right now, and BlackBerry is the first out of the gate with a new phone. Remember the "BlackBerry Mercury" from CES? That phone is now the BlackBerry KeyOne, a mid-range QWERTY-bar phone.

The release of the KeyOne marks the end of BlackBerry's days as a hardware manufacturer. While the KeyOne seems like it was designed by BlackBerry, from now on the hardware will be outsourced to TCL, a Chinese company that also owns the Alcatel brand. We've already seen the beginnings of this with the DTEK line, but the KeyOne looks like the last "BlackBerry" BlackBerry phone.

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Same-sex marriage linked to decline in teen suicides

February 25, 2017 - 9:00pm

A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that the legalization of same-sex marriage is associated with a reduction in the proportion of high school students who reported making a suicide attempt. This study indicates that governmental policies regarding non-normative sexuality may have an influence on mental health outcomes for adolescents.

The study used data from the state-level Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which tracks dangerous and risky behaviors exhibited by teenagers. Its authors used data from forty-seven states, including thirty-two states that implemented same-sex marriage policies between 2004-2015. They looked at suicide behaviors in the full population of high school students and then did a secondary analysis using the subset of students who self-identified as belonging to a sexual minority (gay, lesbian, bisexual, or unsure about their sexual identity).

One limitation of using this type of data is that it depends on self-reporting of suicide attempts, which is tricky because suicide attempts are typically under-reported. This approach also means that the researchers did not include any information about teens who died from their suicide attempts; it only captures teens who attempted suicide but survived. This methodological limitation may seem like a big one, but the proportion of suicide attempts that result in teen deaths is very small, so suicide attempts are a reasonable proxy for overall teen mental health.

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New malaria vaccine is fully effective in very small clinical trial

February 25, 2017 - 8:00pm

(credit: Credit: JJ Harrison, via Wikimedia)

Malaria, a potentially deadly mosquito-borne infection, remains a problem in many parts of the world. Reducing infections has been challenging because no vaccine is currently available. Prevention efforts have mostly concentrated on eliminating the transmission vector, mosquitoes. A recent study published in Nature shows that a new vaccine for malaria is well tolerated by humans and can provide significant immunity to malaria.

Malaria is caused by infection of the protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum. These are complex cells that have a number of means to evade the immune system, which has made the creation of vaccines challenging. To make this new vaccine, the parasites were first rendered harmless via radiation and then rapidly frozen for preservation. Healthy adult volunteers were given three doses of this vaccine at 28-day intervals before being challenged with exposure to the malaria parasite. Under these conditions, nine out of the nine immunized participants avoided a malaria infection.

Additionally, subjects who received non-optimized concentrations of the vaccine dose still exhibited some protection against infection, with one-third or two-thirds of vaccinated people demonstrating immunity, depending on the dose.

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Alienware 13 R3: Powerful and pretty, if you don’t mind junk in the trunk

February 25, 2017 - 7:00pm

Enlarge / Say hello to the Alienware 13 R3. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

It’s a good time to be in the market for a gaming laptop that doesn’t look stupid. Higher-powered laptops have begun to tick crucial checkboxes across the board, with smaller, super-powered GPUs landing in much less garish designs. In some cases, the result is a laptop you’ll love using—and won’t be ashamed to be seen using in public.

One of the latest to catch our eye is Alienware’s “R3” update to its 13-inch model. While some of its SKUs may not win affordability awards, the R3 officially counts as a damned good laptop, gaming or otherwise. If your budget has room for a single portable productivity machine, Alienware might have the right balance of power, weight, design, and functionality for you, not to mention decent battery life in a pinch.

But first, let’s talk about this laptop’s tushie.

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A fasting-diet may trigger regeneration of a diabetic pancreas

February 25, 2017 - 6:00pm

Enlarge / These mice are about to have issues. (credit: Getty | Portland Press Herald )

In mice with either type I or type 2 diabetes, an intense, four-day fasting diet seemed to regenerate pancreas cells and restore insulin production. Researchers reported this finding on Thursday in Cell.

In Petri dish experiments, human pancreas cells from patients with type 1 diabetes also showed altered gene expression and kick-started insulin production after being exposed to blood from people on a fasting diet.

The results of the early work are promising for potential dietary treatments of both types of diabetes. Type I is caused by a loss of insulin production, while type 2 is caused by diminished production or insensitivity to insulin, a hormone that triggers the breakdown of sugar in the blood.

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Theoretical battle: dark energy vs. modified gravity

February 25, 2017 - 5:00pm

Expansion driven by dark energy is now overwhelming the effect of gravity. (credit: Photograph by Copyright Nobel Media)

Two decades ago, scientists found that the Universe’s expansion is accelerating. This was the complete opposite of what had been expected: the expansion should be slowing down due to gravity, not speeding up.

At first, researchers didn’t know how to account for it. But they went back to Einstein’s equations for his General Theory of Relativity and discovered that a term he’d abandoned as his “biggest blunder”—the cosmological constant—actually described this expansion pretty well. There was only one problem: we can’t see the energy that’s driving the expansion. Nonetheless, researchers have gravitated to the idea that the energy is there, and they've labeled it dark energy. With time, dark energy has become a cornerstone of our current model of the Universe.

But not everyone was convinced. Some wondered if there was another way to explain the Universe’s accelerating expansion. One possibility is that gravity doesn’t work the same way on cosmological scales as it does on local scales. The idea is appealing in that it doesn’t require the existence of a vast amount of stuff that we can’t figure out how to observe. While the idea hasn't gained much traction, it also hasn't been ruled out.

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Woman: After I rebuffed my Uber driver’s advances, he tried to rape me

February 25, 2017 - 4:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Ore Huiying/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A woman in Minnesota has sued Uber, alleging that one of the company's drivers attempted to rape her in August 2016.

As is the case in other sexual assault lawsuits involving the ride-sharing company, the woman argues that Uber has been negligent in its hiring practices. The company, she claims, is not as safe as it purports to be.

Uber has faced numerous similar legal battles in recent years. Last month, a New Jersey man sued the company over an alleged assault that he sustained after his driver apparently refused to take him from Philadelphia back to his hometown, nine miles away. Last year, two women in Boston settled their lawsuit with Uber on similar allegations of sexual assault.

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Board game review: New Angeles is the capitalist dystopia we need

February 25, 2017 - 3:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Owen Duffy)

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at—and let us know what you think.

Welcome to a world of unimaginable wealth and rampant inequality, a world where monolithic corporations act as a law unto themselves, where automation and technological progress threaten to undermine the very foundations of society, and where frightened, forgotten, and furious citizens turn in droves towards political extremism.

This is Fantasy Flight's dystopian Android universe. While you could be forgiven for mistaking it for the world of 2017, it’s actually a cyberpunk setting best known as the backdrop for the card game Android: Netrunner, which pits elite hackers against corporate security systems.

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Get Out is the rare movie that perfectly blends horror and satire

February 25, 2017 - 1:09am


It's the perfect setup for a horror movie: there's a lonely house in the woods and a weird ritual that our naive protagonist Chris (Black Mirror's Daniel Kaluuya) doesn't understand until it's too late. Except the "woods" are a bucolic suburb and the weird ritual is meeting his girlfriend Rose's family for the first time. But something even creepier than awkward small talk is going on. And that's where the horror/fun of Get Out begins.

Chris has a tragic past, but he's become a successful photographer and finally found happiness with new girlfriend Rose. They've been together for five months, and now he's ready to meet her family. But there's a little more tension than usual in this relationship rite of passage: Rose (Girls' Allison Williams) is white, and she hasn't told her parents that Chris is black. Chris is nervous, but Rose points out that telling her parents: "Oh yeah, I'm bringing my BLACK boyfriend home" would have been even more awkward.

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