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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 1 min ago

Saturday night live: SpaceX to attempt second launch of Block 5 rocket

14 hours 5 min ago

Enlarge / The Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 rocket, on the launchpad, with its Telstar 19V payload. (credit: SpaceX)

Having worked through its fleet of used Block 4 rockets, SpaceX will now transition into flying its more advanced Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 rocket full time. As early as 1:50am ET (05:50 UTC) Sunday, SpaceX will attempt to launch the Telstar 19V satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission has a four-hour launch window.

This will be the second launch of the new version of SpaceX's Block 5 rocket. The first one had a flawless debut on May 11, and the first stage made a safe return to a drone ship, as expected. Since then, SpaceX engineers have been assessing how that Block 5 core, optimized for reusability, actually performed during that flight.

“We are going to be very rigorous in taking this rocket apart and confirming our design assumptions to be confident that it is indeed able to be reused without taking apart,” SpaceX honcho Elon Musk said in May, at the time of the first Block 5 flight. “Ironically, we need to take it apart to confirm it does not need to be taken apart.”

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Boeing suffers a setback with Starliner’s pad abort test [Updated]

July 21, 2018 - 7:20pm

Enlarge / In January 2018, Boeing shared this photo of the Starliner Pad Abort Test and Orbital Flight Test vehicles under construction in Florida. (credit: Boeing)

In late June, an anomaly occurred during preparations for Boeing's test of the Starliner spacecraft and its launch abort system. On Saturday, after Ars published a short report on the issue at a test site in White Sands, New Mexico, based on input from sources, Boeing provided additional information about the problem. This story has been updated to reflect the Boeing statement.

The company said it conducted a hot-fire test of the launch-abort engines on an integrated service module at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico in June. The engines successfully ignited and ran for the full duration, but during engine shutdown an anomaly occurred that resulted in a propellant leak. "We have been conducting a thorough investigation with assistance from our NASA and industry partners," the statement said. "We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action. Flight safety and risk mitigation are why we conduct such rigorous testing, and anomalies are a natural part of any test program."

The pad abort test is a necessary part of certifying spacecraft for flight, as it ensures the ability of the spacecraft to pull rapidly away from its rocket in the event of an emergency during liftoff or ascent into space.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary

July 21, 2018 - 2:56pm

(credit: Aurich Lawson)

In light of the $5 billion EU antitrust ruling against Google this week, we started noticing a certain classic Ars story circulating around social media. Google's methods of controlling the open source Android code and discouraging Android forks is exactly the kind of behavior the EU has a problem with, and many of the techniques outlined in this 2013 article are still in use today.

The idea of a sequel to this piece has come up a few times, but Google's Android strategy of an open source base paired with key proprietary apps and services hasn't really changed in the last five or so years. There have been updates to Google's proprietary apps so that they look different from the screenshots in this article, but the base strategy outlined here is still very relevant. So in light of the latest EU development, we're resurfacing this story for the weekend. It first ran on October 20, 2013 and appears largely unchanged—but we did toss in a few "In 2018" updates anywhere they felt particularly relevant.

Six years ago, in November 2007, the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) was announced. The original iPhone came out just a few months earlier, capturing people's imaginations and ushering in the modern smartphone era. While Google was an app partner for the original iPhone, it could see what a future of unchecked iPhone competition would be like. Vic Gundotra, recalling Andy Rubin's initial pitch for Android, stated:

He argued that if Google did not act, we faced a Draconian future, a future where one man, one company, one device, one carrier would be our only choice.

Google was terrified that Apple would end up ruling the mobile space. So, to help in the fight against the iPhone at a time when Google had no mobile foothold whatsoever, Android was launched as an open source project.

Read 55 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A quick look at the nominees for 2018’s “Board Game of the Year”

July 21, 2018 - 2:00pm

Enlarge

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.

On Monday, board gaming's biggest international prize will be announced. The Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) is awarded by a jury of German game critics, and it traditionally goes to a lighter, family-style game. The more recent Kennerspiel des Jahres goes to a more complex and strategic game. (See our take on the shortlists from 2017 and 2016.)

Earlier this summer, the jury released a shortlist of three titles in each category. As we wait for the winner to be announced in a couple of days, here's a quick look at the nominees in both the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres categories. Several of these games are currently hard to get in the US, but all should be widely available in English later this year.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

2001 in 70mm: Pod bay doors look better than ever, still won’t open

July 21, 2018 - 1:00pm

If I'm deep-down honest with myself, the reason I love 2001: A Space Odyssey is the same reason I love most Stanley Kubrick films: because I love watching people and things move inevitably from Point A to Point B.

He's done it with spaceships (2001), armies (Barry Lyndon), trenches (Paths of Glory), Big Wheels (The Shining), leapfrogging (Full Metal Jacket), and walking the streets of New York (Eyes Wide Shut). Ars Senior Editor Lee Hutchinson once told me that, growing up, he was so fascinated with the docking sequence from 2001 that he would watch it over and over again on VHS.

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

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First Invader Zim movie footage revealed, looks gloriously weird

July 20, 2018 - 11:42pm

Nickelodeon

After vague teasers and announcements, Nickelodeon and Jhonen Vasquez have finally taken the wraps off the first Invader Zim made-for-TV movie, which is still currently in production.

The demented brains behind the series appeared at this week's San Diego Comic Con with a new trailer in hand, which also confirms the film's full title: Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus. However, this video footage is still labeled as a "teaser," since pretty much all of its dialogue and sound effects are silenced in favor of a musical score.

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Disney confirms Guardians director fired over years-old tweets

July 20, 2018 - 10:56pm

Writer/director James Gunn participates in the Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment And Grasshopper Manufactures "Lollipop Chainsaw" Launch Party held at Gamestop on June 11, 2012 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images / L. Ortega)

James Gunn, the sardonic and openly vulgar writer/director behind both successful Guardians of the Galaxy films, has been removed from any future Marvel Studios projects, Disney confirmed on Friday.

The House of Mouse went one further and confirmed why they severed ties with Gunn: Twitter posts dating back as far as 2009.

"The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him," Disney chairman Alan Horn said in a statement on Friday.

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Microsoft exec: We stopped Russia from hacking 3 congressional campaigns

July 20, 2018 - 8:15pm

Microsoft's Tom Burt talks about phishing attacks detected by Microsoft against political campaigns at the Aspen Security Summit.

In a panel discussion at the Aspen Institute's Security Summit yesterday, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Customer Security and Trust Tim Burt said that in the course of hunting for phishing domains targeting Microsoft customers, members of Microsoft's security team detected a site set up by Russian actors that was being used in an attempt to target congressional candidates.

"Earlier this year," said Burt, "we did discover that a fake Microsoft domain had been established as the landing page for phishing attacks, and we saw metadata that suggested those phishing attacks were being directed at three candidates who are all standing for election in the midterm elections." While Burt would not disclose who the candidates were, he did say that they "were all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting from an espionage standpoint as well as an election disruption standpoint."

Microsoft alerted US law enforcement and worked with the government to take down the sites. "We took down that domain and, working with the government, were able to prevent anyone from being infected by that particular attack," Burt said. "They did not get in, they tried, they were not successful, and the government security teams get a lot of credit for that."

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Judge says climate issues the purview of federal government, tosses NYC lawsuit

July 20, 2018 - 6:52pm

Enlarge / A home at the corner of B 72nd Street and Bayfield Avenue is surrounded by marsh in Averne on the Rockaway peninsula in the Queens borough of New York, US, on Friday, October 10, 2014. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images (credit: Getty Images)

On Thursday, a US District judge dismissed a lawsuit from the City of New York against major oil companies BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell. New York City had alleged that the oil majors created a nuisance by actively promoting oil use for decades, even after they were presented with significant and reliable information showing that catastrophic effects from climate change would result. The judge didn't dispute the effects of climate change, but he did dispute (PDF) that courts exercising state law could remedy the situation.

In the January complaint, NYC demanded that the oil majors pay for the costs of adapting to climate change, like expanding wastewater storage areas, building new pumping facilities to prevent flooding, and installing new infrastructure to weather storms. The city stated that the oil companies named in the suit were responsible for more than 11 percent of carbon and methane emissions that had built up in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, more than all other individual industrial contributors.

The oil companies didn't dispute that, and neither did the judge. As early as the mid-1980s, the judge's opinion states, "Exxon and other major oil and gas companies, including Mobil and Shell, took actions to protect their own business assets from the impacts of climate change, including raising the decks of offshore platforms, protecting pipelines from coastal erosion, and designing helipads, pipelines, and roads in the warming Arctic."

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Star’s dimming and brightening may indicate it’s eating a planet

July 20, 2018 - 6:48pm

Enlarge / An artist's conception of the star bathed in debris, along with an image of the surge in X-rays (inset). (credit: NASA/Chandra)

Planets don't sit still. The seemingly stable orbits of our Solar System could easily give the impression that once a planet forms, it tends to stay in orbit where it started. But evidence has piled up that our Solar System probably isn't as stable as we'd like to think, and many of the exosolar systems we've now seen can't possibly have formed in their current state. In a few cases, we've spotted stars that contain elements that were probably delivered by a planet spiraling in.

Now, scientists may have caught the process while it was happening. A star that dimmed for a couple years has somehow ended up with 15 times the iron it had in earlier observations, suggesting it ran into a planet or a few smaller planet-forming bodies.

Not so stable

If you were to take the current configuration of the Solar System and run it forward a million years, nothing much would change—all the planets would be in the same orbits they started in. But run it forward a few billion years and strange things can happen. The orbital setup is chaotic, and future changes are very sensitive to the starting conditions. In addition, many of the features of the Solar System are hard to explain using planetary formation models, leading to the proposal of the Grand Tack, in which a much younger Jupiter migrated inward toward the Sun before being dragged out to its current position by Saturn.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Sean Murray breaks his silence on No Man’s Sky’s development, launch

July 20, 2018 - 6:38pm

Enlarge / Ludicrous speed. (credit: Hello Games)

The last time Hello Games' Sean Murray spoke to us, or anyone else in the press, he was still in the pre-launch, hype-building phase for the incredibly ambitious, procedurally generated universe exploration simulator No Man's Sky. Then the game launched. The summer 2016 release drew some critical praise but also loud, sometimes virulent Internet criticism saying the launch version didn't live up to the pre-release promise.

Murray and Hello Games have gone quiet since, keeping their heads down and focusing on building and releasing numerous updates that have layered plenty of important new features onto the launch version of the game. With the upcoming release of No Man's Sky's multiplayer-focused "NEXT" update, Murray has finally broken the studio's radio silence, giving wide-ranging interviews to Waypoint, The Guardian, Eurogamer, and GamesRadar about the game's past, present, and future.

Too much hype?

First off, Murray told Waypoint that he "never really wanted to talk to the press. I didn't enjoy it when I had to do it. I think that was super obvious watching me doing interviews." Keeping quiet and silently working on the game over the last two years, on the other hand, means that "this is the happiest I think we've ever been, as a result," Murray said.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fossil fuel lobbyists grossly outspend “Big Green”

July 20, 2018 - 5:50pm

Enlarge (credit: Stephen Melkisethian)

One of the stranger conspiracy theories against climate science is that corporate interests are pulling all the strings so that “Big Green” can get rich from action against climate change. Of course, it’s no secret that industries related to fossil fuels have lobbied for the exact opposite, pushing to avoid any significant climate policy.

So what do American industries spend to lobby Congress on this issue?

Drexel University’s Robert Brulle used lobbying reporting laws to find out. Not every penny spent on persuading congresspeople has to be reported—and a lot of political activities, like think tank funding, don’t count as lobbying. But spending on lobbying itself has been tracked in the US since a 1995 law mandated it. Brulle was able to sift through climate-related expenditures between 2000 and 2016, sorting the entities into groups.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

FCC will now take your comments on whether to allow T-Mobile/Sprint merger

July 20, 2018 - 4:55pm

Enlarge / T-Mobile CEO John Legere (left) and then-Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure during an interview on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on April 30, 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The Federal Communications Commission will accept petitions from now until August 27 to deny the $26 billion T-Mobile USA/Sprint merger, the commission announced yesterday.

Petitions to deny—as well as less formal comments—can be submitted online at the FCC's docket page. Recent filings can be found here.

After petitions to deny the merger are filed, T-Mobile and Sprint or other supporters of the merger can submit oppositions to the petitions until September 17. Under the current schedule, a final round of replies would be due on October 9.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

This full video shows just how bonkers the VW Pikes Peak record was

July 20, 2018 - 4:35pm

Enlarge (credit: Volkswagen)

At the end of June, Volkswagen and French racing driver Romain Dumas did something many of us thought impossible. Using a highly specialized electric vehicle called the "I.D. R Pikes Peak," Dumas raced to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado in under eight minutes, shattering the existing records for EVs by a full minute and the overall record (set by Peugeot and Sebastian Loeb in 2013) by a hefty 16 seconds.

Ars was there to see it happen, but truth be told you don't actually see that much of anyone's run at Pikes Peak if you're there in person. The course is 12.4 miles (19.99km) long, so even if you have a media vest and are free to roam outside the official spectating zones, you still really have to pick a corner and then be content with watching a small slice of each attempt from there.

But one of the marvels of living in the early 21st century is our access to small and rugged digital cameras. In fact, the organizers of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb are pretty good about putting a GoPro on every car and bike that runs up the mountain in anger, and within a week almost all of these were posted to YouTube. But not Dumas' run, no matter how often I begged on Twitter.

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A new run of The Clone Wars is coming to Disney’s streaming service

July 20, 2018 - 4:00pm

Disney

As someone born in the mid-1970s, it's sometimes hard to wrap my mind around Disney's stewardship of the Star Wars universe. Being born into the world a few months before what we now know as A New Hope meant waiting a long time between new chapters of this amazing story set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Beyond the original trilogy, that Christmas special, and two Ewok movies (that I am sure got cinematic releases in the UK but which were also TV specials here in the US), filling in the back stories of the Empire and the Rebellion was something kids did for themselves with the wide array of toys so many of us spent so much time playing with.

These days it's hard to swing a womp rat without hitting some new Star Wars property or other. Such has been the cadence of new theatrical releases that, in the wake of a box office performance by Solo that was merely "fine" rather than "exceptional," people were even talking about the idea of Star Wars fatigue! Well, add one more new thing to the list. At this year's Comic-Con, a panel on the ten-year anniversary of The Clone Wars animated series ended with a surprise: a new season of 12 episodes has been commissioned to run on Disney's streaming service (which launches next year).

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Uber drivers “employees” for unemployment purposes, NY labor board says

July 20, 2018 - 1:45pm

Enlarge (credit: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

New York City’s largest taxi driver advocacy group is hailing a legal decision by the New York State Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, which ruled last Friday that three out-of-work Uber drivers can be considered employees for the purpose of unemployment benefits. The decision was first reported Thursday by Politico.

In other words, three men—and possibly other "similarly situated" Uber drivers who had quit over low pay or who were deactivated from the Uber platform—can get paid.

"The decision means that New York Uber drivers can file for unemployment insurance and likely receive it," Veena Dubal, a labor law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, emailed Ars.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

As the SpaceX steamroller surges, European rocket industry vows to resist

July 20, 2018 - 1:15pm

Enlarge / First hot firing of the P120C solid rocket motor that will be used by Europe's new Vega-C and Ariane 6 rockets. (credit: ESA/CNES)

KOUROU, French Guiana—White light flooded in through large windows behind Alain Charmeau as he mused about the new age of rocketry. The brilliant sunrise promised another idyllic day in this beach town, but outside the sands remained untroubled by the feet of tourists.

Lamentably, the nearshore waters of this former French colony are chocolate rather than azure, muddied by outflow from the Amazon and other rivers. French Guiana has other compensating assets, however. It lies just 5.3 degrees north of the equator. Neither tropical cyclones nor earthquakes threaten the area. And its coast offers untrammeled access to both the east and north. These natural gifts have helped this remote region become one of the world’s busiest spaceports.

From here, Europe has established a long but largely unheralded history in the global rocket industry. Nearly three decades ago, it became the first provider of commercial launch services. If your company or country had a satellite and enough money, Europe would fly it into space for you. Remarkably, more than half of all telecom satellites in service today were launched from this sprawling spaceport.

Read 87 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Unfriended: Dark Web wardrives straight into the bad-tech-film toilet

July 20, 2018 - 12:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Blumhouse)

"Dude! This is darknet!"

That quote, taken from new low-budget horror film Unfriended: Dark Web, might be all you need to decide whether to buy a ticket. Indeed, this film's obsession with technical legitimacy inevitably falls into Hollywood pitfalls, because there's no getting around the trickiness of pacing an entertaining, cheesy film while simultaneously getting the computer details correct.

In spite of a few silly quotes, however, U:DW does a decent job stitching its computer and Internet content into the general plot—which is good, since the whole film is seen from a single Macbook's desktop POV. This clever conceit returns from the original and surprisingly solid Unfriended, and at its best, U:DW does an even better job of showing how to frame a film from this unique perspective.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rocket Report: Small sat space race goes global, SpaceX nearing demo flight

July 20, 2018 - 12:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson/SpaceX)

Welcome to Edition 1.09 of the Rocket Report! This week, we have several stories about the small-satellite launch race going global. There is also coverage of Blue Origin's daring launch and success for Europe in French Guiana with the test of a critical new solid rocket booster.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Blue Origin continues to stringently test New Shepard. During its ninth flight test, Blue Origin engineers subjected New Shepard to a high-altitude escape motor test. Both the rocket, which had already separated from the capsule, and the spacecraft itself passed the test with flying colors. The escape motor firing pushed the spacecraft to a record high altitude of 119km.

Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Newer Tesla batteries contain Cuban cobalt, likely illegal under US sanctions

July 20, 2018 - 11:00am

Enlarge / A creuseur, or digger, descends into a copper and cobalt mine in Kawama, Democratic Republic of Congo on June 8, 2016. Cobalt is used in the batteries for electric cars and mobile phones. Working conditions are dangerous, often with no safety equipment or structural support for the tunnels. The diggers say they are paid on average US$2-3/day. (credit: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Panasonic, the exclusive supplier of batteries to Tesla, has decided to halt buying cobalt from a Canadian company after Reuters raised questions about its provenance.

Cobalt is a crucial element in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, which are found in Tesla cars, among most other consumer electronics.

The news outlet, citing anonymous sources, said that "some of the cobalt" in Tesla's batteries contain cobalt mined in Cuba by Sherritt International, based in Toronto.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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