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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 30 min 12 sec ago

Judge rejects neo-Nazi’s First Amendment argument in harassment case

November 15, 2018 - 11:55pm

Andrew Anglin (credit: Azzmador / YouTube)

When Andrew Anglin isn't editing his neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, he organizes harassment campaigns against perceived enemies. One target of an Anglin harassment campaign, Tanya Gersh, sued Anglin last year. On Wednesday, a Montana federal judge dealt Anglin a significant setback, holding that the First Amendment does not protect Anglin's right to publish Gersh's personal information and encourage his legion of anti-Semitic followers to harass her.

But this legal battle isn't over yet. The judge's ruling allows the lawsuit to go forward, but Gersh's lawyers will still have to prove Anglin liable for invasion of privacy and other harms.

Still, the ruling could prove significant for other victims of online harassment. Anglin argued that he was just publishing information—like Gersh's home phone number—and couldn't be held responsible for what his readers did with that information. But the judge pointed to clear evidence Anglin knew exactly what readers would do with the information and egged them on at every step.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple inks deal with A24 studio to produce original, feature-length films

November 15, 2018 - 11:33pm

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

Apple has lined up another partnership to boost its video-content offerings. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Apple signed a deal with A24 studio, a New York-based production company responsible for movies, including the 2017 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Moonlight.

Details of forthcoming projects haven't been disclosed, but Apple reportedly signed a "multi-year partnership" to make "independent, feature-length films" with A24. Apple has numerous production partnerships and deals in the works already, but most are for serialized shows and other video content.

For the past year, Apple has focused on gleaning talent for its original content offerings. It began with the Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps series, both of which are exclusively available on Apple Music.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fallout 76 is online and lonelier than ever

November 15, 2018 - 11:20pm

Enlarge / All hail Hypnotoad!

The first few hours in Fallout 76 are strange. It's both familiar and foreign. The well-trod path of creating a character and exiting the safety of an underground vault is sharply juxtaposed with a distinct lack of scripted NPCs. Instead, in a departure from Fallout's decades-long history of single-player titles, you share your slice of post-apocalyptic West Virginia (referred to as Appalachia) with real, live people. Since Bethesda didn't provide pre-launch review code, we've only been able to spend our single day playing in this strange new land alongside the rest of the audience. So far, it's unclear whether this experiment will be a successful one.

What is clear immediately is that Fallout 76 is the best-looking Fallout ever. Running on an Xbox One X and displayed on a 4K TV, the visuals are vibrant and clear, a far cry from the muddy textures of Fallout 4. So far, the game has run much more smoothly as well, without the long loads and jerky pauses of the previous Fallout titles. These days, that's an impressive feat for a multiplayer game on launch day.

Fallout 76 starts similarly to other games in the series: after decades in an underground vault, protected from the nuclear war and ensuing fallout that devastated the United States, it's time to go outside. While Vault-Tec subjected many of its vault inhabitants to convoluted social experiments, Vault 76 residents have a simple mission: on Reclamation Day, 25 years after the bombs fell, it's time to leave and take the country back.

You'll create a character from scratch, determining details like face and body shape, skin color, hairstyle, and gender (male or female only; there's no non-binary option). Fallout 76 adds a fun photo mode that lets you snap your character using a variety of filters and frames, like an in-game Instagram. After taking that first photo and naming your character, you're on your way.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Sony is skipping E3 2019

November 15, 2018 - 11:06pm

Enlarge / E3 loses one of its big three in 2019. (credit: Aurich / PlayStation)

Shortly after E3 2019's dates were announced on Thursday, one major player in the gaming industry, Sony, confirmed that it will not be participating in the annual event. This is the first time Sony has skipped E3 since its 1995 inception.

In a statement given to Ars Technica, Sony Interactive Entertainment hinted to a 2019 PR strategy that depends less on physical conferences and more on direct outreach by the company to fans.

"As the industry evolves, Sony Interactive Entertainment continues to look for inventive opportunities to engage the community," the statement reads. "PlayStation fans mean the world to us, and we always want to innovate, think differently, and experiment with new ways to delight gamers. As a result, we have decided not to participate in E3 in 2019.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Former NASA administrator says Lunar Gateway is “a stupid architecture”

November 15, 2018 - 10:58pm

Enlarge / Michael Griffin, under secretary of defense for research and engineering, testifies during a House Armed Services Committee in April. (credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In recent weeks, NASA officials have been running a charm offensive on their proposed "Gateway" in lunar space, which would serve as a space station in a distant orbit around the Moon. The agency has proposed this interim step in lieu of returning directly to the lunar surface with humans. The agency has even started talking about the Gateway as a "spaceship," presumably because this sounds more exciting than a "station."

Public criticism of the proposal has been limited to date, in part because so much of the aerospace community has the potential to earn contracts by either helping to build the lunar space station or supply it with consumables once it is up and running in the mid-2020s. (We spoke to a few of the public critics for a feature published in September.)

However, during a meeting of the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group on Thursday, some of the criticism we've heard privately spilled into public view. One of the committee's members, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, declared that, "I'm quite opposed to the Gateway."

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

FCC tells SpaceX it can deploy up to 11,943 broadband satellites

November 15, 2018 - 10:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Olena_T)

SpaceX today received US approval to deploy 7,518 broadband satellites, in addition to the 4,425 satellites that were approved eight months ago.

The Federal Communications Commission voted to let SpaceX launch 4,425 low-Earth orbit satellites in March of this year. SpaceX separately sought approval for 7,518 satellites operating even closer to the ground, saying that these will boost capacity and reduce latency in heavily populated areas. That amounts to 11,943 satellites in total for SpaceX's Starlink broadband service.

SpaceX "proposes to add a very-low Earth orbit (VLEO) NGSO [non-geostationary satellite orbit] constellation, consisting of 7,518 satellites operating at altitudes from 335km to 346km," the FCC said in the draft of the order that it approved unanimously today. The newly approved satellites would use frequencies between 37.5 and 42GHz for space-to-Earth transmissions and frequencies between 47.2 and 51.4GHz for Earth-to-space transmissions, the FCC said.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New anti-gonorrhea drug called “metal as f–k”

November 15, 2018 - 10:20pm

Enlarge / It's still best to avoid needing antibiotics. (credit: Wyoming Dept. of Health)

In the battle against gonorrhea, antibiotics have been forced into a rapid and devastating retreat. In the early 1990s, three different antibiotics were available as treatments recommended by the CDC. Resistance to one of these options was detected in the late ‘90s; since then, one after another, treatment options bit the dust. Now, resistance to all available treatment is growing.

“We are facing the real danger of multidrug-resistant, nearly untreatable gonorrhea,” wrote Susan Blank and Demetre C. Daskalakis in the New England Journal of Medicine last week. On its own, this is a very serious public health concern; taken together with the sharp uptick in the number of reported cases of gonorrhea in the US, it’s alarming.

A second paper published last week offers some hope: in a small trial, a new antibiotic did well against gonorrhea. The drug, called zoliflodacin, has a different way of attacking bacteria, making it a useful new option against antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. A much larger clinical trial is now in the cards.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

SpaceX ties its record for most launches in a year [Updated]

November 15, 2018 - 9:25pm

Enlarge / A Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 rocket launches the Telstar 19 mission in July. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

4:20pm ET Update: Another mission success for SpaceX. Not only did the rocket's second stage successfully deploy the Es’hail-2 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit on Thursday, the rocket's first stage also safely landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

With Thursday's launch, SpaceX has now flown 18 mission this year, tying its record set in 2017. The company could fly as many as four more rockets this year.

Original post: In 2017, SpaceX finally answered critics of the company who said it had not delivered on the promise of a high flight rate for its low-cost launch program.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Get a 27-inch Dell UltraSharp 1440p monitor for $300

November 15, 2018 - 8:49pm

Enlarge (credit: TechBargains)

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal on Dell's 27" UltraSharp U2717D, which is currently down to $300 at the company's online store. That's about $90 off the device's price elsewhere.

The U2717D is an IPS monitor with a 2560x1440 resolution. It's not the highest-end panel around: sharper 4K monitors have generally come down in price in recent months, and the U2717D itself isn't top-of-the-line when it comes to black uniformity and maximum contrast ratio. With a 60 Hz native refresh rate, it's not built for gaming either.

But its colors, gray uniformity, and viewing angles are all pluses, and the 1440p resolution is still a step up if you're coming from an older 1080p panel. There's a full array of ports on the back, and Dell's design keeps the bezels nice and slim. The monitor comes with a three-year warranty as well. All told, it's good value at this reduced price.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Wireless throttling: Senators ask four major carriers about video slowdowns

November 15, 2018 - 8:01pm

Enlarge (credit: Verizon)

Three US Senate Democrats today asked the four major wireless carriers about allegations they've been throttling video services and—in the case of Sprint—the senators asked about alleged throttling of Skype video calls.

Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent the letters to AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, noting that recent research using the Wehe testing platform found indications of throttling by all four carriers.

"All online traffic should be treated equally, and Internet service providers should not discriminate against particular content or applications for competitive advantage purposes or otherwise," the senators wrote.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

This video shows just how much quicker the new Formula E car is

November 15, 2018 - 6:37pm

(video link)

Exactly a month from today, Formula E starts its fifth season. A lot will have changed compared to the sport we saw at season four's finale in Brooklyn this summer. When the first race of the season—which takes place in Saudi Arabia, proving Formula 1 has no monopoly on holding races in problematic places—gets underway, it will do so with an entirely new race car, one that solves some of the complaints from skeptics of this all-electric series.

The second-generation Formula E car has double the battery capacity, sporting 56kWh versus 28kWh for the first-gen machine. So those mid-race pit stops to change the car are a thing of the past. And the cars have gotten faster, too, as the video above shows. Audi factory driver Lucas di Grassi is behind the wheel of the original Formula E Spark-Renault SRT_01, as raced in season one. To his right is BMW factory driver Antonio Felix da Costa, equipped with the new Spark SRT05e. As you can see, the new car is a lot more interesting to look at than the old model's "generic single-seater" styling.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

When a network intel provider’s domain serves fraudulent content, something is wrong

November 15, 2018 - 6:22pm

Enlarge / The first of eight pages of results showing fraudulent PDFs available on vps4-atl1.ag0.thousandeyes.com. (credit: Dan Goodin)

ThousandEyes, a San Francisco-based network intelligence service, helps customers monitor all kinds of mission-critical things, from border gateway protocol leaks to DNS performance. But over the past week or so, the company has struggled with its own networking blunder that allowed scammers to host hundreds of thousands of fraudulent documents on its very own domain.

The first of eight pages of results showing fraudulent PDFs available on vps4-atl1.ag0.thousandeyes.com. (credit: Dan Goodin)

As the screenshot above shows, vps4-atl1.ag0.thousandeyes.com was hosting PDFs promoting screenplays, books, and how-to guides. By being available on a subdomain of a legitimate network intelligence company, the content was designed to manipulate Google search results in a way that tricked people into clicking on questionable links. Google searches suggest that the documents were hosted on the subdomain since the beginning of the month, before being removed on Tuesday, as this story was being reported.

To park their content, the scammers took advantage of a lapse in the management of the ThousandEyes.com domain. An entry in the domain’s authoritative name servers pointed to the IP address 74.207.229.178. The IP address belongs to Web host Linode. ThousandEyes used the IP in the past, but at some point it stopped doing so. ThousandEyes admins, however, failed to remove the DNS entry from the name servers. The scammers then noticed the lapse, obtained the same IP address from Linode, and used it to host the scammy documents.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Why aren’t chip credit cards stopping “card present” fraud in the US?

November 15, 2018 - 6:07pm

Enlarge / Chip cards help prevent fraud but only if you use them. (credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A security analysis firm called Gemini Advisory recently posted a report saying that credit card fraud is actually on the rise in the US. That's surprising, because the US is three years out from a big chip-based card rollout. Chip-based cards were supposed to limit card fraud in the US, which was out of control compared to similar fraud in countries that already used EMV (the name of the chip card standard).

Chip cards work by creating a unique code for each transaction, and (ideally) require a customer to enter a PIN to verify that they want to make the purchase. This doesn't make it impossible to steal information from chip-based cards, but it does make it much harder to reuse a stolen card. By contrast, using a magnetic stripe to swipe a card simply offers all the relevant information to the merchant's card reader, which is much easier for a bad actor to steal.

Gemini Advisory now says that 60 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen in the US in the past 12 months, and most of those were chip-based cards.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook drops PR firm after revelation of anti-Soros campaign

November 15, 2018 - 5:55pm

Enlarge / Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg speaks at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in 2016. Sandberg has been the mastermind of Facebook's political strategy in recent years. (credit: Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

Facebook has cut ties with a conservative public relations group called Definers hours after a Wednesday New York Times story revealed that the group had circulated a document linking some of Facebook's left-wing critics to liberal billionaire George Soros.

According to the Times, Facebook initially hired Definers to help the tech company monitor media coverage of Facebook. But in October 2017, Definers started to play an active role in defending Facebook.

"A conservative website called NTK Network began publishing stories defending Facebook and criticizing Facebook rivals like Google," the Times reports. "NTK is an affiliate of Definers."

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New trailer for Disney’s live-action Dumbo captures magic of original

November 15, 2018 - 3:13pm

Enlarge / Tears of a clown: Everyone's favorite misfit baby elephant with the big floppy ears is back. (credit: Disney)

When Disney first announced a live-action version of its 1941 animated classic, Dumbo, plenty of people were skeptical. The original was well-nigh perfect. Why mess with perfection? Reactions were decidedly more positive when the first teaser dropped earlier this year. Now there's a new trailer that should dispel any lingering doubts. The live-action Dumbo promises to be just as magically transporting as the original.

In the 1941 film, the newborn Dumbo becomes the butt of jokes because of his enormous ears. When some boys taunt him, his enraged mother loses her temper and attacks them. She is declared mad and locked in a cage, leaving Dumbo alone. Too clumsy to be featured in the circus elephant act, he is made into a clown instead. Dumbo's only friend in this miserable existence is a mouse named Timothy, who discovers Dumbo can fly and stages an elaborate stunt at a circus performance one night to prove it. Dumbo becomes the star of the circus and is reunited with his mother.

Director Tim Burton's version appears to follow the same general outline, with a few updates. Here, Dumbo is befriended by two young children, whose father has been hired by the circus to care for the baby elephant. Dumbo's flying ability draws the attention of an evil entrepreneur (played by Michael Keaton), who buys out the circus, the better to exploit its star attraction. The circus moves to Dreamland, a place somewhat reminiscent of Disneyland. This being a Disney film, it's safe to assume that Dumbo and his friends triumph over those who would exploit them for profit, and live happily ever after.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Open mind, wide open throttle: We go to our first NASCAR race

November 15, 2018 - 2:52pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

RICHMOND, Va.—Earlier this year, I took a long-overdue look at NASCAR. That deep dive into the technology busted stereotypes and preconceptions, but it really was only part of the NASCAR puzzle. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I ignored perhaps the most important aspect of the nation's most popular motorsport. This only really sank in a few weeks ago after I, at long last, went to Richmond Raceway to witness my first NASCAR race. Because the key to understanding NASCAR—at least to this observer—is simple: it's all about the spectacle.

This Sunday is the title-decider at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. After 267 laps—400.5 miles if you're reading this in America, 644.5 km if you aren't—the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (to give it its full name) will have a winner. The championship is now a four-way fight among Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing), Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing), Joey Logano (Team Penske), and Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing). NASCAR has moved to a playoff structure of late to ensure the championship goes down to the wire. So each of the four drivers enters the weekend with an equal shot: whoever finishes highest in the running order will be crowned champion. (What happens in the event of crashes and so on is explored by Alanis King here in much better depth than I could hope to provide.)

Martin Truex Jr. leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on September 22, 2018 in Richmond, Virginia. (credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Focusing just on the technology was an omission, but it was no error. I purposefully chose my off-season visit to North Carolina at the beginning of this year as my introduction to NASCAR. Ars is about technology, after all; visiting the sport at home, when things are quiet, meant we could focus on the technology without everything else that comes with being at a race weekend. Less danger of cultural tourism, too.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Quietly, Japan has established itself as a power in the aerospace industry

November 15, 2018 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / An H-2B rocket is moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 2 at the Tanegashima facility in southern Japan. (credit: JAXA)

TOKYO—In early September, the island nation of Japan was doing Japan things. One day, Typhoon Jebi roared ashore near Osaka and Kobe, breaking historical wind records. Early the next morning in Tokyo, as thick clouds from Jebi’s outer bands raced overhead, an offshore earthquake rattled softly but perceptibly through the city.

The capital city’s skies remained a bleak gray a few hours later as we entered the headquarters of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the city’s bustling Shinagawa area. Men in suits gestured us forward, bowing as we passed, down a corridor to an elevator. After riding up 27 floors to the top of the building, more men in suits ushered our group into a long, formal meeting room. Along one wall, a bank of windows looked to the southwest. From here, on a clear day, the iconic Mount Fuji dominates the distant horizon. But not this day.

A handful of reporters had been invited here to meet with MHI's chief executive, Shunichi Miyanaga, or Miyanaga-san as he is known throughout this building and beyond. The firm had paid our not-inconsiderable travel expenses so that we might learn more about the industrial conglomerate’s various businesses and its long-range plans to remain globally competitive.

Read 55 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Sun’s closest solo star may have company

November 14, 2018 - 10:53pm

Enlarge / The position of Barnard's star relative to the Earth and its other neighbors. (credit: IEEC/Science-Wave/Guillem Ramisa)

From the phenomenal success of the Kepler mission and a proliferation of ground-based telescopes, we now know that planets are common in our galaxy. But the methods we've used to detect most of them are biased toward finding large planets that orbit close to their host stars. The farther a planet is, the less its gravity pulls at the star and the less likely it is to align so that its orbit passes between that star and Earth, thus blocking out some starlight. Meanwhile, the focus has shifted to nearby stars, as astronomers have started building a catalog of targets for the next generation of telescopes.

These issues provide an intriguing backdrop for today's announcement that one of the closest stars to Earth has a super-Earth companion. Barnard's star is a red dwarf that is only six light years from our Solar System; only the three stars of the Centauri system are closer. But the new planet orbits far enough from Barnard's star that it had been missed by earlier attempts. The detailed follow-up that spotted it also hints at the possibility of a separate, more distant planet, and both could help inform our models of planet formation.

A new look

Barnard's star has been observed extensively over the years, partly because it's so close, partly because it's a prototypic example of a red dwarf star. These observations have included exoplanet searches, but nothing about the system stood out. But unless you observe a star regularly, there's a chance you won't happen to be looking at critical points in the planet's orbit.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

US travel ban blocking students from presenting their research

November 14, 2018 - 10:22pm

Enlarge / A poster grayed-out in protest at the recent Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego. (credit: Twitter user: @Doctor_PMS)

At an academic conference, the question “where are you from?” can have many meanings. “For anybody who’s in science, that’s a complicated question,” says paleontologist P. David Polly. “Where are we now, where did we get our degree, where did we grow up, where did we get the other degree?” For many people in science, the list of answers will span multiple countries.

Because of this international culture, science is feeling the effects of increasing restrictions on international travel. At last week’s Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in San Diego, a research poster drew a lot of attention: the bulk of the poster was grayed out, covered instead by a message from the author explaining that, as a citizen of Iran, she had been unable to enter the US to take part in the conference. “Science should be about breaking barriers,” she wrote, “not creating new ones.”

Tightening barriers

Leili Mortazavi, an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia, ran into the same barrier. When her work was accepted for presentation at SfN, she started the visa application process, but when she arrived at her appointment, she was told she was “ineligible to apply” because of her Iranian citizenship. “I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a visa application or a background check,” she told Ars. But the current situation is one of “excluding everyone based on their place of birth and not caring if the reason for their traveling is legitimate or not.”

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A powerful NASA telescope looked for ‘Oumuamua and didn’t find it

November 14, 2018 - 10:09pm

Enlarge / The object's unusual approach suggests it came from outside our Solar System. (credit: NASA/JPL)

Last week, some Harvard University scientists sparked widespread media attention about a possible alien origination for the mysterious interstellar object known as 'Oumuamua. At the end of a paper speculating about the object's observed movement, the authors presented "a more exotic scenario" suggesting that ‘Oumuamua may be "a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization."

As we reported at the time, this outlandish theory may have been catnip for online news editors, but there just wasn't much evidence to take it seriously. Now, thanks to some previously unpublished observations by NASA, we can further discount the idea.

The object now called 'Oumuamua made its closest approach to Earth in September 2017, and astronomers first spotted it in October of that year as it began moving away. In November, when NASA trained its Spitzer Space Telescope on where astronomers expected to find 'Oumuamua, it found nothing over the course of two months of observations in the infrared portion of the spectrum.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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