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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 14 min 46 sec ago

You’re not getting enough sleep—and it’s killing you

1 hour 18 min ago

Enlarge / (GERMANY OUT) Schlaflosigkeit, Frau mit Wecker (Photo by Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images) (credit: Ullstein Bild | Getty Images)

The whole world is exhausted. And it's killing us.

But particularly me. As I write this, I'm at TED 2019 in Vancouver, which is a weeklong marathon of talks and workshops and coffee meetings and experiences and demos and late-night trivia contests and networking, networking, networking. Meanwhile, I'm sick as a dog with a virus I caught from my 3-year-old, I'm on deadline for what feels like a bazillion stories, and I'm pregnant, which means I need coffee but can't have too much, and need sleep but can only lay on my left side, and can't breathe without sitting propped up with a pillow anyway, since I can't safely take any cold medication.

According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, I'm doing serious damage to my health—and life—by not sleeping enough.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Santa Clarita Diet S3 blends slapstick, satire with genuine heart

2 hours 29 min ago

Enlarge / Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Tim Olyphant) Hammond are married real estate agents with an undead secret. (credit: Netflix)

The Santa Clarita Diet, Netflix's smart, slyly satiric sitcom about a zombie outbreak in suburban Southern California, has largely flown under the pop culture radar since it debuted in February 2017. And that's a shame, because it's easily one of the best half-hour comedies on TV right now. Season 3 brings the same winning blend of satire, snappy dialogue, slapstick, and of course, plenty of zombie-munching gore.

(Some spoilers below.)

The series centers on Joel and Sheila Hammond (Tim Olyphant and Drew Barrymore), married real estate agents in Santa Clarita who find their lives irrevocably altered after Sheila has an extreme upchucking incident while showing a house to prospective clients. She thinks it's a bad case of food poisoning but soon begins to crave human flesh. The upside: she feels better than she has in years, and her increased libido kickstarts the Hammonds' previously humdrum sex life into overdrive. Season 1 was a bit uneven, especially in the earlier episodes, but the show found its stride by the end of that first 10-episode run, and both seasons 2 and 3 are sheer bingeable delights.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: The indestructible humanity of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

2 hours 59 min ago

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.

(credit: Orbit Books)

Dystopian stories take many forms, but it's a rare dystopian novel that prominently features man's best friend. Author of the Oversight and Stoneheart trilogies, C.A. Fletcher doesn't hide the importance of dogs in his latest novel. Aptly titled A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, it follows a young boy named Griz as he goes on a journey to retrieve his stolen pet.

"Dogs were with us from the very beginning," Griz writes. "And those that remain are still with us now, here at the end of the world."

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

These are the best new vehicles of the 2019 New York International Auto Show

3 hours 59 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Jonathan Gitlin / Aurich Lawson)

NEW YORK—On Friday morning, the annual New York International Auto Show opened its doors to the public. In stark contrast to last year—when I foolishly predicted that NYIAS was now the premier US auto show—this year's event feels very lackluster.NYIAS 2019

View more stories

The Shanghai Auto Show is partly to blame. It opened earlier this week and pretty much every automaker with something new to show chose China over the US. In fact, some brands like BMW and Volvo weren't present at all. The Internet didn't help either, as what little new metal there was coming to the Big Apple got shown off online in the weeks leading up.

But given that we missed both LA and Detroit in recent months, I braved Amtrak's rapidly deteriorating service from DC to wander the Javits center and see what was neat among the vehicles that did show up in NYC. While have some other stories from NYIAS to come, we're kicking off this year's event with our Best Of awards.

Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The hydrogen fuel strategy behind Nikola’s truck dream

4 hours 59 min ago

Enlarge

Ars makes every effort to cover its own travel costs. To attend Nikola's conference, we covered the flight out to Scottsdale, Arizona, but Nikola covered one night in a nearby hotel.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona—The Nikola Motor Company wants to reinvent trucking by replacing diesel heavy-duty trucks with hydrogen fuel cell trucks. But hydrogen skeptics are numerous, and not without good reason. Although hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are quiet, emissions-free (with the exception of water) during operation, and relatively fast-charging compared to battery electric vehicles, they have a host of other problems.

First, hydrogen is hard to store, and it must be cooled and compressed. It's also hard to transport. Additionally, H2 is not a green fuel in the US, for the most part. Generally, natural gas (CH4) is reformed to create H2 in ways that still cause carbon emissions. There is a way to create hydrogen fuel without the carbon emissions: by applying electricity to water (a process called water electrolysis). But water electrolysis has been prohibitively expensive, and if hydrogen can't compete with diesel, what's Nikola's value proposition to freight companies that will make them want to switch?

Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Marcus Hutchins, slayer of WannaCry worm, pleads guilty to malware charges

18 hours 21 min ago

Enlarge / Then-23-year-old security researcher Marcus Hutchins in his bedroom in Ilfracombe, UK, in July 2017, just weeks before his arrest on malware charges. (credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Marcus Hutchins, the security researcher who helped neutralize the virulent WannaCry ransomware worm, has pleaded guilty to federal charges of creating and distributing malware used to break into online bank accounts.

“I regret these actions and accept full responsibility for my mistakes,” Hutchins wrote in a short post. “Having grown up, I’ve since been using the same skills that I misused several years ago for constructive purposes. I will continue to devote my time to keeping people safe from malware attacks.”

Hutchins was charged in August 2017 with creating Kronos, a banking trojan that stole online bank account passwords from infected computers. A superseding indictment filed 10 months later charged him with 10 felony counts that alleged he created a second piece of malware called UPAS Kit. Hutchins, whose online persona MalwareTech attracts more than 143,000 followers on Twitter, had a league of vocal defenders claiming the allegations were false.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Reverse review bomb? AC: Unity draws praise for Notre Dame preservation

April 19, 2019 - 8:55pm

Enlarge / The famous cathedral lives on in interactive digital form.

At this point, we're actually a little tired of stories about "review bombing," where various put-upon groups of gamers gather together to leave a flood a negative user reviews, often for issues that have nothing to do with the game itself. But this week's flood of positive reviews for Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Unity on Steam is a different (and much rarer) story altogether.

The impetus for this reverse review-bomb (Review rocket? Review scaffolding? Review hug?) came earlier this week after the tragic fire in Paris' Notre Dame cathedral. On Wednesday, Ubisoft announced it would be donating €500,000 to help rebuild the cathedral that's recreated as a central landmark in Assassin's Creed Unity. On top of that, the company is giving away free copies of the game on its UPlay platform through April 25 as a way to encourage further donations and in order "to give everyone the chance to experience the majesty and beauty of Notre-Dame the best way we know how."

"When we created Assassin's Creed Unity, we developed an even closer connection with this incredible city and its landmarks," the company wrote this week. "One of the most notable elements of the game was the extraordinary recreation of Notre-Dame... We hope, with this small gesture, we can provide everyone an opportunity to appreciate our virtual homage to this monumental piece of architecture."

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New automation features are coming to macOS in Shortcuts—but not for every app

April 19, 2019 - 8:30pm

Enlarge / A few examples of "Shortcuts" that can be applied to Siri with iOS 12. (credit: Apple)

According to a report at 9to5mac citing people familiar with Apple’s plans, several iOS features will come to the Mac in macOS 10.15.

First and foremost among these is Shortcuts, the automation application that Apple built out of its acquisition of Workflow. The app, support for which was introduced in iOS 12, allows iPhone and iPad users to define steps for their devices to perform when they deliver certain user-definable Siri voice commands, tap user-created home screen icons, and so on.

Shortcuts is tightly integrated with Siri, and it was positioned by Apple as a way to make Siri much more powerful than it has been previously. Third-party app developers could develop their own Shortcuts and accompanying Siri commands that could be accessed across the operating system.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

This little electric car is the coolest thing at the NY Auto Show

April 19, 2019 - 8:20pm

As we detailed on Monday, this year's Shanghai auto show has been the place to be if you want to see car designers' ideas for future electric cars. But not everyone chose China as the place to reveal their electric concept cars. Genesis thinks the Big Apple is a better place to make an annual statement.

In 2017 it was the GV80, a hydrogen fuel cell EV that was the first clean-sheet design for the new Korean luxury brand and a vehicle that seems a lot more plausible now that we've driven Hyundai's Nexo. Last year, we got the Essentia, an electric hypercar that will almost certainly remain nothing more than a concept. Now, for the third year in a row, Genesis has stolen the New York International Auto Show, this time with the Mint, its take on a small luxury battery EV.

Forget an electric car for the masses, this one is for a niche within a niche: the city dweller who only needs two seats but still wants cargo space, plus the added drama of scissor doors and a leather-lined interior that looks like it belongs in a coachbuilt Bugatti from the 1930s. Admittedly, it's not the biggest demographic in the world, but I count myself firmly in that camp.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Surprise! Satellites show that thermometers don’t lie

April 19, 2019 - 8:15pm

Enlarge / Official weather stations are more standardized than this consumer one, which helps them track global temperature trends. (credit: Raymond Shobe)

Taking a human’s temperature is easy. Taking a pet’s temperature is similarly straightforward, if a bit rude. Taking a planet’s temperature, on the other hand, is much more of a challenge. The temperature isn’t the same everywhere, so one thermometer won’t get it done. Weather stations on land near population centers are relatively common, but remote areas and the vast oceans also need to be represented.

On top of this geographical span, researchers have to deal with the reality that various issues like equipment changes have to be accounted for to ensure that the data is consistent over a century or more.

A handful of teams around the world separately maintain surface temperature datasets, including NASA, NOAA, the UK Met Office, and the Japan Meteorological Agency. The differences between their results are so small that only climate scientists could find them noteworthy. They all show pretty much exactly the same amount of global warming over time. But this hasn’t stopped conspiratorial critics from claiming that temperature measurements are somehow manipulated to create the appearance of warming where none exists. (These critics never explain how this cabal of scientists got shrinking glaciers, rising sea levels, and migrating species to play along.)

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

World of Goo is Epic Game Store’s next freebie—and all PC owners will get HD update

April 19, 2019 - 7:53pm

Enlarge / The Goo is back! And free! And updated for existing owners! Everyone wins, we think. (credit: 2DBoy)

As has become a regular occurrence lately, Epic Games announced another solid free video game coming to all of its Epic Games Store (EGS) users, which has so far been an every-two-weeks promo for the relatively new storefront. And again, as has become a regular occurrence, the news came with some confusing crossover with Steam, the mega-ton retailer that EGS is not-so-subtly taking on.

Friday's announcement confirmed that the award-winning puzzle game World of Goo, which launched in 2008 on PC and the Wii before reaching other platforms, will become an EGS freebie starting May 2. Users will have a two-week window to log in and claim a copy of the game (which currently retails for $10 at Steam and other digital-download storefronts).

Shortly after Epic's announcement, a PC Gamer report clarified one key detail: this version of World of Goo includes a significant "framework" update with an emphasis on higher resolutions. However, that report didn't answer if that update was an EGS exclusive—the kind of update that would require the game's existing fans to log into a second storefront and claim a free copy—or when exactly its Steam equivalent will get the update.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

McAfee joins Sophos, Avira, Avast—the latest Windows update breaks them all

April 19, 2019 - 5:26pm

Enlarge / A colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of an Ebola virus virion. (Cynthia Goldsmith) (credit: CDC)

The most recent Windows patch, released April 9, seems to have done something (still to be determined) that's causing problems with anti-malware software. Over the last few days, Microsoft has been adding more and more antivirus scanners to its list of known issues. As of publication time, client-side antivirus software from Sophos, Avira, ArcaBit, Avast, and most recently McAfee are all showing problems with the patch.

Affected machines seem to be fine until an attempt is made to log in, at which point the system grinds to a halt. It's not immediately clear if systems are freezing altogether or just going extraordinarily slowly. Some users have reported that they can log in, but the process takes ten or more hours. Logging in to Windows 7, 8.1, Server 2008 R2, Server 2012, and Server 2012 R2 are all affected.

Booting into safe mode is unaffected, and the current advice is to use this method to disable the antivirus applications and allow the machines to boot normally. Sophos additionally reports that adding the antivirus software's own directory to the list of excluded locations also serves as a fix, which is a little strange.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook fights to “shield Zuckerberg” from punishment in US privacy probe

April 19, 2019 - 5:07pm

Enlarge / Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaving the Merrion Hotel in Dublin after meeting with Irish politicians to discuss regulation of social media on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Federal Trade Commission officials are discussing whether to hold Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally accountable for Facebook's privacy failures, according to reports by The Washington Post and NBC News. Facebook has been trying to protect Zuckerberg from that possibility in negotiations with the FTC, the Post wrote.

Federal regulators investigating Facebook are "exploring his past statements on privacy and weighing whether to seek new, heightened oversight of his leadership," the Post reported, citing anonymous sources who are familiar with the FTC discussions.

"The discussions about how to hold Zuckerberg accountable for Facebook's data lapses have come in the context of wide-ranging talks between the Federal Trade Commission and Facebook that could settle the government's more than year-old probe," the Post wrote.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The future of high-speed computing may be larger CPUs with optics

April 19, 2019 - 4:50pm

Enlarge (credit: FreeGreatPicture)

Contrary to current trends, the CPU may get bigger in the future. Yes, the size of CPUs are larger today than they were in the past, but they also pack in more transistors. The future may involve larger CPUs but with a much lower density of transistors. Why? Because of optics.

The idea of purely optical computers—and hybrid electronic-optical computers—is not new. But a set of recent advances is the first time I’ve thought we might be entering an era where some functions beyond long-distance communication will be handled optically.

Have you seen the light?

There are two properties of optical computers that make them attractive. The first is that they are naturally fast: light pulses travel at (yes) the speed of light. And when light switches light—the optical equivalent of a transistor—it happens very fast (think femtoseconds, which are 10-15 of a second). These two properties combine to make optical computers much faster than electronic computers.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Gearbox’s Pitchford: Steam may be “a dying store” in 5 to 10 years

April 19, 2019 - 4:28pm

Enlarge / "You can't get us on Steam, and that's a good thing."

Earlier this month, Gearbox drew some ire from Steam-loving Borderlands fans by announcing the next game in the series, due in September, would be exclusive to the Epic Games Store on PC. In a massive tweet thread earlier this week, though (helpfully collated in this reddit post), Gearbox founder and CEO Randy Pitchford defends that decision and highlights what he sees as the long-term positives that Epic's competition with Steam will bring to the industry.

While acknowledging that Epic's platform currently lacks many quality-of-life features available on Steam, Pitchford pointed to Epic's public road map for adding many of those features before September's Borderlands 3 launch. In fact, Pitchford sees the game's impending release as a "forcing function... that will, in turn, make all those features available on a faster timeline than otherwise possible... If I were to bet on this... Epic will inevitably surpass Valve on features and quality of service."

Pitchford acknowledges that publisher 2K and developer Gearbox could have hedged their bets by releasing on both Steam and Epic. But he added that he feels the entire industry will be better served in the long run if Borderlands 3's exclusivity can help make the Epic Games Store competitive with Steam. (The sizable investment Epic has made in paying to get exclusive content on its store probably didn't hurt, either)

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Get a look at Android’s browser and search ballots for the EU

April 19, 2019 - 3:58pm

Last year the European Commission ruled that Google had illegally used Android to dominate search. Last month the European Commission gave Google feedback that bundling Chrome with the OS was also frowned upon. This week Google is implementing actual software changes to Android. The company has created a Windows-style ballot system which will encourage users to actively pick alternative browsers and search engines.

Google outlines the new ballot system in a post on its official blog. Pictures show two new setup screens in Android, one shows the currently installed search engine (usually Google Search) and offers to install alternatives like DuckDuckGo and Qwant. The second screen shows the currently installed browser (Chrome) and offers alternatives like Firefox and Edge.

Rather than make these screens part of setup that would be shown to new users only, Google says "These new screens will be displayed the first time a user opens Google Play after receiving an upcoming update." The browser and search pages each show five apps total, including any apps that are already installed. Google notes that the app selection will vary by country, and that new apps "will be included based on their popularity and shown in a random order." There's also going to be a new prompt in Google Chrome, which will encourage users to pick a search engine.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Toyota leads $1B investment in Uber’s self-driving tech

April 19, 2019 - 3:21pm

Enlarge / Uber has been using Volvo XC90 hybrid SUVs as R&D platforms. Soon, we can expect these to be joined by Toyota Siennas. (credit: Uber)

On Thursday, news broke that Toyota, Denso, and the SoftBank Vision Fund are investing heavily in Uber's autonomous driving operation. Together, the three companies will put $1 billion into Uber's Advanced Technologies Group: $667 million from Toyota and Denso, with an additional $333 million coming from SoftBank.

"Leveraging the strengths of Uber ATG’s autonomous vehicle technology and service network and the Toyota Group’s vehicle control system technology, mass-production capability, and advanced safety support systems, such as Toyota Guardian™, will enable us to commercialize safer, lower cost automated ridesharing vehicles and services," said Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota executive vice president and president of Toyota’s in-house Connected Company, in a statement sent to Ars.

It's actually not the first time Toyota has opened its wallet for Uber. In August 2018, the Japanese OEM signed a $500 million deal to integrate Uber's autonomous tech into Toyota Sienna minivans, which will operate through Uber's ride-hailing network at some future date. That followed an earlier investment of $300 million in 2016.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Anti-vax parents lose in NY court, face steep fines for not vaccinating

April 19, 2019 - 2:50pm

Enlarge / A sign warns people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg on April 10, 2019 in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a state of emergency and mandated residents at the center of the outbreak to get vaccinated for the viral disease. (credit: Getty | Spencer Platt)

A Brooklyn judge on Thursday rejected the petition from five anonymous anti-vaccine mothers who attempted to block the city’s recent vaccination mandate amid the largest measles outbreak the city has seen in several decades.

And the city wasted no time enforcing its upheld order. As the judge made his decision Thursday, city health officials doled out the first penalties to violators, according to the New York Times. Officials sent summonses to the parents of three children for failing to vaccinate the children even after city officials determined that they had been exposed to the dangerous viral illness.

Measles is so contagious that up to 90 percent of unvaccinated or otherwise susceptible individuals who are exposed will become ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles’ extreme contagiousness is due in part to the fact that once it is launched into the air from a cough or sneeze it can remain airborne and infectious for up to two hours. Any vulnerable passersby who breathe in the virus or touch contaminated surfaces can pick it up.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook’s auto-captions for a recent launch video are hilariously bad

April 19, 2019 - 2:10pm

An Antares rocket built by Northrop Grumman launched on Wednesday afternoon, boosting a Cygnus spacecraft with 3.4 tons of cargo toward the International Space Station. The launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, went flawlessly, and the spacecraft arrived at the station on Friday.

However, when NASA's International Space Station program posted the launch video to its Facebook page on Thursday, there was a problem. Apparently the agency's caption service hadn't gotten to this video clip yet, so viewers with captions enabled were treated not just to the glory of a rocket launch, but the glory of Facebook's automatically generated crazywords. As of Thursday morning, 86,995 people had watched the Facebook video.

Some of the captions are just hilariously bad. For example, when the announcer triumphantly declares, "And we have liftoff of the Antares NG-11 mission to the ISS," the automatically generated caption service helpfully says, "And we have liftoff of the guitarist G 11 mission to the ice sets."

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Unexpected protection added to Microsoft Edge subverts IE security

April 19, 2019 - 1:20pm

Enlarge (credit: Brian Smithson / Flickr)

A researcher has uncovered strange and unexpected behavior in Windows 10 that allows remote attackers to steal data stored on hard drives when a user opens a malicious file downloaded with the Edge browser.

The threat partially surfaced last week when a different researcher, John Page, reported what he called a flaw in Internet Explorer. Page claimed that when using the file manager to open a maliciously crafted MHT file, the browser uploaded one or more files to a remote server. According to Page, the vulnerability affected the most recent version of IE, version 11, running on Windows 7, Windows 10, and Windows Server 2012 R2 with all security updates installed. (It’s no longer clear whether any OS other than Windows 10 is affected, at least for some users. More about that in a moment.)

Below this paragraph in Page's post was a video demonstration of the proof-of-concept exploit Page created. It shows a booby-trapped MHT file triggering an upload of the host computer's system.ini file to a remote server. Page's video shows the file being downloaded with Edge.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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