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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 28 min 5 sec ago

Galaxy S10+ review: For $1000, Samsung needs to offer a more complete package

42 min 24 sec ago

Samsung's flagship Galaxy S smartphone line is back with the Galaxy S10 and S10+. Since the launch of the Galaxy S8 in 2017, Samsung has stuck with the same basic design for two years across four major devices: the S8, Note8, S9, and Note9. The Galaxy S10 firmly fits into the Galaxy S8 family tree, but with new display and fingerprint technology, the S10 represents the biggest design upgrade since that release in 2017.

Samsung Galaxy S10

View more stories As usual, Samsung is gunning for the title of "spec-sheet champion" with the Galaxy S10, and the company is turning in devices with bigger displays, bigger batteries, faster SoCs, more RAM, and more storage. This is one of the first devices that gives us a look at the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, and it's also one of the first devices with "Wi-Fi 6," aka 802.11ax support. The S10 is also the first device with a Qualcomm-made ultrasonic fingerprint reader, and it features Samsung's new "hole-punch" display tech for the camera cutout. If all that's not enough for you, the Galaxy S10+ can hit even more stratospherically high configurations—and prices—that would rival some laptops, topping out at 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for a whopping $1,600.

We reviewed the bigger Galaxy S10+, where even the base configuration results in a $1,000 smartphone. And if spending that much cash, we're not really in the mood for the kinds of excuses and compromises that would be acceptable at a lower price point. When a device manufacturer turns up with sky-high prices like this, it's only fair to go in with sky-high expectations.

Read 56 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ars asks: What’s stopping your workplace from adopting newer technology?

43 min 2 sec ago

Enlarge / Artist's impression of some fancy tech that you probably can't have because the company that makes it isn't on your company's list of approved vendors. (credit: Caiaimage / Robert Daly / Getty)

One of the things I enjoy most about writing for Ars is the opportunity to interact with such an enormous pool of brilliant IT folks. The Ars readership is overflowing with that most valuable of demographics: the proverbial "IT decision maker," or just "ITDM." From the sysadmin trenches to the C-suite, you guys do it all—not just turning the wrenches that keep business operational, but deciding which wrenches to buy, too.

But even while so many of us work at businesses whose products shape the future, as ITDMs we also often find ourselves faced with a tremendous number of obstacles when it comes to modernizing our own business tech and processes. You all know the drill, because you've all been through it—a new vendor shows up with a product that seems like it would solve so many of your problems, and you're interested in evaluating it, but the solution they're pitching gets shot down by a steering committee or design review board because it might require some unforecasted expense to conduct a mandatory IT security audit of the thing. Or because the head of the steering committee once had a bad experience with that vendor three jobs ago. Or simply because it's different, and here at $COMPANY, we do things a certain way.

Or perhaps you work in a large company with a tremendous amount of "IT inertia," and change happens as slowly as steering the Titanic. Maybe your company sees current and future IT trends like "edge computing" or the "hybrid cloud" not as desirable directions but as enormous security and regulatory nightmares waiting to be unleashed. Maybe you work in an industry with iron-clad change control requirements; maybe you're at a Fortune 100 company that is just now starting to consider alternatives to the traditional "datacenter full of servers and SANs" architecture.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Supercooled water in “snowball chamber” might be able to find dark matter

59 min 41 sec ago

Enlarge / Still photograph of supercooled water turning into snow, shot on an iPhone camera at 120 FPS slow-motion. (credit: Matthew M. Szydagis)

Like many people, physicist Matthew Szydagis has been amused by all those YouTube videos showing people banging on a bottle filled with water, causing it to quickly freeze in response to the blow. The trick is to supercool the water beforehand—that is, cool it below the freezing point without the water actually freezing. (Yes, it's possible.) But when he saw the same phenomenon depicted in Disney's 2013 animated film Frozen, he realized he might be able to exploit the effect to hunt for dark matter, that most elusive of substances.

The result is his so-called "snowball chamber," which relies on a newly discovered property of supercooled water. A professor at SUNY's University of Albany, Szydagis gave an overview of this research at the American Physical Society's annual April meeting, held earlier this month in Washington, DC. A draft paper can be found on arXiv, and a final version is being prepared for journal submission.

“All of my work is motivated by the search for dark matter, a form of matter we’re sure is out there because we can observe its indirect gravitational effects,” Szydagis said. “It makes up a significant fraction of the universe, but we have yet to uncover direct, conclusive and unambiguous evidence of it within the lab.” The detector could also be useful for detecting nuclear weapons in cargo, for understanding cloud formation, and for studying how certain mammals supercool their blood when they hibernate.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

DNA from medieval Crusader skeletons suggests surprising diversity

1 hour 58 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Claude Doumet-Serhal)

European soldiers and civilians poured into the Levant in the 12th and 13th centuries, often killing or displacing local Muslim populations and establishing their own settlements in an effort to seize control of sites sacred to three major religious groups.

But in a new study, DNA from the skeletons of nine soldiers hints that the armies of the Crusades were more diverse and more closely linked with local people in Lebanon than historians previously assumed. The genetic evidence suggests that the Crusaders also recruited from among local populations and European soldiers sometimes married local women and raised children, some of whom may have grown up to fight in later campaigns.

Living and dying side by side

For centuries, the mingled, charred bones of at least 25 soldiers lay buried in two mass graves near the ruins of the Castle of St. Louis, a 12th- to 13th-century Crusader stronghold near Sidon, in south Lebanon. Several of the skeletons (all apparently male) bore the marks of violent death, and the artifacts mingled with the bones—buckles of medieval European design, along with a coin minted in Italy in 1245 to commemorate the Crusades—mark the pit's occupants as dead Crusader soldiers, burned and buried in the aftermath of a battle. From nine of them, geneticist Marc Haber and his colleagues at the Wellcome Sanger Institute obtained usable DNA sequences. They offer a rare look into the ranks of the soldiers who fought on one side of the 200-year series of wars.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Mazda brings a new diesel CX-5 SUV to the US—but why?

April 21, 2019 - 3:15pm

Enlarge / You'd have to look carefully at the CX-5's badges to tell whether it was one of the new diesel-powered versions. (credit: Mazda)

When Mazda invited us to a roundtable discussion about powertrain technology at this year's New York auto show, it was easy to say yes. After all, the company is responsible for a significant recent breakthrough in internal combustion engine technology. So you can imagine my surprise when it turned out the topic on Mazda's mind was the introduction of its Skyactiv-D diesel engine to the North American market, under the hood of the (excellent) CX-5 SUV. Intrigued, I had to find out why the Japanese automaker was taking this step.

Diesel's fall from grace

You can be forgiven for thinking that "diesel" is now a dirty word. For a while, this liquid hydrocarbon fuel looked like it might be an important tool in helping fight climate change. After all, diesel engines are much more efficient than ones that run gasoline, so you can drive further between filling stations and emit less CO2 while doing it. But CO2 isn't the only problematic component of diesel exhaust. A more immediate danger posed by diesel exhaust is the soup of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates that result as combustion products. While CO2 will wreck our climate in the coming decades, NOx damages peoples' lungs today. And it's NOx that is responsible for diesel's fall from grace.

Or, more accurately, it's been the widespread lying by industry to regulators about the exact amounts of NOx emissions from their cars. The most well-known culprit has been Volkswagen Group. In 2015 it got caught lying to federal regulators in the US and the penalties have been stiff. Executives have been prosecuted. Hundreds of thousands of cars have had to be bought back from owners, billions of dollars in fines were levied, and an entirely new business plan had to be created to rapidly electrify one of the three biggest car companies in the world by the middle of the next decade.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hanna TV adaptation sacrifices magic of original film for typical teen angst

April 21, 2019 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / Esme Creed-Miles plays the titular teen assassin in Amazon Prime's new series, Hanna. (credit: YouTube/Amazon Prime)

An isolated teenaged girl genetically engineered to be an assassin must elude rogue CIA agents intent on terminating her in Hanna, Amazon's adaption of the 2011 film of the same name. It's a gritty, competent thriller, with strong performances from a talented cast, and has already been renewed for a second season. The problem is that no matter how much one tries to separate the series from the film, comparisons are inevitable. And in almost all respects, the TV adaptation comes up short.

(Some spoilers for the series and the 2011 film below.)

Not everyone was a fan of Director Joe Wright's original film, with its strange mix of espionage and dark coming-of-age fairytale. But it's one of my recent favorites for precisely those elements, driven by an exquisitely unsettling performance by Saoirse Ronan in the titular role. Ronan had this otherworldly presence of untouched innocence, combined with a ruthless hunter's instinct, as we saw in the very first scene when she kills and dresses a deer with just a bow and arrow and a hunting knife.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Happy 30th B-Day, Game Boy: Here are six reasons why you’re #1

April 21, 2019 - 1:22pm



Thirty years ago this week, Nintendo released the Game Boy, its first handheld video game console. Excited Japanese customers snatched up the innovative monochrome handheld by the thousands, which retailed for 12,500 yen (about $94 at 1989 rates) at launch—a small price to pay for what seemed to be an NES in your pocket. Nintendo initially offered four games for the new Game Boy: Super Mario Land, Baseball, Alleyway, and Yakuman (a mahjong game), but the number of available titles quickly grew into the hundreds.

Later that year, the Game Boy hit the US at $89.99 with a secret weapon—Tetris as its pack-in game. Selling over a million units during the first Christmas season, the Game Boy proved equally successful in the US, and that success was by no means short-lived: to date, Nintendo has sold 118.69 million units of the original Game Boy line (not including Game Boy Advance) worldwide, making it the longest running dynasty in the video game business. So in honor of the Game Boy's twentieth (Editor's note: now thirtieth!) anniversary, we give you six reasons why the Game Boy dominated the handheld video game market during most of its astounding multi-decade run.

In a rare public discussion at DICE 2015, Alexey Pajitnov talks about pentominoes (and other origins of Tetris. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

1. Tetris

It's common pop-marketing knowledge these days that every new hardware platform needs a "killer app" to truly succeed. In the Game Boy's case, Tetris filled that role perfectly.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“Natural” bottled water has natural arsenic contamination, testing finds

April 21, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / Water can pick up arsenic from geological, agricultural, or industrial sources. (credit: Getty | Nurphoto)

Several brands of bottled water contain concerning levels of arsenic contamination, according to an investigation by Consumer Reports.

The worst offenders in the report were Starkey, a brand owned by Whole Foods and marketed as water in its “natural state,” and Peñafiel, owned by Keurig Dr Pepper and imported from Mexico.

Samples of Peñafiel tested by CR had arsenic levels that averaged 18.1 parts per billion, well above the federal allowable limit of 10ppb set by the Food and Drug Administration. Testing of Whole Foods’ Starkey Water revealed levels at or just a smidge below federal limits, with results ranging from 9.48 ppb to 10.1 ppb.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A mystery agent is doxing Iran’s hackers and dumping their code

April 21, 2019 - 11:15am

Enlarge (credit: Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Nearly three years after the mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers began disemboweling the NSA's hackers and leaking their hacking tools onto the open Web, Iran's hackers are getting their own taste of that unnerving experience. For the last month, a mystery person or group has been targeting a top Iranian hacker team, dumping its secret data, tools, and even identities onto a public Telegram channel—and the leak shows no signs of stopping.

Since March 25, a Telegram channel called Read My Lips or Lab Dookhtegan—which translates from Farsi as "sewn lips"—has been systematically spilling the secrets of a hacker group known as APT34 or OilRig, which researchers have long believed to be working in service of the Iranian government. So far, the leaker or leakers have published a collection of the hackers' tools, evidence of their intrusion points for 66 victim organizations across the world, the IP addresses of servers used by Iranian intelligence, and even the identities and photographs of alleged hackers working with the OilRig group.

"We are exposing here the cyber tools (APT34 / OILRIG) that the ruthless Iranian Ministry of Intelligence has been using against Iran's neighboring countries, including names of the cruel managers, and information about the activities and the goals of these cyber-attacks," read the original message posted to Telegram by the hackers in late March. "We hope that other Iranian citizens will act for exposing this regime's real ugly face!"

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft had an anomaly during tests Saturday

April 20, 2019 - 11:30pm

Following a successful demonstration mission of its Crew Dragon spacecraft in March, SpaceX has been preparing that vehicle for a critical launch abort test this summer. During this upcoming test flight, the Dragon will launch from Florida on a Falcon 9 booster before firing its powerful SuperDraco engines to show that the spacecraft can pull itself safely away from the rocket in case of a problem with the booster.

On Saturday, as part of preparations for this abort test, the company experienced some sort of anomaly. According to a company spokesperson: "Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand. Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test. Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners."

It is not immediately clear how significantly this incident will affect SpaceX as it works toward Dragon's first crewed mission, which will carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station. Previously, sources have said that flight could occur by about October under ideal conditions. If the problems were serious, Saturday's accident may substantially delay this schedule—although in the past SpaceX has shown a propensity to rapidly diagnose failures and return to flight quickly, with just 4.5 months of downtime after a rocket failure in September 2016.

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

April 20, 2019 - 4:41pm

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

April 20, 2019 - 3:30pm

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

April 20, 2019 - 3:00pm

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

April 20, 2019 - 2:00pm

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

April 20, 2019 - 1:00pm

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

April 19, 2019 - 11:38pm

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


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