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Ars Technica
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Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 51 min 57 sec ago

Elon Musk tweet-announces a $78,000 performance Model 3 with all-wheel drive

May 20, 2018 - 5:55pm

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 26: Tesla's new Model 3 car on display is seen on Friday, January 26, 2018, at the Tesla store in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

On Saturday night Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a few announcements via Twitter about new options for the Tesla Model 3. Specifically, the CEO said that in July the Model 3 would be available with options for a dual-motor and all-wheel drive. On a normal Model 3, that addition will come at a cost of $5,000.

Cost of normal dual motor AWD option is $5k. Range is also 310 miles. Takes 0-60mph to 4.5 sec & top speed to 140 mph.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 20, 2018

Musk also announced a "performance" Model 3, which will also have dual-motor, all-wheel drive. That model will cost $78,000. What you get for all that extra cash will be the ability to go 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, with 155 mph top speed and at range of 310 miles. "Cost of all options, wheels, paint, etc is included (apart from Autopilot)," Musk tweeted.

In 2016, Tesla announced similar upgrades for the the Model S and Model X in the P100D version. The Model S P100D offered 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds and a 315-mile range. The Model X had a similar option available, though the heavier car went from 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds and had a 289-mile range. Upgrading those already-pricy cars cost $10,000 at the time. In November 2017, Tesla announced a new Roadster that it says will take 1.9 seconds to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour, with a 620-mile range. That performance vehicle has yet to make it to production.

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Small group of iOS devs form “The Developers Union” to request App Store changes

May 20, 2018 - 2:15pm

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

A small group of developers for Apple platforms has banded together to request new features and policies from Apple, and its members say they have ideas for ways to make it easier to make a living on the platform, Wired reports. They're calling it "The Developers Union," and they launched a website where devs can sign up to share their support of a free trial feature for the app store.

The union has some notable names attached, including Jake Schumacher, director of the documentary App: The Human Story, and NetNewsWire and MarsEdit developer Brent Simmons—along with a product designer named Loren Morris and a software developer named Roger Ogden.

The group says it will start with the free trial push but that it will follow that up with "other community-driven, developer-friendly changes" including a "a more reasonable revenue cut." The starting revenue share is 70-30 in the developers’ favor, presently. Google offers a similar rate, but Microsoft recently announced a cut to its share of revenue to developers' favor.

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Who Is Arthur Chu?: When Jeopardy ended, the real puzzles of online life began

May 20, 2018 - 1:17pm

Trailer for Who Is Arthur Chu?

Some 50-plus years in, Jeopardy’s cultural impact seems definitive. The iconic game show has fans of all sorts: Drake listeners, scholars of classic cinema, local-pub-trivia diehards. It can turn “a software engineer from Salt Lake City” into author/TV personality/quizmaster Ken Jennings or “a bartender from New York” into your parents’ favorite contestant in recent memory.

But not all of the legendary quiz show’s champions enjoy universal adoration, and new documentary Who Is Arthur Chu?debuting on PBS’ America ReFramed this Tuesday, May 22, and available via VOD on June 12 across platforms (including iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon)—looks at this oddly controversial contestant’s first year after becoming an 11-time Jeopardy champion in 2014. If you recognize the name today, it’s likely you’re a Jeopardy diehard with some sort of feeling about Chu’s unusual “Forrest Bounce” strategy, which essentially eschewed going top-down on categories in favor of hunting out Daily Doubles in order to limit an opponent’s big-play ability. The approach seemed to anger the game’s purists and make Chu divisive to the show’s fan community, but that’s a subject destined to be the starting point for some other film.

Who Is Arthur Chu? instead stumbles into a more interesting reality. Post-Jeopardy, Chu had no interest in resting on his new reputation and embracing the trivia lifestyle—rather, he decided to capitalize on his newfound fame and following by using it to fight back against online trolling and hate campaigns in the era of GamerGate and incels. Filmmakers Yu Gu and Scott Drucker, therefore, don’t end up with a behind-the-scenes look at Trebek’s temple; Who Is Arthur Chu? goes on to ask questions that are too complex for even Final Jeopardy.

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Blunder burns unicorn attack that exploited Windows and Reader

May 19, 2018 - 7:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Lisa Cooper / Flickr)

It’s not every day someone develops a malware attack that, with one click, exploits separate zero-day vulnerabilities in two widely different pieces of software. It’s even rarer that a careless mistake burns such a unicorn before it can be used. Researchers say that’s precisely happened to malicious PDF document designed to target unpatched vulnerabilities in both Adobe Reader and older versions of Microsoft Windows.

Modern applications typically contain “sandboxes” and other defenses that make it much harder for exploits to successfully execute malicious code on computers. When these protections work as intended, attacks that exploit buffer overflows and other common software vulnerabilities result in a simple application crash rather than a potentially catastrophic security event. The defenses require attackers to chain together two or more exploits: one executes malicious code, and a separate exploit allows the code to break out of the sandbox.

A security researcher from antivirus provider Eset recently found a PDF document that bypassed these protections when Reader ran on older Windows versions. It exploited a then-unpatched memory corruption vulnerability, known as a double free, in Reader that made it possible to gain a limited ability to read and write to memory. But to install programs, the PDF still needed a way to bypass the sandbox so that the code could run in more sensitive parts of the OS.

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FCC investigates site that let most US mobile phones’ location be exposed

May 19, 2018 - 4:15pm

Enlarge / Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), as seen on April 18, 2018. (credit: New America / Flickr)

The Federal Communications Commission has taken preliminary steps to examine the actions of LocationSmart, a southern California company that has suddenly found itself under intense public and government scrutiny for allowing most American cell phones’ locations to be easily accessed.

As Ars reported Thursday, LocationSmart identifies the locations of phones connected to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, often to an accuracy of a few hundred yards, reporter Brian Krebs said. While the firm claims it provides the location-lookup service only for legitimate and authorized purposes, Krebs reported that a demo tool on the LocationSmart website could be used by just about anyone to surreptitiously track the real-time whereabouts of just about anyone else.

"I can confirm the matter has been referred to the Enforcement Bureau," wrote FCC spokesman Neil Grace in a Friday afternoon email to Ars.

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A dozen years after near-death, Star Trek’s future may be stronger than ever

May 19, 2018 - 3:00pm

On May 13, 2005, Star Trek: Enterprise ended its four-season run with the controversial two-part finale, “These Are the Voyages… ” The finale infamously brought in cast members from The Next Generation to tell the final chapter in Enterprise’s story, and it was viewed by some as a disrespectful and ignominious end to 18 almost-unbroken years of Trek on the small screen.

Generously put, many fans considered this a low point in the franchise’s history. With Enterprise, some fans blamed the anemic finale on the series’ often-uneven writing. Others blamed Rick Berman, who had been Star Trek’s Nerd-in-Chief since Gene Roddenberry’s passing in 1991. And still others blamed the rise of “darker” and more heavily serialized sci-fi fare like Battlestar Galactica (although BSG showrunner Ron Moore first dabbled in this style, largely successfully, in the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine).

But no matter who or what was to blame, Trekkies everywhere were suddenly in an odd position—left to wonder if the universe they’d come to know and love for almost four decades would make it to its 50th birthday. Star Trek was off the airwaves with no successor series waiting in the wings for the first time since 1987. And for some salt in the wound, it had even been three years since the last TNG-cast film, Nemesis, which had been poorly received by most fans and critics. (Its predecessor, Insurrection, hadn’t fared much better.)

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Peek at LEGO’s upcoming sets: Star Wars crafts, Hogwarts, Ninjago city, and more

May 19, 2018 - 1:00pm

Valentina Palladino

NEW YORK—Upon walking into a gray, bricked-facade gallery in Manhattan's Chelsea area, color immediately flooded my eyes. LEGO chose an unassuming location to show off some of the more than 100 new sets coming out in time for the 2018 holiday season. The company literally took the blank canvas of the gallery's interior and splashed it with colorful bricks, some waiting patiently in buckets begging to be dumped out and some built into magical express trains, massive starfighters, and working roller coaster replicas.

As an avid LEGO fan for years (I had my father's old LEGO bricks to play with as a kid), I'm always struck by the hundreds of new sets that come out each year. According to Amanda Madore, senior brand relations manager at LEGO, the company constantly tries to spice things up in new sets with various levels of intricacy. While some builders are perfectly content sitting down for a few hours with a 1,000-piece set, others want a burst of building that's just as fun and yields almost instant gratification. Also, some fans can't afford to drop hundreds on a huge LEGO set and that's where new forms like Brick Headz come in.

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Cambridge Analytica files for bankruptcy amidst “siege” of negative attention

May 18, 2018 - 10:37pm

Enlarge / A view of 597 5th Ave, where the New York City office of Cambridge Analytica is on the 7th floor, May 2, 2018 in New York City. (credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Cambridge Analytica LLC, the American arm of the London-based data analytics firm of the same name, filed for bankruptcy in federal court in New York on Friday.

The company submitted a voluntary formal petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy—liquidation. That document reveals the company has between $1 and $10 million in debt with very little assets. On May 2, SCL Elections Ltd. and its other British affiliates filed similar "insolvency" documents with UK authorities.

It was revealed last month that a 2014 survey app created at the behest of Cambridge Analytica required Facebook login credentials and provided the survey creator access to their friends' public profile data. In the end, this system captured data from 87 million Facebook users. This data trove wound up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, the British data analytics firm, which worked with clients like the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

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Utilities, Tesla appeal federal rollback of auto emissions standards

May 18, 2018 - 10:20pm

Enlarge / Charging at night. (credit: Jordan Golson)

A coalition of utilities and electric vehicle makers, including Tesla, filed a petition with a US Federal Appeals Court to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider its recent work to roll back auto emissions standards.

In April, the EPA said that it would relax greenhouse gas emissions standards that had been put in place for model year 2022-2025 vehicles.

One of the first actions that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took when he assumed office in 2017 was to start the process of rolling back passenger vehicle greenhouse gas standards for automakers. The standards had been made official late in the Obama presidency, but the Trump administration claimed that the standards were too burdensome for automakers to adhere to. Automakers agreed, despite having been party to years of negotiations with the previous EPA to determine what was technically and economically possible from a fuel efficiency standpoint.

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A perfect time for Fahrenheit 451 remakes; HBO’s version falls short

May 18, 2018 - 8:35pm

Enlarge / Do you get it? It's the temperature at which a book burns. (credit: Michael Gibson / HBO)

Warning: This post contains minor spoilers for HBO's Fahrenheit 451.

Media and entertainment have been stripped of thought and reduced to quick dopamine hits. Societal norms—whether that means popular thought or preferred means of communication—have been siloed in order to eventually be streamlined. And ever-present government surveillance watches over all of it, ensuring any resistance or counter-initiatives get ignored, eventually squashed, and ultimately presented to the public as another flawless victory.

No, technically that doesn’t describe America 2018. But the world of HBO’s new Fahrenheit 451 film adaptation (debuting this Saturday, May 19) doesn’t look unrecognizable. Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel has become a staple in grade school English curriculums for its futuristic yet timeless portrayal of things like government overreach, censorship, and the importance of diverse culture and thought. So adding details like ever-present interactive screens or bot voice assistants to both the real world and this fictional one only heightens this story’s inherent sense of relevance.

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Clean air, water on voters’ agenda, but not Congress’

May 18, 2018 - 6:45pm

Enlarge / Congressman Mo Brooks wanted to know if scientists were including the influence of rocks falling into the ocean when they calculated sea level rise.

A poll came out this week indicating that huge majorities of the US public think that the federal government isn't doing enough to protect the environment. About 70 percent would like to see more action on clean water, and more than two-thirds would like to see additional steps taken on climate change. While there are some partisan divides regarding the right actions to take, most members of both parties would like to see expanded use of solar and wind power.

All of which provides a backdrop to the truly bizarre spectacle that took place in a hearing held by the House Science Committee this week. In a hearing meant to focus on technological solutions to climate change (like the hugely popular wind and solar), Republican members of the committee decided to once again raise questions about whether humans were influencing the warming climate, with one Congressman suggesting that the warming-driven rise in our oceans might instead be caused by rocks falling into the seas.

Some numbers

The poll comes courtesy of the Pew Research Center, which obtained the opinions of more than 2,500 US adults. Despite a steady stream of rhetoric about the government overstepping its bounds, fewer than 10 percent felt that the US is doing too much to protect air, water, animals, and wilderness. Only 13 percent felt this way about climate change. By contrast, substantial majorities (from 57 to 69 percent, depending on the issue) thought that the government wasn't doing enough.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 gameplay world premiere: Pixar’s magic even works on RPGs

May 18, 2018 - 4:19pm

Enlarge / This is not a pre-rendered cut scene. This is how Pixar-perfect Kingdom Hearts 3 looks in the middle of its zany action-RPG battles. (credit: Square Enix / Disney-Pixar)

SANTA MONICA, California—Through Japanese interpreters, the director and co-director of Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts series introduced the first-ever playable version of Kingdom Hearts 3 by talking about the series' legacy. In particular, the duo, clad in Mickey Mouse-logo shirts, said they expected people to dive into older games and spinoffs in the 16-year JRPG series based on the quality and scope of this major new sequel.

I sighed.

From my admitted outsider perspective, Kingdom Hearts is two things: an action-RPG series that injected speed and Disney cuteness into Squaresoft's sluggish early-'00s period... and a mess of confusing plots and spin-off games that combine underwhelming mechanics and nonsensical developments to make my head spin. Nothing could make me want to rewind time and relive that uneven Kingdom history, I thought.

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NASA asks for Europa lander science experiments—and that’s a big deal

May 18, 2018 - 2:59pm

Plumes of water vapor on Europa? A lander could tell us much more. (credit: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI)

NASA is in various stages of planning two multi-billion dollar missions to Jupiter's intriguing, ice-covered moon of Europa. One, a flyby mission known as the Europa Clipper, will make dozens of passes of the moon down to an altitude of about 25km as it assesses the nature of the ice and the ocean below and looks for clues of habitability. A second even more ambitious mission would seek to actually land on Europa, sample its ice, and look for signs of life.

Both missions, but especially the lander, would be among the most complex, daring, and costly planetary science missions that NASA has attempted. However, both the Clipper and lander are not equally likely to occur. The Clipper is more established. It has been progressing through NASA's multi-tiered review process and has a launch date of 2022. In the president's budget request for fiscal year 2019, it also received $265 million in funding.

The lander mission has always seemed more tenuous, partly because it represents such a breathtaking challenge to land on an icy moon so far away—a nightmare glacier that is irradiated by nearby Jupiter and where the creaky surface rises and falls. In terms of complexity, the Europa Clipper spacecraft has a mass of about 6 tons, and the lander spacecraft will probably end up with a mass of about 16 tons.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 world’s first hands-on: Tight core, tons of questions

May 18, 2018 - 12:15pm

Enlarge / Treyarch's David Vonderhaar (left) and Dan Bunting speak at the CoDBLOPS4 reveal event. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

LOS ANGELES—"Treyarch has never shied away from breaking away from convention." With those words, studio chairman Mark Lamia kicked off a Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 reveal event full of noisy videos and noisier boasts, but the studio didn't have a ton to show for its ambitious words.

The speech failed to reveal any revolutionary or paradigm-shifting content—like real-gameplay proof of advances in the series' "Zombies" mode or any footage of how its upcoming battle royale twists will "spin [the genre] on its head." (The event also, if you missed it, confirmed a Call of Duty first: no single-player campaign.)

For now, the most optimism we can muster about Black Ops 4 comes from an hour-long team-combat session that followed the presser. The short takeaway from our world-premiere hands-on is that Activision has gotten some Overwatch in its CoD—and the results feel smoother (and, honestly, more conventional) in action than you might think.

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Elon Musk talks proof-of-concept tunnel parallel to the 405 in Los Angeles

May 18, 2018 - 5:58am

Enlarge / Elon Musk speaking to a crowd in Los Angeles

On Thursday evening in Los Angeles, Tesla, SpaceX, and Boring Company CEO Elon Musk laid out plans for The Boring Company to start building longer tunnels under the city. The first step? A 2.7 mile north-south test tunnel parallel to one of the city's most congested freeways, the 405. This test tunnel won't carry the general public, but The Boring Company does intend to do test rides to get user feedback eventually.

The company has buy-in from LA Metro, the city's public transportation provider. In a short, tweeted statement Thursday evening, LA Metro announced: "Metro leadership and CEO Phil Washington had a great meeting today with the talented staff of the @boring_company. They will coordinate with us as they move ahead with their proof of concept tunnel under Sepulveda Boulevard to ensure it doesn't interfere with our Sepulveda Transit Corridor rail project. We'll be partners moving forward."

(The Sepulveda Transit Corridor is in preliminary stages and could be a public transportation route linking the San Fernando Valley and LAX).

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North Korea-tied hackers used Google Play and Facebook to infect defectors

May 18, 2018 - 1:40am


Researchers said a team of hackers tied to North Korea recently managed to get the Google Play market to host at least three Android apps designed to surreptitiously steal personal information from defectors of the isolated nation.

The three apps first appeared in the official Android marketplace in January and weren’t removed until March when Google was privately notified. That’s according to a blog post published Thursday by researchers from security company McAfee. Two apps masqueraded as security apps, and a third purported to provide information about food ingredients. Hidden functions caused them to steal device information and allow them to receive additional executable code that stole personal photos, contact lists, and text messages.

The apps were spread to selected individuals, in many cases by contacting them over Facebook. The apps had about 100 downloads when Google removed them. Nation-operated espionage campaigns frequently infect a small number of carefully selected targets and keep the number small in an attempt to remain undetected. Thursday’s report is the latest to document malicious apps that bypassed Google filters designed to keep bad wares out of the Play market.

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The next Halo game will require no less than a 130-inch, 4K arcade cabinet

May 18, 2018 - 1:01am

As pre-E3 hype ramps up, fans have reason to anticipate new sequels and entries from their favorite game series. Today brings a surprise announcement of a brand-new Halo game—the kind of news you might expect as an E3-keynote surprise.

There's almost certainly a reason this news is coming today as opposed to the middle of the E3 rush: it's not a traditional Halo first-person shooter, and it's not even coming to console. The new Halo: Fireteam Raven is an arcade-exclusive light-gun shooter, coming "this summer" exclusively to Dave & Busters arcades in the United States and Canada. (Other arcade chains will get a crack at the massive arcade game "later this year.")

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All of’s alleged co-owners arrested on extortion charges

May 18, 2018 - 12:50am

Thomas Keesee (left) and Sahar Sarid (right) were arrested in Florida on Wednesday and await extradition to California. (credit: Palm Beach Sheriff's Office / Broward Sheriffs' Office)

Two alleged owners of—Sahar Sarid and Thomas Keesee—have been arrested in south Florida on a recently issued California warrant. The notorious website publishes mugshots and then demands payment for their removal.

On Wednesday, the attorney general of California brought criminal charges against not only Sarid and Keesee, but also Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie and David Usdan. The quartet has been charged with extortion, money laundering, and identity theft.

Bhavnanie was arraigned by a Pennsylvania state judge also on Wednesday—his bail was reportedly set at $1.86 million. According to Tania Mercado, a spokeswoman for the California Attorney General's office, Usdan is also in custody.

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Website leaked real-time location of most US cell phones to almost anyone

May 17, 2018 - 10:20pm

Enlarge / An image from the LocationSmart website. (credit: LocationSmart)

A little-known service has been leaking the real-time locations of US cell phone users to anyone who takes the time to exploit an easily spotted bug in a free trial feature, security news site KrebsOnSecurity reported Thursday.

LocationSmart, as the service is known, identifies the locations of phones connected to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, often to an accuracy of a few hundred yards, reporter Brian Krebs said. While the firm claims it provides the location lookup service only for legitimate and authorized purposes, Krebs reported that a demo tool on the LocationSmart website could be used by just about anyone to surreptitiously track the real-time whereabouts of just about anyone else.

The tool was billed as a demonstration prospective customers could use to see the approximate location of their own mobile device. It required interested people to enter their name, email address, and phone number into a Web form. LocationSmart would then text the phone number and request permission to query the cellular network tower closest to the device. It didn’t take long for Robert Xiao, a security researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, to find a way to work around the authorization requirement.

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We went to drive the new Ford Mustang—but a tornado messed things up

May 17, 2018 - 8:21pm

Jonathan Gitlin

In April, Ford dropped a bombshell on us, announcing that it's going to cull almost its entire car lineup from the US market to concentrate on SUVs and crossovers. Not the Mustang, though. The Blue Oval's sedans might not be selling well, but that's not the case for its sports car, which has topped the sales charts for the coupe market for the third year in a row. On Wednesday, Ford invited us up to Monticello Motor Club in New York to try out the latest flavor of pony car, the Mustang Performance Pack 2. Think of it as the ultimate all-'round Mustang—a better daily driver than the hardcore Shelby GT350 but with almost all of that car's ability on track.

Long-time readers will know that I rarely pass up an opportunity to visit a racetrack. That goes double if there's some seat time involved—triple if someone else is paying for fuel and tires. Which is why I didn't mind too much about the need to catch a 3:10am train from DC up to Manhattan, necessary to be there in time for the shuttle leaving for the track. (Being frugal with my travel budget, I wanted to avoid a night in a hotel.)

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