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Dealmaster: Grab another year of PlayStation Plus for $40

Ars Technica - February 20, 2020 - 7:41pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is headed up by a solid discount on a 12-month subscription to Sony's PlayStation Plus service. Typically available between $50-60 online, Newegg has memberships available for $40 with the code "EMCDFFD52" at checkout. Note that the deal applies to digital codes, not physical cards.

PlayStation Plus itself is still needed to play most PS4 games online, and subscribing still nets you access to a couple free titles every month. There hasn't been anything to suggest that Sony's online policy will change with the forthcoming PlayStation 5, so you should be safe to top up regardless of whether your current subscription is running out or you just want to stock up on service time. For reference, these 1-year subscriptions retailed for $45 on Black Friday; while we have seen them available for less than $40 on occasion, those instances have been rare.

If you're not much of a PlayStation fan, though, we also have deals on internal SSDs, Amazon Fire tablets, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, and more. Have a look below for the full rundown.

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Nintendo severely limits save file options for Animal Crossing on Switch

Ars Technica - February 20, 2020 - 7:31pm

Enlarge / You want to move your SAVE file? Forget about it! Use your head, punk!

When it comes to Nintendo's relationship with online services and save-game backups, we feel like a broken record pointing out every time the big N fails to keep up with the competition. But this morning's announcements about a hotly anticipated game—and how it doesn’t play nice with a key feature in Nintendo’s paid Switch Online service—make the sting feel a bit stronger, especially when the company’s line varies depending on where you live.

This morning's Nintendo Direct video presentation was full of exciting details about the gameplay and features in next month's Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Switch. But the presentation also confirmed some details about the game's save file management that will be unwelcome news to anyone who wants to back up their Animal Crossing island or play the game on more than one Switch unit.

Like all Switch games, Animal Crossing: New Horizons won't let players simply copy a save file to an SD card for easy local backup purposes. But New Horizons will also be one of the few games that doesn't even allow unlimited cloud backups if you subscribe to the Nintendo Switch Online service.

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Human activities responsible for more methane emissions than thought

Ars Technica - February 20, 2020 - 7:14pm

Enlarge (credit: David Seibold)

It’s called the “bomb curve”—a drastic spike in the amount of radioactive (but harmless) carbon-14 in the atmosphere, ushered in by the nuclear age. Scientists can sometimes utilize it as a marker in time when it’s captured by something like tree rings, for example. But the bomb curve can also obscure answers by muddying the waters. That includes the question of just how much methane emissions human activities have released.

The bomb curve

Different sources of methane emissions, ranging from plant decay in wetlands to bubbling seeps around mud volcanoes, come with different signatures of carbon isotopes. Geological sources of methane are quite old, giving any carbon-14 plenty of time to radioactively decay and disappear. Carbon in methane from recently alive plant material, on the other hand, will still have about the same amount of carbon-14 we find in the atmosphere (where it is continually produced).

So if the share of carbon-14-bearing methane in the atmosphere were to decrease, you could determine that “old carbon” methane emissions were increasing. The “bomb curve” ruins that trick by introducing a new variable that has nothing to do with categories of methane emissions. And that has made it harder for researchers to figure out how certain natural sources of methane compare to human-caused emissions. We know how much is going into the atmosphere, but we don’t quite know exactly how much of it is our fault.

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As satellite TV tanks, Dish says merger with DirectTV is “inevitable”

Ars Technica - February 20, 2020 - 7:04pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen yesterday said a merger with the AT&T-owned DirecTV is "probably inevitable."

Dish, the second biggest satellite TV company behind DirecTV, lost 194,000 subscribers in Q4 2019 and ended the year with 11.99 million TV customers. That includes 9.4 million satellite TV customers and 2.59 million customers of Sling TV, Dish's online streaming service. The satellite division lost 100,000 subscribers while Sling TV lost 94,000.

On an earnings call yesterday, a financial analyst asked Ergen for his thoughts on a Dish/DirecTV merger, noting that DirecTV is "in increased trouble" and that the US government seems to have "amenability to large-scale transactions."

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A US gas pipeline operator was infected by malware—your questions answered

Ars Technica - February 20, 2020 - 6:53pm


Tuesday’s news that a ransomware infection shut down a US pipeline operator for two days has generated no shortage of questions, not to mention a near-endless stream of tweets.

Some observers and arm-chair incident responders consider the event to be extremely serious. That’s because the debilitating malware spread from the unnamed company’s IT network—where email, accounting, and other business is conducted—to the company’s operational technology, or OT, network, which automatically monitors and controls critical operations carried out by physical equipment that can create catastrophic accidents when things go wrong.

Others said the reaction to the incident was overblown. They noted that, per the advisory issued on Tuesday, the threat actor never obtained the ability to control or manipulate operations, that the plant never lost control of its operations, and that facility engineers deliberately shut down operations in a controlled manner. This latter group also cited evidence that the infection of the plant’s industrial control systems, or ICS, network appeared to be unintentional on the part of the attackers.

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Two passengers from coronavirus-stricken cruise ship die in Japan

Ars Technica - February 20, 2020 - 6:31pm

Enlarge / YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - 2020/02/20: Former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship leave on a chartered bus after spending weeks on board in quarantine. (credit: Getty | SOPA Images)

Two former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship have died in Japan after contracting the new coronavirus as it ran rampant among the 3,711 people on board.

The two deceased passengers were an 87-year-old man and an 84-year-old woman, both Japanese, according to the Japanese health ministry. Local media reported that they had been taken from the ship to hospitals on February 11 and 12. Both had underlying health conditions, according to local media.

The deaths are the first reported from the cruise ship’s COVID-19 outbreak, which has hit 621 confirmed cases since the first case detected February 1. According to local media, 27 others sickened on the ship are in serious condition. Given that preliminary estimates of the disease’s mortality rate in China is around 2 percent, experts at the World Health Organization said Thursday that they were not surprised by the cruise ship deaths.

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Thousands of mobiles and laptops lost by UK government in a year

BBC Technology News - February 20, 2020 - 6:28pm
At least 2,004 government mobiles were lost or stolen in a year, more than a third from the MoD.

Coronavirus cuts Chinese carbon emissions by up to 25 percent

Ars Technica - February 20, 2020 - 6:21pm

Enlarge / A man tends to vegetables in a field as emissions rise from nearby cooling towers of a coal-fired power station in Tongling, Anhui province, China, on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (credit: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Monday, we discussed the possibility that the coronavirus outbreak could interrupt global trade and just-in-time manufacturing, causing car makers to miss ambitious new European carbon emissions regulations. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the virus has had a concrete effect on CO2, and it's surprisingly positive when seen through the lenses of climate change and air pollution.

According to a report in CarbonBrief, the disruption to China's economy has meant that the country has emitted about 25 percent less CO2 into the atmosphere over the past two weeks than it would if businesses were operating as normal. Traditionally, everything shuts in China for the Lunar New Year celebrations, then kicks back into gear a week later.

But not this year. Factories and other businesses have remained shuttered. Coal-use at power plants is at a four-year low. Oil and steel production are both lower than at any point since the Chinese economy suffered a slowdown in 2015. And domestic air travel has been seriously curtailed as the Chinese government attempts to contain the spread of the epidemic. All told, this equates to about 100 million fewer tons of CO2 in the atmosphere, or a 6 percent reduction of global emissions. Assuming that China's economy doesn't get put into overdrive to compensate, that could well mean that we see global CO2 levels remain flat or even possibly decrease slightly by the end of 2020.

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Android 11 Preview hands-on—Notification changes, dark mode options, and more

Ars Technica - February 20, 2020 - 6:11pm

The Android 11 Developer Preview is out, and I've tried it for a few hours. I'm back to report my findings.

To be honest, there are not a lot of user-facing changes in this first preview release. Like the earlier Android 11 post laid out, this is almost entirely API changes with little to see from a UI perspective. Right now, Android 11 looks just like Android 10. Hopefully, Google is just holding back, and we'll see more in future Developer Preview releases.

Android 11

View more stories As for what's here, like we suspected, there is now a "conversations" section of the notification panel that incoming texts and messages end up in. The section is sorted at the very top of the notification panel, above regular notifications and silent notifications. If you long-press on a message notification, you'll get a whole host of options. You can banish a certain type of notification from the "messages" category, show a message as a bubble, "favorite" a person to sort them above every other person, snooze a notification, or mute a notification.

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You can win a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra*

ZDnet Blogs - February 20, 2020 - 5:55pm
Yes, that's right! ZDNet is giving Samsung's newly announced flagship smartphone to one lucky winner. This giveaway ends on Feb. 25, 2020.
Categories: Opinion

Microsoft Has a Subdomain Hijacking Problem

Slashdot - February 20, 2020 - 5:45pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

UK says Russia's GRU behind massive Georgia cyber-attack

BBC Technology News - February 20, 2020 - 5:12pm
The UK Foreign Office said October's attack was designed to undermine Georgia's sovereignty.

The man who can make music with his mind

BBC Technology News - February 20, 2020 - 4:53pm
Academic and electronic musician Bertolt Meyer has hacked into his prosthetic arm and connected it to his synth.

Google Launches Android 11 Developer Preview 1

Slashdot - February 20, 2020 - 4:15pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Lambda School's Misleading Promises

Slashdot - February 20, 2020 - 4:15pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

HTC takes its own magic leap, announces Vive Proton prototype headset

Ars Technica - February 20, 2020 - 4:00pm

Thanks to the cancellation of next week's scheduled Mobile World Congress, tech companies are beginning to come forward with their previously planned MWC announcements. One of those, from HTC's Vive division, mostly revolves around plans to double-down on its consumer-grade Vive Cosmos VR headset. The company has announced three new models of the Cosmos, and each is a spin on the existing Cosmos system, only with new swappable "face plates."

The thing is, we've yet to go hands-on with any of these new versions of the Cosmos, which HTC says it'll remedy soon enough. In the meantime, if we're going to talk about unproven hardware, why not shoot for the moon?

That brings us to HTC's wackiest Thursday announcement: the HTC Vive Proton. This brand-new "prototype" headset system, as pictured above, is built around HTC's belief that "immersive" headset experiences will, for the foreseeable future, be a blend of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. As a result, the Proton is built around this concept of being able to see your real-life environs, with a certain level of 3D content superimposed on top, depending on what a given game or app demands.

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