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Apple's new AirPods have Siri built-in

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 4:45pm
The new earphones also have longer battery life and a chip that can better maintain a wireless connection.

The EU fines Google $1.69 billion for bundling search and advertising

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 4:25pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Google and the EU's European Commission are making all sorts of announcements lately. Fresh off the revelation that Google would implement a browser and search-engine picker in EU-sold Android devices, Google's advertising division is getting slapped with a fine next, to the tune of €1.5 billion ($1.69 billion). The European Commission's latest antitrust ruling says that Google's bundling of its advertising platform with its custom search engine program is anti-competitive toward other ad providers.

The particular wing of Google's advertising empire the Commission is concerned with here is "AdSense for Search." Adsense for Search does not refer to the famous ads above Google.com search results but, instead, are ads displayed in "Custom Search" results that can be embedded inside their websites. We have a version of this on Ars—just click the magnifying glass in the top navigation bar and search for something. You won't leave Ars Technica; instead you'll get a customized version of Google Search embedded in arstechnica.com, complete with Google Ads above the results. These are the "Adsense for Search" ads, and they are different from Google.com ads. The European Commission's ruling is all about these "ads for custom search engines."

The European Commission provided this helpful graphic of Google's custom search ad practices. (credit: European Commission)

The European Commission reviewed "hundreds" of Google advertising contracts and found a range of behavior from Google's Ad division that it deemed anti-competitive. First, from 2006 to 2009, Google ads had to exclusively be shown on pages with Google custom search engines. You weren't allowed to do something like use Google to crawl your site and then show Yahoo ads above the embedded results.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

NZ declares massacre video “objectionable,” arrests people who shared it

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 4:06pm

Enlarge / CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 18: Youngsters perform a Haka during a students vigil near Al Noor mosque on March 18, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (credit: Carl Court | Getty Images)

The United States is unusual in offering near-absolute protection for free speech under the First Amendment. Most other countries—even liberal democracies—have more extensive systems of online and offline censorship. That difference has been on display this week as New Zealand authorities have begun prosecuting people for sharing copies of last week's white supremacist mass shooting in Christchurch and for posting hate speech in the wake of the attack.

New Zealand Chief Censor David Shanks has determined that the 17-minute video livestreamed during the Christchurch shooting is objectionable under New Zealand law. "It is a record of a terrorist atrocity, specifically produced for the purpose of promoting a hateful terrorist agenda," a press release from New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification states.

Distributing objectionable materials online comes with stiff legal penalties. One man—the 44-year-old owner of an insulation company with alleged neo-Nazi sympathies—has been arrested and charged with two counts of distributing objectionable materials in violation of New Zealand's Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act. He is being held without bail and could be sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison for each offense.

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Oculus Quest’s powerful, portable VR, as proven by the fun of Beat Saber

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 4:00pm

Enlarge / Beat Saber on Oculus Quest is real, and it's pretty great in action. (credit: Oculus / Beat Games)

SAN FRANCISCO—We're not sure what exactly is up with Oculus this week, but it's on a roll. Today sees the VR company not only launch a brand-new PC-only headset, the Oculus Rift S, but also promote another headset launching around the same time: Oculus Quest.

While Rift S streamlines an existing Oculus product line—as in, wired VR that requires a PC—Oculus Quest (which was announced late last year) pushes forward with an entirely new combination of wirelessness and "six degrees of freedom" tracking (6DOF). We were excited about how solid Oculus Quest was after our first hands-on session last year, but we still found ourselves asking if the release product would be good enough to stand on its own.

That might be why Oculus asked us to carve out some Quest demo time during its Rift S event. And we're glad we did. Because if you want reasons to be excited by Oculus Quest's possibilities, you should start with the excellent, satisfying game that left us breathless (figuratively and literally) at GDC: Beat Saber.

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Hands-on with the new $399 Oculus Rift S: More pixels, zero webcams, better fit

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 4:00pm

Enlarge / Behold, the Oculus Rift S, the VR company's newest wired PC headset produced by Lenovo. From this angle, you can see four of its five built-in sensing cameras, including two in the front, two on the sides (slightly pointing down), and an upward-facing sensor. (credit: Kyle Orland)

SAN FRANCISCO—One thing was conspicuously missing from the Oculus demos at GDC 2019: cameras.

You need at least two (if not three) of the company's signature webcams to run its PC headset, the Oculus Rift. Those cameras are not great. They come with funky, oversized stands. They're not as effective at sensing a headset as the HTC Vive's "dumb" infrared boxes. And they must be plugged into a PC, which creates a certain kind of cord hell and requires a PC with plenty of spare USB 3.0 slots.

So, as we filed into this week's demo center of mock "living room" spaces, complete with VR headsets, the lack of Oculus cameras was apparent. Indeed, it was a statement.

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Kickstarter's Staff Is Unionizing

Slashdot - March 20, 2019 - 3:45pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Apple’s updated AirPods are here, cost $199 with new wireless charging case

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 3:16pm

Enlarge / Apple AirPods.

After announcing new iPads and iMacs earlier this week, Apple has released details about its next-generation AirPods. The new wireless earbuds, which are available for preorder today starting at $159, come with an updated, Apple-designed chip, more battery life, and "Hey Siri" voice-command support. Apple also debuted a new wireless charging case for AirPods that can be charged with any Qi wireless charger.

We didn't expect Apple to radically redesign the AirPods this time around, and they look nearly identical to the previous model. Inside, however, is a new H1 chip that Apple designed specifically for headphones. The company claims the new chip will provide up to 50 percent more talk time than previous models, faster connect times when switching between iPhone, iPad, and other Apple host devices, and general performance improvements.

The new H1 chip also lets AirPods listen for the "Hey Siri" voice command. Previously, users had to touch the side of one AirPod before speaking a command to Siri, Apple's virtual assistant. Now, users can just say the waking command before asking Siri to do things like adjust the volume, play a different song, and more.

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Facebook settles job discrimination case

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 3:13pm
The social media giant bans targeting ads for jobs, accommodation or credit on the basis of gender, age or postcode.

Google will implement a Microsoft-style browser picker for EU Android devices

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 2:16pm

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager during one of the Google antitrust announcements. (credit: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

Back in 2009, the EU's European Commission said Microsoft was harming competition by bundling its browser—Internet Explorer—with Windows. Eventually Microsoft and the European Commission settled on the "browser ballot," a screen that would pop up and give users a choice of browsers. Almost 10 years later, the tech industry is going through this again, this time with Google and the EU. After receiving "feedback" from the European Commission, Google announced last night that it would offer Android users in the EU a choice of browsers and search engines.

In July, the European Commission found Google had violated the EU's antitrust rules by bundling Google Chrome and Google Search with Android, punishing manufacturers that shipped Android forks, and paying manufacturers for exclusively pre-installing Google Search. Google was fined a whopping $5.05 billion (€4.34 billion) (which is it appealing) and then the concessions started. Google said its bundling of Search and Chrome funded the development and free distribution of Android, so any manufacturer looking to ship Android with unbundled Google apps would now be charged a fee. Reports later pegged this amount as up to $40 per handset.

This was how Microsoft did a Windows browser ballot back in 2010. (credit: Peter Bright)

Android is a free and open source operating system, so Google's control over Android is derived from the Google apps. Anyone can take the core Android package and distribute it without Google's involvement, but if they want access to the millions of apps on the Google Play Store, they will need to get a license from Google. It's the same story with killer apps like Google Maps, Search, Gmail, and YouTube. Android is free (as in speech); the Google apps are not. Previously, shipping Android without the Google apps—"forking" Android—would mean expulsion from the Google ecosystem. Google was forced to lift this restriction as part of the EU concessions, and now manufacturers can simultaneously ship forked Android and Google Android on different devices.

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Microsoft angers ex-Windows boss: Halting Office 365 sync on his new iPhone is 'crazy'

ZDnet Blogs - March 20, 2019 - 1:59pm
An apparent test at Microsoft to boost Outlook app installs has really riled former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky.
Categories: Opinion

Hardware is hard: The tech products that fooled or failed us

ZDnet Blogs - March 20, 2019 - 1:52pm
The tech history books are littered with the corpses of products that died on the vine. But there's a special sort of gadget or technology that on the face of it looks like it has what it takes to take the world by storm, only to fall flat on its face.
Categories: Opinion

Fake news: The tech products that fooled or failed us

ZDnet Blogs - March 20, 2019 - 1:52pm
The tech history books are littered with the corpses of products that died on the vine. But there's a special sort of gadget or technology that on the face of it looks like it has what it takes to take the world by storm, only to fall flat on its face.
Categories: Opinion

More mid-range Google Pixel rumors include updated specs, OLED display

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 1:30pm

It's amazing that, despite originally hitting the rumor mill almost a full year ago and putting out pictures four months ago, Google's mid-range Pixel phone is still the subject of rumors. The latest report comes from 9to5Google, which has a new round of specs.

Just like with the flagship lineup, there are two phone sizes in Google's supposedly-launching-someday mid-range lineup. What exactly these devices will be called is still up in the air. These devices have had the codename "Bonito" and "Sargo," and the rumor mill has referred to the consumer names as "Pixel 3 Lite" and "Pixel 3 XL Lite" in the past. As discovered by XDA, though, the recent Android Q Beta is calling Bonito and Sargo the "Pixel 3a" and "Pixel 3a XL." The names are not quite as bad as "LG V50 ThinQ 5G." But they're still pretty wordy.

9to5Google says the smaller "Pixel 3a" has a 2220×1080 5.6-inch screen, while the bigger "Pixel 3a XL" has a 6-inch screen of unspecified resolution. One important bit of news is that the site claims the display technology is actually OLED instead of the LCD tech that previous rumors have claimed. The report says the Pixel 3a has a Snapdragon 670, 4GB of RAM, a 3000mAh battery, a USB-C port, and again reiterates that the camera is identical to the industry-leading camera on the premium Pixels. The Pixel 3a XL likely has similar specs, of course with a bigger battery.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Guidemaster: The best Windows ultrabooks you can buy right now

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Buyers looking for premium Windows laptops today have plenty of choices; every few months sees some splashy launch of a new high-end PC. Ultrabooks have become the standard design for most premium Windows laptops, and they represent the best of what companies like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft have to offer in terms of design, power, and innovation.

If you're looking for a thin-and-light laptop that's still powerful enough to handle work and play with ease—and doesn't run macOS—a Windows ultrabook is what you want. But not all ultrabooks are created equal. That's why Ars has tested some of the most popular Windows laptops to see which are worthy for consideration as your next high-end notebook.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

Read 54 remaining paragraphs | Comments

People brought food from all over Britain to feast near Stonehenge

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 12:30pm

Enlarge / Feasts at nearby Durrington Walls drew attendees from all over Britain. (credit: Stefan Kühn / Wikimedia)

The remnants of prehistoric monuments still dot the modern British landscape. Around 4,500 years ago, people gathered at these sites or in nearby communities for annual winter feasts where the main delicacy on the menu was pork. Chemical analysis of the pig bones left behind after feasts at four major henge sites in southern Britain reveals a surprisingly far-flung network of Neolithic travel.

This little piggy went to Stonehenge...

Mount Pleasant Henge is a stone circle about 70km (44 miles) southwest of Stonehenge, near the coast of the English Channel. West Kennet Palisaded Enclosures is a set of circular ditches and palisades near the famous stone circle at Avebury, about 39km (24 miles) north of Stonehenge, while Marden Henge, between Avebury and Stonehenge, is a 14-hectare site surrounded by ditches and embankments that once held its own circle of standing stones. Durrington Walls, a large settlement (which eventually built its own stone circle) just 3km (1.86 miles) northeast of Stonehenge, was closely linked with the iconic monument itself.

"Stonehenge is for the dead, Durrington Walls for the living: the place of the builders of Stonehenge and the places of Stonehenge's feasts," archaeologist Richard Madgwick of Cardiff University told Ars Technica. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of ancient feasting at all four sites: broken ceramics, discarded stone tools, and the bones of butchered pigs. Those 4,500-year-old leftovers suggest that these sites were hubs linking a Neolithic social network that connected far-flung communities from Scotland to Wales.

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Google tweaks search after EU competition scrutiny

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 11:56am
Rival companies' price comparison results will be displayed more prominently thanks to the changes.

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