Steven Spielberg’s production company signs multifilm deal with Netflix

A smiling older man in a open-collared suit.

Enlarge / Filmmaker Steven Spielberg appears at 2017’s Comic-Con. (credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Amblin Partners, the production company founded and chaired by director and producer Steven Spielberg, has signed a multiyear deal with streaming platform Netflix.

In a press release on Netflix’s website, the two companies announced that the partnership will result in “multiple new feature films per year.”

Some might see it as an unexpected turn from Spielberg’s company, given the director’s past stances on streaming movies. Two years ago, an Amblin spokesperson publicly announced that Spielberg intended to support changes to the Academy Awards that would reclassify Netflix films as TV movies, ineligible for Oscars like Best Picture.

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#amblin, #amblin-partners, #movies, #netflix, #steven-spielberg, #streaming, #tech

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The ISRG wants to make the Linux kernel memory-safe with Rust

Rust coats a pipe in an industrial construction site.

Enlarge / No, not that kind of Rust. (credit: Heritage Images via Getty Images)

The Internet Security Research Group—parent organization of the better-known Let’s Encrypt project—has provided prominent developer Miguel Ojeda with a one-year contract to work on Rust in Linux and other security efforts on a full-time basis.

What’s a Rust for Linux?

As we covered in March, Rust is a low-level programming language offering most of the flexibility and performance of C—the language used for kernels in Unix and Unix-like operating systems since the 1970s—in a safer way.

Efforts to make Rust a viable language for Linux kernel development began at the 2020 Linux Plumbers conference, with acceptance for the idea coming from Linus Torvalds himself. Torvalds specifically requested Rust compiler availability in the default kernel build environment, to support such efforts—not to replace the entire source code of the Linux kernel with Rust-developed equivalents, but to make it possible for new development to work properly.

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#isrg, #lets-encrypt, #linux, #rust, #tech

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Connecting to malicious Wi-Fi networks can mess with your iPhone

Close-up photo of Wi-Fi settings on a smartphone.

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

There’s a bug in iOS that disables Wi-Fi connectivity when devices join a network that uses a booby-trapped name, a researcher disclosed over the weekend.

By connecting to a Wi-Fi network that uses the SSID “%p%s%s%s%s%n” (quotation marks not included), iPhones and iPads lose the ability to join that network or any other networks going forward, reverse engineer Carl Schou reported on Twitter.

It didn’t take long for trolls to capitalize on the finding:

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#apple, #biz-it, #bugs, #ios, #operating-systems, #tech, #wi-fi, #wifi

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Texans regret opting into power plan that remotely raises thermostat temps

Close-up of woman’s hand adjusting air conditioning setting on thermostat.

Enlarge (credit: Grace Cary / Getty Images)

Some Texas residents who opted into programs that remotely raise thermostat temperatures during heat waves regretted that decision last week.

Power companies in multiple states offer promotions to enroll users into services that let the companies remotely adjust smart thermostats’ temperatures by a few degrees when energy demand is high. These programs apparently worked as intended during a heat wave in which the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) requested that thermostats be set at 78°F (26°C) or higher to cut electricity use. But some residents who didn’t realize what they’d signed up for were taken by surprise, according to local news reports.

Deer Park resident Brandon English said his wife and their daughters, including a 3-month-old, “woke up sweating” after an afternoon nap during which their thermostat had been remotely raised to 78°, according to a KHOU story on Thursday. English said he unenrolled the family’s thermostat from the program after discovering that it was being operated remotely.

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#ecobee, #nest, #policy, #smart-thermostat, #texas

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CentOS replacement distro Rocky Linux’s first general release is out

Rocky Linux 8.4 (Green Obsidian) is bug-for-bug compatible with RHEL 8.4 and should serve admirably as a CentOS Linux replacement.

Enlarge / Rocky Linux 8.4 (Green Obsidian) is bug-for-bug compatible with RHEL 8.4 and should serve admirably as a CentOS Linux replacement. (credit: RESF)

Rocky Linux—one of at least two new distributions created to fill the void left when CentOS Linux was discontinued by parent corporation Red Hat—announced general availability of Rocky Linux 8.4 today. Rocky Linux 8.4 is binary-compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.4, making it possible to run apps designed and tested only for RHEL without RHEL itself.

Bug-for-bug, not just feature-for-feature

One of the questions we’ve gotten repeatedly since first covering CentOS Linux’s deprecation is “why not just use [my favorite distro]?” Linux and BSD users tend to be so accustomed to the same software working on multiple distributions, with similar package names and installation procedures, that they forget what using and installing proprietary software is frequently like.

Rocky Linux and competitor AlmaLinux (which released its own binary-compatible RHEL 8.4 clone in March) aren’t simply “Linux distros” or even “Linux distros which closely resemble RHEL.” They’re built from the same source code as RHEL 8.4, which guarantees that a wide array of proprietary software designed with nothing but RHEL 8.4 in mind will “just work,” regardless of how obscure a feature (or bug!) those packages depend upon in RHEL 8.4 might be.

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#centos, #centos-stream, #linux, #linux-distributions, #rocky-linux, #tech

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We pee or flush drugs into waterways—does that matter to aquatic life?

Image of a crayfish crawling.

Enlarge (credit: National Park Service)

When people flush their old prescription (or off-prescription) drugs, the compounds invariably make their way into the waters nearby. The same is true even when people using these chemicals urinate them into the sewage system. Once there, these compounds—from prozac to cocaine—can end up in the bodies of aquatic creatures. And, research suggests, the chemicals can impact them: birth control, for instance, affects frog breeding after it enters the water.

We metabolize many of the drugs we take, and water treatment plants remove some of rest. But some concentration can still remain as the water is released to the surrounding lakes and streams.

So far, there’s not been much research into how, if at all, other drugs like cocaine and various opioids, affect aquatic life—but scientists say negative effects are not wholly impossible. And there is now some evidence that at least some classification of drugs do cause trouble. New research suggests that a common antidepressant, citalopram, can change the behavior of crayfish, making them bolder than they would be otherwise.

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#animal-behavior, #antidepressants, #crayfish, #fentanyl, #pharmaceutical, #science, #shrimp, #waste-water

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Even creepier COVID tracking: Google silently pushed app to users’ phones

Even creepier COVID tracking: Google silently pushed app to users’ phones

(credit: MA Department of Public Health)

Over the weekend, Google and the state of Massachusetts managed to make creepy COVID tracking apps even creepier by automatically installing them on people’s Android phones. Numerous reports on Reddit, Hacker News, and in-app reviews claim that “MassNotify,” Massachusetts’ COVID tracking app, silently installed on their Android device without user consent.

Google gave the following statement to 9to5Google, and the company does not deny silently installing an app.

We have been working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to allow users to activate the Exposure Notifications System directly from their Android phone settings. This functionality is built into the device settings and is automatically distributed by the Google Play Store, so users don’t have to download a separate app. COVID-19 Exposure Notifications are enabled only if a user proactively turns it on. Users decide whether to enable this functionality and whether to share information through the system to help warn others of possible exposure.

Google’s statement doesn’t really address the issue of auto-installing an app without asking. The “functionality” of COVID exposure-tracking apps are built into Google Play Services as an API that government apps can use for their tracking initiatives and can be “automatically distributed by the Google Play Store.”

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#tech

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Planes, trains, but not automobiles—why GM is developing fuel cells

Using hydrogen in some of these applications probably makes more sense than building out a network of hydrogen filling stations for passenger cars.

Enlarge / Using hydrogen in some of these applications probably makes more sense than building out a network of hydrogen filling stations for passenger cars. (credit: Scharfsinn86/Getty Images)

In just the last week, General Motors signed agreements with not one but two companies to develop applications for its Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell systems. At first glance, that might seem a little surprising, since last week we also saw Honda discontinue its hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of the Clarity. That move was just the latest bit of support for the hypothesis that hydrogen power might join Betamax and the Zune in the history books.

In fact, the history books are where you’ll find GM’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, the 1966 Electrovan. And in recent years we’ve seen some fuel cell EVs developed by GM for military applications. But neither of these new deals involves making a hydrogen-powered car.

Instead, last Tuesday the automaker announced it would work with Wabtec—which has already developed a battery-electric locomotive—to engineer freight locomotives powered by GM’s fuel cells and batteries. Then, on Thursday, GM revealed it was working with Liebherr-Aerospace to develop aerospace applications (like auxiliary power generation) for fuel cells. Intrigued, I spoke to Charlie Freese, GM’s executive director for Global Hydrotec and the man in charge of GM’s fuel cell program. Why does the company still think the lightest gas only has room to expand?

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#airplanes, #cars, #fcev, #general-motors, #gm, #h2, #hydrogen, #hydrogen-fuel-cell, #hydrotec, #trains, #trucks

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A range of good Garmin smartwatches and Fitbits on sale for Prime Day

he Garmin vivomove luxe on a user's wrist with the screen on, showing heart rate next to the watch hands.

Enlarge / Garmin’s Vivomove series. (credit: Corey Gaskin / Ars Technica)

As we continue digging, we found some Ars-recommended fitness trackers among Prime Day’s many deals. In particular, a slew of our favorite smartwatches from Garmin and Fitbit are on sale.

All these deals are today only, so if you’re a Prime member looking for a fitness tracker or running watch, this is your moment. There are also discounts on the Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 6 if pure smartwatch capability is more important to you than fitness tracking.

Our experience with Garmin watches

Garmin’s watches took a few top spots in our recent smartwatch buying guide. We picked the Forerunner 45 as our favorite runner’s watch while the Vivo series took top honors as the most stylish. Both devices are seeing record discounts for Prime Day. We especially like some older models of the Vivomove. Today’s discounts bring the newer versions, the Vivoactive 4 and 4s, down to about the same price.

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#activity-tracker, #amazon, #amazon-prime-day, #fitbit, #garmin, #prime-day-2021, #smartwatch, #tech

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Sony relists Cyberpunk 2077, includes new warning: Base PS4 “not recommended”

You can finally buy <em>CP77</em> on Sony's digital storefront. But depending on the console, Sony suggests you still might not want to.

Enlarge / You can finally buy CP77 on Sony’s digital storefront. But depending on the console, Sony suggests you still might not want to. (credit: CD Projekt Red / Sam Machkovech)

After facing arguably the biggest retail delisting yet on PlayStation consoles, Cyberpunk 2077 has returned to the PlayStation Network online store today—though even after months of patches, the game isn’t necessarily getting a red-carpet welcome.

The game’s December 2020 launch was marked largely by bugs and glitches on every single platform, with performance on “base” versions of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 suffering the worst. After seven days of bad press and CD Projekt Red launching a refund program, Sony went one step further by yanking the game entirely from its online shops and informing buyers that they were eligible for a refund if they were dissatisfied with their digital purchase.

At the time, neither Sony nor CDPR offered a road map for exactly when the game might go back for sale on Sony’s digital shops, even though the developer made clear that it would continue patching the game on all platforms. (The game was never delisted on Xbox.) Last week, CDPR confirmed in a regulatory statement that the game would return to PSN this week, and that came to pass on Monday. In conjunction, the game’s digital purchase price dropped $10 to $50 (possibly because the news coincided with Amazon Prime Day, where the game’s digital and disc versions are also discounted).

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#cyberpunk-2077, #gaming-culture

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“Black fungus” surges in India—thousands blinded, maimed, dead

A suspected mucormycosis black fungus patient receives examination at a hospital in Bhopal, India, on May 29, 2021.

Enlarge / A suspected mucormycosis black fungus patient receives examination at a hospital in Bhopal, India, on May 29, 2021. (credit: Getty| Xinhua News Agency)

So-called “black fungus” infections are surging in India in the wake of a devastating wave of COVID-19. The rare but devastating infection can destroy the eyes and spread to the brain.

Cases now top 31,000, rising from an estimate of dozens to a few hundred cases just last month. Media reports have tallied over 2,100 deaths, but federal health authorities have not released an official death count.

Past medical reviews have estimated that the fungal infection—mucormycosis—has an overall fatality rate of around 50 percent. However, mortality rates vary by patients’ underlying condition and what part of the body the mucormycetes fungi invade. Infection can take hold in the gastrointestinal tract, skin breaks, lungs, and the blood.

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#black-fungus, #covid-19, #diabetes, #india, #infectious-disease, #mucormycosis, #science

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The Ariane 6 debut is slipping again as Europe hopes for a late 2022 launch

Artist's view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters on the ELA-4 launch pad together with its mobile gantry.

Enlarge / Artist’s view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters on the ELA-4 launch pad together with its mobile gantry. (credit: ESA-D. Ducros)

Europe’s top space official said Monday that ensuring the first launch of the Ariane 6 rocket takes place in 2022 is a very high priority.

“This for me is a top, top priority,” said Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency, at the Paris Air Forum. “Ariane 6 is our most important launcher to come. We have to put all the energy and all the emphasis into making the maiden flight as soon as possible.

Together with the leaders of the French space agency, CNES, and the Ariane 6’s prime contractor, Ariane Group, Aschbacher said he had put “a small group” together to make an independent assessment of the schedule for the final development phase of the Ariane 6 rocket. The goal of this task force will be to ensure that Europe does everything it needs to do launch on time.

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#ariane-6, #esa, #science

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The best Prime Day 2021 tech deals from everywhere besides Amazon

Wireless white earbuds on a marble surface.

Enlarge / Apple’s AirPods Pro are discounted across retailers this Prime Day. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Not looking to send any more business Amazon’s way on Prime Day? We can’t blame you. If you’re still hoping to snag a nice price on a good gadget, though, one side effect of Amazon’s manufactured holiday is that it has spawned a number of competing sales from other retailers. Target has kicked off a three-day “Deal Days” sale to directly counter Amazon’s event, for instance, while Walmart is advertising its own “Deals for Days” promotion.

As with Prime Day, most of the offers here aren’t particularly notable, but for the ones that are, these sales price-match much of what’s available on Amazon’s site. So if you’d rather opt out of Amazon’s summer cash grab, you don’t need to miss out on a discount that’s caught your eye.

To help you out, we’ve gathered up the best non-Prime-Day deals we can find that are currently going on at Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and other online tech outlets. The offers include good prices on Google’s Nest smart home gear and new Roku media streamers a recently launched back-to-school sale from Apple that bundles a pair of AirPods with various Macs and iPads, the lowest price we’ve tracked on Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones, a good drop on Xbox Game Pass subscriptions, and more. You can check out our full roundup below.

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#amazon, #amazon-prime-day, #prime-day-2021, #staff, #target, #walmart

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The best Amazon Prime Day 2021 deals under $50 we can find

Promotional image for smart watch.

Enlarge / Fitbit’s Inspire 2 activity tracker. (credit: Fitbit)

Amazon Prime Day is in full swing, and day one brings some notable discounts on wireless headphones, smartphones, laptops, and more big-ticket items, all of which we’ve rounded up in our best Prime Day deals list.

But if you’re a bargain hunter like us, then you know Amazon’s made-up shopping holiday can also be a good time to snag a few good gadgets on a budget. So to make things easier for those who aren’t looking to spend a ton, we’ve culled Amazon’s mountain of discounts and picked out our favorite deals under—or at least very close to—the $50 mark.

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

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#amazon, #amazon-prime-day, #deals, #deals-under-50, #prime-day-2021, #staff

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Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM4 headphones are down to a new low for Prime Day

sony wh-1000xm4

Enlarge / Sony’s WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Today is the start of Amazon’s Prime Day sales event, which means a ton of gadgets that may or may not be worth buying are currently on sale. We have a big curated roundup of the best deals we can find, but I wanted to give special mention to a couple of particularly notable deals on headphones we’ve reviewed positively: Sony’s noise-canceling WH-1000XM4 for $248 and Jabra’s true wireless Elite 75t earbuds for $100.

Both deals match the lowest prices we’ve tracked from major retailers. If you’d rather not give more money to Amazon, the Sony deal is available at other stores as well. In Sony’s case, the WH-1000XM4 have an MSRP of $350 but have recently averaged closer to $315 on Amazon. The Elite 75t, meanwhile, retail for $150 but have had a few dips to $130 over the last few months.

What you’re getting with the Sony WH-1000XM4

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#amazon-prime-day, #jabra, #noise-cancelling-headphones, #prime-day-2021, #sony, #tech, #true-wireless-earbuds, #wireless-headphones

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Amazon Prime Day 2021: All the deals that are actually worth your time

Amazon Prime Day 2021: All the deals that are actually worth your time

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Amazon Prime Day has arrived, and another avalanche of deals has come along with it. As ever, the vast majority of the gadget and gear discounts Amazon is advertising aren’t that special: many of the products are mediocre, and many of the prices aren’t much lower than usual.

But there are still a few diamonds in the rough—and the Dealmaster team is here to help you find them. We’ve spent the better part of the last week cutting through thousands of offers, looking through price-history charts, and researching products we’ve haven’t used ourselves, all to bring you the very best Prime Day deals we can find.

Below are the fruits of our labor, with a few special mentions for particularly notable deals. We’ll update our mega-roundup over the course of Amazon’s two-day event, adding good gadget deals as we see them with a “NEW” tag and striking out expired ones.

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#amazon-prime-day, #dealmaster, #features, #prime-day-2021, #staff

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Porsche will build a high-performance battery factory in Germany

Porsche plans to first use these new silicon anode cells in motorsports, but we don't know where that will be yet, since Formula E and LMDh will both require a spec battery. This car is the Porsche 920 concept from 2020.

Enlarge / Porsche plans to first use these new silicon anode cells in motorsports, but we don’t know where that will be yet, since Formula E and LMDh will both require a spec battery. This car is the Porsche 920 concept from 2020. (credit: Porsche)

Porsche is setting up a new factory for battery cells, called Cellforce, in Tübingen, Germany. The plant will be run as a subsidiary of Porsche in a joint venture with Customcells and will develop cells that use silicon as opposed to graphite for the anode material.

“We already started within research and pre-development to build up know how and knowledge about cell chemistry, and the company Cellforce Group will have around 60 engineers in development and about 20 in production; the main focus, at least in the beginning, is to take care about the development of the cell and cell chemistry,” said Michael Steiner, member of the executive board, R&D at Porsche.

But unlike other recent battery factory announcements, the goal for Cellforce is high performance, not high volume.

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#battery-factory, #cars, #cellforce, #customcells, #lithium-silicon, #lithium-ion-battery, #motorsport, #porsche, #racing, #silicon-anode

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Review: Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard amps up screwball factor for another fun ride

Ryan Reynolds, Samuel Jackson, and Salma Hayek reunite for more madcap hijinks in The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.

It took a little while for Ryan Reynolds to find his true cinematic niche—one that makes good use of his rare combination of leading-man looks, self-deprecating amiability, and smartly sardonic sense of humor. He was sheer perfection in 2016’s raunchy, R-rated blockbuster, Deadpool. Reynolds is at his best when he has a strong co-star to play off of as a foil, and he has that in Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek, his co-stars in The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Yes, it’s an awkward title for this sequel to 2017’s action/comedy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard. But if you liked that movie (I thought it was a blast), chances are you’ll enjoy this latest flawed-but-fun outing.

(Spoilers for first film below. Only mild spoilers for new film; no major reveals.)

In the first film, Reynolds’ ambitious, tightly controlled, triple-A rated “executive protection agent,” Michael Bryce, finds his professional life in shambles after one of this clients is assassinated on his watch. Two years later, his ex-girlfriend (an Interpol agent) reluctantly hires him to protect hitman Darius Kinkaid (Jackson). Darius is a key witness in the trial of the ruthless dictator of Belarus (Gary Oldman), agreeing to testify in exchange for the release of his con-artist wide, Sonia (Hayek) from prison. Michael has to get Darius from London to the International Criminal Court while being pursued by all the crack assassins and firepower the Belarus dictator can muster. Do they ultimately succeed and save the day against nigh-impossible odds? Do you really need to ask?

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#entertainment, #film-review, #gaming-culture

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Sweet Tooth is hopeful post-apocalyptic fare—but beware its Walking Dead vibes

The trailer for Sweet Tooth.

Netflix’s new fantasy series, Sweet Tooth, first looks like a crudely fictionalized version of 2020. A disease colloquially referred to as The Sick spreads rapidly among humans while overwhelming infrastructure, grinding daily life to a halt, and racking up a body count. When this story begins, society tries to put itself together again. An unnamed narrator calls it “The Great Crumble.”

This disaster, however, can’t be contained even to the extent of COVID-19. No cure or vaccination has been discovered, so most humans opt to live in isolation either as individuals or as disease-free groups. This withdrawal has allowed nature to essentially step into the void—animals previously only seen in a zoo roam free, and landscapes grow out in full to replenish what society previously destroyed for resources.

Oh, and in Sweet Tooth, the next generation of kids appears to include half-animal/half-human individuals called Hybrids. The ratio of column A to column B varies—some talk, some don’t; many look like traditional kids with small animal features; all retain abilities like heightened hearing or smell—but no one seems to know anything for sure. Why did this evolution happen? How many are there? And, most pertinent, what makes Hybrids immune to The Sick? In the face of all that mystery, some portions of this new world look at Hybrids as a hopeful evolution of humanity, a group of individuals society should protect and help thrive. Others, though, see Hybrids as a hindrance to humanity getting past The Sick and returning to normalcy. In particular, Hybrids’ immunity to The Sick has swaths of this new world curious about whether their DNA can be harvested for treatment or prevention.

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#gaming-culture

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Test out next-gen space tech in Kerbal Space Program

Promotional image for video game Kerbal Space Program.

Enlarge (credit: Take-Two Interactive)

Most games lose relevance after a few years, but the indie rocket-building game Kerbal Space Program is a bit different. It’s a glitchy, 10-year-old underdog of a game with a cult following of programmers, engineers, astronaut candidates, and your typical lay explosion enthusiasts, and it has a unique and active community of modders who’ve been fixing bugs, adding new features, and generally keeping the game fresh for nearly a decade.

In the game, you are the omniscient director of a space program composed of literal little green men (and beloved little green woman Valentina Kerman—we see you, trailblazer) that you send skyward in spacecraft of your own design. It often feels like watching those blurry old videos of rockets launching only to come straight back down in an explosion of fiery schadenfreude: you feel a little bit frightened, a little bit sadistic, and you really want to try it again.

Art imitates life

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#gaming-culture, #kerbal-space-program, #rocketry, #simulators

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Archaeologists recreated three common kinds of Paleolithic cave lighting

Spanish archaeologists recreated three common types of Paleolithic lighting systems.

Enlarge / Spanish archaeologists recreated three common types of Paleolithic lighting systems. (credit: Medina-Alcaide et al, 2021, PLOS ONE)

In 1993, a media studies professor at Fordham University named Edward Wachtel visited several famous caves in southern France, including Lascaux, Font-de-Gaume, Les Combarelles, and La Mouthe. His purpose: to study the cave art that has justly made these caves famous.  Wachtel was puzzled by what he called “spaghetti lines” on the drawings, partially obscuring them. There were also images of, say, an ibex with two heads, a mammal with three trunks, or a bull drawing superimposed over the drawing of a deer.

His guide for the La Mouthe tour was a local farmer, and since there were no electric lights in this cave, the farmer brought along a gas lantern. When the farmer swung the lantern inside the cave, the color schemes shifted, and the engraved lines seemed to animate. “Suddenly, the head of one creature stood out clearly,” Wachtel recalled. “It lived for a second, then faded as another appeared.” As for those mysterious spaghetti lines, “they became a forest or a bramble patch that concealed and then reveled the animals within.”

Wachtel subsequently published a paper entitled, “The First Picture Show: Cinematic Aspects of Cave Art,” in which he concluded that the cave drawings were meant to be perceived in three dimensions—one of them being time. These could have been the first “protomovies,” he thought.

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#archaeology, #gaming-culture, #history, #paleolithic, #science

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Two Viking burials, separated by an ocean, contain close kin

Two Viking burials, separated by an ocean, contain close kin

Enlarge (credit: Ida Marie Odgaard AFP)

Roughly a thousand years ago, a young man in his early 20s met a violent end in England. 800 kilometers (500 miles) away, in Denmark, an older man who had survived a lifetime of battles died sometime in his 50s. At first glance, there’s nothing to suggest a connection between them over such a distance. But according to a recent study of their DNA, the two men were second-degree relatives: half-siblings, uncle and nephew, or grandfather and grandson.

Today, their skeletons lie side-by-side in the National Museum of Denmark, reunited after centuries, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Geneticists sequenced the pair’s DNA as part of a much larger study, which sampled and sequenced ancient DNA from more than 400 human skeletons at sites across Europe and Greenland. That data revealed that Vikings were much more ethnically diverse than historians have often assumed, and it helped track the migrations that defined the Viking Age. Against the backdrop of those larger patterns, the ancient DNA from two skeletons, buried hundreds of kilometers apart under very different circumstances, told a much more personal story.

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#anthropology, #archaeology, #biological-anthropology, #medieval-europe, #science, #skeletons, #viking-age, #vikings

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The efforts to make text-based AI less racist and terrible

The efforts to make text-based AI less racist and terrible

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

In July 2020, OpenAI launched GPT-3, an artificial intelligence language model that quickly stoked excitement about computers writing poetry, news articles, and programming code. Just as quickly, it was shown to sometimes be foulmouthed and toxic. OpenAI said it was working on fixes, but the company recently discovered GPT-3 was being used to generate child porn.

Now OpenAI researchers say they’ve found a way to curtail GPT-3’s toxic text by feeding the program roughly 100 encyclopedia-like samples of writing by human professionals on topics like history and technology but also abuse, violence, and injustice.

OpenAI’s project shows how the tech industry is scrambling to constrain the dark side of a technology that’s shown enormous potential but also can spread disinformation and perpetuate biases. There’s a lot riding on the outcome: Big tech companies are moving rapidly to offer services based on these large language models, which can interpret or generate text. Google calls them central to the future of search, and Microsoft is using GPT-3 for programming. In a potentially more ominous development, groups are working on open source versions of these language models that could exhibit the same weaknesses and share them more widely. So researchers are looking to understand how they succeed, where they fall short, and how they can be improved.

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#gpt-3, #machine-learning, #open-ai, #policy, #racism, #science

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Pornhub sued for allegedly serving “under-age, non-consensual” videos

A Pornhub logo at the company's booth during an industry conference.

Enlarge / A Pornhub logo at the company’s booth during the 2018 AVN Adult Expo on January 25, 2018, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (credit: Getty Images | Gabe Ginsberg )

Pornhub was sued yesterday by 34 women alleging that the site hosted videos without their consent and profited from other nonconsensual content involving rape, child sexual abuse, and human trafficking.

Of the victims involved in the lawsuit, 14 said they were victims of people charged with or convicted of sex crimes, and 14 said they were underage in the videos served on Pornhub.

“It is time for the companies and individuals who have profited off of nonconsensual and illegal content be held liable for their crime,” one of the plaintiffs said in a conference call reported by CNN. “I joined the lawsuit because I seek justice for myself and the countless victims who don’t come forward.”

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#lawsuit, #policy, #pornhub, #pornography, #privacy

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Ring gave cops free cameras to build and promote surveillance network

Ring gave cops free cameras to build and promote surveillance network

Enlarge (credit: Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images)

When Ring wanted to boost sales of it surveillance cameras and burnish its self-styled image as a crime-fighting company, it embarked on a brand-ambassador marketing campaign that would be familiar to many startups. But rather than chase down the Instagram influencers or beat bloggers, the company instead wooed officers at the Los Angeles Police Department.

For years, including during Amazon’s early ownership of the company, Ring gave no fewer than 100 LAPD officers free devices or discount codes worth tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly more, according to a new report from the Los Angeles Times.

Emails obtained by the LA Times through a public records request reveal Ring employees encouraging LAPD officers to “spread the word about how this doorbell is proven to reduce crime in neighborhoods” and offering freebies and discounts.

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#civil-liberties, #influencers, #police, #policy, #ring, #surveillance

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Arcade1Up pinball cabinet review: Fine for families, interesting for modders

Say hello to the Arcade1Up Attack From Mars physical pinball cabinet. The chassis is physical; its games are all virtual. Read below to understand what the heck that means.

Enlarge / Say hello to the Arcade1Up Attack From Mars physical pinball cabinet. The chassis is physical; its games are all virtual. Read below to understand what the heck that means. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

If you’re of a certain generation, chances are you have imagined (or, at this point in your adulthood, built) your own home arcade that resembles something out of the golden ’80s era. One useful path to making this a reality, especially in tighter quarters, is the “multicade,” an invention that squishes multiple games into a single cabinet.

But what if your old-school gaming dreams revolve around something bigger and bulkier, particularly pinball? Until recently, your options were either buying a bunch of original pinball cabinets or building your own ground-up emulation solution. And the latter is complicated by the realities of how pinball plays and feels.

I’ve wondered how long it would take for that to change in the gaming-nostalgia market, especially as companies like Arcade1Up produce and sell more multicade cabinets for home use. The time for change is now, evidently, thanks to a handful of manufacturers producing pinball multicades. Arcade1Up in particular launched three distinct pinball emulation cabinets this year, each revolving around a different license.

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#arcade1up, #features, #gaming-culture, #pinball, #retro-gaming

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Apple and Google’s AI wizardry promises privacy—at a cost

Apple and Google’s AI wizardry promises privacy—at a cost

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Since the dawn of the iPhone, many of the smarts in smartphones have come from elsewhere: the corporate computers known as the cloud. Mobile apps sent user data cloudward for useful tasks like transcribing speech or suggesting message replies. Now Apple and Google say smartphones are smart enough to do some crucial and sensitive machine learning tasks like those on their own.

At Apple’s WWDC event this month, the company said its virtual assistant Siri will transcribe speech without tapping the cloud in some languages on recent and future iPhones and iPads. During its own I/O developer event last month, Google said the latest version of its Android operating system has a feature dedicated to secure, on-device processing of sensitive data, called the Private Compute Core. Its initial uses include powering the version of the company’s Smart Reply feature built into its mobile keyboard that can suggest responses to incoming messages.

Apple and Google both say on-device machine learning offers more privacy and snappier apps. Not transmitting personal data cuts the risk of exposure and saves time spent waiting for data to traverse the internet. At the same time, keeping data on devices aligns with the tech giants’ long-term interest in keeping consumers bound into their ecosystems. People that hear their data can be processed more privately might become more willing to agree to share more data.

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#ai, #apple, #google, #ok-google, #policy, #privacy, #siri, #tech

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Rocket Report: China launches crew mission, SpaceX runs into road troubles

A launching rocket leaves a trail of flame against a dark blue sky.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket goes supersonic on Thursday, launching a GPS III satellite for the Space Force. (credit: US Space Force)

Welcome to Edition 4.03 of the Rocket Report! This week saw two significant launches back-to-back. On Wednesday evening, US time, China launched its first crewed mission to its new space station, which was also the country’s first human spaceflight in nearly five years. And then, less than a day later, the US Space Force joined the ranks of reusable launch customers.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Blue Origin sells first New Shepard seat for $28 million. A ticket to take a brief trip to space with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on July 20 has been sold at auction for $28 million. The bidding process, which began in early May, drew offers from more than 7,000 participants from 159 countries, Blue Origin said. The price had stood at $4.8 million ahead of Saturday’s live auction, which was streamed online, the Financial Times reports.

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#rocket-report, #science

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Ukraine arrests ransomware gang in global cybercriminal crackdown

A chainlink fence separates us from fossil fuel tanks.

Enlarge / A Colonial Pipeline facility in Woodbridge, New Jersey. Hackers last month disrupted the pipeline supplying petroleum to much of the East Coast. (credit: Michael M. Santiago, Getty Images)

Ukrainian police have arrested members of a notorious ransomware gang that recently targeted American universities, as pressure mounts on global law enforcement to crack down on cybercriminals.

The Ukraine National Police said in a statement on Wednesday that it had worked with Interpol and the US and South Korean authorities to charge six members of the Ukraine-based Cl0p hacker group, which it claimed had inflicted a half-billion dollars in damages on victims based in the US and South Korea.

The move marks the first time that a national law enforcement agency has carried out mass arrests of a ransomware gang, adding to pressure on other countries to follow suit. Russia, a hub for ransomware gangs, has been blamed for harbouring cybercriminals by failing to prosecute or extradite them.

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#biz-it, #cl0p, #cybercrime, #policy, #ransomware, #ukraine

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Game Boy Advance game gets split-screen multiplayer through new FPGA core

Developer Robert Peip shows off some split-screen Game Boy Advance multiplayer gaming through his new FPGA core.

Here at Ars, we’re big fans of situations where emulation creates a classic gaming experience that’s actually better than what you could get with original hardware in some way or another. In the past, that has meant upsampling rotated sprites in SNES’ “Mode 7” games or adding “widescreen” support to NES games or mitigating the controller lag that was built into certain older consoles or overclocking an emulated SNES to remove slowdown without ruining gameplay timing.

The latest emulation-powered retro-gaming upgrade to cross our paths greatly simplifies an oft-overlooked capability built in to many Game Boy Advance titles. Namely, it adds the ability to play multiplayer titles in split screen on a single display.

This upgrade is the work of Robert Peip, a developer who’s spent years working on field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). These days, Peip works primarily on the MiSTer FPGA an open source project that recreates classic gaming hardware extremely accurately through emulation “cores” that replicate every single logic gate involved in the schematics of the original system (most of Analogue’s high-end retro hardware is similarly powered by FPGA cores). Such cores are currently available for consoles ranging from the Odyssey 2 through the Neo Geo era and more.

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#emulation, #fpga, #game-boy-advance, #gaming-culture, #multiplayer

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Newly discovered Vigilante malware outs software pirates and blocks them

A warning sign on a grid-style metal fence.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

A researcher has uncovered one of the more unusual finds in the annals of malware: booby-trapped files that rat out downloaders and try to prevent unauthorized downloading in the future. The files are available on sites frequented by software pirates.

Vigilante, as SophosLabs Principal Researcher Andrew Brandt is calling the malware, gets installed when victims download and execute what they think is pirated software or games. Behind the scenes, the malware reports the file name that was executed to an attacker-controlled server, along with the IP address of the victims’ computers. As a finishing touch, Vigilante tries to modify the victims’ computers so they can no longer access thepiratebay.com and as many as 1,000 other pirate sites.

Not your typical malware

“It’s really unusual to see something like this because there’s normally just one motive behind most malware: stealing stuff,” Brandt wrote on Twitter. “Whether that’s passwords, or keystrokes, or cookies, or intellectual property, or access, or even CPU cycles to mine cryptocurrency, theft is the motive. But not in this case. These samples really only did a few things, none of which fit the typical motive for malware criminals.”

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#biz-it, #malware, #software-pirate, #tech

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Amazon joins Apple, Google by reducing its app store cut

The Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet, which runs Amazon's Fire OS.

Enlarge / The Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet, which runs Amazon’s Fire OS. (credit: Amazon)

Apparently following the lead of Apple and Google, Amazon has announced that it will take a smaller revenue cut from apps developed by teams earning less than $1 million annually from their apps on the Amazon Appstore. The same applies to developers who are brand-new to the marketplace.

The new program from Amazon, called the Amazon Appstore Small Business Accelerator Program, launches in Q4 of this year, and it will reduce the cut Amazon takes from app revenue, which was previously 30 percent. (Developers making over $1 million annually will continue to pay the original rate.) For some, it’s a slightly worse deal than Apple’s or Google’s, and for others, it’s better.

Amazon’s new indie-friendly rate is 20 percent, in contrast to Apple’s and Google’s 15 percent. Amazon seeks to offset this difference by granting developers 10 percent of their Appstore revenue in the form of a credit for AWS. For certain developers who use AWS, it could mean that Amazon’s effective cut is actually 10 percent, not 15 or 20 percent.

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#amazon, #amazon-appstore, #app-store, #apple, #apple-app-store, #apps, #google, #google-play, #tech

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A number of recommended Nintendo Switch games are on sale today

A number of recommended Nintendo Switch games are on sale today

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Earlier this week, we highlighted an excellent deal on Nintendo Switch Online memberships. Today’s Dealmaster is headlined by a range of discounts on Nintendo Switch games, including several titles we’ve recommended in the past. The deals are currently available at several retailers—including Amazon, Target, Walmart, GameStop, Best Buy, and Nintendo’s own eShop—and primarily apply to digital codes, not physical cartridges.

Among the sale’s highlights is Hades, which is discounted to $17.49, the lowest price we’ve tracked for the Switch version of the stylish roguelike we named the best game of 2020Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, the adorable XCOM-style RPG whose sequel was announced at E3 this past week, is down to $10The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the modern classic whose sequel was also teased at E3, is down to $42.

Other first-party games like Paper Mario: The Origami King and Fire Emblem: Three Houses are also discounted, as are notable indies like the roguelike Dead Cells, the hard-as-nails run-and-gunner Cuphead, the puzzle game/trolling simulator Untitled Goose Game, and the hardcore Metroidvania Hollow Knight, among many others. You can see our full list of recommended offers from the sale below; not everything is the cheapest it’s ever been, but each of our picks is priced lower than its typical going rate on the Switch.

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#dealmaster, #staff

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Microsoft’s Linux repositories were down for 18+ hours

Close-up photograph of a hand holding a toy penguin.

Enlarge / In 2017, Tux was sad that he had a Microsoft logo on his chest. In 2021, he’s mostly sad that Microsoft’s repositories were down for most of a day. (credit: Jim Salter)

Yesterday, packages.microsoft.com—the repository from which Microsoft serves software installers for Linux distributions including CentOS, Debian, Fedora, OpenSUSE, and more—went down hard, and it stayed down for around 18 hours. The outage impacted users trying to install .NET Core, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft SQL Server for Linux (yes, that’s a thing) and more—as well as Azure‘s own devops pipelines.

We first became aware of the problem Wednesday evening when we saw 404 errors in the output of apt update on an Ubuntu workstation with Microsoft Teams installed. The outage is somewhat better-documented at this .NET Core-issue report on Github, with many users from all around the world sharing their experiences and theories.

The short version is that the entire repository cluster that serves all Linux packages for Microsoft was completely down—issuing a range of HTTP 404 (content not found) and 500 (Internal Server Error) messages for any URL—for roughly 18 hours. Microsoft engineer Rahul Bhandari confirmed the outage roughly five hours after it was initially reported, with a cryptic comment about the infrastructure team “running into some space issues.”

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#azure, #linux, #microsoft, #microsoft-loves-linux, #microsoft-azure, #teams, #tech

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FDA officials asked to step down after contentious Alzheimer’s drug approval

Words and symbols adorn a large outdoor sign.

Enlarge / The Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Maryland. (credit: Getty | Congressional Quarterly)

A leading advocacy and watchdog group is calling for the ouster of three top officials at the Food and Drug Administration—including its acting commissioner—after the regulator issued a highly contentious approval last week of the unproven and now highly priced Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm (generic name: aducanumab).

The call for fresh FDA leadership comes atop a chorus of harsh criticism over the decision, which outside researchers and industry experts have called “disgraceful” and “dangerous,” among other things.

Since Aduhelm’s approval was announced June 7, three expert advisers to the FDA have resigned in protest, with one calling the decision “probably the worst drug-approval decision in recent US history.” The three experts were part of an 11-member advisory committee that reviewed the clinical data for the Alzheimer’s drug last November and voted nearly unanimously against approval (10 voted against, 1 voted “uncertain”).

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#aducanumab, #aduhelm, #alzheimers-drug, #biogen, #drug-approval, #fda, #public-citizen, #science

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Researchers cool a 40 kg object to near its quantum ground state

A researcher in protective gear examines an impossibly futuristic mirror.

Enlarge / One of the 40 kg mirrors that has approached its quantum ground state. (credit: Matt Heintze/Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab)

Objects that obey the rules of quantum mechanics behave very differently from those in the familiar world around us. That difference leads to an obvious question: is it possible to get an everyday item to start behaving like a quantum object?

But seeing quantum behavior requires limiting an object’s interactions with its environment, which becomes increasingly difficult as objects get larger. Still, there has been progress in increasing the size of the objects we can place in a quantum state, with small oscillators and even grains of sand being notable examples.

So far, researchers have approached this challenge largely by scaling up systems that were relatively easy to work with. But in today’s issue of Science, researchers report that they’ve gotten close to putting a big object into its quantum ground state—a really big object: the 40 kilogram mirrors of the gravitational-wave observatory known as LIGO.

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#gravity, #ligo, #physics, #quantum-mechanics, #science

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Here’s what’s inside Google’s first-ever retail store

After years of flirting with the idea of opening a physical store, Google announced its first-ever permanent retail location last month. Today, June 17, is the official grand opening, and Google celebrated with a blog post detailing what the store is like.

Officially, this is “The Google Store Chelsea,” and it lives in New York City on 15th and 9th, aka the Chelsea Market building, aka the headquarters of Google’s New York City campus. Unlike the stark white Apple Stores that Google is chasing after, the Google Store has a natural look, with warm wood walls and furniture. Whimsical bendy rods shoot out of the floor and decorate the store, looking like a giant version of a bead maze from a pediatrician’s office. The store was designed by Ivy Ross, Google’s VP of hardware design.

What can you buy in a Google Store? It’s essentially an offline version of store.google.com. That means it will sell Pixel phones, earbuds, Pixelbook laptops, Chromecasts, Google TVs, Stadia controllers, and Nest-branded speakers, smart displays, thermostats, smoke detectors, cameras, Wi-Fi routers, and doorbells. Google also notes that it will “have experts on hand to help visitors get the most out of their device, such as troubleshooting an issue, fixing a cracked Pixel screen, or helping with installations.”

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#tech

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Peter Jackson’s 6-hour Beatles documentary confirmed for Disney+ this November

Peter Jackson’s next six-hour epic is finally coming out this year—and in a first for the acclaimed director, the film will launch directly to a streaming service. It will also be broken up into episodes.

The Beatles: Get Back, an expansive documentary originally announced for a theatrical run this August, has had its release strategy tweaked. On Thursday, Jackson and Disney confirmed that the entire project will launch exclusively on Disney+ during this year’s American Thanksgiving holiday. Each third of the documentary will launch on the streaming service on November 25, 26, and 27. As of press time, Disney hasn’t said how the film will reach audiences outside of Disney+’s supported territories. Neither Jackson nor Disney clarified how the original theatrical run might have worked or whether the global pandemic forced anyone’s hand.

Today’s news confirms that Jackson had an abundance of footage to work with. Roughly three years ago, the remaining Beatles handed him access to a musical holy grail: over 60 hours of previously unseen video recordings, mostly capturing the Beatles working on the album Let It Be and rehearsing for, and then performing, the band’s legendary 1969 rooftop concert in London.

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#disney, #disney-plus, #gaming-culture, #peter-jackson, #the-beatles

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Bethesda exec says he’s “sorry” for lack of PS5 Starfield

Bethesda Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Pete Hines talks to GameSpot about Starfield.

This week, Microsoft and Bethesda confirmed that Starfield will be coming exclusively to Xbox Series X/S and PC next year. And while that kind of exclusivity deal had been hinted at and heavily suspected by many since Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda’s parent company, the announcement still came as sad news for PlayStation 5 owners hoping to play the upcoming space epic.

Bethesda Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Pete Hines said he can certainly understand how PS5 owners must feel. In a video interview with GameSpot Wednesday, he offered his sympathy and an apology to PS5 owners upset about the move.

“I don’t know how to allay the concerns of consumer and PlayStation 5 fans other than to say I’m a PlayStation 5 player as well, and I’ve played games on that console, and there’s games I’m going to continue to play on it,” Hines said. “But if you want to play Starfield, [it’s] Xbox and PC. Sorry. All I can say is I apologize because I’m certain that that’s frustrating to folks, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.”

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#bethesda, #e3-2021, #gaming-culture, #microsoft, #pete-hines, #starfield

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World Bank slams bitcoin, declines to help El Salvador’s cryptocurrency plan

World Bank slams bitcoin, declines to help El Salvador’s cryptocurrency plan

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Last week, El Salvador’s government passed a law to accept bitcoin as legal tender alongside the US dollar. The country receives $6 billion in remittances per year—nearly a quarter of its gross domestic product—and the hope is that bitcoin’s lower transaction costs could boost that amount by a few percentage points.

The move was first proposed by the country’s president, Nayib Bukele, who said he hoped that in addition to facilitating lower remittance fees, the bitcoin plan would attract investment and provide an avenue for savings for residents, about 70 percent of whom are unbanked. (What Bukele didn’t say, but what Bloomberg has reported, is that he and members of his political party have owned bitcoin for years.)

Adding the cryptocurrency to the roster isn’t a simple task, though, and the new law gives the country just three months to roll the plan out nationwide. No country has ever used bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency as legal tender, and challenges abound. To address those concerns, El Salvador turned to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for assistance; the latter is currently considering a $1.3 billion financing request from the country.

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#bitcoin, #cryptocurrency, #currency, #el-salvador, #imf, #policy, #world-bank

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Lordstown Motors now says that it has no binding orders for EV truck

A silver Lordstown Endurance truck on stage with a big American flag

Enlarge / In June 2020, Lordstown held an hour-long election rally for the Trump campaign disguised as an event to unveil the Endurance electric pickup truck. (credit: Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, we wrote about how Lordstown Motors stated that the company’s Endurance electric pickup truck would enter limited production later this year. The statements were made at a press conference on Tuesday, where Lordstown President Rich Schmidt told journalists that the company had “binding orders” that would fund production until May 2022.

This happened just days after the company issued a going concern warning and a day after Lordstown then parted company with its CEO and CFO. But on Thursday morning, Lordstown sent the US Securities and Exchange Commission a new Form 8-K, revealing that, actually, those binding orders are nothing of the sort.

In the 8-K, Lordstown explains that since March 2021, it has been working with a company called ARI Global Fleet Management, which is owned by the Holman dealership group. Fleet management companies sometimes lease vehicles to their customers, and Lordstown and ARI have been working to “co-market and co-develop business opportunities with our respective customers” with the hope that ARI would persuade some of its leasing clients to order the Endurance EV pickup truck.

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#cars, #electric-pickup-truck, #lordstown-endurance, #lordstown-motors, #sec, #securities-and-exchange-commission

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SpaceX to break the final frontier in reuse with national defense launch

The GPS III SV-05 vehicle is encapsulated in the Falcon 9 rocket's payload fairing.

Enlarge / The GPS III SV-05 vehicle is encapsulated in the Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing. (credit: Lockheed Martin)

A few years ago one of SpaceX’s earliest employees, Hans Koenigsmann, told me one of the company’s goals was to take the “magic” out of rocket launches. It’s just physics, he explained.

As its Falcon 9 rocket has become more reliable and flown more frequently—18 launches so far this year, and counting—it seems that SpaceX has succeeded in taking the magic out of launches. And while reliability should definitely be the goal, such regularity does distract from the spectacle of watching a rocket launch.

But there are still some special Falcon 9 missions, and that’s certainly the case with a launch expected to occur at 12:09 pm ET (16:09 UTC) on Thursday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. With the launch of a next-generation GPS III spacecraft, SpaceX will fly a national security mission for the first time on a reused booster.

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#falcon-9, #gps, #science

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Ohio Republicans close to imposing near-total ban on municipal broadband

Ohio's state capitol building seen during daylight hours.

Enlarge / The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (credit: Getty Images | Joseph Sohm)

Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature is on the verge of imposing a state law to dramatically restrict the rights of cities and towns to build and operate municipal broadband networks.

The Ohio Senate on June 9 approved a budget bill that contains an anti-municipal broadband amendment. It’s not a done deal yet, and advocates for public networks are urging the legislature to strip the amendment from the final budget. The budget bill is expected to be hammered out within the next two weeks.

If passed, the proposed law could kill existing broadband services and prevent new ones from being deployed. There are reportedly 30 or more municipal broadband providers in Ohio that “would not be allowed to operate so long as there is a private-sector company operating in the area, as there are in most, if not all of the cities.”

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#municipal-broadband, #ohio, #policy

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Tired of accepting/rejecting cookies? ADPC wants to automate the process

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), passed in 2018, requires websites to ask visitors for consent prior to placing cookies. As any Internet user is now aware, this means an extra step required when visiting nearly any website for the first time—or potentially every time, if you choose not to accept cookies. A new proposed HTTP standard from None of Your Business and the Sustainable Computing Lab would allow the user to set their privacy preferences once, inside the browser itself, and have the browser communicate those preferences invisibly with any website the user visits.

Advanced Data Protection Control

The proposed standard enables two methods of automated preference delivery—one which communicates directly with the web server hosting a site being visited, and another which communicates with the website itself.

When ADPC communicates directly with the web server, it does so via HTTP headers—a Link header pointing to a JSON file on the server, and the ADPC header emitted by the user’s browser. When communicating with the website itself, the mechanism is via JavaScript— configuration is passed as an object to the DOM interface, e.g., navigator.dataProtectionControl.request(...).

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#cookies, #european-union, #http, #https, #internet, #tech

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Apple‘s Tim Cook: Sideloading is “not in the best interests of the user”

Apple CEO Tim Cook being interviewed remotely by Brut.

Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook being interviewed remotely by Brut. (credit: Brut.)

Apple has been under a mountain of scrutiny lately from legislators, developers, judges, and users. Amidst all that, CEO Tim Cook sat with publication Brut. to discuss Apple’s strategy and policies. The short but wide-ranging interview offered some insight into where Apple plans to go in the future.

As is so common when Tim Cook speaks publicly, privacy was a major focus. His response to a question about its importance was the same one we’ve heard from him many times: “we see it as a basic human right, a fundamental human right.” Noting Apple has been focused on privacy for a long time.

He explained:

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#app-store, #apple, #apple-app-store, #apple-watch, #apps, #ar, #augmented-reality, #ios, #iphone, #privacy, #sideloading, #tech, #tim-cook

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Ten-year hactivist fugitive Commander X arrested in Mexico

Chris Doyon, in full "Anonymous mythology" mode, when I met him in Canada.

Enlarge / Chris Doyon, in full “Anonymous mythology” mode, when I met him in Canada. (credit: Nate Anderson)

A decade after Chris “Commander X” Doyon skipped out on a federal hacking charge and fled the country, the long arm of US law enforcement this week stretched out its hand and plucked him from Mexico City, where he had claimed political asylum. Doyon now faces all of the original charges for coordinating a 2010 High Orbit Ion Cannon (HOIC) DDoS attack on servers belonging to Santa Cruz, California, plus a serious new charge for jumping bail.

This has been a surprising turn of events for the homeless hacktivist, who spent his years first in Canada and then in Mexico issuing press releases, hanging out on Twitter, writing a self-published memoir, appearing in documentaries, and meeting up with journalists like me—all without apparent response from the US government.

All that changed on June 11, when Doyon was arrested by Mexican police. This was confirmed by a press release from the US Attorney for the Northern District of California, where Santa Cruz is located, though no details were provided.

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#anonymous, #commander-x, #policy

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Facebook begins tying social media use to ads served inside its VR ecosystem

Doctored image of a young man in a VR headset being examined in a padded cell.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Everything we’ve feared about the Facebookening of Oculus and its virtual reality ecosystem is starting to come true.

A Wednesday blog post has confirmed that Oculus, the VR-specific arm of Facebook, is now displaying advertisements in select VR games and apps to their players. As Facebook has since emphasized in emails sent directly to the press, these ads will leverage “first-party info from Facebook to target these ads”—and FB has yet to announce any limitations for what Facebook account data may be leveraged. (Ars Technica was not briefed about this news ahead of the announcement, and we did not get the opportunity to request the comments that other members of the media received.)

FB’s additional clarifying statements about biometric and use data inside of VR are carefully worded to clarify that the company does examine specific use data as it sees fit, and for now, that data won’t apply to its new advertising platform. Facebook says it processes and keeps track of the following data, uploaded by users while connected to any Oculus services:

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#facebook, #facebookening, #gaming-culture, #oculus, #virtual-reality

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New Picard S2 teaser taunts us with return of Q, time shenanigans

Patrick Stewart returns as Jean-Luc Picard in the second season of Picard, coming to Paramount+ in 2022.

We aren’t getting a second season of Picard until next year due to the pandemic delaying production, but Paramount+ has been dribbling out images and short teasers in the meantime. The latest teaser gives us our first look at the return of fan-favorite Q (John de Lancie), an extradimensional being with power over time, space, the laws of physics, and reality itself.

(Spoilers for S1 below.)

As I wrote in my review last year, the series is set 20 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. The first season opened with Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) having retired to the family vineyard. His bucolic existence was interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious woman named Dahj (Isa Briones) who pleaded for his help. Alas, Picard failed to save her. She was killed in front of him by Romulan assassins belonging to a radical sect known as the Zhat Vash, who is dedicated to eradicating all artificial life forms. Picard discovered that Dahj was actually a synthetic, technically Data’s “daughter,” and she had a twin sister, Soji, who was also in danger.

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#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #jean-luc-picard, #paramount-plus, #picard, #star-trek-francise, #streaming-television, #trailers

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Amazon blames social media companies for sales of fake Amazon reviews

Illustration of five stars and a person's hand to represent a five-star online review.

Enlarge / Five-star review. (credit: Getty Images | Khwanchai Phanthong | EyeEm)

Amazon today said it can’t stop fake product reviews without help from social media companies, and it blamed those companies for not doing more to prevent solicitation of fake reviews.

In a blog post, Amazon said its own “continued improvements in detection of fake reviews and connections between bad-actor buying and selling accounts” has led to “an increasing trend of bad actors attempting to solicit fake reviews outside Amazon, particularly via social media services.”

Amazon continued:

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#amazon, #fake-reviews, #policy, #social-media

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After ruining 75M J&J doses, Emergent gets FDA clearance for 25M doses

The Emergent BioSolutions plant, a manufacturing partner for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 9, 2021.

Enlarge / The Emergent BioSolutions plant, a manufacturing partner for Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 9, 2021. (credit: Getty | Saul Loeb)

The US Food and Drug Administration is making progress in its efforts to sort out the fiasco at Emergent BioSolutions’ Baltimore facility, which, at this point, has ruined more than 75 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines stemming from what the regulator identified as significant quality control failures.

In March, news leaked that Emergent ruined 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine as well as millions more doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. The spoilage happened when Emergent cross-contaminated batches of the two vaccines with ingredients from the other.

Last week, the FDA told Emergent to trash about 60 million more doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine due to similar contamination concerns, The New York Times reported.

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