Today’s best deals: Amazon Fire HD tablets, Google Pixel 6 phones, and more

Today’s best deals: Amazon Fire HD tablets, Google Pixel 6 phones, and more

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for another Dealmaster. Our latest roundup of the best tech deals from around the web includes another round of discounts on Amazon’s Fire HD tablets, with both the 10.1-inch Fire HD 10 and the 8-inch Fire HD 8 on sale for $100 and $50, respectively. While neither deal marks an all-time low—these two slates were available for $75 and $45 during Amazon’s latest Prime Day sale, for instance—they’re still a good ways below the usual street prices we’ve seen.

In general, the song remains the same with Amazon’s tablet offerings: they can’t touch any iPad when it comes to build quality, app support, or future-proofed performance, and they’re all pretty aggressive about steering their users toward Amazon content and services. But if you can live with that and just need a tablet on the cheap, they still have their uses.

The Fire HD 10 in particular offers good value at this deal price, with a serviceable 1080p display and enough in the performance and battery life departments to make casual video watching, ebook reading, and web browsing not too frustrating. The Fire HD 8 is a drop-off across the board, but at $50, it’s inexpensive enough to be justifiable if price is all that matters. Both models here come with lock-screen ads and 32GB of storage, though you can remove the former for an extra $15 and upgrade the latter with a microSD card if needed.

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#ars-shopping, #dealmaster, #staff

Linking to news doesn’t make Google liable for defamation, Australia court rules

At Google headquarters, the company's logo is seen on the glass exterior of a building.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Justin Sullivan )

Google cannot be held liable for defamation simply for providing hyperlinks to other webpages, Australia’s highest court ruled today. By itself, providing a URL is not “participation in the communication of defamatory matter which happens to be at that address… In reality, a hyperlink is merely a tool which enables a person to navigate to another webpage,” the High Court of Australia ruling said.

The case relates to a Google search result that linked to a 2004 article published by The Age with the title, “Underworld loses valued friend at court.” The article described Melbourne-based lawyer George Defteros, who was charged with conspiracy to murder and incitement to murder the day before it was published. The charge was withdrawn in 2005.

Defteros sued Google after becoming aware that a Google search of his name produced a link to the article and a snippet. Google refused to remove the article from search results despite a request from Defteros in 2016.

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#google, #policy

Review: We Are OFK is stylish, subversive TV disguised as an indie game

The stylish leads of <em>We Are OFK</em>—and yes, that includes the cartoony cat, though I'll leave its involvement in the series vague for now.

Enlarge / The stylish leads of We Are OFK—and yes, that includes the cartoony cat, though I’ll leave its involvement in the series vague for now. (credit: Team OFK)

Imagine versions of The Monkees TV series or Beatles films like Hard Day’s Night for the modern era. What might those look like? I don’t just mean aesthetically—even though any “songs within the show” would certainly differ from the jangly ’60s likes of “Daydream Believer.” What kind of story would it tell? Where would the series air? How would it be presented?

I returned to this thought often while enjoying this week’s We Are OFK, which is as close to an answer to my question as I’ve seen in a modern, hyper-connected era. This format-blurring experience may be marketed as a video game, out Thursday on PlayStation consoles, Switch, and PC, but it’s somewhere between an interactive experience, a passive TV series, and a visual novel. And its production values and brave storytelling choices benefit wildly from this platform-agnostic approach.

A “video game” that leaves exes on read

The six-hour experience, broken up into five “episodes,” follows four restless and disaffected Los Angelenos in a fictional, slightly modified version of our own world. Certain brand names are changed (Twitter is now “Twibber,” Tinder is “Phoenix,” etc.), but its characters otherwise order ride-share cars, leave messages on read, and doomscroll like modern-day twenty-somethings. Each of the four lead characters came to LA to escape their old lives—an issue each reckons with in different ways—and, at the outset of this series’ episodes, find themselves drawn to each other as a “band” while chasing their own respective artistic and romantic dreams.

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#ars-approved, #game-review, #game-reviews, #gaming-culture, #hyper-light-drifter, #we-are-ofk

New macOS 12.5.1 and iOS 15.6.1 updates patch “actively exploited” vulnerabilities

Psychedelic illustration of two hills.

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

Apple has released a trio of operating system updates to patch security vulnerabilities that it says “may have been actively exploited.” The macOS 12.5.1, iOS 15.6.1, and iPadOS 15.6.1 updates are available for download now and should be installed as soon as possible.

The three updates all fix the same pair of bugs. One, labeled CVE-2022-32894, is a kernel vulnerability that can allow apps “to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges. The other, CVE-2022-32893, is a WebKit bug that allows for arbitrary code execution via “maliciously crafted web content.” Both discoveries are attributed to an anonymous security researcher. WebKit is used in the Safari browser as well as in apps like Mail that use Apple’s WebViews to render and display content.

Apple didn’t release equivalent security patches for macOS Catalina or Big Sur, two older versions of macOS that are still receiving regular security updates. We’ve contacted Apple to see whether it plans to release these patches for these older OSes, or if they aren’t affected by the bugs and don’t need to be patched.

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#ios, #ipados, #macos, #tech

First official teaser for Wednesday is deliciously “Burtonesque”

Tim Burton directed Netflix’s new eight-episode original series, Wednesday.

Netflix has dropped the first official teaser for Wednesday on the heels of yesterday’s exclusive first-look images for the Tim Burton-directed series in Vanity Fair. All in all, it looks deliciously Burtonesque, and we’re keen to give it a chance.

As I’ve written previously, American cartoonist Charles Addams created the characters in 1938, originally as a series of single-panel cartoons published in The New Yorker. They were his satirical sendup of American “family values,” turning the entire social framework upside-down. The characters proved so popular that ABC created a 1964 live-action sitcom, The Addams Family, based on them. (Not everyone was pleased by the development. William Shawn was editor of The New Yorker at the time, and his refined sensibilities were allegedly so offended by the TV series that he actually banned Addams Family cartoons from the magazine; the characters didn’t return to its pages until he retired in 1987.)

Animated versions of the family have appeared regularly in film and TV since the 1970s, and Fox unsuccessfully attempted to revive the original TV series in 1998 with The New Addams Family. But it was two live-action feature films in 1991 and 1993, respectively, that defined their canonical representation in popular culture: The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.

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#gaming-culture, #netflix, #streaming-television, #trailers, #wednesday

CDC to restructure after COVID failure, “confusing and overwhelming” guidance

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate committee hearing in July 2021.

Enlarge / CDC Director Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate committee hearing in July 2021. (credit: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

After persistent and often harsh criticism for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the monkeypox emergency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will undergo a significant overhaul, involving cultural and structural changes aimed at realizing its prior reputation as the world’s premier public health agency.

“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in an email to CDC’s 11,000-person staff Wednesday, which was seen by The New York Times and Stat News. “My goal is a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness.”

Though the CDC endured meddling and undermining during the Trump administration, many of the agency’s pandemic misfires were unforced errors—such as the failure to stand up reliable SARS-CoV-2 testing in the early days and muddled messaging on masks. In a meeting with senior staff Wednesday, Walensky made a startling acknowledgement of the failures while outlining the overhaul in broad strokes.

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#cdc, #covid-19, #monkeypox, #pandemic, #science, #trump

Google might give the Pixel tablet a 64-bit-only build of Android

An official picture of the Pixel tablet, due out early next year.

Enlarge / An official picture of the Pixel tablet, due out early next year. (credit: Google)

Android 13 hit AOSP the other day, and included in the code source dump is an interesting commit spotted by Esper’s Mishaal Rahman. It sounds like Google is planning to—or at least experimenting with—moving the upcoming Pixel tablet to a 64-bit-only build of Android. The commit doesn’t beat around the bush, saying: “Move tangor to 64-bit only.” “Tangor” is the codename for the already-announced Pixel tablet.

iOS, with its single hardware manufacturer, has been 64-bit only since 2017. Android has a million moving parts split across a bunch of different companies, so getting to 64-bit only is going to be a long road. Getting there is worth the effort, though, with a promise of increased performance and additional security features.

The Google Play app ecosystem is probably furthest along in supporting 64 bit. Any apps written entirely in Java or Kotlin already get automatic 64-bit compatibility from the system. Google mandated that Google Play apps using native code (usually these are games) needed to provide 64-bit versions back in 2019. There were exceptions for a few popular SDKs like Adobe Air and Unity, but these exceptions were ended in August 2021, when all apps were required to have 64-bit versions.

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AMD will announce Ryzen 7000 CPUs August 29. Here’s everything we know about them

AMD's Ryzen 7000 chips will be unveiled in late August.

Enlarge / AMD’s Ryzen 7000 chips will be unveiled in late August. (credit: AMD)

The final phase of AMD’s Ryzen 7000 CPU rollout is approaching, nearly nine months after initially teasing them at CES. The company will livestream their formal unveiling at 7 pm Eastern on Monday, August 29, alongside more details about the AM5 processor socket and 600-series chipsets. Expect to hear more specific news about performance, plus pricing and availability, for the first of what will presumably be many Zen 4-based processors.

AMD has been releasing a steady drip of details about the new CPUs since January, and various leaks and rumors have filled in some of our other knowledge gaps. Let’s briefly summarize what we know (and what we think we know).

Faster CPUs, same number of cores

Compared to the nearly 2-year-old Ryzen 5000 processors and the Zen 3 architecture, AMD says that we can expect at least a 15 percent improvement in single-threaded performance, thanks to both clock speed increases and an 8-10 percent increase in instructions-per-clock (IPC). The company also promises performance-per-watt improvements, in part thanks to a new 5 nm manufacturing process (Zen 3 CPUs are 7 nm parts).

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#amd, #ryzen, #tech

No more deadly ragers at Airbnb rentals—or so the company hopes

No more deadly ragers at Airbnb rentals—or so the company hopes

Enlarge (credit: Getty)

Airbnb really wants to shut down parties in its rentals. On Tuesday, the company announced the deployment of “anti-party tools” that it claims will help identify users who are likely to throw a party and prevent them from renting a property.

Airbnb is launching the tools in the US and Canada, it said. The tools use an algorithm that flags “potentially high-risk reservations” by looking at user characteristics like “history of positive reviews (or lack of positive reviews), length of time the guest has been on Airbnb, length of the trip, distance to the listing, weekend vs. weekday, among many others.”

“This anti-party technology is designed to prevent a reservation attempt from going through,” Airbnb said. “Guests who are unable to make entire home bookings due to this system will still be able to book a private room (where the Host is more likely to be physically on site) or a hotel room through Airbnb.”

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#airbnb, #policy, #tech

iOS VPNs have leaked traffic for more than 2 years, researcher claims

iOS VPNs have leaked traffic for more than 2 years, researcher claims

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

A security researcher says that Apple’s iOS devices don’t fully route all network traffic through VPNs, a potential security issue the device maker has known about for years.

Michael Horowitz, a longtime computer security blogger and researcher, puts it plainly—if contentiously—in a continually updated blog post. “VPNs on iOS are broken,” he says.

Any third-party VPN seems to work at first, giving the device a new IP address, DNS servers, and a tunnel for new traffic, Horowitz writes. But sessions and connections established before a VPN is activated do not terminate and, in Horowitz’s findings with advanced router logging, can still send data outside the VPN tunnel while it’s active.

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#apple, #biz-it, #ios, #michael-horowitz, #privacy, #proton, #protonvpn, #security, #vpn

US chipmakers hit by sudden downturn after pandemic boom

US chipmakers hit by sudden downturn after pandemic boom

Enlarge (credit: Financial Times)

After dealing with booming demand and global shortages since the start of the pandemic, the semiconductor industry is facing a sudden downturn.

But even for an industry accustomed to frequent cyclical slumps, this one has defied easy analysis and left researchers struggling to predict how the setback will play out.

The sudden glut in memory chips, PC processors, and some other semiconductors has come at a time when manufacturers in many automotive and industrial markets still lack a reliable supply of chips.

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#chips, #intel, #micron, #policy, #supply-chain, #tech

Rimac Nevera first drive: An entirely new level of hypercar performance

A white Rimac Nevera with the sun bursting over a mountain in the background

Enlarge / Rimac Automobili brought the Nevera over to the US, allowing us to try out the car on familiar California roads. (credit: Rimac)

The performance benefits of electric powertrains are now well understood. Thanks to near-instantaneous torque delivery and continuous advances in everything from software to motor design, cars like the Tesla Model S Plaid have rewritten the production car hierarchy when it comes to acceleration.

Yet many traditionalists have been slow to come around on electric vehicles, complaining that the driving experience is too clinical and performance is too circumstantial. They say that EVs lack emotion. Well, the Rimac Nevera is about to change all of that.

Rimac may not be a household name today, but over the past decade, the Croatian startup has been hard at work quietly establishing itself as a key player in high-performance EV development. What began in 2010 with a handful of employees in a converted warehouse has expanded into a 1,700-employee operation with a 200,000 m² campus in Kerestinec, Croatia. The site, which is currently under construction, will house the company’s research and development centers and production facilities when it opens in 2023. The company’s rapid growth has been aided by its various EV development projects for automakers like Porsche, Hyundai, Aston Martin, Pininfarina, and Koenigsegg, leading Rimac to split the company into two distinct entities (Rimac Automobili and Rimac Technology) last year. (Rimac Group also now owns Bugatti, with Porsche.)

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #cars, #hypercar, #rimac-automobili, #rimac-nevera

Rocket Lab will self-fund a mission to search for life in the clouds of Venus

An artist's impression of Rocket Lab's proposed mission to Venus.

Enlarge / An artist’s impression of Rocket Lab’s proposed mission to Venus. (credit: MDPI Aerospace/Rocket Lab)

Never let it be said that Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck lacks a flamboyant streak.

Although his Electron launch vehicle is one of the smallest orbital rockets in the world, Beck gleans every bit of performance from the booster he can. On just the rocket’s second launch, in January 2018, he added a disco-ball like geodesic sphere called “Humanity Star” to give humans a small and bright shining object to, however briefly, gaze upon in the night sky.

“The whole point of the program is to get everybody looking up at the star, but also past the star into the Universe, and reflect about the fact that we’re one species, on one planet,” he said at the time.

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#electron, #rocket-lab, #science, #space, #venus

Solving the rock-hard problem of nuclear waste disposal

A tunnel in Finland’s nuclear waste repository.

Enlarge / A tunnel in Finland’s nuclear waste repository. (credit: Posiva)

Even if all nuclear power plants were shut down today, there’s a mountain of radioactive waste waiting to be disposed of. Yet only Finland has an approved solution for nuclear waste disposal, while projects in the US, UK, and Germany have failed for decades, and progress is also slow in other countries. With growing calls to extend the life of existing nuclear power stations and build new ones, that mountain of radioactive waste sitting in temporary, vulnerable, and expensive storage will keep growing.

The challenge is daunting. “High-level” nuclear waste, which includes spent nuclear fuel, stays radioactive for hundreds of millennia, so a waste facility must keep it safely away from aquifers, violent weather, war, plane crashes, sea level rise, future ice sheets, volcanic activity, and even curious future humans for a time span that dwarfs all of previous human history.

Ultimately, it’s the geology of a proposed disposal site that determines if it’s a safe place to entrust nuclear waste for millennia. We talked to people involved in the Finnish, US, and UK programs about what investigations of the rock and groundwater at those sites revealed about their suitability—or lack thereof.

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#energy, #geology, #nuclear-power, #nuclear-waste, #science

Anti-vaccine activists giddily celebrate as poliovirus spreads in NY

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., heads up to a meeting at Trump Tower on January 10, 2017 in New York City.

Enlarge / Robert F. Kennedy Jr., heads up to a meeting at Trump Tower on January 10, 2017 in New York City. (credit: Spencer Platt | Getty Images)

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to ramp up efforts to halt the spread of poliovirus in New York, anti-vaccine activists are celebrating dips in childhood vaccination rates, calling them a “COVID silver lining.”

On Tuesday, the CDC published new details on the case of paralytic polio in New York’s Rockland county that was first announced in mid-July. The case, which occurred in an unvaccinated, immune-competent young adult male, began in June. Among the report’s revelations is that the infection left the man with ongoing flaccid weakness in both legs.

As of August 10, officials had tested 260 wastewater samples in Rockland and nearby Orange county. Twenty-one of those 260 samples—8 percent—tested positive, with positive detections spanning samples collected in May, June, and July, the report notes. Separately, New York officials announced last Friday, August 12, that sewage samples in New York City had also tested positive.

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#anti-vaccine, #cdc, #infectious-disease, #polio, #public-health, #robert-f-kennedy, #science, #vaccine

Chrome “Feed” is tantalizing, but it’s not the return of Google Reader

Digging into bleeding-edge Chrome code has made some bloggers hopeful, but Google has been focused on its own feeds for a while now.

Enlarge / Digging into bleeding-edge Chrome code has made some bloggers hopeful, but Google has been focused on its own feeds for a while now. (credit: Getty Images)

Does Google enjoy teasing and sometimes outright torturing some of its products’ most devoted fans? It can seem that way.

Tucked away inside a recent bleeding-edge Chrome build is a “Following feed” that has some bloggers dreaming of the return of Google Reader. It’s unlikely, but never say never when it comes to Google product decisions.

Chrome added a sidebar for browsing bookmarks and Reading List articles back in March. Over the weekend, the Chrome Story blog noticed a new flag in Gerrit, the unstable testing build of Chrome’s open source counterpart Chromium. Enabling that flag (now also available in Chrome’s testing build, Canary) adds another option to the sidebar: Feed.

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#biz-it, #chrome, #google, #google-chrome, #google-reader, #rss, #rss-reader, #tech

When context is key: “Hunger stones” go viral, but news first broke in 2018

A hunger stone in the Elbe River in Děčín, Czech Republic. The oldest readable carving is from 1616, with older carvings (1417 and 1473) having been wiped out by anchoring ships over the years.

Enlarge / A hunger stone in the Elbe River in Děčín, Czech Republic. The oldest readable carving is from 1616, with older carvings (1417 and 1473) having been wiped out by anchoring ships over the years. (credit: Dr. Bernd Gross/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Stories have been circling around the Internet this past week about the re-emergence in certain Czech and German rivers of so-called “hunger stones“—rocks embedded in rivers during droughts to mark the water level and warn future generations of the likely famine and hardship to come whenever the stones became visible again. The coverage has been fueled largely by an August 11 tweet noting one stone in particular, inscribed with a dire warning: “If you see me, weep.”

Hunger stones (hungerstein) are very much a real thing with a long and fascinating history. And Europe is in the midst of a historically severe drought—severe enough that water levels may indeed be sufficiently low for the stones to re-emerge once more. But that August 11 tweet and the related coverage are actually rehashing a series of news stories from 2018, when the re-emergence of the hunger stones in the midst of that year’s extreme drought in Europe made headlines.

It’s hardly an egregious case of misinformation, but it does provide an illustrative example of why including context is so important in the digital age—even in a relatively simple tweet enthusing about newly acquired knowledge.

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#climate-change, #drought, #gaming-culture, #history, #hunger-stones, #science

Sweeping report alleges inequity, sexual harassment at Nintendo’s American HQ

Sweeping report alleges inequity, sexual harassment at Nintendo’s American HQ

Enlarge (credit: Nintendo)

Through the first half of 2022, Nintendo of America has been in the crosshairs of critics and the US National Labor Relations Board thanks to reports and formal complaints about working conditions for its contracted employees, all brought into the spotlight after a reported layoff allegedly involved pro-union sentiment. In the months since that story broke out publicly, Kotaku reporter Sisi Jiang has tracked down even more allegations about the famed game publisher’s American headquarters—and the allegations land squarely in the domain of sexual harassment and gender inequity.

A sweeping report published at Kotaku on Tuesday recounts roughly one decade of internal incidents among NoA’s pool of temporary employees, dating back to “the early Wii U era,” backed by a number of on-the-record allegations from former Nintendo staffers along with anonymous reports. The report includes attempts to reach out to Nintendo of America’s leadership, an associated temp agency, and individual staffers who were named as workplace sexual harassers, but Kotaku says it never received answers to its questions.

Many of the reported issues revolve around a divide between full-time employees, colloquially known as “red badges,” and the rest of the company’s American workforce, which was managed by temp hiring agency Aerotek before that company was absorbed into another company during a recent reorganization. The women who spoke to Kotaku both on and off the record collectively suggest that their hopes for turning part-time status into a full-time Nintendo career were strained by being women. One anonymous source said, “your chance was probably worse as a girl,” while another who spoke on the record suggested women weren’t given work-related goals or metrics to grow their careers, instead being told to essentially increase “face time” with male colleagues.

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Deadly swatting increasing on Twitch; alarmed streamers press for change

Deadly swatting increasing on Twitch; alarmed streamers press for change

Enlarge (credit: Vesnaandjic | E+)

A lot of scrutiny has been placed on how Twitch handles users’ reports after being targeted by extreme hate campaigns. Last year, the livestreaming service started suing users conducting “hate raids” that rely on bots to spew a continual barrage of hate speech, “targeting black and LGBTQIA+ streamers with racist, homophobic, sexist, and other harassing content.” Now, vulnerable users are hoping that Twitch will use its industry heft to help effect more change and stop some of the deadliest attacks affecting marginalized users on the platform: swatting that has reportedly been increasing since 2015 and now happens multiple times a week.

These swatting attacks are conducted by anonymous persons making prank calls to police, falsely reporting emergency circumstances (like an armed potential mass shooter or hostage situation that doesn’t exist) in order to get SWAT teams to descend, with guns out, on a Twitch streamer’s location. The Washington Post reported this week that these swattings are seemingly intensifying and traumatizing for any Twitch streamers targeted, who are aware that swattings can be deadly. One trans Twitch streamer told the Post that police in London aimed an assault rifle at her face.

Official attempts to prevent swatting

Back in 2017, a Twitch user died after a swatting. The Twitch user who set up the swatting, Casey Viner, was sentenced to 15 months in prison, while the man whom Viner hired to place the prank call, Tyler Barriss, was sentenced to 20 years.

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#policy, #swatting, #twitch

Will the Nintendo Switch ever see a price drop?

Will the Nintendo Switch ever see a price drop?

Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton)

In a recent interview with Nikkei Asia, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa said the company has no plans “at this point” to increase the price of the Switch. Despite “rising production and shipping costs” for the system, Furukawa said Nintendo wants to “avoid pricing people out” of its console ecosystem (a worry apparently not shared by Meta, which recently raised the asking price of its Quest 2 VR headset).

While some are overreading the “at this point” phrasing as suggestive of a future Switch price increase, all this talk has us focused on some different questions. Namely, why haven’t we seen a price drop for the Nintendo Switch in the last five-plus years? And can we ever expect Nintendo to offer the system for less than its launch price?

A historical anomaly

When it comes to consistent console pricing, the Switch is truly in a class by itself. As of this writing, the Switch has been available in North America for over five years—nearly 2,000 days—yet it’s still being sold in the US for the same $299.99 you would have paid when the system launched in March, 2017.

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#gaming-culture, #inflation, #nintendo, #price, #price-drop, #shortage, #switch

Report: Windows 11 22H2 update will be released on September 20

A selection of apps from the Microsoft Store.

Enlarge / A selection of apps from the Microsoft Store. (credit: Microsoft)

Windows 11’s first major update, also called Windows 11 22H2, is due to be released to the public on September 20, according to separate reports from The Verge and Windows Central.

The update has been available in near-final form in Microsoft’s Windows Insider Preview channels since May, and we’ve already covered most of its major changes—Windows 11 22H2 will include a few new security features (and new default settings for existing features), a redesigned Task Manager, new touchscreen gestures and window management features, and tweaks for the Start menu and taskbar, among other things. It also continues to replace old bits of Windows 8- and 10-era UI (like the brightness and volume indicators) with rounded Windows 11-style versions, bringing more visual consistency to Windows PCs.

Like all major Windows updates, it likely won’t be offered to all current Windows 11 users on September 20. Microsoft usually sends the update to a small number of PCs first and gradually expands availability until all Windows 11 PCs have installed it. Users can manually install new updates by downloading an ISO or using the Windows 11 Installation Assistant from this page.

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#tech, #windows-11

Musk wins one, loses 21 others as judge denies access to many Twitter records

Elon Musk on stage at a conference.

Enlarge / Elon Musk speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition, March 9, 2020, in Washington, DC.

The judge overseeing the Twitter/Elon Musk case is giving Musk access to evidence from one former Twitter executive but rejected his request for documents from 21 other potential witnesses. As previously reported, Musk was seeking evidence from employees responsible for calculating spam-account estimates and reportedly claimed Twitter was hiding key witnesses.

In response, Delaware Court of Chancery Judge Kathaleen McCormick ruled yesterday that Twitter “is required to collect, review, and produce documents from Kayvon Beykpour,” the recently fired head of Twitter’s consumer product group. But Twitter “is not required to collect, review, or produce documents from any other of the defendants’ proposed 22 additional custodians. The plaintiff need only collect, review, and produce documents from the 41 custodians to which plaintiff has agreed to date and Mr. Beykpour.”

Musk’s request was part of his effort to disprove Twitter’s estimate that fewer than 5 percent of its monetizable daily active users (mDAU) are spam or fake.

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#elon-musk, #policy, #twitter

Pixel 6 owners who upgrade to Android 13 can never go back

Android 13 on phone, tablet, laptop

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Android 13 is slowly rolling out to Pixel phones, but here’s something to consider when that update message finally pops up on your device: You can never go back.

Google is apparently changing the way Android updates are enforced on its latest devices. A new warning message on the Pixel Factory Image page says that the Pixel 6, 6 Pro, and 6a can never go back to older versions of Android once they update:

Anti-rollback was first introduced in Android 8 as a security feature. Google can patch all the exploits it wants, but security fixes are meaningless if an attacker can just roll back a device to a previous version that’s full of security holes. Rollback protection works by recording the newest installed version into tamper-evident storage that persists across device wipes, and now the system knows if it’s on an old version or not. Previously, this feature would just show a warning message on boot (and it looks like that will still happen on the Pixel 5 and lower), but now, Google plainly says of the Pixel 6, “You will not be able to flash older Android 12 builds.”

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Almost-certain Nest Wifi appears at FCC with Wi-Fi 6E on-board

We can't show you Google's likely new Nest Wifi router because it's confidential. But "white" and "spherical" are pretty good bets.

Enlarge / We can’t show you Google’s likely new Nest Wifi router because it’s confidential. But “white” and “spherical” are pretty good bets. (credit: Google (video still))

Google has a new device awaiting approval at the FCC, and all signs point to it being an updated Nest Wifi router that not only addresses the notable lack of Wi-Fi 6 on its last model but leapfrogs ahead to Wi-Fi 6E.

In FCC documents made available yesterday, Google asked the FCC to keep confidential its schematics and operational details, including an “Internal Proprietary Antenna Solution consisting of 6 antennas.” As pointed out by Android Police, the fillings also show support for the 6 GHz frequencies of Wi-Fi 6E. There are also the standard 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, Bluetooth Low-Energy, and the 2.4 GHz frequencies that smart home connection standard Thread relies upon.

The model number—A4R-G6ZUC—is akin to other Nest products, and 9to5Google says it has confirmed that this is the number for the next Nest Wifi router.

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#google, #google-nest, #home-networking, #nest, #nest-wifi, #networking, #tech, #wi-fi-6e

Lord of the Rings mechanical keyboards are perfect for people who speak Elvish

Drop Lord of the Rings mechanical keyboard in Elvish close-up

Enlarge / Don’t worry, there are English legends, too. (credit: Drop)

Middle-earth has seen more than its share of trials and challenges, but perhaps none more pressing today than a lack of mechanical keyboards that any of its various peoples can actually read. For ages, everyone from elves to dwarves had to make do with keyboards carrying legends of unknown languages. Today, keyboard and audio brand Drop released two prebuilt mechanical keyboards to rule them all—or at least speakers of Elvish and Dwarvish.

The Drop + The Lord of the Rings Dwarvish and Elvish Keyboards ($169) are the first to gain official Lord of the Rings licensing, Drop said in its announcement today. The keyboards build on Drop’s November release of The Lord of the Rings keycap sets, also written in Elvish and Dwarvish, and follow Drop’s Lord of the Rings artisan keycaps made from resin.

Drop’s new prebuilt keyboards target people who want a keyboard J.R.R. Tolkien would be proud of but don’t necessarily want to go on a Tolkien-style epic journey to build their own.

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#ars-shopping, #gaming-culture, #lord-of-the-rings, #mechanical-keyboards, #tech

Court rules FCC is allowed to reassign 5.9 GHz bandwidth, killing V2X

Technologists think that allowing cars to communicate with each other could eradicate traffic collisions.

Enlarge / Technologists think that allowing cars to communicate with each other could eradicate traffic collisions. (credit: metamorworks/Getty Images)

The long-running saga of V2X (vehicle to everything), a system that uses part of the wireless spectrum to allow vehicles to communicate with our road infrastructure and each other, appears to finally be over. On Friday, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal Communications Commission can go through with its plan to free up part of the spectrum previously set aside for vehicles and infrastructure to talk to each other. Instead, that bandwidth will be turned over to Wi-Fi instead.

The FCC set aside the 5.9 GHz band for V2X back in 1999. A communications protocol that vehicles could use to alert each other to dangers sounded like a great idea at the time, and the plan was to use dedicated short-range radio communication (DSRC) wireless to power the system.

Originally, the technology was meant to be fitted just to vehicles, but engineers got ambitious and decided that instead of just V2V, vehicles should be able to talk to things like traffic lights as well. This would lead us to a traffic utopia, where congestion and crashes are things of the past. There was even thought given to making pedestrians dependent on DSRC to avoid being flattened by speeding cars.

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#aashto, #cars, #dsrc, #fcc, #its-america, #road-safety, #spectrum-allocation, #v2v, #v2x, #wi-fi

Microbiologist tries at-home test kits to see what they reveal about microbiome

Microbiologist tries at-home test kits to see what they reveal about microbiome

Enlarge (credit: Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)

When you hear about the gut microbiome, does it ever make you wonder what tiny creatures are teeming inside your own body? As a microbiologist who studies the microbiomes of plants, animals, and people, I’ve watched public interest in gut microbes grow alongside research on their possible dramatic influence on human health. In the past several years, microbiome testing techniques used by researchers like me are now available to consumers at home. These personal gut microbiome testing kits claim to tell you what organisms live in your gut and how to improve your gut microbiome using that data.

I became very interested in how these home test kits work, what kind of information they provide, and whether they can really help you change your gut microbiome. So I ordered a few kits from Viome, Biohm, and Floré, tried them out, and sifted through my own microbiome data. Here is what I learned.

Your gut microbiome can be a partner in your health—if you have the right bacteria.

How do gut microbiome kits work?

All gut microbiome kits require you to carefully collect fresh fecal material. You put it in the various tubes provided in the kit and mail the samples back to the company. Several weeks later, you’ll receive a report describing the types of microbes living in your gut and suggestions on how to change your diet or activities to potentially alter your gut microbiome.

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#health, #human-microbiome, #microbiome, #science

After ICBM test, US stresses it was “not the result of current world events”

This old file photo shows a Minuteman III rocket being launched from California.

Enlarge / This old file photo shows a Minuteman III rocket being launched from California. (credit: Lee Corkran/Sygma via Getty Images)

Early on Tuesday morning, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, to test the capabilities of the US nuclear armed forces.

The missile carried a test reentry vehicle, which traveled about 6,700 km to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where there is sophisticated tracking equipment to verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system. During an armed conflict, such a missile, which has a range of nearly 10,000 km, could be equipped with a nuclear warhead.

In a news release, the US Air Force took pains to describe this test as long-scheduled and not conducted due to current world events. Rather, the Air Force said, it was the result of “months of preparation” across multiple government partners.

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#icbm, #minuteman-iii, #science, #space

De-extinction company sets its next (first?) target: The thylacine

De-extinction company sets its next (first?) target: The thylacine

Enlarge (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Of all the species that humanity has wiped off the face of the Earth, the thylacine is possibly the most tragic loss. A wolf-sized marsupial sometimes called the Tasmanian tiger, the thylacine met its end in part because the government paid its citizens a bounty for every animal killed. That end came recently enough that we have photographs and film clips of the last thylacines ending their days in zoos. Late enough that in just a few decades, countries would start writing laws to prevent other species from seeing the same fate.

On Tuesday, a company called Colossal, which has already said it wants to bring the mammoth back, is announcing a partnership with an Australian lab that it says will de-extinct the thylacine with the goal of re-introducing it into the wild. A number of features of marsupial biology make this a more realistic goal than the mammoth, although there’s still a lot of work to do before we even start the debate about whether reintroducing the species is a good idea.

To find out more about the company’s plans for the thylacine, we had a conversation with Colossal’s founder, Ben Lamm, and the head of the lab he’s partnering with, Andrew Pask.

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#biology, #cloning, #dna, #ecology, #gene-editing, #genetics, #genomics, #mammoth, #science, #stem-cells, #thylacine

Review: Das Keyboard’s MacTigr is a snappy, but limited, Mac mechanical

Das Keyboard MacTigr mechanical keyboard

Enlarge / Das Keyboard MacTigr mechanical keyboard. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Das Keyboard MacTigr
Switches Cherry MX Low Profile Red
Keycaps PBT plastic
Connectivity options USB-C cable
Backlighting None
Size 17.16 x 5 x 1.06 inches
436 x 127 x 27 mm
Weight 2.43 pounds (1,100 g)
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $219
Other 2x USB-C passthrough ports

Mechanical keyboard manufacturers have a habit of overlooking Mac users. More often than not, mechanical keyboards come with Windows layouts and USB-A connectors, ignoring the many MacBook users with no USB-A ports and the macOS users craving Option and Command keys.

Das Keyboard, a Metadot sub-brand founded in 2005, released the MacTigr mechanical keyboard today to help balance the scales, listing macOS as the board’s only supported operating system. The MacTigr doubles down with a Mac layout, USB-C cable, a pair of USB-C ports, and quality switches that will please users used to paying a premium for elevated designs.

But that’s about all the MacTigr does. It lacks power features, like easy programmability or swappable mechanical switches. It’s not bad, but it is fairly boring, and I expected this cat to have a more memorable roar for its $219 MSRP.

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#das-keyboard, #gadgetology, #keyboards, #mechanical-keyboards, #tech

Amazon accuses FTC of harassing executives including Jeff Bezos and Andy Jassy

Former Amazon CEO and current Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos.

Former Amazon CEO and current Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos. (credit: Dan Farber)

Amazon has accused the US Federal Trade Commission of harassing its top executives, including founder Jeff Bezos and chief executive Andy Jassy, as part of a probe into the ecommerce group’s Prime membership scheme.

Since March 2021, the regulator has been investigating whether Amazon uses deceptive techniques to lure customers into signing up for Prime, the subscription service that offers free delivery and other benefits at a cost of $139 a year.

The FTC is also examining whether Amazon unfairly complicates the process for customers who want to cancel their membership.

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First look at del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is magically macabre

A master of horror gives a first look at some of the twisted nightmares and violent delights from his new anthology series, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

Halloween might be the furthest thing on people’s minds in the dog days of August, but a new first look teaser for Netflix’s new anthology series, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities—plus the release of several simultaneously gorgeous and horrific images—are putting us in a much more frisson-seeking frame of mind. Nobody does horror quite like del Toro and this anthology very much looks worthy of his reputation.

The series was first announced in 2018 and features eight episodes written and directed by filmmakers handpicked by del Toro. “In this anthology we gave ownership of each episode to the directors,” he says in the first look teaser. “Each of the episodes has a whole world. They present you with different delights. Some are savory, some are sweet. You get a surprise from each of the bites.”

The list of directors includes Jennifer Kent, who directed 2014’s phenomenal The Babadook; her episode, “The Murmuring,” is based on an original story by del Toro and features Babadook star, Essie Davis (aka Miss Fisher). “Dreams in the Witch House,” based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, is directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown, Twilight).

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#cabinet-of-curiosities, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #guillermo-del-toro, #horror, #netflix, #streaming-television, #trailers

CDC to regain control of US hospital data after Trump-era seizure, chaos

An older man in a business suit listens to a woman in a business suit.

Enlarge / Former president Donald Trump, right, listens to Deborah Birx, former coronavirus response coordinator, as she speaks during a news conference in the White House in Washington, DC, on Thursday, April 23, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

This December, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will finally regain control of national COVID-19 hospital data—which the agency abruptly lost early in the pandemic to an inexperienced private company with ties to then-President Donald Trump.

As SARS-CoV-2 raged in the summer of 2020, the Trump administration was busy sabotaging the once-premier public health agency. The administration’s meddling included stripping the CDC of its power to collect critical data on COVID-19 patients and pandemic resources in hospitals around the country.

According to multiple investigative reports at the time, then-White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx was frustrated by the CDC’s slow and somewhat messy process of collecting and tidying the data submitted by thousands of hospitals. The data included stats on admissions, patient demographics, bed availability, ventilator use, discharges, and personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies.

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#birx, #cdc, #covid-19, #data, #data-collection, #hhs, #hospital, #infectious-disease, #pandemic, #science, #teletracking, #trump

As Big Tech grapples with caste-based discrimination, Apple explicitly bans it

As Big Tech grapples with caste-based discrimination, Apple explicitly bans it

Enlarge (credit: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / Contributor | AFP via Getty Images)

To help combat caste-based discrimination, the Indian government saves spots at the best Indian universities for lower-caste students, who often take that opportunity and turn it into a tech job in Silicon Valley. In the US, discrimination laws don’t specifically protect citizens based on caste, though that is changing. Reuters reports that, out of all the Big Tech companies relying on India’s skilled workers, Apple has been most explicit about preventing discrimination by caste among its US employees.

Reported this week for the first time publicly, Apple updated its employee conduct policy in 2020 to “explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste,” the same way it prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, and ancestry.

The decision came after “the first US employment lawsuit about alleged casteism” was filed in June 2020 by a California employment regulator defending a low-caste engineer working at Cisco Systems. The engineer alleged that two of his Cisco bosses were higher-caste and impeded his advancement opportunities at the tech company.

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#amazon, #apple, #cisco-systems, #discrimination, #google, #meta, #microsoft, #policy

1,900 Signal users’ phone numbers exposed by Twilio phishing

Signal's security-minded messaging app is dealing with a third-party phishing attempt that exposed a small number of users' phone numbers.

Enlarge / Signal’s security-minded messaging app is dealing with a third-party phishing attempt that exposed a small number of users’ phone numbers. (credit: Getty Images)

A successful phishing attack at SMS services company Twilio may have exposed the phone numbers of roughly 1,900 users of the secure messaging app Signal—but that’s about the extent of the breach, says Signal, noting that no further user data could be accessed.

In a Twitter thread and support document, Signal states that a recent successful (and deeply resourced) phishing attack on Twilio allowed access to the phone numbers linked with 1,900 users. That’s “a very small percentage of Signal’s total users,” Signal writes, and all 1,900 affected users will be notified (via SMS) to re-register their devices. Signal, like many app companies, uses Twilio to send SMS verification codes to users registering their Signal app.

With momentary access to Twilio’s customer support console, attackers could have potentially used the verification codes sent by Twilio to activate Signal on another device and thereby send or receive new Signal messages. Or an attacker could confirm that these 1,900 phone numbers were actually registered to Signal devices.

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#biz-it, #signal, #twilio

Scientists bent frickin’ laser beams to create this detailed image of a cat

Researchers manipulated light with liquid crystals to create a sculpted laser beam capable of producing this photorealistic image of a cat.

Enlarge / Researchers manipulated light with liquid crystals to create a sculpted laser beam capable of producing this photorealistic image of a cat. (credit: P.F. Silva & S.R. Muniz, 2022)

Every cat owner knows how their feline companions delight in chasing a tiny pinpoint of light from a simple laser pointer. Now, Brazilian physicists have figured out how to trap and bend laser light into intricate shapes, producing the impressive photorealistic image of a cat pictured above. Among other potential applications, their method—described in a recent paper posted to the physics arXiv—could prove useful for building better optical traps to create clouds of ultra-cold atoms for a variety of quantum experiments.

The ability to produce and precisely control the shape of laser beams with high fidelity is vital for many segments of research and industry, according to co-authors Pedro Silva and Sergio Muniz of the University of Sao Paolo. They group most wavefront engineering approaches into two basic categories.

The first includes such approaches as digital micro mirrors (DMDs) and acoustic optical modulators (AOMs), which are easy to implement and boast a fast response for near real-time feedback control. But they have a limited ability to control the phase of the light field and can’t create certain kinds of structured light. They are also prone to speckle, diffraction, or other distortions.

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Apple ad exec wants to more than double ad revenue with new ads across iOS

Apple's HQ, as seen in Apple Maps.

Enlarge / Apple’s HQ, as seen in Apple Maps. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple is looking into significantly ramping up its ads business, according to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, and has already internally explored adding ads to the iPhone’s Maps app, with other potential expansions also on the horizon.

The shift may be driven in part by a recent change within the company’s reporting structure: Gurman wrote in his email newsletter this week that Apple advertising VP Todd Teresi began reporting directly to Apple services head Eddie Cue a few months back. He also wrote that Teresi plans to increase Apple’s advertising revenue from $4 billion annually to billions in the double digits.

As Gurman notes, advertising is already a part of Apple’s strategy, but it’s limited in scope and to certain places. The most traditional advertisements you’ll see in an Apple-made app are the ones in the Stocks and News apps. There, you’ll see display ads just like those you see on news websites—both outside of stories and inside of them.

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#advertising, #apple, #apple-app-store, #bloomberg, #iads, #ios, #ipad, #ipados, #iphone, #mark-gurman, #tech

Google Maps accused of leading users to fake abortion clinics

Google Maps accused of leading users to fake abortion clinics

Enlarge (credit: spukkato | iStock / Getty Images Plus)

In 2018, Google was first confronted by media reports investigating why crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs)—often religious, non-medical organizations that do not provide abortion services or referrals for abortion services—frequently dominate Google Maps search results for “abortion clinics.” Now, four years later, the tech company seems to be making some moves to potentially change the quality of these sorts of search results.

In response to a Bloomberg report that “Google Maps routinely misleads people looking for abortion providers,” Google says it is “actively” seeking to improve the relevancy of search results of categories of businesses like “abortion clinics.” It seems that currently, search results based on business categories aren’t as relevant as the similar business results displayed following searches for specific business names.

The question being aimed at Google is whether its ongoing practice of displaying CPCs in results for abortion clinics qualifies as spreading health misinformation. Women claiming they were misled by Google Maps say the CPCs they visited went to extremes to dissuade them from seeking an abortion. That included relaying “misinformation about the abortion procedure, including risk to life, risk of breast cancer, risk to mental health, risk to future fertility, and fetal pain.”

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#abortion, #google, #google-maps, #policy

Intel turns to code translation to run old DirectX9 games on its newest GPUs

<em>Team Fortress 2</em> is one of several still-popular games that use the DirectX9 API instead of a more modern version.

Enlarge / Team Fortress 2 is one of several still-popular games that use the DirectX9 API instead of a more modern version. (credit: Valve)

Intel’s graphics marketing team is currently in the middle of an expectations-setting PR blitz around its upcoming Arc GPUs. Partly because of immature drivers, the new graphics cards generally perform much better in newer games using the DirectX12 and Vulkan APIs than they do in older DirectX and OpenGL games. The problem for Intel is that not all games use the latest APIs, especially competitive multiplayer titles that have been around for a while.

For older games using the DirectX9 API, the company has come up with a unique solution. Tom’s Hardware reports that Intel’s latest GPUs will no longer support DirectX9 natively, instead relying on a Microsoft-provided software translation layer called D3D9On12 to convert Direct3D9 API calls into Direct3D12 ones (Direct3D is the name for the 3D graphics-related parts of DirectX).

Intel’s support page, dated August 10, says that D3D9On12 will be used on all Arc GPUs and the integrated GPUs in 12th-generation Core processors. Despite being nearly identical to their 12th-gen counterparts, the integrated GPUs in 11th-generation CPUs will continue to support DirectX9 natively unless they’re in a PC with an Arc GPU present.

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No, seriously, NASA’s Space Launch System is ready to take flight

NASA's Space Launch System rocket, reflected in the turn basin at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, rolls out for a fourth attempt at a wet dress rehearsal on June 6, 2022.

Enlarge / NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, reflected in the turn basin at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, rolls out for a fourth attempt at a wet dress rehearsal on June 6, 2022. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

It’s actually happening. NASA is finally set to launch its massive Space Launch System rocket, and barring catastrophe, the Orion spacecraft is going to fly to the Moon and back.

The space agency’s final pre-launch preparations for this Artemis I mission are going so well, in fact, that NASA now plans to roll the rocket to Launch Pad 39B as soon as Tuesday, August 16, at 9 pm ET (01:00 UTC Wednesday). This is two days ahead of the previously announced rollout schedule.

This earlier date for the rocket’s rollout follows completion of a flight termination system test over the weekend. This was the final major test of the launch system and spacecraft prior to rollout and marks the completion of all major pre-launch activities. NASA continues to target three dates to attempt the Artemis I launch: August 29, September 2, and September 5.

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#artemis-1, #nasa, #science, #sls-rocket, #space

California to consider keeping last nuclear plant open

Image of two domed concrete shells in front of the ocean.

Enlarge / The two reactors of the Diablo Canyon facility. (credit: Tracey Adams)

On Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom sent a series of aggressive climate proposals to the state legislature. And, in a separate but related move, his administration is circulating potential legislation that would allow the state’s last nuclear power plant to continue operating past its planned shutdown in 2025. The proposed legislation is remarkably complicated despite its seemingly simple goal and is already facing a backlash from environmental groups, yet it has to be passed by the end of the month when the current legislative session expires.

Big goals

California already has one of the most ambitious sets of climate goals among the US states. But Newsom’s plan would accelerate the targets already in place. It would set 2045 as the latest date by which the state would reach net carbon neutrality and make that target legally binding. To make that easier, it would boost the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions cuts from 45 percent to 55 percent relative to the 1990 baseline.

As part of that, California will rapidly cut carbon emissions from electrical generation, with 90 percent clean energy in 2035, and 95 percent in 2040. Concurrently, it will put more areas in the state off-limits to oil extraction and start supporting carbon capture and sequestration.

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#california, #carbon-emissions, #energy, #nuclear-power, #science

Rebuilding a once-great racing name: The return of Lola Cars

The nose of a red Lola Mk1 in the foreground and a white and green Lola B12/60 in the background

Enlarge / A Lola Mk1 in the foreground and a Lola B12/60 from 2012 in the background. (credit: Lola Cars)

When I first heard of the plan to revive Lola Cars, I had some trepidation. In these days of SPAC-powered exuberance and blockchain hype, it would be pretty easy for a company to take the cynical approach: Design (if not necessarily ever build) a ludicrously expensive electric hypercar and maybe some NFTs and wait for the hype to roll in. Thankfully, those ideas couldn’t be further from the new owner’s plans.

“Simply put, our plan is to bring Lola back to a former version of itself. To me, that means being a design and engineering force in modern motorsport,” explained Till Bechtolsheimer, an investor and amateur racing driver who bought the company’s assets in June.

Older racing fans will know the Lola name. The company was founded in the UK in 1958 by Eric Broadley, and by 1962, it had entered Formula 1 as a constructor, though never with much success. A pair of second-place finishes for John Surtees that year were the best results Lola-built F1 cars could muster, and the company’s planned return to the sport in 1997 with the backing of MasterCard was a complete fiasco that ended when neither of the company’s cars qualified for that year’s opening race in Australia.

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#cars, #formula-1, #lola-cars, #racing, #sports-cars, #wind-tunnel

Google ships Android 13 to Pixels; adds customization options, spatial audio

Android 13 on phone, tablet, laptop

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Google has begun its rollout of Android 13, the company announced today. The update is now shipping to Pixel phones, and Google is also releasing Android 13 to its Android Open Source Project (AOSP).

According to Google’s blog post, Android 13 will come to Android devices from Samsung’s Galaxy line and to devices from Asus, Nokia (via HMD), iQOO, Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Sharp, Sony, Tecno, Vivo, Xiaomi, and others “later this year.”

Android 13 doesn’t come with many groundbreaking features, but it includes enhancements to customization options, audio, and security. Google is also expanding the Material You UI it introduced with Android 12 so that even non-Google apps can coordinate with the colors of your wallpaper and theme.

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#android, #google, #smartphones, #tech

Update Zoom for Mac now to avoid root-access vulnerability

A critical vulnerability in Zoom for Mac OS allowed unauthorized users to downgrade Zoom or even gain root access. It has been fixed, and users should update now.

Enlarge / A critical vulnerability in Zoom for Mac OS allowed unauthorized users to downgrade Zoom or even gain root access. It has been fixed, and users should update now. (credit: Getty Images)

If you’re using Zoom on a Mac, it’s time for a manual update. The video conferencing software’s latest update fixes an auto-update vulnerability that could have allowed malicious programs to use its elevated installing powers, granting escalated privileges and control of the system.

The vulnerability was first discovered by Patrick Wardle, founder of the Objective-See Foundation, a nonprofit Mac OS security group. Wardle detailed in a talk at Def Con last week how Zoom’s installer asks for a user password when installing or uninstalling, but its auto-update function, enabled by default, doesn’t need one. Wardle found that Zoom’s updater is owned by and runs as the root user.

It seemed secure, as only Zoom clients could connect to the privileged daemon, and only packages signed by Zoom could be extracted. The problem is that by simply passing the verification checker the name of the package it was looking for (“Zoom Video ... Certification Authority Apple Root CA.pkg“), this check could be bypassed. That meant malicious actors could force Zoom to downgrade to a buggier, less-secure version or even pass it an entirely different package that could give them root access to the system.

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#biz-it, #def-con, #mac, #mac-os, #objective-see, #patrick-wardle, #security, #zoom

NFL Blitz arcade games will relaunch as Arcade1Up cabinet exclusive

The good news is that NFL Blitz‘s golden era of arcade games is coming back. The bad news is how limited this collection of beloved games will be.

Games from the earliest Blitz era, which ended with NFL Blitz 2000: Gold Edition, will soon be available to buy and play in your home once more—for the steep price of $599.99 as part of a three-game collection on an Arcade1Up three-fourths scale arcade cabinet. The collection, dubbed NFL Blitz Legends, is available for preorder (Arcade1Up, Best Buy) as of Monday, August 15, and is scheduled to ship to customers in October.

Less boom, still some shaka-laka

Sadly, these games have been edited in the years since their late-’90s heyday, and the changes may well be dealbreakers for those who grew up loving the original series’ over-the-top, WWE-like mayhem in arcades and early 3D consoles like the N64 and Dreamcast. Arcade1Up has confirmed that this NFL game will no longer feature “a specific set of tackles,” with roughly 15 percent of football player collisions edited out. Additionally, all after-the-whistle hits have been disabled. Smaller apparent changes thus far include new textures drawn on the field and sidelines to insert Arcade1Up’s logo into the action.

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#arcade1up, #ars-shopping, #gaming-culture, #nfl-blitz

Stacey Morgan recounts hitting “the wall” during her husband’s spaceflight

Stacey Morgan and her four children watch Drew Morgan launch in July 2019.

Enlarge / Stacey Morgan and her four children watch Drew Morgan launch in July 2019. (credit: Stacey Morgan)

One of the very first things that a new NASA astronaut learns is that there is no “I” in team. As part of their nearly two years of training before becoming eligible for flight assignments, prospective astronauts are told not to use the space agency, or their spaceflight status, for self-promotion.

The mission comes first, and while astronauts may be the most visible part of the NASA team, they are there to represent the agency and not themselves. Some recent astronauts who used their spaceflights to successfully boost their public profiles—such a Chris Hadfield and Scott Kelly—did so knowing they never intended to fly again. That’s not to say that Hadfield and Kelly were not great astronauts, nor team players. It’s just that astronauts who want to earn future flight assignments don’t call attention to themselves.

This ironclad rule makes the recent publication of a book by Stacey Morgan, The Astronaut’s Wife, notable. In the book Morgan tells the story of her relationship with her husband, Drew Morgan, whom she met at West Point when they were both undergraduates. The narrative includes stories about their four children, life lessons, and Scripture references; but the centerpiece of the book concerns Morgan’s spaceflight from July 2019 to April 2020.

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#astronaut, #nasa, #science, #space, #spacefight

Machine learning, concluded: Did the “no-code” tools beat manual analysis?

Machine learning, concluded: Did the “no-code” tools beat manual analysis?

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

I am not a data scientist. And while I know my way around a Jupyter notebook and have written a good amount of Python code, I do not profess to be anything close to a machine learning expert. So when I performed the first part of our no-code/low-code machine learning experiment and got better than a 90 percent accuracy rate on a model, I suspected I had done something wrong.

If you haven’t been following along thus far, here’s a quick review before I direct you back to the first two articles in this series. To see how much machine learning tools for the rest of us had advanced—and to redeem myself for the unwinnable task I had been assigned with machine learning last year—I took a well-worn heart attack data set from an archive at the University of California-Irvine and tried to outperform data science students’ results using the “easy button” of Amazon Web Services’ low-code and no-code tools.

The whole point of this experiment was to see:

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#ai, #ai-ml, #aws, #biz-it, #feature, #feature-report, #features, #low-code-no-code, #low-code, #machine-learning, #ml, #no-code, #sagamaker

A new jailbreak for John Deere tractors rides the right-to-repair wave

A new jailbreak for John Deere tractors rides the right-to-repair wave

Enlarge (credit: HUM Images | Getty)

Farmers around the world have turned to tractor hacking so they can bypass the digital locks that manufacturers impose on their vehicles. Like insulin pump “looping” and iPhone jailbreaking, this allows farmers to modify and repair the expensive equipment that’s vital to their work, the way they could with analog tractors. At the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas on Saturday, the hacker known as Sick Codes is presenting a new jailbreak for John Deere & Co. tractors that allows him to take control of multiple models through their touchscreens.

The finding underscores the security implications of the right-to-repair movement. The tractor exploitation that Sick Codes uncovered isn’t a remote attack, but the vulnerabilities involved represent fundamental insecurities in the devices that could be exploited by malicious actors or potentially chained with other vulnerabilities. Securing the agriculture industry and food supply chain is crucial, as incidents like the 2021 JBS Meat ransomware attack have shown. At the same time, though, vulnerabilities like the ones that Sick Codes found help farmers do what they need to do with their own equipment.

John Deere did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment about the research.

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#biz-it, #drm, #john-deere, #right-to-repair

Bacteria fight off viruses with a protein like one of ours

Group of E. coli like bacteria, colored green.

Enlarge (credit: KATERYNA KON)

Vertebrates such as ourselves rely on a complicated, multi-layer immune system to limit the impact of pathogens. Specialized B and T cells play a central role by recognizing specific pathogens and providing a memory of past infections.

Obviously, single-celled organisms like bacteria and archaea can’t take the same approach. But that doesn’t mean they’re defenseless. They also have an adaptive defense system that maintains a memory of past infections (and happens to make a great gene editing tool). Now, researchers have found that a family of related proteins is used to fight viruses in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. While the effects it triggers vary among organisms, it appears to be capable of recognizing a wide range of viruses.

Finding family members

Mammals have a family of immune proteins called STAND (for reasons that are unimportant) that are part of what calls the innate immune system. This arm of our immune system doesn’t recognize specific pathogens; instead, it recognizes general features of infection, such as molecules that are found on the surface of most bacteria.

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#bacteria, #biology, #evolution, #immunology, #science, #viruses

The weekend’s best deals: Apple MacBook Air, Resident Evil bundle, and more

The weekend’s best deals: Apple MacBook Air, Resident Evil bundle, and more

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

It’s the weekend, which means it’s time for another Dealmaster. Our latest roundup of the best tech deals from around the web includes a nice discount on Apple’s entry-level MacBook Air, which is currently down to $850 at Best Buy. That’s about $150 off Apple’s MSRP and tied for the lowest price we’ve seen from a major retailer since the laptop briefly dropped to $800 last December.

Note that this deal applies to the MacBook Air model that launched in 2020, not the variant that arrived earlier this year with a refreshed design and a faster M2 system-on-a-chip. If money is no object, we now recommend the latter as the best Apple laptop for most people. That said, the M1-based Air is still a fine alternative for those who need a Mac but can’t afford the $1,199 starting price of the M2 model. For the money, it’s still plenty performant, with excellent battery life, a study yet lightweight design, and a comfortable keyboard and trackpad. Just be aware that the 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD in this entry-level configuration is only really suitable for more casual needs. There’s still only two USB-C ports, too, and the built-in webcam remains mediocre. But for students or those who only need a laptop for lighter browsing, editing, and everyday work, there’s still value to be had at this deal price.

Besides MacBooks, our roundup also includes a notable Humble game bundle that packages 10 Resident Evil games—as well as a 50 percent off coupon for the newest entry in the series, Resident Evil Village—for $30. Not every RE game is a winner: RE4RE72019’s RE2 remake, and 2002’s remake of the original RE are excellent, but we were just lukewarm on Village, and the action-heavy excursions of RE5 and RE6 are, let’s say, a more acquired taste. Still, this is a great price for the majority of gaming’s most popular survival-horror franchise. If you already own some of these games, you can pay $1 or $10 to get a smaller selection of titles. And as with most Humble bundles, a portion of any purchases here will help support a charity. In this case, Humble says they’ll partially go toward Direct Relief and their efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine affected by the ongoing invasion by Russia.

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#ars-shopping, #dealmaster, #staff