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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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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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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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’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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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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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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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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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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GM Bets Big on Electric Vehicles

The automaker will spend $35 billion through 2025 on batteries, cars, even trains

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#automotive, #energy, #sustainability, #tech

0

AI Could Spot Wildfires Faster Than Humans

A prediction system undergoes testing as the U.S. West braces for another potentially devastating wildfire season

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#engineering, #natural-disasters, #sustainability, #tech

0

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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Google enables end-to-end encryption for Android’s default SMS/RCS app

If you and your chatting partner are both on Google Messages and both have RCS enabled, you'll see these lock icons to show that encryption is on.

Enlarge / If you and your chatting partner are both on Google Messages and both have RCS enabled, you’ll see these lock icons to show that encryption is on. (credit: Google)

Google has announced that end-to-end encryption is rolling out to users of Google Messages, Android’s default SMS and RCS app. The feature has been in testing for months, and now it’s coming to everyone.

Encryption in Google Messages works only if both users are on the service. Both users must also be in a 1:1 chat (no group chats allowed), and they both must have RCS turned on. RCS was supposed to be a replacement for SMS—an on-by-default, carrier-driven text messaging standard. RCS was cooked up in 2008, and it adds 2008-level features to carrier messaging, like user presence, typing status, read receipts, and location sharing.

Text messaging used to be a cash cow for carriers, but with the advent of unlimited texting and the commoditization of carrier messaging, there’s no clear revenue motivation for carriers to release RCS. The result is that the RCS rollout has amounted to nothing but false promises and delays. The carriers nixed a joint venture called the “Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative” in April, pretty much killing any hopes that RCS will ever hit SMS-like ubiquity. Apple executives have also indicated internally that they view easy messaging with Android as a threat to iOS ecosystem lock-in, so it would take a significant change of heart for Apple to support RCS.

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#tech

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Make way for Windows 11? Windows 10 end-of-life is October 2025

Please show your retired operating system the respect it deserves, with a proper Viking funeral.

Enlarge / Please show your retired operating system the respect it deserves, with a proper Viking funeral. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

A new Windows visual refresh, codenamed Sun Valley. is on the way this summer. Until recently, we’ve assumed that this update would simply bring a new look for Windows 10 21H2—the major release of Windows 10 in the second half of 2021—but new information in the form of end-of-life (EOL) dates for Windows 10 and a leaked screenshot of something purporting to be “Windows 11 Pro” heavily imply that serious changes are on the way.

Windows 10 EOL in 2025

Rumors of Sun Valley being “Windows 11” have been circulating for months, but until recently, we didn’t put much stock in them. Windows 10 was intended to be Windows as a Service—a radical departure from the prior era of new, major Windows releases every three years or so. It seemed likely that Sun Valley’s “sweeping visual rejuvenation” would result in Windows 10 21H2 looking very different from Windows 10 21H1. Why fix what’s not broken?

The first strong indication that bigger things may be coming landed last week from a Microsoft-published EOL notice for Windows 10. “Windows 10 Home and Pro”—no code names, no minor version numbers—is now listed as retiring on October 14, 2025. “Retiring” is a part of the Modern Lifecycle Policy and means that the retired product leaves support entirely; this does not follow the old Fixed Lifecycle Policy with “mainstream” and “extended” support. Retired is retired—hit the pasture.

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#microsoft, #sun-valley, #tech, #windows, #windows-10, #windows-11

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Apple’s podcast subscriptions went live today—with a 30 percent cut

As previously announced in April, Apple has today launched its new Podcasts Subscriptions feature on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. The feature allows users to subscribe to podcasts (or groups of podcasts called Channels) for extra perks.

Perks can include early access to episodes, as well as ad-free listening. Some shows may offer bonus content for subscribers as well. You can subscribe to a podcast with just one button using Apple’s payment system.

Podcast creators can charge whatever they choose to, with the minimum subscription fee being $0.49 per month. Apple takes 30 percent of that amount for the first year, but if a subscriber remains active beyond 12 months, Apple switches to taking just 15 percent of that subscription fee.

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#apple, #apple-podcasts, #apple-podcasts-subscriptions, #podcasts, #tech

0

ZFS fans, rejoice—RAIDz expansion will be a thing very soon

OpenZFS supports many complex disk topologies, but "spiral stack sitting on a desk" still isn't one of them.

Enlarge / OpenZFS supports many complex disk topologies, but “spiral stack sitting on a desk” still isn’t one of them. (credit: Jim Salter)

OpenZFS founding developer Matthew Ahrens merged one of the most sought-after features in ZFS history—RAIDz expansion—into master last week. The new feature allows a ZFS user to expand the size of a single RAIDz vdev. For example, you can use the new feature to turn a three-disk RAIDz1 into a four, five, or six RAIDz1.

OpenZFS is a complex filesystem, and things are necessarily going to get a bit chewy explaining how the feature works. So if you’re a ZFS newbie, you may want to refer back to our comprehensive ZFS 101 introduction.

Expanding storage in ZFS

In addition to being a filesystem, ZFS is a storage array and volume manager, meaning that you can feed it a whole pile of disk devices, not just one. The heart of a ZFS storage system is thezpool—this is the most fundamental level of ZFS storage. The zpool in turn contains vdevs, and vdevs contain actual disks within them. Writes are split into units called records or blocks, which are then distributed semi-evenly among the vdevs.

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#freebsd, #freenas, #ixsystems, #linux, #openzfs, #raidz-expansion, #tech, #truenas, #ubuntu, #zfs

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OnePlus announces the 90 Hz, $240 “Nord N200” for North America

OnePlus’ latest cheap phone launching in North America is the “OnePlus Nord N200 5G.” The phone is a follow-up to the $180 Nord N100 from last year, and with OnePlus’ customary yearly price increases, the N200 is up to a still-dirt-cheap $240.

Considering the $240 price, it sounds like you’re getting a pretty capable entry-level phone. The phone has a 6.49-inch, 90 Hz 1080p display; 4GB of RAM; 128GB of storage; and a 5000 mAh battery with 18 W charging. The pictures show a side fingerprint reader, a USB-C port, and a headphone jack. The SoC is a Snapdragon 480, an 8 nm, eight-core SoC with four ARM Cortex A76 cores and four A55 cores.

The phone (and those specs) are official today, but for some reason, OnePlus isn’t releasing a full spec list. For that, leaker Evan Blass fills in the blanks. Blass says the phone will have a 2400×1080 LCD, NFC, a microSD slot, and sub-6 GHz 5G support (not mmWave), which is expected at this price point. Blass’ specs also fill in the details on the rear camera lineup, which features a 13MP main camera and two 2MP “Macro” and “Monochrome” cameras that we’re going to call “purely decorative.” Phone manufacturers think multiple cameras are an important selling point for phones, even if the additional cameras do almost nothing.

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#tech

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Navigating a Virtual World Helped Older Adults’ Memory

A virtual-reality game may boost one long-term memory measure

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #cognition, #mind, #tech

0

Google’s unified Gmail interface (and Google Chat) launches for everyone

Google is moving two big features from Google Workspace (Google’s paid tier of business Google accounts, formerly called “G Suite”) to free, consumer Google accounts. Google Chat, the company’s latest messaging app, is now open to everyone. And Gmail’s big merger with Google Chat, Google Docs, and Google Meet (Google’s Zoom competitor) is also coming to consumer accounts.

Almost a year ago, Google announced a significant change for Gmail that would turn it from a simple email app into a “single, integrated experience” where you could send email, chat, work on a Google Doc, and make video calls, all from one browser-based super-app. In August, this change started rolling out to paid Google Workspace accounts, and it has experimentally appeared on some consumer accounts. Today, though, Google is officially making the feature available to all Google users.

The “unified” Gmail UI mostly takes the form of a segmented sidebar design with all sorts of Google apps in it. Gmail has long featured a segmented sidebar that includes a chat program—first Google Talk (from 2005), then Google Hangouts (2013), and currently Google Chat (2018). With today’s change, there are new sections with a spot for Google Chat “rooms” (or group chats, which are now separate from regular contacts) and a section for Google Meet (so you can make video calls).

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#tech

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The Apple Watch Series 7 will have a new design, report says

Extreme close-up photograph of a wristwatch on a hand in a pants pocket.

Enlarge / The Apple Watch Series 6, which the new model discussed here would probably replace. (credit: Corey Gaskin)

Like clockwork, Apple has released a new Apple Watch around the same time every year since the device was first introduced in 2015. So no one should be surprised that a new Apple Watch is due later this year. But a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Debby Wu goes into much more detail than just “the Watch is coming soon.”

Citing “people with knowledge of the plans,” Gurman and Wu say the new smartwatch will “likely” be called the Apple Watch Series 7. No surprise there, either.

More surprising: Their sources say the new Apple Watch is likely to be just a bit thicker than the current model. Additionally, Apple is exploring reducing the screen bezels and introducing “a new lamination technique that brings the display closer to the front cover.” The Watch is also said to have the same ultra-wideband technology found in AirTags and recent iPhones, which will be used for things like unlocking doors.

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#apple, #apple-watch, #apple-watch-series-7, #bloomberg, #tech, #watchos, #wearables

0

Chip shortages lead to more counterfeit chips and devices

This pair of FT232RL USB to serial UARTs looks quite similar—but the one on the right is a counterfeit based on a mask-programmable microcontroller and only works with older drivers.

Enlarge / This pair of FT232RL USB to serial UARTs looks quite similar—but the one on the right is a counterfeit based on a mask-programmable microcontroller and only works with older drivers. (credit: Zeptobars)

Beginning with the first Wuhan quarantine in January 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world from both sides of the law of supply and demand. Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA) founder Steve Calabria believes this two-fisted squeeze will spawn a surge in counterfeit electronics, with consequences for longevity and reliability of equipment built with substandard components.

Supply, demand, and counterfeit

Pandemic lockdowns in industrial cities have pinched supply of both finished goods and raw materials, while demand for electronic products has skyrocketed due to both the need for remote work/school gear and simple boredom from people unable to travel, dine out, and party in the ways they’re accustomed to.

The immediate impact of this shortage is obvious and already well-reported—for example, it’s so difficult to buy a graphics card right now that manufacturer MSI is bringing back the 2014-era Nvidia GT 730. The GT 730 is, frankly, garbage—it offers a bit more than half the performance of Intel’s UHD integrated graphics and less than a fifth the performance of 2015’s GTX 950. But it works—and for the moment, that’s the most important thing to be said about it.

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#chip-shortage, #counterfeit-parts, #tech

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Beats Studio Buds review: Apple earbuds that don’t leave Android in the dark

Beats on Monday announced its latest pair of wireless earbuds, the Beats Studio Buds.

The new headphones feature a fully wireless design and active noise cancelation (ANC), putting them in line with similar noise-canceling pairs like the AirPods Pro from Beats parent company Apple and Sony’s new WF-1000XM4.

At $150, though, the Studio Buds undercut those competitors on price by a fair margin. The earbuds are available to preorder today and will begin shipping on June 24.

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#beats, #beats-studio-buds, #bluetooth-headphones, #review, #tech, #true-wireless-earbuds

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Hands-on: Echo Show 8 is like a tablet grafted onto a smart speaker

Thanks for the suggestion, Alexa—it just might be time to revist Ferris and friends this weekend. <em>Oh, yeah!</em>

Enlarge / Thanks for the suggestion, Alexa—it just might be time to revist Ferris and friends this weekend. Oh, yeah! (credit: Jim Salter)

Amazon’s newly redesigned Echo Show 8 offers a form factor with a ton of potential. The relatively small smart speaker/display combo is roughly the size and shape of a small Kindle Fire in a stand and offers an extremely high-resolution camera as well as stereo speakers, an eight-core CPU, a mic array for better voice recognition and processing, and a relatively heavy, flat base which positions its screen well for viewing at either desk or chest height.

We were lucky enough to get two of the new devices for hands-on testing before launch and have had them for about a week.

Overview and controls

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#alexa, #amazon, #echo, #echo-show, #echo-show-8, #personal-assistant, #smart-speaker, #tech

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The Ars Technica Father’s Day 2021 gift guide

A very Ars-y gift for Dad.

Enlarge / A very Ars-y gift for Dad.

Let’s be real here: the best gift you and the family could probably get Dad this Father’s Day is to leave him alone. But if you’re determined grab him a token of your appreciation, even after he’s said “I don’t need anything” for the 10th time, we’ve done what we usually do to lend you a hand: test out a bunch of gear, figure out what’s good, then report back with the things we think your gift recipient might actually like.

Whether you’re celebrating your dad, a dad, or you’re a dad yourself trying to give others an idea of what to get you, we’ve curated a sampling of last-minute Father’s Day gift ideas below.

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

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#ars-gift-guide, #fathers-day, #features, #tech

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Here are a bunch of iOS 15 features that Apple didn’t mention earlier

As Apple’s annual WWDC conference wraps up, we have a whole week of developer sessions and press briefings to look back on, plus a bunch of bullet points on Apple’s various feature pages to sort through.

The result? There are a bunch of interesting features coming to iPhones in iOS 15 that Apple didn’t highlight during its public-facing keynote event on Monday.

We’re not going to list them all, as there are far too many little changes in the upcoming software updates. If you want to review the complete list, Apple has published detailed feature pages on its site.

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#apple, #ios, #ios-15, #ipad, #ipados, #ipados-15, #iphone, #tech, #wwdc, #wwdc-2021

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CD Project Red does an about-face, says ransomware crooks are leaking data

A stylized ransom note asks for bitcoin in exchange for stolen data.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

CD Projekt Red, the maker of The Witcher series, Cyberpunk 2077, and other popular games, said on Friday that proprietary data taken in a ransomware attack disclosed four months ago is likely circulating online.

“Today, we have learned new information regarding the breach and now have reason to believe that internal data illegally obtained during the attack is currently being circulated on the Internet,” company officials said in a statement. “We are not yet able to confirm the exact contents of the data in question, though we believe it may include current/former employee and contractor details in addition to data related to our games.”

An about-face

The update represents an about-face of sorts, as it warns that the information of current and former employees and contractors is now believed to be among the compromised data. When The Poland-based game maker disclosed the attack in February, it said it didn’t believe the stolen data included personal information for employees or customers.

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#biz-it, #cd-projekt-red, #personal-information, #ransomware, #tech

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MySQL 101: Installation, care, and feeding on Ubuntu

Warning: Learning the care and feeding of MySQL instances does not grant knowledge of or safe interaction with actual marine mammals.

Enlarge / Warning: Learning the care and feeding of MySQL instances does not grant knowledge of or safe interaction with actual marine mammals. (credit: Oracle)

One of the tasks nearly any sysadmin frequently encounters is the care and feeding of the MySQL database server. You can build an entire career around nothing but this topic—making you a DB admin, not a humble sysadmin like yours truly—but for today, we’re just going to cover the basics.

For this guide, we’re going to be using Ubuntu Linux as the underlying operating system—but most of these steps and tips will be either the same, or broadly similar, across nearly any OS or distribution you might install MySQL on.

Installing MySQL

Installing MySQL on a fresh Ubuntu instance is quite simple: sudo apt update if necessary, then sudo apt install mysql-server and you’re off to the races. Once the package is downloaded and installed, mysql is fired up automatically (and will be after each system reboot).

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#cli, #command-line, #mysql, #sysadmin-stuff, #tech, #ubuntu

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Google Chrome ends its war on address bar URLs—for now, at least

Chrome is ending its war on address bar URLs—at least for now. About a year ago, Chrome started experimenting with stripping down the URL shown in the address bar to only the domain name, so instead of something like “https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/06/google-is-messing-with-the-address-bar-again-new-experiment-hides-url-path/,” the address bar would show only “arstechnica.com,” and you would have no idea where you are in the site directory.

Android Police spotted a post on the Chromium bug tracker announcing that Google is killing the idea. Back in June 2020 when the experiment was kicking off, Google engineer Emily Stark explained that the company was experimenting with a simplified URL display “to understand if it helps users identify malicious websites more accurately.” It’s a year later, and now Stark writes that the “simplified domain experiment” will be deleted from the codebase, saying, “This experiment didn’t move relevant security metrics, so we’re not going to launch it. :(“

Apple’s Safari browser also hides URLs like this.

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#tech

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Android 12’s beautiful color-changing UI already lives up to the hype

Android 12 Beta 2 came out this week, and with it, a lot of features we’ve only been able to see screenshots of now actually work. This includes Android’s ambitious color-changing UI codenamed “Monet,” and even though this is only a beta, after some hands-on time, it feels like Android 12’s chameleon-like UI already lives up to the hype.

Monet—or “Material You,” as Google now wants us to call it—effortlessly recolors your phone UI with a matching theme based on your wallpaper. Pick a wallpaper that is primarily blue and Android 12 will change the buttons, sliders, clock, notifications, and settings background to matching shades. This arrangement sounds like something that can’t possibly work outside of an onstage tech demo, but the code is out now, and it really works. I’ve spent the last day maliciously trying to break it, and Android 12 reliably turns in beautiful color schemes without any contrast issues.

Google has been working on wallpaper-defined color schemes for some time, starting in Android 5.0 Lollipop and the “Palette” API back in 2014. Monet represents a second-generation swing at the idea, and while Android 5’s Palette API was barely used, Google now feels confident enough with the idea to use it basically everywhere. Basically, every piece of the Android 12 system UI other than the permanently black Quick Settings background is subject to the systemwide color coordinator.

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#tech

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Neck-Zapping Gadget Reduced All-Nighter Fatigue in New Study

And the benefits of two four-minute sessions persisted for hours

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#medicalbiotech, #tech

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Dark Sky’s API, iOS app, and web app will all stop working next year

A new blog post from the developers of Apple-owned, hyperlocal weather app Dark Sky has announced that the iOS and web versions of the app, as well as the Dark Sky API, will sunset at the end of 2022.

Here’s the exact wording from the blog post:

Support for the Dark Sky API service for existing customers will continue until the end of 2022. The iOS app and Dark Sky website will also be available until the end of 2022.

Dark Sky’s developers initially said the API would shut down at the end of 2021, but this new end-of-2022 target obviously moves things back a bit. This is the first time we’ve heard about an end date for the iOS app, though.

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#apple, #dark-sky, #dark-sky-api, #ios, #ios-15, #tech, #weather

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EA source code stolen by hacker claiming to sell it online

EA source code stolen by hacker claiming to sell it online

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Game-maker Electronic Arts and the Presque Isle Police Department in Maine are responding to an event they had both been dreading: the theft of gigabytes of private data by hackers who breached their Internet-connected networks.

In EA’s case, the theft included 780GB of source code and tools for FIFA 21, according to a post published earlier this week on an underground crime forum. The person who published the post, with the username Leakbook, was offering to sell the data.

“You have full capability of exploiting on all EA services,” the person wrote.

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#biz-it, #data-breaches, #electronic-arts, #ransomware, #tech

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Google to stop treating EU antitrust remedy as a “promotional opportunity”

Google and the European Union have been fighting for several years over Android’s default search engine. Just like when the EU took issue with Microsoft bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, the EU Antitrust enforcers don’t want Google using its Android operating system monopoly to prop up Google Search and Google Chrome. The solution the EU came to—just like it did with Windows—is a “ballot” system that pops up during setup and asks users to pick a starting browser and search engine from a list. The only problem? Google was charging companies to appear in this list. It was basically an ad vector. In a blog post this week, Google says it will stop doing that.

The ballots that allowed users to pick a search engine and browser only have five spots, and with way more than five browsers and search engines available, deciding who gets on the list is a contentious subject. First, Google decided that preinstalled apps get sorted to the top of the list. As you can see in the screenshot, the preinstalled apps are almost always Google apps, so Google’s decision here happens to work out really well for the company.

As for the other four slots, Google originally described them in 2019 by saying, “Apps that are not already installed on the device will be included based on their popularity and shown in a random order.” Sometime after that, Google fell back on its instincts as the world’s largest advertising company and thought, “Those are actually ad slots, and we should charge for them!”

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#antitrust, #ballot, #eu, #google, #tech

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These macOS Monterey features won’t work on Intel Macs

A page on Apple’s website has revealed that several features of macOS Monterey, the new version of the software that runs on Macs, won’t work on legacy Macs with Intel processors.

Rather, those features will require the Apple-designed M1 chip (or presumably its upcoming successors) found in new Macs the company has introduced since late last year.

That means that the following Macs in Apple’s lineup will be needed to use the features in question:

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#apple, #apple-m1, #apple-silicon, #intel, #m1, #macos, #macos-monterey, #tech, #wwdc-2021

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Mystery malware steals 26M passwords from 3M PCs. Are you affected?

The silhouettes of heads emerge from a screen full of ones and zeros.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Researchers have discovered yet another massive trove of sensitive data, a dizzying 1.2TB database containing login credentials, browser cookies, autofill data, and payment information extracted by malware that has yet to be identified.

In all, researchers from NordLocker said on Wednesday, the database contained 26 million login credentials, 1.1 million unique email addresses, more than 2 billion browser cookies, and 6.6 million files. In some cases, victims stored passwords in text files created with the Notepad application.

The stash also included over 1 million images and more than 650,000 Word and .pdf files. Additionally, the malware made a screenshot after it infected the computer and took a picture using the device’s webcam. Stolen data also came from apps for messaging, email, gaming, and file-sharing. The data was extracted between 2018 and 2020 from more than 3 million PCs.

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#biz-it, #data-stealer, #malware, #privacy, #tech

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Google kills its augmented reality “Measure” app

Another day, another dead Google product. This time, the augmented reality app “Measure” is being put out to pasture.

As first spotted by Android Police, the Android app is no longer available via a Play Store search, and a direct link to the listing shows a new message in the description: “This app is no longer supported and will not be updated. Users who previously installed this app can continue to use it on compatible devices.”

Measure was pretty neat. The app used a smartphone to measure real-life objects through the magic of augmented reality. AR tracks real-life objects in order to accurately place virtual items in a camera feed, and if the tracking is good enough, an app can turn that data into a pretty good estimate of distance. Measure was never good enough for applications like detailed carpentry work—we found that short measurements were accurate to within half an inch, and longer measurements could be off by several inches—but the best measuring tape is the one you have with you. Plus, the app worked great if you wanted to measure something large, like a telephone pole, which would be pretty difficult with a tape measure.

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#tech

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RTX 3070 Ti review: Nvidia leaves the GPU fast lane (for now)

In a normal GPU marketplace, Nvidia’s new GPU—the RTX 3070 Ti—would land either as a welcome jump or a power-per-watt disappointment. In the chip-shortage squeeze of 2021, however, both its biggest successes and shortcomings may slip by without much fanfare.

The company’s RTX 3070 launched eight months ago at an MSRP of $499, and it did so at an incredibly efficient power-to-performance ratio. There’s simply no better 220 W GPU on the market, as the RTX 3070 noticeably pulled ahead of the 200 W RTX 3060 Ti and AMD’s 230 W RX 6700XT. That efficiency, unsurprisingly, isn’t repeated with the new model released this week: the RTX 3070 Ti. This device’s MSRP jumps 20 percent (to “$599,” but mind the scare quotes), and its TDP screams ahead at 32 percent. We’ve been here before, of course. “Ti”-branded Nvidia cards aren’t usually as power-efficient as their namesakes, and that’s fine, especially if a mild $100 price jump yields a solid increase in performance.

But the RTX 3070 Ti spec sheet doesn’t see Nvidia charge ahead in ways that might match the jump in wattage. And while the 3070 Ti’s performance mostly increases across the board, the gains aren’t in any way a revolution. That may be less about Nvidia’s design prowess and more about squeezing this thing between the impressive duo of the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 ($699) on an MSRP basis.

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#features, #gaming-culture, #nvidia, #nvidia-rtx, #nvidia-rtx-3070-ti, #rtx-3000-series, #tech

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Hackers can mess with HTTPS connections by sending data to your email server

A highly stylized image of a padlock.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

When you visit an HTTPS-protected website, your browser doesn’t exchange data with the webserver until it has ensured that the site’s digital certificate is valid. That prevents hackers with the ability to monitor or modify data passing between you and the site from obtaining authentication cookies or executing malicious code on the visiting device.

But what would happen if a man-in-the-middle attacker could confuse the browser into accidentally connecting to an email server or FTP server that uses a certificate that’s compatible with the one used by the website?

The perils of speaking HTTPS to an email server

Because the domain name of the website matches the domain name in the email or FTP server certificate, the browser will, in many cases, establish a Transport Layer Security connection with one of these servers rather than the website the user intended to visit.

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#biz-it, #email, #ftp, #https, #tech, #transport-layer-security

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The First ‘Google Translate’ for Elephants Debuts

An online animal catalogue lets you decode communications and other behaviors for everyone’s favorite pachyderm

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#biology, #computing, #tech

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Fast.ly broke the Internet for an hour this morning

The United Kingdom government's official website was one of those affected by this morning's outage. The cryptic "Guru Mediation" message shown is an untrapped, unskinned error returned from the Varnish cache server powering the Fastly CDN.

Enlarge / The United Kingdom government’s official website was one of those affected by this morning’s outage. The cryptic “Guru Mediation” message shown is an untrapped, unskinned error returned from the Varnish cache server powering the Fastly CDN. (credit: Leon Neal via Getty Images)

For roughly an hour this morning—6 am to 7 am EDT, give or take a few minutes—enormous swathes of the Internet were down or interestingly broken. Sites taken down included CNN, The Guardian, The New York Times, PayPal, and Spotify, among many more—including The Verge, which resorted to reporting via Google Docs during the duration of the outage.

The underlying problem was an outage at Fastly, one of the world’s largest Content Delivery Network providers—the entire service went down due to a misconfiguration which it had deployed to all of its Points Of Presence (POPs) globally. As a result, sites using Fastly for content delivery came up with various errors dependent on the local site configuration. Some sites delivered relatively uninformative, plain HTTP 503 (Service Unavailable) pages, while others returned errors such as “Fastly error: unknown domain.”

The “unknown domain” error gives us some tantalizing hints to the nature of the problem, which is more than Fastly’s own status updates have so far. This tells us that Fastly’s network was up and its Varnish cache servers were answering requests, but its cache configuration—the Varnish Control Language files which point the cache server to the back-end servers supplying the original content—was almost certainly either missing or garbled.

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#cdn, #content-delivery-network, #fast-ly, #internet-outage, #tech

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Here are some macOS Monterey features the WWDC keynote didn’t mention

A laptop computer displays a video call as well as web browsing.

Enlarge / A promotional image of macOS Monterey. (credit: Apple)

As is always the case with each Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, Apple’s 90-minute presentation yesterday covered what Apple deems the biggest features of its new operating systems. But the company by no means covered every change coming to Macs.

We’ve singled out a few changes that didn’t get much fanfare yesterday but are nonetheless interesting or exciting for macOS or iOS users. This is by no means a complete list of changes. Fortunately, if you want that, the Apple website offers an “all new features” page for macOS.

That said, here are some changes we thought were worth surfacing real quick as WWDC rolls on.

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#apple, #macos, #macos-monterey, #tech

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Google’s revamped Wear OS sounds like a clean break from the old version

A Wear OS watch.

Enlarge / A Wear OS watch. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

At Google’s I/O 2021 conference, the company announced what sounds like a complete re-launch of Wear OS, with Samsung as a major partner. The biggest remaining hardware vendor for Wear OS is fashion company Fossil Group, and in a weekend interview with CNET, the company shed a bit more light on the project.

“Premium” seems to be the name of the game for the revamped Wear OS. Fossil is currently charging $350 for the Fossil Gen 5 LTE, while an LTE-equipped Apple Watch costs closer to $500. When the new Wear OS comes out, we’ll probably see watches more in line with Apple’s pricing. CNET came away from the interview saying, “The upcoming wave of Android-compatible watches will be entirely new, with new chips focused on faster performance and better battery life.”

Many sites concluded that existing watches would not be updated from the old Wear OS to the new Wear OS. Fossil responded by sending out a statement that didn’t deny the speculation and only said that “future upgrade plans are still being developed.” Samsung has said that Tizen watches won’t be upgraded to Wear OS, but that’s a completely different operating system.

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#tech

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The WF-1000XM4 is Sony’s noise-canceling answer to the AirPods Pro

Sony on Tuesday announced its latest pair of noise-canceling wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM4.

This is the follow-up to the also-awkwardly-named WF-1000XM3 earbuds that Sony launched in 2019. Like that pair, the XM4 is aimed squarely at the premium end of the burgeoning true wireless market, with a loaded feature set packed into their diminutive frame.

Given that market, the XM4 is expensive: the earbuds are available to order today for $279.99. That puts them in line with competitors like the $279 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds but above other premium noise-canceling pairs like the $249 Apple AirPods Pro or $230 Jabra Elite 85t. For reference, the XM3 launched for $230.

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#noise-cancelling-headphones, #sony, #sony-wf-1000xm4, #tech, #wireless-headphones

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Nvidia and Valve are bringing DLSS to Linux gaming… sort of

Three different logos, including a cartoon penguin, have been photoshopped together.

Enlarge / Tux looks a lot more comfortable sitting on that logo than he probably should—Nvidia’s drivers are still proprietary, and DLSS support isn’t available for native Linux apps—only Windows apps running under Proton. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Jim Salter / Larry Ewing / Nvidia)

Linux gamers, rejoice—we’re getting Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling on our favorite platform! But don’t rejoice too hard; the new support only comes on a few games, and it’s only on Windows versions of those games played via Proton.

At Computex 2021, Nvidia announced a collaboration with Valve to bring DLSS support to Windows games played on Linux systems. This is good news, since DLSS can radically improve frame rates without perceptibly altering graphics quality. Unfortunately, as of this month, fewer than 60 games support DLSS in the first place; of those, roughly half work reasonably well in Proton, with or without DLSS.

What’s a DLSS, anyway?

Nvidia's own benchmarking shows well over double the frame rate in <em><a href="https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/02/metro-exodus-a-good-single-player-game-to-usher-in-the-pc-ray-tracing-era/">Metro Exodus</a>.</em> Most third-party benchmarks "only" show an improvement of 50 to 75 percent. Note the DLSS image actually looks sharper and cleaner than the non-DLSS in this case!

Nvidia’s own benchmarking shows well over double the frame rate in Metro Exodus. Most third-party benchmarks “only” show an improvement of 50 to 75 percent. Note the DLSS image actually looks sharper and cleaner than the non-DLSS in this case! (credit: nvidia)

If you’re not up on all the gaming graphics jargon, DLSS is an acronym for Deep Learning Super Sampling. Effectively, DLSS takes a low-resolution image and uses deep learning to upsample it to a higher resolution on the fly. The impact of DLSS can be astonishing in games that support the tech—in some cases more than doubling non-DLSS frame rates, usually with little or no visual impact.

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#dlss, #gaming-culture, #linux, #linux-gaming, #nvidia, #proton, #steam, #tech

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US seizes $2.3 million Colonial Pipeline paid to ransomware attackers

US seizes $2.3 million Colonial Pipeline paid to ransomware attackers

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

The FBI said it has seized $2.3 million paid to the ransomware attackers who paralyzed the network of Colonial Pipeline and touched off gasoline and jet fuel supplies up and down the East Coast last month.

In dollar amounts, the sum represents about half of the $4.4 million that Colonial Pipeline paid to members of the DarkSide ransomware group following the May 7 attack, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing the company’s CEO. The DarkSide decryptor tool was widely known to be slow and ineffective, but Colonial paid the ransom anyway. In the interview with the WSJ, CEO Joseph Blount confirmed that the shortcomings prevented the company from using it and instead had to rebuild its network through other means.

Cutting off the oxygen supply

On Monday, the US Justice Department said it had traced 63.7 of the roughly 75 bitcoins Colonial Pipeline paid to DarkSide, which the Biden administration says is likely located in Russia. The seizure is remarkable because it marks one of the rare times a ransomware victim has recovered funds it paid to its attacker. Justice Department officials are counting on their success to remove a key incentive for ransomware attacks—the millions of dollars attackers stand to make.

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#bitcoin, #biz-it, #colonial-pipeline, #darkside, #policy, #ransomware, #tech

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18 months after launch, Google Stadia now supports Android TV

Google Stadia: Now for televisions.

Enlarge / Google Stadia: Now for televisions. (credit: Google)

Televisions and video games have gone together since the beginning. It only makes sense: If you want to play a AAA video game, you often want to do it on the biggest, best screen in the house. So we’re a bit mystified that, just now, 18 months after launch, Google’s video game platform will support Google’s television platform.

Google has announced that starting this month, Stadia will have support for Android TV. First up is official support for the following devices:

  • Chromecast with Google TV
  • Hisense Android Smart TVs (U7G, U8G, U9G)
  • Nvidia Shield TV
  • Nvidia Shield TV Pro
  • Walmart Onn FHD Streaming Stick and UHD Streaming Device
  • Philips 8215, 8505, and OLED 935/805 Series Android TVs
  • Xiaomi MIBOX3 and MIBOX4

Google adds that for Android TV devices not on this list, users will be able to “opt into experimental support to play Stadia.” The company warns, “While this feature is still in development and not every Android TV OS device will work perfectly, you can now try out Stadia and play your favorite games on more screens than ever before.”

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#tech

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