Google and the EU's European Commission are making all sorts of announcements lately. Fresh off the revelation that Google would implement a browser and search-engine picker in EU-sold Android devices, Google's advertising division is getting slapped with a fine next, to the tune of €1.5 billion ($1.69 billion). The European Commission's latest antitrust ruling says that Google's bundling of its advertising platform with its custom search engine program is anti-competitive toward other ad providers.
The particular wing of Google's advertising empire the Commission is concerned with here is "AdSense for Search." Adsense for Search does not refer to the famous ads above Google.com search results but, instead, are ads displayed in "Custom Search" results that can be embedded inside their websites. We have a version of this on Ars—just click the magnifying glass in the top navigation bar and search for something. You won't leave Ars Technica; instead you'll get a customized version of Google Search embedded in arstechnica.com, complete with Google Ads above the results. These are the "Adsense for Search" ads, and they are different from Google.com ads. The European Commission's ruling is all about these "ads for custom search engines."
The European Commission reviewed "hundreds" of Google advertising contracts and found a range of behavior from Google's Ad division that it deemed anti-competitive. First, from 2006 to 2009, Google ads had to exclusively be shown on pages with Google custom search engines. You weren't allowed to do something like use Google to crawl your site and then show Yahoo ads above the embedded results.
The United States is unusual in offering near-absolute protection for free speech under the First Amendment. Most other countries—even liberal democracies—have more extensive systems of online and offline censorship. That difference has been on display this week as New Zealand authorities have begun prosecuting people for sharing copies of last week's white supremacist mass shooting in Christchurch and for posting hate speech in the wake of the attack.
New Zealand Chief Censor David Shanks has determined that the 17-minute video livestreamed during the Christchurch shooting is objectionable under New Zealand law. "It is a record of a terrorist atrocity, specifically produced for the purpose of promoting a hateful terrorist agenda," a press release from New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification states.
Distributing objectionable materials online comes with stiff legal penalties. One man—the 44-year-old owner of an insulation company with alleged neo-Nazi sympathies—has been arrested and charged with two counts of distributing objectionable materials in violation of New Zealand's Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act. He is being held without bail and could be sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison for each offense.
SAN FRANCISCO—We're not sure what exactly is up with Oculus this week, but it's on a roll. Today sees the VR company not only launch a brand-new PC-only headset, the Oculus Rift S, but also promote another headset launching around the same time: Oculus Quest.
While Rift S streamlines an existing Oculus product line—as in, wired VR that requires a PC—Oculus Quest (which was announced late last year) pushes forward with an entirely new combination of wirelessness and "six degrees of freedom" tracking (6DOF). We were excited about how solid Oculus Quest was after our first hands-on session last year, but we still found ourselves asking if the release product would be good enough to stand on its own.
That might be why Oculus asked us to carve out some Quest demo time during its Rift S event. And we're glad we did. Because if you want reasons to be excited by Oculus Quest's possibilities, you should start with the excellent, satisfying game that left us breathless (figuratively and literally) at GDC: Beat Saber.
SAN FRANCISCO—One thing was conspicuously missing from the Oculus demos at GDC 2019: cameras.
You need at least two (if not three) of the company's signature webcams to run its PC headset, the Oculus Rift. Those cameras are not great. They come with funky, oversized stands. They're not as effective at sensing a headset as the HTC Vive's "dumb" infrared boxes. And they must be plugged into a PC, which creates a certain kind of cord hell and requires a PC with plenty of spare USB 3.0 slots.
So, as we filed into this week's demo center of mock "living room" spaces, complete with VR headsets, the lack of Oculus cameras was apparent. Indeed, it was a statement.
After announcing new iPads and iMacs earlier this week, Apple has released details about its next-generation AirPods. The new wireless earbuds, which are available for preorder today starting at $159, come with an updated, Apple-designed chip, more battery life, and "Hey Siri" voice-command support. Apple also debuted a new wireless charging case for AirPods that can be charged with any Qi wireless charger.
We didn't expect Apple to radically redesign the AirPods this time around, and they look nearly identical to the previous model. Inside, however, is a new H1 chip that Apple designed specifically for headphones. The company claims the new chip will provide up to 50 percent more talk time than previous models, faster connect times when switching between iPhone, iPad, and other Apple host devices, and general performance improvements.
The new H1 chip also lets AirPods listen for the "Hey Siri" voice command. Previously, users had to touch the side of one AirPod before speaking a command to Siri, Apple's virtual assistant. Now, users can just say the waking command before asking Siri to do things like adjust the volume, play a different song, and more.
The social media giant bans targeting ads for jobs, accommodation or credit on the basis of gender, age or postcode.
Back in 2009, the EU's European Commission said Microsoft was harming competition by bundling its browser—Internet Explorer—with Windows. Eventually Microsoft and the European Commission settled on the "browser ballot," a screen that would pop up and give users a choice of browsers. Almost 10 years later, the tech industry is going through this again, this time with Google and the EU. After receiving "feedback" from the European Commission, Google announced last night that it would offer Android users in the EU a choice of browsers and search engines.
In July, the European Commission found Google had violated the EU's antitrust rules by bundling Google Chrome and Google Search with Android, punishing manufacturers that shipped Android forks, and paying manufacturers for exclusively pre-installing Google Search. Google was fined a whopping $5.05 billion (€4.34 billion) (which is it appealing) and then the concessions started. Google said its bundling of Search and Chrome funded the development and free distribution of Android, so any manufacturer looking to ship Android with unbundled Google apps would now be charged a fee. Reports later pegged this amount as up to $40 per handset.
Android is a free and open source operating system, so Google's control over Android is derived from the Google apps. Anyone can take the core Android package and distribute it without Google's involvement, but if they want access to the millions of apps on the Google Play Store, they will need to get a license from Google. It's the same story with killer apps like Google Maps, Search, Gmail, and YouTube. Android is free (as in speech); the Google apps are not. Previously, shipping Android without the Google apps—"forking" Android—would mean expulsion from the Google ecosystem. Google was forced to lift this restriction as part of the EU concessions, and now manufacturers can simultaneously ship forked Android and Google Android on different devices.
It's amazing that, despite originally hitting the rumor mill almost a full year ago and putting out pictures four months ago, Google's mid-range Pixel phone is still the subject of rumors. The latest report comes from 9to5Google, which has a new round of specs.
Just like with the flagship lineup, there are two phone sizes in Google's supposedly-launching-someday mid-range lineup. What exactly these devices will be called is still up in the air. These devices have had the codename "Bonito" and "Sargo," and the rumor mill has referred to the consumer names as "Pixel 3 Lite" and "Pixel 3 XL Lite" in the past. As discovered by XDA, though, the recent Android Q Beta is calling Bonito and Sargo the "Pixel 3a" and "Pixel 3a XL." The names are not quite as bad as "LG V50 ThinQ 5G." But they're still pretty wordy.
9to5Google says the smaller "Pixel 3a" has a 2220×1080 5.6-inch screen, while the bigger "Pixel 3a XL" has a 6-inch screen of unspecified resolution. One important bit of news is that the site claims the display technology is actually OLED instead of the LCD tech that previous rumors have claimed. The report says the Pixel 3a has a Snapdragon 670, 4GB of RAM, a 3000mAh battery, a USB-C port, and again reiterates that the camera is identical to the industry-leading camera on the premium Pixels. The Pixel 3a XL likely has similar specs, of course with a bigger battery.
Buyers looking for premium Windows laptops today have plenty of choices; every few months sees some splashy launch of a new high-end PC. Ultrabooks have become the standard design for most premium Windows laptops, and they represent the best of what companies like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft have to offer in terms of design, power, and innovation.
If you're looking for a thin-and-light laptop that's still powerful enough to handle work and play with ease—and doesn't run macOS—a Windows ultrabook is what you want. But not all ultrabooks are created equal. That's why Ars has tested some of the most popular Windows laptops to see which are worthy for consideration as your next high-end notebook.
Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.
The remnants of prehistoric monuments still dot the modern British landscape. Around 4,500 years ago, people gathered at these sites or in nearby communities for annual winter feasts where the main delicacy on the menu was pork. Chemical analysis of the pig bones left behind after feasts at four major henge sites in southern Britain reveals a surprisingly far-flung network of Neolithic travel.This little piggy went to Stonehenge...
Mount Pleasant Henge is a stone circle about 70km (44 miles) southwest of Stonehenge, near the coast of the English Channel. West Kennet Palisaded Enclosures is a set of circular ditches and palisades near the famous stone circle at Avebury, about 39km (24 miles) north of Stonehenge, while Marden Henge, between Avebury and Stonehenge, is a 14-hectare site surrounded by ditches and embankments that once held its own circle of standing stones. Durrington Walls, a large settlement (which eventually built its own stone circle) just 3km (1.86 miles) northeast of Stonehenge, was closely linked with the iconic monument itself.
"Stonehenge is for the dead, Durrington Walls for the living: the place of the builders of Stonehenge and the places of Stonehenge's feasts," archaeologist Richard Madgwick of Cardiff University told Ars Technica. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of ancient feasting at all four sites: broken ceramics, discarded stone tools, and the bones of butchered pigs. Those 4,500-year-old leftovers suggest that these sites were hubs linking a Neolithic social network that connected far-flung communities from Scotland to Wales.
Rival companies' price comparison results will be displayed more prominently thanks to the changes.
Ars Technica is looking for an experienced reporter—a true journalistic hustler who will work the (literal and metaphorical) phones to bring our readers fresh, hot news about the interaction between technology and society.
What do we mean by "technology and society"? We mean stories about the growing political and cultural "Big Tech backlash," copyright clashes, the culture of Silicon Valley firms, tech-policy battles, and important tech-related court cases—not a review of the science in the latest sci-fi blockbuster.
We're looking for someone "experienced to senior" (at least 3 years of quality reporting experience) who already knows what we mean by an "Ars story."
Advertising body criticises a Black Friday promotion for iPhones, following complaints from the public.
Ministers call for payments companies to block essay writing firms, in a bid to beat university cheats.
The push for cleaner air will mean more electric vehicles that are driverless and shared, according to experts.
A female astronaut returns to Earth and starts a downward psychological spiral in the first trailer for Lucy in the Sky, a forthcoming film from Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Lucy in the Sky tells the story of married astronaut Lucy Cola (Portman), who has an affair with fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm). When he dumps her for another woman in the program, she begins to lose her grip on reality. Originally titled Pale Blue Dot, the movie is the feature-film debut for director Noah Hawley, whose TV credits include Fargo and Legion. Reese Witherspoon was initially considered for the lead role of Lucy but dropped out to shoot the second season of Big Little Lies. Portman came aboard instead, making this at least her second song-titled film alongside Jane Got a Gun.
The film is loosely based on the real-world case of NASA astronaut and US Naval officer Lisa Nowak, who became involved with fellow astronaut William Oefelein in 2004 after his divorce. The affair lasted a couple of years, until Nowak discovered her lover had taken up with an Air Force engineer named Colleen Shipman. In February 2007, Nowak drove from Houston to Orlando International Airport with a car full of kidnapping gear (including an 8-inch folding knife) and confronted Shipman in her car in the airport parking lot. Nowak copped a guilty plea in 2009 and received two years' probation; she also received an "other than honorable" discharge from the Navy.
SAN FRANCISCO—Shortly after Google announced its upcoming Stadia streaming platform this morning at the Game Developers Conference, the company opened up a few kiosks showing off the technology in a corner of a Moscone Center West hallway. Unfortunately, these extremely limited demos didn't answer most of the burning questions that Google has still left unanswered about it much-hyped platform.
The most popular demo, judging by the crowds gathered around the screen, was an opportunity to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey on a standard Chromebook via Stadia streaming. The game—running at apparently native resolution and 60 frames per second on a 1080p display—was for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from a local copy running on a high-end gaming rig. Playing and watching the games for a few minutes, I didn't notice any of the input delay, dropped frames, or stuttering that sometimes characterizes the current state of game streaming.
The important caveat here, of course, is that the demo was running on a wired Ethernet connection hooked to the Moscone Center's industrial-strength Internet hookup. The demo team couldn't confirm the location for the Google data center where the game was actually running, but we can't imagine it would be very far from the heart of San Francisco, where the demo was being played.
More and more people are finding themselves with a new neighbor: a commercial electricity-generating system. As electricity grids move from centralized fossil fuel plants to decentralized renewables, the world is switching from fewer, larger plants to more, smaller ones. For some people, this means they're looking out of their windows at wind turbines that weren't there a few years ago.
How do people feel about these turbines? That may seem like a question best answered with "why should we care?" but if we get serious about addressing climate change, lots of people might end up living with generating hardware. To better understand people's preferences, researchers Jeremy Firestone and Hannah Kirk analyzed the results of a large-scale survey on attitudes toward wind turbines. The results, published this week in Nature Energy, show that people in both red and blue states who live near wind turbines would rather keep them than swap them out for either solar or fossil fuel plants.Wind over coal
The results came from a survey of 1,705 people living less than five miles from at least one commercial-scale wind turbine across the United States. The survey, conducted in 2016 by the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, included a hefty set of questions aiming to get a full understanding of how community members feel about their local turbines. It asked questions like how involved people felt in the planning process for the project, how noticeable the turbines are from people's homes, and whether they notice the impact of things like turbine noise.
A lot of people on Twitter have been criticizing and mocking Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and he's not going to take it anymore. On Monday, he sued several of his online critics—as well as Twitter itself—for defamation, negligence, and conspiracy. He claims that his critics' harsh words have cost him $250 million in "pain, insult, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and mental suffering, and injury to his personal and professional reputations."
Eric Goldman, a legal scholar at Santa Clara University, isn't optimistic about Nunes's chances. "There were so many obvious examples in the complaint of tweets that were clearly not defamatory," Goldman told Ars in a phone conversation. "It's not a lawsuit I would have wanted to bring, as a lawyer or as a plaintiff."
Nunes will face a particularly uphill battle with respect to Twitter, Prof. Goldman argues. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives online platforms like Twitter broad immunity against liability for the writings of their users. "Twitter is clearly going to qualify for Section 230," Goldman says. And that means that Nunes won't get a dollar—to say nothing of $250 million—from the social media giant.
Microsoft announced DirectX raytracing a year ago, promising to bring hardware-accelerated raytraced graphics to PC gaming. In August, Nvidia announced its RTX 2080 and 2080Ti, a pair of new video cards with the company's new Turing RTX processors. In addition to the regular graphics-processing hardware, these new chips included two extra sets of additional cores, one set designed for running machine-learning algorithms and the other for computing raytraced graphics. These cards were the first, and currently only, cards to support DirectX Raytracing (DXR).
That's going to change in April, as Nvidia has announced that 10-series and 16-series cards will be getting some amount of raytracing support with next month's driver update. Specifically, we're talking about 10-series cards built with Pascal chips (that's the 1060 6GB or higher), Titan-branded cards with Pascal or Volta chips (the Titan X, XP, and V), and 16-series cards with Turing chips (Turing, in contrast to the Turing RTX, lacks the extra cores for raytracing and machine learning).
Unsurprisingly, the performance of these cards will not match that of the RTX chips. RTX chips use both their raytracing cores and their machine-learning cores for DXR graphics. To achieve a suitable level of performance, the raytracing simulates relatively few light rays and uses machine-learning-based antialiasing to flesh out the raytraced images. Absent the dedicated hardware, DXR on the GTX chips will use 32-bit integer operations on the CUDA cores already used for computation and shader workloads.