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Industry & Technology

Swedish Social Democrats' Twitter account hacked

BBC Technology News - April 15, 2019 - 3:54pm
Messages posted on the hijacked account included anti-immigration rhetoric.

Israeli group says it will make a second attempt to land on the Moon

Ars Technica - April 15, 2019 - 2:24pm

On Saturday, just two days after the Beresheet spacecraft crashed into the Moon, the president of SpaceIL said the organization would move forward. Beginning this week, Morris Kahn said, a new task force would learn from the organization's failures and begin developing a new plan for a Beresheet 2 spacecraft.

"We're going to build a new spacecraft, we're going to put it on the Moon, and we're going to complete the mission," said Kahn, a billionaire who personally donated $40 million to the private Israeli effort.

So far, SpaceIL has provided few additional details about the project, such as when it might launch. The original project, started to win the Google Lunar XPrize, began eight years ago.

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Lyft removes faulty bikes from three US cities

BBC Technology News - April 15, 2019 - 2:23pm
Riders report that brakes were being jammed on sharply on some motor-assisted bike journeys, said Lyft.

Article 13: UK helps push through new EU copyright rules

BBC Technology News - April 15, 2019 - 2:20pm
The UK supports a final vote in favour of new online copyright rules, but some EU nations objected.

Apple and Qualcomm square off in US court

BBC Technology News - April 15, 2019 - 12:24pm
The row is about how much phone makers should pay for the chips essential to modern smartphones.

Jack Ma defends the 'blessing' of a 12-hour working day

BBC Technology News - April 15, 2019 - 12:04pm
Alibaba's billionaire founder sparked intense debate after pressing for a 9am to 9pm working day and a six-day week.

Under-18s face 'like' and 'streaks' limits on social media

BBC Technology News - April 15, 2019 - 10:35am
The UK's data watchdog proposes restrictions on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat among others.

TED 2019: 10 years of 'ideas worth spreading'

BBC Technology News - April 15, 2019 - 9:25am
TED talks have become synonymous with cutting-edge ideas and are watched by millions.

Winter is here: Humans rally as Night King advances on GoT S8 debut episode

Ars Technica - April 15, 2019 - 6:58am

Enlarge / Jon Snow (Kit Harington) brings Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) home to meet the family at Winterfell. (credit: HBO)

Winter is here! The first episode of the hotly anticipated final season of HBO's Game of Thrones aired Sunday night, and it proved a solid, if not scintillating showing. There were reunions galore, a bit of sniping and tension, a nifty new opening credits sequence, and the dragons (the true stars at this point) got plenty of screen time.

(Spoilers for first seven seasons; mild spoilers for last night's episode.)

Based on George R.R. Martin's best-selling epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, HBO's Game of Thrones long ago outpaced the novels in terms of plot, although the author had some early input in shaping the TV series' broad narrative arc. We've seen plenty of sex, blood, and horrifying death over the course of seven seasons, and now it's time for the endgame. This being George R.R. Martin, there's no guarantee of a happy ending.

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How social media is changing comedy

BBC Technology News - April 15, 2019 - 12:59am
Social media changed many aspects of modern life, but how has it impacted traditional stand-up comedy?

Stratolaunch, the world’s biggest airplane, takes flight

Ars Technica - April 15, 2019 - 12:08am

Enlarge / The Stratolaunch aircraft takes off on its maiden flight on April 13. (credit: Stratolaunch)

On Saturday morning, exactly 45 minutes after the sun began to rise over the Mojave Desert, the largest airplane ever created—and its record-breaking 385-foot wingspan—took off for the very first time. The aircraft, from the company Stratolaunch, has been eight years in the making. By 2022, the company hopes to use the twin-fuselage, six-engined, catamaran-style aircraft to launch satellite-bearing rockets into space.

"All of you have been very patient and very tolerant over the years waiting for us to get this big bird off the ground, and we finally did it," Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd told reporters on a press call. The company reported the airplane hit speeds of 189mph and heights of 17,000 feet during its 150-minute test flight, before landing safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

"The systems on the airplane ran like a watch," test pilot Evan Thomas told reporters.

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Gatwick drone attack possible inside job, say police

BBC Technology News - April 14, 2019 - 6:00pm
The drone operator was monitoring activities at the airport during the attack, officials believe.

Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote film finally hits the big screen after 25 years

Ars Technica - April 14, 2019 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / Jonathan Pryce stars as an aging Spanish cobbler who becomes convinced he is Don Quixote in Terry Gilliam's film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. (credit: YouTube/Warner Bros.)

It has been 25 years in the making, but The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, director Terry Gilliam's tribute to the classic Spanish novel, has finally hit the silver screen. The project has floundered and been revived so many times, it became a poster child for Hollywood's notorious development hell, with a reputation of being cursed. But Gilliam persevered, and while the finished product isn't exactly a masterpiece, it definitely reflects the singular vision of one of our most original filmmakers.

(Mild spoilers for the film and Miguel de Cervantes' 17th-century novel below.)

Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote is inarguably one of the most influential works of Spanish literature. The book is written in the picaresque tradition, which means it's more a series of loosely connected episodes than a plot. It follows the adventures of a nobleman (hidalgo) named Alonso Quixano who has read far too many chivalric romances and becomes convinced he is a knight errant. With his trusty peasant sidekick, Sancho Panza, he embarks on a series of random tragicomic adventures, with the Don's hot temper frequently getting them into scraps. (Sancho usually gets the worst of the beatings and humiliations.) Don Quixote is the archetype of the delusional dreamer, tilting at windmills and believing them to be giants, preferring his fantasy to mundane reality.

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Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp suffer outages

BBC Technology News - April 14, 2019 - 2:56pm
Users said the sites, and messaging service WhatsApp, were unavailable for more than three hours.

Science and bicycling meet in a new helmet design

Ars Technica - April 14, 2019 - 2:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Trek)

When we recently did an overview of the evolution of bicycling technology, helmets were barely mentioned. They've been made out of the same materials for decades, and the only improvement they've seen in that time is a more efficient venting layout. But the timing of that article turned out to be propitious because, a few months later, Trek got in touch to let me know it was introducing the first major change in helmet technology in years.

Normally, emails like that are little more than marketing, or failing that, everything's proprietary and can't be talked about. But in this case, Trek promised that there was peer-reviewed science behind the announcement and I'd get the chance to talk to the scientists themselves. A few weeks later, I got the chance to check out the helmets and meet the scientists (though I narrowly missed my chance to shake hands with cycling legend Jens Voigt).

What does a helmet actually do?

The obvious answer is that helmets are meant to protect your brain when your head experiences an impact. But the more detailed answer requires delving into a little bit of physics. On a simple level, an impact generates force that, if nothing is protecting you, is translated directly to your skull. A helmet's job is to dissipate that force. If a helmet could be arbitrarily large or heavy, this would not be a problem. But cyclists are notoriously picky about their equipment's weight and aerodynamics, which means that a helmet has to do all its redirection of forces in as little space as possible, using light materials.

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Plane with the largest wingspan in the world takes flight

BBC Technology News - April 14, 2019 - 12:42am
Its wingspan measures 117m - the length of an American football field.

A security researcher with a grudge is dropping Web 0days on innocent users

Ars Technica - April 13, 2019 - 4:18pm

(credit: Pixabay)

Over the past three weeks, a trio of critical zeroday vulnerabilities in WordPress plugins has exposed 160,000 websites to attacks that allow criminal hackers to redirect unwitting visitors to malicious destinations. A self-proclaimed security provider who publicly disclosed the flaws before patches were available played a key role in the debacle, although delays by plugin developers and site administrators in publishing and installing patches have also contributed.

Over the past week, zeroday vulnerabilities in both the Yuzo Related Posts and Yellow Pencil Visual Theme Customizer WordPress plugins—used by 60,000 and 30,000 websites respectively—have come under attack. Both plugins were removed from the WordPress plugin repository around the time the zeroday posts were published, leaving websites little choice than to remove the plugins. On Friday (three days after the vulnerability was disclosed), Yellow Pencil issued a patch. At the time this post was being reported, Yuzo Related Posts remained closed with no patch available.

In-the-wild exploits against Social Warfare, a plugin used by 70,000 sites, started three weeks ago. Developers for that plugin quickly patched the flaw but not before sites that used it were hacked.

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Who had the most merciful death on Game of Thrones? Science has an answer

Ars Technica - April 13, 2019 - 3:15pm

Enlarge / You know nothing, Jon Snow—like, maybe wear a hat when conditions are freezing in the North. Even if it musses up your luscious locks. (credit: HBO)

Warning: This story contains some mild spoilers from the first seven seasons of Game of Thrones.

The world of Game of Thrones may be fictional, but that doesn't stop its fans from heatedly arguing about all the possible underlying science, because nerd-gassing about one's favorite science fiction is a time-honored tradition. Just how hot is dragon's breath? Is there a real-world equivalent of wildfire? What's the best and worst way to die? And how fast would Gendry have to run back to the wall to send a raven to King's Landing requesting help?

These and other scintillating topics are discussed in a forthcoming book by physicist (and uber-fan) Rebecca Thompson, Fire, Ice, and Physics: The Science of Game of Thrones. The book comes out in October from MIT Press, but as we gear up for the premiere of the final season Sunday night, Thompson graciously gave us a sneak preview into some of the burning science questions she investigated.

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How a mobile game is reopening a hidden chapter in Taiwan’s history

Ars Technica - April 13, 2019 - 2:30pm

Enlarge / Some imagery from the mobile game, Unforgivable.

Thirty years ago, the grandfather of a Taiwanese-American NYPD detective named Danny Lin was thrown off a cliff in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. The killing took place during what is known today as the White Terror, a 40-year period of violent political suppression and martial law in Taiwan in the middle 20th century. The killer was never identified. Bent on solving his grandfather’s cold case and prompted by the admissions of a mysterious Japanese-Taiwanese woman in a Manhattan ramen restaurant, Lin travels to Taiwan. He knows little about the place, only that, somehow, he must find answers.

Until the last couple of decades, this kind of story, focused on Taiwan’s brutal authoritarianism under military rule, would have been a touchy topic in Taiwan. Today, though, Detective Lin’s saga is the fictional plot behind Unforgivable: Eliza, a popular augmented reality game played on a smartphone, similar to Pokemon Go. The game unfolds as a digitally enhanced tour of New York and then Taipei, with bright manga-esque presentation.

Unforgivable was penned by the Taiwanese-American crime novelist Ed Lin (Incensed, Ghost Month, One Red Bastard) and developed by Allen Yu, the 34-year-old Taiwanese founder of Flushing-based Toii Inc. For these game makers, Lin’s story has been a way to get a new generation to engage with the country’s past. Their efforts parallel a larger trend of younger Taiwanese people exploring their parents’ and grandparents’ lives under military rule.

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Review: Beloved board game Castles of Burgundy is now an app

Ars Technica - April 13, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / Let's get ready for some hot Renaissance action!

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at

The Castles of Burgundy has long been one of my favorite strategy board games, a 90-120 minute game of tile-laying with a complex scoring system that is often derided as “point salad,” meaning you can get points from so many different paths that there might seem to be no logic to it. I mention that up front because I think it’s a fair criticism of this style of game. Still, Castles of Burgundy is the best implementation I’ve seen of that sort of scoring, especially since designer Stefan Feld, who specializes in this sort of game, connects the different tile types in multiple ways, creating a game that scratches that complex scoring itch but is also well-balanced and coherent.

Digidiced has now brought Castles of Burgundy to Steam and to mobile platforms in a great-looking app that uses new artwork and allows for quick gameplay against AI opponents. Despite a few quirks in the first release, it’s a strong introduction to the game for new users and smooth experience for local play, although I’d like to see a smarter “hard” AI opponent and perhaps a more streamlined tile-placement system. Online multiplayer games could still use some work, especially regarding how the app handles timed play and an occasional bug that occurs when switching games (which is enough of a concern that I’d suggest holding off on purchasing the app if you prefer online play versus local or solo games).

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