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Industry & Technology

Spooky Midsommar trailer gives new horror rule: Don’t trust Swedish hippies

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 6:17pm

Dani (Florence Pugh) tags along with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) to a Swedish festival in a remote village that is not at all what it seems in Midsommar.

The seemingly harmless inhabitants of a remote Swedish village are harboring a terrible secret in Midsommar, a new film from Director Ari Aster, who brought us last year's chilling horror film Hereditary. The official synopsis describes the film as "a dread-soaked cinematic fairytale where a world of darkness unfolds in broad daylight." Judging from the trailer, that sounds about right.

Aster is a longtime fan of the horror genre and kicked off his career with a controversial short film called The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, in which a son develops a taboo incestuous relationship with this father. Hereditary, his first feature, also rooted its horror in dysfunctional family drama, with themes of trauma and grief—right before turning into a bone-chilling nightmare. It was lauded by critics as the scariest movie of the year and likened to such horror classics as The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby.

Midsommar seems like it owes more to the 1973 horror/mystery, The Wicker Man, in which a police sergeant investigates a missing girl on the remote Hebridean island of Summerisle, where the inhabitants practice a form of Celtic paganism. It's a genuinely creepy, if dated and somewhat hokey, film. (The less said about the 2006 remake starring Nicolas Cage, the better.) Midsommar features the same bucolic setting with sinister undertones and incorporates the same notion of a harvest festival featuring a maypole dance. It's not a stretch to suspect that the same theme of pagan sacrificial rituals will appear.

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Fourth-largest coal producer in the US files for bankruptcy

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 6:15pm

Enlarge / WRIGHT, WY - OCTOBER 19: Train cars full of 100 tons of coal leave a mine near Wright, Wyoming on October 19, 2006. Empty cars head to the facility. (credit: Photo by Andy Nelson/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

Cloud Peak Energy, the US' fourth-largest coal mining company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late last week as the company missed an extension deadline to make a $1.8 million loan payment.

In a statement, Cloud Peak said it will continue to operate its three massive coal mines in Wyoming and Montana while it goes through the restructuring process. Colin Marshall, the president and CEO of the company, said that he believed a sale of the company's assets "will provide the best opportunity to maximize value for Cloud Peak Energy."

Cloud Peak was one of the few major coal producers who escaped the significant coal industry downturn between 2015 and 2016. That bought it a reputation for prudence and business acumen.

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OnePlus won’t sell the OnePlus 7 in the US, but the 6T gets a $30 price drop

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 6:07pm

It's launch day for the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro. While we already have a full review up for the flagship OnePlus 7 Pro, many people will probably ask about the regular OnePlus 7. A review for that phone is not happening, because, well, it's not coming to the US. OnePlus is changing up its product strategy this year: in the US, it's offering the more premium OnePlus 7 Pro, keeping last year's OnePlus 6T on the market with a small price drop; the OnePlus 7 is destined for other, non-US markets.

So what exactly are we missing out on when it comes to the OnePlus 7? Well, while the OnePlus 7 Pro is an all-new device with a pop-up camera, all-screen design, and a 90Hz display, the OnePlus 7 is just a spec bump of the OnePlus 6T. The OnePlus 7 design is basically identical to the OnePlus 6T: there's a glass back with two rear cameras, a fixed front camera with a teardrop notch, and an in-screen fingerprint reader. The phone should be a bit faster, though, as it has been outfitted with a new Snapdragon 855, speedier UFS 3.0 storage, and a 48MP main camera that is hopefully the same as the excellent OnePlus 7 Pro camera. The rest of the OnePlus 7 specs are just like the OnePlus 6T: a 6.41-inch, 2340×1080 display, 6GB or 8GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of storage, and a 3700mAh battery.

The OnePlus 7 will be released in China, India, Hong Kong, and most of Europe. In Europe, the OnePlus 7 starts at €559 ($626) for the 6GB RAM/128GB storage version. For context, the OnePlus 7 Pro is €709 in Europe, or $794, which is way more expensive than the $670 MSRP in the US.

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Andrew Wakefield, others hold anti-vaccine rally amid raging measles outbreaks

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 5:34pm

Enlarge / Andrew Wakefield, disgraced former doctor found to have committed fraudulent research. (credit: Getty | Peter Macdiarmid)

Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, and other prominent anti-vaccine advocates unleashed fear and toxic misinformation last night at a well-attended symposium in New York’s Rockland County. The area is currently grappling with one of the largest and longest-standing measles outbreaks in the country, mainly in its tight-knit, ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

The Monday, May 13 event was reportedly promoted by targeted robocalls and billed as being a “highly informative night of science and discussion addressing your concerns, fears, and doubts.” But according to reporters who attended the event, the speakers made numerous unsubstantiated and egregiously false claims—as usual. In one instance, Brooklyn Orthodox Rabbi William Handler reportedly made the unsubstantiated claim that getting measles, mumps, and chickenpox reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke by 60 percent. He did not provide a citation.

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'Hard-to-fix' Cisco flaw puts work email at risk

BBC Technology News - May 14, 2019 - 5:16pm
Security researchers have found serious vulnerabilities in some Cisco devices.

One month later, $249 All-Digital Xbox One S still seems unsustainable

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 5:12pm

Psht, who needs 'em? (credit: Squirmelia)

It has been about a month since Microsoft announced its disc-drive-free, "All Digital" Xbox One S. At the time, we pointed out that the system's $249.99 MSRP was unsustainably high given the fact that standard 1TB Xbox One S systems, complete with a disc drive and a bundled game, were selling for the same price or less at major retailers.

Now that the All Digital edition has been on store shelves for about a week, that state of affairs has continued. While the less-capable, disc-drive free system was officially supposed to undercut the price of its disc-drive equipped brethren, it seems the reverse is still happening at some major retailers.

Yes, major retailers like Target and Best Buy are sticking to Microsoft's MSRP of $299.99 for a 1TB, disc drive-equipped Xbox One S bundle. That price does indeed make the $249.99 all-digital edition, complete with three downloadable games, look like a great deal.

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AT&T promised 7,000 new jobs to get tax break—it cut 23,000 jobs instead

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 4:41pm

Enlarge / AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

AT&T has cut more than 23,000 jobs since receiving a big tax cut at the end of 2017, despite lobbying heavily for the tax cut by claiming that it would create thousands of jobs.

AT&T in November 2017 pushed for the corporate tax cut by promising to invest an additional $1 billion in 2018, with CEO Randall Stephenson saying that "every billion dollars AT&T invests is 7,000 hard-hat jobs. These are not entry-level jobs. These are 7,000 jobs of people putting fiber in ground, hard-hat jobs that make $70,000 to $80,000 per year."

The corporate tax cut was subsequently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. The tax cut reportedly gave AT&T an extra $3 billion in cash in 2018.

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Disney takes full control of Hulu as Comcast steps aside

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 3:27pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Today, Disney takes the reins at Hulu. Disney and Comcast announced a deal saying that Disney will assume full operational control of Hulu, effective immediately. In turn, Disney and Comcast have entered a "put/call" agreement, which means that as early as January 2024, Comcast can require Disney to buy NBCUniversal's 33-percent interest in Hulu. On the flip side, Disney can require NBCUniversal to sell its interest in Hulu by January 2024 for fair market value.

Fair market value will be assessed at the time of sale, but Disney has guaranteed Comcast a minimum sale price of $27.5 billion for the remaining stake in Hulu.

As part of the agreement, Comcast has agreed to extend Hulu's licensing of NBCUniversal content until late 2024. That means, despite Disney's immediate takeover, Hulu will retain NBCUniversal content for the next few years. This goes for on-demand content as well as Hulu Live.

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Mapping Notre Dame’s unique sound will be a boon to reconstruction efforts

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 1:16pm

Enlarge / Protective tarps displayed on the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, two weeks after a fire devastated it. (credit: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

When the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris caught fire last month, people found some hope in the news that scientist Andrew Tallon had used laser scanning to create precisely detailed maps of the interior and exterior of the cathedral—an invaluable aid as Paris rebuilds this landmark structure.

The acoustics of the cathedral—how it sounds—are also part of its cultural heritage, and given the ephemeral nature of sound, acoustical characteristics can be far trickier to preserve or reproduce. Fortunately, a group of French acousticians made detailed measurements of Notre Dame's "soundscape" over the last few years, along with two other cathedrals. That data will now be instrumental in helping architects factor acoustics into their reconstruction plans.

Dialing in the reverb

"We have a snapshot of the acoustics from two years ago and a computer model that can reproduce that," said Brian FG Katz, research director of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) at Sorbonne University in Paris, who worked in tandem with Tallon's laser scanning project. "The idea is if they want to, for example, change the materials, we can tell them what the impact of those changes will be on the acoustics. We're not trying to force anybody to restore it one way versus another, but they should be able to make an informed decision about the acoustic impact."

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Photons dance along a line of superconducting qubits

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 11:45am

Enlarge / Atoms are always up to something. (credit: Jurgen Appelo / Flickr)

When I think about computing, I usually think about it in terms of individual logic gates performing specific operations. These can be strung together to create more sophisticated and useful operations and can be ultimately built into a disaster like EndNote. Even when I make a conceptual switch and think about quantum computing, I still get stuck thinking about quantum logic gates.

But there is a better-than-even chance that quantum computing will not make direct use of logic gates. If logic gates aren't going to be a thing in quantum computing, how will we compute? One way is through annealing, which I've written about a lot.

But the neglected stepchild of quantum computing is something called a "quantum random walk." In a minor miracle, researchers have shown a quantum random walk through a string of 12 quantum bits. This is the sort of step that may herald the beginning of actually demonstrating a quantum computer based on a random walk.

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Vodafone's 5G UK service to launch in July

BBC Technology News - May 14, 2019 - 11:36am
The firm will offer its next-generation mobile network to businesses and the public in seven cities.

Amazon launches collection points at Next stores

BBC Technology News - May 14, 2019 - 11:20am
Next says the collection points will help it to stay relevant in a "tough" retail environment.

It took just five days for bitcoin to rise from $6,000 to $8,000

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 4:05am

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images News)

Last Wednesday we reported that bitcoin had risen to $6,000 for the first time this year. On Monday, just five days later, bitcoin reached a new 2019 high of $8,000. As I write this, one bitcoin is worth about $7,900.

Of course, bitcoin reached much higher levels in late 2017 and early 2018. Bitcoin's current price just under $8,000 is less than half the all-time high of $19,500 set in December 2017. Bitcoin was last worth at least $8,000 in July 2018.

As often happens, bitcoin's rise is part of a broader cryptocurrency boom. On Saturday, the price of ether—the currency of the Ethereum network—rose above $200 for the first time in 2019. Other cryptocurrencies, including Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Monero, and Dash are at or near 2019 highs.

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WhatsApp vulnerability exploited to infect phones with Israeli spyware

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 3:00am

Enlarge (credit: Santeri Viinamäki)

Attackers have been exploiting a vulnerability in WhatsApp that allowed them to infect phones with advanced spyware made by Israeli developer NSO Group, the Financial Times reported on Monday, citing the company and a spyware technology dealer.

A representative of WhatsApp, which is used by 1.5 billion people, told Ars that company researchers discovered the vulnerability earlier this month while they were making security improvements. CVE-2019-3568, as the vulnerability has been indexed, is a buffer overflow vulnerability in the WhatsApp VOIP stack that allows remote code execution when specially crafted series of SRTCP packets are sent to a target phone number, according to this advisory.

According to the Financial Times, exploits worked by calling either a vulnerable iPhone or Android device using the WhatsApp calling function. Targets need not have answered a call, and the calls often disappeared from logs, the publication said. The WhatsApp representative said the vulnerability was fixed in updates released on Friday.

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NASA reveals funding needed for Moon program, says it will be named Artemis

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 2:40am

Enlarge / The Trump administration's lunar plan finally has a price. Sort of. (credit: NASA)

NASA revealed Monday that it needs an additional $1.6 billion in funding for fiscal year 2020 to stay on track for a human return to the Moon by 2024. The space agency's budget amendment comes in addition to the $21 billion the Trump administration asked Congress for in March.

In a teleconference with reporters on Monday evening, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the budget amendment was a "down payment" on what will be needed in future years to fund the program. "In the coming years, we will need additional funds," he said. "This is a good amount that gets us out of the gate." He and the other NASA officials on the call would not say how much that would be.

Two people familiar with NASA's internal deliberations say the agency has estimated that it needs as much as $6 billion to $8 billion a year for a lunar return by 2024. (Bridenstine has said the amounts will not be this high). These funds would be needed to design and build a lunar lander, accelerate the Space Launch System rocket so that it can perform three launches by then, design new spacesuits, build elements of the Lunar Gateway, and for related programs.

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Conjuring designs from thin air in a virtual world

BBC Technology News - May 14, 2019 - 12:23am
How virtual reality tech is finally beginning to fulfil its potential for business.

Apple releases iOS 12.3, macOS 10.14.5, watchOS 5.2.1, and tvOS 12.3

Ars Technica - May 14, 2019 - 12:11am

Enlarge / Apple announced some of these features at its services-and-TV-focused event on March 25. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Today, Apple began rolling out new versions of its iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS operating systems for iPhones and iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, and Apple TVs, respectively.

The updates are largely focused on the video services that Apple announced at its March 25 event—namely, a revamped Apple TV app, Apple TV Channels, and an expansion of AirPlay 2 to devices produced by Apple's partners. A handful of bug fixes, performance optimizations, and other small tweaks are also included in the updates.

And no doubt deliberately timed with these updates, AirPlay 2 and Apple TV app support have finally rolled out to supporting Samsung TVs as planned. Apple says they'll roll out to supporting LG, VIZIO, and Sony smart TVs "later this year."

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Lenovo shows off a folding-screen laptop, coming some time in 2020

Ars Technica - May 13, 2019 - 11:30pm

It doesn't have a name (but it'll be in the ThinkPad X1 family), it doesn't have a spec (but it's using an Intel processor), it doesn't have an operating system ("Windows" but, not specifically "Windows 10"), it doesn't have a release date more specific than "2020," and of course it doesn't have a price. But these are I suppose minor details. The big picture: Lenovo has built a laptop with a folding 13.3-inch OLED 1920×1440 screen made by LG. The screen occupies both halves of the laptop's interior space, including where the keyboard would normally go, and the machine can be folded open to turn it into a flat 13-inch screen that you'd frankly never guess could fold.

Things we do know: Lenovo has been working on this thing for three years already. The company sees it as being a full-fledged PC that can take the place of your laptop, specifically not a mere secondary or companion device. Both halves have batteries, so it's not top-heavy, and it has a proper laptop-style stiff hinge to hold the screen at pretty much any angle up to 180 degrees. The screen supports a Wacom pen, and drawing on the screen feels great. When opened up, there's a barely perceptible dip when drawing across the hinged part. But if you weren't looking for it, you'd be hard-pressed to spot it. The unnamed machine has an IR camera for facial-recognition authentication along with two USB Type-C ports.

As we've seen on other devices with folding screens (such as Samsung's ill-fated Galaxy Fold and Huawei's fabulous-looking Mate X), the folded screen doesn't have a tight crease where it bends. Instead, it curves when closed, though Lenovo won't let us show you that curve. Similarly, when the screen is fully opened, one might imagine that it would be useful if there were some way of supporting it upright so that you can use it to watch movies and so on. There's a way to do this, but Lenovo won't let us show you how. We can say that there will be a keyboard accessory that uses Bluetooth, and while you're free to imagine just how such an accessory might be placed on a clamshell type machine, the company didn't want us to mention any specifics.

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Uber’s stock plunges for a second straight day

Ars Technica - May 13, 2019 - 10:42pm

Enlarge / Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. (credit: Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)

Uber's stock fell 7.6 percent on Friday, its first day as a publicly traded firm. The bloodbath continued on Monday, with Uber's stock price falling by an additional 10.7 percent.

It's a sobering moment for the ride-hailing company. As recently as last October, some Wall Street banks were estimating that the company could be valued as high as $120 billion. At Monday's closing price of $37.10, Uber is worth barely half that, at $62 billion. (The company is worth around $68 billion on a "fully diluted" basis, which counts stock options and other assets that could eventually be converted into shares.)

Monday wasn't a good day for the broader stock market either, but the Standard & Poor's 500 fell a comparatively modest 2.4 percent.

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Ex-Google boss defends multiple controversies

BBC Technology News - May 13, 2019 - 9:47pm
On tax, China and treatment of women, Eric Schmidt tells BBC he will defend Google for a "very long time".

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