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Industry & Technology

862,520 Fiat-Chrysler vehicles have emissions issues, will be recalled

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 11:56pm

Enlarge / The Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles NV Dodge Ram logo stands on display outside the company's Warren Truck Assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (credit: Anthony Lanzilote/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Issues with the catalytic converters of 862,520 Fiat-Chrysler vehicles are prompting a semi-voluntary recall, according to officials from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The vehicles in question include:

  • 2011-2016 Model Year (MY) Dodge Journey
  • 2011-2014 MY Chrysler 200/Dodge Avenger
  • 2011-2012 MY Dodge Caliber
  • 2011-2016 MY Jeep Compass/Patriot

The recall will be conducted in phases, with owners of older cars being notified first that they can bring their cars in to be fixed. The last phase is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2019. Unlike previous Fiat-Chrysler emissions recalls, these fixes require replacement parts.

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It looks like Windows 10 Home can now defer updates for 35 days

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 10:26pm

Enlarge / Not every Windows 10 user appreciates being a guinea pig for Windows updates. (credit: Andy Miccone / Flickr)

The next Windows 10 feature update, version 1903, looks like it's going to give Windows 10 Home users a little more flexibility about when they install updates. All versions of Windows 10 allow for updates to be deferred, waiting a number of days after each update is released before attempting to install it.

Currently in Windows 10 version 1809, Windows 10 Home users are limited to a delay of just seven days. In the latest preview build of Windows 10, however, this has been raised to 35 days (via Reddit). This means that users nervous about being the first to use each new update can wait a little over a month before installing it.

While most Windows updates are problem-free for most people, issues do crop up from time to time. Generally, these are resolved within a week or two of the initial release, with Microsoft either reissuing fixed versions of the patches or sometimes blacklisting particular hardware or software combinations that have proven problematic. The 35-day delay is almost invariably going to be sufficient to let people wait for these bugs to be shaken out.

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Story about body cam capturing oral sex audio was apparently a hoax [Updated]

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 9:49pm

Enlarge (credit: Tim Drivas Photography / Getty)

Update: The New York Post and the New York Daily News, our sources for this story, are now both describing this story as a hoax. "The NYPD launched an investigation into a body-cam recording that purported to be of a Brooklyn cop giving oral sex to her boss in a squad car while on duty — but it turned out to be a hoax," the Post writes. We regret reporting on this inaccurate story. The original story is below.

A body cam captured audio of a female New York Police Department officer performing oral sex on her boss, a male sergeant, the New York Post and New York Daily News report. The tryst occurred around midnight in a police car in the 75th Precinct, which covers the easternmost portion of Brooklyn. The two officers were on the clock.

"The officer and the sergeant were getting hot and heavy in their patrol car when the sergeant allegedly removed the officer’s body camera from her shirt," the New York Daily News reports. "He put the camera in her vest but accidentally switched it on. While the camera lens was obscured by the vest, the audio of the sex act was recorded."

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Google launches the next version of Android—Android Q—in beta

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 9:23pm

Enlarge / The Android Q logo. (credit: Google)

On Wednesday, Google released a preview of the next version of Android, codenamed "Android Q." The final release should happen sometime toward the end of the year, but for now we get a work-in-progress build that will get several new versions throughout the year. The highlights for this release include new privacy and security controls, support for foldables, a share menu that actually works, faster app startup, and more.

This first release only works with Google's Pixel devices, including the Pixel 1, which is technically beyond its support window. Wider device compatibility for some non-Google devices should arrive with the second release.

We will publish a deeper dive into Android Q once we get it installed and have time to read over some documents, but for now, here's a quick batch of highlights from Google's blog post on the subject.

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Google Play apps with 150 million installs contain aggressive adware

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 8:51pm

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto | Getty Images)

Researchers have identified a massive adware campaign that invaded the official Google Play market with more than 200 highly aggressive apps that were collectively downloaded almost 150 million times.

The 210 apps discovered by researchers from security firm Checkpoint Software bombarded users with ads, even when an app wasn’t open, according to a blog post published by the company on Wednesday. The apps also had the ability to carry out spearphishing attacks by causing a browser to open an attacker-chosen URL and open the apps for Google Play and third-party market 9Apps with a specific keyword search or a specific application’s page. The apps reported to a command-and-control server to receive instructions on which commands to carry out.

Once installed, the apps installed code that allowed them to perform actions as soon as the device finished booting or while the user was using the device. The apps also could remove their icon from the device launcher to make it harder for users to uninstall the nuisance apps. The apps all used a software development kit called RXDrioder, which Checkpoint researchers believe concealed its abusive capabilities from app developers. The researchers dubbed the campaign SimBad, because many of the participating apps are simulator games.

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US to ground all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 jets in wake of crash [Updated]

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 7:57pm

Enlarge / A Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed in October 2018; a software fix based on the investigation was delayed by the US government shutdown. It's possible that the fix could have prevented the crash of a similar aircraft in Ethiopia on March 10, 2019. (credit: PK-REN, Jakarta, Indonesia )

Update: President Donald Trump announced Wednesday afternoon that the Federal Aviation Administration will order all 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9 planes to be grounded.

"We’re going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 Max 8 and the 737 Max 9 and planes associated with that line," Trump said. "Pilots have been notified, airlines have been all notified. Airlines are agreeing with this. The safety of the American people and all people is our paramount concern."

Faced with widespread bans on the aircraft, Boeing has recommended the 737 MAX be grounded as well. "We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution," Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement. "Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again."

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Shading the planet doesn’t have to come with rainfall side-effects

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 7:25pm

Enlarge (credit: Caetano Candal Sato)

It sounds like a drastic course of action: inject stuff high into Earth’s atmosphere to reflect a little sunlight and help counteract global warming. Then again, injecting a bunch of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and warming the planet was pretty drastic, too.

The key to thinking sensibly about this “solar geoengineering” is to avoid the extremes and consider the most plausible use scenarios. That means we can ignore things like using solar geoengineering to cancel out all warming while still emitting as much CO2 as we please—it simply isn't plausible.

There are a number of reasons to take it off the table. There’s the fact that the cooling influence of atmospheric injections is only temporary—quitting quickly reveals the full force of the warming you’re offsetting. There’s also the fact that this scheme only counteracts warming—the acidification of the oceans would continue apace. And for another example, the mismatch in physics between solar-geoengineering-driven cooling and greenhouse warming means that precipitation can decline even if temperature stays the same.

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New Mexico the most coal-heavy state to pledge 100% carbon-free energy by 2045

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 6:50pm

Enlarge / University of New Mexico Taos Campus solar photovoltaic array. (credit: Getty Images)

On Tuesday, New Mexico's state House of Representatives passed the "Energy Transition Act," which commits the state to getting 100 percent of its energy from carbon-free sources by 2045. The act passed the state Senate last week. Now the bill awaits the signature of New Mexico's Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Governor Grisham's office told GreenTechMedia on Tuesday that she would "sign the bill as quickly as possible."

The bill includes interim goals mandating that 50 percent of the state's energy mix be renewable by 2030 and 80 percent of the energy mix be renewable by 2040. The state currently buys no nuclear power, which is not renewable but qualifies as a zero-carbon energy source. The bill passed yesterday does not require that 100 percent of the state's energy be renewable by 2045; it just specifies that no electricity come from a carbon-emitting source.

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Firefox Send lets you send files up to 2.5GB with time and download limits

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 6:31pm

Mozilla has publicly launched its Firefox Send file-sharing service after a lengthy testing period. It allows you to send files via a link to anyone and set conditions for access like a time period or number of downloads before the file expires.

Firefox Send can handle files as large as 2.5GB. When the Test Pilot period for the service began in August of 2017, the limit was 1GB; that limit still applies until you sign in with your Firefox account (opening an account is free).

You can set a limit to how many times the file can be downloaded before it is deleted from the servers: one, two, three, four, five, 20, 50, or 100 times. You can also set a time limit before deletion—seven days, one day, one hour, or five minutes. Finally, you can set a password of your choice for access to the file. After you go through this brief process, you'll get a link to send to the recipient to download the file.

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Yes, 5G will cost you more—Verizon plans $10 add-on charge for 5G access

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 6:06pm

Enlarge (credit: Verizon)

Verizon will launch its 5G mobile service in April, but it will only be available in two cities at first, and customers will have to pay an extra $10 a month to access it.

One bit of good news is that Verizon won't apply throttling (or "de-prioritization") to the 5G service, but that may change later on, and slowdowns will continue to apply to Verizon's existing 4G service.

Verizon today announced that its 5G network will go live on April 11 in "select areas of" Chicago and Minneapolis and eventually hit "more than 30" US cities in 2019. To use the 5G service at launch, you'll have to pay $50 for "the Verizon-exclusive 5G Moto Mod," which can be attached to a Motorola Moto Z3, a phone that Verizon sells for $480.

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Clowning on NASA: Impressionist James Adomian on his Bond-villain Elon Musk

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 5:24pm

Enlarge (credit: Wojtek Arciszewski / SXSW)

AUSTIN, Texas—In 2018, Elon Musk showed up at South by Southwest to inspire humanity. In 2019, "Elon Musk" showed up to destroy it.

“By the way, my accent? It’s correct," "Musk" told a sold out theater on Friday night toward the beginning of "his" SXSW Comedy keynote, Elon Musk: The Frightening and Awful Future of Humanity. "I’m South African and also Canadian, so I’m evil but kind of shy about it.”

Elon Musk‘s plot to destroy SXSW failed last night ... for now ...#SXSW2019 #sxswcomedy #redplanetredherring

Activision adds classic Spyro subtitles months after fan outcry [Updated]

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 4:57pm

More than 35 minutes of Spyro Reignited Trilogy cut scenes, none of which can be enjoyed by deaf or hard-of-hearing gamers (or those with the TV on mute).

Update (March 13, 2019): Four months after its release, the latest patch notes for Spyro Reignited Trilogy note that the game has now "added subtitles in all languages (across all three games) for previously unsupported cinematics." The subtitles, which can be toggled on or off, include "character headers to identify active speakers; succinct line splits for readability; [and] colored text for improved character association in most languages," according to the notes.

Activision and Toys for Bob have yet to add similar subtitle options to 2017's Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy.

Original story

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Microsoft brings (some of) DirectX 12 to Windows 7 to boost WoW multithreading

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 4:52pm

Enlarge (credit: Blizzard)

Even though there are just a few months left before Windows 7 stops receiving security updates, Microsoft has rather surprisingly ported a chunk of DirectX 12 to the decade-old operating system.

The latest patch for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, version 8.1.5, includes the user-mode components of the Direct3D 12 (D3D12) runtime, modified to run on Windows 7. Blizzard found that there was a "substantial framerate improvement" from updating WoW to use D3D12, thanks to D3D12's improved support for distributing the work of building graphical scenes across multiple threads. For complex environments with lots of on-screen objects, this multithreading can provide a healthy performance boost.

Microsoft insists that Windows 10 remains the best place to run D3D12 applications. This is probably true, as the company has continued to update the driver model and D3D stack to reduce the amount of "stuff" between high-performance graphical applications and the underlying hardware, increase the range of operations that can be performed in multiple threads, improve the programmability of GPUs (especially for computation tasks), and enable new hardware features such as the accelerated raytracing in Nvidia's latest hardware. However, it's also been clear that none of these changes are absolutely essential to having most parts of D3D12 on Windows 7. After all, the Vulkan API, successor to OpenGL, is available on Windows 7, using Windows 7 video drivers, and it offers many of the same multithreading benefits as D3D12.

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Gearbox teases likely Borderlands 3 announcement for March 28

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 4:44pm

Enlarge / Exit 3, eh? (credit: Gearbox / Twitter)

Here at Ars, we're usually reluctant to write stories about the mere announcement that yet another announcement of a video game is coming soon. But we'll make an exception today for apparent news about Borderlands 3, the long-expected continuation of a popular shooter series that has been missing-in-action for years now.

The latest hint that the sequel is actually, finally ready to be shown off is a single tweet from the official Gearbox account. It shows a cel-shaded highway sign in a very Borderlands-style desert with the words "March 28 Boston MA" written on it.

That info corresponds to the time and place of PAX East, where Gearbox just happens to be hosting a "main theater show" at 2pm EDT on March 28. That presentation promises "never-before-seen reveals, exclusives, and surprises" according to its public schedule listing, which is pretty suggestive in and of itself.

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Anti-vax parents sue to keep unvaccinated kids in school during outbreak

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 4:30pm

Enlarge / A baby with measles. (credit: CDC)

As New York’s Rockland County grapples with a large and lengthy outbreak of measles, a group of anti-vaccine parents sued officials for temporarily barring their unvaccinated children from school—and the county is not having it.

In a fiery response, Rockland County Attorney Thomas Humbach forcefully defended the legality of the county’s move, which was intended to thwart the spread of disease. He also went so far as to cast doubt on the validity of the religious exemptions the parents had used to opt their children out of required vaccinations.

“The [Rockland County Health] Commissioner, Dr. Patricia Ruppert, has every legal right, under New York State's Public Health Law and the County's Sanitary Code, to take every necessary step to stop the outbreak of measles in this county,” Humbach said in a statement released to the press.

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NASA to consider use of private rockets for first Orion lunar mission

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 4:14pm

Enlarge / SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell receives an American flag from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during a NASA event in Houston to announce astronaut crews. (credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

On Wednesday morning, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine appeared before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to discuss how to ensure US leadership in space. He used the appearance to make what is, for the aerospace community at least, a shocking announcement about the oft-delayed first launch of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion crew capsule.

"SLS is struggling to meet its schedule," he said. "We are now understanding better how difficult this project is, and it’s going to take some additional time. I want to be really clear. I think we as an agency need to stick to our commitment. If we tell you, and others, that we’re going to launch in June of 2020 around the Moon, I think we should launch around the Moon in June of 2020. And I think it can be done. We should consider, as an agency, all options to accomplish that objective."

And with that comment, Bridenstine opened the door to launching the Exploration Mission-1—which will not carry crew but will test Orion in a deep-space environment over three weeks—on commercial rockets.

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Google Hardware makes cuts to laptop and tablet development, cancels products

Ars Technica - March 13, 2019 - 3:41pm

Enlarge / Google's Pixelbook. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

A report from Business Insider claims that Google has axed "dozens" of employees from its laptop and tablet division. BI's sources describe the move as "roadmap cutbacks" and also say that Google will likely "pare down the portfolio" in the future.

Google's Hardware division is run by Rick Osterloh and is expected to launch a game streaming console later this month. The division is responsible for the Pixel phones, Google Home speakers, the Chromecast, Google Wi-Fi, and lately, the Nest smart home division.

For "laptops and tablets," the group's most recent hardware products have been the Pixel Slate and Pixelbook. The Pixel Slate was a weird Chrome OS tablet with a detachable keyboard, made as a competitor to the Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad Pro. The Pixelbook, like the Chromebook Pixel before it, is just a high-end Chrome OS laptop. The tablet is, well, a Google tablet, and as usual, it debuted to a lukewarm reception. The Pixelbook, though, is a well-liked (if expensive) laptop for people who want a simple Chrome OS device in a high-quality package.

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Jumia to be first African start-up on NY Stock Exchange

BBC Technology News - March 13, 2019 - 3:35pm
The e-commerce company is to become first African start-up to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Drones: Six positive ways they can be used

BBC Technology News - March 13, 2019 - 2:48pm
Extended drone no-fly zones have come into force around airports, but the technology isn't all bad.

IBM used Flickr photos for facial-recognition project

BBC Technology News - March 13, 2019 - 2:07pm
Some people are said to be unaware that their data had been used for a facial-recognition project.

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