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Industry & Technology

Shipwreck reveals ancient market for knock-off consumer goods

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 5:20pm

Enlarge / Archaeologists use a portable X-ray fluorescence detector to analyze 900-year-old artifacts. (credit: Xu et al. 2019)

Sometime in the late 12th century CE, a merchant ship laden with trade goods sank off the coast of Java. The 100,000 ceramic vessels, 200 tons of iron, and smaller amounts of ivory, resin, and tin ingots offer a narrow window onto a much broader world of global trade and political change. The merchant vessel that sank in the Java Sea was the pointy tip of a very long spear, and a new study sheds some light on the trade networks and manufacturing industry hidden behind its cargo—all thanks to a little help from a cool X-ray gun.

Sailing ancient trade routes

There was a network of trade routes that crisscrossed the Indian Ocean and South China Sea by the late 12th century, linking Song Dynasty China to far-flung ports in Japan and Southeast Asia to the east, Indonesia to the south, and the Middle East and eastern Africa to the west. Merchant ships carried crops, raw materials like metals and resin, and manufactured goods like ceramics along these routes. Today, ceramics are a common sight in shipwrecks in these waters, partly because the material outlasts most other things on the seafloor, and partly because of the sheer volumes that could be packed into the holds of merchant ships from around 800 CE to 1300 CE.

Archaeologists have found Chinese ceramics at sites stretching from Japan to the east coast of Africa. And excavations in Southeast China have unearthed several kiln complexes, each with hundreds of dragon kilns—long tunnels dug into hillsides, which could fire up to 30,000 ceramic pieces at a time—clustered into a few square kilometers. All that production was aimed at exporting ceramic bowls, boxes, and other containers to overseas markets. “Most ceramics from this region are seldom recovered from domestic settings in China and are almost exclusively found along the maritime trading routes,” Field Museum archaeologist Lisa Niziolek, a co-author on the study, told Ars Technica.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Russia considers 'unplugging' from internet

BBC Technology News - February 11, 2019 - 5:15pm
Russia may briefly disconnect from the internet as part of a test of its cyber-defences.

Driverless delivery startup Nuro raises almost $1 billion

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 4:17pm

Enlarge / Nuro Founders Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu. (credit: Nuro/Greylock)

The autonomous delivery startup Nuro has raised $940 million from The Softbank Vision Fund, making it one of the most lavishly funded startups in the driverless car sector. The news comes after Nuro became one of the first startups in the world to begin operating a fully driverless commercial service on public roads.

Under a deal announced last year, a Kroger-owned Fry's Foods store in the Phoenix area is using Nuro's technology to deliver groceries to nearby customers. Initially, the deliveries were conducted by modified Toyota Priuses. But in December, Nuro added two custom-designed robots to its fleet. These robots are smaller than a conventional car and are fully driverless—they don't even have space inside for a human driver to sit.

"Our goal this year is to really scale to an entire city worth of operation," CEO Dave Ferguson told Ars last week.

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NASA has taken a significant step toward human landings on the Moon

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 3:18pm

For two years, the Trump administration has made various noises about returning humans to the Moon. There have been bill signings with Apollo astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin and Harrison Schmitt. Vice President Mike Pence has traveled to NASA facilities around the country to make speeches. And the president himself has mused about the Moon and Mars.

However, beyond talk of returning humans to the Moon, much of the country's civil space policy and budgeting priorities really hadn't changed much until late last week. On Thursday, NASA released a broad agency announcement asking the US aerospace industry for its help to develop large landers that, as early as 2028, would carry astronauts to the surface of the Moon.

The new documents contain a trove of details about how the agency expects to send people back to the Moon with what it calls a "Human Landing System." This activity, the documents state, "will once again establish US preeminence around and on the Moon. NASA is planning to develop a series of progressively more complex missions to the lunar surface, utilizing commercial participation to enhance US leadership."

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Tinder-style app for cows tries to help the meat market

BBC Technology News - February 11, 2019 - 2:38pm
So you think the dating scene is just a meat market? Wait till you hear about this matchmaking app.

After a remarkable resurrection, Firefly may reach space in 2019

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 1:45pm

Enlarge / Testing a turbopump as the Sun sets in central Texas. (credit: Firefly)

CEDAR PARK, Texas—Some four centuries ago, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire wearied of his bothersome neighbors in Eastern Europe. So Mehmed the Hunter, an Islamic holy warrior who reigned for four decades, wrote to the piratical Cossacks living in what is modern Ukraine and demanded their surrender. The cretins must bow to the cultured.

Today, a large painting that dominates one wall of Tom Markusic's office depicts the Cossack response to Mehmed. On the canvas, a dozen rough-looking, hard-drinking men have gathered around a scribe, pointing, smoking, and laughing uproariously. The scribe is writing a ribald, disparaging response. It is a copy of the famed Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire painting, which hangs in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Markusic glances at the painting and explains, "Basically, they're saying, 'Don't worry about coming to get us—we're coming to get you.'"

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Paris to sue Airbnb over 'illegal ads'

BBC Technology News - February 11, 2019 - 1:43pm
The fine could amount to €12.5m ($14m, £11m) for the 1,000 ads the city says break French law.

Bay Area: Join us 2/13 to discuss a new hope for tech activism

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 1:16pm

Enlarge / Leigh Honeywell is the founder of Tall Poppy and an activist. She has worked on security and privacy with major tech companies as well as the ACLU. (credit: Leigh Honeywell)

Over the past couple of years, we've seen a huge upsurge in activism within the technology community. From the walkouts at Google to labor organizing at Amazon, tech workers are starting to see a connection between their work and social issues. Engineer and entrepreneur Leigh Honeywell has been at the forefront of tech activism for many years, and at this month's Ars Technica Live on Wednesday, February 13, we'll be talking to her about activism in today's world and the politics of a life lived online.

Honeywell founded two hackerspaces (HackLabTO in Toronto, and the Seattle Attic Community Workshop in Seattle), created the widely circulated Never Again pledge, and now heads Tall Poppy, where she helps companies protect their employees from online harassment. The thread that runs throughout her work is the use of technology to create greater privacy and safety for people online. She'll discuss the growing resistance to the practices of corporations that profile users or sell their users' data, along with the rise of services that protect people from digital harassment.

Honeywell was previously a Technology Fellow at the ACLU’s Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology and also worked at Slack, Salesforce, Microsoft, and Symantec. Leigh has a Bachelors of Science from the University of Toronto where she majored in Computer Science and Equity Studies.

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Alita: Battle Angel - how we made the film

BBC Technology News - February 11, 2019 - 9:12am
Director Robert Rodriguez explains how technology helped bring the film to life.

Reddit: Censorship fears spark criticism of Tencent funding reports

BBC Technology News - February 11, 2019 - 7:28am
Redditors flooded the site with snarky posts after reports of funding from Chinese tech giant Tencent.

Grindr and Tinder 'must not risk children's safety'

BBC Technology News - February 10, 2019 - 4:34pm
Minister vows to question Grindr and Tinder on safeguarding measures following "shocking" findings.

Donald Trump's wall: How tech guards the US-Mexico border

BBC Technology News - February 10, 2019 - 1:36am
Camera-laden towers and underground sensors plug the gaps in the existing US-Mexico border fence.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald visual effects

BBC Technology News - February 10, 2019 - 1:16am
The joint visual effects supervisor behind the Bafta-nominated film explains how the images were made.

Google Play caught hosting an app that steals users’ cryptocurrency

Ars Technica - February 9, 2019 - 5:45pm

Enlarge (credit: Yu Chun Christopher Wong/S3studio/Getty Images)

Google Play has been caught hosting yet another malicious app, this time one that was designed to steal cryptocurrency from unwitting end users, researchers said Friday.

The malware, which masqueraded as a legitimate cryptocurrency app, worked by replacing wallet addresses copied into the Android clipboard with one belonging to attackers, a researcher with Eset said in a blog post. As a result, people who intended to use the app to transfer digital coins into a wallet of their choosing would instead deposit the funds into a wallet belonging to the attackers.

So-called clipper malware has targeted Windows users since at least 2017. Last year, a botnet known as Satori was updated to infect coin-mining computers with malware that similarly changed wallet addresses. Last August came word of Android-based clipper malware that was distributed in third-party marketplaces.

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A potted history of Japan’s car industry delights at the Petersen Museum

Ars Technica - February 9, 2019 - 4:10pm

LOS ANGELES—Like most nerds, I love spending time in a good museum. It doesn't matter if it's planes, video games, carseven creationists. (OK, that last one wasn't good, per se.)

When it comes to good car museums, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is one of my favorites—right up there with the wonderful Lane Motor Museum in Nashville. Both have quite different foci. At the Lane you'll see more rear-engined Tatra sedans than you'd ever think possible outside of the Czech Republic or Slovakia, not to mention dozens and dozens of voiturettes and Kei cars. (Oh, and some Group B rally stuff.) Meanwhile, the Petersen often plays host to equally rarified but often much more expensive fare. At a conference I attended there last year, it was often hard to concentrate on the panelists and not the pristine Ferrari 250GTO that just sat there, a few feet away…

A recent trip to LA afforded some downtime, and how better to use it than a quick visit to this palace of vehicular delights? I caught the tail end of an exhibit called "The Roots of Monozukuri: Creative Spirit in Japanese Automaking," which opened last summer and runs until February 10. (Monozukuri is translated as "the art, science, and craft of making things.")

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Scenes from America’s largest auto show

Ars Technica - February 9, 2019 - 2:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Chicago Auto Show)

From its start in 1901, the Chicago Auto Show has grown to become the largest auto show in North America. Held every February at the massive McCormick Place Convention Center, the Chicago Auto Show opens for its 111th run today. Typically the scene of vehicle debuts, 2019 was no exception, with Land Rover unveiling the 2020 Range Rover Evoque, Subaru taking the wraps off the newly redesigned Legacy, and Kia introducing the brand-new Telluride SUV for the 2020 season. Not present this year are BMW and Mercedes, which are taking a breather from the auto show circuit for 2019, but just about every other mainstream and luxury automaker is on the scene.

A couple of days before the show opens to the public, the automotive press is invited to wander the vast (around a million square feet) exhibition space to get up close and personal with the vehicles on the display. If you can't make it to the Chicago Auto Show, here's some of what you'll be missing.

The SUVs and crossovers

I primarily review SUVs and crossovers because our Automotive Editor Jonathan Gitlin hates anything with a center of gravity above ankle height. Luckily, there were some SUVs that caught my eye at the show.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Our favorite two-player board games, 2019 edition

Ars Technica - February 9, 2019 - 2:00pm

If you're anything like us, Valentine's Day brings to mind iconic images of candlelit dinners, boxes of chocolate, roses, and, of course, board games.

"What tabletop games are best for couples?" is a question we get all the time here at Ars Cardboard, and today we're answering (again) by reprising our 2016 two-player guide with fresh new picks for 2019. Of course, you don't have to be romantically linked to your gaming partner to enjoy these titles; our recommendations are perfect for any time your group is running behind and you only have one other person to push some cubes with. Or maybe you don't have a group—all you need to play these games is one other willing (or kinda-sorta willing) partner.

The games below are new-player-friendly card and board games (sorry, we're not tackling miniatures or wargames today) that can be played in an hour or less. While most board games accommodate two players—many quite well—we've found that the best two-player experiences are often those built from the ground up for duos. So we're sticking with two-player-only games for this list (including one that has recently added support for other player counts).

Read 45 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Esports gamers battle at event in Northamptonshire

BBC Technology News - February 9, 2019 - 10:42am
About 650 esports gamers and 100 spectators are battling it out to win thousands of pounds.

TikTok: Where gummy bears singing Adele rule

BBC Technology News - February 9, 2019 - 1:35am
The Chinese-owned meme platform taking over the internet.

What is TikTok?

BBC Technology News - February 9, 2019 - 1:35am
The social media app was downloaded more times than Instagram and Snapchat in 2018.

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