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Industry & Technology

Strong corporate desktop sales limit the decline of the PC market

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 11:21pm

Enlarge / The corporate desktop lives. (credit: Thomas Claveirole / Flickr)

Gartner and IDC have both published their quarterly reports on the size of the PC market in the first quarter of 2019, and they've both agreed: about 58.5 million systems were shipped. The two companies use somewhat different definitions of PCs—for Gartner they're desktops, laptops, and "ultramobile premiums" such as the Surface Pro, but exclude Chromebooks and iPads; for IDC they're desktops, laptops, and workstations, including Chromebooks, but don't include any tablets at all—but this quarter they've ended up at almost exactly the same number of units sold.

The two analysts don't, however, agree on who the top seller was. IDC puts HP top, at 13.6 million systems (0.8 percent fewer than the same quarter a year ago) and a 23.2 percent market share, with Lenovo in second place, at 13.4 million systems (up 1.8 percent) and a 23.0 percent share of the market. Gartner, in contrast, puts Lenovo top at 13.2 million systems (up 6.9 percent), and a 22.5 percent share, and HP in second, with 12.8 million systems (up 0.8 percent) and a 21.9 percent share.

Both companies put Dell in third place, with around 10 million systems shipped, and Apple in fourth place, with 4 million systems sold. Gartner then puts Asus fifth, just behind Apple at 3.6 million systems shipped. IDC instead gives the nod to Acer, again at 3.6 million machines sold.

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One Falcon Heavy rocket launched, three Falcon cores landed [Updated]

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 10:10pm

Enlarge / The Falcon Heavy rocket, at sunset along the Florida coast. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann for Ars Technica)

7pm ET Update: Well, that was exhilarating. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launched at the top of its window on Thursday evening from Florida, and soared into space under clear skies. First, the two side boosters separated. And then the center core detached from the second stage, which carried its satellite payload on toward geostationary orbit.

Then, the fun began. In something of a space ballet, the two side boosters reentered Earth's atmosphere, and then made controlled burns to land within meters of one another at sites along the Florida coast. A few minutes later the center core, burning its engines hard, landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Original post: On Wednesday evening, SpaceX ended its first attempt to fly the Falcon Heavy rocket and its Arabsat-6A payload in the middle of a two-hour launch window. The upper-level wind shear was unacceptable, and with a poor forecast, it just didn't make sense to load kerosene and oxygen on the rocket.

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YouTube, Facebook put up ad roadblocks for Weedcraft, Inc. business sim

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 9:20pm

Enlarge / A scene from a grow room in Weedcraft, Inc., where you can become "Lord of Canabusiness"

Online social and video networks have taken action to limit discussion of Weedcraft, Inc., a new simulation game focused on building a business empire to sell the drug. Videos of the game have been demonetized on YouTube and the game's Facebook page has been restricted to prevent ad sales, according to a representative for publisher Devolver Digital.

Weedcraft Inc., launching today on Steam and GOG, includes Tycoon-style business-growing scenarios that focus on both the legal and illegal sides of the marijuana trade during what developer Vile Monarch calls the "semi prohibition-era" for the drug. Situations where you have to conceal grow rooms from cops exist in the game alongside legitimate lobbying efforts to legalize the drug in more jurisdictions through two distinct story scenarios.

Despite the nuanced and decidedly artistic take on the drug war, though, Devolver says its partners on YouTube are reporting their videos about the game have been blocked from receiving any revenue from advertising. And Devolver's ad manager tells Ars that "basically they've said we can't advertise on [Facebook or Instagram], restricted the page (still trying to find out what that means exactly), and they completely banned my personal ad account because why not, I guess."

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Declassified photos from U2 planes are helping archaeologists unlock the past

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 9:15pm

Enlarge / Comparison of the resolution of U2 aerial photography (left) over Ur, Iraq, from October 30, 1959, versus CORONA satellite imagery (right) taken May 4, 1968. (credit: E. Hammer and J. Ur)

During the 1950s and 1960s, US spy planes made regular flights across Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East, photographing the terrain to track military targets. A chunk of the Middle Eastern photographs were declassified in 1997, and now those airborne images are helping archaeologists track changing features in the landscape that in many cases are no longer visible today, according to a new paper published in Advances in Archaeological Practice.

Co-author Emily Hammer is a landscape archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, meaning she studies how humans in the past were organized with respect to their environment and landscape: where people were living, where their roads were, where their irrigation canals were, and so forth. But it's not always possible to see more large-scale features on the ground, so aerial photos and satellite imagery are a critical tool for landscape archaeologists.

"It's like an impressionist's painting," said Hammer, in that there is no discernible pattern when viewed up close. "Just like stepping back from the blobs of paint on an Impressionist painting reveals the full picture, [aerial and satellite imagery] lets you stand back and see larger patterns that tell us about how humans relate to their environment in the past."

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Acer’s new ConceptD line is for creatives who want powerful yet quiet PCs

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 8:52pm

NEW YORK—Acer added to its already extensive family of PCs with an entirely new line today. Dubbed ConceptD, the new family of laptops, towers, and displays are designed for creatives who often gravitate to gaming PCs for their power but may also be turned off by those devices’ unique designs and loud cooling noise.

Acer explained at its event in Brooklyn, New York, today that it took a lot of inspiration from its Predator gaming line when making ConceptD machines. However, that inspiration manifested mostly in the new machines’ internals—most ConceptD devices have the latest 9th-gen Intel processors and powerful Nvidia graphics cards, providing the necessary performance to serve a number of creatives (think animators, graphic designers, VR engineers, etc).

As far as external design goes, ConceptD machines borrow some aspects from Acer’s consumer families but also incorporate white and wooden accents for an airier, modern look. The ConceptD 9 convertible has a design similar to Acer’s Aspire R13, featuring a hinge that allows you to move the display forward and backward (Acer calls this its Ezel Aero hinge). The display itself is a 17.3-inch 4K display that has a DeltaE of less than one, which means it will render colors that are nearly as accurate as those in real life (a DeltaE closer to 0 results in more accurate colors).

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A private spacecraft from Israel crashed into the Moon Thursday [Updated]

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 8:35pm

Enlarge / Beresheet captured this image of the Moon from an altitude of 500km. (credit: SpaceIL)

Thursday 3:35pm ET Update: The Moon remains a harsh mistress.

On Thursday, SpaceIL's lunar lander attempted to make a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, but it apparently crashed instead into the gray world. Although a postmortem analysis has not yet been completed, telemetry from the spacecraft indicated a failure of the spacecraft's main engine about 10km above the Moon. Thereafter, it appears to have struck the Moon at a velocity of around 130 meters per second.

“We have had a failure in the spacecraft," Opher Doron, general manager of the space division at Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the lander, said during the landing webcast. "We have unfortunately not managed to land successfully.” Israeli engineers vowed to try again.

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NASA’s Twins Study: A great control, but a sample size of one

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 8:20pm

Enlarge / Scott Kelly returned from space with a lot of blood and stool samples. They've now told the tale of the changes he underwent during his time on the International Space Station. (credit: NASA)

The US has big plans for putting humans in space. In doing so, it will be building on our experience at the International Space Station, which is approaching the 20th anniversary of the arrival of its first occupants. Some of that experience comes in the form of knowledge of habitation and operations in low gravity. But a large chunk of it is in the form of understanding what time in space does to the human body.

Today, NASA is releasing detailed results of its most audacious experiment yet: sending one half of a pair of identical twin astronauts into space and carefully monitoring both of them for a year. Three years after astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth, and a year after some horrifically speculative press coverage, a paper in today's issue of Science provides excruciating detail on the changes Kelly's body experienced over a year in orbit. While many of the problems highlighted in the new paper had been identified previously, the results aren't exactly good news for the US' long-term exploration plan.


Over the course of many long-term stays in space, the US and Russia have identified a number of health issues caused by extended stays in minimal gravity. Some of them are pretty simple to correct. Without gravity's constant pull, bones and muscles don't experience the resistance that helps keep them robust. A careful exercise plan, however, can minimize these issues. Less easy to minimize is the fact that the body's internal water content shifts upwards—about two liters of fluid move to the upper body over the short term. Among the consequences are eye problems that can persist after the astronaut returns to Earth.

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Dealmaster: Get a Dell gaming laptop with 16GB of RAM and a GTX 1060 for $799

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 7:20pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Update (2:37pm ET 04/11/2019): Shortly after this article was published, Walmart lowered the price of our featured deal by another $50 to $799. We've updated our headline and the article below to reflect this.

Original article: Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal on Dell's G5 15 gaming laptop—a configuration with Intel's Core i5-8300H CPU, 16GB of RAM, and Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GPU is down to $799 at Walmart. Dell usually sells this model for $1,100, so this is about a $300 discount.

To be clear, this is technically Dell's last-gen G5 15—the company slightly refreshed most of its gaming lineup earlier this year—and the notebook isn't without flaws. The chassis is mostly plastic, the 15.6-inch 1080p display isn't exactly high-end, and, this being a gaming laptop, the whole thing isn't very thin (0.98 in.) or light (5.76 lbs.). Its fans will make some noise, too. But such is life with a budget gaming laptop. What you're really paying for here is the ability to play newer games in 1080p—preferably on high, not ultra, settings—on the (relative) cheap. The 6GB GTX 1060 is Nvidia's lower-powered Max-Q variant, and it's not the most cutting-edge card these days, but until notebooks with newer GPUs like the GTX 1660 become more prevalent, it's still powerful enough to get the job done. The laptop itself includes a Thunderbolt 3 port and should get about five hours of battery through Web browsing. All told, it feels like a good value at this price.

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Google+ is back! Meet the enterprise-focused “Google Currents”

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 6:14pm

Google+ may have shut down its consumer side earlier this month, but the code base still lives on at Google. After diving into the social media wars and getting routed, Google+ will live out its retirement as "Google Currents"—it's the Google+ code base, but with an enterprise focus. The reborn Google+/Currents will now do battle with Facebook again, this time with the enterprise version of Facebook, called "Workplace," and also Microsoft's Yammer. Surely things will go differently this time.

Google Currents is, uh, currently launching as a beta service that G Suite admins can request access to. The enterprise focus means it's for paying G Suite customers only. Google's blog post says Currents "enables people to have meaningful discussions and interactions across your organization, helping keep everyone in the know and giving leaders the opportunity to connect with their employees." Currents looks exactly like Google+, but with a new logo and maybe a slightly whiter color scheme.

Currents is now the second big enterprise communication tool from Google. The other is Google Hangouts Chat, which is a Google's version of a Slack clone. Just like Currents, Hangouts Chat is closely associated with a dying consumer Google product, Google Hangouts. (Why does it seem like G Suite is getting all the consumer leftovers?) Both products will greatly benefit from their association with G Suite, which pulls in enterprise customers with killer apps like Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and Drive. The sales pitch is basically "Since you're already paying for that sweet Gmail account with a custom domain, why not try out these social apps, too?"

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MIT says we’re overlooking a near-term solution to diesel trucking emissions

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 5:50pm

Enlarge / Interstate 55, Dixie Truck Stop, parking lot. (credit: Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)

Transportation is one of the major causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for about a quarter of all transportation-related emissions. At present, semis and other long-haul trucks are mostly diesel-powered, so they emit nitrogen oxides and particulates that aren't just bad for the climate; they're bad for human health as well.

Tesla made a splash in 2017 when it introduced its all-electric semi truck, and announcements from other trucking companies followed. Daimler sold small electric delivery trucks and has an electric Cascadia in development, Nikola announced a hydrogen-powered fuel cell truck, and Siemens debuted a catenary system for freight. Yet two years later, trucking in the US is still driven by diesel-fueled, compression-ignition (CI), internal combustion engines.

Daniel Cohn and Leslie Bromberg, a pair of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published a paper with the Society of Automotive Engineers, suggesting that the best way forward is not to wait for all-electric or hydrogen-powered semis, but to build a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) truck with an internal combustion engine/generator that can burn either gasoline or renewable ethanol or methanol.

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The nutrition study the $30B supplement industry doesn’t want you to see

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 5:35pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Roberto Machado Noa)

A decade-long observational study of more than 30,000 people finds that certain vitamins and minerals may help extend your life and keep you from dying of cardiovascular disease—but only if you get those beneficial nutrients from foods, not supplements.

The study, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is yet another to find that taking supplemental vitamins and minerals—either individually or in multivitamins—offers no discernible benefits in terms of reducing risks of death generally or death from cardiovascular disease and cancers, specifically. Simply put, popping pills can’t take the place of eating a healthy diet—an unflashy takeaway that likely won’t please the massive, $30 billion supplement industry.

Moreover, the study didn’t just find a lack of benefits from supplements. It also found potential harms. Getting high doses of calcium (1,000 mg or more per day) from supplements—but not from foods—was linked to higher cancer mortality risks in the study. Likewise, people taking vitamin D supplements who didn’t have vitamin D deficiencies may have higher risks of all-cause mortality and death from cancers.

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You can now buy Intel’s priceless, power-hungry i9-9990XE

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 5:04pm

Enlarge / This is a 10-core Skylake-X processor. It uses the low core count (LCC) version of the Skylake-SP die. (credit: Fritzchens Fritz / Flickr)

We learned in January that Intel was planning a new top-end Core i9 Extreme Edition processor: the i9-9990XE. Though it would have fewer cores than the previous top—14 cores and 28 threads compared to the i9-9980XE's 18 cores and 36 threads—it would make up for this in clock speed. The i9-9990XE is clocked at 4.0 to 5.0GHz, compared to 3.0 to 4.5GHz. Power consumption has increased as well, to 255W, 95W more than the 160W i9-9980XE. The price of the new chip? Undetermined. Instead of selling them to end users, Intel's plan was to auction them to high-end system builders, such that the chips would only be sold in complete systems.

But now we have a price. Anandtech reports that one of those high-end system builders,, has decided to sell the bare chip anyway. The price of this monster? €2,999 (about $3,400).

The bespoke, high-end computer market is a slightly strange one. These systems, often water cooled and factory overclocked, typically have all the trappings of a gamer system, including windowed cases and multicolored lights. Wealthy gamers and streamers are certainly part of their audience. However, another significant market is much less interested in the lights and colors—the systems are sold to high-frequency traders and others within the finance world. These groups put a high premium on single-threaded performance and large caches, and they will spend large sums to be slightly faster than their competitors.

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Limiting climate change could save the US a ton of money

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 4:57pm

Enlarge (credit: Chris Potter)

Despite what the world’s least-interesting talking gecko would have you believe, no one likes handing over payments for car insurance. But there’s one thing everyone likes even less: suddenly paying for expensive repairs not covered by your insurance.

Similarly, opponents of action on climate change like to complain about the costs of eliminating fossil fuel emissions. Typically, this implies that the alternative—ignoring climate change—is free. It is not.

A new study by Jeremy Martinich and Allison Crimmins of the US Environmental Protection Agency provides the most detailed estimate yet of the economic costs of climate change in the United States. They found that taking action to reduce emissions could save us at least $200 billion per year by the end of the century.

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YouTube TV adds channels and raises price—you can’t opt out of either change

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 4:44pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Onfokus)

YouTube launched its competitor to cable TV two years ago, charging $35 a month, but it's now over 40 percent more expensive.

Google raised the price of YouTube TV to $40 in March 2018 and yesterday announced it's raising the price again, this time to $49.99. In both cases, the Google-owned streaming TV service paired the price hike with extra channels, but subscribers have to pay the new, higher price whether they want the new channels or not.

"To keep bringing you the best service possible, we are also updating our membership pricing," YouTube TV told subscribers in an email yesterday. "The price for new and existing members will be $49.99/month."

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Illinois bill banning eavesdropping by IoT devices defanged by tech lobby

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 4:35pm

Enlarge / Illinois' Senate had a bill that would ban devices from eavesdropping without telling you. But the Internet Alliance made sure the bill as passed would have no teeth. (credit: NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

On April 10, the Illinois State Senate passed the "Keep Internet Devices Safe Act," a bill that would ban Internet device manufacturers from collecting audio from Internet-connected devices without disclosing it to consumers. But the bill was substantially neutered after a fierce lobbying effort by an industry association backed by Amazon and Google.

The bill passed on the heels of Amazon's admission that the company sometimes sends copies of audio clips captured by its Echo devices to offices around the world for transcription by employees—something not mentioned in Echo's terms of service or FAQ pages.

The bill as passed by the Senate states:

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Panasonic stops investing in Tesla Gigafactories as sales slump

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 3:54pm

Enlarge / The Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, as seen in 2017. (credit: Tesla)

On Thursday morning, Japan's Nikkei Asian Review reported that Panasonic has decided to stop its planned investments in Tesla's Gigafactories. The two companies had planned to boost production capacity at the US Gigafactory from 35GWh to 54GWh by 2020; that now seems unlikely. Additionally, the Japanese company has cancelled plans to invest in Tesla's Chinese production facility, which is currently under construction in Shanghai.

The news represents a reversal of Panasonic's plans; the company recently expanded the US Gigafactory from 10 to 13 production lines to help the carmaker grow. But the growth didn't happen as Tesla's sales slumped. Although the company sells more EVs than any other OEM, its deliveries for Q1 2019 were significantly lower than the previous three months. For Panasonic, that's a real problem; even when Tesla sales were booming, Panasonic failed to see any financial benefit. By the end of Panasonic's financial year, the company made a loss of more than $180 million (¥20 billion) from battery production.

A Tesla spokesperson told Nikkei, "We will of course continue to make new investments in Gigafactory 1, as needed." Tesla further elaborated to Electrek that the company believes "there is far more output to be gained from improving existing production equipment than was previously estimated."

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Julian Assange arrested, charged with conspiracy to hack US computers

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 3:05pm

Enlarge / Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at court on April 11, 2019 in London. (credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

British police arrested Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday. He had been hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 and was arrested after the Ecuadorian government invited the Metropolitan Police Service into the embassy to remove him. Assange was initially arrested for jumping bail in 2012, but the Metropolitan Police Service subsequently announced that he had been "further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities."

After Assange's arrest, the US Justice Department unsealed its indictment against him. The indictment focuses on Assange's role in helping Chelsea Manning steal classified information from the US military.

In 2010, "Assange agreed to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers," the indictment charges. Manning allegedly provided Assange with the hash of a password and asked Assange to crack it.

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Logan Paul 'unwise' to do Alex Jones YouTube interview

BBC Technology News - April 11, 2019 - 2:25pm
Campaigners criticise Logan Paul for talking to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on platform that banned him.

Can Nintendo make virtual reality gaming a success?

BBC Technology News - April 11, 2019 - 1:00pm
Newsbeat plays with the Nintendo Labo VR kit and meets one of the brains behind it.

Serious flaws leave WPA3 vulnerable to hacks that steal Wi-Fi passwords

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 12:48pm

Enlarge / Artist's impression of wireless hackers in your computer. (credit: TimeStopper/Getty Images)

The next-generation Wi-Fi Protected Access protocol released 15 months ago was once hailed by key architects as resistant to most types of password-theft attacks that threatened its predecessors. On Wednesday, researchers disclosed several serious design flaws in WPA3 that shattered that myth and raised troubling new questions about the future of wireless security, particularly among low-cost Internet-of-things devices.

While a big improvement over the earlier and notoriously weak Wired Equivalent Privacy and the WPA protocols, the current WPA2 version (in use since the mid 2000s) has suffered a crippling design flaw that has been known for more than a decade: the four-way handshake—a cryptographic process WPA2 uses to validate computers, phones, and tablets to an access point and vice versa—contains a hash of the network password. Anyone within range of a device connecting to the network can record this handshake. Short passwords or those that aren’t random are then trivial to crack in a matter of seconds.

One of WPA3’s most promoted changes was its use of “Dragonfly,” a completely overhauled handshake that its architects once said was resistant to the types of password guessing attacks that threatened WPA2 users. Known in Wi-Fi parlance as the Simultaneous Authentication of Equals handshake, or just SAE for short, Dragonfly augments the four-way handshake with a Pairwise Master Key that has much more entropy than network passwords. SAE also provides a feature known as forward secrecy that protects past sessions against future password compromises.

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