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Industry & Technology

SpaceX seeks FCC OK for 1 million satellite broadband Earth stations

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 7:10pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Olena_T)

SpaceX is seeking US approval to deploy up to 1 million Earth stations to receive transmissions from its planned satellite broadband constellation.

The Federal Communications Commission last year gave SpaceX permission to deploy 11,943 low-Earth orbit satellites for the planned Starlink system. A new application from SpaceX Services, a sister company, asks the FCC for "a blanket license authorizing operation of up to 1,000,000 Earth stations that end-user customers will utilize to communicate with SpaceX's NGSO [non-geostationary orbit] constellation."

The application was published by FCC.report, a third-party site that tracks FCC filings. GeekWire reported the news on Friday. An FCC spokesperson confirmed to Ars today that SpaceX filed the application on February 1, 2019.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Augmented Reality Google Maps is coming, starts testing in private

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

If you remember, in May 2018, Google showed off an augmented reality version of Google Maps during the Google I/O 2018 keynote. The feature was only described as a "what if" experiment and "How [augmented reality] could look in Google Maps"—it wasn't given a firm release date. Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal got to try a real working version of this concept, and, while there still isn't a release date, it sounds like Augmented Reality Google Maps is moving from "What if?" to an actual product.

The Journal was given a Google Pixel 3 XL with an "alpha" version of Google Maps to test. Just like what was shown at Google I/O, the new feature augmented the 2D, GPS-and-compass-powered map system with a 3D, augmented reality camera overlay and a camera-based positioning system. Basically, you hold your phone up, and it displays a camera feed with directions overlaid over it.

The feature seemed aimed at solving a lot of pain points that pop up when using Google Maps in a big city. The densely packed points-of-interest means GPS isn't really accurate enough for getting around, especially when you consider GPS doesn't work well indoors, or underground, or when you're surrounded by tall buildings, and it can take several minutes to reach full accuracy when stepping outside. Smartphone compasses are also, generally, terrible when you are standing still and need to figure out which direction to start walking.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Would you swap your smartphone with a brick phone?

BBC Technology News - February 11, 2019 - 6:33pm
Michaela Community School sells "brick phones" to students to stop them from being distracted.

Following lawsuit, Activision starts refund program for Guitar Hero Live

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 6:30pm

Enlarge / You could get paid for your now-crippled version of Guitar Hero Live.

American players who purchased Guitar Hero Live recently may be eligible for a refund being offered by Activision. The move comes after a lawsuit over the December shutdown of the game's streaming "Guitar Hero Live" mode, which included more than 90 percent of the game's available song library.

Activision's support page was updated recently to announce what it is calling a "voluntary refund program" for anyone who purchased Guitar Hero Live between December 1, 2017 and January 1, 2019. Those players have until May 1 to fill out a claim form and submit proof of purchase (a receipt or credit card statement) for a refund up to the purchase price.

Activision announced last June that it would be shutting down the Guitar Hero TV servers in December, more than three years after the game's late 2015 launch. That move cut off in-game access to more than 480 in-game songs that were only playable via live streaming channels or microtransaction rentals through the server. Console versions of the game still have access to 42 songs included on the game disc, but the iOS and Apple TV versions of the game are now completely unplayable.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Gavin Williamson: Drone 'swarm squadrons' to be deployed by military

BBC Technology News - February 11, 2019 - 5:35pm
The defence secretary says the network enabled aircraft could be used to overwhelm the enemy.

After glitch grants access, Bethesda says locked Fallout 76 vault will open

Ars Technica - February 11, 2019 - 5:25pm

Enlarge / You can't legitimately access this Fallout 76 vault yet, but you can take a peek inside. (credit: McStaken / Reddit)

Bethesda has confirmed that a locked vault in Fallout 76 will eventually open, but the admission came only after a player was briefly trapped in the locked area due to an in-game glitch.

The saga started this weekend when Reddit user McStaken posted pictures from inside the mysterious vault, which appears on the Fallout 76 map but can't be entered through normal gameplay. McStaken said he "didn't intend to end up" in the vault and entered accidentally while participating in another event.

That makes their situation different from previous players who have been able to force their way into Vault 63 and other locked in-game locations using a Power Armor glitch. Once inside, these players found a spacious, partially furnished vault, complete with overseer's office, wrecked kitchen, and even a terminal reading "Nice Work Assholes" (a possible hidden message for potential hackers?).

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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.

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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.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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."

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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.'"

Read 49 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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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