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Industry & Technology

Japanese F-35 crashed into Pacific, rest of fleet grounded

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 8:12pm

Enlarge / An F-35 fighter aircraft of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force was lost in the Pacific on Tuesday. (credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI / Getty Images)

On Tuesday, a Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A fighter disappeared from radars suddenly only 20 minutes after takeoff in reportedly clear weather, with no distress calls from the pilot. Today, after a search-and-rescue effort involving Japanese military and US Navy ships and aircraft, the wreckage of the aircraft was located. But the search continues for the pilot.

According to a JASDF spokesperson, the F-35A was lost from radar approximately 135 kilometers (about 84 miles) east of Misawa Air Base, a joint US-Japanese air base in Aomo prefecture—about 690 kilometers (430 miles) north of Tokyo.

This is only the second F-35 crash since the aircraft completed flight testing—a Marine Corps F-35B crashed in South Carolina in September of 2018. But there have been other safety incidents with the aircraft. In June of 2014, an Air Force F-35A caught fire before take-off because of an engine failure. And in June of 2017, the Air Force briefly grounded F-35As after five incidents in which pilots experienced the symptoms of hypoxia (oxygen deprivation).

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Twitter blocks Trump 2020 video over Dark Knight Rises music

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 7:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Warner Brothers)

A request from Warner Brothers Pictures has forced the takedown of a fan-created Trump 2020 video that the president tweeted out on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday morning, Trump's tweet showed the message "this video is not available in your location." Then the tweet disappeared altogether.

Warner Brothers objected to the video because it used music by Hans Zimmer from the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises. "The use of Warner Bros.' score from 'The Dark Knight Rises' in the campaign video was unauthorized," a Warner Brothers spokesperson told NBC News.

Versions of the video have been percolating among online Donald Trump supporters for several years. Slate's Aaron Mak did some sleuthing and discovered an earlier version created by visual effects artist Brandon Kachel.

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DHS, FBI say election systems in all 50 states were targeted in 2016

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 7:20pm

Enlarge / Voter registration data was one of the targets of Russian hacking efforts in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election—which DHS and FBI analysts now say went after systems in every state. (credit: Getty Images)

A joint intelligence bulletin (JIB) has been issued by the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation to state and local authorities regarding Russian hacking activities during the 2016 presidential election. While the bulletin contains no new technical information, it is the first official report to confirm that the Russian reconnaissance and hacking efforts in advance of the election went well beyond the 21 states confirmed in previous reports.

As reported by the intelligence newsletter OODA Loop, the JIB stated that, while the FBI and DHS "previously observed suspicious or malicious cyber activity against government networks in 21 states that we assessed was a Russian campaign seeking vulnerabilities and access to election infrastructure," new information obtained by the agencies "indicates that Russian government cyber actors engaged in research on—as well as direct visits to—election websites and networks in the majority of US states." While not providing specific details, the bulletin continued, "The FBI and DHS assess that Russian government cyber actors probably conducted research and reconnaissance against all US states’ election networks leading up to the 2016 Presidential elections."

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Meet your long-lost distant cousin, Homo luzonensis

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 6:00pm

Enlarge / Callao Cave in northern Luzon, where the fossils were found. (credit: Detroit et al. 2019)

Our picture of hominin evolution in Asia just got more complicated, thanks to the discovery of a previously unknown hominin species on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The new species, Homo luzonensis, lived at around the same time as the “Hobbits” of nearby Flores (Homo floresiensis).

The two species share a mix of modern and older traits. Homo luzonensis’ teeth look like those of more recent members of our genus, Homo, but the hand and foot bones look more like they could have belonged to an Australopithecine—an early human relative that evolved around 3 million years ago and spent as much time in the trees as on the ground, a group that includes the famous skeleton named Lucy.

The combination didn’t look like any other species anthropologists had seen before.

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Samsung over-complicates phone design with a motorized, pop-up, swivel camera

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 4:47pm

Don't ever let anyone tell you smartphone design is boring. We've seen companies come up with various solutions to hide the front-facing camera "notch," from a motorized pop-up section to a fully old-school slider phone, but the latest implementation from Samsung is probably the most complicated. The company made a device with a motorized, pop-up, swivel camera.

The mid-range Galaxy A80 is an all-screen phone with an Oppo FInd X style motorized pop-up section. Samsung is one-upping its Chinese rival with a camera that swivels around when it rises, so the back camera can double as the front camera. There is a lot going on with this swivel camera section, too: there's a 48MP main sensor, an 8MP wide-angle lens, and 3D depth-sensing equipment.

Despite the trick camera setup, this device is positioned firmly behind Samsung's flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S10. The display is a huge 6.7-inches, but the resolution is only 2400×1080. That gives it a DPI of 393, which pales in comparison to the 526 DPI of the Galaxy S10. Samsung is using the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 chipset, an eight-core chip built on an 8nm process. Since it only launched yesterday, we don't have serious benchmarks for comparison, but the 730 and 730G (that's a gaming-focused variant) slot in after the 845 as Qualcomm's second-fastest mobile SoC.

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PSN name change feature goes into effect today

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 4:41pm

(credit: Aurich x Getty)

Following an initial announcement last October, Sony has announced that PSN players will finally be able to change their online handles starting sometime Wednesday in the US and Thursday in Europe. But players who do change their online names might face issues ranging from minor to critical when trying to play some legacy PS4 titles.

PlayStation Director of Social Media Sid Shuman writes that all PS4 games published after April 1, 2018 "have been developed to support the online ID change feature." That said, he adds that not all recent releases have been tested, and some may not "fully support the feature."

For PS4 games published before April 1, 2018, Sony has already identified a handful that experience serious problems after users change their PSN names. The following games may run into "critical issues" such as loss of in-game currency and game or trophy progress along with improper functioning of user-generated content and other parts of the game (including paid DLC). Sony recommends you not change your PSN name if you plan on playing any of these titles:

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House votes to restore net neutrality as White House threatens Trump veto

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 4:38pm

Enlarge / Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), left, discusses a net neutrality bill as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) listens during a news conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The US House of Representatives today voted to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules, approving a bill that would reverse the Trump-era FCC's repeal of rules that formerly prohibited blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. The vote was 232-190, with 231 Democrats and one Republican supporting the bill, and 190 Republicans voting against it. Four Democrats and six Republicans did not vote.

The bill isn't likely to become law, though, as it could be either blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate or vetoed by President Trump. White House staff on Monday recommended that Trump veto the bill, claiming that the net neutrality repeal spurred new broadband deployment—even though Federal Communications Commission data doesn't actually support that conclusion.

The Democrats' "Save the Internet Act" doesn't even seem likely to reach Trump, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared it "dead on arrival."

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Starman is out there, but we probably won’t see him again until 2047

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 4:35pm

Enlarge / A launch-day photo of Starman leaving Earth's orbit. (credit: SpaceX)

A little more than a year ago, SpaceX launched Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster, complete with a mannequin nicknamed Starman, wearing a SpaceX Dragon spacesuit. About six hours later, the Falcon Heavy rocket's upper stage fired for a final time, sending Starman into an orbit around the Sun, with an aphelion just beyond the orbit of Mars. Since then I, and others, have wondered what the long-term fate of Starman will be.

At first, not much was known about the Tesla's location. The first inkling of its orbital parameters came from an image that Musk tweeted. (Later, this turned out to be inaccurate). The first verified and publicly available location data came from the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), the US Air Force command tasked with tracking objects in space. But this only covered the time it was in Earth orbit, not Starman's position after the final upper-stage burn. Using those two pieces of information, on February 7, I created a website that allowed a person to see how far away the Tesla was from Earth. But this data was quite limited at first.

The next bit of information came from JPL Horizons, a tool produced by JPL’s Solar System Dynamics organization that is tasked with tracking objects in the Solar System. On February 8, it used data provided directly from SpaceX to allow one with proper knowledge to query the system and determine exactly where Starman was at any given time. This provided useful information for a few months, but beyond that time period, the data simply could not provide enough information.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

We now have images of the environment at a black hole’s event horizon

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 2:49pm

Enlarge / The first image of the environment around a black hole. As a matter of fact, it's not all dark. (credit: National Science Foundation)

Two years ago, telescopes around the world turned their attention to two supermassive black holes. Now, after a massive computational effort, their data has been combined in a way that allowed them to function as a single, Earth-sized telescope. The results are an unprecedented glimpse of the environment around supermassive black holes, and they confirm that relativity still works under the most extreme gravitational forces.

The environment near the black hole appears to change on very short time scales, though we're not sure about the significance of this. White circles reflect the resolving power of the Event Horizon Telescope. (credit: Astrophysical Journal)

The black hole in that's the subject of today's announcement is a supermassive one at the center of the galaxy M87, 55 million light years away. M87 is an active galaxy where the black hole is feeding on matter and ejecting jets of material. The image itself, however, is made from photons that were temporarily trapped in orbit around the black hole. Here, at the edge of the event horizon, the intense gravity causes space itself to swirl around the black hole, and causes nearby matter to move at approximately the speed of light. The eventual escape of these photons causes a bright ring to appear around the black hole, with the details of the ring reflecting the physics of the object.

A monster

At a press conference this morning, Avery Broderick of the Perimeter Institute described what the images tell us. One key finding is that the object is truly a black hole, at least as we've understood black holes using relativity. It does not have any visible surface, and the "shadow" of light it creates is circular within the limits of our observations. We can also tell that it spins clockwise. All of the properties we can infer from these images are consistent with relativity. "I was a little stunned that it matched the predictions we made so well," said Broderick.

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YouTube to develop interactive content like Netflix’s Bandersnatch

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 2:44pm

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto/Getty Images)

YouTube is planning to expand the types of original content it produces to include choose-your-own-adventure style programs. According to a Bloomberg report, the Google-owned company will develop interactive content similar to Netflix's hit Bandersnatch under the leadership of Ben Relles. Previously the head of unscripted programming, Relles has been with YouTube for eight years but has just begun in his new role.

Since the plan is in its infancy, there's no word on what types of interactive content we could see from YouTube yet. The company has experimented with interactive advertising but has yet to introduce viewer choice into its original programming. It could be awhile before we see a choose-your-own-adventure creation from YouTube because this type of content, with multiple different options and endings, takes more time, effort, and money to produce than regular original programming.

Reportedly, YouTube's looking to bolster its original content offerings and increase ad sales by making interactive content. It's also hoping to get on the same playing field as some of its competition. Netflix's Black Mirror event, Bandersnatch, which launched at the end of 2018, was such a huge success that the company plans to develop more interactive TV series. Walmart may even get into the mix soon, as it has invested $250 million in a "joint venture" with Eko, a company that makes interactive content.

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Stillbirth documentary firm fined for maternity unit filming

BBC Technology News - April 10, 2019 - 1:43pm
The ICO says patients would have been "distressed" to know they were being filmed for a stillbirth show.

Xiaomi's founder Lei Jun receives £735m bonus

BBC Technology News - April 10, 2019 - 12:15pm
Lei Jun, the founder of Chinese tech giant Xiaomi, says he will give the award to charity.

Google Wing launches first home delivery drone service

BBC Technology News - April 10, 2019 - 11:14am
The first commercial home delivery drone service launches in Australia, after years of test flights.

UK train passengers offered smart tickets

BBC Technology News - April 10, 2019 - 10:02am
Stations around the UK are being upgraded so that users can purchase smart, paperless tickets.

The tech that could help clean polluted air

BBC Technology News - April 10, 2019 - 9:21am
A new system at London Marylebone station is helping to remove harmful gases from the environment.

Mysterious safety-tampering malware infects a second critical infrastructure site

Ars Technica - April 10, 2019 - 5:01am

Enlarge / Critical infrastructure sites such as this oil refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, rely on safety systems. (credit: IIP Photo Archive)

Sixteen months ago, researchers reported an unsettling escalation in hacks targeting power plants, gas refineries, and other types of critical infrastructure. Attackers who may have been working on behalf of a nation caused an operational outage at a critical-infrastructure site after deliberately targeting a system that prevented health- and life-threatening accidents.

There had been compromises of critical infrastructure sites before. What was unprecedented in this attack—and of considerable concern to some researchers and critical infrastructure operators—was the use of an advanced piece of malware that targeted the unidentified site’s safety processes. Such safety instrumented systems (SIS) are a combination of hardware and software that many critical infrastructure sites use to prevent unsafe conditions from arising. When gas fuel pressures or reactor temperatures rise to potentially unsafe thresholds, for instance, a SIS will automatically close valves or initiate cooling processes to prevent health- or life-threatening accidents.

By focusing on the site’s SIS, the malware carried the threat of physical destruction that, depending on the site and the type of accident, had the potential to be serious if not catastrophic. The malware was alternately named Triton and Trisis, because it targeted the Triconex product line made by Schneider Electric. Its development was ultimately linked to a Russian government-backed research institute.

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'Institutes of Technology' to boost skills training

BBC Technology News - April 10, 2019 - 2:07am
The locations of 12 Institutes of Technology - aiming to provide high-quality skills training - are revealed.

How 3D printing aids mass production

BBC Technology News - April 10, 2019 - 12:11am
A US tech firm is using 3D printing to mass produce metal parts more quickly than ever before.

Netflix ends AirPlay support on iOS in an ongoing souring of its Apple relationship

Ars Technica - April 9, 2019 - 9:04pm

Enlarge / The Apple TV 4K and remote. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Netflix has confirmed that it no longer supports AirPlay, citing "technical limitations" with Apple's video-slinging feature. The reasoning isn't exactly about technical limitations that prevent Netflix from supporting the feature at all, though. Rather, Netflix has either chosen not to support it because the company can't control the user experience the way it wants to or because of bigger issues of competition and collaboration between the two companies.

AirPlay is a feature in Apple devices (and now in some third-party devices from partners like LG and Samsung) that allows streaming audio or video from one gadget to another over the local network. A few days ago, users began noticing that they could no longer use AirPlay in the iOS Netflix app, and MacRumors discovered that a support document on Netflix's website had been updated to say, "Airplay is no longer supported for use with Netflix due to technical limitations."

Netflix soon elaborated with an official statement to certain press outlets covering the story. Here's the statement:

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Dutch F-16 flies into its own bullets, scores self-inflicted hits

Ars Technica - April 9, 2019 - 8:30pm

Enlarge / A Dutch Air Force F-16 had a close encounter with its own cannon shells in January. (credit: Getty Images)

The Netherlands’ Defense Safety Inspection Agency (Inspectie Veiligheid Defensie) is investigating an incident during a January military exercise in which a Dutch Air Force F-16 was damaged by live fire from a 20-millimeter cannon—its own 20-millimeter cannon. At least one round fired from the aircraft’s M61A1 Vulcan Gatling gun struck the aircraft as it fired at targets on the Dutch military’s Vliehors range on the island of Vlieland, according to a report from the Netherlands’ NOS news service.

Two F-16s were conducting firing exercises on January 21. It appears that the damaged aircraft actually caught up with the 20mm rounds it fired as it pulled out of its firing run. At least one of them struck the side of the F-16’s fuselage, and parts of a round were ingested by the aircraft’s engine. The F-16’s pilot managed to land the aircraft safely at Leeuwarden Air Base.

The incident reflects why guns on a high-performance jet are perhaps a less than ideal weapon. The Vulcan is capable of firing over 6,000 shots per minute, but its magazine carries only 511 rounds—just enough for five seconds of fury. The rounds have a muzzle velocity of 3,450 feet per second (1050 meters per second). That is speed boosted initially by the aircraft itself, but atmospheric drag slows the shells down eventually. And if a pilot accelerates and maneuvers in the wrong way after firing the cannon, the aircraft could be unexpectedly reunited with its recently departed rounds.

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