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Industry & Technology

An alternative way to capture childhood on your phone

BBC Technology News - 10 hours 48 min ago
A simple, but evocative, way to record your children's development without using a camera.

Mazda brings a new diesel CX-5 SUV to the US—but why?

Ars Technica - April 21, 2019 - 3:15pm

Enlarge / You'd have to look carefully at the CX-5's badges to tell whether it was one of the new diesel-powered versions. (credit: Mazda)

When Mazda invited us to a roundtable discussion about powertrain technology at this year's New York auto show, it was easy to say yes. After all, the company is responsible for a significant recent breakthrough in internal combustion engine technology. So you can imagine my surprise when it turned out the topic on Mazda's mind was the introduction of its Skyactiv-D diesel engine to the North American market, under the hood of the (excellent) CX-5 SUV. Intrigued, I had to find out why the Japanese automaker was taking this step.

Diesel's fall from grace

You can be forgiven for thinking that "diesel" was now a dirty word. For a while, this liquid hydrocarbon fuel looked like it might be an important tool in helping fight climate change. After all, diesel engines are much more efficient than ones that run gasoline, so you can drive further between filling stations and emit less CO2 while doing it. But CO2 isn't the only problematic component of diesel exhaust. A more immediate danger posed by diesel exhaust is the soup of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates that result as combustion products. While CO2 will wreck our climate in the coming decades, NOx damages peoples' lungs today. And it's NOx that's responsible for diesel's fall from grace.

Or, more accurately, it's been the widespread lying by industry to regulators about the exact amounts of NOx emissions from their cars. The most well-known culprit has been Volkswagen Group. In 2015 it got caught lying to federal regulators in the US and the penalties have been stiff. Executives have been prosecuted. Hundreds of thousands of cars have had to be bought back from owners, billions of dollars in fines were levied, and an entirely new business plan had to be created to rapidly electrify one of the three biggest car companies in the world by the middle of the next decade.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hanna TV adaptation sacrifices magic of original film for typical teen angst

Ars Technica - April 21, 2019 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / Esme Creed-Miles plays the titular teen assassin in Amazon Prime's new series, Hanna. (credit: YouTube/Amazon Prime)

An isolated teenaged girl genetically engineered to be an assassin must elude rogue CIA agents intent on terminating her in Hanna, Amazon's adaption of the 2011 film of the same name. It's a gritty, competent thriller, with strong performances from a talented cast, and has already been renewed for a second season. The problem is that no matter how much one tries to separate the series from the film, comparisons are inevitable. And in almost all respects, the TV adaptation comes up short.

(Some spoilers for the series and the 2011 film below.)

Not everyone was a fan of Director Joe Wright's original film, with its strange mix of espionage and dark coming-of-age fairytale. But it's one of my recent favorites for precisely those elements, driven by an exquisitely unsettling performance by Saoirse Ronan in the titular role. Ronan had this otherworldly presence of untouched innocence, combined with a ruthless hunter's instinct, as we saw in the very first scene when she kills and dresses a deer with just a bow and arrow and a hunting knife.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Happy 30th B-Day, Game Boy: Here are six reasons why you’re #1

Ars Technica - April 21, 2019 - 1:22pm



Thirty years ago this week, Nintendo released the Game Boy, its first handheld video game console. Excited Japanese customers snatched up the innovative monochrome handheld by the thousands, which retailed for 12,500 yen (about $94 at 1989 rates) at launch—a small price to pay for what seemed to be an NES in your pocket. Nintendo initially offered four games for the new Game Boy: Super Mario Land, Baseball, Alleyway, and Yakuman (a mahjong game), but the number of available titles quickly grew into the hundreds.

Later that year, the Game Boy hit the US at $89.99 with a secret weapon—Tetris as its pack-in game. Selling over a million units during the first Christmas season, the Game Boy proved equally successful in the US, and that success was by no means short-lived: to date, Nintendo has sold 118.69 million units of the original Game Boy line (not including Game Boy Advance) worldwide, making it the longest running dynasty in the video game business. So in honor of the Game Boy's twentieth (Editor's note: now thirtieth!) anniversary, we give you six reasons why the Game Boy dominated the handheld video game market during most of its astounding multi-decade run.

In a rare public discussion at DICE 2015, Alexey Pajitnov talks about pentominoes (and other origins of Tetris. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

1. Tetris

It's common pop-marketing knowledge these days that every new hardware platform needs a "killer app" to truly succeed. In the Game Boy's case, Tetris filled that role perfectly.

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“Natural” bottled water has natural arsenic contamination, testing finds

Ars Technica - April 21, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / Water can pick up arsenic from geological, agricultural, or industrial sources. (credit: Getty | Nurphoto)

Several brands of bottled water contain concerning levels of arsenic contamination, according to an investigation by Consumer Reports.

The worst offenders in the report were Starkey, a brand owned by Whole Foods and marketed as water in its “natural state,” and Peñafiel, owned by Keurig Dr Pepper and imported from Mexico.

Samples of Peñafiel tested by CR had arsenic levels that averaged 18.1 parts per billion, well above the federal allowable limit of 10ppb set by the Food and Drug Administration. Testing of Whole Foods’ Starkey Water revealed levels at or just a smidge below federal limits, with results ranging from 9.48 ppb to 10.1 ppb.

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A mystery agent is doxing Iran’s hackers and dumping their code

Ars Technica - April 21, 2019 - 11:15am

Enlarge (credit: Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Nearly three years after the mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers began disemboweling the NSA's hackers and leaking their hacking tools onto the open Web, Iran's hackers are getting their own taste of that unnerving experience. For the last month, a mystery person or group has been targeting a top Iranian hacker team, dumping its secret data, tools, and even identities onto a public Telegram channel—and the leak shows no signs of stopping.

Since March 25, a Telegram channel called Read My Lips or Lab Dookhtegan—which translates from Farsi as "sewn lips"—has been systematically spilling the secrets of a hacker group known as APT34 or OilRig, which researchers have long believed to be working in service of the Iranian government. So far, the leaker or leakers have published a collection of the hackers' tools, evidence of their intrusion points for 66 victim organizations across the world, the IP addresses of servers used by Iranian intelligence, and even the identities and photographs of alleged hackers working with the OilRig group.

"We are exposing here the cyber tools (APT34 / OILRIG) that the ruthless Iranian Ministry of Intelligence has been using against Iran's neighboring countries, including names of the cruel managers, and information about the activities and the goals of these cyber-attacks," read the original message posted to Telegram by the hackers in late March. "We hope that other Iranian citizens will act for exposing this regime's real ugly face!"

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Millions using 123456 as password, security study finds

BBC Technology News - April 21, 2019 - 12:44am
A list of all-too-predictable choices for breached accounts includes 123456 and "Liverpool".

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft had an anomaly during tests Saturday

Ars Technica - April 20, 2019 - 11:30pm

Following a successful demonstration mission of its Crew Dragon spacecraft in March, SpaceX has been preparing that vehicle for a critical launch abort test this summer. During this upcoming test flight, the Dragon will launch from Florida on a Falcon 9 booster before firing its powerful SuperDraco engines to show that the spacecraft can pull itself safely away from the rocket in case of a problem with the booster.

On Saturday, as part of preparations for this abort test, the company experienced some sort of anomaly. According to a company spokesperson: "Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand. Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test. Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners."

It is not immediately clear how significantly this incident will affect SpaceX as it works toward Dragon's first crewed mission, which will carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station. Previously, sources have said that flight could occur by about October under ideal conditions. If the problems were serious, Saturday's accident may substantially delay this schedule—although in the past SpaceX has shown a propensity to rapidly diagnose failures and return to flight quickly, with just 4.5 months of downtime after a rocket failure in September 2016.

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You’re not getting enough sleep—and it’s killing you

Ars Technica - April 20, 2019 - 4:41pm

Enlarge / (GERMANY OUT) Schlaflosigkeit, Frau mit Wecker (Photo by Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images) (credit: Ullstein Bild | Getty Images)

The whole world is exhausted. And it's killing us.

But particularly me. As I write this, I'm at TED 2019 in Vancouver, which is a weeklong marathon of talks and workshops and coffee meetings and experiences and demos and late-night trivia contests and networking, networking, networking. Meanwhile, I'm sick as a dog with a virus I caught from my 3-year-old, I'm on deadline for what feels like a bazillion stories, and I'm pregnant, which means I need coffee but can't have too much, and need sleep but can only lay on my left side, and can't breathe without sitting propped up with a pillow anyway, since I can't safely take any cold medication.

According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, I'm doing serious damage to my health—and life—by not sleeping enough.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Santa Clarita Diet S3 blends slapstick, satire with genuine heart

Ars Technica - April 20, 2019 - 3:30pm

Enlarge / Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Tim Olyphant) Hammond are married real estate agents with an undead secret. (credit: Netflix)

The Santa Clarita Diet, Netflix's smart, slyly satiric sitcom about a zombie outbreak in suburban Southern California, has largely flown under the pop culture radar since it debuted in February 2017. And that's a shame, because it's easily one of the best half-hour comedies on TV right now. Season 3 brings the same winning blend of satire, snappy dialogue, slapstick, and of course, plenty of zombie-munching gore.

(Some spoilers below.)

The series centers on Joel and Sheila Hammond (Tim Olyphant and Drew Barrymore), married real estate agents in Santa Clarita who find their lives irrevocably altered after Sheila has an extreme upchucking incident while showing a house to prospective clients. She thinks it's a bad case of food poisoning but soon begins to crave human flesh. The upside: she feels better than she has in years, and her increased libido kickstarts the Hammonds' previously humdrum sex life into overdrive. Season 1 was a bit uneven, especially in the earlier episodes, but the show found its stride by the end of that first 10-episode run, and both seasons 2 and 3 are sheer bingeable delights.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: The indestructible humanity of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

Ars Technica - April 20, 2019 - 3:00pm

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.

(credit: Orbit Books)

Dystopian stories take many forms, but it's a rare dystopian novel that prominently features man's best friend. Author of the Oversight and Stoneheart trilogies, C.A. Fletcher doesn't hide the importance of dogs in his latest novel. Aptly titled A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, it follows a young boy named Griz as he goes on a journey to retrieve his stolen pet.

"Dogs were with us from the very beginning," Griz writes. "And those that remain are still with us now, here at the end of the world."

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Notre-Dame fire: How gamers are getting 'inside' the cathedral

BBC Technology News - April 20, 2019 - 2:26pm
Players return to a 2014 video game to visit a digital version of the cathedral, untouched by fire.

These are the best new vehicles of the 2019 New York International Auto Show

Ars Technica - April 20, 2019 - 2:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Jonathan Gitlin / Aurich Lawson)

NEW YORK—On Friday morning, the annual New York International Auto Show opened its doors to the public. In stark contrast to last year—when I foolishly predicted that NYIAS was now the premier US auto show—this year's event feels very lackluster.NYIAS 2019

View more stories

The Shanghai Auto Show is partly to blame. It opened earlier this week and pretty much every automaker with something new to show chose China over the US. In fact, some brands like BMW and Volvo weren't present at all. The Internet didn't help either, as what little new metal there was coming to the Big Apple got shown off online in the weeks leading up.

But given that we missed both LA and Detroit in recent months, I braved Amtrak's rapidly deteriorating service from DC to wander the Javits center and see what was neat among the vehicles that did show up in NYC. While have some other stories from NYIAS to come, we're kicking off this year's event with our Best Of awards.

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The hydrogen fuel strategy behind Nikola’s truck dream

Ars Technica - April 20, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge

Ars makes every effort to cover its own travel costs. To attend Nikola's conference, we covered the flight out to Scottsdale, Arizona, but Nikola covered one night in a nearby hotel.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona—The Nikola Motor Company wants to reinvent trucking by replacing diesel heavy-duty trucks with hydrogen fuel cell trucks. But hydrogen skeptics are numerous, and not without good reason. Although hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are quiet, emissions-free (with the exception of water) during operation, and relatively fast-charging compared to battery electric vehicles, they have a host of other problems.

First, hydrogen is hard to store, and it must be cooled and compressed. It's also hard to transport. Additionally, H2 is not a green fuel in the US, for the most part. Generally, natural gas (CH4) is reformed to create H2 in ways that still cause carbon emissions. There is a way to create hydrogen fuel without the carbon emissions: by applying electricity to water (a process called water electrolysis). But water electrolysis has been prohibitively expensive, and if hydrogen can't compete with diesel, what's Nikola's value proposition to freight companies that will make them want to switch?

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TED 2019: The start-ups launching in space

BBC Technology News - April 20, 2019 - 1:19am
Space is getting busy thanks to a new era of commercialisation.

Marcus Hutchins, slayer of WannaCry worm, pleads guilty to malware charges

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 11:38pm

Enlarge / Then-23-year-old security researcher Marcus Hutchins in his bedroom in Ilfracombe, UK, in July 2017, just weeks before his arrest on malware charges. (credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Marcus Hutchins, the security researcher who helped neutralize the virulent WannaCry ransomware worm, has pleaded guilty to federal charges of creating and distributing malware used to break into online bank accounts.

“I regret these actions and accept full responsibility for my mistakes,” Hutchins wrote in a short post. “Having grown up, I’ve since been using the same skills that I misused several years ago for constructive purposes. I will continue to devote my time to keeping people safe from malware attacks.”

Hutchins was charged in August 2017 with creating Kronos, a banking trojan that stole online bank account passwords from infected computers. A superseding indictment filed 10 months later charged him with 10 felony counts that alleged he created a second piece of malware called UPAS Kit. Hutchins, whose online persona MalwareTech attracts more than 143,000 followers on Twitter, had a league of vocal defenders claiming the allegations were false.

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Hacking 'hero' Marcus Hutchins pleads guilty to US malware charges

BBC Technology News - April 19, 2019 - 10:45pm
Marcus Hutchins said he regrets his actions and accepts "full responsibility for my mistakes".

Reverse review bomb? AC: Unity draws praise for Notre Dame preservation

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 8:55pm

Enlarge / The famous cathedral lives on in interactive digital form.

At this point, we're actually a little tired of stories about "review bombing," where various put-upon groups of gamers gather together to leave a flood a negative user reviews, often for issues that have nothing to do with the game itself. But this week's flood of positive reviews for Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Unity on Steam is a different (and much rarer) story altogether.

The impetus for this reverse review-bomb (Review rocket? Review scaffolding? Review hug?) came earlier this week after the tragic fire in Paris' Notre Dame cathedral. On Wednesday, Ubisoft announced it would be donating €500,000 to help rebuild the cathedral that's recreated as a central landmark in Assassin's Creed Unity. On top of that, the company is giving away free copies of the game on its UPlay platform through April 25 as a way to encourage further donations and in order "to give everyone the chance to experience the majesty and beauty of Notre-Dame the best way we know how."

"When we created Assassin's Creed Unity, we developed an even closer connection with this incredible city and its landmarks," the company wrote this week. "One of the most notable elements of the game was the extraordinary recreation of Notre-Dame... We hope, with this small gesture, we can provide everyone an opportunity to appreciate our virtual homage to this monumental piece of architecture."

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New automation features are coming to macOS in Shortcuts—but not for every app

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 8:30pm

Enlarge / A few examples of "Shortcuts" that can be applied to Siri with iOS 12. (credit: Apple)

According to a report at 9to5mac citing people familiar with Apple’s plans, several iOS features will come to the Mac in macOS 10.15.

First and foremost among these is Shortcuts, the automation application that Apple built out of its acquisition of Workflow. The app, support for which was introduced in iOS 12, allows iPhone and iPad users to define steps for their devices to perform when they deliver certain user-definable Siri voice commands, tap user-created home screen icons, and so on.

Shortcuts is tightly integrated with Siri, and it was positioned by Apple as a way to make Siri much more powerful than it has been previously. Third-party app developers could develop their own Shortcuts and accompanying Siri commands that could be accessed across the operating system.

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This little electric car is the coolest thing at the NY Auto Show

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 8:20pm

As we detailed on Monday, this year's Shanghai auto show has been the place to be if you want to see car designers' ideas for future electric cars. But not everyone chose China as the place to reveal their electric concept cars. Genesis thinks the Big Apple is a better place to make an annual statement.

In 2017 it was the GV80, a hydrogen fuel cell EV that was the first clean-sheet design for the new Korean luxury brand and a vehicle that seems a lot more plausible now that we've driven Hyundai's Nexo. Last year, we got the Essentia, an electric hypercar that will almost certainly remain nothing more than a concept. Now, for the third year in a row, Genesis has stolen the New York International Auto Show, this time with the Mint, its take on a small luxury battery EV.

Forget an electric car for the masses, this one is for a niche within a niche: the city dweller who only needs two seats but still wants cargo space, plus the added drama of scissor doors and a leather-lined interior that looks like it belongs in a coachbuilt Bugatti from the 1930s. Admittedly, it's not the biggest demographic in the world, but I count myself firmly in that camp.

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