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Industry & Technology

Avengers: Endgame - How we made the visual effects

BBC Technology News - 40 min 3 sec ago
Framestore's Stuart Penn explains the challenges of making Avengers: Endgame.

Apple credits iPhone 11 demand for record sales

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 33 min ago
The tech giant says it is monitoring the coronavirus outbreak, which has made forecasting difficult.

Apple reports a blowout Q1 2020, but names coronavirus as a worry for the next quarter

Ars Technica - 7 hours 33 min ago

Based on the latest Apple quarterly earnings report, it seems that Apple's newer iPhone models have been a hit, along with the fast-selling Apple Watch and AirPods Pro (pictured above) devices. Critically, the quarter included holiday sales of of the new iPhones introduced in 2019 (iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max).

CEO Tim Cook and his associates told investors on today's earnings call that revenue is up 9 percent to a total of $91.8 billion. The iPhone grew 8 percent to make up $55.96 billion of that.

The product category that includes the Watch, AirPods, and Beats earned $10 billion this quarter. Cook bragged that those three products would together match a "Fortune 150 company." The category earned $7.3 billion in the same quarter last year. Also, CEO Tim Cook said on the investor call that more than 75 percent of people who bought Apple Watch devices during the quarter were new to the product.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

How worried should we be about 'Big Brother' technology?

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 34 min ago
Why do we fear government surveillance, but voluntarily use technology which monitors our lives?

How will the Huawei 5G deal affect me?

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 38 min ago
The UK has decided to let Huawei continue to be used in its 5G networks but with restrictions, despite pressure from the US to block the firm.

Apple releases iOS 13.3.1 and macOS Catalina 10.15.3

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 11:55pm

Enlarge / iPadOS.

Today, Apple released updates for its operating systems for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, Mac, HomePod, and Apple TV devices. iOS 13.3.1 is the most substantial of the updates, but they are all incremental updates that fix bugs or address user complaints or privacy concerns.

iOS 13.3.1 adds a new feature to toggle on or off the U1 ultra-wide band chip contained in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. This is in response to recent consumer concerns about the fact that international regulations affecting ultra-wide band devices that required the phones to check their location periodically even if users had disabled location services for all of their apps individually. Security experts observed that Apple did not seem to be collecting any user data, but the company promised under this scrutiny to offer a toggle in a future software update (this one, now) that would allow users to bypass the problem by disabling the U1 chip altogether. The U1 is currently used for the AirDrop file-sharing feature, but it may find other applications in future versions of iOS.

Additional changes in iOS 13.3.1 and iPadOS 13.3.1 include a fix for a problem whereby the recently added Communication Limits feature could be circumvented, as well as a number of bug fixes and improvements for Mail.

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London to deploy live facial recognition to find wanted faces in a crowd

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 11:39pm

Enlarge / Security cameras sit on a pole near the Houses of Parliament in the Westminster district of London, UK, on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. The Metropolitan Police will be adding new "live facial recognition" systems to their sensor collection, aimed at spotting wanted persons walking through targeted areas. (credit: ason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Officials at the Metropolitan Police Service of London announced last Friday that the force will soon begin to use "Live Facial Recognition" (LFR) technology deployed around London to identify people of interest as they appear in surveillance video and alert officers to their location. The system, based on NEC's NeoFace Watch system, will be used to check live footage for faces on a police "watch list," a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said. The real-time facial-recognition system will target suspects in violent crimes, child exploitation cases, and missing children and vulnerable adults, among others.

The video system, the spokesperson noted in a written statement, "simply gives police officers a prompt suggesting 'that person over there may be the person you're looking for'" and that the decision to act on that information will always be made by officers in the field. Initially, the system will be deployed at locations "where intelligence suggests we are most likely to locate serious offenders," the spokesperson said. "Each deployment will have a bespoke 'watch list' made up of images of wanted individuals, predominantly those wanted for serious and violent offenses."

Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said, "As a modern police force, I believe that we have a duty to use new technologies to keep people safe in London. Independent research has shown that the public support us in this regard. Prior to deployment we will be engaging with our partners and communities at a local level." That engagement will include officers handing out leaflets explaining the program at locations where the technology is deployed.

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Amazon’s Ring app shares loads of your personal info, report finds

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 11:10pm

Enlarge / A Ring camera doorbell. (credit: Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)

Amazon's Ring line of home surveillance products has come under intense scrutiny in recent months following a seemingly endless litany of worrying revelations about Ring's police partnerships, account security, vulnerabilities, employee snooping, and sharing of extremely detailed location data. Now, we have a new report to add to the pile: it seems the app that customers use to manage and control a Ring camera is sending all kinds of personal data around as well.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation took a deep dive into the Android version of the Ring app, which it determined to be "packed with third-party trackers sending out a plethora of customers' personally identifiable information." Moreover, the EFF adds, this data sharing happens "without meaningful user notification or consent and, in most cases, no way to mitigate the damage done."

The personal data sent by Ring seems to go to four main recipients, the EFF found: Branch, ApplsFlyer, MixPanel, and Facebook. Those recipients presumably combine data they gather from the Ring app with data they collect from other sources—either information they collect in-house or buy/trade from other third parties—to build a fleshed-out digital doppelgänger profile for any given user.

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Samsung Galaxy Z flip gets official renders, full spec sheet

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 10:01pm

Samsung's next foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Z Flip, is expected to be shown off in full at the February 11 "Galaxy Unpacked" event. But to tide you over until then, a set of official renders and a full spec sheet have been posted by the German site WinFuture.

The pictures show a phone that shares a lot of DNA with Samsung's first foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold. Just like on the Fold, there's a raised bezel around the edge. On the Fold, this held the display to the body of the device and protected it while it was closed. The bezel was also pretty annoying, though: Android features several edge gestures, and trying to swipe in from the side or bottom of the device is awkward when the bezel isn't flush with the display. We can also see the same T-shaped hinge caps that were added to the second, post-recall version of the Galaxy Fold after it was delayed.

Like the Galaxy Fold, it sounds like the Z Flip is going to have a creased display and close into a wedge shape so it doesn't crush the display crease. WinFuture lists two thickness dimensions for when it's closed: 15.3mm and 17.3mm, which would be the tall and short side of the wedge. Several pictures show the phone in an L shape, like a tiny little laptop. WinFuture's report suggests that Samsung will pitch this as a way to easily see the phone while it's on a table.

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Amazon faces employee revolt over slow climate action

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 9:49pm

Enlarge / Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of, in May 2018. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Hundreds of Amazon employees on Monday issued statements blasting their own employer and calling for the company to do more to fight climate change. Some employees also praised Amazon's decision last September to order 100,000 electric vans—part of the company's climate change initiative. But others argued that Amazon's policies so far are inadequate given the scale of the climate change problem.

"Amazon can and should do more," wrote Amazon employee Nolan Woodle. "We should end our contracts with oil and gas companies that are using our services to locate, drill for, and extract fossil fuels."

"Big Tech has the opportunity to not only change the world but change the planet," wrote another employee, Rabecca Rocha.

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Here’s the latest on the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 9:35pm

Enlarge / HONG KONG, CHINA - 2020/01/28: Pedestrians wear sanitary masks to prevent infections. (credit: Getty | SOPA images)

An outbreak of a never-before-seen coronavirus that causes viral pneumonia has continued to surge in China, with over 4,500 confirmed cases and over 100 deaths.

Nearly all of the cases and all of the deaths are reported from China. But there have been small numbers of cases in travelers to other countries, including Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the Republic of Korea, the United States, and Vietnam.

Five travel-related cases have been confirmed in the United States, according to officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arizona, Washington, and Illinois have each reported one case, and California has reported two cases. All of the cases had connections to Wuhan, the capital city of the central Hubei province where the outbreak erupted.

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Dealmaster: Amazon’s whole Fire TV streamer lineup is on sale for the Super Bowl

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 8:10pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is headlined by a suite of deals on Amazon's Fire TV streamers. The offers include the 1080p Fire TV Stick for $25, the brawnier Fire TV Stick 4K for $35, the smart speaker-like Fire TV Cube for $100, and the Fire TV Recast over-the-air DVR for $145. Those discounts range from $15 to $80 off.

Of these, we'd say the Fire TV Stick 4K is the best buy for most people. We've recommended it in multiple gift guides in the past, but it remains a powerful way to get 4K HDR content to your TV without putting too much of a dent in your wallet. It supports all the major streaming apps and HDR formats, consistently performs smoothly, and has more robust voice search capabilities than its closest analogue, the Roku Streaming Stick+. That Roku streamer has a far tidier, if somewhat boring, interface than the Fire TV Stick 4K, but generally speaking, the best choice between the two is whichever one is on sale at the time. Amazon will usually discount its Fire TV Sticks at various points throughout the year, but this current deal is as low as we typically see it outside of major sales events like Prime Day and Black Friday. If you aren't buying it for a 4K TV, just make sure to save some cash and get the standard Fire TV Stick instead.

If you have no interest in a new media streamer, we also have deals on Google's Pixel 3a smartphone, AMD Ryzen processors, Eero mesh Wi-Fi routers, and more. Have a look at our full deals rundown below.

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Human rights expert to keep Zuckerberg in check

BBC Technology News - January 28, 2020 - 8:00pm
Freedom of speech campaigner Thomas Hughes joins Facebook to lead its new oversight board.

Ajit Pai promised faster broadband expansion—Comcast cut spending instead

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 7:51pm

Enlarge / Comcast Xfinity van in Santa Clara, California, August 17, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Smith Collection/Gado)

Comcast reduced capital spending on its cable division in 2019, devoting less money to network extensions and improvements despite a series of government favors that were supposed to accelerate broadband expansions.

"For the twelve months ended December 31, 2019, Cable capital expenditures decreased 10.5 percent to $6.9 billion," down from $7.7 billion in 2018, Comcast, the nation's largest home Internet provider, said in its earnings announcement last week. "Cable capital expenditures represented 11.9 percent of Cable revenue compared to 13.8 percent in 2018."

Comcast cable revenue rose 3.7 percent, from $56 billion in 2018 to $58.1 billion in 2019. Cable-division EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization) rose 7.3 percent, from $21.7 billion to $23.3 billion in 2019.

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Troubled Iranian rocket industry preparing for another launch attempt

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 7:41pm

Enlarge / If one of the Zafar communications satellites makes it into space, maybe it will look like this? (credit: Islamic Republic News Agency)

Iran is preparing for the launch of two small communications satellites, Zafar 1 and Zafar 2, from the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran.

The country's communication's minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, confirmed the launch after NPR editor Geoff Brumfiel first reported on the likelihood of the upcoming mission. Iran has even created a website for the satellites, called "Zafar and me," for people to upload messages for the spacecraft to transmit back to Earth.

The satellites will likely launch on the Safir-1 or Safir-2 rocket, which reportedly have capacities of 65kg and 350kg to low-Earth orbit. Combined, the vehicles have a checkered history, with four known successes and four known failures during the last 12 years.

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Huawei set for limited role in UK 5G networks

BBC Technology News - January 28, 2020 - 7:00pm
The US failed to convince the prime minister to ban the Chinese firm from any involvement.

Bethesda restores characters who lost their clothes in Fallout 76 hack

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 6:09pm

A now-infamous video shows dozens of players having the clothes literally stolen off their backs as the result of a Fallout 76 hack last month.

Last month, Fallout 76 saw the emergence of a damaging new hack that let attackers literally steal the clothes off other players' backs. Now, Bethesda is making affected players whole (and clothed) again via a roundabout method that involves clones of their past selves.

The inventory theft hack, which targeted the PC version of the game, was widely popularized in a December 22 video showing a player stealing gear from dozens of fellow players, who go from fully clothed to standing in their underwear in the blink of an eye. Players quickly threw up warnings and evidence of the hack's spread on Reddit and looked for answers from the game's developer.

By December 23, Bethesda had acknowledged the hack and said it "may have resulted in a few players losing items that their characters had equipped," in a Reddit post. A patch soon followed to prevent further in-game thievery, but players that had their items stolen were still left without even the shirt on their virtual backs.

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5G explained in 45 seconds

BBC Technology News - January 28, 2020 - 5:56pm
How are 5G, or fifth generation, mobile networks different to what's come before?

Huawei: How the UK's decision affects the rest of the world

BBC Technology News - January 28, 2020 - 5:51pm
Germany and India are among the countries still weighing up use of the Chinese firm's 5G kit.

Ring doorbell 'gives Facebook and Google user data'

BBC Technology News - January 28, 2020 - 5:34pm
The Ring app sends a range of personal information to marketing companies, a study suggests.

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