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Industry & Technology

Retina resolution headset puts the “reality” into “virtual reality”

Ars Technica - 53 min 13 sec ago

Enlarge / The Varjo VR-1 headset. It looks unassuming from the outside. (credit: Varjo)

Current virtual reality headsets are pretty good at the "virtual" bit but tend to fall down on the "reality" side of things. It's all too obvious that you're looking at a screen, albeit a screen held very close to your face, and a lot of screens just aren't meant to be looked at that close. The "screen door" effect that breaks the display up into a grid of individual pixels is distracting, and resolutions are low enough that curved lines are noticeably jagged, and fine detail gets lost. Second-generation headsets like the Vive Pro certainly do better than their first-generation counterparts, but they haven't eliminated these shortcomings. Even with eyes as appalling as mine, the human optical systems are clearly higher quality than the VR headsets can satisfy.

But the Varjo VR-1, available to buy today, is the first headset I've used that convincingly provides an image that looks real. The VR-1 puts a 1920×1080 micro-OLED display with some 3,000 pixels per inch (or 60 pixels per degree) slap-bang in the middle of your field of view. It looks like nothing you've ever seen from a headset before: no pixel grid, no jagged lines (or anti-aliasing), no screen-door effect. The images it displays look every bit as detailed as real life. Varjo calls it the Bionic Display and claims its resolution is about that of the eye, giving it a level of fidelity like nothing else on the market.

Surrounding this screen is a conventional 1440×1600 AMOLED display providing an 87 degree field of view. This showed an image that's much like any other headset. I found the experience of using the VR-1 a little like that of using Microsoft's HoloLens. In the HoloLens, the display has a relatively narrow field of view, so you have to look straight forward to see the images. When looking around, you have to turn your whole head and keep your eyes looking more or less straight ahead if you want to look at something. Otherwise, as soon as you look off to the side, the 3D images disappear.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

High-tech toilet seat monitors your heart as you sit on the can

Ars Technica - 53 min 50 sec ago

If developing heart disease scares the poo out of you, this new monitor may be just the thing.

Engineers at Rochester Institute of Technology have designed a high-tech toilet seat that effortlessly flushes out data on the state of your cardiovascular system. The tricked-out porcelain throne measures your blood pressure, blood oxygen level, and the volume of blood your heart pumps per beat (stroke volume)—taking readings every time you sit down to catch up on some reading of your own. The engineers, led by David Borkholder, recently published a prototype of the seat in the open-access journal JMIR mHealth and uHealth.

According to the inventors, the seat’s daily data dump could make patients and their doctors privy to early warning signs of heart failure, potentially helping to prevent further deterioration and avoid costly hospital stays. Moreover, the seat could ease in-home monitoring for heart patients, who often strain to consistently track their tickers with other, non-toilet-based monitors.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rail firms say pre-paid ticket issue 'now resolved'

BBC Technology News - 58 min 25 sec ago
Passengers were not able to collect pre-paid tickets from machines across the country.

Oculus founder sends free repair kits for Rift headsets

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 39 min ago
Despite leaving Facebook in 2017, Palmer Luckey is shipping his custom repair kit to gamers free of charge.

Roger Stone sorry for judge crosshair post

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 53 min ago
An Instagram post featuring the image has since been taken down.

Child abuse images being traded via secure apps

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 53 min ago
Stolen credit cards and other illegal material are also on sale, a File on 4 investigation discovers.

Could hackers 'brainjack' your memories in future?

BBC Technology News - 14 hours 50 min ago
A decade from now, memory-boosting implants could be available commercially, but at what risk?

Another blow to Blu-ray: Samsung will no longer make Blu-ray players for the US

Ars Technica - February 18, 2019 - 11:37pm

If you didn’t notice any Blu-ray player announcements from Samsung at CES this year, there’s a reason for that: the company has told both Forbes and CNET that it is getting out of the Blu-ray player business in the United States.

The large chaebol conglomerate will introduce no new Blu-ray players anywhere, it seems, and will stop making existing players for the US market. This comes as a confirmation of what many observers expected, given that the company last released a new player in 2017. Samsung was reportedly working on a high-end Blu-ray player for release in 2019, according to Forbes, but those plans have been scrapped.

Samsung didn't tell either publication why it decided to exit the business, and there is probably no big, single reason for this shift. But there are a lot of small ones.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The US cannot crush us, says Huawei founder

BBC Technology News - February 18, 2019 - 11:00pm
Ren Zhengfei says the firm will survive despite security concerns and his daughter's legal troubles.

Inside the DNSpionage hacks that hijack domains at an unprecedented scale

Ars Technica - February 18, 2019 - 10:48pm

Enlarge (credit: Lion Kimbro)

Since the beginning of the year, the US government and private security companies have been warning of a sophisticated wave of attacks that’s hijacking domains belonging to multiple governments and private companies at an unprecedented scale. On Monday, a detailed report provided new details that helped explain how and why the widespread DNS hijackings allowed the attackers to siphon huge numbers of email and other login credentials.

The article, published by KrebsOnSecurity reporter Brian Krebs, said that, over the past few months, the attackers behind the so-called DNSpionage campaign have compromised key components of DNS infrastructure for more than 50 Middle Eastern companies and government agencies. Monday’s article goes on to report that the attackers, who are believed to be based in Iran, also took control of domains belonging to two highly influential Western services—the Netnod Internet Exchange in Sweden and the Packet Clearing House in Northern California. With control of the domains, the hackers were able to generate valid TLS certificates that allowed them to launch man-in-the-middle attacks that intercepted sensitive credentials and other data.

Short for domain name system, DNS acts as one of the Internet’s most fundamental services by translating human-readable domain names into the IP addresses one computer needs to locate other computers over the global network. DNS hijacking works by falsifying the DNS records to cause a domain to point to an IP address controlled by a hacker rather than the domain’s rightful owner. DNSpionage has taken DNS hijacking to new heights, in large part by compromising key services that companies and governments rely on to provide domain lookups for their sites and email servers.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The wrath of grapes: A tale of 12 dead microwaves and plasma-spewing grapes

Ars Technica - February 18, 2019 - 10:00pm

Enlarge / Not just for grapes: plasma formed between a pair of hydrogel beads irradiated in a household microwave oven. (credit: Hamza K. Khattak)

DIY science enthusiasts know that, if you put a halved grape into a microwave with just a bit of skin connecting the halves, it'll produce sparks and a fiery plume of ionized gas known as a plasma. There are thousands of YouTube videos documenting the effect. But the standard explanation offered for why this occurs isn't quite right, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And its authors only needed to destroy a dozen microwaves to prove it.

"Many microwaves were in fact harmed during the experiments," admitted co-author Hamza Khattak of Trent University in Canada. "At one point, we had a microwave graveyard in the lab before disposing of the many early iterations in electronic waste."

Co-author Aaron Slepkov first became interested in the phenomenon when, as an undergraduate in 1995, he noticed there was no formal (i.e., scientifically rigorous and peer-reviewed) explanation for how the plasma was being generated. Once he'd finished his PhD and established his own research group at Trent University, he started doing his own experiments (microwaving grapes for science) with one of his undergraduate students. They used thermal imaging and computer simulations of both grapes and hydrogel beads in their experiments.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Niantic poised to settle Pokémon Go trespassing complaints

Ars Technica - February 18, 2019 - 9:15pm

Enlarge (credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

A proposed settlement filed last week could give homeowners some control over whether or not Pokémon Go's augmented-reality attractions show up in and around their property.

Shortly after its launch in the summer of 2016, Pokémon Go developer Niantic started fielding numerous complaints about players trespassing on private property to access location-dependent Gyms and Pokéstops in the augmented-reality game. Those complaints eventually developed into numerous lawsuits alleging that Niantic was essentially encouraging trespassing by placing its digital attractions on their property.

Those lawsuits were consolidated into a class action by August, and after winding through the courts for years (and surviving a motion to dismiss), that class-action suit now seems on the verge of a settlement. A proposal filed by the plaintiffs in district court last week (as noted by The Hollywood Reporter) outlines a number of ways Niantic apparently plans to solve this problem.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook is a law-breaking “digital gangster,” UK government report says

Ars Technica - February 18, 2019 - 8:14pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Facebook yesterday said it is willing to face "meaningful regulation" after UK lawmakers accused the company of acting like a "digital gangster" that has knowingly violated laws and helped spread Russian misinformation during elections.

A House of Commons committee that oversees media policy chastised Facebook in a report on "disinformation and 'fake news.'"

"Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like 'digital gangsters' in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law," the report said.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

With elections weeks away, someone “sophisticated” hacked Australia’s politicians

Ars Technica - February 18, 2019 - 8:00pm

Enlarge / Just over a week after the announcement of a cyber-attack on Australia's Parliament House, the government now says three Australian political parties weer also attacked by a "sophisticated state actor." (credit: Getty Images)

With elections just three months away, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on February 18 that the networks of the three major national political parties had been breached by what Australian security officials described as a "sophisticated state actor."

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that while the attack bears hallmarks of tools and techniques used by China-sponsored hacking groups in the past, security officials were concerned that the attackers may have used such approaches as part of a "false-flag" attack—like what is believed to have occurred in the case of the "Olympic Destroyer" attack on last year's Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Morrison said that the Australian government had made moves to "ensure the integrity of our electoral system," including instructing the Australian Cyber Security Centre "to be ready to provide any political party or electoral body in Australia with immediate support, including making their technical experts available." Electoral commissions and state and territory security agencies have been briefed on the attacks, and the Cyber Security Centre has also passed along malware samples and other information to "global anti-virus companies," the Prime Minister noted.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

If you call this firm a “patent troll,” it might sue for defamation

Ars Technica - February 18, 2019 - 7:55pm

Enlarge / These trolls, once pretty profitable. (credit: Tomi Knuutila)

We're not going to say that Automated Transactions LLC is a "patent troll," but several others have. The American Bankers Association has called ATL a troll. The Credit Union National Association called ATL a troll—they even illustrated the accusation with a picture of a troll. Individual lawyers, legal commentators, and banks have all described ATL as a troll.

Inventor and ATL founder David Barcelou got so fed up with people labeling his firm a patent troll that he sued about a dozen individuals and organizations for libel in 2016. Last year, a New Hampshire state judge dismissed Barcelou's lawsuit.

And on Thursday, February 14, the New Hampshire Supreme Court heard oral arguments about whether to overrule the lower court's decision and allow the lawsuit to move forward.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Japanese utility makes first contact with melted Fukushima fuel

Ars Technica - February 18, 2019 - 7:23pm

Late last week, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) sent a probe into the damaged second reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The probe's mission was to explore the solidity of the nuclear fuel that melted back in 2011, when a tsunami hit the nuclear plant following an earthquake, causing a meltdown of the plant's three reactors.

Eight years later, TEPCO is making slow but steady progress toward decommissioning the three damaged reactors. The mission to touch the melted nuclear fuel with a remote-controlled probe aimed to find out how solid the melted fuel is and whether it could be transported away from the site. This was the first time that field crews had been able to use any device to physically interact with the fuel since the reactor meltdown.

"The observation device made contact with deposits at six locations on the pedestal," TEPCO wrote in a short preliminary report that was published on Friday. "Deposits in five locations could be moved." TEPCO posted a video, which can be found here, of the robotic probe picking up pieces of melted nuclear fuel.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Netflix makes it official, canceling Punisher and Jessica Jones

Ars Technica - February 18, 2019 - 7:10pm

Enlarge / Farewell to the last Defenders standing: Jessica Jones and The Punisher have been officially canceled by Netflix. (credit: YouTube/Allowit)

It was only a matter of time, but today Netflix finally made it official, announcing the cancelation of its two remaining Marvel Defenders series, The Punisher and Jessica Jones. The latter's third season hasn't even aired yet, although Deadline Hollywood reports that Netflix will air season 3 as planned. Nobody who has followed the axing of Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Daredevil over the last few months was expecting The Punisher to get a third season, even though season 2 was an under-appreciated gem.

Punisher star Jon Bernthal—who is set to join New Line’s The Sopranos prequel feature—gave a fitting farewell on Instagram: "To all who have served. All who know loss. All who love and understand Frank and his pain. It has been an honor to walk in his boots. I’m endlessly grateful to the comic fans and the men and women of the Armed Services and law enforcement community who Frank means so much to. Thank you to the USMC and all the wonderful soldiers who trained me. Go Hard. Be safe."

UPDATE: Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter weighs in with her own Instagram post: a pic of the table read for the season 3 finale airing later this year. "I love these people to the moon and back," she wrote. "It has been a dream to play Jessica alongside my amazing cast and the best crew in the business for these past five years. I am so grateful for every second of it. We have THE BEST fans. You guys mean the world to me and I appreciate you beyond words. The final season ... is coming later this year and I am proud of how we complete JJ’s journey."

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google partially backtracks on Chrome changes that would break ad blockers

Ars Technica - February 18, 2019 - 6:35pm

Google has said that it will revise the proposed changes to Chrome's extension API that would have broken or reduced the functionality of a wide range of ad-blocking extensions, to ensure that the current variety of content-blocking extensions is preserved. The initial plans generated a wide backlash from both the developers and users of those extensions, but Google maintains that "It is not, nor has it ever been, our goal to prevent or break content blocking" [emphasis Google's] and says that it will work to update its proposal to address the capability gaps and pain points.

The advertising company is planning an overhaul of its extension interface to, among other things, increase user privacy, make it harder for extensions to perform malicious actions, and make the browser's performance more consistent. Together, this work is documented as Manifest V3.

One of these changes in particular had grave consequences for ad blockers. Currently, ad blockers make extensive use of an API named webRequest. This API allows extensions to examine every single network request made by a page and either modify it (to, for example, redirect it to a different address or add or remove cookies), block it altogether, or allow it to continue unhindered. This has both a substantial privacy impact (an extension can see and steal your cookies and hence masquerade as you) and, Google said, some performance impact, as every single network request (of which there may be dozens in a single page) has to wait for the extension to perform its analysis.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook security app used to 'spy' on competitors

BBC Technology News - February 18, 2019 - 6:28pm
A cross-party group of MPs says Facebook used its Onavo app to gather information on competitors.

YouTube backtracks after Pokemon 'child abuse' ban

BBC Technology News - February 18, 2019 - 5:39pm
Google backtracks after "mistakenly" deleting YouTubers for "sexual content involving minors".

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