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Industry & Technology

Apple releases iOS 12.3.1 and a supplemental update for macOS 10.14.5

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 10:59pm

Enlarge / From left to right: the iPhone 8, the iPhone XS, the iPhone XR, and the iPhone XS Max. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Just a little over a week after iOS 12.3 hit iPhones and iPads everywhere, Apple has released iOS 12.3.1—a minor update that fixes a couple bugs. Earlier this week, Apple also released a supplemental update for macOS 10.14.5 to fix issues with the T2 chip on some MacBook Pros, addressing a common user complaint.

The iOS update primarily focused on fixing some issues with the Messages app. More specifically, it addresses a bug that prevented the "report junk" option from appearing on applicable threads and another one that made unknown senders appear in your main inbox when they shouldn't. Additionally, it addresses an issue that affected VoLTE calls.

Apple's patch notes for iOS 12.3.1 are as follows:

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Star Wars: KOTOR film rumors, Sonic film delayed to fix its VFX

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 9:40pm

How many more Star Wars films and TV series do we need? Our answer to that question became "at least one more" when we learned on late Thursday that a pretty juicy Lucasfilm project is in the works: the first-ever Knights of the Old Republic film.

Buzzfeed News says the project is currently linked to only one person: screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis, who has worked on scripts for Terminator Genisys, Netflix's Altered Carbon, and Alita: Battle Angel (meaning no actors, directors, or producers are currently attached, which should indicate how early-stages this project currently is). This script, according to Buzzfeed, is the first of a possible trilogy. If true, that would slam Kalogridis's project up against Star Wars film trilogies from Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff and from The Last Jedi director/screenwriter Rian Johnson.

There's always a chance that this KOTOR-linked screenplay is the first step in a protracted process that never leads to production (spec scripts tend to come before true film development) or that it turns into something tailored for the upcoming Disney+ streaming service. Still, the KOTOR video game franchise, shepherded by the game makers at BioWare, has always been beloved for its characters and scripts. Even its MMO incarnation, which launched in 2011 to uneven reviews, has been consistently lauded for its engrossing universe and stories. Hence, we'll join our fellow Star Wars nerds and begin optimistically drooling already.

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Trump gives Barr authority to declassify anything in campaign “spying” probe

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 7:35pm

Enlarge / Trump's memorandum to agency heads gives Attorney General William Barr authority to declassify or downgrade classification of anything he sees fit in his investigation into "intelligence activity" around the 2016 presidential election. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Late in the day on May 23, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum ordering the heads of the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security, and the Directors of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency to give Attorney General William Barr unfettered access to information about "intelligence activities relating to the campaigns in the 2016 Presidential election and certain related matters." The memorandum gives Barr the authority to declassify or downgrade the classification of any information he sees fit as part of the investigation.

Barr's investigation is not into electoral interference by foreign actors during the 2016 presidential campaign, but rather into whether US law enforcement and intelligence illegally spied on the Trump campaign. In an interview with Fox News earlier this month, Barr explained that "people have to find out what the government was doing during that period… If we're worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason we should be worried about whether government officials abuse their power and put their thumb on the scale."

The memorandum states that Barr can "declassify, downgrade, or direct the declassification or downgrading of information or intelligence that relates to the Attorney General's review." No restrictions are placed on what Barr can declassify, other than an instruction that "the Attorney General should, to the extent he deems it practicable, consult with the head of the originating intelligence community element or department."

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47 Democrats cave on net neutrality after GOP calls bill “dead on arrival”

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 7:25pm

Enlarge / Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., participates in the House Financial Services Committee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bill Clark)

Forty-seven Democratic members of Congress are calling for a net neutrality compromise with Republicans, who have refused to support a full restoration of the net neutrality rules repealed by the Ajit Pai-led Federal Communications Commission.

The Democratic-majority US House of Representatives voted in April to pass the Save the Internet Act, which would restore the Obama-era FCC's net neutrality rules. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared the bill "dead on arrival" in the Republican-majority Senate.

Republican lawmakers say they'll only accept a net neutrality law that isn't as strict—even though large majorities of both Democratic and Republican voters support the FCC's old net neutrality rules. On Wednesday, dozens of Democrats asked their party leadership to compromise with the GOP leadership.

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Back in time: See You Yesterday brings time travel to the streets of Flatbush

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 6:17pm

Director Stefon Bristol's See You Yesterday is something of an anomaly in the pantheon of time travel movies, straddling multiple genres. With its central tragedy, theme focused on the unintended consequences of new technology, and strong social conscience, it's more Black Mirror than Back to the Future. As such, it fits nicely into a small subgroup of quietly innovative time travel films like 2012's Safety Not Guaranteed.

The premise: two teenage science nerds in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn build a makeshift time machine to right a tragic wrong. C.J (Eden Duncan-Smith) and her best friend and fellow science whiz Sebastian (Dante Crichlow), nicknamed Bash, have just wrapped their junior year at the Bronx High School of Science. They're putting the finishing touches on a pair of portable time travel devices for an upcoming science fair, and they're naturally ecstatic when they succeed on their next attempt at a Temporal Relocation Test, traveling back one full day.

That light-hearted tone quickly turns dark. In an all-too-familiar scenario, C.J.'s older brother Calvin (the rapper Astro) runs afoul of a trigger-happy NYPD officer, who mistakes Calvin pulling a cell phone out of his pocket for a weapon and shoots him dead. C.J. figures she and Sebastian can use their science project to travel back in time to save Calvin. Who among us wouldn't want to try to reverse such a tragedy? But as you might expect, there are some serious unintended consequences to her plan.

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Hunter-gathering seems to have been easier than farming

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 4:37pm

Enlarge / An Agta family relaxing in the afternoon. (credit: Mark Dyble)

For most of our history, humans got hold of food like any other animal: by hunting and foraging, moving around to find the best resources. Settling down in one place to cultivate crops is a comparatively recent development. But once it started around 12,000 years ago, agriculture spread through human cultures across the world, fundamentally changing our societies, genomes, and possibly even languages. In many ways, farming seems to have been terrible news for the people who adopted it, leading to poorer nutrition and greater social inequality—but it also resulted in higher fertility rates and a massive population expansion.

Understanding how and why this technological change was adopted remains a challenge. Studies mostly rely on fossil evidence, but there are also clues in the modern world, as some present-day groups of people are moving away from hunting, fishing, and gathering their food and toward agriculture.

A paper published in Nature Human Behaviour explores how this shift affects the time budgets of hunter-gatherers in the Philippines, finding that women who participate more in agricultural work have less leisure time—around half the leisure time of women who prioritize foraging. The results fall in line with past research that challenges the concept of hunting and foraging as arduous work with scant rewards, and this work contributes to a growing understanding of the social dynamics that go along with a shift to agriculture.

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Google bots shut down Baltimore officials’ ransomware-workaround Gmail accounts

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 4:11pm

Enlarge / Oh, Baltimore. (credit: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

In the wake of the ransomware attack that has kept city networks and infrastructure shut down now for over two weeks, Baltimore officials—including the mayor and city council members—set up Google Gmail accounts as a backup communications channel. But earlier this week, Google's automated systems shut the accounts down, instructing the account holders to purchase a business account.

On May 23, a Google spokesperson said through the company's Twitter account, "We have restored access to the Gmail accounts for the Baltimore City officials. Our automated security systems disabled the accounts due to the bulk creation of multiple consumer Gmail accounts from the same network."

The problem could have been prevented if Baltimore City officials had set up a Google GSuite Government account (or even just a regular GSuite account) at $6 per user per month.

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Mona Lisa 'brought to life' with deepfake AI

BBC Technology News - May 24, 2019 - 12:25pm
Samsung makes a moving Mona Lisa from a single photo using AI technology.

Rocket Report: SpaceX sues the federal government, Chinese launch failure

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 12:00pm

Enlarge / The Electron launch vehicle is ready to soar. (credit: Rocket Lab)

Welcome to Edition 2.01 of the Rocket Report! This week marks one year since the first report. What started as an experiment has grown into something that a lot of people read. So thank you for joining. And if you appreciate this weekly report and the effort that goes into it, I encourage you to subscribe to Ars Technica. It doesn't cost much, and there are perks. But mostly you'll know you're supporting independent journalism like this. Thank you for considering it.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Virgin performs full-duration hotfire test. On Tuesday, Virgin Orbit announced that it had performed the "final full-duration, full-scale, full-thrust—hell, full everything—test firing" of its LauncherOne rocket's first stage. The firing lasted for more than 180 seconds and was entirely successful, the company reported. Virgin said the rocket, which will be launched from beneath the wing of an airplane, was within an "arm's reach" of its first orbital flight test.

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Texting while crossing road may be banned, and other news

BBC Technology News - May 24, 2019 - 11:45am
BBC Click's Paul Carter looks at some the week's best technology stories.

Google thwarts Baltimore ransomware fightback

BBC Technology News - May 24, 2019 - 11:18am
City set up GMail accounts to thwart hackers but Google suspended them, fearing spammers were at work.

Lift off for SpaceX rocket carrying 60 satellites

BBC Technology News - May 24, 2019 - 7:52am
A Falcon-9 rocket launches from Florida, packed with 60 satellites capable of giving users on the ground high-speed connections to the internet.

SpaceX puts up 60 internet satellites

BBC Technology News - May 24, 2019 - 5:44am
The California firm launches the first spacecraft in its multi-billion-dollar broadband project.

SpaceX launches Starlink mission, deploys 60 satellites [Updated]

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 4:45am

11:40pm ET Update: The Falcon 9 rocket launched. Its first stage landed. And then the second stage coasted for the better part of an hour before making a final burn and deploying its payload of Starlink satellites.

About 1 hour and 3 minutes after the launch, the entire stack of 60 satellites floated away from the Falcon 9's second stage. Slowly—very slowly, it appeared—the 60 satellites began to drift apart. The SpaceX webcast ended without saying whether this deployment went as anticipated, and it probably will take some time for the Air Force to begin identifying and tracking the individual satellites.

A stack of 60 Starlink satellites is released from the Falcon 9 rocket's upper stage. (credit: SpaceX webcast)

In any case, this all made for an interesting evening in space.

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Trump says Huawei could be part of trade deal

BBC Technology News - May 24, 2019 - 2:51am
Huawei could feature in a US-China trade pact despite being "very dangerous", says the US president.

Fake cryptocurrency apps on Google Play try to profit on bitcoin price surge

Ars Technica - May 24, 2019 - 1:20am

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Google's official Play Store has been caught hosting malicious apps that targeted Android users with an interest in cryptocurrencies, researchers reported on Thursday.

In all, researchers with security provider ESET recently discovered two fraudulent digital wallets. The first, called Coin Wallet, let users create wallets for a host of different cryptocurrencies. While Coin Wallet purported to generate a unique wallet address for users to deposit coins, the app in fact used a developer-owned wallet for each supported currency, with a total of 13 wallets. Each Coin Wallet user was assigned the same wallet address for a specific currency.

"The app claims it lets users create wallets for various cryptocurrencies," ESET Malware Researcher Lukas Stefanko wrote in a blog post. "However, its actual purpose is to trick users into transferring cryptocurrency into the attackers' wallets—a classic case of what we named wallet address scams in our previous research of cryptocurrency-targeting malware."

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Is Facebook undermining democracy in Africa?

BBC Technology News - May 24, 2019 - 12:20am
Critics say the social media giant has allowed its platform to be weaponised during elections on the continent.

Five tech trends shaping the beauty industry

BBC Technology News - May 24, 2019 - 12:08am
Five tech trends shaping the beauty industry

Stronger than aluminum, a heavily altered wood cools passively

Ars Technica - May 23, 2019 - 11:48pm

Enlarge / A look at the lignin-free compressed wood. (credit: University of Maryland)

Most of our building practices aren't especially sustainable. Concrete production is a major source of carbon emissions, and steel production is very resource intensive. Once completed, heating and cooling buildings becomes a major energy sink. There are various ideas on how to handle each of these issues, like variations on concrete's chemical formula or passive cooling schemes.

But now, a large team of US researchers has found a single solution that appears to manage everything using a sustainable material that both reflects sunlight and radiates away excess heat. The miracle material? Wood. Or a form of wood that has been treated to remove one of its two main components.

With the grain

Wood is mostly a composite of two polymers. One of these, cellulose, is made by linking sugars together into long chains. That cellulose is mixed with a polymer called lignin, which is not really a single polymer. The precise chemical formula of its starting material can vary among species, and it typically contains multiple places where chemical bonds can form, turning the polymer into a chaotic but extremely robust mesh.

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New Assange indictment adds 17 espionage charges

Ars Technica - May 23, 2019 - 10:42pm

Enlarge / Supporters of Julian Assange protest outside the Ecuadorian embassy as the WikiLeaks founder awaits a High Court hearing to determine whether he will be extradited to Sweden on sexual charges. Now, new US charges have been added to a previous indictment: 17 counts of espionage. (credit: Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Today, the Department of Justice filed a new indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia—adding 17 more charges atop the original hacking charge used to file for Assange's extradition from the United Kingdom. The new charges are all espionage-focused: conspiracy to receive, obtaining, and disclosure of "national defense information. Each of the 17 counts carries a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years.

In a statement announcing the filing, a Justice Department spokesperson said, "The superseding indictment alleges that Assange was complicit with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the US Army, in unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense." The new counts allege, among other things, that Assange conspired with Manning to steal "national defense information," obtained that information from Manning, and "aided and abetted her in obtaining classified information with reason to believe that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States or the advantage of a foreign nation."

In a Twitter post, a WikiLeaks spokesperson wrote, "This is madness. It is the end of national security journalism and the First Amendment."

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