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Industry & Technology

Are bots gaming the 'Cancel Brexit' petition?

BBC Technology News - 55 min 53 sec ago
Questions have been asked about whether all the 3m signatures on the petition are genuine.

You can help “rescue” weather data from the 1860s

Ars Technica - 1 hour 2 min ago

Enlarge / The wreck of the Royal Charter in 1859 led to systematic weather observations in the UK—but researchers need help reading them all. (credit: Wikimedia)

“Weather Rescue” sounds like it could be a Baywatch-style TV show about the adventures of an emergency response team. But the Weather Rescue project led by University of Reading researcher Ed Hawkins is actually focused on data that need rescuing.

The UK Met Office has an incredible trove of historical weather data in its archives that is trapped on paper. While it’s safe there, scientists need it in digital form in order to do anything interesting with it. The collection goes all the way back to 1860 and includes the first weather forecasts coordinated by Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy—the same Robert FitzRoy who captained the HMS Beagle on Charles Darwin’s historic trip.

After a storm sunk 200 ships off the coast of Wales (including the Royal Charter and its crew of 450), FitzRoy set about creating a network of UK weather stations that could telegraph daily observations to him in London. In February 1861, he put out the first forecast storm warning. After some of the fishermen who ignored this new-fangled sorcery sank in the storm, the forecasts encountered an increasingly attentive audience.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fast and fun, but flawed: The Acura RDX reviewed

Ars Technica - 1 hour 22 min ago

Enlarge / The 2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance. (credit: BradleyWarren Photography)

Like anything else, an automobile can evoke mixed feelings. This is especially true for the 2019 Acura RDX, which marks the third generation of Acura's midsize SUV. The luxury automaker offers a pair of SUVs, and the RDX is the first to get a makeover. This is a good thing, because the previous generation of Acura SUVs and crossovers feel dated compared to those from the likes of BMW, Audi, and Volvo. With the RDX, Acura has largely succeeded in making a stylish vehicle that is genuinely fun to drive. At the same time, it has the feeling of a new, first-generation Apple product with unexpected bugs hitting at strange times.

Driving the current generation of Acuras, Infintis, and Lexuses (Acurae, Infiniti, et Lexi?) has largely left me feeling cold. By and large, they are fine SUVs, but for a few thousand dollars more, European carmakers offer a better all-around experience—especially with the infotainment and driver-assist features. The Acura RDX really has the potential to change that. It's the first vehicle from one of the Japanese-owned luxury carmakers that I felt could hold its own against a BMW X3, Volvo XC60, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, or Audi Q5—at least until the bugs started popping up.

The RDX is the smaller of Acura's two SUVs, and this year's refresh sees a number of substantive changes from the second-generation model. Gone is the 3.5-liter V6, replaced by the de rigeur 2.0L, direct-injected, inline-four turbocharged engine common to compact crossovers. In the case of the RDX, it translates to 272hp (200kW) at 6,500rpm—trailing only the Stelvio from the previous paragraph—and 280lb-ft (380Nm) of torque at anywhere from 1,600rpm to 4,500rpm. Acura accomplishes this in part with a mono scroll IHI turbocharger with a small-diameter and low-inertia turbine, which enables the turbo to build boost at lower RPMs. For the driver, that translates into quick throttle response at most speeds.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dashcam video shows Tesla steering toward lane divider—again

Ars Technica - 1 hour 33 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Tesla)

The afternoon commute of Reddit user Beastpilot—who requested that we not use his real name—takes him past a stretch of Seattle-area freeway with a carpool lane exit on the left. Last year, in early April, the Tesla driver noticed that Autopilot on his Model X would sometimes pull to the left as the car approached the lane divider—seemingly treating the space between the diverging lanes as a lane of its own.

This was particularly alarming, because just days earlier, Tesla owner Walter Huang had died in a fiery crash after Autopilot steered his Model X into a concrete lane divider in a very similar junction in Mountain View, California.

Beastpilot made several attempts to notify Tesla of the problem but says he never got a response. Weeks later, Tesla pushed out an update that seemed to fix the problem.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

AT&T’s “5G E” is actually slower than Verizon and T-Mobile 4G, study finds

Ars Technica - 1 hour 35 min ago

Enlarge / Screenshot from an AT&T commercial. (credit: AT&T)

AT&T's "5G E" service is slightly slower than Verizon's and T-Mobile's advanced 4G LTE networks, a study by OpenSignal has found.

As Ars readers know, AT&T renamed a large portion of its 4G network, calling it "5G E," for "5G Evolution." If you see a 5G E indicator on an AT&T phone, that means you're connected to a portion of AT&T's 4G LTE network that supports standard LTE-Advanced features such as 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO, and three-way carrier aggregation. All four major carriers have rolled out LTE-Advanced. But while Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile accurately call it 4G, AT&T calls it 5G E.

Sprint sued AT&T, alleging that AT&T is gaining an unfair advantage by making false and misleading claims to consumers.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook staff 'flagged Cambridge Analytica fears earlier than thought'

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 40 min ago
Facebook says concerns raised about data-scraping were not related to the previously reported scandal.

Earth is (always has been) round, so why have the flat-out wrong become so lively?

Ars Technica - 2 hours 50 min ago

For posterity's sake, here's Ars' recent look at reality vs. belief about the shape of the Earth. Click for a full transcript.


Until the 17th century, the Fens—a broad, flat swath of marshland in eastern England—were home only to game-hunters and fishermen. Eventually, though, their value as potential agricultural land became too enticing to ignore, and the Earl of Bedford, along with a number of “gentlemen adventurers,” signed contracts with Charles I to drain the area, beginning in the 1630s. A series of drainage channels were cut, criss-crossing the wetlands of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. The plan was a qualified success; a vast area was now farmable, though wind-powered pumps were needed to keep the water at bay.

The most notable feature of the Fens is their pancake-like topography. It’s said that if you climb the tower of Ely Cathedral on a clear day, you can make out the silhouette of Peterborough Cathedral, some 30 miles to the northwest. Indeed, one could see even further if it wasn’t for the curvature of the Earth.

Enter one Samuel Birley Rowbotham, a 19th-century inventor and quack doctor who went by the name “Parallax.” Rowbotham believed that the Earth was flat, and that the Fens were the perfect place to prove it. In particular, he set his sights on the Old Bedford River, one of the 17th-century drainage cuts built under the tenure of the Earl of Bedford. The river—it’s really a canal—runs straight as an arrow for some 22 miles, from Earith, Cambridgeshire, to Downham Market, Norfolk, where it meets the River Great Ouse.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rocket Report: SpaceX scraps costly tooling, Vandenberg lull, Starliner slip

Ars Technica - 3 hours 34 min ago

Enlarge / The Rocket Report is published weekly. (credit: Arianespace)

Welcome to Edition 1.41 of the Rocket Report! This week we definitely have an international flavor, with news about spaceflight efforts from Brazil, Italy, Japan, the UAE, and the United States. There also is a fun story about hypersonic launch completing some initial tests with evidently promising returns.

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.

Brazilian spaceport wins key US agreement. Brazil's decades-long effort to launch satellites from its underused Alcântara Launch Center could finally be bearing fruit, Parabolic Arc reports. On Monday, Brazil and the United States signed a Technology Safeguards Agreement that will allow American companies to launch orbital rockets from Alcântara.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

AI turns scribbles into masterpieces and other news

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 22 min ago
BBC Click's Omar Mehtab looks at some of the best tech news stories of the week.

Uber 'picks New York Stock Exchange' for stock listing

BBC Technology News - 12 hours 25 min ago
The firm's public stock offering is expected in the coming months and may be one of the biggest in 2019.

How do you know where your olive oil really comes from?

BBC Technology News - 14 hours 22 min ago
New technologies are helping track the provenance of food throughout the supply chain.

Vice President may tell NASA to accelerate lunar landings

Ars Technica - 14 hours 44 min ago

Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence, center in Mission Control Houston, will oversee all space decisions made by the Trump administration. (credit: NASA)

One of the panelists who will appear at a National Space Council meeting next Tuesday said to expect "a few fireworks" during the discussion, which will focus on NASA's efforts to return humans to the Moon. The meeting of this council that oversees US spaceflight policy will be held in Hunstville, Alabama, and led by Vice President Mike Pence.

University of Colorado Boulder astrophysicist Jack Burns, one of six speakers scheduled for the meeting, said the current timeline for NASA to send humans to the Moon lacks urgency. NASA has talked about landing its astronauts on the Moon before the end of the 2020s, and the president's budget proposal for the coming fiscal year allows for this to happen as early as 2028.

"The timeline is too slow, and that's one of the things that I'm going to be talking about next Tuesday," Burns said. If pushed, how soon could NASA put humans back on the Moon? The year 2025, Burns replied. "And I know some in the administration would like to do it even faster than that," he added. "We're going to see a few fireworks."

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

'Cancel Brexit' petition passes 2m signatures on Parliament site

BBC Technology News - March 21, 2019 - 11:50pm
A call to revoke Article 50 generates the fastest ever rate of signatures on Parliament's website.

Facebook apps logged users’ passwords in plaintext, because why not

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 10:39pm

Enlarge / Facebook Lite users made up the majority of Facebook accounts exposed internally by plaintext password logging, according to a Facebook spokesperson.

Facebook has mined a lot of data about its users over the years—relationships, political leanings, and even phone call logs. And now it appears Facebook may have inadvertently extracted another bit of critical information: users' login credentials, stored unencrypted on Facebook's servers and accessible to Facebook employees.

Brian Krebs reports that hundreds of millions of Facebook users had their credentials logged in plain text by various applications written by Facebook employees. Those credentials were searched by about 2,000 Facebook engineers and developers more than 9 million times, according to a senior Facebook employee who spoke to Krebs; the employee asked to remain anonymous because they did not have permission to speak to the press on the matter.

In a blog post today, Facebook Vice President of Engineering, Security, and Privacy Pedro Canahuati wrote that the unencrypted passwords were found during "a routine security review in January" on Facebook's internal network data storage. "This caught our attention because our login systems are designed to mask passwords using techniques that make them unreadable. We have fixed these issues and, as a precaution, we will be notifying everyone whose passwords we have found were stored in this way."

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Why “chickenpox parties” are a terrible idea—in case it’s not obvious

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 10:25pm

Enlarge / A child with chicken pox. (credit: Getty Images | Dave Thompson)

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin made headlines Tuesday after revealing in a radio interview that he had purposefully exposed his nine unvaccinated children to chickenpox, drawing swift condemnation from health experts.

In case anyone needs a refresher on why you shouldn’t deprive children of safe, potentially lifesaving vaccines or purposefully expose them to serious, potentially life-threatening infections, here’s a quick rundown.

Chickenpox is nothing to mess with

Though most children who get the itchy, highly contagious viral disease go on to recover after a week or so of misery, chickenpox can cause severe complications and even death in some. Complications include nasty skin infections, pneumonia, brain inflammation, hemorrhaging, blood stream infections, and dehydration.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Critical flaw lets hackers control lifesaving devices implanted inside patients

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 9:25pm

Enlarge / An X-ray showing an cardio defibrillator implanted in a patient. (credit: Sunzi99~commonswiki)

The federal government on Thursday warned of a serious flaw in Medtronic cardio defibrillators that allows attackers to use radio communications to surreptitiously take full control of the lifesaving devices after they are implanted in a patient.

Defibrillators are small, surgically implanted devices that deliver electrical shocks to treat potentially fatal irregular heart rhythms. In recent decades, doctors have increasingly used radios to monitor and adjust the devices once they're implanted rather than using older, costlier, and more invasive means. An array of implanted cardio defibrillators made by Medtronic rely on two types of radio-based consoles for initial setup, periodic maintenance, and regular monitoring. Doctors use the company's CareLink Programmer in clinics, while patients use the MyCareLink Monitor in homes to regularly ensure the defibrillators are working properly.

No encryption, no authentication, and a raft of other flaws

Researchers from security firm Clever Security discovered that the Conexus Radio Frequency Telemetry Protocol (Medtronic's proprietary means for the monitors to wirelessly connect to implanted devices) provides no encryption to secure communications. That makes it possible for attackers within radio range to eavesdrop on the communications. Even worse, the protocol has no means of authentication for legitimate devices to prove they are authorized to take control of the implanted devices. That lack of authentication, combined with a raft of other vulnerabilities, makes it possible for attackers within radio range to completely rewrite the defibrillator firmware, which is rarely seen in exploits that affect medical device vulnerabilities.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

They didn’t buy the DLC: feature that could’ve prevented 737 crashes was sold as an option

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 8:59pm

Enlarge (credit: Marian Lockhart / Boeing)

The crashed Lion Air 737 MAX and the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX aircraft had more in common than aircraft design and the apparently malfunctioning flight system that led to their demises. Both of the planes lacked optional safety features that would have alerted the pilots to problems with their angle of attack (AOA) sensors—the input suspected of causing the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software to put both aircraft into a fatal dive.

The New York Times reports that both vehicles lacked an "AOA disagree" light—a warning light that indicates when the aircraft's two AOA sensors provide different readings—and an angle of attack indicator. Since the MCAS system relied only on one of the aircraft's AOA sensors, the disagree light and AOA indicator would have given the flight crew visible evidence of a sensor failure and prompted them to disable the MCAS. But both of these features were sold by Boeing as expensive add-ons. And many discount and smaller airlines declined to purchase them, as they were not required by regulators.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Get a 256GB Samsung microSD card for $40

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 7:49pm

Enlarge (credit: TechBargains)

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is highlighted by a deal on the 256GB variant of Samsung's EVO Select microSD card. It's down to $40 on Amazon, which is a new low and about $10-15 off its usual price.

We've highlighted this card a few times in the past, so we won't dwell on the specifics here. In short, while it's not the absolute fastest of its kind and it's not as good for security cams as a dedicated high-endurance card, it should still be plenty powerful enough to boost the storage space of a Nintendo Switch, smartphone, or GoPro. It also comes with a 10-year warranty. More importantly, it's good value for a reliable card with this much storage at this price.

If you don't need more storage, though, we also have deals on HDMI cables, Kingdom Hearts III, PlayStation Plus subscriptions, and much more. Have a look for yourself below.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A dev trained robots to generate “garbage” slot machine games—and made $50K

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 7:35pm

Enlarge / Two indie devs explain how they used automation, a single Google Play account, and a single slot-machine template to create and distribute over 1,000 slot machine apps. (credit: Alex Schwarz)

SAN FRANCISCO—This year's Game Developers Conference saw two game makers emerge with a possible chapter in a future dystopian sci-fi novel: the story of making money by letting robots do the work. In their case, that work was the procedural generation of smartphone games.

A single "game jam" event led to a data machine that ultimately pumped out a decent amount of cash: $50,000 over a couple of years. Years later, with that data (and money) in hand, the makers of this game-making machine, which focused entirely on "garbage" free-to-play slot machines, used GDC as a wake-up call to an industry where the "right" messages often revolve around listening to players, sidling up to publishers, and racking up critical acclaim. In their case, eschewing all of that worked a little too well for their comfort level.

Winning the “race to the bottom”

In 2013, two video game makers had been trying for years to make it in the burgeoning mobile games space. One of them, Alex Schwartz, had helped get the solid mobile swiping-action game Jack Lumber off the ground. (In a past life, I gave that game a good review at the now defunct tablet-only magazine The Daily.) The other, Ziba Scott, had put together a fine mobile-friendly puzzle game, Girls Like Robots.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Millions of Facebook passwords exposed internally

BBC Technology News - March 21, 2019 - 7:30pm
Developers working for Facebook logged the passwords in plain text as they wrote code for the site.

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