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Industry & Technology

Samsung puts the screws to iFixit, makes it remove the Galaxy Fold teardown

Ars Technica - 7 hours 32 min ago

Samsung Galaxy Fold

View more stories The Galaxy Fold delay has been an embarrassing mess for Samsung, and now the company is making things worse by targeting media outlets. Samsung has pressured iFixit to remove its Galaxy Fold teardown.

The Galaxy Fold teardown wasn't just a normal teardown. After the phone was delayed due to durability problems discovered by early reviewers, iFixit used the teardown to point out several flaws in its design.

When we wrote up iFixit's teardown, we openly wondered where the site managed to get a device that was never for sale and had all of its review units recalled. Apparently, the dubious origin of iFixit's Galaxy Fold (and the embarrassment of having the site poke holes in your $2000 smartphone design) was enough to draw Samsung's retaliation.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Amazon plans to make Prime shipping one-day by default

Ars Technica - 10 hours 10 min ago

Enlarge / A drone with an Amazon package floats in front of the Amazon logistics center in Leipzig, Germany, 28 October 2014. Amazon did not comment on whether drones will fuel this default one-day speed boost for paying Amazon Prime subscribers' deliveries. (credit: Alamy / dpa Picture Alliance)

Amazon's latest earnings conference call included the reveal of a major shift for the paid Amazon Prime subscription service: an "evolution" to one-day shipping as a nationwide default.

"We're currently working on evolving our Prime free two-day shipping program to be a free one-day shipping program," Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said in the company's quarterly investor relations call. The news came as a response to questions about both incremental-spending and revenue-acceleration predictions in certain portions of the company's Q2 financial guidance, which Olsavsky said revolved significantly around this push for faster default Amazon Prime shipping speeds.

Amazon has not yet formally announced this initiative via any of its news or PR channels, and Olsavsky did not offer an estimate of exactly when this would become a nationwide default for the subscription service.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tracking the toxic air that's killing millions

BBC Technology News - 10 hours 35 min ago
Artificial intelligence is giving us more accurate air pollution forecasts, potentially saving lives.

Wireless carriers fight ban on throttling firefighters during emergencies

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 8:23pm

Enlarge / A West Covina firefighter pulls a hose away from a horse barn that burns as the Mendocino Complex Fire moves through the area on July 31, 2018, in Lakeport, Calif. (credit: Getty Images | Justin Sullivan)

The US mobile industry's top lobbying group is opposing a proposed California state law that would prohibit throttling of fire departments and other public safety agencies during emergencies.

As reported yesterday by StateScoop, wireless industry lobby group CTIA last week wrote to lawmakers to oppose the bill as currently written. CTIA said the bill's prohibition on throttling is too vague and that it should apply only when the US president or California governor declares emergencies and not when local governments declare emergencies.

The group's letter also suggested that the industry would sue the state if the bill is passed in its current form, saying the bill would result in "serious unintended consequences, including needless litigation."

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Russia launches sub that will carry doomsday nuke drone torpedo

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 8:00pm

On April 23, 2019, a hulking submarine named the K-139 Belgorod was christened and launched from Severodvinsk, Russia. It slid from Sevmash Shipyard into the Nikolskoye estuary off the White Sea. First laid down in 1992, the Belgorod is the world's longest submarine, surpassing Russia's Typhoon-class nuclear-missile sub and the US Navy's Ohio class. Its construction was paused for over a decade in 2000 after the disaster aboard its immediate predecessor, the Kursk—in which all the crew was lost after an explosion during missile tests. But Belgorod was resurrected with its design modified for a new purpose: carrying the Poseidon nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed torpedo "drone."

The Belgorod is a modification of the Soviet Navy's Project 949A design program—what Western military analysts have called the Oscar II class. Originally intended to be a cruise-missile submarine, the Belgorod was re-designated as Special Project 09852, a "special-purpose research and rescue submarine," in December 2012. The design was lengthened to add a docking compartment for crewed and uncrewed small submersible vehicles, such as submarine rescue vehicles. It was also apparently intended to do cable-laying operations and inspections, deployments of underwater equipment, and other tasks similar to those the US Navy constructed the USS Jimmy Carter for.

The submarine-rescue role was clearly at the front of the mind of the Russian Navy in the years after the Kursk debacle, in which Russia initially refused assistance from the United Kingdom and Norway. The incident was a major embarrassment to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who—just four months into his presidency—was on vacation in Sochi at the time of the accident and remained there for five days afterward.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Huawei row: Inquiry to be held into National Security Council leak

BBC Technology News - April 25, 2019 - 7:51pm
Several ministers deny being involved in leaking information from a National Security Council meeting.

Daimler North America CEO says future “does not include plug-in hybrids”

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 7:30pm

Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America in Long Beach, April 2019. (credit: Daimler)

At a presentation in Long Beach, California, Daimler Trucks North America President and CEO Roger Nielsen on Wednesday laid out an electrification plan for Daimler's Freightliner brand, which makes medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Freightliner announced two battery-electric vehicles last June: the heavy-duty eCascadia and the medium duty eM2. The company previously said that it would build the trucks at a facility in North Carolina, but yesterday Nielsen said that an existing Freightliner factory in Portland, Oregon, would be redesigned to build the two electric-vehicle lines.

The company decided to change the manufacturing location in order to take advantage of the factory's proximity to California, which has stringent low-carbon fuel standard rules about to take effect. In September, the state's Air Resources Board amended existing rules to require that lifecycle emissions for transportation fuels needs to drop by 20 percent by 2030, which will certainly drive up the price of diesel and gas in the state. Now, vehicle manufacturers like Freightliner are betting that freight companies that move shipments frequently or exclusively through the Golden State will start to see a cost advantage in shifting their fleet from diesel to a low-carbon alternative.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Password1, Password2, Password3 no more: Microsoft drops password expiration rec

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 6:46pm

For many years, Microsoft has published a security baseline configuration: a set of system policies that are a reasonable default for a typical organization. This configuration may be sufficient for some companies, and it represents a good starting point for those corporations that need something stricter. While most of the settings have been unproblematic, one particular decision has long drawn the ire of end-users and helpdesks alike: a 60-day password expiration policy that forces a password change every two months. That reality is no longer: the latest draft for the baseline configuration for Windows 10 version 1903 and Windows Server version 1903 drops this tedious requirement.

The rationale for the previous policy is that it limits the impact a stolen password can have—a stolen password will automatically become invalid after, at most, 60 days. In reality, however, password expiration tends to make systems less safe, not more, because computer users don't like picking or remembering new passwords. Instead, they'll do something like pick a simple password and then increment a number on the end of the password, making it easy to "generate" a new password whenever they're forced to.

In the early days of computing, this might have been a sensible trade-off, because cracking passwords was relatively slow. But these days, with rainbow tables, GPU acceleration, and the massive computational power of the cloud, that's no longer the case—short passwords are a liability, so any policy that makes people favor short passwords is a bad policy. It's better instead to choose a long password and, ideally, multifactor authentication, supplementing the password with a time-based code or something similar.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Radioactivity detected from a half-life of once every trillion universes

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 6:05pm

Enlarge / Some of the XENON1T hardware. (credit: XENON collaboration)

One of the ways we measure the age of the Earth is using the half-life of uranium. With a half-life of around four billion years, your typical atom of uranium only has even odds of having decayed during Earth's entire history. But it only takes a few hundred atoms to up the odds for us to see enough decays to be able to accurately measure the age of something, even though the decay itself may be rare. In fact, with enough atoms, it's possible to measure radioactive decays from events that have a half-life longer than the Universe's age.

Now, researchers have used a tank full of two tonnes of liquid xenon, put together to detect dark matter, to identify the rarest decay ever detected. The XENON1T detector picked up some xenon atoms being transformed into tellurium, an event with a half-life measured at 1.8 x 1022 years—or about a trillion times the age of the Universe.

Tonnes of xenon

What's the point of having two tonnes of liquid xenon in the first place? XENON1T was set up to detect a different but also extremely rare event: a dark matter particle bumping into one of the xenon atoms. This would impart enough energy to the atom to allow the event to be picked up by detectors that monitored the xenon tank. For this to work, however, the tank had to be shielded from any events that could also create a signal in the monitoring system. As a result, it was set up deep underground at Italy's Gran Sasso facility, and any potentially radioactive contaminants were eliminated from the liquid xenon.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Take $20 off the latest version of Apple’s AirPods

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 5:50pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of deals to share. Today's list is led by one of the first genuine discounts on the latest version of Apple's AirPods, as Amazon currently has the little white wireless earbuds down to $140.

That's only good for a $20 discount, but discounts on the first-gen AirPods weren't terribly frequent this soon after they launched, and massive price cuts have been rare ever since. This deal is for the updated model Apple announced in March, however, which uses a more power-efficient "H1" wireless chip and supports a new wireless charging case. The listing here doesn't come with said case—that's currently going for $70 on Amazon or $199 as a bundle—and is currently backordered until mid-May, so you'll have to wait a bit for them to ship. But hey, it's nice to get newer things for less money, right?

As for the AirPods themselves, well, you probably know the deal with them at this point. They're actually priced competitively compared to other big-name truly wireless earbuds, but they don't sound that great, their design may not fit all ears, and their tiny, non-repairable design gives them a shorter lifespan than most wireless headphones. If you can look past all of that—and lots of people seem to have—they can be incredibly convenient when paired with an iPhone. If you need more details, most of the things we said in our review way back in 2016 still hold true today.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

NASA safety panel offers more detail on Dragon anomaly, urges patience

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 5:40pm

Enlarge / SpaceX's Crew Dragon approaches the International Space Station in March, 2019. (credit: NASA)

Since issuing a brief statement Saturday after a test of its Crew Dragon vehicle resulted in an "anomaly," SpaceX has not offered additional comment about its ongoing investigation. NASA has not said much, either, outside of stating that it's assisting the investigation and that the agency has "full confidence in SpaceX" to understand and address the problem which appears to have destroyed the crew capsule.

A previously scheduled meeting of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel on Thursday, however, did offer a bit more insight into the problem that occurred with the Crew Dragon vehicle at SpaceX's Landing Zone 1 facility in Florida, near the company's two launch sites there.

"The event occurred during a static fire test conducted prior to the in-flight abort test," said Patricia Sanders, chairwoman of the panel charged with ensuring that NASA has a healthy safety culture and mitigates risks where possible during spaceflight.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Huawei leak row: Government 'cannot exclude' criminal investigation

BBC Technology News - April 25, 2019 - 5:31pm
A cabinet minister condemns the leaks from a National Security Council meeting about a UK 5G network.

New type of plastic is a recycling dream

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 4:52pm

Enlarge (credit: Elliot Margolies)

Recycling sounds great in principle (because it is), but a frustrating number of devils lurk in the details. For example, while some materials like aluminum can readily be melted down and turned right back into new aluminum cans, recovered plastics tend to be lower quality than “virgin” material. That’s because recycled plastic retains some of its previous properties—like Lego bricks that can’t be separated. The next plastic you make won’t be exactly the same type, and the recycled material won’t fit perfectly into its new spot.

To improve this situation, plastics engineers want to create new materials that can cleanly and easily break down to the most basic components—individual Lego bricks that can be reassembled into absolutely anything. The difficulty of this task is increased by all the pigments, flame retardants, and other additives used in plastics. But a group led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Peter Christensen has developed a new plastics process that conquers these challenges.

The basic building block of a plastic is called a “monomer”—connect monomers together and you create “polymers” with the useful physical properties you’re after. In this case, the researchers are using triketones and amines as building-block monomers. The process for putting them together sounds like minor sorcery (as chemistry often does): combining chemical ingredients causes different building blocks to form, which then spontaneously assemble.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tesla’s autonomy event: Impressive progress with an unrealistic timeline

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 4:14pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson / Tesla)

There's an old joke in the software engineering world, sometimes attributed to Tom Cargill of Bell Labs: "the first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time."

On Monday, Tesla held a major event to show off the company's impressive progress toward full self-driving technology. The company demonstrated a new neural network computer that seems to be competitive with industry leader Nvidia. And Tesla explained how it leverages its vast fleet of customer-owned vehicles to collect data that helps the company train its neural networks.

Elon Musk's big message was that Tesla was close to reaching the holy grail of fully self-driving cars. Musk predicts that by the end of the year, Tesla's cars will be able to navigate both surface streets and freeways, allowing them to drive between any two points without human input.

Read 51 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft hits $1 trillion market valuation

BBC Technology News - April 25, 2019 - 3:49pm
It is one of only three public companies to have achieved the milestone, along with Apple and Amazon.

Google Stadia will support “a variety of business models”

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 3:14pm

Last month, when Google revealed its upcoming Stadia streaming gaming platform, it left open the major question of precisely how Google and game developers would make money from these games running on remote servers. In an on-stage discussion at LA's GamesBeat Summit this week, though, Google's Phil Harrison mentioned that "our platform at a fundamental level has been architected to support a very wide variety of what people call 'monetization options.' Everything from purchase to transaction to subscription."

That's not quite a direct confirmation that all those different options will be available to developers on Stadia. All Harrison would reveal is that "there is no technical limitation on how we have architected the platform to support a variety of business models." (Emphasis ours.). But that architecture would be a very odd thing for Harrison to bring up if, say, Google was planning to impose a one-size-fits-all subscription on Stadia users.

In discussing Stadia, Harrison has put a lot of focus on how the platform makes it easy for players to share a game through a link in a text message, for instance, or by letting people instantly jump in to an instance of a game they're watching on YouTube at a specific point on the video. This form of game discovery could "change the way game value is perceived by players," Harrison said, by removing the "retail store pressure" and limited "outward facing" selection of brick-and-mortar and digital storefronts. "When a game is a link, the Internet is your store," he said. "That means we can change the perceived value of games."

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Russia's Facebook is now balanced, as all things should be

BBC Technology News - April 25, 2019 - 2:13pm
Social media website VKontakte temporarily removes 400,000 users by mimicking Avengers: Infinity War.

US Uber drivers plan 12-hour shutdown over pay and conditions

BBC Technology News - April 25, 2019 - 1:48pm
The drivers' protest coincides with the ride-hailing firm's debut on the stock market.

Days Gone impressions: Fun motorcycle times hampered by everything else

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 1:01pm

Enlarge / Your hopes for a lengthy, charisma-filled biker romp in Days Gone should be tempered for many reasons. One of them is the fact that main character Deacon (left) doesn't interact nearly as much with his buddy Boozer as we'd originally hoped. (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Sony's streak of must-play, open-world video games does not necessarily come to a grinding halt with this week's new PS4 exclusive Days Gone. But it's absolutely a tougher elevator pitch than the likes of Spider-Man, God of War, and Horizon Zero Dawn.

Each of those Sony exclusives has some game-changing gem I can use to insist that they're worth investing in for dozens of hours—that sort of unmistakable highlight to finish the sentence "polished open-world adventure and," including massive-city web-slinging, polished story, and robo-dino safaris, respectively. The special sauce in Days Gone, which arrives with the baggage of "yet another zombie game" as a loud descriptor, is a lot tougher to extract. It's there, but it's mild.

What follows is not a comprehensive Days Gone review, but rather my take after 10 hours of the game convinced me I had seen enough to declare this a fine-enough game rental—nothing more, nothing less.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Signature of changing fundamental constants may hide in copper block

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 12:00pm

(credit: L. F. Pašteka/Comenius University)

Once upon a time, I was involved in an abortive attempt to measure the variation of the fundamental constants. Thanks to that experience, I’ve always had an interest in these measurements, so a new paper describing an alternative way to detect changes in fundamental constants caught my eye.

The fundamental constants—the speed of light, Planck’s constant, the charge of the electron, etc.—are taken to be fixed in value. But there is no theory to explain the fundamental constants, nor is there a reason for them to be constant. They could have been different in the past, and they may be different in the future. Spectroscopic measurements of stars and galaxies at ever-increasing distances tell us that if the fundamental constants were different, it wasn’t by much. We now know that the limit for the relative variation of alpha is 10-17 per year.

Which constants should we measure?

When it comes to these measurements, physicists and astronomers generally focus on alpha and mu. Alpha, otherwise known as the fine structure constant, is a combination of the electric charge, the speed of light, and Plank’s constant. It describes the strength in binding energy between negatively charged electrons and the positively charged nucleus of an atom. Hence, it can be directly measured in the light emitted by hydrogen in distant stars. 

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