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Industry & Technology

Another judge sets back Trump attempts to open up federal lands to fossil fuels

Ars Technica - 1 hour 33 min ago

Enlarge / Coal mine in Utah. (credit: Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

On Friday, a federal judge in Montana District Court dealt the Trump Administration another setback pertaining to leasing out federal lands for fossil fuel extraction.

In an order (PDF), the judge said that the US Department of the Interior (DOI) had to conduct a review of the impacts of its decision to lease federal land for coal mining under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Under the Obama Administration, the DOI placed a moratorium on leasing federal land out for coal mining. The move was expected to have significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions: according to the Friday order, "the federal coal program, as of 2014, stands responsible for an estimated eleven percent of total United States greenhouse gas emissions." Coal use has tumbled in the five years since 2014, but it still remains a significant fuel source in many parts of the country.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

After the Galaxy Fold breaks in the hands of reviewers, Samsung delays launch

Ars Technica - 1 hour 58 min ago

The $2,000 Samsung Galaxy Fold was slated to come out April 26 in the US. It was supposed to be a triumph of Samsung's display technology—a product years in the making that would redefine the smartphone. Instead, it's being delayed. A report from The Wall Street Journal says the phone has been delayed until "at least next month." The report cites "people familiar with the matter" and says that the original launch plans were changed due to "problems with phones being used by reviewers."

Samsung Galaxy Fold

View more stories Samsung was suspiciously protective of the Galaxy Fold in the run-up to launch. It was announced alongside the Galaxy S10 in February, but while the S10 was put on display to be touched and tapped, the Galaxy Fold was only shown in a glass box. It wasn't until last week that people outside of Samsung were finally able to try the Galaxy Fold, when Samsung handed out review units to select members of the press. There were always durability concerns about the folding display, but when devices in the hands of reviewers sometimes lasted a single day before the displays died, the alarm bells started ringing.

The report from the Journal says, "The new rollout is expected in the coming weeks, though a firm date has yet to be determined." Apparently Samsung has flagged the current hinge design as one of the issues causing an early death. "Though the company’s internal investigation remains ongoing, the Galaxy Fold phone’s reported issues stem from problems affecting the handset’s hinge and extra pressure applied to the internal screen," the report says.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

There’s just no getting away from microplastic contamination

Ars Technica - 2 hours 42 min ago

Enlarge / The Pyrenees mountains, now with microplastics. (credit: flickr user: Paula Funnell)

Microplastics may be having a moment in the spotlight, as the public is increasingly aware of their presence in the environment around us. But as more evidence of their presence comes to light, it’s becoming clearer that we don’t yet have a handle on how big or bad the problem is. A huge amount of small plastic particles end up in the sea, but recent research has also found them in in lakes and mountain river floodplains, and even as airborne pollution in megacities.

A new paper in Nature Geoscience reports finding microplastics in a region that should be pristine: the French Pyrenees mountains. The researchers estimated that the particles could have traveled from as far as 95 km away, but they suggest that it could be possible for microplastics to travel even further on the wind—meaning that even places relatively untouched by humans are now being polluted by our plastics.

The mystery of the disappearing plastic

Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic are produced. In 2016, this figure was estimated to be around 335 million tonnes. We have no idea where most of this ends up. The amounts that are recovered in recycling plants and landfill don't match the amount being produced. Some of it stays in use, sometimes for decades, which explains part of the discrepancy. An estimated 10 percent ends up in the oceans. Although these numbers could change with further research, there's still a gap.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

This semi-autonomous truck tech could seriously boost fuel efficiency

Ars Technica - 3 hours 35 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Peloton)

Hype necessarily recedes as the blunt realities of actually developing autonomous vehicles sets in. For the companies developing robotaxis, that means a scaling back of ambition (like Waymo) or the pushing back of timelines (just about every major OEM). In the trucking sector, we've seen this as a splash of cold water poured over the idea of driverless road trains speeding along highways. But a company called Peloton thinks that running two big rigs close together can still work—and still boost fuel efficiency and safety—as long as you keep humans drivers in the cab and in the loop.

Although Peloton's PlatoonPro tech involves some clever vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-cloud (V2C) technology, it only counts as level 1 automation on the SAE scale. That's because the system only links together the accelerating and braking functions in the platoon; the human driver in each cab is still responsible for steering and remains in charge.

Conceptually, the idea is an evolution of the adaptive cruise control system already fitted to many cars—and even some class 8 trucks—already on the road. These systems use information from a forward-looking radar to match the speed to a vehicle ahead, maintaining a constant gap between the two as the one in front speeds up or slows down. Peloton's approach leverages this idea, but it adds the V2C element (using 4G).

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Here’s what we know, and what we don’t, about the Crew Dragon accident

Ars Technica - 4 hours 5 min ago

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Spacecraft completed a pad abort test in May, 2015. This image shows the vehicle's eight SuperDraco thrusters firing as intended. (credit: SpaceX)

During a series of engine tests of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft this past Saturday, the vehicle experienced what the company has characterized as an "anomaly." Based upon an unauthorized leaked video of the accident, the company was counting down toward a firing of the Dragon's SuperDraco thrusters when the vehicle exploded. SpaceX has not validated the video, but it is consistent with verbal accounts of the failure that have been shared with Ars.

After the accident, large dramatic clouds of orange smoke billowed above "Landing Zone 1," where SpaceX conducted Saturday's engine tests. According to one source, the orange plumes were the result of between one and two tons of nitrogen tetroxide—the oxidizer used by Dragon's SuperDraco engines—burning at the location. After a dramatic weekend, what follows is a summary of what we know, what we don't know, and where SpaceX goes from here.

What was destroyed?

The Crew Dragon capsule in question is the same one that successfully flew a demonstration mission to the International Space Station in March. The spacecraft was being prepared for a launch abort test this summer. During this test, the Dragon would have launched from Florida on a Falcon 9 booster and then fired its powerful SuperDraco engines to show that the Dragon could pull itself safely away from the rocket in case of a problem with the booster before or during flight.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Galaxy S10+ review: Too many compromises for the sky-high price

Ars Technica - 5 hours 58 min ago

Samsung's flagship Galaxy S smartphone line is back with the Galaxy S10 and S10+. Since the launch of the Galaxy S8 in 2017, Samsung has stuck with the same basic design for two years across four major devices: the S8, Note8, S9, and Note9. The Galaxy S10 firmly fits into the Galaxy S8 family tree, but with new display and fingerprint technology, the S10 represents the biggest design upgrade since that release in 2017.

Samsung Galaxy S10

View more stories As usual, Samsung is gunning for the title of "spec-sheet champion" with the Galaxy S10, and the company is turning in devices with bigger displays, bigger batteries, faster SoCs, more RAM, and more storage. This is one of the first devices that gives us a look at the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, and it's also one of the first devices with "Wi-Fi 6," aka 802.11ax support. The S10 is also the first device with a Qualcomm-made ultrasonic fingerprint reader, and it features Samsung's new "hole-punch" display tech for the camera cutout. If all that's not enough for you, the Galaxy S10+ can hit even more stratospherically high configurations—and prices—that would rival some laptops, topping out at 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for a whopping $1,600.

We reviewed the bigger Galaxy S10+, where even the base configuration results in a $1,000 smartphone. And if spending that much cash, we're not really in the mood for the kinds of excuses and compromises that would be acceptable at a lower price point. When a device manufacturer turns up with sky-high prices like this, it's only fair to go in with sky-high expectations.

Read 56 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ars asks: What’s stopping your workplace from adopting newer technology?

Ars Technica - 5 hours 58 min ago

Enlarge / Artist's impression of some fancy tech that you probably can't have because the company that makes it isn't on your company's list of approved vendors. (credit: Caiaimage / Robert Daly / Getty)

One of the things I enjoy most about writing for Ars is the opportunity to interact with such an enormous pool of brilliant IT folks. The Ars readership is overflowing with that most valuable of demographics: the proverbial "IT decision maker," or just "ITDM." From the sysadmin trenches to the C-suite, you guys do it all—not just turning the wrenches that keep business operational, but deciding which wrenches to buy, too.

But even while so many of us work at businesses whose products shape the future, as ITDMs we also often find ourselves faced with a tremendous number of obstacles when it comes to modernizing our own business tech and processes. You all know the drill, because you've all been through it—a new vendor shows up with a product that seems like it would solve so many of your problems, and you're interested in evaluating it, but the solution they're pitching gets shot down by a steering committee or design review board because it might require some unforecasted expense to conduct a mandatory IT security audit of the thing. Or because the head of the steering committee once had a bad experience with that vendor three jobs ago. Or simply because it's different, and here at $COMPANY, we do things a certain way.

Or perhaps you work in a large company with a tremendous amount of "IT inertia," and change happens as slowly as steering the Titanic. Maybe your company sees current and future IT trends like "edge computing" or the "hybrid cloud" not as desirable directions but as enormous security and regulatory nightmares waiting to be unleashed. Maybe you work in an industry with iron-clad change control requirements; maybe you're at a Fortune 100 company that is just now starting to consider alternatives to the traditional "datacenter full of servers and SANs" architecture.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Supercooled water in “snowball chamber” might be able to find dark matter

Ars Technica - 6 hours 15 min ago

Enlarge / Still photograph of supercooled water turning into snow, shot on an iPhone camera at 120 FPS slow-motion. (credit: Matthew M. Szydagis)

Like many people, physicist Matthew Szydagis has been amused by all those YouTube videos showing people banging on a bottle filled with water, causing it to quickly freeze in response to the blow. The trick is to supercool the water beforehand—that is, cool it below the freezing point without the water actually freezing. (Yes, it's possible.) But when he saw the same phenomenon depicted in Disney's 2013 animated film Frozen, he realized he might be able to exploit the effect to hunt for dark matter, that most elusive of substances.

The result is his so-called "snowball chamber," which relies on a newly discovered property of supercooled water. A professor at SUNY's University of Albany, Szydagis gave an overview of this research at the American Physical Society's annual April meeting, held earlier this month in Washington, DC. A draft paper can be found on arXiv, and a final version is being prepared for journal submission.

“All of my work is motivated by the search for dark matter, a form of matter we’re sure is out there because we can observe its indirect gravitational effects,” Szydagis said. “It makes up a significant fraction of the universe, but we have yet to uncover direct, conclusive and unambiguous evidence of it within the lab.” The detector could also be useful for detecting nuclear weapons in cargo, for understanding cloud formation, and for studying how certain mammals supercool their blood when they hibernate.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Samsung Galaxy Fold launch events delayed in China

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 50 min ago
Two events are postponed following reports of broken screens from smartphone reviewers.

DNA from medieval Crusader skeletons suggests surprising diversity

Ars Technica - 7 hours 13 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Claude Doumet-Serhal)

European soldiers and civilians poured into the Levant in the 12th and 13th centuries, often killing or displacing local Muslim populations and establishing their own settlements in an effort to seize control of sites sacred to three major religious groups.

But in a new study, DNA from the skeletons of nine soldiers hints that the armies of the Crusades were more diverse and more closely linked with local people in Lebanon than historians previously assumed. The genetic evidence suggests that the Crusaders also recruited from among local populations, and European soldiers sometimes married local women and raised children, some of whom may have grown up to fight in later campaigns.

Living and dying side by side

For centuries, the mingled, charred bones of at least 25 soldiers lay buried in two mass graves near the ruins of the Castle of St. Louis, a 12th- to 13th-century Crusader stronghold near Sidon, in south Lebanon. Several of the skeletons (all apparently male) bore the marks of violent death, and the artifacts mingled with the bones—buckles of medieval European design, along with a coin minted in Italy in 1245 to commemorate the Crusades—mark the pit's occupants as dead Crusader soldiers, burned and buried in the aftermath of a battle. From nine of them, geneticist Marc Haber and his colleagues at the Wellcome Sanger Institute obtained usable DNA sequences, which offer a rare look into the ranks of the soldiers who fought on one side of the 200-year series of wars.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Asos billionaire loses three children in Sri Lanka attacks

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 39 min ago
Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen and his family were visiting Sri Lanka, where three of his four children died.

TED 2019: How to kill a zombie rumour and fix Facebook

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 46 min ago
How to fix a "broken internet" has been a central question at TED 2019.

Tesla says investigating car explosion in Shanghai

BBC Technology News - 13 hours 51 min ago
A video circulating on Chinese social media appears to show a parked Tesla car erupting into flames.

An alternative way to capture childhood on your phone

BBC Technology News - 18 hours 10 min ago
A simple, but evocative, way to record your children's development without using a camera.

Mazda brings a new diesel CX-5 SUV to the US—but why?

Ars Technica - April 21, 2019 - 3:15pm

Enlarge / You'd have to look carefully at the CX-5's badges to tell whether it was one of the new diesel-powered versions. (credit: Mazda)

When Mazda invited us to a roundtable discussion about powertrain technology at this year's New York auto show, it was easy to say yes. After all, the company is responsible for a significant recent breakthrough in internal combustion engine technology. So you can imagine my surprise when it turned out the topic on Mazda's mind was the introduction of its Skyactiv-D diesel engine to the North American market, under the hood of the (excellent) CX-5 SUV. Intrigued, I had to find out why the Japanese automaker was taking this step.

Diesel's fall from grace

You can be forgiven for thinking that "diesel" is now a dirty word. For a while, this liquid hydrocarbon fuel looked like it might be an important tool in helping fight climate change. After all, diesel engines are much more efficient than ones that run gasoline, so you can drive further between filling stations and emit less CO2 while doing it. But CO2 isn't the only problematic component of diesel exhaust. A more immediate danger posed by diesel exhaust is the soup of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates that result as combustion products. While CO2 will wreck our climate in the coming decades, NOx damages peoples' lungs today. And it's NOx that is responsible for diesel's fall from grace.

Or, more accurately, it's been the widespread lying by industry to regulators about the exact amounts of NOx emissions from their cars. The most well-known culprit has been Volkswagen Group. In 2015 it got caught lying to federal regulators in the US and the penalties have been stiff. Executives have been prosecuted. Hundreds of thousands of cars have had to be bought back from owners, billions of dollars in fines were levied, and an entirely new business plan had to be created to rapidly electrify one of the three biggest car companies in the world by the middle of the next decade.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hanna TV adaptation sacrifices magic of original film for typical teen angst

Ars Technica - April 21, 2019 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / Esme Creed-Miles plays the titular teen assassin in Amazon Prime's new series, Hanna. (credit: YouTube/Amazon Prime)

An isolated teenaged girl genetically engineered to be an assassin must elude rogue CIA agents intent on terminating her in Hanna, Amazon's adaption of the 2011 film of the same name. It's a gritty, competent thriller, with strong performances from a talented cast, and has already been renewed for a second season. The problem is that no matter how much one tries to separate the series from the film, comparisons are inevitable. And in almost all respects, the TV adaptation comes up short.

(Some spoilers for the series and the 2011 film below.)

Not everyone was a fan of Director Joe Wright's original film, with its strange mix of espionage and dark coming-of-age fairytale. But it's one of my recent favorites for precisely those elements, driven by an exquisitely unsettling performance by Saoirse Ronan in the titular role. Ronan had this otherworldly presence of untouched innocence, combined with a ruthless hunter's instinct, as we saw in the very first scene when she kills and dresses a deer with just a bow and arrow and a hunting knife.

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Happy 30th B-Day, Game Boy: Here are six reasons why you’re #1

Ars Technica - April 21, 2019 - 1:22pm



Thirty years ago this week, Nintendo released the Game Boy, its first handheld video game console. Excited Japanese customers snatched up the innovative monochrome handheld by the thousands, which retailed for 12,500 yen (about $94 at 1989 rates) at launch—a small price to pay for what seemed to be an NES in your pocket. Nintendo initially offered four games for the new Game Boy: Super Mario Land, Baseball, Alleyway, and Yakuman (a mahjong game), but the number of available titles quickly grew into the hundreds.

Later that year, the Game Boy hit the US at $89.99 with a secret weapon—Tetris as its pack-in game. Selling over a million units during the first Christmas season, the Game Boy proved equally successful in the US, and that success was by no means short-lived: to date, Nintendo has sold 118.69 million units of the original Game Boy line (not including Game Boy Advance) worldwide, making it the longest running dynasty in the video game business. So in honor of the Game Boy's twentieth (Editor's note: now thirtieth!) anniversary, we give you six reasons why the Game Boy dominated the handheld video game market during most of its astounding multi-decade run.

In a rare public discussion at DICE 2015, Alexey Pajitnov talks about pentominoes (and other origins of Tetris. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

1. Tetris

It's common pop-marketing knowledge these days that every new hardware platform needs a "killer app" to truly succeed. In the Game Boy's case, Tetris filled that role perfectly.

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“Natural” bottled water has natural arsenic contamination, testing finds

Ars Technica - April 21, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / Water can pick up arsenic from geological, agricultural, or industrial sources. (credit: Getty | Nurphoto)

Several brands of bottled water contain concerning levels of arsenic contamination, according to an investigation by Consumer Reports.

The worst offenders in the report were Starkey, a brand owned by Whole Foods and marketed as water in its “natural state,” and Peñafiel, owned by Keurig Dr Pepper and imported from Mexico.

Samples of Peñafiel tested by CR had arsenic levels that averaged 18.1 parts per billion, well above the federal allowable limit of 10ppb set by the Food and Drug Administration. Testing of Whole Foods’ Starkey Water revealed levels at or just a smidge below federal limits, with results ranging from 9.48 ppb to 10.1 ppb.

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A mystery agent is doxing Iran’s hackers and dumping their code

Ars Technica - April 21, 2019 - 11:15am

Enlarge (credit: Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Nearly three years after the mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers began disemboweling the NSA's hackers and leaking their hacking tools onto the open Web, Iran's hackers are getting their own taste of that unnerving experience. For the last month, a mystery person or group has been targeting a top Iranian hacker team, dumping its secret data, tools, and even identities onto a public Telegram channel—and the leak shows no signs of stopping.

Since March 25, a Telegram channel called Read My Lips or Lab Dookhtegan—which translates from Farsi as "sewn lips"—has been systematically spilling the secrets of a hacker group known as APT34 or OilRig, which researchers have long believed to be working in service of the Iranian government. So far, the leaker or leakers have published a collection of the hackers' tools, evidence of their intrusion points for 66 victim organizations across the world, the IP addresses of servers used by Iranian intelligence, and even the identities and photographs of alleged hackers working with the OilRig group.

"We are exposing here the cyber tools (APT34 / OILRIG) that the ruthless Iranian Ministry of Intelligence has been using against Iran's neighboring countries, including names of the cruel managers, and information about the activities and the goals of these cyber-attacks," read the original message posted to Telegram by the hackers in late March. "We hope that other Iranian citizens will act for exposing this regime's real ugly face!"

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Millions using 123456 as password, security study finds

BBC Technology News - April 21, 2019 - 12:44am
A list of all-too-predictable choices for breached accounts includes 123456 and "Liverpool".

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