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Industry & Technology

Facebook report attempts to address claims of anti-conservative bias

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 10:39pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Following years of accusations that it stifles right-wing speech, Facebook has published an audit failing to show any particular anti-conservative bias, and some conservatives are furious.

Law firm Covington & Burling LLP conducted the audit under the auspices of former Sen. John Kyl, a Republican who served in the US Senate representing Arizona from 1995-2013 and again for several months in 2018 following the death of Republican Sen. John McCain. The interim report (PDF), released today, seeks to reconcile the different ways Facebook sorts and presents content to its billions of users with users' perception of biased or quashed material.

Conservative politicians have for years been complaining that Facebook suppresses right-wing speech, despite nonpartisan data showing that conservative outlet Fox News is far and away the biggest English-language publisher on Facebook by user engagement. Fellow right-wing outlets Daily Wire and Breitbart also feature prominently among the top sites by engagement, mixed in among mainstream news outlets such as NBC, the BBC, CBS, and The New York Times.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

With Artemis, NASA at risk of repeating Apollo mistakes, scientist warns

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 10:10pm

Enlarge / The surface of the Moon as seen from Apollo 11 while in lunar orbit. (credit: NASA)

In the nearly five months that have passed since Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return humans to the Moon by 2024, the space agency has made significant progress toward that goal.

During this time and under the leadership of administrator Jim Bridenstine, the agency has let contracts for both the elements of the Lunar Gateway, the small space station that will follow a distant orbit around the Moon. NASA has also begun to solicit ideas from industry about their designs for a three-stage lunar lander, upon which construction could begin sometime in 2020. The agency is also soliciting cargo deliveries to the Moon.

These are big steps, and getting a large agency like NASA moving quickly is difficult. For all of this, however, there are storm clouds on the horizon. Most obviously, there is the matter of paying for the Artemis Program to put humans on the Moon—the US House did not including funding for this effort in its preliminary fiscal year 2020 budget, and the Senate has yet to draft a budget. If there is not additional funding, NASA cannot give industry funds to go and do the work.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Matrix 4 is officially happening with Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 9:58pm

Enlarge / We assume the next Matrix film's title will be different than this. But will it be better? After "Reloaded" and "Revolutions," well, we don't know. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

It's official: the Matrix film series is coming back with a fourth numbered entry. And it will see the return of original trilogy stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss to their respective roles as Neo and Trinity.

Lana Wachowski, who served as co-writer and co-director for all three original trilogy films alongside sibling Lilly, has been confirmed as the sole Wachowski family member (so far) in the writer/director chair. Wachowski will be joined by Aleksandar Hemon and David Mitchell as co-writers, whose names will likely be familiar to Wachowski fans. Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas was eventually developed into a feature-length film by the Wachowskis, while Mitchell and Hemon co-wrote much of the Wachowski-helmed Netflix series Sense8.

Warner Bros. Pictures chairman Toby Emmerich on Tuesday gave an official statement on the matter, telling Variety, "We could not be more excited to be re-entering The Matrix with Lana... We are thrilled that she is writing, directing and producing this new chapter in The Matrix universe." In the same report, Wachowski told Variety, "Many of the ideas Lilly and I explored 20 years ago about our reality are even more relevant now. I'm very happy to have these characters back in my life and grateful for another chance to work with my brilliant friends."

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

AT&T brings cable TV prices to online streaming with $135 monthly plan

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 7:55pm

Enlarge / An AT&T store in Chicago. (credit: Getty Images | jetcityimage)

AT&T is now charging up to $135 a month for the online video service formerly known as DirecTV Now.

DirecTV Now launched in 2016 with plans ranging from $35 to $70 a month for 60 to 120 channels. There have been several price increases and a reduction in the number of channels since, resulting in AT&T offering just two packages of $50 a month for 45 channels and $70 a month for 60 channels.

This week, AT&T completed the name change from DirecTV Now to "AT&T TV Now." The $50 and $70 plans still exist, but AT&T TV Now customers can also get 65 channels for $93 a month, 85 channels for $110, 105 channels for $124, or 125 channels for $135. There's also a Spanish-language plan called Óptimo Más with 90 channels for $86 a month.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The death of “Works with Nest” begins now with Google account migrations

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 7:42pm

Enlarge / Coming soon to a Nest near you: Your Google account. (credit: Google Nest)

The smart home company Nest is currently in the middle of a rocky transition from standalone Alphabet company to a full-on merger with Google's hardware team, where it will exist as a Google sub-brand. The details were announced during Google I/O 2019 and include the debut of the first "Google Nest" product, the shutdown of the "Works with Nest" (WWN) ecosystem, and the death of standalone Nest accounts and the Nest/Google data separation. Until now, the transition has mostly involved news and new products, but now a recent update to the Nest app will let existing Nest users "migrate their account to Google." Be warned that doing this will break a lot of things and is irreversible.

So far, it looks like the Nest-to-Google transition more or less involves shutting down everything that was unique to Nest and switching to the Google Home/Google Assistant ecosystem. Migrating your Nest account to a Google account basically means jumping ecosystems, leaving behind any "Works with Nest" integrations with other apps or devices. Basic things like the Nest app, website, and Google voice commands will still work, but that's about it. Amazon Alexa users will probably see the current "Works with Nest" skill stop working, but apparently there is a new "Google Nest" skill that will replace some of the functionality.

Google's support page on the transition warns that the process "is not reversible" and that "During the migration process, you will need to remove and disconnect all your WWN third-party product connections (also not reversible)." This means you'll have to take careful stock of your Nest integrations before you switch and make sure you know what will and won't break. If you mess up, there's no going back.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Super-Earth at a nearby star is a Mercury-like hunk of rock

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 7:02pm

Enlarge / An artist's view of what's undoubtedly the cooler side of the planet. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt)

The most common star in our galaxy is a red dwarf, smaller and dimmer than the Sun. Because these small stars put out much less radiation, the region where planets could have liquid water on their surfaces is much closer to the star. In these exosolar systems, the habitable zone is typically closer to the star than Mercury is to our Sun.

That's a good match to our current technology, which is best at identifying planets close to their host stars. But it has raised questions about whether these close-in planets could actually be habitable, given that red dwarf stars are prone to violent outbursts. Now, researchers have taken a close look at a planet orbiting close to a red dwarf and have found that it looks like a bare rock, suggesting that its star may have stripped off any atmosphere that once existed.

Redistribution

Studying the atmosphere of an exoplanet typically involves observations of it creating a partial eclipse of its host star. In these cases, some of the starlight passes through the planet's atmosphere, allowing us to get a sense of its composition. If there's no sign of this sort of change, then we typically infer that the planet doesn't have an atmosphere.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google sign language AI turns hand gestures into speech

BBC Technology News - August 20, 2019 - 6:36pm
The tech giant is sharing its hand-tracking software to allow others to develop translation apps.

Apple Card is now available to all US iPhone owners, adds new cash-back rewards

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 6:20pm

Applications to Apple's new digital credit card, dubbed simply Apple Card, are now available to all iPhone users in the United States. This follows a short period when Apple offered early access to a select number of customers who signed up and an employees-only test before that.

Apple Card is a MasterCard backed by Goldman Sachs, and it is primarily managed and used inside the Wallet app on iPhones running iOS 12.4 or later. Users can track their spending categories, pay off the card, order a physical card, and more from within the app.

Apple aimed to address a few common complaints about credit cards with this product—for example, credit card transaction histories are often cryptic, and it's sometimes difficult to determine which vendor a charge was made at if the abbreviated name behind the charge doesn't match the vendor's public-facing name; Apple Card's transaction history shows full names of vendors, along with splash images matching the spending category when possible.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New Nvidia driver update cuts latency down to the bone (Updated)

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 6:08pm

Enlarge / You don't need an Nvidia RTX 2070 Super for this update, thankfully.

In the world of high-end gaming graphics cards, improvements in benchmarks like frame rate, resolution, and sharpness dominate much of the discussion. But a new driver update for Nvidia cards today also includes an important improvement that could help reduce the latency between when a player enters their input and when they see the results of that input on-screen. That's enabled by a new Ultra-Low Latency Mode that Nvidia is adding as an option in its software Control Panel through a Game Ready driver update today.

For a decade now, Nvidia's graphics drivers tried to queue an additional one-to-three frames of video ahead of time (depending on user settings). This meant that, after the next frame was ready, the GPU could use otherwise "idle" time to start processing what future frames might look like.

This frame queueing helped smooth out frame rates in cases where the system was temporarily overloaded for one reason or another, letting the GPU squeeze out a frame while the system played catch up. But this frame-rate smoothing also added additional latency, because the system was essentially working from slightly outdated inputs for a few frames.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Man sued for using bogus YouTube takedowns to get address for swatting

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 5:58pm

Enlarge / YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California. (credit: JasonDoiy | Getty)

YouTube is suing a Nebraska man the company says has blatantly abused its copyright takedown process. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act offers online platforms like YouTube legal protections if they promptly take down content flagged by copyright holders. However, this process can be abused—and boy did defendant Christopher L. Brady abuse it, according to YouTube's legal complaint (pdf).

Brady allegedly made fraudulent takedown notices against YouTube videos from at least three well-known Minecraft streamers. In one case, Brady made two false claims against a YouTuber and then sent the user an anonymous message demanding a payment of $150 by PayPal—or $75 in bitcoin.

"If you decide not to pay us, we will file a 3rd strike," the message said. When a YouTube user receives a third copyright strike, the YouTuber's account gets terminated.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

States reportedly plan monopoly investigation of Google, Facebook, Amazon

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 5:48pm

Enlarge (credit: txking | Getty)

Big Tech will soon be facing too many antitrust probes to count on one hand, as several states reportedly plan to launch their own joint investigation to accompany all of the federal inquiries already in progress.

Attorneys general for as many as 20 states may be joining forces to dig into whether the dominant tech players use their outsized market power unfairly to quash competition, sources tell the Wall Street Journal.

A bipartisan group of about a dozen attorneys general met with Department of Justice officials last month to discuss issues of competition in the tech sector, the WSJ reports, a meeting at which the AGs of Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, and Texas were present. The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James told the WSJ that the officials involved "have concerns over the control of personal data by large tech companies and will hold them accountable for anticompetitive practices that endanger privacy and consumer data."

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Reddit plans short video-streaming trial

BBC Technology News - August 20, 2019 - 5:19pm
The streams will be moderated by humans and only a handful will be available, said the social news site.

Dicey Dungeons review: Well, there goes another 100 hours of my life

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 4:40pm

Enlarge

The central premise of Dicey Dungeons, the new dice-chucking roguelike from acclaimed developer Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV, Super Hexagon) is that you are a walking, talking die starring in a twisted game show in which you must endlessly fight your way through an ever-changing dungeon in a desperate attempt to earn your freedom. That freedom, of course, will never come.

Apart from the whole “sentient die in a game show” thing, it’s a pretty apt metaphor for my experience with the highly addictive modern roguelike genre (or “roguelite,” depending on how uppity you want to get). I’ve poured a frankly troubling amount of hours into games like The Binding of Isaac, Dead Cells, and Slay the Spire, the latter of which you may hear used in descriptions of Dicey Dungeons. It’s not an altogether indefensible comparison—they feel similar in some ways—but the games are ultimately quite different.

Slay the Spire combined the board-game-famous mechanic of deckbuilding with the “just one more run” addictiveness of a roguelike dungeon crawler to make, in this author’s estimation, a damn-near perfect game. Dicey Dungeons yoinks Slay the Spire’s general setup—traipsing around a branching map to take part in turn-based, permadeath battles against monsters—but instead of constructing a deck of cards through play, you’re piecing together a set of “equipment” that you activate with standard six-sided dice.

Roll them bones

The game rolls your dice for you at the start of each turn—you begin each run with two, but you get more as you level up—and you can then assign your dice to your equipment as you see fit. The starting character, the warrior, starts each game with a sword, which lets you deal damage equal to the numerical value of the die placed on it. The warrior also gets a “combat roll” ability that allows you to do three re-rolls (it is, after all, the starting character).

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

PewDiePie and Marzia Bisognin marry at Kew Gardens

BBC Technology News - August 20, 2019 - 4:36pm
The couple have been together for eight years and wed at the famous London attraction.

Guidemaster: 2019’s best VR is a battle between Oculus Quest, everyone else

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 3:43pm

Enlarge / Front row: PlayStation VR, Oculus Quest, Valve Index, Oculus Rift S. Back row: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive Pro. (Only headsets from the front row made our recommended-in-2019 list.) (credit: Sam Machkovech)

Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff full of gamers and game-lovers, we'll be serving up extra reviews, guides, interviews, and other stories all about gaming from August 19 to August 23. As part of Gaming Week, we wanted to resurface our definitive guide to the state of VR in 2019, which was published earlier this year in June 2019.

Virtual reality as a consumer-grade tech isn't going anywhere if the PC gaming titans at Valve Corporation have anything to say about it.

Today marks the company's launch of its own VR system, the Valve Index, and it's easily the company's biggest hardware launch ever. Valve has previously sold $50 controllers and set-top boxes, and they've partnered with other hardware makers to launch things like computers. But the Valve Index is another level entirely—it's priced at $999 for a full kit, built top to bottom at Valve's Seattle-area headquarters.

Read 55 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The ambitious Europa Clipper has cleared an important step toward flight

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 2:29pm

Enlarge / This is an earlier design of the Europa Clipper spacecraft. (credit: NASA)

NASA has given its ambitious Europa Clipper mission a green light to proceed into final design and then into construction of the spacecraft. The multibillion-dollar mission remains on target for a launch in 2023 or 2025, the agency said.

Each of NASA's major programs must follow a complicated "lifecycle," in which different phases of development—from formulation of the project idea through launch—are gated by required approvals. This is part of NASA's effort to ensure that programs are developed to certain standards. In this case, the Europa mission has passed what is known as "Key Decision Point-C," the stage at which programs undergo a rigorous review and move from preliminary into final design. Then the construction of spacecraft components begins.

NASA has never sent a dedicated mission to a moon in the Solar System other than Earth's own Moon. But Jupiter's Europa satellite is special, with what scientists believe to be a vast ocean beneath its icy shell capable of harboring life. The large, capable Europa Clipper spacecraft is due to make more than 40 flybys of the moon to better characterize the ice, its thickness, and the ocean below.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ars Technica’s favorite video games from our first 10 years, 1998-2008

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 12:30pm

Enlarge / "Hell. It's about Ars." (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff full of gamers and game-lovers, we'll be serving up extra reviews, guides, interviews, and other stories all about gaming from August 19 to August 23.

A long time ago on an Ars far, far away, video game coverage operated quite differently. In our first ten years of existence, games coverage often blended into a format that revolved around our emphasis on busy, passionate forum posts. Ars authors' biggest posts could drive commentary, but more often than not, the most bustling threads were the ones started by readers themselves.

It's interesting, then, to examine the concept of history's "best Ars games" through the unique prism of forum-driven hindsight. I went into this project of sorting our game-review history with a list of personal favorites that I thought might be borne out by at least some of our readers. I soon found that it was more important to look at the games that enjoyed both instant and lasting acclaim from our picky and obsessive regulars.

Read 41 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Lightning strike 'partly to blame' for power cut

BBC Technology News - August 20, 2019 - 12:22pm
National Grid could be fined for the outage that affected nearly a million people in England and Wales.

'World's oldest webcam' to be switched off

BBC Technology News - August 20, 2019 - 12:03pm
Set up in 1994, the weather-watching webcam in San Francisco will be shut off at the end of August.

Anonymous “Anonymous Cowards” are, for now, not welcome on Slashdot

Ars Technica - August 20, 2019 - 11:00am

Enlarge / What's to come of Slashdot's Anonymous Coward feature? It was down, then it came back with a change; will it get changed once more? (credit: Aurich Lawson)

On August 9, tech news aggregator Slashdot quietly removed one of its earliest features, which had been available to all visitors since its founding in 1997: the ability to post comments as an "Anonymous Coward." And while the feature returned within five days, it returned in a largely nerfed format.

Users can now only access the "Anonymous Coward" feature if they are logged in with a valid account, thus attaching some form of tracked use for anybody on the site. Slashdot administrators say this change is currently "temporary."

“Absolutely, only” meant to combat spam

The decision comes after a surge of public pressure against anonymous imageboard services—particularly 8chan, where a deadly shooter's manifesto was apparently posted. That pressure prompted cloud provider Cloudflare (and other replacement services) to stop offering services to the sites.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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