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Industry & Technology

Can Zoom turn popularity into profit?

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 23 min ago
The video conference company may have become ubiquitous during lockdowns but that has brought new challenges.

Asia's fishermen and farmers go digital during virus

BBC Technology News - 5 hours 38 min ago
Farming communities in South East Asia are embracing online selling for the first time during lockdown.

Apple fixes bug that could have given hackers full access to user accounts

Ars Technica - 6 hours 51 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

Sign in with Apple—a privacy-enhancing tool that lets users log into third-party apps without revealing their email addresses—just fixed a bug that made it possible for attackers to gain unauthorized access to those same accounts.

“In the month of April, I found a zero-day in Sign in with Apple that affected third-party applications which were using it and didn’t implement their own additional security measures,” app developer Bhavuk Jain wrote on Sunday. “This bug could have resulted in a full account takeover of user accounts on that third party application irrespective of a victim having a valid Apple ID or not.”

Jain privately reported the flaw to Apple under the company’s bug bounty program and received a hefty $100,000 payout. The developer shared details after Apple updated the sign-in service to patch the vulnerability.

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Lawsuit over online book lending could bankrupt Internet Archive

Ars Technica - 7 hours 45 min ago

Enlarge / The book drop outside the Spring Township library in Pennsylvania was closed on April 6, 2020. (credit: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Four of the nation's leading book publishers have sued the Internet Archive, the online library best known for maintaining the Internet Wayback Machine. The Internet Archive makes scanned copies of books—both public domain and under copyright—available to the public on a site called the Open Library.

"Despite the Open Library moniker, IA's actions grossly exceed legitimate library services, do violence to the Copyright Act, and constitute willful digital piracy on an industrial scale," write publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House in their complaint. The lawsuit was filed in New York federal court on Monday.

For almost a decade, the Open Library has offered users the ability to "borrow" scans of in-copyright books via the Internet. Until recently, the service was based on a concept called "controlled digital lending" that mimicked the constraints of a conventional library. The library would only "lend" as many digital copies of a book as it had physical copies in its warehouse. If all copies of a book were "checked out" by other patrons, you'd have to join a waiting list.

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SARS-CoV-2 looks like a hybrid of viruses from two different species

Ars Technica - 8 hours 45 min ago

Enlarge / Researchers examine a bat as part of their search for dangerous animal pathogens in the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative Lab in Yaounde, Cameroon. (credit: Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

One of the longest-running questions about this pandemic is a simple one: where did it come from? How did a virus that had seemingly never infected a human before make a sudden appearance in our species, equipped with what it needed to sweep from China through the globe in a matter of months?

Analysis of the virus' genome was ambiguous. Some analyses placed its origin within the local bat population. Others highlighted similarities to pangolins, which might have been brought to the area by the wildlife trade. Less evidence-based ideas included an escape from a research lab or a misplaced bioweapon. Now, a US-based research team has done a detailed analysis of a large collection of viral genomes, and it finds that evolution pieced together the virus from multiple parts—most from bats, but with a key contribution from pangolins.


How do pieces of virus from different species end up being mashed together? The underlying biology is a uniquely viral twist on a common biological process: recombination.

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Coronavirus: What's it like to be laid off over Zoom?

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 46 min ago
Being made redundant is rarely pleasant, but is it worse finding out via a video call?

New Ebola outbreak flares up as measles, COVID-19 rage in DRC

Ars Technica - 8 hours 59 min ago

Enlarge / Health workers operate within an Ebola safety zone in the Health Center in Iyonda, near Mbandaka, on June 1, 2018. (credit: Getty | JUNIOR D. KANNAH )

A new outbreak of Ebola has ignited in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is still trying to stamp out an Ebola outbreak from 2018—and is now also battling a massive measles outbreak and COVID-19.

The new Ebola outbreak is in the western city of Mbandaka, the capital of the Équateur Province. The city—situated at the junction of the Congo and Ruki Rivers—is a major trade and travel hub and home to more than 1 million people.

On Monday, June 1, 2020, officials confirmed an outbreak with six cases so far (three confirmed, three probable). Four of the cases have died, and two are being treated. The World Health Organization reported that officials expect to find more cases as outbreak responses ramp up.

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Grindr removes 'ethnicity filter' after complaints

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 16 min ago
The LGBT app says it has a "zero-tolerance policy for racism" and will remove the filter.

New study challenges popular “collapse” hypothesis for Easter Island

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 10:28pm

Enlarge / Moai statues in a row, Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile. (credit: De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images)

In his bestselling 2005 book Collapse, Jared Diamond offered the societal collapse of Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui), around 1600, as a cautionary tale. Diamond essentially argued that the destruction of the island's ecological environment triggered a downward spiral of internal warfare, population decline, and cannibalism, resulting in an eventual breakdown of social and political structures. It's a narrative that is now being challenged by a team of researchers who have been studying the island's archaeology and cultural history for many years now.

In a new paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the researchers offer intriguing evidence that suggests the people of Rapa Nui continued to thrive well after 1600. The authors suggest this warrants a rethinking of the popular narrative that the island was destitute when Europeans arrived in 1722.

"The degree to which their cultural heritage was passed on—and is still present today through language, arts, and cultural practices—is quite notable and impressive," co-author Robert DiNapoli, a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Oregon, told Sapiens. "This degree of resilience has been overlooked due to the collapse narrative and deserves recognition."

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One Zoom to rule them all: Lord of the Rings cast reunites to share memories

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 9:56pm

One Zoom to rule them all

For the first time in a long while, every actor who played a member of The Lord of the Rings’ fellowship reunited (along with other former cast members) to discuss their memories of shooting the hugely popular 2000s films, do line readings, and crack jokes. The 50-minute reunion was published on YouTube yesterday.

It’s part of a series hosted by actor Josh Gad, each episode of which is a reunion via Zoom meeting to raise money for a charity that is working on some aspect of COVID-19 relief. At the time of this writing, this particular video has raised just over $83,000 for No Kid Hungry.

Much of the Zoom chat is staged and heavily edited, but there are some good moments and interesting insights to be found for fans of the film trilogy.

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Nest users now covered by Google’s ultra-secure Advanced Protection Program

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 9:11pm

Enlarge (credit: Akram Kennis / Flickr)

Accounts for Google’s Nest line of smart home devices are now covered by the company’s Advanced Protection Program, which traditionally has provided enhanced security for journalists, politicians, elections workers, and other people who are frequently targeted by hackers.

Google rolled out APP in 2017. It requires users to have at least two physical security keys, such as those available from Yubico, Google’s Titan brand, or other providers. Typically, keys connect through USB slots or Near-field Communication or Bluetooth interfaces. Once registered, the keys provide cryptographic secrets that are unphishable and, at least theoretically, impossible to intercept through malware attacks or other types of hacking. APP also limits the apps that can connect to protected accounts, although registering Thunderbird to connect to Gmail is relatively easy.

Pulling up your account by the bootstraps

Once an account is enrolled and each device (including a phone) is authenticated through the physical-key process Google calls bootstrapping, people can use their iOS or Android devices as a security key. That’s usually easier, faster, and more convenient than using physical security keys. Typically, users must bootstrap only rarely after the bootstrapping process, such as when Google detects suspicious behavior. APP also pushes alerts to users’ devices and registered email accounts each time a new device connects.

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PlayStation 5: Sony postpones games event due to US protests

BBC Technology News - June 1, 2020 - 8:48pm
The move follows a decision by Google to delay showing off the next version of Android.

Hurricane season began today, and there are legitimate reasons to be concerned

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 8:25pm

Enlarge / Almost all seasonal forecasters are predicting high numbers of hurricanes during the 2020 Atlantic season. (credit: Phil Klotzbach)

Officially, the Atlantic hurricane season begins today. Historically, the season's first named storm doesn't spin up until some time in July. But this being 2020, we're not having anything normal this year.

The Atlantic Ocean already blew through the "A" (Arthur) and "B" (Bertha) names for storms. And it looks almost certain that Cristobal will form in a day or two in the southern Gulf of Mexico—threatening Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana with winds and heavy rainfall. With such a wild start to the year out of the gate, what does this mean for the heart of hurricane season, which typically does not really get going until August?

For answers, Ars contacted hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who will update his seasonal forecast for Atlantic activity this year in a few days.

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PS5 game reveal event has been delayed: “Not a time for celebration” [Updated]

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 7:59pm

Enlarge / Sony's vision of the "future of gaming" will come some day, but not as originally scheduled, thanks to this week's event delay. (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Update, June 1: In the wake of mass American protests over the weekend, and social media being used to broadcast on-the-ground reports of their events, Sony has chosen to indefinitely delay its reveal of major PlayStation 5 games that was originally set for June 4.

"While we understand gamers worldwide are excited to see PS5 games, we do not feel that right now is a time for celebration," the official PlayStation Twitter account posted on Monday. "For now, we want to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard."

As of press time, Sony Interactive Entertainment hasn't announced a replacement date or time for the event.

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The 2021 Honda Insight is an efficient but inconspicuous hybrid

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 7:56pm

Did you know Ars reviewed its first car 20 years ago? Back in the year 2000, Will Ryu tried out the brand-new Honda Insight, justifying it because the car married some impressive technology and a fun-to-drive nature—criteria we still look for today. Back then, the Insight looked like little else on the road. It had advanced aerodynamics, used lightweight alloy construction, and was the first parallel hybrid powertrain to go on sale in the US market. Today, we're revisiting the Insight, now in its third generation.

The differences are pronounced: what was cutting edge two decades ago is mainstream now. Instead of shouting its presence, the current Insight hides in crowds. And hybrid powertrains are commonplace and even seen as old tech in a world of 300-mile battery EVs and vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells. But proven technology has its upside. Today's Insight might look normal, but it's still remarkably efficient, even beating the old streamliner when it comes to city driving.

And it's cheap, too. That weird-looking Insight with the faired-in wheels cost just over $20,000 in 2000—just under $30,000 in today's dollars. The 2021 Insight starts at $22,930, and a Touring model loaded up to press-fleet specifications is still only $28,840. And you can actually fit people in its back seats, too.

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Android 11 power menu leak shows new smart home integration

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 7:33pm

Android 11 has had four preview releases so far, but they've been stripped of many features that we know are in development and just haven't seen in a public build yet. One such feature is a revamp to the power menu, which has been getting code drops for smart home controls and credit cards for some time now. The near-final design of the new power menu appears to have leaked, thanks to XDA Developer's Mishaal Rahman.

Android 11

View more stories Rahman shared two low-res screenshots showing a dramatically different power menu than what Android has typically had. What was just a simple four-option overlay has become a full-screen interface packed with buttons. The usual "Power," "Restart," "Screenshot," and "Emergency" buttons have shifted to the top of the screen, and below that is a carousel of credit cards from Google Pay. Below that are "Quick controls" which are smart home controls that are most likely sourced from the Google Home app.

The Quick Controls are the major new feature on the power menu. The screenshots appear to show options for smart lights, door locks, thermostats, cameras, and smart blinds, all of which are products you can currently access through the Google Assistant, the Google Home app, and Google Smart Displays. If you're on a phone and don't want to use voice commands, your only other option is to dig through the Google Home App, which can be cumbersome. This menu, which would be brought up just by long-pressing the power button, would be considerably faster.

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SpaceX launch footage was taken down thanks to bogus copyright claim

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 6:38pm

Enlarge / The Falcon 9 rocket climbs to space on Saturday. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

This weekend's launch, in which SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully propelled the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the two astronauts on board from Florida safely into space, was amazing, awe-inspiring, and frankly, just plain cool to watch. And here in the age of inexpensive, tiny high-definition cameras and streaming content, it should be easy to catch up on it if you missed it—or even if you just want to watch it again for fun. But for most of the weekend and into this morning, you couldn't watch it at all, thanks to copyright content ID bots working overtime.

The May 30 launch was streamed live to NASA's YouTube channel and then archived, along with several shorter clips and highlights taken from the day-long livestream. NASA footage, like photo and video from other government agencies, is generally published into the public domain, not under copyright, and other entities can mirror or rebroadcast it. National Geographic also covered the launch, and its footage incorporated some of the NASA content. Then things got stupid.

By Sunday, the archival NASA video was no longer available to view, Twitter users spotted, because of a copyright claim from National Geographic. Attempts at that time to play back some of the NASA videos resulted in an error message saying, "Video unavailable: This video contains content from National Geographic, who has blocked it on copyright grounds."

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Dallas Police asked public for videos of protesters—it didn’t go well

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 6:03pm

Enlarge / Screenshots of the iWatch Dallas iPhone app from the Apple App Store. (credit: City of Dallas)

With protests against police brutality and racism happening in many major US cities, the Dallas Police Department on Sunday asked the public to submit videos of "illegal activity from the protests" through the city's smartphone app. It didn't go well, as the app was reportedly inundated with unrelated content, such as K-pop videos, and within less than a day, the app had stopped working due to "technical difficulties."

"In response to the tweeted request from Dallas Police, hundreds of K-pop fans replied with photos and videos of their favorite artists," BuzzFeed News wrote. "Many people also claimed to have submitted videos of the police harming protesters, as well as fan edits of K-pop artists, to the iWatch Dallas app."

The department made its request for video of protesters at 12:48am CT Sunday. "If you have video of illegal activity from the protests and are trying to share it with @DallasPD, you can download it to our iWatch Dallas app. You can remain anonymous," the tweet said.

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George Floyd: Anonymous hackers re-emerge amid US unrest

BBC Technology News - June 1, 2020 - 5:27pm
As the US is engulfed in civil unrest, the masked hackers are being credited with new action.

30 years later, a lost Days of Thunder NES game recovered from 21 floppy disks

Ars Technica - June 1, 2020 - 5:00pm

In one of the most unreal data-recovery projects we've ever heard of, a seemingly lost NES game has been unearthed—as archived on a single hard drive backup, spread across 21 5.25-inch floppy disks.

A joint effort led in part by the Video Game History Foundation began earlier this year with a pile of leftover CD-Rs, floppies, computers, and other errata donated by the family of late programmer/designer Chris Oberth. The results, thus far, are one fully functioning game whose code had to be recovered, then compiled, to run on original NES hardware.

Anybody still have their copy of PCTools?

The game in question is based on Days of Thunder, a stock-racing film from 1990 starring Tom Cruise. One reason this version got lost in the shuffle is because a tie-in DoT video game came out the same year, as published by Mindscape. Oberth's co-creation, for the same publisher, was dated one year earlier, and it looks quite different. As Frank Cifaldi, VGHF co-director, points out, the unreleased prototype had only been mentioned once by Oberth: in a 2006 interview with the retro-gaming fan newsletter Retrogaming Times.

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