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Industry & Technology

Transport: Translink buys its first hydrogen-fuelled buses

BBC Technology News - 49 min 19 sec ago
Water is the only exhaust emission from the vehicles built by Ballymena-based firm Wrightbus.

BBC suspends Red Button text switch-off

BBC Technology News - 55 min 38 sec ago
The service's closure is suspended a day before it was due to have started being phased out.

Roku Smart Soundbars to get surround sound capabilities with software update

Ars Technica - 1 hour 43 min ago

Enlarge / The soundbar includes the technology of a Roku Ultra inside, so it doubles as a streaming device. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Streaming giant Roku continues to lean heavily into the audio side of home entertainment. Today, the company announced that it is bringing surround sound capabilities to its Roku Smart Soundbar through a software update that will start hitting devices this February.

The surround sound expansion will let users connect other Roku audio devices to the smart soundbar wirelessly. Currently, Roku has a wireless speaker bundle designed to work with Roku TVs and a wireless subwoofer that connects via Wi-Fi to Smart Soundbars already. Users will be able to connect a pair of the wireless TV speakers to the smart soundbar to create a surround sound system that they can control through the Roku remote they already have.

Roku emphasized the ease of use of this smart surround sound system, saying that the technology embedded into the smart soundbar will identify the TV speakers automatically at the start of the setup and will pair with them wirelessly. Users can then choose the position of each TV speaker in their homes, properly directing the sound that comes out of each speaker. Once set up, users can control the whole system with the remote they already use with their Roku device. There will also be new stereo sound modes that users can equip to make non-surround-sound audio sound even better through their new speaker setup.

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SpaceX now targeting Wednesday morning for Starlink launch [Updated]

Ars Technica - 2 hours 33 min ago

Enlarge / Starlink-3 mission on the pad, ready for launch. (credit: SpaceX)

8:00am ET Wednesday Update: Weather conditions are finally looking better at Cape Canaveral, in Florida, as well as offshore for rocket recovery. As a result, SpaceX is targeting 9:06am ET (14:06 UTC) for the launch of the Starlink-3 mission.

9:30am ET Monday Update: SpaceX scrubbed Monday's launch attempt due to strong upper-level winds. The company will now target a back-up launch opportunity on 9:28am ET (14:28 UTC) Tuesday, when weather conditions are expected to be more favorable.

Original post: Weather-permitting, SpaceX will attempt to launch its third batch of operational Starlink satellites on Monday morning. Liftoff is scheduled for 9:49am ET (14:49 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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CBS All Access serves ads, but not content, to Linux users

Ars Technica - 2 hours 43 min ago

Enlarge / No CBS All Access on Linux makes elderly Picard cry. (credit: Aurich Lawson / CBS / Getty)

As of this month, the CBS All Access streaming-video platform—home of popular shows including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and now Star Trek: Picard—stopped working on Linux PCs, regardless of the choice of browser. Ten years ago, this would have been just another day in the life of a Linux user, but it's a little surprising in 2020. We were originally tipped off to the issue by a few irate readers but quickly found it echoed in multiple threads on Reddit, Stack Exchange, and anywhere else you'd expect to find Linux users congregating.

I'm both a Linux user and a CBS All Access subscriber myself, but I had been unaware of the problem since I do all my own watching on a Roku. Technically, the Roku is a Linux PC in its own right—but CBS has its own app in the Roku store, which works perfectly.

Moving back to one of my own PCs, I was quickly able to confirm the issue: trailers autoplay properly, and even the ads work—but the actual content won't play on a Linux desktop PC on any browser including Google Chrome. Diving into the Chrome Web Console, we can see HTTP 400 (Bad Request) errors when the browser attempts to fetch a license from CBS' Widevine back end.

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BT to charge people £50 for keeping old wi-fi routers

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 55 min ago
People will be asked to send their wi-fi router and TV box back at their end of the contract.

5G: EU issues guidance on 'high-risk' suppliers

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 51 min ago
Member states have been given until the end of April to draw up security measures for 5G networks.

Researchers track fishing fleets by putting radar sensors on birds

Ars Technica - 3 hours 58 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Mayumi Arimitsu, USGS)

Wildlife management has been revolutionized by the ability to track species in their natural habitats—to figure out what areas they actually occupy, where they feed, and so on. For years, that ability was limited to large mammals, which could easily handle the bulky batteries and electronics required to frequently broadcast location information. The miniaturization of electronics, however, has opened up the list of species we can track, adding birds and fish to it, and revealing the huge ranges covered by some species.

But now, some researchers have decided to turn the tables by placing hardware on birds to keep track of us. More specifically, our fishing fleets, which often operate in remote areas that are difficult to track. The work showed that albatross species could easily carry miniature detectors that would pick up radar and identification signals from any fishing boats they get within range of. This strategy is made even more effective by the fact that albatrosses are drawn to fishing boats.

Snooping on fishing boats

The Pacific is immense, but it's dotted with islands. Some of these create exclusive economic zones where one country has access to the fish stocks; there are also some large oceanic preserves. Outside these areas, any nation is able to fish, although some at-risk species may be covered by international treaties.

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Microsoft issues second 'final' Windows 7 update

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 40 min ago
The end of support for the ageing operating system turns out to be not quite the end.

Avengers: Endgame - How we made the visual effects

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 44 min ago
Framestore's Stuart Penn explains the challenges of making Avengers: Endgame.

Apple credits iPhone 11 demand for record sales

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 38 min ago
The tech giant says it is monitoring the coronavirus outbreak, which has made forecasting difficult.

Apple reports a blowout Q1 2020, but names coronavirus as a worry for the next quarter

Ars Technica - 14 hours 38 min ago

Based on the latest Apple quarterly earnings report, it seems that Apple's newer iPhone models have been a hit, along with the fast-selling Apple Watch and AirPods Pro (pictured above) devices. Critically, the quarter included holiday sales of the new iPhones introduced in 2019 (iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max).

CEO Tim Cook and his associates told investors on today's earnings call that revenue is up 9 percent to a total of $91.8 billion. The iPhone grew 8 percent to make up $55.96 billion of that.

The product category that includes the Watch, AirPods, and Beats earned $10 billion this quarter. Cook bragged that those three products would together match a "Fortune 150 company." The category earned $7.3 billion in the same quarter last year. Also, CEO Tim Cook said on the investor call that more than 75 percent of people who bought Apple Watch devices during the quarter were new to the product.

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How worried should we be about 'Big Brother' technology?

BBC Technology News - 15 hours 38 min ago
Why do we fear government surveillance, but voluntarily use technology which monitors our lives?

How will the Huawei 5G deal affect me?

BBC Technology News - 16 hours 43 min ago
The UK has decided to let Huawei continue to be used in its 5G networks but with restrictions, despite pressure from the US to block the firm.

Apple releases iOS 13.3.1 and macOS Catalina 10.15.3

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 11:55pm

Enlarge / iPadOS.

Today, Apple released updates for its operating systems for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, Mac, HomePod, and Apple TV devices. iOS 13.3.1 is the most substantial of the updates, but they are all incremental updates that fix bugs or address user complaints or privacy concerns.

iOS 13.3.1 adds a new feature to toggle on or off the U1 ultra-wide band chip contained in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. This is in response to recent consumer concerns about the fact that international regulations affecting ultra-wide band devices that required the phones to check their location periodically even if users had disabled location services for all of their apps individually. Security experts observed that Apple did not seem to be collecting any user data, but the company promised under this scrutiny to offer a toggle in a future software update (this one, now) that would allow users to bypass the problem by disabling the U1 chip altogether. The U1 is currently used for the AirDrop file-sharing feature, but it may find other applications in future versions of iOS.

Additional changes in iOS 13.3.1 and iPadOS 13.3.1 include a fix for a problem whereby the recently added Communication Limits feature could be circumvented, as well as a number of bug fixes and improvements for Mail.

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London to deploy live facial recognition to find wanted faces in a crowd

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 11:39pm

Enlarge / Security cameras sit on a pole near the Houses of Parliament in the Westminster district of London, UK, on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. The Metropolitan Police will be adding new "live facial recognition" systems to their sensor collection, aimed at spotting wanted persons walking through targeted areas. (credit: ason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Officials at the Metropolitan Police Service of London announced last Friday that the force will soon begin to use "Live Facial Recognition" (LFR) technology deployed around London to identify people of interest as they appear in surveillance video and alert officers to their location. The system, based on NEC's NeoFace Watch system, will be used to check live footage for faces on a police "watch list," a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said. The real-time facial-recognition system will target suspects in violent crimes, child exploitation cases, and missing children and vulnerable adults, among others.

The video system, the spokesperson noted in a written statement, "simply gives police officers a prompt suggesting 'that person over there may be the person you're looking for'" and that the decision to act on that information will always be made by officers in the field. Initially, the system will be deployed at locations "where intelligence suggests we are most likely to locate serious offenders," the spokesperson said. "Each deployment will have a bespoke 'watch list' made up of images of wanted individuals, predominantly those wanted for serious and violent offenses."

Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said, "As a modern police force, I believe that we have a duty to use new technologies to keep people safe in London. Independent research has shown that the public support us in this regard. Prior to deployment we will be engaging with our partners and communities at a local level." That engagement will include officers handing out leaflets explaining the program at locations where the technology is deployed.

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Amazon’s Ring app shares loads of your personal info, report finds

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 11:10pm

Enlarge / A Ring camera doorbell. (credit: Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)

Amazon's Ring line of home surveillance products has come under intense scrutiny in recent months following a seemingly endless litany of worrying revelations about Ring's police partnerships, account security, vulnerabilities, employee snooping, and sharing of extremely detailed location data. Now, we have a new report to add to the pile: it seems the app that customers use to manage and control a Ring camera is sending all kinds of personal data around as well.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation took a deep dive into the Android version of the Ring app, which it determined to be "packed with third-party trackers sending out a plethora of customers' personally identifiable information." Moreover, the EFF adds, this data sharing happens "without meaningful user notification or consent and, in most cases, no way to mitigate the damage done."

The personal data sent by Ring seems to go to four main recipients, the EFF found: Branch, ApplsFlyer, MixPanel, and Facebook. Those recipients presumably combine data they gather from the Ring app with data they collect from other sources—either information they collect in-house or buy/trade from other third parties—to build a fleshed-out digital doppelgänger profile for any given user.

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Samsung Galaxy Z flip gets official renders, full spec sheet

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 10:01pm

Samsung's next foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Z Flip, is expected to be shown off in full at the February 11 "Galaxy Unpacked" event. But to tide you over until then, a set of official renders and a full spec sheet have been posted by the German site WinFuture.

The pictures show a phone that shares a lot of DNA with Samsung's first foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold. Just like on the Fold, there's a raised bezel around the edge. On the Fold, this held the display to the body of the device and protected it while it was closed. The bezel was also pretty annoying, though: Android features several edge gestures, and trying to swipe in from the side or bottom of the device is awkward when the bezel isn't flush with the display. We can also see the same T-shaped hinge caps that were added to the second, post-recall version of the Galaxy Fold after it was delayed.

Like the Galaxy Fold, it sounds like the Z Flip is going to have a creased display and close into a wedge shape so it doesn't crush the display crease. WinFuture lists two thickness dimensions for when it's closed: 15.3mm and 17.3mm, which would be the tall and short side of the wedge. Several pictures show the phone in an L shape, like a tiny little laptop. WinFuture's report suggests that Samsung will pitch this as a way to easily see the phone while it's on a table.

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Amazon faces employee revolt over slow climate action

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 9:49pm

Enlarge / Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of, in May 2018. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Hundreds of Amazon employees on Monday issued statements blasting their own employer and calling for the company to do more to fight climate change. Some employees also praised Amazon's decision last September to order 100,000 electric vans—part of the company's climate change initiative. But others argued that Amazon's policies so far are inadequate given the scale of the climate change problem.

"Amazon can and should do more," wrote Amazon employee Nolan Woodle. "We should end our contracts with oil and gas companies that are using our services to locate, drill for, and extract fossil fuels."

"Big Tech has the opportunity to not only change the world but change the planet," wrote another employee, Rabecca Rocha.

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Here’s the latest on the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan

Ars Technica - January 28, 2020 - 9:35pm

Enlarge / HONG KONG, CHINA - 2020/01/28: Pedestrians wear sanitary masks to prevent infections. (credit: Getty | SOPA images)

An outbreak of a never-before-seen coronavirus that causes viral pneumonia has continued to surge in China, with over 4,500 confirmed cases and over 100 deaths.

Nearly all of the cases and all of the deaths are reported from China. But there have been small numbers of cases in travelers to other countries, including Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the Republic of Korea, the United States, and Vietnam.

Five travel-related cases have been confirmed in the United States, according to officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arizona, Washington, and Illinois have each reported one case, and California has reported two cases. All of the cases had connections to Wuhan, the capital city of the central Hubei province where the outbreak erupted.

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