The Art of Technology
Updated: 31 min 16 sec ago
We spent the week at I/O sitting in sessions, walking around the show floor, and congregating with developers. After the keynote, things got quieter on the news front but there was still plenty to learn about. This conference is about community, bringing together developers of all types, and connecting people with similar interests and backgrounds. It's also about adorable little Androids, which absolutely overwhelmed downtown San Francisco's convention center, the Moscone Center.The Google Store
A Google Store employee models the Android Superhero costume, available for a mere $32.80. There was no word on compatibility with the YouTube Socks.
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Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium
Imagine a future where solar panels speed off the presses, like newspaper. Australian scientists have brought us one step closer to that reality.
Researchers from the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) have developed a printer that can print 10 meters of flexible solar cells a minute. Unlike traditional silicon solar cells, printed solar cells are made using organic semi-conducting polymers, which can be dissolved in a solvent and used like an ink, allowing solar cells to be printed.
Not only can the VICOSC machine print flexible A3 solar cells, the machine can print directly on to steel, opening up the possibility for solar cells to be embedded directly into building materials.
Dokkat appears to think that databases are overused. "Instead of a database, I just serialize my data to JSON, saving and loading it to disk when necessary," he writes. "All the data management is made on the program itself, which is faster AND easier than using SQL queries." What is missing here? Why should a developer use a database when saving data to a disk might work just as well?
See the original question here.
Marijuana may make you overeat, but it could be an effective diabetes treatment. Lighting up a bit of weed is often blamed for people going on uninhibited eating binges. So it's a bit of a surprise to find a study saying that regular marijuana use is associated with a slimmer waistline. Perhaps even more striking, however, is the affect it had on metabolism, where it drops resting blood glucose levels. These results are consistent with past indications that marijuana users have a lower incidence of diabetes. The one unusual thing here is that the new study found no indication of a dose response.
An early pregnancy test probably ended up killing lots of North American amphibians. We recently ran a story that suggested that international trade helped take a fungus that infects amphibians and turn it into a global killer. Now we have some idea of exactly what was being traded: raw materials for human pregnancy tests. The raw materials in question? Frogs. Xenopus laevis is commonly used in biology research because it's a prodigious producer of eggs that can then be used to study embryonic development. But, before we knew how to directly detect the proteins in human urine that signaled pregnancy, someone figured out a way to do so indirectly: they made the frogs ovulate.
So, we dragged in a bunch of frogs from Africa to use for pregnancy tests and, one way or another, they established themselves in the wilds of California. Now, a study of samples from frogs found decades ago in California and Africa show that these Xenopus are asymptomatic carriers of the fungus that's now killing other frog species around the globe. There's a very good chance that these hopping pregnancy tests managed to bring it to North America.
A "Russian Tokarev TT-34 Atomiser" that is "very reliable on the lunar battlefield." Shannon Ocean
This week, a handful of Ars staffers gathered in San Francisco, CA to see the new Star Trek movie at Starfleet Headquarters. (Ok, just kidding, we saw the movie at San Francisco's Metreon, and most of us were there for Google I/O, the company's annual developer conference.) Besides Google's conference and the rare spotting of more than three Ars employees sharing IRL space with each other, this week also saw notable stories hit the front page. Specifically, we wrote about a Soviet defense satellite that almost came to be and about how the people behind League of Legends are trying to foster a more civil atmosphere in games.“Bdysch!”
Guest writer Amy Teitel brought us the story of The secret laser-toting Soviet satellite that almost was and commenters wasted no time diving into the specifics of the political and military atmosphere of the early 80's, when our article takes place. Most interesting were the handful of commenters who brought us first-hand experiences. ucla74 wrote:
"I was an Air Force officer stationed in West Germany at the time of this failed launch. We were deploying the Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) system in western Europe, and our unit had just achieved Initial Operational Capability—we were poised to deliver warheads against both strategic and tactical targets inside the Soviet Bloc.
Following the Polyus failure, the US and USSR signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which banned GLCM, the Army's Pershing II medium-range ballistic missile system, and the Soviet Union's SS-20 MRBMs, which in turn significantly enhanced the stabilization of Central Europe. While I doubt Polyus was the driving factor behind INF, I feel certain it contributed to Gorbachev's readiness to negotiate at least one threat to the Soviet bloc.
AgentSmith40 also gave us his perspective:
“This stuff matters.”
Jon Lander, the executive producer of CCP Games’ EVE Online, tells me this during an interview on the first proper day of the company’s Fanfest 2013 event in Reykjavik, Iceland last month. He doesn’t seem to mean much by it and at the time I took it as a throwaway comment. We were in the midst of a larger conversation about monetization and his company’s business practices.
However, after three days surrounded by developers and EVE devotees, I came to understand this as the foundational idea and central thesis of the game. All human interaction—be it face-to-face, in an online forum, or expressed through a series of intricate systems and delicate game mechanics—has value.
The 2013 MacBook Airs may soon be upon us. Jacqui Cheng
Apple hasn't announced a significant update to any of its hardware since October of 2012, but if you're itching to get your hands on something new the wait may soon be over. AppleInsider reports that supplies of Apple's MacBook Air are beginning to shrink ahead of next month's Worldwide Developer Conference, with multiple major retailers listing the high-end 13-inch model in particular as "out of stock." The MacBook Air was last refreshed at WWDC in June of 2012.
Apple's strict command of its supply chain means that it tends not to have a lot of excess inventory sitting around in warehouses—according to a Gartner report from about a year ago Apple can turn over its entire inventory of product in about five days. Reduced inventory for current products tends to indicate that new ones are around the corner.
If that by itself isn't enough evidence for you, consider that Mac hardware refreshes generally tend to be tied to Intel's hardware cycles and that Intel's next-generation Haswell architecture (with its enhanced integrated GPUs) is all-but-guaranteed to be announced at Computex at the beginning of next month. When it launched Ivy Bridge last year, low-voltage CPUs intended for thin-and-light laptops were among the first to be released, meaning that by the time WWDC rolls around, Apple will likely have the CPUs it needs to make next-generation MacBook Airs happen.
A mosaic of Lady Justice at the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. Thomas Hawk
Four lawyers linked to the embattled copyright-trolling Prenda Law operation were slapped with a sanctions order earlier this month, ordering them to pay more than $80,000 in penalties and referring them to state bar investigators as well as the US Attorney's office.
The only one who has spoken publicly, John Steele, said he will appeal. Now, papers have been filed by Steele's comrade-in-arms Paul Hansmeier, asking the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to stay the sanctions issued by US District Judge Otis Wright while Hansmeier puts together a proper appeal. Hansmeier filed the motion late Thursday, just days before the May 21 deadline to pay the $81,319.72.
"The district court failed to afford Appellant even the most basic due process protections, such as the ability to cross- examine adverse witnesses or to object to the introduction of improper evidence against him, let alone the strict due process protections that would be available in a criminal contempt proceeding," writes Hansmeier in his plea to the appeals court. "The impending actions of the district court threaten to damage Appellant’s reputation in the legal community, in turn damaging his ability to attract clients and to represent them effectively, in a manner that will be irremediable through the normal appellate process without a stay of execution."
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Although Google's keynote at the I/O conference this week focused heavily on the APIs and behind-the-scenes development of the Android operating system, it looks like there's a lot more in store. This idea was especially apparent in a panel discussion today involving eleven members of the Android development team. The team sat for a forty-minute question and answer session, and while they dodged most inquiries about forthcoming features for Android, they did offer a bit of insight into what the future of Android might look like, what developers could do to help further the platform, and what they’ve learned from their journey thus far.
The conversation began with a question relating to whether or not the Android team would have done anything differently from the beginning. Senior Android Engineer Dianne Hackborn said the team "should have had more control over applications. A big example is the whole settings provider, where we just let applications go and write to it... it was a simple thing that we shouldn’t have done." Ficus Kirkpatrick, one of the founding members of the Android team and the current lead for the Google Play Store team, added that “you’re never going to get everything right the first time. I don’t really regret any of the mistakes we’ve made. I think getting things out there at the speed we did…was the most important thing.”
The team also briefly touched on fragmentation and how they’re working to combat the issue—it was even referred to as the “F” word. "This is something we think about a lot,” said Dave Burke, engineering director of the Android platform. He explained that many silicon vendors take the open source code, break it apart, and create their own Board Support Packages (BSPs) to make their hardware compatible with the software. To streamline the process, the Android team made the code for the platform more layered, so if a vendor needs to make changes, they have a clean abstraction layer to do so without affecting the entire operating system.
In this video, Senior Reviews Editor Lee Hutchinson tells us what works and what fails in the Aliens vs. Predator reboot. (video link)
This is the first in our series of reboots that need the boot. Look for the next installments this Saturday and Sunday on Ars Technica.
There's no movie franchise closer to my heart than 20th Century Fox's Aliens series of movies—I grew up watching Alien and Aliens, and for better or for worse the movies helped make me into the upstanding individual I am today (Ha! Take that, child psychologists!). The best thing that can be said about the Aliens vs. Predator series of spin-off films is that they are at least fun popcorn fare—no one, not even the studio executives, could argue that the films are good by any stretch of the imagination.
But Aliens vs. Predator has for decades been a pairing that makes the fanboy heart race. Pairing two unstoppable killers against each other is a fun idea, and even I have to admit that it makes for an exciting video game. The AvP concept has been tried out many times on many different systems, but by far the best iteration of the formula was Monolith Productions' 2000 title Aliens vs. Predator 2. It has a great single-player story split across three separate but equally interesting campaigns: one each for the titular alien and predator and a third for the humans, because it's not AvP without some gun-toting Colonial Marines bringing the rock and roll to the party. The game also has a well-balanced multiplayer, but it's not too well-balanced; I have plenty of not-so-fond memories of one particular LAN party where someone dominated an entire afternoon by expertly bouncing grenades around the map (cough-cough-JUSTIN-cough).
Stealthy Mac OS X spyware that was digitally signed with a valid Apple Developer ID has been detected on the laptop of an Angolan activist attending a human rights conference, researchers said.
The backdoor, which is programmed to take screenshots and send them to remote servers under the control of the attackers, was spread using a spear phishing e-mail, according to privacy activist Jacob Appelbaum. Spear phishing is a term for highly targeted e-mails that address the receiver by name and usually appear to come from someone the receiver knows. The e-mails typically discuss topics the two people have talked about before. According to AV provider F-Secure, the malware was discovered during a workshop showing freedom of speech activists how to secure their devices against government monitoring.
The malware was signed with a valid Apple Developer ID allowing it to more easily bypass the Gatekeeper feature Apple introduced in the Mountain Lion version of OS X. If it's not the first time Mac malware has carried such a digital assurance, it's certainly among the first. Both F-Secure and Appelbaum said the backdoor, identified as OSX/KitM.A, is new and previously unknown. For its part, AV provider Intego said the malware is a variant of a previously seen trojan known as OSX/FileSteal. Intego continued:
Aurich Lawson / Slayer (RIP Jeff Hanneman)
These days, when physicists talk about light, they like to divide it into two categories: classical and non-classical. Of course, classical light is the boring, everyday stuff that anyone gets delivered to their doorstep roughly 12 hours every day. But non-classical light is harder to get hold of and, for physicists, obtaining non-classical light states seems to be just one step short of world domination (provided your definition of world domination involves doing quantum cryptography and quantum computing).
But like cheap knock-off goods, genuine non-classical light can be hard to distinguish from ordinary, old-fashioned classical light. Until now, that is. A group of researchers, mainly from Oxford, have figured out a new way to distinguish the two brands of light. It is very clever and relatively simple. So simple that I just have to tell you all about it.Classical/non-classical? And who cares?
The difference between classical and non-classical light states is one of statistics. Classical light sources behave one way, and non-classical light sources behave another way. The primary example of this is bunched and anti-bunched light.
It's May 15th, 2013. At 10:30pm, my good friend Gabe and I are standing in line at a movie theater on the northwest side of Indianapolis. At this stage of my life, there are precious few things for which I will willingly wait in line for more than 15 minutes, but this is one of them: the premiere of a new Star Trek film.
We are surrounded by fellow fans. T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of various science fiction and fantasy franchises abound. My own shirt bears a zombie mosaic from The Walking Dead; many others simply display the familiar arrowhead emblem of Starfleet and the single declarative word "TREKKIE."
As we wait, the moviegoers who attended the 8:00pm showing of this "fan sneak" start to exit the theater. Among them is a boy clad in a red Starfleet tunic and cradling a model of the USS Enterprise in his arms. Somewhat impressively, not one member of the outgoing audience utters a single word about the plot of the film. They even seem to hush their conversations between themselves as they pass us, so as to not spoil the experience for fellow fans.)
With Firefox 22 now in beta Mozilla has decided not to enable its new third-party cookie-blocking feature by default. The feature, aimed at preventing cross-site tracking of browser users with cookies not originating from the sites users visit, will still be available in the next Firefox release (due in June) but will be turned off by default.
Cookies are small sets of data stored locally by the web browser, originally intended to help keep track of where a user was (his or her “state”) within a web application. They’re associated with a particular domain name and carry a set of values such as an application name, a unique identifying number or string for the user or the web session, and an expiration date. While most cookies are increasingly short-lived some can be essentially “immortal” (or last at least until a user purges them) with expiration dates far off in the future. Web sites can also query cookie data from a visiting web browser to gather analytical information about the user as well—and to target specific ads based on identity or web visit history data revealed by them.Precision strike
In a blog post Mozilla Chief Technology Officer Brendan Eich explained the reasons for the delay in turning on the feature (a patch submitted by Stanford computer science graduate student Jonathan Meyer) by default. He said there were still issues to be resolved in how the feature avoided both “false positives," such as blocking cookies from the companies behind sites visited by the user because they were associated with a different domain name. There’s also still an issue with “false negatives”—unwanted cookies that users pick up from sites they’ve visited that then follow them to other sites.
Australia's government is under fire after it appears to have introduced web censorship without warning and expanded already controversial powers to block access to child pornography into a wider web filtering system.
The reluctance of the government to release information about who has requested sites be blocked, and lists of those sites, has also alarmed many Australians. Two convenors from Melbourne Free University (MFU), whose site was blocked without warning or explanation on 4 April, have described it as a "glimpse [of] the everyday reality of living under a totalitarian government."
For a country that perhaps has a reputation for taking it easy, Australia's governments have been particularly keen on web censorship. In 2008 a web filter was proposed that would have potentially blocked as many as 10,000 sites by placing them on a blacklist. Years of criticism from industry, political and public groups—including Anonymous "declaring war" on it, and Wikileaks publishing the confidential blacklist to show it included some sites that were only, contrary to government assurances, subjectively offensive—led to the idea being dropped in November 2012.
Prototype of a system for preventing ATM theft. Reuters
A criminal serving a five-year sentence "for supplying gadgets to an organized crime gang used to conceal ATM skimmers" has invented a device that prevents ATMs from being susceptible to such thefts, Reuters reported today.
Valentin Boanta, who is six months into his sentence in a Romanian prison, developed what he calls the SRS (Secure Revolving System) which changes the way ATM machines read bank cards to prevent the operation of skimming devices that criminals hide inside ATMs.
Boanta's arrest in 2009 spurred him to develop the anti-theft device to make amends. "When I got caught I became happy. This liberation opened the way to working for the good side," Boanta told Reuters. "Crime was like a drug for me. After I was caught, I was happy I escaped from this adrenaline addiction. So that the other part, in which I started to develop security solutions, started to emerge."
Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a lengthy interview with Politico which was published yesterday, shedding some light on what he plans to say in his upcoming congressional appearance on Apple's tax practices. There's a hidden gem at the end of the piece, however:
And Cook is also promoting a $100 million investment in domestic manufacturing, where the company will begin producing a new version of a current Mac product later this year.
"We’re going very deep in this project," Cook said, noting that not only will the final product be manufactured in the US, but so will many of its components. Arizona, Texas, Illinois, Florida and Kentucky are among the states he mentioned as having parts and assembly located.
Apple has made noise for some time now about moving part of its manufacturing back to the United States. Indeed, when our newly minted Senior Product Specialist Andrew Cunningham reviewed the latest 21.5" iMac back in December, the computer sported an "Assembled in USA" badge on its foot. However, the 27" iMac I purchased and reviewed the same month still claimed to be "Assembled in China."This late-December 21.5" iMac was assembled in the United States... Andrew Cunningham ...but this late-December 27" iMac was built overseas. Lee Hutchinson
We first formally heard about Apple's domestic Mac manufacturing at the end of 2012 when Cook talked about the endeavor with NBC News and Bloomberg. As Apple Editor Emeritus Jacqui Cheng noted at the time, built-to-order iMacs have occasionally been assembled in the USA, but the "Assembled in USA" iMacs marked the first time that "US-assembled, standard-configuration machines have begun appearing in people's homes."
The Nvidia shield, now available for pre-order and set to launch next month.
The preorder date for Nvidia’s handheld gaming console entry has been moved up to today, May 17, per an announcement on Nvidia’s site. Originally the Shield, a portable console with a flip-open screen, was going to be available to preorder starting Monday, May 20, but Nvidia seems to have decided to allow customers to strike while the console is on their minds.
Nvidia unveiled the unexpected Project Shield at CES in January as console running Android 4.2.2 on a Tegra 4 processor. Nvidia said the system would have a 5-inch 720p display, two analog sticks, four face buttons, four shoulder buttons, HDMI output, 2GB RAM, 16GB of storage, and stereo speakers. When not playing its own games the Shield can also be used as a controller for other consoles, said Nvidia, and can stream games to a desktop computer.
The company announced on Wednesday that the device will sell for $349 will be released sometime in June. The handheld will be sold online by retailers like Newegg as well as at physical retail stores including GameStop, Micro Center, and Canada Computers.
Apple CEO Tim Cook. lemagit
Unlike his predecessor, Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn't appear reluctant to face down a Senate subcommittee. He's due to appear in Washington DC next week to testify at a Senate hearing on offshore profit shifting and he plans to directly address the concerns Congress is raising:
The Subcommittee will continue its examination of the structures and methods employed by multinational corporations to shift profits offshore and how such activities are affected by the Internal Revenue Code and related regulations. Witnesses will include representatives from the Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, representatives of a multinational corporation, and tax experts.
The roles of "representatives of a multinational corporation" will be filled by Cook along with Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer and Apple Head of Tax Operations Phillip Bullock.
The Senate subcommittee will be grilling Apple on exactly why the company keeps more than $100 billion of its infamous cash hoard in non-US banks. The accusatory undertone is that Apple is engaging in what the subcommittee will almost certainly characterize as tax avoidance (and Apple's issuing of bonds last month to generate additional cash certainly isn't going to help). But in a string of preemptive interviews with publications various and sundry, including the Washington Post and Politico, Cook appears unconcerned. Instead it sounds like he is viewing the congressional summons as a teaching opportunity.
A tiny Sonic standing atop a plane in Sonic: The Lost World.
Nintendo has announced a handful of games set for launch on the Wii U through the spring and summer. Releases include the exclusive Sonic: The Lost World, a new version of Super Luigi U, and Mario and Sonic: Winter Games. Some of these unreleased games will be available for play at Best Buy during E3 prior to release.
Super Luigi U, which will be available as DLC for New Super Mario Bros. U, will include the character Nabbit from the original game as a multiplayer character that cannot take damage from enemies but is also incapable of getting power-ups. The game will be released as DLC for $19.99 or as a standalone version for $29.99 on July 26 in Europe and August 25 in North America.
Nintendo provided few details regarding Sonic: The Lost World except that it will come to both the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, with more details to come during E3 in June. The game represents a partnership between Nintendo and Sega, two formerly feuding companies. As for the Olympics-oriented Mario and Sonic, playable events will include skiing, snowboarding, skating, and bobsledding.