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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 16 min 32 sec ago

Photographer loses lawsuit over use of her photo in political mailer

1 hour 52 sec ago

Enlarge / An image from the RNC flyer. We're quite sure that our use of this image is fair, since we're engaging in comment and criticism about this photo and its role in the lawsuit. (credit: RNC / Erika Peterman)

When Erika Peterman saw photographs she had taken in a flyer put out by the Republican National Committee, she wasn't happy about it. Peterman was a supporter of Rob Quist, the Democratic candidate for Montana's at-large seat in Congress in the 2017 special election. The Montana Democratic Party had hired Peterman to take photographs of Quist at a Democratic Party event. The photographs showed Quist wearing a cowboy hat and holding a guitar.

The RNC had downloaded three of the photos from Quist's campaign Facebook page and used them in a campaign mailer attacking Quist. Peterman sued the Republican Party, arguing that the mailer infringed her copyright. But in a February ruling, a federal judge rejected Peterman's arguments, ruling that the Republicans' use of her image was fair use.

"The mailer uses Quist's musicianship to criticize his candidacy, subverting the purpose and function" of Peterman's original photographs, Judge Dana Christensen wrote. Her ruling noted that Peterman had charged the Montana Democrats a flat $500 to cover the event and had published the photographs on social media, suggesting that she had no expectation of making further money from them.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

It’s been a long wait, but Bill and Ted 3: Face the Music is happening

11 hours 36 min ago

"Be excellent!" Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise their iconic roles next summer in Bill and Ted 3: Face the Music.

John Wick 3 isn't even out yet, but Keanu Reeves is already onto his next project, reprising another of his iconic roles: a third film in the Bill and Ted franchise that has long been desired by fans. And it's been announced via Twitter in a quintessentially Bill and Ted way: with stars Alex Winter and Reeves—collectively Wyld Stallyns (the name of their band)—standing in front of the bandshell at the Hollywood Bowl ("where we will never play") and thanking fans for their support.

The third film will be called Bill and Ted 3: Face the Music, and it will hit theaters August 21, 2020, if the Bill and Ted 3 Twitter account is accurate. Naturally, time travel will be involved. Per an accompanying press release:

Following 1989's Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and 1991's Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the stakes are higher than ever for William "Bill" S. Preston Esq. (Winter) and Theodore "Ted" Logan (Reeves). Yet to fulfill their rock-and-roll destiny, the now middle-aged best friends set out on a new adventure, when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it and bring harmony to the universe. Along the way, they will be helped by their families, old friends, and a few music legends.

The film will be directed by Dean Parisot of Galaxy Quest and will reunite the screenwriters of the two previous films, Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson (who is incidentally the son of I Am Legend scribe Richard Matheson).

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

AT&T and Comcast claim “anti-robocalling milestone” with new Caller ID tech

March 20, 2019 - 11:10pm

Enlarge / The AT&T logo is displayed at a retail store in Washington, DC, on Monday, March 21, 2011. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

AT&T and Comcast today said they've completed a successful cross-network test of a new Caller ID authentication system, and they plan to roll out the technology to consumers later this year.

AT&T and Comcast are among the phone providers implementing the new "SHAKEN" and "STIR" protocols, which use digital certificates to verify that Caller ID numbers aren't being spoofed.

Today's AT&T/Comcast announcement said the carriers completed "an exchange of authenticated calls between two separate providers' voice networks that is believed to be the nation's first." They called the test an "anti-robocalling fraud milestone."

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Air Force will soon take bids for mid-2020s launches. It’s controversial

March 20, 2019 - 10:09pm

Enlarge / A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy lifts the NROL-71 payload on Jan. 19, 2019. (credit: United Launch Alliance)

Within the next 10 days, the US Air Force may issue an opportunity for rocket companies to bid on contracts for about 25 launches between 2022 and 2026. Although a “request for proposals” may not sound all that provocative, this particular government solicitation is filled with intrigue—and will have major implications for all of the big US rocket companies.

At present, United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX launch rockets for the Air Force, lofting powerful spy cameras, communication satellites and other sensitive payloads into various orbits for the government. In recent years, the military has sought to modernize its contractor base for the coming decade, encouraging new launch competitors and new ideas. This forthcoming solicitation for launch contracts in the mid-2020s, however, may effectively end that effort.

It was only five months ago, in October, that the Air Force announced $2.25 billion in “Launch Services Agreements” to be split among ULA (Vulcan rocket), Northrop Grumman (Omega), and Blue Origin (New Glenn). The funds were provided so that each of those companies could develop large, modern rockets and build the launch facilities needed to support military payloads. Over the first year of those awards, each company will receive the first $181 million of their individual awards. (SpaceX, somewhat controversially, did not receive an award. This is partly because the Air Force believes the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets can meet its needs.)

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Windows 10 version 1903 heads for the finish line

March 20, 2019 - 9:26pm

Enlarge / Who doesn't love some new Windows? (credit: Peter Bright / Flickr)

It's clear that Microsoft is in the very final stages of development of Windows 10 version 1903, the April 2019 Update. The fast distribution ring has seen two builds arrive this week after two last week, bringing with them no new features but a slowly whittled-down bug list following the development pattern we've seen in previous updates. In the past, the company has tried to release Windows 10 feature upgrades on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of each month, meaning there's just under three weeks left to go.

A little alarmingly, a couple of long-standing issues with the release still appear to be unresolved. A green-screen-of-death error caused when games with BattlEye anti-cheat software are used has been a feature of the 1903 previews for many months, and Microsoft is still listing it as unresolved. The scope and impact of this bug was so significant that the slow distribution ring didn't receive a preview of 1903 for much of its development process; Microsoft felt that it was too likely to affect too many people to be usable. This is eminently plausible, as BattlEye is used by PUBG and Fortnite, among other games. The company finally relented in February, pushing out a new build on the slow ring but blacklisting any systems with the offending third-party software.

The bug was first listed as a known issue with build 18298, released on December 10 last year. Microsoft says it's working with BattlEye to resolve the problem, but there has been no visible progress so far. BattlEye boasts of using a kernel-mode component as part of its anti-cheat software. Running in the kernel means that it's harder for cheat software to hide from or otherwise interfere with what BattlEye does, but with this comes the temptation to mess with operating system data structures and functions that aren't documented, which then leads to system crashes when the operating system is updated.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Cable lobby seeks better reputation by dropping “cable” from its name

March 20, 2019 - 8:59pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | DonNichols)

Cable lobbyists don't want to be called cable lobbyists anymore. The nation's top two cable industry lobby groups have both dropped the word "cable" from their names. But the lobby groups' core mission—the fight against regulation of cable networks—remains unchanged.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) got things started in 2016 when it renamed itself NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, keeping the initialism but dropping the words it stood for. The group was also known as the National Cable Television Association between 1968 and 2001.

The American Cable Association (ACA) is the nation's other major cable lobby. While NCTA represents the biggest companies like Comcast and Charter, the ACA represents small and mid-size cable operators. Today, the ACA announced that it is now called America's Communications Association or "ACA Connects," though the ACA's website still uses the americancable.org domain name.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Judge orders government to redo climate analysis on Wyoming oil leases

March 20, 2019 - 7:51pm

Enlarge / A natural gas facility stands on the Pinedale Anticline on May 3, 2018 in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

On Tuesday, a federal judge wrote that the Department of the Interior must complete a thorough climate change analysis when considering leasing public land for oil and gas extraction.

The opinion included an order to halt all new oil and gas leases on more than 300,000 acres of publicly managed land in Wyoming until the DOI's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can complete a proper review.

The case was initially brought in 2016 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia against former President Barack Obama's DOI. The plaintiffs, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, argued that the DOI made oil and gas lease sales in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming without taking into account the "direct, indirect, and cumulative" impacts to the climate that drilling would have.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“He’s literally suing an imaginary cow”: Late-night hosts mock Nunes

March 20, 2019 - 7:42pm

Enlarge

On Monday, Devin Nunes' cow was an obscure Twitter account with around 1,200 followers. Then Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) filed a lawsuit demanding that Twitter and several Twitter accounts—including the user behind the pseudonymous cow—pay him $250 million for the "pain, insult, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and mental suffering, and injury to his personal and professional reputations" caused by their tweets.

Now, Devin Nunes' cow has more than 420,000 Twitter followers—that's more than Nunes himself, who has 395,000 followers.

It's a beautiful example of the Streisand Effect. Nunes appears to have filed the lawsuit in part to raise his own profile within the conservative movement, as the lawsuit was peppered with gratuitous swipes at the Democratic Party, Fusion GPS, and other high-profile villains in the conservative pantheon.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

About a third of medical vaccine exemptions in San Diego came from one doctor

March 20, 2019 - 7:31pm

Enlarge / A nurse prepares to administer the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine as well as a vaccine used to help prevent the diseases of diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and polio at Children's Primary Care Clinic in Minneapolis, MN. (credit: Getty | The Washington Post)

A single San Diego doctor wrote nearly a third of the area’s medical vaccination exemptions since 2015, according to an investigation by the local nonprofit news organization Voice of San Diego.

The revelation follows growing concern that anti-vaccine parents are flocking to doctors willing to write dubious medical exemptions to circumvent the state’s vaccination requirements. Since California banned exemptions based on personal beliefs in 2015, medical exemptions have tripled in the state. The rise has led some areas to have vaccination rates below the levels necessary to curb the spread of vaccine-preventable illnesses. Moreover, it signals a worrying trend for other states working to crack down on exemptions and thwart outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. There are currently six outbreaks of measles across the country.

Medical vaccination exemptions are intended for the relatively few people who have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving vaccines safely. That includes people who are on long-term immunosuppressive therapy or those who are immunocompromised, such as those with HIV or those who have had severe, life-threatening allergic reactions (e.g. anaphylaxis) to previous immunizations. Such patients typically receive medical exemptions incidentally during their medical care. But some doctors are providing evaluations specifically to determine if a patient qualifies for an exemption and granting exemptions using criteria not based on medical evidence. Some doctors are even charging fees for these questionable exemption evaluations—including the doctor in San Diego, Tara Zandvliet.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Physicists “flip the D” in tokamak, get unexpectedly good result

March 20, 2019 - 7:21pm

Enlarge / "Small" isn't necessarily all that small when it comes to tokamaks like the DIII-D. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In the world of fusion physics, two letters say it all: ‘L’ and ‘H’. All the cool kids play with the H-mode, which is hot and fiery and is our best prospect for achieving useable fusion energy. The L-mode, which is neither hot nor fiery, has been largely abandoned. But by changing the shape of the L-mode, researchers have been able to get unexpectedly high pressures. High enough for fusion? Maybe.

To understand what all that means, we need a quick refresher on what a tokamak is.

We’ve covered fusion physics before, but in short, a tokamak reactor uses a series of twisted magnetic fields to confine a fluid of charged particles (called a plasma) in a donut shape. The temperature and pressure of the plasma is the key to fusion; once it's hot enough, the positively charged nuclei will collide to fuse, releasing gloriously large amounts of energy. 

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“Energizing Times”: Microsoft to “go big” at E3 in response to Google Stadia

March 20, 2019 - 6:24pm

Enlarge / This controller attachment was shown in Microsoft's Xcloud promo video, and Bluetooth wireless controller support is also planned. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft announced its Xcloud game-streaming service last August, with the ambition of streaming console-quality games to gamers wherever they are—on their tablets, smartphones, PCs or even consoles. Yesterday, Google joined the streaming gaming fray with its announcement of Google Stadia, one-upping Redmond by offering the assembled press limited hands-on access to Stadia games.

Google promises that Stadia will be "coming 2019," potentially stealing a march on Xcloud, which is due only to enter public trials this year. But in an internal email sent to rally the troops, Phil Spencer, Microsoft's gaming chief, seemed unsurprised and apparently unconcerned.

Spencer wrote that Google "went big" with its Stadia announcement, but Microsoft will have its chance to do that, too: he promised that the company will "go big" with its E3 presentation and raft of announcements. He also said that Google's launch endorsed Microsoft's decision to launch its streaming service and said that Microsoft offered all the key elements Google identified—"Content, Community, and Cloud"—but that ultimately, "it's all about execution."

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Epic CEO: “You’re going to see lower prices” on Epic Games Store

March 20, 2019 - 6:20pm

Enlarge (credit: Epic)

SAN FRANCISCO—The Epic Games Store's much-ballyhooed 88-percent revenue share has been great news for developers who are no longer forced to accept Steam's de facto 70-percent standard. But this new behind-the-scenes monetary split hasn't resulted in savings for gamers, who thus far have seen the same price tags for games on Epic's storefront as on Steam (when titles are available on both).

Speaking to Ars Technica, though, Epic co-founder and CEO Tim Sweeney says that players should look forward to paying less on the Epic Games Store in the future. While Epic leaves pricing decisions completely in developers' hands, Sweeney said, "after you go through several cycles of game developers making decisions, you're going to see lower prices as developers pass on the savings to customers, realizing they can sell more copies if they have a better price.

"This sort of economic competition is really healthy for the whole industry and will lead the industry to a better place for all developers and for gamers as well," he continued. "It's a supply-side thing, this revenue sharing, it's some sort of business arrangement between developers and a store that [a] gamer generally doesn't see... [but] as developers reinvest more of that 18 percent of additional revenue into building better games, that's key to the long-term health of the game industry that we all have to look out for."

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Quantic Dream, Ubisoft lead next wave of Epic Games Store exclusives

March 20, 2019 - 6:20pm

Enlarge / PC players will get to experience this moment of pathos for the first time exclusively through the Epic Games Store.

SAN FRANCISCO—At a Game Developers Conference presentation today, Epic announced a number of new titles that would be coming exclusively to its Epic Games Store platform in the coming months.

Chief among the acquisitions for Epic's store are a selection of games from Quantic Dream. Former PlayStation exclusives Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and Detroit: Become Human will be coming to the PC for the first time only via the Epic Games Store, Epic said. Quantic Dream announced back in January that it would start considering platforms beyond the PlayStation console family after an investment from Chinese gaming giant Netease.

Epic also announced that it is extending its partnership with Ubisoft following The Division 2's recent exclusive release on Epic's platform. "Several major PC releases" from Ubisoft will come to the Epic Games Store, according to the announcement, but details on what those titles are will have to wait. Ubisoft will also be adding some additional back catalog titles to the Epic Games Store's free games program, which offers a new free title every two weeks.

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The next Zelda game on Switch is an indie mash-up with Crypt of the Necrodancer

March 20, 2019 - 5:44pm

On Wednesday, Nintendo used the 2019 Game Developers Conference as an opportunity to unveil a litany of indie games, and like last year's GDC, the big N had a nostalgia-tinged "one more thing" at the end. This time, unlike the unveil of a No More Heroes spin-off, it went a little bigger: a brand-new Legend of Zelda game, Cadence of Hyrule, made by the developers of the Crypt of the Necrodancer series.

For the uninitiated, Necrodancer puts players in top-down dungeons that must be navigated by tapping buttons to the beat of the music. Every step and attack must happen to the rhythm. CoH will slap this mechanic onto a 2D, pixel-art Zelda universe, similar to Game Boy Advance fare like The Minish Cap. It stars Link and Zelda alongside Cadence, the protagonist of the Necrodancer series.

Unsurprisingly, the reveal video included an uptempo, chiptune remix of the Zelda overworld theme, and we can only imagine what kind of full soundtrack the final game will ship with when it launches this spring on Nintendo Switch. (Fans of Necrodancer swear by its killer soundtrack, led by Danny Baranowsky of Super Meat Boy fame.) We'll attend a Nindies event in San Francisco later today, where we'll hopefully get a better look at how familiar Zelda mechanics will combine with Necrodancer's rhythm-specific twists.

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4chan, 8chan blocked by Australian and NZ ISPs for hosting shooting video

March 20, 2019 - 5:36pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | pictafolio)

Internet service providers in Australia have temporarily blocked access to dozens of websites, including 4chan and 8chan, that hosted video of last week's New Zealand mass shooting. New Zealand ISPs have also been blocking websites that host the video.

In Australia, ISP Vodafone said that blocking requests generally come from courts or law enforcement agencies but that this time ISPs acted on their own. "This was an extreme case which we think requires an extraordinary response," Vodafone Australia said in a statement, according to an Australian Associated Press (AAP) article yesterday.

Telstra and Optus also blocked the sites in Australia. Besides 4chan and 8chan, ISP-level blocking affected the social network Voat, the blog Zerohedge, video hosting site LiveLeak, and others. "The ban on 4chan was lifted a few hours later," AAP wrote.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Eleven and the gang face another dark menace in Stranger Things S3 trailer

March 20, 2019 - 5:24pm

Our merry band of teenage warriors grapples with a morally corrupt mayor, a new supermall, and yet another supernatural menace in Stranger Things season 3.

We kinda knew this might be coming. Yesterday Netflix released a short teaser for season 3 of its hit series Stranger Things, hinting, "It's almost feeding time." Today we got our first full look at what's in store for the teens of Hawkins—and it looks like it will be one wild and crazy summer.

(Some spoilers for first two seasons below.)

Stranger Things was an instant hit when it debuted on Netflix the summer of 2016. Set in the rural town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the early 1980s, it was a love letter of sorts to a more innocent era, when films like The Goonies, Ghostbusters, and E.T. led the box office. But all was not normal in this sleepy little town: an accident at a secret government lab opened an inter-dimensional portal and unleashed a supernatural threat from a different dimension.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The EU fines Google $1.69 billion for bundling search and advertising

March 20, 2019 - 4:25pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Google and the EU's European Commission are making all sorts of announcements lately. Fresh off the revelation that Google would implement a browser and search-engine picker in EU-sold Android devices, Google's advertising division is getting slapped with a fine next, to the tune of €1.5 billion ($1.69 billion). The European Commission's latest antitrust ruling says that Google's bundling of its advertising platform with its custom search engine program is anti-competitive toward other ad providers.

The particular wing of Google's advertising empire the Commission is concerned with here is "AdSense for Search." Adsense for Search does not refer to the famous ads above Google.com search results but, instead, are ads displayed in "Custom Search" results that can be embedded inside their websites. We have a version of this on Ars—just click the magnifying glass in the top navigation bar and search for something. You won't leave Ars Technica; instead you'll get a customized version of Google Search embedded in arstechnica.com, complete with Google Ads above the results. These are the "Adsense for Search" ads, and they are different from Google.com ads. The European Commission's ruling is all about these "ads for custom search engines."

The European Commission provided this helpful graphic of Google's custom search ad practices. (credit: European Commission)

The European Commission reviewed "hundreds" of Google advertising contracts and found a range of behavior from Google's Ad division that it deemed anti-competitive. First, from 2006 to 2009, Google ads had to exclusively be shown on pages with Google custom search engines. You weren't allowed to do something like use Google to crawl your site and then show Yahoo ads above the embedded results.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

NZ declares massacre video “objectionable,” arrests people who shared it

March 20, 2019 - 4:06pm

Enlarge / CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 18: Youngsters perform a Haka during a students vigil near Al Noor mosque on March 18, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (credit: Carl Court | Getty Images)

The United States is unusual in offering near-absolute protection for free speech under the First Amendment. Most other countries—even liberal democracies—have more extensive systems of online and offline censorship. That difference has been on display this week as New Zealand authorities have begun prosecuting people for sharing copies of last week's white supremacist mass shooting in Christchurch and for posting hate speech in the wake of the attack.

New Zealand Chief Censor David Shanks has determined that the 17-minute video livestreamed during the Christchurch shooting is objectionable under New Zealand law. "It is a record of a terrorist atrocity, specifically produced for the purpose of promoting a hateful terrorist agenda," a press release from New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification states.

Distributing objectionable materials online comes with stiff legal penalties. One man—the 44-year-old owner of an insulation company with alleged neo-Nazi sympathies—has been arrested and charged with two counts of distributing objectionable materials in violation of New Zealand's Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act. He is being held without bail and could be sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison for each offense.

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Oculus Quest’s powerful, portable VR, as proven by the fun of Beat Saber

March 20, 2019 - 4:00pm

Enlarge / Beat Saber on Oculus Quest is real, and it's pretty great in action. (credit: Oculus / Beat Games)

SAN FRANCISCO—We're not sure what exactly is up with Oculus this week, but it's on a roll. Today sees the VR company not only launch a brand-new PC-only headset, the Oculus Rift S, but also promote another headset launching around the same time: Oculus Quest.

While Rift S streamlines an existing Oculus product line—as in, wired VR that requires a PC—Oculus Quest (which was announced late last year) pushes forward with an entirely new combination of wirelessness and "six degrees of freedom" tracking (6DOF). We were excited about how solid Oculus Quest was after our first hands-on session last year, but we still found ourselves asking if the release product would be good enough to stand on its own.

That might be why Oculus asked us to carve out some Quest demo time during its Rift S event. And we're glad we did. Because if you want reasons to be excited by Oculus Quest's possibilities, you should start with the excellent, satisfying game that left us breathless (figuratively and literally) at GDC: Beat Saber.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hands-on with the new $399 Oculus Rift S: More pixels, zero webcams, better fit

March 20, 2019 - 4:00pm

Enlarge / Behold, the Oculus Rift S, the VR company's newest wired PC headset produced by Lenovo. From this angle, you can see four of its five built-in sensing cameras, including two in the front, two on the sides (slightly pointing down), and an upward-facing sensor. (credit: Kyle Orland)

SAN FRANCISCO—One thing was conspicuously missing from the Oculus demos at GDC 2019: cameras.

You need at least two (if not three) of the company's signature webcams to run its PC headset, the Oculus Rift. Those cameras are not great. They come with funky, oversized stands. They're not as effective at sensing a headset as the HTC Vive's "dumb" infrared boxes. And they must be plugged into a PC, which creates a certain kind of cord hell and requires a PC with plenty of spare USB 3.0 slots.

So, as we filed into this week's demo center of mock "living room" spaces, complete with VR headsets, the lack of Oculus cameras was apparent. Indeed, it was a statement.

Read 38 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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