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Ars To-Be-Read: Five books we’re most excited to read in 2020

Ars Technica - 3 hours 2 min ago

Enlarge (credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

As "best of 2019" lists flood in, we're looking toward the future—the literary future, to be precise. After another solid year of reading in 2019, we're excited for new releases to come in the early months of 2020. Below are some of our most anticipated reads that you can get your hands on within the first three months of 2020.

Hugo-award-winner N.K. Jemisin will be releasing the first novel in a new series in March, while German author-songwriter Marc-Uwe Kling has a satirical novel about our addiction to convenience coming out in English for the first time. We know setting New Year's resolutions can be hard, but we think you'll want to put all five of these upcoming releases at the top of your TBR list.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 13 min ago
Labour would part-nationalise BT to deliver the policy and tax tech giants to help cover the £20bn cost.

Jedi: Fallen Order game review: More like, the Force goes back to sleep

Ars Technica - 9 hours 48 min ago
Years after EA paid ridiculously for the rights to Star Wars's gaming universe, the game publisher has finally arrived with what fans wanted from it in the first place: a solid single-player adventure. Low as that bar might be, that's the archetype that the most beloved '80s and '90s Star Wars fare delivered on, and it's the kind of experience we haven't seen for nearly a decade.

Really, 2010's Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is an appropriate reference point as we peel back the EA-ization of Star Wars games—from MMO-related bloat to cancellations to loot boxes—and dive into Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Respawn Entertainment's new game, out now on PCs and consoles, pits you (and a suite of Force powers) against armies of AI-controlled foes. Sounds familiar, right? And is that a good thing?

After playing its 12-hour campaign, I can only muster a shoulder shrug as a response. I guess. Sure. If you want.

That's not to say Fallen Order isn't polished or, at times, quite impressive. But it's also a painfully safe game, built to check a list of "hardcore gamer" boxes instead of forging particularly new paths for the Jedi power fantasy. Respawn was given the unenviable task of winning back some of the most opinionated fans in the world, and the developer charted a tried-and-true course of doing so: a third-person adventure that combines lightsaber waving and a healthy mix of Force superpowers. (You know, like Force Unleashed II.)

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the single leading source of anti-vax ads on Facebook

Ars Technica - 12 hours 1 min ago

Enlarge / Anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. during a public hearing on vaccine-related bills in 2015. (credit: Getty | Portland Press Herald)

Just two organizations were responsible for the majority of anti-vaccine advertisements on Facebook before the social media giant restricted such content in March of this year, according to a November 13 study in the journal Vaccine.

Of 145 anti-vaccine Facebook advertisements that ran between May 31, 2017 and February 22, 2019, the World Mercury Project and a group called Stop Mandatory Vaccination together ran 54% of them.

The World Mercury Project, which ran the most ads of any single source, is an organization closely aligned with the anti-vaccine group Children's Health Defense. Both are spearheaded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer turned prolific peddler of dangerous anti-vaccine misinformation. He and his organizations promote conspiracy theories about vaccine safety, including the roundly debunked claim that safe, life-saving immunizations are linked to autism. More recently, Kennedy has become a prominent opponent of laws aimed at increasing vaccination rates among school children.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Election 2019: What big tech isn't telling us about ads

BBC Technology News - 13 hours 11 min ago
Exploring the gaps in the political advertising databases provided by the tech giants.

The £7,500 dress that does not exist

BBC Technology News - 14 hours 16 min ago
Fashion collections that only exist in digital form are being sold, as the fashion industry learns from computer games.

Life-like Russian androids and other news

BBC Technology News - 14 hours 40 min ago
BBC Click's Paul Carter looks at some of the week's best technology stories.

Comic for November 14, 2019

Dilbert - 14 hours 47 min ago
Categories: Geek

Google gives up on US carriers, will roll out its own RCS chat system

Ars Technica - 15 hours 42 min ago

Enlarge / Promotional image of two smartphones. (credit: Google)

Will RCS ever matter? The standard has been hanging around for years as an upgrade to the aging carrier SMS texting standard, but since the carriers are in charge of it, the Rich Communication Service (RCS) has been going nowhere fast. Google is apparently tired of waiting for the carriers, and after launching its own RCS service in the UK and France earlier this year, the industry giant is now bringing its own RCS implementation to the United States, carriers be damned.

Google is rolling out RCS through the Google Messages app, Google's ninth messaging app after Google Talk, Google Voice, Google Buzz, Google+ Messenger, Hangouts, Spaces, Allo, and Hangouts Chat. Users of Google's app will eventually see a notification to "Do more with Messages," and then they'll be able to "enable chat features," which is RCS. Google says it will start enabling this for US users "in the coming weeks," and the service will be "broadly available in the US by the end of year."

RCS is pretty lame as a messaging standard in 2019, but remember this is a replacement for SMS—the spec that has been driven by the carriers that are members of the GSMA. So you've got to lower your expectations. RCS upgrades carrier messaging with functionality like typing indicators, presence information, location sharing, group messages, longer messages, and better media support. These are all things you would expect from any over-the-top instant messaging app in the modern era, but as a carrier-integrated replacement for SMS, these basics are still not there yet.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple plans a Prime-like subscription bundle, but that has News+ publishers worried

Ars Technica - November 14, 2019 - 11:03pm

Enlarge / Tim Cook announces Apple TV+ at an event on March 25, 2019. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

According to a report in Bloomberg, Apple may be planning to launch a bundled subscription service that would include services like Apple News+, Apple TV+, and Apple Music as soon as 2020. This strategy would be similar to that of Amazon Prime, though not as far-reaching—at least at first.

The report says that, at a minimum, Apple has left the door open for this in its contracts with Apple News+ content providers. Its sources say that there is "a provision that Apple included in deals with publishers that lets the iPhone maker bundle the News+ subscription service with other paid digital offerings."

While this would likely be appealing to consumers and could bolster Apple's services revenue, not all stakeholders in the decision are likely to be happy about it. Bloomberg's sources said they believed that publishers could see reduced revenues from Apple News+ because they'd likely be sharing a smaller piece of the subscription pie than they do under the $10/month Apple News+ service. Currently, Apple pockets 50% of the money that comes in to Apple News+, while the other 50% is split between publishers based on how much their content is read and engaged with.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Another company is dialing back expectations for self-driving taxis

Ars Technica - November 14, 2019 - 10:45pm

Enlarge / Ola Källenius of Daimler AG. (credit: Christoph Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Daimler is planning to "rightsize" its spending on self-driving taxis, Chairman Ola Källenius said on Thursday. Getting self-driving cars to operate safely in complex urban environments has proved more challenging than people expected a few years ago, he admitted.

"There has been a reality check setting in here," Källenius said, according to Reuters.

He is just the latest executive to acknowledge that work on self-driving taxi technology is not progressing as fast as optimists expected two or three years ago. Earlier this year, Ford CEO Jim Hackett sought to dampen expectations for Ford's own self-driving vehicles. Industry leaders Waymo and GM's Cruise missed self-imposed deadlines to launch driverless commercial taxi services in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Stadia what? Xbox game streaming will become part of Game Pass in 2020

Ars Technica - November 14, 2019 - 10:29pm

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

At Microsoft's annual X0 fan conference in London on Thursday, Microsoft confirmed a huge piece of news for its game-streaming platform, Project xCloud. The service will launch with full compatibility for all Xbox software in "2020," meaning that it will work with "all games you own, or games you purchase in the future," according to xCloud reps.

What's more, Xbox may have just thrown the gauntlet down in the game-streaming price wars by announcing a clear tie between the Project xCloud streaming service and the paid Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

"Next year, we will bring game streaming to Xbox Game Pass, so that you are free to discover and play anywhere and everywhere," xCloud General Manager Catherine Gluckstein told the X019 crowd on Thursday.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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