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Ghost nets: Tackling a silent killer of the seas

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 7 min ago
Ghost nets kill huge numbers of marine animals every year, but new tech might help prevent that.

Banning out-of-hours email 'could harm employee wellbeing'

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 9 min ago
Stopping staff accessing email outside the office could leave some feeling stressed, research suggests.

Unpatched Linux bug may open devices to serious attacks over Wi-Fi

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 10:35pm

Enlarge (credit: Wi-Fi Alliance)

A potentially serious vulnerability in Linux may make it possible for nearby devices to use Wi-Fi signals to crash or fully compromise vulnerable machines, a security researcher said.

The flaw is located in the RTLWIFI driver, which is used to support Realtek Wi-Fi chips in Linux devices. The vulnerability triggers a buffer overflow in the Linux kernel when a machine with a Realtek Wi-Fi chip is within radio range of a malicious device. At a minimum, exploits would cause an operating-system crash and could possibly allow a hacker to gain complete control of the computer. The flaw dates back to version 3.10.1 of the Linux kernel released in 2013.

"The bug is serious," Nico Waisman, who is a principal security engineer at Github, told Ars. "It's a vulnerability that triggers an overflow remotely through Wi-Fi on the Linux kernel, as long as you're using the Realtek (RTLWIFI) driver."

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So long, supply drops: Call of Duty gets rid of randomized loot boxes

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 9:58pm

Enlarge / This image of a Call of Duty supply drop falling to the ground can also symbolize the entire concept floating up and out of our lives. (credit: Call of Duty)

In a major reversal for the franchise, Activision has announced that the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will not include a loot-box system. Specifically, the company says that "all functional content that has an impact on game balance, such as base weapons and attachments, can be unlocked simply by playing the game."

Loot boxes have been a staple of the Call of Duty franchise since 2014's Advanced Warfare, which included randomized "supply drops" of high-end gear that could be purchased with real money or in-game currency. More recently, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 introduced a loot-box system four months after its launch, a decision that led to a lot of money for the publisher and a lot of anger from franchise fans.

User interface elements from last month's Modern Warfare beta suggested Activision was planning to continue the tradition with a "Lootbox: Common Supply Drop" option in the upcoming game. But developer Infinity Ward took to Reddit earlier this week to offer some pushback on those reports, saying that "right now... we are definitely NOT working on any kind of supply drop or loot box system."

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Senators propose near-total ban on worker noncompete agreements

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 9:45pm

Enlarge / "We heard from people working at pizza parlors" being asked to sign noncompete agreements, a Massachusetts state legislator told Ars last year. (credit: Valentyn Semenov / EyeEm / Getty)

A bipartisan pair of senators has introduced legislation to drastically limit the use of noncompete agreements across the US economy.

"Noncompete agreements stifle wage growth, career advancement, innovation, and business creation," argued Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) in a Thursday press release. He said that the legislation, co-sponsored with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), would "empower our workers and entrepreneurs so they can freely apply their talents where their skills are in greatest demand."

Noncompete agreements ban workers from performing similar work at competing firms for a limited period—often one or two years. These agreements have become widely used in recent decades—and not just for employees with sensitive business intelligence or client relationships.

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Magic Mushrooms Can Help Smokers Kick the Habit

Slashdot - October 17, 2019 - 9:45pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Physicists propose listening for dark matter with plasma-based “axion radio”

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 9:31pm

Enlarge / The Bullet Cluster is widely viewed as a clear demonstration of the existence of dark matter. (credit: APOD)

Dark matter is the mysterious substance that comprises about 23 percent of all the mass in our universe, but thus far it has eluded physicists' many attempts to directly detect it. Maybe instead of looking for a dark matter particle, they should be looking for something more akin to a wave—a hypothetical dark matter candidate known as an axion.

In that case, perhaps we should be "listening" for the dark matter. Physicists at Stockholm University and the Max Planck Institute of Physics have proposed a novel design for an "axion radio" that employs cold plasmas (gases or liquids of charged particles) to do just that in a recent paper in Physical Review Letters.

"Finding the axion is a bit like tuning a radio: you have to tune your antenna until you pick up the right frequency," said co-author Alexander Millar, a postdoc at Stockholm University. "Rather than music, experimentalists would be rewarded with 'hearing' the dark matter that the Earth is traveling through."

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Three phone services restored 'for majority'

BBC Technology News - October 17, 2019 - 9:01pm
Three says it is experiencing "technical difficulties with voice, text and data".

Juul halts sales of some flavors—but not the ones teens use most

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 8:54pm

Enlarge / Crème brulee getting torched. (credit: Getty | Anne Cusack)

Leading e-cigarette maker Juul on Thursday announced that it is immediately suspending the sale of some of its flavored products—Mango, Fruit, Creme (crème brulee), and Cucumber.

Notably, mint and menthol flavored products are not included in the pack of extinguished flavors.

The move is ostensibly to ease growing alarm over the spike of vaping among teens—who strongly prefer flavored products. About 25% of high school seniors reported recent e-cigarette use in a health survey this year, up from 11% in 2017. About 12% of students said this year that they used the products on a daily basis.

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Two papers that we’ve covered have been retracted—here’s why

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 8:40pm

Enlarge / Dikembe Mutombo rejects your flawed publication. (credit: DAVID MAXWELL / Getty Images)

Science is an activity performed by humans, so it's inevitable that some of the scientific papers we cover will end up being wrong. As we noted yesterday, the cause can range from factors completely outside of a researcher's control—like OS implementation oddities—to mistakes and errors or even intentional fraud. In some cases, the problems are minor or peripheral to the main conclusions of a study and can be handled with a correction. In others, the issues are fatal to the paper's conclusion. In these cases, the only option is to retract the paper.

When Ars discovers that a paper we've covered has been retracted, we make an effort to go back and provide a notice of it in our article. But until recently, we didn't have a formal policy regarding what that notice should look like, and we typically didn't publish anything new to indicate a retraction had occurred.

Having given it some thought, that practice seems insufficient. A failure to prominently correct the record makes it easier for people to hang on to a mistaken impression about our state of understanding. Perhaps more importantly, not reporting a retraction leaves people unaware of a key aspect of science's self-correcting nature and how retractions can sometimes actually advance our scientific understanding. This is definitely apparent in the contrast between two retractions that we'll revisit today.

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Privacy bill would give FTC actual authority, land lying executives in jail

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 8:27pm

Enlarge / Sen. Ron Wyden questions witnesses during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on social media influence in the 2016 US elections in Washington, DC, on Nov. 1, 2017. (credit: Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images )

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) would like tech and data companies to mind their own business and get their noses out of yours. To that end, he has introduced a bill that would penalize them, potentially with jail time for executives, for not doing so.

The proposed bill (PDF), actually called the "Mind Your Own Business Act of 2019," is in many ways an updated version of a discussion draft Wyden published last November.

The draft does not name any company specifically, instead focusing on the general concepts of personal data and company responsibility. That said, Wyden did name names in a statement, and Facebook is clearly front and center on his radar.

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Facebook chief rules out banning political adverts

BBC Technology News - October 17, 2019 - 8:13pm
Mark Zuckerberg says he does not think it is right for a company to censor politicians or the news.

Dealmaster: Pre-order a Pixel 4 and get a $100 gift card

Ars Technica - October 17, 2019 - 6:51pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a pre-order deal for Google's Pixel 4 smartphones, which were formally unveiled earlier this week. Various retailers—including Best Buy, Amazon, and Google's online store—are currently bundling a $100 gift card with pre-orders of the new devices at their standard MSRPs. The 5.7-inch Pixel 4 starts at $799 for a 64GB model, while the 6.3-inch Pixel 4 XL starts at $899. All of these gift cards are specific to a given retailer, so if you plan to take advantage of the deal, be sure to pick the store you're most likely to use again.

The Dealmaster wants to be clear here: you should only take advantage of this offer if you're already dead set on upgrading to a Pixel 4 at launch. If you're still on the fence, you may be better off waiting to see if Google drops the price of its new phones for the holidays; last year, for instance, Google cut the price of an unlocked Pixel 3 by $150 for Black Friday, less than two months after the phone first hit shelves. There's no guarantee that will happen again—or that the Pixel 4 will not launch with niggling bugs the way the Pixel 3 did out of the gate—but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention it. It's also worth reiterating that this is a pre-order deal: while the Pixel 4's 90Hz display and camera upgrades look promising and its guaranteed software upgrades are great, there are still questions we won't be able to answer until we finish fully reviewing the phones.

That said, if you're sold on getting a new Google phone right away—the Pixel line does have a history of great cameras, after all—we think this deal is worth highlighting for those who would rather not tie themselves to a mobile carrier or "bill credits" discounts that won't fully pay off for several months. Just be aware of the context. And if you don't need a new phone, we also have a ton of video game deals, a rare Nintendo Switch discount, and more. Have a look below.

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