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AT&T sued over hidden fee that raises mobile prices above advertised rate

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 9:22pm

Enlarge / An AT&T retail store in Chicago in 2018. (credit: Getty Images | jetcityimage)

AT&T is facing a class-action complaint over its practice of charging a $1.99-per-month "Administrative Fee" that isn't disclosed in its advertised rates.

As the complaint notes, "AT&T prominently advertises particular flat monthly rates for its post-paid wireless service plans." But after customers sign up, the telco "covertly increases the actual price" by tacking on the "bogus so-called 'Administrative Fee,'" according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in US District Court for the Northern District of California.

AT&T "hides" the fee in an easy-to-miss spot in customer bills, the complaint says, and it "misleadingly suggests that the Administrative Fee is akin to a tax or another standard government pass-through fee, when in fact it is simply a way for AT&T to advertise and promise lower rates than it actually charges."

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Bill Gates calls failure to fight Android his “greatest mistake”

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 8:06pm

Enlarge / Bill Gates speaks to Village Global. (credit: Village Global)

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently gave a wide-ranging interview to VC firm Village Global, and at one point, the topic of mobile came up. Gates revealed his biggest regret while at Microsoft was a failure to lead Microsoft into a solid position in the smartphone wars.

In the software world—particularly for platforms—these are winner-take-all markets. So, you know, the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win, and you know it really is winner-take-all. If you're there with half as many apps or 90 percent as many apps, you're on your way to complete doom. There's room for exactly one non-Apple operating system. And what's that worth? Four hundred billion? That would be transferred from Company G to Company M. And it's amazing to me having made one of the greatest mistakes of all time—and there was this antitrust lawsuit and various things—our other assets—Windows, Office—are still very strong. So we are a leading company. If we'd got that one right, we would be the leading company. But oh well.

In the interview, Gates takes full responsibility for not reacting to the new era of smartphones. But by that time, he already had a foot out the door at Microsoft to focus on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The original iPhone came out in 2007, and the first Android device was released in 2008. Gates had already announced his transition plan in June 2006.

The CEO of Microsoft at the time was Steve Ballmer, who famously laughed at the iPhone and called the $500 device "The most expensive phone in the world" while deriding its lack of a hardware keyboard. "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share," Ballmer once told USA Today. "No chance."

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iOS 13 public beta is a buggy mess

ZDnet Blogs - June 24, 2019 - 7:49pm
A quick look at the iOS 13 public beta suggests that it's far from being ready, and could be one of the worst beta releases in years.
Categories: Opinion

The 2019 Audi A7 might be all the car anyone ever needs

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 7:12pm

High expectations can be a killer. We see this all the time—the let-down sequel to a great movie or the indulgent sophomore follow-up to a brilliant debut album. It also applies to cars; ask any fan of the Mk2 VW Golf for their opinion of the Mk3 as proof. As humans we fall in love, too easily perhaps, with inanimate objects. When a replacement shows up, and our expectations exceed its ability, the result is disappointment. Which is a long-winded way of saying I was actually a little scared when I fired up the 2019 Audi A7 for the first time.

The previous A7 was a delightful car, particularly if you had a long way to go and wanted to do it in comfort and style. Here was an Audi that looked as good on the outside as it did on the inside thanks to its fastback body style. Back in the days before we knew they were belching NOXious gases, the TDI version would happily deliver 40mpg all day long. If you wanted something less economical but a lot faster, the RS7 and its snarling twin-turbo V8 offered close to the last word in all-weather, cross-country ability.

I first saw the second-generation A7 at last year's Detroit auto show. It follows the same script as before: lighter and less loaded down the A8 flagship, sleeker and more driver -ocused than the mainstream A6, but it's still built from the same toolbox and parts bin that Audi (and the rest of Volkswagen Group) call MLB Evo. It looks a lot like the car it replaces, but with sharper creases in the panels and some funky LED matrix headlights and LED tail lights that are meant to make it easier for you to see in the dark (as well as making you easier to see). That car is even available with a US-legal version of Audi's clever laser high beam headlights.

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DHS cyber director warns of surge in Iranian “wiper” hack attacks

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 6:58pm

Enlarge / An effective wiper of sorts. (credit: Getty Images)

With tensions between the US and Iran on the rise following the downing of a US military drone last week, the director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is warning that Iran is elevating its efforts to do damage to US interests through destructive malware attacks on industrial and government networks.

In a statement issued on Saturday, June 22, CISA Director Christopher C. Krebs said:

CISA is aware of a recent rise in malicious cyber activity directed at United States industries and government agencies by Iranian regime actors and proxies. Iranian regime actors and proxies are increasingly using destructive "wiper" attacks, looking to do much more than just steal data and money. These efforts are often enabled through common tactics like spear phishing, password spraying, and credential stuffing. What might start as an account compromise, where you think you might just lose data, can quickly become a situation where you’ve lost your whole network.

Krebs urged businesses and agencies to take steps to improve their security hygiene, including implementing multi-factor authentication for user credentials to prevent brute-force attempts to connect to exposed network and cloud applications.

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Capuchin monkeys have a 3,000-year archaeological record

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 6:52pm

Enlarge (credit: By Tiago Falótico - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60386655)

The archaeological record of human tools use dates back about 2.5 million years, and archaeologists use changes in stone tool technology to trace changes in human evolution, culture, and lifestyles. Now a team of archaeologists in Brazil has excavated capuchin monkey stone tools dating back to 3,000 years ago, and they reveal changes in behavior and diet over thousands of years—just like the early human archaeological record but on a compressed time scale.

Archaeology: Not just for humans

Bearded capuchin monkeys are more versatile tool-users than chimpanzees. They select rocks of the right sizes and shapes for a variety of tasks, from digging to cracking open a range of nuts and seeds (each has its own size and weight specifications for the perfect cracking tool). Female capuchins even flirt with potential mates by throwing rocks at them.

At Brazil’s Serra de Capivara National Park, a group of capuchins crack open cashews with round quartzite cobbles, which they choose and carry to the cashew grove from a dry streambed about 25m (82 feet) away. Capuchins have been processing their food at the same spot for at least 3,000 years—and leaving behind their distinctively banged-up tools. That’s about 450 monkey generations, and during that time, archaeologists noticed some major changes in the stone hammers and how they were used.

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Remembering The ENIAC Programmers

Slashdot - June 24, 2019 - 6:45pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Ex-chair of FCC broadband committee gets five years in prison for fraud

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 5:59pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | RapidEye)

The former head of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) was sentenced to five years in prison for defrauding investors.

Elizabeth Ann Pierce was CEO of Quintillion, an Alaskan telecom company, when she lied to two investment firms in New York in order to raise $270 million to build a fiber network. She also defrauded two individual investors out of $365,000 and used a large chunk of that money for personal expenses.

Pierce, 55, pleaded guilty and last week was given the five-year prison sentence in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman announced. Pierce was also "ordered to forfeit $896,698.00 and all of her interests in Quintillion and a property in Texas." She will also be subject to a restitution order to compensate her victims "at a later date."

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

League of Legends: Iran players say US sanctions have blocked the game

BBC Technology News - June 24, 2019 - 5:55pm
Iran gamers have reportedly received messages saying they can't play the game because of the US government.

SCOTUS: Ban on “FUCT” trademark registration violates First Amendment

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 5:31pm

Enlarge (credit: Fuct)

Federal law prohibits the registration of trademarks that are "immoral or scandalous." At least it did until today, when the Supreme Court held that the requirement violated the First Amendment.

The case focused on artist and entrepreneur Erik Brunetti, who sells clothing under the trademark FUCT. Brunetti claims the mark is "pronounced as four letters, one after the other: F-U-C-T." But a lot of people have interpreted it as (in the words of the government's lawyer in the case) "the profane past participle form of a well-known word of profanity."

Beyond that, the US Patent and Trademark Office looked at the products being sold under the FUCT mark. "Brunetti’s website and products contained imagery, near the mark, of 'extreme nihilism' and 'antisocial' behavior," the Supreme court noted in its Monday opinion. The trademark office concluded that the FUCT mark "communicated misogyny, depravity, and violence," and rejected the registration.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

German regulator says it discovered new illegal software on Daimler diesels

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 5:18pm

Enlarge / (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images) (credit: getty images)

Over the weekend, Germany's auto regulator told Daimler that it would have to recall 42,000 Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles after the group discovered illegal software on the cars that would reduce the effectiveness of the emissions-control system.

Daimler said Sunday night that it would take a one-time charge of hundreds of millions of euros against the upcoming quarter's earnings to deal with the new accusations, but it disputed the government regulator's determination that the software in question was illegal. According to the Wall Street Journal, Daimler plans to formally object to the claims.

The accusation against the German automaker is similar to accusations lobbed against Volkswagen Group starting in 2015. The US Environmental Protection Agency accused VW Group of including illegal software on its diesel vehicles to ensure that the diesels would pass emissions limits imposed by the US. Ultimately, VW Group ended up spending tens of billions of dollars on regulatory fines and vehicle buybacks in the US and the EU.

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