posted about 1 hour ago on ars technica
Even if you slept your way through high school chemistry, there was typically one day that ensured you were awake. That's when, after an extensive safety lecture, the teacher brought out the alkali metals and dropped them into some water. Typically, what followed was a hissing, spitting explosion as the metal danced on the surface of the water, often sending out flaming chunks of metal that repeated the process. (I'm old enough where we were actually given small chunks of sodium or potassium to set off our own explosions. I suspect that's no longer common in our lawsuit-happy society.) The chemical reaction that powers this display is a simple one: metals like sodium and potassium like little more than to give up a single electron. Place them in water, and that electron will split the otherwise stable water molecule, creating a negatively charged hydroxide ion and freeing hydrogen. It's the free hydrogen that creates the explosion that wows chemistry classes. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 3 hours ago on ars technica
The Super Bowl is the NFL’s flagship event each year, and the league has invested a lot in the event’s branding and broadcasting. In light of that investment, it’s understandable that the NFL would be protective of its trademarks and copyrights surrounding it. But that protectiveness has led to the NFL, and other businesses around it, perpetuating a number of myths about what you can and can’t do with the Super Bowl—including the words “Super Bowl.” Saying “Super Bowl” in an ad We’re already being bombarded by ads from sports bars, grocery stores, fast-food chains, and countless other companies tying their ads in to “The Big Game.” It’s a completely ridiculous circumlocution that just draws attention to itself and the absurdity that is trademark law. Obviously they’re talking about the Super Bowl; they’re clearly not talking about the Cal-Stanford game, or a high-stakes poker match, or a rugby match in Twickenham. Conventional wisdom is that advertisers are avoiding calling a Super Bowl a Super Bowl because they don’t want to infringe on the NFL’s trademark in the name. But if that’s the case, it’s because the advertisers are being overly cautious, not because they’d actually be doing anything illegal. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 5 hours ago on ars technica
The term nightmare has so many meanings that it would be a nightmare to even try to list them all. My current nightmare is a bourgeois nightmare of sorts. My Hanukkah gift to myself—a $599 sit-stand desk—had a major malfunction. A $1,000 Apple cinema display was almost lost along the way. And the desk replacement the furniture store delivered wasn't even new. Its surface was a couple of degrees off, too. And the motor sounded like it was going to explode while lifting two 27-inch Apple monitors and a 24-inch Dell screen. I had been searching for a sit-stand desk for perhaps as long as two years. The ones I scoped out ranged from $1,500 to $3,500—a price too steep for my bank account. I stumbled onto the Scandinavian Designs model while doing a honey-do with my girlfriend. She wanted to check out a couch at the shop's East Bay, California, floor. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 6 hours ago on ars technica
Google has been forced to change its privacy policy in the UK following a three-year investigation by the country's data privacy watchdog—but the company has avoided a fine. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found that Google was "too vague" when describing how it used people's personal data and has ordered it to make substantial changes. In March 2012 the company combined around 70 existing privacy policies into one. It was a move that caused concern amongst privacy advocates, who said that it was no longer clear how people's data was collected and shared. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 6 hours ago on ars technica
In his 1879 account of wanderings in the Orient, the travel writer James Hingston describes how, in West Java, he was treated to a bizarre experience: I am taken by my kind host around his garden, and shown, among other things, a flower, a red orchid, that catches and feeds upon live flies. It seized upon a butterfly while I was present, and enclosed it in its pretty but deadly leaves, as a spider would have enveloped it in network. What Hingston had seen was not a carnivorous orchid, as he thought. But the reality is no less weird or fascinating. He had seen—and been fooled by—an orchid mantis, Hymenopus coronatus, which is not a plant but an insect. We have known about orchid mantises for more than 100 years. Famous naturalists such as Alfred Russell Wallace have speculated about their extraordinary appearance. Eschewing the drab green or brown of most mantises, the orchid mantis is resplendent in white and pink. The upper parts of its legs are greatly flattened and are heart-shaped, looking uncannily like petals. On a leaf it would be highly conspicuous—but when sitting on a flower, it is extremely hard to see. In photos, the mantis is often shown in or next to a flower, challenging the reader to spot it. Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 19 hours ago on ars technica
Windows licensing is more or less straightforward in the consumer sphere. Oh, sure, there are complications surrounding self-built systems, but compared to the world of enterprise licensing, the range of options is limited and the pricing simple. Corporate licensing, however, is a whole other matter. We've been saying for some time that the process of updating and upgrading Windows is going to change in Windows 10, and perhaps unsurprisingly, this is going to have implications for Windows licensing. The underlying theme is this: Microsoft does not want the Windows market to be split between a bunch of different versions. For a brief period, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 were all both extant and actively supported Windows versions. This is bad for more or less the entire Windows world. It's bad for developers of Windows software because they're forced to choose between the best functionality (found in Windows 8.1) or the widest compatibility (target Windows XP). It's bad for Microsoft, because it has to support all these versions. It's bad, in many ways, for end-users, too; using old versions means that they don't get the latest features, and in the case of Windows XP, they don't even receive security updates. Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 22 hours ago on ars technica
As if Comcast's recent account name change to “asshole” wasn’t bad enough, there are new reports of more rude names like "whore," "dummy," and “Fakoe Boz.” According to the travel website BoardingArea, which first broke the story this week of the earlier vulgar naming incident, more users have written in with their own reports of Comcast naming chicanery. Comcast did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment. Previously, the company told Ricardo—the Spokane, Washington customer who was dubbed “asshole"—that it was sorry. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 23 hours ago on ars technica
In a statement on Friday, Marriott International said that it would drop its petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to allow it to block personal hotspots on Marriott premises. The hotel chain was fined $600,000 by the FCC in October for blocking Wi-Fi signals set up by customers. Marriott paid the fine but remained defiant, saying that it was only trying to secure its own Wi-Fi by blocking unauthorized signals. Customers, however, argued that Marriott was trying to force them into buying the company's own Wi-Fi products. Earlier this month, Marriott promised that it would not block the Wi-Fi hotspots of its customers any longer. But it stopped short of saying that it would rescind its notice of proposed rulemaking to the FCC, perhaps hoping that a change of heart from the commission would allow it to take up its old practices again. Instead, the FCC issued a blunt “Enforcement Advisory” telling Marriott that blocking Wi-Fi in hotels is prohibited. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 24 hours ago on ars technica
Steve Tsubota You rarely had to wait long for any particular game, but attendance was solid. 32 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } BANNING, CA — The weekend of January 16, 2015 was host to the inaugural Southern California Arcade Expo. Featuring over 750 pinball and arcade games, the show was the largest in Southern California's history. Unlike most arcade shows, where the games are brought by volunteers and enthusiasts to share with the general public, the collection is primarily owned by one man, John Weeks, who's spent the last 40 years amassing his horde of games. Weeks also owns the 40,000-square-foot facility for the expo where the games are permanently housed and is hoping to make events there happen at least twice a year. The second one is currently scheduled for some time in October. Despite some minor issues typical of a first time show, it went off spectacularly, with official attendance at 3,300 people, all enjoying the vast collection of games. There was an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most games of pinball being played simultaneously, live music, various styles of tournament play, and several seminars as side attractions. But most people just came for the games, and we've attempted to document them for you above. Special thanks to the members of Pinside who donated their photos to help make this gallery possible. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Add PHP applications and the WordPress Web platform to the list of wares that may be susceptible to the critical Linux vulnerability known as Ghost. As Ars reported Wednesday, the flaw resided in a variety of Linux distributions, including Centos/RHEL/Fedora 5, 6, and 7 Ubuntu 12.04, and possibly other versions. The buffer overflow made its way into those distributions through the GNU C Library, specifically in its gethostbyname() and gethostbyname2() function calls. The bug made it possible to execute malicious code by sending malformed data to various applications and services running on vulnerable systems. Proof-of-concept attack code was able to exploit the vulnerability in the Exim mail server, and researchers widely suspected clockdiff, procmail, and pppd were also susceptible. Now, researchers from security firm Sucuri have expanded the list. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
AT&T and Verizon Wireless dominated the country's most lucrative spectrum auction ever, helping it maintain the infrastructure advantages it has over smaller competitors. The auction brought in $41.3 billion from 31 winning bidders who will get a total of 1,611 licenses throughout the country, the Federal Communications Commission said today. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said it was "by far the highest-earning spectrum auction the United States has ever seen." AT&T's winning bids totaled $18.2 billion, while Verizon Wireless's winning bids totaled $10.4 billion. T-Mobile's winning bids came in at $1.8 billion. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Who knew that the “front page of the Internet” would be a source of information for law enforcement? According to a new transparency report released Thursday by reddit, the site has only received a few dozen requests for user data. As reddit wrote: Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Nearly six years ago, two federal law enforcement agencies considered using license plate readers (LPRs) at gun shows—at least in the Phoenix, Arizona area. LPRs scan plates at a very high speed—often 60 plates per second—and record the date, time, and precise location that a given plate was seen. Typically, on a patrol car, that plate is then immediately compared to a list of wanted or stolen cars, and if a match is found, the software alerts the officer. But all scans are routinely kept by various law enforcement agencies for long periods of time, sometimes as long as years or more. According to a heavily redacted set of documents that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) received and published earlier this week, a 2009 e-mail presumably from the Drug Enforcement Agency states that the “DEA Phoenix Division Office is working closely with the [Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms] on attacking the guns going to [REDACTED] and the gun shows, to include programs/operation with LPRs at the gun shows.” Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
I have a soft spot for the wounded ones: the games that fall just shy of greatness, or even competence, but remain "interesting" nonetheless.I found Remember Me, the debut title from Parisian developer Dontnod Entertainment, compelling for that reason. So when it became apparent that the studio's sophomore effort Life is Strange would be a second stab at many of that game's concepts, I was… interested. Gone is Remember Me’s cyberpunk visage of Neo-Paris, and any semblance of combat. Life is Strange is an adventure game—in just about every sense of the genre—set in the most Pacific Northwestern town since Alan Wake. Deciduous trees are bronzed by autumn, beanies are in abundance, and acoustic-guitar-whispercore slithers from every iPod, car radio, and home stereo. Maxine "Max" Caulfield is five years removed from her hometown of Arcadia Bay, returning to attend a senior academy in pursuit of an education in photography. She's an introvert, but—this being a video game—she's an exceptional introvert. Early on in the first of the game’s five monthly episodes, Max gains the ability to reverse time. Unlike Remember Me's Nilin, who only had the ability to rewrite folks' memories of past events, our protagonist can use her special, unexpected gift to actually alter the past. Given that she's a high school student, being able to reverse her mistakes certainly comes in handy. It's especially useful given that her school, Blackwell Academy, is a snake pit of high school anxieties. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
An unnamed Indian woman has sued Uber in federal court in California, accusing the startup of being negligent and creating the circumstances that she claims led to her being raped after taking a car ride in New Delhi in December 2014. The company has been under fire in India ever since the rape allegation first surfaced, and it was barred from operating in the Indian capital city. Since then, Uber has restarted operations despite the ban and attempted to register as a bona fide taxi company, but it had its application recently rejected by local authorities. Earlier this week, Reuters reported that the company would forgo its standard 20 percent cut that it takes from India-based drivers in order to keep operating. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
The Cold War has been over for decades, but in the dark, frigid waters deep under the oceans, nuclear armed submarines still ply their grim patrol. These instruments of war are pinnacles of advanced engineering. They are propelled by nuclear reactors; they slide through the depths in near silence; they can remain submerged for weeks, making drinking water from the sea and creating their own breathable atmosphere. While patrolling in total darkness, these vessels are fully aware of their environment, maintaining a map of the natural world around them and any potential adversaries. Although the systems integrated into submarines represent the most advanced fruits of human ingenuity in science and engineering, many of them have origins that are millions of years old. Subs exploit ideas generated not in the brains of men and women, but by the directionless forces of biological evolution itself. Read 54 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Super Bowl Sunday in Arizona is just days away—so it's that time of year when Homeland Security and other US officials take the stump to announce a multi-million dollar cache of counterfeit NFL merchandise the authorities have seized—all in the name of consumer safety. "The sale of counterfeit products are connected to smuggling and other criminal activities and threatens the competitiveness of our businesses, the livelihoods of US workers, and in some cases the health and safety of the consumer," R. Gil Kerlikowske, the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said at a Phoenix news conference. “CBP works closely with our federal government partners to protect the United States from these damaging and unsafe goods.” The "unsafe goods" confiscated from online stores, flea markets, street vendors, and other venues during "Operation Team Player" include counterfeit NFL jerseys, hats, shirts, jackets, and other clothing. As many as 52 people connected to the operation have been arrested, the authorities said. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Comcast’s broadband market share just got a huge bump. Yesterday, the FCC decided to raise minimum broadband speeds from 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream to 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream, over the objections of the cable industry, which has argued that it faces serious competition from DSL. Comcast, the nation's largest Internet service provider, dominates the country at the higher speeds, in large part because today's DSL networks can't keep pace with cable. According to the company’s filings with the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast has more than half of all the customers in the United States with home Internet connections of at least 25Mbps. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Sega will be reducing its workforce significantly as it goes through a "group structure reform" to refocus on digital PC and mobile games, the Japanese publisher announced overnight. As part of the plan, Sega will offer an early retirement package to "around 300" employees and seek to "rightsize" an undeclared number of other employees to reduce labor costs and streamline its packaged games business overseas. The company had about 2,200 employees as of the 2013 fiscal year. Sega of America will also shut its San Francisco headquarters and move to southern California in a move to reduce fixed corporate expenses. A Sega representative tells Eurogamer that the restructuring will only affect "a limited number of staff" in Europe. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
If you took an average output of multiple climate models, it would predict that the start of this century would have seen a strong warming trend. Instead, the planet warmed relatively slowly over this time. When models and reality disagree, it can tell us about two things: the models and reality. So far, analysis has seemed to come down on the side of reality. Evidence has indicated that one of the contributors to this century's climate has been small volcanic eruptions; another suggests that a run of La Niña years has helped hold temperatures down. Now, a new study is out that turns the focus on the models. It finds no evidence that the models are biased toward predicting higher temperatures and instead suggests that their biggest issue might be in how they handle large volcanic eruptions. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 2 days ago on ars technica
Document Foundation The new OS X theme is much less colorful than the Windows theme. 7 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true});Free and open source office suite LibreOffice was updated today, with its developers calling it "the most beautiful LibreOffice ever." LibreOffice is a fork of the OpenOffice suite created in 2010 amid concerns of Oracle's stewardship of OpenOffice; OpenOffice was subsequently transferred to the Apache Software Foundation. Both projects have subsequently continued as open source alternatives to Microsoft Office. The highlight of the new release is a far-reaching visual refresh, with menus, toolbars, status bars, and more being updated to look and work better. While LibreOffice retains the traditional menus-and-toolbars approach that Microsoft abandoned in Office 2007, the new version is meant to make those menus and toolbars easier to navigate. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 2 days ago on ars technica
NEW YORK—The Silk Road drug-trafficking trial veered towards murder-for-hire allegations today, although the story didn't quite arrive there. As prosecutors near the end of their case, they walked the jury through the personal mailbox of the boss of the drug-dealing website, Dread Pirate Roberts. The final witness of the day was Brian Shaw, an FBI contractor who sifted through a working copy of the Silk Road he made in July 2013, after law enforcement imaged the Silk Road server, once they found it in Iceland. The basics of the story were reported more than a year ago, after Ross Ulbricht, who the government accuses of being DPR, was arrested in San Francisco. But today the jury saw the story develop in the words of DPR, and the users he interacted with. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 2 days ago on ars technica
According to a US Department of Justice Inspector General report released today, an investigation "was not able to substantiate the allegations that [Sharyl] Attkisson's computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise." The report was introduced into the Senate record at the confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. Attkisson, who has written a book about her experiences trying to cover the Obama White House which includes the allegation of hacking, has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, and the Postmaster General for the alleged hacking of her home and work computers. Today, Attkisson testified at Lynch's confirmation hearing. The report from the DoJ's Office of the Inspector General casts a different light on Attkisson's allegations: Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 2 days ago on ars technica
Amazon has been announcing its entry into every industry under the sun lately—or so it seems—but the aggressive expansion has, until now, not immediately shown the company a solid profit. However, Amazon ended the quarter on a (relatively) good note according to its financial statement released on Thursday [PDF], with a $214 million net income for the company's fourth fiscal quarter of 2014. Prior to this quarter, Amazon reported three losing quarters out of four, and those losses showed up in the company's earnings report, reflecting a loss of $241 million in 2014 overall, compared to a net gain of $274 million in 2013. Still, the company reported a 20 percent increase in net sales after increasing the price of Amazon Prime memberships in March, proving that Amazon Prime memberships are relatively inelastic. “[O]n a base of tens of millions, worldwide paid [Prime] membership grew 53 percent last year—50 percent in the US and even a bit faster outside the US,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote in a statement. In an investor's conference call after the release of the earnings, an Amazon executive said that Prime pays off well for the company. Amazon sees “a very sizable” increase in customer purchasing after that customer buys a Prime subscription. “We're seeing them purchasing a lot more from us,” he said, adding that the service is almost 10 years old and still growing strongly. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 2 days ago on ars technica
Some things are just fated. Any article that opens with "In terms of its large-scale behaviors, a crowd of pedestrians can look strikingly similar to many other collections of repulsively interacting particles," is going to be a classic. It is my solemn duty to bring you the low-down on repulsive pedestrians. Yes, apparently, determining the repulsiveness of your average pedestrian is not just a question of science but, indeed, one of physics. You have to wonder what the unit of repulsiveness is. Fortunately, the paper in question is, unlike me, serious. Understanding the behavior of pedestrians is a reasonably important problem. It determines where, and how many, emergency exits a building requires. It tells us how the lack of queuing culture slows everything down. It tells us when flow is congested, where people will stand and wait, and how that waiting will make the jam worse. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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