posted about 2 hours ago on ars technica
In many cases, cells are capable of feats of chemistry that leave human-designed systems in their dust. The problem is that evolution only drives cells that produce the chemicals they need, only in the quantities they need. We design systems to make the chemicals we want and generally take as much as we can produce. Typically, these two things aren't compatible. But some Harvard researchers have figured out a way of getting them into alignment. It's easy to transplant biochemical pathways into bacteria, at least once you identify the genes involved. At that point, you can have the bacteria produce drugs or other useful chemicals, such as precursors to plastics. The problem is usually that the bacteria aren't happy about it. Producing chemicals generally requires energy, and it siphons off chemical precursors that the bacteria need for their own purposes. There are two neat tricks that the authors use to induce the bacteria to be happier about being converted into miniature chemical factories. The first is that they figure out how to make the chemical product we want essential to the cell's survival. The second is that they let evolution integrate the new biochemical pathway into the cell. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 3 hours ago on ars technica
On Tuesday the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that it had “inadvertently” received 18 pages of “detailed tax information” pertaining to hundreds of primarily rich and famous Canadians. The records were from a Canada Revenue Agency spreadsheet spanning from 2008 to 2013, and they included home addresses and information about tax credits granted for charitable donations. According to the CBC, which says it is withholding some information for privacy purposes, tax details were found for prominent Canadians such as “author Margaret Atwood, former prime minister Jean Chrétien, grocery magnate Frank Sobey, cartoonist Lynn Johnston, pollster Allan Gregg, financier Stephen Bronfman, former CBC executive Richard Stursberg, Olympics chief Richard Pound, and many others.” Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 3 hours ago on ars technica
Windows 10's updates and maintenance are following a different, better path to all prior Windows releases: one with more regular updates and quicker access to new features for those who want it, while still offering enterprises a slower pace of delivery. With the first update to the Windows 10 Technical Preview a month ago, Microsoft also enabled a two-speed update track for the million or so members of the Windows Insider program. By default, preview users are put on the slow track. However, about 10 percent of users have put themselves on the fast track. The first (contentious) fast track release was made almost two weeks ago, and fast track users have been using it since then. Those fast track users also revealed a variety of problem scenarios. The two big ones were the screen going black (and staying black) every time a PC was unlocked, and a blue screen of death. A pair of patches have been released to fast track users to address these issues, the second coming yesterday, and both of them seem now to be fixed. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 3 hours ago on ars technica
In terms of accidentally sent e-mails and Internet postings—the kinds that people wish they'd never clicked "send" on—we think this week's goof by Twitter CFO Anthony Noto takes the cake. On Monday, the 46-year-old finance veteran, who joined Twitter in July after years as CFO of the NFL and a managing director at Goldman Sachs, posted the following private-sounding message to his public Twitter account: "I still think we should buy them. He is on your schedule for Dec 15 or 16 -- we will need to sell him. I have a plan." Before the social media company could roll out an internal education campaign teaching its executives the difference between a normal tweet and a direct message, however, the Internet at large began wondering which company Noto wanted to buy and who the all-powerful "he" in question might be. A report from CNBC claims that the answers to those questions are Shots, an app with an exclusive focus on capturing and sharing front-facing smartphone photos, and Justin Bieber, the company's top investor, respectively. CNBC reporter Kristin Cwalinski attributed her finding to "a source close to Shots" and asserted that Shots' value to Twitter resides largely in its massive userbase of women under the age of 24. We certainly think that's of more commercial value than the app's attachment to the Bieb, but interest in the selfie-obsessed app may also be a sign that Twitter is waving a white flag in regards to Vine. Twitter acquired the makers of that six-second video app in 2012, but its popularity has waned ever since Instagram (owned by Facebook) added its own micro-video features in June 2013; as of press time, a cursory Twitter-phrase search at topsy.com reveals Vine lagging far behind Instagram in current use. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 5 hours ago on ars technica
Facebook has taken down a parody of a Western Union ad posted on a Bitcoin news Facebook page, which was immediately re-published on reddit. On Monday, the money transfer company filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) claim with Facebook, alleging trademark infringement of its image. The claim was filed by Erin Schol, who is listed on LinkedIn as an assistant legal analyst for Western Union. However, the DMCA, as the name implies, only covers copyrighted material and not trademarks. Kristin Kelly, a Western Union spokeswoman, told Ars in an e-mailed statement: "Western Union takes all brand matters seriously, and we take steps that we believe are necessary to protect our intellectual property interests." She declined to respond to specific questions. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 6 hours ago on ars technica
Greetings, Arsians! As you bustle around eagerly denuding store shelves of stuffing ingredients in preparation for Turkey Day, please spare a thought to this carefully curated boatload of bargains, courtesy of our tireless partners at TechBargains! Those industrious folks have dug deep into the pre-Black Friday Internet deal scene and have produced a fine list of fun toys to stuff into your Thanksgiving stockings! Assuming you do Thanksgiving stockings. It's not my place to judge one way or the other. The two top deals, as noted in the headline, are each for a pair of Dell P-series monitors. The first is for two 22" P2213 displays, and the second is for a pair of 21" P2214H displays. Both sets of displays are 1080p, and both sets come with a $125 eGift card (which I am told will be emailed separately 10 to 20 days after purchase). The bigger set will run you $399, and the smaller $369! And, hey, if you've got enough monitors in your life already—something the Dealmaster can't conceive of, but horses for courses and all that—then check down at the end of the listing for a link to buy an unlocked BlackBerry Passport for $499! I mean, if you happen to want a BlackBerry Passport. Which you might, especially if you love square screens! Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 7 hours ago on ars technica
Google Maps and YouTube are no longer bundled as default apps on iPhones and iPads, but there's one big place on Apple's devices where Google is still the default option: the Safari search bar. Microsoft's Bing, Yahoo (also Bing-powered), and the privacy-minded DuckDuckGo are all included as options, but Google has been the default for as long as iPhones have existed. That may change next year according to a report from The Information (paywall). Apple and Google's search agreement is reportedly set to expire soon, and both Microsoft and Yahoo are already said to be talking with Apple Internet Software and Services SVP Eddy Cue about becoming Safari's default search option. This isn't the first time we've heard about Yahoo's desire to replace Google in iOS, and it's no surprise that Microsoft wants a piece of that pie too. The Information's report also speculates that Apple could switch to other non-Google search engines in countries outside the US, as Mozilla did for Firefox when its agreement with Google ended earlier this month. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 8 hours ago on ars technica
T-Mobile US and AT&T have been trading shots over the prices AT&T charges for data roaming as part of the government’s investigation into a complaint filed by T-Mobile. As we’ve previously reported, T-Mobile accused AT&T and Verizon Wireless of charging unreasonably high data roaming rates, making it difficult for smaller carriers to offer better deals to consumers. AT&T argued in a filing on November 14 that it “buys more data roaming than it sells both on a megabyte basis and on a dollar basis,” mostly through agreements with rural carriers, and that it pays more than T-Mobile does. “For 2013 and 2014 AT&T’s roaming expense on a per megabyte basis exceeded that incurred by T- Mobile,” AT&T wrote to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). “The average data roaming rate paid by AT&T in 2013 (42¢/MB) was more than the average data roaming rate paid by T-Mobile in 2013 (30¢/MB). For 2014, the average rate paid by AT&T through August (27¢/MB) is higher than T-Mobile’s projected average expense (18¢/MB). This is clear evidence that T-Mobile is paying commercially reasonable rates and that the relief requested by T-Mobile in its Petition should be rejected.” Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 8 hours ago on ars technica
The Federal Trade Commission announced today it has come to a settlement with Sony Computer Entertainment and advertising agency Deutsch LA over misleading claims in early ads for the PlayStation Vita. As part of that settlement, Sony will offer Vita customers who bought the system before June 1, 2012 a $25 rebate or a $50 voucher "for select games and services." The FTC's complaint [PDF] focused on the Remote Play features on the Vita, which ads from Sony and Deutsch described as "game changing." While that feature only worked with a handful of PlayStation 3 games, the ads falsely implied that the feature would work with any PS3 title. They specifically showed Remote Play for Killzone 3, a game which never made use of the feature. Initial Vita ads also implied that the "cross-save" feature would let you pause a PS3 game at any point to restart on the Vita, when in reality it only worked at certain set points in certain games. Additionally, the FTC took issue with ads that falsely suggested the 3G version of the Vita would allow players to take part in live online multiplayer gaming away from a Wi-Fi hotspot. In reality, only asynchronous multiplayer and online features like leaderboards are available over 3G. Deutsch LA also stood accused of instructing employees to post positive astroturf tweets about the Vita with the #gamechanger hashtag without revealing their involvement with the firm's marketing efforts. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 9 hours ago on ars technica
Home Depot announced that it is facing “at least 44 civil lawsuits” in the United States and Canada stemming from 56 million customers' data being stolen and exposed earlier this year. According to the disclosure, which was published Tuesday as part of the company’s quarterly earnings report, “We are also facing investigations by a number of state and federal agencies. These claims and investigations may adversely affect how we operate our business, divert the attention of management from the operation of the business, and result in additional costs and fines.” One of the lawsuits, a proposed class-action suit filed in late September in federal court in San Francisco, alleged that Home Depot “failed to properly encrypt its customers’ data in violation of the [Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard].” That same month, former Home Depot security employees told The New York Times that the company repeatedly ignored warnings and undertook poor security for years. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 10 hours ago on ars technica
Documents reportedly from the Edward Snowden cache show that in 2009, GCHQ (and by association, the NSA) had access to the traffic on 63 submarine cable links around the globe. The cables listed handle the vast majority of international Internet traffic as well as private network connections between telecommunications providers and corporate data centers. According to a report in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the telecommunications company Cable & Wireless—now a subsidiary of Vodafone—“actively shaped and provided the most data to GCHQ surveillance programs and received millions of pounds in compensation.” The relationship was so extensive that a GCHQ employee was assigned to work full-time at Cable & Wireless (referred to by the code-name “Gerontic” in NSA documents) to manage cable-tap projects in February of 2009. By July of 2009, Cable & Wireless provided access to 29 out of the 63 cables on the list, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the data capacity available to surveillance programs. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 11 hours ago on ars technica
Verizon is trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission that it won't sue to block net neutrality rules as long as they're issued without reclassifying broadband providers as utilities. Yet, Verizon did sue the FCC the last time it crafted net neutrality rules without relying on its utility regulation powers. In 2010, the FCC issued rules preventing Internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against traffic by relying on Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, rather than the stronger powers the FCC has under Title II, which covers utilities or "common carriers." Verizon sued and won, with a federal appeals court stating that the FCC could not issue what amounted to common carrier rules without first reclassifying broadband service as a utility, similar to the traditional phone network. That's why the FCC is now considering reclassifying broadband. It wants the next set of net neutrality rules to survive a court challenge. "We are going to be sued," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said last week. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 11 hours ago on ars technica
Bees are disappearing—that much is certain. What's unclear is why. Pathogens and pesticides have been posited as potential causes, as has the loss of bees' preferred floral resources. This last reason has intuitive appeal: wildflowers are disappearing because of agriculture, and bees rely on the pollen and nectar in flowers, so the loss of flowers should be causing the loss of bees. But a demonstration of this seemingly simple idea has been hard to come by. Different species of bees rely on different plants—the bee species that are disappearing have never been analyzed in terms a taste for the plants that are disappearing to see if they match up. And, once the bees or plants are gone, it's hard to figure out what relationship (if any) they might have had. Pesky details. Researchers in the Netherlands have gotten around this problem by examining museum specimens of bees to figure out which bees like which flowers. They've demonstrated that the bee species that have declined are in fact those that like the pollen from flower species that have also declined. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 12 hours ago on ars technica
Sometimes all it takes to alter the course of history is one pissed-off person. Supap Kirtsaeng wasn’t a crusader or lone nut; he was just an eBay trader who got backed into a legal corner and refused to give up. To help pay for grad school at USC, he sold textbooks online—legitimate copies that he’d purchased overseas. But academic publishing behemoth John Wiley & Sons sued Supap, claiming that his trade in Wiley’s foreign-market textbooks constituted copyright infringement. The implications were enormous. If publishers had the right to control resale of books that they printed and sold overseas, then it stood to reason that manufacturers could restrain trade in countless products—especially tech goods, most of which are made in Asia and contain copyrightable elements such as embedded software. Read 94 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 12 hours ago on ars technica
Nintendo has long said that the success of holiday releases like Super Smash Bros. will be key to attracting new customers to the Wii U (and in turn attracting third-party developers back to the system). The first step of that plan seems to be off to a good start, as Nintendo has announced Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the fastest-selling game in the console's history following its recent US release. Nintendo says it has moved 490,000 digital and retail copies of its new fighter in the three days following the November 21 release. Those numbers only cover the US market, since the game comes out in Europe on November 28, Australia on November 29, and Japan on December 6. Back in June, Nintendo announced it sold 1.2 million copies of Mario Kart 8 in that game's first three days on store shelves worldwide, and later it moved two million worldwide copies in less than a month. Nintendo said Super Smash Bros. is selling at a greater rate in the US, suggesting that it could easily put up even stronger worldwide numbers following its international release. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 12 hours ago on ars technica
CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true});Motorola's Moto line of phones has gotten plenty of praise from reviewers including us—they're priced competitively and keep the superfluous features and Android skins to a minimum. If nothing else, Motorola's approach is a welcome respite from the everything-and-also-the-kitchen-sink approach of the market leader and many of its other competitors. Motorola also makes another line of smartphones that has a longer history but gets less attention in the present day: the co-branded, Verizon-exclusive Droid phones that stretch all the way back to the original 2009 Motorola Droid. More recent, post-Google Droids from Motorola have been distant cousins to the Moto phones. They use many of the same components and value-added features, but Verizon's involvement means the software is more heavy-handed. The designs are more angular and "industrial" (for lack of a better word). The Droid Turbo is the newest member of the Droid family and the follow-up to last year's Droid Ultra and Droid Maxx (whether we can expect a new Droid Mini is anyone's guess). The phones don't look much alike, but in many ways the Turbo is an amped-up, slightly more expensive version of the 2014 Moto X we reviewed earlier this year. So if you're a Verizon customer, should you stick to the standard Moto X, or does the Turbo add enough to be worth a look? Read 33 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 13 hours ago on ars technica
Three months ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation inaugurated a monthly tradition in which they wrote about a "Stupid Patent of the Month." The first patent they publicized was basically a description of a doctor's "computer-secretary." Since then, they've highlighted a vague software patent owned by a serial litigant, a patent on filming a yoga class, and a patent with a formula for curing cancer (a combination of "sesame seeds, green beans, coffee, meat, evening primrose seeds," among other things.) This month, EFF shines a light not on an off-the-wall lone inventor, but on a source that some may find surprising: a public research institution. Earlier this year, Penn State University made the controversial decision to sell off some of its patents to make money. Even though it only sold licenses to two of the 73 patents on auction, it's decided to hold a second auction on December 8. "The patent auction is a final attempt to capture value from some of our older unlicensed patents and put them into the hands of companies that can use them at a favorable price," said Ron Huss, the university's associate VP for research. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 14 hours ago on ars technica
A Charlotte, North Carolina, judge has single-handedly sparked the release of surveillance applications involving the use of secretive cell-site simulators known as stingrays. To date, it's the most substantial set of surveillance applications—specifically "trap and trace device" orders, a cousin of the "pen register"—to become available. Senior Resident Judge Richard Boner told Ars on Monday that he’s no privacy absolutist, and he shouldn't get credit. The way Boner sees it, he simply signed off on a common sense compromise between journalists and police. "The Charlotte Observer has been pursuing this, and I met them two weeks ago with the editors and the reporters," Boner said. "They asked how they would be able to see the orders that had been entered and I said, 'file a motion and I will get police and district attorney to have their say and see if they had any objection for keeping them sealed.' As it turned out, the attorney for the Observer got together with the police attorney and they reached an agreement, so the records for cases that are now closed could be released and would not jeopardize prosecution. They agreed on the form—it wasn't necessarily a matter of me ordering to release the records." Security through obscurity While stingrays do target specific phones, they also sweep up cell data of innocents near by who have no idea that such collection is taking place. Authorities have been notoriously tight-lipped about how such devices are acquired and implemented. Former federal magistrate judge Brian Owsley (now a law professor at Indiana Tech) has been unsuccessful in his efforts to unseal similar orders despite familiarity with the legal system. And just last week, prosecutors in a Baltimore robbery case even dropped key evidence that stemmed from stingray use rather than fully disclose how the device was used. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
SAN FRANCISCO—“We found that people were searching for squirrels just to favorite them, just to click 'like.' And the same with buses." That's what David Amyan Shamma, senior research manager at Yahoo Labs, told a small group of journalists at the company's local headquarters on Friday. It's a bit of trivia that pretty accurately reflects our obsession with images in the digital age. But given our apparent love for pictures, searching for the right photos online remains inconvenient. While text search is effective enough that we tend to take it for granted, image search has traditionally been a more difficult problem. Searching the image itself requires hefty computer vision resources, and searching the metadata of a photo is not always effective. Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
New worldwide survey results conducted by a Canadian think tank show that most people around the world (60 percent) have heard of Edward Snowden, but just over a third have "have taken steps to protect their online privacy and security as a result of his revelations." The study, which was released Monday by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), surveyed over 23,000 people in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States. The survey did not break out respondents by nationality. The figures varied widely: 94 percent of Germans surveyed heard of the National Security Agency whistleblower, while only 76 percent of Americans had. Kenya rounded out the bottom of the list at 14 percent. Globally, this resulted in an average of 60 percent. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
When T-Mobile US customers exceed their monthly data caps, they aren't cut off from the Internet entirely. Instead, T-Mobile throttles their connections to 128Kbps or 64Kbps, depending on which plan they have, for the rest of the month. But T-Mobile has made it difficult for those customers to figure out just how slow their connections are, with a system that exempts speed test applications from the throttling. After complaints from consumer advocates, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigated the issue and has forced T-Mobile to be more honest about its network's throttled speeds. Announced today, an agreement between T-Mobile and the FCC ensures that customers will be able to accurately gauge their throttled speeds. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
A few months ago, Facebook changed its default settings to enable auto-play of video content on the social network's news feed, whether users accessed the site on a desktop browser or through its mobile app. Even though the latter has auto-play enabled by default with an "only on Wi-Fi" asterisk, the change has swept through millions of news feeds, perhaps as a way to ease users into Facebook's video advertising initiative. Now, users are calling that default video-play toggle into question thanks to a rise in disturbing content distributed via social media. Should an ISIS beheading or similarly disturbing content find its way to someone's Facebook news feed while that user hasn't opted out of the site's video feature—a process possibly more complicated than it needs to be—they're in for a rude awakening. It's tough to catalog exactly how many gore-filled videos have been successfully circulated via Facebook without the site intervening or taking them down. Publicly, Facebook representatives have argued that such content isn't subject to removal. And as an example of video auto-play gone wrong, Ars readers directed us to a gory video posted to Facebook that had yet to receive any form of takedown in over a week. Its opening moment features the mass execution of children, all shot by a machine gun, and we chose not to watch the entire video (nor link to it) to see how much worse it got. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Around 5:00pm PST on November 23, the Domain Name Service records for at least some of the sites hosted by the online classified ad and discussion service Craigslist were hijacked. At least some Craigslist visitors found their Web requests redirected toward an underground Web forum previously associated with selling stolen celebrity photos and other malicious activities. In a blog post, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said that the DNS records for Craigslist sites were altered to direct incoming traffic to what he characterized as “various non-craigslist sites.” The account was restored, and while the DNS records have been corrected at the registrar, some DNS servers were still redirecting traffic to other servers as late as this afternoon. Craigslist's domain registrar is Network Solutions, which is owned by Web.com. Ars has reached out to the registrar for comment on the disruption, and will update this story when more information is available. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
If you really think about it, a great many things go into a painting. There’s the artist’s vision, sure, but there’s also the pigments and properties of the paint, the mixing of the paints on the palette, the canvas and frame, the types of brushes used, and the physical skill of the painter. Landscapes, likewise, are determined by many factors (even if they never appear in a painting). But for landscapes, a complex system of factors interacts dynamically, continually evolving and producing a masterpiece every step of the way. The Himalayas are an astoundingly grand landscape; we call them “the roof of the world.” You could simply describe them as the crumpled product of the collision between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates, but that would be about as bland as describing the contents of the Louvre as “paint.” Each peak and valley has been slowly sculpted by a collaboration of geologic processes. Researchers have recently uncovered evidence about one of these processes, something with the inartistic name of "tectonic aneurysm." Floating peaks It’s reasonable to assume that, in a place like the Himalayas, tectonics pushes a mountain up even as erosion shaves it down. The faster the mountain pushes upward, the harder erosion works to keep it in check. That's because the peaks extend into colder elevations where ice can wedge apart cracks or form rock-grinding glaciers and steepening slopes that drive faster-flowing streams. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
T-Mobile US today exempted another 14 streaming music services from its data caps, including Google Play Music, Xbox Music, and SoundCloud. The carrier's "Music Freedom" program lets customers stream music without using up limited high-speed data, and isn't subject to throttling triggered by data overages. (T-Mobile Simple Choice customers are throttled rather than being cut off from data completely after hitting monthly limits.) Music Freedom began by exempting Pandora, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Samsung Milk, Slacker, and Spotify. Grooveshark, Rdio, and others were added later. T-Mobile today said it boosted the list of exempt services to 27 by adding 14 new ones. Besides Google Play Music, Xbox Music, and SoundCloud, newly exempt services are RadioTunes, Digitally Imported, Fit Radio, Fresca Radio, JazzRadio, Live365, Mad Genius Radio, radioPup, radio.com, RockRadio, and Saavn. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...