posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Roborace In just its third season, Formula E deserves credit for trying out new ideas in motorsport. Not everything has been a success, but the risk of trying to innovate in broad daylight is that people will see your mistakes as they happen. Take Roborace for example. The idea is to create a series of support races for Formula E where each team uses an identical driverless car, competing to write the best-racing AI. That driverless race car isn't quite ready yet, but Roborace took a pair of DevBots to Argentina this weekend for a demonstration at the Buenos Aires ePrix. It may not have been the demonstration that Roborace hoped for. One of the DevBots—the yellow one—ran out of talent and clipped a wall. But that happens to rookie human drivers, too, and at least in this case there was no chance of a rookie seriously hurting themselves. Some argue that this is bad news for Roborace and self-driving cars, but this is racing. If it were easy to get right, it wouldn't be any fun. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: GHETTO UBER DRIVER) After a former Uber engineer's blog post went viral over the weekend, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick vowed on Twitter that his company will begin an “urgent investigation” into newly public allegations of sexual harassment. 1/ What's described here is abhorrent & against everything we believe in. Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired. https://t.co/6q29N7AL6E — travis kalanick (@travisk) February 20, 2017 Kalanick's comments came Sunday evening, hours after Susan J. Fowler, who had been a site reliability engineer, wrote on her blog that she experienced what amounted to institutional sexism within the company. The experience ultimately drove Fowler to quit. Fowler, who worked at Uber from November 2015 until December 2016, opened her piece with a sordid episode during her first few weeks of the company: Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton) The Linksys Velop is the latest in a rapidly growing line of mesh, or "whole home" Wi-Fi systems from the likes of Google, Netgear, and Ubiquiti. Like its competitors, Velop is designed to help remove the dreaded dead spots that plague a home wireless network, ensuring that you've got complete coverage whether you're sat right next to the router, or you've retreated to the garden shed for a spot of well-deserved me time. All you have to do is stick an extra Velop router (or "node" in Linksys speak) in the room with poor coverage, and hey presto, you've got faster Wi-Fi. Where the Velop differs, aside from in its monolithic stature, is in its technical chops. Velop is the only consumer-focused mesh Wi-Fi system to offer tri-band connectivity—which provides a dedicated wireless link between each router in addition to the two required for devices to connect to it—alongside the option for a Ethernet-based wired backhaul and dynamic channel selection, the latter minimising interference from neighbouring Wi-Fi networks. Such tech doesn't come cheap. Velop starts at £199 for a single router, which is around £50 more than comparable standalone routers, and £199 more than the free router typically bundled in with home broadband packages. The price rises to £349 for the all-but-mandatory twin pack, and to an eye-watering £499 for a triple pack. Other mesh systems sell for similar prices, although, Velop's swankier tech and (mostly) user-friendly setup process makes it the more appealing option. Read 42 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: INXS, Meditate) Google and Microsoft's Bing have agreed to crack down on piracy sites in the UK, after years of wrangling with film and music rights holders. The tech giants have inked a voluntary code of practice with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and Motion Picture Association, following a series of talks overseen by the UK's copyright watchdog and steered by the department for culture, media, and sport. On Monday, the Intellectual Property Office described it as a "landmark agreement" in which Google and Bing have vowed to reduce "the visibility of infringing content in search results by 1 June 2017." It means that repeat offenders who post pirated material online will see their sites drop off the first page of Google and Bing, when film and music fans search for content. Instead, they will apparently be shepherded towards legit sites. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Gosh, can't you guys look happy in paradise? Up until today, the massive quest game Final Fantasy XV offered at least one "smooth" visual option for every single platform it's been released for—meaning, one option with a locked, mostly consistent frame rate. The catch has always been that PlayStation 4 Pro players have had to pick its simplest "lite" toggle (which removes all special visual enhancements) to enjoy this stable 30 frames-per-second refresh. A new patch for the game went live on Monday, however, and owners of the pricier PlayStation 4 Pro may want to skip it if they dislike video stutter. Unlike on Xbox One and standard PS4, the PS4 Pro version of FFXV asks players to pick from one of two visual modes. One of these turns up the resolution to somewhere near 1800p and adds other visual effects, but its frame rate is hampered by "frame pacing," in which its otherwise accurate 30Hz refresh is constantly interrupted by consistent judders. The other, "lite" mode originally dropped the resolution and other elements to nail a locked 30fps. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Spectacles.com) Snapchat's video- and photo-recording glasses are free from their vending machine-like restraints: Snapchat's parent company Snap Inc. has launched a website where you can buy Spectacles online for $129. Previously you could only find Snapchat Spectacles at strategically-placed vending machines called Snapbots in select cities. Now, anyone in the US can order them and have them shipped to their home. Snap debuted the Google Glass-esque frames about six months ago as a funky way to record events in real-time to Snapchat without taking your phone out. When on your face and turned on, Spectacles record 10-second videos or take photos and send them directly to your connected Snapchat account. From there, you can share that content via your Story on Snapchat or with select friends. Spectacles are available in teal, coral, and black, and they come with a charging case and cable. You can also buy those accessories for $50 and $10, respectively. The website states customers should expect their Spectacles to be delivered in two to four weeks. According to a TechCrunch report, Snapbots are taking a "nap," meaning the company won't be placing new Spectacle vending machines in cities at this time but the devices will likely return in the future. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Into the cauldron we go. (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment) Make no mistake: Horizon Zero Dawn is the rare triple-A single-player adventure that delivers on pretty much every front imaginable. The monumental story (technically, a few of them) is executed with mostly fantastic writing and acting, and it unfolds as players master the most exciting new battling system I've seen since Monster Hunter and Dark Souls. Horizon Zero Dawn also happens to be the most gorgeous game of the current console generation, combining light-soaked landscapes, shimmering robots, and rock-solid performance the whole way through. There are some minor issues with pacing, traversal controls, and a few underwhelming quests. But these missteps and stutters should not deter PlayStation 4 owners from checking out one of the console's best exclusives so far. Prepare for a feast Sony Interactive Entertainment Read 35 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Kim Dotcom speaks to the media following a bail hearing at Auckland District Court on December 1, 2014 in Auckland, New Zealand. (credit: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images) An appellate court in New Zealand has upheld a lower court’s 2015 decision that Kim Dotcom and his co-defendants should be extradited to the United States to face criminal copyright-related charges involving his former website, Megaupload. In a ruling issued Monday afternoon local time (late Sunday night, Eastern Standard Time), Justice Murray Gilbert of the High Court of New Zealand ruled that while he agreed with one of Dotcom’s attorneys’ primary arguments—"that online communication of copyright protected works to the public is not a criminal offence in New Zealand"—the judge noted that nevertheless, Dotcom and his co-defendants remain eligible for extradition based on other elements in the case. "Wilful infringement of copyright can properly be characterised as a dishonest act," Justice Gilbert wrote. "Such infringement deprives the copyright holder of something to which it may be entitled." Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / U.S. President Donald Trump met with a group of government cyber security at the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC, and said the government must do more to protect against cyber attacks. But he doesn't seem to be taking that advice himself, some members of Congress fear. Representative Ted Lieu, a congressman from Los Angeles County, California, led fourteen other House Democrats on Friday in urging the House Government Oversight Committee to investigate "troubling reports" of President Donald Trump's apparently poor security practices and the potential danger to national security posed by them—including his continued use of an unsecured Android device to post to Twitter, discussion of sensitive information (including nuclear strategy) in the restaurant at his Mar-A-Lago resort, and leaving classified material unlocked while visitors were in the Oval Office. In a letter to Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking Democratic member Elijah Cummings, the fifteen representatives wrote: Referring to the complex problem of cybersecurity, President Trump recently said in an interview, "I’m not sure you have the kind of security that you need." We fully agree—which is why we are writing to request that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hold a hearing into troubling reports that the President is jeopardizing national security by egregiously failing to implement commonsense security measures across the board, from using an insecure, consumer-grade Android smartphone to discussing nuclear strategy openly in a dining room at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida. Cybersecurity experts universally agree that an ordinary Android smartphone, which the President is reportedly using despite repeated warnings from the Secret Service, can be easily hacked. Lieu and the other signatories of the letter expressed concern that Trump's Android device, "most likely the Samsung Galaxy S3," is particularly vulnerable to attack, and that someone could alter the information the President viewed on it—which could "have a huge impact on his beliefs and actions." They also feared that someone could gain control of his Twitter account, "causing disastrous consequences for global stability," or use it as a listening device to pick up sensitive conversations. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 3 days ago on ars technica
Trevor Mahlmann SpaceX launched from the most hallowed ground of the US space enterprise on Sunday—the place where nearly all of the Moon launches occurred, and about 80 percent of all the space shuttle missions, including the vehicle's final flight in 2011. Just as SpaceX brought the pad back to life with its launch this weekend, so too could Launch Complex 39A rejuvenate the innovative rocket company based in California. It has been a difficult two years for SpaceX. Accidents in 2015 and 2016 cost the rocket company two boosters, and two payloads. On Friday, during a news conference near the launch pad, company president Gwynne Shotwell acknowledged that the last two years were "painful" for SpaceX, adding that it is hard to make money when you're not flying. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Oops. Someone calling themselves "Pro_Mast3r" managed to deface a server associated with President Donald Trump's presidential campaign fundraising on Sunday, The server, secure2.donaldjtrump.com, is behind Cloudflare's content management and security platform, and does not appear to be directly linked from the Trump Pence campaign's home page. But it does appear to be an actual Trump campaign server—its certificate is legitimate, but a reference to an image on another site is insecure, prompting a warning on Chrome and Firefox that the connection is not secure. The page, now displaying an image of a man in a fedora, displays the following text: Hacked By Pro_Mast3r ~ Attacker Gov Nothing Is Impossible Peace From Iraq The source code contains a link to  javascript malware on a now-nonexistent Google Code account, masterendi, previously associated with the hacking of at least three other websites. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Images of what appears to be a teardown of a Nintendo Switch began circulating around the Internet on February 19. While it is impossible at this point to confirm the legitimacy of these images, the hardware pictured appears to have required some remarkable design and engineering chops. And several of the design points raise our confidence that these images are of the real thing—or at least of a prototype. The leaked images of this possible Nintendo Switch contain a Chinese game-parts manufacturer's watermark. The device seen here puts component density first and foremost, with a Li-On battery that takes up nearly half of the hardware's footprint. Nintendo has previously confirmed that the Switch's battery will measure 4310 mAh, and that measure is printed on the battery seen in these images (which is also coated with some kind of foam, perhaps meant for both protection and heat management). Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A days-old viral Facebook video shows an angry New Jersey cop yelling at a young motorist. The police officer says he wants to knock the motorist "the fuck out" and sic his 90-pound police dog on him—in what appears to be retribution for the man filming the officer. Because of the video, taken by one of the two motorists pulled over in Atlantic City, the officer has been placed on paid administrative leave. Following the publication of the 80-second video, which has more than 400,000 views, Atlantic City Police Chief Henry White called for an internal affairs investigation. The men involved in the traffic stop have been neither identified nor arrested. The incident is being investigated solely because it was recorded. This is another example of how the YouTube society—in which people are constantly filming each other and their surroundings with mobile phones—is altering the criminal justice system. "Take that phone and stick it out of my face. I'm not gonna tell you again," the officer tells one of the motorists who is filming him. The officer then becomes enraged. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Saturday's launch attempt of a Falcon 9 rocket was called off just 13 seconds before liftoff. (credit: Trevore Mahlmann) Another day, another launch attempt for SpaceX. Although the company's countdown on Saturday toward liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A proceeded mostly smoothly, SpaceX founder Elon Musk called it off during the last moments. He said he wanted to make sure a slight steering issue with an engine in the rocket's upper stage was not indicative of a more significant upstream problem. Today the rocket appears ready to go for a 9:39am ET (14:39pm UK) instantaneous launch time from Kennedy Space Center. The company said it has replaced the parts at issue with the second stage steering issue. That leaves unacceptable weather as the only issue, and according to Launch Weather Officer Mike McAleenan, the primary concern is for cumulus clouds and the possibility of having to fly through precipitation. If the Falcon 9 rocket launches on Sunday morning, it would mark an important moment for SpaceX. NASA built two main launch pads during the Apollo program, 39A and 39B. The former was used for every Moon landing launch, except for Apollo 10, and most of the space shuttle missions. After the final space shuttle flight in 2011, NASA decided it needed just one of the pads for its future operations. So it leased Launch Complex 39A to SpaceX. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 4 days ago on ars technica
Universal/China Film Company I'm going to lay some truth on you right now. You're not going to have a lot of chances in your life to see movies about herds of giant psychic lizards attacking a massive, acrobatic army occupying the Great Wall of China. Which is why you should get your ass to theaters and watch The Great Wall. The Great Wall is a joint production between American and Chinese companies and feels like the perfect cross-national hybrid of two countries obsessed with monsters blowing stuff up. Directed by Yimou Zhang (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero) and co-written by Max Brooks (World War Z), The Great Wall stars Matt Damon as a European mercenary named William and Tian Jing as Lin Mae, the commander of the Nameless Order. Lin Mae and her army of acrobats have pledged their lives to hold the Great Wall and defend southeastern China against the Taotie, a species of mega-lizards with skulls for faces and eyeballs in their shoulders. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Can Facebook's AIs travel back in time to help with this boiler explosion? Probably. Eventually. (credit: Courtesy of De Forest Douglas Diver Railroad Photographs, ca. 1870-1948/Cornell University Library) Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has just published a 5,700 word "letter" on his profile, where he asserts that Facebook represents one of history's "great leaps." Though he covers a number of topics, what's most interesting is how he positions Facebook as a force for political change in the coming years. His goals are lofty, sometimes even grandiose. That's not the problem. The problem is a fundamental contradiction built into the way he hopes to create what he calls a "global community" by essentially gerrymandering the Internet. Facebook for politicians Zuckerberg begins by claiming we're in an historic moment similar to "our great leaps from tribes to cities to nations." Then he adds that we need social media to "reach the next level." That next level is some kind of ill-defined global community which will come into being by using Facebook as a platform. In recent years, he says, the ideal of global community has become controversial. Though he never uses the word "nationalism," that's clearly what's on his mind. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / David Plouffe (credit: Warren Little/Getty Images) Chicago's Board of Ethics is handing a former Uber executive a $90,000 fine for illegally lobbying the city's mayor over ride-sharing privileges at the city's two airports. On Thursday, the ethics panel voted 5-0 to levy the fine on David Plouffe, who was Barack Obama's former campaign manager. The fine came because Plouffe was not registered with the city as a lobbyist when he e-mailed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's personal account. Plouffe received an immediate reply to his e-mail from Emanuel, even though the mayor was overseas at the time. Lobbyists must disclose their activities. But the lobbying by Plouffe came to light in December as part of open-records lawsuits. In response to those suits, the mayor released hundreds of personal e-mails connected to his public position. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Andrew Cunningham Sometimes it feels like PC makers develop products by adding adjectives. Why would you sell an all-in-one desktop when you could sell a gigantic, ultra-wide premium curved all-in-one desktop? That seems to be the design theory behind HP’s curved Envy desktop, a desk-devouring, 34-inch all-in-one. The Envy is in the same market as the Retina iMacs and, to a lesser extent, Microsoft’s artist-oriented Surface Studio. It’s a machine that makes an immediate impression, both for its size and for the number of features it offers. But how well does it work once that awe has worn off? Is it a practical machine? And is it worth the at-least-$1,700 you’ll pay for the privilege of using it? Read 44 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Riot Games) Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com—and let us know what you think. Determining the best "MOBA"-style video game in the genre is a tough call—and, weirdly, so is deciding which one pumps out the craziest merchandise. These games each contain dozens of characters—which teammates must pick and choose from before engaging in five-on-five online combat—and they offer all kinds of merchandise options. It's not just figurines, dolls, and T-shirts, which typically focus on a single, favorite hero; characters also team up in, for example, comic books or virtual reality showcases. In the case of League of Legends, one of the most popular video games in the world, the characters go one bigger by teaming up for a freaking board game. Read 31 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Mike Masnick in 2012. (credit: Joel Sage / flickr) Michael Masnick, who founded the popular Techdirt blog, filed a motion (PDF) today asking for a defamation lawsuit against him to be thrown out. Masnick was sued last month by Shiva Ayyadurai, a scientist and entrepreneur who claims to have invented e-mail in 1978 at a medical college in New Jersey. In his motion, Masnick claims that Ayyadurai "is seeking to use the muzzle of a defamation action to silence those who question his claim to historical fame." He continues: The 14 articles and 84 allegedly defamatory statements catalogued in the complaint all say essentially the same thing: that Defendants believe that because the critical elements of electronic mail were developed long before Ayyadurai's 1978 computer program, his claim to be the "inventor of e-mail" is false. The motion holds that Techdirt's allegedly defamatory statements are actually constitutionally protected opinion. "This lawsuit is a misbegotten effort to stifle historical debate, silence criticism, and chill others from continuing to question Ayyadurai's grandiose claims," write Masnick's lawyers. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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An array of Bolt EVs (credit: Martin Klimek for Chevrolet) On Friday afternoon, Reuters reported that two sources familiar with GM’s plans said the automaker would deploy thousands of Chevrolet Bolts equipped with self-driving equipment in 2018. The move would be in partnership with ride-hailing service Lyft. GM has said it won’t sell autonomous vehicles to individuals. Instead, the automotive giant is targeting fleets for private companies and ride-hailing companies. The American automaker partnered with Lyft a year ago to work on driverless autos, and it even purchased a Lyft and Uber rival called Sidecar after that startup closed down. GM announced yesterday that its in-house car-sharing service, called Maven, would launch 100 Bolts for rental in the city of Los Angeles. Those electric vehicles won’t be autonomous, but Lyft drivers will be able to take advantage of the Maven cars and use them as their work vehicle for a fee. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Trevor Mahlmann NASA built two main launch pads during the Apollo program, 39A and 39B. The former was used for every crewed Apollo launch, except for Apollo 10, and most of the space shuttle missions. After the final space shuttle flight in 2011, NASA decided it needed just one of the pads for its future operations. So it leased Launch Complex 39A to SpaceX. The company had intended to use Launch Complex 39A primarily for launches of its new Falcon Heavy rocket and commercial crew missions. However, on September 1, 2016, a static fire test accident at SpaceX's other Florida launch pad, Launch Complex 40, caused severe damage to facilities there (repairs may be complete later this summer, according to company president Gwynne Shotwell). This pushed SpaceX to expedite its refurbishment of Launch Complex 39A and to expand its use for all launches from the East Coast. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: ccPixs.com) Last week, Marathon Pharmaceuticals announced that it would start selling an old steroid drug that treats Duchenne muscular dystrophy for a whopping $89,000 per year of treatment. That’s a steep increase from the $1,200-per-year generic version that families could import from other countries. The standard reactions ensued: patient groups were outraged, health experts fretted, and lawmakers made blustery statements before sending strongly worded letters. The reaction was, sadly, exactly what we’ve seen each time drug makers outrageously price drugs that should be affordable. But one thing was different this time: Marathon’s eye-popping price tag landed on the heels of an industry-wide effort to distance itself from price gouging. Now, Marathon’s industry partners are joining in the outrage, and Marathon has hit “pause” on the drug’s release. Marathon’s standing within the industry may even be in question, according to the pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA, which currently counts Marathon as a member. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge Next month, the US Food and Drug Administration will hold a public hearing to gather consumers’ thoughts, suggestions, and hopes for food allowed to be labeled “healthy.” The agency made this announcement Thursday. The hearing is the latest step in the FDA’s months-long effort to modernize and redefine the term. They hope to come up with a fresh, science-backed definition that will help consumers make smart choices at the grocery store. That effort was spurred in late 2015 by critics who argued that the current definition is out of date and that food industry interests had tainted it. But one bit of this story that might give readers pause: the criticism was spearheaded by a member of the food industry, which, of course, has its own interests for redefining the term. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Flickr: Rego Korosi ) If you watch any amount of videos on YouTube, you're probably accustomed to waiting five seconds before hitting that "skip ad" button. You're probably well aware of just how annoying it is when that button never appears and you're forced to sit through 30 seconds of a car commercial even though you live in New York City and don't even have a driver's license. Well, there's good news: Google is scrapping 30-second unskippable ads on its video site, reports Campaign (via Neowin). Recognizing that they're not tremendously popular, especially among data-capped mobile users, the company is pushing shorter formats to advertisers, such as the six-second unskippable ad that it launched last year. Unfortunately, the change won't take effect immediately; YouTube users will have to wait until 2018 for the longer ads to go away. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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