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Enlarge / Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen, at the Volkswagen Preview Night prior to the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show. (credit: Sean Gallup | Getty Images) Well, this one will certainly set the cat among the pigeons. Via the Daily Kanban, we came across this video of Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller ripping Tesla during a panel discussion on the future of the automotive industry. Prompted by a comment from the moderator, Müller laid into the electric car company for its small production volumes, regular quarterly losses, and for firing hundreds of workers. Per Daily Kanban's translation: Now I really need to say a few words about Tesla: With all respect, there are some world champions of big announcements in this world—I don’t want to name names. There are companies that barely sell 80,000 cars a year. Then there are companies like Volkswagen that sell 11 million cars this year, and produce a profit of 13 or 14 billion euro. If I am correctly informed, Tesla each quarter destroys millions of dollars in the three digits, and it willy-nilly fires its workers. Social responsibility? Please. We should not not get carried away and compare apples with oranges. The attack comes at a tough time for Tesla. The Model 3, the company's new mass-market EV, is mired in "production hell," with Tesla having little chance of meeting its goal of building 20,000 in the month of December. And there has been a spate of allegations of harassment at the company's factory, with workers reporting racial and now anti-LGBT abuse. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Marcus Hutchins, security researcher for Kryptos Logic. In May, he registered a domain name that neutralized the WCry ransomware worm. In August, he was charged with developing malware called Kronos. (credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images) A judge in Milwaukee has modified the pre-trial release conditions of Marcus Hutchins, also known online as "MalwareTech," who was indicted two months ago on federal criminal charges. Under US Magistrate Judge William Duffin’s Thursday order, Hutchins, who is currently living in Los Angeles, will no longer be subject to a curfew or to GPS monitoring. His attorney, Marcia Hofmann, wrote in a court filing earlier this week that Hutchins should not be considered a flight risk and has never missed a court appearance. During a September 2017 trip to the East Coast, his GPS monitoring device failed and he “did not attempt to flee the country.” She also told the court that being forced to wear the device was “unduly burdensome,” in particular as it hindered his ability to swim and surf. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Amazon's campus in South Lake Union, Seattle. (credit: Joel Rogers / Getty Images) Cities around the country are pulling out all the stops to entice Amazon to set up its second headquarters in their area. The online retail giant is taking proposals from around North America, and today's the deadline. Some of the proposals include massive tax breaks, while other cities are trying out humorous gimmicks to get the company's attention. New Jersey has offered the biggest tax incentives, consisting of up to $7 billion in state and local tax rebates if Amazon locates in Newark and hires the 50,000 workers it has said it would. The company has also promised $5 billion in spending on construction of the headquarters. The New Jersey offer, announced Monday, is $2 billion more than what Republican Governor Chris Christie and the Democratic-led New Jersey legislature agreed to last month. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos. (credit: Dave Maass) Facebook is failing to live up to the responsibility it faces for adequately securing the vast amount of personal information it amasses, the social network's top security executive said in a leaked phone call with company employees. "The threats that we are facing have increased significantly and the quality of the adversaries that we are facing," Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said during a taped call, which was reported Thursday by ZDNet. "Both technically and from a cultural perspective, I don't feel like we have caught up with our responsibility." He continued: Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / A New Caledonian crow uses a serrated leaf edge to pull grubs out of a hole in a log. (credit: Mark Sibley) Crows share an interesting set of behaviors with humans: they like to play, and they often use tools. We know that humans play to learn. When toddlers knock over a pile of blocks, they're developing the ability to build and measure objects in the real world. The question is, do crows play for the same reason? An international team of cognitive scientists played with some crows to find out. What they discovered gives us a new understanding of crow consciousness, but it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Lund University cognitive science researcher Megan Lambert and her colleagues designed three experiments to figure out whether there's a relationship between crow play and their ability to use tools to solve puzzles. It's well-documented that wild New Caledonian crows make a variety of tools, from hooked sticks to specially-prepared leaf edges, to pull insects out of hard-to-reach spots in trees. But crows have also been observed doing all kinds of weird things with tools, often for what seems like the pursuit of fun. A crow sleds down a roof using a plastic lid. In the YouTube video above, you can see a crow in Russia using a plastic lid to sled down a snowy roof. Researchers call these shenanigans "unrewarded object exploration." The crow doesn't get a "reward" because nothing about this activity aids its survival. Its only reward is the fun of sliding down a roof. But maybe, Lambert and her colleagues speculated, this type of seemingly goofy activity might actually lead to better tool use later on. The bird is learning about slipperiness, after all, and we even see it figuring out that it can't slide on the roof unless there's enough snow underneath the lid. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / An officer demonstrates Axon Citizen, a new Web portal to submit data to police. (credit: Axon) Axon, the company formerly known as Taser, either wants to encourage helpful citizens or snitches—depending on how you feel about talking to police—to come forward. On Thursday, the company announced "Axon Citizen," a new "public safety portal" that lets civilians submit text, video, and audio files directly to participating law enforcement agencies that use its cloud storage service, Evidence.com. The company, which already is the largest provider of body-worn cameras and associated storage to American law enforcement agencies, said in a press release that submitted data "goes straight into Evidence.com, so community members do not need to hand their phones over to police. The direct upload to Evidence.com eliminates any need for officers to download, print, and transfer data to a USB drive and physically place it inside an evidence locker at the agency." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / A Lyft-branded car picks up a passenger in San Francisco on June 20, 2015. (credit: Ramin Talaie | Getty Images) In September, we found out that Alphabet was possibly about to invest in the ride-hailing company Lyft. On Wednesday, Recode reported that the speculation was correct, and Google's parent company is leading a $1 billion round of investment that raises Lyft's valuation to $11 billion. Another Alphabet company, Waymo, is developing self-driving cars and partnered with Lyft earlier this year, presumably for the infrastructure that will allow it to find customers for the service that looks set to launch in Phoenix, Arizona. As we explained recently, Lyft has been putting together a host of partnerships of late, an Android-like strategy that is positioning the company well for the coming years. Lyft has become a recognized and trusted brand, which is critically important when trying to get customers to choose you over a rival like Uber. Lyft has also inked deals with Jaguar Land Rover and Ford, and General Motors invested $500 million in the company last year. GM and Lyft were believed to be planning on filling the streets of San Francisco with driverless Bolt electric vehicles in 2018. But according to The Information, that may not be the case. The outlet reported that Cruise—which GM bought for $1 billion in 2016 to develop autonomous vehicles—may work with beleaguered Uber instead as its ride-hailing partner. However, according to Forbes, the automaker says that "nothing has changed in the relationship between GM and Lyft." Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Enlarge / Droplets of a gallium/indium alloy. (credit: Collin Ladd, NC State University) The discovery of graphene—a one-atom-thick sheet of covalently bonded carbon atoms—inspired the research community to generate a variety of 2D materials. Graphene, MoS2, the silicon equivalent of graphene, and more all have distinct properties based on the chemical bonding among their component atoms. And it's possible to leverage these properties to create commonplace devices on an unprecedentedly small scale, like a three-atom-thick LED. Obviously, the more materials we have to work with, the better we can fine-tune one of these devices to our needs. But producing 2D materials is a challenge, as there are a limited number of substances that lend themselves to the chemically bonded layers we know how to work with. Now, an Australian-US team (writing in Science) has devised a way to make a broad class of atomically thin metal oxides, including 2D versions of materials already in use by the electronics industry. Their secret? A room temperature liquid metal. Selective This is one of those cases where a series of simple observations led to a major development. In many cases, pure metals will react with oxygen in the air to form a thin oxide layer on their surface. This, it turns out, is true for one of the metals that is liquid near room temperature: gallium, which melts at 30 degrees Celsius. Leave some liquid gallium exposed to the air, and it'll form a thin film of gallium oxide on its surface. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The 2014 Mac Mini. (credit: Andrew Cunningham) More than 1,000 days have passed since Apple updated its Mac mini hardware. Since then, Apple has launched the Apple Watch, AirPods, the retina MacBook, and the Touch Bar MacBook Pro. Meanwhile, the Mac mini has existed in a state of arrested development. You'd be forgiven for considering the possibility that the product has been living its last days. But in an e-mail to an Apple customer today, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the Mac mini isn't going anywhere. The customer, who goes by the name Krar, e-mailed Cook to note that the Mac mini hasn't seen an update in three years. Krar wanted to know, "Are we are going to see anything in the pipeline any time soon?" Cook's response, which was shared on MacRumors, said: I'm glad you love the Mac mini. We love it too. Our customers have found so many creative and interesting uses for the Mac mini. While it is not time to share any details, we do plan for Mac mini to be an important part of our product line going forward. He's not saying much, but even confirmation that this product has a future is in some ways surprising. The entry-level Mac mini still runs on Haswell processors and Intel HD 5000 integrated graphics. It comes with only 4GB of RAM. It starts at $499, but other compact desktops offer much more current specs at that price point. The mini is clearly long overdue for an update, but because it's unclear which direction Apple might take the device with future iterations, it seemed like a safe bet that its time on the market was drawing to a close. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / SANTA ROSA, CA -OCTOBER 14: The ruins of houses destroyed by the Tubbs Fire are seen near Fountaingrove Parkway on October 14, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California. At least 40 people are confirmed dead with hundreds still missing. Officials expect the death toll to rise and now estimate that 5,700 structures have been destroyed. (credit: David McNew/Getty Images) A couple who lost its Santa Rosa home in the devastating October Tubbs Fire has sued the local utility for negligence, saying that untrimmed tree branches caught fire when they came into contact with power lines and other equipment. The California Department of Forestry hasn’t officially ruled on what caused the October fires that consumed hundreds of thousands of acres in northern California and killed dozens of people, but officials have asked Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to preserve records for subsequent investigations into the causes of the fires. Last week, the Bay Area paper Mercury News reported that the night the fires started, “emergency dispatchers in Sonoma County received multiple calls of power lines falling down and electrical transformers exploding.” The night had been a particularly windy one, and PG&E spokesperson Matt Nauman told the paper that “The historic wind event that swept across PG&E service area late Sunday and early Monday packed hurricane-strength winds in excess of 75mph in some cases.” Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list includes the usual slew of PC and laptop discounts, including savings on a Dell XPS Tower desktop, several Dell laptops, and even a Star Wars-themed Lenovo notebook, because shameless corporate branding is okay when it's for a franchise that you're protective of. The rest of the roundup includes deals on wireless home cameras, 4K TVs, and networking equipment, among other things. You can take a peek below. Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Frame from a short video of Blue Origin's hot fire engine test Wednesday. (credit: Blue Origin) New space company Blue Origin has spent the better part of this decade developing a powerful rocket engine for use in its orbital rocket, New Glenn, and potentially other US-based launchers. This engine, the liquid natural gas-powered BE-4, has been closely watched both within the aerospace industry and in military space because it uses innovative new technology, has largely been developed with private funding, and is fully reusable. However, while there was great promise with the new engine, it still had to perform. And so the aerospace community has been watching development of the engine to see if it could pass a key hurdle—a hot-fire test. After months of waiting, that's what finally happened on Wednesday at the company's facility in West Texas when the BE-4 engine fired at 50-percent power for three seconds. First hotfire of our BE-4 engine is a success #GradatimFerociter pic.twitter.com/xuotdzfDjF — Blue Origin (@blueorigin) October 19, 2017 This demonstration sends a clear signal that there is a new player in the industry preparing to compete both for national security and commercial launches. Some have derided Blue Origin for its original focus on New Shepard, a suborbital vehicle that the company plans to use for space tourism trips in a year or two. However, the brawny BE-4 engine supports the idea that Blue Origin is gearing up for orbital and deep space missions, too. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Man posing for stock image is really surprised by the size of his bill. (credit: Getty Images | sturti) Frontier Communications' purchase of FiOS and DSL networks from Verizon last year led to immediate problems for customers that took weeks to resolve. More than a year later, some ex-Verizon customers in Florida say they are still having major problems with their new provider. "Some say Frontier Communications has overcharged them hundreds of dollars and have struggled to get a satisfactory response from customer service," a report by ABC Action News in Tampa Bay said last week. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Media for Medical) Chronic intestinal disturbances may in part be handed down from above, according to a study published Thursday in Science. Intestinal pathogens can lurk in the mouth and—at just the right moments—interlope in the gut to help trigger severe, recurring bouts of inflammation, researchers found. The study, based on human and mouse data, suggests that microbes lying low around our choppers may play a role in persistent gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. “Our findings suggest that the oral cavity may serve as a reservoir for potential intestinal pathobionts that can exacerbate intestinal disease,” the researchers, led by Koji Atarashi of Keio University School of Medicine, concluded. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Jeff Dunn) Sonos is finally girding itself for the smart speaker wars. With Amazon’s Echo line of speakers proving a surprise hit and the usage of digital assistants growing generally, wireless speaker pioneer Sonos has launched its first voice-enabled speaker, the Sonos One. This $199 device taps in to the same Alexa assistant that Amazon plants in its own hardware; at some point in 2018, Sonos says it will add support for the rival Google Assistant as well. It is generally accepted that current smart speakers like the Echo and Google Home, the devices for which such assistants are mainly designed, are mediocre when used as speakers. Given Sonos’ reputation for delivering above-average audio quality, the hope is that the One provides the smarts of an Echo (and, eventually, a Home) without skimping on sound. In many ways, that’s exactly what the Sonos One does. It runs circles around the Echo and Home in the audio department, and it does nearly all of the same "Alexa things" you can do with an Amazon-made device. The One makes sense for someone who has a set of Sonos speakers already and is curious to see how an Echo-like machine would fit into their lifestyle. Read 39 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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When we last checked in on the state of Denuvo copy protection in PC games, the latest version of the best-in-class DRM provider had provided about a month's worth of usable piracy prevention for survival-horror title 2Dark. Fast forward to the current holiday season, and major Denuvo releases are being publicly cracked within a day of their launch. We're certainly a long way away from the days when major cracking groups were publicly musing that Denuvo-style DRM might soon become unbeatable. This week's release of South Park: The Fractured But Whole is the latest to see its protections broken less than 24 hours after its release, but it's not alone. Middle Earth: Shadow of War was broken within a day last week, and last month saw cracks for Total War: Warhammer 2 and FIFA 18 the very same day as their public release. Then there's The Evil Within 2, which reportedly used Denuvo in prerelease review copies but then launched without that protection last week, effectively ceding the game to immediate potential piracy. Those nearly instant Denuvo cracks follow summer releases like Sonic Mania, Tekken 7, and Prey, all of which saw DRM protection cracked between four to nine days of release. But even that small difference in the "uncracked" protection window can be important for game publishers, who usually see a large proportion of their legitimate sales in those first few days of availability. The presence of an easy-to-find cracked version in that launch window (or lack thereof) could have a significant effect on the initial sales momentum for a big release. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Flatiron School) In recent years, dozens of coding schools and boot camps have opened up, promising that they can teach students enough software programming that they can get a high-paying job in just a few months. Now one of the most prominent institutions, New York's Flatiron School, will be shelling out $375,000 to settle charges brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office. The AG said the school operated for a period without the proper educational license, and it improperly marketed both its job placement rates and the salaries of its graduates. New York regulators didn't find any inaccuracies in Flatiron's "outcomes report," a document the company is proud of. However, the Attorney General's office found (PDF) that certain statements made on Flatiron's website didn't constitute "clear and conspicuous" disclosure. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Google Fiber) Google Fiber has begun taking signups in Louisville, Kentucky, after a tumultuous process involving lawsuits filed against the local government by incumbent broadband providers. AT&T and Charter both sued the metro government in Louisville and Jefferson County last year in an attempt to stop a new ordinance designed to give Google Fiber easier access to utility poles. The lawsuits haven't stopped the new ordinance, as AT&T's was thrown out of court and Charter's is still pending. But instead of hanging wires on utility poles, Google Fiber ended up burying the cables with a "microtrenching" strategy that is quicker than traditional underground fiber deployment. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / This is the first image of Volkswagen's purpose-built Pikes Peak electric hill climb car. (credit: Volkswagen) The annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the oldest races in the world, having celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016. For much of its history, the 12.4-mile (19.9km) course was a dirt road that played host to rally-bred machines, but since the route was fully paved over in 2012, slick tires and stiff suspension have become the order of the day. And the very fastest cars have gotten a lot quieter, too. That's because it has become a great place to put electric vehicle technology to the test. Unlike internal combustion engines, EVs don't suffer any drop in power as they climb from 4,750 feet (1,440m) up to the finish above the tree line at 14,100 feet (4,300m). Now Volkswagen has thrown its hat into the ring with a purpose-built EV racer, which it plans to enter in 2018. It's the first big motorsports program from VW in the aftermath of the diesel emissions scandal, which saw the company cancel most of its racing and rallying activities. "The Pikes Peak hill climb is one of the world’s most renowned car races. It poses an enormous challenge and is therefore perfectly suited to proving the capabilities of upcoming technologies," explains Volkswagen board member Frank Welsch. "Our electric race car will be equipped with innovative battery and drive technology. The extreme stress test posed by Pikes Peak will give us important feedback that will benefit future development, and it will showcase our products and their technologies." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / You can now make calls from your Apple Watch without the phone nearby. Apple's struggles in China continue to mount, and this time, it's Apple's newest wearable causing problems for the company. According to a Wall Street Journal report, standalone wireless service available on certain models of the Apple Watch Series 3 has been shut down just one month after the device became available. Chinese customers who purchased a Series 3 with LTE are not able to connect their wearables to their wireless networks, and it's unclear when service will be reinstated. When the Apple Watch Series 3 became available on September 22, LTE service was available exclusively through China's Unicom wireless company. However, new cellular subscriptions were cut off after September 28. Those who registered for wireless service on their Apple Watch before September 28 (essentially, customers who bought the new device within the first week of sale) have been unaffected. Those who have tried to set up wireless service on a Series 3 device since September 28 have been unable to do so. Unicom's website only says that cellular service was initially offered on a "trial basis," but the company is not saying when it would come back for new customers. Analysts suspect the shutdown is due to security concerns from the Chinese government, which heavily regulates all mobile phone service and devices. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ron Amadeo Google's new flagship smartphones, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, are out today. In the life of any major smartphone, there comes a time when it must hit iFixit's workbench for a teardown, and for the 2 XL, today is that day. The site found a few surprises inside the Pixel 2 XL. First up is a magnesium mid-frame, which should make the phone extra stiff. The mid-frame is also housing a heat pipe for better cooling, which seems to be showing up more and more in smartphones. Under X-Ray, you can see that, like the smaller Pixel 2, the Pixel 2 XL does have antenna bands, but they're invisible on the 2 XL. It is also nice to see the "Active Edge" pressure sensors, which allow you to squeeze the phone to call up the Google Assistant. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / You'll be given a lot of parts with which to build your custom ship. Stardock hopes each player will end up with a completely different ship at the end and compare screenshots. (credit: Stardock) Star Control is back—or at least it will be imminently. Next month, Stardock Entertainment will begin a beta test of Star Control: Origins, a space-exploration adventure game that the company's CEO, Brad Wardell, hopes will be a true successor to fan favorite Star Control II. The beta will include a ship-creator tool and playable super melee, 1v1 PvP mode. The beta coincides with the 25th anniversary of Star Control II. Originally, Star Control: Origins was slated for release at this time, but it has been pushed back to next year. Stardock CEO Brad Wardell says the game has been delayed in part because its development team decided to implement robust, in-game creation tools that will allow players to create ships, planets, structures, stories, and more—Minecraft-style—then share them on the Steam Workshop. I spoke at length with Wardell about the game, his personal history with Star Control, these newly revealed features, and more. And we have new art, new screenshots, and a video showing the game's current state of development. Read 32 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ultimate Ears, maker of fine portable Bluetooth speakers and custom-fit headphones, has hopped on the digital assistant bandwagon with the new Blast and Megablast Bluetooth speakers. Now with built-in Wi-Fi and Amazon Alexa, the Blast and Megablast have the full suite of Alexa services, including voice control for the likes of Spotify and Amazon music, as well as for smart home tech like Philips Hue bulbs and Logitech Harmony remotes. The Blast costs £200 and the Megablast £270. Both are up for pre-order today, with launch due in "late October." Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / New Switch firmware, new Super Mario Odyssey profile-icon options! And that means T-REX MARIO! RWAAAR! (credit: Nintendo) As the Nintendo Switch loses some of its brand-new luster, fans have begun to question a few key missing features, from the long-running Virtual Console service to traditional apps like media players and Web browsers. Thus, any new major firmware for the Switch is likely to get fans' hopes up about new functionality, and sure enough Switch firmware 4.0, out on Wednesday, brings a few new features to the table. Arguably the most notable addition is one that comes oh-so-close to fixing a major Switch problem: the inability to back up any save game data. Switch 4.0 officially adds profile and save transfers between Switch systems. This process will entirely wipe whatever selected data is moved from the source system. This is the first time Switch owners have been able to move save data in any official capacity, as opposed to having save data being completely trapped on a default system, but it's still a far cry from being able to take your console's save files and store them somewhere secure, like a spare SD card or a computer. (Purchases are linked to a universal profile, and these have already been transferable, so long as the source console's licenses are deactivated first.) We can only hope this feature rollout is a hint of more functionality in the future. Otherwise, the race is still on for hackers and exploiters to beat Nintendo to the save-backup punch (and thereby drive legitimate users towards hacks in the process). Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: St. Regis Mohawk Tribe / Aurich Lawson) The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe has filed patent lawsuits against Amazon and Microsoft, using patents it acquired from a company called SRC Labs, according to reports in Reuters and CNBC. Until recently, the patents were owned by a holding company called SRC Labs, which is a co-plaintiff in today's lawsuit. The lawsuits against Amazon and Microsoft are the second and third lawsuits filed by patent-holding companies working together with Native American tribes. Patent-holding companies, sometimes derided in the tech industry as "patent trolls," produce no goods or services and make their revenue from filing lawsuits. At least two patent-holding companies have chosen to give their patents to Native American tribes, seeking to benefit from tribal "sovereign immunity" that could avoid certain types of patent reviews at the US Patent Office. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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