posted 4 days ago on ars technica
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. JD Lasica The chief executive of Axel Springer, one of Europe's largest media publishers, has said that his company is afraid of the power that Google has accumulated and worries that the search giant is becoming a "superstate," immune from regulation. Mathias Döpfner published an open letter to Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in which he points out that Google is not only the largest search engine in the world, but the largest video platform, the largest browser, and the most used e-mail service and mobile operating system. The open letter was published as a response to a guest column written by Schmidt in the same newspaper. Döpfner goes on to talk about the "schizophrenic" relationship between Axel Springer and Google. On one hand the publisher is part of a European antitrust lawsuit against the search giant, while it also relies on Google's traffic and ad revenue. "We know of no alternative that even begins to offer similar technological requirements for automated advertising sales, and we cannot do without this source of income," he says. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on ars technica
Dallas Swonger, right, caught in the act by a security tape. pdxwater The city of Portland, OR will empty a 38-million gallon reservoir after a teenager allegedly urinated in it, according to the Associated Press. It's the second time in three years that Portland is flushing its Mount Tabor reservoir after a urine-related incident. The reservoir is open-air and sits exposed to all of nature, leading many parties to question how necessary a draining would be, or how polluted 38 million gallons of water can really be by a single man's urine. David Shaff, Portland's water bureau administrator, reserves a special disgust specifically for human urine. In 2011, when Shaff drained the reservoir following a urination, he reasoned to the Portland Mercury, "Do you want to be drinking someone's pee?… There's probably no regulation that says I have to be doing it but, again, who wants to be drinking pee?" This time around, Shaff wrote in a statement, "Our customers have an expectation that their water is not deliberately contaminated." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on ars technica
An array of neutron detectors. Oak Ridge National Labs Earlier this year, researchers found the signal of inflation hidden in the cosmic microwave background—the radiative remnants of the Big Bang took a long time to reveal their secrets. It was a big day. Cosmologists everywhere broke out the Radler, got horrendously drunk, and rioted in front of campus administration buildings. Okay, maybe not—getting drunk while drinking Radler is difficult under the best of circumstances. No, in reality, they went back to work. Even if those results hold up and inflation is as predicted, that still leaves cosmologists missing two pieces of their puzzle: dark matter and dark energy. While everyone else is searching the skies, a group of physicists has shown that bouncing neutrons are actually very sensitive to variations in gravity. Their research is now putting stringent limits on certain dark energy and dark matter theories. Three forces walk into a bar Before we crack open the door to the lab and reveal results, it is important to see how inflation, dark energy, and dark matter all fit together. When we look out into the Universe, its appearance is rather odd. It is surprisingly smooth over very large scales, containing lots of, well, bugger all. And where there is matter, it is clumped up much more than expected. So, the Universe is both smooth and lumpy. It's also still inflating. Our observations show that the expansion of the Universe not only continues, but is getting faster. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on ars technica
Jon Russell Starting yesterday, investors have been able to purchase shares of Weibo, sometimes called “China’s Twitter,” on NASDAQ. The company’s regulatory filing with the SEC reveals details not previously known about Weibo’s censorship apparatus, which we wrote about last year. Weibo, like all Internet publishers and providers in China, is prohibited from letting its users display content that is obscene, fraudulent, defamatory or otherwise illegal under Chinese laws. The content prohibitions also forbid material that “impairs the national dignity of China,” “is reactionary,” “superstitious,” or “socially destabilizing.” As required under SEC regulations, the company must list for investors potential risks that might affect its share price. Weibo is up front about the risk that the Chinese government’s regulation of content poses to its ability so succeed. “Failure to [censor] may subject us to liabilities and penalties and may even result in the temporary blockage or complete shutdown of our online operations.” Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on ars technica
Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany, and Tatiana Maslany, portraying three of Orphan Black's 11+ clones. BBC America Spoiler alert: Minor spoilers for the TV show Orphan Black, as well as spoilers for other pieces of (less-contemporary) content, discussed throughout.  Nearly 18 years ago, the world said hello to its first clone of an adult mammal. Frogs and other mammal trials had come before Dolly, but she was a special sheep, sourced straight from another sheep’s mammary glands, no sperm necessary. Instead, Dolly’s creators replaced an egg’s DNA with that of the source cell, then tricked the egg into thinking it had been fertilized. A year later, she was formally announced to the world, and its largest governing bodies jumped to conclusions with a loud reply. Humans can’t be next, they cried! President Bill Clinton and the FDA quickly and formally expressed their disapproval of human cloning trials. Over two dozen countries still either ban human trials outright or limit the practice to research, only forbidding full-term births. (Such human research is alive and well, as we recently reported.) Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on ars technica
Variation in output of the light from a binary system consisting of a Sun-like star and a white dwarf. When the white dwarf eclipses its companion, its gravity magnifies the light, making the star appear very slightly brighter. Eric Agol White dwarfs are the remnants of stars like the Sun. They also provide some of the best means to measure large distances in the Universe if they explode as "type Ia" supernovae. All of those explosions occur in binary systems consisting either of two white dwarfs or a white dwarf paired with an ordinary star. To understand the whole process, astronomers need to identify progenitor systems before they explode: binaries with one or more white dwarf. A particularly interesting example was recently identified and described in a Science paper by Ethan Kruse and Eric Agol. In this system, a white dwarf is locked in mutual orbit with a Sun-like star. The orientation of the binary relative to Earth means the two bodies periodically eclipse each other. When the white dwarf passes in front of its companion, gravitational lensing—the focusing of light by a massive body—magnifies the star's light very slightly. This is the first such "self-lensing" system containing a white dwarf, and should allow researchers to better understand understand the behavior of white dwarfs in binaries. When one star passes in front of another (from our point of view), the gravity of the foreground star magnifies the light of the background object very slightly. This effect is very small, and so it is known as gravitational microlensing (or just microlensing) to distinguish it from the more dramatic form described in the sidebar. Microlensing can be used in some cases to detect exoplanets orbiting around the star in the foreground: the planet provides a tiny extra boost, beyond that provided by its host star, to the light of the star in the background. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on ars technica
Stack Exchange This Q&A is part of a weekly series of posts highlighting common questions encountered by technophiles and answered by users at Stack Exchange, a free, community-powered network of 100+ Q&A sites. Adam asked: As a "new" programmer (I first wrote a line of code in 2009), I've noticed it's relatively easy to create a program that exhibits quite complex elements today with things like .NET framework, for example. Creating a visual interface or sorting a list can be done with very few commands now. Read 47 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on ars technica
iFixit A little over three years ago, you, the readers, asked us, the Ars staff, about the best way to prolong the life of a lithium-ion battery. Now that time has passed, the gadget landscape has changed, and it's time for an update. There are a few new things to look out for, but mostly the principles we stated then, stand today: "Use your battery. Not too much. Mostly for small apps." Our initial guide clarified a great many things about lithium ion batteries and the ways they can differ from other types of batteries. These differences once used to strike fear into the hearts of consumers. For instance, Li-ion batteries, unlike nickel-based batteries, and don't get their capacity "confused" by shallow discharges. In fact, frequent and shallow discharges are the best advice for keeping a young Li-ion battery fit and trim. One of the worst things you can do to a Li-ion battery is to run it out completely all the time. Full discharges put a lot of strain on the battery, and it's much better practice to do shallow discharges to no lower than 20 percent. In a way, this is like people running for exercise—running a few miles a day is fine, but running a marathon every day is generally not sustainable. If your Li-ion-powered device is running out of juice on a daily basis, you're decreasing its overall useful lifespan, and should probably work some charging stations into your day or change your devices' settings so that it's not churning through its battery so quickly. There used to be certain types of batteries whose "memory" of their total charge capacity seemed to get confused by shallow discharges. This is not, and never was, the case with Li-ion batteries. However, if you are using something like a notebook computer that gives you time estimates of how much longer the battery will last, this clock can be confused by shallow charging intervals. Most manufacturers recommend that you do a full discharge of the battery about once a month to help your device calibrate the time gauge. …On the other end of the spectrum, keeping a Li-ion battery fully charged is not good for it either. This isn't because Li-ion batteries can get "overcharged" (something that people used to worry about in The Olden Days of portable computers), but a Li-ion battery that doesn't get used will suffer from capacity loss, meaning that it won't be able to hold as much charge and power your gadgets for as long. Extremely shallow discharges of only a couple percent are also not enough to keep a Li-ion battery in practice, so if you're going to pull the plug, let the battery run down for a little bit. The other tip that remains true is that you should keep Li-ion batteries in fair weather. They don't like extreme cold or heat, especially heat caused by running Crysis 2 clock-speed drag races or whatever the kids are up to these days. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on ars technica
According to a Friday report by CNET, Nike is preparing to pull the plug on its FuelBand product, firing the majority of its hardware team (as many as 55 people) this past week. The company appears to be refocusing its efforts on apps, rather than physical hardware—it seems only a matter of time before such sensors are fully incorporated into future models of smartphones. The move may mark a turning point in the fitness band sector, as it appears to mark the first of the major companies to exit hardware manufacture. "As a fast-paced, global business we continually align resources with business priorities," Nike spokesman Brian Strong told CNET. "As our Digital Sport priorities evolve, we expect to make changes within the team, and there will be a small number of layoffs. We do not comment on individual employment matters." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on ars technica
Ever wondered if your children will inherit your digital data? Longaccess promises to be a cold storage of sorts for your digital life. It's a cloud-based service that operates off Amazon's S3 data centers, but unlike other file lockers, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, Longaccess aims to be less accessible, but more dependable. Once you sign up, it is simply a matter of choosing what files you want to keep and hitting upload. Once the process is complete, instead of storing the files in an account on a website or emailing you a link, Longaccess then provides you a code string that can be printed out as a certificate—or tattooed onto your arm. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on ars technica
Thomas Hawk Five major record labels have sued Pandora over failing to pay royalties for music recorded before 1972. The same record labels also sued SiriusXM satellite radio in September 2013 over similar issues. Due to a quirk in federal law, music recorded before 1972 is not protected under US copyright. Those recordings, however, are governed by what the US Copyright Office describes as: “a patchwork of state statutory and common law. States are permitted to continue protection for pre-1972 sound recordings until 2067, at which time all state protection will be preempted by federal law and pre-1972 sound recordings will enter the public domain.” SoundExchange, a music rights organization, estimates that non-payment for pre-1972 recordings cost artists and labels $60 million in royalties non-payment in 2013 alone. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on ars technica
Globally, the generation of the electricity that powers modern society is still heavily reliant on a fuel that's been used for thousands of years: coal. Coal has two virtues: it's plentiful and extracting it is cheap. But almost every step involved in its production and use brings problems. Extracting it is hazardous to miners, while alternatives like open-pit mines or mountain top removal permanently alter the landscape and often release hazardous chemicals into the environment. Burning it requires careful pollution controls to avoid the release of hazardous chemicals like mercury or acid-forming sulfur compounds. It also releases the most carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generated. Combustion also leaves behind a toxic sludge that creates a long-term contamination hazard. The April issue of National Geographic includes an article that asks "Can coal ever be clean?" (The answer is no, but at the right cost, it could be cleaner.) The article is accompanied by the photographs of Robb Kendrick, who has captured some of the costs of coal at sites around the world. National Geographic got in touch and offered to share some of these images with our readers; you can find these and more at the magazine's website. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on ars technica
Aurich Lawson You all have persevered through quite a bit to get to this point: we have a functional and secure e-mail server that does a good job at ignoring or dumping off spam before it hits your inbox. We've got all the right pieces in place to ensure that the mail we send gets delivered; we've got OpenDKIM operational, and we've got DNS properly configured (including reverse lookups!). We could stop here and declare success. After all, you can plug your mail account name and password into your mail app or your smartphone and send and receive e-mail. You can easily add new accounts. Even better, you can easily add aliases, so creating "idonttrustyounottospamme@mydomain.com" and using it at a skeevy website that requires e-mail registration and then deleting the alias takes only a few seconds. But are there any extra steps we can take to increase security? What about one-time passwords or two-factor authentication? What about bolting on a webmail front end so we can access our e-mail from a browser? What about push notifications or calendaring? What about letting users set and change their own e-mail passwords? What else can we bolt onto our server, and what other configuration paths might we take to do things differently? Read 136 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
All of this animal savagery can be yours for only 99 cents this weekend, thanks to Sony's crazy flash sale on PSN. Need an excuse to hide from improving weather conditions around the country? Sony has you covered. Just a day after announcing its trouncing of Microsoft in the next-gen sales wars, Sony has unveiled a giant, weekend-long sale that includes some of its biggest hits for the stupidly cheap price of 99 cents. This sale mostly targets PS3 fare, including critical darlings Braid, Retro/Grade, Echochrome, and Tokyo Jungle, along with solid downloadables like Plants Vs. Zombies and Gotham City Impostors, along with cross-buy sleepers When Vikings Attack and Retro City Rampage. PS1 classics also land in the sale, including Gex and every Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon platform game on the classic system. A full list of the 34 discounted titles is available on the PlayStation Blog and also directly on this Sony Entertainment Network store page (which is getting slammed at the moment). Sale prices are valid until 7am Pacific time Monday, April 21, so bust out the credit card before then. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
This may be a technical distinction most people don’t recognize, but it’s also a historical truth: Most German soldiers during World War II weren’t actually Nazis. In games like the Medal of Honor series, the early Call of Duty games, Day of Defeat, or the new Heroes & Generals, players are fighting as or against the German Wehrmacht, their regular army forces. The Waffen-SS, on the other hand, is the armed wing of the Nazi party that has always been the primary antagonist throughout the Castle Wolfenstein franchise. But these virtual enemies never felt properly evil to me until I got to engage with a three-hour demo of Wolfenstein: The New Order recently. Sure, I've always known from history just how evil the SS troops in previous Wolfenstein games were, but that was knowledge I had from outside the game. Inside the games themselves, I was fighting an “SS Paranormal Division” that felt more like the cartoonish villains from the Indiana Jones movies—raising dead spirits, seeking religious totems, or engaging in other such hocus-pocus with a little Nazi superweapon vibe thrown in. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
With the last support being pulled away, LADEE departs for the Moon. LADEE, NASA's mission to study the thin lunar atmosphere, came to a close on the far side of the Moon last night (US time), as its controllers had it smash into the lunar surface. NASA's policy is to treat the locations of the Moon landings as historical sites, and it takes pains to preserve them from possible damage. LADEE didn't have the fuel to control its orbit indefinitely. As a result, the controllers had been preparing to terminate the probe for several weeks. The preparations included having it complete several orbits at an altitude below one mile, (1.6km), giving its scientific instruments a rare, close-up view of the Moon. In addition to its scientific missions, LADEE was used to test a new, laser-based communication system that set space bandwidth records: 622 megabits-per-second down from lunar orbit, with a 20mbps upload rate. The exact moment of impact isn't clear, since the precise terrain it hit couldn't be determined in advance. (If it hit a ridge, it would have happened earlier than if LADEE plowed across a plain. What is clear is that the impact destroyed the probe. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
AT&T's coverage map. AT&T FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today provided an update on next year’s auction of broadcast TV spectrum to wireless carriers and said that having two national carriers control the best spectrum is harmful to competition. “Spectrum below 1 GHz—such as the Incentive Auction spectrum—has physical properties that increase the reach of mobile networks over long distances,” Wheeler wrote in a blog post. “The effect of such properties is that fewer base stations and other infrastructure are required to build out a mobile network. This makes low-band particularly important in rural areas. A legacy of earlier spectrum assignments, however, is that two national carriers control the vast majority of low-band spectrum. As a result, rural consumers are denied the competition and choice that would be available if more wireless competitors also had access to low-band spectrum.” Wheeler didn’t mention the two national carriers by name, but it's pretty clear he was referring to AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Those two companies want to be able to buy as much spectrum in an upcoming auction as they can afford, but FCC officials have proposed rules that would prevent them from doing so. AT&T threatened to boycott the auction, saying that bidding restrictions would primarily affect itself and Verizon. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Mikael Miettinen/Flickr A climate scientist widely known for the "hockey stick" graph of recent temperatures has won the right to keep his e-mail private amid unsubstantiated allegations he might have rigged research data. Virginia's top court ruled Thursday that Michael Mann's electronic communications, generated while he was a professor at the University of Virginia, are a shielded, "proprietary" [PDF] work product. The Energy Environmental Institute, formerly the American Tradition Institute, and a local lawmaker sought the e-mail under the state's Freedom of Information Act. The institute objects to claims that global warming is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Screenshot from Putin's televised call-in session. RT via YouTube. On Friday, Edward Snowden published an op-ed in The Guardian, providing an explanation of why he chose to question Russian President Vladimir Putin on live TV on Thursday about his country’s spying policies. Snowden wrote that he intended to spark another national debate about state surveillance, this time in the country that hosts him. Just one day earlier, at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual televised call-in session, the whistleblower directly asked Putin about the current state of surveillance in Russia: “Does [your country] intercept, analyze, or store millions of individuals’ communications?” Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock Demonstrating yet another way the catastrophic Heartbleed vulnerability threatens users, malicious hackers were able to exploit the bug to successfully bypass multifactor authentication and fraud detection on an organization's virtual private network (VPN), security researchers said. When the critical flaw in the OpenSSL cryptographic library came to light 11 days ago, it was best known as a dangerous hole that allowed attackers to siphon out user names, passwords, and even private encryption keys processed by vulnerable Web servers. More recently, researchers confirmed that Heartbleed could be exploited to steal the private keys underpinning the widely used OpenVPN application and likely software for other VPNs that rely on a vulnerable version of OpenSSL. On Friday, researchers with network security firm Mandiant said Heartbleed had been used to subvert a customer's VPN concentrator, an appliance that typically provides a secure way for people to access a network from outside the organization. The devices frequently require multiple forms of authentication before granting access to an end user. Passwords, previously set authentication cookies, and other types of security tokens are frequently used. That's where Heartbleed came in handy for the hackers, who went to work exploiting the bug less than a day after it became public knowledge. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
After an attempted launch earlier this week was scrubbed due to a helium leak, SpaceX will try again at 3:25pm EDT today. The mission will send a Dragon capsule toward the International Space Station, filled with more than 5,000 lbs. of everything from food to science experiments. But sending Dragon toward the ISS is where the fun just starts, from the perspective of SpaceX. The company has started testing the equipment and procedures needed to return its Falcon 9 booster for reuse. During the last launch, this involved a controlled return to the atmosphere and partial descent. This time, the company will have the Falcon deploy landing legs and attempt to come down gently into the ocean. It doesn't necessarily expect to succeed—the company figures the odds are 2:1 against it—but it definitely hopes to learn a bit more about the challenges involved in the process. Ultimately, the goal is to have the Falcon set down on land for a rapid refurbishment and reuse. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
In the first quarter of 2014, struggling chip company AMD reported a loss of $20 million on revenue of $1.40 billion. Compared to the same quarter a year ago, this is a 28-percent increase in revenue and an 87-percent reduction in losses. The increased revenue was driven by the Graphics and Visual Solutions division, which saw a 118-percent increase in year-on-year revenue, from $337 million to $734 million. Operating income for the group was up over five times, from $16 million to $91 million. Graphics and Visual Solutions includes both AMD's GPU sales and also its semi-custom systems-on-chips. With Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 both using semi-custom SoCs from AMD, this division should continue to see healthy revenues for some years to come. The Computing Solutions group, which is where AMD accounts for its standalone CPUs—both with and without integrated GPUs—saw a 12-percent decline in revenue, from $751 million to $663 million. This is due to lower shipments of its processors. However, the division also saw a substantial 93-percent reduction in its losses, from $39 million to $3 million, attributed to lower operating expenses. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Mohammed Alnaser The level of control, or self-control, we exert in our relationships tends to shift based on the relationship itself and a range of external factors. In certain cases, it seems to be a lot easier to be aggressive or angry toward the people we are the closest to. A new study published in PNAS suggests that this level of self-control is directly related to the amount of glucose in the blood. The scientists think that individuals have a finite amount of energy that they can devote to self-control. This energy works like the rest of our mental energy: it drops as the day progresses and is correlated to the amount of glucose present in the blood. By studying 107 married couples for 21 consecutive days, the scientists were able to assess the correlation between blood glucose level and the amount of self-control an individual can exert. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Microdrones Gmbh Fans of The Wire will remember how the fictional Omar Little made a livelihood off robbing drug dealers. Now imagine how much easier his job would have been if he had his own eye in the sky. While police departments in the US are now starting to adopt drone technology for surveillance, some criminals in England have been turning the technology to their advantage to target victims—specifically, marijuana growers. According to a report in The Independent, criminals have taken a page out of the playbook of law enforcement and the military, using drones to carry an infrared camera aloft to search for the heat given off by the grow lights used by large-scale pot growers. Once spotted, the criminals move in to steal marijuana or extort the growers for a cut, according to one man who claimed to be involved in such a scheme. “It’s not like I am using my drone to see if they have nice televisions,” he told the Halesowen News, the local newspaper of a community outside Birmingham. “I am just after drugs to steal and sell… If you break the law then you enter me and my drone’s world. Half the time we don’t even need violence to get the crop. Growing cannabis has gone mainstream, and the people growing it are not gangsters.” Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Read More...
posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Dave Lidwell Last month, Microsoft Xbox Group Program Manager David Dennis told Ars the company would stick to reporting Xbox One shipment numbers exclusively through quarterly earnings reports, rather than periodic press releases à la competitor Sony. The company went back on that plan yesterday, though, announcing via press release that it has shipped 5 million units of the Xbox One to retailers worldwide since its launch late last year. The new number represents the opening of a decent-sized gap behind the PlayStation 4, which Sony announced had reached 7 million units sold to customers as of April 4. At the end of 2013 both systems were much more competitive, with Microsoft reporting 3.9 million shipped units to Sony's 4.2 million sold PlayStation 4 units. Microsoft's numbers are also a little softer than Sony's, since they include an unknown number of units shipped to retailers but not yet sold to consumers (though, to be fair, retailers wouldn't have ordered 1.1 million new Xbox One units in 2014 if they were all sitting on a lot of unsellable stock). That widening gap between the new consoles comes despite the launch and bundling of Microsoft exclusive Titanfall in March and a de facto price drop to $450 for the Xbox One at many US retailers. But the Xbox One is still far from a failure by historical standards. The Nintendo Wii had sold about 5.84 million units worldwide at a similar point in its life before going on to sell over 100 million units and become one of the best-selling consoles in history. The Xbox 360 had only sold 3.2 million units at this point in its life, a 60 percent generation-to-generation increase that Microsoft loves to trumpet in its press materials. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...