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Our weeklong virtual conference, Ars UNITE, kicked off today with an examination of how city and town governments are going the extra mile to improve residential broadband. After our feature on the topic—“Fed up, US cities take steps to build better broadband”—we hosted a live discussion with four experts: Blair Levin, a former FCC official who oversaw the development of the National Broadband Plan under President Obama and is now executive director of the Gig.U fiber initiative; Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance; Will Aycock, operations manager of Greenlight Community Broadband in Wilson, North Carolina; and Ted Smith, chief of the Civic Innovation office in Louisville, KY. To wrap up day one, let’s take a look at what readers and experts had to say. After a summary, we’ll post a lightly edited transcript of the live discussion. Read 121 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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All in all, FTDI's counter-counterfeit maneuvers are just another brick in a wall that pirates will bypass and customers will run into. A driver update from the Scottish electronics firm FTDI that intentionally “bricked” USB devices with counterfeit FTDI chips has been removed from Windows Update by the firm. The move follows an uproar from users who found devices they thought used the company’s chips disabled without warning. However, the company plans on re-releasing the update with code that “will still uphold our stance against devices that are not genuine, but do so in a non-invasive way that means there is no risk of end user’s hardware being directly affected,” the company’s CEO said in a statement. While the changes made in the firmware of chips affected by the driver’s counter-counterfeiting code can be reversed, there are questions about whether what FTDI did in the name of protecting the company’s intellectual property was ethical—or even legal. Commenting on FTDI’s driver tactics through Twitter, American Civil Liberties Union principal technologist Christopher Soghoian said, “It isn’t a stretch to view FTDI’s intentional bricking of chips as an unfair business practice.” Others were concerned that the move undermined the security of Windows’ automatic update system, possibly discouraging users from applying security updates in the future. In a post to the company’s blog, FTDI CEO Fred Dart apologized for the move. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The new floating castle where Microsoft is going to hold all the money it makes from Minecraft Lee Hutchinson When Microsoft laid down a cool $2.5 billion to purchase Minecraft-maker Mojang last month, the company was quick to stress that it would continue to make the ultra-popular building game available on a wide variety of non-Microsoft platforms. That announcement, of course, led to instant speculation among some that there might be an unannounced, Microsoft-exclusive Minecraft 2 in the works that would serve as the big payday for the game's new owner. Microsoft Head of Xbox threw some cold water on that idea in a recent interview with IGN's Podcast Beyond, saying "I don't know if Minecraft 2 is the thing that makes the most sense." Responding to a series of questions about Microsoft's plans for the Minecraft license, both in and out of games, Spencer remained focused on the idea of making good with the game's current fans before doing anything crazy. "The community around Minecraft is as strong as any community out there," he said. "We need to meet the needs and the desires of what the community has before we get permission to go off and do something else. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The storage wars have been taken to their logical conclusion: Microsoft is giving Office 365 subscribers unlimited OneDrive storage just four months after announcing that every user would get one terabyte of space. The unlimited space rollout will start today with Home, Personal, and University customers. These Office 365 users have their space on the "proper" OneDrive product. Subscribers to Office 365 business plans, which use the similarly named (but actually not at all the same) OneDrive for Business product, will start their upgrades in 2015. The cheapest subscription with unlimited storage is Office 365 Personal at $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. Free accounts remain at 15GB. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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KickassTorrents The Motion Picture Association of America said Monday it is concerned that intellectual property pirates are being exposed to malware and other dangers. "It is important to note that websites that traffic in infringing movies, television shows, and other copyrighted content do not harm only the rights holder. Malicious software or malware, which puts Internet users at risk of identity theft, fraud, and other ills, is increasingly becoming a source of revenue for pirate sites," the lobbying group told (PDF) US trade officials on Monday in its latest report about global "notorious markets" for illegal content. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Amazon.com On Monday, Amazon entered the stick-streaming gadget fray with the Fire TV Stick, a $39 device that plugs directly into a TV set's HDMI port to stream content and play video games. It will ship beginning November 19 with support for third-party streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube. The device also comes with a remote control and can be yours for $19 if you're an Amazon Prime member and you place an order by the morning of Wednesday, October 29. Amazon's product description wastes no time comparing its newest baby's specs and features to those of the Google Chromecast and Roku Streaming Stick. On paper, Amazon seems to win this battle: its 8GB of flash memory soundly surpasses Chromecast's 2GB, while its full gig of RAM doubles both Roku and Google's options. Meanwhile, the Fire Stick's listed dual-core processor may very well outpace its rivals' single-core offerings, but that's not saying much considering it's using the same Broadcom 28155 chip that debuted in a Samsung Galaxy S2 Plus refresh that launched early last year. Still, thanks to those stats, the Fire TV Stick appears to replicate much of the functionality of April's $99 Amazon Fire TV due to its ability to stream content independently. You aren't required to "fling" content from a tablet or smartphone, though the Fire TV Stick offers that as well. Flinging will require living with Amazon's app or device ecosystem, and that's where the asterisks start coming in. The Fire TV Stick's iOS-compatible app is "coming soon," iOS and Android devices have only been advertised as supporting third-party flinging from YouTube and Spotify, and HBO Go hopefuls have again been left behind. (Should you be the proud owner of other Amazon Fire devices, you'll be all set, of course.) Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Cities and towns are doing everything they can to make broadband better for their residents, and today industry experts and those on the front lines in city governments are going to tell us what's going on. Join us at noon eastern time for a discussion on how local governments are trying to change the broadband industry. Joining us today will be: Blair Levin, a former FCC official who oversaw development of the National Broadband Plan under President Obama and is now executive director of the Gig.U fiber initiative. Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Will Aycock, operations manager of Greenlight Community Broadband in Wilson, NC. Wilson has petitioned the FCC to remove a state law that prevents it from expanding to surrounding communities. Ted Smith, chief of the Civic Innovation office in Louisville, KY. The city is working with two residential broadband providers to plan fiber networks. Comments and questions during the live discussion are welcome. For more background, read this morning's feature story on the fight for better broadband. Then click here to join the fun: Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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The Fire Phone is costing Amazon plenty of cash. Andrew Cunningham Amazon’s financial results for the third financial quarter of 2014 didn’t do the company any favors when they were announced late last week; the retail giant posted a quarterly net loss of $437 million, up dramatically from last year’s 3Q loss of $41 million. The biggest single contributor to the bad news? Amazon’s Fire Phone. We had mostly positive things to say about the Fire Phone when we reviewed it a few months back. We were especially impressed with the device’s "Firefly" feature, which quickly and (mostly) accurately recognizes things you point the phone at (and links you to the item's Amazon product page). However, in spite of this and other bits of whiz-bang wizardry, consumer adoption of the Fire Phone has lagged behind Amazon’s production of the device, and the company is now sitting on $83 million worth of unsold Fire Phone inventory. Further, Amazon’s 3Q results included a $170 million write-down due to "Fire Phone inventory valuation and supplier commitment costs." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Early this morning, Microsoft announced that the Xbox One will be available for as low as $349 in a special promotion starting November 2 and running at least through January 3, 2015. The $50 price reduction applies to the Kinect-free base system and to two $349 bundles. One bundle features a white console and Sunset Overdrive, while the other includes Assassin's Creed Unity, last year's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and Dance Central Spotlight (the second bundle is also available in a package with the Kinect for $449). Microsoft also announced a new $449 bundle available November 3, including Call of Duty: Advance Warfare and the first 1TB edition of the console (but without the Kinect). The Xbox One's price has now been reduced by 30 percent less than a year since its launch at $499, and though today's cheaper console eliminates the Kinect that was bundled for early adopters, it includes up to three games. An Ars analysis last year showed that prices drop an average of only 10 percent over the first full year that consoles are on store shelves. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock Welcome to Ars UNITE, our week-long virtual conference on the ways that innovation brings unusual pairings together. Today, a look at how once low-tech city governments are actively involved in high-tech broadband projects across the country. Join us at noon Eastern for a live discussion on the topic with article author Jon Brodkin and his expert guests; your comments and questions are welcome. City and town governments aren't typically known for leading the way on technology. Remember that West Virginia library that uses a $20,000 router for a building the size of a trailer? But all that’s changing fast—and the demand for broadband is what's driving this shift. No longer content to let residents suffer from poor Internet access, cities and towns saw a need to boost their tech savvy. Now many are partnering with technologists in order to take matters into their own hands. Read 41 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Don't expect to use your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus to pay for anything at CVS or Rite Aid in the near future. Apple Last week's rollout of iOS 8.1 on new iPhone models ushered in the long-awaited debut of Apple Pay. And for now, Apple is relying on major retailers—and their upgraded, compatible sales registers—to convince more people to pay the Apple way. However, in the days since Apple Pay's public debut, two major pharmacy chains have switched course and declared, "Apple Nay." This week, Rite Aid began pulling Apple Pay support from NFC-compatible sales kiosks, and over the weekend, CVS followed suit. According to a leaked document posted by Slashgear, Rite Aid made the decision due to its involvement with a competing still-in-testing mobile payment platform called CurrenC, which CVS is also affiliated with. As it turns out, major merchant service Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) has been developing CurrenC since 2011, according to a report by 24/7 Wall Street. That may explain why other MCX retailers like Best Buy and Walmart have also elected not to employ Apple Pay at their registers. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The UK Airprox Board did not discover the drone that was reported to have flown at a passenger aircraft in May, so we're stuck using a stock approxmiation. Doodybutch On Sunday, a British regulatory agency revealed that the country faced its first near-collision between a passenger aircraft and a drone in May. The UK Airprox Board's report, uncovered by the Daily Mail, determined that a quadcopter flew "within 80 feet" of an 74-seat ATR 72 aircraft and did so "deliberately." The incident happened over the city of Essex as the plane prepared to land at London's Southend Airport. According to the report, the quadcopter came close to hitting the larger plane's right-side wing at an altitude of roughly 1,500 feet. The report included a conversation between the ATR 72's pilot and an air control tower, in which the tower confirmed the offending red-and-black craft was probably a quadcopter, as "we've had a couple of those around here" recently. The Airporx Board noted that the drone's flight path and altitude seemed intent to collide with passenger airplanes taking off or landing. This event follows an American report of a drone nearly colliding with a passenger plane near Tallahassee's airport in March of this year; that near-collision happened at an altitude of over 2,000 feet. In both incidents, regulators did not discover the offending drone or its pilot. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Lumia 530 in a bright orange flip case. Andrew Cunningham CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true});How cheap is too cheap? That’s the biggest question facing competitors in the burgeoning market for competent-but-inexpensive smartphones—their phones need to be cheap enough to appeal to dumbphone users and people in developing markets, but not so cheap that they’re unusably poor. Intex obviously went too far when it built its $35 Firefox phone, which is so bad that using it is enough to make you swear off smartphones altogether. But there’s a wide gap between something like that and, say, the $129 Moto E or the comparable phones being pushed out as part of the Android One initiative. Specs at a glance: Microsoft/Nokia Lumia 530 Screen 854×480 4" (244 ppi) LCD touchscreen OS Windows Phone 8.1 CPU 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 200 RAM 512MB GPU Adreno 302 Storage 4GB, expandable via MicroSD by up to 128GB Networking Single-band 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 Ports Micro USB, headphones Camera 5MP rear camera Size 4.7"× 2.45"× 0.46" (119.7 × 62.3 × 11.7mm) Weight 4.55 ounces (129g) Battery 1430mAh Starting price $50 locked to Cricket Wireless, $69 locked to T-Mobile Microsoft’s (still-Nokia-branded) Lumia 530 smartphone aims squarely for that gap. In the US, the phone will usually be sold carrier-locked but contract-free for something less than $100—we picked up our T-Mobile version of the phone from Microsoft’s online store for just $69, and sales will send that price even lower. Despite being carrier-locked, it can still be used with budget-focused MVNOs like Straight Talk, making it a tempting option for anyone contemplating their first smartphone. Read 31 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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An all-terrain camera slider, successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2012 and effectively abandoned by the creator in 2013. Kickstarter The public life-cycle of a Kickstarter rarely ends in tragedy. Often, if a Kickstarter manages to get covered by the media before its funding round end, or even starts, it can meet its goal within days, and superfluous funds continue to roll in over the next few weeks. By the time its crowdfunding stage closes, the creators, backers, and media alike are excited and proud to have ushered this new project so quickly to a place of prosperity, eager for it to continue to grow. Plenty of projects manage to deliver the goods, even if the timeline slides a bit. That was the case with Tim Schafer's Kickstarter game Broken Age. If creators miss deadlines, backers typically continue to receive updates via e-mail and the Kickstarter page. But sometimes the end of funding is the beginning of a slide into radio silence, which ultimately turns into few or no backer orders fulfilled, and no satisfactory explanation for why the project didn't pan out according to the orderly delivery schedule the creators promised. A project can go off the rails and fail even after its funding succeeds for a number of reasons. There can be unforeseen costs, or design problems, or a team member quits or fails to deliver their part of the project. Often, when a project skids to a halt, the final updates are obscured from the public and sent only to backers, which may be part of the reason failures are often not well-publicized. Occasionally, backers who receive them pass them on or post them publicly on forums, which is as good as it gets in terms of letting the outside world know a project did not ultimately pan out. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 6 days ago on ars technica
California Highway Patrol officers have allegedly been obtaining nude photos of female suspects from their cell phones and sharing them among other officers. Sean Harrington, 35, allegedly sent photos from the cell phone of a DUI suspect to his own phone, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. He then reportedly shared the photos with other CHP officers. The investigation begun after a woman who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in August noticed that photos from her phone had been sent to a number that she did not recognize, according to the Contra Costa Times. The photos were sent when the woman was being processed in jail, the newspaper reported. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Photo sharing site Twitpic will not be deleting its substantial archive of tweeted pictures after all, it announced today, after coming to an agreement with Twitter. Twitpic announced in September that it would be closing down and deleting all the pictures it had hosted—rendering millions of historic tweets meaningless—after a trademark dispute with Twitter. Twitter issued Twitpic an ultimatum: drop its trademark claim to the word "Twitpic" or lose access to Twitter's API. Twitpic opted for the latter, promising to close down on September 25. This crisis appeared to be averted on September 18 when Twitpic founder Noah Everett announced that the site had been acquired and would live on. However, the details that he promised would follow never materialized, and on October 16th Everett said that, once again, Twitpic was to close down, this time on October 25. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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I feel my vitality increasing just looking at these. Flickr user Jeffreyw Normally, people do not enjoy being forced to do something. People also do not enjoy the guilt that comes with doing something that is bad for them. Surprisingly, these two wrongs seem to make a right: when people are compelled to engage in vices, they feel better than when they freely choose the vice for themselves. According to a new paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, persuading a friend to share a dessert removes the burden of choice from them, reducing their feelings of guilt and making them less conflicted about the decision. Vices—junk food, movie marathons, celebrity gossip news, procrastination—have adverse consequences. Choosing them is ‘bad’ and results in guilt that we don’t get from virtuous activities such as exercise, working on a passion project, or reading high-quality media. “It has long been believed that yielding to vices…is bad,” write the researchers. “While not disagreeing with this picture, the current research presents the observation that a negative view of vices does not quite tell the full story.” The researchers suggest that the guilt of choosing vices weighs us down, reducing our sense of ‘subjective vitality.' Vitality, a term used to describe the feeling of being energized, has been linked to mental and physical wellbeing, improved task performance, tenacity, and self-control. It is not quite the same thing as happiness, which is a related but conceptually different experience. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
A red light camera at the intersection of Sylvan and Coffee in Modesto, California. Cyrus Farivar One of the three defendants indicted two months ago on federal corruption charges stemming from a major contract between Chicago and a major red light camera vendor will now plead guilty. According to a new filing submitted to the federal court in Chicago on Wednesday, former Redflex contractor Martin O’Malley intends to appear before the court in early December to formalize his guilty plea. While the document does not explicitly say so, it’s likely that O’Malley also intends to testify against his co-defendants. This marks the first guilty plea in a high-level case involving Redflex. Since losing the Chicago contract as a result of this corruption scandal, Redflex’s 2013 pre-tax profits in its North American division (its corporate parent is an Australian company) have plummeted over 33 percent—from $3.4 million in the first half of 2013, to $2.28 million in the second half. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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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. Den asks: As recently reported, "Xamarin has forked Cocos2D-XNA, a 2D/3D game development framework, creating a cross-platform library that can be included in PCL projects." Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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According to interviews given to German publication Manager Magazine (Google translate) this week, sources from Porsche, Mercedes, and Audi said that they are all readying electric cars to respond “to the success of the Californian newcomer Tesla with its Model S.” Porsche’s chairman Matthias Müller reportedly said that the company is working on an all-electric car that will be based on the company’s Modular Standard Platform (Modularer Standardantrieb-Baukasten in German, or MSB for short) and look similar to the company’s Panamera (which has already been introduced with a hybrid electric engine). The car will be "an advanced battery-powered variant [that] is tasked with challenging the Model S on both performance and range,” Autocar UK says. The publication added that Porsche is aiming for a curb weight lower than the 4,647 lbs of Tesla’s Model S in its forthcoming car, and that it will come with a synchronous electric motor with horsepower comparable to the Model S. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
World Health Organization New data released Saturday by the World Health Organization show that worldwide Ebola cases have topped 10,000. Of those, just under 5,000 people have died—Liberia and Sierra Leone remain the most affected countries. A young girl in Mali has become the latest victim of the deadly virus, the first to die in that West African nation. As the WHO announced: Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Aurich Lawson In April 2007, only diehard Broken Social Scene fans salivated when band member Leslie Feist released a solo album titled The Reminder. Sales were moderate for the first five months, reaching an average of 6,000 per week. But that September, Apple released its most impactful ad since it unveiled the Macintosh. The ad had a simple concept: a pudgy iPod Nano laid flat against a white table, with a hand repeatedly removing it to reveal another Nano in another color. Each Nano showed the same music video—the song "1234" from Feist. A little video for everyone. Within five weeks of the commercial’s launch, Feist’s total album sales reached nearly 300,000 units. Roughly 100,000 of those sales came after the ad campaign started, according to USA Today. Fast forward six more months and The Reminder had moved more than 730,000 copies, according to Spin. Read 51 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Look, a wall plug! That's new for Kinect v2 as of this week. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced more ways for PC developers to make and promote apps that utilize the upgraded Kinect v2 sensor, which debuted with the Xbox One nearly one year ago. The biggest news came in the form of the first public Software Development Kit (SDK) for the sensor, The free download came after nearly a year of access for "preview program participants," and Microsoft opted to wave fees for the creators of commercial products made with the SDK. That means those creators will have more money to spend on a potential upgrade to Windows 8 or 8.1, which they'll need to use the SDK. (Speaking of Windows 8, Microsoft also opened the floodgates to Kinect v2 app distribution within the Windows Store this week.) However, up until now, budding developers had to use a PC-only version of the Kinect v2 hardware, as the Xbox One version launched with a proprietary connector to simultaneously juggle data and power demands. In fact, last year, Microsoft went so far as to tell Xbox One owners that they would be out of luck. That changed with this week's retail launch of the Kinect Adapter for Windows, which requires both a USB 3.0 connection to your PC and a wall plug connection for power. The adapter will set budding developers back $50, which is the exact cost difference at the Microsoft Store between the $150 standalone Xbox One version of Kinect v2 and the $200 PC version of the same sensor. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Entering a Facebook "room" requires a QR-type code, which can come in the form of a screenshot or can be harvested from the phone's camera. After a clash over Facebook's "real-names" policy, the company released an app Friday that encourages communication between anonymous parties. Dubbed Rooms, the app lets users share content based on themes within different chat threads. The app is in the spirit of other anonymous-sharing apps like Secret or Yik Yak, which consist of threads of short posts based around one's social network or location, respectively. Because of the way they are organized, both apps have caused their share of controversy. Rooms, by contrast, is organized by subject—for instance "Photography Lovers Unite" or "GIFs" (yes,GIFs)—and consist of threads of photos. The organization harkens back to sites like reddit or AOL chatrooms, with front-facing account names that are defined on a per-room basis. Other users can comment on posts or endorse them with a "like" button that is customizable by the creator of the room. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Apple The multi-carrier Apple SIM in the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 lets US customers purchase data from either AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile. But it turns out that if you want the option of switching carriers, you'll either have to avoid AT&T or acquire another SIM card. When you set up cellular data on a new iPad with the multi-carrier SIM, you'll get this screen, which lets you choose a carrier: Jon Brodkin Click on AT&T and you'll see this warning, stating that once the SIM is activated on AT&T's network, it will be locked to AT&T and that you'll need a new Apple SIM to change carriers: Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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