posted 7 days ago on ars technica
The rise and fall of real-time strategy games is a strange one. They emerged gradually out of experiments to combine the excitement and speed of action games with the deliberateness and depth of strategy. Then, suddenly, the genre exploded in popularity in the latter half of the 1990s—only to fall from favor (StarCraft aside) just as quickly during the 2000s amid cries of stagnation and a changing games market. And yet, one of the most popular competitive games in the world today is an RTS, and three or four others are in a genre that branched off from real-time strategy. At 25 years old, the real-time strategy genre remains relevant for its ideas and legacies. And with it deep in a lull, now is the perfect time to give it the same in-depth historical treatment that we've already given to graphic adventures, sims, first-person shooters, kart racers, open-world games, and city builders. Before I start recounting the history of the genre, some quick ground rules: as in all of these genre histories, I'm looking to emphasize innovation and new ideas, which means that some popular games may be glossed over and [insert-your-favorite-game] might not be mentioned at all. For the purposes of this article, a real-time strategy game is one that involves base building and/or management, resource gathering, unit production, and semi-autonomous combat, all conducted in real time (rather than being turn-based), for the purpose of gaining/maintaining control over strategic points on a map (such as the resources and command centers). Read 105 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Video shot and edited by Justin Wolfson (video link) It's all too common to see a sea of smartphones, at-attention and up in the air, at a live event. Whether a concert, or sports game, or protest, many attendees are now using the devices at their fingertips to record the events in front of them for later viewing and sharing. You wouldn't expect the latest recording and livestreaming technology to come from Ubiquiti Labs, a division of Ubiquiti Networks, which mostly makes Wi-Fi mesh products—but it does. The new $399 FrontRow camera made by Ubiquiti Labs is part-lifestyle, part-action cam that you can tote in multiple ways to capture everything going on in front of you. Specs at a glance: FrontRow camera Display 1.96-inch LTPS round color touchscreen, 640×572, 327ppi Dimensions 2,354 x 2.768 x 0.476 inches (59.8 x 70.3 x 12.1 mm) Weight 2.08 ounces (59 grams) RAM 2GB Storage 32GB Lens Main: 8MP, F2.2; Rear: 5MP, F2.0 Video Resolution 2688 x 1512 max Max Frame Rate 30 fps Ports one USB Type-C Sensors accelerometer, gyroscope The small, disk-like device can be worn on your clothes using a clip attachment, on your neck with an included chain, or on other accessories like a dashboard mount. With its two cameras, an 8MP rear and 5MP front-facing, you can record video, take photos, and livestream to social media accounts with a press of a button. There's also an interesting Story mode that takes a photo every few seconds and strings the best of those photos together to make a quick, montage-like video. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Employees and visitors walk through the Googleplex in Mountain View. (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images) Three women who work for Google filed a lawsuit today alleging the company discriminates against female employees "by systematically paying them lower compensation." The lawsuit (PDF), which was filed in San Francisco Superior Court and seeks class-action status, says Google has violated the California Equal Pay Act and other sections of the state labor code. Much of the allegations mirror claims made earlier this year by the US Department of Labor, which has an ongoing litigation against Google over alleged gender pay disparities. A statistical regression analysis performed by the government found "systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce." Google has disputed those claims. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images) Google has quietly stopped challenging most search warrants from US judges in which the data requested is stored on oversees servers, according to the Justice Department. The revelation, contained in a new court filing to the Supreme Court, comes as the administration of President Donald Trump is pressing the justices to declare that US search warrants served on the US tech sector extend to data stored on foreign servers. Google and other services began challenging US warrants for overseas data after a federal appeals court sided with Microsoft last year in a first-of-its-kind challenge. Microsoft convinced the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals—which has jurisdiction over Connecticut, New York, and Vermont—that US search-and-seizure law does not require compliance with a warrant to turn over e-mail stored on its servers in Ireland. Federal prosecutors were demanding the data as part of a US drug investigation. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / High Sierra's default desktop wallpaper. (credit: Apple) The golden master (GM) candidate of macOS High Sierra was released to developers today. The GM doesn't add any significant new features over the previous beta version, but it can be helpful for QAing Mac software updates for High Sierra before the public roll-out, as minimal changes are expected between this seed and September 25's public release. In general, High Sierra is a significant update under the hood, but it's light on highly visible changes for general users. We're looking at quality-of-life stuff and foundations for future developments. That doesn't mean there's nothing for Mac app and game developers to dive into, though. Features of the final version of High Sierra include a new proprietary file system, HEVC video support, the Metal 2 graphics API, and myriad tweaks to various apps and services. It will be the first update to macOS since 10.12.6 on July 19. The file system, called APFS, will be the new default file system in macOS. By default, it will convert any SSD Mac to which it is installed. APFS has numerous advantages over the current HFS+ file system, the original version of which was first introduced to the Mac in Mac OS 8.1 back in 1998. It offers improved encryption options and better SSD support. Ars has reported in detail about the snapshots feature, which now makes file system state saving far more space-efficient by only recording the changes, not copying an entire file. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Welp. (credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images) It wasn't just credit record data that someone made off with when they breached Equifax's website starting in May of this year. The attacker also managed to grab credit card data from transactions involving more than 200,000 credit cards, and some of those transactions dated back as far as November of 2016. Brian Krebs reports that the credit bureau revealed all this credit card data was taken as the result of a single attack that took advantage of a months-old exploit of the Apache Foundation's Struts framework for Java-based Web applications. Visa and MasterCard both published confidential alerts to banks in their networks this week about the card exposure. Both explicitly blamed Equifax, and Visa linked to Equifax's press release on the breach. The transactions that may have been exposed took place in a period spanning November 10, 2016 to July 6, 2017, according to the Visa notification. According to Equifax, the breach began in mid-May and was detected on July 29. "The attacker accessed a storage table that contained historical credit card transaction related information," an Equifax spokesperson told Krebs. The company did not respond to questions from Krebs about how the data was being stored. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Elaine is out. (credit: TBS) A lot of universal truths and life lessons can be found in old episodes of Seinfeld. But in the episode The Contest, the famous ‘90s sitcom may have missed some subtle differences between men and women when it comes to being “master of your domain,” according to a large study on sexual preferences. In the episode, the main characters make a wager to see who can hold out the longest without masturbating, i.e., remain “queen of the castle.” The characters struggle with temptations—Kramer glimpses a naked exhibitionist in the apartment across the street, while Elaine splits a cab with the handsome John F. Kennedy Jr. Both characters give in to their desires, abdicate their chaste rule, and drop out of the contest. In the end, Kramer lands in bed with the exhibitionist, while Elaine misses a connection with her dreamboat. But, according to the new study, it might be more realistic if their fortunes were reversed. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Does Chris Hardwick need MORE nerd-industry cred? How much bigger can you get than your own preserved-head illustration from the series Futurama? (credit: Nerdist) As we await Matt Groening's next fully fledged animated series and hope it lives up to whichever eras of Futurama or The Simpsons you worship, the nerds at Groening and Co. have given its fans a morsel: a brand-new Futurama episode. But there's a catch. It's not animated. Radiorama: The Futurama Radio Drama, linked here for your convenient listening experience. Head to the Nerdist, either via YouTube (above) or your favorite podcast-feed aggregator, to listen to "Radiorama," the series' first (and possibly last) audio-only, radio-drama episode. The episode is introduced by comedian and Nerdist creator Chris Hardwick, who explains that he has been nagging Futurama co-creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen about a possible collaboration for roughly two years. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Japanexperterna.se) The Washington Supreme Court has upheld the conviction under state child porn laws of a 17-year-old boy who sent a picture of his own erect penis to a 22-year-old woman. The case illustrates a bizarre situation in which Eric Gray is both the perpetrator and the victim of the crime. Under state law, Gray could face up to 10 years in prison for the conviction. On appeal, Gray's attorneys had argued that the language of the law was ambiguous—lawmakers did not anticipate a situation like this—and that the law was potentially in violation of the state and the federal constitutions. The court, in a 7-1 ruling, disagreed. The majority opinion issued Thursday drew a distinction between this case and situations where teens are busted for consensually sexting one another—as Ars reported in 2015. (A Drexel University survey from 2014 found that, while the majority of teens sext with each other, an even higher percentage were unaware that engaging in such behavior could be prosecuted as child pornography.) Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / This guy would also like to sell you some stolen Equifax data. (credit: Lyda Hill Texas Collection / Carol M. Highsmith's America Project, Library of Congress) Last week, someone attempted to execute a poorly conceived digital cash grab by setting up a "Dark Web" page on the Tor network, claiming responsibility for the data breach at credit reporting bureau Equifax. The page demanded a ransom of 600 bitcoin and threatened to publicly release all of the data if payment was not made by September 15. But a misconfiguration of the services used for the site allowed security researchers to identify its hosting service, and the scam was quickly shut down. Now, a new Dark Web site has been set up by a group calling itself "Equihax," claiming to have data from the Equifax breach. But this time, the scammers went further in trying to bolster their claim, posting what they claimed were samples of stolen data and screenshots from what appears at first glance to be a Web console for an Equifax instance of IBM WebSphere. And, according to their .onion page, the scammers are offering individual bits of the Equifax data for sale—or to publish it all if the world pays "600 BTC or 8400 ETH," they say. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Daimler On Thursday, Daimler announced that it would bring its line of short-haul electric trucks to the US. The United Parcel Service (UPS) will buy the first three trucks, and Daimler is also offering eight trucks to New York City-based non-profits, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, the New York Botanical Garden, Habitat for Humanity New York City, and Big Reuse Brooklyn. The company highlighted that the trucks had reduced noise and emissions, which made them well-suited to making trips in urban areas. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Evald Hansen At first, the scientific paper seemed like scientific confirmation of a long-cherished myth about Vikings. DNA and geochemistry experts re-examined the famous Swedish grave of a high-ranking Viking warrior and discovered that the person buried alongside swords, armor, and two sacrificial horses was genetically female. In a paper published in American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Uppsala University archaeologist Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson and her team announced that they had, at last, proven that there were warrior women among the Vikings. The claim seemed to fit the evidence. Male Vikings were frequently buried with swords, and the sword was undoubtedly associated with the battle-scarred ideal of masculinity in Viking culture. If we assume that men buried with swords are warriors, then a woman buried with one was probably a warrior, too. Analysis of the stable isotopes in her tooth enamel suggested this woman had traveled widely, just like a warrior would have. On top of all that, Hedenstierna-Jonson and her colleagues pointed out the many references to women fighting in Old Norse poetry and myth. The bloodthirsty Valkyries are an all-female gang of magical creatures who come to every battle and decide who will fall. The recent paper in American Journal of Physical Anthropology was simply our first scientific evidence that there were real-life women fighting alongside the men. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Microsoft) While Microsoft continues to invest and expand its PowerShell scripting environment—and pushes new GUI-less Windows environments such as the Nano Server configuration—the graphical user interface isn't going away. GUI tools retain advantages for certain tasks, such as visualizing data and comparing multiple systems. They also tend to be much easier to use for ad hoc configuration and troubleshooting tasks that depend more on exploration and investigation rather than automation. Most of Windows' GUI management tools are built around MMC, first introduced in Windows 2000 all those years ago. MMC is clumsy in a number of ways; for example, different MMC plug-ins handle remote system administration in different ways. MMC also does not provide any easy bridge to task automation. It's often useful to use the GUI to configure one system and then replicate those settings against other systems. To that end, the company announced Thursday "Project Honolulu," a new browser-based graphical management tool that'll be available as a preview for Windows Server 2016 version 1709, along with certain (currently unspecified) other versions of Windows Server. Microsoft also promises that it will require no additional cost beyond that of Windows Server. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The Trusted Execution Environment means that even if the application and operating system are compromised, the green code and data can't be accessed. (credit: Microsoft) Microsoft announced Thursday a new feature coming to its Azure cloud platform named "Confidential Compute." The feature will allow applications running on Azure to keep data encrypted not only when it's at rest (in storage) or in transit (over a network) but when it's being computed on in-memory. This ability to encrypt data when it's in use means that it can be kept secure even from Microsoft's administrators, government warrants, and hackers. Confidential Computing will have two modes: one is built on virtual machines while the other uses the SGX ("Software Guard Extensions") feature found in Intel's recently introduced Skylake-SP Xeon processors. Both modes will allow applications to ringfence certain parts of their code and data so that they operate in a "trusted execution environment" (TEE). Code and data that are inside a TEE cannot be inspected from outside the TEE. The virtual machine mode uses the Virtual Secure Mode (VSM) functionality of Hyper-V that was introduced in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016. With VSM, most parts of an application will run in a regular virtual machine atop a regular operating system. The protected, TEE parts will run in a separate virtual machine containing only a basic stub operating system (enough that it can communicate with the regular VM) and only those parts of the application code that need to handle the sensitive data. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / An Uber driverless Ford Fusion drives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images) Google's self-driving car spinoff, Waymo, filed a lawsuit in February accusing Uber of acquiring its trade secrets from a former Google employee named Anthony Levandowski. The lawsuit is quickly approaching its scheduled trial date of October 10. Now, one of Uber's last-ditch attempts to head off the impending courtroom showdown has failed. Uber has been asking (PDF) to move the case into arbitration since shortly after it was filed. Uber argues that Google's real dispute is with Levandowski, a former Google employee who allegedly took more than 14,000 confidential files on his way out the door. Uber doesn't dispute that took place, and Levandowski has asserted his Fifth Amendment rights rather than answer questions about it. Levandowski isn't a defendant in this lawsuit, but Google has a separate arbitration against him, which is ongoing. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: IBM) Every time we discuss quantum computers, the headline tends to be that someone, somewhere is going to use the quantum to break your encryption and steal your student loan. If only that were true. But it is probably more realistic to think about quantum computers being used to solve quantum problems. And this has been demonstrated with recent chemistry calculations using a tiny quantum computer. If solving quantum problems with quantum computers sounds a bit circular, well, it is, but it is also practical. Think of it like this: every protein in your body has the structure it has because of quantum mechanics. And a physicist who is clever, but not intelligent, can write down an exact equation that describes that protein. But not even the most intelligent can solve that equation. Understanding molecules is hard A lazier physicist would write a computer script to solve the equation. But that won't work either, because the time it takes to solve an exact description of the molecule will take longer than it takes to go from Big Bang to Heat Death. So we live with approximations. Approximations that are mostly pretty good but sometimes fail spectacularly. And, for some molecules, those approximations don't speed up calculations very much at all. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images) The Federal Trade Commission said Thursday it has opened an investigation into the Equifax data breach, which resulted in the data of as many as 143 million consumers being exposed to hackers. If past is prologue, the outcome of any investigation or legal action from the FTC won't equate to any fines being levied against the Atlanta-based credit bureau. The agency doesn't have any power to do that. Instead, the probe likely will conclude with a legal settlement where Equifax promises to shore up its tech and agree to auditing. Earlier this month, for example, the FTC announced the conclusion of its look into Lenovo's conduct of pre-installing man-in-the-middle adware. In the end, the agency ordered the company to disclose to consumers if it was going to install the software on new computers, and the organization ordered outside monitoring of Lenovo's compliance. Lenovo, of China, admitted no wrongdoing. In the Equifax mess, the agency also issued a warning Thursday to consumers to be wary of nefarious and fake Equifax employees calling to verify your stolen data. Don't give it to them, the FTC says, as it's not Equifax calling—scammers are randomly calling people and posing as Equifax employees "to verify your account information." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / $45,000 seems a small price to pay for scenes like this... if that game ever actually comes out, that is. Children that were born when Star Citizen was first announced are now approaching Kindergarten, but the extremely ambitious space simulation is currently struggling to get its third alpha version into backers' hands. Rather than continuing to wait, one group of impatient players has requested and apparently received a $45,000 refund for three of the game's $15,000 "completionist" packages, which included access to dozens of optional ship designs among other extras. An anonymous representative of the player group, going by the handle Mogmentum, posted about the refund on the Star Citizen Refunds Reddit group, which includes stories from hundreds of other posters seeking smaller refunds for the oft-delayed game. "We sidelined many other great games and commercial opportunities waiting for Star Citizen, but in the end we can't wait any longer, and a new generation is joining also who have absolutely no interest," Mogmentum writes, alongside photo and video evidence of forum discussions confirming the refunds. Getting the money back took five weeks of persistent requests with support staff, the player said, alleging that the staffers "definitely try to delay you as much as possible in the hope you'll forget or give up." A $45,000 refund is a drop in the bucket compared to the over $159 million Star Citizen has raised from over 1.8 million paying customers as of press time. That itself is a far cry from the $2 million Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts initially sought for the game in his 2012 crowdfunding effort. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute) In October of 1997, nearly 20 years ago, NASA launched the last of its great probes to the outer planets. A joint mission with the European Space Agency, a single rocket sent Cassini and Huygens on a meandering path through the Solar System. Huygens plunged into the atmosphere of the moon Titan well over a decade ago, but the Cassini orbiter has been looping around Saturn for over 13 years. But in less than 24 hours, its time at the ringed planet will come to a close as Cassini plunges into Saturn's atmosphere. This was the end that NASA had always planned for its hardware. Some of Saturn's moons are thought to be capable of harboring life. So, rather than risk contaminating those moons with life from Earth, Cassini and any microbes it harbors will burn up on entry into Saturn's atmosphere. The decision to do this now is based on the dwindling supply of fuel for the probe's maneuvering engines, which will eliminate NASA's ability to make further adjustments in its orbit. With the chaotic gravitational interactions of a giant planet and multiple moons, there'd be no way to determine where Cassini would end up. So NASA is acting while it still manages the hardware's destiny. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Thomas Jackson) The country's biggest Internet service providers and advertising industry lobby groups are fighting to stop a proposed California law that would protect the privacy of broadband customers. AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Frontier, Sprint, Verizon, and some broadband lobby groups urged California state senators to vote against the proposed law in a letter Tuesday. The bill would require Internet service providers to obtain customers' permission before they use, share, or sell the customers' Web browsing and application usage histories. California lawmakers could vote on the bill Friday of this week, essentially replicating federal rules that were blocked by the Republican-controlled Congress and President Trump before they could be implemented. The text and status of the California bill, AB 375, are available here. "This bill will create a cumbersome, uncertain, and vague regulation of Internet providers in California," Tuesday's letter to California senators said. "This single-state approach is antithetical to the forward-looking policies that have made California a world leader in the Internet Age." Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Oak Ridge National Lab) Until fairly recently, the list of materials with which we might build a quantum computer have been notable because that list has one big exception: silicon. Silicon is, without doubt, an awesome material. Every semiconductor company in the world knows how to build stuff using it. Fabrication processes are so precise that features of just 50 atoms across are possible. With these advantages, pretty much any time someone makes a new device, the first comment is: well that's very pretty and all, but can you do it in CMOS? CMOS is a silicon-based complementary metal oxide semiconductor, the industry-standard process. If the answer is no, then, unless the product is world-changing (think light emitting diodes and laser diodes), industry interest evaporates faster than spilled vodka. Now, if a recent theoretical paper is correct, silicon-based quantum computing may be on the verge of making the leap from not-even-on-the-list to technology-to-beat, thanks to a clever new way of thinking about qubit structures. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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SpaceX SpaceX is famously not afraid to fail. "There's a silly notion that failure's not an option at NASA,” company founder Elon Musk has said in the past. “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough." In recent years, others in the aerospace industry have come to see the sense of this ethos, as SpaceX has tinkered with its Falcon 9 rocket to make it a mostly reusable booster, finally achieving reuse of the rocket's first stage earlier this year. To go further in space, at a lower cost, new things must be tried. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Jeff Kaplan explains how policing the Overwatch community is something he wishes there was no need to do. Everyone knows that toxic players can go a long way toward ruining a specific Overwatch match with trollish play or abusive chat language. But as Overwatch Director Jeff Kaplan points out in his latest developer update video, policing that kind of bad behavior also impacts the game as a whole by taking developer resources away from making actual new content. While the Overwatch team is passionate about making new maps, heroes, and animated shorts for the game, Kaplan says "we're spending a tremendous amount of time and resources punishing people and trying to make people behave better... The bad behavior is not just ruining the experience for one another, but it's actually making the game progress in terms of developement at a much slower rate." As one example of this problem, Kaplan pointed out that the Overwatch team members who recently implemented a player reporting system on consoles had to delay work on creating a match history and replay system for the game. Adding these tools for console players seems necessary, though; so far on the PC, over 70 percent of the 480,000 disciplinary actions taken against player accounts have been "a direct result of players using the reporting system," Kaplan said. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Apple) The first public demo of Apple’s Face ID phone unlocking system didn’t go exactly as planned. During the company’s big iPhone X reveal this week, Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi suffered a semi-cringeworthy moment when he was unable to unlock the new handset onstage using the new authentication tech. The device prompted Federighi to use a passcode instead, leading him to switch to a backup unit, which worked properly. The mishap led some to immediately doubt the effectiveness of the Face ID setup—which completely replaces the usual Touch ID fingerprint scanner on the iPhone X—and, according to some reports, even led to a brief dip in Apple’s share price. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Hyperloop One, a startup that's working on building high-speed, low-pressure, tube-based rail transportation, announced Thursday morning that it had chosen 10 routes around the world that it will study as potential locations for a Hyperloop. The startup solicited route ideas back in May as part of what it called the "Hyperloop One Global Challenge." One route, however, was chosen for a headliner feasibility study that will be conducted with Colorado's Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Aecom, a multinational engineering firm: Pueblo-Denver-Cheyenne. Hyperloop One says that route would span 360 miles and be accessible to about 4.8 million people. (This reporter lives in Denver and has been stuck in enough I-25 traffic that she would love to see an alternative for that artery up the Front Range, no matter how far-fetched.) Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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