posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Aurich Lawson It's now been nearly 10 months since we first sized up the launch day competition between the Xbox One and PS4 (and even longer since we took a holistic look at the Wii U experience). Back then, we didn't really recommend upgrading to either system immediately. But given every head to head needs a winner, we gave a slight edge to the Xbox One for its superior game lineup and media features. Those consoles, as they existed on their respective launch days, don't really exist anymore. In the intervening months, the system software changed through downloadable updates, and the game library grew with dozens of new releases. So naturally, our general opinions of the systems evolved as we kept using them over the weeks and months. Today we have a fuller picture of the Xbox One and PS4 instead of a quick peek based on a few hectic usage days before "comprehensive" launch reviews. With that in mind, it's time to revisit the state of the console wars as it stands today and potentially amend our launch day thoughts with the benefit of a few hundred days of extra experience. Read 32 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on ars technica
US Forest Service Chickens are not fussy eaters. Any object resembling food is worth an exploratory peck. But give a chicken the choice between sugary sweets and seeds, and they will pick the grains every time. This is odd. Many animals, including our own sugar-mad species, salivate for sugar because it is the flavor of foods rich in energy. New research suggests that many birds’ lack of interest in sugar is the result of genes inherited from their dinosaur ancestors. Most vertebrates experience sweet taste because they possess a family of genes called T1Rs. The pairing of T1R1 and T1R3 detects amino acids and gives rise to the savoury “umami” taste, while the T1R2-T1R3 pair detects sugars, giving us our sweet tooth. Maude Baldwin, a postgraduate student at Harvard University, searched the genomes of ten species of birds, from chickens to flycatchers. She found that insectivorous and grain-eating birds possess the gene pair that detects the amino acids present in insects and seeds, but none of them had the T1R2 gene responsible for the ability to taste sugar. These modern birds evolved from carnivorous theropod dinosaurs that had diets that were rich in proteins and amino acids, but lacked sugar. So Baldwin reasoned that without a need to detect sweetness, ancient birds lost their T1R2 gene. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Wikipedia The head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee is urging the federal bureaucracy to restore a decade's worth of electronic court documents that were deleted last month from online viewing because of an upgrade to a computer database known as PACER. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said the removal of the thousands of cases from online review is essentially erasing history. "Wholesale removal of thousands of cases from PACER, particularly from four of our federal courts of appeals, will severely limit access to information not only for legal practitioners, but also for legal scholars, historians, journalists, and private litigants for whom PACER has become the go-to source for most court filings," Leahy wrote Friday to US District Judge John D. Bates, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AO). Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Engineers from Stanford and Berkeley Universities have figured out how to make radios the size of an ant, which have been created specifically to serve as controllers and sensors in the Internet of Things. The radios are fitted onto tiny silicon chips, and cost only pennies to make thanks to their diminutive size. They are designed to compute, execute, and relay demands, and they are very energy efficient to the point of being self-sufficient. This is due to the fact that they can harvest power from the incoming electromagnetic signal so they do not require batteries, meaning there is no particular lifetime associated with the devices. "We've rethought designing radio technology from the ground up," said Amin Arbabian from Stanford, who worked on the project. "The advantage of moving to this architecture is that we can have the scalability we want." This means that they can scale the technology to potentially thousands of devices within a very dense area. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on ars technica
On Friday, Nintendo's Twitch channel hosted an all-day livestream of testers playing the company's upcoming holiday and 2015 releases, including Ultimate NES Remix, Bayonetta 2, and the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. While showing off the fighting game, Nintendo used the livestream to confirm a surprise announcement: Its portable version was coming to the 3DS eStore in the form of a free, downloadable demo version, and it launched simultaneously with the announcement. However, the demo hasn't been made available to all users, yet it doesn't require pre-ordering the game, either. Instead, the demo must be claimed by a download code, and those are only being sent to Club Nintendo users who achieved platinum status before June 30 of this year. While Club Nintendo allows fans to register purchased games and rack up points, which can be spent on merchandise and downloadable games, this is the first time it has offered Club Nintendo-exclusive software to its users. (As of right now, however, this distribution of codes comes with a catch: They're only being sent to users who gave Nintendo permission to send promotional e-mails, meaning if you made the no-spam call back when you signed up, you're out of luck.) The demo isn't as expansive as the ones that launched at Best Buy stores across the country this summer; instead, it lets players pick from five combatants—Mario, Mega Man, Link, Pikachu, and the Animal Crossing villager—and fight in a single arena via local multiplayer. That same demo will see wide release on the eStore the following Friday, September 19, ahead of the game's full retail 3DS launch on October 3rd; the Japanese version hits stores tomorrow, but review copies have already hit the wild, confirming many of the game's so-far unannounced characters. Its Wii U version still doesn't have a release date beyond "Winter 2014." Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Justice Sonia Sotomayor visits Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley, Calif. in 2011. Berkeley Unified School District Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor says that without proper privacy safeguards, the advancement of technology could lead to a world like the one portrayed in "1984" by George Orwell. Speaking to Oklahoma City University faculty and students, the justice said Thursday that technology has allowed devices to "listen to your conversations from miles away and through your walls." She added: "We are in that brave new world, and we are capable of being in that Orwellian world, too." The President Obama appointee also discussed the lack of privacy standards concerning drones. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
"If you ask anyone my name, in or out of drag, they will tell you it's Roma. Is it the name on my driver's license? No. But it is my name." On Wednesday, Facebook's policy of only allowing legal names on personal accounts ran headlong into a drag queen. According to a report by the Daily Dot, performer Sister Roma, whose legal ID actually reads Michael Williams, found herself locked out of her account with a prompt asking that her profile name be changed to the legal one as it "appears on your driver's license or credit card," as per Facebook's official real-name policy. This was the first such request Roma had seen since opening her Facebook account in 2008. When she complied to reopen her Facebook page, she wasn't asked to confirm her name via an ID card—"They seem to know my real name already," she said in an e-mail interview with Ars—and she didn't take the name-change requirement lightly: "I've been Sister Roma for 27 years," Roma said. "If you ask anyone my name, in or out of drag, they will tell you it's Roma. Is it the name on my driver's license? No. But it is my name." Roma is also a decades-long member of the famed Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI), an LGBT-friendly human rights advocacy nonprofit, and she immediately rounded up the social media troops to spread the word about Facebook's real-name policies. She soon found out that she was far from alone. "Every few minutes, I get a message from a friend or see a post of someone complaining that they've been forced to change their name," Roma said to Ars. "It's happening all over the country." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Satellite view of the remains of the Larsen B ice shelf on March 7, 2002. NASA/Earth Observatory A number of noteworthy studies have recently highlighted the importance of what's going on at the bottom of glaciers that flow into the ocean. The topography beneath the glacier—as well as the “grounding line” beyond which a glacier becomes thin enough to float in the water rather than rest on the seafloor—have a lot to do with its stability. In 2002, the Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula abruptly collapsed, scattering 3,200 square kilometers (yes, approximately one standard Rhode Island unit of area) of 200 meter thick ice into the waves. But why? Did warming water beneath the ice shelf loosen it from the grounding line and destabilize the ice shelf in front? Or can we pin the blame on the warming temperatures of the region? With the ice shelf gone, researchers looking for answers have been able to look at the seafloor that once sat beneath it. In 2006, a research vessel spent some time at the site of the collapse, looking for clues. The findings of that team, led by the Italian National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics’ Michele Rebesco and the University of South Florida’s Eugene Domack, have now been published in the journal Science. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Beware, scammer! Aurich Lawson Tech support scams are nothing new—we first went in-depth almost two years ago on "scareware scammers" who cold-call unsuspecting victims and try to talk them into compromising their computers by installing remote control applications and handing the keys over to the scammers. We even managed to engage with one for a protracted length of time, with deputy editor Nate Anderson playing the role of a computer neophyte and recording the entire mess. But one developer has taken things a step further, producing a tool that will enable you to fight back if targeted—if you don’t mind a bit of bad acting yourself. Matt Weeks is one of the developers who contributes code to the open source Metasploit Project, a sprawling and continually updated security framework that functions as a repository for software vulnerabilities and is frequently used as a Swiss Army Knife for penetration testing. Weeks has published a long report on his site detailing how he was able to reverse-engineer the encrypted communications protocol used by Ammyy Admin, one of the most popular remote control apps used by tech support scammers, and then use that knowledge to ferret out a vulnerability in the Ammyy Admin application. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
The head of the patent examiners' union at the US Patent and Trademark Office has shot back at allegations that workers there are abusing a "telework" program, saying the idea that thousands of workers have bent the rules is "ridiculous on its face." He also defended the "cleaned up" version of the report that was sent to an inspector general, calling it a "more balanced and accurate" report than the original version, which he called biased. The fiery exchange comes at a sensitive time. The Washington Post, which broke the news of the telework scandal, reports that top Commerce Department officials will talk to Congressional oversight committees today, following allegations that the US Patent and Trademark Office's "telework" program has been abused by patent examiners. Robert Budens, president of the Patent Official Professional Association (POPA), sent a note to his membership earlier this week. The leaked, 32-page report that formed the basis of the Post report was biased, he suggested. Budens wrote: Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
The Montreal Protocol, created in response to the decline in the Earth's ozone layer, called for a world-wide phase out in the production of chemicals that were responsible for the ozone's decline. It is perhaps the greatest global environmental achievement to date. And, this week, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Program announced it was working. Unfortunately, this week also saw the WMO release its annual greenhouse gas bulletin, and here the news was nowhere near as promising, as emissions returned to levels not seen since the 1980s. First, the good news. In the 2014 version of the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, the WMO finds that the atmospheric concentrations of most of the chemicals covered by the Montreal Protocol are in decline. The exceptions are hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which are used in refrigeration, and halon, used in fire suppression. The WMO also noted that there must be some unidentified source of carbon tetrachloride to explain its persistence in the atmosphere. In sum, however, the effect has been positive. Chlorine and bromine levels in the stratosphere were down 10-15 percent over the past 15 years. And, after having declined over the course of the 1980s and '90s, the ozone concentrations have been stable since about 2000. If everything continues to go as expected, ozone will return to levels seen in 1980 by the middle of this century. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
An HP subsidiary, HP Russia, pleaded guilty to bribing Russian companies in order to score a technology contract worth millions, US prosecutors said. The company has agreed to pay a $58.77 million fine in a prosecution brought by San Francisco federal prosecutors asserting the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which applies to US companies and their subsidiaries abroad. “In a brazen violation of the FCPA, Hewlett Packard’s Russia subsidiary used millions of dollars in bribes from a secret slush fund to secure a lucrative government contract,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Marshall Miller said in a statement Thursday. “Even more troubling was that the government contract up for sale was with Russia’s top prosecutor’s office." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
A screenshot used as proof that an unknown person has taken control of the e-mail address of bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. Source Messages demanding payment in order to out details about mysterious Bitcoin creator "Satoshi Nakamoto" have proliferated in the few days since an unknown person took control of the e-mail address historically used by the reclusive cryptographer. By Friday, at least seven messages on Pastebin threatened to release information, or "dox," taken from Satoshi Nakamoto's e-mail account on gmx.com, the address used in Nakamoto's original Bitcoin paper. The messages used at least five different Bitcoin addresses and demanded varying amounts of Bitcoin in order to reveal Nakamoto's true identity. "Satoshis [sic] dox, passwords and IP addresses will be published when this address has reached 25 BTC," stated one demand. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
After screenshots showing a first look at an early version of Windows 9 leaked yesterday, today we have a couple of videos from German site WinFuture.de. Among other things, it's possible to revert to the Start screen if you prefer it. Both videos show the new Metro-esque Start menu. They demonstrate how the live tile portion works essentially identically to the Start screen today, with the same kinds of customization and organization options, and how the menu portion likewise works much like the Windows 7 Start menu. Getting rid of all the live tiles. The second video has some good news for inveterate live tile haters, showing that you can remove all the live tiles to leave the menu on its own. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
BEEP BOOP YOUR DOCUMENT, SIR. Nikkei Business Publications Japan’s Fuji Xerox Company unleashed an automated roving robot printer on an unsuspecting office building in Tokyo over the summer. It’s definitely no giant beweaponed Gundam, but the robot does include a Xerox color laserjet printer mounted on a set of LIDAR sensors which it uses to build a map of the room its in and to avoid obstacles while navigating. To summon the printing robot, users access a webpage unique to their seating location, denoted by a card at each desk. Users drag the document to be printed into the browser window, and the printing robot begins to roll happily in their direction. Once the printer arrives at the desk, the user holds up the desk’s card to be scanned by the robot, which then prints your document. (Having the robot print at your desk introduces a delay into the process, but it also prevents other people in the office from seeing your documents.) Once the robot has done its job and produced the document, tap a button on its top and it rolls away to service the next job in queue—or scurries back to its home location to await the next print job. The batteries in the unit are said to last up to a full day. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
The iPhone 6 Plus has already become scarce. Megan Geuss Less than 12 hours after Apple opened the floodgates to pre-orders, certain iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models have already become impossible to order for a September 19 delivery. The larger iPhone 6 Plus is in particularly short supply—all models in the Apple online store now show estimated shipping times of three to four weeks, and the story is the same on the various US carrier sites. This might suggest that the larger model is more popular among pre-orderers, but that's not necessarily the case. Leading up to Apple's announcement, the rumor mill consistently agreed that the 5.5-inch version of the phone would be in shorter supply, and some rumors even suggested that the phone would launch after the smaller 4.7-inch version. That was basically how things played out the last time Apple introduced two new phones at once—the iPhone 5C was available in abundance at launch, while the iPhone 5S (and the new TouchID sensor that allegedly created a manufacturing bottleneck) was much more difficult to find. AT&T told Re/code that demand for iPhone 6 models was higher than it had been for the iPhone 5S launch a year ago, or for the iPhone 5 launch the year before that. Apple usually releases official iPhone sales numbers within a week or so of the launch date, and so far every iPhone launch has managed to outstrip the one before. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
29 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } As a video game developer, Bungie's legacy is tied up almost entirely in the world of Halo. The company isn't known for a wide spectrum of games (no offense, Marathon fans) or for staffing up with well-known game designers; for most gamers, Bungie is the giant studio from which Master Chief and friends sprung into existence. More importantly, Bungie is the company most responsible for the shooter's growth and styling on consoles. Over the course of five full-length Halo games, Bungie relied on a few significant tentpoles to hold up its creations: masterfully choreographed military battles, powered in large part by brilliant artificial intelligence; stunning, colorful art direction that bypassed the industry's terrible brown-and-gray period; snappy, accessible multiplayer modes, whether they grouped friends together or made them fight each other; and a lore-crazy world of sci-fi that, at its heart, told an accessible story of a hero fighting to save the universe. So any conversation about the video game Destiny, Bungie's first release after leaving Halo to Microsoft and its 343 Studios, must acknowledge the Master Chief-sized shadow looming over the ambitious venture. After all, the new game isn't shy about resembling the old series, from the symphonic swells in its opening theme to its robo-armored heroes engaging in first-person shooter combat across a futuristic solar system. Destiny—that new game from the Halo people—sure seems a lot like Halo, doesn't it? Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Ron Amadeo One of the most important tech stories in the coming years will be the bridging of the "digital divide." Only one-third of the world is online, which leaves about 4.8 billion people unplugged with no way to access the Web. A lot of work needs to be done on the ISP side, but people in these poorer countries will need devices, too. Here at Ars, we're trying to go on a bit of an international tour. We've already checked out the surprisingly good Xiaomi Mi4 from China, but, at $350, that's way too expensive for most of The Disconnected. We've got our eye on the Android One event happening in India in a few days, but at a rumored price of $115 to $165, those are still pretty expensive. In India, the average salary was $1,570 in 2013 (compared to $51,755 in the USA), which makes ~$150 a pretty big purchase. So we need to go cheaper. That leads us to what is probably the world's cheapest smartphone, India's Intex Cloud Fx, which costs a whopping $35 (Rs 1,999)—that's cheap. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Early this year, the journal Nature published two papers with some completely surprising results. Researchers had only recently figured out how to use a small set of genes to reprogram mature adult cells into a stem-cell-like state. The new papers suggested you could forgo the genetic engineering entirely; a short time in an acidic environment, followed by some carefully controlled growth conditions, could completely reprogram the cells. It was a potentially revolutionary finding. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for the wheels to fall off. Other researchers quickly pointed out possible instances of improperly manipulated figures and plagiarism, and one of the researchers involved had already had some ethical issues in the past. Initial attempts to replicate the experiments in other labs failed. By the summer, there was an official finding of misconduct; shortly thereafter, one of the researchers involved committed suicide. In July, the papers were formally retracted by the remaining authors. That's a relatively quick resolution to a problem like this, but it leaves a rather significant question: how did these papers get published in the first place if the problems became apparent so quickly? That question only got more bewildering this week, as people have started to leak the reports of peer reviewers who had evaluated the papers. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The iPhone 5S (left) next to the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Which size is the one for you? Megan Geuss If you want a new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus when they go on sale on September 19 and you don't want to stand in line like a chump, Apple will soon begin accepting pre-orders in its online store in the phones' launch territories, and is currently taking pre-orders through the Apple Store iOS app. If you're in the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, or Singapore, the time to order is now. The two new phones support the same basic features: NFC chips for the upcoming Apple Pay mobile payments system, improved cameras, faster Apple A8 SoCs, faster LTE and Wi-Fi data speeds, and redesigned bodies with curvier fronts, backs, and edges. In addition to being larger, the 6 Plus includes optical image stabilization (OIS) for the camera and a few extra landscape layouts for the Home screen and some included applications. Both phones are available now through Apple's online store (watch for traffic spikes to take it down in the early hours, though), and pre-orders in brick-and-mortar Apple Stores and Apple retail partners will begin today when those stores open. The iPhone 6 starts for $199 on contract or $649 off-contract with a T-Mobile SIM, and the 6 Plus starts at $299 on contract and $749 with a SIM. Base models include 16GB of storage, with 64GB options available for $100 more and 128GB options available for $200 more than the base price. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on ars technica
TVEyes iPhone app. TVEyes Last year, Fox News sued (PDF) a media-monitoring service called TVEyes, which allows its clients to search for and watch clips of TV and radio stations. Fox lawyers argued the service violated copyright law and should be shut down. In a ruling (PDF) published yesterday, US District Judge Alvin Hallerstein disagreed, finding that TVEyes' core services are a transformative fair use. It's a significant digital-age fair use ruling, one that's especially important for people and organizations who want to comment on or criticize news coverage. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Megan Geuss The city of Alamogordo, NM voted late Tuesday night to auction off 800 of the 1,300 Atari cartridges that were dug up during an excavation of a landfill in April. That landfill was the spot in which Atari dumped tuckloads of merchandise around midnight in 1983, according to a contemporary New York Times article, after Atari's game E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial tanked hard in a tough market, contributing to the 1983 Video Game Crash. Since that midnight disposal, many doubted the existence and location of the trove of Atari paraphernalia until Microsoft paid to dig up the location for a documentary on the history of video gaming. Ars was on the scene in April when the games were brought to the surface. At the time of the excavation, few members of the press were allowed to touch the games, and no one was allowed to take anything home (besides the piles and piles of trash dust that blew into our clothing). Microsoft and the city of Alamogordo had reportedly cut a deal regarding the distribution of the games. Archaeologists and others with access to the dig site told Ars that the disposed cartridges included not just the almost-universally-loathed E.T. game, but also other games like Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Pele's Soccer, Yar's Revenge, Baseball, Centipede, and Warlords. There's no word currently on whether some of the other items that were dug up, like Atari catalogs and promotional materials, will be auctioned off as well. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Yahoo reports that it is on the verge of releasing 1,500 pages of documents related to a long court battle over its participation in the PRISM program, a National Security Agency program revealed last summer as part of the Snowden leaks. A leaked top-secret slide about PRISM shows that Yahoo was one of the first participants, having begun contributing to the database in March of 2008. It did so under severe duress. Company executives believed the government's demand for data was "unconstitutional and overbroad," and fought it in court. "Our challenge, and a later appeal in the case, did not succeed," explained Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell in a blog post published today. "The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)... ordered us to give the U.S. Government the user data it sought in the matter." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The Start menu looks very purple. ComputerBase.de We still don't know a lot about the next version of Windows, codenamed "Threshold," but a bunch of new screenshots have been leaked, giving us a closer look at Microsoft's next platform. A pair of German sites, WinFuture and ComputerBase, have 20 screenshots focusing on the desktop. The pictures show an operating system that's frankly quite rough. In places, the desktop looks more Metro-like than ever before, with the hybrid live tile-equipped Start menu and a selection of new icons that take on a flatter, simpler appearance. The pictures also seem to show an early version of a new Windows theme, with thinner window borders. They also show off three new features in Windows 9: a notification center (though it looks very sparse), windowed Metro apps, and virtual desktops. Windows Metro apps appear to include a "..." button in their title bars that's used to reveal functionality that was formerly on the charms bar. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The new Android version of Hangouts is very green. Ron Amadeo Google Hangouts, Google's IM client and the replacement for Google Talk, has gotten a massive set of updates, which are slowly trickling out to users. The biggest news of the bunch is Google Voice integration, which lets Google Voice users send and receive text and phone calls through the Hangouts app. There's also a new Android app with a very green redesign and the ability to make VoIP calls from the app. The Android app is significantly easier to understand than the old one. Contacts are in one tab, conversations are in another, and the last tab hosts the VoIP dialer. There's a normal navigation drawer that lets you jump to the settings and other lesser-used parts of the app. There's also a new Hangouts Dialer app in the Play Store, which gives users an easy way to add a direct link to the VoIP dialer to their home screen. The bad news is that there are now two dialers apps for Android. The updated app is very green, but it doesn't yet follow Google's Material Design guidelines. This means that while it just got a redesign, it will have to be redesigned again sometime this year to match Android L. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...