posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Up until recently, Andrew Maiorana was an advertising director for Ars (as well as Wired), working out of Wired's San Francisco offices. If you're on the outside looking in, that world probably doesn't sound terribly exciting, but he's a great guy, very outgoing, and it was a pleasure to work with him for many years. When he told us he was going to leave his position for some crazy trek through the mountains, we were sad to see him go, but we wished him the best. Andrew and his wife Jennifer decided that before they settled down, had kids, and got properly domesticated, they wanted to travel the world for a while. Parents can probably sympathize with the notion of "one last fling" before kids become the center of your universe. Not everyone wants to trek through the world's back countries, but it sounded like an incredible adventure. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
When Microsoft introduced the Cortana digital personal assistant last year at the company's Build developer conference, the company already left hints of its future ambitions for the technology. Cortana was built largely on Microsoft's Bing service, and the Cortana team indicated those services would eventually be accessible to Web and application developers. As it turns out, eventually is now. Though the most important elements are only available in a private preview, many of the machine learning capabilities behind Cortana have been released under Project Oxford, the joint effort between Microsoft Research and the Bing and Azure teams announced at Build in April. And at the conference, Ars got to dive deep on the components of Project Oxford with Ryan Gaglon, the senior program manager at Microsoft Technology and Research shepherding the project to market. The APIs make it possible to add image and speech processing to just about any application, often by using just a single Web request. "They're all finished machine learning services in the sense that developers don't have to create any model for them in Azure," Gaglon told Ars. "They're very modular." All of the services are exposed as representational state transfer (REST) Web services based on HTTP "verbs" (such as GET, PUT, and POST), and they require an Azure API subscription key. To boot, all the API requests and responses are encrypted via HTTPS to protect their content. Read 38 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
The recent explosion in technology has led to the development of devices that would have been unfathomable just a few decades ago. Many of these technological advancements are enabled by the miniaturization of electronic components. Microscale devices can be used for a host of applications ranging from portable and implantable medical devices to wireless sensors. Unfortunately, the development of functional microscale devices has been stalled by difficulties in miniaturizing energy storage to match. The high energy and high power density required for most applications is difficult to achieve in microbatteries due to their size and footprint restrictions. Though scientists have been researching a variety of possible workarounds, few functional microbatteries have been developed; the majority of the existing microbatteries designs simply cannot be manufactured easily. A team of researchers has now fabricated microbatteries containing microelectromechanical and complementary metal-oxide-seminconductor (CMOS) devices using a futuristic 3D fabrication route. By combining 3D holographic lithography with conventional photolithography, the scientists demonstrated increased control of the electrode structure and spatial arrangement. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
The FBI has released a statement regarding the use of stingrays, which apparently claims the opposite of what its nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with local law enforcement actually says. According to The Washington Post, which quoted from but did not publish the statement on Thursday, the FBI doesn’t actually prevent local law enforcement from disclosing stingray use. Ars received a copy of the statement from the FBI early Friday morning and is publishing it in full here for the first time. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
It's been almost a year since Google unveiled its quirky prototype self-driving bubble car, which has so far been confined to closed testing on private roads. Now, however, the company is ready to let the high-tech contraption loose on California's public roads. Google says "a few of the prototype vehicles" will be driving around Mountain View this summer. Those worried about any potentially dangerous hiccups happening during testing—especially given the recent questions surrounding Google's safety record—will be pleased to hear that the cars will always have a human inside, and will sport a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal in case manual control is required. They'll also be capped to a gentle 25mph. Google's also drawing on its experience with its self-driving Lexus RX450h SUV fleet, which has been roaming the streets of California since September of last year. According the the company, that fleet has logged nearly a million autonomous miles on the road, and is currently clocking up around 10,000 miles per week. Google says the totality of its logged autonomous miles are equivalent to "75 years of typical American adult driving experience." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
In what is no doubt a sign that humanity as we know it is coming to a swift, unproductive end, Microsoft has announced that King's notoriously moreish Candy Crush Saga will come pre-installed with Windows 10. That's right, pre-installed. In what appears to be an entirely non-ironic post over at Xbox Wire, Microsoft says that "as an added bonus, Candy Crush Saga will automatically be installed for customers that upgrade to or download Windows 10 for periods of time following the game launch." There's no word on whether you'll be able to opt out of the automatic install, although it's likely King will want to get as many people as possible hooked on Candy Crush given its recent financial struggles. Earlier today, the company's shares fell as much as 14 percent in after-hours trading after it issued a profit warning. It noted in its first quarter financials that revenue was lower than expected due to slowing Candy Crush sales, and players moving to "more mature games." The Windows 10 version of Candy Crush Saga was first demonstrated at Microsoft's Build conference earlier this month, and served as something of a showcase for Microsoft's Project Islandwood and Project Astoria initiatives. Islandwood allows iOS developers to bring their apps over to Windows via an Objective C toolchain and middleware layer. While some recompiling is still required, it should make the process of porting apps easier for a large number of iOS developers. Things are easier still for Android developers, with Windows Mobile including an Android runtime layer that'll let most existing apps run unmodified. Notably, the new Windows 10 version of Candy Crush Saga will include cross-play options for iOS and Android devices. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true}]);A few months ago, as I was planning to head out to California for Microsoft's Build developer conference in San Francisco, I decided I needed to stretch the trip a bit further to the south—down to the Port of Los Angeles to visit the Pacific Battleship Center, the home of the battleship USS Iowa. I served on the Iowa for two years in the late 1980s, and that experience was life-changing. But I had not had a chance to see the ship in over 26 years—my last visit had been in late April of 1989, weeks after an explosion in the ship's second 16-inch gun turret took the lives of 47 men. Many of those who died had worked in my division aboard Iowa; others had been colleagues and friends. So nearly 26 years to the day after I last visited the Iowa, I stepped aboard with my wife and daughter in tow, escorted by James Pobog—a former Navy boiler tech and the "deck boss" of the Pacific Battleship Center's volunteer Iowa crew. It was a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon, making it not so ideal for photos, and some of the places I had on my list to visit were not the most photogenic and well-lit spaces aboard Iowa. But the second the smell of the ship below deck hit me—the mix of a thousand different lubricant and paint fumes, and god knows what else lingering in the spaces of a 72-year old battleship—memories started flooding back. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true}]);In April, Microsoft promised that the universal touch Office apps for Windows 10 Mobile—which is to say, Windows 10 for phones—would be available by the end of the month. That didn't end up happening in April. Two weeks into May, Microsoft has published a new build of Windows 10 Mobile, version 10080. With this new build comes a new beta of the Store app, and in that Store app are the new Office apps. The new build adds support for the Lumia 930/Icon, the new Lumia 640 and 640XL, and for the first time, a non-Nokia/Microsoft phone: the HTC One (M8) for Windows. It fixes a few bugs from the previous build and introduces a few more, with MMS being notable as still having reliability issues. The big thing this release does is greatly expand the range of Universal Windows Platform apps that are available. The Office apps, Xbox, Music, and Video have all been updated, and as we'd expect from Universal apps, they show an incredible similarity to their desktop counterparts. The most significant apps are probably the quartet of Office apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. These apps have had touch versions available for iOS and Android for some months now, with the Windows versions notably by their absence. The tablet versions of these Universal apps have been available since February. What we got today are their miniature siblings. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Around 1pm on Thursday, the Secret Service spotted a drone flying about 100 feet above Lafayette Square, a park in front of the White House. Secret Service members and the US Park Police quickly located the drone operator, who was standing on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue, and told him to land the drone. He did. According to the Washington Post the man was taken into custody by the US Park Police and roads around the White House were closed. The DC police inspected the craft—apparently a small Parrot Bebop drone. The drone was not found to be a threat. Still, the man will be charged with violating a federal order. Just yesterday, the Federal Aviation Administration launched a campaign to inform people that any area within a 15-mile radius of Reagan National Airport is a “No Drone Zone.” Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Many gamers, us included, were surprised earlier today when reports started showing up alleging that Microsoft was making some Xbox One units "entirely unusable" as punishment for testers breaking a non-disclosure agreement. Microsoft has since pushed back on those reports, seemingly denying that such a punishment is within its power. The story starts last month, when rumors of a remastered Gears of War collection for the Xbox One started leaking out as the game was apparently sent to beta testers. Earlier this week, off-screen video footage of that test started appearing on YouTube, sourced from some of those same testers. These leaks drew a stern rebuke from VMC Consulting, a third-party testing service that helps coordinate these kinds of tests for Microsoft through its Global Beta Test Network. In a letter to testers obtained by Polygon and Kotaku, VMC warned of serious consequences for breaking a non-disclosure agreement associated with the test, including punishment from Microsoft that could render an Xbox One useless. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Friction is an important fact of life, robbing efficiency from anything where two surfaces interact with each other, such as engines and wheels. Lubrication can reduce the amount of friction, but it's never possible to get rid of it entirely. In some rare cases, however, it's been possible to get the coefficient of friction to drop dramatically. A phenomenon called superlubricity occurs when two perfectly flat surfaces with incompatible crystal structures slide past each other. It's only been observed in extremely small samples, however, as larger surfaces have imperfections that tend to get stuck as they slide around. Now, researchers have managed to create superlubricity in a large sample. They do so by getting graphene to wrap around nanoscopic diamonds, creating something akin to tiny ball bearings. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Hackers briefly hijacked The Washington Post's mobile website and displayed messages critical of the news media and Saudi Arabia, according to a security researcher who documented the hack. Data collected by North Carolina-based computer scientist Kenn White shows no evidence the people responsible used the hack in an attempt to install malware on the devices of people visiting the site. That's a lucky break, since the attackers appeared to have complete control over m.washingtonpost.com for what White estimated was about 30 minutes. Instead, they used their control of the subdomain to display hacktivist messages including "The media is always lying" and "Saudi Arabia and its allies are killing hundreds of Yemens people [sic] every day!" A Washington Post executive told CNN the page was redirected to a site claiming affiliation with the Syrian Electronic Army hacktivist group. Company engineers were redirecting mobile users to the desktop version of its site as they worked through the problem. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
The new Google Play Music design. The biggest difference on the main page is a bright orange header. 17 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } Today Google is launching a redesign of the Google Play Music website, it's browser-based companion to the Android and iOS apps. The new design looks a lot like the mobile apps, with a bright orange header, collapsible sidebar, and full-width background images for some pages. The interface was rewritten in Polymer, Google's UI toolkit for the web that aims to bring an app-like experience to the web. In an interview with The Verge, Google UX designer Bryan Rea stated "We're moving towards making the web feel more like an app and less like a series of web pages strung together by links. The new header, the slick transition as you scroll, the collapsible nav, new animations, these all feel like things you expect in an app not on the Web." ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true}]);When we noted that Polymer version 1.0 was launching at Google I/O, we wondered if the toolkit was the secret sauce holding back Google's promised Material Design overhaul of all its web properties. It's looking more and more likely that that is the case, and that we're about to see a flood of Google website updates. Google's Product Forums also got a Material redesign today, and the Google Translate Community page was updated a few days ago. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Apple is asking a Delaware bankruptcy court to prohibit RadioShack from selling data that the retailer gathered about customers buying Apple products. RadioShack filed for bankruptcy in February, asking for a court-supervised sell-off of its $1.2 billion in assets. Among those assets was a database of information pertaining to 117 million RadioShack customers, gleaned from mailing lists and service registrations. The states of Texas and Tennessee filed objections in March to prevent the sale of this customer information, which includes "consumer names, phone numbers, mailing addresses, e-mail addresses, and, where allowed, activity data,” according to Texas’ objection. The states argued that multiple privacy policies from RadioShack promised users that their personal information would never be sold to a third party. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
A New York-based entrepreneur has filed a lawsuit against Uber and its founder, Travis Kalanick, and other co-defendants, alleging that they stole the idea for the phone-enabled on-demand car service. The suit, which was filed Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that Kevin Halpern founded a startup called Celluride back in 2003, long before Uber. Halpern sued Uber for misappropriation of trade secrets, conversion, and breach of contract, and he wants the court to assign "compensatory damages." (Celluride now appears to be defunct.) "These claims are completely baseless," Kristin Carvell, an Uber spokeswoman, said in a statement. "We will vigorously defend against them." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Following six months of internal reviews and a March survey of 15,000 users, reddit's top administrators announced a new initiative to enforce the site's anti-harassment rules above and beyond the site's usual "subreddit" moderation system. The Thursday announcement claimed that "the number one reason redditors do not recommend the site—even though they use it themselves—is because they want to avoid exposing friends to hate and offensive content." "We’ve always encouraged freedom of expression by having a mostly hands-off approach to content shared on our site," the administrators wrote at reddit's official blog, noting that top-level moderation had previously been limited to concerns of "privacy and safety." The post went on to describe examples of harassment and abuse over the years, including links to other sites that indirectly violated reddit's private-information rules that made users "avoid participating for fear of their personal and family safety." To change that, the administrators posted a definition of harassment that hadn't previously appeared on the site: "Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them." (That definition has yet to be added to reddit's official rules page.) They then encouraged affected users to report offending reddit content—either public or private—directly to the site's highest level contact e-mail address. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
A patent war between AT&T and Cox Communications over TV and DVR technology escalated significantly this week, as Cox filed a lawsuit (PDF) against AT&T in Atlanta federal court. AT&T sued Cox in August, and the strategy of filing a "countersuit" like the case Cox filed earlier this week is a common one in patent litigation. Cox's counterattack involves US patent nos. 7,992,172, 8,332,889, and 5,999,970. The first two were filed by Cox in 2000 and 2007, respectively, while the '970 patent belonged to a now-defunct Pennsylvania company called Worldgate Communications. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Giant Internet service providers are roaring mad about new net neutrality rules and the reclassification of broadband as a common carrier service. Reaction among small ISPs is more diverse, but some of them say they will be saddled with legal costs so high that it will prevent them from upgrading equipment that provides Internet service to small towns and rural areas. Six members of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association made these claims in declarations that accompanied a petition seeking to overturn the Federal Communications Commission decision. The declarations appear to be coordinated as they all contain similar language, but each ISP also has unique circumstances. We spoke with two of the providers after FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican who opposes the new rules, highlighted their concerns in a written statement last week. As stated by Pai, “KWISP Internet serves 475 customers in rural northern Illinois. As a result of the regulatory uncertainty and costs created by the FCC’s decision, KWISP plans to delay network upgrades that would have upgraded customers from 3Mbps to 20Mbps service, new tower construction that would have brought service to unserved areas, and capacity upgrades that would reduce congestion for existing customers—not to mention the jobs needed to make all of that happen. KWISP worries that even a frivolous lawsuit brought under the Order could force ownership to ‘close the business.’” Read 38 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
The Konami that created classic arcade and console series like Contra, Gradius, Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid, and Silent Hill continues its slow descent into an almost unrecognizable company this week, with word that it is now focusing on mobile phones as its "main platform." The information comes from a NeoGAF translation of a Japanese interview with new Konami President Hideki Hayakawa, which seems to line up with a machine translation of the original Nikkei Trendy Net piece. In the translation, Hayakawa says that Konami will "pursue mobile games aggressively," and that "gaming has spread to a number of platforms, but at the end of the day, the platform that is always closest to us is mobile. Mobile is where the future of gaming lies." "We hope that our overseas games such as Metal Gear Solid V and Winning Eleven continue to do well, but we are always thinking about how to push our franchises onto mobile there, too," Hayakawa continued. "With multiplatform games, there's really no point in dividing the market into categories anymore. Mobile will take on the new role of linking the general public to the gaming world." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
A 69-year-old former Oklahoma police officer has pleaded guilty to five obstruction of justice and mail fraud charges in connection to an indictment accusing him of teaching people to successfully cheat on lie detector tests. Douglas Williams. YouTube According to last year's indictment (PDF), Douglas Williams charged customers for instruction on how to beat lie detector tests given during national security, federal, state, and local employment suitability assessments and for internal federal investigations. "Lying, deception and fraud cannot be allowed to influence the hiring of national security and law enforcement officials, particularly when it might affect the security of our borders," Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said. "Today’s conviction sends a message that we pursue those who attempt to corrupt law enforcement wherever and however they may try to do so." Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Did you know that The Simpsons is still running? The show is coming up on the end of its 26th season, the finale of which will be its 574th broadcast episode. Did you know that The Simpsons was recently renewed for two more years? Seasons 27 and 28 were picked up earlier this month. And did you know that Harry Shearer, one of the six principal voice actors and the person behind Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders, Chief Wiggum, Principal Skinner, Dr. Hibbert, and literally dozens of other recurring and one-shot characters, just announced that he'll be leaving the show? He won't be joining the rest of the cast for the 27th and 28th seasons, and longtime showrunner Al Jean has already confirmed to CNN Money that his characters will now be voiced by "the most talented members of the voice-over community." Whether anyone will be able to tell the diddly-ifference remains to be seen. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Google is requiring more Windows-based Chrome extensions to be installed from its Web Store and will enforce the same requirement on Mac users in a few months in an attempt to prevent users from inadvertently installing malicious titles. The move comes a year after Google first required Windows users to download extensions from the Windows Store, a mandate that resulted in a 75-percent drop in user support requests seeking help uninstalling unwanted extensions. The policy wasn't enforced on the Windows developer channel, so developers of malicious extensions have increasingly embraced it as a medium for distributing their wares. On Wednesday, Google said that all extensions for Windows were required to be hosted on the Google site, and starting in July, the same will apply to all extensions for OS X, Jake Leichtling, Google's extensions platform product manager, wrote in a blog post. Google will continue to allow inline installations, in which a third-party website seamlessly links to an extension that is actually hosted on Google. Google will also continue to permit installations by large organizations through its enterprise policy. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Two years ago, Ars was invited to Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center to watch a team of engineers from NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne fire up some 50-year old rocket components—specifically, the gas generator of an enormous Rocketdyne F-1 engine. Watching the gas generator shoot out 31,000 lbs of thrust (more than an F-16 puts out at full afterburner) was amazing, but it was even more amazing to realize that in the full F-1 engine, all that thrust and power was used just to run the turbopump that pushed fuel into the combustion chamber. It wasn’t all for show, either—Huntsville-based Dynetics, working with Aerojet Rocketdyne, was pitching a gigantic new F-1 based rocket engine called the F-1B as a contender in NASA’s Advanced Booster Competition. Dynetics hoped that NASA would choose its F-1B-powered "Pyrios" concept as the preferred strap-on booster for the upcoming Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket (referred to as "SLS") that NASA is building. But that was two years ago, and time and political pressure have shaped and extended the Advanced Booster Competition—which has morphed into an activity now called the Advanced Booster Engineering Demonstration and/or Risk Reduction, or just "ABEDRR." And it’s looking like a more conventional shuttle-style solid fuel strap-on booster will be powering NASA’s SLS rocket to orbit—at least at first. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
While we're still some way off seeing full-blown, self-driving cars winding their way across continental Europe, a more modest autonomous technology has found approval with safety bods. Research conducted by the European road safety research organisation Euro NCAP concluded that having a car automatically slam on the brakes to avoid low-speed accidents leads to a 38 percent reduction in rear-end crashes. The notable statistic was the result of a meta-analysis of various Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) cars, comparing them to cars without the technology in accidents where the car either struck a car in front, or was being struck from behind. Euro NCAP, with support of Australian safety organisation ANCAP, pooled data from five European countries and Australia using a standard analysis format, as well as a prospective meta-analysis approach. In non-AEB cars, the split between striking and being struck was close to 50/50, improving significantly for cars with AEB. However, despite the apparent success of the study, the researchers noted that in order to get the best results out of the technology, widespread adoption was required; slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident requires following traffic to be alert enough to react to the situation and not cause a cascade. They also noted that AEB cars might be more likely to be struck from behind, as an unintended consequence of AEB’s better reaction time, compared to a human driver. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
When you first set up the Apple Watch, it asks you to assign the device a security passcode to stop just anyone from picking up your watch and looking at all the stuff on it. While that passcode is an effective tool to protect your data, it does nothing to stop someone from lifting your watch, resetting it, and using it themselves or selling it. As detailed in a post on iDownloadblog, it's dead simple to find the Watch OS reset option without unlocking the device. Long-press the side button to bring up the power menu, then Force Touch that menu to find the "erase all content and settings" button. Once you've done that, pairing the watch to a new phone works exactly the same way as it did when you took the watch out of the box. There are also ways to erase all the data on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch without bypassing the lock screen, though. All you need to do is put the device in recovery mode and then restore it using iTunes. In this case, though, the Activation Lock feature introduced in iOS 7 still works as a theft deterrent. Even if you wipe the phone, setting it up again requires the Apple ID password of whatever account was signed into iCloud on that phone. Just months after it was introduced, Activation Lock had already significantly curtailed iPhone theft in major cities, and legislation requiring a similar "kill switch" on all smartphones is already on the books in several US states. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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