posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Internet service providers have consistently told the government that utility regulation of broadband would harm infrastructure investment. AT&T has (not very convincingly) claimed that it can't consider any new fiber upgrades while the Federal Communications Commission debates whether to impose utility rules on broadband under Title II of the Communications Act. But Verizon struck a blow to that narrative yesterday when Chief Financial Officer Francis Shammo said utility rules will not influence how Verizon invests in its networks. Speaking at a UBS investor conference (see transcript at Seeking Alpha), Shammo was asked, "Obviously there's a lot of commentary coming out of Washington about this move to Title II... What's your view of that potential occurrence down in Washington and does it affect your view on the attractiveness of investing further in the United States?" Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
In November, the Google-branded HTC Nexus 9 arrived in a spanking-new Lollipop-shaped cradle, giving Google a chance to reaffirm that, hey, you want to own an Android tablet. But things didn’t quite work out that way. The Lollipop OS update wasn’t the problem; rather, Nexus 9’s mix of high price, unremarkable hardware, and so-so performance added up to something decidedly less than a “statement” device, like Nexus models past, and hopes for Android’s iPad killer faded quickly. Specs at a glance: Nvidia Shield Tablet Screen 1920×1200 8" (281 PPI) IPS LCD OS Android 5.0 Lollipop CPU Tegra K1 quad-core 2.2GHz Cortex-A15 RAM 2GB GPU Nvidia 192-core Kepler Storage 16GB or 32GB (plus up to 128GB micro-SD card) Networking 802.11n 2x2 Mimo 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, optional LTE (Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 17) Ports Micro-USB, headphone, micro Camera 5MP rear camera, 5MP front camera Size 8.8" × 5" × 0.36" (221 x 126 x 9.1 mm) Weight 13.7oz (390g) Battery 19.75 Wh (non-removable) Starting price $299 Since then, Lollipop has spread pretty far and wide on newer hardware models, but one of the very first to get the official OS upgrade treatment was an unexpected choice: the Nvidia Shield Tablet. This gaming-first device got lost in the 2014 tablet shuffle, which we blame on a few factors. For one, Android has yet to prove itself as a hardcore gaming OS, as evidenced by underwhelming micro-consoles like the Ouya and Amazon Fire, so its allure as a gaming device didn’t catch fire. Worse, Nvidia’s device suffered delays, and it shared its name with last year’s bulky, cheap-feeling, and disappointing Nvidia Shield Portable. Read 31 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Four companies were given the OK to bypass the federal bar of using drones for commercial purposes—for construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections, regulators said Wednesday. "Unmanned aircraft offer a tremendous opportunity to spur innovation and economic activity by enabling many businesses to develop better products and services for their customers and the American public," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We want to foster commercial uses of this exciting technology while taking a responsible approach to the safety of America’s airspace." The Federal Aviation Administration has maintained since at least 2007 that the commercial operation of drones is illegal. Earlier this year, it began slowly granting exceptions on an application-by-application basis. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
A judge in San Diego, California, ruled Tuesday against a local bankruptcy lawyer who had attempted to put a stop to Yelp’s lawsuit against him. Specifically, Julian McMillan asked the court more than six months ago to issue an anti-SLAPP ruling. A "SLAPP," or strategic lawsuit against public participation, is a type of lawsuit meant to stifle speech—one where one party employs tactics against a smaller target by drawing out the suit in terms of time and money and intimidating the defendant. Yelp sued McMillan in August 2013. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, alleges breach of contract, intentional interference with contract, unfair competition, and false advertising. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Researchers have uncovered yet another international espionage campaign that's so sophisticated and comprehensive that it could only have been developed with the backing of a well resourced country. Inception, as the malware is dubbed in a report published Tuesday by Blue Coat Labs, targets devices running Windows, Android, BlackBerry, and iOS, and uses free accounts on Swedish cloud service Cloudme to collect pilfered data. Malware infecting Android handsets records incoming and outgoing phone calls to MP4 sound files that are periodically uploaded to the attackers. The researchers also uncovered evidence of an MMS phishing campaign designed to work on at least 60 mobile networks in multiple countries in an attempt to infect targeted individuals. "There clearly is a well-resourced and very professional organization behind Inception, with precise targets and intentions that could be widespread and harmful," the Blue Coat report stated. "The complex attack framework shows signs of automation and seasoned programming, and the number of layers used to protect the payload of the attack and to obfuscate the identity of the attackers is extremely advanced, if not paranoid." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Apple founder Steve Jobs came back from the dead in the iTunes antitrust trial on Friday, speaking for more than 20 minutes to jurors through his videotaped deposition. Now three big media companies want to access that video and make it public. Bloomberg, The Associated Press, and CNN intervened in the iTunes case seeking access to the video. Apple has opposed their motion, while the plaintiffs, a class of eight million consumers as well as iPod resellers, took no position. Jobs was on medical leave at the time of the 2011 deposition and was in frail health. Questioned by plaintiffs' lawyers, he spoke about his recollection of RealNetworks and how their music DRM system interacted with iTunes. A transcript of the deposition (PDF) has been public since October. Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Canonical yesterday unveiled a new version of Ubuntu that's designed for the cloud, saying it ditches the traditional apt-get system in favor of "transactional updates" that mimic the simplicity of phone updates. Ubuntu Core, the new version, "is a minimal server image with the same libraries as today’s Ubuntu, but applications are provided through a simpler mechanism," Canonical said. Applications are more secure because they're isolated from each other within containers, the company explained. Ubuntu Core is in beta on Microsoft Azure and can be run locally on the KVM hypervisor. It's optimized to run in conjunction with Docker, software that automates the deployment of applications within containers. "This is in a sense the biggest break with tradition in 10 years of Ubuntu, because Ubuntu Core doesn’t use debs or apt-get," Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth wrote. "We call it 'snappy' because that’s the new bullet-proof mechanism for app delivery and system updates; it’s completely different to the traditional package-based Ubuntu server and desktop. The snappy system keeps each part of Ubuntu in a separate, read-only file and does the same for each application. That way, developers can deliver everything they need to be confident their app will work exactly as they intend, and we can take steps to keep the various apps isolated from one another and ensure that updates are always perfect. Of course, that means that apt-get won’t work, but that’s OK since developers can reuse debs to make their snappy apps, and the core system is exactly the same as any other Ubuntu system—server or desktop." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
When piecing together the story of human capabilities, one of the most useful sources of evidence available is the presence or absence of an ability in other species. Humans make art; chimpanzees do not. This gives us some clues about the time bracket where we should search for the emergence of symbolic and abstract thinking. It wasn’t clear whether extinct species of humans like Neanderthals engaged in these behaviors until earlier this year, when a group of researchers announced evidence of Neanderthal etchings in a cave wall from more than 39,000 years ago. Now, a new paper in Nature reports a more startling discovery: etchings on a shell that date back to 500,000 years ago, created by an entirely different species: Homo erectus. The shell was actually found with the first Homo erectus skeleton, Java Man, but has sat in a collection until recently re-analyzed. The intentional creation of abstract patterns is seen as a major step in cognitive evolution, no matter how simple the patterns. It is “generally interpreted as indicative of modern cognition and behavior,” write the researchers who discovered the shell etchings. If Homo erectus was carving abstract patterns, it means that they were capable of more advanced cognition and motor control than previously thought. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
During its early history, the Earth was struck by enough material falling from space to have boiled off its oceans—and that's ignoring the fact that the entire surface of the planet was vaporized by the collision that formed the Moon. This means that Earth wasn't in any condition to look like the blue marble we see today, with abundant oceans and an atmosphere. So where did all the water come from? Once the pace of collisions slackened, each impact was able to deliver material to the Earth that wasn't immediately boiled off by the next one. Over time, objects returned the Earth to its watery state. But scientists have been debating over which objects for quite some time, with the pendulum swinging back and forth between asteroids and comets. Now, thanks to Rosetta's visit to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, asteroids are looking like a better bet. Tracing the origin of water isn't as simple as running the numbers on a license plate. But the Solar System provides a helpful clue in the form of deuterium, a heavier isotope of hydrogen. Closer to the Sun, processes seem to have led to an exchange between deuterium and hydrogen, leaving those regions with a relatively low abundance of the heavier isotope. More distant bodies, which received less radiation from the Sun, have much more deuterium than bodies in the inner Solar System. In general, it appears that there was a nearly linear increase in deuterium as distance from the Sun increased. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
One of the founders of The Pirate Bay (TPB) has bid good riddance to the site that he helped build a decade ago, which may have been definitively shuttered this week. In a Tuesday blog post, Peter Sunde, who was released last month after having served five months in a Swedish prison for his role in aiding copyright infringement via The Pirate Bay, wrote: TPB has become an institution that people just expected to be there. No one willing to take the technology further. The site was ugly, full of bugs, old code and old design. It never changed except for one thing – the ads. More and more ads was filling the site, and somehow when it felt unimaginable to make these ads more distasteful they somehow ended up even worse. The original deal with TPB was to close it down on its tenth birthday. Instead, on that birthday, there was a party in its "honour" in Stockholm. It was sponsored by some sexist company that sent young girls, dressed in almost no clothes, to hand out freebies to potential customers. There was a ticket price to get in, automatically excluding people with no money. The party had a set lineup with artists, scenes and so on, instead of just asking the people coming to bring the content. Everything went against the ideals that I worked for during my time as part of TPB. Sunde did not respond to Ars’ request for further comment. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
While the Oculus Rift isn't a consumer product yet, that hasn't stopped a lot of fans (this author included) from investing in a Rift development kit, just to get a taste of what the future of virtual reality will look like. The user experience greeting those users is about as unfriendly as you'd expect a development environment to be. Setup involves not just tethering a bunch of wires to the computer and motion-tracking camera, but also downloading and installing an SDK and runtime environment, fiddling with OS-level monitor settings and hard-to-move focus adjustment knobs, and often figuring out how to launch beta/demo apps with the proper settings to get them to simply show up correctly on the Rift. The Gear VR Innovator Edition might not be a mass consumer product yet, according to Oculus, but after spending a few hours with it, I'm impressed with how much progress Samsung and Oculus have made toward making VR a truly plug-and-play experience. Out of the box, the most complicated bit of hardware setup consists of looping the top strap through the hooks on the front and back of the unit and adjusting the velcro straps so they are attached on the correct sides. After that, you simply pop off the translucent protector on the front, snap the Galaxy Note 4 into its USB cradle, and... take it right back out of the cradle. Yes, the oddest moment of setting up the Gear VR is the moment you plug it in and hear a robotic voice coming from the phone's speakers telling you to take it right back out again. That's so you can download the Oculus Home app and other utilities onto the phone in a boring, old, 2D, non-VR handheld Android interface. The downloads amount to a few hundred megabytes altogether and took a surprisingly long time compared to similar downloads over the same Wi-Fi connection (thankfully, a good deal of the larger audiovisual demo content is preloaded on the 16GB microSD card that comes with the Gear VR). Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
15 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true});As was leaked about a month ago, Android Wear has gotten its second feature update since the launch in June. The biggest addition is an official watch face API, which, as you can see above, Google has already shared with select developers. Since the launch of Android Wear, people have been hacking together custom watch faces, but those have all used undocumented APIs. This official supported way to make a watch face (details here) gives developers much more control over the layout. Users will need a way to find all these new watch faces, so Google is launching a new section in the Play Store specifically for this new class of app. The Android Wear companion app is being updated, too, which will give users an easy way to browse, download, and swap watch faces. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Warehouse workers for Amazon.com can be forced to spend as much as 25 minutes off the clock to undergo security screenings at the end of their shift, the Supreme Court declared Monday. The justices ruled [PDF] 9-0 against the workers at two Integrity Staffing Solutions warehouses in Nevada, locations where Amazon merchandise is shipped and processed. According to the class-action, workers at the Amazon contract facility claimed they were not paid for the nearly half-hour screening process in which they had to pass through metal detectors and remove their belts, wallets, keys and other metal objects. Hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake, and the decision bolsters employers such as Apple, too, legal filings in the case said. Amazon disputed the allegations and said the screening process took only 90 seconds. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
If you have an AT&T unlimited data plan and are looking for a creative way to avoid throttling, you’re probably gonna have a bad time. As we reported last week, AT&T is still throttling unlimited LTE plans once users hit 5GB in a month, even when there’s no network congestion. That’s despite a lawsuit filed against AT&T by the Federal Trade Commission and criticism from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. However, AT&T imposes a less-strict policy on non-LTE plans—those users are only throttled in times and places where the network is congested. AT&T claims there is some kind of technological limitation preventing it from treating all customers the same but that it will eliminate the gap sometime next year. “Once technologically available, we expect to adopt the same model for customers with 4G LTE smartphones on unlimited plans sometime in 2015,” the company told Ars last week. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
The first wave of iPhones and iPads in the workplace got there because users brought them in, and now Apple is trying to capitalize on the "bring your own device" phenomenon by offering the kinds of things IT managers like: support, manageability, and Serious Business Apps. Those are the kinds of things that the company's partnership with IBM is about. Today Apple and IBM announced the first wave of business-friendly apps to spring from this partnership—these will generally be of little interest to consumers, but they do give us some idea of the kinds of things IBM is doing for Apple. The list includes apps for pilots and flight crews, bankers, insurance agents, caseworkers, law enforcement, retail managers and salespeople, and tech support staff. iPhones and iPads could be used for any or all of this stuff before, of course, but IBM's apps may save companies the trouble of developing in-house solutions, and the promise of prompt hardware support and device management will help sell iDevices to managers who are typically more comfortable with traditional Windows-based workstations. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
The latest data leaked from Sony Pictures Entertainment by hackers reveals that Sony executives had accused Netflix of breaching its licensing contract for Sony Pictures Television (SPT) shows by allowing customers in foreign markets to use virtual private networks to stream them, calling it piracy that is “semi-sanctioned by Netflix.” Sony pressed Netflix for increased “geofiltering” control over its customers to prevent the practice, including restricting payment methods for the service to ways that would allow screening for customers living outside countries where Netflix had contractual rights. The move came as Sony was positioning to merge its own streaming offerings and other digital products into a “One Sony” digital operation to better compete with other services. In November of 2013, as Sony Pictures Television was negotiating with Netflix over licensing of content—specifically, rights for Breaking Bad—the company’s president of international distribution Keith LeGoy e-mailed Sony Pictures Television President Steve Mosko to update him on the proceedings. The deal was important to Sony—SPT execs believed it would bring in $41 million in the 2014 fiscal year. In another e-mail to Mosko, SPT Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Drew Shearer had emphasized, “We need to deliver the Netflix BB deal in FY14 like we thought or $41mm goes bye-bye from FY14.” Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
The growing number of smart devices that interoperates with smartphones could leave text messages, calendar entries, biometric data, and other sensitive user information wide open to hackers, security researchers warn. That's because most smart watches rely on a six-digit PIN to secure information traveling to and from connected Android smartphones. With only one million possible keys securing the Bluetooth connection between the handset and the smart device, the PINs are susceptible to brute-force attacks, in which a nearby hacker attempts every possible combination until finding the right one. Researchers from security firm Bitdefender mounted a proof-of-concept hack against a Samsung Gear Live smartwatch that was paired with a Google Nexus 4 running Android L Preview. Using readily available hacking tools, they found that the PIN obfuscating the Bluetooth connection between the two devices was easily brute forced. From that point on, they were able to monitor the information passing between the watch and the phone. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Earlier in the year, Microsoft updated the Xbox One to enable playback of videos using the MKV container format, widely popular for TV and movie rips. The Xbox Music app for Windows 8.1 has just received an update to likewise enable MKV support in the Metro-style video player. Cursory testing showed that both MPEG-4 and H.264 video codecs were supported, with AAC, HE-AAC, AC3, and MP3 audio all working. The relative newcomer H.265 and open source friendly Theora and VP8 video codecs did not appear to work. Windows 10 will go a step or two further than this with its media support. The MKV support in the Xbox Video app is specific to that app; it doesn't enable the rest of the system to use MKV files, with both third-party apps and Microsoft's own Windows Media Player being left out. In Windows 10, Microsoft is including system-level support for both MKV containers and FLAC lossless audio. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
For a while HBO has been rumored to be building its own in-house streaming platform, separate from HBO Go, to serve up its long-awaited standalone streaming service. According to an internal memo obtained by Fortune, that in-house platform, code-named Project Maui, was shelved recently. Instead, HBO will partner with Major League Baseball's MLB Advanced Media platform to provide streaming services for HBO content (don't that beat all). Also according to the memo, HBO’s standalone service will launch in April, along with the Game of Thrones premier. And, according to yet another internal memo obtained by Variety today, HBO’s Chief Technology Officer Otto Berkes resigned late Tuesday afternoon. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
According to Apple's App Store Distribution dashboard for developers, iOS 8 was running on 63 percent of all iOS devices as of December 8, 82 days after its release in September. The operating system's adoption rate still lags behind iOS 6 and iOS 7's, but it's up a solid 16 percent since we took a look at it two months ago and it now runs on a clear majority of active iDevices. As we wrote previously, iOS 8's adoption is likely being limited by a bunch of factors: the fact that the update requires a substantial amount of free space to install, early evidence that it was a bit buggy and a bit slower on older hardware, and the fact that there's just more old iOS hardware floating around out there than there used to be. Apple's numbers are calculated based on what devices access the App Store on a given day, but other independent data suggests that they are more-or-less correct. Data from Mixpanel shows that iOS 8 is running on around 63.94 percent of active iDevices as of this writing, while 33.42 percent run iOS 7 and 2.64 percent run an older version. Data from Fiksu's iOS 8 tracker shows adoption at a slightly lower 58.98 percent, and that iOS 7 was running on 71.1 percent of active devices at this point in its lifecycle. iOS 6 and iOS 7 have roughly comparable adoption trajectories on Fiksu's chart, while iOS 8 tracks more closely with iOS 5 (the final version to require an iTunes connection for installation). Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Lately, it’s been just one thing after another for Uber, the not-quite-taxi company. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles and San Francisco district attorneys jointly filed a civil lawsuit in San Francisco against Uber "for making false and misleading statements to consumers." The prosecutors made good on a September 2014 threat to sue Uber and its rival Lyft. Rather than face a suit, the pink mustachioed car company opted to settle and will pay $500,000. Amongst other allegations of unfair business practices, the prosecutors claim that Uber's background checks of its drivers are not quite up to snuff, and that Uber charges passengers a $4 "airport toll fee" to customers coming to or from San Francisco International Airport even though that fee is not imposed by the airport itself. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Charge Anywhere, a company that routes payment transactions between merchants and payment card processors, said that malicious software planted on its network may have accessed unencrypted sensitive cardholder data for almost five years. In a statement, the company warned that some of the card data it sends or receives appears in plaintext, allowing attackers to copy it and use it in fraudulent transactions. Details including names, account numbers, expiration dates, and verification codes are known to be exposed for transactions that occurred this year from August 17 through September 24, although it's possible transactions dating back to November 5, 2009 may also have been accessed, the statement said. The disclosure came after company officials hired an unidentified security firm to investigate the breach. "The investigation revealed that an unauthorized person initially gained access to the network and installed sophisticated malware that was then used to create the ability to capture segments of outbound network traffic," the release stated. "Much of the outbound traffic was encrypted. However, the format and method of connection for certain outbound messages enabled the unauthorized person to capture and ultimately then gain access to plain text payment card transaction authorization requests." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
The security company investigating the attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment has reportedly penned a letter that seemingly holds the entertainment firm blameless for the breach of its systems—a move that has opened up the investigating firm to criticism by security professionals. The letter—to SPE’s CEO Michael Lynton from Kevin Mandia, the head of FireEye’s Mandiant, the incident response service the company hired to investigate the attack and restore its network—calls the attack “unprecedented in nature.” Mandia states that the attack would not have been detected by antivirus programs, and the attackers used non-standard strategies to cause damage to the company. “In fact, the scope of this attack differs from any we have responded to in the past, as its purpose was to both destroy property and release confidential information to the public,” Mandia states in the letter, which was leaked to media outlets. “The bottom line is that this was an unparalleled and well planned crime, carried out by an organized group, for which neither SPE nor other companies could have been fully prepared.” Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is here to bring you a fresh batch of deals, courtesy of our partners at TechBargains. The top deal today is for a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon for just $999. This ultrabook is sporting an Intel i5-4300U processor, 4GB of memory, and a 128GB SSD. We have the Carbon X1 and many more deals for your consideration below. Featured Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
OAKLAND, Calif.—Ready for your daily dose of "meta?" This article is about a lawsuit that will stay alive because it has a new plaintiff—who read about the case on Ars Technica. A bizarre scene unfolded in federal court here today, as lawyers pushing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple's iTunes sought a new plaintiff. The sole remaining plaintiff was thrown out of the case yesterday, after it was discovered that she hadn't personally purchased an iPod in the relevant time period. The class-action lawsuit claims that Apple's scheme for digital rights management (DRM) illegally shut out competitors, "locked in" consumers, and raised prices on iPods. The case was originally filed in 2005, and a jury trial finally started last week. Plaintiffs are asking for $351 million in damages, and any damage award will be tripled under antitrust law. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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