posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Sweet hat, Crash. Crash Bandicoot generally doesn't get the same kind of love as classic gaming mascots like Mario and Sonic in gaming's nostalgia-obsessed zeitgeist. So the success of the recent Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy re-release is taking even publisher Activision by surprise, and it has the company thinking about reviving other classic properties. N.Sane Trilogy was the top-selling game globally for the month of June, Activision said during a recent conference call, despite being only available on one console for two days of the month. The game was also the most downloaded title on PSN for July, according to Sony, results that "outperform[ed] even our most optimistic expectations" as Activision put it. That success is even leading to what's probably the first ever example of some popular Crash Bandicoot-themed memes. "We knew that there was a passionate audience out there for Crash—full disclosure, myself among them—but we had no idea..." Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg said in an earnings call yesterday. "It's hard to tell if that's a vocal minority or that's a real mass audience until you put something out there. Crash has surpassed all of our expectations by a pretty wide margin." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Sunu) As some Fitbit wearers find amusing ways to skip steps—attaching the devices to hamster balls, ceiling fans, and power tools—a new wrist gadget aims to make sure others never miss one. The Sunu band smartwatch, designed for people with visual impairments, uses a sonar sensor to detect objects and people within a 15-foot range. When it does, it gently vibrates to alert the wearer, changing intensity as an object or person gets closer. Wearers can also customize it using an iPhone app via Bluetooth, adjusting for walking speed and to make buzzes stronger or weaker. Sunu, a company based in Boston and Guadalajara, Mexico, will start shipping the devices for $249 to $299 later this month. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ben Edlund and Griffin Newman discuss their new Tick series with a slightly cracked-out reporter. (video link) Like its titular superhero, The Tick just won’t die. Ben Edlund began drawing the character back when he worked at a comic book store in the mid-1980s, mostly to make fun of superhero comics. And then The Tick became a comic book. And an animated TV series. And a short-lived live-action series. Now, a new live-action series is about to start streaming on Amazon for a 10-episode season of pure insanity. If you’ve already seen the pilot episode of The Tick, that’s no surprise—it has been out for almost a year and a half on Amazon. It was part of Amazon Studio's pilot program, where the company determines which pilots will go to series based on popularity. The Tick’s loyal fanbase made it a shoo-in, and it got picked up for a first season with a pretty hefty budget. At San Diego Comic-con this year, Amazon went all-out promoting this latest iteration. Outside the convention center was an enormous "experience" where fans could see sets from the series after watching episode 2 for the first time during a packed panel. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: University of Queensland) The Department of Homeland Security's Industrial Control System Computer Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) has issued an alert warning of four vulnerabilities in multiple medical molecular imaging systems from Siemens. All of these systems have publicly available exploits that could allow an attacker to execute code remotely—potentially damaging or compromising the safety of the systems. "An attacker with a low skill would be able to exploit these vulnerabilities," ICS-CERT warned. Siemens identified the vulnerabilities in a customer alert on July 26, warning that the vulnerabilities were highly critical—giving them a rating of 9.8 out of a possible 10 using the Common Vulnerability Scoring System. The systems affected include Siemens CT, PET, and SPECT scanners and medical imaging workflow systems based on Windows 7. One of the vulnerabilities is in the built-in Window Web server running on the systems. "An unauthenticated remote attacker could execute arbitrary code by sending specially crafted HTTP requests to the Microsoft Web server (port 80/tcp and port 443/tcp) of affected devices," Siemens warned in its alert. The bug in the Web server software allows code injection onto the devices. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Virgin Orbit When most people think of a rocket launch, they think big. The Space Shuttle, Falcon 9, and Atlas V all stand well over 50 meters tall, and any of those would tower above the Statue of Liberty. They were made to lift heavy things, weighing anywhere from 10 tons to considerably larger, into orbit around Earth. But in recent years there has been a lot of noise in the small rocket industry, promising cheap, expendable boosters capable of carrying a few hundred kilograms into space. As always in the aerospace industry, some of these efforts were overhyped or had wildly optimistic timelines. For example, the industry suffered a notable failure late last year when Firefly Space Systems declared bankruptcy. However, a number of other companies have made tangible progress this year, making it clear that this generation of small satellite launch vehicles is closing in on their first commercial flights. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / In 2013, atomic plant Vogtle was a 2-unit nuclear power plant located in Burke County, near Waynesboro, Georgia, in USA. Each unit has a Westinghouse pressurized water reactor (PWR), with a General Electric turbine and electric generator, producing approximately 2,400 MW of electricity. The cost overruns incurred in making Westinghouse's AP 1000 reactors led to the Toshiba subsidiary's bankruptcy. (Photo by Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images) (credit: Pallava Bagla / Getty Images) The Summer nuclear reactor expansion in South Carolina and the Vogtle nuclear plant expansion in Georgia may never come to fruition after the plants’ original contractor, Westinghouse, filed for bankruptcy in March. Last week, power company Santee Cooper and energy company SCANA Corp announced that they would walk away (PDF) from the Summer plant. They made the announcement after calculating that the plant could cost an additional $11.4 billion to finish, which would bring the final bill to more than $25 billion. Santee Cooper owns 45 percent of the Summer plant and SCANA owns 55 percent. Westinghouse parent company Toshiba offered the two companies $2.2 billion toward the completion of the plant, but the two companies found that sum insufficient to continue construction. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / "With breath like that, I kinda wish your name was the gumslinger..." (credit: Columbia Pictures) Stephen King's seven-book series The Dark Tower has finally received a screen adaptation, and fans should brace themselves: it slaps a giant reset button on the series' lore. (Which, a longtime series fan may explain to you, is somewhat appropriate.) This long-in-production film lands with a clear emphasis on running lean. It's a hair over 90 minutes long; its variety in scenery and locations is far from epic; and the story focuses on only three familiar characters. The result feels more like a Stephen King version of an '80s misunderstood-teen film than you might expect, and, as such, its framework feels a little disposable—as if the names "Man In Black," "Gunslinger," and "Jake Chambers" could have been swapped if a license fell through at the last minute. The great Dark Tower film we've wanted for years, this ain't. But as an isolated, "inspired by Stephen King" piece of summer cinema, this first (and hopefully not last) Dark Tower film succeeds at finding a new angle to the series' origin story, which is sold by a taut script, solid acting, and a compelling angle on what revenge looks like for both a boy and a man. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / This was the Accostings website as seen in 2016. (credit: Accostings.com) The following post contains spoilers of Reply All episode #103: Long Distance, Part II, which was released on August 3, 2017. If you don't wish to know what happens in that episode, read no further. Last week, we brought you the story of how Reply All's Alex Goldman managed to track down one of the top executives at an Indian company, Accostings Infotech, which appears to run a tech support scam. At the end of Part I, Goldman and his colleague, Damiano Marchetti, went to India to meet with Kamal Verma of Accostings Infotech. Since that story ran, Verma has removed his Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. This is a summary of the conclusion of that story. Read 81 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / These are the relatively recent remains of an ancient temple in the tropical forest of Cambodia. (credit: Annalee Newitz) It's an idea that could transform our understanding of how humans went from small bands of hunter-gatherers to farmers and urbanites. Until recently, anthropologists believed cities and farms emerged about 9,000 years ago in the Mediterranean and Middle East. But now a team of interdisciplinary researchers has gathered evidence showing how civilization as we know it may have emerged at the equator, in tropical forests. Not only that, but people started farming about 30,000 years earlier than we thought. For centuries, archaeologists believed that ancient people couldn't live in tropical jungles. The environment was simply too harsh and challenging, they thought. As a result, scientists simply didn't look for clues of ancient civilizations in the tropics. Instead, they turned their attention to the Middle East, where we have ample evidence that hunter-gatherers settled down in farming villages 9,000 years ago during a period dubbed the "Neolithic revolution." Eventually, these farmers' offspring built the ziggurats of Mesopotamia and the great pyramids of Egypt. It seemed certain that city life came from these places and spread from there around the world. But now that story seems increasingly uncertain. In an article published in Nature Plants, Max Planck Institute archaeologist Patrick Roberts and his colleagues explain that cities and farms are far older than we think. Using techniques ranging from genetic sampling of forest ecosystems, to soil analysis and lidar, the researchers have found ample evidence that people at the equator were actively changing the natural world to make it more human-centric. It all started about 45,000 years ago. People burned down vegetation to make room for crops and homes; they mixed specialized soils for growing plants; they drained swamps for agriculture; they domesticated animals like chickens; and they farmed yam, taro, sweet potato, chili pepper, black pepper, mango, and bananas. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Ajit Pai, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Brendan Carr prepare to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee during a confirmation hearing on July 19, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla) The US Senate today confirmed the nominations of Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to fill the two empty seats on the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai congratulated the commissioners in a statement. “As I know from working with each of them for years, they have distinguished records of public service and will be valuable assets to the FCC in the years to come,” Pai said. “Their experience at the FCC makes them particularly well-suited to hit the ground running. I’m pleased that the FCC will once again be at full strength and look forward to collaborating to close the digital divide, promote innovation, protect consumers, and improve the agency’s operations.” Carr served as Pai’s Wireless, Public Safety and International Legal Advisor for three years. After President Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship in January, Pai appointed Carr to become the FCC’s general counsel. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Michelle Carter listens in during her sentencing hearing Thursday with one of her attorneys by her side. (credit: Clickondetroit.com) A Massachusetts woman convicted of involuntary manslaughter because of text messages that cajoled her 18-year-old friend to commit suicide was sentenced Thursday to serve 15 months in jail. Michelle Carter, now 20, faced a maximum 20-year prison term. Her unusual prosecution was closely watched, and it occurred in a state that has no law forbidding people from encouraging suicide. But the authorities—including a Bristol County judge—concluded that in 2014 Carter sent Conrad Roy text messages that wantonly and recklessly caused him to poison himself in a car with carbon monoxide. She was 17 years old at the time. Judge Lawrence Moniz, who presided over the week-long, non-jury trial in June, issued the sentence in a packed courtroom in Taunton Trial Court, where Carter was tried as a juvenile. Noting that the prosecution was novel, Moniz stayed enforcement of any jail time until Carter exhausts her appeals in state court. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The neutron source at Oak Ridge National Lab. (credit: Oak Ridge National Lab) Neutrinos are noted for being extremely reluctant to interact with other matter. While it's possible to build hardware that will detect them, these detectors tend to be enormous in order to provide sufficient material for the neutrinos to interact with. Those interactions also take the form of energetic events that transform the identity of particles (for example, converting protons to neutrons). Given the neutrino's low mass and tendency not to interact, the idea of detecting one simply bumping into another particle seems almost ludicrous. But that's what scientists from Oak Ridge National Lab are reporting today. They've seen brief flashes as atoms get nudged by a neutrino, which imparts a tiny bit of its tiny momentum to the atom's nucleus. Oak Ridge National Lab is home to some hardware called the Spallation Neutron Source. This accelerates a beam of protons and smashes them into a tank of mercury. This creates debris that includes lots of neutrons, which are used for a variety of scientific purposes. But the debris also includes some neutrinos that are otherwise lost in the spray of particles that comes flowing out of the collisions. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / An F/A-18 flies above the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) as its pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Jaime Struck, prepares for the first arrested landing aboard the new carrier on July 28. (credit: US Navy) Last week, an F/A-18F Super Hornet from the US Navy's Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 successfully landed and then took off from the recently commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford—the first full use of the ship's next-generation flight arresting system and electromagnetic catapult. The landing and launch off the Virginia coast are a pair of major milestones for the systems, which have seen their share of controversy (and cost overruns). But the test doesn't close the book on the catapult's problems. The catapult, called the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), has suffered from control problems that have prevented the Navy from certifying it for use with fully loaded strike aircraft. Earlier launches at a test site at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, in April of 2014 caused a high level of vibration in the wings of F/A-18s loaded with 480-gallon wing-mounted fuel tanks—the configuration commonly used to launch aircraft on long-range strike missions. The vibrations were so strong that Navy officials were concerned about the safety of launching aircraft fully loaded. US Navy Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / A Charter Spectrum vehicle. (credit: Charter) Charter Communications has moved 30 percent of the customers it acquired in a blockbuster merger onto new pricing plans, resulting in many people paying higher prices. Charter closed the acquisitions of Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Bright House Networks in May 2016. Before the merger, Charter had about 6.8 million customers; afterwards, Charter had 25.4 million customers in 41 states and became the second-largest US cable company after Comcast. The merger was quickly followed by customer complaints about pricing in the acquired territories. In November 2016, we noted that "tens of thousands of ex-Time Warner Cable video subscribers have canceled their service since the company was bought by Charter, and pricing changes appear to be the driving factor." At the time, Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge explained that the TWC video customer base was "mispriced" and needed to be moved "in the right direction." Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The consumer gaming world might be in a tizzy about 4K consoles and displays of late, but that resolution standard wasn't nearly enough for one team of PC tinkerers. The folks over at Linus Tech Tips have posted a very entertaining video showing off a desktop PC build capable of running (some) games at an astounding 16K resolution. That's a 15260×8640, for those counting the over 132 million pixels being pushed every frame—64 times the raw pixel count of a standard 1080p display and 16 times that of a 4K display. The key to the build is four Quadro P5000 video cards provided by Nvidia. While each card performs similarly to a consumer-level GTX1080 (8.9 teraflops, 2560 parallel cores), these are pro-tier cards designed for animators and other high-end graphic work, often used for massive jumbotrons and other multi-display or multi-projector installations. The primary difference between Quadro and consumer cards is that these come with 16GB of video RAM. Unfortunately, the multi-display Mosaic technology syncing the images together means that mirrored memory doesn't stack, leading to the rig's most significant bottleneck. All told, the graphics cards alone would cost over $10,000, including a "quadrosync" card that ties them all together to run a single image across 16 displays. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Bixby versus the Google Assistant. Video edited by Justin Wolfson. (video link) Bixby—Samsung's voice assistant designed to take on Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Google's Google Assistant, and Microsoft's Cortana—has finally been released. Its launch has already been a bumpy one—Bixby was supposed to launch three months ago with the Galaxy S8, and while that happened in Korea, getting Bixby to master English has resulted in delay after delay. Normally, late software wouldn't be a huge deal for the Galaxy S8 launch, but Samsung felt so strongly about pairing Bixby with the Galaxy S8 that it built a hardware button onto the device specifically for Bixby. During the long delay, S8 customers created apps that turned the Bixby button into a general-purpose "convenience" key—a button users can configure themselves. But Samsung didn't like this. The company pushed out a series of updates designed to disable apps that changed the Bixby button and earned a good deal of ire from customers. Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Hutchins in his office. (credit: Frank Augstein / AP) Marcus Hutchins, the 23-year-old security professional who accidentally stopped the spread of the virulent WCry ransomware worm in May, was detained by law-enforcement authorities after attending the Defcon security convention last weekend, according to a close personal friend. Hutchins was booked into the Henderson Detention Center in Nevada on Wednesday afternoon, according to a screenshot the friend captured of the facility website. When the friend visited the detention center on Thursday morning, he was told Hutchins was no longer there. The website mention of Hutchins was also gone. PJ Thomas, an administrator at the US Marshall office that the website referenced, said the agency has no record of Hutchins. The friend, citing privacy concerns, asked not to be identified by name in this article. Screenshot showing Hutchins' detention. (credit: City of Henderson inmate search) Hutchins spent the past week in Las Vegas as it hosted both the Black Hat and Defcon security gatherings. On late Wednesday morning, Hutchins and his friend parted ways as Hutchins left for the airport, where, his Twitter account shows, he tweeted over several hours. Then the account went silent—which the friend found odd, since Hutchins typically uses a plane's Wi-Fi service to stay in contact during flights. The first indication something was seriously wrong was when the friend heard from Hutchins' mother early Thursday morning, when she said Hutchins didn't arrive in the UK as planned. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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If you'll recall, back at CES Asus announced the Zenfone AR, the second-ever Google Tango phone. Today, a whopping 8 months later, the device is finally hitting the market. The MSRP is $599 for the 6GB RAM/64GB Storage version, or $699 for the 8GB/128GB version. Amazon has an unlocked version that will work on the big 5 carriers, while Verizon is selling a carrier-locked version as a "Verizon Exclusive." Tango, if you don't remember, is Google's augmented reality platform, born out of the company's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. Tango takes a smartphone and crams it full of extra cameras and an IR projector for full 3D vision and six-degree-of-freedom (6DoF) tracking. There's a Tango store with apps specifically made for the hardware, but, with limited hardware and (we'd imagine) even more limited sales, there's not a lot there to pick from. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | KrulUA) Verizon Wireless is offering a new rewards program that requires opting in to another Verizon program that shares customers' Web browsing history with "vendors and partners." The new program is called Verizon Up, a replacement for the similar Smart Rewards program, and it lets customers earn a credit for every $300 they spend on Verizon Wireless products and services. Credits can be used to claim rewards such as "streaming subscriptions, movie tickets, and discounts on device upgrades." In order to enroll in Verizon Up, customers must also agree to enroll in Verizon Selects, a targeted advertising program that shares one's Internet and app usage history with other companies. Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / One of the ads displayed by a fraudulently updated version of the Web Developer extension for Chrome. (credit: dviate) Twice in five days, developers of Chrome browser extensions have lost control of their code after unidentified attackers compromised the Google Chrome Web Store accounts used to issue updates. The most recent case happened Wednesday to Chris Pederick, creator of the Web Developer extension. Last Friday, developers of Copy Fish, a browser extension that performs optical character recognition, also had their account hijacked. In both cases, the attackers used the unauthorized access to publish fraudulent updates that by default are automatically pushed to all Chrome users who have the extensions installed. The tainted extensions were also available for download in Google's official Chrome Web Store. Both Pederick and the Copyfish developers said the fraudulent updates did nothing more than inject ads into the sites users visited. The Copyfish developers provided this account that provided a side-by-side comparison of the legitimate and altered code. Pederick has so far not provided documentation of the changes that were pushed out to the more than one million browsers that have downloaded the Web Developer extension. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images) Whoever was behind the WannaCry cryptoransomware worm that ravaged networks worldwide in May has finally collected the ransom paid by some of the worm's victims. The value of bitcoins had grown to about $140,000, but the currency's value got about a 20 percent boost on August 1 triggered by a split in the Bitcoin market, as Quartz reports. After the initial wave of infections in May 2017, the three wallets identified by security researchers as being associated with ransomware's code collected an estimated $70,000 in bitcoin. The ransom payments continued to roll in over the summer, but the value of the gains amassed by the ransomware—which spread with the aid of a National Security Agency exploit leaked by the Shadowbrokers—got that 20 percent bump on August 1. That surge is because a project called Bitcoin Cash managed to recently "fork" the Bitcoin blockchain, creating what is effectively a new cryptocurrency that bypasses the transaction limits on the established Bitcoin blockchain. The movement of the WannaCry-related bitcoins was first reported by Quartz' Keith Collins, who had set up a "bot" to track transactions involving the wallets. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Hypoxic areas are shown in red, where the amount of dissolved oxygen is 2 milligrams per liter, or lower. (credit: N. Rabalais, Louisiana State University & Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium) Every summer for the last three decades, researchers have cruised the northern Gulf of Mexico during July to study the extent of hypoxia, or low oxygen levels. This summer they found the largest area ever on record: 22,720 square kilometers. This is about the size of New Jersey. This year's "dead zone," where oxygen levels are so low they threaten fish and other small aquatic life, is about 50 percent larger than normal. The average size of the dead zone over the last 31 years has been 14,037 square kilometers, according to Nancy Rabalais, a researcher at Louisiana State University who has long studied the issue. This year's dead zone was likely even larger than what the scientists found, but there was insufficient time on board the ship to measure its entire extent. Based upon the hypoxia report released this week, this year's large dead zone was driven primarily by high nitrogen loads from the Mississippi River, due to heavy use of fertilizers in the midwestern United States. In some locations conditions were especially extreme. "A notable feature of this year’s distribution of low oxygen is the mostly continuous band of extremely low oxygen concentrations alongshore at the nearshore edge of the zone," the report states. "Values there were very often less than 0.5 milligrams per liter and close to 0 milligrams per liter." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Getty | FRANCOIS GUILLOT ) Cheers!—not to your health, but to your memory. Drinking alcohol after learning information appears to aid the brain’s ability to store and remember that information later, according to a study of at-home boozing in Scientific Reports. The memory-boosting effect—which has been seen in earlier lab-based studies—linked up with how much a person drank: the more alcohol, the better the memory the next day. The study authors, led by psychopharmacologist Celia Morgan of University of Exeter, aren’t sure why alcohol improves memory in this way, though. They went into the experiment hypothesizing that alcohol blocks the brain’s ability to lay down new memories, thus freeing up noggin power to carefully encode and store the fresh batch of memories that just came in. In other words, after you start drinking, your ability to remember new things gets wobbly, but your memory of events and information leading up to that drink might be sturdier than normal. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Well, it certainly doesn't look like other phones. Many were confused earlier in July when Red, makers of ultra high-end 4K and 8K cameras for Hollywood, announced it was making an Android smartphone. Dubbed Red Hydrogen, the phone's substantial $1,595 price tag was accompanied by all manner of lofty promises about shattering "the mould of conventional thinking" and "nanotechnology." And it supposedly has a "holographic" display, too. Perhaps sensing some of that confusion, Red has revealed a little more about Red Hydrogen via the channel of premier tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee. While Brownlee was only able to take a look at a handful of prototypes—and even then, couldn't show off the holographic display—his video gives us a far better idea of what the phone looks like, and what it might do for photographers. I suspect, however, the first thing most people will notice is that the Red Hydrogen is freaking massive. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: HBO) The next episode of Game of Thrones, S7E4 "Spoils of War," has leaked online in script, summary, and video storyboard form after HBO suffered a large hack earlier in the week. HBO has been working hard to clean up the leaked files via a flurry of DMCA takedown notices—but conversely, one DMCA notice sent to Google, and apparently seen by Variety, reveals that "thousands" of internal company documents were obtained and leaked by the hackers, including personally identifiable data and passwords from at least one senior HBO exec. Despite the takedowns, though, if you do a little googling you can turn up a short script, summary, and homemade video storyboard for next week's Game of Thrones episode, "Spoils of War." The short script (which is more of an outline) is dated April 2016, and so some details may have changed. It definitely contains some spoilers, though, if you really can't wait until Sunday/Monday to watch the full episode. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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