posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Eric Bangeman) Like many Gen Xers, my first car was a Volkswagen—a 1973 Beetle, to be exact. Back then, VW was known primarily for making quirky, fun cars like the Beetle, the Thing, the Bus, and the Karmann Ghia. You could get behind the wheel of a Rabbit or Jetta for a more conventional driving experience, but that was not VW's strong spot a few decades ago. Times have changed. Volkswagen is now one of the three largest car companies in the world, and its lineup reflects that reality. And as of the 2018 model year, VW's vehicle lineup includes a three-row SUV, the Atlas. Even though it has been on the market for only a year, the Atlas had become VW's second-most-popular car in the German automaker's lineup in March 2018, showing that the American car-buying public's thirst for crossovers and SUVs remains unslaked. (The small crossover Tiguan topped VW's sales charts.) Marketed as a "family SUV," the Atlas starts at $30,750 and comes in five trim levels. As is the norm for press cars, the Atlas I drove was the SEL Premium with 4MOTION, the highest trim level with all the bells and whistles for $49,415. VW offers two engine options: a standard four-cylinder, 2.0L turbocharged direct injection engine that gives you 235hp (175kW) and 258lb-ft (350nM) of torque that comes standard, and a 3.6L V6 engine that generates 276 horsepower (206kW) and 266lb⋅ft (361Nm) of torque. Both are available across the Atlas, except for the Premium, which excludes the 2.0L power plant. All told, the Atlas weighs in at 4,728lb (2,144kg) with the V6 and AWD. Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / "It really has been a meaningful journey full of mutual understanding, hasn't it son?" / "Dad, let go, I want to go play with my friends!" Hey, remember Kratos? You know, Kratos... the bloodthirsty Greek god in the God of War series who slaughtered thousands upon thousands of victims, both mortal and immortal, with an icy cold heart largely devoid of mercy? Well... get this. What if Kratos had a kid sidekick? And what if that kid was a sickly, sensitive weakling? Wouldn't that just be crazy? This concept drives the new God of War reboot for the PS4, and at the start it plays out a lot like the cringe-worthy, sitcom-level twist you'd expect from such a pitch. Kratos is now bearded, slightly more aged, and relocated to the cold and unfamiliar climes of Scandinavia. He's paying his final respects to a wife we don't get to see. Left behind with Kratos is a son, the small and frail Atreus, who is over-eager to accompany his dad on a quest to spread his mom's ashes from "the highest peak in all the realms." (That's a welcome respite from the usual "save/destroy the world" impetus driving most action games, at least.) After a slow and somewhat annoying start, though, Atreus proves to be just the shot in the arm this series needed for a new generation of consoles and players. The addition of a child to play off adds much-needed depth and development to the remorseless revenge machine featured in previous God of War games. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / High Sierra wallpaper. The low-hanging clouds in the background may or may not be related to the name. (credit: Apple) Today and tomorrow, macOS users will begin seeing notifications informing them that 32-bit apps will not be supported in a future version of macOS, Apple representatives told Ars. Starting at midnight April 12, 2018 in the user's local time zone, they will see the following message the first time they launch an app that only supports 32-bit in macOS High Sierra 10.13.4: This app needs to be updated by its developer to improve compatibility. Along with that message, they'll see a "learn more" link that takes them to Apple's support page on the subject with more information. The support page broadly explains Apple's plans to "eventually" require all Mac software to be 64-bit. It also reiterates several statements Apple has made to developers in the past, like specifying that High Sierra will be the last version to run 32-bit apps "without compromise": Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / President Donald Trump, before signing the "Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act" at the White House. (credit: Getty Images | Chris Kleponis) President Donald Trump today signed the controversial FOSTA/SESTA bill into law, paving the way for more law enforcement actions against websites that facilitate prostitution. Websites started shutting down sex-work forums even before Trump signed the bill. Craigslist removed its "Personals" section, Reddit removed some sex-related subreddits, and the Erotic Review blocked any user who appears to be visiting the website from the United States. The bill becoming law will likely lead to more "voluntary" site shutdowns or law enforcement actions against sites that continue to be used for prostitution. The White House said the action "makes it a Federal crime to own, manage, or operate a website with the intent to promote or facilitate prostitution." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Penn.), shows his phone to the media as he FaceTimes his daughter at the Capitol in 2015. (credit: Al Drago/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images) VirnetX Holding Corporation—a Nevada company that many would dub a "patent troll" as it has no meaningful source of income outside of patent litigation—has won a $502.6 million judgement against Apple in a legal case that has dragged on since 2012. In October 2017, Apple was also ordered to pay over $439 million as its "VPN on Demand" feature and FaceTime were determined to violate VirnetX's patents. However, this verdict may not stand on appeal. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
The Vela pulsar, as imaged by the Chandra X-ray telescope. (credit: NASA/CXC/University of Toronto/M. Durant, et al.) Neutron stars are the most dense form of matter in our Universe (black holes cram more stuff into a smaller space, and it's not clear if that stuff is still "matter"). A neutron star is produced by the collapse of a stellar core, which crams a bit more mass than our Sun into a sphere about 20 kilometers across. At this density, matter does strange things. Models based on theoretical considerations suggest that there's a distinct "crust" that sits atop a superfluid of subatomic particles, but it's not like we can visit one and confirm this. Now, researchers have done the next-best thing: they've arranged for a telescope to stare at a neutron star for three years, waiting for it to undergo a "glitch" in its normal behavior. The results give us one of our first direct tests of competing models for what's beneath the surface of a neutron star. The glitch While a neutron star is composed primarily of neutrons (duh!), there are also protons present in its interior. All the particles there form a superfluid, which can flow without any friction. The flow of these charged particles inside the star can create an intense magnetic field, one that can accelerate charged particles near the star and cause them to emit photons. The rapid rotation of the star means that these jets of charged particles sweep a large area of space with the photons they produce. On Earth, we see this as a flash of light appearing from the same source many times a second—a pulsar. The pulses of photons that give these stars their name arrive with such regularity that we've used them as an extremely precise test of relativity. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Mike Mozart) AT&T says its 5G wireless trials have been producing speeds of more than a gigabit per second from millimeter wave frequencies, even in bad weather and—in some cases—without a line-of-sight connection. Latencies have been as low as 9ms, the company said. Current-generation 4G LTE networks generally use frequencies below 1GHz, which are best for covering long distances and penetrating obstacles such as building walls. 5G networks are expected to rely heavily on millimeter wave signals—30GHz and above—which are easily blocked by obstacles and generally require line-of-sight connections. AT&T and other carriers plan to use 5G for smartphones connecting directly to mobile networks and for fixed wireless connections in areas that lack fiber-to-the-premises or cable. There is a lot of available millimeter wave spectrum, which means carriers can easily ramp up the bits per second. But there will be challenges in actually getting that data to smartphones when there are obstacles between the cell sites and handheld devices. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Tesla Powerpack batteries during Tesla Powerpack Launch Event at Hornsdale Wind Farm on September 29, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images) Last week, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released an initial report (PDF) on the performance of the 129MWh Hornsdale battery system that was installed by Tesla last November. It seems the market operator is pleased with the new battery, writing that the service provided by the battery system "is both rapid and precise, compared to the service typically provided by a conventional synchronous generation unit." A conventional synchronous generation unit refers to a spinning generator, like a coal or a natural gas plant. If there's excess demand for electricity, sometimes these generators can increase their output if there's some headroom, or grid managers can bring so-called "peaker plants" online to help meet peak demand. But often these units need a little bit of time to start spinning at the appropriate rate. Batteries, on the other hand, have the advantage that they can start putting power on the grid right away; no need to wait for ramping up. Tesla's installation in particular can rapidly discharge 100MW for about 75 minutes. It's also charged by the wind farm that's right next door. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / An AMD Ryzen. (credit: Fritzchens Fritz) The latest Windows 10 fixes, released as part of yesterday's Patch Tuesday, enable protection against the Spectre variant 2 attacks on systems with AMD processors. Earlier this year, attacks that exploit the processor's speculative execution were published with the names Meltdown and Spectre, prompting a reaction from hardware and software companies. AMD chips are immune to Meltdown but have some vulnerability to the two Spectre variants. Spectre variant 1 requires application-level fixes; variant 2 requires operating system-level alterations. Both Intel and AMD have released microcode updates to alter their processor behavior to give operating systems the control necessary to protect against Spectre variant 2. Microsoft has been shipping the Intel microcode, along with the operating system changes necessary to use the microcode's new features, for several weeks now; with yesterday's patch, similar protections are now enabled on AMD machines. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Ron Amadeo) Google is apparently done selling its flagship smartphones from 2016. The Pixel and Pixel XL have both been removed from the Google Store and the Project Fi store, suggesting the stock is all dried up and no more will be made. Google's current flagships, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, launched in October 2017, but the old Pixel phones stayed on the store and got discounts of $80 to $100. For a time, it seemed like Google wanted to employ an Apple-like pricing lineup, with flagship phones moving to a lower tier and getting a discount. Even with the Pixel 2's release, though, the Pixel 1's perennial stock problems remained, and the phones were never readily available in Google's Store. Google's stock problems, minuscule distribution network, and big price increase over the Nexus devices led to the company only selling 3.9 million phones in 2017, according to the IDC. Google's distribution hasn't gotten much wider with the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, but stock on the Google Store has been much improved. If rumors of a cheaper, mid-range Pixel phone come true, Google could move a lot more units. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Argonne National Lab) On Monday, the XPrize organization announced that it had selected 10 finalists for its NRG COSIA Carbon Competition. These finalists will be given space near a power plant and pipes that will deliver some of the plant's carbon-dioxide-rich exhaust. It's up to the competitors to turn that carbon dioxide into marketable products. For the finalists, those products range from concrete to carbon nanotubes. To get a better overview of the technologies and the competition itself, we talked with Marcius Extavour, the XPrize's senior director of energy and resources. Capture, no storage The world remains committed to fossil fuels, despite our increasing knowledge of the risks they pose. These risks have raised interest in the idea of carbon capture and storage. Rather than shut down our fossil-fuel-burning hardware and all the infrastructure that feeds it, we simply remove the carbon dioxide from the plant's exhaust, placing it in either long-term storage or reacting it with rocks to lock it away indefinitely. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / No it isn't. (credit: PROEirik Solheim) It's common for manufacturers of cars, video game consoles, and other products to insist that consumers will void their warranty if they use unauthorized repair services or unauthorized third-party parts. Some even insist that you'll void the warranty if you break the "warranty seal." These policies are illegal, according to the Federal Trade Commission. On Tuesday, the agency announced it had sent warning letters to six companies for violating a 1975 law governing manufacturer warranties. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
HP While the HP Pavilion line encompasses many types of all-purpose machines, the company is branching out with a new family of gaming PCs. Gone will be the Pavilion Power line, making room for the newly announced Pavilion Gaming family. HP says the line, consisting of laptops and desktops, is for gamers who value both gaming and entertainment but don't need the top-tier specs and customization that come with the company's Omen devices. The 15-inch Pavilion Gaming laptop takes design notes from existing Omen laptops but implements them in a less ostentatious way. The all-black chassis has angled edges for style and venting. HP pushed the fans to the corners of this laptop, which allows more efficient air flow thanks to the vents at the angled corners. Geometric speaker grilles similar to those on other Pavilion laptops sit above the keys, and some models have an all-aluminum keyboard area. Lights underneath the keys and behind the HP logo on the lid offer accents in either white, green, or violet, depending on the model, and each display (it supports FHD at 144Hz, FHD at 60Hz, and 4K panels) is hugged by 9.8mm bezels on the left and right sides. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac Asimov, Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1944. (credit: Public Domain) As part of its yet-to-launch TV streaming lineup, Apple will develop a series based on Isaac Asimov's highly influential Foundation series of sci-fi novels, both Deadline and Variety report. The series will be helmed by screenwriters and producers David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman, who have individually and previously worked on numerous superhero films and TV series such as Batman Begins, as well as the Terminator franchise. It will be produced by Skydance Television, which is also responsible for the Netflix sci-fi series Altered Carbon. Foundation takes place after humans have colonized the galaxy and is largely concerned with the efforts of a mathematician who develops a way to predict galactic-scale events through a method called psychohistory, and he consequently discovers that the prosperous galactic empire is doomed to fall. He creates a foundation that seeks to lay the groundwork for the civilization's reboot after its inevitable collapse. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Wired UK/Shuttershock) Thousands of hacked websites have become unwitting participants in an advanced scheme that uses fake update notifications to install banking malware and remote access trojans on visitors' computers, a computer researcher said Tuesday. The campaign, which has been running for at least four months, is able to compromise websites running a variety of content management systems, including WordPress, Joomla, and SquareSpace. That's according to a blog post by Jérôme Segura, lead malware intelligence analyst at Malwarebytes. The hackers, he wrote, cause the sites to display authentic-appearing messages to a narrowly targeted number of visitors that, depending on the browsers they're using, instruct them to install updates for Firefox, Chrome, or Flash. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Aurich Lawson) In light of Internet and social-media privacy landing at the top of major news outlets this week, another major online service announced its own privacy-policy updates on Tuesday. The latest change comes from Steam, the Western world's largest online PC game seller. According to Steam's creators at Valve, an updated settings panel will soon let gamers more clearly decide how their use of the service is communicated to approved friends and the public at large. Within hours of this announcement, one company confirmed the policy change's collateral damage. Steam Spy, the world's most comprehensive game ownership and play estimator available to the public, announced that it "won't be able to operate anymore" thanks to Valve's official policy change. "Valve just made a change to their privacy settings, making games owned by Steam users hidden by default," the site's operators announced on its official Twitter account. "Steam Spy relied on this information being visible by default." In answering questions from fans, Steam Spy creator Sergey Galyonkin suggested that the site will only remain as an "archive" from here on out. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees in a Tuesday hearing that lasted hours. Zuckerberg reiterated numerous times in both written and spoken testimony that, yes, the company made mistakes when dealing with Cambridge Analytica, the now-maligned British data analytics firm that worked with the Donald Trump presidential campaign. He also underscored the numerous new policies that Facebook has been rolling out in recent days, ranging from ad monitoring to more Burmese language support, among other changes. Many senators used the opportunity to impress upon the executive that it may no longer be a completely fair trade for the company to happily absorb vast quantities of free information voluntarily shared on Facebook and for Facebook to make vast sums of money as a result. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The 19 OG Xbox games coming to Xbox One by the end of April. (credit: Xbox) While Microsoft has arguably fallen behind in some current-gen gaming console metrics, the company has taken a clear lead among the big-three systems' backwards-compatibility efforts. That's been evidenced in a regular drip-feed series of older 360 and OG Xbox games being brought forward to work on Xbox One systems, of which the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch have no peer. Honestly, these Xbox One announcements come frequently enough to not merit the spotlight treatment. But Tuesday's announcement, which was teased a full week earlier, brought the goods with a substantial list of games newly converted to work on Xbox One—and a few Xbox One X "upgrade" surprises, to boot. The arguable biggest news of the day is that Red Dead Redemption's Xbox 360 version has now been patched to take advantage of Xbox One X hardware. That means, like other Xbox 360 games given the X treatment, RDR will now render at nine times its original 720p resolution. Should you have a 4K TV, an Xbox One X, and a copy of RDR, you'll be able to play the game at 3840x2160 pixel resolution once its patch launches sometime today. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Steve Huffman, cofounder and chief executive officer of Reddit Inc., listens during a Bloomberg Technology television interview in San Francisco in 2017. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images) On Tuesday, Reddit released new data alongside its 2017 Transparency Report showing that it had identified 944 "suspicious accounts," a few of which "had a visible impact on the site." Reddit is the latest among a slew of tech companies that have identified troll and/or bot-laden social media accounts likely connected to Russia's Internet Research Agency, which seemingly attempted to manipulate the American voting public and affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The site provided a full list of all of those accounts to Congress (and now the public), saying that the list would stay "visible for now," but it would be removed eventually. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepared to face nearly half of the Senate today to explain what went wrong with his company's handling of personal data for millions of Facebook users, the Mozilla Foundation released a report that highlights the dangers posed to the entirety of the Internet ecosystem by the increasing concentration of control over how people experience the online world in the hands of companies like his. Zuckerberg opened his remarks today by saying, "Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company" and that he and others believed that the tools Facebook created were a force for good. "It's clear now that we didn't do enough to prevent those tools from being used for harm as well," he admitted. The danger that Facebook executives overlooked, however, is described clearly by the Mozilla Foundation report. Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Mark Surman explained the harm done by Facebook's platform clearly in a blog post today, describing the process of creating the 2018 Internet Health Report. As he and foundation fellows were discussing how to examine the topic of "fake news," he wrote, "I sketched out a list on a napkin to help order our thoughts:" Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Iain Masterton) Two Democratic US senators today proposed a "privacy bill of rights" that would prevent Facebook and other websites from sharing or selling sensitive information without a customer's opt-in consent. The proposed law would protect customers' Web browsing and application usage history, private messages, and any sensitive personal data such as financial and health information. "The avalanche of privacy violations by Facebook and other online companies has reached a critical threshold, and we need legislation that makes consent the law of the land," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in an announcement. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / How "X-treme" is this game's "Early Access" period? Quite. (credit: Boss Key Productions) For all the flak and attention Cliff "CliffyB" Bleszinski has garnered over the years, the developer has always at least put his name behind solid video games. His most recent self-admitted financial failure, Lawbreakers, at least did a fine job carrying Bleszinski's old-school, Unreal Tournament torch, in spite of its issues with difficulty curve and generic art. But Bleszinski and his current studio, Boss Key Productions, made a sharp turn last week in pronouncing the figurative death of Lawbreakers while simultaneously hinting at a new project. Turns out, that new project was precisely the thing that crowded out Lawbreakers' continued development, and the game maker only waited four days to announce its new focus: Radical Heights, an '80s-themed PUBG clone. Boss Key's Monday announcement included a promise that Radical Heights would enter "Xtreme" Early Access the following day, so we decided to wait and give the game a whirl before making any assumptions. It sure looked like a bandwagon cash-in, after all, but maybe it'd come with some CliffyB magic. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Theranos CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes. (credit: NBC Today) As recently as 2015, the plucky blood-testing company Theranos had about 800 employees. But on Tuesday, that number fell to about two dozen or less, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of the Silicon Valley biotech company, announced the third, brutal round of layoffs today in an all-hands meeting at the company's Newark, California office. The carnage claimed at least 80 percent of the company’s approximately 125-employee workforce that had remained until now. According to people familiar with the matter, the move is intended to save desperately needed cash and avert—or at least delay—bankruptcy. Though the company was once valued at $9 billion, it has seen its value plummet and funds dwindle after revelations that its highly touted blood-testing technology was faulty and company leaders misled partners, regulators, customers, and investors. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on ars technica
FCC The FCC just dropped a major surprise on us. It has documentation of a Google-branded HDMI dongle that runs Android TV and comes with a remote! It almost looks like a next-gen Chromecast. The documents show off pictures, specs, and even the manual. The device is manufactured by "Shenzhen SEI Robotics Co. Ltd." with the model number "SN5B6AD," and it is identified as a "4K ATV Stick." Unless we're seeing an outrageous level of trademark infringement, this is a Google device, as it is covered in Google "G" logos and comes with the Google Assistant. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Pablo Viojo / Flickr) The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and FIDO Alliance today announced that a new spec, WebAuthn ("Web Authentication") had been promoted to the Candidate Recommendation stage, the penultimate stage in the Web standards process. WebAuthn is a specification to allow browsers to expose hardware authentication devices—USB, Bluetooth, or NFC—to sites on the Web. These hardware devices enable users to prove their identity to sites without requiring usernames and passwords. The spec has been developed as a joint effort between FIDO, an industry body that's developing secure authentication systems, and W3C, the industry group that oversees development of Web standards. With WebAuthn-enabled browsers and sites, users can sign in using both integrated biometric hardware (such as the fingerprint and facial-recognition systems that are widely deployed) and external authentication systems such as the popular YubiKey USB hardware. With WebAuthn, no user credentials ever leave the browser and no passwords are used, providing strong protection against phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks, and replay attacks. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...